Saturday, November 29, 2008

Millions of Turkeys, Turkeys for me

Posty posty! I am here at my parents' house, having finished the familial Saturday dinner followed by a semi-familial movie. My entire immediate family all moved back to this town, and we are all equally boring and have no lives, and so they all come over to mom and dads' and eat dinner together every Saturday. Then the men of the family go off and be anti-social in different sides of the house (usually each on a computer or tv) while the women (the gals?) watch something off Netflix. For years and years now, if I don't call them on Sat. before their movie starts, either before or after I go out (and a couple times at a break in my evening festivities), I get immense whining about how I am such an unfilial child (though they have never once used "filial" as a term) and ungrateful and that is why I have not finished my PhD. I at least have them trained not to freak out and start calling me on every available number and leave frantic messages about how they are about to call the local police, because, yo! dudes! whether I'm at a movie or a dinner date or hanging out with friends, that really breaks the flow, you know? And some people like to go out and do something on their Saturday, what a concept!

All of this is to say, especially when you compare my side of the family with the other people at that wedding earlier this month: I can see where my unsociable sit-like-a-lump-ness comes from, awright? If we had a family plaque for our name it would not read The Cogs but The Wallflowers.

But the drama this week is that my niece has a boyfriend and she asked to bring him over to the grandparents' house for dinner for the first time, and my parents said yes of course, even though they were shocked and disappointed and very displeased with the situation. Evidently this is someting either so obvious they should never even need to be asked about it, or not intuiting all the rules yourself means you are an unfilial and disrespectful descendent. So I sorta told them (my parents) off a bit, and said if it bothers you and is rude, then tell her, because she thinks it is fine, because you said "it was fine." Really! And what's so terrible about having a boyfriend over, I said, isn't it the rules back from when dinosaurs ruled the earth that the boy has to come over and meet the parents and ask the father for permission to go steady?

Oh, well, the immediate family, that's perfectly ok, they tell me. It should be welcoming, a "my house is your house" kind of thing, they say (and they did not say, but I remember from high school, that if you are in their house with a boyfriend they like it because they can watch very closely over the two of you) --- but bringing a boyfriend over to the grandparents' house, that is a different thing --- I don't see how the younger generation could be so different these days. You would never bring a high school boyfriend over into your grandmother's house, would you?

Um. Mainly because she lived her whole life in the Midwest and we only flew out to see her once a year at Christmas, yes. But that's because it would be a big deal to ask for a boyfriend to commit to plane fare and lodging and ask people to help him travel out there and whatnot, and plus there is special Grandma Time when you only see someone once a year, which totally doesn't count as special Pilgrimage Time when you come over every weekend, right? So I guess the rule is that boyfriends and friends are welcome in the parental house but grandparents shouldn't be burdened with the knowledge of these people until an actual wedding? It's just weird. The whole "secret rules which you will be punished (or shunned) for not instinctively intuiting and following without being told anything specific" thing is very familiar, though. But not consistent --- that would only happen half the time and the other half would involve very explicit laying down of rules through yelling. Bellowing, perhaps gets at it better.

Anyway, I've now met the boyfriend and I pretty much approve --- he is talkative and has a bit of sarcastic wit that matches well with what we have in the family, so I think he will fit in (if, that is, he is allowed to return to the grandparental family home ever again). But my niece kinda irked me a bit ---- she was hanging all over him at the dinner table and constantly trying to redirect the conversation back around to herself or the fact that she had a boyfriend --- I should add that my dad's birthday is tomorrow, so we were celebrating it tonight. So it's not really her night to steal the limelight. (Which, come to think of it, seems like a good reason for saying no, you can't bring your boyfriend over to meet everyone tonight. If my parents had put it that way, I totally would have seen their point. As it is, it seems you can't introduce anyone to your grandparents unless you're about to get a ring.)

In other news, I've been good --- better than when I was back at my place --- about going out to a coffee shop and working on the article for a couple hours every day this week. I have not been getting much progress on it, but I guess even infinitesimal progress is better than all those weeks I wouldn't even look at it at all, right? I also have graded about half of this stack of crap, oops, brilliant and keen analytical insights, and hemmed some pants I bought a while ago (the curses of being short. At least mom has a sewing machine.) About the thanksgiving dinner, the less said the better. I will only say that my mother's predilection for heating things up rather than actually cooking stuff is getting more pronounced with time. And that a lifetime of chain smoking is probably partly to blame for diminished taste. And her hypertension problems mean that she doesn't put salt in or on anything she cooks anymore --- last night she microwaved plain frozen mixed vegetables until they were limp and then served them as is. Did you know they have low-salt margarine substitute? Be afraid.

Remind me, if I forget when I go back to GradSchoolLand, that I have some half-thought out posts about writing essays, and grading them, as well as some movies for discussion. Right now I think I'm going to go to bed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Blog as Alternate Personality

Stealing an idea from New Kid on the Hallway, I ran my blog through this nifty thing typealizer. It scored me (or rather, my blog) as a Myers-Briggs type ESFP ---- the extroverted, sensing, feeling perceiving type. It said this:

ESFP - The Performers

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

Ok. Well, I did wear boots today, so perhaps at least that part of the picture/description is correct? See, I've done both on-line and even actual in person Myers-Briggs interviews with a counselor and usually always come out ISTJ ---- introverted, sensing, thinking, judging. Basically, the complete opposite of what the blog scored.

Which makes me wonder if there's some sort of cool and simultaneously freaky "Three Faces of Eve" thing going on --- you know, where by day I'm a straight-laced and uptight recent grad student who does some scholarship and thinks about her cats and yet, at night or possibly when hit in the head by something like on the sitcoms, or alternately at certain phases of the moon, I turn into a wild and crazy party girl who is always in danger of losing her shawl and having madcap adventures and then writing weird and silly blog posts? Which makes me think, just what exactly is my alternate self doing in those unaccounted-for blocks of time? And could she clue me in to those adventures a little more often? My life is pretty boring as it stands right now.

I do like me some loud colors though. Even if I don't have a dorky mouth like the one in the picture.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Randoms

  • when you need to cook the beans from scratch and you don't skip out from school early, you end up having quite the late dinner.
  • I did get a decent amount of stuff done today, but of course I am also still terribly behind.
  • And should really be working right now instead of posting things because I don't have everything done for tomorrow morning's class.
  • My cat managed to pop off his collar again. I don't know how he did it; I was looking towards the stove at the time.
  • I am the worst researcher ever, and I will never get this stupid article finished, and it will all suck and that will be the reason I don't get an academic job ever ever ever. You'd think it'd be because of the economy, but that would be wrong.
  • In other news, I have a thing I have to get ready very soon and it is not written. (Whose brilliant idea was it to present something in the middle of job season, idiot? WTF were you thinking?) It is very tempting to my procrastinatory self to just jump over the article thingy which is late and bury my head in the sand of a new project.
  • Washington State has the coolest place names in the world, Seriously, Mukilteo? Walla Walla? Awesomeness! And when I just googled for how to spell "Mukilteo" I found even more, including Hoquiam, Enumclaw, Cathlamet, and Cosmopolis. Cool!
  • In sadder news, the friend whose family members live in Mukilteo, thus alerting me to this wonderful word instance, was saying that those family members have hit a very very rough patch financially and things are bad. Like have to come back out of retirement bad. Sending sympathetic thoughts and hoping that repeating Washington place names over and over to myself will fix your retirement accounts, people!
  • Sour cream, even the fat free kind, abolultely makes this black bean, rice, and tomato dish with chipotle sauce. Yum! But it was not enough to save me from burning my tongue.
  • If I keep incredibly busy, like go to visit family and run all around my hometown during thanksgiving break, I might be able to withstand the wiki without going crazy and obsesssive. But if I don't start hearing things other than those stupid affirmative action cards from some search committees once I get back, it's not going to be pretty around here.
  • I have not been observed for the weird class; however, I ran into the principal today and he had been at a money-raising benefit thingy at which there were students. He passed on the word that they liked my class and had said nice things. !!!! I'm kind of surprised that they like it; they complain so much and the entire structure of that place is so alien to me. (I've got posts percolating about why we assign essays; stay tuned.) Now if only they had the money and the students to let me teach two classes next term. Alas, it is a small place and the permanent staff can cover all but this one period. Perhaps it will start raining money instead and solve all my problems.
  • I haven't seen Dissertation Buddy in like a zillion years. We're both so crazy busy and overwhelmed by the market. But I went to her place and she cooked amazing Ethiopian lamb stew and a whole bunch of other Ethiopian dishes and we ate them and drank beer and unwound on Sunday. It was good. And really, the applications are almost done. The problem is more that there is no slack period for either of us because of all the other academic commitments we've got going on. It never ends!
  • It has finally gotten cool enough to sit in the evening with a cat on one's lap and a mug of hot tea. Of course, they are not cooperating at the moment, but what else is new?
  • No, seriously, you tell me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Yesterday I went to pilates; it was fine. Today I went to a yoga class my place offers, a "gentle flow yoga" class that happens once a week, and it's the only yoga at the pilates place. In the past, it has been a stretching class way below any sort of "pre-yoga" and that was fine with me. As in, most of the women who take it are older and have mobility problems and so the class is more about assisted stretching than any sort of real yoga poses or moves. Frankly that was just about my speed, considering how unflexible I am and how bad my balance is.

But today she did actual yoga! I think. We did "vinyasas" which we never had before and we moved constantly from one pose to another instead of just sitting there holding them for a long time and we did all sorts of splits and stand-on-your-head type stuff. And it was fun, felt relaxing and all that, but when I got home and had dinner I sat down on the couch for a bit and discovered I had dropped off, just like that, sitting up. And now that I have actually gotten up after a couple hours I can tell you I'm wiped and am about to go to bed for real.

Heh. Yes, those elderly retirees with the hip replacements and the canes have totally kicked my butt. Luckily I have no shame.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it

I'm back, and my cats are back, and I have cleaned everything and done some laundry and even survived an incredibly halfassed class which I had not really prepared for well (as in, at all), and now I have some time to breathe and catch up on the massive amounts of blog posts people have put up since I left. Jeez people! I need a special sabbatical to catch up on them all or something.

And why is it that every time I leave the state it catches on fire? Quit it, awright? Man, I have to keep an eye on everything or else it all goes to hell as soon as I'm not looking. I hope that everyone affected by the fires is ok.

And the wedding? I have found my ultimate temptation and must do many days of penance for it in the gym. Not wedding cake --- oh no oh no. It was white with vanilla icing --- I ate just enough to be polite and participate in the festivities. (which were very nice.) No, my aunt, bless her for knowing the family so well, made sure that the chocoholics would be pleased by including a brownie bar. No, that's not "bar" as in a bar of chocolate. As in, right next to the free open liquor bar was a brownie bar. So you could get hot melty fudge brownies and then top them with powdered sugar, or more fudge, or nuts, or various brightly-colored sprinkles, or caramel, or whipped cream, or candy corn (don't ask) or powdered cinnamon or nutmeg like it was a foofy coffee drink. A foofy coffee drink of pure chocolate goodness, hot and a little bit too solid to actually drink but pretty damn close. So. Damn. Good. Surprisingly, the chocolate martini was not very good, so I went back to white wine after that and it was fine with the chocolate.

I also got to meet my aunt's side of the family, the side my cousins have that is not related to me. It was a very weird dinner as I have heard these names bandied about all my life but never met any of them. (Including whenever my family has been stressed by, for example, a suicide, discovery of schizophrenia, or an abandonment of a marriage, I have listened sympathetically and so have all sorts of intimate knowledge of stuff that I know the family never talks about and is all a big dark secret, which is very odd when you know this and are only meeting them for the first time.) I may post about them more later, especially one "uncle" who is very pugnacious and aggressive and crude and is a lawyer (the occupation and personality seem to be a necessary match, to me) who I didn't like at all but then by the end of the evening I totally loved and he was just wonderful and hilarious.

I only got to spend five minutes with the bride, who was constantly being swamped with well-wishers and all that stuff. Unfortunately she reminds me of a cross between Lindsay Lohan at her most blonde and tanned and Jenna Bush. The mother of the bride is an exact fit for Laura Bush. Not that that's such a hugely bad thing. The dad is nothing like Shrub in looks, intelligence or temprament, so no worries there. Of course I didn't talk politics at a wedding.

My mother, on the other hand, did. I cringed hearing her voice raise up to ranting level* and suddenly rant about how taxes were too high and the US's capital gains tax doesn't exist for almost any other nation and how we should be lowering not raising our capital gains tax. Or maybe it was the tax put on financial trades. I obviously need to go read up more on this. Not that it is possible to outflank or change the mind of my mother on any topic at all. Remember, this is the woman who I've had arguments with over what my favorite vegetable was; her memory trumps my actual physical experience every time. But yes, mom let her kooky libertarian self out of the bag again and there were several moments of awkwardness, particularly because other people seem to simply mention political things, in a "oh did you hear that" sort of way, and my family treats every one of those conversations as a battle to the death, if not a full-on crazy "the end is nigh" sort of speech you might hear a homeless person make on a streetcorner. However, she did like the brownie bar. On chocolate at least, my family is united.

* I should point out that my family is all pretty bossy and loud ... well, very shy and quiet around strangers or new situations (my entire immediate family were wallflowers and barely talked at the wedding reception and I suddenly saw where I got it from), but we love to have fights or "rants" about politics or anything really at the dinner table. Whenever I bring home friends they are shocked because we seem to be very angry and loud but really we just conduct all conversations at that level of loudness and ... emotional investment at home.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wedding Bells

I'm off to marry off a cousin or two. (not the cousin who just bought a house that I want to steal from him; the other cousin) I have not met the bride before this, and, um, well ... ok, let's be nice and not say anything bad. Just that she does not look like I quite expected. I have to think a bit more about my cousin who I thought was so nice and sweet and down to earth.

And, WTF? Bloglines is down? I am suffering here, suffering the lack of free internet access (hooray for Paneras!), and when I finally get in contact to the sweet sweet drug of wi-fi, there are no blog posties to read? Grr.

So, who knows if I'll keep up with things. I may, I may not. I have access to television again, which means I am simultaneously in culture shock, entranced, and completely bored by it. Why is there nothing on? Not even some car-wreck of a drama show that I can't bear to watch or tear myself away from? Ah well. Will update with real news later. Toodles!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Craptacular Craptacular

like the musical in Moulin Rouge, or, more precisely, the inverse of it. How, oh Cog, you may ask, can you be in such a despondency while still elated from the election results? And I will tell you, the secret is compartmentalization.

Part of the problem is that obsessively reading election coverage put me in the way of reading excessive economic coverage, and that, combined with the jobs that keep disappearing and the more searches that will be undoubtedly cancelled later on in the process, makes me sad that I have missed my window and now will never get a professorial job. Furthermore, that I was stupid in the extreme and dooming myself when I read all those dire predictions, starting 5 years ago, about a catastrophic crisis in capitalism and replied, to wit, "ha ha." I have always joked about being sortof lefty but still a grad student and how, when the revolution actually came, I would be first up against the wall for failing to conform to revolutionary principles, but now I see that before the catastrophe becomes revolution, the capitalist masters themselves are going to shoot me for not sufficiently conforming to their program, to wit, being rich and saying fuckall to anyone who is poorer.

And since I haven't just been reading liberal economics articles but Harvey and Davis and Jameson and Appadurai and even some Chomsky when no one else was looking, plus a steady diet of sci-fi apocalypse novels, I'm convinced that this is no recession but a resetting, and there will be no middle class anymore as we know it, at least not in America. So now I'm freaking out that I should throw over this temp job and kill and eat my cats and go live in my cousin's basement after transforming his backyard into a survival garden because it would be a safer alternative to hooking once the local economy has disintegrated down into something out of Road Warrior and really, that won't be an option if I'm competing with all the unemployed wanna-be actresses and their boob jobs, so I had better sell everything I own and head for the basement before things get bad, right? Sigh.

It's just hard to think about the job search when you keep reading stuff about how all this shit going down may be just the beginning of a prolonged and painful adjustment period, hard to think of taking a shit job as a waitress or retail to make some time to write when the unemployment rate has hit 14% and you know your town has it even higher, hard to care about finishing that damn revise and resubmit (no, I still haven't brought myself to work on it!) when you may be forcibly ejected from the profession and you don't particularly want to have one random, badly-finished article under your name if you're not going to do anything in that vein ever again.

Plus, I just had to go get my car tuned up and have a new mysterious rattle inspected, and my laptop/plug had troubles again, which they blamed on the cord having a short after they fiddled with the battery. I'm thinking it was the battery and it just was on its best behavior while they were there, but I bet it will be back to causing trouble soon and I'll need to replace it. I got a new cord at their suggestion. (PSA: generic products for Apple seem to have more problems. OTOH, cats find the original Apple hardware to be chewier and tastier.) All of these big expenses, while I can handle them, just remind me of how my rent is scheduled to go up in December and my loans start coming due then, and how I had planned to get some sort of second job to help pay for those after christmas break, and now I am depressed and thinking that some sort of dishwasher/slavery job is going to be too hard to get, never mind the hooking.

Looking on the bright side, my cat has just climbed up on my lap to purr at me and it is making me feel slightly better. Maybe I shouldn't eat them quite yet.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A disappointment and some musings

Well, I've been updating info on my little sidebar all about job applications over there (no, there, look on the right side), and I guess I'm going to have to add a new line of information: job searches I've already applied for that are now canceled. Sigh.

I may have to start seriously thinking about what sort of alternative plans I would consider. I've been talking with the kids a lot about what going to college is for and what they think about doing afterwards, and so I've been really thinking lately about the way work, and pay, and career, and vocation, and satisfaction all get connected up with each other, or don't. It's strange ---- the thought that your work that you get paid for should be somehow satisfying and fulfilling must be a very recent invention, and a very classed one. It's certainly not something that ever comes up in Dickens, say, or The Jungle. And yet it's something I have totally taken for granted as necessary, and that assumption, I think, is part of why so many bright undergrad English majors head off to grad school, after having had a college experience that is (and is supposed to be) deeply rewarding and fulfilling and full of personal growth. Perhaps we need to think more of how to prepare our students for thriving out in a world and a job that doesn't necessarily have those qualities. How to create them, perhaps, when they aren't already there.

I have some very sweet kids who want to someday write the Great American Novel, or, more terrifyingly, the Great American Poem. I keep telling them that if they really want to do that kind of work, they can't expect to get paid for it ---- that they should recognize they need to take some sort of job that will pay enough bills that they can concentrate on what they truly love, but that won't turn into its own career and suck up all their creative energy away from their vocation. Thinking about it, I realize that I've been insisting that intense ambition and secure pay and fulfillment and career progress must be all wrapped up in a single job, when I can so clearly see how on the creative or performance side that is a very limiting way of thinking about things. I guess now I need to consider if breaking these apart into separate aspects grants me any additional flexibility. And that would entail breaking apart and answering the question "what do I want to do" with much more specificity. Hmm. I'm going to have to do more mental chewing on this.

PS I did work on my revisions for an hour before posting this, so I'm not being a total reprobate with my Friday. Also, I hate tupperware, especially when it disgorges leftover soup all over my backpack. Grr.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A quick post in honor of having done some work today

So a couple days ago I went on campus to use the laser printer and the letterhead for my never-ending pile of stupid applications, and this prof, who I've had some run-ins with before, had commandeered the grad lounge for his class. I think he's doing it for the whole quarter, but I'm not the most plugged in to the department these days, and besides, when someone posts a sign that says "Meeting in Progress" and lists times, my response is to barge in anyways and get my work done, but do it quietly. Because I'm dense like that, and really, it doesn't interrupt my train of thought at all. Oh, wait.

In truth, I was already in there last week before this class had started, and didn't connect it with the concept of a recurring class meeting in there weekly, and since I had a lot of errand-type stuff to do this time, I must have gone in and out of that room (unlocking the key code quietly) and up and down the hall to print and mail things about three separate trips.

The third time I come into the lounge, the prof turns to me and in a saccharine voice says, "Oh, I know why you're the only one who keeps coming in here! It's because you have to show off your fabulous boots!"




Except that's not what I heard at first.


Monday, November 3, 2008


Things are so busy here right now, and I anticipate things getting even worse tomorrow as I disintegrate into a little puddle of poll-watching angst that can do nothing besides hit "refresh" constantly.

But anyway, this is a little present for you all (inc. perhaps a certain lurker who loves cupcakes?) back from almost a month ago, when I was feeling stressed and decided to go read a novel in the park. After a couple hours reading, I decided I was hungry, and, fuckit, was just gonna say screw the calories and the diet I never seem to really be following and try out a new place in town that sells nothing but cupcakes. Freshly made ones.

I was a little dubious about 3 bucks for just one little cupcake, but it tasted very fresh (esp. the lovely mocha coffee bean icing!) and hit the spot nicely. I still need to go back and try the red velvet cake ones, which are their specialty. I sat and read for another hour or so outside the "cupcakery" (I am now in love with this word!) and felt wonderfully relaxed, more than I had in a while. Too bad it'll be another three months or something until I can take a little break like that again. Aigh! Back to the salt mines now! Send red pens, application stamps, and of course chocolate.