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.