Friday, August 27, 2010



I am so organized I am color-coordinated! You all might implode from sheer jealousy at contemplating my powers of organization!

As you can see, I am working with my strengths and weaknesses: I need to have all the stuff for my classes together, but I'm not dedicated enough to file and organize them weekly. I am capable of keeping the sections separate and corralling all the stuff into one discrete pile, though.

So to help me with that, I got some nice big bins. Bins! I am happy. My anthologies and syllabi and scraps of papers and notes to myself are all inside already. And then I decided that since I teach all my classes on the same days, I needed those expandable file folders (the red and blue I owned already) to schlep all the papers to and from the classroom and still keep them distinct. The fact that the green one is not all green and has a pattern offends my sense of symmetry, but we can't have everything in life.

So those are the comp sections. It should be easier to keep track of all the quizzes and papers and whatnot if I only have to look through the ones for that section and not all 75 of 'em. I may even refer to my students as the blue class, the green class, etc. Team Red, anyone?

That means that Evil Class I Know Nothing About mentioned in an earlier post is now the Stripey Class.

Ta da.

It would probably be easier, theoretically, for me to switch over to assigning all work and picking it up over the internet, but I just really hate looking at essays online. I like the feel of paper and the ability to move from chair to couch to floor to outside to a different chair while grading, and when I have done online grading and my usual online reading and various procrastination sites, my eyes get so tired and headachy and dried out. And I'd still have lots of paper floating around because I'm going to do in-class quizzes and work, so I'm just keeping with my usual old methods for the present. Usual old methods with snazzy color-coordination, that is!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Parking is E at Postdoc City School

And that's not E as in "easy." Or "empty." Or "efficient."

There is faculty parking and student parking here. There is a lot of faculty parking near the buildings where I have an office and I teach. So I was confused when all the regulars around here would tell me there was lots of parking and then in the next breath tell me I had to get there super early in the morning to make sure I got a space. It wasn't until today that someone explained how things actually work, which is that faculty cannot park in student spots and vice versa, but students were going to park in all the faculty spots for the first month or so and get ticketed and/or towed, because the faculty spots are all much closer to the buildings.

Good to know.

I have also been appraised of the road leading in to campus that during the school year becomes a gauntlet of enraged foaming-at-the-mouth yuppie SUV drivers jockeying for a spot to drop their kids off at a private school, all flip-flopping madly between roaring along at top speed to get their Jadens and Cadens dumped off before they are late for work, and honking furiously at those other speeding drivers who are going far too fast and may damage the precious children once they are actually out of the car. Seriously. I have been told of an alternate route that, because of all the one-way streets around here, adds an extra 10 minutes on my commute time, but which will get me on to campus without approaching it from the side nearest me, aka Yuppie Death Trap. I have also been instructed to just not try and leave campus around 8:30 and 2:30.

Oooookay then.

So today was the first day I drove in that things were picking up and starting to get crowded. Up until this time, I would drive into a likely looking lot, (ooh alliteration!), tootle on down the aisle, and pull into a spot.

Today I pulled all the way down the aisle only to discover that it dead-ended. They all dead-end. Whether you see the black space or the white space of those E's as the aisles or the parking doesn't matter. You drive down the back of the E and then turn to go down one of the legs and there is no way to get directly to the next aisle. Who designed this? What about traffic flow? I am so confused.

So confused that I sat there for a second once I ran out of aisle. Then I started to back up and turn around but when the lots are full (particularly with big SUVs and extended-cab pickups) there isn't much room to turn a car around. It felt like this scene from Austin Powers:

Cue me throwing my car into reverse, going two inches, then into drive, then all over again, all the while cussing to myself and saying, "didn't I move away from CA so I wouldn't have to deal with this?"

Except when the lots are full and plenty of people are coming on campus, you know what happens? Yes! Someone else pulled into the same aisle and pulled up right behind me. So for a second I couldn't do anything, and then I had to wait while that car just backed straight up the aisle a ways, and then I had to do some more throwing the car around, except this time with much more anxiety because I had an audience and I have paranoid fears of being called an idiot and bad driver (I hate parallel parking when there is anyone in the car or even around to watch), and then, once I was turned around, I had to wait a minute while the driver who had blocked me in figured out what I was doing and why and then turned around.

And of course, then someone else pulled into the aisle. This story could go on forever, but luckily that car had only just turned and could just make a wide turn back out. I don't think backing up the whole length of the aisle would be feasible or safe. And seriously, who the hell designed this space? Bizarre. I shake my head disapprovingly.


In other news, I seriously burned my mouth on an overly-hot crispy chicken sandwich today when I was out for lunch with some people. Ow. Or as someone who's burnt their tongue might say: sneef drab bloof floohfb!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Procrastinating from course prep with more prepping

Hmm. People, I am confused. No wait --- I am tired and don't want to think about composition courses any more. Waaaaah!

Ok, got that out of my system. Not so much confusion as thinking, then. I have been going through all my old computer files, trying to find comp-related stuff that I can reuse with little prep. I like that idea. I mean, basically my MA program totally exploited my eager youthfulness, having me teach several huge comp classes that I slaved over and put way too much thought and effort into (teaching myself how to teach at the same time), so any full-scale writing workshops or exercises I can reuse saves me time and makes up for those many lost weeks and months back during my MA.

But I'm having a bit of worry about my new place --- clearly my pet peeves are thesis statements and using quotes correctly. I have lots of work on those topics and by the end of my MA had developed entire class session exercises that I revisited across the semester. But the dept. emphasis and guidelines here is much more focused on writing paragraphs and we build up to essays by the end of the semester. And they do not have my insistence that students must always be responding to or incorporating a text. (Hence, the preponderance of memoir and "personal essays" in the damn anthology.) And, what really worries me, they don't emphasis the development and writing of thesis statements until the next semester, when they introduce research. Whaaa?

First of all, it feels like their version of "first semester fresh comp" is what I recognize as the developmental course one step below the first semester comp. And secondly, it's my opinion that since writing a thesis is a hard concept for students to wrap their heads around, they need a lot of practice and many exposures to the process, not holding off until other parts of their writing and critical thinking abilities have caught up. I endorse the method of having students try to produce thesis statements, knowing they will suck at it for at least most of that whole semester, and just building that into the structure of the course. So they may have to do it in their first essay, but the grading criteria won't count an imperfect thesis under a failing grade.

So I'm not quite sure how much I'm going to conform to their guidelines and how much I'm going to reuse my stuff --- on the one hand, they know these students and I don't yet, but on the other hand, I worked at a place with similarly unprepared students and have pre-existing lesson plan stuff at hand! Unfortunately this may mean that I still need to do massive prep for the beginning of the semester and am kinda set for later on. Humph.

And also, I need stuff for "how to write a paragraph." So if anyone has any pre-set handouts, workshops, exercises, or sample paragraphs that look good/totally suck, I wouldn't mind the help. I took a sample essay from one of those "take an essay, leave an essay" websites for practice peer reviewing (and showed them why they don't want to plagiarize utter crap); I guess I need to go back again and do that for paragraphs. Sigh. Why can't I just watch bad tv instead?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dude, this whole adulthood and responsibility thing is a real bummer

This week I did a lot of orientation and benefits-type stuff. I am so glad to be in a position where they give me some benefits along with a piddly little salary, but having to deal with all these signs of maturity is also a bit depressing. And confusing.

This, then is the second in my series of posts about how a postdoc is and is not like a tenure-track job. The first one was this response to Tenured Radical's post about finances as a new professor. Being the only one or one of a handful of postdocs in a new faculty benefits meeting is weird. I'm here but I don't really feel like a grownup or a member of this community. New faculty, on the other hand, see this place as their new home, as a place they may be staying until retirement. It was kinda strange hearing about the history of the university, the location, little squibs of details about past politics, and just flushing it out of my brain because I'm not going to be here for long.

On the other hand, it was interesting watching people negotiate their benefits --- some of them are more interested than others in portability. I can tell you who is looking forward to staying here and who is already thinking about venturing off again, and some of the people I talked to (or overheard behind me) have spouses who are not happy to be in this state. Which is funny, cause one of them told me this and I asked where this person had done the PhD and I don't see that state as any different from this state. Could be a close-to-family issue, I guess.

I was glad there was another postdoc in the room so that I could trade off the question "is this transferable out of state?" This means I will take the alternate retirement plan that moves instead of a state pension, which pays off better, but I know I will be moving out of here.

Then we had to discuss the depressing details of naming a next of kin, dealing with short term or extended sickness, or getting hurt on the job. You know, after watching last season of Mad Men, accidental death or dismemberment is a strong likelihood even in an office setting:

Now I have a stack of paperwork as thick as a phonebook that I have to read through and sign various things, and decipher the difference between two arcane health plans and choose one, and find all the piddly little personal-ID details to fill out the rest of these things, and then make an appointment to turn this all back in to the HR lady. Gah.

And each thing I sign up for will make my little take-home check a little bit smaller still. I'll do the 401K match, of course, since I've never had one before. But my monthly parking pass gets automatically deducted, too, and each little thing nibbles away at my paycheck and changes my budget.

You know, there's a way in which ignorance really is bliss. Just like the one up side of having no money is that doing taxes is a breeze, the one good bit about working jobs that pay nothing beyond an hourly wage is that you don't have to think about all this crap. And what's frustrating is that, since this is a postdoc, I'm going to have to deal with a new and different pile of bureaucratic crap in a year or so. It's not that I'm not glad to finally have benefits. It's just that, like the prospect of my death or surviving cancer or loss of limb or the number of employable years I have left, thinking about it is kind of a downer.

Friday, August 20, 2010

In Which I Grumble About Comp Anthologies

*(Note: This is not a post in which I am declaring my hatred of composition classes or my unfitness to teach or anything else that needs to be psychologized or changed. If you remember back to when I was writing about my research, these long posts are ways of figuring out what I think so that I can then move through and beyond the dilemma. I'm still pissed at the way youall responded to the decorating posts so if you don't want to play the game, shut up.)

Long perusal of comp anthologies through teaching and tutoring and trying to create sample syllabi from publishers' websites or for job applications has taught me that I don't hate all comp anthologies equally. Though I do hate them all. In an ideal world I would have the time and liberty to create exactly the readings and syllabus I want and have somebody bind it up in a way that was convenient and cheap for freshmen. In a slightly-better-than-reality world I would be allowed to choose an anthology that I had already taught from or developed a syllabus for. In the present situation, I am told that because the departmentally-chosen anthology is very expensive, I should supplement it as little as possible to save money for the students. Sigh.

Trying to make a syllabus with this anthology has taught me that I like to teach "sequences." I teach content as a way of learning about writing; maybe this is "writing within a discipline" (I certainly have serious complaints about the whole "writing across the disciplines" approach) and you could probably cite a lot of pedagogical research about why this is bad, but I find it has a lot of advantages. (Side note: I saw a couple panels on the last MLA convention program about "writing without content" or --- wait, it might have been phrased differently; it was writing only about writing --- and this may be trying to be the next big pedagogy fad. I would need a lot more selling on the idea before I believed it.)

When I teach sequences, I like to provide a lot of content. And this is very specific content. What I find is that students just don't know enough about any topic, no matter how accessible, to really develop interesting papers and ideas. And the more limited the views on this topic, the harder it is to get them to see beyond the Point-Counterpoint television debate style, where there are precisely two opinions and then you end your essay with the statement that these positions have both similarities and differences and it is up to someone else (or each individual) to decide about them. Moreover, I like my topics to be very focused. And I like to assign a lot of types of readings --- both news articles that give the 5Ws and encyclopedia articles that give the facts as well as various argumentative or policy pieces.

For example, a really nice sequence would be the CA budget mess and how this is affecting students. (Yes, I teach from a pretty soc-science standpoint, which is another way I am at odds with most of the depts./other teachers I have run up against. I think it's easier for younger and inexperienced students to grapple with a fairly concrete rather than abstract or philosophical problem. Or fiction.). But back to the example ---- look, my students come up with really stupid and uniformed knee-jerk responses to the budget crisis unless we spend a significant amount of time on the background: how does the budget get set? how does our government work? what has been happening in the news about it in the last year or so? Then, because we are taking a pretty in-depth look, we can start to discuss the political and philosophical leanings of the various opinion and solution articles with some real nuance ---- if we read moderate and liberal and far left responses, I have no problem with them also reading libertarian and far right responses too. And I think it does them much more good to be able to distinguish between all these different positions. They come up with solutions and proposals that are much more feasible. And if they are able to say, "hey! I agree with the Libertarians! Maybe I'm a Libertarian!" then, hey, they are able to articulate their political positions rather than just having an inchoate mush of contradictory opinions, so, yay.

This book claims to have sequences, but does not. "Identity" isn't really workable to me as a sequence. And then I get very antsy about teaching a piece about why there should be no affirmative action or why we should be post-identity politics when the "liberal" pieces in that "sequence" are not responding to the same topic, but may be, I don't know, affirming Latina feminism or talking about family and the Moynihan report. Since my students have no context for any of these topics or rationale for why we are even talking about stuff like race or politics or family and social structures, I have to either do a lot more of the work providing context in class (which takes valuable time away from teaching how to write and do revision) or leave the students with a very partial understanding of the topics, and of why we write essays in response to these topics, which are not usually about responding to one essay in a vacuum or comparing apples and oranges about theme Y. But this one goes, "Identity!--- everyone has one but let's not talk about why we are reading these essays together!" to "Science! --- here are a lot of unconnected topics from different disciplines that have no connections!" to "Government! --- everybody has one! So let's throw together famous writings on government from the whole history of the entire planet!"

Grumble. You know, I hate teaching "ethics and cloning" but I'd rather have five essays on that topic than one on women in science, one on evolution, one on paradigm shifts and the discovery of relativity, and one on global warming. Each of these topics has a debate associated with it, but when you can't teach the different sides of the debate, you can't really get across how there are a variety of positions in this debate. Each article becomes "the" stance on this position, and because the teacher has assigned it, the teacher must agree with/like that position, and therefore I, the student, had better agree with it and give the teacher what she wants.

Similarly, if you teach a bunch of "identity essays" with every type of identity except the one the majority of your students will identify with but don't explain why the class is taking this focus and why one studies minority and excluded identities, you are just setting up the class for more resentment and conflict than you need. And since this anthology's preface just goes "ooh let's all write identity essays!" and that is the end of the story, you're asking for students to write about themselves without interacting with these different perspectives in a serious way. Granted, I'm coming at this as someone who is in pretty much every mainstream identity group, but I always responded better when someone explained the reasons why we were going to learn all about people who were different from me. And while we're on the subject, why are we reading personal essays in the first place? And why does anybody require them in comp??? It's not like any of the rest of their college classes will be asking them to just write about themselves and not interact with a text, so I don't see why this is standard here, or anywhere. The last place I worked had a focus on personal narrative for the non-credit writing class just below freshman comp, and I think I like that better.

And furthermore, I would like to point out that the vast majority of freshmen finishing their year of comp are still not ready to read in their disciplines because they have not read any articles from them. Oh no. No no no. Even most of the "discipline-specific" anthologies I have looked at do not have your standard twenty-page academic article in them --- they have popular writings on a topic from the discipline. Sure, assigning students articles from The New Yorker or Slate or Salon or The Atlantic is fine, but it's not actually familiarizing them with academic writing conventions. The introduction to Nickel and Dimed or Convergence Culture is waaaay watered down from what the students will encounter in their sophomore major courses ---- unless everyone has switched over to textbooks without any footnotes already except for senior courses? Hmm. I always found that when I taught in the other departments my students had a very hard time navigating the methodology and lit review sections of academic articles --- their usual recourse was to just not read that part --- and looking at these anthologies I kinda feel like they are part of the problem. Although my students generally have a difficult time reading the three-page opinion pieces from The New York Times published in the comp anthology, so maybe the answer is that there needs to be an additional reading/writing course for students in their major, after completing comp 101 and 102.

So having gotten that out of my system, what am I going to do for all my essay sequences when I can only find three and am only interested in two? Hmm. I may stick very heavily to the anthology for the first half of the course and start bringing in more outside things for them to read for the ending sequences. I've still got my back up about the idea of having them read a bunch of personal essays and then write their own, though. Bleah. Well at least now that I've got that out of my system I can go back to reading through this anthology without throwing up. Gah.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I still have recycling in my trunk

but at least I have been out and about: yesterday I was invited to lunch with a director of a Related Program, and that was pleasant; I need to figure out how to participate in a way that is useful to them and to me and won't take up too much of my time. But even better, this person seemed very nice and chatty, so I may even be able to work this into a semi-regular socializing time. Not too often; I understand what running a big program is like. But maybe another lunch or so this semester, plus whatever other social activities I work up with other people, and things will look good.

Today I went exploring and visited a Historical Site. I was going to say it was a Famous Historical Site but, eh, after visiting it I'm not sure it rates three capital letters. You know how there's George Washington's house and then there are old inns or buildings from that time period and they know he once ate there? Well, this place was a notch below that. I should have gotten off my butt earlier because it was already very hot once I got there, but otherwise it was pretty. I was going to cross it off my list (I bought a local guidebook and I promised myself I'd play tourist a lot this year) but they have some fall events where people run around in old-timey costumes and do old-timey things, so I might be back.

There is potential for hikes around here but since I don't know how to carry the air-conditioning unit outdoors that's going to have to be on hold --- possibly for a very long time. Does it ever cool down around here? I sure hope so. Also, the bugs --- I am not pleased with the mosquito situation here. I had a lot of bites around my knees and now I have a whole bunch more, and it feels like they are more itchy than I remember from summer camp. They are also staying for longer, as I don't remember still being woken up in the middle of the night by bites itching four days later. Sigh. And do I need to be checking myself for ticks or whatever? I walked around in tall grass. Ick! I am not used to having to think about this crap.

I am also not used to the ways of the air conditioning. I have it on 78 and it comes on a lot. Is my bill going to be enormous? Should I set it higher? It feels fine downstairs, too cool even, but upstairs is stuffy and I have been having trouble sleeping at night. Plus, I have a ceiling fan which does wonders for circulating the air down here, but doesn't seem to help with the hot upstairs. And it is on "high" but I was unable to reach the little switch up by the blades, even standing on the chair. It knocks papers off the coffee table and makes directly underneath way too cold.

Unfortunately I think my cats are terrified of the fan, and that is partly why they only come out at night when I go to bed. Sigh. I don't know what to do about that --- I would like them to not live on top of the cabinets like they do. *scratches head.* I worry about them, and they are getting thin looking ---- they do eat every day, but not as much as they have been. I don't know how to entice them to spend the days out of their hiding place. Or to not fear the ceiling fan. I guess I could turn it off, but right now that also means having no living room light. Hmm. Sigh. Any advice would help.

I also spent this afternoon on a "study date" --- "prep date"? I dunno --- where I worked on Evil Syllabus I Know Nothing About with one of the other postdocs. She has more stamina than I do; I pooped out around 4 and she didn't look up to talk about leaving until way after 5. So the good news is that I kept working, although desultorily. And I am actually a little surprised about how slowly it's going. Syllabi really can suck up all available time. But the good news is that the other postdoc got a lot done and mentioned she was feeling a little stir crazy doing all that moving and unpacking, so she is very amenable to having more of these work meetings and social meetings. All of which is grand. There was a random guy who was working on his laptop and who interrupted us to ask questions about what we were doing and what teaching was like while we were there, but I guess that's going to be par for the course here.

Speaking of which, I have been spoiled by the concept of coffeeshops ---- there really is a multitude of options in Gradschooland, most of which are delicious and locally-owned. Here we had to drive into the next town over to meet up at the Starbucks. Can there really be nothing near the school? I will continue my quest, but I think this may not be a place with coffeeshops. Heresy! I have a lot of adjusting to do.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Off the Grid

Arrrrrgh! I hate this place! And you all are not being very helpful! I rage at the world!!!!!!

I hate it when I'm out all day and can't even get started on my to-do list. Stupid place. I have groceries, true, but I still have a car full of recycling and I have been driving around all. day. Plus I could easily pack my entire car full of more recycling still in the house and might have some left over.

A little background: most cities west of the Mississippi are planned communities and are set up on a grid system. If you know any architects or urban planners, like some of my relatives, you will hear much kvetching about the suburbanization/homogenization of America, the increased reliance on cars, the lack of any local community or acknowledgment of local culture and topography, etc etc. And back when I lived in the stultifying and rational realms of the planned grid communities back in California, I would have completely agreed with you.

But this place isn't on no fucking grid. My street? Well, the name of my street, which is named after an Indian tribe, I'm told, traverses almost this whole place, yet it goes from a one-way to a two-way to a couple different dead ends back to a one way back to a two-way right around my place and furthermore shows up on a totally random corner of my map, nowhere connected to the rest of this street and facing the other compass orientation (ie e-w instead of n-s). No wonder when I do my google maps on my phone and then try to map it again to go home it gives me a completely different set of directions --- I have learned the hard way (as in, suddenly I'm getting off the freeway in a different city) that I can't simply retrace my steps back home. My street is the norm not an exception, here. And they have this stupid habit of giving everything a name and fifteen different state and interstate numbers, so the signs are crazy, especially if your eyesight is at all off.

And this doesn't mean that the place has all sorts of wonderful local culture, either. It's all chain stores. It just means that you can't make a left into the Target; you have to make a right, cross some sketchy train tracks and ease your way across a gravel field before you u-turn back onto the service road and then make a right into the big T. Trust me, everyone is doing this, it is not just me. Except for the first time I tried to make a left there and discovered the lack of an entrance too late and I had to go another twenty miles before the road became the type where you could make a left turn into something. (If I had a truck, life here would be easier. But my little car isn't going to make it across one of those grassy median thingys.) Don't even get me started on onramps that make you stop and wait for a light before trying to merge from a dead stop in fifty feet or so.

Ugh. So I just called the recycle people and they confirmed that there are bins for dropoffs near the power board. I already had to go to the power board building to turn on my electricity because you have to do that sort of thing in person here and with a zillion different types of picture id, and that day I must have driven up and down Old Dude Road fifty zillion times before discovering that I was a half-mile off and that was why I couldn't see it. (Love their directions, grr.) So today it was quite easy to find the power place ---- I have memorized not only the order of all the stores but their address numbers ---- and I drove around it a couple times but didn't see any sort of thing labeled "recycling." Grr. So I went off to the grocery store and now I must go back and try again tonight or tomorrow. Maybe the bins will show up on google street view.

After bringing back my groceries and making myself an heirloom tomato basil and mozzarella salad (tasty! though, missing something --- do I usually make it with lemon?) I ventured back out again for the used furniture stores, of which I had a list of 5. I found 2. Grr. I have no fucking clue where the others are; once again I was lost and circling except you can't circle or turn around very easily in that part of town. And the directions at one point had me getting on an on ramp and circling around the cloverleaf (ooh look! there's actually one cloverleaf in town!) and not getting on the freeway but spinning off onto a different street perpendicular to the first one. Then the directions were all "you're there!" but there actually wasn't anything around for a few streets and then by the time I was able to pull in somewhere and check again google maps was saying I had overshot by five miles. Is this the mysterious bermuda triangle of furniture stores? I have no fucking clue.

And the used furniture stores, I think, are just not going to be an option. Like I said once before, the people around here are like me and don't throw anything away until it has been used hard. I'm not buying anything that's broken. And if I'm going to get something that is cheap laminate and only held together by staples and wood glue, I'm going to buy the new version of it at Target instead of the used one at Cog's Crazy Deals.

I found an office repo place that had some more promise (couldn't find anything on the school web site about selling surplus or used furniture), but I didn't really like any of the stuff for the price. This guy had a lot of nice older desks in that chippendale or queen anne style (one of which had bicentennial celebration papers lining the drawers!) but I don't really like that style, with the dark wood and the leaf-drawer-pulls. And he was asking in the 500 dollar range for the nice ones with working drawers (huge! executive style desks with a massive overhang so you can have someone sign deeds or whatever across from you!) And that's not counting delivery and getting the stuff up the stairs. When I told him I where I wanted it delivered he just excluded five or six of the desks completely as not options. If it's not too heavy he'll hire people to get it up my stairs for me --- but that will cost extra. And once we're in this price range for something that is not new and that I don't love, now I'm balking at the idea. Which then leads back to square one, only with me more grumpy.

At this point I'm pretty set on just grabbing some sort of cheap crap from the Target or the Sam's Club or the Office Depot around here, just because I have successfully managed to get there and back before and know where they are. Either that or have something shipped to me. That way I won't have to leave the fucking house.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Answer my questions, oh Internets!

I've unpacked a lot of things and can't find some stuff. Like my shower curtain rings. Seriously, where are they? Anybody have any idea? I've been taking baths and running my hair under the bath tap to avoid showering the entire bathroom with water. I remember taking them down right after I folded the shower curtain (which I have found in the laundry basket I packed in the storage cube) and then I packed them away, but where? My sister thought I put it in the toolbox, but they aren't in there. A puzzle.

And sadly, some of my stuff was damaged in transit --- I think the loading was messed up. When they put my desk in, they slid the wardrobe box I packed underneath it. But then they loaded a whole bunch of book-filled boxes on top of the wardrobe box which had nothing but clothes in it, and it crushed. The clothes were fine, but that meant that the boxes didn't stay in a grid; instead they tilted and crushed and slid around and poked into other things. So I flattened and saved almost all the boxes, but are they worth it? Are boxes with crushed corners or sides (I'm tossing any with rips) actually reusable?

Not only that, but I didn't pack a lot of the smaller, weird-shaped stuff, and they just threw it all on top once the piles got over our head height. And some of that sliced open boxes, and some of it got ruined. Sigh. Like the shades of my lamps --- the two floor lamps, and even worse, this shiny brushed-metal fancy desk lamp I really liked. So now the question is, do I toss these lamps? I have some overhead lights so I don't really really need them, but the whole idea of moving and then throwing them away irks me. And the metal desk lamp was really nice and actually cost a fair amount of money. But it has big dings in it (rrr!) and a little glass cover for the halogen broke. I don't even know if it works, or how to get the dings out if it does work.

And the cheapy dresser I bought for 10 bucks from Target back when I started grad school smashed. My only regret is that now I've got to get another one.

I need to get a tv stand --- right now the tv is on top of the coffee table --- but I haven't been able to decide what I want yet. And I need to decide whether to save or recycle the tv box. Ideas? For either what I want to put the tv on or whether it's worth it to save the box. I have filled the entire spot where the washer and dryer would go with boxes. I haven't decided about getting a washer dryer yet, but today I went to an unairconditioned laundromat and did four loads (and folded the hot laundry!) in unbearable heat, which certainly caused me to lean toward getting my own. I need to reorganize in there whether or not I get the w/d, and either get rid of some or make sure they are flatter, or maybe move them in the thing where the air cooling unit is ---- except I'm worried about them being a fire hazard then. This is a really disjointed and confusing post, all over the place, right?

Eh, it's how my head has been the past few days ---- lots of rushing about and not getting my to-do lists done and much hauling of heavy boxes here and there. I need to find the recycling drop off place (which may not actually take recycling; I kinda doubt it) and get groceries and then do a bunch more stuff with the rental managers and also do a lot of stuff on campus ---- aigh! That's not even counting the piles of more stuff I need to unpack and haul around and organize and prettify all over the apartment. Busy, busy, busy. I think I originally had some more questions for you, but I don't remember them. Shows how well I write posts while the tv's on.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Et cetera, et cetera

Ok, so I decided to start reading The Corrections (about 8 years after I bought the book) on the trip out and realized almost immediately that this was a terrible idea. Terrible! It is the Most Depressing Book Ever. Especially if you have a father with health issues or want to be a professor. Who was looking for representations of lit professors? Here's another depressing one. I don't really need to hear about people landing a tenure-track job and promptly having a mental breakdown and self-sabotaging. Yeah, it's kinda horrifying. Beautifully written, yes, and Franzen does a really wonderful job of portraying those family conversations/fights that clearly have a history and everyone is locked in their old bad habits and fighting past battles. I'm about halfway through and I have to keep taking breaks every twenty pages.

In other news, I noticed something weird with my bedroom closets ... they don't have clothes rods. Aroo? I am confused. Should I be providing my own closet rods like with the curtain rod for the shower? I think I will call my landlord people on Monday. That just seems weird. I mean, it's not like I have any clothes to put away in there at the moment, but still.

I continue alternating between pondering and planning and not thinking about it and obsessively looking at various stuff out in the stores for my bathroom. I bought a deep purple hand towel and put it in the bathroom and am now contemplating it. I know that's totally different from a pale green, but purple is way too over the top for painting entire walls of a small room, and the pale colors I think wouldn't give enough "pop" if they are only there in little bits. Ponder ponder ponder.

Speaking of my shower curtain rod .... I had the thought that I could put color on the little bath walls by using a spring-tension rod and some fabric material? Or would that look too random and crazy to have basically the equivalent of a window treatment inside a windowless bathroom? Hmm. I was also thinking of getting an old open frame (window or picture) and backing it with colored paper or fabric (and black wrought-iron designs on top of it). I'm still pondering.

And my other dilemma is the office: I seem to be too picky about desks. Either that or desks today all suck. I believe it is the latter. I don't want much: a large space to spread out on and drawers. Why does everything on sale today not have any drawers or storage space? I am also wary of assemble-it-yourself crap from places like Target et al; I have a long history of getting that stuff and it has holes drilled in the wrong places or doesn't hold together very well or has gaps and crooked spots. And don't suggest Ikea; there aren't any in my state and I know from the past that shipping furniture from Ikea runs in the hundreds of dollars, and I'm not up for that. I should go to the Officemax or Office Depot and contemplate their desks but I haven't done that yet.

You'd think that moving up in cost to the fancy catalogs would solve the problem, but I'm not sure. Definitely still have the lack-of-drawers problem. Grumble. I looked at the Crate and Barrel stuff and just didn't like it; I'm not loving the white furniture either. I looked at the "modular filing system" stuff from Pottery Barn and liked the idea, but then I totaled up the cost and thought it didn't look nice enough for the price. Hmm.

I haven't looked at the used furniture places yet, but I'm not sure they will have desks. Nobody is selling desks around here on craigslist. There was even an article in the local paper today about how the current trend is for built-ins and having people do carpentry for your home office, partly in response to the lack of good bookshelves and furniture, but also contributing to the furniture places not having good stuff. Meh. I even thought of getting a used kitchen table and separate storage instead of a desk, but I don't think that would have the right height to work at. Clearly I must ponder and obsess more. Oh, and I have big wonderful plans for the bookshelves, and want them to work with whatever sort of desk thingy I get. Hmm. More pondering is ahead. Should I be hauling ass on my research projects right now instead? Nahhhhhh!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Space Suggestions

Ok, I'm watching tv and hanging out, watching bad programs with one eye on the tv and one on the computer. Yay. And since someone was nagging for pictures even before I got my stuff or internet, I'm posting yet again, uploading some pictures and asking for advice about decorating.

Look, I have another bathroom to decorate! It's all white and blank and a lovely fresh slate:

I had this great idea to paint the room a celery or mint green and putting up some strong black and white cutouts, like these patterns, and add some more silver touches.

But then I reread my renter's agreement based on the warnings of my sister and discovered that I am not allowed to paint anything. Le sigh.

Below is my bedroom, decorated in a lovely minimalist "absent-moving-vehicle" motif:

And what's this? The exact same room from another angle? Why no! It's the future site of my wonderful and amazing office. Currently it is a cat-carrier storage site.

Boo-yeah! That is closet space, baby! I know juuuuuuust what to do with it. This is one space I don't need advice on arranging.

And look, a staircase! I haven't even started thinking about planning pictures and decorating plans for this space.

But not all is perfect at the new Chez Cog. The landlord pointed out that when the builders installed the vinyl flooring, the notes they made on the back side bled through:

Ah well. So I guess I need some suggestions for things to cover some arrows --- teeny area rugs, maybe? --- as well as any ideas about interesting decorating schemes.


At last, I have internet! And cable! Now I am just waiting for them to deliver my couch today. Which is good, as we're looking at my stuff not getting here until Tuesday. Tuesday?!?!?!?!?! Sigh. At least I can fix all my online account stuff now.

Updated: And now I also have my couch. Ahhhhh! I can sit here and be comfortable while I surf the web and watch my bad tv. I probably should be dealing with planning classes or unsticking my stuck article, but, eh. I'm going to order pizza tonight instead.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Space, the Final Frontier

My cats hate it here. They hate me. They have managed to wedge themselves between the top of the fridge and a decorative molding and hide themselves and they do not come out. I have finally figured out that they are hiding from all the exposed open space of my empty apartment, which makes them very nervous. However, they come out as soon as it is night and I have turned off all the lights (which I didn't the first night) and they do not seem scared at all, so I figure it is that they either can't see how big and open the space is or they are trusting in the cover of night to conceal them. Whichever it is, they are very lively and affectionate and not afraid at all, which is causing difficulties with the family members who accompanied me and want to sleep, and are not used to cats traversing them in the middle of the night. Don't ask about how the cats, family, and hotel rooms went together. It was bad.

The good news is that I have way more space than I know what to do with here. The bad news is that I don't have the money to really fill it. But I am having fun decorating at least mentally, planning out things and color schemes.

The other bad news is that my stuff is not getting here until at least next week. There was some type of problem getting the cube sent out from California? Oh really? I am not amused. I have to do a bunch of errands like get the electricity in my name and other stuff today, and I may go buy a tv and sign up for cable as well as internet, just because otherwise I have nothing to do in my empty apartment. (I'm currently going to a chain cafe place for breakfast and internet and that is where I am writing this blog post right now. Otherwise I'm sneaking bits of internet access from my phone, which is not really working.) Of course, I might not be able to get them in this weekend either, hence the tv and at least some access to network channels.

Also, my back really hurts. My sleeping bag and air mattress is not doing it for me, alas. The air mattress was new, a Christmas gift from my cousin, and I was so excited about it. I wonder if this means I am too old and soft and wimpy for camping any more. That would suck --- there are new places to camp here and I have hopes of finding people to go camping with me.

Ok, changing topics and going back to the space-i-ness, I also have space for washer dryer hookups, which I am in a dither about. I usually am in a dither about decoration and house planning plans, but it is a pleasurable dither. Do I go buy some washer dryer stuff? They are expensive, even if they are not the nice energy-saving top of the line. Do I rent them? There's a place around here called rent-a-center, which I had never seen in CA, but I wonder if it's like layaway or other rental schemes that are basically scams and you end up paying way more than the cost of the stuff. Do I just find some local laundromats and do like I have been in my old place? There don't seem to be any really close, but on the other hand, I kinda like the idea of not being responsible for washers and dryers breaking and leaking all over the place and whatnot. I don't know. Advise me.

Oh, and I got the two-bedroom place! Actually, I got a two-bedroom that is far off to the edge of town and under the airport flight path. But that just means that the rent is in my perfect budget range and gives me two bedrooms. I have big plans for that upcoming office space, people. Big wonderful plans. If, that is, my stuff ever gets here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Bug! Giant bug!!!! It was huge, huge! And this shiny iridescent metallic color! Like maybe it was mutant or radioactive or something! And it was aliiiiiiiiive!

Whoah. I didn't sign up for this. I don't know how I'm going to handle it here.