Wow.

Who knew that getting a semi-clean house and back onto campus would help me write faster?  I’ve got two stories under way, and a third and fourth on the back burner (though, I will admit, the other two are kind of world-filler).

Yep.  My house is semi-clean.  I’ve got the bedroom floor cleared enough to walk around the bed, I’ve managed to organize all the bedding into a couple of baskets, and all of the towels into a box on top of a small bookcase.  I’ve got plans for what I’m going to do with it all, but it’s going to have to wait until after I get my first paycheck in October.

(Actually, the first paycheck is the last working day of September, but still.  That’s six weeks away.)

Same with what I’d like to do to finish up the kitchen.

I do, however, now have the room to do yoga…if I’m careful.

So.  Goals.

1. I have four diaper boxes (200 ct) full of clothes to give away, sitting in various spots in the living room.  Those (some of them, at least) need to go out to the car to be taken to charity tomorrow, and the rest go out on Wednesday.  I also really need to organize my knitting so that it’s not overflowing everything around my chair.

2. I need to get used to using a weekly planner for keeping track of crap between my classes, Andrew’s new classes, Andrew’s work schedule,  and doctors/dentists appointments for the family.  Because I know I’m going to drop the ball somewhere if I don’t.

3.  I need to finish the three stories that I’m a third of the way through writing (yep–a third of the way through three different stories told through three different characters’ eyes), and maybe get a couple more done.  I’ve got three more stories vital to the plot development in Highway, then it’ll be rewrite time.

 

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Goals and stuff…

So far, we have a good start to the semester.  The kids seem to be adjusting well to Mommy working mornings and Daddy watching them, and my students seem to be adjusting well to a professor who makes them work from day one.  And participate.

As for last week…I got a bit done on the imp’s room.  We got his shelves set up for his toys, and have two cardboard boxes for his trains and cars to go in.  We got his rails (most of them, at least) set up and hooked together on the top of the shelves.

I cannot seem to get him to sort his toys for things to give away.  I guess I’ll have to do it for him.

Next month when I’ve got slack in the house-declutter schedule.

I did get a little bit of writing done, but it was all long-hand, and I don’t have any of it typed up just yet.  That will begin to change in a few minutes, since I’ve got another hour of office hours, and my work is done (and I don’t have any students who need help just yet).

So.  For this week…

1. I need to get a little bit more done in the master bedroom, so that I can start doing yoga again.  I discovered that I can’t do that in the living room, because the kids and cats get in the way.  And when I do the corpse pose (face down and limp to relax after I’m done with the rest of the flowing poses), I wind up with both kids sitting on my back, and the cats trying to eat my hair.

2. I need to try to get to bed earlier.  It’s bad enough to be draggin’ my ass on days I’m not working; I cannot do the same when I am.

3. I’m still trying to finish Highway to Tartarus.  I’ve got a good chunk of a story written; now I just need to type it.  I have two weeks before the first draft of the first paper is due for my classes–after that, if I’m not grading first drafts, I’ll be grading revisions.  All semester.  And I won’t have the time or mental energy to write.

Last week of relative freedom…

I found, to my distress, I no longer had templates of the Course Policy Statements for the in-class courses.  I had to start from scratch, and rebuild them.  Took about an hour apiece.  The Course Schedules tool a little longer–I had to refer, with every week’s classes I created, to the Master Academic Calendar on the university website.  See, we have Labor Day (one day off) in September…Fall Break (two days) in October…last day to drop a single class, and Thanksgiving Break (three days) in November, and class ends on December 6.  I can’t just hand back their last papers, and let them revise their work for the last few class sessions, so I had to come up with something that I could assign, but that I think is actually important to learn, i.e., not busy work.

Then it hit me: I can still teach them blogging, just not as a semester long project.  They can blog for the last day or so before we let out for Thanksgiving, and for the last week of class.

So, the schedules took about two hours apiece.  Then there’s the textbooks…and loading them into Blackboard for the students to access, because there’s no printing/copy budget for my stuff, despite it all being a one-time, up-front thing.

And I will be damned if I print all of that stuff for my students.  That’s seventy-two pages for Comp I, times 25 students; and eighty-seven pages for Comp II, times 25 students.  I may not have a problem with cost (pretty cheap, considering), but that is a lot of mass for me to carry.

So.  Most of what I accomplished last week was class-related.  I didn’t get a whole lot of decluttering done, and didn’t get any writing done.

This week, my focus is going to be on my son’s bedroom.  He’s got so many toys that he can’t walk through his room, and certainly can’t play in there.  I think I have a couple of ideas, and Andrew kinda likes them.  I think my son will, too–especially as one of them should protect his take-n-play rails sets from being disjointed at the hinges by kids crawling and falling over the tops of them, as well as provide places to put his toys away.

So…goals.

1. Get some of the plastic shelving from Walmart for Daniel’s room, set it up to where he’s got two shelves running around the outsides of his room, and hot-glue his rail sets down on top.

2. Sort through his toys.  The stuff he doesn’t play with anymore can and should be given away.

3. Sort through his closet.  It’s been used as overflow storage for random junk, and that really needs to stop.

4. Try to write, since I’ve got my class stuff mostly done.

Elements of persuasion

Despite decades of trying to replace the classic ideas put forth by Aristotle in the book compiled from his lectures and writings, Rhetoric, not one modern theoretician has managed.  His basic ideas of how persuasive argument is built has not changed, mostly because they are basic: the proper use of ethos, pathos, and logos create effective and persuasive argument.

Ethos

Ethos is the root word of ethics, but in this case it refers to the credibility of the author.  Is your author an expert in the field he or she is discussing?  Yes?  Then he or she likely knows what they’re talking about.  However.  If they can’t express it well–staying focused on their main topic, keeping their writing organized logically, and thoroughly developing it with good choices of evidence and elaborating on exactly how that evidence proves their claims, you’re less likely to pay attention to what they’re saying, and less likely to believe them because of how they’re saying it.

And if their grammar and/or punctuation is poor, you’re even less likely to believe they know what they’re talking about.

In other words, how they present their argument is almost more important to their credibility than their expertise.  How else do you explain people listening to Hollywood actors or professional athletes about health issues that they know less about than your average layman?

Now.  Apply that to you, and your writing.  Think of this: say you’re moved to write a letter to the editor.  Say there was an article published in your local paper that you know is wrong, because you’re an unsung expert in the field they’re flubbing.  Want to know the best way to build your credibility and get your letter published?

Use your grammar check.  Every grammar checker will catch obvious problems (misspelled words, missing punctuation) that would get your letter filed in the circular filing cabinet right next to the editor’s desk.

Pathos

Pathos is the root word of sympathy, and of empathy.  Where writing persuasively is concerned, pathos is appealing to the audience’s emotions.  Politicians and tort lawyers love this because it is so very easy to use–and to abuse.  John Edwards (former senator and current scumbag) used this hugely in class action lawsuits against obstetricians: he pretended to channel stillborn babies who were supposedly killed by doctors’ carelessness, asserted he spoke for children who were oxygen deprived at birth (again, supposedly because of doctors’ carelessness) and left retarded or with severe cerebral palsy.

It worked.  Obstetricians now have to pay astronomical sums for insurance against malpractice because of that particular individual’s efforts in using pathos.  Why do you think having a baby costs so much?  They pass the costs on to the patients.

Pathos is effective.  It’s easy to use.  The best and easiest way to use it is to find individual stories–anecdotes–and use them as evidence to support your claim.

Logos

Logos is the root word of logic, and is the most difficult tool to use well.  Aristotle used it to mean “what is rationally possible”–for instance, in most domestic violence cases, it rarely comes out that half the time, the woman is the instigator.  It just doesn’t make rational sense to anyone (except another violent woman) that it could be possible for a five and a half foot tall, hundred and twenty pound woman would attack a six foot tall, hundred and eighty pound man.  It just doesn’t make sense, because a rational person knows that that kind of a size difference leads to a bad result…except for when it’s being used in a divorce.

Logos is also the use of hard evidence–facts, statistics, experiments, studies, and anonymous polling results–to support your argument.  Convincing the average American of the validity of a position through the use of hard evidence is much, much harder than using their emotions to manipulate them.  There is a small minority who actually look for the logical underpinnings of an argument–and that minority is shrinking all the time–however, you cannot convince that minority of your position without it.

And last, but not least, with that minority–your solid use of logos supports and builds your ethos.  Your credibility depends upon the evidence you choose, how you present it, and the audience you present it to.

The best arguments have a solid grounding in all three elements.

I did it!

Last Friday was my mother-in-law’s birthday.  We took the kids up and visited, but had to come home in early afternoon–with even more rain in the forecast, we’d left the dog in her indoor kennel.  Which I hate doing.

Friday night, we went out to dinner with friends.  One of my best and oldest friends from college now lives in New England, and was in town for a brief visit for a sad reason: his grandmother is dying.  He only had one evening in town to get together with us, so we wound up at a restaurant with seven adults and five children.  It was a blast!

But…it ran an hour and a half past my kids’ bedtimes.  I had some cranky, cranky kids–kids that still needed a bath, after having played outside at Grandma and Grandpa’s all day.

Needless to say, I got absolutely nothing done on Friday.

Thankfully, I did get the living room mostly decluttered, and got the hallway cleared for running.  And I got a good start on class stuff, and finished the textbook yesterday.  It’s currently in the hands of a beta reader.

So…this week’s goals:

1. Find and revise the Course Policy Statements for both Comp I and Comp II.

2. Create a course schedule for 101 (I just finished the one for 102).

3. Post everything to my class sites for the students to download, and write a welcome message.

4. Declutter the kitchen, clear all the stuff off the table, and make cookies.

5. See if I can get past the writers’ block on Highway to Tartarus by skipping the story I’m stuck on.  It, and one or two other ideas might end up vignettes posted here after I’m done writing the rough draft of the stories in the book.