martes, enero 22, 2008

Open House hobbyists

One of our favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon is to go visit the real estate open houses in Oakland. We've been going for quite a while: a year and a half, actually, and seen a lot of changes. The realtors all know us by face. That's not really a good thing: we represent the hard-to-convince prospective buyer who's prob'ly just wasting your time.

Also, sometimes we suffer from absent-minded professor x 2. As on this Sunday when we walked into to a house only to realize we'd already been there two weeks earlier. The (same) realtor looked at us skeptically, "Did you come back to buy?"

She knew we hadn't: on our previous visit we'd pointed out oddities like the extension cords running across the baseboards, and the cracked plaster behind the potted plant.

We complain about lots of stairs, because we won't be able to climb them when we're old. We walk into expensively-flipped kitchens and proclaim "hideous!"

L* has an innate sense of direction, so she usually knows which neighborhoods we're in, what we've seen before, and she's been keeping an eye on which houses have sat on the market, which are new listings, and which are bank-owned.

Me, I'm more like those people with short-term memory loss: every day is a surprise.

Lately we've been around Maxwell Park, Millsmont, and some other little area with all these "storybook" houses.

L* likes to chat up the realtors. Even the hooty lesbian one who one time told us we needed to look "on the other side of the freeway." She apparently has the same short-term memory problem as I, since the next time she saw us she radar-focused on L* and said "I"d love to meet to talk about your dream home." All my femme hackles came out and I've all but hissed at her every time we've seen her since.

We saw two houses we liked last weekend. Both of which are almost in our price range. Of the blue one, which I liked, L* said "I don't know if we're up to it. It's kind of a 1920's glam. We're more mid-century rasquach." That is, it might be too much effort for us to try to live up to the 1920's glam. Yeah, we could get the blue velvet couch that L* has been wistful about, but what will we do about the cat hair?

Well, we're in no hurry (at least until our landlord decides to put our house on the market).

sábado, enero 19, 2008


Okay, we are now both officially democrats. Or I am, anyway. My card came yesterday. L* will be official on Tuesday (the next business day). We had to re-register in order to vote in the primary.

I had a lot of confidence in the guy at the Lake Merritt farmer's market who took L*'s voter registration. Unlike the folks on the SFSU campus. I think they get paid per card or something, but they don't necessarily every send the forms on. No, really, I had to register like three times when we first moved back to California, because the first two never went through. If there's one thing I hate, it's going to vote and only being allowed to cast a "provisional" ballot.

The Sign

jueves, enero 17, 2008


I got called for Jury Duty. Had to defer again! I know! I must be the only person in the country who really wants to be on a jury. A runaway jury. Why didn't they call me at the beginning of January? I have most of the month off and am just eager to come down to the courthouse. But no, they call me for the second week of classes. I'm deferring again in the hopes that they'll call me early in August when I will again have time to do my civic duty. But even if they wait till late September, I MUST go next time. It's the LAW.

I know. I'm kidding myself. Like they're really going to put a professor of (queer) ethnic studies on a jury. Yeah right. that's really going to happen. But it could! Maybe I could be vague in my job description: education. What do you teach: critical thinking. Or no, better to say science fiction rather than critical thinking. Then they'll think I'm totally out of touch with the real world, and I'll have better chance to get in.

Back to The Borderlands...


No, that's not my biological time clock. It's the timer counting down to the start of spring classes.

I know all the rest of you teacher types are already hard at it: L* is in her second week of classes, after all. But my semester doesn't start till next week. I'm re-tooling the science fiction class, "Race, Gender, Science Fiction." Background information: I've been developing this class for years, at three different institutions. Every time I've been able to teach it, the enrollment has been really small. My record high was twelve students. This semester, I'm trying it out as SFSU's first ethnic studies class that is wholly online. The student response thus far has been, overwhelming. There are currently forty-nine students enrolled and ten students on the wait list. And it's one of three classes on science fiction being offered this semester (the other two are in the English department).

The syllabus is very close to finished, although I'm disappointed not to be able to squeeze in more films. That's okay, though, because Cinema Studies offers a Science Fiction class (just last semester, in fact) which includes the Alien films, the Matrix films, and Children of Men. So I'm settling for the original Planet of the Apes and a lot of TV episodes. (Dark Angel, ST: TNG, The X-Files.) The books I'm using are fantastic. Octavia Butler's Dawn, Samuel R. Delany's Stars in My Pocket like Grains of Sand and Sesshu Foster's Atomik Aztex (you should hear me making conversation about the latter at a cocktail party!). The last time I taught this, the students read all three books of the Xenogenesis series, which they finished way ahead of schedule.

I'm still finalizing the course requirements. I'm dropping some of my previous strategies (student journals, creative projects, blogs) in favor of more structured discussion on the class forums. L* has helped me a lot on this class, because she's the master of the online class. I've been reading over her syllabi and just been wowed by how well she constructs her classes.

I'm also teaching two sections of Critical Thinking this semester. I do believe this is the first time I've taught two sections of the same class since I became a professor! I'm using an anthology Re-Reading America which I've used before. I always say I'm not going to use it, I'm going to put together my own reader. And then I start marking the pieces that I want to go in the reader: Malcolm X, Melvin Dixon, Inés Hernandez-Avila, Langston Hughes, and the next thing I know, I've marked fifteen or so pieces from the same book. It annoys me, though, to see what they've taken out in subsequent editions: Leslie Marmon Silko, Jimmy Santiago Baca. And instead we have the same Richard Rodriguez excerpt that appears in almost every freshman composition reader.

I'm starting to sound like my old grad-student self again, when I complained that the first edition of the Norton Anthology of Women's Literature included not one Chicana writer, although they felt the need to include all of "Jane Fucking Eyre."

And the discussion questions really assume a white middle-class readership. That means, though, that we'll get to critique the discussion questions, take them apart, see arguments they're implying or stereotypes that they're buying into. And of course I'll bring in some supplements: the poetry of Mohja Kahf, Pat Mora, and the late Diane Burns, to name a few.

We really do need to publish our own reader though. I'll have to write that in on the ten-year plan. In the meantime, though, there's another timer running down for a book review that's due now, so I'd better get back to work.

martes, enero 15, 2008

Good Eats

L* wants us to try one totally new recipe (or totally new ingredient) every week. We're thinking of joining our local CSA, as soon as we figure out our closest pickup point. That'll mean we'll be getting produce that's local and in-season, which will call for some creative cooking on our part.

L* has already gotten the jump on that though, with a recipe using dino kale. It's amazing stuff: I see it growing in our neighbor's front yards. (That's one of the things I love about living in Fruitvale: people grow vegetables in their front yards) So L* found a recipe for mustard-crusted-tofu with kale and sweet potatoes. One word: Yum! No, two words: Healthy yum! It was so delicious. The kale was cooked with lime juice and ginger and wasn't at all bitter -- and I had tasted it raw while I was cleaning and chopping and I was very afraid of the bitterness "It sure is kale-y" is what I said, "This must be a cruciferous." But cooked it was tender and tasty and not at all "kale-y."

The reviews of the recipe said a lot of people found that the mustard didn't stick well to the tofu, and L* certainly experienced that, but it was totally delicious. We wondered if it would stick better if the tofu was first dusted with flour (or dipped in egg and then flour). Totally delicious!

Then last night, we had our second totally new recipe in two days! Singapore noodles! L* saw the egg noodles at Berkeley bowl and couldn't resist them. She cooked them up with shiitake mushrooms, green onions, curry powder and I don't know what all. It made a mountain of noodles but we ate every last one. Not as healthy as some of our other meals (noodles ≠ whole grain) but very yum.

We also received a wonderful care package from Julien in Miami: three delicious teas, two green and one black (chai). Mmmmm. We're going to become tea connoisseurs, that's us. (geez, I had to look up how to spell both shiitake and connoisseur. I must be out of practice)