Sweating the details

Long-time readers may remember that, back during winter break, I learned about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for people with student loan debt who work in the public sector. It wasn’t immediately clear that my university ‘counted’ – it’s a non-profit and it’s education, yes, but it’s not an underserved area, and certainly not an underserved population, and it’s a private school…

So I called my school’s HR office. Was transferred. Left a message.

Rinse and repeat for over a week.

So the new semester started, and I still didn’t know if I was eligible, or how to sign up (it requires an employer’s input but nobody seemed to know who was responsible for that), and lo and behold now it’s the end of August, and the fall semester is upon us, and I still haven’t got that settled. But I was on campus today, and dropped by the HR department (I figured it’s one thing to put someone off when you can just transfer them away; something else when they’re right there looking entreatingly in your face and waving the forms around).


Before I even got the question finished (granting that I was doing an exceedingly, even embarrassingly, even for me, bad job of articulating my question), the receptionist answered: yes. I am eligible, and HR handles it, she’ll take the forms, they’ll call me when they’re ready to be picked up.

This is a huge deal. This is literally a life-changer (assuming it goes through without a hitch).

My student loans – which are a sum greater than I will be able to repay in my lifetime of working at this pay-grade – are set by default for a 25 year repayment clock, after which point the balance is forgiven (though I think you have to pay taxes on any remaining principle or something).

With the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, that drops from 25 years to 120 months, which translates to some 10-15 years (we haven’t figured out yet if my job is technically a 12 month job – I think it might be a 9 or 10 month position, in the books? even though I get 12 paychecks a year?). They can be non-consecutive – meaning that if I’m not on 12 month employment, it’s still fine, will just take a little longer.

Best case scenario, that means my loans are forgiven 15 years earlier than I expected. After 10 years instead of 25.

And I’m already 5 years in to repayment, so I have already made some 45-60 monthly payments, and thus have some 60-75 to go.

Now, I grant that I’ll have to pay taxes on the remaining balance as income, which will be a larger tax bill than I can handle, so I’ll then have a few years of indebtedness to the IRS, but jesus christ this changes everything.

The husband and I could get married again!

I won’t relax about it until it’s all done and the checks have cleared, but yet and still.


I was supposed to meet my advisees and peer advisor partner for lunch today on campus, but I happened, and I was was 110% me: I got there, negotiated with a weary gatekeeper to get my way in without paying the normal $14 (!!!!) meal price, walked into the packed dining hall, thought I recognized my peer advisor, panicked about not being sure it was her…

And walked back out.

I sent her an email about how the gatekeeper wouldn’t let me in, which she believed (or at any rate accepted), and I went to HR instead.

It’ll be fine. I’ll meet all of them in the next few weeks. I sent them an email today telling them to set up a meeting with me before the 18th. We’ll make it happen. I’ll ferret them all out by hook or by crook.

I spent the rest of the day preparing for class. Because tomorrow is the first day of class!

And it turns out? When you spend the weekend in the Hamptons with your rich friends, you don’t get all that much work done. So I had several hours of work to do today, but I finished it by 9:30, and much of that time was spent working idly while hanging out with the husband, so it was a lovely and unstressful day.

And I am excited about tomorrow. Scared, always. I want them to respond to my humanity with humanity.

I am doing a particularly human first day this year too. Last fall, you may remember, I used Sonya Huber’s brilliant Shadow Syllabus on Opening Day: I had them go around the room reading each entry out loud, while I paced at the front of the classroom and responded to each point with small nods or smiles or eye rolls or whatever.

(Small, I promise.)

It was golden. So many of the students were really touched and moved. Who knows if it really changed the semester, but it made for a beautiful first day experience.

(I didn’t use it in spring, because too many upperclassmen and freshmen feeling jaded made me worry that it would fall flat and come across as bathetic.)

This semester I’ve worked it into my actual syllabus presentation: after I introduce all the rules and policies and expectations and grading breakdowns, I’m throwing it to them and having them take turns reading each entry. At the end of class.

I have high hopes.

One of my goals this semester, incidentally, is to keep a teaching journal. I sort of do that, informally, around here: I tend to organically reflect on things that went well or didn’t work as I’d expected. But I think I’m going to do a focused journal – handwritten, probably, ideally brief notes after each class session (ideally) (i.e., that won’t actually happen, but it’s fine).

The boss is crazier than ever, and I feel significantly less prepared than usual for Day One – granting that I am usually overly prepared – but I have a Good Feeling about the semester, for some reason.

(Maybe I just always do. Probably. We’re not in this for the money, after all: we kind of need to like what we’re doing to keep coming back.)

And we’re a few minutes shy, so I’ll plug a book I just learned about!

Verlyn Klinkenborg — which, first of all, is an A++ knock-out name — whoever that is, has an enchanting book on writing called Several short sentences about writing.

The husband, on seeing the title, made derisive noises and said it was an awful name, and I handed it to him, and he started flipping through it, and got reflective and thoughtful and quiet, and started reading passages to me.

Because it is full of clear, simple, beautiful, pithy, direct, sharp instructions for good writing.

It is a bit more appropriate to fiction writers, but not totally: it’s ultimately focused on such nuts-and-bolts and technical aspects of writing that is applicable to anyone trying to communicate effectively. It is also a bit dismissive of writing education (a lot of it focuses on how poorly done most people’s writing education is), but that’s rather hard to argue with. I mean, I’ve been reading freshmen writing for five years, and I can’t say I’ve seen much that brings me to song.

Perhaps the most amazing part, pedagogically, is the end-bit where he (she? but I think he) offers imperfect sentences, and diagnoses the problem with a dry wit that had me over the moon.


There are constantly trucks flowing in and out of National Meats.

The natural subject of this sentence is “trucks.” Trucks flow in and out of National Meats. But trucks are bad at flowing.

Verb choice, people!!


I leaned against the parapet as the wind blasted me and looked out over the sea.

The wind likes to look out over the sea whenever it can. Who doesn’t? Note how useless the “as” is here.

And I’ll leave that there. I already have plans to quote heavily from this book throughout the semester in my classes, so I’m sure you’ll get plenty chances to hear more.

(And one of these days I’ll get around to updating the ‘Edifying Reads’ tab, and then I’ll add this book to it.)

As for me, we’re right at the half hour, and it’s still early (for me), and I’m a little anxious and peckish, so I guess I’ll go eat some cheese and maybe catch up on all the blogs I didn’t read this weekend —

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The view from here


There was a bit of a clusterfuck with my rental car: turns out they won’t let you rent without an actual credit card, even though some third-party sites will happily allow you to reserve with a debit card and not warn you — and even charge you the $30 for three days of insurance!

(I closed my credit card accounts in grad school and just never got around to opening any more, so I haven’t had a credit card in more than a decade.)

On the plus side, the lot where my car share car was parked was next to this mural I’d never seen.

(Car share is amazing for local trips, more questionable for longer distances, since the per-mile charges are steep, but the only rental car company that would let me pay by debit was pricier still, and my car share is much more hassle-free.)


The trip went swimmingly for the first two hours, even though I left shortly before 5PM on a Friday: manageable traffic in Phila, and none in Jersey.

Then I hit New York City.

The real problem wasn’t traffic, to be fair: it was my inability to follow directions precisely (or rather, my insistence on following them too precisely), and when I was told to ‘keep right’ I actually ended up taking an exit on the right shortly before the intended ‘keep right’ instruction, and that resulted in me ending up in the Newark airport cell phone waiting lot some 30 minutes later, because I had to get off the road.

It took me nearly an hour to escape the maybe five square mile area between the initial correct exit and all the corrections and follow-ups required to get me back on track.

I spent it listening to Regina Spector’s Firewood on repeat, because it is a lovely calming song, and I love singing along to it.

After that it was smooth sailing again, though. And the evening was full of hilarity, and today has been lovely.


There was the beach, then picking up fresh seafood and produce at local markets, then swimming in the outdoor pool, cooking, then eating – most of it accompanied by liberally flowing wines of every variety.

But I’m not sold on the Hamptons, and I have four or five raised eyebrows about some of the rich friend’s husband’s new choices.

(For instance, he now drives a Porsche, and drives it like a fucking Porsche driver. Which is to say, kind of like an asshole, in that he’s always accelerating as quickly as possible and taking turns too fast.)

(On the plus side, I didn’t notice any aggressive tailgating or passing or whatever, so there’s that.)


my friends; the waves were too much for me

But I will be glad to go home tomorrow, and then – even though this house is immaculately appointed and the food and wine is as fine as it comes and I want for nothing here – I will go back to hemming and hawing and making excuses for not coming up here. Which will in any case be made easier by the fact that they’re moving to London soon.

Not a bad send-off for the new school year, though, and I did actually get some work done this morning before we got down to seriously relaxing.

And found inspiration for an exercise that I am really interested in, but more on that another day. For tonight, I have this whole capacious white empty room to myself, and I think there are probably some things on the interwebz that might entertain me —


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Why the ‘Ivory Tower’ metaphor is misleading: notes towards an argument

  • Example the first:

Apparently Victor Davis Hanson has a new article out in the National Review.

Hanson is a former classicist who became increasingly disenchanted with the changes brought on by the ‘culture wars’ and ended up writing a well known and much-derided (in some circles) (e.g., mine) monograph, Who Killed Homer?, which is a book that makes the case for classical education (I’m on board!) and derides academe for being overly politically correct and obsessed with not offending anyone and what-not (I’m significantly less on board with this part).

He has since left academe, and made his way as a conservative commentator, and has written a number of pieces for the National Review (perhaps he’s a regular there; I don’t really follow him or that magazine closely enough to know), and he would be content to be placed in the Buckley tradition of American conservatism, I expect.

So his new piece is about how diversity has destroyed civilizations.

Which is tiresome, and, as a classicist friend who put it on facebook noted, just flat-out factually incorrect: Rome was an incredibly multicultural empire throughout its ‘golden age’, and the Ottoman Empire was generally pretty comfortable letting people go on with the lives they liked according to their own cultural standards, so long as they paid taxes and so on.

(I can’t really recommend reading the piece, but it’s here if you really want to.)

Full disclosure: I did not read past the inane first paragraph. Yes, I am criticizing an article I haven’t read. I trust my friend who commented on it, and I trust that Hanson’s history will be a reasonably good predictor of this piece’s argument.

  • Example the second:

Earlier today I read a very interesting overview of the history of African American studies (mostly avant la lettre) scholarship. The author identified four distinct ‘generations’ of scholars, and summarized their main concerns and questions and methodologies and models.

For instance, you have the late 19th century, when scholarship is more Biblically inspired than really academic, as few people writing on the subject have any significant academic training (what with most of them being black, and that whole slavery thing and all). Then a later generation moved away from that, and the focus of the field shifted to demonstrating the value of the ‘black race’.

(In quotes because we all know that race doesn’t really mean anything stable, but it’s more or less the language of the time.)

Subsequent generations have increasingly focused on identifying and illuminating the agency that underlies the black communities of today – and in fact the assumption that black people in America were active, intelligent, creative agents in the construction of their own cultures and communities – as opposed to being savages, or relying on white saviors, for instance – is currently one of the basic givens of the field.

The author pointed out how all of these academic generations related to their contexts: when the cultural moment was trying to stabilize the country after a war determined that blacks had to be dealt with as humans, it was about demonstrating that black people did some good things too. When it was about Civil Rights and integration, the focus was on creating sympathy and empathy for the black American. When it was on Black Power, the focus was on the fertility of black action and imaginations.

(I’m oversimplifying mightily, you understand, but that gives you a reasonable overview, I think.)

  • What these examples have to do with each other

Historiography takes as one of its basic premises that no scholarly inquiry can take place outside of its context. If you aren’t existing in a context that permits the idea that maybe black people are, um, people, your research is probably going to mostly take for granted that they’re not, and work from there. If you are committed to believing that diversity is dangerous, you’re probably going to find a way to support that claim in the face of what looks to me and my friend like incontrovertible and obvious evidence to the contrary.

That is my first objection to the ‘ivory tower’ metaphor.

But let’s step back, briefly, and clear up that term a bit.

In common parlance, the ‘ivory tower’ signifies the rarified air in which academics pass their lives, above the concerns of you petty mortals. It is imagined that they are isolated from the mundane, and never have to worry about anything like laundry or the price of milk or childcare or the human feelings that result from human interactions with human students.

The old tropes of professors – absent-minded, clumsy in the normal world, distracted by higher intellectual matters – reflects this.

It’s all bullshit, of course, as has become increasingly clear as academe becomes more accessible to the ‘lower’ classes and the poors (like me!).

That is partly what forced the culture wars of the 80’s: my intellectual ancestors with working class backgrounds started pointing out that maybe not everyone who ever did anything important was a straight rich white guy, and maybe it mattered a little bit to think about the perspectives of women and non-whites, who were also, allegedly, people.

Obviously some people – Victor Davis Hanson, for example – have found this shift so offensive that they needed to eschew the whole realm of academe as soon as they realized they couldn’t just stay in their ivory towers. Even as they, confusingly, refused to acknowledge the fact that their towers were actually fully embedded in and colored by the world around them.

Which reminds me: ‘ivory tower’, the term itself, apparently comes from the Song of Solomon, where the beloved’s neck was compared to an ivory tower. And later it was applied to the Virgin Mary, and came to signify purity and lack of concern with the banal dirtinesses of worldly affairs.

(The ‘See Also’ of the wikipedia page on ‘Ivory Tower‘, by the way, is amazing, and is comprised of ‘Gates of Horn and Ivory’ [a reference to a passage in the Odyssey]; ‘Liberal Elite’; and ‘Limousine Liberal’. Gag me.)

The confluence of the Hanson article and the article about the history of African American studies scholarship was fortuitous, but there is also a third piece: the University of Chicago wrote an anti-trigger-warning thing that surfaced on the interwebz today.

Time – and the fact that I need to get up early tomorrow for work training, and also finish packing for my luxury weekend in the Hamptons – keeps me from commenting further on this at any length, but I will say that, while I can see legitimate reasons underlying the arguments of both sides, I think the anti-trigger-warning side will turn out to be on the wrong side of history. If only because one of the major trends of scholarship has always been towards acknowledging the value of underrepresented voices, and taking their objections seriously. And ‘trigger warnings’ are, at heart, little more than acknowledging that certain people’s pain is real.

But I’ll leave that there for tonight. Lots on the table. But I always prefer that to simple neat pat answers, because those are nearly always bullshit.

I may or may not be posting this weekend, but in any case you can feel free to imagine me lounging around private pools on Long Island, and sailing leisurely around the Sound, and drinking more than is really recommended in the mid-afternoon.

And, of course, feeling deeply conflicted about it all.

Because that’s basically what I do for a living —

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Oops – I guess I’ve had a post called ‘Thresholds’ before. Figures. I’ve been interested in liminal spaces ever since I learned the word ‘liminal’.

[from Latin: limen, liminis (n) – threshold]


I finished the blue quilt blocks last night, which means now I’ve got to decide if I’m going to double-down on my original, unusual, design, or go for something more traditional.

Here’s a rough computerized plan of the quilt, but you have to imagine the quilting (absent in this image) doing the heavy-lifting in the central portion (also the colors are off, but it gives the basic idea):


(I won’t go through the whole thing again – you can read about the original plan and what it signifies here if you’re curious.)

I keep going back and forth. It’s a weird quilt, and there’s something weird even about the move from light-outer to dark-inner, right? I think the reverse seems more natural.

But then again I kind of like it, and think it works.

In no small part because it is extremely personalized for the recipient, which goes a long way in smoothing over design flaws, in my experience.

Here are the actual colors, incidentally:


Speaking of blue:


A basement guy came by today. He was a great – and not at all skeezy or polyester – salesman, and the husband committed to spending $3,500 to have the basement cement cleaned up and patched, and have waterproof, mold-proof, basement-ready tiles installed over it, and PVC baseboards installed over that.

All of which I think is a great idea: he likes to be cheap about things, but I just don’t see how short-term solutions are really remotely worthwhile when you’re talking about a home you own, and especially when it’s in a workspace you spend many many hours a week inhabiting. That’s exactly the kind of thing you ought to invest in.

(Of course, this is all easy to say, as it isn’t my money.)

They expect the whole overhaul to take just one day, amazingly, and we’re currently scheduled for September 9.

As long as there’s no basement to house the husband’s office, incidentally, he’s working out of my office, so I’m also all in for getting this settled as soon as possible.

So I painted the doors today.


There are so many doors down there. Closet (2 doors), bathroom (1), laundry (2), furnace and water heater (2), crawl space (1). They used to be all dark brown cheap wood.

And now they are all blue. Jury is out on whether or not a second coat will be necessary (probably), but already the space looks brighter and cheerier, even with that shitty floor.

The walls will be a sunny light yellow, the trim and ceiling a light blue-white. The floors are a light-pseudo-wood ‘parquet’.

(The basement guy kept emphasizing that his products were inorganic, and reiterating that organic materials in basements are just food for various nasty critters and bacteria and what-not. That visceral word choice was probably a factor in his successful sale, honestly.)

I have high hopes for the space, though, and even for finishing it relatively soon.

And I’m glad the mold problem forced our hand, because the husband would never have agreed to pay $3,500 for that room otherwise, even though he has the money lying around.

(Of course, his impulse to being cheap is part of why he has several thousand dollars lying around idly, so there’s that.)


It is also, of course, the end of summer, and I have not managed my time especially well this week, which means I have three articles to read and summarize tomorrow, in advance of Fridays’ training.

(At least I already did the reading and scoring of a completely extraneous totally appropriate number of sample final projects assigned to make sure that all faculty are working with the same standards in mind, so there’s that.)

For our last summer night out, the husband and I went out to the Bok, which has been controversial for various reasons, but actually is kind of the best you can hope for as far as ‘gentrification’ goes.


Like, they hired locals – borrowing (but not poaching!) from local restaurants, I think, as a kind of free advertising mutual-interest thing – to provide a little food, and I had some deliciously fresh scallion pancakes prepared by a friendly Southeast Asian American.

It’s a great bar – the view alone is a brilliant selling point – and it is functioning as a non-profit subsidizing various locally owned establishments being housed in the building. Which, yes, used to be a school, and I am 100% on the side of people who hate the idea of closing public schools… but the developer wasn’t responsible for that, and she could have turned it into ‘luxury condos’, but instead decided to try to make it what she calls ‘a community living room’, which I think is a brilliant vision.

But soon we’ll be back in it, and summer but a distant memory.

I hope we got enough done.

I think we did.

But it never feels like enough.

But I had fun doing my work, and learned and marveled and was engrossed and enthralled, and performed ballet and pointe, and traveled the world, and sewed, and strengthened friendships, and wrote a chapter, and laid the groundwork for several more chapters, and took the gut-punch of an article rejection in stride, and am mentally preparing to get back to revising that article this fall… so it’s all time well spent, right?

So we’ll call it a success.

That seems fair to me.



Filed under around Phila, culture, goals, identity, musings, sewing


Like when you’re driving and a radio station is going in and out of range: that’s more or less how I feel right now.

But all three course websites are up, and dates are settled with the librarian and (mostly) with the rare books room guy, and I did about a third of the bullshit busywork incredibly useful important homework for Friday’s meeting.

I just bought this shirt (in blue) for Broadway, and I predict she will love it

I just bought this shirt (in blue) for Broadway, and I predict she will love it

And mom is home, so we’re no longer responsible for a car. Which is always kind of a relief, however convenient they are for some things.

And the ugly shitty baseboards from the basement are all ripped out, and someone is coming tomorrow to do an estimate of redoing that shitty concrete. The other guy estimated $2,400, which the husband thought was absurd and I found totally reasonable and expected, and actually slightly on the low side, based on the random smattering of research I did.

finally saw this Phila-famous mural, put up a few months back. Don't worry: I was stopped at a red light.

finally saw this Phila-famous mural, put up a few months back. Don’t worry: I was stopped at a red light.


And I committed to going to the Hamptons this weekend, so that’s happening. I’ll pour out some Dom Perignon for you poors while I’m out there.

from yesterday's text exchange with DC

from yesterday’s text exchange with DC

Everything is compromise.

I’ve got quilt blocks and an entertaining and exceedingly absurd novel calling my name —

I'll move him before I turn the iron on, I promise

I’ll move him before I turn the iron on, I promise

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Dichotomies, admittedly, tend to be deceptive. Like gay vs. straight: hardly anyone is decisively one or the other, without nuance. Or male vs. female: we’re all finding out (belatedly, many of us) that that’s false. Neurodiverse vs. neurotypical: nope, again with the spectrum. But they’re so convenient to think with!

This is something that drives me crazy about my boss: she thinks in black and white (often black vs. white), and one is always better than the other (not different: better) and you’re doing a disservice to your students if you see it differently.

(A fun happy hour with colleagues once involved hyperbolic escalations of how we’ve ruined everything with our bad teaching choices; my favorite was, well, great: now [school] has lost its accreditation because of this, just so you know.)

(It’s funny because it’s based in truth, helas.)

Rich vs. poor.

My rich friends want me to come up to their house in the Hamptons this weekend. Our mutual DC friend is going (she of the delightful Miami trip of a few months back).

I have some good arguments against going: it is a five hour trip, basically, by train – and that’s assuming I take the Acela [expensive fast train], which I probably won’t – and I’ve got a shit-ton of work to do this weekend so I’m ready to teach on Tuesday. And I can’t really do it all now, because the new semester’s training session isn’t until Friday, so I won’t know all the changes, and understand how they will impact my plans, until that’s done.

(I will commend the Powers that Be on getting our course websites put together in reasonably good time; usually we only get them a few days before the semester starts. This time I was informed that they were ready to go on Friday afternoon – that’s more than a week to play with setting them up to my liking!)

I’m worried that their arguments are better, though: namely, they’re moving to London at the end of the year for who knows how long, and this will probably be the last chance to see them at their fancy beach house mansion for a while.

(They spent $150,000 just on the design plans. Although maybe that’s not expensive? I don’t know how much it costs to design a house.)

(And, to be fair, the land itself was in the rich friend’s family – her father’s family had a little modest cabin on it – but then again I think they bought the lot next door to build their tennis courts, so… yeah.)

(Yes: they have tennis courts. Plural.)

I admit that I have a real problem with wealth. I am judgy and impatient with it, and find displays of it off-putting and insulting. But these are old friends, and they are basically good people…

I’m still deeply disdainful of the rich friend’s husband choice to stick with his green card and not get citizenship in order to avoid paying taxes on all his family’s wealth, which I think is gross and selfish. But, again, there are no hard and fast lines, and we all make the choices that make sense to us in our context, and sometimes those choices don’t make sense to people who don’t have all the information.

Yet and still.

But who am I kidding, I’ll probably go. For one thing, the rich friend is exceedingly pushy when she wants to be, and it’s easier to give in than resist.

And of course it will be glorious and ritzy, and I will feel a little icky, but I will enjoy good company (and excellent booze – they are always well stocked with excellent and free-flowing booze) and I know I will come home more happy than not.


I know I haven’t been especially prone to engaging with the world around TDP for a while now, and have been mostly on about personal concerns and what-not, but I am interested in these Trump statues that appeared last week, and the responses to them.

So, if you haven’t heard, some anarchist artist collective put up statues of naked Donald Trump statues in several cities (New York, Seattle, LA… three or four others) (not Phila, alas — bringing out my requisite Phila-chip-on-shoulder: what, we’re not good enough for yous and your art? Well fuck yous! We don’t want your art anyway!) and they are, shall we say, not flattering. I don’t feel like embedding images, for various reasons, but I am positive that google will do you right on this front: the interwebz are full of pictures of these statues.

But I will describe them: the statues depict an unflatteringly aging man, with small buttocks and a spare tire and looming paunch, with blue veins showing through in various places, with the trademark atrocious hair and arrogant mug, and, most saliently, with a very small male member, and with no balls.

When I first came across the story, I thought it was funny, and payment in kind, in a way: he talks incessantly about women as if we’re only there to be observed, and only as valuable as they are beautiful (by his narrow, nasty, boring standards) – ‘she’s a dog’, ‘she’s bleeding out of her wherever’, ‘she’s no longer a ten’:

(Props to Heidi Klum for having a sense of humor about that nonsense, and giving it the middle finger it deserves.)

In short, I had a hard time feeling bad for Trump for being ridiculed for his body.

But a lot of people came out pretty hard against it:

And I see the point. It may be momentarily fun to publicly remind Donald Trump that he hardly registers on the ten-point-scale-of-attractiveness, but…

Doug Muder, as he often does, encapsulates the problem neatly:

I’m of two minds about this, and I’m glad to hear that the sculptor is a Gary Johnson supporter, so Democrats have nothing to answer for. Slate‘s Christina Cauterucci sums up the anti-statue position:

Encouraging people to laugh at the statue of Trump because it’s fat, wrinkly, and small-dicked doesn’t tell them Trump is a bad person. It tells them that fat, wrinkly, and small-dicked (or transgender, or intersex) people are funny to look at and should be embarrassed of their naked bodies.

Like many of Trump’s own insults, the statues are “demeaning, gratuitous, and don’t say anything worth saying.”

I’m not sure I agree with that assessment, though, because there’s an ongoing debate among anti-Trump people about whether to respond to him with fear, anger, or laughter. The statue clearly comes out on the side of laughter; which is a point worth making. (Though I agree with Cauterucci about the collateral damage to people who share the statue’s supposedly risible features.)

As for the offense to Trump himself, what standards of decency are he and his supporters playing by? If I could identify any, I’d happily grant him the protection of those standards. But it gets tiresome to follow rules and uphold standards when your opponents don’t.

(Quotes within quotes!)

So there’s another dichotomy lost: it isn’t always obviously okay or not okay to make fun of even the worst people.

Goddammit. It’s like the world is incredibly complicated or something, and everything is compromise.

But I’ve got only three more quilt blocks to do on the blue quilt, and a new absurd David Wong novel to get further into, so I guess we’ll call that a night.

Where do you stand on the Trump statue, though?

Oh, and how could I possibly not include the New York Parks Department’s statement about why they removed it, because [potential trans-shaming etc aside] it is golden:

NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.



Filed under culture, identity, learning, musings, politics, travel, varia


Yesterday, not quite outside Phila, we saw a three-car pile-up wreck on 76 (aka the Schuylkill Expressway, archly called the Surekill, for its many unfortunate entrance ramps, a fair number of which dump you into the fast lane with only about 30 feet of straightaway to pick up speed – I try to avoid it when at all possible).

It was not an especially bad accident – when we saw it the cops weren’t even there yet, and no one seemed to be hurt, as there were three guys standing around idly, arms on hips, assessing the situation. Based on how they were all crashed, I diagnosed it as the result of two cars in each of the outer lanes trying to move into the middle lane at the same time, without signally, while going far too quickly, and without leaving an appropriate safety space cushion — and thus they basically sideswiped each other and then rear ended the guy in the middle lane.

That’s just my self-satisfied reconstruction based on how their various vehicles got dented and crushed and damaged, and how they skidded to their halt, because I get so frustrated with drivers, and especially with passing on the right.

But Phila drivers hate driving around me, to be fair: I don’t go fast enough, I insist on keeping at least two car lengths between myself and the car in front if we’re going above 35, and I’m generally overly cautious and defensive. Which I grant is its own kind of bad driving, but my blood pressure stays fairly low, and I’ve always gotten there eventually so far, so it seems to work for me.

I get honked at so much, though. And tailgated and then furiously passed.

Anyway, I didn’t meant to gab on about a car wreck or driving, because I know I am patronizing and precious about driving. Everything is kind of piled up right now, though, so it’s got me thinking about wrecks.

Last week we replaced the water heater, right? $825 later, we have fucking scalding hot water (seriously, I need to turn that thing way the fuck down – it seems to be currently set on, like, Satan’s Ass or something) and life is good now on that front. That coincided, coincidentally, with the major basement work that has been thrust upon us by mold problems, which means that currently the husband’s office is scattered around the house, but mostly centered in my office (which is fine: I’ve got my own pile-ups that are keeping me too busy to sit down at my desk and write), and we pulled the basement carpet up.


It’s horrifying. I knew it would be a plain cement floor, and I figured it wouldn’t be in great shape, but… wow. It’s stained with old carpet glue, and its crumbling in places, and there’s mold in places, and it’s just awful.

So now we’re trying to find someone to come redo the basement floor. This is going to be pricey, I expect. $3000-$5000, I’d guess, for repairing the cement and then laying down a reasonably attractive basement-appropriate flooring?

As in, not just putting fucking carpet over nasty cement in a dampish basement, like the previous owners did. Ew.

We’re taking this opportunity to redo the whole room. It badly needed a makeover anyway: it was all beige and neutral, with dark wood doors, and it was cramped and depressing-feeling. The husband picked out a sunny yellow (not too glaring: a gentle yellow) for the walls and a light sky blue for the trim and doors and closets. I’m lobbying for repainting the ceiling too, in a bluish white we have left over from doing the sewing room last year.

Not that I know when this is going to get done. I think we’ll both be impressed if we manage to finish it all by Christmas.

Side-note on the husband’s private pile-ups: the USCIS – that’s the Citizenship and Immigration Services, whose officers oversee all the kinds of cases the husband does (hardship, asylum, extraordinary ability…) – seems to have undergone some big shake-up this summer, and now all the officers are demanding unreasonable supplemental evidence submissions, and are denying cases for bogus reasons, and are generally being assholes and not following the agreed-upon playbook of How the Law Works.

The husband joined an immigration lawyer listserve, and this is a well known and widespread problem. AILA (the immigration lawyer professional organization) is actually filing complaints or something, it’s so bad.

Which is all to say, he’s getting a lot of ‘Requests for Additional Evidence’ and ‘Notices of Intent to Deny’, and obviously his clients are freaking out a little. Or kind of a lot, in a number of cases.

(And they were already pretty worked up based on the last year of national political rhetoric: the things Trump et al are saying become exponentially more frightening when you are (1) an immigrant, (2) Muslim, (3) not a citizen of the US, and (4) a citizen of a really complicated country like Pakistan or Syria. Especially when you have young children, as most of his clients do. Tempers are running high on all sides.)

And then there are my pile-ups: the sewing ones, first of all. I’ve had this waterfall of sewing interest and intent, and finished that skirt, and restarted that abandoned coat, and started the intended new coat, and made great progress on the quilt… and just bought some new patterns, and fished out an old retro dress-and-jacket pattern after discovering several yards of navy cotton in the Stash (navy is my new color this year: my back-to-school purchases were navy booties and a navy-based skirt-shirt-cardigan outfit)…

Which is all to say, yes, it’s fine that the husband is taking over my office for a while, I’ve got my work cut out for me (heh… literally…) down here.

And then there’s work. Our training session is this Friday, and I have several hours of bullshit busywork useful homework to do in advance of that. And I’ve been putting my course websites together, and gathering all the various files, and thinking about how to organize them, and trying to figure out when I can work in the visits to the museum and to the rare books room —

(Being back on the magic class means being back in the museum and rare books room! And the rare books librarian, who is a delight, has assured me that he can put together a solid presentation on fairy tales as well, so they’ll get a little field trip too.)

— and trying to figure out how to help my kids see past the local culture of hating my class, which is popular because it is a required class and full of a lot of admittedly tedious work (but I promise it’s useful-tedious, if you can keep your sense of humor!)… but now my job depends on student evaluations, which means I need to make it easy for them to see what they’re getting out of all this time and effort.

I’m going to experiment with a couple of mid-semester anonymous surveys, with questions that ask them to reflect on what they think we’ve been doing in the class, what they think they’ve learned, how they think they’ve been performing in group work and discussions, and that sort of thing – always with a focus on the positive (‘what is going well?’) and on their own role in their education (‘what are you doing to make this time worthwhile?’).

They’re easy kids, as I’ve said: they come in knowing how to be good students, by and large, and many of them don’t even mind working hard, provided I can convince them it’s worth their while (which often just means reminding them that it’s not that hard to get an A- in this class). So maybe this little intervention will help, and will make them more conscious of what they’re getting out of the time they spend with me, which maybe will translate to high eval scores, because that’s all that fucking matters, because no one on the faculty committee can apparently be bothered to look beyond our eval scores to assess whether or not we’re worth employing, and getting a high ‘Course Quality Score’ is literally the main hurdle to getting our contracts renewed now.

Not that I’m bitter, no.

We’re just checking in to see what kinds of potential collisions are threatening, and taking a deep breath, and doing everything we can to just keep rolling smoothly along.

And I’ve got a new audiobook calling to me, and six more quilt squares to make before I’m done with the piecing part of this quilt, and all the rest is too much to think about at this hour anyway —

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