Archive for December, 2006

caution: falling IQ

December 14, 2006

My faith in science tells me there must be a reason for the sudden, precipitous drop in my IQ when I’m around The Chair of an English Department. A mathematical formula or a scientific theory to explain it. An inverse proportion or hypothesis to account for my inability to think or speak when a Chair is within earshot.

I know the scientific method begins with an observation of phenomena. Allow me to present

Phenomenon 1: While working on my MA, I attend a faculty/staff/TA back-to-school get together. I enter a conversation wherein The Chair and two of my professors are discussing a recent news piece detailing the ignorance of “today’s youth.” Seems said youth can’t name the three branches of government. Even before the three look to me for proof that I’m not that stupid, I start to sweat. Uh, judicial, legislative… ….. …..

And then a wave of shame.

The Chair gives a queasy half smile before helping me.


I depart in search of wine and an instrument for self-flagellation.


Phenomenon 2: Yesterday. I’m sitting in a meeting with three of my professors and The Chair. We’re debating whether or not a prospective job candidate is really interested in a position at my school. Is this person “flirting” with us to increase her/his chances for tenure somewhere else? Or is she/he genuinely interested in making a career move? I’m optimistic. I state my reasons, ending with “Besides, ___________ (the town where she/he is currently teaching) smells bad.”

As the words we’re leaving my mouth, I realized my mistake. Too late, though—exposed again.

I suppose it would be unseemly for me to show up to my own job interviews with a sock in my mouth; however, the thought has crossed my mind.


clichés and bad writing metaphors–thank you, Donald Rumsfeld

December 8, 2006

My green Pilot V-ball Extra Fine pen ran out a few days ago. I made a mental note to swing by the UC bookstore when I was next on campus and I threw the pen away. No big deal, I thought; I still have a blue one in my bag.

Every writer has her favorite tools. I’m partial to the V-ball with the round top (not the flat), the old-style Bic “banana” (as Russell calls them; yellow, hexagonal barrel), Alvin Draft/Matic pencils (in 0.3 and 0.5), fine-line legal pads, and Magic Rub erasers (although the Staedtler Mars is growing on me).

(I don’t care if you all think I’m a nerd. You know you have your favorites, too.)

So, I walk to the bookstore today and not only have they seriously reduced their inventory, my V-balls are nowhere in sight. Instead, there are some new-fangled retractable rollerball pens and some crappy Uniballs.

I leave.

The temperature this morning was 12° but I decide to try DuBois bookstore off campus.

Strike two.

Lance’s Art Supplies was my last hope, but it wasn’t open until 9:00, so I stopped at a local coffee shop to fortify myself with a latté.

Lance’s had a great selection, but no round top V-balls. Oh! The ensuing let-down…

By then, I had wasted 45 minutes of reading time, so I resigned myself to failure and purchased a green “flat top” V-ball and two of the new-fangled retractables and headed out the door for the library. I assuaged my sorrow with thoughts of trying Miami’s bookstore on Monday. But then, as I was walking, I wondered if perhaps I might need to give up on the V-ball and give the new pens a try. (My fear, of course, is in the possibility that the V-balls have been discontinued.) I thought to myself, “Well, you go to war with the army you have.”

Do I feel worse about using a terrible cliché or that it’s gotten to the point where I’m comparing writing to the (now universally determined “unwinnable”) Iraq war?

Don’t answer that.