Turn and face the strange

26 08 2014

I knew that birthday call to my sister would last awhile—it always lasts awhile—but I didn’t think it would go on that long.

This, by the way, is my excuse for not posting last night

~~~

Classes begin on Thursday. I am, as ever, looking forward to it.

I recycle a lot of material from semester to semester—if it works well, why change it?—but I periodically amend or even overhaul courses: maybe it works well, but I’m bored, or maybe it doesn’t work so well.

The politics & culture course got revamped (due to boredom) last year, and while it worked okay, it just never came together the way I wanted it to. So for this semester I fiddled a bit with the first third, left the last third alone, and redid the middle third.

I’d been using Charles Taylor’s edited volume Multiculturalism to get at, well, issues of multiculturalism, but the argument of he and his interlocutors was pitched a bit, ehhh, not high, but not in the direction that was most fruitful. So I tossed Chuck and added some online readings, readings which come to the pointy-point much more quickly than Chas and his gang.

(If you’ve ever read Taylor you know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s smart and his stuff is worth reading, but good lord the man won’t use 10 words when a hundred will do.)

Anyway, I think it’s a good bet that the students will be more engaged by Ta-Nehisi Coates (among others) than academics speaking academically.

As for the bioethics, that’s pretty damned well set. I did add some short bits on gene therapy and epigenetics, but otherwise it’s the same. I did dig out for my lectures some more recent stuff on genetics and stem cells and, later in the semester, will on ART issues, mostly to make sure I’m not giving my students out-of-date or, even worse, wrong information.

The lectures on the science are, as I repeatedly warn the students, ur-basic and no substitute for the real thing; still, while I’m willing to simplify, I don’t want to mislead.

The good news is that it doesn’t look as if anything I have been teaching has been wrong.

~~~

I’m watching Criminal Minds on Netflix and it is, of course, terrible.

Yes, I have new shows in my queue and I do watch them (The Fall, Bletchley Circle), but I’ve gotten so televisionally-lazy that more often than not I prefer comfort and predictability over innovation , or even just the mostly-unwatched.

This is a failing, as I often do like something new, (Leverage! Yay, Leverage!), but if I’m in any kind of mood at all, I’ma gonna click on a link that takes me to a place I’ve been before.

As with Criminal Minds. I watched the first season or two on t.v., when I had a t.v., and this past year I’ve been watching the current season on CBS.

Well, okay, not wholly watching: I am over watching psychos torture their vics, so I zip through those portions. And the show has gotten more savage over the years, stretching out the screen-time given to crimes; in the early seasons, these are more glimpses than extended scenes.

And it’s not as if I particularly like any of the characters on the show. I don’t hate them, but, as with NCIS, they range from boring to annoying to eye-roll-inducing.

So why watch? Goddess help me, it’s a fucking procedural and fucking procedurals are my televised comfort food. This fall I’ll probably end up watching both that NCIS New Orleans show and CSI Cyber or whatever the hell it’ll be called.

Jesus.

Yes, I should change my diet, but I’ll probably only go as far as occasionally adding something more intellectually nutritious, and will keep mowing down the junk in the meantime.

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Am I sitting in a tin can

27 10 2010

My sister is not a crier.

Okay, yes, she has a sentimental streak and will tear up at matters involving her daughters or family generally, and she is far more expressive with her [non-angry] emotions than I ever will be. She’s normal, in other words.

But when I say she’s not a crier, I mean: she’s not someone to fall apart if things don’t go well or if there’s any sort of crisis. Instead, she switches into hyper-practical let’s-fix-this-mode, and then gets on with it.

She was crying when she called me.

V. was planning to visit me this weekend, flying in tonight and out on Monday. She’s flown before, but she hates it—really, really, really hates it as only someone who is terrified can hate a thing—so it was a big deal when she decided to fly here alone.

She might have made it, too, had it not been for the 60-80 mph windstorms which streaked across the upper midwest last night, windstorms which, not coincidentally, led to widespread flight delays across the region.

The flight tonight probably would have been delayed, too, but the weather on the ground in NYC has simply been a fizzle of gray and rain. She would have been fine.

But if you’re terrified of flying under even the best of conditions, to hear 24 hours before your flight about how awful the wind is and how much turbulence it’s kicking up, to think all day long at work about that wind and turbulence and having not only to fly into to NYC but back out, well, then, whatever equilibrium you’ve managed to convince yourself you could maintain is likely to dissolve into tears at an exit off the highway.

I’m not thrilled with flying—don’t (surprise!) like the feeling of being trapped—but it doesn’t panic me. Had it been me flying today, I’d have gotten on the plane.

But it wasn’t me, it was my steady, normal, practical, terrorized sister.

I felt so bad for her. She said it was a good thing my number was preprogrammed into her cell phone, because she was shaking so bad she probably couldn’t have dialed it. She said she felt stupid—and my sister never ever shames herself—not least because one daughter flew to Australia for a semester abroad and another to Austria for a series of musical performances, and I can’t even do a two-hour flight.

It’s okay, I told her. I’m not going anywhere, so it’s not like you missed out on your only chance to visit me in NYC. And I wouldn’t want you to spend your entire weekend worried about the flight home.

Let’s chalk it up to the weather, we agreed. Had it not been for the freak tree-bending winds, she could have done it.

So I hope my steady, practical, cheerful sister doesn’t let the anxiety which detoured her from the airport derail a nice, long weekend at home with her husband.

Go out to dinner with D., I suggested. Get the New York Strip.

She laughed. It was a good sign.