Sunday, June 21, 2009

Snippets from Crazyland, Academia

I met with my full thesis committee last week for the first time in over two years. The players:

Me: Eternal student, trying to get back on track.
Lady S: My long-suffering supervisor.
CM1: Committee member 1, another long-suffering mentor who I adore, even if we don't always agree.
CM2: New committee member, a recent hire.

What follows are some of my favourite excepts:


Lady S to CM1 and CM2: I've been getting regular updates on her draft. My last email to Bridget was last Monday, titled, "Where is it?"

Me: Was that the one that I responded to you with song lyrics?

Lady S: Yep.

Me (thoughtfully): It was a good song.


Lady S (digging through her file cabinet): Why can't I find your folder?

Me: I don't know, they should be easy to spot, you have, like, 7 years of them now.

CM2: She has seven years of folders on you?

Me: Or is it eight?


CM1 (looking over my CV): You spelled "assisstant" (sic.) with one too many S's on the top of page 6.

CM2: And two lines below that, I guess that's a copy-paste?

Me: Actually, I was going to say that was me being as "ass," but yes. And oh look, here's the same typo again! And again! Joy.


CM1 (looking at a journal citation on my CV): Shouldn't this title be italicized and not in quotes? Since it's a special volume?

Me: You know, I specifically checked the Chicago Manual of Style on that one and apparently, this is how they do it.

CM1 (once an editor always an editor): I don't know about that...

Me (once a typesetter always a typesetter): I'd be happy to send you the reference to the page in Chicago or bring it in...

CM1: That won't be necessary. *pause* Besides, we don't use Chicago style...

We continue to nag each other for a couple more minutes about editorial minutae.

CM2: I would be very surprised if anyone else ever noticed the difference.

Me: True. And we can continue to argue about italics and quotes later.

Lady S (ever patiently): Yes, thank you.


Lady S: So, what day shall we set for you to turn in the draft?

Me (firmly): This coming Monday.

CM1: Are you sure? Will you be able to finish it by then, do you think?

Me (grinning): Well, since you're giving me the option, how about the following Monday?

Lady S: If we give her another week now we'll have to pry it out of her hands in two weeks.

Me: Without a doubt. This coming Monday, then?


Miraculously, I'm not only still a graduate student, but apparently things are going okay.

PS: Note to self, do not open and look at your previous semester's teaching evaluations from your students while working in the department four hours prior to your long-dreaded committee meeting, for which you are not yet ready. Save it for when there's wine, and possibly fire.

PPS: Monday approaches, and the draft is not yet ready.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ask not what we do to history; ask what history does to us*

Some days, I think, should simply be re-written. Forgotten. Pages removed from The Book and dropped into the fire.

I tried to explain this to a Librarian once, and was threatened with excommunication and confiscation of all of my library cards for being a heretic. Librarians can be scary.

Mind you, some days, I want to be a Librarian too. "Fear me," I would say, and others would tremble as they handed their books back. Naturally, I would only use my Super Seekrit Reference-Finding Powers and my Mighty Data Mining Decoder Ring for good. Also, my cape would look suspiciously like a lace shawl.

Obviously, I digress.

I think what The Librarian didn't understand is that I wasn't implying that it was only the bad days that should be forgotten.

History is tomorrow's spoilers. "Doomed to repeat itself if forgotten" and all that.

On those days when it seems like there is nothing new in the world, nothing exciting that can make me want to do, to create, I curse my inconveniently good memory and beg to forget something that made me insanely happy so that I can rediscover it and be insanely happy about it again.

It's a slippery slope, I know. Remember that episode of Fantasy Island, where the couple wanted to fall in love again, so they were made to forget each other and they almost hooked up with the wrong people? I know I'm the sum of my experiences, of my history, and I like who I am, and I wouldn't erase a part of that. To quote a truth from an otherwise unfortunate movie, "I need my pain!"** Eventually, something else comes along that brings me joy again. I hold out for those moments, because if I lost hope in them, I would surely go crazy.

But still, there are some days...

...some days when I wonder if in order to experience true joy again, we first need to forget what it was like.

*A musing on the pendant What We Do To History, made by elisem.

**And just what does God need with a Starship, anyhow?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

In which I re-read the last post and cringe. And also, shoes.

Wow, when I resort to blogging song lyrics, you know it's been a rough week. Let's move on to hopefully better things, shall we?

This, I think, should be the lunch of hardworking graduate students everywhere:

Iced tea (Jasmine), cherries (Mmmmm), and a generic version of my second-favourite Girl Scout cookie, Samoas, (which are not sold by the Girl Guides in Canada.)

I recently stocked up on these cookies in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse. For the record, Thin Mints are my favourite GS cookie. They don't sell those in Canada, either; they have a different chocolate mint cookie that I don't like nearly as much. It's OK, I maintain a US supplier for Thin Mints.

On the weekend, I believe I submitted what is officially the Crappiest Abstract Ever. We shall see. I had another abstract accepted yesterday to a different conference (which I'm even looking forward to), so even if CrappyAbstract is rejected - and well it should be - I can relax and be OK with its complete suckiness.

My stress has been finding new and interesting ways to manifest itself. I've never been much of a stress-relief shopper. Today, though, in a rare and bizarre fit of vanity (and definitely stress relief), I bought three pairs of Very Nice Shoes, from a great store that is normally outside my price range, but does indeed have exceptionally nice and somewhat unique things, and was having a great sale.

I can naturally rationalize this by pointing out that my current "dress" shoes are several years old and no longer qualify as nice in any sense of the word. Further, I had intended, very soon, to buy both some decent new SCA garb-appropriate footwear (which I got today X 2), as well as something tastefully dressy for black concert wear - preferably with heels for a change, as I haven't owned a pair of heels in years. This is all true, and rational, and perfectly explainable.

Or, I can just let out a crazy-lady whoop and say, "Yeehaw! I bought Shoes!! I did it just because I wanted to, and They Are Awesome!!" It seems like such a wonderfully typical female thing to do, and I'm of a mood to embrace that bit of myself that I usually don't allow out of the bottle.

Go ahead, tell me these don't kick ass. Really, go for it, I dare you. You're wrong! HAHAHAHA!!

So, yeah, I don't shop for shoes much. Or clothes, for that matter. I tend to view clothes shopping as a form of torture. So when the mood strikes, the finances are acceptable and I find something I like, I take that as a sign and go with it.

Ahem. So, to sum up: Abstract fail and success, writing semi-fail, shoe success. It all balances out, and even allows for some happiness. And on the theme of balance and happiness, two happy cats, my opposite-boys:

Tiger, who prefers to sleep in the poofiest, cuddliest spot available, and right up against a human who will pet him indefinitely if possible, but does not, under any circumstance, like to be picked up or held.

Ford, who is usually up for several furious, in-your-face snuggles per day, but who likes to sleep at least partially on a cool, flat surface, away from potential human (or other) contact.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

"Even when it's approaching torture, I've got my routine"

A year ago today, I had a Very Bad Day. It wasn't that kind of bad, if you understand my meaning. No one was in physical danger. But it was still bad.

Friends helped. Family helped. Talking helped. Medicine helped.

Things are better today.

And yet there is something I still struggle with, a lingering leftover from That Day. I have still not written the thing I was working on when I had my Very Bad Day. I fight with it, I poke around at it, I write a little and then I stop. And the next day, it starts again. Some days I give up completely and walk away. Sometimes it's for weeks at a time.

This has been going on far too long.

It's not that the thing I'm writing is hard - well, OK, actually it is hard, and it's supposed to be hard - but I've done things that are much harder in the past. This one, though, is linked to the Very Bad Day, and until I get through it, That Day will always be there, hanging over me. And more to the point, if I don't finish it in the very near future, I will be willfully, intentionally shooting myself in the foot, sacrificing years of work and time on my part and many others' because I had a Very Bad Day that I'm afraid to face again.

All the flowers have fallen from the magnolia tree out back, and it is fully, lushly green. Nature waits for no one, not even for me to find a way to write the thing I was supposed to have written before that last flower fell. So, I will pick up again from yet another missed deadline, and keep plugging.

The innernets, though, has a wicked sense of humour. As I was sitting here wasting time this evening, surfing the endless seas of YouTube, thinking about what I should be doing while I was doing anything but, thinking about one year ago today, and promises, and magnolia trees, this song came up unexpectedly, randomly, and I knew it was right (repeated lyrics edited):

Oh, for the sake of momentum
I've allowed my fears to get larger than life
And it's brought me to my current agendum
Whereupon I deny fulfillment has yet to arrive

And I know life is getting shorter
I can't bring myself to set the scene
Even when it's approaching torture
I've got my routine

Oh, for the sake of momentum
Even though I agree with that stuff about seizing the day
But I hate to think of effort expended
All those minutes and days and hours
I have frittered away.

But I can't confront the doubts I have
I can't admit that maybe the past was bad
And so, for the sake of momentum
I'm condemning the future to death
So it can match the past.

- Aimee Mann, "Momentum" (from the Magnolia soundtrack)