WoB Talk

September 24, 2012

This Is Just to Say

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kari Maaren @ 4:18 am

I have bypassed
the Rant
that was on
my “do” list

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
it was astounding
so long
and so mean*

*If you have no idea what the hell is happening in this Rant, go here.  I’m afraid I’m too tired for anything but parodic poetry tonight.  Also, I have to get up at 6:00 a.m.


September 17, 2012

September 17 – 29, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kari Maaren @ 11:06 am

We haven’t seen Rahim much lately, so here he is actually doing his job.  Yes, he has one of those.

Cinderella Had It Easy: The Search for Shoes That Fit

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kari Maaren @ 11:01 am

My hatred for the activity of shoe shopping, which has, for some reason, become a stereotypical “female” activity that people use to demonstrate how frivilous those womefolk are, is deep, with spiky bits.  I cannot stand shopping for shoes.  Ordinary people who need shoes can pop into the nearest discount shoe store and grab the least offensive $10 pair of whatevers off the shelf, or so I’ve heard.  Those of us with oddly sized and shaped feet tend to share such stories with each other in tones of awe.  It is the Weird Foot Person’s version of an urban legend.  We are unfamiliar with the concept of cheap and abundant shoes.

My father, who needs size 15 shoes, had to wear size 12s for years; size 15s were simply not available to a Canadian family of modest means in the 1950s.  He has spent his adult life frequenting specialty shoe stores, even going to the States occasionally because there’s more selection there.  My mum’s feet have been, at various times, 10 1/2 and 11 (the equivalent of 9 and 9 1/2 in male sizes).  Mine are 11 AA:  in other words, 11 extra-narrow.  They’re like really skinny clown feet.  Everyone in my family except my sister, whose feet are of average size, has a hard time finding shoes.

When I was in Calgary for the summer, my sandal strap broke.  Anyone else would have regarded this as a minor annoyance.  I, however, knew what was coming.  I must have visited every shoe store in Calgary.  None carried anything over a 10.  A few said they might have an 11 somewhere (none did), but 11 M, not 11 AA.  Most ordinary shoe stores stick mostly to M widths.  Even Tallcrest, which used to be a good place to find mid-priced shoes, dropped its wide and narrow fittings six or seven years ago.  Calgary was a wasteland of shoe stores that entirely lacked shoes I could wear.  I finally located a Birkenstock store and coughed up an appalling amount of money for a pair of sandals.  Admittedly, my Birkis have been my most comfortable sandals ever, but I wasted hours trying to find something less expensive before I finally went crawling to the specialty store.

Those of us with weird feet belong to a sort of shoe-related sub-culture.  Many or us will, in desperation, wear our shoes until they wear out, and when I say “wear out,” I mean “fall completely to pieces in at least six ways simultaneously.”  The sandals that broke in Calgary had already more or less lost their soles.  My Birkis are on their last legs (so to speak), being cracked in several places and having lost chunks of cork.  Only the straps have held up.  My five-year-old walking shoes self-destructed in the spring; the soles and toes were already in bad shape when one of the soles came semi-detached from the shoe, meaning that every time I took a step, I tripped over the flapping sole.  This, of course, happened at a convention in a hotel in the middle of nowhere.  The only people who understand the trauma of losing a pair of shoes are themselves the victims of very small or very large feet.  We nod at each other in the street and exchange world-weary stories in speciality shoe stores.

There are clans within the larger group.  I was in Harry Young on Saturday, replacing my unsalvageable walking shoes.  Harry Young is one of the only places in Toronto that carries shoes that fall outside the magic 6 – 10 M size range.  I like the selection, though not the prices.  It’s not the store’s fault, though; no one makes cheap shoes in unusual sizes.  As I waited for my salesman to finish up a phone call, the woman next to me started talking to me about her shoes.  Her feet were size 5 1/2; she insisted that my own problems finding shoes were nothing compared to hers, as “most stores” carried 11s.  I tried to tell her this wasn’t the case, but I don’t think she believed me.  The Little-Footed People and the Big-Footed People sometimes regard each other with suspicion.  Each group is convinced it’s got the short (or overly long) end of the stick.

Harry Young also stands out in having shoes that actually look nice.  I’ve looked over the 11s in Winners.  They’re all Ms, for one thing.  For another, they’re the ugliest shoes I’ve ever seen in my life.  The lower sizes get some nice-looking shoes; the 11s get shoes covered with sequins and artificial flowers.  This happens with clothes in general, actually:  the bigger the piece of clothing, the less attractive it is.  I don’t really care what my shoes look like, but I draw the line at sparkles.  I would also like to point out to the shoe designers of the world that women who need size 11s often prefer flats to heels.  Many of us don’t need to be any taller; we also find high heels painful.  Winners’ selection of six-inch size-11 platforms makes my brain cry.

I sincerely hope that my new walking shoes hold up as long as my old ones did.  Shoe shopping is never going to be my favourite activity.

September 10, 2012

An Open Letter to 8:00 a.m. Monday Three-Hour Classes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kari Maaren @ 2:03 am

Dear 8:00 a.m. Monday Three-Hour Classes:

I mean absolutely no disrespect when I say I cannot help but feel very strongly that you shouldn’t exist at all.  I do understand that there are 1) only so many hours in the day and 2) only so many classrooms in the university, but forcing first-year undergraduates to attend a mandatory critical-analysis class that early on a Monday morning is simply cruel.  It’s cruel to the instructor as well.  I am used to running three-hour classes, but I find that even one held at a sane time of day leaves me drained.  An 8:00 a.m. class renders me boneless and incoherent for the rest of the day.  Oh, I’m fine in the class itself, but I pay for it afterwards.

Only once before have I had an 8:00 a.m. class to teach.  Coincidentally, it was also on a Monday, though it was about television rather than critical analysis.  The students used to line their Tim Hortons cups up on the desks in front of them.  There must have been thirty Tim Hortons cup in the classroom at any given time.  The day at the end of the term on which I brought doughnuts, I cracked that we would have made a great commercial for Tim Hortons.  Such observations seem hilarious at 8:00 on a Monday morning.

I haven’t met my Monday morning students yet this year, but chances are I’ll have done so by the point you read this Rant.  I just hope they’re awake enough to form coherent thoughts.  They may not be.  I may not be.  I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

Perhaps someday, someone will ban 8:00 a.m. Monday three-hour classes.  Until then, dearest 8:00 a.m. Monday Three-Hour Classes, I suppose we’ll all just have to learn to live with you.  Damn it all anyway.

Sincerely yours,


September 3, 2012

September 3 – 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kari Maaren @ 12:50 am

Time flies when you’re making WoB.  Here we are at the beginning of Marie’s seventh year at U of T (her fifth as a Ph.D. student).  Yes, I know I need to update the character sheet, and I keep reminding myself to deal with that.  Maybe I eventually will.  Who knows?  At any rate, have another “Through the Gates” sequence.  Baldwin’s an alum now.  I somehow doubt he’ll accept his new status gracefully.

In With the New (Term)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kari Maaren @ 12:45 am

September is icumen in, which means that thousands of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed undergraduates are about to buy their grossly overpriced textbooks and trek with varying degrees of enthusiasm to their new classrooms.  Hello, undergraduates.  I am a sessional instructor, meaning that I will be teaching hundreds of you in five classes.  Below please find an impassioned plea for a few tiny little classroom-related favours.  Fulfilling them won’t take a huge amount of effort on your part, but it will make the lives of your instructors less miserable.  What is the benefit of having less miserable instructors?  Wouldn’t you rather your papers be marked by cheerful people liable to hum “Happy Working Song” as they buzz through your essays than half-insane academics at the ends of their ropes who are more inclined to thunder out a rousing chorus of “Hellfire”?*


1)  I do understand how devoted you are to your cell phone.  I know you find it difficult to go ten minutes without checking your messages or sending someone a text or even just playing Angry Birds.  Perhaps I am a terrible fuddy-duddy for trying to deprive you of the pleasures of your phone.  However, there is very little as distracting as a classroom full of students staring avidly at their phones as one attempts to engage them in the critical analysis of a nineteenth-century poem.  Please put the phone away.  Please.  Put the laptop away too.  I don’t really buy the whole “I can’t take notes by hand” excuse, since you’re not really taking notes with your laptop anyway.  Just go unplugged for a few hours.  If you want not to pay attention for a bit, doodle.  Perhaps you will discover some exciting new artistic technique.

2)  Before you e-mail your instructor asking about that assignment you simply don’t understand, please read the instructions.  Odds are the assignment sheet answers most of your questions.  I know it’s easier just to shoot off an e-mail to your instructor, but you need to understand that every other student in the class has had the same idea.  Your instructor spends hours replying to e-mails that ask questions answered on the assignment sheets.

3)  Read the assigned texts.  Maybe you’re pressed for time.  Maybe this course is “just an elective.”  You still signed up to take it, meaning that you implicitly agreed to take it seriously.  English classes do tend to have fairly heavy reading loads, so be prepared to spend some time every day reading.  Reading the summary on SparkNotes and/or watching the film adaptation of the work is not going to be adequate, and your instructor is not going to be fooled.  Even if she can’t prove that you haven’t done the reading, the quality of your papers will suffer, and you may find yourself reading pointed comments such as, “There is no real evidence in this essay that you are familiar with the contents of the novel.”  Do not let this happen to you.

4)  Don’t ignore the course outline.  Like the assignment sheets, it contains information that will be useful to you.  In particular, pay attention to the bits on late papers and extensions.  An instructor who writes in the course outline, “Extensions will be granted only in exceptional circumstances involving documented medical or compassionate excuses,” will likely not look kindly on pleas for extensions that arrive two days after a paper is due and hinge on the words, “I’ve been having a lot of personal problems this term.”  An instructor who specifies that there is no make-up work in the course may be driven to frustrated tears by multiple requests for make-up work or, in fact, for a “slight” tweaking of a C grade so that it becomes a B-.  Take the outline as gospel.

5)  Your instructor is not out to get you; please don’t treat her as if she is.  If you need to request a favour or appeal a grade, be polite about it.  If you are called in for a plagiarism meeting (which is designed to allow the student a chance to explain apparent problems in an assignment and thus does not constitute an outright accusation of wrongdoing), do not draw yourself up in righteous indignation and imply that your instructor is a certified idiot who has quite appallingly dared to call your honour into question.  Unfairness happens, usually by accident.  Assume an accidental cause (extreme fatigue is always a possibility), and be gentle and open-minded.  Despite appearances, instructors are people too, and their feelings can be hurt, especially when they are genuinely trying to help the students showering them with abuse.

If you follow these simple rules, students, your instructors will appreciate it, and all manner of things will be well.

*Both of these are Disney songs.  One of them is satirical, but it’s still a happier song than “Hellfire.”

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