Saturday, January 28, 2012

Feasts of Arkansas

So ya'll, today has been a day of delicious food with some fun to top it off. The day started with breakfast made by Sir Douglas. He's perfected the breakfast sandwich to the point that McDonalds egg mcmuffins have been rendered superfluous in my universe. Yep, they are THAT good. An english muffin, two layers of cheese (one for each side), a sausage patty, a hash brown patty and scrambled eggs. Add a dash of red chile, smash it together and eat. Yum!

Then we went to see Hugo, as a part of my quest to see all 9 of this year's best picture nominations. Hugo makes number 5, and thusfar is my favorite of the ones I've seen. It's a delightful movie, with a great score, fantastic cinematography, 3-dimensional characters (I mean in the story telling, no stupid glasses required) and a mystery that kept me guessing as it unfolded. I loved it.

But on to the food. After the movie, we headed to the mall, a place neither of us would typically get within spitting distance of on a Saturday, but this was for a good cause. I am speaking about a local chocolate festival in honor of breast cancer. Well, fly fishing for breast cancer awareness (Casting for Recovery) and some group called the Pink Divas. Suffice it to say that our $10 went to women in need and filled stomachs in need. Stomachs in need of chocolate.

We had about 13 different treats. Of the 15 booths, one was only for kids (a shame, as I wanted to decorate sugar cookies) and one was coffee, which I didn't want, but we hit up the rest of them. The best, in my opinion, was the chocolate mousse filled chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting:

I grew impatient with carrying around my little plastic container, so I ate pretty much everything right away, even though my friends all conserved some of their loot for later. The sugar crash I experienced a few hours later resulted in an inadvertent nap on the couch, but it was absolutely worth it. We had: chocolate ice cream, white chocolate filled with orange ganache, another chocolate ice cream covered in chocolate sauce and chocolate shavings, fudge, a few chocolate brownie things, that amazing cupcake, strawberries dipped in white chocolate, and a sort-of-gross gluten free thing that tasted like what I imagine edible chalk tastes like.

The chocolate festival concluded with a group shopping expedition to Banana Republic and The Gap, which involved almost all of us trying something on in the dressing room and then commenting on each other's potential purchases. The two males in the group had never experienced the "Yeah, your butt looks good in that!" kind of dressing-room commentary, but all seemed to have a lovely time.

Then Doug and I followed the advice of my graduate students and went to a chinese restaurant called Hunan Manor for dinner. First, I must take a quick sidetrack to say that I love chinese food, especially chicken with broccoli, and I used to get it at least once a week in Chicago. Last year, in Albuquerque, I never found chinese food I could stomach. The meat was always mealy and gross, and I left disappointed just about every time. Since we moved here, I've been on the lookout for a decent place but have never seen one. Turns out it's because this place is on the other side of the highway where we never go.

As my graduate student put it, "It's decent...for a place with a drive-thru." Doug pointed out that chinese restaurants don't typically have drive-thrus, which I suppose is true (we aren't counting panda express). Yet they serve their entire menu via drive thru. The other thing this place had was a dinner buffet...which you can get to-go. That's right, a to-go buffet. You go in, pay your fee, get a togo container and fill it as much as you want from the buffet table. What a bargain! Even better, the meat wasn't mealy and the garlic green beans were amazing. We will be back.

A day with far too many calories but an enjoyable experience for both brain and stomach. :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Southern politieness is sometimes messed up

Hello, blog-o-sphere! I apologize for my long absence. I have plenty to report about, including several events from over a month ago, but I will continue to save those for a later date. It's time to start writing in this thing again, even if there are no photos of strange Arkansas happenings.

So, I noticed a strange phenomenon in my undergraduate statistics class last semester. Many of the students, whether over email or in person, addressed me as "Ms. Amazing" (where "Amazing" stands for my actual last name). I thought this was kind of strange, as most of the students in Chicago called me "Dr. Amazing" or "Professor Amazing" and that was before I got my doctorate. But, I didn't really think much of it until this interaction occurred over email:

Student: "Mrs. Amazing, [insert random stats question here]"
Me: "First, I'm not a Mrs!; Either Dr. or Prof. is perfectly fine. [insert answer to stats question here]."
Student: "Oh right, oops, you told the class that you're engaged! Ok, so Ms. Amazing, [insert follow-up question.]

At this, I was like....huh? I mean, I'm happy to have my doctorate, as it took me a long-ass time to accomplish the goal, and I don't really require everyone to address me as a doctor. There may even be a time where I will tell all the students to simply call me "Jenn." That said, as a first year faculty member, I'd like to keep things more formal. It's also the case that I have a doctoral degree and am teaching at the university level, so really, etiquette dictates that students should probably address me "Dr. Amazing" or even "Prof. Amazing." Why oh why, after I corrected a student, did she still use "Ms." rather than a professional title?

I did some verbal research on this, and what I found was interesting. Apparently it's a Southern thing, and it only happens to women. The male profs are called "Professor" or "Doctor" but the women aren't. This isn't intentional rudeness on the part of these students, and it's not like they all do it, but the ones from this area seem far more likely to fall into this "politeness" trap, which is more maddening than it is polite.

When figuring out how to respond to this student, I just couldn't let it go. I basically told her that I wasn't offended by her addressing me as Ms., but that someone else might after spending *cough* number of years obtaining a doctoral degree. Every communication after that she addressed to Dr. Amazing.

Today I had my first office hours of the semester and my first student of the semester, who walked in and immediately said "Hello, Ms. Amazing?" It barely caught my notice at the time, because (a) who the hell shows up to office hours during the first week and (b) I was playing with the little lego people I'm using in class this semester. But after she left I started thinking about it some more, and now I feel I must address this for the entire class, and also figure out how to nicely and politely correct a student who does this. I feel like kind of a pretentious twit saying "You must call me DOCTOR AMAZING!" and I don't want to do that, but I also find the gender inequity unfair and believe that the students are doing this out of automatic ignorance, not out of malicious intent. As an educator, it's my job to educate them....right?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dropping the Hog

Jenn and I couldn't really get too excited about New Year's Eve activities this year. I just wanted to stay local, but hosting a party would have been out of the question due to the small size of our apartment and pool of potential invitees.

Jenn found out that there were events at Fayetteville's Town Square starting a 6pm. Bands, a performance by the local improv group and a few other things that didn't really strike our interest, especially at the admission price of $10 per head. However, the city's website also said that at midnight, there would be a "Hog Drop" followed by a fireworks show. That sounded interesting. We had no idea what a "Hog Drop" entailed, and we were going to find out.

What I was imagining was a lit-up hog attached to some wall descending a few feet to mark the New Year.

After a quiet evening of watching episodes of Modern Family and a live feed of the ball dropping in Times Square -- which was odd to watch an hour early -- we put our shoes on and headed to the Square. We weren't sure what to expect. We didn't even know if we were going to get charged $10; if so, it was going to be a quick outing. We reasoned that they couldn't have charged us to be there for a half-hour, and we were right.

We got to the Square at around 11:30 and the Square was closed off to cars. People were milling around and there was a firetruck in the middle of the street. Its ladder/cherry picker was extended and hanging from it was a hog made of plaster of paris.
People were invited take pictures next to the hog.

At this point, I was pretty impressed. I was imagining that as we got closer to midnight, the ladder would rise and at the stroke of midnight, the hog would be released to fall onto the street below. Jenn even wondered if there was candy on the inside, which added a piñata element to the fun.
Though the ladder did hoist the hog up to about fifty feet into the air, we figured out that this would not be a piñata situation. And as we watched the hog dance wildly when the wind picked up, we realized that dropping an object from that height near a large group of onlookers could result in some accidental injuries which would lead to some lawsuits.

With about a minute or so left in 2011, the hog was slowly lowered to street level. However, it wasn't timed very well, so at the stroke of midnight, the hog was only three-quarters the way down and still moving. At that point, the fireworks show started, so the hog touched the ground rather anticlimactically and with no one paying attention to it.
The fireworks were impressive, and we were surprised at how long the show went on. By the time the firefighters took the hog off the line, put the ladder in its normal position and drove off, the fireworks were still going. There were several pauses in the display, making the crowd think that it was over, only to have the smattering of polite applause -- tempered by what was thought to be a lame finale -- halted by more fireworks.

I find myself at fireworks shows thinking the following thoughts:
  1. Okay, this is more of the same.
  2. How long is this supposed to go on for?
  3. Oh, stop saying "ooh," people. This technology is centuries old.
  4. Wow, that was pretty neat.
When the fireworks show was over, about fifteen minutes later, Jenn and I headed home for some New Year's champagne (though it was from California, so it wasn't really) and some New Year's French silk pie, which we picked up the previous day from Village Inn.

As fun as the activities on the Square were, everything is made better with champagne and pie.