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Back from Afar

I'm back from Italy.  A weeklong trip with my dad and stepmom, staying with her family in Lucca, a little down about 15 miles from Pisa.  It was amazing, beautiful, fun, fulfilling, (and just plain filling... good lord the food is good!), and an all around good time.  I went to Florence and saw the David, and it was stunning.  I'd never seen it before, and it was just breathtaking.  I also saw the Duomo and the Leaning Tower in Pisa, and did some shopping.  Mostly it was just peaceful, though, which is easy in a place as beautiful as that one.  I also got to listen to a lot of Italian, try my hand at Spanish and realized how much I want to learn another language in a way that lets me be fluent.  All in all, a good time.

Also very inspirational.  Being somewhere that old was just interesting.  The art and architecture made me want to be creative, which after a long semester, is a really brilliant thing.  I'm home, exhausted from the travel, but feeling very very ready to jump into more writing, both fiction and my article, and that's a great feeling!  



Hooray! Happy Day!

My first short story ever is up today!  See it at Flash Fiction Online.  That's www.flashfictiononline.com.  It's the story called "Gustav's Mars"

Book meme

The Big Read thinks the average adult has only read six of the top 100 books they've printed below.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
3) Strike through any books you would rather poke yourself in the eye with than read ...
4) Reprint this list in your own LJ so we can try and track down these people who've read 6 and force books upon them.

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible - various authors
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows– Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli's Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47.Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid's Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones' Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight's Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte's Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Feel free to copy and repost... I'm ashamed of some of the stuff I haven't read...


Complaining about too much to do...

...so feel free to skip as you like. :)

I'm swamped. It's starting to irritate me. I need to get up earlier, go to bed later, and cut more of my "do nothing" time. Argh.

I get approximately 65 papers today (well, yesterday and today) that I need to grade. Not long papers, but that's still a lot, and they'll all start to run together.

I've got a proofreading project I need to do.

I've got to send out emails for committees I'm on.

I've got to respond to a couple things in a writing group that I really, really want to respond to.

I have to do lesson plans for the rest of the week.

I have a doctor's appointment.

I have a reading group to put together.

Oh, yeah, and I'd love to have time to actually WRITE, too. Both on my own fiction and on my scholarly work. ARGH. :P

I really love my job, but it is eating my life. I can't wait until summer!

Thinking about thinking about writing...

I find myself thinking about finding a time to think about writing. Then I get irritated that I'm not writing as much. I resolve to write some every day and it just doesn't happen. ARGH. Though at least I can count some of my reading as reading for writing. I mean, Chaucer certainly counts as a great writer, and reading him I always am struck by interesting phrases, ideas, or whatever (and always something new, even when I'm enjoying the things I've read before!)

But I'm getting stuff done and getting ready to send more stuff out. I think it is just like taking a deep breath. I need to get back to writing more so that I'm in the habit of writing so that I can actually write.

The more I write, the more I have ideas to write about.

MLK Monday

I'm struck today by how unexcited I am about the inauguration. I want to be more excited, and I think this is going to be a very important event in the course of history. But I find my mind drawn to other things and not particularly interested. To be honest, I've lost much of my political interest and desire to be in and among the political fray, period. I was not particularly enthusiastic about this election, and since even before 9-11, uninterested in any form of television news media. Perhaps it is that I know that the world is a scary, sad place a lot of the time and don't need the media blowing it up even more for me to inspect. I still keep up, reading newspapers and online articles, but just no TV news. Too much depression and melodrama.

I think the media is making a circus out of the inauguration, too. Or maybe Obama himself is making a circus of it. It is huge deal for this nation for so many reasons, but it now it feels a bit like a series of publicity stunts. U2? Bruce Springsteen? Stevie Wonder and Usher? Really? And in saying that, I'm suddenly struck by what bothers me. I hate the commodification and celebritization (yeah, that's a word) of politicians. They are not supposed to be celebrities. Famous? Undoubtably (especially people like the president, of course) but they aren't supposed to be red carpet walking, cover of US and People magazine, (next to the story on Brittany's last public snafu or whatever) camera loving celebs.

I can't reconcile the importance of the event--which needs to be celebrated, obviously--with what has come to seem to me as the over-produced, hysterical celebrity worship culture. Sure, respect the man. He's done so much, and made so many promises, and I hope he keeps them. Sure, put his inauguration on television--it's way important.

I guess I just desperately want him to be the real deal. To be able to keep his promises, and to really change this nation in fundamentally good ways. And celebrities, almost by definition, are not real. What we see of them is performance (even when they are doing off screen things) and often highly staged. Even when they are doing "everyday" things, or political things, or charity, or whatever, they can't escape being a celebrity.

The president doesn't need to be a celebrity, and in fact shouldn't be. He (or she) is the President of the United States. That is enough.

What D&D class I am...

I Am A: True Neutral Human Wizard/Cleric (2nd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:







True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Primary Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Secondary Class:
Clerics act as intermediaries between the earthly and the divine (or infernal) worlds. A good cleric helps those in need, while an evil cleric seeks to spread his patron's vision of evil across the world. All clerics can heal wounds and bring people back from the brink of death, and powerful clerics can even raise the dead. Likewise, all clerics have authority over undead creatures, and they can turn away or even destroy these creatures. Clerics are trained in the use of simple weapons, and can use all forms of armor and shields without penalty, since armor does not interfere with the casting of divine spells. In addition to his normal complement of spells, every cleric chooses to focus on two of his deity's domains. These domains grants the cleric special powers, and give him access to spells that he might otherwise never learn. A cleric's Wisdom score should be high, since this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Detailed Results:

Lawful Good ----- XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Neutral Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (16)
Chaotic Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Lawful Evil ----- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Neutral Evil ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)
Chaotic Evil ---- XXXXXXXXXXX (11)

Law & Chaos:
Law ----- XXXXXX (6)
Neutral - XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Chaos --- XXXXXXX (7)

Good & Evil:
Good ---- XXXXXX (6)
Evil ---- XXXX (4)

Human ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Dwarf ---- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Elf ------ XXXXXXXX (8)
Gnome ---- XXXXXXXX (8)
Halfling - XXXXXX (6)
Half-Elf - XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Half-Orc - XXXX (4)

Barbarian - (-4)
Bard ------ XX (2)
Cleric ---- XXXX (4)
Druid ----- (-4)
Fighter --- (0)
Monk ------ (-21)
Paladin --- (-17)
Ranger ---- (-6)
Rogue ----- (-2)
Sorcerer -- XX (2)
Wizard ---- XXXX (4)


Trudging Revision

We're trudging through another revision. I sometimes HATE The book. Other times, it still makes me laugh and I think we've produced a pretty good project. *sighs* I just feel like the small changes we're making are good. Most of the substantive changes will be toward the end, but we just couldn't change the end without the beginning, too. Right? Or at least reading through it.

Plus, we're getting towards the end of the semester, and this has been a really rough semester. Two students had freak outs on me that required Dean-level intervention. One hinted at violence-- it's all fixed up now, but still, I'm just ready for this semester, and I think this year, to be over! :)

It's just one foot in front of the other.

A word on moving literature

So, I'm finishing up Malory's "Le Mort Darthur" for my class this afternoon. Just the last 40 or so pages. And it, as usual, makes me cry. Now this is a book that most scholars say is more like a chronicle than a novel. We get very little internal sense of the characters. It is a third-person pov, with an omniscient narrator that rarely gets inside characters' heads. In short, it is very much what a "fantasy" novel is NOT supposed to be today.

And yet...

Gahareth and Gaharis' deaths make me cry. Gawain's death makes me cry. Arthur's death makes me cry. Guinevere (who I don't even like, for the most part!)--her death makes me cry. Even Lancelot's death.

Somehow Malory makes accessible and meaningful the remarkable tragedy of this story. Sure, it is about lost (and possibly never held) ideals, and about the loss of a dream, but he makes it so human and real.

I'm happy to cry for great literature, and I can't quite stress enough that if you are interested in fantasy (or just in great stuff, period, or in the middle ages, knights, etc) then this book MUST be on a list of stuff to read. Read the beginning, the story of Lancelot, skip Tristan and Isolde if you like, skip the grail stuff, and then read "Lancelot and Guinevere" and "The Death of Arthur." Just amazing stuff.


Now I've just got to get myself together so I can go teach it and not cry when I teach it ('cause then I'd look like a big ol' dork!)

Creeping Crud, part two

Wow. The creeping crud moved in and has decided to stay. I'm calling the doctor tomorrow. I've all but lost my voice and I'm exhausted. My head hurts and no decongestants work. I've even tried allergy pills (in case I suddenly developed an allergy to my cats or something). No luck. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free!