Thursday, March 31, 2005

Personal Adds

Most semesters, I have at least one student—always female, and always in the privacy of office hours—who asks me if I have children. And always I'm torn as to what to say beyond “No.” Once or twice, I’ve added, “Not yet.” But this response prompts students to examine my stomach, so I won’t say that again.

I get the sense that the young women who ask me this are not so much drawing judgments about me (although some judgment on their parts is inevitable), as they are trying to figure out their own paths. Lately, I've dared to ask these students why they wanted to ask me about kids—and what typically follows is a frank discussion of their concern that graduate school and/or professional life is incompatible with raising children.

We don't come up with any answers in these discussions, but we do usually end up talking about how many ways there are to organize one's work and family life. We talk about surviving graduate school—financially, professionally, and emotionally. We talk about how best to live in partnership with someone and the meaning of “While I’m still young.” Often, we end up talking about boyfriends’ and parents’ expectations and (sometimes) about finding the courage to be alone.

I’m cheered by these conversations. I’m also made a little nervous by them.

I can remember being fascinated by my first boss, from my first job right out of college. Rose was then the same age that I am now—she the confident managing editor to my lowly editorial assistant. Many years later, I met Rose for breakfast in a midwestern city and told her how much her example had meant to me. She was so different than my mother. She was entirely apart from any of the almost exclusively male professors at my Jesuit college. Rose was my first good idea of “how to be a grown-up woman in the world.” Or so I told her that morning over bagels and cream cheese.

Of the many women I’ve admired in my lifetime, three of the most crucial were also the most remote. From the women on my doctoral committee, I learned that the smart woman professor reveals nothing of her personal life. The same allusions to a private life that endeared a male professor to his students could undermine a female professor in front of hers. I better understood this need for self-protection after I had been teaching for a while myself. I needed a certain amount of armor lest students regard me as a maternal substitute. I needed to be just a little standoffish lest I expend all my energies in attending to others’ emotional needs. I could understand how, after over twenty years of dealing with emotionally needy graduate students, my advisers mostly restricted our conversations to the professional realm.

For the path I was pursuing, however, these women were my only role models, and so my heart brimmed with a thousand personal questions. A thousand personal questions that I kept to myself, that is. For I took my cues from my advisers’ aloofness, and regarded my total discretion as proof that I was capital-S Serious about My Career. But I can’t deny that the first moment I ever felt joy at being in graduate school—and hope for my future in the academy—was at the moment I passed my preliminary exam. The “scariest” (most famous and scattered) of my advisers burst out into the hall where I was waiting and wrapped me in an enormous hug. “Congratulations!” she said. And then, more quietly: “It’s really something special, too, knowing that you hung in there, despite everything that you had to deal with this year.”

And I was floored that she had referenced—that she had even been aware of—something from my personal life.

After that exam day, my advisers were more open with me about their lives and their choices. (I even dared ask a few of those personal questions that I’d never dared ask before.) Maybe, once I passed the exams, my advisers saw fit to treat me as something closer to an equal. Or maybe I just became a lot less self-conscious around them. Either way, I was grateful for the permission—given through their example—to see my professional life and personal life as of a piece. Graduate school might have been easier had I had that example earlier on.

And so I’m not offended when a student asks me about children. (Although I do wish the conversation didn’t always have to begin there, I try to remember that a student may be helped by the knowledge that not having children is an option.) I do believe that the occasional, carefully managed, personal exchange between professor and student is a risk, but one worth taking. I’d even go so far as to say that I feel that such exchanges are an obligation, that they repay a debt.

The rub, of course, is that, in figuring out how to be a grown-up woman in the world, the student is allowed to use me as a positive or a negative example. And the former is actually the greater danger, particularly if she and I cross paths again later on.

(I starting ruminating about role models after reading to What Now's recent post on her colleague's "Supermom" panel. What I've written above isn't entirely relevant to that post, except in so far as it indirectly expresses my indignation for a panel that appears designed to remind women—and only women—of their limited options. And in so far as it directly expresses a belief in integrated work-family lives for both women and men!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Home, Less

When Jane learned we were putting the house up for sale, she had one request: "Find us a friendly couple who like vegetables."

We did. Or maybe I should say that the house found them for itself.

Sale will soon be final. The very, very, very nice people who put in the bid have requested but one minor repair. No credits. No haggling. No worries about that crazy beam; they'll fix it themselves.

Adam can't believe we're so lucky. I agree, but secretly feel that such luck was due.

Sweet little house. I'm really going to miss you.

Meanwhile, my friend Eliza has offered to let me live at her place.

"Sure, I could live in your basement," I laugh.

"No! Upstairs," she says firmly. "Full citizenship."

Monday, March 28, 2005

Oh no she didn't

Five hours. Yeah. Our house is small, but the inspector spent five hours on it and produced twenty-eight pages of exceptionally detailed notes. Contrast this to the four pages of notes that we received from the inspector who examined the property when we bought it.

Oh, and did I mention that we, the sellers, got to shell out the 300 bucks for this most recent inspection — just as we did two years ago before closed on the place? The first 300 we might as well have flushed down the toilet. For the record, never, ever have a home inspected when A) you’re eleven states away; and B) the inspector is the seller’s old boyfriend.

It’s fine that the more recent inspector is thorough. And while he turned up many, many alarming observations (“One day, your slab-foundation garage could submit to frost heave.”), none of his items were all that scary.

Save for one.

Adam and I had noticed that oddly notched beam in the basement a few days after we moved in. It was right over a spot once occupied by the seller’s treadmill, and she had apparently hacked out a portion of a beam to allow clearance for her head.

Adam was nervous. “Do you think that’s a weight-bearing beam?”

Since Adam is often nervous, I fell right into my role as the giver of assurances.

“No! I’m sure she never would have taken a saw to a beam without making sure it was safe first. And, besides, the inspector would have said something.”

Oh no he wouldn’t. And oh yes she did.

So now, the new inspector tells us, the kitchen floor is in danger of collapse.

“Good thing you’re a pair of lightweights,” he grins. “No jumping jacks until the carpenters get here, okay?”

Fucking hilarious.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Bid Fair Well

The house is sold. Maybe.

On Tuesday night, we stayed up until 2 a.m., bringing the house to unprecedented levels of cleanliness. On Wednesday morning, we trundled our unhappy cats off to a neighbors’ basement. By Wednesday afternoon, we had our first offer. (Astounding in our not-so-hot market.) The couple bid full asking price, although their realtor wouldn’t tell us that at first. Instead, she went on and on about the personal merits of our potential buyers. “It’s amazing how compatible you are!” They, too, are academics, fond of cats and composting and colorful walls. I actually was pleased to hear that. But why was it so important that we be “compatible”? We’re going to be selling them our house, not taking them on as roommates, right?

That said, it is nice to think of the house going to somebody who will love it like we have. Although I started saying goodbye to this house from almost the moment we moved in (the moment that it became clear that, contrary to promises, our positions here would not be permanent), I have grown attached to it. I don’t put much stock in horoscopes, but what they say about those born under the crabby sign of Cancer definitely applies to me: I’m happiest in the space of home.

I’ve spent huge chunks of the past two years babying this neglected house, refinishing its floors, upgrading its plumbing, and shielding it from the threat of vinyl replacement windows. I’ve painted it (most of the inside), had it painted (all of the outside), found it a new furnace, and a new garage roof. With Adam’s help, I’ve installed closets and pot racks and made art for its walls. I’m not especially handy, but I’ve learned a lot in the last two years. And so, yes, I guess I’d be glad if the next owners were “compatible” with the affection and energies expended here.

Inspection is this weekend. We hear that these buyers have balked, for fairly minor reasons, on two of their previous home bids, so it’s not inconceivable that they would back out on ours. G., who yesterday spent a miserable day hiding behind the filing cabinet in my campus office, would really like it if we could be finished with the home showings. Although signing over this place makes next year even more painfully uncertain, I’m hopeful that the house, at least, will find success on the market.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

New Season

Whatever did we do before the world of blog?

On Saturday, I walked around will a dull feeling of "oh no!" in my windpipe. My eyes felt raw and full of sand. I holed up at school and, for the first time in a long while, worked fairly fluidly on my manuscript. (Maybe the specter of unemployment has cured my speechlessness?) That made me happier. But nothing compared to finding what some of you had written in response to yesterday's bitter post.

Am feeling better and slightly restored to hope, and that's entirely thanks your kind and helpful comments.

Tomorrow is our house’s turn to go on the market, so I will have to add more to this post later tomorrow. (The house, by the way, has a stronger CV than I do.) For now, my heartfelt thanks to Christina, Timna, Benedict, Meg (wish I knew where to find you), V., New Kid, What Now, and, Mr. or Madame Anonymous. Bless you all.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

No, YelloCello

"Dear Dr. Cello....
your application...
not to pursue your candidacy...
best of luck in your future endeavors.

I'm philosophical at first. Well, then. This seals it. Having received nothing but rejection letters, I'm definitely going to be following Adam again. Okay. Okay. That's a positive thing, right?

Ten minutes later—the delayed reaction, the detonating bomb. Triple shock waves of panic, fury, and grief. I want to tear my skin off. I'm going to tear my skin off. Just seven weeks of crappy academic work remain. It's over.

I sometimes struggle with math. But let me see... Eight years of graduate school, plus one failed marriage, plus eight years of teaching (five of them full-time), plus four different university affiliations, plus ten years of financial hardship, plus two years of humiliating adjunct work as a "trailing" = ZERO.

Seriously — what am I going to do now?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Giving Up, Holding On

• Spring break is about to come to an end and, predictably, I haven't accomplished but a fraction of what I set out to do. But I hereby resolve not to beat myself up about it. I'm realizing that I've spent most of my adult life mentally berating myself about this or the other thing. In theory, this is supposed to lead to self-improvement. In fact, it just leads to self-loathing. Or maybe it springs from self-loathing? I don't know, but it's making me tired. So I hereby give it up (excessive self-criticism, that is) for Lent and for life.

• Even though I no longer go to church, I had just about 15 years of Catholic schooling (that's grade school, high school and college), and I stubbornly -- some would say blindly -- associate a lot of the "Catholic identity" with the lovely Catholic people I know from those years, rather than with the official church's oppressive and homophobic practices. That said, I lately look back and get distressed by some of what I internalized from my Catholic education. For instance, the principal of my all-girl's high school. Sr. Mary Alice, routinely called assemblies at which she told us what "beautiful future wives and mothers" we were. This was her highest compliment, and, although this was the late-1980s, I never thought to question it. The suggestion that I was getting educated to be a wife and mother didn't interfere with my vague plans for a career as a journalist-veterinarian. And, in my cloistered world, I'd never had to think about the politics of heterosexism, marriage, or childbearing. I was just pleased to be my one of the Sisters' favorites—the Very Good Girl who kept her socks and her GPA up high. What I know now is that it’s no good to be the good girl. Good girls are lousy critical thinkers. Good girls marry boys they don’t love because they want to have lousy (but guilt-free) sex. Good girls are long on reputation but short on imagination. And what perks are offered to good girls tend to come in the form of responsibilities—chief among which is that of being admired for self-sacrifice.

• Which brings me to the point of this post. There’s a Saturn ad running on TV these days and it freaks me out. It opens with a mother talking about having been pregnant and overdue to deliver her son. “There was a moment when I honestly thought that I might be pregnant forever," she laughs. Okay, so that’s unpleasant image enough, but then comes the line that really twists a knife in my gut for some reason. (And, no, Dr. Freud, I won’t revise that last metaphor, but will instead let it sit on the record.) The mother says: “You spend your whole life putting yourself first and then, just like that, you’re second. [pause, cut to tight shot of the women’s face] And I’m just so thankful. That’s why I chose Saturn.” (Note the ambiguous relation between those last two sentences.) Now, I know plenty of women who have expressed feelings of diminished self-importance after the birth of their children. (My mother is constantly reminding me that having children makes people less selfish.) And, of course, it’s important to be devoted to one’s child. But I still recoil at this ad. Because you know what? It took me over thirty years to learn how to occasionally think of myself first (before husbands', parents, or others’ needs and expectations). And, frankly, I’m nervous and a little resentful at the message that I should become a pod person again.

• Of course, I could be getting worked up about nothing. According to this device, I have no estrogen and therefore never ovulate. The magnifier was useful for another purpose, at least. I put some, uh, fluid on it and managed to have a look at my husband’s sperm. (Apologies to relatives who might be feeling traumatized by this information.) Pretty fascinating. Now if only my estrogen would show up, I could be further freaked by a proclivity for self-criticism, Catholicism, and Saturn.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Not exactly news those of us who are part-time or adjunct professors:

The Adjunct Pay Gap

As Linda Kerber recently wrote here (Bugmenot):

"The drift toward the use of adjunct and temporary faculty members, passing on fewer benefits and making it impossible to maintain a research agenda, also has a disproportionate impact on women (who often hold such jobs), but it too affects both men and women. The visiting job that once provided a breather while one looked for a permenant position now enables a minimal kind of survival at the cost of decreasing opportunities for stable tenure-track jobs."

And, earlier in the same essay:

"But feminists — men and women — are better situated to solve the challenges than we once were. In the 1970s, we were demanding admission — to degree programs, to fellowships, to tenure-track positions. In the 21st century, we have won the fellowships, we have the Ph.D.s, many of us have tenure, some of us have distinguished chairs, some of us are deans and provosts and university presidents. What will we do with the place in the academy that we have earned?" [And, I would add, "What will we do to be aware of on whose backs we have partially earned it?"]

Meanwhile, I can't deny having found this memo ("Dear Adjunct Faculty Member") pretty funny.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

You know you're getting older when...

• you have forty and fifty year olds in your weekend peer group.
• your everyday speech includes sentences that begin with "Indeed."
• you suddenly need a week to recover from a all-nighter.
• "all-nighter" now refers to an evening when you stayed up until 3 a.m.
• you have a substantial collection of spare buttons from the professional clothing you've purchased.
• it's no longer "professional clothing" to you; it's just "what's in the closet."
• you routinely refer to your college students as "kids."
• you're struck by how kid-like those students appear.
• you favor dark over milk chocolate (although you still dip the former in peanut butter).
• you polish off an entire box of animal crackers... and neglect to study a single animal before they're gone.

I'm sure I'll spend the rest of my life adding to this list. I'll add items as I think of them — or as others remind me of them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Early and Late

I’m early and late to this one. At a good friend’s insistence, I answered one of these on email last week. Having now seen it again at Terminal Degree,Timna, Pilgrim/Heretic, Jimbo, New Kid, and Dr. Crazy, I could not resist...

Vancouver or New Zealand (I haven't been either place yet, so it's tough to decide.)

Colorful winter scarves. (Now.) Casual sundresses and slip-on shoes in summer.

Ani DiFranco's latest one. I bought it for my husband, but I really like it too.

Depends on when I go to bed. (Last night was 2 a.m.) I try not to sleep past 8 if I can help it. I’m capable of getting up at 6 a.m. only if I'm guaranteed a nap at 3 p.m.

Juicer. Have been juicing carrots like mad -- and, yes, am slowly turning orange

Do you need to ask? Cello is my favorite instrument. I wish I could play it better.

Pale greens.

Neither. I'm a bicycle girl! But if I had to choose, I'd choose a small SUV

Yes. (And I second Dr. Crazy’s vote to have pets there. Many years ago, when I taught CCD, I was reprimanded for affirming a six-year-old’s prediction that he would see his recently deceased dog in heaven.)

Hmmm... so difficult to choose. I've recently been feeling nostalgic about The Snowy Day.


No tattoos. I once had a fake one (from a gumball machine) and it drove me nuts after just one day.

Maybe to heal people rapidly. Or to turn back time to preclude disastrous events.

Yes. I had to learn to juggle and ride a unicycle for a high school play.

My grandmothers. (I miss them.) And my great-grandmother on my maternal side, whom I never met.

Of the week: Thursday. Of the year: I'm a fan of valentine's day, even though it's hideously over-commercialized. I also used to really love the Fourth of July, mostly because of the neighborhood party my parents used to host on that day.

None of the above. Okay, so I've never had sushi. I'm technically a vegetarian AND I recently re-read My Year of Meats, so the burger is out.

Tulip has been a longtime favorite. But I'm also a fan of Gerbera daisies. I hate red roses.

Benedict. But I predict he will find this silly.

Any one that takes place after a long hike or other physically exhausting activity.

Some of the time, yes. It’s a lot better this semester.

I’ve always wanted to be a professor. Now I realize that I should have been more specific and wished to be a tenure-track professor! New/concurrent dream job: well-read novelist or successful playwright.

Ha ha ha ha ha! (Oh, wait. You’re serious?)

Grad school. Office job. He likes to tell people that I was his boss, but, in reality, I was just in charge of a project that we both were working on.
I’d also like to second Dr. Crazy’s objection to this question. And I echo her indignation that Jenn Schefft got a “Spinster of the Week” award! (And now, jeopardizing that high-minded position: “Jenn, honey. We’ve known for a long time that you’d be perfect for my brother, Kennedy. Okay, so he’s been dating the same girl for seven years. And so they just moved in together last month. I'm still quite sure he's the guy you seek.”)

Have and raise a kid. Publish the dissertation. Write a novel Those answers are a little dull, aren’t they? So I’ll also throw in a total fantasy response: I’d love to dance with a modern dance troupe. Maybe Paul Taylor’s or Twyla Tharp’s. Yeah.

Rosemary is for whattyacallit

In Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter, one of the narrators keeps track of each day's responsibilities on her fingers and toes. For her, each digit represents an errand to the grocery store, a child to pick up, or an appointment to make.

I thought that was an interesting — and also unlikely — way to remember things. I know that it wouldn't work for me. My to-do lists tend to be more free-floating, circulating on post-it notes or in one of the three notebooks that I keep. (And, no, it doesn't make sense to have three, but that's just how things evolved.) Typed to-do lists feel cold, and ultimately invisible, to me. Palm Pilots also turn me off, although I admit that I've never owned one.

The problem with my system of remembering is that all the small tasks tend to rise to the surface of my memory, like so many dead gnats in a pail of water. So I dutifully pay the bills, change the lightbulb, fold the laundry... but at the expense of more important things I should be doing.

(One ironic corollary to the problem of giving too much attention to the small stuff: I'm pretty good with birthdays. I have no problem remembering to buy or make cards. But sometimes those cards will sit on my desk, unwritten, until after the birthday has passed.)

When it comes to other things I need to remember (e.g., good ideas, or those ideas that seemed good at the moment they were born), I try to capture these by weaving an absurd net of associations. These nets may be obvious. For instance, if I need to get in touch with a Professor Flowers, I imagine myself at my desk the next morning, awestruck at a nest of blooms sprouting from my plastic laptop. Or the nets may be more bizarre, as happens when some idea wafts through my brain in the moments right before sleep. Too numb or lazy to get out of bed in search of paper, I imagine myself writing the words down my ankles and onto my feet. The words are pointy, and therefore at risk of snagging on the fabric of a sock. When morning comes, and when I go to pull on a pair of socks, the words are indeed hooked and the idea dragged back. (Never mind that it’s almost always less lustrous in the morning light. I’m just pleased to have recovered it.)

I'm always curious about how other people remember and prioritize things – both the epiphanies and the daily detritus. I'd like to know what you do with the stuff that loops through our heads in inopportune moments, when there's no easy way to write it down.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Singular Sensation

So, it’s spring break, Adam’s on the road, and I’ve been assiduously avoiding the colleagues who are also my friends. Solitude is something I do well, or so I like to think. But it’s been a few years since I’ve lived alone, and so it’s funny to be reminded of what a nerd I can be when I have a whole house to myself.

Since Adam's departure last Thursday, I’ve been singing show tunes in the kitchen. A lot. I’ve been dancing in the kitchen, too, but that’s something I do even when Adam is around. What I don’t do when Adam is here is talk back so much to the radio, cry so much in front of sad movies, or babble to myself as I make tea. Last night I played a solo rhyming game that went on for a good ten minutes. At one point, I cracked myself up with my own wit, and then tried to explain the joke to the baffled cats.

And that’s when I realized that Adam had better come home soon.


Saturday night. I have the soundtrack to The Hours on the stereo and am awash in a pleasant melancholy. Adam is still away at his Texas conference. So it’s just me, G. the cat, and my laptop sharing the bed tonight. The laptop is present in a very literal sense. It’s tucked under Adam’s pillow and at the ready... just in case I find nocturnal inspiration for the article I’m struggling to complete. The answer to all my writing blocks—or blocks of any kind—is in sleep. Tipping into a real dreamland now, wouldn't it be grand to wake up tomorrow and find I'd managed to sleep-write my piece?

Saturday, March 12, 2005


So now that I’ve expressed my indignation over Material Girl Power, it only makes sense that I would now expound on yesterday’s adventures in purse shopping. I buy purses only once every three years or so, and tend to use them until they literally fall apart. My current bag is small and black on the outside, but all shades of red ink (exploded pen) and melted makeup (seditious lipstick) on the inside.

Thirty-two must be an awkward age for fashion. Or it is for me, anyway. I wander the stores feeling too young or too old for most of what I see. I’m interested in fashion, but resent the need to waste time shopping for it. I have more money now than I did in grad school, but not enough money that I don’t agonize over most purchases. So yesterday I steeled myself for just one lap of the mall. If the right purse didn’t jump out at me, then my tatty nylon backpack would have to do.

I favor tiny purses, but am also in favor of bags just large enough stash a novel. I detest visible brand names, but require high-quality materials and—ideally—a stylish, but practical, design. I prefer a purse with an extra long handle so I can sling it across my shoulders and forget about it. And since I never have had more than one bag at a time, I tend to buy tailored purses in dark, neutral colors.

My purse has always been the best evidence that I’m not turning into my mother. I can’t deny it—my sleek, disciplined little bags were a reaction to her voluminous, overflowing ones. I also used to scoff at the giant “granny bags” in the purse section. They looked so audaciously middle-aged, so resignedly self-sacrificing. A woman who owned such a bag would likely stuff it with ancient throat lozenges and battered tampons. Fishing for her checkbook, she would haul out the ambiguously wadded tissues, the gritty mirrored compact, and several plastic change purses.

My mother’s purses have gotten smaller lately. Back when we were kids, she was essentially “pursing” for three. Her purse had to be big enough to tote the extra baby bottle and handi-wipes. She carried hair elastics and hairbrushes—some for her, some for me. Her bags contained all the chaos of those years, in the form of crayon packs and band-aids, suntan lotion and bank teller lollypops. Back in those years when my brothers and I went everywhere with her, my mother’s purse felt oddly public. Some of the stuff exclusively hers—the money, for instance, and the sunglasses and the lipsticks—but we were free to play with anything else.

I was remembering this as I stroked a gorgeous, soft leather satchel, olive green with brown straps and accents. In my mind, I deemed it “literary,” which is Adam’s affectionate term for the eccentric things I wear or do. Truth be told, the bag was a little bit granny. But I liked it immediately, and wondered it were big enough to fit my laptop.

Then I saw the price tag and had to walk away. One hundred and twenty dollars. So not in the budget. Still, the bag was so pretty and so well made that I contemplated a splurge before forcing myself to move on.

In a nearby rack, I found the classic Cello purse. Black leather. Petite, saddle bag style, with a chapstick-sized snap pouch in front. Perfectly suited for a wallet, plus one small notebook, plus a single lipstick. Yeah. Totally me.

And then I felt a little sad. This bag was just right for the me I used to be. But now—age 32, with only eight more weeks of guaranteed employment—who am I now?

I made one last visit to the olive satchel, but found it blocked by a lady on a ladder. She was hanging a bright red sign, one that said “60% OFF.”

I took her sign as a sign. And I took the satchel home with me.

(P.S. My 12-inch iBook just fits inside.)

Friday, March 11, 2005

Im/material Girls

There are just so many things wrong with this song, which I heard on Radio Disney yesterday. Just think—these asinine lyrics are now being internalized by the little kids who are going to be our students one day. The songwriters were probably under orders to write something vaguely rebellious for the tween set. Something training-bra bitchy, still but suitable for moving lots of CosmoGirl and Maybelline. If I ever have a daughter, I hope she’ll appreciate how lucky she is to grow up in a world in which girls are honored as the capricious, materialistic, bubbleheads that nature intended them to be.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Sibyl Says

The GOOD NEWS: I've been accepted to two conferences. Yay! The conference in Minneapolis will feel like going home. The other conference is in the beautiful city of Montreal, where only good things happen to me. (Or so I've convinced myself, on the basis of two prior visits.)

The BAD NEWS: I have only eight more weeks of my employment. After that... the unknown. And so do I really have the money to be spending on conference travel?

The GOOD NEWS: The prospect of travel has given me a mental boost. And both conferences represent the chance to try out material from my new (post-dissertation) project.

The BAD NEWS: It's unlikely Adam will be able to go with me on either conference, on account of timing and budget constraints. The same is true for the two conferences he's going to this month. We would have liked to have made a vacation out of the one that falls over spring break. Alas, I'm on writing deadline and, given our impending move, we couldn't justify the expense of an extra airline tickets.

The GOOD NEWS: At least I don't have to go to Texas.

The BAD NEWS: Um, I accidentally ate a piece of moldy bread on Thursday. The bread was new, so I thought that white dusting on the bottom was flour. Yuck!

The GOOD NEWS: I survived.

More GOOD NEWS: Adam and I went cross-country skiing yesterday. Conditions were ideal. Blue skies, quiet trails, perfect snow.

The BAD NEWS: There was no hot water when we came home. I took an icy shower, caught a chill that I couldn't shake for the rest of the day, and so was in bed by eight. (Cold showers, moldy bread... You must really be impressed by now with the depths of my suffering, eh?)

The GOOD NEWS: Twelve (!) hours later, my inner furnace recovered. I feel just fine now, with only a little bit of ski-soreness in the arms and upper back.

The BAD NEWS: It's Sunday. I have a daunting amount of prep for the week ahead. And tomorrow is the day from hell.

The GOOD NEWS: Just four more days until the start of spring break....

Thursday, March 03, 2005


I watched the movie Monster this week, and all I can say is that I wish I hadn't. I've really maxed out on violent films this year, thanks to a writing project that requires a steady diet of them.

Charlize Theron was impressive, sure. But, in her moments of strut, she also kept reminding me of Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice. Or Michael Keaton in any of his more manic parts.

This isn't meant as a slam on either Theron or Keaton. But, if you happen to be watching Monster, check out the scene in which Theron decks a restaurant manager. Watch her throw shoulders back and gesticulate with both arms, upper arms held apart from her torso. Watch for the tilt of her head, the jutting of her lower jaw and the slight downturn at the corners of her lips. And then try to tell me that she isn't channeling Keaton.

I was expecting another round of bad dreams last night. Instead, I woke up with the klezmer tune from this beautiful Jim Henson tribute (found at Arete) in my head. Coincidentally, Adam awoke with the same music looping through his brain. Which prompts the question: Does one of us hum in his or her sleep?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Suddenly Seymour

Found this at A Delicate Boy:

You are Seymour. You are sensitive and spiritual
and set incredibly high standards for yourself
and the people you know. As a result, you are
usually disappointed in people - including

Which member of J.D. Salinger's dysfunctional Glass family are you?
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I wanted to be Franny. But this Seymour description is pretty apt, I must admit. I just hope not to have my story end like Seymour's!

Eavesdropping, jaw dropping

Overheard on the bus

A male senior:
"College is wasting my time. My law school applications are already out, so, like, why should I do any work for the rest of my senior year? It's not like an undergraduate degree means anything anymore. Basically, this is just a place where I had to hang out for four years before I could go get a degree that actually does something for me."

Overheard before class

A female sophomore:
"Oprah is looking pretty hot these days. I had her [show] on this afternoon and it was all about these old women in, like, their 50s, who had made a big change in their looks. Like, they were hotter than I am!"