Archive for April, 2010

have I mentioned yet….

….that I saw the first episode of the new series of “Dr. Who” and it’s really, really, really good?

Matt Smith is new to me–I didn’t know anything about him. So I wasn’t sure, one way or the other, what I thought of the casting of him as the new Doctor. I was, however, looking forward to more of Steven Moffat’s writing. He wrote some of my favorite episodes of the first four seasons…well, writing-wise, maybe all of them: “The Empty Child,” “The Doctor Dances,” “Blink,” “Silence in the Library.”

Turns out, the writing is top-notch, which I was expecting, and the casting is also darned-near perfect. Matt Smith as the Doctor is an inspired choice: he captures all of the arrogance and vulnerability of the Doctor, wrapped up in a youthful exuberance that’s a perfect contrast to David Tennant’s increasingly world-weary performance. (Full disclosure here: I liked, but did not love, David Tennant, and it’s possible that I am enjoying Matt Smith so much because he’s more in the vein of Christopher Eccleston, the first Doctor I saw and my favorite.)

Smith is his own Doctor, though, not an imitation of anyone else.  Both the writing and his performance highlight the Doctor’s weaknesses as well as his strengths. For example, you might think that the Doctor would learn not to promise to be back in five minutes, but he never does, and his companions suffer for it (Madame Pompadour, from another Moffatt episode, “The Girl in the Fireplace,” lives out her life waiting). It’s obvious that the Doctor only thinks he is in control; in reality, his time travel is a barely-manageable skid that he can–sometimes–control enough for a rough estimate.

The most significant stroke of genius in this episode, though, is the writing of the Doctor’s new companion, Amy Pond (and the casting). Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan, is quite good, but Caitlin Blackwood, who plays Amelia Pond–Amy’s younger self–is brilliant. She’s a wonderful, expressive, poignant actress, and the idea to write the Doctor opposite a young girl is fantastic. It lets Matt Smith do what the Doctor does best: combine childlike irresponsibility with crushing responsibility. Their scenes sparkle with wit, humor, realism, and a certain amount of pathos. The direction deserves some credit too, because their interchanges are perfectly paced.

Anyway, on the whole, this knocked my socks off. It’s fantastic TV. The monsters are good. The writing is superb. And Matt Smith is much, much better than I dared to hope. I can’t wait to see what else is coming in the season.


semi-annual open letter to my students

A few things for you to keep in mind, my lovely students:

1) If you have to miss class because of an urgent family get-together, it is not an excused absence. And if you were sick earlier in the semester, which can be an excused absence, but you never contacted me, provided documentation, nor made up your work, that is also not an excused absence. It is also, if I may use a technical term, not my freaking problem.

2) If your paper is due on, say, Friday, and I receive it on, say, the following Wednesday–yes, I noticed it was late.

3) If your audience–which you must describe, as part of the paper grade–is “pretty much everybody,” you’re doing it wrong.

4) Yes, spelling counts.

5) Yes, grammar counts.

6) No, printing your essay on fancy-schmancy resume-style bond paper is not going to help.

7) No, illustrations, clip art, and colored ink won’t help, either.

8) No, 8-10 pages does not mean 7 pages. It also does not mean 17 pages. It means–shocking, I know–8-10 pages.

9) The fact that you’re this panicky about the final essay means that at least you care how you do in this course….and while, for some of you, it’s a tad late to be worrying about this, I am glad you are concerned about it a little bit. My advice? Come to class for the last two weeks, do the work, and write the best essay you can. My other advice: do not spend your precious last-minute time trying to get notes from your friend via Facebook because you are too busy sunning yourself like a lizard on the quad. Or because you are hung over or too tired or busy with an anthropology exam.

10) I love teaching this class. And you know what? I actually do NOT want you to get an F. So stop looking at me like that.

Wesley’s new love

We visited some friends a couple of weeks ago and Wesley fell wildly in love with their dog–how cute is this?

funny learning-to-talk-isms

So Mary has developed a sense of grammar, I guess, because she has started to construct some pretty funny sentences–some of which are totally grammatically right, just idiomatically odd. Such as….

* “Thunder and lightning are happy for me!” [that is, she likes them]

* “You have to pick up me!”  [I find this one interesting because I despise, in most cases, splitting a verb phrase–“pick me up” sounds right to me because it is idiomatic, but “check this book out,” for example, sounds wrong. I guess Mary’s impulse is to keep the verb phrase together at all costs!] Other variants on this: “Wesley is waking up me!” or “You need to let outside me!”

One other comic moment: Conor has been working on teaching Mary to thank the person who prepared a meal–usually with something like, “Thank you for making my tasty sandwich, Mama!” Cute, right? Well, yesterday I made them some risotto for lunch, but I burned it. Not so that it was inedible, but enough that it didn’t taste great. She took a few bites, remembered about manners, and said, oh-so-sweetly, “Thank you for making this not-tasty risotto, Mama!”

ha ha ha.

ProfHacker: I’m addicted

I’m sure this blog is old news to all of the more tech-savvy teachers in the world…but how fantastic is this?


Everything about teaching technology. Score!

dirty little truths about sewing

Absolute Truths:

* The amount of time your child will spend wearing/playing with a finished project is inversely proportional to the amount of time you spend making it.

* Your bobbin thread will run out one inch from the end of your final seam. Always.

* Patterns that say “very easy” really mean “requires only 143 hours of sewing and sixteen swear words.”

* It is never cheaper to make it than to buy it. Ever.

* Sewing machine needles last exactly 7/8 as long as they are needed for your project. Then they break.

* Deciding that you don’t need to read the directions because you have made a specific project 13 times before is a direct road to pattern pieces sewn in backwards, ripping out seams, tears, and alcohol.

* When your sewing machine is wadding up copious amounts of thread underneath your work, and it seems obvious that the bobbin is the problem [because, after all, that’s on the bottom too], it never is. The top thread is always the problem, and if you would have learned from your past mistakes and rethreaded it when the problem began, you’d have saved 15 minutes of messing with tension and fixing the bobbin’s nonexistent problem. It Always Means You Need To Rethread the Machine. Duh.

* Ironing is boring and it sucks. The fact that every other instruction is always “Press” means that you have the choice of doing something really boring or having your work look…well…like you couldn’t be bothered to press. [I always opt for the latter–who cares?]

* You need 27 seam rippers because they migrate in pairs to the other end of the universe if you look away.

* Your machine may have 101 fancy stitches, but you’ll only ever use three of them.

* Fabric is so addictive that it should be a controlled substance.

Why doesn’t anyone tell you this stuff?

conversation between Wesley and Mary


Mary: What do you need, buddy? You need a bottle?


Mary: You need a diaper?


Mary: It’s hard to be two soon, isn’t it? I think it’s hard to be a toddler.