Life as an Extreme Sport


I’ve discovered the oddest thing – if I read something complex aloud, I’ll have a much better chance of understanding it. I think it has to do with levels of engagement; I have to put more of myself into something if I’m reading it as well as listening to myself, and it activates different areas of the brain. It makes sense, since I’ve always learned well via lecture.

The end result of that discovery is that I was able to engage with the intimidating paper on a level that I’m happy with; I found structural issues to comment on, and did so in a manner that doesn’t have me looking like a simpleton. But man, after looking through all the papers I’ve graded this week, lemme just reinforce what a good thing it is I don’t use red ink. (Back when I was first starting this whole teaching venture, a good friend’s mother gave me one piece of advice that she felt was invaluable: knowing how chatty I am in commentary, do not under any circumstances grade in red ink. The papers would be handed back looking like they’re dripping blood, and that’s just not friendly. So now, people get grapes back…)

Beyond getting all my papers graded, I refreshed on the reading (although not as well as I would have liked; Taylor is complicated, and few people seemed to understand him – presenting myself in a light of having fully understood feels like cheating), and got “omgrough” draft of my grant application finished. I’m already thinking about how to change it, so it will be a long day of editing in gap times. I’m still not certain I can actually finish it in time for the deadline, but I’m going to try – if nothing else for the practice. There’s another round of funding in January if I really blow it this time, so it’s not a dreadful level of pressure (although getting funded now would certainly be better than then). I mostly just want to perform well so that I can get a “good” out of Phillip – the things I’ll push myself to do (like only getting 3 hours of sleep) for a little ego stroking.

At least I know what motivates me.


I’m sitting here poking a paper, rather literally. Actually, if I were to be literal, I would admit that I’m laying here, occasionally picking up and looking at, or otherwise nudging, prodding, or verifying that this paper still exists.

It’s not my paper. At least not in the wrote-it own-it sense. It is mine in that I’m the one supposedly making thoughtful, wise, and relevent comments on it.

It’s a smart paper. Probably smarter than me. It intimidates me, anyhow, and that’s a weird thing. It’s been a year since I’ve been so intimidated by someone in academia, and I worked in a partnership with her. This is not so much a partnership (although I think Phillip is very right, and it would work eversomuch better for both the author and me if it were one), and so there is weirdness. Who do I think I am, to be grading a paper of this quality and depth? (I asked Phillip this evening how he handled having a student smarter than him – he nearly killed me by telling me, right after I took a swig’o’beer, that it hasn’t happened yet.)

So I lay here, and I poke and lift and look, and I think. I think about my own writing, and how it’s changed over the last year. I think about getting frustrated and using shorthand, which in academia often involves long words. I think about wanting to cover so much ground and so many ideas in a small space. I think about trying to write abstracts that are 250 words or less, and I just think. I let my brain freewander to wherever it wants, whatever ideas feel like popping up.

It’s occured to me, after a little bit of this, that I can see a space that opens just a bit, and in that open space, I see the tactic to take with giving feedback on this paper. I see a little bit of how I used to write, dropping the large words and concepts left and right, and see a bit how it transforms papers from accessible and brilliant to inaccessible and muddled (which is not to say that’s where this paper is, more than it is a carry-through of thought). I think, more importantly, I see the jumps from A to F, without detailing out those middle steps.

It’s funny, in one of those universe-poking-you ways, because I think if you were to ask my ex-husband, or anyone who has known me a while, what my biggest flaw when thinking/writing about large concepts is, it would be that I make these large jumps from one point to another. I just intuitively seem to get what needs to be in the middle and how it fits in, and can jump to the conclusion and run. But ask me to back up and cover those middle steps carefully, and I’ll get a bit flustered and caught off-guard; it’s not something I can easily explain, it’s just something I know. Phillip called me out on this early last year, and it was the first time someone had done so in a way that made enough sense to me that I’ve worked hard, since then, to stop and step through each process.

Maybe if I approach this paper from that view, of where the steps should be and aren’t, I’ll find something constructive to say.

Finding Legs

The Monday afternoon class still hasn’t found its legs. I find that I’m floundering, in part because several of the students are also part of my group on Thursday, and I don’t want to repeat information. I’m not entirely certain where to take the class, what to do with it – to have it wide open and let it flounder, or to give it more direction. Some aspects took off tonight, and some didn’t…

…I need to think about what took off and figure out how to harnass it. Perhaps more personal narrative and mapping of experience onto text. That’s what lit them up tonight, and perhaps it needs to keep coming back to that. We can be Pop Culture 390.

Huh. It’s actually an idea.


This is just turning into one entire talk about 390, isn’t it? I promise to branch out about more soon, it’s just that 390 has been taking so much out of me… …and speaking of, mad, mad props to my cohorts, Adam and Matt. They’re brilliant, articulate, funny, men and just a real pleasure to work with.

Even if the bastards have labeled me Alpha PF.

Blue Monday

I parted ways with a fellow PF and a friend, waited about 2 minutes, and the bus showed up. In that intervening time, the post-teaching blues crashed down hard. I tried to alleviate them with my “Happy” iPod mix, to absolutely no success, so I’ve switched over to the “A Thousand Tears” mix and am wallowing in sad music and blue mood.

It’s not even that things went badly – I knew what area of the text they were going to pick up and on, and I prepared adequately for it, I had my whiteboard time, talking and lecturing. They’re still loosening up with one another, which I’m sure is part of it (no one wanted to come out and say anything that could be viewed as negative about Christianity, for example), and… I don’t know.

I’ve decided that I need to cover Extreme Reading 101 on Thursday, which means I need to find my notes on said subject (instead of pulling it out of my ass). I also need to get a course packet together, since we’ve decided we’re assigning additional reading for the focus group (voluntary reading, but I think most of them will). Of course, this isn’t counting the reading something upwards of 300 pages for John, grading papers, planning a full hour lesson plan with Matt for Thursday (since we’re keeping the groups together), reading a packet of material for tomorrow’s thesis, the sports medicine readings and oh yeah, that work thing.

I just wish I didn’t so often end up feeling like I could have done so much better.