Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tending Herbs

Some people have green thumbs, I have a brown one. In other words, I have the thumbs of death. I have killed every plant which I have owned. My record is 3 weeks – that is the longest I have kept a plant alive. Either I water them too much or not enough. Either they get too much sun or not enough. However, one of the things I have always wanted to do is to have a herb garden. I love fresh herbs but they are so expensive. But, for obvious reasons, I have not tried this.

Now Lancaster calls itself a “garden city” with good reason. It is surrounded by farmland (Amish and otherwise) and has a lot of local greenhouses selling plants all year round. So, with the start of summer, I bought a small thyme plant and a small basil plant. It is my new experiment. If I can keep them alive for a month, I will get another plant – probably rosemary or cilantro.

Now, buying these plants did nothing to increase my self-confidence. We went to a local market which has very nice, personal staff. I asked one of them how much water these two plants needed. Here is her response: “Well, they do not like being very wet or very dry. Just touch the soil and let the soil tell you.” Thanks!!!! If the plants could talk, could tell me what they need, they would not be dead. So, I tried again: “So….water them every day, every other day???” Her response: “There is no real rule. It all depends…..” The only definitive thing she told me was that the plants need a lot of sunlight. Of course, that is the most difficult thing for me because they have to be on our back deck which gets very little sunlight – only about 3-4 hours per day.

So, I have had these two plants for about 2 weeks now. I re-planted them in bigger pots and with better soil. The basil plant was actually 2 plants, so I have 3 pots. One of the basil plants is looking a little droopy and I do not have high hopes for it. The other one looks OK though the thyme is the one which seems to be thriving. If they are still alive on June 5th, I am getting more. I have been using fresh basil and thyme for the past couple of days and I LOVE it.

Do you have herbs? And how much time and trouble do you spend on these plants?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hallmark Holidays

Before I start this train of thought, let me say: Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and expectant mothers out there.

Now, let me ask: what is the difference between a holiday like Mother’s Day and a holiday like Valentine’s Day? My friend Jill does not observe Valentine’s Day (neither do I) on the grounds that it is a holiday manufactured by Hallmark to enable an already consumerist society (correct me if I am getting your position wrong, Jill). But isn’t Mother’s Day the same thing? Yet, it seems to me that it is more unpopular to voice this opinion about Mother’s Day than it is to voice it about Valentine’s Day. Maybe this is because Valentine’s Day seems more self-indulgent: celebrating oneself as well as one’s significant other (and your Romeo-Juliet-esque love no matter how short a time you have been together)!!!!! On the other hand, who can refuse to celebrate their mother or deny her a day in her honor? The problem is made thornier by the fact that when an entire society celebrates “Mother’s Day” it becomes an expectation on the part of the person being celebrated. So, even if you do not believe in it, you will probably hurt your mom by not acknowledging her on Mother’s Day. Once the expectation is created, Hallmark basically wins. Unlike Valentine’s Day which requires reciprocal action from two parties, Mother’s Day requires action on only one side. You and your significant other may be perfectly happy to not observe Valentine’s Day because each one of you is freed from the obligation to make the day special. But you cannot come to such a mutually satisfactory arrangement with your mother simply because there is no obligation on her part. So, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc. becomes an expectation like a birthday – one you cannot forget without hurting your parents.

This is what started my train of thought. I was brought up in India during a less commercialized time. We did not celebrate Mother’s Day. We celebrated our parents’ birthdays, their anniversary, Christmas, New Year etc. However, after we came to the U.S., Mother’s Day started to sink into our consciousness. However, I did not take it seriously for the first couple of years (I still have trouble remembering when it is). Then, my mom started spending her summers here. She spent a number of consecutive summers here starting probably around 2002-2003. Knowing the hype around Mother’s Day, I started calling her on that day. This was our routine till this year. This year, she is in India. So, I called her on Saturday night to wish her Happy Mother’s Day (it is Sunday morning in India). She started complaining that we (my sister and I) do not properly acknowledge this occasion because while we call on time, we do not send her any cards to mark the day. I pointed out to her that she did not even know there was a Mother’s Day till about 6 years ago. Her response: “So what? Now we do celebrate it and it is a real holiday.”

I refrained from saying what I was thinking. It is NOT a real holiday. It is manufactured by card companies and we have all fallen into the trap. But how do you say that to your mom? Plus, as Gregg pointed out, we should have sent cards to both our mothers anyway. Thanks a lot Hallmark!!!! You win!!!!!

Any thoughts?

Friday, May 8, 2009

End of Semester!!!!!

The semester is over!!!!! Grading is done!!!!! My first year of a tenure-track job is over and now summer is now officially here.

It has been some semester!!! All the work that 4 classes and 120 students bring. On top of that, I had three trouble students. Two of them are seniors and needed to (in the case of one) pass my class to graduate and (in the case of the other) needed a B level grade in the class to graduate. The class has 3 exams (including the final), a paper and a participation grade. Once they took the first exam and realized they could not make it, the problems started. Constant demands for extra credit, for a curve etc. However, it was also clear from in-class discussions that they did not do the reading. Both turned in their papers late and argued relentlessly against taking off points (this is a long story for another time). This went on for weeks. I gave in, gave the class extra credit, a detailed study guide etc. But passing a 300-level PT class is impossible without doing the reading and only studying the power points I put up in class. So, they both failed to get their desired grades (by a lot) and I am still dealing with that problem. I feel bad that they cannot graduate but apparently, my class is not the only barrier to graduation – I learnt yesterday that they did badly in their other courses too (not as badly as in mine though). This is the sort of student situation which I hate, the worst part of being a teacher.

Plus, I have had some pretty draining health problems all semester which thankfully, are mostly resolved for now. But the upshot of all of it, for now, is this: I need to eat less carbs and sugar/sweets. This is a particular blow to me. I love sugar – but I think I love carbs even more. So, about eating “less” carbs: how on earth do you do that? If you had to cut down on pasta, couscous, rice, breads etc., what would you eat? And, on the question of eating less sugar/sweets…this is going to sound crazy but that is the one thing I do not think I have to work on. I do not drink sodas anymore, I put only 3 teaspoons of sugar in my morning coffee and I have a slice of apple pie or cake at night. To me, that does not count as “too much” sugar. How would you cut down on sugar and carbs?


Plans for the summer:

1)Finish dissertation: this means 2 chapters (which are partially done) and writing an introductory chapter (also partially done) and a conclusion. Obviously, this will take up most of my time.
2)Write up 2 new course proposals: Millersville does not offer courses in Ancient and Modern Political Thought. I have to write up these course proposals to have the University approve them (very bureaucratic)
3)Clean out basement: our basement has about 70 boxes (at last count) of books, clothes, misc. items which I need to go through. These are boxes we have not unpacked from our move – a year ago.
4)Start a tenure folder/box: apparently, it is easier to prep for tenure applications if you have a box with EVERYTHING you have done for the past 5 years.
5)Prepare for the Common Seminar: I volunteered to teach one of the University’s freshman “Common Seminars” which means I have to read and make discussion questions on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Anyone read it? Is it good?