Tuesday, January 31, 2006

dress to impress

The continuing saga of my fashion sense:

Earlier today, my friend, UT cohort, and next-office neighbor Bob told me that he's seem me dress professionally entirely too much. He was actually complaining somewhat. But then again, he's only seen one season of Mike Fashion.

The strange thing is that I've only been wearing Dickies work pants and collared shirts. It's not exactly what I'd call formal (aren't Dickies sort of punky? Or at least working class), but I suppose it's a step away from the Hawaiian shirts. So I guess I have been stepping up.

This new-found respectability (at least in terms of appearance) has, however, yielded positive benefits. All of my classes are under their course limit, and students are dropping as we speak...which is only a good thing in that it (a) limits my grading and (b) maybe gets people out of the class who might think I'm a pushover because I dress weird. And most of the students will actually call me "Doctor" now, where last semester, with the Hawaiians, they wouldn't.

I don't quite know if I'm doing the professional thing consciously or not. It's still quite an adjustment being a full-time faculty as opposed to a lowly adjunct. I have book representatives wanting to talk to me. Other faculty know who I am. Someone told me that they felt good knowing I was on the committee to choose a new Comp I textbook...this respectability is just plain strange. After all, how did I ever grow to inspire confidence?

It's getting to be a strange world, indeed.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

voyages future

Thanks to the tireless work of Jen, a normal commenter here, I will be attending the Culture Studies Association 4th annual meeting in Washington, DC, this year. The panel looks good...that is, assuming I actually get around to writing my paper, which, with the semester's workload and oft-delayed book revision plan on my docket, isn't exactly a slam-dunk...but I will soldier on.

Anyway, I just finished booking my hotel room at a Radisson outside of DC. It should be very cool.

First off, I booked via Hotels.com and saved about $100 dollars off the top rate.

Second, we can get to either DC itself or the conference via the DC subway system, which of course means we don't have to drive at all. Mass transit rocks.

Third, the rooms all have the Sleep Number beds...but the hotel room also has a video game console listed as an amenity...included! As if I needed another reason to be lazy.

Fourth, they have what looks like a nice bar on premises.

I really wanted to get a room at the Watergate, but
boy, are they pricey. Instead, we're just going to go to their bar and toast Richard Nixon's bones.

If all goes well, I'm also going to get a trip to Oakland for the American Studies Association meeting. Our panel proposal looks good, so we'll see. I want desperately to go to Alcatraz and drink whiskey from a flask...and do the same thing in Golden Gate Park.

Travel is one of the best things about being an academic.

Friday, January 20, 2006

teaching through violence

This semester, I teach two sections of Professional and Technical Writing. It is the first time I've ever taught this subject, and as I have no real formal training in the field or experience with the subject matter, it has been a source of strife for me. I feel more in danger of being called a fraud because of this class than I have with any other course I've taught, so I always have to watch out for some good approach to the material.

Of course, this means that I'm always particularly looking for something to use to illustrate the boring yet necessary book. While I was preparing for this Thursday's class, I remembered an article I read this weekend on the National Archives's display of an American invasion plan for Canada (and while I couldn't find that article online, I did find this).

As these classes are gearing up to write a set of technical instructions, we are already discussing how to proceed in planning a big task. So, in class, we did the preliminary planning of an invasion of Canada. One of my students in my 8am class surprised me by really having a great idea of what you'd need to know to pull this kind of mission off...hmmm, maybe he's thinking of this a little too much. Also, this begs the question...if a sophmore computer science major can fully grasp the complexities of invading another country, why can't everyone? Hint, hint. Anyway....

It is one of the interesting realities of modern government and warfare that we probably have invasion plans for every country, except maybe for the Order of Malta, who, no offense, we could probably take. It would be almost worth becoming president to read how the Pentagon plans to take out Litchenstein.

So there is actual precedence for such an invasion plan...just to reassure some of my Canadian friends. As I told my class, it isn't anything personal against Canada. Some of my best friends are Canadian. They generally have better beer and chocolate than us. Plus, Toronto is too cool to bombard.

But whenever you can involve some violence and bloodshed into a lesson plan, it really makes the examples more vibrant. Yes, folks, warfare can be a viable pedagogical tool.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Yesterday, right when I was counting down days to the strike, we got word that union and university negotiators had reached a tentative agreement on health care (details courtesy of the Toledo Blade) and as a result, our strike had been called off. While the settlement isn't a perfect solution, it is much better than any other offer that's been on the table to this point.

When I read the news, I was so giddy I couldn't work. So I took Lori out to Uraku, Bowling Green's very fine sushi place. We ordered and ate entirely too much, and then the chef threw in a free spicy tempura shrimp roll that was too good not to polish off right then and there...it was seriously orgasmic...which pushed us past the "eating" stage and into the "gorging" stage.

Afterwards, we went to Howard's, which is my favorite bar in the world. We hung out with three of our favorite BG people (Erik, Marnie, and Jamie), and I drank entirely too much.

Gluttony feels better when it's victorious, self-righteous gluttony. The only problem is that now, I'm gonna have to grade papers instead of picket.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

road rage

It was raining this morning, and I was angry. And I'm writing this because I can't decide if either (1) I'm turning into a crotchedy old man or (2) the world is arranged and run by blithering morons.

Can someone please tell me why new roads seem to be paved with black material? In the dark, in the rain, the entire road turns into a mirror. I can never see the lines, have no clue what lane I am in, and am always afraid I'm going to run into a semi. Is all highway construction designed to make me crash? Do these people have it in for me? Is it the world that's crazy, or is it me?

I fear that the "Am I stupid, or does the world suck?" bit might become a recurring thread of conversation...if so, douse me in Scotch and stand back.

void and emotion

My wife went to visit her parents this weekend. And although she was only gone one day, I noticed that I was a profoundly different person without her around.

The whole day, it felt like I was in an emotional void. I didn't feel sad, I didn't feel lonely...I just didn't feel much of anything. I watched television listlessly. I worked on class lesson plans in a trance. I stared at the walls. I absently played stupid video games. I felt bored, and everything seemed slightly, vaguely pointless. Events occupied my time, but that's all they did. I knew, as I went through my day, that I would not be able to either remember a single thing I was currently doing, and I knew that nothing of significance was happening, could happen, would ever happen.

When I heard her car door close, it felt as if someone had turned a light on in my head. The world blossomed from sepia tones to technicolor. The sight of my wife walking up to the door turned on my emotions. Suddenly, everything was fun and interesting again. The world was a place to see, feel, and experience, not just somewhere to inhabit. Things made sense. Life was good.

Having Lori around is the difference between wondering why I should get out of bed and wholeheartedly wishing I could spend the next few hours looking at her sleep, waiting for her to awaken just so I could hold her tight and feel her breath on my chest. Just feeling her body heat next to me, as we went to bed, made me feel good about the world, made me hopeful, made me dream happy dreams.

I know I'm not doing this justice, and I wish I could truly say how much having her with me means...because I suspect that it's the most important thing in the world...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

the good and the truly frightening...

On the plus side, we got a new fridge yesterday. Our old one was falling apart, and the first replacement we got didn't seal properly. The brand new fridge that they installed yesterday truly rocks. We've moved up from rusy metal shelves to clear, clean plastic, and from a truly puny 16 cubic feet to over 18. There's a really cool door shelf for the milk and such, sizeable crisper drawers, and a cheese drawer! We had to keep our dairy in a tupperware before, which, for some reason, always felt like we were slumming. We also don't have to deal with the wasteful built-in egg shelf.

On the nerve-grating, fear-of-God side: my union has set a strike date (see this Toledo Blade article for full details). I've been paying credit card minimums for a while so I can save up an emergency fund, so I will financially survive...but this is truly scary. If the sides were even getting somewhat closer in their terms, that would be something, but it doesn't seem to be working out that way. I will, most likely, be sans-income for a while. Fun.

Somehow, the new fridge doesn't quite make up for it.

Monday, January 09, 2006

one last question before I go away

I actually tried listening to the radio a few days ago, and it was enlightening. If the Toledo market is anywhere near representative, apparently radio will not play anything that's not at least 25 years old...at one point, the most current song was "No Sleep 'Till Brooklyn."

When in the hell did this happen? While there was classic rock on the radio when I was going to school, you could still actually hear new stuff. Now, I mostly still hear stuff from the seventies...that's thirty five years old!?!?! When I graduated high school, they weren't playing 1950s tunes.

Is it just me? Am I going nutso?

experimental teaching

When I teach, I like to try little experiments on the classes...see how much my behavior in the class influences their views and their work. Today's the first day of a new semester, so I've been giving thought to what experiments I'm trying this time around.

For the longest time, I asked the students to call me "Mike"...which they all felt free to do except for the BGSU football players, who insisted on calling me "sir"...apparently, they're really good at discipline over there. Last semester, I decided to have them call me "Dr. DuBose," so I could see if the name thing made any difference. They did call me Mr. DuBose, but for whatever reason, they resisted adding the "Dr."...not sure why. Otherwise, I noted no real difference in their behavior.

A few semesters back, I decided to only refer to my then-girlfriend as "my partner" and stay as gender-neutral as possible. The main result was that, combined with my Hawaiian shirts, it made my students think I was gay...I think that one of them might've even asked me if I was a homosexual.

For this semester, I'm thinking about going as professional as I can, for as long as I can...dressing nicely, professional tone and language in class, all that...and then mysteriously switching into full-bore Mike mode, just to see how they react.

If anyone else has ideas for student experiments, however, I'm more than happy to listen.

a season of change?

Every so often, I start to feel like I need to make subtle adjustments with my life. Sometimes I feel like I need to make catastrophic changes. Sometimes I feel like I might actually stick to the planned change. I've never been one for resolutions, but every so often, something clicks, and I realize that I'm going to do things different. I hope this is one of those occasions.

When I quit smoking, there was no magic occurrence, no flash in the head that inspired me...I just woke up one morning, realized I was no longer enjoying the habit, felt like it was time to quit...and it was.

So I got all gung-ho and bought the patches, threw away my smokes and lighter...and then, in the patch directions, they recommended that I switch brands of cigarettes daily, so my body wouldn't be jonesing for a particular cigarette...so I had to fish my smokes out of the trash and continue smoking for two weeks when I really didn't want to. I ran the gamut of brands: Pall Mall, Merits, Dorals, you name it.

Then, the day came. I trashed all my lighters again, put on the patch, and drove to my new job as a graduate assistant...it was my first day. Unfortunately, a very heavy rainfall shut down all but two of Jacksonville's bridges, and the normally 40 minute drive to campus took me 2 1/2 hours...my first time not smoking. How I didn't pull the car over and light an entire pack at once due to stress, I'll never know.

For a good six months, I wanted to rip cigarettes out of people's mouths, pick up butts off the street, but somehow I persevered...I don't know how. In many ways, I'm a very weak, impulsive man, but I had just had enough of smoking...the time was right.

Today, I have the idea that I really need to get healthy. The college lifestyle isn't the most invigorating, physically, but I've let myself slip. I drink more than I probably should, get less exercise than I need, and succumb to junk food more than I need to. I'm not making any promises...yes, I will still go to bars and eat pizza on occasion...but I'm thinking it's the time to get healthy.

Maybe by publically confessing, I will actually stick to the plan...but I'm hoping that, rather than being a wistful idea, that something has clicked inside, that I'm as ready for the change as I was ready to quit smoking. Stay tuned for details.

a statement that could've only come from my wife

We had to buy a new vacuum cleaner the other day. I assembled it before heading out for the evening. When I got home a few hours later, I noticed that Lori had already used it. When I asked her how it worked, she said "It's wonderful...it's like it massages the floor."

Have I mentioned how lucky I am?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

put on the hats and dance

So I return to my hangover-induced internet exile to find over 35 spams amongst my e-mail accounts. Why didn't these idiots feel bad instead of I, a humble blogger?

We had a quiet New Years Eve...me and the spousal unit hung out with four good friends, played the last Trivial Pursuit of 2005 untill we got tired of thinking. The big ball dropping took place to the Regis broadcast, where the hosts were, hilariously enough, horribly out of time with the loud chants of the crowd. We then went to charades and strong liquor...the former because we wanted to see each other act out dirty clues, the latter because we all had mysteriously high tolerances to beer for whatever reason. The wife and I were the first to leave, at an early 4am...it was a nice stumble home.

Apparently, I was the only one who got a real hangover as a result of my binge, which would've made me feel like less of a man if I wasn't too busy lying prone in front of the television. The traditional Black-eyed Peas, Rice, and Greens for dinner for luck, another day of just hanging with Lori, and now I have 5 days to get all the work I was supposed to get done over the entire break.

You would think that one of these days, I would learn...but actually, to not ever learn from my experiences is my only resolution.