family, goodness, life, manfolk, martial arts, school, work

The past two months

I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since I posted.  Unacceptable.  “Marjorie, pull yourself together!”

Things have been moving very quickly over the last few months.  I’ve started my last semester of grad school, which is bittersweet.  I’m ready to be done with school, but sad I won’t be able to tell people I’m a grad student, which I’v fantasized about doing since I was just a kid.  I’ll be done with classes in about six weeks, and I’ll walk at the graduation ceremony in early May.  My parents will be so proud, which makes me very happy.

give me a life in the country

I’ve applied to the JET program, which, if I’m accepted, will take me to Japan for a year to teach English.  I’ll essentially get paid to do accent reduction as a TA and live in the countryside, which sounds like a fucking dream.  I probably should’ve asked Boyfriend what he thought of that idea before I applied, but I didn’t because I want to go to Japan, and that’s that.  Turns out he’s totally into it, and will come visit/live with me for short stints if it works out.  Very exciting 🙂  I’m signed up for weekly, 2-hour Japanese classes; they start next Thursday.
UPDATE: 1/21/14
I just found out that I didn’t get into the JET program.  I’m totally crushed.  I can’t think of why they wouldn’t take me.  I didn’t even get an interview.  Ugh.  Ouch.

taught my Master Tatsu. no, really.

I’ve taken up Shinkendo, which is very challenging but rewarding (and I passed my first test!  Woot!).  We’ve started learning bō, my favorite weapon, and I could not be more excited.  Bō speaks to me in a way the sword does not, it’s like having a dance partner; it does what it wants, all I can do is give suggestions.  We form an agreement (most of the time), and communicate well.  Perhaps more importantly, I’ve found some amazing people who have become good friends at the dojo, and I’ve had the chance to reconnect with an old friend from elementary school, and can’t wait to help that friendship grow.  I also started another blog, which is what I’ve been spending my time on instead of

It’s all about life in a martial arts studio, and how hilarious and stressful it can be.

Office Job is still pretty dull, but better since Little Mole Boss was removed from her position as my boss.  She was a good boss (maybe the best I’ve had), but it’s nice to work with my co-workers more directly and speak frankly when we exchange ideas without fear of stepping on anyone’s toes.  I’m taking a more active role in the upcoming events our office is planning, which feels good.

I’ll upload a photo of our bees’ honey soon!

The bees are doing just swimmingly, and we might actually harvest some honey this season!  Soon!  We did a minor inspection and found a few bars dedicated to honey and nothing else.  I held up the comb in front of the setting sun, and it glowed amber and gold.  The comb broke open when I pulled it out (the bees built two bars of comb together, so it broke apart when I pulled one bar out), and the honey dripped out of the cells.  We tasted it right off the top of the hive.  It had a clean, light taste, ultra sweet and just beautiful to look at (surprisingly light in color).  I can’t wait to see what it looks like once we harvest a little bit.

Thanksgiving this year was good, but boozy for the cousins.  I love them, but omg they are annoying drunks, and they drink a lot, lol.  I’m such a lightweight, maybe I’m jealous? (hint: NOPE)  Next year we’ll have to divvy up the apartments by temulency rather than gender.  Diminutive Friend came up for Thanksgiving day to hang out and eat with the family.  She seemed grateful to have people to spend the holiday with since she couldn’t spend it with her family in New Orleans.  I love her so much.

Dad told me a while back that he’s unhappy at work, and since he’s unreceptive to changing jobs, I told him I expect him to find some way to change his attitude toward his job.  Instead of taking his job personally (and constantly checking his damn email), he’ll have to find a way to let it go.  We’ll see how that goes.  It strikes me that I’ve chosen a good path: teaching English as a foreign language is a job I will enjoy (assuming I can find one).  Frankly teaching just about anything at all would make me happy, and I’m lucky to have discovered this as early has I did.

My folks gave Boyfriend a subscription to Bon Apetit magazine for Xmas, which I’ve already reaped the benefits of with a delicious rosemary chicken and a butter-basted halibut.  He is an amazing person.  We’ve been together over 5.5 years, since April of 2008.  I find the idea of marrying him very, very intimidating, even though I would love to have him as a life partner, and he clearly feels the same.  Luckily, neither of us is in any rush to make it official, and I’ve never had a burning desire to wear diamonds.

I spent this past weekend at GameHaus with friends, and, like every Sunday, doing Shinkendo and enjoying my dojo family’s company.

I am so lucky.

badness, school

School will make me crazy before it makes me smart

i made this

i made this

When a new semester of grad school approaches I disappear into my dark place.  A place where no light pierces the inky blackness, which is a metaphor for stress.

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of getting ahead on the readings while I’m not getting bogged down with endless papers and crap.  I found some good people to be in “inquiry groups” with this semester (which is apparently a requirement for both classes, oddly), so I’m feeling good about that.

Still, school is shitty because it never ends.  There’s always something you should be doing, a forum to post on, an article to read, a paper to outline/write.  There’s only a week between this semester and the next, then there’s a three month break because, y’know, they felt like fucking with our schedules or whatever.

But I’m only complaining because it’s inconsistent, and nobody likes change.  The one thing in this program I can count on, though, is the confusion.  On behalf of everyone.  All the time.  The professors are confused about the syllabi because they didn’t write them, so they can’t explain them to the students.  The students are confused because they don’t get clear instruction from the (confused) professors.  The education department is confused because no one seems to know who did write the fucking syllabus for whatever class you said you were in, so maybe try calling back later?

can i still get that letter of rec?

can i still get that letter of rec?

One professor (who was changed a few days before the class began) wrote us three emails in the first week, all within ten minutes of each other, essentially saying:
1) Hey guys, take a look at this outline from class last week.
2) Subject: “Oops!”  Wrong class, my bad!
3) Subject: “Yikes!”  Jkjk, that was meant for you guys.  “Carry on!”

Tonight I got an email from her with the subject “READ THIS PLEASE!”  It went on to outline deadlines for assignments that were vaguely gone over in class, and let us all know that a bunch of us had already lost points for not doing shit we didn’t know we were supposed to do.  When my world is being turned upside down, this is the consistency I know I can depend on.  Thank the FSM for small miracles.

I would bail out if I weren’t already two semesters in.  Plus, I want my damn master’s degree.  My idea of my adult self has included getting a higher education degree for so long, it would be weird not to have one.   Not to mention the added benefit of better job opportunities in the future (PLEASE KTHXBAI).

badness, humor, life, school

My professor sucked

I thought it best not to post this until a couple of weeks after my grades got posted, lest the professor in question do a search and find my blog.  I can’t say I honestly care anymore, so I’m posting it.  Naturally, names have been changed.

My first semester of graduate school is over (except for those two papers I have yet to complete).  Once those are done, I have a week before the next semester starts, at which point I will stop having a life once again, only this time I’m prepared, lol.

The funny thing about learning how to teach is that I’m constantly checking the teaching methods of my instructors.  I took two classes this semester: one instructor was awesome (insightful, encouraging, engaging, the whole nine yards), while my other instructor was… worthy of the anonymous scathing review I just left for him (they could not have been more different.  This semester was weird).  It went something like this:

my professor grading my papers

What are the instructor’s main strengths?
[something about how he got along with another student with a similar upbringing, go figure]

How could the instructor improve?
He should pour himself a stiff drink and read my “additional comments.”

Additional Comments
-He said “friggin a” on the second day of class after becoming frustrated by the questions asked by students (time stamp: between 2:23:40-2:25:13).  The student he said this to was visibly embarrassed.  Toward the end of the semester, that student told me that he was still reticent to speak in this class because of that experience, even though two and a half months had passed since then.

-He did not leave time for students to formulate and ask questions.

-He often spent the first 30-45 minutes of class monologuing about the reading while referring to a PowerPoint presentation, and reviewed the readings almost verbatim.  This is particularly ironic since the necessity of student participation in classroom discussion was often a topic.  We were taught through monologue that we should not monologue a lesson to our students, since this is not conducive to learning. 

-On one occasion, he emailed students 25 minutes before class was scheduled to start that he could not attend, saying he would record the lecture for us to view later.  He sent an email four days later that the lecture was on the website, however it was not.  Two students mentioned that they could not find the recorded lecture on the website two days before class; two more mentioned that they had the same difficulty the day before class, all without response from the professor.  It was not until a student suggested, during class, that he may have uploaded it for private viewing rather than public viewing that he discovered that was the problem.  He blamed the changes made to the online platform.

-Students’ group contributions were cut short and treated as unimportant.  During a week 8 class (time stamp: between 2hr and 2hr8min), we were told to keep it short, and pretend we were calling into a radio show.  He said, “You got 30 seconds!”  He blamed the length of the class.

-Turning in papers early was impossible to do without being punished.  The class before the due date, we always found a problem with the directions that demanded that I alter my paper and resubmit it.  Inept Instructor marked me down in one instance when he said he would not due to conflicting instructions (when I reminded him, he said he would fix it–three weeks later I sent him an email reminding him that he said he would do this.  Only then did my grade reflect the changes he said he would make weeks prior).  He said he needed to check his rubric to see how many points he allots to each portion of the paper in question, then correct his mistake.  The second time there were problems with a paper I handed in early, I resubmitted the paper with corrections, but he graded the wrong one, and asked me to fix problems I had already fixed (and handed in) a week prior.  He blamed the class for not reading instructions closely enough, ignoring the fact that instructions for the various parts of assignments were often found in different documents, and just as often, didn’t match what the other documents’ instructions.

-He incorrectly pointed out a problem with my APA formatting on a paper (and docked me for it).  When I emailed him pointing out the error, his reply was, “That’s awesome.”  He restored one point to my paper, bringing it from an A- to an A.  I heard from another student in the class that he mistakenly docked her for the same non-issue, and recommended that she bring it to his attention.  I’m concerned about how many other students he may have wrongly docked for this same issue, and how it affected their grades.  Although he changed my grade, he never admitted there was a problem, and dodged any blame for his mistake.

-He sent an email to the class reminding us that there would be no class on Labor Day, which would have been very considerate if he had not sent it at 8:35pm on Labor Day.

-He sent curt emails to the students for not handing in their papers on time, only to discover that he could not receive emails from non-USC email addresses.    He blamed his IT department, and took no credit for the mistake.  If a student were to encounter a problem like this, he would be penalized for not checking our systems beforehand to avoid this problem (we are told, for example, that it is the students’ responsibility to check our cameras and audio setup for problems well before class to deal with any potential issues because if a technical problem keeps us from being in class, we are punished by being considered absent, and receive no credit for that day’s class time).

During the last class, when a student asked where the class evaluation form could be found, Inept Instructor said he had no idea.  He blamed the online platform format for hiding it.  The professor for my other class not only knew where it was, but on the last day of class, directed us to it and reminded us to fill it out.

thank you, interwebz, for reading my mind

-I write this the day after the last class: 1/3 of my assignments remain ungraded.  In addition, none of my class participation points have been posted.  If I have received credit for going to class, I have yet to see evidence of it in the grades section of the online platform.  Of all the forum postings, papers, and class time scores (not counting the final paper, for which the due date has not yet passed), only seven of the 23 scores possible (30%) for this class have been graded and put on the online platform.  When a student asked Inept Instructor a month ago if he would be putting more of our grades up, Inept Instructor replied, “I think you’ve figured it out…I’m slow 🙂 Your analysis papers are graded and posted. I will be assigning individual forum posting and class participation grades.”  The latter statement, at least, has proven to be untrue.  I wonder what he thinks the purpose of the “grades” section of the online platform is, if not to PUT OUR GRADES UP.

One running theme in Inept Instructor’s teaching style was a complete lack of accountability on his part.  Though all these mistakes, both big and small, were clearly Inept Instructor’s fault, not only did he take zero credit for any of them, but the only apology Inept Instructor ever offered was when he apologized for not being able to make it to class.  Of course, he voiced this apology to his camera when he recorded the make-up class, effectively eliminating our ability to respond to him as a group, and sapping the apology of any authenticity. 

I did not find Inept Instructor to be a motivating, interesting, or well-organized instructor.  He did not seem to grasp the concept that, “Just because you’re talking doesn’t mean your students are learning.”  I learned more about what NOT to do in a classroom from watching Inept Instructor than I did from our readings and discussions.  Thanks for a valuable learning experience, Inept Instructor.

goodness, life, manfolk, school

No rest for the awesome

I haven’t had time to write a new post recently due to too much awesome shit happening to/around me.  Let me just put down some quick updates on every relevant topic.

so cute, i’m so proud of her

Old Home, New Owner
Diminutive Roommate has received a sideways-promotion to Diminutive Friend, due to her purchase of a house in the valley.  She moved in and started tearing up some truly hideous shag carpet and disco linoleum to show some beautiful wood floors underneath, and has plans to install central air (because it’s the valley, duh).  She’s excited, but was worried about living alone (since I won’t be able to move in with her after all).  But it turns out our other friend is moving in with her because of lame roommate problems.  Let’s call her Busy/Genius Friend depending on the situation, because she’s wicked smart, but cannot arrive anywhere on time, nor make solid plans due to keeping way too busy.  She’s also a really hard worker and very resourceful, so she’ll help Diminutive Friend improve the house like crazy, which is awesome.  I’m gonna help out too, if I ever get my life back.  We’re all pretty excited for her, can’t wait to harass her over there with board games and sleepovers 🙂


our tea collection is unrivaled

Moving in With a Handsome Man
I’m moving in with Boyfriend!  He’s been living in his grandfather’s house (now that his grandfather has passed away) for the past two years or so rent-free.  His family is allowing me to move in for $600 rent since I’m a student (which is very generous of them, knowing I’ve been paying $850 at my old place).  I’ve basically been staying at the house for the last month to get used to the idea of living here with permanence so it’s not a system shock to either of us (so far so good; Boyfriend keeps saying stuff like, “This is fun!  It’s fun having you here all the time.  This is gonna be great.“).  All the heavy lifting has been done by Boyfriend and dad (hutch to my folks’ place, refrigerator to rental garage near Highland, bookcase and bed and white bookshelf  at the house).  We finished taking just about everything this past weekend.  Moving is awesome because it’s a great way to purge myself of crap I haven’t used in a while.  I long for a simple life, but I can’t seem to get rid of a lot of stuff because they all come with memories I can’t bear to part with, or they’re things I’ll be proud to show off to my future friends/kids, or I need those damn clothes for work, etc.

i made this

Graduate School (or Why I Have No Life)
My first semester of graduate school is winding down (just two weeks left) and winding up (three papers and a video due within two weeks).  I haven’t been able to fall asleep without lying awake for two hours first.  My mind won’t slow down.  I can’t seem to calm myself down about school.  I have so much reading to do on top of the assignments, I seem to spend all my time trying to get them done before class that I’m worried I won’t have time to write papers or make time for friends.  I’m always wishing I had gotten more done.  I’ve started reminding myself while I lie awake that I’m doing my best (which is true, I’m going to beat the shit out of this grad school program), and because of that, I am allowed to sleep.  It doesn’t seem to be helping much, but I’ll keep trying.

“i fell.”

Zombie Kitten
I picked up the kitten I rescued from the vet on July 25th, and he’s been living at Boyfriend’s house ever since.  He’s HILARIOUS.  We both wish we could keep him, but Boyfriend’s family says we can’t have a pet here at the house 😦  Boyfriend and I  are super sad about it.  We’re pretty attached to him, he’s so funny.  He loves falling asleep on our laps, purrs super loud (he purred in my lap for a solid hour today), and chases after a laser pointer like his life depends on it.  He’s also really chatty, which can get annoying, especially during class when he circles my chair and whines about not being on my lap, then attempts to jump onto my lap but can’t quite make it, so he digs his razor-sharp claws into my legs (I’m still healing from the last four attempts).  That’s not so much fun.  Otherwise he’s awesome, and we’re sad to have to get rid of him.  The good news is that I found a nice person to take him 🙂  Now all we have to do is make friends with this person so we can come visit Zobo all the time, hahaha.

goodness, life, manfolk, school

Good shit

Tonight, I arrived at home to discover that everyone in my apartment has had an excellent 24 hours.

a work in progress

Teacher Roommate met the owner of Mendocino Farms (our new favorite place), and he gave her a free sandwich (she’s painting a jelly fish right now– see picture at right).  Diminutive Roommate exchanged the Xbox her coworkers bought her for her birthday for a Wii (she’s hooking it up right now!).  Boyfriend just discovered that he landed a job that will take him to London for a week.  And of course, I applied to graduate school yesterday; I even got a phone call from someone in the program congratulating me on completing (and submitting) my application in full.

And Calico just got her dinner.  So everyone is having a stellar day.

goodness, life, school

That nagging feeling

I found this artist, Jenny Holzer, recently.  This plaque of hers really struck me.

I’ve woken up so many times feeling this way, like something’s wrong but I can’t put my finger on it, so I can’t fix it, so I can’t escape it.  This must be the “silent desperation” Thoreau wrote about.  I’ve pinned it on not applying to grad school all this time, so we’ll see if that changes.

Yesterday, I sent in my application to grad school.  I didn’t tell anyone until later that night, when it occurred to me that it was probably worth mentioning to Boyfriend, who was more excited than I was.  It’s strange; I’ve finally applied to grad school, and I feel nothing.  I guess it’s just been a long time coming.  I’ll be (way) more excited if I’m accepted.

goodness, life

It’s happening

cat = me. villain = also me.

I just asked for the letters of recommendation I need to apply to graduate school.  They said yes, and the rest of my application is done.  It’s happening.  I’m applying to grad school.  Why didn’t I do this years ago?  I really am my own worst enemy.  I’m kinda just sitting at my desk, crying quietly, now.  I’m so happy I’m finally moving toward a goal that I’ve been avoiding for at least three years.  This is what I want: a sense of progress, to study what fascinates me, to do what I love.

I’ve been a little ashamed of myself every day since I realized I should have applied to grad school long ago.  Every time I sat down and thought, “Things are pretty great right now,” there was that little voice in the back of my head that added, “…but if only I were in grad school.”  Like a mist that has hidden the vivid colors my day-to-day life from view, my happiness has been overshadowed by a sense of shame; I knew I was holding myself back.  There was no outside force.  Sure, I didn’t have anyone I could ask for a letter of recommendation at the time, but I could have re-forged bonds with professors in the time it has taken me to get my shit together and apply.

And now it’s happening, and I am proud.

badness, goodness, life

The money issue

I’m feeling some pressure here.

I’ve known for a long time that I love to teach.  Teaching has always come naturally to me, much to the chagrin of Boyfriend who has gently hinted on more than one occasion, “Ok, you’re not at work, you can stop teaching now.”  It’s also common knowledge that teachers don’t make the cover of Forbes.  I will never be rich.  I will never make as much money as my parents do.  My sister will almost certainly out-earn me by a significant margin.

This never bothered me because I was going after (and I now do for a living) what I love.  I love to teach; I can’t help it.  And for that I will be not-wealthy (and potentially poor) for the rest of my life.  It’s not the worst thing in the world by a lot, but it is a shame, and it’s starting to bother me.  Discussing finances with friends recently has painted a depressing picture for me.  Suddenly I am not the one with the healthiest savings account.  In three or so years, I have become the lowest earner.  I’m at the bottom of the heap of people I love.  I’m genuinely excited for them, but their fortunes cast my own financial situation in sharp relief.  Starting today, I will always be poor compared to them.  That’s a depressing thought.

aaaaand there's the problem

I’ve made just one really fatal flaw in my life so far: I should have gone straight to graduate school after college, but I listened to other people who said, “You should try out the working world, you can always go back to school.”  I’ve spent the past four years in jobs I disliked (and occasionally hated), slowly clawing my way back toward academia until grad school is back within reach.  I regret not going straight to grad school.  I regret listening to others instead of listening to myself.  I knew what I wanted, and I let it get away.  It’s going to take a lot of work to get it back.

I need to get over it, though.  I have everything I want (except more spare time, one less job, and one more degree).  Things are good.  I’m about to get a new car.  I’m happy.  My friends are good.  My family… a bit of a mess right now, but that will change with time.  I need to focus on my future, and get where I’m going.  Focus.  Focus.  Focus.