Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ocupada, nada nuevo.

Following Reva's lead, I'm putting up a new post, not so much because I have something to say but because this space needs news. Sadly, I have no photos of my current dumpy hair, nor of how I wish it looked instead. Like Reva I am in desperate need of a trip to the stylist but I don't have the time. Maybe over spring break? Ha. At least Reva managed to continue looking hot through grad school. For better or for worse, I have not. Does this mean motherhood will be even worse to my appearance?

I just finished grading a quiz my kids took yesterday. Not so hot. Did I teach it poorly, or did they study poorly? Some combination of the two? Lucky thing we've got a quiz every week, so one bad quiz can't hurt anyone's grade too much. I'm tempted to go easy on them this Friday, but I'm not sure that's fair. I'm not too keen on passing out A's because I feel bad for them, but I don't want them to be discouraged, either.

In response to Kendra Leigh and Jane's comments on spouses skiing/not skiing. . .I failed to mention that we struck a deal, my husband and I, and so far I'm holding up my end. We agreed: if I learn to ski, he will learn to dance. It's all a little painful for both of us at times. Here's hoping. . .

I have to go. More reading. I am making a truly sincere attempt this semester to stay organized and stay ahead on my readings and blog postings (the academic ones, that is) and homework problems and lesson plans and all of that, and I have to say it's much more taxing than the lo-haré-mañana approach (well, duh). So far, so good, but we'll see how long this lasts.

Evidentiality and transitivity, here I come!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Respiro, respiro, respiro. . .

I'll write this quickly because I have to go teach in a few minutes.

But WOW. I have to say I'm enjoying this semester more, I'm definitely more organized and I feel on top of things and my anthropology class rocks, but I am already soooo busy. I'm not even taking my exams this semester. Good thing, because I have loads to read for my classes. At some point in the near future I've got to start preparing seriously for my exams. October is going to creep up on me, just like January did.

Deep breath. It's not even noon, and I've already gotten a lot done today. So much more awaits before I can feel good about going to bed, though. Le sigh. I have to keep reminding myself that I signed up for this.

In completely unrelated news. . .drumroll please. . .I ski like a big kid now! A season-and-a-half into it, I'm no longer snowplowing down the slope like an oaf, I can control my turns and keep my skis parallel. My husband (the cause of my taking on this enterprise so late in life) is so happy and proud he could pop. I'm not feeling too bad about it, myself.

Lola has to go teach the irregular preterite now. Estuve, estuviste, estuvo, estuvimos, estuvieron; pude, pudiste, pudo, pudimos, ad nauseum.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Capital social

I robbed this little idea from Jane's blog, and she took it from someplace else, and as requested by the original authors of this little bit of socio-introspection, they are credited below with their names and the link. Being a fan of Bourdieu myself, I was intrigued by the experiment and how the researchers had found a nice application to drive home the idea of social capital. Anyway, here's how they get started: below is a list of advantages that could be thought of as bits of social capital. Which ones apply to you? Note that all of these things are not our own accomplishments, but things that other people do for us. What did your parents do to give you a leg up, to pass on their social capital? What could they do for you? How much further ahead are you by someone else's contributions to your potential success?

In the classroom version of this exercise, students line up atone side of the room, and take a step forward if the statement applies to them. Imagine me taking a virtual step forward for each of the statements in bold type.

Take a step:

If your father went to college before you started

If your father finished college before you started

If your mother went to college before you started

If your mother finished college before you started

If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor. (the professors are my cousins, that is, peers, and not of previous generations; that is, I didn't have this social capital in my childhood).

If your family was the same or higher class than your high school teachers

If you had a computer at home when you were growing up

If you had your own computer at home when you were growing up

If you had more than 50 books at home when you were growing up

If you had more than 500 books at home when you were growing up

If were read children's books by a parent when you were growing up

If you ever had lessons of any kind as a child or a teen

If you had more than two kinds of lessons as a child or a teen

If the people in the media who dress and talk like you were portrayed positively

If you had a credit card with your name on it before college

If you had or will have less than $5000 in student loans when you graduate

If you had or will have no student loans when you graduate

If you went to a private high school

If you went to summer camp

If you had a private tutor

(US students only) If you have been to Europe more than once as a child or teen

(International question) If you have been to the US more than once as a child or teen

If your family vacations involved staying at hotels rather than KOA or at relatives homes

If all of your clothing has been new

If your parents gave you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them

If there was original art in your house as a child or teen

If you had a phone in your room

If your parent owned their own house or apartment when you were a child or teen

If you had your own room as a child or teen

If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course (though in my case the school district paid for all the honor students to take it).

If you had your own cell phone in High School

If you had your own TV as a child or teen

If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College

If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline before college (this was on a travel scholarship)

If you ever went on a cruise with your family

If your parents took you to museums and art galleries as a child or teen

If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

I got about a third of the way across our imaginary classroom. I know people who are ahead of me, and who are behind me. I think almost all of them make more money than I do, but I like my job. I have more education than some of the people ahead of me, and less education than some of the people behind me. How far did you get across the room? What have you managed to do with what you've been given?

In the classroom version, students are supposed to pay attention to how they feel: angry, embarrassed, happy, if they feel like a winner or a loser. I feel an odd sort of pride. Looking at my list, I'm impressed with the socio-cultural capital my parents managed to give us despite their somewhat limited financial capital. My father used to tell us stories about traveling in Europe when he was in the military, about seeing Michaelangelo's Pieta before some idiot knocked Mary's arm off, and not knowing until a few years later in an art history class what a significant piece it was. We went to the opera as children, because my father was in the Opera Chorus at the University (first tenor, even). We knew who Mozart was and knew his music before the film Amadeus came out. We both started piano with a fine Suzuki-certified teacher around age six. Neither of us play any more, but we can sight-read decently and pick out our parts in choral arrangements. My mother took us to the public library at least once a week, and I remember her having a perpetually hoarse voice when I was tiny, from reading aloud to us so much. She still reads like it's her job. I may have more education than my mother, but she's smart as a whip and keeps up just fine when I blather on about the material in my MA program. Looks like her private Catholic school education hasn't let her down yet, college or no college. At the same time, we got loads of what WASPy types might call "low-brow" culture, things that might have been more than a little on the ethnic and regional end of things, but I'm also of the strong opinion that being comfortable with diversity (and better yet, having it as a part of everyday life and not as a novelty) is a good thing. My great grandmother was a curandera, was yours? My grandfather, a former cotton-picker, read history books like he was preparing for PhD examinations that never came-- how about yours? I'm proud of those things, by the way. Maybe not so proud that I can recognize and even throw gang signs, but that's one of the bits of covert social capital I picked up in my years of public school.

I'm not sure I'd call it a flaw, but note that this list is extremely establishment-oriented. As in, it pays tribute to The Man. Whether you like it or not, the old establishment still dictates much of what it means to be successful in this country, and who has access to the tools of standard "success".

I wonder what this list will look like for my children. Why do I feel guilty that my hypothetical children will be so much more privileged than others? How do I raise them to be grateful and humble instead of being obnoxious ingrate snobs? We all want our progeny to succeed, and success includes not being a jerk. In my mind, being respectful and appreciative of all people is a priceless kind of social capital. I'll let you know how I'm doing with finding that balance in about another ten or fifteen years.

This experiment was designed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Indiana State University. Loads more info on their research available at


Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Not much to report for the day, except that the present semester is looking far more livable so far than the last one. Besides my classes seeming more manageable so far, I also have a schedule somewhat similar to my husband's, which means we'll actually get to see each other on week days this time. Woo-hoo!

Mostly I'm posting so I can share this lovely image my mother sent me in an email, titled "How Rednecks See a Map" (if you click on it it gets bigger and more legible). For better or for worse, my mother is one of those dutiful people that cleans up long lists of other people's addresses before she forwards an email, and consequently I am clueless about the origins of this gem. If it happens to be copyrighted (because it is surely someone else's work), I am deeply sorry for the infringement, but whoever you are, you have a keen grasp on the creepy ignorance of Middle America, and you worked up one damn funny map.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


My brother is leaving to go back to Kentucky tomorrow, so today we humored him went along to the stock show. Now, I know people who think the National Western Stock Show is a big deal, but I grew up here in Denver, so it's always just been that smelly event at the cow palace up on the north end of town, a strange event incongrous with our urban lives, to which our elementary schools brought us every January so that the city kids could look at cows (my uncles had a goat dairy and ranches, so I was unimpressed). Simply, January in Denver means stock show, and it always has. Still, as pedestrian and routine as it may seem when we are reminded of it by the feed lot smell wafting into downtown all month, it's a strange place for me once I'm inside the complex. I'm bootless, hatless, and Wrangler-less, and I feel a little out of place. I'm familiar with livestock but I don't have any of my own, and even though it would be cheap to buy one of those strange fluffy chickens, I'd have have nothing to do with it once I brought it home (not to mention being in violation of zoning restrictions and HOA regulations).

The hermano's current dream is to have a big spread out in the middle of nowhere with some livestock (yes, that's the rolling of my sister-in-law's eyes in the background). He wants to buy a goat for the baby (he's already determined that she'll be just as bovine-lactose intolerant as he is) and to build her a goat cart so that the goat can pull her around the neighborhood. His favorite weird variety are the fainting goats. I didn't believe him when he first mentioned them (he has a history of dressing up truth and reality), but there they are, all over youtube.com and wikipedia and the rest of the internet.



Goats that fall over when they's startled. How useless is that? Anywaym, they're real. Much to my brother's disappointment, there were no myotonia-afflicted caprids at the stock show today, but we had a surprisingly good time watching his tiny daughter's eyes widen at the different animals and their behaviors. We held out her hand to pet a huge angora rabbit and spent the rest of the afternoon picking the tiny fibers off her fingers, cheeks, and chupi. She's way to little to enjoy the other atractions in Children's Ranchland, but the petting zoo was just her speed.

Lola really is a western girl, somewhere deep down in a corner of her insides.

Friday, January 11, 2008

El descanso sin descanso

Bah Humbug. Yes, Christmas itself was nice and there were some bright spots, but mostly this break has been stressful. I know I haven’t updated in a million years so I’ll just give a quick list of what was good and bad about the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008:


-I’ll start with the worst. Right before finals, a friend was killed in a car accident. She had married into a family that’s like family to me, and it hurts to see them hurt. I missed the funeral because I had a final (Yet another reason to resent Phonetics). The funeral and burial are all over, but they still hurt.


-My students performed with mediocrity on their final, overall. It sunk a few final grades.(GOOD: I still didn’t have to fail anyone this semester).

-Fire in our apartment building. Miraculously and blessedly, our unit wasn’t damaged, but we couldn’t go back for several days and now the on-going clean-up in the building is messy and terribly inconvenient.

-After evading one storm on our way out to my cousin’s wedding, the nuptials were delayed because the groom got caught in another storm, and when we left a day later than planned we got caught in yet another storm that closed down the interstate and left us camped out on a wrestling mat in the Summit County Middle School gymnasium, courtesy of the Red Cross. Happy New Year!

-Raging sinus infection, and the not-so-attentive medical professional who attended to me claims it’s viral and not bacterial (no tests or cultures, mind you) and so I’m fighting this one on my own. It's difficult trying to sleep through the ongoing tests while the apparently inept cleanup crew tries to reset the fire alarm. How tough can that be?


-I passed all my classes, including Phonetics. I have never worked so hard for a B+ in all my life.

-We spent Christmas with my parents and were grateful that our little place was just off-limits and not a heap of ashes.

-My husband and I met an old friend of mine and his partner for coffee the day after Christmas and I got to have an intellectually stimulating conversation that had nothing to do with Hispanic Lit or Ling, or with Law. Well, there was some law in there but it was IP so that’s okay. The world is broader than my research, and it feels good to be reminded of that.

-When we went out for my cousin’s wedding we stayed with my husband’s brother and his wife and their adorable child (I guess that makes her my niece). We actually got to relax and play cards. We also spent some time with other friends we hadn’t seen in a while. So, I did get in a wee bit of relaxation during my descanso.

-The piñata at the wedding had Anna Nicole’s face on it. How can that not make you smile?

-Got to see lots of family at the wedding, including my favorite uncle.

-My brother and his wife and my (other) awesome niece have been here while the hermano’s on a short duty assignment, and I get to hang out with them. She’s still too little to spoil and steer into naughtiness, but it’s best for us to bond early so she’ll trust me later when I get around to teaching her a few things.

And that’s been my welcome to 2008, dear fellow bloggers. As I write this I find myself back at my desk, putting off the preparation of a week’s lessons, sorting out my readings for the coming week. When I woke up grumbling about coming to campus this morning, I had no idea it would be so easy for me to fall back into this routine. It’s comfortable. The craziness of the break is already starting to fade into the new semester. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

One last note on my nerdiness: Some of you will get this, and some of you will just roll your eyes in disgust/confusion. So be it. When the building caught fire and we heard the alarms, when I had only moments to gather up what’s most precious and irreplaceable and fits in my hands, I grabbed my research (my husband is mobile and doesn’t need to be carried). I gathered up my laptop and some papers, and ran into the other room for the flash drive that has my backup sound files. Everything else could be replaced or the loss would be acceptable, but not my data. I had to save them, above all else. Take that as you will.

Lola’s out of the stressful break and into a (new) stressful semester. Cross your fingers for me, chicos.