Sunday, January 30, 2011

Broken Glasses

You know it’s going to be a long day when you are quietly perusing the 67 emails that have come in over night and the temple of your very expensive glasses snaps off. Most consist of “Save 40% now” “write a me a letter of recommendation; it is due in two days” “Bake something for a kid event tomorrow” or “You forgot to fill out a form that was due yesterday.” Note that these glasses have survived being run over by an SUV, running in sultry Virginia summers, being tossed around at the swimming pool, and the not infrequent head butt from a tantruming child. But Athleta’s promise that really I can wear yoga pants all the time and save 40% was too much for these. So there was much cursing during which a few of the people closest to me who shall remain nameless assumed that my border-line hysteria was a fashion emergency, Manuel drove me to the optician when it opened. It did not seem like a good sign when the recalcitrant screw on the glasses temple takes two people to fix it. SEVENTY-FIVE minutes later I left with repaired glasses and instructions to come back and get new ones soon before they break. To add to the fun I carefully put my reading glasses case in my bag so that I could at least drown my sorrows in a trashy novel or perhaps read a work related book. But alas I failed to put the actual glasses in the case. So I was twiddling my thumbs when Nurse Brown from school called to tell me that Rebecca was in her office with malaise. Nurse Brown and I are good buddies as Rebecca has a history of malaise. It’s not unlike the academic malaise that led me to spend a good portion of high school chatting with my guidance counselor who was more interesting than what was going on in class.

And now for a public service announcement: while we are in the business of reforming healthcare, can we also make insurance pay for good glasses for people who need them. Mine are covered by neither insurance nor the state’s program for the visually impaired. That program is very interested in giving me special spatulas to flip pancakes and mirrors to put on eye make up (eye make up looks great on people with 5X bifocals) I am fortunate that I am able to afford the thousands of dollars it takes to keep me in multiple glasses. And no, the price is not in the frames and cheaper ones wont do the trick.

And for a history of science lesson, Spectacles have, of course, been around since the ancient world in some form. By the fifteenth century lenses that were used to counter the effects of myopia began to appear. By 1462 the Milanese ambassador to Florence explained that “they are made more perfectly there than any other place in Italy. Florence was then known for its production of lenses with progressive powers in five-year intervals from age 30-70.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Strep etc.

Can someone please explain to me why when I’m home with a sick kid they either throw up on me multiple times or they have something like pink eye where they actually feel fine but are contagious and must be quarantined. When Manuel is home on the other hand he gets the kid who has a nice mild case of strep and is happily reading in her bed very psyched to have a day at home with her Dad, just feverish enough to be a cuddly and malleable but not actually miserable. So far we’ve had three cases of strep in the last two weeks and presumably cases four and five (Jonathan and I) will come just after Manuel leaves for Brazil on Sunday night. Jonathan may be spared as the fact of his sisters illness already causes him great pain to the tune of a one hour tantrum last nigh because he could not possibly go to school without “my companion”

Strep aside I had seriously divine twenty-four hours to myself. (thanks mom and Manuel) and made more progress on my book in one day than I often do in a week. I can’t remember the last time I actually had that much time with no one to take care of and it’s amazing how that brain space can help with visualizing a larger argument. I’m also probably made great progress on raising our heating bill—the first thing I did when Manuel and the kids left was crank the heat way up. I did have a few minor interruptions to do important things like buy new running shoes and have rock band practice. When They got back the kids asked if I had been lonely and if I had gone to the bus stop. (lonely is not in the vocabulary of a mother of three small children)

This was coming off a rather exhausting weekend, which began with one of the more shall we say unique gigs of my life. In short, I found myself in a pavilion sporting a cocktail dress, talking about Thomas Jefferson and playing a Marcello sonata on the viola and accompanying a grad student singing Jefferson Satires to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner on the piano. (The grad student was great) As it turns out if you don’t play piano much a few stanzas of Francis Scott key can do your little wrists in. There was also fortified wine in Jefferson cups involved. We also took the kids to ladino music. The boys made it through about ten minutes of this cultural experience. But Rebecca found it very “moving” and very primly introduced herself to Flori Jaggoda and explained that the entire second grade had sung her Hanukah song. The low point was probably Eli turning his water bottle into a weapon and pointing it at the guy who runs the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Rebecca was also responsible that night for one of those bizarre kid juxtapositions.

R:What’s the Holocaust
Me: What do you think it is
R: What time is our soccer game

We chose this year to skip the Tu Bishvat seder in which last year the kids had to look at but not taste about fifteen different kinds of fruit. Jonathan however made up for that at Sunday School. When the rabbi asked how people were like tree his response was “well actually in Norse mythology people descended from trees.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sexual Harrassment and Standardized Testing

Dear Provoust office when you complete your disability sensitivity training i will take your dumb harassment quiz. And, fyi, people who pass it still harass.

The first time I failed the sexual harassment quiz at UVa I thought it was kind of funny. It’s true that I once, in a state of new mother exhaustion, accidentally played footsie with a young male grad student whom I mistook for a table leg,. And I do in the end probably hug more of my students than most professors. But I’m the least of the sexual harassment problems in any institution I’ve ever been a part of. I know I’m not the only female faculty member who gets more than their share of disturbing stories running the gauntlet from inappropriate eroticism in the classroom to too much touching and even biting. (ok, on the last one I may be one of a few but still…). And I was once reprimanded for leaving a harassment workshop early because I had to teach. The facilitator was in the middle of one of her favorite stories about a Med School Professor who had apparently thought it was ok to put his penis on the shoulder of his secretary. The workshop had been called because of some issues in my department, and this story allowed the group listening to feel pretty good because they knew THAT was inappropriate. (and yes of course I’ve been harassed,patted on the head,propositioned, touched inappropriately, threatened by male students etc... as has just about every other woman I know)

We handle sexual harassment at UVa like we handle everything else, with an online module designed to protect the University against legal action. I’m quite sure that just about every faculty member who has sexually harassed passed the quiz.
There’s also a drinking quiz that seems to have worked wonders on alcohol related violence. No doubt the fact that faculty who want to serve one bottle of wine to their colleagues have learned actual blood alcohol level numbers stops binge drinking by students in university-sanctioned housing.

I’m not sure why I’m digging my heels in about this, but the test is harassing me. I have attempted it a few times but multiple choice has never worked for me. The computer test is the adult equivalent of the SRA test we took in elementary school. All my friends got in the 90th percentile, and I hovered at the low IQ 40th percentile. In high school ETS lost my large type periodic table of the elements and thus tanked my AP chemistry test. They later lost my large type verbal GRE, and I'm fairly certain I have the lowest verbal GRE of any tenured professor I know. And by the way, the usual ways of, shall we say, outsmarting the test are not available to those without a good visual memory. This starts to feel like tenth grade where almost everyone but me cheated on French quizzes. I failed to cheat not out of a superior moral compass but out of inferior eyes through which to see the cheat sheets. (If you’re reading this and you were in madam whoever’s class at T.C. Williams don’t deny it…) And by the way, my guess is that my French now exceeds that of my classmates who aced those silly quizzes.

But back to sexual harassment. If you don’t take the quiz, you are offered a two-hour workshop that I’m also not willing to attend. I can only hope it would include such gripping tales as the above-mentioned penis-on-the-shoulder story. I also always like the skits about offering to give your students better grades if they go out to dinner with you. I will try very hard to remember not to do that next time. But it’s also worth noting that the workshop would no doubt be two hours of power point; which I will not be able to see. I usually handle such encounters by very aggressively text messaging on my large type cell phone.

And in the realm of potentially inappropriate humor see below for my husband’s response to the note I did not send to the provost's office.

Dear Professor Gordon,
We note that you have not yet completed the harassment training test that is REQUIRED of all legally blind small female faculty. We understand that you cannot pass computer standardized tests, and we are happy to offer a special seminar for people with your intellectual limits. Please meet this Friday evening at 9:30 pm in JPJ Arena for 3.5 hour special seminar. The class is longer than the normal because we take into account that you are somewhat slow sometimes. Don't worry, all visuals will be projected on the scoreboard screen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Soccer and Green Flecks

I’ve been on a body double/stunt double kick all week. I had one of those moments where I reread Gagliano’s preface to La Dafne for the seemingly 80 millionth time and finally noticed something cool. When I wrote my dissertation I liked it because of the young female singer who had to undergo a virginity test and later died an untimely death of small pox. And of course what twenty something feminist can’t come up with something to say about a girl who in order to escape rape gets her Dad to turn her into a tree—Dafne. This time around, looking for another more peculiar document I came across it on Google books—my new best friend—and noted that the production needed two Apollo’s: one to kill the python and one to sing. Apparently the fencing and acrobatics of slaying prevented good singing.

And low and behold we had our own body double feat going on here. After two years of completely refusing any team sports Rebecca announced she wanted to play indoor soccer. The team was already full so the kids decided they would share the shirt and sub in and out for each other. At home this involved practice costume changes. They had the shirt switch down to a science. Rebecca also had to put on just the right pair of boys athletic shorts, hair bands to match the shirt, and stud earrings. Jonathan left the house in his usual boot cut cords and lime green cowboy boots but by the time we got to the game both had acquired new shin guards. Let’s just say that while some kids are already clearly preparing for NCAA scots on the U8 league ours our not headed in that direction. One regularly skips on the soccer court and the other runs like a girl and neither have the killer instinct.

I actually went to the game as I thought it might be a one time only occurrence. As a rule I consider team sports to be a Daddy activity. I can’t bear even the threat of being a soccer mom and I was tormented in my youth by my inability to play anything with balls. The playground is not a kind space for those without depth perception. Indeed I run because after one week of field hockey tryouts the coach gently suggested I get myself to a sport without sticks or balls. It looks like there will be more opportunities to see the Lerdau twins in action…….

The truly momentous event of yesterday involved Jonathan eating pizza with green flecks on it. Any mother of a kid with serious food issues will understand the significance of this. We are not talking run of the mill picky eater here—we ‘re talking about a kid whose twin had the skills to be a feeding therapist by age 4. We took the kids to a fancy pizza joint and while we enjoyed our brick oven almost Italian like pizza Jonathan and Rebecca had a cheese pizza which came with, lord help us, fleks of parsley. Jonathan’s response was “someone needs to remove this.” Rebecca and their friend explained in their best, we are good kids and you are dumb voice, that the green flecks had no taste. I spent a few minutes dutifully using my well honed skills at removing green but gave up and said “dam it Jonathan just eat the pizza” and as it turned out he did.

This was also the lunch where while our pretentious seven year olds debated whether the pizza was the same as in Rome I suggested we just think of it as a different genre. My daughter responded with “mommy do you even KNOW what a genre is…….”