Kelly J. Baker has a two article series at Vitae on the “two-body problem”– that is, academic couples. Part one is here; part two is here. I think it’s smart stuff, and while I don’t agree with everything she says, I feel like I can relate both as half of an academic couple and as someone who has been on hiring committees trying to figure out the coupled status of applicants. Though my own two-body experiences have been a bit different.
And by cruising, I do not mean an illicit sexual activity, nor do I mean the sort of thing that high school kids used to do in their cars up and down University Avenue in Cedar Falls when I was a teenager. Rather, I mean cruising as in aboard a ship at sea– specifically, a cruise aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line Getaway.
This cruise was a gift to Annette and me (and Will, too) from Annette’s parents, Bill and Irmgard, to celebrate our 20th anniversary and their 50th. It was a generous and thoughtful gift, though I have to say that taking a cruise wasn’t exactly on my list of things I needed to do before I died. I’m glad I had the experience; it just never occurred to me as something I would ever do.
Let me first begin with a couple of disclaimers and/or other contextualizing moves regarding my relationship to the whole Harry Potter thing and also to theme parks generally. I like Harry Potter just fine. I read the first three books, enjoyed them– thoroughly enjoyed the third one– but then I got bogged down in the fourth book and just stuck to the movies after that, some of which make more sense to me than others. As for theme parks: it’s complicated, but while I am okay with your typical shopping, shows, and some theme park rides (including motion-oriented ones), I do not enjoy roller coasters one little bit and would generally prefer to do something else.
On the other hand, I am married to a woman who developed a very popular course at EMU on Harry Potter, who has done scholarship on it, and who was even quoted in an eOnline story about the series. And while our son Will hasn’t gotten around to reading them yet, he too is a big ol’ fan of them, having had the books read to him by Annette when he was much younger. And she is also a fan of roller coasters and he is trying to be more of a fan of them. So given this, it was just a matter of time before we were going to be visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando on a holiday trip to the in-laws.
Here’s a link to the flickr set of pictures of the trip, most of which was to Harry Potter-land. A few scattered thoughts about it all:
- This is one of the “lands” in the large Universal Studios complex of “lands” that included The Simpsons-oriented “Krustyland” (fun ride, btw), a sort of Americana-land, New York-land, Hollywood-land, Marvel comics-land featuring the also fun Spiderman ride and the “no way I’m getting on that thing” Incredible Hulk roller coaster, etc. So a lot to offer, but it was very clear where everyone was going. We arrived at the park by 8:30 am and the line for the big HP ride was already 135 minutes long. So we decided to take in the other things first– Jurassic Park-land, for example. It was all a ghost town compared to Potterville. And the rest of Universal was fun and all, but not worth it without Harry Potter. I have to wonder why a) Warner Brothers didn’t build their own HP-themed park, and b) why Disney didn’t try to get in on that action.
- In summary, the “Wizarding World” is a very convincing set of the town of Hogsmeade with Zonko’s and Honeydukes (“jokes” and candy, all one big store), the cafeteria-style “inn” of The Three Broomsticks, the wand shop (too much of a mob scene to even contemplate going into), a small and a large roller coaster (Will and Annette rode the smaller one), and the big enchilada, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” aka the Hogwarts ride, aka the castle. Honestly, if it weren’t for all the damn tourists and palm trees in the distance, you’d think they’d done some of the filming there.
- Like I said, I like Harry Potter things (and I might get back to the other books after this), but I’m not a fanatic. But I have to say one the coolest things about this place was seeing the hardcore fans interacting with it all. There were a number of kids in Hogwarts robes, for example.
- Among the many features catering specifically to the HP fan was “butter beer,” which was available “regular” or “frozen” (like margaritas) and which sort of tasted like a super-sweet cream soda with hints of butterscotch. They also had real beer and pretty decent food– actually, I was surprised all-around at the less than crappy food, though maybe my expectations had been pretty low.
- As for the big ride itself: first off, the wait was not nearly as long as advertised out front– more like an hour or 75 minutes rather than two. Without giving anything away, it is essentially a “motion ride” with some real motion thrown in. You’re strapped into these seats that move around in many different tilting directions to give you real motion and you watch simulated motion being projected around you. For me after the ride, there was very much a sense of “I don’t really know how they did that.” It’s pretty intense, but not roller coaster unpleasant, and I enjoyed it, though I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been worried that my keys had fallen out of my pockets during one of the many twists and turns.
- In a way, the wait wasn’t long enough because they take you through a series of rooms in the “castle” that show lots of very cool Harry Potter geeky things and I kind of felt like we were being rushed by them in the name of getting on the damn ride. Oh, and it empties out into what is one of the most claustrophobic gift shops I’ve ever been in, albeit one that sells lots of neat HP geekware.
- So definitely thumbs up. If I were to do this again (and if they make expansions to the attraction, I assume there will be a next time), I’d do it all in one day instead of two, and I’d do whatever I could to not go right after Christmas, the busiest week of the year for these places. The crowd got pretty intense a couple of times, but I suppose this is going to stay pretty popular and crowded for years to come.
Dear Ticketmaster, Tony Bennett, and Deathcab for Cutie;
I’m writing about a concert my wife Annette and I attended on August 24 at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, a show that was supposed to have featured the band Deathcab for Cutie as the opening act for Tony Bennett. Why didn’t DfC appear, and don’t you think you owe me at least an explanation, if not some of my money?
Don’t get me wrong: Tony Bennett was great, as I’ll get to in a moment, but one of the the delicious appeals of this show was that pairing of an indy band that’s made it big with the man who is perhaps the last of the great “old standards” singers, unless you count Harry Conick Jr. and Michael Buble and so on, and I do not count these people. Imagine the possibility of Tony coming out to sing duet on “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” or Deathcab backing Tony on “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” And imagine the crowd! Finally a show that teens and hipsters might be able to attend with their grandparents!
Alas, that was not to be, and I guess we started to see the signs of what was wrong by lack– a lack of reference anywhere to Deathcab, a lack of merch (and you would think that Tony Bennett would at least be selling some CDs if not t-shirts), and a complete lack of anyone who looks like they had heard of the would-be opener. Somehow, we were the last people who didn’t get the news that the bill had changed– or maybe it was never actually meant to be that way, and it was some sort of odd snafu in the Ticketmaster systems.
In any event, the show started oddly on time and early with Antonia “so-so singer who happens to be Tony’s daughter” Bennett followed immediately– and I mean “immediately,” as in the same band playing and no break between sets whatsoever– Tony was on the stage, giving his daughter a kiss on the cheek, and getting a standing O just for appearing. Which was great, don’t get me wrong, but again, where were Deathcab for Cutie?
Bennett immediately launched into song after song after song, told a few stories he had obviously told many times before (how Bob Hope was the one who came up with “Tony Bennett,” for example), did a little dancing hear and there, and continually and masterfully worked the crowd over like a warm handful of play-dough. At one point, Annette said to me “there’s no way he’s 85,” and I looked it up again on my phone on Wikipedia, and damn it anyway, he really is 85. Eighty-five freakin’ years old and still doing somewhere around 200 shows a year and bringing down the house with a version of “Fly Me to the Moon” he sang in the enormous Fox with no microphone to show off both the acoustics and his voice.
Again, it was a great night all-around. Annette and I had a lovely dinner at the meat-intense Roast restaurant, had no problems walking around the mostly empty mid-week/early-evening downtown Detroit streets, and hey, how many more chances are we likely to have to see Deathcab for Cutie coming somewhere near a college town like Ann Arbor versus Tony “did I mention he’s 85?” Bennett. So, okay, I don’t need any money back.
But still, what happened to the opener? If you could just give us an answer to that, I’d appreciate it. Thanks,
There’s some trouble brewing in Texas about how faculty are spending their time in their cushy jobs, as this Chronicle of Higher Education piece explains, “Efforts to Measure Faculty Workload Don’t Add Up.” It’s behind the firewall, but basically, it rehashes a lot of the problems that have been around for years about measuring faculty work time. This discussion is also covered a bit in “Texas Coalitions Spar Over Scholars’ Time, Research, Pay.” And basically, critics of the Texas system are saying that faculty don’t teach enough, don’t work with enough students, don’t work enough in general, etc.
People who don’t really know what the job is about tend to think that a professor who teaches three classes a term basically works about 15 hours a week: those classes plus office hours, and that’s about it. The problem is that the people who don’t now better also tend to be the people who ultimately control budgets: regents, legislators, voters, etc. Professors, of course, dispute this, arguing that no-no-no, they work more like 100 hours a week because working as a professor is much MUCH more than teaching classes. A lot of this is reflected in the “What I Do With My Time: Pamela S. Gossin,” which is a diary of her work in the course of a week at the University of Texas at Dallas.
I’m not going to go into great detail explaining why this notion of “lazy professors” is wrong because a) if you are reading my blog on a regular basis, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve read that here before, b) there are a lot of other places to read about this in more thoughtful ways, and c) anything I say here as a professor will sound defensive anyway. I have a “reverse ethos” problem. I’ll just note that for the most part, I agree with the defenses that professor-types make about the amount of work they do, and, whenever I contemplate it, I am always surprised how much of my work really has nothing to do with teaching and even scholarship. There’s a lot of paperwork shuffling and meetings and such in this job.
I think one of the biggest problems professors have is that we have a lot more in common with people who work out of their homes and/or who are “telecommuters” than people who work in normal white collar settings, even though we’re most visible to people when we are actually teaching and/or on campus. This is different from K-12 teachers (who are generally at the school all day long, even when they aren’t teaching), and this does vary from university to university and even among faculty in my department. I once applied for a job at a university where the administrator-type interviewing me said he expected all faculty to be on campus five days a week, and at least one of my colleagues actually uses his school office to work. And with my department moving back into a newly remodeled building this fall, maybe working in the office will become an increasing trend.
The idea that most professors work outside of their classrooms, labs, and dingy university offices doesn’t register with the popular imagination and/or “as seen on TV” image of professors, and it is also out of sync with most student interactions with professors. I will run into students in the “real world” once in a while, and it is always a little odd– particularly with undergraduates– when they spot me in a restaurant or on the street or wait on my in Target while I’m buying toilet paper. It clearly doesn’t fit their assumptions about me (“I thought he only existed on campus”).
The other problem that lots of professors have– myself and Pamela Gossin included– is time management and/or the leaky borders between “work” and “life.” Here’s a passage from Gossin’s diary:
7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Answered e-mail and coordinated summer research project, a digital-humanities project. Prepared for a forthcoming conference and read reports on a Texas bill that would allow concealed handguns on state-college campuses. Also read new information about the university’s retirement plan.
9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Watched a television special about John Muir for her class in nature writing: “I needed to watch it so I would know if their extra credit was valid.”
10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Sent e-mails and did more preparation for summer research. Made contact with a research assistant she hoped to hire.
Now, I totally relate, understand, and resemble this work schedule. But part of the problem that I have (maybe Gossin has this problem too, maybe other academics out there can relate) is I am not good at limiting my email usage. Not. At. All. And every efficiency/productivity guide out there will tell you that if you want to get things done, you need to ration/limit the time spent on email. As with most efficiency advice, this is perhaps a good intention rather than something that can realistically be put into practice, but still.
This diary also demonstrates the fuzzy definition of “work” in academia. I get what Gossin is saying here about watching that John Muir show: it is work, but my guess is that she might have watched it anyway. There’s lots of reading, web surfing, writing (is this entry work? maybe?) I do that is in that in-between space, which is not surprising because I like what I do. But generally, people (especially Texas bean counters who want professors to account for all their time) define “work” as “something you would otherwise not be doing if it wasn’t for the job and/or the money.” So I would bet that if some Texas efficiency wonk sat down with Gossin and looked at that entry about watching the show on John Muir, that wonk would say “that ain’t work.” And that wonk would be kind of right, kind of wrong.
And then there is summer. My extended family– who are all college graduates but who are also not academics– have learned by now that the best way to get an earful from either me or Annette is to say something about how it must be great to have so much “summer vacation.” That’s not vacation, buster– that’s time for the work! the writing, the scholarship, the research, the clawing and fighting to get tenure and then promotion and then beyond– work work work work!
Well, I have a confession to make. It really ain’t all that bad.
Oh sure, it is true for many academics that the space between winter and fall is time to write and research, and I have a couple of scholarly projects on the back of the stove right now. While it is technically possible for faculty at EMU to completely check out (we’re on an 8 month contract here, more or less) for the entire spring and summer terms, realistically, there are still meetings, students to advise, paperwork to be done, etc. And then there’s spring/summer teaching. We can’t really afford to not teach at least one of the 7.5 week terms (the pay is essentially overtime), so that’s obviously work.
But even with all of that, I can’t really complain. We’ll be doing some traveling soon, I finished today (while procrastinating and writing this post) my painting work on the back part of the house, I play a little golf, etc. There is time off, and in a few years– when Will is through Greenhills and onto college (it’ll be sooner than we think)– I am sure that Annette and I will take advantage of all four of those months.
Though oddly, I get antsy for work. I’ll probably spending some time planning one of my classes for the fall after I post this….
The end of the spring term is tantalizingly close, just a few days away. So very very close, almost done, almost done. I should be grading right now, but I’m almost done, almost…. I’m not quite sure what it is about this term for me, but teaching has been even more this short (7.5 weeks) spring semester than usual. But almost, almost…..
Anyway, while I should be grading right now (and I will be grading a batch of things for English 444 tomorrow no matter what because I have to get ready for the next waves for both 444 and English 121 on Monday and Tuesday), circumstances got in the way today, including some gardening and “running” with Will, and now we’re off to a function in about an hour. So I thought I’d post some pictures and such about my garden and yard instead.
It has been unusually cold and web this spring, so stuff has gotten in late and hasn’t really taken off yet, so there’s a lot of doubt about tomatoes and basil and the like. At one point, I had planned on planting an even bigger squarefoot garden in this season up on the frontyard, which is the only spot that gets enough sun to really grow vegetables. Even though my mother think that its tacky to grow produce in one’s front yard, it does happen around here quite a bit. Still, it would have been a lot of effort and I’m glad I didn’t do it. Maybe next year.
Oh, I’ve also included a few pictures of the robins next door. This is in my neighbor’s tree, but it was probably closer to our house than to theirs, and the way that our windows look out by our fireplace made for fine nest viewing. Here’s a link to the feeding action. And that was just a few days ago– they’re all gone now. Those kids do leave the nest before you even realize it.
This is kind of scattered because I started it over a cup of coffee Monday morning and finished it Wednesday morning before meeting meeting meeting/grading grading grading. I’m super DUPER busy with wrapping up the winter term. The last day of classes was yesterday, and I’ve got at least four stacks of things I need to/want to assign grades to by the end of the day a week ago. I know.
But before I get to more detail than you want to know, I thought I’d make four general comments:
- Partly in response to Derek and Alex and Kyle and I am sure others: I’m not particularly grumpy about the quality (or not) of the panels or anything else at this year’s conference. Yeah, the hotel was too expensive, but that’s why I didn’t stay at the conference hotel. Yeah, there was no decent wifi and I think that should indeed be addressed, but most major conference hotels have the same problem and I always plan ahead and assume I won’t have decent wifi anyway. Yeah, I kept running into the same people, but I kind of like that and I always have the odd experience of running into the same people at a particular year of the CCCC and not others– for example, last year I ran into Brian McNely everywhere, but this year, I didn’t see him once. Etc., etc. I think I preferred the Louisville location to Atlanta for a variety of reasons (though I had a lot of fun in Georgia), but Atlanta was a lot more reasonably priced than New York or San Francisco. And I don’t want to be too critical because….
- … I don’t want to get involved. While I do have some complaints about how the CCCC and the NCTE do business in all sorts of ways (its conferences and a lack of willingness to offer alternative formatted presentations like poster sessions, its publications and its confusion about the paperless publishing world, its view of what an organization is and how it ought to fund itself, its dumb as a bag of rocks view of anything resembling the internets, etc., etc.), I feel like I more or less give up my right to complain too loudly when I am unwilling to do anything about it by getting involved in the organizations’ governance. I’m not willing to run for the Executive Committee of the CCCC or anything else involving the NCTE. I thought about it at one point, but it just isn’t the sort of administrative/service work that interests me– at least not now. So if I’m not willing to pitch and and “make a difference,” so to speak, then I can’t complain too much about the people who are willing to do that.
- I don’t know if the conference has changed that much or not, but I know I’ve changed. The first CCCC I went to was (I think?) in 1995, and I attended and presented at the conference pretty consistently through about 2005 or so. When I was a graduate student and first starting my career down the tenure-track, listening to what people had to say at the CCCC was part of my education and presenting at the conference was real scholarship. But this year wasn’t my first rodeo, and I’m all tenured/promoted -out. I still learn some things from panels; but mostly, it’s variations on things I’ve heard before, simply by virtue of the fact that I’ve been around long enough to have heard a lot of stuff before. I still propose to the CCCC so I can get on the program (and thus some funding for the trip), but I need another CCCC presentation on my CV like another hole in the head. So sure, the conference isn’t as “new” and as “exciting” as it once was; but neither am I.
- Having said that, I do think there’s more that the CCCC could do to reorganize itself (more like– dare I say it?– MLA by having subject areas organize panels instead of assuming that we’re all there to talk about freshman comp in some variety; have a wider variety of presentation-types; have published proceedings; etc.); and, in an era in which I can communicate with like-minded scholars all over the world via email and the blogosphere and I can publish a media-rich version of my presentation for free, I think the fundamental purpose of the “academic conference” has to be questioned. Why do we spend the time and resources to do this anymore? The answer to me is not panels; it’s being in meet/meat -space with other scholars in the field.
The biggest thing I get out of the CCCC at this point is the incidental contact. So, along with the actual and direct activities, here’s more or less the order of things as I remember it:
Three snowy thoughts:
- Extreme snow edition #1: circa 1982/3/4, the middle of Iowa: the worst snow event I can recall happening to me was somewhere in high school. I recall being a part of a high school debate/speech team event where I ended up being stranded for at least a couple of nights with classmates and chaperons in some ridiculously small Iowa town and equally ridiculous small town motel. I remember it was about 8 people to a room, we could only eat at the deli counter at Hy-Vee for some reason, and the David Lynch movie The Elephant Man was on repeatedly on HBO or some such thing.
- Any number of snowy memories/tortures blur together. There were many other storms in Iowa, including a drive back to the University of Iowa from Cedar Falls on quasi-closed interstates with a classmate who I can’t remember: I do recall coming back the Sunday after Thanksgiving only to find the university closed on that Monday. I remember several times in Richmond, VA, where the (comparably modest) snow and/or ice and/or snow ended any sort of normal interaction in the city. There was a terrible storm in Bowling Green that included -20 degree weather, snow like crazy, canceled classes, etc. I am sure there were other such experiences I’m forgetting.
- And now we have this latest event, which is easily the most hyped snow event in recent memory. I’m writing/thinking about this post long before this turns truly ugly, but I have to wonder if it’s possible for any weather event to live up to these expectations. I suppose tomorrow morning will tell.
We had a later than usual Pepper Nuts session here at the Krause-Wannamaker house today. We were in Florida for Christmas proper this year, and, because of changes on the Krause side of things at Thanksgiving and less than great planning on our part here before our southern trip, we ended up actually making my family’s classic Christmas cookie after Christmas. Oh well.
Still, a good time was had by one and all. Will and Annette definitely did as much as I did this year with the rolling and cutting– good team work, and we all enjoyed remembering relatives from Christmases of the recent and distant past. Most of this batch will be accompanying us to Iowa in the coming days. In any event, here’s the annual reprinting/reposting of the recipe, as told to me by my Grandma Krause (and re-written by me):
Grandma Krause’s Pepper Nuts
1 cup dark karo syrup
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup butter, softened (or margarine or crisco or, in the old days, lard)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup hot water
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp anise oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
7 cups (or so) flour
1.In your trusty KitchenAid standing mixer mix together the syrup, molasses, butter, sugar and hot water until well combined. If you lack a standing mixer, you can do this with a large bowl and a hand mixer.
2. Add everything else but the flour and continue mixing until combined.
3. Start adding the flour, about a cup at a time, mixing each time until the flour is well incorporated. If you have a trusty KitchenAid standing mixer, lucky you! You can keep mixing this until all seven cups of flour are combined. I shifted from the regular mixing paddle to the bread hook attachment after the fifth cup of flour.
If you don’t have a standing mixer (unlucky you!), you’ll probably have to give up on the hand mixer after the fourth or fifth cup of flour and knead the rest of the flour in as you might with the making of bread or pizza dough.
Either way, you may have to add a little more or a little less flour to get a dough that is moist but not sticky.
4. Take about a handful of the finished dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface in long snakes that are about the width of your pinky. Lay these out on a cookie sheet. You can create different layers of the dough snakes by separating them with parchment paper or plastic sheeting.
5. Chill these dough snakes. Grandma Krause’s recipe said to chill “overnight or for at least a couple of hours.” I have done this before by putting them in the freezer or outside in a place like Wisconsin or Michigan or Iowa (which is as cold as the freezer, of course) for an hour or so, though in the movie, I left them out overnight with no adverse effect. They do need to be chilled and even a bit dried out.
6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350-375 degrees. (It kind of depends on your oven, but while Grandma Krause said 350, I think 375 is probably more accurate). Take each snake and cut them into tiny bite-sized pieces of dough. Put the little dough pieces onto a cookie sheet, being sure to spread them out so they don’t touch either. The cookies will expand slightly in size.
7. Bake about 9 or 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool them on a clean counter or a clean cookie sheet and store them in a sealed container. Serve them in little bowls as if they were nuts. Makes a pailful.
Annette and Will and I had a Thanksgiving of just the three of us and at home for the first time in…. heck, I think the first time ever. There was one year quite a while ago where I recall Annette’s parents coming to visit us, but otherwise, it has been a 10-12 hour drive to Iowa to see my family or a 12-14 drive to see Annette’s family in South Carolina. That’s a lot of time to spend in a car in the span of four or five days under any circumstances, but since Thanksgiving comes at what is often the worst possible crunch point of the semester, it is even worse. Not to mention all the other drivers, the often dicey weather, etc.
Anyway, for circumstances I won’t go into (mainly because they aren’t that interesting or dramatic), what would have been a Krause get-together this year was changed to a New Year’s Christmas, and we were able to spend the time at home. And I gotta say: I love my family– both my side and Annette’s side– dearly, but the luxury of having a (relatively) small Thanksgiving at home was excellent. Among other things, I worked on an overdue movie project, I graded lots of things (almost done with that), we did almost all the laundry in the house, we cleaned, ran errands, winterized the backyard a bit more, and slept in. We watched a lot of different movies, from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles to a couple of 1940s Tarzan flicks to Doctor Who, we had a lovely dinner with friends tonight, we watched football (dang Lions, dang Hawkeyes), we worked out at the gym.
And, of course, we ate and cooked. I can’t remember the last time I cooked a turkey– probably the last time that we had Thanksgiving at home years ago.
It turned out okay. My timing was off, so I think I ended up overcooking it a bit, and while I did a brine for about 36 or so hours, I’m not convinced that on this size of bird it was actually worth it. And I’m not all that crazy about turkey anyway. Maybe next year, if we’re home again like this (I hope we’re home again like this), I’ll make a Thanksgiving chicken, or maybe Thanksgiving lasagna.
I also attempted a fancy version of green bean casserole by using a really excellent homemade mushroom soup (a Thomas Keller recipe), adding cream to that, and then adding fresh green beans and topping it all with homemade fried onions. That was a fail, I’m afraid. The lesson learned here is sometimes the simple things are best, like the humble version with cream of mushroom soup, frozen green beans, and canned fried onions. Like canned cranberries.