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A Mini-Vacation in Minneapolis

Just back at my AirBNB in Black River Falls, WI, after a four-hour round trip to Minneapolis and back. Saw the city for the first time, and watched my dear friend in his play.

I don’t like to review performances of people I actually know, but for the most part, it was awesome. From the moment he stepped out on stage, I was like….”this guy.” My friend. The other cast members were quite talented as well. There were some interesting staging choices, killer rapping, and overall, a powerful yet touching story. I realize that this is probably the least descriptive review ever, but I wanted to write something about this play without giving away too much information about it; I guess I’m weird like that, and I probably need to go and see more shows where I don’t know anyone in the cast.

Up at 8 tomorrow morning and out by 830 in order to make it back home on time. Wish me luck y’all.

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Undergrads These Days

So, this weekend I’m heading up to Eau Claire for the APO Sectionals conference, where I’m teaching 2 workshops on varying topics to (hopefully) a bunch of undergrads.

What’s really getting to me, though, is just how busy these undergrads are. Or seem to be.

I know that college students are at that age where they don’t yet know the meaning of commitment, or how to balance a cost/benefit ratio in life, but I think that it’s somehow gotten worse. Initially, 33 people from the chapter signed up to go to the conference this weekend, and now I think we’ll be lucky if even 15 make it. And there are some other groups that are not going at all, somewhat due to drivers/cost but mostly because of the all-too-vague “I’m busy.”

I mean, seriously. Too busy to take a weekend to have fun, learn, get a change of scenery, and study if you have a spare moment.

I know that school comes first, but usually, the phrase is followed by “I have an exam this week.” Only, it seems like I hear this from someone every week, for one reason or another. In the course I teach, we have just 2 exams – a midterm and a final – and I don’t think that either of them would require a student to spend 48 hours studying. But it seems like all these undergrads, whether they be in APO or students I teach, are constantly having exams in all their other classes, usually math and hard sciences. I constantly get emails from students who were absent that week saying that they had an exam right before and were tired after, or had an exam right after and studied all day right up until the exam started. One student emailed us saying that he had 3 exams in one day.

What is with all these exams? Why do they need to exist?

At this point, I try to put myself in the shoes of an undergrad, thinking back to my undergrad days, which were almost a decade ago. Granted, I did not have much of a social life, but I don’t ever remember having a constant barrage of exams, or a weekend where all I did was study. In fact, to this day, in my ten years of being a student in higher education, I have never even pulled an all-nighter. I remember doing some homework on weekends, but I usually spent at least 1 weekend a semester out of town, like the time I flew down to Baltimore for a play premiere, or when I drove to New York City and back in 48 hours to go to my aunt’s wedding. I worked a lot, and I worked hard, but I managed to have down time in there, which is why I did get down on myself a lot.

But that’s beside the point.

To this end, I look back even further, to my freshman year. I was leaning towards majoring in theater, but I still took the requisite English and Math courses. At the same time, my sister was a junior, majoring in early childhood education. I still remember talking on the phone with my parents my second semester, and my dad told me that I seemed to be working harder as a freshman than my sister had in her three years thus far. Granted, she didn’t graduate with a 3.5 GPA like I did, and she had this thing where she wanted to see how long she could go without going to the library (turns out that she never even set foot in the campus library, in all four years). Still, she got a job offer in her field, right out of college, and has had it ever since. Even though I only graduated with a 3.5, and granted, I didn’t get my dream job, I still somehow managed to muddle through, get my master’s and into my Ph.D. program. Both of the above outcomes, working world and higher ed, were feasible without constant studying or an all-nighter.

So, I don’t know what today’s college students’ excuses are. Unless my sister and I had the world’s easiest majors (which we probably did not) or were complete slackers, it seems to me that undergrads are working harder, and with the way this economy is going, probably for even less satisfying results.

I’m almost at that age where I say “kids these days…” with a dubious look, but something is definitely going on with today’s college students, whether it’s a lack of study skills or just a generation of vindictive professors.

1

Foiled by a French Word

Hey y’all, I’ve emerged from the crazy place I’ve been over the last week or so, alternating between stressing, running up and down the library stairs, sleeping in/staying up too late, sneezing/sniffling/dehydrated, and seeking out random places to get work done (including 1 hour of grading last night at Hurts Donut in Middleton, and 2 hours of reading/writing in a booth at Perkins) while trying (and failing) not to have too many sugary snacks. Even though I want them.

Today was actually relatively productive. Even though I didn’t get my day really started until about 12:30, at least I was up around 9 or 10. I headed over to Colectivo to get a cappuccino (yum), a sandwich (meh), and a cup of onion soup (…nasty), and proceed to discipline myself to work. First, I decided to read a book I’ve been meaning to send out for awhile. I gave myself one hour, and by the time the hour was up, I was 5 pages from the end of the 230-ish page book, so I finished it, ordered a mocha, and steeled myself for an hour of working on some of the most difficult writing I’ve ever done.

So, there I am, typing away, click click click la di da di da, when all of a sudden my brain just comes to a screeching halt. I need a word that refers to an incredibly talented and versatile individual, but I cannot think of one. There is a specific word I’m looking for, but it’s in the wrong section of my brain and I can’t find it. I know it either is or sounds French, so I run through every possible French word I know. Panache? No. Savoir-faire? No. Je ne s’ai quoi? No. AUGGGHHH.

It’s. Right. There. But I can’t find it.

I call for backup. My parents are in Ocean City, and my dad and I have a several-minute long conversation about this word, which neither of us can think of. He asks my mom, who asks one of her friends who is fluent in French which is convenient because today is that friend’s birthday and she lives all by herself and my mom almost forgot to call her.

I get off the phone and start frantically writing words. Virtuoso. Au courant. Tour-de-force. One of these may or may not be the answer, I feel like I’ll know it when I see it.

I open up Google Translate and try out some French words, go to dictionary.com and thesaurus.com, make yet another call to my dad, and now twenty minutes have been spent on this one word and I’m so desperate that I open up the Wikipedia page on English words of French origin and go down the list, starting at A and getting up to C before realizing how ridiculous I’m being. After trying out a bazillion different possible words, I settle on “tour-de-force” and continue onward.

Up to now, I still have no idea what that word might have been, although tour-de-force is probably the closest I got. However, I came across some other French words that, in my opinion, should have different meanings.

Blancmange. It refers to a type of sauce, but I think it should refer to someone who is sophisticated enough to order the correct wine for the meal.

Legerdemain. It’s a lovely way to refer to trickery, but what it should means is, someone who is incredibly skilled at bookkeeping or journaling/blogging.

Demimondaine. It refers to something sordid. What it should mean: an aging leading lady (think Ms. Moore)

Peignoir. It has to do with a hairdo. It should refer to someone whose hair is so perfect that others doubt it’s natural.

Joie de vivre. Means “joy of living.” Should mean “let’s all jump around like we’re young lovers frolicking around Paris in the spring.”

And on a final, quite random note:

While I was grocery shopping today, I walked past the school supplies and for a moment, my eyes saw the word illegal pad” on a small notebook; upon closer examination, it was just an ordinary legal pad with an oddly placed logo. Who decided the legality of pads, anyway? What if I wanted an illegal pad? What would it look like? Would I have to declare it at customs? Would it be considered contraband? Would I have to throw it across the border into Mexico? So many questions.

1

Staying In and Getting Real Night, Part 6

Another Sunday night, another Golden Girls marathon. It’s the episode where Stan becomes attached to a toy monkey, so mute goes the television. Time for staying in and getting real.

So what’s new with you? I’m stressed, as usual, and there’s noise coming from the hallway which will become a real problem if I feel like going to sleep anytime soon. I had a bad week last week in terms of healthy eating, so I skipped the dance team dinner at Great Dane, yet managed to come home from Whole Foods with not only almond butter, protein, and veggies but also a container of gummy stars to reward myself for…well, nothing.

Which brings me to my next topic, or lack thereof. Dissertation. I have a meeting coming up in 2 days to talk about it, and I still have no idea what “it” is, or will be. I’m pretty much at the same place I was four years ago. I thought I’d have it all figured out by now. I feel like I’m probably going to end up googling “how to pick a dissertation topic” because yeah, I should probably start working on that idea sheet. I mean, I have a few ideas, but nothing really concrete enough to gel into a game plan. Granted, it’s still (closer to) the beginning of the semester, and I guess if all else fails I can change my topic. I do know what I don’t want to do; even though I really enjoyed researching the Romani of Central Europe and their performance practices, I feel like I’ve probably exhausted 95% of the sources available to me. Probably very few new books on the topic have come out in the last few years, if any at all. I was even surprised to find one article of interest, in a Canadian journal. Even though language barriers are tough to overcome, ethnic barriers are nearly impossible, and I honestly think that there’s a certain point that I, as a white American, cannot penetrate, either for ideological reasons or because there’s simply nothing on record.

I really want more gummy stars but at 11 PM I said to myself, no more for the night.

Dinner was a lazy salad – threw together some lettuce, onions, cucumbers, Craisins, and tomatoes in a tupperware, tossed it with oil/vinegar/lemon juice, and called it dinner. Not too satisfying, but I’ve got some sparkling water to hopefully sate myself.

I know these posts are super boring and totally against the original purpose of this blog, but what are you going to do. At least it’s real talk and not just pointless word vomit, a la LiveJournal.

Oh, and in other news, I got some reading done today, outdoors even, and I’m close to finishing two books, and I haven’t even finished a single one since February started, so that’s something.

Okay, time to zen out and meditate in order to dissertate. Ommmm….

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Scenes from a Coffee Shop

I was sitting in Colectivo on State Street, finishing Hollow City (which, by the way, was amazing and will be written about here, soon), and poking through some of the black-and-white photographs of odd people and things, and I realized that I never see many peculiar things in my everyday life. Well, of course, when you go looking for peculiarities oftentimes you don’t find any.

But sometimes you do.

I was a few chapters from the end, when I looked up and out of the window next to my table, and saw the strangest thing.

An Asian woman hand in hand with a toddler, wearing matching blue coats, black pants, and boots, and walking backwards. Very slowly. Everything else around them was normal, but for no apparent reason, they were moving backwards in slow motion.

Once they passed by, I saw that they were walking in front of a man with a baby in a stroller, so they were probably walking backwards for a reason.

Then, after reading a few more pages, I noticed something small and red outside the window. I didn’t quite get a glimpse of her face, but there was a little girl walking behind her mom. Nothing remarkable about the mom, but the little girl looked like she had just walked out of a 1940s MGM film. She had long, blonde curly hair and wore a poofy dress, over which was a long red coat with a belt and a tiny black bow in the black.

Maybe that look is coming back into style, but I’m not entirely convinced that she wasn’t a time traveler.

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Finally, A Productive Sunday

I know that October’s kind of been here’s-Jacob’s-boring-life month here at TSJ, but I’ve been in such a writing slump lately, or something like that. So, despite it being my day off from everything, and the garage door being broken so I had to Uber around town, I actually managed to get a lot of stuff done, including running for 45 minutes at the gym, spending an hour writing (604 words!), responding to a bunch of emails, finishing my work on my ATHE proposal, getting in an entry on the blog, and the best part, making edible brown rice.

And of course, I spilled some gravy or something on my pajamas and couch. I guess life isn’t perfect.

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Shame on You, Archer Farms Bagged Vegetables

So, earlier this week, Archer Farms bagged veggies were on sale at Target, so I bought some and made them. I usually have pretty good luck with store-bought bagged veggies, but these…

Were VILE.

First, I tried the broccoli/cauliflower/carrot mix. It smelled rancid after I cooked it, and too foul to eat. I had to toss it in the trash immediately. When I went out and came back later, I wanted to apologize to my entire floor for stinking it up with gross rancid vegetables.

And today, sweet potatoes. They looked okay in the bag, and when I heated them up, they didn’t smell too bad. But when I tasted them…

Sticky. Hard. Gross.

I bought Mann’s organic veggies and made them, and they tasted fantastic. Or at least what bagged vegetables in the microwave should taste like.

Ugh. Healthy eating should be less risky than this.