Thursday, December 31, 2009

Headlong. Ruthless.

I have had this book for many years, so many that I can't remember, although the initial publication date was 2001. Then the movie came out and I studiously avoided any mention of what happened, who did what, how the book turned out.

I wanted to discover it for myself, for one of the few pleasures of reading is turning pages, building up anticipation, hardly waiting for the climactic denouement and knowing that no pages can be skipped, that a reader must doggedly keep at it until the last page is turned. I wanted to savor a story.

It centers around forgiveness, the lack of it, repentance, atoning for one's errors and misjudgments and sins and mistakes. It's our lives that this book reveals, for as I've gotten older I realize that life really is all about repenting of mistakes, forgiving others for theirs.

Briony, the center of this book, is a young girl of 13 when the novel opens and she wants to be a writer. She's begun by writing plays, stories, and in her mind, struggling to see the future, half-seeing it, half-imagining it. She takes after her mother in this regard, and in one scene, the mother--fighting off a migraine--lays in her bed and imagines that:
"There was a presence in the room, her aggrieved, overlooked ten-year-old self, a girl even quieter than Briony, who used to wonder at the massive emptiness of time. . . . It was haunting Emily once more. Briony was her last, and nothing between now and the grave would be as elementally important or pleasurable as the care of a child. . . and she, Emily, would grow stiffer in the limbs and more irrelevant by the day; . . . And here was the ghost of her childhood, diffused throughout the room, to remind her of the limited arc of existence. How quickly the story was over. Not massive and empty at all, but headlong. Ruthless." (141-2)
The tangled web of mother, father, family, lovers, war, sacrifice, error, injustice all combined to propel me through the book. I finished last night, interested in the structure that was built, yet dismantled in the end.

I do recommend it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Reality Bites

Back to reality, after a week of fun. I pulled out the syllabus that I had carefully sent to Printing Services two weeks before, feeling so smug with myself that I'd done something ahead of time for the upcoming course I was teaching.

But what to my wondering eyes should appear? The date of "Spring 2009."


So I'm now in the middle of reprinting, collating, and stapling in order to reflect the correct date. What a dummkopf I was.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Butternut Crunch Toffee

I've posted another round of recipes on my other blog: Elizabeth's Kitchen. One of them is this one, Butternut Crunch Toffee. I have also put up the menu from my husband's work Open House, and a TON of recipes from that event. In addition, I updated the caramel recipe, adding a few more pictures showing how to wrap those little bits of goodness. Enjoy.

On a side note, my son Matthew hooked me up with a domain name, so now I'm a full-fledged contributing member to Web 2.0 as He also set it up so it refers over to the current Elizabeth's Kitchen. I'm completely impressed with his skills. My other son, Peter, is trying to work some kind of magic somewhere as well on this. Should be a fun Christmas break, as we pull out the laptops to see what will go down. Thanks, boys!

Monday, December 14, 2009

When I'm Eighty-Four

Okay, this is an example of the zeitgeist at work in my life.

I just awoke from a dream where I was playing one-on-one basketball with Charles Barkley. Like I know who he is, but there you go. It was a dream. He had a normal ball, a normal goal, but my "ball" was shaped in the form of a soft black oblong with a handle at one end, and my basket was about twice as high. When I would attempt to throw my "ball" up, it would get stuck. Meanwhile, he was cleaning my clock with all his scores. I know, in regular one-on-one there's only one ball. It was my dream so you have to stay out of it.

Then I awoke to read in Ben Schott's column in the New York Times a gradient of National Social Life, Health and Aging Project for Americans aged 57-84, and the section on Difficulties in Daily Living caught me eye, providing me the interpretation for my (silly) dream.

Getting older is like they change the rules for a simple pick-up game: the shape of the ball, the opponent, the goal--they all change, and as an older person you know you can't compete. At that point you can either walk off the court, or challenge Charles Barkley to a game where you know you can beat him, say, a Spelling Bee or something. I think the point is to stay in some game, somewhere, and to keep at it.

I guess.

By the way, in my dream? The ref was just as baffled as I was, kept shaking his head as he called foul after foul on the The Round Mound of Rebound (one of Barkley's nicknames). I woke up tired, as I do after such dreams. But this morning I've got my walking clothes on and am heading out the door today, trying to get back in the game.

P.S. Click on the image to go to complete chart.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Not Quite That Dusty

This is a photo from the horrendous red dust storms in Australia this summer. Someone opened up their laundry room door and took a photo. I'm sure she shut it quickly, so as to keep the dust outside.

Besides blogging, another thing that's been neglected is the housekeeping. I keep the living room fairly tidy, swiping it with a rag every now and again and with just the two of us, it doesn't get too dirty.

But this computer desk, and the desk over there loaded with Christmas fabric in swaths of unfolded glory are another story. The fabric came out mid-November on one of those days when I felt well and thought I'd just whip up a Christmas quilt for our bed. Then the research papers came in, then the homework, then the. . . you get the picture.

That's when I just shut the door, like the woman up above. However, I'm keeping the dust IN.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Student Evaluations--the Dichotomy

I had my conference with the Dean yesterday. He's a great guy, relaxed, so that makes the nervous adjunct who just came out of the rain and is sitting in his office, relaxed. Our college evaluates adjuncts every six semesters, although except for meeting some internal administrative criteria, I can't figure out why: I receive no pay raise for a good evaluation, nor is my job made more secure (painfully illustrated this semester when our college's goal--as delivered to them by the financial office--was to cut 1/6th of our classes, and most of the adjuncts lost one of the two classes they were teaching).

But here it is, delivered out of the mouth of babes, as written by two of my students:
A lot of the instructions and materials are scattered and disorganized. There are so many pieces of information for any task that is is often stressful to know what's expected. Aside from that, she is very helpful, kind and caring as a teacher and as a person.
Not only does Professor Eastmond do her duty to make sure everyone understands and completes the basic knowledge and meets minimal standards, she goes far out of her way to guide those who wish for it even further, beyond the constraints of the class.
The first was written (I'm pretty sure) by a nice kid--I like him--who comes late to class. Every class, every time. For yesterday's class, where they were writing an in-class essay, he was 30 minutes late, cutting his writing time short by a third. He can't find things in his binder, and an expedition to clean out his backpack could receive national funding.

A Typical Experience: He sat down yesterday, pulled out a piece of paper and then looked around. He raised his hand and asked if we were supposed to use a Blue Book? I nodded, and then he began searching for that in his backpack, and not finding it, kind of looked back at me quizzically. K., who was watching the whole thing, reached into his well-organized backpack, and donated one to The Cause.

The only reason I think the comment above is from him, is because not only do I pass out a detailed Course Calendar, listing and showing nearly everything that is expected, I also provide a (detailed) handout for each of our five essays. And for those techno-students, we also have a blog, where I update any small changes to these documents. One day the above student complained to me that it was confusing to have to look everywhere to get information, this after he missed the news about some required reading regarding our novel, which was on the essay handout.

He's one of my favorites, though. I wish him well in his next class, where most likely, he won't get a woman who's raised four teenagers, and has the heart of a grandmother.