Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Middle Name: A rose by any other name

I've just heard of another baby girl being given Rose as a middle name. There seems to be quite a lot of them. Hell, Sylvester Stallone gave all three of his girls Rose as a middle name. I like the name, I do. But I'm curious as to why it's quite so popular but relegated primarily to middle name status (Scarlett Johanssen and Doctor Who aside). It hardly ever makes the top 100 baby name lists but I would hazard a guess it'd take out the no. 1 slot on the middle name list (with Grace as a possible second).

I'm always curious about people's baby name choices and the insights it gives you into the parents. There's such a lot of pressure to get the first name right. But is the middle one any easier?

The middle name was where we went familial. Dear Boy's middle name is his Grandad's, who himself was given it to commemorate an event on the day he was born (and the nurses insisted it be added in). 

My middle name, Jo, was given in a similar vein, presumably for my two aunts, Joanne and Joanna, one who died as a small child and one who didn't. I like the name for more literary reasons, with Little Women's feisty writer a Jo as well - "such a little name for such a person".

For other parents, though, the middle is where they let go, let their freak flag fly (Biggest Sister and Brother-in-Law, I'm looking at you). It's the name that can stay hidden on a birth certificate and not added to forms or put on business cards or desk plates. 

What middle name route did you go for your own kids? Does your own have a story behind it?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Spring cleaning: The story of my stuff (part 2)

It's spring and I'm going room by room and culling all of the things I don't have mental or physical space for anymore. But culling is sometimes hard when attachment remains or the stories behind the stuff run deep. These are those stories.

I haven't bought myself any new bras since having to relinquish my beloved underwires for those weird molded cups and nipple-exposing clips of maternity bras. Once the breastfeeding part of my life was done, I went back into my old-faithfuls, those beautifully comfy Berlei T-shirt bras. 

But Dear Boy is now two-and-a-half and those beloved Berleis have lost their structural integrity. The straps are no long elastic and the sides are worn transparent and the cups were in all kinds of strange shape. Things certainly were not where they should be.

So I bit the bullet yesterday and zoomed Dear Boy into Myer for a proper bra fitting, my first in almost four years. Ah, nothing like shaking and shimmying and being manhandled by a mature lady in comfortable shoes and a set of glasses on a neck chain. Doing it with Dear Boy in the dressing room added a whole new realm of fun. And yes, there was a size change (sigh) but I thought 'no problem, I'll just upgrade to the new lovely colours available in the Berlei range'. Double-sigh. Sometime in the last couple of years, Berlei did a redesign and narrowed the lovely comfy padded straps into thin, biting strips. Decidedly not useful for those of us with breasts of any great weight. 

So this is not just bye-bye to my old, worn-out Berlei bras, but bye-bye to Berlei altogether, and hello Triumph. And although I have hopes of returning to my pre-baby bra specs, it's also a very final see-ya-later to pre-baby boobs. Post-baby boobs are a whole new ball game.

When's the last time you bought yourself a new bra? Have you ever had a proper fitting?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Technology: Ugh

The network was down at work today. No internet, no phones.

I was feeling more than a little bereft. So much of what I do for work needs that technology to connect me with people and ideas and products and services (so much of my social world is the same. We live in Melbourne but so many of our family and friends don't).

I couldn't even procrastiface while I was waiting for it to be restored.

And then, somehow, my USB that I use for my teaching work wiped a selected few folders, namely the ones I'm using now. All my lecture notes and slides, all the extra readings I'd collected... all the marking sheets of all the essays I'd marked in the previous few days.

I could cry.

Technology: ugh.

What do you do when the internet goes down? Are you still connected with the world around you without the technological interface?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Birth certificate

Finally found Dear Boy's birth certificate (by accident) after it being missing for over six months. Of course, the 28-odd-year-old Cabbage Patch Kid one had been safe and sound this whole time (his name was changed soon after adoption - who on earth names a kid Hampston Dunstan?)

Ever misplace the important documents? Spill, what was your Cabbage Patch Kid's name?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fathers' Day: An interview with Dear Boy in five parts

Part 1.
Me: Hey buddy boy, it's Fathers' day tomorrow. What should we do for Daddy?
Dear Boy: Ummm... I don't know. 
Me: Should we give him the present you made?
Dear Boy: Oh yeah. It's nice and has colours on it. 
Me: I think Daddy would like that.
Dear Boy: I think Daddy will like the colours, but he likes black too. 

Part 2.
Me: What's your Daddy like?
Dear Boy: Ummm... a present. 

Part 3.
Me: Why do you love your Daddy?
Dear Boy: Why?
Me: What's good about your Daddy?
Dear Boy: Ummm... toys?

Part 4.
Dear Boy: Mummy, can I have your pen, that pen, please?
Me: Sure, are you going to write on Daddy's card for him?
Dear Boy: Yes, I am... Dear Daddy... He'll like that.

Part 5.


Happy Fathers' Day, Lovely Husband.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Spring cleaning: The story of my stuff (part 1)

It's spring and I'm going room by room and culling all of the things I don't have mental or physical space for anymore. But culling is sometimes hard when attachment remains or the stories behind the stuff run deep. These are those stories.

I bought these shoes in Myer. I never buy shoes in Myer. But I was walking through Myer to get to the carpark and these babies caught my eye. 

These were my first pair of ballet flat style shoes (or any girly style, really) after years of closed toed school shoe-type affairs or black boots. There were some awesome sandals that I wore with socks (but only when I lived in England and it was snowing. Look! There's evidence - before there were  cameras in phones and I was still taking rolls of film to the chemist for printing. It was an extremely hard day when I threw those sandals away, two years after I wore holes through the soles and stopped wearing them - they were the shoes of my travelling years, my life-overseas all-by-myself shoes).

There was something about the print that got me. I didn't wear prints on my clothes, so a print on a shoe was a big step for me. Eleanor Grosch's printed Keds range were just too lovely. The way she put her animals together, the neutral colour combination that worked with all my clothes. I got caught. 

Boy, did I get caught big time.

Because they didn't come in my size (stupid monster feet; nasty hobbitses). Or at least, they didn't stock my size at Myer (stupid Myer).

So I went home with a pair of shoes a half size too small. 

I adored these shoes (I still do) but I suffered for them. I could only wear them when I didn't have to walk anywhere or I'd be crippled with squished toe agony. I looked online for a pair in my size, but even when I found a (somewhat suss) website that actually shipped shoes to Australia), this print in this colour were always sold out. So I kept wearing the ones I had. 

I just don't have room in my life for too-small shoes anymore. Even very cute ones.

Have you been suckered into buying shoes you knew were uncomfrtable? How many of the shoes in your wardrobe actually get a wearing these days?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A cranky lecturer's guide to essay marking

I've been on the receiving end of some mightily shit marking habits. You know the myths of academics throwing the papers up the stairs and whatever lands highest gets the HD and so forth down to the Ps or judging the papers solely on how much they like the student? Yeah, pretty sure they've both happened to me. One of my undergrad lecturers consistently gave me 82% all semester long (just couldn't crack the HD at 85% no matter what I did); he then apologised at the end because he'd mistaken me for someone else.

It happens.

I'm going to let you in a little secret about academia. There's a formula we've given to calculate how long it should take us to make an essay (and hence, how much we should get paid). This involves an excel spreadsheet with much trickery behind the scenes and inputting figures for number of essays, word count of the essay and whether the essay requires standard or significant feedback (what exactly they consider significant is anyone's guess). For the 125 1800-word essays that I have due on tomorrow, which I am going to grade according to a matrix and then give approximately a paragraph of feedback (the good ol' positive negative positive sandwich), I am allocated 14.4 minutes per essay.

How's that make you feel after you've spent days or weeks trawling through sources, writing up argument structures and gorgeously simple prose, and meticulously referencing (I hope)?

Now that I mark digital submissions rather than hard copy, the process is quicker. There's no itchy trigger-finger with the red pen making me want to underline and cross out and rewrite. It's not as good for the eyesight but it sure helps my frustration with students who don't bother with spell check. On the flip side, they don't get the benefit of detailed insight into how to write a better bloody essay. You can find that here.

Here's how I mark my essays these days:
  1. Procrastinate.
  2. Sigh.
  3. Hunker down and just do it already. 
  4. Open marking sheet and essay files and display in side-by-side mode.
  5. Read through first essay, hoping like hell there is nothing in there that's completely incomprehensible.
  6. Tick initial instincts on matrix (unsatisfactory, satisfactory, good, excellent)
  7. Make quick notes while reading of good points, 'wrong' points (if it's that kind of essay) or illogical/stupid/pointless points (it's always that kind of essay - sigh again).
  8. Craft paragraph of feedback, trying not to anger or depress student while not leaving them disillusioned about the quality of the essay.
  9. Re-evaluate matrix.
  10. Give mark/grade based on matrix spread. 
  11. Repeat steps 5-10 for next ten essays
  12. Write a list of feedback phrases that keep cropping up ("shows a good understanding of the key theories"; "argument has a logical progression"; "a well-structured and well-written essay"; "many errors that could have been avoided with a more careful edit of the essay prior to submission" and save this to the bottom of the marking sheet)
  13. Cut, paste, alter and delete feedback phrases as needed for remaining essays.
  14. Reassess marks/grades for first 20 essays in light of overall class performance.
  15. Collate marks/grades and check distribution
  16. Internally debate the merits of Bell-Curve grading.
  17. Reject Bell-Curve grading but notice Bell-Curve is there anyway.
I'm happy when my process doesn't look like this or this or this. Behind the scenes, there's an awful lot of all those things. 

In case you're curious, here's the marking criteria and weighting I'll be using for marking those 125 essays:

Introduction (10%):
  • Orients reader to the organisation of the paper.
  • Addresses the question directly and clearly introduces the argument(s) that is put forward.
  • Provides an indication of why the topic you are writing about is important and worth considering.

Literature (20%):
  • Successful identification of relevant academic literature.
  • Evidence of understanding the literature.
  • Ability to apply literature to the topic.
Argument and Discussion (50%):
  • Comprehension and treatment of issues relevant to the question.
  • Evidence of systematic thinking in relation to the set question.
  • Addresses the question directly and consistently.
  • Takes a critical approach to the question and topic.
  • Use of examples showing understanding of theoretical perspectives
Conclusion (10%):
  • Summarises findings.
  • Clearly reinforces the argument(s) made throughout the essay and explains how they have been supported.
  • Raises unresolved issues for future consideration.
Referencing, writing and presentation (10%):
  • Easy to read, fluent and appropriate style.
  • Correct grammar and spelling.
  • Consistent and accurate use of an in-text referencing system.
  • No plagiarism
If you don't hear from me for the next two weeks, this is why. Send chocolate. Call my mother. 


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