Home / 2010 / February

Keeping the Gators Fed: Why I Crave Horror Movies (and Running)

Last week, my Composition I students had to write a blog post responding to Stephen King’s short piece called “Why We Crave Horror Movies.” The prompt asked them to persuade their audience that their method of “keeping the insanity at bay” is acceptable. Here’s my own response.

King hit it right on the nose: We are all crazy. How we deal with it, though, is individual. I love horror movies—so King pegged me exactly—and I love running.

Watching horror movies fills me with terror, fear. And I love it. I live a very privileged life. My belly is always full, I sleep in a warm bed in a nice house next to a loving husband. I have never been abused or neglected. My close friends are hilarious. The only emotion that I don’t experience regularly is fear, so I get that from horror movies. I give myself over to them, allow myself to believe the most ridiculous plot lines, in order to feel scared. They make me bite my fingernails, wring my hands, huddle under the throw blanket. And I love every minute of it.

Running, on the other hand, is how I deal with all other sources of mental illness. Stress. Depression. Temptation. Anxiety. Insomnia. Running (or getting your heart rate up in whatever way possible) floods your body with happy chemicals. That is one major reason that it helps keep the insanity at bay. But it also puts you face-to-face with life. There’s no faking it in running. You are either pushing yourself or you are working out at a lower intensity. Or you’re walking. It’s you and the trail. There are no illusions about the task at hand; you can see the miles ahead of you, can feel the miles you’ve already put behind you. When there’s no where to hide and nothing to hide behind, you gain a new clarity on life. That, and exhausting myself on a regular basis, helps me pass out when my head hits the pillow. (And getting enough sleep helps us all keep our insanity under control!)

We all have our own tried-and-true methods of safely indulging the insanity. Stephen King and Hal Higdon help me stay out of the straight jacket—who does it for you?

Two New Ways to Hold Office Hours

This semester, I’m teaching Composition I for OTC online. It is an adventure for sure. I’m just now starting to get used to answering the varied and informal questions I’ve been getting in my OTC inbox, and I’m taking a professional development course that shows instructors how to make the most of multimedia like images, screencasts (using Jing and Screenr), videos, automated narrated PowerPoint presentation, and flash. It’s really making me think of new ways to bring audio-visual elements into my comp classes.

I’m enjoying learning all of these new methods, and I will slowly begin integrating them into my teaching methods. But I am about to make a change that I will implement immediately, and it’s a bit unconventional.

Yesterday, I met with three other instructors and had a Wimba Playdate. We logged into Blackboard and entered the Wimba Classroom. What’s Wimba, you ask? Yeah, I had no idea until yesterday at 10:30 either. Wimba is an online tool that allows for synchronous discussion, presentations, instant messaging, link sharing, and whiteboard use. It’s a really fascinating tool and I wish I had learned about it sooner, but the semester isn’t even half over yet, so I’ll have plenty of time to use it.

And today, all OTC faculty and staff received an email sharing various mentions of OTC in the news. One that caught my eyes was a News-Leader article about a professor who has moved his office hours to the Border’s cafe. I love it. He’s getting more students because, he conjectures, they feel more comfortable in that environment, they feel less like they are bothering him.

I definitely see his point. I have always had students visit me during my office hours, then apologize for bothering me. I don’t get it.

Currently, my office hours are from 10:00 until 2:00 and 7:00 to 9:00 Monday through Friday. I offered so many hours because I have many students who work full time jobs and have families to take care of. They need alternative times to reach me. But, like always, no one is really taking advantage of my current office hours. So I’m going to change the way I do office hours.

Starting next week, I’m cutting way back. I’ll offer two daytime options throughout the week and two nighttime options. One of each time frame will be in Wimba and one will be at Barnes & Noble (gotta support the hubby, right?). Because I teach online, many of my students are not in this area, so I don’t know how successful the Barnes & Noble office hours will be, but I’m willing to give it a try and re-evaluate later. At the least, I’ll get to enjoy a skinny Chai latte and work around other people, outside my home office.

I’ll remind students that they may of course call my Google Voice number anytime, which I have set to DND during certain hours. We’ll see how it goes. I’m hopeful about these unconventional options, and I hope my students will use them, partly so I can play with Wimba and have a legitimate excuse hang out at a coffee shop and enjoy fancy drinks.

How I Met My Husband

Today’s post is a part of the Springfield Bloggers Association “Take It and Blog Fridays.” The  theme today is how you met your significant other.

Here’s the short story: Rob was playing drums in a band, Amsterband, and my best friend was dating the lead singer. She said, “I think you’d like the drummer. He’s cute, funny, and smart.” I went to a barbecue at Cedarbrook and we checked each other out, barely talking to each other. I called him a couple days later, we went on a date, and two years later, we tied the knot.

But the long story is so much more interesting!

Rob grew up in Marzahn, a somewhat infamous district in Berlin. I grew up in Overland Park, Kansas, and Neosho, Missouri.

During Gymnasium (somewhat like American high school, but more similar in accomplishment to high school plus an associate’s degree), one of Rob’s good friends, Christian, was an exchange student to West Plains, Missouri. Christian became friends with Brian Roberts.

Brian, a guitar player, loves Germany, and during college, did an internship in Nuremberg. While there, he visited Berlin to see Christian and hung out with Christian’s friends. That’s how he met Rob. They engaged in general merry-making, which often included jam sessions.

Brian finished his internship and returned to Southwest Missouri State University, but stayed in contact with Rob. When he wanted to start a band, he emailed Rob and asked him if he wanted to come over to the U.S. of A. to play in his band.

Rob was at a unique point in his life. He was 21 and had just finished the required two-year civil service. He said yes, shipped his drumset and packed everything that was important to him in two large duffel bags. The band, soon to be known as Amsterband, is filled out by Luke, a fellow Zizzer that Brian knew growing up.

Meanwhile, Beth breaks up with her long-time boyfriend. Then she meets Luke at the weight room. They go on a couple dates, but then Beth meets Brian. Luke moves on and Beth and Brian start dating. During dinner one night, Beth tells me all about the interesting characters that live at Cedarbrook (the name all the guys use to refer to their house). There are 5 guys living in a 3-bedroom, 1 1/2 bath house on North Cedarbrook. She tells me about the German guy and tells me we should go on a date.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Beth and I go to that barbecue and Rob and I spend the evening observing each other from afar. I call him a few days later and we decide to go on a date.

He still holds it against me that I made him watch xXx on our first date.

We date for a few months, and then I dump him. He’s getting too serious too quickly and I don’t like it.

We get back together after three days. Then I dump him again a couple weeks before Christmas. We talked a couple times a week for a month or so. Finally, I realized that this guys really loves me. That, despite having been dumped by me twice, he still has a pure love for me, not that nasty obsession that so many people develop after a break up. That I was living in the past, hoping that I could get back together with an ex. That Rob is here now and he’s sweet and funny and unendingly interesting because he’s from another culture.

We get back together in January, and the rest, as they say,  is history. We were married on our two-year anniversary in the church in Westport, Kansas City, where three generations of my family have gotten married before me. That was 5 years, 7 months ago, and we have grown so much, done so much, in that time. I am really excited to see what happens in the next 5 1/2 years!

Book Challenge Update: 5 Down, 19 To Go

I’ve set the goal to work through 24 books in 2010, and by the end of February, I’ve completed 5 books, so I’m slightly ahead of schedule. In this post, I’ll share what I thought about another book on my 24 in 20-10 Book Challenge List. You can see the list here, and you can read other Book Challenge Update posts by clicking here.

I finished The Great Gatsby, started Catch-22, and started and finished The Help. I love books. They take me to places and times I cannot experience any other way.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby‘s plot did not enthrall me; the plot development style comes from a different time. But it is solid. The characters are interesting and the scenes are vivid tales from the 1920s, a lively time in our nation’s history, a time before we were struck by a second world war, the arresting possibility of mutually assured destruction, the charged and overdue battle for civil rights on home soil, the death of beloved and influential leaders way before their time.  It was a celebratory time in our young nation’s history, that that we were without scars by that point. Fitzgerald captures the spirit of the decade, and again I must say that the author is a master craftsman in his art of working words just so. He describes the wealth, old and new, and title character reminds us of the old pains our country has suffered, what he–and we–will go through to try to make right what was broken. What he suffers and will suffer because time marches resolutely onward, despite the promises lovers make to each other behind closed doors.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

I am reading this one in audiobook format, and it’s excellent! The reader does an excellent job–he almost sounds like he is Joseph Heller himself the way he reads. Except for nasally Doc Daneeka. I can’t wait to see how the story unfolds.

Bonus Make You Seem Smart Lesson of the Day: Originally, as defined by Heller, a catch-22 is a circular predicament, not just a simple hitch in the plan, not just a no-win situation. Read more about it on Wikipedia.

I’ll recount The Help in another post. Because that’s what it deserves.

Take the Challenge: Make it Homemade Today

Today’s cooking post is a blog review. A friend from high school, who I reconnected with on Facebook, started a blog called Make it Homemade Today and she has been posting all sorts of fun DIY recipes. Some are for famous recipes, like Lambert’s Throwed Rolls or P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps. Others are just delicious home cooking recipes, like sloppy joes or basil pesto. Melanie even shares some great money-saving non-food recipes like homemade laundry detergent. Go over and check it out, then make it homemade today!

Tuesdays with Linden’s Favorite Links: Wear Palettes [Quick Reads]

Today’s Quick Read is purely visual. No words. Well, you can read the titles, but they are so small on the page compared to the palettes and images, so they don’t really count. Click on over to Wear Palettes and take a peek.

I like this site because I am known for my bad color palettes. Back when I took English 627, I got teased for making web sites that look like clown pants. I made some pants once that looked like clown pants. I know there’s a picture of them somewhere around here and when I find it, I’ll share it with you. And by share it with you, I mean immediately throw it in the fireplace.

Anyway, Wear Palettes presents daily inspiration from an image of “street outfits” and a palette of colors from that image. Here’s one that pulls from a Star Wars image. Wear Palettes wins one brownie point. Unfortunately, they insult the brilliant minds behind Star Wars in the post title. I’m taking that brownie point back. Sorry, guys.

Book Challenge Update: 3 Down, 21 to Go

To see my Book Challenge list for 2010, “24 in 20-10,” click here. You can read all of my Book Challenge Update posts here.

I finished Kafka on the Shore last night, and I have repeat what I said last time about Haruki Murakami being an artist with words. He polishes his craft in this book. The main characters–Kafka, Nakata, Oshima, Hoshino, and even Mimi the Siamese cat–are so well designed, without feeling forced, that I really believed they are real people living in this world. After reading two of Murakami’s books, Kafka on the Shore and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, he has made it to my list of favorite authors.

Kafka on the Shore is at once a familial/romantic love story; a Bildungsroman (or coming-of-age tale); and a complex, metaphysical drama. When I finished it, I thought to myself, “Self, you will have to read that again to understand it fully,” and indeed, Murakami agrees. He said of the book that “understanding the novel lies in reading it multiple times.” I will definitely re-read it.

One note about Kafka on the Shore: it does contain some explicit sex scenes, but I have to say, Murakami writes them tastefully. They are very well done, and I don’t think mature readers should avoid the book because of them.

Next I begin a book recommended by Rob and Murakami, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. As is tradition, I started it last night after finishing Kafka on the Shore. I am already not enjoying the writing style, but I’ll read it all. I’ve heard it has a great story.

I’m also going to start reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett for a Barnes & Noble Ladies’ Book Club. I’m going to try to read two books at one time because I have The Great Gatsby on audiobook and The Help in hardback. I’ve tried to read two paper books before and it doesn’t work so well, but I think the fact that I’m consuming the books in two different mediums should make it possible. I’ve done that before.

[image source]

Tuesdays with Linden’s Favorite Links: Indexed [Quick Reads]

Today’s Quick Read is a visual / pseudo-mathematical delight: Indexed. Jessica Hagy posts all sorts of charts and graphs and Venn diagrams that show sometimes funny, sometimes cynical, almost always accurate, and always insightful, observations about the world. Some Indexes are more complex and require more time than others, but most posts can be enjoyed in 10 seconds or less.

Another benefit: once you start reading Indexed, you start thinking that way and seeing interesting relationships between parts of your life too.

17 Ways to Improve Your Site’s Search Engine Optimization

Today’s post is a part of the Springfield Bloggers Association “Take It and Blog Fridays.” The  theme today is Statistics and Analytics.

In my experience, it doesn’t take long for your website to be live before you begin wondering if people are stopping by to check it out. If you opened a business, you could see when people walked in the door, but not so with a website.

Enter the visit counter. Statistics have come a long way from the visit counters I remember from pre-CSS days of the Internet, and you can use the abundance of analytics to discover many characteristics of your visitors, such as where they are from, what screen resolution they are using, and which pages they are visiting most on your website.

Below are 17 of my favorite posts on tracking visitors to your website or blog. Enjoy! If you know of another great post on statistics, metrics, or SEO, leave it in the comments.

  1. Improve Your Blog’s Metrics in One Easy Step: Use teasers to increase click-throughs
  2. SEO: Metrics That Matter: A great list of important metrics definitions to help you make sense of your analytics
  3. A Few Notes on Adsense Stats: Adsense definitions for the Adsense newbie
  4. What Factors Influence Search Engine Traffic?: How the amount of content on your site or blog relates to organic traffic
  5. Google PageRank and Alexa Traffic Ranking Explained: Confused about the difference between Google PageRank and Alexa? Read this short and sweet post.
  6. Blogger’s Guide to Feedburner, Part I: Getting Started: Instructions for setting up your site’s Feedburner RSS feed
  7. Blogger’s Guide to Feedburner, Part II: Troubleshootizing & Analyzing: How to troubleshoot Feedburner problems and reading Feed Stats (Bonus: How to import your feed to Facebook Notes)
  8. Blogger’s Guide to Feedburner, Part III: Optimizing: A guide to the Optimizing tab in Feedburner for understanding such items as Feed Flare, SmartFeed, and more
  9. Blogger’s Guide to Feedburner, Part IV: Publicizing: A guide to the Publicizing tab in Feedburner for understanding Email Subscriptions, Ping Shot, and more
  10. Blogger’s Guide to Feedburner, Part V: Networkizing & Monetizing: Explaining the use of the the My Networks page, the Monetize tab and the Feedburner Ad Network (FAN)
  11. Google Analytics Step One: Begin Tracking: A beginner’s guide to setting up Google Analytics on your website or blog
  12. Google Analytics Step Two: Don’t Track Yourself!: Instructions for how to exclude your own visits from Google Analytics tracking
  13. Google Analytics Step Three: Get Your Stats By Email : How to receive email reports from Google Analytics
  14. Google Analytics Step Four: Loose Ends: A few final tweaks to your Google Dashboard and some definitions to clear up confusing terms
  15. Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Website Traffic Metrics with Google Analytics: More in-depth than my series on Google Analytics, this post really describes what you are looking for when you’re at the Google Analytics dashboard
  16. 17 Statistics to Monitor on Your Blog [Day 30 – 31DBBB]: What to look for when you’re logged in to Google Analytics or any other tracking site
  17. Using Google Analytics to Compare Traffic from Different Periods of Time: Adjusting and interpreting Google Analytics data to compare growth

Guest Post on Ozarks Bazaar: 7 Things I Love–and Hate–about Google Buzz

Google Buzz is all the rage. Or, everyone’s buzzing about Google Buzz. Either way, it’s hot right now. I posted my first take on Google’s TwitterFacebookFlickr mashup available directly in Gmail over on Ozarks Bazaar, so go check it out. As a teaser, I’ll tell you my seven reasons, but you’ll have to read the article to find out more about them.

  1. It seamlessly fits in Gmail.
  2. It’s public. And I mean public.
  3. You can’t hand-pick your friends.
  4. It’s a one-direction, focused stream.
  5. Without some tweaks, it’s hard to send that stream out to the rest of the Internet.
  6. There’s no way to send a private message to one user.
  7. It has a catchy name.

So what do you think about Google Buzz? Vote in the poll below and let us know what you think in the comments.