Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades

Gentle readers, this week I was required to attend "New Faculty Orientation."  Generally, I don't mind these kinds of things as they often provide important information that one should know when working at a new place.  The content of this orientation session (there are between 4 and 487 more of these that I have to attend) was fairly helpful, but the other participants shall I put this?  A study in academic stereotypes.  And also incredibly annoying.

I was the second person to arrive about five minutes before the orientation started and I followed directions and signed in and took a seat.  Shortly thereafter, one of the new basketball coaches arrived and we discussed one of his players who is also my student.  So far, so good, right?  Only moments after we were all supposed to be there, everyone else showed up.  "Everyone else" included another one of the new coaches and Business Suit Bob, who does something in the business school that apparently forces him to be incredibly self-important.  He strides over to the coaches, ignoring everyone else, and begins one of those ridiculous handshaking rituals that some men engage in.  Then they all started discussing athletics, making the usual lame jokes about the success (or lack thereof) of this year's team, etc.  Ugh.  Also, no one seemed to be able to read the "Please sign in" sign in the doorway, so they all had to be reminded repeatedly to do so.

Then it got worse.  Slicked Back Hair Steve the Nerdy Scientist Who Thinks He's Hot showed up and began leering at every woman in the room and trying to make awkward conversation.  It really isn't that difficult--just introduce yourself, politely inquire about the other person's area of study, and perhaps ask where they went to school.  

Right on his heels was Billy the Balding Math Professor, who began making lame math jokes the minute he arrived:  "Wow, we've grown exponentially, huh?!"  Dude--see my commentary on appropriate initial academic conversation above.

These two were followed by some older gentlemen who were quite nice, but clearly befuddled by the topic, which had to do with the use of technology for teaching purposes.

Next we had a stream of various people wearing stereotypical academic attire (linen is popular, also long vest-like garments, ill fitting pants, items that were fashionable over ten years ago, and my favorite, the big plastic academic glasses trend).

Oh, there was also the woman who is as annoying a "student" in the new faculty orientation as she probably was in grade school.  You know--the one who bounced up and down in her seat saying "Me!  Me!  I know!  I know!" about everything.

So, the session got started and we came to the topic of using Blackboard (an online learning system that you can use to make course websites, give exams and assignments to students, etc.) and Business Suit Bob clearly had something to say.  Of course, he couldn't just raise his hand or say "could I ask something?"  No, he had to sit there making obnoxious facial expressions at the presenter, obviously shift around in his seat, and sigh loudly.  Finally the presenter said, "Do you have a question or a comment?"  "No, not really.  Well, I guess I'm just trying to.............  No."  She went on and he continued to be a jerk, so she stopped again to ask if he had something to say.  Well, actually, he did.  He had been sitting there thinking about all of this and he just couldn't understand some of the benefits and how you could preserve any kind of integrity with an online test.  He could just see a row of frat boys sitting together on their couch taking a test together and how would we know and what would we do about it and wouldn't it be better to have them take the test in class and on and on and on.  While he was droning on and on, Coach Two fell asleep and Coach One looked like he wanted to stab someone (Business Suit Bob, perhaps) in the eye with those curly topped toothpicks.  My kind of guy.  Maybe we should develop a special handshake.

Then we got to the part of the presentation when it was open to questions.  People didn't really have questions, though, they just wanted to tell everyone else about the clever ways  they had used Blackboard in the past and how superior their methods were to someone else's.  Slicked Back Hair Steve continued to leer when he wasn't explaining the finer points of using Blackboard to assign and grade problem sets for physics and Billy the Balding Math Professor weighed the merits of creating two separate shells for one's two section course versus having both sections use a single Blackboard shell.  Coach Two slept on, Coach One looked like he wanted a stiff drink, Business Suit Bob was mad that he didn't have the floor anymore, the older gentlemen looked increasingly confused, and the enthusiastic woman next to me seemed to be able to counter everyone else with an even better Blackboard anecdote.  

Finally, over an hour later, we were released.  The boys club (Coaches One and Two and Business Suit Bob) had resumed their BS conversation from before as I made a beeline for the door.  Slicked Back Hair followed me out of the building, continuing to leer.  Unfortunately, I will have to see this same group again several more times (which I will undoubtedly be recapping for the blog).  I. Can't. Wait.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Well, gentle readers, it has been a while since I last posted and a lot has happened.  I packed up seven bags of library books to return to school:

Kenna, Father of Ken, and I drove from NY to Kansas in a car loaded with clothing and other stuff--poor Kenna didn't have much space:

On the road, we saw this trailer--notice anything strange?

Traveling got old after a while:

We made it to Kansas safely and then Kenna and I continued on our way to Oklahoma.  Last week, I started my new job and my house/dog sitting gig and worked on getting things together for my classes.  Then, Mother and Father of Ken came down on Friday night and we did some serious house hunting Friday night and most of Saturday.  I'm now in the process of buying this house:

There is some work that needs to be done, but for the most part, the house is move in ready and the things that need to be done are all fairly simple.  The house was built in the mid-1960s and it reminds me of the house that Grambi used to live in.  It's on a corner lot in a quiet neighborhood and it has a nice size yard, two car garage, and a cute patio in the back.

This is the room off of the kitchen that I'm going to use as my study (all of the rooms are going to get fresh paint):

This is the kitchen, which has some cool 1960s features that I'll show you later.  The cabinets will get new hardware, I'm going to pull the linoleum up and do something else to finish the floor, and eventually I'll probably replace the counters and backsplash.  I'd love to get a new refrigerator, but that's probably pretty far down the road.

There are two full baths--this is the smaller one and it's going to need some serious work.  I really hate the sink and light fixture and the toilet seat is one of those padded ones in dark green.  

This is the bedroom attached to the small bathroom:

The master bedroom (there's a third, smaller bedroom):

The larger bathroom--yes, that is wallpaper border over tile.  That will be coming off as soon as possible.

And now, for the coolest part--the 1960s stove/oven:

You should see the shape this thing is in--I can't wait to use it.  It is a double oven combination with a pull out stove and a cabinet below:

This is in pristine condition and extremely cool.  You push the range back in when you're not using it and I am SO EXCITED to have a double oven.  

So, I'm hoping to close when my stuff arrives from NY or maybe even a little sooner, but it will be a fun house to work on and it has plenty of room for guests, so start making reservations today ;-)  It will be totally different from my house in NY, but I'm looking forward to getting in there and settling in.

I'll be back as soon as I can with updates, etc.  See you soon!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Steal Away

Well, gentle readers, I promised to stop being so cryptic about what is going on around here and now I can tell you the good news.  The house is sold and I have accepted a teaching job in:

I start teaching on Tuesday, so you can imagine the whirlwind my life has become in the past few days.  Interview on Monday, accept the job Monday afternoon, begin the journey back to NY on Tuesday, get stuck in Detroit on Tuesday night, finally get back to NY on Wednesday afternoon, get a flat tire, try to pack the essentials, return seven bags of library books, say goodbye to everyone, write syllabi for my courses, write lesson plans, drive back to the midwest with Father of Ken...and the list goes on.

I'm really happy with the move--I'm ready for a change and this is a great job.  Plus, I'll only be about 4 hours away from Family of Ken.  This will be a huge transition for me and McKenna, but it is, after all, The Adventures of Ken and McKenna.  While blogging may continue to be sporadic for the next week or two, I will document our adventures and share them with you as soon as I can.

Until then, read old posts, check out some of the other blogs on my list, go to the beach, cook something delicious, and enjoy life.  Next time I write, I'll be in Oklahoma!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Reminiscing: The Wine in Your Life

There is no date on this charming booklet produced for California: Wine Land of America, but you can probably tell that it has some miles on it.  I really like the illustrations in this one (really, I'm not being sarcastic this time).  There is something cheerful about them.

I am on board with these people--wine and a huge plate of cheese and olives.

Why are things so casual these days?  I would love to attend a dinner party like the one illustrated on the right.  Maybe I'll have to have a dinner party like this some day--bring back the formal dining experience...

Does wine taste better when you are dressed up?  Also, I love it when people find a way to use the word "flourish" in reference to food and drink.

I totally want her outfit!  Also, I have champagne glasses like these that belonged to my great grandparents and I love to use them.  They make me feel like I've been transported back in time.

Ahhhh...I love wine.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reminiscing: Deluxe Osterizer Recipes

Well, gentle readers, the whirlwind of my life continues and I'm on my way out of town for the weekend.  I promise to stop being so cryptic and explain everything soon.  In the meantime, I've prepared a few new "Reminiscing" posts for you to enjoy over the weekend. 

Let's begin with this cookbook from 1963:

This one is full of a lot of the kinds of recipes you would expect from a cookbook that comes with a blender, so I haven't pulled out too many pages to make fun of.  This one, however, I could not let pass without comment.  

As if the stuffed bunny isn't creepy enough (I have issues with bunnies--long story), the food is horrifying.  The basic idea here is to cook for your family and then blend the crap out of whatever you're eating and give it to your baby.  Check with your doctor first, though.  The food in the photograph isn't identified, but I can assume based on the accompanying recipes that this is a main course of pureed raccoon braised in Two Buck Chuck accompanied by sides of dog food and pureed orange Nerf balls.

If your child survives the introduction of solid foods based on these recipes, you might consider serving something like this for a fancy dinner:

The piece de resistance of this spread is the "Green and Gold Rice Ring" with mushroom filling.

If that ring doesn't strike your fancy, perhaps you should try the "Cranberry Mold" instead:

Soup.  That is some horrible-looking soup.  It looks like it would taste like Bridget Jones' blue soup.

I wish this one had more pictures--I'm sure that some of the recipes are more disgusting in photographs than they sound in print.

Check back over the weekend for The Wine in Your Life.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


After almost two weeks of solid chaos (snake removal, house showings, traveling, attempts at professional advancement, etc.), I finally thought that I could spend a day or two like this:

Still, quiet, calm...

I was also in need of some comfort food and some time in the kitchen, so I made chicken breasts breaded with ground almonds and whole wheat breadcrumbs along with mashed potatoes and fresh green beans and a side of cherries:

Grambi sent me a cherry pitter for my birthday, so after I pitted cherries for dinner, I pitted the rest of them for cherry pie.

Grandmother of Ken is fond of telling the story of how her mother made a beautiful fresh cherry pie when they had Grandfather of Ken over to the house for the first time.  Everyone admired the pie and couldn't wait to take a bite, but when they did...they found out very quickly that she had forgotten to pit the cherries.  Of course, it wasn't a total loss--everyone just ate around the pits.

On Saturday, I made mini cherry pies in my little pie pans.  Just use your favorite recipe for crust or a store bought crust and fill with four cups of pitted cherries mixed with a tablespoon and a half of flour and a quarter cup of sugar, divided between three or four mini pie pans.  Dot the tops of the pies with small pieces of butter before you put the top crust on.  Bake at 375 until the crust is golden brown (probably 30-40 minutes).

This is really good, although I think I would cook the cherry mixture separately before filling the pie just to soften the cherries a little more.  I might also add a splash of lemon juice for a flavor contrast.

So, for reasons that I can't yet divulge to the general public, my weekend turned out to be far less relaxing than I had hoped.  I managed to find a few moments of peace and McKenna spent most of her weekend stalking a baby bunny that has taken up residence in our yard.  Here she is letting the bunny know who's in charge around here:

She never moved any closer to the bunny than this, but she gave it the meanest stink eye you ever saw.  I don't think the bunny noticed...