Saturday, July 30, 2011

The General August List

(or is that the August General List? Heh heh heh!)

- return to Postdoc Town and resituate (will have a sublist for this)
- finish teaching summer class (mid-month)
- finish a complete clean draft of article and show to Dr. Does Everything
- massive class prep:
  • update Fruit and Stripey class
  • revamp comp class completely due to new textbook
- update job materials yet again (will have a sublist for this)
- attend a party
- throw my own party, long promised
- orientation stuff (which might involve some parties, but nothing as rockin' as postdoc parties)

Anything else? Hmm.

- continue regular exercise
- avoid going crazy

Damn. That is a massive list.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

And there went my brain again

Ok, my brain officially melted, so I am taking a moment or two to socialize on the internets instead. I did pretty well working today --- almost three hours this morning and a couple hours this afternoon --- so I am ok with acknowledging that my brain is now currently speaking the equivalent of Smurf, where where "smurf" and "smurfy" get replaced by "things" and "interesting." It's kinda pointless to write a paragraph when the only analysis you can squeeze out of your brainmelt is that the passage is "interesting," no?

I'm not sure whether being depressed about my article was about my article or me getting fed up with staying at my parents' any longer, but I actually felt better when I wrote about it longhand. I also switched to writing longhand when I went back to peek fearfully at the article, so I think there is something important here about me needing to not be on the computer all the time, especially when doing a lot of activities that can be procrastinated on the internet. Teaching online was ok for getting me back to visit, but otherwise it's really not a good fit for me.

I realized that what I like about teaching is having a rigid schedule (yes, really!) that makes me dress up and get out of the house and then lets me interact with students in a classroom setting. Although I find classrooms and the whole speaking to students thing anxiety producing as well. But online teaching divorces you from any of that aspect and just has you evaluating their prose, which really holds no interest for me. So I would think long and hard before taking on a job like this again. Speaking of which, I get their next essays tomorrow and should really grade this past set of essays before then. Hmm, avoiding grading also helped my mood a lot.

Going back to my article, however, was also a big horrible shock. I read it all in one sitting from the beginning and realized that lots of it was crap. Ok, I knew that lots of it was still bolded or had four paragraphs from four different critical articles dumped into one spot still to deal with; that's fine. What I was shocked and horrified to discover was how crappy some of the "better" parts were. Like, why is this paragraph there? As in, in the article at all? My article is about how the aesthetics of nose-picking were influenced by legal treatises, let's say. Does this paragraph mention nose-picking? No. Legal treatises? Aesthetics? Anything related to my topic? WTF was I thinking??? Dammit!

Also, while I was throwing in tons of quotes in the close reading section, I was so totally in love with how great this text was that I had to quote eeeeverything even though no critical articles quote it so extensively. And rereading it after a break from it made it painfully clear how much this was overkill. ("And now I want to point out example number 212 of nose-picking in this text. Look at the delicacy and humor of this 212th example...") Ugh.

So I was disheartened and depressed and feeling like I was totally unable to produce any new or interesting work anymore and they were all right when I didn't get any job offers because clearly I can't hack it any where above a McDonalds' position. And I still think that about the article; my way of dealing with all these problems I found was to repress and ignore them. I still have plenty of places with bolded sections and "incorporate these two critics here after you find them" quotes, so I filled a few patches yesterday and I filled another couple patches today and I feel like I have made slight progress although really I have so many more of those pages left to do. Tunnel vision: a necessary academic survival skill! Although I don't know how I will feel when it is finally time to fix all the problems that my tunnel vision has introduced. Eh; deal with it later.

I had been depressed that I have a longing to go back to Postdoc City even though there is absolutely shit to do there and all my friends and family are out here, but managed to turn that around by reminding myself of what I really miss about CA. So I am sitting out in my backyard, writing and typing, after having spent the morning writing at a nice coffee place. I had been working indoors by the tv, but hey, I can do that back in Postdoc City! What I realize I really miss from here is working someplace, like my backyard, where it is so easy to move outside and inside. I can go inside for the bathroom, another book, snack, or just to stretch my legs and don't have to worry about packing up and watching over my laptop and everything I own. Ahhhhhhh!

I didn't even really have this at GradSchoolLand, since I won't leave my laptop and stuff unattended at a Peets or whatnot. It makes staying in the work zone a bit easier if you don't have to look at every bathroom break or move from the shade to the sun to back as a major trip that requires all your stuff. And I have no worries of mosquitoes! There are bees dancing all over the grass. They don't interfere with me, though.

I am a little bummed still that I hardly went anywhere or saw anyone this trip, but I don't have the money to rent a car and go visit GradSchoolLand and Friends, and all of my friends here near my folks are working full time, as is everyone in my family. Even my little nieces and nephews have jobs or summerschool. Which lets you know how "little" they are, eh? It makes me both want to and not want to move back here. Though I would love to have access to this backyard! But then I'd have too much access to my parents. Maybe I could build a shed back here and live in it. That way I could have both a beautiful yard and some privacy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sliminess of a more delicious sort

Ok, I have done all the grading required of myself today, and I finished it around noon! (Then I took some time off to lie around digesting while I looked at timewasters on the internet.) I should go work on my article or find something more interesting, recreation-wise, than sitting around on the couch with my computer.

Does anyone else here get those silly upscale catalogs? I kinda love them. Mom is on every catalog list known to mankind and she keeps them in a big stack by the fireplace. It's especially great cause everybody comes over and flips through them and orders last minute Christmas gifts (hence mom being on all the lists.) And they are often hilarious and entertaining.

Now, Williams-Sonoma. I admit I love looking at their catalog and pressing my nose up against the store window. If I had money, I would totally invest in some of their gourmet, high-quality knives. And their pots and pans are shiny. I like looking at their beautiful copper pans. I have no desire to cook in or polish copper pans, just to look at their pretty layout in the catalog. And to imagine I have a clifftop home with huge garden and kitchen full of copperware and somebody who actually gives a damn about polishing to do it for me.

But their latest catalog is all kinds of silly. Seriously, WS, are you planning on contributing to the obesity epidemic? Or to get people on to Hoarders? 'Cause I can't imagine people needing a gourmet popsicle maker and ice cream maker, bbq smoker that roasts an entire animal at once, home poptart/pastry baker or most of the other stuff you are pushing in the summer catalog. Unlike, say, a bowl, these all have very limited uses and take up a lot of space. And you could just buy the food --- unless you're going to roast a pig every couple days or make your own breakfast pastries or minidonuts every day, having your own equipment for it seems like overkill (and if you are making this kind of food everyday, and you aren't selling it at your restaurant, you are going to have some major health problems).

Likewise, I have always thought their highly-expensive-gourmet food was also kinda silly and overkill. Surely you have a place in town you can stop by and pick up good olive oil and sides of meat?


I just saw this.

Wait, you can make savory jams? Carmelized onions and balsamic vinegar? How interesting! I can think of a lot of sandwiches this would be good on. Or roast chicken. I wonder if this would be good as a topping on lentils with greens?

I think I'm going to need to go and research if there are onion jam recipes out there. Do you think it would be hard to make? Would I have to actually learn how to can, considering it's a preserve? I know nothing about canning jars and all that stuff and am overly freaked out about botulism.

If the time/difficulty ratio of making onion jam turns out to be too much (I am pretty impatient with chopping), the jar is only 9 bucks. On the one hand, 9 bucks for a jar of jam? On the other hand, oh my god I really need to taste this stuff. Onions!!!!!! Sweet, slimy, mushy caramelized onions!!!!! And balsamic vinegar. Yum.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Work, Slack, Slump, Recover (I hope), Slime!

All right. I hope that I will miraculously break back into productivity in a minute or two, but while I wait for something to change (maybe for lunch to be digested?) I will post here.

My list of accomplishments so far (no laughing at the pitifulness of the list):
  • yoga
  • wrote and uploaded final ss assignment
  • tracked down and graded and uploaded little pile of straggler assignments
  • checked school email (I had one angry "why did I fail back in spring?" email that I saw Saturday and was avoiding with dread. Answered it and all the other anxiety-producing angry summer session emails)
  • went out to lunch with dad
  • survived his terrible driving on the way home
  • graded reading assignment 6
The good news is that all of the instructions and assignments for the rest of the session are now posted. (The bad news is that all that is left is grading.)

What I have left to do:
  • grade assignment 7
  • grade assignment 8
  • grade essays
  • continue revising my essay
  • randomly: I have a skirt I wanted to fix the waistband of. I could do that in between all the computer staring time.
  • laundry? (maybe.)

I could write a post all about dad's health and bad driving, but would rather be slightly entertaining instead. And so I ask you: what is worse for you to encounter, scaly things or slimy things? I must clearly come down on the slimy side of things, as lizards are cute! And snakes, as long as they are not rattling at me and rearing to strike, don't bother me. But slugs, snails, slimy centipedes, or any other gooey things ----- ehweheheheheehehewh! (like "aaaaaaaaaaah," but with shuddering.)

What's your heebie-jeebie? Slimy or scaly? Take the poll!

Or tell me stories about the worst thing you found in your house/car/camping tent/boot.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


It must be time to go somewhere! Because I am bored of here.

Not that the idea of leaving the beautiful weather of California for the extreme hotness of Postdoc City and Practically Everywhere Else sounds like a good idea, but I am feeling bored and unwilling to do much of anything. Surely, I think, with my perennial case of Grass-Is-Greener-Wherever-I'm-Not, I would be able to do amazing amounts of research and get all caught up on my grading without any complaining if I was Somewhere Else! And my parents and their lifestyle at almost 80 are getting on my nerves. They are irritating me, but we haven't been exploding into any particularly bad fights this time around. I feel sorta like I'm under house arrest, but there isn't particularly anywhere I'd want to go, or have any money to spend while I'm there.

What I need is some way to refresh and rejuvenate all my summer goals, from health to research. I have managed to drop to one pound below my standard (too high) weight, and stopped. I think I would need to make some more major changes in terms of exercise to get anything more here. Mom and dad have finally put lots of fresh fruit in their diet, but we still eat very midwestern Better Living Through Chemistry. Like WonderBread and Velveeta and Minute Rice and Steak-umms on rolls. (Today we fried generic bologna slices and ate them on WonderBread with mustard. This was my favorite lunch growing up.) My mom hates cooking and came of age in the middle of the worst of 50s foods. Growing up, we'd eat this and maybe have a frozen or canned vegetable on the side, but mostly not. So the healthiness has improved a bit, until you look at the number of processed things we eat with HFCS as the second ingredient. I am taking walks, but it's hard to eat small enough portions to drop the weight. On the other hand, I have been good with my yoga exercise and might have done it regularly enough to make the habit stick!

Is this post too boring? I am afraid it might be too boring. Maybe pictures will help.

Here is a picture of fried bologna. Don't listen to the recipes on the internet that say you should add something healthy like a slice of tomato or onion! Real families only eat cheap meat and reprocessed bread, saving money so that they will be able to afford all sorts of pills to clean out their colons and allow them to digest food later in life. Don't mind me; I know I have issues with my family and food and class.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, rejuvination. I have not looked at my article since a week ago Thursday. I fear I have officially passed to the point where I do not remember where I'm at and feel guilty and try to avoid the article. Uh-oh. I must get back to it! I need to finish it and send it out before school starts! My deadline I set for myself is August 19!

Nope, that's not working. I still don't want to look at it. If anyone has any suggestions for how to make oneself look at an article again, to get oneself back in the groove, I'm all ears.

Here, have a picture.

Mom makes this too: apple raisin salad. But where the online recipes actually have ingredients, like sour cream or spices, she just thins the Miracle Whip with some milk and dumps it on the apples and raisins. Also, no celery ---- probably because that actually takes time to slice.

Well, if I can't energize myself into working on the article, I should at least do lots of my grading. Ha hah hah. Do you see me grading? Actually, I did grade one set of stuff and upload one instruction sheet yesterday, so if I do the same today, I'll be fairly caught up. Sigh. I'd rather eat my mom's food.

In other news, I thought for an instant about the fact that in August I will need to gear up for the market yet again, including figuring out when to pester my committee to actually update my letters, and I just about started to cry. It's too much to do! I really don't want to face teaching four classes again and updating and sending out all those damn job applications and continue plodding away on my research! Ugh, it is so upsetting I'm going to repress the thought entirely and put it out of my mind. Vooot! Gone.

The recipes for serving canned sauerkraut also confuse me, because they added ingredients! And stuff like salt and pepper! Don't you just dump the can into a saucepan and heat it for a few minutes? And where are the instant mashed potatoes? This plate is missing one third of dinner!

Anyways, if you have any advice for getting me off my butt and doing what I need to do, let me know. Until next time, I leave you with a video my niece told me about, and probably the only thing my family can think of to do with vegetables:

Friday, July 22, 2011


I have spent a pleasant afternoon doing what I absolutely should not be doing at this moment, which is planning Fall's Intro to Fruit Studies class. It is the same course as from Spring, but now I know how to teach it. At least more than I did. So I am avoiding getting ahead on my current class grading* by instead contemplating the many things I hated about the Fruit Studies course setup.

Now, the Fruit Studies People had no requirements (or even, guidelines) about how to teach Intro to Fruit Studies except that the students had to know this list of Important Figures in the Discipline; they have to take an exit test when they graduate if this is their major. My fellow postdoc who also taught Fruit Studies (both semesters while I only did Spring) decided to have students to class presentations and they each picked a figure and reported on his/her life and contributions. So I blocked out a week on my syllabus to have us do the same, and really hated it. My students, even more so than in my comp class, just aren't prepared for college or really know what it should be like, and I got really terrible presentations --- they ranged from completely incoherent and wrong to merely dull and stultifying. I told them they had to do something more interesting than powerpoint presentations and I wanted them to be imaginative and creative, and they all did bad powerpoint presentations instead. Having them fumble with the room technology and the powerpoint technology slowed us down and killed any momentum, and a lot of them couldn't ever get the PP program to work.

Maybe, just maybe, you could say this is an important skill for them to learn, as is public speaking, (they are a very insecure/shy and passive bunch, who don't know the ins and outs of being a good student or public figure) and I should accept that prepping them/grading them on doing good powerpoint presentations would be a good assignment. But the students themselves looked so bored, dozing off in each others' presentations, and one senior guy (not a FS major) even mouthed off about how boring and what a waste of time the week was for him. I didn't appreciate the rudeness or the attitude, but that was basically my experience of that week of presentations.

The other total clusterfuck was that I believed all the people who say "Fruit Studies is so interdisciplinary and collaborative! We should always have a student-centered pedagogy in our classes!" Bleah. I put in a "student facilitator" system where a different student would be on the spot to help lead the discussion or bring in some sort of interesting related material, and that totally bombed. Remember how I was complaining how none of my facilitators were showing up on the day they were supposed to go? Yeah that was all FS students. When they did show up, their "facilitation" was either to stand behind the podium and read off a summary of the readings from a powerpoint slide in a monotone, or something even worse that they hadn't really thought through --- like the person who brought in a 3-hour movie for a 1 hr 15 minute class and ate up my entire time. Even when they did show up their stuff usually conflicted with whatever I had planned, even though I warned them again and again to let me know their plans ahead of time.

So since they don't know how to facilitate a class or even participate effectively in one, and since I'm a total control freak in class and not knowing what my lesson plan is until after I walk into the room totally gets me all worked up, I'm dropping that aspect from the class. I'll revamp the discussion grade and really push for them to present their findings from the small groups. I can still have it be "engaging" by me finding interesting current event articles and working up a bunch of questions/problems they have to solve, since I actually try to think about the desired learning outcome.

My fellow postdoc was so angry and frustrated that entire first semester because the students just wouldn't talk and wouldn't read/bring their books that zie rewrote the syllabus to have reading comprehension questions and/or a quiz (announced in the syllabus) due every class session. I did not ---- mainly because I thought the questions in the book weren't very good but I didn't have time to make new ones ---- and I had mostly the same experience. So I am following Fellow Postdoc's footsteps and instituting regular homework and quizzes in addition to all the little assignments (5, a film analysis paper and a take-home final) I had before. I'm not sure where it all fits in the syllabus yet, and I haven't figured out how I am replacing the Famous Figures of FS presentation ---- add another paper? some sort of class wiki or online thing? Hmm.

Oh, and I still haven't added anything about Fruits and Finance! (remember me discussing some sort of "take charge of your life/responsibility/think bigger/don't be so passive" activity I wanted to teach these students? I can't find the post. But I still want to, I just don't know what that activity would be.)

And will going to constant little assignments/quizzes totally kill me in terms of workload? Would you? (Would you drop/rearrange/consolidate the larger assignments?) Would you actually read/grade them all or just hold on to them? Or just check/plus/minus them? (I admit that I hardly ever read the comp classes' in class paragraphs I was having them do every day. Oops. Mea culpa or something.)

So, to wrap up, in shorter form:
  • Presentations on Important Figures sucked. What would be a better alternative assignment, since the department requires I cover these figures in some way?
  • Setting up reading homework/quizzes for every class session: Good idea or madness and overwork? Is that madness and overwork for me or the students and does it matter?
  • How might you teach/set up a project/activity thingy to have your students be more ambitious and assertive about their own lives and life goals, whether financially, career, or something else? (In the comments to the post I can't find, we discussed the book Your Money or Your Life, which I agree opens up interesting discussions about why we work, and I want to do something with it/related to it.
  • Anything else you'd want to suggest? What's your favorite fruit?

*Oh, like you grade an assignment the day it comes in!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Internet Shopping and Bad TV

Hello. I'm indulging. I watched Glee tonight, despite not being too into it, simply because it's a show on tv in the evenings that isn't Law and Freakin Order. Glee's growing on me. I don't like what I call "identity work" shows, where flat and unbelievable characters serve as viewers' fantasy identifications: is this who I am? is this who I am? is this who I am? Pffft. Soap operas and teen shows, usually. And any shows that have a glamorous career that is never covered in favor of the banal doubts of the main character. And Glee totally has that, along with silly conflict and completely unrealistic levels of perfection. But it also has some pretty snappy dialogue when it puts its mind to it.

Likewise, I have been watching Suits, since it is one of the few shows I actually caught the pilot for, and I tend to hate jumping in to a series in the middle of a season. Unfortunately, it is rapidly going downhill. I knew the show was going to be formulaic, like all other shows that have to wrap up and achieve closure in just one hour, but it had some snappy dialogue and I liked the combative legal stuff (also snappy) ---- it felt like I was learning a smidgen of what practicing law is really like, that sense of it being like a combination of a game of chicken and a chess game where you have to think six steps down the line on your opponent. But, really it only has that at small moments, and most of the rest of the time I can predict what is about to happen because of 1) how much time is left in the show and 2) the rule of the Columbo Rule (you have to introduce a suspect or solution to the viewer rather than bring in someone completely random and new). And the side plot of trouble-with-gangsters is moving into pure silliness. Plus, it bugged me since the beginning that the two main dude characters weren't visually distinguished enough. Mirrors, foils, ok, I get it.

I will probably continue to watch, though, since it's on and I actually remember when it comes on in the tv schedule. I guess I'll keep it in rotation with Psych, which is basically the same type of show, except with more silly punchlines.

And to occupy the rest of my brain, since I am not invested enough in either show to not multitask, I am clicking around the internet, thinking about shoes. Know what? I did a shoe post, probably last fall? where I said there were a whole bunch of really cute, colorful, patent leather shoes out, and I totally should have just bought them all, because my entire Zappos favorites list is now discontinued. I can see all these pics of gorgeous reds and teals and blues and purples and aquas but they are nowhere for order. Sigh. And I am just not excited by the new releases on Zappos right now.

This, however, was not on zappos, and it is somewhat of a possibility:

As is this, which unfortunately is not as cute as the bronze ballet flats I had saved and should have bought with the chance (sob):

And this shoe is so cute, I love this color, but I opened up all my dress pictures to see what colors I need to go with them and I can't see it working with them. Alas.

Part of my dressing dilemma, as I believe I have said before, is that I buy whatever pieces look prettiest and then I have trouble making some things into a full outfit. Bright orange ballet flats go fine with jeans, but not any of my dresses, and I need to make sure I have stuff that works with the dresses. I have plenty of boots and plenty of funky colored shoes, and I may need to get me some basic brown and black dressy shoes so that I always can wear my dresses when I teach. (I'm thinking ahead to fall, here.) But none of the basic neutral shoes available have cute detailing on them like last year!!!! Argh. I know I was working on paying down my debt and saving my money, but there really is truth to the maxim that if you really love something in the store you have to get it right then. Or be prepared to face the consequences.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Teaching Update: Arrrrgh!

Why, oh why did I decide to take a summer class? You're cramping my style, yo! And why on earth did I run amok across the state (or the subsection I live in, anyway) that first weekend instead of grading, grading, grading? Well, that is a silly question, for I hate grading and love procrastinating. And yet, this means I have grading, grading, grading to catch up on plus MORE grading that will come in this week! And I am so buried. Gah.

Ok, I will bargain with myself. I must MUST blast through Reading Assignment #2, week 1, right away and without stopping. Then I can take a break and gird my loins a bit before throwing myself in to anything as anxiety-producing as Essay 1 or, god help me, my work email inbox. Ok, "gird my loins" sounds a bit obscene; not what I was going for. Nerve myself up? Stiffen my upper lip? Sheesh, they're all pretty terrible. Well, whichever it is, I must go suffer through a pack of assignments! Go Go Go Go Goooooooo!

I'll be back with my updates. Expect plenty of boring blogging in the near future. Nothing so exciting as loin-girding. ;)

OK, Update: I have completed Assignment #2, #3, and half of #4 and I promise to finish #4 and upload them all tonight. I have also responded to all the festering emails in the inbox and emailed all the students who have some missing assignments, so that is ahead of my to do list minimum. Tomorrow I will do a session of yoga and then grade all the Essay 1s. Or maybe I will squeeze in a session on the article draft first? It has been ages since I really grappled with it. Hmm.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Sigh. This summer class is going to be like a lead weight around my neck for the whole session, isn't it? I spend the whole day feeling bad, that I should be working on grading and finishing the prep for that last week of class, and I don't do it. And, really, course work is never really "done," during a session, so even if I do work on it, this leaves me making myself feel bad about not working "enough" or not being "done" for the whole damn duration. Hmm. I don't know if I can make myself not feel that, considering how long this pattern has existed. On the other hand, I want to work on my procrastination patterns and get into the habit of just doing the grading right away, and that's a long-standing pattern as well. On the other other hand, maybe the idea of changing long-term procrastination habits is just as futile as changing how I have feelings of guilt and dread around grading.

I dunno. What do you think? That I've been watching too many tv shows with pop-psychology and I am psychologizing myself in silly ways? You are probably right.

In other news, I am still feeling stuck and confused about my article. Today I read (reread, actually) a historian on that topic and thought about things. Yesterday night I called my sister and lobbed ideas at her head for a long time. It felt good. I used to do this all the time, with writing projects or my dissertation or love life problems or (even more frequent) roommate problems, and my sis is great at being supportive and asking questions that then help me rethink the situation. I didn't figure out my quandary yet, but I told her my main idea for the article and she said, "cooooooool." Which, yeah, that could be her blindly being supportive, but whatever, it made me feel good, which is important when I'm feeling stuck and slow and like I will never finish my summer to do list.

Just like I have made mixed progress on the research and teaching front, I have done ok, but not consistently well, with diet and exercise (I am going to actually bore my readers to death, aren't I? Oh well.). I have done some nice walks and hikes and yoga (still on the to-do list: go to the beach!) but I have also skipped plenty of days. And I am watching portion sizes and eating less ---- the conference weight I gained is gone, but I am still at the very top of my acceptable usualy school year weight range ---- but I am eating total processed crap. Seriously. My parents eat processed Wonder Bread, Velveeta, Minute Rice, Steak-Ums ---- any oversalted crap with high fructose corn syrup as the top ingredient. I guess that's ok since I eat lots of fresh stuff and beans and rice that I cook up myself when I'm at home. And beer. We'll pretend that if it's local, craft beer it's good for you. I had wanted to miraculously lose tons of weight this summer, and it is going down by a little, but, again, I am frustrated.

Furthermore, while I am complaining ---- oh yeah, I should rant about how my parents are driving me crazy, except I just finally put it all out of my mind in a state of zen-like forgetfulness ---- it seems like everybody has left blogland for the summer, and nobody is posting! Post interesting stuff, everybody! Lots of it, since I check the internet obsessively whenever I am attempting to force myself to do class prep/grading! Grumble, grumble.


Ok, I am watching those "I'm buying a house" shows and am, as usual, completely confused by these single professionals without family/kids and the size of the houses they are always looking at. Don't they think about how hard it's going to be to furnish and fill a huge house? To clean it? There's this obnoxious chick --- ok, I know I have been singing the praises of California, but yes, Californians are obnoxious and this chick who is moving from San Francisco to Austin just so she can afford a house is one of the most annoying, self-centered, ohmigaaaawwwd! Californians ever --- but she is buying a house with like 3 bedrooms and a living room and a dining room and an informal living room (den?) and an upstairs bonus room and I'm like, WTF, lady? You are going to have three floors and be the only person in here? You can be only on one floor at once! I just do not understand. On the other hand, I hate Criminal Intent and NCIS and that's all that is on in the evenings, so I watch these shows and yell at them for exercise. I am strange.

Any interesting procrastinating I should be doing? Point me to some silly websites. Alternately, you can fix my article.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Shit. Shit shit shit.

I'm working on my article, as I have been, bit by bit, and finally decide to google a term that appears and I think I know but really, am just assuming I know.

Shit. There are whole fucking pages about this term and this time and it is clearly a contemporary culture allusion/parody ---- an allusion that none of the criticism on this author has bothered to cite before. Thanks, lit people who only study literature from a strict literary standpoint! There's a whole flock of historians who could add more depth to our understanding of this literary text if we'd only read other disciplines' works! Mother. Fucker.

I don't know if this means the lit critics knew all this and just didn't think it was interesting enough to write an article spelling out all the allusions here, or if this is important new ground that should be brought up. Crap. I have to think about this a lot. Not only is this not the article I wanted to write, but it means what I was trying to conclude at the end of my article might be wrong. Crap. And that person who I just wrote a paragraph disagreeing with is wrong in terms of which genre of pop culture the text is alluding to, but in the general picture, more right. Crap crap crap.

And yes, this is a big aspect of the story. As in, if you knew the allusion it is clear that we are supposed to take the death of a major character as funny. Not tragic as everyone has read it.

Sigh. Re-tooling? Scrapping and restarting? Writing the article that needs to be written in light of this discovery but is not at all my article draft here? Pretending I never saw it? Argh.

Let that be a lesson to you --- never Google. Only search and read the big critics you already know you are supposed to read. And don't ever admit your historical ignorance and try to research to rectify the situation.

In California, we hike with lattes in our hands

Damn, why did I not bring a latte with me on the hike? That would have been soooo satisfying! That and a lab on a leash and I'd have fit right in with the crowd!

So I have finally been hiking! This was tougher than I had expected because I don't like to hike alone (mountain lions, you know. And/or Congressmen.) and everyone back here seems to have a regular job. Even my nieces and nephews are doing the summer-job thing, with varying success. Sigh. I will complain about that later.

But I finally managed to get one of my nieces to go hiking! Yay! It was especially odd because she hates the outdoors and hiking in general, and I had to entice her with the promise of a fairly flat and partially paved, easy-to-navigate trail. It turns out that she has a lot of applying-to-school and job prep to do, which has been keeping her trapped in her little studio apartment, and no money, so she was much more amenable to the thought of getting out of the house and seeing something different for free. And I spent the entire day with her chatting, not even getting caught up on big newsy stuff, just getting to know her better, which was also awesome. I think I need to nag the others into going hiking with me one-on-one as well, so I can hear about their lives without parents on the listen nearby. Plus, my nephew is preparing to be an Eagle Scout and has just come back from camping with the troop, so if there is anyone who should be interested in a hike, it's him.

Anyways, I should describe the hike. I should first point out that I hate palm trees. They're so overdone, you know? I am over them. And they don't make nice shade or a lovely bower-like experience. So I have been looking at hikes on the internet and searching for a hike with lots of trees, even redwoods. What, redwoods? Hey man, we have two redwoods planted in our back yard. The neighbors planted banana trees. There are non-native eucalyptus growing all around here. Plus all the damn palm varieties. So you can go see whatever kind of tree you want if you pick the right trail.

Of course, it was dark and misty and cloudy when we got there, and it rained actual rain, not mist, on us several times as we hiked about. I should have realized that anywhere there were redwoods it was gonna be wetter. Duh. But actual rain in California, even in the misty parts, is rare. I apologized to my niece several times. Also when the trail got steeper than we expected. And also when the trail posts no longer appeared so I took a couple wrong turns and then was on a totally random trail that didn't lead back to the ranger station. Ooops. Reading the map several times and correcting our course finally put us back on a trail that had a post, but it wasn't the trail that it should have been, based on our map readings. Luckily I had my iphone which has a compass app, and we set off in the right direction on something that sorta looked like a trail but wasn't marked as one. And we abruptly ran into another trail across our path, with a fence. These two little old ladies were walking past as we emerged from the underbrush and climbed the fence (just a little waist high railing, really) and they shot us the dirtiest looks.

I had been making jokes about one of the postdocs, who went on a hike with me a while back and had left all the maps she printed on the kitchen table. We took a couple wrong turns and had a trail marked with a "danger, don't go that way" sign, and got totally lost. When we finally made it out to the trailhead, we checked the wall map and decided we had hiked every. single. trail. in the park! That was so tiring! Anyway, I made this joke to my niece and we were talking about this and that and everything, and around the time it became clear that we were on a totally different trail than we should have been, I said "ooh, I shouldn't have joked about hiking every damn trail on the _____ park" and my niece got verrrrry quiet. But we did eventually find our way out of the park and to her car, and I thanked her and apologized about twenty million times, so I hope she wasn't too freaked out and had a good time.

Here's a picture of awesome trees, complete with mist:

It was gorgeous. We agreed that we were disappointed we didn't see any actual Ents. The place looked like Ents should live there. And I love the smell ---- the rich mulchy smell of ferns and needles all wet and mushy underfoot, the spicy smell the bark gives off (my niece and I argued about whether that was the Pines or the Redwoods that made that smell.), the clear, wet air that even when it is full of moisture feels nothing like the humidity of Postdoc Town ---- I love it.

I even love that we have stupid birds here who don't actually do birdsong, just "grak, grak, grak," and someone else following up with "wheeet! whip!" And, like I said, the place was decently full of joggers and dog walkers and hikers and possibly some homeless people camping in their car and using the public bathrooms ---- not too crowded, but definitely not an isolated back-to-nature place either. And I kinda like that. I'd rather be hiking and overhear some people planning the next hostile takeover of a social networking site than be out away from all civilization and get eaten by a mountain lion next thing. Not that this doesn't happen in our urban California parks, too. I'm just sure the mountain lion would have to ask his running partner to hold his mochachino and his bluetooth while he stepped out for just a second to make this little kill.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Putting in the bones

So this time when I started to write my article, Floyd, I started with some theory and then went straight to the primary text. And I wrote a little and then outlined it, outlined it and then wrote a little more, and moved stuff all around, until I thought I had figured out a structure for the whole article.

Only then did I really go start looking at any secondary criticism. It feels weird, like I'm doing something backwards:

It feels like I am trying to put bones into my boneless chickens so that I can later de-bone them. Hmm. For one thing, I found a lot of critics who say basically the same thing I say at various points of my article --- not argument-skewering stuff but basic statements like "Mr. Cuckold had lifelong troubles with the meaning of masculinity, possibly because of his relationship with his wife, Debbie*" --- and then I am stuck with who to cite or not on this basic claim. It's tempting to just copy/paste everything I have possibly read that could work there, and then I have an essay that is six times as long as it was and I need to boil down all those quote paragraphs to something manageable that will fit in the flow of my argument. And then I go partly anxious and partly lazy and think to myself, "that will be a brilliant part of the essay once I've just fixed that little spot!" and then I don't work on it.

It doesn't help that I vacillate between wanting to quote all the juicy snarky phrases or poetic bits that critics have written, and just using social science citation style and reduce everybody to a name and publication year (Whangdoodle, 1969, Pibbett, 1975, Snotpucker, 1983 and 1984, Sterne and Fielding, 1995).

Maybe I will get better at turning books into summaries/paraphrases as I read and someday be able to avoid my compulsion to Include Everything! as I get more fluent at writing articles. I sure hope so, as it is slow going.

In an only-slightly-related note, I have been working for years on training myself to start working first thing in the morning, and to work every day. (mostly. I have gotten better, even if I don't work every day.) But I am still terrible at keeping focus and keeping working for any length of time, say after the first hour. And if I can push myself for two full hours I really can't concentrate and everything falls apart after that point. Anybody have any advice, not for getting started or confronting the blank page, but for continuing?

*Debbie did Dallas, in case you hadn't heard (Sysquirt, 1972, Hufflepuff, 1987, Rassett and Frassett, 1990).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Heh. Love to hate it.

Watch it and weep, people. This is no parody.

This is so true. I love this! I forget that a lot of loving California is actually the act of getting together with like-minded people and bitching about how much we hate it. I mean, there's a lot to love about CA, but, what I love is getting together with all the people who do not seem stereotypically "Californian" and go, "Gawd, did you see that obnoxious overtanned and botoxed bimbo nearly run over a homeless person with a Hummer? Shaaa!*"

And that reminds me of my favorite Decemberists song:

Or you can do the live version accompanied by the LA Phil, which I kinda love despite the poor live quality --- the soaring, over-the-top schmaltz of the strings makes for a nice contrast with this hatesong.

* Shaw? Shaha? You might have had to be here to know how to pronounce/spell it. It's post "Fer sure!" and pre "OMG!" ---- about the same time as some of my poor unfortunate friends from the state's hinterlands were saying "cool beans." We won't even go into the hella/hecka divide, or debate the use of the "the" in front of freeway numbers.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

But it's a DRY heat!

Oh, California, I love you, I love you, I love you ---- Ahhhhhh. This is what I mean when I say I don't care if it's 90 degrees out and that I kinda love it. All you people on my facebook page who are whining about this "heat wave" ------ hahahahahahaha! I totally don't believe you wimps any more. Try the 90 degrees at 100 % humidity and a sheen of biting bugs clouding the air everywhere you go and you will understand that a California "heat wave" is actually perfect hiking weather.

I think I am never going to go back inside again. Especially because dad shuts off the airconditioning at night, so it has been 60 degrees inside all day (bleah!) and then it pops up to 78 at night (double bleah!).

I have been working a bit on my online class, but still need to do a lot more prep. This is interfering with my desire to go hiking and then hit the beach. Hmm. And of course, I got derailed on my article what with course prep and packing and riding around on a plane and whatnot. So I need to get back to that too. But --- sun! And a blue sky without a single cloud in it!! And a nice breeze!!! And shops and restaurants that all have lovely shaded patio areas for lounging!!!! And OCEAN!!!!! Must! Go! Run! Around! In! Surf! Must work. NO MUST PLAY ON SAND! Must work. NO MUST PLAY ON HIKING TRAILS!

Um. Ok, I'm going to try to go back to work, but I may have to rethink my goals and to do list for the summer. Hmm.