The story behind the name:

One evening, at the Old Broadway Grill in Fargo, North Dakota, my brother caught the end of a Mountain Dew commercial. In the commercial, a Mountain Dew drinker was riding a shark in the ocean. My brother exclaimed in surprise, not realizing that it was a commercial. When I told him he declared "All I saw was a guy coming out of the shower with a shark." Of course, he meant water, but the idea of showering with sharks has been with me ever since.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Finals Week Begins

Even though it was only about 35 degrees as I walked from my car this morning (yes, it is that cold here) I had to remind myself that it is the first day of finals week. There are many reasons this feels unreal to me, one being the chilly weather. But I refuse to dwell on the fact that it snowed on Saturday. I'm tired of complaining about the weather. Really, I'm from North Dakota. It's not like I've never seen cold springs before. After all, it snowed on the day I graduated from high school.

I had to stop at Byerly's this morning before heading to school for my first final (8:00 a.m., Monday morning, sheesh). I promised delicious treats to my students to encourage an atmosphere of fun for the impromptu speeches. However, I neglected to purchase said delicious treats over the weekend, and so had to stop and get them this morning. I also managed to carve out five minutes to get a mocha at Caribou. Many times I feel that our culture is drowning in coffee. Coffee shops are everywhere... even in grocery stores. I'm always amazed when I drive down a give street and see three coffee places in a three block stretch. And somehow they manage to stay open! It's amazing, really. But I'm not complaining. I like coffee. Maybe it's sick and wrong, but I like knowing that I'll be able to find coffee pretty much anywhere I go.

I neglected to purchase treats earlier because my weekend was packed chock-full of fun!! It started Friday night when Jared and Nate got into town. We met downtown at Brit's where I had my usual - the aubergine tart. Basically, it's a bunch of yummy veggies (eggplant, tomato, yellow pepper, spinach, herbs) in a pastry with melting mozzarella cheese on top. Even Jon and Nate, who are not vegetarians, had to admit that it was ridiculously delicious. We hung out there until almost 10 p.m. Afterwards, Mark and I headed home and went to bed. I was SO tired after a week of not-so-great sleep.

Saturday morning started with sleeping in, which was wonderful. Then Mark and I decided to go to Panera for breakfast and then to Target to get a few folding chairs. On our way home, Mark dropped me off at the library so I could return an audio book and pick up some new reading material. I discovered the new Kate Mosse book. I listened to Labyrinth on cd and enjoyed it, so decided to pick up the new one: Sepulchre (which I cannot and will not attempt to pronounce). So far it is very good. I am enjoying it even more than Labyrinth. After that Mark and I just hung out until Jared, Nate and Jon finally showed up for lunch. We went to McCoy's for a late lunch and I had fish and chips, which were really good. Jared, Nate, and Jon all had macaroni and cheese, which was also really good. Next time I go there I am going to try it. After lunch there was napping, guitar hero, and reading for a few hours. Then we got down to the real business of the Nerding 2008 - playing Hero Quest.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Hero Quest is a fantasy board game. There are five possible characters: Barbarian, Elf, Wizard, Dwarf, and Evil Wizard Zargon. Zargon gets to know what lurks on the board and runs most of the game play (trying to win by deploying a variety of tricks, traps and enemies) while the heroes attempt to make it through dungeons on their way to beating the evil wizard. Jared and I had this game as children, but it somehow vanished between high school and college. When we discovered it was gone, we were heart-broken. Several years later, our friend Dusty found it for sale online and bought it for Jared for his birthday. Hurray!!!

Anyway, long story short, we were up playing Hero Quest (I was Zargon) until 1:30 in the morning. Jon kept wanting to search the rooms for traps, secret doors and treasure even when there were enemies in it (something clearly prohibited by the game rules). It probably doesn't sound too funny just reading about it here in my blog - but in actuality it was HILARIOUS. Poor Jon. He was very tired.

Sunday morning we hit Good Day for breakfast and then Jared, Jon and Nate hit the road. Mark and I took an AWESOME two hour nap, then bought Mario Kart and played that for a few hours with Dave and Barb. It is an awesome game and I will write more about it later. Now, my fingers are tired and lunch is calling me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Honeymoon?

I admit that I've been a bit frustrated this week. It is more philosophical frustration than frustration about anything tangible.

First, I've been a little irritated by how little people seem to know or understand about what a communication department is/does on this campus. I believe that people who study communication have a lot to offer in a wide variety of areas. Everyone communicates after all! In fact, it would be impossible to get anything done in a day if you weren't communicating somehow! Despite this (I think) obvious fact, people perpetually assume that all we do is public speaking. I truly believe that the communication department here is one of the most underutilized and underrated.

Second, I am getting tired of people trying to douse my enthusiasm for my job. Today I made a "Yay job!" comment in a meeting and I was told that I'm still in my first year - the faculty honeymoon - in a sort of "oh, isn't that cute" voice. (As I'm writing this now, I think I may have ranted about it earlier in another blog - oh well, it's still annoying). My thought is this: why wouldn't people want to encourage enthusiasm when they see it? My enthusiasm doesn't mean that I'm naively unaware of the less-than-pleasant aspects of my job (every job has them). And I have also known other professors who have seemed to hang on to their enthusiasm for teaching and students. I don't think it is a foregone conclusion that after doing this for a few years you automatically become jaded and bitter, or even excessively cynical. And, I'd like to remind everyone, that even though this is my first year here, and my first year out of grad school, it is NOT my first year teaching. I had complete autonomy over many of the classes that I taught in the past. I was responsible for choosing books, writing syllabi, creating and grading assignments, and doing the day-to-day in-class stuff. AND I did that while finishing grad classes and writing a dissertation!! If I could make it out of that nightmare without becoming too bitter, I think I can survive this job. Anyway, I hope no one takes this rant the wrong way (David Lapakko). I love my job, my new school, and my department (go comm studies!! woo hoo!!). I just sometimes wish I could get a few more people to cheer with me.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Life in Books

I had an excellent discussion with Ali this morning about books. I don't really remember how it started, but I brought up The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. It occurred to me that I've been reading that series for over half my life! I read the first three books in 8th grade. My mom bought them thinking they were a trilogy. All my reading life, mom and I have been plagued by these great books that wind up being parts of longer series. We pick one up, love it, and then are cursed to wait for years and years for the rest of the books to come out. Well, Mom thought she was being really clever buy all three at once so that wouldn't happen this time. HA! Little did she know that she was going to get us hooked into what has turned out to be a 12 book, 15 year (so far) ongoing saga of reading... and waiting... and reading... and waiting... and still waiting... for the 12 and final book.

I have been getting to bed later than usual all week this week. This has resulted in a more tired than normal Kristen. It started Sunday night when I stayed up late reading. That seemed to set the precedent for the week. Last night I was up later than usual reading Astonishing X-Men: Torn. It is excellent. I am both really glad and sort of ticked at my brother for getting me the graphic novels for Christmas. I'm really glad 'cause they are awesome and written by Joss Whedon whom I love and adore. I am ticked because... like the Robert Jordan books... I am one installment short of the full series! And I found out this morning that I have to wait until July to get the last book. So, now I'm not sure what will happen to everyone on Breakworld. One of the X-Men is not supposed to make it (which I totally believe, because Joss loves to kill off main characters). But who? I hope not Kitty or Colossus. Or Wolverine. Or Cyclops. Maybe they'll kill stupid Agent Brand. But I guess I'll wait until July to find out. The absolute best is when Wolverine is devolved into a scared little British boy. Hilarious.

Other series that have kept me hanging have been (are): A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, the Dragon Prince series by Melanie Rawn (remember those? I should re-read them), The Sword of Truth books by Terry Goodkind, and, of course, Harry Potter by JK Rowling.

I really like books. There is nothing better than a rainy day, a good book, and a delicious warm beverage. I just remembered that I have a B and N gift card left over from my birthday. I may have to head over there this weekend to spend it.

There are ridiculous film students outside my office door right now eating pizza roles and being obnoxious. I can't like it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Public Sphere and Penguin Underware

Mark and I watched three movies this weekend. It was a good weekend for sitting on my fabulous couch and letting entertainment media transport me away from the fact that it was snowing in mid-April. On Saturday we watched "Invasion," the Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig interpretation of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." I must admit, I enjoyed it very much. I thought it was exciting and suspenseful. It also ended with an interesting social commentary. Most importantly... It was not a horribly depressing ending. I know it's not realistic, but I want my movies to have happy endings!! I mean, if I wanted to be depressed I would turn to real life. But no, I want escapist entertainment. For me, this means happy endings. It's like when Mark and Jared and I went to "Pan's Labyrinth" in the theater. Beautiful movie... But it totally ruined my day. Too real.

On Sunday we watched two completely different movies: "Good Luck Chuck" and "Atonement." "Good Luck Chuck" had it's funny moments. It was pretty average as far as those romantic comedy with disgusting humor go... Not nearly as good as "Knocked Up." "Atonement" certainly had the potential to ruin my day. Don't get me wrong, it was a great movie. It was beautifully acted and visually stimulating. It also elevated James McAvoy into the category of ridiculously good-looking. But (and stop right now if you don't want any clues about how the movie ends) it does not end in a happy way. In fact, it's pretty tragic even though they try to put a somewhat positive spin on it. Anyway, after watching it I could feel myself slipping into a bit of a sad-movie-funk so I quickly watched several episodes of "Psych" to snap me out of it. I love "Psych" and was psyched (ha ha) to discover that season 2 will be released on dvd on July 8. Hooray.

My other recent exposure to media was this morning on YouTube. I decided to show Barack Obama's A More Perfect Union speech to my public speaking class. I admit that I had not yet had a chance to see it, so I was especially glad I decided to show it in class. Obama is an amazing and charismatic speaker. Even better, his speeches are relevant, make sense, and are full of excellent thoughts, attitudes and ideas. The worst is listening to a charismatic speaker with nothing to say. Anyway, after the speech we talked about his reasons for giving that particular address and what made it successful. It was a great class, even though I know some of my students tuned out for some of it. I would rather have them exposed to it even on a limited basis than have them know nothing about what is going on in our world of politics -- especially because we are going through a Presidential campaign that is singularly unique.

Well, the sun shining through my window is reminding me that time marches on and I do have some grading to do...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My Hair is Stupid

My hair is stupid right now. I'm in the process of growing it out abit, and it's now reached that stage where I can't make it behave. It's longer in the back than in the front, but fortunately, not too mullet-y. The thing that bugging me, is that I have a funny cowlick behind one of my ears (but not the other) which makes the one side of my hair do bizarre and inexplicable things. In order to combat this, I tried to make all my hair go every-which-way today... You know, going for a messier-but-still-trying look. No. It just looks like I slept on my hair and didn't shower. And I have to suffer like this for another two weeks until I can make another appointment. Grr.

In case you live under a rock, Adam Carolla DID get voted off Dancing last night. He and Priscilla Presley were in the bottom two. Despite my predictions, I TOTALLY wanted Adam to stay and Priscilla to go... But alas, I was correct and now we don't get to be entertained by Adam anymore. He is much more fun to watch than Priscilla - who is actually a lovely dancer but I think her face looks like it's about to slide off at any moment. Not that I should be making any judgments on anyone else's appearance considering my current hair situation.

I have to be at school late tonight. We have something called April dinners. I guess it's where we sit and talk to students that will be new here next year. I hope some comm students show up. Deb said she only talked to one last night. It will definitely be more fun if there are more people.

We are supposed to get hit with another winter storm starting tomorrow night. Dumb. I need some warm weather so that I can finally kick all the illness that has been afflicting me lately. Dave and Barb both recently purchased bikes and I am looking forward to doing some biking with them and with Mark when it finally gets nice outside.

Tonight when I get home I am going to enjoy the new episode of Criminal Minds. NCIS last night did not disappoint! Thank goodness TV is finally getting back to normal.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I'm sure it's not a terribly original feeling, but I am very tired today. I don't know why... It could be the cold and dreary weather, could be the last vestiges of my cold, could be stress, could be a combination of all those things. At any rate, I am tired and I can't wait to walk out of my office this afternoon and point my car toward the grocery store, then home.

I am going to make chili tonight. Does anyone else out there plan their menu based on what the weather is like? I'm guessing someone does. For the obvious reasons, when the weather takes a turn for the cold and darkish, I like to make chili for supper. While I have experimented with a variety of different kinds of chili, in a pinch, I always rely on my mom's old stand-by recipe, with just a few modifications. Here's what you need: a can of Joan of Arc chili beans (yes, they should be Joan of Arc. A lot of the other brands add sugar or high fructose corn syrup), a can of dark red kidney beans, a can of tomato sauce, a can of diced tomatoes, a packet of Boca or Morningstar Farm veggie crumbles, chili powder, and cumin. You dump all those things (after rinsing the kidney beans - but do NOT rinse the chili beans) into a big pan and cook it up. That's it! It's super easy and delicious. Of course, if you are not a vegetarian you can use hamburger instead of veggie crumbles. I like to put shredded cheese and tortilla chips on mine.

So, anyway, chili is yummy and I'm going to make some. The only real question left plaguing me today is whether or not I should go to the gym. Of course, I'm feeling lazy, cold, and tired which means that I don't WANT to go. But I haven't been in quite awhile (stomach flu will do that to you) and I'm sure I'd feel better if I went. It's a major conundrum. I wish I just felt normal again so that the prospect of doing regular things didn't seem quite so daunting. I long for the days that I used to wake up full of energy and feeling fine - ready and excited to start the day! Lately it's been waking up cranky and tired, cursing the day and wanting to go back to sleep. I think that some warm, sunny days would really help. It's hard to get motivated about being up and about when the day is so cloudy it still looks like night behind your curtains.

But I shouldn't sound so down... Not all in my life is sad and tragic. In all honesty, most in my life is not even remotely sad and tragic. It's just easy to get into one of those moods where you dwell on the less-than-awesome, even if the less-than-awesome is still pretty alright. One really bright spot in my day today is that there is a brand new episode of NCIS on tonight for the first time since before Xmas!! I love NCIS. If I could only watch five shows, NCIS would be one of those five. Fortunately, I don't have that terrible problem. If I could only watch five TV shows my life really would be sad and tragic!!

Speaking of no media, this morning Diane Sawyer was interviewing Rosie O'Donnell. Apparently, Rosie has instituted a no media rule in there house. They (meaning the parents and kids) are not allowed to watch TV. I am of two minds about this. First, I am hoping that when Mark and I finally do have kids, that I am able to keep them from watching TV until they are 2 years old (I read somewhere that kids shouldn't watch TV before then, it's not an arbitrary choice). On the other hand, I don't think I could just not watch it! I will have to TiVo all my shows and watch them while the children are sleeping or otherwise occupied. Is this sad? I used to think so, but I really don't have many vices. I don't smoke, don't drink to excess, and I've pretty much conquered my addiction to shopping. In the scheme of things, how harmful is TV - especially to someone who studies media effects and understands the ramifications of regular television viewing?

Oh, one last note about TV. My prediction for tonight's Dancing with the Stars results show... Adam Carolla will be going home. I was thinking it would be either him or Marissa, but Marissa did well last night so, unless the legions of Jimmy Kimmel fans out there were glued to their phones/computers, I'm not optimistic about his chances. Yes, he is a great character and I think people like to watch him... But can that save him for another week? We'll see. I have been shocked and surprised by Dancing before (Hello, Sabrina!?!) Personally, I'm pulling for Shannon Elizabeth. It's about time another woman won the disco ball trophy. I like Kristi Y as well, but there's a big part of me that needs to cheer for the underdog (I think it's that same masochistic part of my that cheers for the Vikings every fall).

Monday, April 7, 2008

"I Quit Winter"

Notice that the title today is in quotations... denoting the fact that it is a quote from my good friend Natie. Natie declared last spring that he quit winter and was no longer going to wear anything resembling winter clothing. Now, I am a big fan of respecting the power that Mother Nature has to ruin your day... particularly if it only 45 degrees outside and your dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. That's just dumb. But, despite my objections, Nate quit winter that day (ok, I don't actually remember if he entirely quit dressing for our notoriously cool Midwestern springs... but I remember that he was very vehement about it).

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because it was snowing on the way to school again this morning. April-frickin-7th. Ok, I acknowledge that it could have been worse. Mom and Dad got, like, four inches of snow yesterday. That would really be depressing. I also realize I should be a little more realistic about March and April weather here. I heard on the weather last week that we typically get four inches of snow here in April. However, all the rationality in the world cannot make me forget that three short days ago it was 60 degrees and sunny here.

The other reason I quit winter is that I have a cold AGAIN and I canNOT believe it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (note the excessive use of exclamation points! I had finally completely recovered from the stomach flu Saturday morning only to get hit with this cold Saturday night. It's like my immune system has gone to warmer climates on vacation! And I've even been taking my vitamins everyday (except the days I couldn't keep any food or water down). So, I am begging for advice on how to stay healthy. Please help me.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Waking Up

Five days ago I came to school ready to begin these last four weeks of class as if I were beginning anew. I was re-motivated, re-energized, ready to work hard, catch up, get ahead. Then, Monday afternoon I donated blood and the entire week changed for me.

First, I should note that I have never donated blood before. I used to have a severe needle fear. In fact, I couldn't even look at the inside of my elbow where the needle was supposed to go without getting queasy. Happily, I feel like I have largely conquered this fear. In the past, I have watched blood drives pass me by, knowing that I did not have the courage or fortitude to volunteer my own blood. However, last Friday, one week ago today, when one of my students stopped me and asked if I'd donate I said yes and made an appointment.

After it was too late, my family would tell me that they knew I shouldn't have done it. Well, that's all well and good... but, as Adam Sandler says in "The Wedding Singer" it was information I could have used yesterday.

Yes. I got sick. Really sick and nauseous. I had to be inverted - basically they take the lawn chair you are sitting on and tip your upper body back so that your head is below your heart. Then they put a really cold compress under you neck and bring a wet cloth from the freezer to put on your forehead. The freezer cloth was so cold that it burned. Anyway, while they were doing this, I heard my phlebotomist (spelling - ha ha, when I tried to spell check that word lobotomies came up) say "Oh no" which I never take as a good sign during anything even remotely medical. Apparently, when they inverted me they broke a or some blood vessels which resulted in a hematoma, which resulted in the repetitive prodding of my arm with whatever blood drainage device they had implanted in my arm (I didn't actually look at it once). Happily, it was soon over and the inversion and burningly cold cloth actually did the job in getting rid of my queasiness. So, I sat in the lawn chair, ate some pretzels and drank some cran-apple juice before going back to my office.

On my way back to my office I started feeling not-so-awesome so I elected to go home. Mark was home sick already with and upset stomach. At first, I thought my yucky feeling had to do with the blood draw... But a few hours later it became very apparent that I had what Mark had as my illness and symptoms progressed in exactly the same way as his had not 24 hours before.

So, I spent the next day in bed. I had to miss the first faculty meeting for the new environmental studies major, and that really bummed me out. Unlike David, who passionately hates meetings (at least, that is how I interpret his frequent rantings), I sort of like them. Nerdy, I know. So much for my new leaf on work.

Wednesday I made it in for the morning... just enough to teach class and then head home.

Thursday I felt quite a bit better and managed to make it to my new faculty seminar at 5 p.m. which was, as it had been in the past, quite fun and intellectually stimulating. These are things that I miss about being a student... sitting around in a group of peers and talking about things that are interesting and stimulating. I need to figure out a way to keep doing that next year when I won't have handily-scheduled, once-a-month, meetings.

Anyway, now it's Friday and I finally feel like I'm waking up after a week of weird off-ness (yes, I like to make up words). So, HURRAY! I'm all better just in time for the weekend.

Well, I suppose I should go. I have to make a few photocopies before my next class. But before I do that, I would like to ask one thing. Lately, I've been wanted to read more non-fiction. So, I soliciting suggestions for interesting and well-written non-fiction books. I'm not terribly picky on the topic... Anything you've read recently (or have heard good things about) and feel like passing on... Thanks!