Saturday, July 29, 2006

That sound you hear... just me banging my head against the wall.

Final draft of paper. Due Monday. All I have to do is address 2/3 of the 4.5 pages of comments from my second reader, which I'm about 1/2 done with, give it a final read-through and proof, and turn it in Monday morning.

Then all three readers (one of whom has never seen it before and who I can't talk to about it until the defense) will have 10 days or so to read it, during which time I prepare for a defense, in which they grill me and ask me questions which I may or may not be able to answer. The defence will happen some time during the second week of August. If all goes well, I'll hopefuly just have to address a couple small issues (or NONE? None would be good!), and then it will be done.

I am terrified about the defense. Kind of a once-bitten-twice-shy thing. The defense of my first generals paper was an ugly, brutal affair that I do not wish to repeat. I know this isn't the same thing. It's not even remotely the same topic, for instance, and the personalities involved are very different this time around. The people in the room are far closer to being on the same page than the previous group, and there is some consensus between the first two that the paper is OK, even in its present form. There are holes, certainly, as there are in any work, and differences of opinion on a theoretical level (as in, one guy prefers a completely different approach), but I think I understand where the issues are and generally how to respond to them intelligently and diplomatically.

But I am still terrified. Deeply. Totally. Sick to my stomach. I feel like the best I can hope for is to not make a complete ass of myself. I know it can't be much worse than the last time, but that doesn't make it any easier. Because I don't think I can handle that again, I really don't.

Pleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease let it be over soon.

Because as soon as this is done, I can then start formally stressing out about my (lack of a) dissertation topic. All the stressing about it up to now has been very informal, you see.

*thump* *THUMP* *THUMP*

Nothing to see here, move along...

Friday, July 14, 2006

It's like being followed, only a little creepier

I don't know about you, but in my world, The Hoff (yes, one Avid-Day Assel-Hay Off-Hay) has come up at least once a day for the last week. How... odd. There's the chandelier/shaving/surgery incident. The (rumoured) Wimbledon incident. There's yet another horrific reality show which will never, ever see screen time on my television. There's the music videos and commercials, a few of which some kind soul has gathered together in one place. A few of those have made the rounds recently on some bulletin boards that I frequent.

Why have I noticed this, in particular, you might ask? What would possibly motivate me to post all of those links about, well, that guy? Memories, my friends. Memories.

My best friend in middle school was a Hoff fanatic. It was just... scary. Really terrifying. But I loved my friend. I was supportive. I bought her a Hoff button for her jacket once. It was a little freaky staying over at her house, with The Hoff staring down at me from the walls as I slept. Admittedly, I was one of the masses who watched Knight Rider with my family because, you know, the car was pretty cool. But Hoff fandom was, even then, beyond me.

One day, something in my friend snapped. She called me up, I went over to her house, and we slowly and methodically tore up all her Hoff pictures and poked each item into the open furnace. It was an exquisite moment. When we were done, I hugged her, and told her how proud I was of her. Later, her Mom made us pizza while we camped out in the basement and watched MTV all night.

It's the little things you remember.

When I spent some time in Germany in the 90s, I was horrified to see The Hoff in a number of shop windows. He had, God Help Me, albums. Plural. Apparently, The Hoff had quite the following. But I vowed never to find out why, at least, not voluntarily. A friend told me that Baywatch was quite popular, too. It mystified me, but I was already fighting enough culture shock, being away from home for the first time. I chalked it up to "One of those wierd German things," which is what all good exchange students do when they find a cultural phenomenon that they simply cannot grasp. People buy Hoff albums here. So be it. I collect albums recorded by current and former Star Trek cast members. Not because they are good music or that I listen to them regularly, mind you, but because they are occasionally hilarious. To each his own.

I put it out of my mind for a couple years after returning to North America. One night, during a bout of insomnia, I turned on the television. Baywatch was on. I grimaced, and hit the mute button while I dug around for the TV listings. Nothing was on. I got something to drink and sat back down to my stitching, forgetting to turn off the TV or change the channel. A little while later, I realized that I had been passively watching Baywatch for about 30 minutes with no sound. And here's the scary part, folks - I understood it completely. That's right, no sound was necessary in order to understand the show.

And then it occurred to me. Baywatch was the international language.

No wonder the world is so screwed up sometimes.

Someone pointed me to the reviews (all 1008!) of one of his (many) albums on Amazon. This is some funny, funny shit. Take, for example, this five-out-of-five review, or this one.

Did I say the world was screwed up? I take it back. Magic Eight Ball, what do you think?


MEB says, "The song 'Hot Shot City' is particularly good."

Well, who am I to argue with Magic Eight Ball?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What doesn't kill you...

I am struggling.

Every day, it's a battle. A battle to continue writing. A battle to tackle just one more page. One more paragraph. One. More. Sentence. This paper is going to drive me mad. And if it doesn't, that doesn't matter. The next one will do it instead.

And then there are the deeper, more personal battles. Like facing the fact that, once this is done, IF this is ever done, I have to keep going right on. No break. Dissertation topic time. I thought I had a topic. I don't. If I don't have one within the next couple months, I will be the cause of major problems at an administrative level. And I can't shut the thought of dissertation topic out long enough to work steadily on this project. It's always there, in the back of my mind, screaming at me. While I sleep, eat, write, laugh, knit (shhh!!). Always there.

The struggle to pay enough attention to my husband so that he doesn't think I'm angry at him because I haven't spoken to him in hours, even when we're in the same room. It's just that speaking, conversing, takes energy. Energy that I don't have. The struggle to not snap at him, the cats, the people in other cars and on the television.

The battle to get out of bed. The battle to stay awake for more that a couple hours at a time when I do.

The struggle to not cry all the time, and not to stare at the walls or the screen for hours at a time, trying to blank out my mind so that I can concentrate.

Remembering to eat. I've given up on controlling my food for quality. Pop-Tarts and Pringles are my friends. The two Ps. There's probably a third in there somewhere.

"Take a little break," people say. "Get some fresh air." Oh, I've taken breaks. I'm a great fan of breaks. I think I might even be taking one right now. But there comes a point when another break is simply procrastination, a delay of the inevitable, a way to ensure that you won't make your "final-final" deadline that is still, when it comes right down to it, an arbitrary date pulled out of someone's ass. Yeah, I don't think I should be taking any more breaks.

The battle to keep going at all. I flip-flop from hour to hour between "Why am I doing this?" to "I'll never be able to finish this" to "No problem, plenty of time" to "Oh my God, there's not enough time." One moment I despair that I'll never complete a PhD (especially since I'm going into my fourth year and I DON'T EVEN HAVE A DISSERTATION TOPIC YET), and the next I think I have plenty of time, an eternity, surely I can come up with a freaking topic. Other people have topics. Other people have presented their topics. Other people have taken longer than you by a full year to present their topics. Doesn't have to be formalized or anything, lots of questions are OK, just need a solid direction. A worthwhile issue. A minute later, I'm panicking again. It's not good enough. What I have isn't good enough. It will never be good enough. Other people are so much better than I am. I'm not good enough. Not fast enough, not competitive enough, not driven enough.

My mind whirls. I surf for a few minutes. I check my email for the forty-bazillionth time. I get some iced tea. Pet a cat. Tell my husband I love him, whether he's awake to hear me or not. Right now, not, but I tell him anyhow.

And then I start again. One more page. One more paragraph. One more sentence.

I can do this.

I will do this.