Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thoughts of a Pawn

There's a glass chess set in the break-room which no one uses. I'm not sure why it is there--possibly because it looks like intelligent people would use it. It sits in the middle of a table stacked with businesslike magazines, never dusty, its pieces haphazardly jumbled. I often amuse myself with taking a turn or two on amongst the improbable arrangement of pieces; originally, this was to see if anyone else felt like playing tag chess, but now it is just because I am sorry for the neglected board. Today, I was surprised to see that my carefully randomized board game had been "fixed." All of the pieces were in their rows on the far sides of the board. Clear glass was on one side; clouded glass on the other. Except the pieces were not in the right places! Some well-meaning organizer had simply put them into neat little rows. The queen was on one end in the pawns' row, and two rooks stood side by side next to her. A pawn stood where the king ought to have been. I felt like crying. It symbolizes, in many ways, all I have learned about the textbook/course production industry since I joined Logos. We're very good at producing neat little packages which look intellectual: in some cases, they actually are. But with the outsourcing of writing, editors without content expertise, and managers intent to organize without understanding the material, there is little here of pedagogy. Anything I write will be hacked to bits; any historical content I advise can be bludgeoned. I am expected to list historical resources, but they are not reviewed. Time and workflow and organization: these are tantamount. This is a business. What else should I have expected?

I put the chess pieces back in their proper places.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Loving Fox

I love my wife. She is awesome and awe-inspiring.

Riboflavin's Complaint

Riboflavin recently complained that I don't blog enough. Always quick to self-justify, I looked back over the blog, and behold! Not a single entry since I started working at Logos. So here, in a nutshell, is what has been eating my life:

First: I have had two colds, each lasting for over a week. Minimal functioning.
Second: Editing deadlines. They eat your soul.
Third: Childcare, shared with the adoring Sparrow and on the weekends, with my parental units. Thorn is a genius, but a demanding genius.
Fourth: Spare time spent freaking out about the cold and knitting scarves for babies. Also editing various writings by Sparrow and Aunt Violet.
Fifth: D&D some weekends, but a lot of travel otherwise. Went to Colonial Williamsburg with Sparrow for our tenth year together.
Sixth: I learned everything there is to know about assessment writing, DOK levels, and multiple-choice options, and wrote "the guide" on the matter for Logos freelancers.
Seventh: Art history, as per my editing deadlines. As far as writing and editing (re-writing) goes, I started with Antiquity and have gotten up to the Quattrocento thus far. Major stops included Mesoamerican archaeology (of course), Byzantium, Gothic illuminations, tempera techniques, 15th century Italian painting from Masaccio to Mantegna, and (currently) 15th century art of France, Germany, and Spain. All of which are fascinating to me. Like the Ghent Altarpiece's Virgin, my twin. Or the perfect breast spheres of Fouquet's Madonna. Dürer's beguiling self-portrait. Masaccio's intense Expulsion. Mantegna's Dead Christ--aaagh, it gives me goosebumps!

The best thing about all this art history is that it has forced me to read a lot of books in order to get my source material. Which means that I'm only two books shy of my 50-books-a-year goal. Once I've gotten to fifty, I promise I'll post the list and my thoughts. After which I can read The Lord of the Rings again without guilt!

Oh, and if you wondered, the election didn't make me bat an eyelash. Lack of a landline and no television made my November wonderfully free of political advertisements. Americans have given no mandate to anyone. They want jobs, and if you start with that racist immigration crap again, Republicans, you will see one of your biggest fans give you the finger. Just balance the budget like good small-government types, pat-pat.

Happy now, Riboflavin?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Weary Metaphors

"Amid a national Republican wave that also washed through conservative Texas"
"Blunt rides Republican wave to victory"
"Toomey at Helm of a Republican Wave"
"Minority candidates ride Republican wave"

And that, my friends, is only a sampling. No doubt the Republican party hopes this election represents a sea-change in American politics, but do we really have to see so many tired references to the sea? Waves upon waves upon waves, crashing onto the shore. It would be one thing if this were the particular phrase picked up by a single news outlet, but this phrase is pervasive. Will history remember this moment as the Republican wave? Or tide? Or, God save us, tsunami? I'd just like to see more variety with our metaphors, because if I have to hear about any more waves, I'm going to need a Dramamine.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Day in the Life: November 2nd -- Election Day

An odd assortment of today's activities:

Frost! My car was encased in it this morning. The trusty weatherman had told me it would be cold, and he'd even hinted at frost, and so I'd planned to spend ten extra minutes outside scraping away the snow-cone fluff. Alas, my extra time was gobbled up by a fruitless search for a tie. My striped shirts are not tie friendly, unfortunately, and so the time was utterly wasted. The drive, however, was not the monotonous traffic jam that the I695 B-more Beltway tends to be on a Tuesday morning around 6:45 am. Election day means that many schools are closed. School closings mean less traffic. Less traffic means that I did get to my office before 7:30 am this morning. And what does that mean? Means I'm happy.

I handed out a bucket of candy to all of my students today. Fox and I are trying very hard to keep to our eating plans. I'm looking to fit into my jeans again. I haven't been able to since Thorn was born. Candy sitting around the house just wasn't conducive to that project. The students were thrilled to get it, and now I can say that I've contributed to a university-spanning sugar high.

Fox and I voted this afternoon. It is only the second time that we've gone down to the polling place together. Last election, Fox voted absentee, and I was alone on the long and ebullient line. This election lacked the same energy as 2008, but the people in the line were dedicated souls. Also the local election staff was kind as can be, and we got in and out in short order.

Tonight I added 2,710 words to the 863 that I wrote yesterday. The dissertation is moving right along. Something on the page every day this month. This is my November.

Lots of meetings tomorrow. Watching elections results until 10:00. I do so love democracy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Foodie Love: October dishes

Reviewing October's Cooking Light.

I have a subscription to Cooking Light magazine, and October's issue came with a must have recipe: Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Sugared Walnuts. Risotto is, without exaggeration, my favorite comfort food. Butternut squash is a close second. The combination of the two compelled me to attempt this recipe, despite the fact that risotto-making is often a time-consuming activity, and time is the commodity that I have least. Still, on a lovely October Wednesday, I settled down to craft this meal for our little family. Thorn cannot have wheat or dairy, and so this recipe (if you disregard the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese) is free of both. I had hoped he'd enjoy it, too. He didn't, but Fox and I did. It was very easy to prepare, and if you've got the time, I highly recommend it. There is nothing like biting into the smooth and creamy risotto, except doing so and finding a crunchy, warm and sugary walnut!