Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Location: United States

Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Today: a simile

Today has been like trying to drive 1500 miles in a 1963 Ford Pinto on half a tank of gas.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Mouse update

This has been a good morning for Mouse. Maybe he is happy with me that I finally woke up before 6am when he wanted me to.

Since the Rodent Incident, Mouse has been jumpy about being off the floor, about sitting in my lap, about being picked up, and about seeing my face close to his. But this morning, we have had lap time! We have had a Couch Expedition and a Bed Expedition and a Window-Sill Expedition! We have had snuggling-while-being-held time!

He got a little annoyed when I took out the camera in an attempt to commemorate the event, though. I guess that was pushing things a bit too far. This was the best picture I could manage this morning.

Incidentally, an Anglo-Saxonly gifted friend has decided that Mouse's Germanic Epic Name is Mus Musbana: "Mouse, the Bane (or Slayer) of Mice."

Monday, June 27, 2005

Better now

Okay, I started today in a really, really dire state. Seriously, it was not pretty. Not at all. I was all weepy and de-caffeinated and depressed and self-loathing and my head was saying incredibly mean things to me. And it was the first day of classes for the summer session, and I got to see kids coming in half an hour late and falling asleep in the first lecture, even though they must know they're in an intensive version of one of the hardest classes in the major. (If they don't know, I intend to enlighten them in uber-intimidating fashion during Friday's section meeting.)

Anyway, yes. Very grumpy, convinced that I'm about as physically appealing as Jabba the Hutt, 95% sure I've lost the love of my life, 94% sure I really am going to die alone, and not exactly up to trying to convince the umpteenth slacker undergraduate that no, s/he doesn't deserve an "A" for showing up 75% of the time and writing an occasional grammatical sentence and that no, Beowulf is not boring. (For God's sake, the guy rips off a man-eating monster's arm and hangs it over his hearth! He fights a pissed-off mama monster with a magic sword in a lake! He gets killed by a dragon and burned on a pyre! What the hell do you people want?!)

And then I read this while drinking a cup of coffee. And now I am much better.

P.S. My early-morning mood, by the way, was not aided by a certain British DJ's decision to play depressing songs by both The Boomtown Rats and Kirsty MacColl. Jeez. This is just all you need to start off your day after having been ditched by your Irish fiance. I was half expecting him to follow MacColl's song with "Fairytale of New York," despite its being nowhere near Christmas, just to rub salt in the wound. Dammit. People have got to stop breaking up with me, or there will be no decent music left that I can stand to listen to. Or maybe I have to start seeking boyfriends with really bad taste in music . . . .

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The wrenching conversation

The wrenching conversation took place first thing this morning.

I told him I thought we shouldn't talk for the forseeable future, at least. That he couldn't really be my friend right now, because how could I tell him about lying awake at night, wondering whether I'd even be able to trust a good person again if he did come along? Or about bursting into tears on the street when I saw a little girl with eyes like his? Or how I'm struggling to find a place to do my work because when he left me, he took that too? And, on the other hand, how could I just edit my life for him in order to excise all that?

And, on the other hand, if I were really going to try to be his friend, I'd want to stay on his ass about figuring out why he did this to the two of us--and more especially why he did this to himself--so he doesn't repeat the pattern. And that's not my responsibility. It also would reduce me to little better than Marley's ghost, which is one of the most screwed-up possible outcomes for this whole thing. So I can't really be his friend right now, either.

He agreed.

I said I was a fool to keep trusting people so thoroughly; that I had to get better at protecting myself. He said it made me a better person that I believed in people so much. And I said I was really tired of being a new-and-improved, stronger, better, more resilient, Existential Paper Towel. I don't want to be a better person: I'm good enough already. I want to be happy, and I want other people to stop fucking things up for me.

He wants to email me every once in a while, and says I don't need to answer if I don't want to. I may not.

And he says he knows what we had and that he threw it away, even if he sometimes tries to tell himself another story.

He says he knows what he did isn't forgiveable and that he doesn't expect to be forgiven. But I know he wants me to forgive him, and I want to forgive him, too. I just can't do it yet.

The thing is, I've been with the con artists: the ones who say one thing and feel another. And Stan isn't a con artist. He feels what he says; he just got too scared to do what he said, in the end. Which makes him a coward and a fool. But he has to live with that a lot more--and for a lot longer--than I do.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Achilles on the move Posted by Hello

Some days, I'm more fragile than others. This is turning out to be one of those days.

So I went to the aquarium store down the street and bought myself an Achilles, who's now living in the recently departed Hector's tank.

Achilles is doing a very good job of sulking, just like his namesake, and is refusing to let me take very good pictures of him. But here are two partial views.

Now I have to go grade exams and try to do something about this splitting headache . . . .

Achilles Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Stupid pet supplies, entry #1

Check this out. I saw one of these on sale at a local pet store yesterday and nearly fell over.

The idea of "spreading litter evenly" may sound reasonable until you think about it for, say, 5 seconds. Particularly since, if you really feel the compulsive need to spread your cat's litter evenly, you can do it with any old straight-edged, plastic scoop. Why in the world would these people have come up with a "scalloped edge" on a litter scoop?

What this ad doesn't tell you (perhaps because the owners of the site were too ashamed to leave it in) is that the actual product labeling enthusiastically notes that you can "sculpt" the litter with this "litter rake."


Folks, this is cat litter we're talking about here, not a Zen garden.

But wait: is this "litter rake" actually a material-culture koan disguised as a stupid pet supply?

No dice: no mice

Mouse's vigilance was to no avail last night: the mice are safe for another 12 hours, it would seem. But there can be no mistake that there are rodenty things living behind the stove in my kitchen. Not only has Mouse caught one already, and not only have I heard them now, but two small tomatoes went missing from the counter next to the stove overnight.

Mouse woke me up at about 6am with his squeaky little mewling and was only partially appeased by tuna and treats. He's been very agitated and jumpy all morning: I suspect he's frustrated.

Mouse patrol

Mouse is sitting very intently in the far back corner of the kitchen: he's heard another mouse! In fact, a good while after he started patrolling the kitchen perimeter, my weak human ears heard it, too. I think the verminous critters are hanging out behind and/or beneath the stove.

I hate to think how many mice I may have lurking in my kitchen, but if Mouse's success continues, I won't have them around for much longer, however many there are.

Morgan came over to do some grading tonight, and when Mouse started stalking, I was afraid he'd catch and gnaw on something in front of her. But now she's headed home and I'm getting so superlatively tired that I'm going to have to go to bed soon, so I'm worrying he might make a bloody mess all over the carpet while I'm asleep.

Still, I really hope he catches it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Footwear poll

Footwear again! Posted by Hello

Okay, so I'm still trying to decide whether to keep the shoes I bought yesterday (see pictures above and below). They were only $20, but even $20 is a splurge on my budget. So I have to decide whether these shoes are splurgeworthy.

I've been wanting to buy some shoes I could do a lot of walking in that don't look primarily utilitarian. But I've had very little luck finding the shoes I had envisioned. I can't decide whether this is the result of (1) a mental image of the Platonic Shoe that can never be realized in actuality, (2) my "issues" with my thick ankles (which make heels a desideratum for aesthetics, though not for walking), (3) my severely limited shoe-buying budget, or (4) an actual lack of sensible-yet-attractive footwear.

I have spent far too much time and energy thinking about these damn shoes and what they represent already. So I'm going to let the public decide. What do you think? Should they stay or should they go (back)?

(I'm not so sure about the screaming red nail polish I got with today's cheap pedicure, either. But I'm willing to try it out for a while. Feel free to offer verdicts on that, as well.)

Footwear! Posted by Hello


Mouse is sporadically convinced that we're friends again today, though he still occasionally gets spooked and dodges off to hide under the bed. I guess this just goes to show how much good presents and a few days of sulking can do. If only OP had been so amenable.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Some stuff I did today

1) Gave all my students their paper grades, but not everyone got their papers back with comments. So I still have some of those to do tomorrow, along with the exam they took this morning.

2) Spent a lot of time looking at this site as a way of trying to console myself for Mouse's behavior last night, which included forgetting to hate me briefly (and purring contentedly) until he turned around and saw my face, at which point he fled in a panic, giving me an unintentional puncture wound in the process.

3) Tried to work on writing up some comments for the remaining paper, but quickly recognized that I was too brain-dead to make any sense.

4) Fell asleep on the grad lounge couch for about 3 1/2 hours. My apologies to those of you who had to put up with me sleeping in the middle of your workspace.

5) Had a meeting with Dr. Ms. (whom I've named in honor of her most prominent in-office magazine subscription), who pretty much confirmed my view of everything I talked about today and therefore made me feel quite validated. I realize this won't happen every session, so I'm trying to savor it while it lasts.

6) Bought some inexpensive, but probably inappropriate shoes (they have sequins on them). I'm waiting to see what my guilt index is like on this particular issue tomorrow in order to decide whether I ought to return them.

7) Came home and fed Mouse tuna under the bed while reading the copy of The New Our Bodies, Ourselves I found under my nightstand. I was hoping he'd come out to socialize. He didn't, but he sure did like the tuna. In the morning, I'll just place his food bowl so he'll have to come out when he gets hungry.

8) Washed some dishes because my dishwasher is still broken and I haven't had time to call the landlord to talk to him about it again.

9) Caught up with two friends over the phone.

10) Fretted about finding a roommate and cleaning off the patio.

11) Felt simultaneously grateful and overwhelmed by having three summer jobs lined up, all of which are actually relevant to my work. The overwhelmed part dovetails nicely with the realization that yes, I do actually still have to write a prospectus this summer, too.

And very shortly, I'm going to go to bed and stay there until I wake up, without setting an alarm. I'm exhausted. Two periods of nocturnal activity hosted by my grumpy Mouse have left me completely worn out, despite my long nap this afternoon.

Two steps back

Mouse has decided that we are not friends anymore. I think taking his kill away might have read as a scary act of dominance to him. Even though I offered him an exchange and he accepted it from my hand, he later became reproachful, then skittish and reclusive. I ill-advisedly tried to push for a reconciliation, which just made things worse. So now he is hiding under the bed and won't come out to me, as he would yesterday.

Damn. We were doing so well.

Oh well. Maybe it was just a bit too much excitement, too soon. I guess I'm just going to have to wait him out.

Prey and Progress

Well, it's just after midnight, and all the papers have grades which I've triple-checked. They do not have comments yet, but I think I can manage to do that in a couple of hours if I rein myself in a bit. It appears that all those office hours I scheduled a few weeks ago paid off, because my students' papers were almost astonishingly good (particularly in contrast with the first set of papers). I am feeling accomplished.

The key to success today lay in shared misery: two friends with similarly onerous tasks came over to work and chat a bit and drink tea with me. This made things easier. I guess it was about time I took the advice I'd been giving my students all quarter about how working in groups makes the load lighter.

Mouse is making progress too, clearly feeling a bit more confident, though he still doesn't like people standing up and walking around, especially when they're moving in his direction.

----------------NEWS FLASH!---------------------------------------

As I was typing this, Mouse caught and killed a mouse in the kitchen! All hail Mouse the Mouse-Killer!

I thought I heard some suspicious noises in the walls last night. Apparently, I was right, and Mouse was comfortable enough with his terrain tonight to track the little culprit down.

Honestly, though I have a soft spot for mice, I'm not fond of sharing living space with them when they're not in cages, so I'm very pleased with Mouse.

He, however, is not very pleased with me, because I had to take his kill away from him, lest he disembowel it all over the carpet. He keeps lurking over the spot to which he'd dragged his prey and looking at me reproachfully, even though I offered him some treats in exchange. He clearly is not satisfied with the trade.

Monday, June 13, 2005

R.I.P. Hector, 2004-2005

Poor little Hector the Betta fish passed away sometime last night. I'm telling myself that he just got old: it had been nearly a year since I got him, and he'd been increasingly sluggish and disinterested in eating, even when I bought him some freeze-dried bloodworms. But I feel bad that I hadn't cleaned his tank out in more than a week. At least he could have passed on in clean water. Sigh.

I'm very good at feeling guilty. I'm also feeling bad that I'll have to leave Mouse alone for the majority of the afternoon today and very self-reproachful about the thick pile of student papers that must be graded by 8am tomorrow.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Mouse! Posted by Hello

Okay, so it's blurry, but I did manage to get one photo of Mouse. There should be more--and better--pictures to come.

I left the poor critter by himself for a while and then went back in to give it one more try before calling it a night. When I opened the bathroom door, he was hiding behind the toilet and hadn't eaten a thing. He was also looking wildly around the room with nervous, darting glances. I felt bad for him and thought maybe I'd try singing a little: sometimes that seems to calm cats down. After a few seconds of "Quando miro quel bel ciglio" (damned pretentious, I know, but it was the first song I thought of), he stopped looking around so much, started blinking, and relaxed a bit.

After a couple more songs and a little episode in which he withdrew to the other side of the toilet, he started approaching me while I was singing "The House Carpenter" (awful, hellfire-and-brimstone lyrics, yes, but it has a lovely melody. Maybe that's why he liked it.). By the time the ship started to sink, Mouse had inched tentatively into my lap, one paw at a time, and started purring.

For a couple of hours, he wouldn't let me put him down. In fact, he would only eat his dinner when I pulled it into my lap with him. I brushed him for a long time; he likes that a whole bunch, and rolled over onto his side so I could brush his stomach. We played with a feather wand (his favorite toy, his foster mom said) for a few minutes, but he wouldn't move off my lap to chase it. I also couldn't get him to shift long enough to check out his cat bed, so I eventually gave up and decided to test him out in my bedroom.

He was initially very freaked out by the new room, but is now sleeping quite contentedly on my bed, so I guess he might be staying with me in here tonight, except for a short stint in the bathroom while I take a shower.

All in all, I'd say it's gone well for a first night. I'm pleased with both of us.


Mouse has been safely installed. And, though he was so affectionate he was rolling over on his back while his foster mom was here, the poor fella ran into the corner of a closet--and then into a tiny wedge between the bathroom door and the wall--as soon as she left. He is, for now, a "wee tim'rous beastie."

I stayed outside the bathroom for a while, reading a magazine and lying on the floor to see if he'd come to me (since he was rescued from the street, he's still nervous about being approached or about people towering over him), but he would not budge, except to start with fear each time I turned a page. Poor little guy.

So I left him alone for a bit in the hopes that he'd eat the food I left for him and check out his nursery enough to feel more comfortable. He did at least nibble a good bit of cat grass while his foster mama was still here.

And foster mama, who is part of the reason I adopted Mouse, since she was so eminently sane and patient, is interested in "hanging out," because she says she doesn't have enough single girlfriends who aren't barflies (she's a part-time bartender). Thus, I may have gained both a beastie and a friend.

But no photos of the cowering Mousie for a while yet, I think. If he's frightened by the sound of swishing, glossy pages, I hate to think what a clicking, flashing camera would do to him. You'll just have to trust me when I say that he's gorgeous.

Happy Birthday, Maurice!

It's Maurice Sendak's birthday today. I'm going to celebrate by watching "Really Rosie" on DVD later this afternoon. If you want to read up on the Where the Wild things Are author, you can find an NPR interview here, as well as video excerpts and a profile from PBS's "American Masters" episode on Sendak here.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Cat Nursery Posted by Hello

In case you're wondering what I've been up to, well, here's part of it. It's a nursery for my new cat, Mouse (named thus by his foster mother after his pipsqueak meow). Mouse will be staying in Roomie's bathroom for the first week or so, until he gets acclimated to his new surroundings. You can click on the photo above to see a larger view, if you like.

My cleaning/organizing/decorating streak continues unabated, the highlight so far having occurred two nights ago in a session that lasted until 3am and involved the inhalation of far too many bleach fumes (while cleaning the bathroom). There's sill much to be done, particularly in the areas of closet and patio improvement. Though this one-woman, low-rent, carless version of Weekend Warriors is not healing all wounds, it's slapping Band-Aids on a few of them. At least I feel as though I have some control over one aspect of my life and am doing things to take care of myself and my space. It's also keeping me busy.

And I'll have a new, very affectionate feline companion as of tomorrow evening. I'll post Mouse pictures and more news soon. (The mania can only last for so long.)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Chronicles of Cluelessness

As if there weren't enough to be depressed by . . . .

The rampant cluelessness of academic magazines is really starting to get to me. Check out Bitch.Ph.D's spot-on comments concerning a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article in which the author misapplies the advice of Suze Orman to justify having to go into debt in order to do her research. ("It's an investment in myself!" she triumphantly declares, in a way that somehow reminds me of 35-year-old women trouping off to get Botox injections.)

Some of you might remember that the Chronicle incurred this Wiseass's wrath back in December of 2003, when it unleashed Scott McLemee on the MLA Annual Meeting program and allowed him to conduct a popular-press-style hatchet job on anybody who dared to discuss anything vaguely popular, theory-oriented, or sexualized--without, it should be added, any investigation into the actual merits of the actual arguments being made in the actual papers.

And now my own institution's glossy, relentlessly cheerful graduate student magazine has ranked a theater student's appearance in E! television's Michael Jackson trial re-enactments as the "featured accomplishment" of the quarter. Dear God.

I really miss Lingua Franca.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Wish me luck and emotional fortitude late this evening, Left Coast time. I'll be talking about things (mostly practical, but inevitably some not-so-practical) with Stan.