Thursday, December 22, 2005

Once more unto the breach...

How typical. The exam was Tuesday afternoon, I only have to grade 6 pages (1/4 as much as the last exam), I should have been able to have it all done by yesterday, it really MUST be done for tomorrow, it's 10pm and I haven't even begun. This is the last major task I have to do before the holidays and our short get-away next week, and I just can't bring myself to pick up the red pen. This really is pathethic, and there's no excuse for it. And yet here I sit.

In my desperate attempt to avoid this, I've pulled out my semester-long neglected knitting, the Shapely Tank Top from White Lies Designs. I'm doing it in a lovely yellow cotton and will be adding the optional sleeve caps to make into a T-shirt. The yarn is Butterfly cotton from Greece, shown here, in colour 3525 "cornsilk". It's lovely to work with. The front is done, with short-row shaping added at the bust, and I've just started the back. Pictures will come eventually.

I also became intrigued by this little novelty from the latest Knitty: Marley's Ghost, and so whipped up the first 6 links of what will probably be a fun scarf using Lamb's Pride worsted in Aubergine and Sunburst Gold (a.k.a. Gryffindor colours). I had a bunch of it left over from making a felted bag, so I'm alternating 2 maroon with 1 gold link for variety. Again, pictures eventually. Honest.

In other news, we replaced our on-again-off-again television (the sound would die occasionally and return the next day) with a beautiful Panasonic 32" flat-panel wide-screen LCD TV. I couldn't tell you the model if my life depended on it. To my embarassment and despite being a techno-geek myself, I tend to leave the electronic appliance choosing and setting up to my husband. It makes him feel so useful. The purchase necessitated a 90-degree change of orientation to our living room, which is another thing I leave to him. We now have so much space I don't know what to do with it all. I suspect more bookshelves are in our future. I also keep forgetting that we have the TV. Every time I come home and see it there, it's a surprise.

My brass quintet played our annual (4th year in a row, I guess that qualifies for "annual") Christmas Sing-A-Long at the Ben Wicks pub in Cabbagetown last Sunday. Much carol-singing and hilarity ensued, such as the drunken Scotsman who by the end of the afternoon was loudly proclaiming to anyone who would listen (and to some who wouldn't) how Christianity had saved civilization. With a few children in attendance, the raunchy jokes were kept to a minimum, so hopefully we'll be asked back again next year. I gurgled my way through Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring after once again neglecting to empty out my 3rd B-flat valve, an oversight that was almost as embarassing as it was when I did the same thing before a solo at my 5th grade Christmas band concert. But some friends from school came for a bit, which was sweet of them (thanks Magda and Chiara!), and we only had to play Silver Bells three times and Hallelujah Chorus twice. No one requested Rudolph or Joy to the World, which was a nice change. My bi-annual beer of choice was Killkenny, since they had (HORROR!) run out of Guiness. I'm coping.

Since this is probably my last post before the holidays, I leave you with this final thought: The Overalls of Shame. The woman who knitted these as a gag gift is my new hero. It makes me proud to be a knitter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dem rattlin' bones

Some people are driven crazy by the sound of nails on a chalkboard, or squeaky styrofoam. These sounds don't bother me much. For me, it's the sound of a jackhammer, or the thing the dental hygenist uses to polish your teeth. Not the high-pitched whining dentist's drill, that's not a big deal. But rather the rumbling sounds that are so deep that they feel like your insides will never stop rattling. Those sounds drive me crazy. I suspect I would have this reaction to earthquakes, which I guess takes California right off the list of places to retire. Oh, and metal nail files. I hate those too.

So here comes the dilemma. The husband, he snores. It's a frequency somewhere between the jackhammer and tooth-polisher, and it lasts longer - on the order of hours. The volume is at a level that no television or earplugs can compete with. What's a girl to do? I love the man. I simply can't be in close proximity to him while he sleeps.

So, I send him to bed, or to the couch, or to his favourite chair in the library, and I shut the door. This cuts the volume to an almost tolerable level. Half an apartment away, the noise is barely audible, and so I peacefully go about my TV watching, or knitting, or reading, or - heaven forbid - work... until eventually I notice that I'm becoming agitated. Why is that? And then I notice it, the overpoweringly loud, wake-the-dead, shake-me-to-my-bones sound. The Snore is back. My teeth are rattling in sympathy with my ribs. It's been going on for some time, but I was so absorbed in my work that I didn't consciously notice it. Only subconsciously, where it STILL irritated me. Now that I'm consciously aware of it, I'm likely to go out of my mind.

And, oh look! The door that I closed an hour ago is open. At some point he woke up and wandered into another room, to another crash spot, and he's fallen asleep again. So I get up and go in, roll him over a bit (the avalanche of sound stops temporarily), kiss him on the head and close the door to that room, being careful not to turn out the lights, because he gets very disoriented if he wakes up in complete darkness.

Wait one hour. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Did I mention he also sleepwalks a bit?

And thus proceeds my evening ritual.

Gram C. (my mother's mother) was fond of the comic strip "Family Circus". After once hearing The Snore, Gram sent me a clipped Family Circus strip in which the mother first laments her husband's snoring, and then after a conversation with her own mother where she talks about how much she misses her deceased spouse, the mother goes to bed the next night, now happily hearing her husband's snores as virtual music to her ears.

Bullshit. Heart-tugging, male-conceived propagada intended to convince a nagging wife that she is in the wrong when she complains about the noise.

Do I snore myself? Of course I do. But let me tell you. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, compares to the sheer volume this man puts out. It's impressive, in a way. I've even caught the cats staring at him on occasion with something resembling awe in their golden-green eyes. To them, it must sound like the most contented purr in the world. And so it is. Aside from the occasional bout of sleep apnea (hence the sleepwalking), he generally sleeps like a baby. The sleep apnea is a problem, of course, but it's a problem for another day. Today, there is finally peace in our home.

I fought for years to try and sleep in the same bed at the same time. And what a fight it was: I poked, I prodded, I cried, I screamed, I tossed, we both turned, we sometimes fought, and in the end all that happened is that we've both lost a lot of sleep. So I've given up. I'm not really certain where this concept of "married couples have to sleep in the same bed in the same room" came from in my world. My parents always did, my grandparents always did, so I guess I figured that's what married couples do. But why? I mean, the fun bits are when you're both awake, right? No need to mess up perfectly good sleep just to keep a tradition.

Really, a good door solves so many problems. I can't believe it took this many years to figure that out.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A night to remember...

I remember a time when I was very sure of myself. I knew who I was, what I was doing and who I wanted to be when I grew up.

I remember confidence, and trusting myself.

I remember believing myself when I said, "I can do this."

I remember still liking myself even once I realized that I couldn't.

I remember that crying gives me an excruciating headache. Although, I remembered that one a little too late this time.

I remember why I love him.

I remember that kitties don't care why you're upset, as long as you pet them. And their fur is very absorbent.

I don't quite remember why I'm doing this, but I remember that there was a very good reason which, once I remember it, will hopefully help more than make things worse.

I remember that a lot of people have it worse than I do, and in the grand scheme, my problems are incredibly small. That doesn't help at all, naturally.

I remember that I'm not stupid. Most of the time.

I remember the words to "Jabberwocky", and somehow that seems like a good thing to think about.

I remember that I'm not alone, and people do care about me.

I remember where I stashed that chocolate bar - and I remember just in time that I'm out of Malox, so I'll save that one for now.

I remember that the best accomplishments are the ones we fight hard for, and although that seems like a pretty tired cliché, I think it's going to have to suffice for now.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The temporal anomaly known as November

The weeks since returning home from NYC have been strangely unproductive, considering the amount of busy I recall experiencing. How does that work, exactly? My little burgundy University of Toronto datebook, which neatly distills my days into hour-long chunks, doesn't provide too many answers. Honestly, where have the weeks gone?

The band concert two weeks ago was, as usual, a rousing good time, unless you include the speeding ticket I received on my way there, just up the road from my house. We had a guest band from Rochester which is, without a doubt, far better than we are. They were fun to listen to, which I did from the quiet confines of the dressing room while everyone else went out and sat in the house to watch... I was close to an asthma attack and needed some down time after nearly being late (see speeding ticket) and running (me, running = a scary thought) from car to stage. I chatted a bit with the other horn section during the morning rehearsal, but had to bail on the after-concert dinner with our guests because of things due the following day. My immediate band obligations fulfilled, I've skipped rehearsal for the last two weeks. Whether or not I go this week, I can't say. I feel that I need a break from band, but the guilt is tremendous. I love playing the horn, but I resent the 3 hours every week that it takes from my life to go to rehearsal. I've been a member of the group since 1995, taking 18 months off from September 2002 - May 2004 and two more from June - August 2005 (school obligatons), but yet I keep coming back. I realize, at some level, that I have long since lost any image of reliability in the eyes of my section and the rest of the band, and yet they welcome me when I'm there, ask me for no excuses, hand me second and first horn parts and treat me as they always have, like a friend and colleague. And I enjoy myself when I'm there. So I'm still torn. Truthfully, I'll probably go this week, even though I've said I don't want to. The Christmas music was probably brought out last week, and I love that arrangement of Westminister Carol. Familiarity, tradition and guilt trumps, I guess.

A second round of grading, much worse than the first, hit a couple weeks ago, and caused me to lose no small amount of sleep until this past Thursday, when I handed the tests back. This probably accounts for the feeling that I've been very busy, yet the appearance that I've gotten very little done. This Wednesday brings round three, when they hand in projects. The sense of dread is already building. My own work has languished beneath the piles of grading and teaching preparation, and I'm starting to panic a little bit about that.

This weekend I managed to attend the retirement dinner for a professor in the department - a dear man who I admire a great deal. True to departmental tradition, since he has now officially retired he will most assuredly be in his office on Monday, working diligently. You see, the university has, until next year, a policy of mandatory retirement at age 65, and many people don't want to. As an emeratus professor, they are entitled to teach X number of classes for a few more years and maintain an office. So they do - the last three "retired" professors are still permanent fixtures in the department, one will be serving as interim chair for a few months next year. I'm glad this one won't be any different, because I would really miss him. It was a lovely dinner (preceded by a two-day workshop that I didn't get to attend much), with the requisite sappy speeches and multiple toasts. And the wheels keep turning.

So now I'll spend a couple hours paying bills followed by staring at the work I didn't do this weekend, and try to think of a way to explain my lack of productivity tomorrow, other than by temporal anomaly. I don't think that one will fly.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

If it's raining, it must be Syracuse...

I made it home late Monday evening, much to my intense relief. Not without incident, of course.

After finishing my hot chocolate and saying goodbye to my squatter's claim in the NW Union Square Starbuck's Sunday night, I made my way back to my hotel, in the hopes of getting some work done for a couple hours, sleeping until 8am, going to a nearby yarn shop at 9am, getting a bite at Grand Central, catching an 11:00 train to Poughkeepise, and being home 8 1/2 hours later, with enough time to finish my work, due Tuesday morning.

Er, at least, that was the plan. Until I passed out unceremoniously the minute my head hit pillow. I woke up 9am. So, no work done. Hrm. If I want to hit the yarn shop before I catch the 10:50 train, I better get moving. But still so tired. Do I really need to go to that yarn shop? Naaah. What time do I have to check out? Noon? Well, screw it then, I'm going back to sleep.

At 10am I woke up again and decided to do an hour's worth of work, which barely helped. I hurried at 11 to pack and get a cab to Grand Central, where I had just enough time to get Starbucks, oogle the ceiling in the great hall for a moment more, and get on my train. It was a disappointing end to the trip, but I took solace in the fact that I was going home and would have time to get my work done that evening. Did a little more work on the train. It still didn't make much of a dent.

I arrived in Poughkeepsie ready to roll. Except my car wasn't. No juice, no power, nada, squat. My panic reared up - what if it's not just a battery problem? I had to have a sensor replaced last year that caused the same effect. I calmed down when I realized that wasn't so bad... that would mean I wouldn't have to finish my work for Tuesday, since I might have to stay overnight in Poughkeepsie until my car was fixed! Yay, work extension! I called AAA and sat down for a bowl of soup at a touristy Irish pub next to the station. The nice man arrived 30 minutes later, and lo and behold, it was the battery. Drat. I guess I have to get my work done tonight when I get home after all. And now I have an hour less work time. Sigh.

So, I was off. The IPod was determined to play nothing written after 1979 between Poughkeepsie and Syracuse. And then the rain hit.

Now, keep in mind, this was only the third time (6, if you count round trips) that I've been back through Syracuse since graduating from University in 1994. And wouldn't you know 3 of those 6 drive-throughs have involved torrential downpours? I'm not impressed. Better still, the heavy rain continued the rest of the way home, through Buffalo, across the border and around the lake. By the time I got home, I was so stiff I could barely stand.

It's Wednesday now, and the work is only just finished. Good thing my supervisor is patient. I feel like I've been through a war. And now my next battle: band rehearsal tonight, after two weeks away. Concert in two weeks, substitute and new players coming in for said concert, music in who-knows-what-folder, parts being randomly reassigned, and here's me, beyond caring. Why did I say I'd do this? Oh right, I like band. Now I remember.

I need more hot chocolate.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

On NYC, and the joys of wireless internet

I'm sitting in a Starbucks on the northwest corner of Union Square in NYC, having recently dropped $2.95 for 2 hours of internet access (The network is apparently in the McDonald's next door... wonder if that's strictly kosher?) Anyhow, Starbuck's T-Mobile 2-hour rate was $6, so McD's "Wayport" access won out. Leave it to McDonald's to underprice everyone else in the neighbourhood.

The good news is that I actually found a place down by NYU that offers free Wi-Fi (a very pleasant little Tea Shop on MacDougall just south of Washington Square - highly recommended!), so that's where I've been checking my email while I've been here since Thursday.

However, it's Sunday, the conference ended this afternoon, I've been lugging a heavy backpack around for 4 days, I took a long walk through lower Manhattan this afternoon and Washington Square was not on my way back here. So I've ponied up the $$ for a couple hours to check my mail one last time before I call it a night. My feet hurt and I needed hot chocolate with whipped cream. Not having to wander too far from my hotel at this point in the weekend was worth it. Yes, I stopped by the WTC site while hoofing it around lower Manhattan. I felt it was something I needed to do, and frankly, it's kind of hard to MISS it. Not much to say about that except, you know, damn.

The conference was... educational, I suppose. I think what it boils down to is that I'm just not a very social person. I am also incapable of attending every session of every conference I go to. I know people who can't imagine missing even one minute of a conference, and I was that way at my first conference. But I quickly discovered that 3-4 straight days, 12 talks plus plenaries, panels and obligatory socializing is just too much for me. I bailed on the first session of Saturday morning to sleep in a bit and preserve my sanity, and skipped a couple time slots here and there to extend lunch hours for more "me time". At a certain point it all becomes Far Too Much Information.

Our presentation went OK, once we were all present and accounted for... my co-presenter had gone to the break room between sessions while I went in the presentation room to set up the laptop. Apparently, the clock in the break room was out by 10 minutes from the clock in our presentation room, because when the session chair started asking me at 11:30 if I wanted to start, and my co-presenter was still not there with the handouts (!!), I was a little wierded out. I stalled, she came in a minute later - to the unpleasant surprise that she was not 5 minutes early but 5 minutes late according to the room clock (!!!) - and we quickly got going. Of course, half of our audience was in the break room as well, and they began trickling in a couple minutes in to our talk, sigh. We were none too happy about the sutuation, but we finished in our alloted 20 minutes (people were still trickling in 10 minutes in to the thing), answered a couple questions and that was it. No sense fussing about it now, we'll have a post-mortem next week anyhow.

So that's that, another conference presentation for the CV, and it's time to head home.

Let's see if I can make it across New York State without getting another speeding ticket (like how I slipped that in there?).

My couple hours of internet time are about to run out soon, and I've been hogging a table at Starbucks for a while (but not as long as some of my fellow squatters, hiphop-boy and actor-boy. Why yes, I've given them names, why do you ask?). But I do need to get back to my teeny-tiny hotel room and try to make some headway on the little bit of work I brought with me, so that the rest of my week after I return home won't, you know, suck.

Apparently there's a decent yarn shop within a 3 minutes walk from my hotel... I've been too busy until now to look the place up, but I'll be stopping by there tomorrow morning when they open, before I head up to Grand Central to catch my train to Poughkeepsie and recover my waiting car.

What, you thought I was crazy enough to drive into Manhattan? I'm a little nuts, yes, but the sanity bug bit me in time. $30 per day to park my car was slightly less appealing than fighting the taxis for road space in a city where I don't know the roads.

It's been fun, thanks New York. I've informed the husband that he is required to come with me next time. It not as much fun exploring a fun place like NYC without anyone to share it with!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Rites of Fall

September is over. October is well underway. I leave for a conference in New York City in 2 days, and again, the paper is, I think, finally written. Or at least, if it isn't, I don't want to know about it at this point. One co-author sent out her final draft, the other co-author and I have read it and are relatively happy. The powerpoint and handout are done, and will have their final check tomorrow. For the first time ever, I think I'm going to a conference and I'm not worried about the paper.

That worries me.

I am TA-ing a class this term, and I still can't seem to get past the anxiety. I prepare and prepare. I read the students' readings (even though I read them as a student myself many times). I write out word for word what I want to say. And yet I am still in a nervous tizzy every Wednesday night at 11pm, when I should be preparing for bed. Tutorials go well, although I still talk too much, and sometimes they get me with a question I just can't answer, even though I should be able to. Someone, please tell me this goes away. Otherwise, I have no chance at this teaching thing.

I have discovered that I'll do almost anything to get out of doing the work I should be doing, including nurse a Venti Caramel Macchiato for two hours, brush the cat(s), order board games, play board games, read the rules to board games, wind yarn, knit the yarn, shop for graphic novels, read the graphic novels, write my first blog post in two months, help clear the backlog of TWPL paperwork that's been building for 4 months, organize the files on my hard drive, begin organizing the hard drives of two school computers, attend meetings, schedule more meetings, spend unusually long amounts of time preparing tutorial materials, going to band rehearsals, and sleeping. I don't watch much TV, but that's just because TV truly sucks, for which I suppose I should be grateful.

But I still can't deal with the work thing. I have a paper to rewrite to journal submission size and send it. I have an article to edit. I have crucial emails to send about upcoming work that I'm avoiding. I have a second general's paper to start - which should have been started two months ago and which must be finished and defended by April - and it's taken me 3 months to come to the conclusion that I'll have to revise the old term paper I already have rather than start something new. I spent months trying to think of something, anything that I could do besides rework that fucking paper, and yet here I now am, resigned to my fate and no further along than I was in the spring. I have a pile of grading staring at me, which must be done before I leave for the conference, and since that's in two days, it won't be.

I want to cry. But I'm too busy avoiding all of these obligations to cry about them. That would be admitting I'm in a hole and won't see the light of day for the next month.

Perhaps I should go and do fieldwork. See, linguists who go away on trips to do fieldwork are smart. They have a reason for not getting anything else done, for not taking on any other obligations. They simply won't be around. They have to devote their time completely to their fieldwork while they're there, in order to make the most of the short time. Good linguists do fieldwork. Better linguists do a lot of extended fieldwork. I have done no fieldwork - I use written sources for my data. What kind of linguist does that make me? One who likes her home and her non-academic life just the way it is, that's what. I refuse to sacrifice my happy home life to the gaping maw of academia. I will not move to where the jobs are. I will not spend months away from my husband in order to emmerse myself in field study. There has to be a middle ground. I have to find a way to have both.

I'm surrounded by fellow students who are either gung-ho about finishing their degree "on time" and other students who are, quite simply, angry. Angry about the demands and expectations placed on them, angry that those who came before them were given more time to discover their paths and take their time while we are now expected to "just get it done" and are being threatened with having our program terminated if we don't conform to an arbitrary timeline. And then there are those who are past anger and into resignation. That they might never finish. That they will have to go through this hell and jump through the hoops for 1, 2, 3 more years before they're done. These are smart people. Hard-working people. A lot of them are better linguists than I am.

Time to brush the cat.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Home good, home with luggage better

I like travelling. I do not like travelling alone. Despite this, I got to spend last week in Moncton, New Brunswick, at a conference. DH was originally going to come, until it sunk in that I was going to a conference, and wouldn't be spending any time with him most of the day.

*sigh* A full week is really too long for a conference.

At least my talk (based on The Paper From Hell) went well, even if I did spend most of the week hiding from the world in my (hot, icky, dorm) room putting the presentation together until the last minute, then stressing out until I found the local Staples, where I could print everything out. There really must be a better way to do this. Like, you know, get everything ready before boarding the plane to an unknown city. Or better yet, take my own printer. Point of fact, I was so paranoid the night before my talk that I bought a little travel printer while I was at Staples printing everything out. And a 500-sheet ream of paper. Both of which I carried home on the plane as a second carry-on.

Did I mention I'm just a little obsessive-compulsive?

So now I'm home. Of course, my luggage didn't arrive home with me. And wouldn't you know, my Denise needles and current project were safety packed in a checked bag so that I didn't raise the ire of airport security. Even still, they almost confiscated my bookdarts. Because, you know, a flimsy one inch piece of copper that bends almost as soon as you look at it is deadly. Two days later, knitting, clothes, books and needles are all safely home, thank you Air Canada. And I am now on vacation.

One good thing did come out of the week, though. OK, more than one good thing, after all - the presentation did go very well, even if I did have to stew about it until the last day of the conference. But even better, I found a great band. The cab driver who drove me back from Staples was listening to this CD he had bought at a local club show earlier in the week. He said the name of the group, which I immediately forgot - but I thought I remembered the lyric "Thumbelina", and that they were from Fredricton. A little sleuthing by DH yesterday and here they are, my new favourite band: Vetch. Thanks Mr. Cab Driver, wherever you are. It made the whole long, lonely, dismal week completely worthwhile.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Baby steps, indeed

Some days, you just have to give in. No matter how hard you try, it is just not going to happen.

I am on my third such day. Consecutive.

After turning in the rewrite of The Paper From Hell on Tuesday (without a final spell-check or end-to-end read-through - my mother would be horrified and at some level, I am), I proceeded to sleep for 48 hours. Well, off and on. Never mind that this very paper has to be turned into a coherent 20 minute conference presentation by next Thursday, never mind that I'm flying to New Bruswick on Sunday morning, less than 48 hours from now (the event is a full week, I present Friday morning, the last day), never mind that I cannot confirm the ability to print out and photocopy handouts at the conference venue (surely this won't be a problem, right?). I just can't get over the vomit factor any time my cursor hovers over the directory containing the paper and the last (very out-of-date) presentation of it. I have not begun to pack, I have done only minimal shopping to stock the house with supplies for husband and cats, the dishes haven't been done in two months and the laundry is stacked to the ceiling.

I broke down and changed the cat's litter yesterday (something DH has quiety been doing for the last six weeks while I am either working on The Paper or curled up in the fetal position crying about The Paper). But Tiger, ever ingenious, had pooped on the washroom floor and wrapped the floor towel carefully around it, which is his signal that the litterbox does not meet with his expectations. He has done this before, so we have an understanding. There would be no waiting for Dad to come home to deal with the litter, and it jarred me out of my post-paper doldrums. This small burst of domesticity spurred me on a bit. I then dumped two bottles of Dran-O down the washroom and kitchen sinks, which have been barely draining for weeks, in preparation for tackling the dishes before I leave on Sunday. I even washed some cutlery and a couple plates, and threw in a load of laundry that wasn't husband's work clothes.

And so it begins. Coming out of the self-imposed house arrest required for me to finish a large project, I begin to notice my surroundings and complete lack of housekeeping. Luckily for me, DH could really care less if the place is a junkyard, as long as he has clean underwear and work clothes, and a path to the television. I also notice a strange smell. Ah. That would be me. Time to shower, I think, something I've done only intermittently for the last while, i.e. when I was going to be out in public for more than 30 minutes. Time to wash the sheets that my stinky self has been sleeping fitfully on, and the blanket on the couch that I've been sweating on for weeks while I read and type. Time to determine just how many loads of laundry are in those bins. Time to decide if it's ethical to kill what is possibly a new life form growing under the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. Time to begin re-shelving the textbooks and journals that litter the livingroom floor and coffee table. Time for a trip to Wal-Mart for necessities... cat litter, Freezey Pops (hey, there's a heatwave going on).

Today, after two days of doing nothing recovery, I decided to come into school to work at my desk on the conference presentation, since I wasn't getting any work done at home on that. You can see how well that's working. At some internal level, I am panicking, but on another level I know that when I'm on the wire, I will get it done. Come next Friday, there will be a presentation, all 20 minutes' worth, and handouts, and probably even a Powerpoint file, once I confirm the presence of projectors. And it will be, at the very best, a good, solid talk, and at the very worst, an OK talk which is over in 30 minutes.

This morning, I give in to my inability to focus, and enjoy the slight break in the recent heat, the fact that my persistent sore throat and ear troubles (going on week 3) are getting better, that I got to share a good breakfast with husband and drive him to work. And relish in my good parking karma, since I scored one of the rare all-day non-metered (i.e. free) spots behind the library and won't have to risk getting a $30 ticket for not running down to feed the meter every two hours.

Today might not be productive, but it's a step back into the world of the living.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Well, that could have gone better

The defence of my first general's paper was May 12. It was horrifying in a way only academia can be. The gorey details of the experience are best not committed to the annals of electronic publishing, lest they be archived forever by some well-meaning web-crawler.

I am reminded by my unfortunate tendency for perfect recall of the mundane that May 12 is the birthday of a dear grade school-through-high school friend who I lost touch with after she got married in 1994. Due to a number of events - the biggest of which was that I was 6 hours away at university - I did not go to her wedding. I felt horribly guilty for not going, and sometimes I still do. We last spoke a couple days before the wedding, when I called her to let her know I couldn't come. We hung up on the best of terms, as always, and I told her I'd call her the next time I came home. That was 11 years ago. I miss her.

May 12 has historically been a strange day for me. Sometimes very bad, sometimes very good. For instance, it is also the date (in 1993) that I first talked to the man who is now my husband. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. But I figure that at any rate, by now, I should know better than to schedule important things on May 12. So, OK, that was a miss on my part.

I'm finally past the irrational, screaming, witch-queen anger phase, and I no longer begin to cry in frustration when I open up the directory where the electronic files for the paper reside. So I think I can finally begin making the (not minor) revisions that were requested, once I figure out exactly what those requests meant. That will involve a meeting (or three) with a few different people. I continue to remind myself that this is a learning experience. It will be a better paper for my having more time with it. And if I keep telling myself that long enough, I might just begin to believe it. In the interest of letting go of my anger, I'll leave out the reasons - some rationally justified, others based entirely on hurt pride - exactly WHY I was so upset.

The whole process of academic writing is so degrading. You pour everything you have into a work for the express purpose of seeking approval from a group of people whose job it is to sit across from you and rip you down, throwing questions at you that they KNOW you will not be able to answer. And it never ends, not once you finish your dissertation and get a job, not once your name is known in the field. If you present at conferences or submit to academic journals, it's the same thing again and again. It's pathetic, really. And it's not supposed to be personal, yet it is. Masochists, all.

And what I really want to know is: If I can't handle this kind of reaction to a paper, how in hell do I intend to survive a dissertation defence? It's times like these when the overused phrase "Is it worth it?" keeps popping up. And I can't answer that question, either.

I think too much.

And I think there is a lack of ice cream in my world this evening.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

On denim yarn, blue fingers, and impending storms

I've been working on the sides and strap for the little cable-trim Tasha bag for the last week or so. Blah. I'm using Rowan Denim (colour #229: Memphis) which I noted previously that I found on sale. Darn good thing, too. The Rowan website describes this as a "hard wearing yarn". Indeed. This stuff is brutal on the hands, and I'd hate to feel like I paid extra for my pain. I have to knit a bit tight to keep the 2 x 2 rib looking OK. My hands and fingers are sore after a couple hours and now have a distinct blueish tint to them. I can't imagine I'll be using this yarn on anything resembling a regular basis, but I guess now I know.

It doesn't help that I fought with the pattern for several hours the other day. I think there's something wrong with the strap instructions. It says to do the rib for 9.5", ending with a WS. Then there are instructions for 2 rows (1 increase, 1 in pattern). Then it says to start the cable pattern for the strap, of which Row 1 is a WS row. What is wrong with the math here? It can't just be me, right? And it doesn't look good. At any rate, after ripping it out a couple times for various reasons, I finally decided to start the cable pattern on Row 2, leaving row 1 out for the first rep, and now it looks OK. Knit stitches in the 2x2 rib flow into knit stitches in the cable.

On the storm front, I got the draft of my paper back from both readers this week. The second reader is an excellent writer himself, and a good editor. This means that I trust him when he says I need to rework some things for stylistic reasons. He had a hard time following my examples and how they fit in the text of the paper. As a result, I think it bogged down the reading process to the point that he had a hard time figuring out what my major findings were (and there are major findings, really!) So, I have some work to do. I've been ignoring it for two days now, since picking up the drafts... I'll have to deal with it tomorrow night for sure, since I need to get the final draft back in early this week. I just have to hang tough and slug through it, it'll be done soon, for better or worse.

We have a family function to attend tomorrow afternoon (in which we will be well-fed, so who am I to refuse?), and then it' to work for me. I wish I could do it in little bits over several days, but I don't seem to work well that way. It's like being nibbled to death, voluntarily dragging out the pain. So tonight I'll go look over both sets of comments and screw my brain on for tomorrow evening, so that I can get through a good chunk of it while my husband revels in the return of Family Guy to television. I understand the appeal of the show, I just can't seem to sit through an entire episode. Ah well.

We did make time to go and see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy today. Good fun, even if they didn't show the Serenity trailer before it, as was the rumour. I went in with few expectations, which I always think is the best way to go into a movie based on a beloved book. As a result, I left happy, with the campy "So long, and thanks for all the fish" song ringing in my ears. I guess it's Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith next, sigh... now there's a movie that I can't avoid expectations about. I expect it to be unnecessarily sappy to the point that I'll be wincing in pain, and yet I know I'll be there to see it, however agonizing it is. I have "completeness" issues. On a related note, the Best Blog In Recent Memory award goes to this site. It's good to know that creativity isn't dead.

Next week is exam week. No, I don't have to take any exams, but I have to help administer three of them, and give a 3 hour help lab before one of them, winding up the week with at least a full day of grading. Mix in a few evening rehearsals and the draft re-write for the first couple days of the week, and we have the makings of a storm.

Well, I did ask for it.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The calm. Next week, the storm.

I finished ripping off the ruffle of the second sleeve of the shrug and attaching the lace cuff band shortly before my April 10 concert. Typically, I found last week that I had screwed up the lace pattern on the back of the shrug for a number of rows at the very bottom (the beginning), and never noticed it until now. Fixing it would be equivalent to making a new one, i.e. taking off the sleeves and starting the back from scratch. Since perfectionism can only go so far before crossing over into obsessive-compulsiveness, I'm accepting mediocrity and chalking that up to a learning experience. So, the shrug is done (again), and has been worn in concert (again). I'll get pictures eventually.

I've moved on to - OK, moved BACK to Tasha, a small cotton bag with cable trim. I started it a while ago, but then the shrug took over. Pictures of where I stopped are on my website, under pictures, then knitting. I've made the cable trim for the top edges, and just have to make the sides & strap, which are done in one piece. Then all the pieces will be done, and I can wash and assemble. I'm using the recommended Rowan Denim, which I found on sale a few months ago. It's a little hard on the hands, but it probably doesn't help that I have to stitch very tightly to keep 2x2 ribbing looking reasonably good, and the cotton just doesn't give at all. It's that "1st purl stitch after a knit" problem, which I was relieved, after a web search, to find is a pretty common issue. And here I thought I was just pathetic and would never be able to knit ribbing for shit. At any rate, it's going well, I think. I just can't do too much before my hands start to cramp up and the yarn friction bugs my fingers. So it will be slow going for a few more inches.

I also continue to put in a few rows at a time on the super-boring-but-nonetheless-lovely neverending grey lace scarf, which will be done either when I finish of the current ball of mohair or rayon, or when I go mad, it's a toss-up. In the meantime, I picked up a number of skeins of Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece in assorted colours. I bought it with the intention of making the skirt in the last issue of Interweave Knits, but decided against that (can you say "sizing issues"?), so the cotton yarn will have to find a new purpose. I'm considering my options, but I only have 3 skeins of pale yellow right now, an 1 skein each of 4 other colours, so a full garment is out unless I buy more yellow. Maybe if I like the Tasha bag, I could make a couple more of them, in different sizes... what a practical and utterly boring idea. I also bought a Fleece Artist thrum mitten kit cheap, as a reward for finishing the shrug. That'll be fun, I can play with the hand-dyed silk roving.

Outside of knitting, my general's paper is currently in the capable hands of the second reader (and the first, again). Hopefully this second draft will be the last, and with a few minor changes, I'll be defending it the second week of May. At least, that's the hope, and it's what we've all put on our calendars. Then I'll have one general's paper done, one to go, and then I can start to concentrate on dissertation topics. Of course, there's always the possibility that I've written something completely bogus, and I'll get notes like "what does this mean?". It's more likely one reader will say "this paragraph is unnecessary", while the other will suggest expanding it. I should know better than to have two different people reading a draft at the same time, but here we are. I'm so sick of seeing the paper that nothing about it appeals to me any more - it all seems tired and uninspiring, but when you're that close to something it's hard to see the brilliant spots through all the grey. And I do hope there's brilliant spots. Apparently I'm TAing for the first two months of the summer, which will be... no, "fun" is entirely the wrong word. Educational. Yes, that's it. At least it will give me some time off of band, since the classes are on Wednesday evenings, ending just before rehearsal, which is a 45 minute drive away. Time off is a good thing.

I have 2 DVD purchases to look forward to this week - "Eerie, Indiana" is on its way, and the third and final season of "Land of the Lost" comes out Tuesday, if I can find it that day. I've been looking forward to these for months. Television sucks, especially now that Battlestar Galactica has finished for the season. We have a few DVD sets waiting to be watched, I just can't get enthusiastic about any of them right now. I think I'm in that "blah" time that comes with being almost, but not quite, done with a major paper and not having much to look forward to for the next couple weeks. I have articles to edit, coding for two other projects to finish and the occasional rehearsal to go to, but overall I'm still in a holding pattern until this paper is done. I try not to be nervous, but I can't help it, not when I've spent so long on something and now others have to read it and tell me honestly how they feel about it. Honest, helpful criticism I can handle, it's the waiting for it that makes my head hurt.

So I wait. And I knit. And I type. And I read. And I watch DVDs. And I play board games with the husband and friends. And I grade exams and code data. And the cats watch, amused, while I compusively check my email for a note that says, "I'm done with your draft, nice job! Just a few minor comments, it's in your mailbox". Gah, I hate this part.

Give me the storm. Please.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Progress on Operation Ruffle Removal

As I suspected, a couple weeks away from the sleeve of the shrug has bolstered my courage. Well, that and it took well over two weeks to kick the worst of the flu from the end of February. The last three weeks are a blur, since I spent a huge part of it in the house. Only this week have I begun to feel 100% again, since my energy level is back up and I don't have to take a 2-hour nap for every 2 hours of work. DH kicked it a little faster than I did.

While I was sick, the only knitting I could contemplate was the simple grey lace scarf that I've had on the go forever and might finish by next winter (it's so BORING!! But pretty, I guess). DH has come to accept that his Tom Baker Dr. Who Scarf will not be done until next winter, since it hasn't been started yet.

So, I finally went back to Shimmer the other day, took off the lace cuff I had attached, ripped back another 8 rows (about an inch and a half?) and then reattached it. The sleeve fits much better now, I think it's finally the right length. Ripping out knitting in the wrong direction is an interesting experience, especially when you hit an increase. (Note: The sleeve was knit cuff-up, and I was ripping from cuff-up). I'm quite please with it now, I can't wait to get the second one done and post some pictures. It is also desperately in need of a blocking. I wore it at the concert unblocked, obviously, since I finished it less than an hour before stage time - just long enough to pick out most of the cat hair. The ribbing along the bottom keeps flipping up, backwards. I hope that fixes itself during blocking.

But that will probably have to wait another week or two while I desperately try to finish a draft of my first general's paper. It seems I have promised to turn in the draft next week, on Wednesday March 23. *gulp*

This summer: Grandma's mystery nearly-finished cardigan. How old is it? How long has it been on that cable needle? And what on earth was Gram planning to do with it at the finishing stage? Join me while I try to decipher the clues left behind by my Grandmother and figure out how I'm going to finish the Blue Cardigan that she started in... well, that part's a mystery, too!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

I may be sick, but I can still dance

This post has apparently been eaten by innernet zombies. Whoops. (I did a thing. I don't know what I did, but apparently I killed it, and I can't find a copy of it. Talent, I have it.)

I was something about having the flu and also having a huge stack of grading that had to get done, and deciding that I hated the ruffle on the sleeves of Shimmer because ruffles and I don't get along. I think.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005 which there are no pictures, but rather links to groundhogs

Wow, it's Groundhog Day already. I suppose it's fitting that I should finally post today. I love groundhog day. Besides, January sucked, and doesn't deserve blog documentation.

Come on, I'm from Pennsylvania. Groundhog Day is a thing, you know? See?No one cares if Punxsutawney Phil sees his freakin' shadow or not, it's all about having fun and drinking hot drinks outside on a cold February day to the strains of the Pennsylvania Polka. Kind of like.... Mardi Gras in western PA. Er, OK, perhaps not. Don't forget Phil's albino cousin in Wiarton, Ontario: Wiarton Willie.

Here's a groundhog day thought that comes from direct experience: Imagine trying to explain groundhog day - or even what a groundhog is, for that matter - simultaneously to a two women (one Korean and one British) and two men (one German and the other Iranian). You are in Germany, and your only common language is German, which you have university classroom profeciency in. The local movie theatre is playing the Bill Murray movie (German title: Und täglich grüßt des Murmeltier), and they are thinking of going to see it. Discuss.

I tip my apple cider to you all.

This Groundhog Day, I plan to stay home for most of the day and get some work done (no, really). I'm in recovery from January. I've taken on a TA job (one tutorial section a week), a grading job, an instructor's aide position (creating exams), and a research assisstantship (8 hrs/wk), in addition to my "normal" workload of trying to finish my first general's paper, start my second, re-write my MA Thesis to be submitted for publication, and begin editing papers for a no-longer-secret Festschrift to be published by TWPL some time this year. I also have a band concert coming up in under two weeks, so I can't blow off rehearsals, as much as I'd like to. January culminated in my spending all of last weekend as the AV support for a mid-size conference. I now have to lock myself in my house for the next three weeks and write a general's paper. Seriously, except for tutorials, picking up and dropping off grading and band practice, I am in hiding.

But for the last couple evenings, I've been catching up on my TV watching and knitting.Wonderfalls has finally come out on DVD, and I'm so excited - this amazing show was killed with 13 episodes in the can and only 4 aired. I'll be finishing off watching seaason 2 of Land of the Lost tonight or tomorrow, and then I can finish season 1 of Millenium.

On the knitting front, the shiny black shrug (Shimmer) is coming along nicely during the DVD watching, but I'm not certain if I'll have it done for the February concert, which was the intended goal. The whirlwind previously known as January just took too much out of the schedule. We'll see, but I'm not holding out hope unless I maniacally knit for the next 10 days instead of work.

And that would be bad, so let's not ever mention that possibility again.