Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Deep Clean

     On Monday, June 23, the summer WC crew, 5 brave students, gathered to clean our space. We knew not what we would uncover, but uncover we did.
     Here's some of the finds.

We ended up with a lot of things from the cafe. 19 cups (plus a red one from the pub), two mugs, and a few tongs from catering. We took it all back, don't worry.

Another kitchen find: look at all these plates! We have so many plates. This is just one set of plates we have. Patrick and I (Peter) took everything out of the cupboards and cleaned them well.

While Felicia and Nicole were moving furniture and vacuuming the main room. We heard a lot of crunches and tings as the vacuum picked up who knows what.

We have a lot of chairs! Look at them! This isn't even all the chairs we have. One question we had while cleaning: Where did all these chairs come from? Another question: Where do they all go?

One thing is certain: the Writing Center smells cleaner now and looks a lot cleaner. Until next time, 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Advantages of Summers in Cedar Rapids

Namely, the ability to visit Iowa City once in a while. Well, not so much Iowa City as Prairie Lights and The Haunted Bookshop. Because books.
In particular, I made a point of picking up a copy of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I already have a copy, but it's an eBook. I thought I'd save money that way. I had forgotten to factor in the fact that trying to read Infinite Jest on an eBook is a horrible life choice because it's so ridiculously dense. I also happened upon a copy of Doctor Faustus. Which, as I am looking the book up on Goodreads to link, I have now realized was not the book I had wanted to buy. Silly me; I had actually been looking for Doctor Faustus. Can't imagine how I'd ever make that sort of mistake. So, instead of an early-17th century English playwright's rendition of the Faust myth I get a mid-20th century German's rendition of the myth which focuses heavily on contemporary (for when the book was published) German social issues... You know, I actually am kind of happy I made that mistake.
Also, while I'm on the subject of my stumbling in book buying, I managed to finally find a copy of Pscyho. And, while I was browsing the horror section for some comfort-reading material (like you do) I saw a copy of Hannibal. As I was already picking up a classic horror book successfully turned into a movie that's probably better remember, I figured I'd pick up the other one. Only to realize that there's also a book called The Silence of the Lambs which comes before Hannibal in the series. Fortunately, I managed to snag a copy of that as well. I did not, however, realize that those were the third and second books respectively, and the first book (Red Dragon) did not happen to magically appear in my possession before I left the store.
So... Reading. Yeah. Gonna have to do some of that.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Odd Jobs & Good Books

     There is always an element of surprise working in the WC. You never know who will walk in looking for a conference or what subject you might end up talking about. Maybe one of your coworkers makes a batch of flan or mashed potatoes at 10 pm.
     But in the summer, the surprise comes from a different source: Dr. Bob. The other day I helped him move some furniture from campus to home, around his house, into his garden house (a small writing hutch at the end of his property), and a few other things.
     There were a few benefits to me for helping. Dr. Bob gave me a small pot filled with potting soil for an indoor basil plant and a number of books to borrow. Including (but not limited to) Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac, Walden by Thoreau, and The Great American Novel by Philip Roth.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Quotation Time

Today, a few choice quotes from Margaret Atwood, because I can:

From Negotiating With the Dead
-"Normal youths sneered at the artsies, at least at the male ones, and sometimes threw them into snow banks. Girls of an artistic bent were assumed to be more sexually available than the cashmere twin-set ones, but also mouthier, crazier, meaner, and subject to tantrums: getting involved with one was therefore more trouble than the sex might be worth."
-"By two, I mean the person who exists when no writing is going forward--the one who walks the dog, eats bran for regularity, takes the car in to be washed, and so forth--and that other, more shadowy and altogether more equivocal personage who shares the same body, and who, when no one is looking, takes it over and uses it to commit the actual writing."
-"The written word is so much like evidence--like something that can be used against you later."
-"An art of any kind is a discipline; not only a craft--that too--but a discipline in the religious sense, in which the vigil of waiting, the creation of a receptive spiritual emptiness, and the denial of self all play their part."
-"Should the god of the artist be Apollo the Classicist, with his beautiful formality, or Mercury, the mischief-maker, trickster, and thief?"
-"It isn't the writer who decides whether or not his work is relevant."
-"Its [the chapter's] hypothesis is that not just some, but all writing of the narrative kind, and perhaps all writing, is motivated, deep down, by a fear of and a fascination with mortality."
-"I had a boyfriend once who sent me--in a plastic bag, so it wouldn't drip--a real cow's heart with a real arrow stuck through it. As you may divine, he knew I was interested in poetry."
-"A book is another country. You enter it, but then you must leave: like the Underworld, you can't live there."


Monday, June 9, 2014

What up in the WC?

     Just want to give a feel for what the WC is like right now for all of you out of town and missing the space. Sam Orvis and I (Peter Madsen) are at opposite ends to the room, both at computers with our backs to one another. He's studying for the MCAT; I'm working on the summer newsletter.
     Dr. Bob is recently back from his May Term class. They drove all over to watch baseball games. He is packing stuff into boxes, but is not here at the moment. My guess is he's at the Alumni House Garden.
     John, the Gage Union custodian, is waxing the kitchen floor sometime soon, so the table is out of the kitchen, as are all the chairs. But, that didn't stop me from making french toast this morning. A group of tour guides being trained by Ryan Rey walked in and commented on the good smells.
     It's quiet around here, but there is at least one advantage: I get dibs on the space. I'm at my favorite computer (the touch-screen HP by Dr. Bob's office) sitting in my favorite chair (a rolly chair that leans way back) and I am using the white board on wheels to help me organize my thoughts for the newsletter.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Books and Things

So, this weekend I devoted to moving apartments for the duration of the summer, and trying to make sure I unpack as little as possible because I'm going to need to do this again in a few months. But, more importantly, I went book shopping at two different Half Price Books.

I managed to get three books by Margaret Atwood, whose book on writing (Negotiating With the Dead) I'm currently trying to work my way through in spite of my messed up sleep schedule. I also got The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, who visited Coe this past year and seemed to know what she was doing in writing the book. As well as having a fantastically quotable book, with some of said quotes signed and hung around the Writing Center. Somewhere. There were also books by Umberto Eco (wonderful historical fiction). And a book on writing by Jorge Borges, about whom I know little more than that a large amount of the philosophers in my Contemporary Continental Philosophy course liked quoting him. Which, I suppose, is as good a reason as any to pick up a book.

Most importantly though, I grabbed a copy of Tolkien's translation of Beowulf. Which, for whatever reason, was not published until this May. Though that does go a long way towards explaining why I couldn't find the thing no matter how hard I looked, even though every Medievalist who discussed Tolkien mentioned how wonderful his commentary and interpretation of Beowulf was for the study of fantasy literature.

Perhaps I'll get lucky next time I visit Half Price Books and they'll actually have a copy of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.


Thursday, June 5, 2014


    During the spring semester, the Coe Writing Center and the Catherine McAuley Center began working together. The McAuley Center offers tutoring in English to people new to the US, in addition to other services, including transitional housing for women. The McAuley Center offers one-on-one tutoring to people from all over the world who are in Cedar Rapids and trying to learn English. Coe's Writing Center is full of tutors who speak English.
     I wasn't on campus in the spring to witness or be a part of the tutoring sessions between Coe students and McAuley students, but I am happy to be tutoring one student this summer. Tutoring is the core of the WC job, and I had missed the chance to work one-on-one with someone over a period of time and to observe their skills and strategies change and improve.
     I am working with an adult from the Democratic Republic of Congo who is very eager to learn English. We have fun together and make sure to laugh at ourselves. The other day, I said I was in an argument with someone and he though I said the person was pregnant.
     A few numbers from the Migration Policy Institute before I go: There are 40 million foreign born persons currently living in the US. Of that group, about half are Limited English Proficient, a self-reported status that indicates the person doesn't consider that he or she speaks English "very well."

Sunday, June 1, 2014

While On the Topic of Gardens

The rain means no watering can
Earth black and rich as oil
I might send in an envelope
In lieu of a tuition payment

Weeds love the rain
As do tender shoots of plants
Weeds by virtue of location
Feeling guilty every time I hoe down a flower
For seeking sheltering shade of a rose bush
Wondering if I should have used sunscreen

Worried more about the gnats
Feel like I'm breaking out
Into hives of gnat-bites
Or forgetting an encounter
With a garlic-resistant vampire

Munching tortilla sandwich under a tree
Mulch digging into my pants