Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Last Day of Grad School

It's ironic that the last month of grad school, and now last day, simply involve me being a TA, teaching two classes. It makes 9 years sorta anti climactic. Grading finals isn't much of a celebration.

Thursday will be my last day as a TA. 8 years teaching at:

Ohio State -- 9 classes (TA, 3 yrs)
Doane College -- 3 classes (Adjunct, 1.5yrs)
University of Nebraska -- 15 classes (TA, 4 years)

I've met some incredible students, nay, writers in that time. It's been a privilege to work with them, to spot diamonds in the rough, to convert some to English majors, to be a hard ass and push others to where they should be. Nothing pleases me more than being a thorn in their side--if I got paid more maybe I wouldn't be as "encouraging."

And in all this time I wrote three books, which was the main goal of grad school:

Indelible Marks (poetry) -- 32p
Afterimage (poetry) -- 62p
Morning Glory (memoir) -- 241p

This is as sentimental as I can get before a crazy weekend of grading, house cleaning, and general preparation of visiting family. Maybe it'll hit me harder in September. But I'm ready to move on, be all I can be (or an army of one), so it might not hit me at all.

I need a 10' tall ironweed. Now. But Plant Delights is out of them.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tree Chilling Hours

Learn something new every month. This from Jeff Gillman out of the University of Minnesota:

"Trees have developed a tool to tell them that winter has passed and it's safe for them to open their delicate buds. Here's how it works: Although trees may look dormant in winter, certain important chemical reactions are taking place inside them. When the temperature is between 45 and 33 degrees, certain chemicals are produced in most trees. The longer the tree spends between these temperatures, the more of these chemicals are produced. Only when the chemicals reach the right level is the tree ready to respond to the warm air rushing through its branches.

People who grow fruit refer to the time the tree spends in this narrow temperature range as "chilling hours," and they select trees to plant based on their requirement for chilling hours. For example, a tree grown in Minnesota might require 1,200 chilling hours, while a tree in Florida might require 150....

To avoid late frosts, some trees also use what's called warm days. Even after they've met their chilling requirements, trees such as oaks wait until we've had plenty of warm days before opening their buds. This ensures that oaks almost always avoid late frosts. That's a good thing because oaks are not good at producing new buds. Other trees, such as maples, break bud soon after their chilling requirements are satisfied. If maples lose leaves to a late frost, they can produce more."


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Of Tams and Blossoms

Did you know academic caps are called tams? And that if you want a PhD one it'll cost you $70, plus shipping? I do not want to look like the other riffraff so I bought it--no 4 square mortar board for me, luxurious octagonal velvet here I come.

And since it's too hot outside to garden, I took some pics. Stuff is growing by leaps and bounds even though we're well over 3" short on rainfall this spring.

The neighbor's seven pears are abloom

All kinds of insects, lady bugs especially, are enjoying the 'Prairie Cascade' willow blooms

'Prairie Fire' crab leaves emerged maroon, but are already fading to green, alas

At least the NWA planes don't say Delta yet

'Coralburst' crab about to burst

Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker' has spread from its now-dead center

Lysimachia punctata 'Alexander' spreading nicely this year

Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliantissima' (Red Chokeberry) looks more like milkweed about to bloom

Ninebark 'Coppertina' looks the best this time of year

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mr. Mows All the Time...

...is across the street. Not even May yet. And his yard is MAYBE 2/3 green, but more like 50%.

He will mow 2-3 times per week until November. Rain or shine. Grass or no grass.

Viva pollution. We all gotta have something to do in life. (Guess what my thing is?)

--Gas mowers waste 17 million gallons of gas each year in refueling spills, and comprise 5% of the nation’s pollution (this does not count weed whackers, blowers, et cetera).

--1 mower running for 1 hour puts out as much pollution as 8 new cars driving 55mph for the same length of time.

--Gas mowers are damn loud and damn annoying.

ADDENDUM 4/22 -- Mr. Mows All the Time scalped his yard, pretty much, and has spent the better part of this warm, sunny day watering it. He must wonder why it burns in August, too. Poor guy. Maybe it needs more fertilizer.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I Want to Be a Bride and Wear the Fancy Dress and Flirt with the Groomsmen

A very lovely, reputable, delightful literary journal has rejected me for the 4th or 5th time in a strongly encouraging way. But that makes it all the more painful. I don't get it--lots of wonderful comments on work from my memoir from here to there, but no bites. This is seriously like fishing. Every time you send new work to a journal (fishing spot) you know has some good action (they seem to like your work to some decent degree and you know where the bottom is, the sunken tree, the weeds), it's like trying to guess what style / theme (lure color, action, style) might work that day. Fortunately, in both instances, there's always candy bars, chips, and beer to fall back on to pass the time. I wonder, could I go all Crocodile Dundee on this and TNT the water (literary journal) and get fish (acceptance letter) to float to the surface? Would I go to prison?

Petunia With Human DNA

"Ready or not, a Chicago artist and a University of Minnesota biologist have concocted just such a petunia, called "Edunia," after artist Eduardo Kac, whose DNA runs through its veins. The pink-ruffled flower is the shy star of an exhibit opening tonight at the university's Weisman Art Museum.

With lush green foliage and cascades of pretty flowers, Edunia looks like any ordinary petunia. The blossoms' delicate red veins are the result of DNA manipulation that integrates a protein-coding sequence from a chromosome in Kac's blood....

Like all research involving the creation of transgenic organisms, Edunia had to be approved by the university's biological safety committee and conform to guidelines issued by the National Institutes of Health. That means, among other things, that no leaves, seeds or blossoms escape into the natural environment. Ultimately Edunia will be destroyed, though some of its seeds will become part of the Weisman's permanent collection."

And OMG:

"A professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Kac, 46, is internationally known for his work in technology and bio-art. His most famous creation was Alba, a genetically modified white rabbit whose fur glowed green because of an infusion of fluorescent jellyfish genes."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Look What's Poking Up in the Garden

Men who garden at least 30-45 minutes per week halve their chances of experiencing impotence.

This according to several studies, and you can read more here.

I have an idea for new commercials that could tout ecological thinking AND help that guy from 1950 dressed in a santa suit. Can you picture poor Joe Blow (ahem), all depressed and alone, working in the garden--but then after a few weeks things start to take off in the compost-enriched soil. And no pesticides, please. I can imagine buxom brunettes tackling Joe and reaching for the water hose and... oh, I have to go outside now....

Thursday, April 9, 2009

V is 8 / 48. Time Flies When You Meow

Happy birthday my feline fellow. (minus the snip snip of course.)

You're 8 years old today, or 48, and you can still tackle M ferociously after chasing him through the house. You love to have conversations with me (are they conversations or polite ultimatums?). You're a constant companion, sitting on the chair with me in my office as I read manuscripts or write something that no one will publish. Take for instance the below picture when I had just finished using you as a head rest. Now, that's friendship.

Here's to the manx breeder in Cleveland, our move from OH to NE, and our move from NE to NE (a distance of 3 miles). And to the little circular brown spheres you leave on the bed sheets because manx are predisposed to not getting it all off the back end (no tail, you see, to wiggle things loose). V, you're Z and S rolled into one--and that's high praise.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Does NOT Mean Gardening

It means Minnesota Twins baseball. Screw gardening, warm weather, nature, end of school year. Bah--all over hyped. This is the last year of the dome in Minneapolis, and I for one will miss the 100% chance of no inclimate weather or blood-sucking insects the size of blue jays. This year no loss in a 1 game playoff to see who makes the postseason, just a nice 7 game lead to win the division (and the joy of knowing the Yankees failed once again after spending the equivalant of Brazil's GNP).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dr. Me

Of course my defense was a fairly low key conversation about my writing, my future plans, daffodils, the sad state of affairs with poetry book publishing (the only way you can get a book deal is if you enter a contest for $25 and hope you win the lottery of a lottery of a lottery).

This isn't a pithy post--it's all so surreal and subdued. I think I'd feel different if the defense came with a book contract (that will INDEED be a happy-naked-dance-through-downtown-with-chocolate-sauce-glistening-on-my-hairy-chest day). There are some very important structural changes which need to happen in the memoir, some narrative tension and pressure that needs to be pushed a bit more--as well as some smoothing out between the various hybrid sections--and this could take a few weeks; my plan is June 1, however, and then on to publishers. I think it'll be a little hard to get back into the rhythm of the book, but I need to do it now. The poetry manuscript needs some trimming, but that won't take more than a day or a weekend I think--I just wish that darn thing would at least be a finalist somewhere.

9 years of grad school, straight. 8 years of teaching. 3,527 books read. 104 classes taken. 1 million stress-filled evenings. But I did not go to grad school for anything other than to work on my writing and leave a solid and confident writer, and I've done that. The next book project starts late this summer, and it'll be set in Oklahoma.

This post is almost as bad as the end to Battlestar Gallactica. Seriously. Could that switch directions any more suddenly, cover things any more quickly (or completely omit them), and confusedly end--all with tears in my eyes? I need a BSG toaster.