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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Not panicking. At all. Not even a little.

Yes, that's right. As of the beginning of July, I have no guaranteed income. Despite a good bit of emailing, phone calling, and interviewing during the last few weeks, I still do not have a steady summer job.

Master Fuzzy Slippers and others at the dojang are making it clear that my performance has not been adequate lately and that I must work hard to improve. During the next two weeks, I have to grade a crapload of student work, complete an incredibly difficult paleography course, take a grueling final exam for said course, and do the 10,000 little things that one must always somehow do in order to finish out a school year.

And I have to find a job, despite having no reliable transportation.

This is me not panicking.

What? You aren't convinced? Whyever not?

Letter to a student

Dear Too Cool for School,

I realize that it's the end of a long, hard school year. In fact, I doubt many people feel more burned out than I do right now, but we're all in this together.

So how about you try not exempting yourself from the normal rules of respectful social interaction to start listening to your iPod during the last half of a discussion class? Do you have any idea what an obnoxious twit that makes you out to be? Do you not remember that part of your grade is determined by your classroom participation, and do you truly think this kind of stupidity won't count against you?

I didn't call you out on this crap during class today because I had a hell of a lot of material to cover before the end of the meeting and didn't want to waste our valuable time on your rudeness. But you'd better believe that I will stop the proceedings to confiscate your iPod the next time you do it, just like they did in elementary school when you were reading the comics instead of doing your homework.

I realize summer's almost here, but it ain't here yet, and I'm still paying attention to your behavior. You should be, too. In other words, act like you've been raised.

Thank you,


Yes, I did really send this student an email. No, this is not the actual text of that email. I kinda wish it had been, though.

A Bookstore Conversation

Shane's gotta know that I'm going to post a reply to his comment on my last post. But I'm just past it tonight, having put in a particularly appalling performance at the dojang. So, instead, I offer you an entry inspired by New Kid's latest post on a question a fellow customer asked her at the bookstore.

Scene: It is 1994, and I am working in my undergrad college bookstore. I'm on a platform behind one register, and my kick-ass lesbian co-worker is behind the other. Sullen Frat Dude approaches. A few books lie on the countertop, awaiting reshelving. One of them is Beavis and Butt-Head's Ensucklopedia, which came with an embedded sound board that allowed readers to play catch phrases from the show. It's the last week of the term, and we've already fielded at least five requests for textbooks sent back to the publisher weeks ago because the students in question hadn't bothered to pick them up.

Me: Can I help you?
Sullen Frat Dude: (Peers up from beneath his low-riding, filthy, but meticulously broken-billed white hat.) I gotta read a book called, uh, 1982?
Me: (In Customer Service mode, but probably not entirely repressing a look of confusion and shock.) Do you mean 1984, maybe?
Sullen Frat Dude: (Mumbles, with a dismissive flick of his wrist.) Whatever.
Me: (Still uber-polite, peering at the inventory screen, but perhaps speaking a bit too brightly now.) Yes, I see that we have a few copies of that in stock. You'll find them under "Orwell" in the "Fiction" section along that wall there. The books are in alphabetical order by author's name. Sullen Frat Dude: (Scowls at me because he has to fetch it himself. Utters a long sigh. Then, with back turned, walks away.) Yeah.
Kick-Ass Lesbian Co-Worker: (Deftly picks up aforementioned copy of the Ensucklopedia, nonchalantly presses a button.)
Sound-Card Butt-Head: Heh heh. Assmunch.
Me: (Ducks beneath register, unable to repress gasps of laughter.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sleep less, get fat.

Have you heard about the study which concludes that sleep deprivation may decrease women's metabolisms, therefore causing them to gain weight and have a harder time taking it off?

I would love to blame my past year's weight gains on this, but I suspect that stress eating has had a more direct effect.

A la Twisty, I'm also going to note that this is yet another scientific study which focuses on weight gain in women. Does this phenomenon not affect men, or does our culture just think it matters a lot less whether a guy gains 33 pounds over a 16-year period? I kinda suspect it's the latter.

Still, I need to start sleeping more on a more regular basis.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

On Memorial Day

Heo suggests, in her last Poetry Friday post, that we should be thinking about the deeply moving Old English poem Deor--the lament of a warrior exiled from his society--this Memorial Day weekend. As Heo points out, there are plenty of abandoned warriors in our own country, and far too many of them wandering the streets. She's posted both the Anglo-Saxon and the Modern English versions posted, along with a link to a sound file of Prof. Robert Fulk's beautiful reading of the original poem: I highly recommend them.

There also are hundreds of thousands of betrayed warriors fighting in the Middle East right now--women and men fighting a war which amounts to little more than a confused government's attempt to look strong in the wake of 9/11's horrors and failures, a family vendetta, and a national refusal to reduce our unsustainable dependence on petroleum. The soldiers who enlist to protect our country do so with the understanding that they won't be asked to risk their lives for a cause unworthy of the sacrifice, but the current administration has reneged on that contract.

To that end, I'm suggesting another piece by British poet Wilfred Owen, who recorded the futilities, terrors, and injustices of World War I and died in battle a week before the conflict ended in 1918.

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

I also want to offer a particularly appropriate passage about war, wounds, and memory from Elaine Scarry's The Body in Pain:

What is remembered in the body is well remembered; the bodies of massive numbers of participants are deeply altered; those new alterations are carried forward into peace. So, for example, the history of the United States participation in numerous twentieth-century wars may be quietly displayed across the surviving generations of any American family--a grandfather whose distorted feet permanently memorialize the location and landing site of a piece of shrapnel in France, the feet to which there will always cling the narration of a difficult walk over fields of corn stubble; a father whose heart became an unreliable pennywhistle because of the rheumatic fever that swept through an army training camp in 1942, at once exempting him from combat and making him lethally vulnerable to the Asian flu that would kill him several decades later; a cousin whose damaged hip and permanent limp announce in each step the inflection of the word "Vietnam," and along with the injuries of thousands of his peers assures that whether or not it is verbally memorialized, the record of war survives in the bodies, both alive and buried, of the people who were hurt there.

Elsewhere, Scarry writes eloquently about war casualties as both symbolic and open to a host of political interpretations. I have no doubt that our President and his supporters will make speeches tomorrow which claim that the tens of thousands of American casualties symbolize a fight for freedom and justice. Those who support this war also will make arguments about hundreds of thousands of Iraqui casualties as either the regrettable, but necessary, outcome of a fight to liberate a people oppressed by a murderous dictator or an appropriate punishment for those who would resist the clarion call of liberty and a movement away from religious fanaticism.

In the wake of unethical and often illegal wartime actions undertaken by an increasingly dictatorial and theocratic American government--the "embedding" of our national media; the WMD hoax; the enactment of the so-called Patriot Act; admitted government wiretapping of private citizens; and the atrocities of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere--I hope an increasing number of us are beginning to resist such characterizations of the suffering this war has caused. I also hope that more of us will begin to resist the threats the Bush administration poses to human rights around the world and to our rights as American citizens here at home.

Tomorrow, I plan to go up to the local veterans' cemetery, find the least honored grave in sight, and leave a token of my respect. Today, I signed the Not in Our Name statement of conscience.

There is more than one way to be loyal. To my mind, the loyalty which believes that a beloved person, institution, or country can and should live up to its ideals and promises--and which does not let failures to do that go unremarked--is by far the best.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Random Bullets of Goodness

Good stuff I want to record from the past couple of days:
  • I plowed through my email backlog tonight: it's now down from 206 to 75!
  • I have two little jobs lined up to help ends meet in June and July. I still need either a regular gig or a whole bunch of other little jobs, but this is a move in the right direction.
  • I have leads on a few more jobs and got an email back from one person who said she wished she were hiring because she liked my application so much.
  • Just when I was running entirely out of money and wondering whether I actually would manage to get to the end of the month without bouncing a check or a debit-card charge, I discovered a misplaced stash of moolah.
  • I have been allowing myself to read for pleasure (so naughty!) on the bus and occasionally during the evenings for the past week, so I finally got around to reading Watership Down.
  • At some point since the last time I tried, it apparently has become okay to listen to R.E.M. again. It's nice to finally have that particular chunk of musical real estate back from Ex #1.
  • I've generally been listening to music more while I'm working or puttering around the house. It's amazing how much nicer life is with a soundtrack; it's also amazing how many things I've been unnecessarily denying myself this year.
  • In a related development, I'm re-discovering Web-based radio stations. I give Radio Paradise a hearty endorsement. I'm still on the fence about Americana Roots Radio and Boot Liquor Radio, both of which seem a little more uneven and slightly less computer-work friendly for me. Maybe they'd be better for housecleaning (which I definitely need to do).
  • The General, who wasn't being done well by in terms of departmental funding for next year, snagged a Brand-Name Hipster Fellowship instead. Niiiice.
  • I am allowing myself to spend the majority of the day tomorrow doing important non-academic things like buying groceries, going to the dojang, visiting people, applying for work, and getting more emails taken care of.
  • I can get away with that because this is a three-day weekend.
  • I have been getting a bit more sleep, on average, lately. This is a good thing. I'm nearly like a person when I sleep more.

Speaking of which, I need to go to bed. G'night.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging: In Memoriam, Mother Virago

Dr. Virago's mother passed away late Tuesday night. I only met Mother Virago once, but I know she was a strong and lovely person who will be deeply missed.

Dr. V. found one of Christina Rossetti's poems marked in her Mom's Victorian poetry anthology and is planning to read it at the funeral service. It's a beautiful and fitting tribute, and I'm offering it for this week's Friday Poetry Blogging in honor of a good friend and the mother who helped to make her so wonderful.

Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Public Service Announcement

I am not in the mood.

No. I am exhausted and very nearly at the end of my tether. I have been having dizzy spells; have almost passed out for the first, second, and third times in my life during the last month and a half; and generally am crankier than a nest full of hornets in a blender.

So let me just explain something as patiently as I can to a certain subsection of the undergraduate population.

When you respond to your instructor's comments during your paper conference--which she scheduled on a weekend to fit your schedule--silently and sullenly, arms akimbo, finally saying, "Well, I guess you've just about covered everything" because you're pissed off that you're not being told your draft is already perfect? And when your final version subsequently does little to address the points she brought up? And when you have blatantly ignored her repeated, in-class explanations of why it is important to include a title befitting an analytical paper, MLA-style citation, and Works Cited pages? And when those discussions have included explicit instructions on how to produce those items? And when she has, furthermore, explained from the first day of class that said features are indeed part of the grading criteria for the class, including them in the policy packet and discussing them at some length?

And you get a pretty damn decent grade anyway?

Please do not come to talk to her by special appointment at the end of an already long day and complain that you were really disappointed not to get an A and that you really think you should have gotten one because she didn't explicitly remind you during your conference that you needed to include an appropriate title and a citation system.

Especially do not persist in being openly pissy when she explains that, while such technical issues were indeed part of the grading process, they were not the basis for the grade and that the major issues which earned you less than an A were indeed the ones she discussed with you during office hours. For the love of reason, do not then try to argue--incorrectly--that your instructor must be wrong, because you think you remember, even though you forgot to bring your commented-upon paper with you, that she didn't really say anything about argumentative or organizational problems in her feedback document.

Be aware, please, that your instructor was being generous in giving you a decent grade, despite your having ignored her directions. Be aware that she may not be inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt the next time around.

If your employer had spent a good deal of her time telling you precisely what the format was for a report you owed her and you then did not produce the report according to instructions, would you expect your boss to tell you it was flawless? Would you actually try to lay the blame for your performance on your boss by saying that her having told you and your colleagues three or four times what she expected wasn't direct enough?

I certainly hope you would not. Because, if you did, you'd be unlikely to keep that job for very long. And for a very good reason, too: you'd be acting like a spoiled brat.

The cold, hard truth, my sweets, is that you should not expect to get A's in classes in which your work performances and your behavior are less than professional.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


I'm nearing the end of a particularly grueling academic year, and my brain seems to have decided that it is quitting about a month early. Caffeine cannot counteract the aphasia that's setting in at this point, nor can full nights of sleep counteract the bone-weariness I'm feeling now that the end is in sight. And, to be perfectly frank, I seem to be incapable of making myself give a damn about much of anything for more than a few minutes at a time. I'd hoped that being brainless for the majority of the weekend would help, but it hasn't. I can't tell whether my shopping- and video-watching spree failed to recharge my batteries because I'm just that worn out or actually made things worse by allowing inertia to set in.

Either way, it's rather unfortunate, seeing as how I have no savings to fall back on and therefore desperately need to find a summer job, like, now; have to finish teaching and grading for my comp class; really should already be studying for the upcoming and terrifying paleography exam; and generally need to manage to act like a professional and reasonably intelligent person.

Anybody got any suggestions about how I can yank myself out of this state of general uselessness?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Weekend Web Digest: Shopping and Videos

Though I still have plenty of things that need doing, I have slightly fewer of them than I've had for a while. I should be using this weekend to catch up with all the people whose emails and phone calls have gone unanswered (or under-answered) during the past few months and the blogs that have gone unread for the past few weeks, but I have a serious case of being just flat worn out, and I do not feel at all like doing anything substantive. I also spent nearly $700 on my poor, mistreated truck today and therefore am feeling the need for consolation. So the frivolity continues.

I've done a bit of bargain shopping (fortunately for my bank account, this has been more about looking than about actual buying) and discovered Sparkletime Art Glass, where one can buy handmade, double-sided glass pendants like the one I've shown above, which has Snow White's wicked stepmother on one side and her magic mirror on the other. There's also a pendant featuring Isabella weeping over her pot of basil, Lillith and her owl, Marie Laveau and a rooster, Eleanor of Aquitaine and a white stallion, and many others just as wonderful ($12.99 each, plus shipping).

I also found Bleedingheartbaby's store, where inexpensive ($9.99 or less) handmade necklaces feature everything from Bettie Page with her claws out to cameos of Poe and a kitschy cartoon of a blonde bathing beauty getting carried off by a robot.

Possibly even more glorious, however, is my discovery of Sock Dreams, which may actually live up to its claim to be "the best sock store in the known universe." I have a thing for funky socks and tights, so I'll probably be visiting fairly often--especially since they offer free first-class shipping on orders placed within the U.S.! Not only does this site have fantastic socks and hoisery, but they also have gloves, petticoats, arm and leg warmers, and garters for socks and thigh-highs. Boy Roomie ordered a pair of checkerboard socks from the men's selection; photos of what I bought show up at the top of this entry (for only about $20!). I think I showed marvelous self-restraint, given that I was imagining these and these combined with one of the Stop Staring! dresses I posted about on Wednesday. Once I get my next paycheck, I may well buy a pair of these "Showgirl Fishnets" with their wonderful padded feet.

I also have been gettin' my nostalgia on over at YouTube. I ask you, ladies: can you deny that you seriously wanted Aimee Mann's hair in 1985? And did you know there was an even angstier follow-up video to "Voices Carry"?

Other highlights:

  • Crowded House, "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Better Be Home Soon" (Now, if somebody would only post the video for "Something So Strong," which singlehandedly sparked my massive, raging crush on Neil Finn . . . )
  • Simply Red, "Holding Back the Years" (I still adore this song), "Money's Too Tight to Mention," and "If You Don't Know Me By Now"
  • INXS, "Never Tear Us Apart"
  • Bon Jovi, "Wanted Dead or Alive" (Get out those cigarette lighters, people! You know you want to have them lit by the time Jon sings, "I walk these streets, a loaded six-string on my back / I play for keeps, 'cause I might not make it back.")
  • Heart, "These Dreams" (at the apex of their uber-80s glam rock makeover, complete with huge hair and smoke machines), "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You" (if there's a better song about using hitchhikers as sperm donors, I sure don't know about it), and "Barracuda" (live)
  • Prince, "Kiss" and "Little Red Corvette" (Live! On "Solid Gold"!)
  • Howard Jones, "No One Is to Blame," "What Is Love," and "Things Can Only Get Better" (Yep. I am from New Wave Old Skool. In fact, I was in this man's fan club. Every once in a while "HoJo" sent us new things he was working on or Christmas songs on those thin, temporary vinyl records that used to show up in special editions of magazines.)
  • Tears for Fears, "Shout" (I think the video really should've ended with the apotheosis of Roland Orzabal's synthesizer.)
  • Simple Minds, "Don't You Forget About Me"
  • Devo, "Whip It" (Just your average New Wave strip party down on the ranch. With weird pyramidal hats, of course.)
  • Dead or Alive, "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" (Boy Roomie reminded me of this one, which is truly a classic. The lead singer makes a rather sad attempt at being a Boy George impersonator, though he strikes a blow for individuality by wearing an eye patch. But beware: He will try to hypnotize you with his swiveling hips! Perhaps he has succeeded with his bandmates, which would explain their vacant stares and passivity as they're alternately tied up and serve as human flag poles. Watch as the gold lame whips around in the wind tunnel! Marvel as Pseudo-George's hair barely moves!)
  • Madonna, "Express Yourself" (Crotch grabbing! Wet cats! Factory-floor calisthenics! What's not to like?)
  • Cyndi Lauper, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" (Love the red dress) and "She Bop" ("They say I better get a chaperone / 'Cause I can't quit messin' with the danger zone.")
  • Culture Club, "Karma Chameleon" (The boys take on a riverboat gambler in 19th-century Mississippi. Seriously, who came up with these ideas? Because I want to send them flowers.)
  • OMD, "If You Leave"
  • Eurythmics, "Sweet Dreams" (It simply is not possible to be cooler than Annie Lennox is here, but can anybody explain the cows?)
  • Dream Academy, "Life in a Northern Town"
  • A-Ha, "Take On Me" (This has got to be one of the most excellent videos ever made, featuring troubled love with a cartoon and wrench-wielding bad guys) and the follow-up video, "The Sun Always Shines on TV."
  • The Cure, "Just Like Heaven" (This song never gets old. Never. But I must admit that, when I first saw this, I mistook Robert Smith's hair for a shrub in the scene where he's lying down near the cliffs.)
  • Tina Turner, "Private Dancer"
  • The Police, "Don't Stand So Close to Me" (featuring a behind-the-desk strip tease, as well as mortarboards and angel wings) and "Wrapped Around Your Finger" (So many candles that Sting has to wear shades!)
  • Soft Cell, "Tainted Love" (Dude! Flaming, polka-dotted succubi!)
  • Sinead O'Connor, "Nothing Compares 2 U"
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "Don't Come Around Here No More" (Remember Tom Petty as the Mad Hatter? And Alice getting served up as cake?)
  • Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," "I Hate Myself for Loving You," and "Cherry Bomb." (Uh, okay. Maybe Joan Jett actually trumps Annie Lennox.)
  • Journey, "Don't Stop Believing'" (Emote, Steve Perry! Emote! I once--no lie--made an entire class full of people perform half of an aerobics routine to this song. I figured that, if I had to do something as miserable as taking an aerobics class for credit in college, I'd better damn well have a good time doing it at least once.)
  • Depeche Mode, "Master and Servant" (The other half of the aerobics routine was to this. And yes, faux-whipping motions were involved.)

And, for good measure, there's this astonishing and hilarious 1946 Disney short on the wonders of menstruation.


UPDATE: I'm beginning to wonder whether I could write a conference paper in which I compare the aesthetics of DM's "Personal Jesus" video with the mysticism of, say, Margery Kempe . . . .

And that is how I definitively know that I've watched too many of these in a three-day period.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging: A Newly Discovered Beowulf Fragment

I've stumbled upon a previously undiscovered Beowulf fragment! This could make my career, folks!

From contextual evidence, it appears that this seven-line section, which radically diverges from the traditional verse-structure of Old English, should be placed after line 606 of the poem as it currently stands, at the end of Beowulf's retort to Unferth. I've already begun working up the apparatus for the publication of a student edition; comments are welcome.

Beowulf cwæþ to Unferþe:*

Ic eom to hæmedlic for þissum meoduhealle,
To hæmedlic for þissum meoduhealle,
Ic tobrede Grendel.

Ic eom wigend, gecnawast þu hwæt ic mæne?
Ac ic com to Hroðgare on þære hronrade.
On þære hronrade, on þære hronrade, gea.
Ic com to Hroðgare on þære hronrade.

* The invaluable assistance of Mr. R. S. Fred is most gratefully acknowledged.
Old English to Modern English letter "conversions":
æ = a
þ = th
ð = th
1) hæmedlic: So far as I know, this word is otherwise unattested in Old English. However, it is clear enough that it is an adjective formed from the noun "hæmed," which means "sexual intercourse" (the adjectival ending -lic being equivalent to Modern English -like or even, in some cases, -y).
2) meduheall: mead-hall
3) tobredan: to tear apart
4) wigend: warrior
5) mænan: to tell, to intend, to mean
6) hranrad: literally, "whale-road," a kenning for "sea, ocean" (a kenning being a poetic compound that stands in for a more common word)

In other poetry news, the marvelous Geoffrey Chaucer has written yet another poem of muchel sentence and solaas, the masterful "Cipher of Leonardo."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Time for complete frivolity: Stuff I want

Sometimes, at the end of a long, hard day, we just gotta indulge ourselves in a fantasy or two.

So, in my fantasy, I own, like, all of the Stop Staring! dresses. But I especially want these.

That black one with the roses? I don't just want it. I lust after it.

And no, I really can't justify spending $100 on a dress. So I won't.

But, ooh! Pretty!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Seeking advice on freelance work

So, I'm working on sending out some job applications this afternoon. I really should be doing other stuff, but the anxiety of not having started a job search in earnest is too damn distracting. Does anybody out there have info on standard hourly fees for the following kinds of freelance work?
  1. editing and proofreading
  2. book club moderating
  3. tutoring
  4. test prep teaching
  5. exam proctoring

And does anybody know of other categories of work I ought to be thinking about, but which don't appear on this list?

Why I hate the end of the academic year

Things that are not making this Wiseass happy:
  • The huge mounds of grading I'm so behind on.
  • My utter bewilderment about the paleography class I'm taking.
  • Not having a steady job lined up for the summer and getting vague, passive-aggressive, and otherwise less-than-helpful replies from former summer employers.
  • Spending $700 to repair my truck enough even to prevent further damage while storing her in my garage.
  • The estimates of how much more it would cost to make her driveable in the long term, either for myself or for anybody else, if I sold her.
  • The very real possibility of going into the summer with no savings at all.
  • How badly I'm doing at the dojang right now.
  • Many friends who are having a hard time of it, one way or another, and my inability to do much of anything about it.
  • Exhaustion so advanced that I will sleep through an entire night and half a day given the opportunity, then wake up to realize how screwed I am because I wasn't working, rather than sleeping, for the past six hours.
  • And, much the worst of all, that Boy Roomie will have to have surgery and may have to move out as a result.

I am trying to focus on how fantastic it is to have a fellowship and travel money next year. I also am trying to burn into my memory how deeply awful it always is to go into the summer not having any idea how I'm going to pay my rent, as well as how awful it is to have so little stability. Because if I can keep that in mind next year while I have more time to get work done, I may be able to remember why it's absolutely vital to get my ass out of bed in the mornings to write.

Monday, May 15, 2006

In which I am kinda screwed and very tired, but still have good news to share

Ack. It is after 2am, and I'm going to have to give up and go to bed for about three hours, having completed almost none of what's due tomorrow, though I have very nearly managed to make some sense of the disorder that had invaded the entire apartment, send out a raft of overdue thank-you notes, nake a couple of summer job inquiries, and put out a few more fires.

Before I collapse though, I thought I really ought to note a few pieces of good news:

1) I got a travel grant for next year! It wasn't all I asked for, but it will still be enough to let me look at some key primary sources and catch up with Kindly Prof, who will be out of the country. This is lovely.

2) I made iced tea!

3) Boy Roomie made cookies!

Okay. Bed now. And let's hope I can muster the focus to put together a creditable study guide, plan a class, and grade a set of short papers in about six hours' time tomorrow. Lord a' mercy.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

On Downtime

Nope, I haven't either evaporated or started posting elsewhere without letting anybody know. I'm just still trying to catch up, post-Zoo, post-exam, post-sinus-infection (from which I'm still having occasional dizzy spells at least a month later), post-too-little-sleep-for-about-three months.

After hours of work this weekend, I'm beginning to see some semblance of order in the piles of crap littering the living room: I had pretty much zero time after the Zoo to unpack, which means that I not only had to contend with four loads worth of dirty laundry this weekend, but also the contents of three overstuffed bags and the entropy resulting from a week's worth of rooting about in the chaos to find what I needed.

Finally having some downtime this weekend means that I have begun to actually process all that I need to do and have not yet accomplished: that I am able to fully contemplate exactly how far behind I am on everything and how ill-equipped I am to contend with it all. I have the approximate energy level of a bag full of soup beans, but I must somehow manage to grade a set of quizzes and papers, as well as do a paleography write-up, return important emails and write several more, finish cleaning up after myself, and figure out how to pay my bills before tomorrow afternoon. This is not to mention the errands that need to be run, the stuff that's still outstanding from last quarter, or the rapidly approaching end of my school-year employment, which means I have to find a way to pay the rent for the next two or three months, pronto.

Sometimes, I wonder if downtime is really a good thing, after all. Yesterday, contending with the psychological weight of all this crap, combined with psychic fall-out from what may well have been my most embarrassing performance yet at the dojang, left me sitting dejectedly on my tuckus for a few hours while re-painting my nails, eating popsicles, and watching two really cruddy pseudo-documentaries on The Da Vinci Code in a row--one on the local Catholic station which was dedicated to exposing the "errors" of something expressly written as a piece of fiction and another sad and sensationalist one hosted by a very droopy-looking Patrick MacNee. Watching the formerly dashing Mr. Steed plod ashenly through a badly written script and introduce a parade of half-assed re-enactments wasn't exactly inspirational, I'm afraid. Getting a bill in the mail from Big City University for the conferral of my doctoral candidacy didn't help, either. Bleh.

Honestly, I swear that I have lost about 50 IQ points, most of my coordination, most of my energy, and nearly all of my focus in the wake of my exam. I've been told by some new mothers that they felt this way post-partum: is there such a thing as a "milk haze" following the receipt of interim degrees? I'm not certain, but I can tell you that my symptoms include having forgotten nearly everything I learned to earn my orange belt, as well as nearly everything I learned to help me on my way to the yellow belt. I can't be any less disgusted than some of my instructors, but I do at least know where my current spaciness is coming from, whereas I can't seem to explain it to them at all.

I think I need either about two weeks' worth of time off or none whatsoever: anything in between seems to make me feel worse, rather than better. At least being in a situation in which I have to turn something in, meet with someone, or teach a class within the next two hours offers me both clarity of purpose and an escape from prioritizing.

Le sigh. Well, it will all begin to fall together somehow, I guess. And I am grateful, in a way, to have so much to do, since that will prevent me from just lying about and staring vacantly at the ceiling for hours at a time, which is pretty much what I want to do.

Other things to be grateful for include Boy Roomie's having made a truly splendid breakfast including French Toast with Jack Daniels in the batter; Mouse's continued progress away from neurosis (which means that he was not only friendly with Cat-sitter Extraordinaire Mr. Helmet, but also is finally getting over the worst of his skittishness with Boy Roomie); today's absolutely gorgeous Spring weather, which means we've been able to throw open the door to the porch and hear neighborhood kids playing in the background; and having been able to call Mom to wish her a happy Mother's Day.

I may post more in a bit, when I take another break from wading through the mounds of stuff invading our living space and trying to ward off the impending crisis that is next week. . . .

Friday, May 12, 2006

Poetry Friday: Two by Solomon ibn Gabirol (11th Century)


Naked without either cover or dress,
utterly soulless, and hollow--
from its mouth comes wisdom and prudence,
and in ambush it kills like an arrow.


My heart thinks as the sun comes up
that what it does is wise:
as earth borrows its light,
as pledge it takes the stars.

--Trans. Peter Cole

Monday, May 08, 2006

Vagina Dialogues?

Here's something you should go read now. GayProf reports on a particularly appalling incidence of sexism in his department:

According to anonymous testimony from one of his graduate students, [one] particular professor has been starting his classes by telling his women students, “In my class, you check your vaginas at the door.”

You know, I am not unaware of how much power profs have over the lives of grad students, and I have much sympathy for the students described in this post, who've generally kept mum about this prof's behavior. In fact, despite my own tendency toward wiseassery, I must admit that I've kept my mouth firmly shut in the presence of many a sexist comment for similar reasons. (Just one quick example: a prof asking the "strong young males" to carry a book or two, as if all the women in that classroom didn't routinely lug about approximately a metric ton of printed material, some of us while wearing heels.) But honestly, I would have been physically incapable of keeping my mouth shut if a prof had ever said what this one did.

I am not sure, however, that I would have said anything particularly articulate. In fact, even right now, I am so mad about this that I can't think of a single clever thing to imagine myself saying to this unbelievable asshat. Anybody want to offer some ripostes?

Speaking of ripostes, I very much like GayProf's rejoinder to a typical conservative response to those progressives who critique sexist, racist, and homophobic behavior:

When questioning our funny-bone fails to win them approval, they claim that we are wrongly demanding them to be “politically correct.” This reductive phrase has become a convenient way for conservative individuals to refuse to scrutinize their own actions or words. Instead, complaints about real injustices or hurtful words get turned back onto women, minorities, and gays.

I have simply never understood the knee-jerk hostility to being “politically correct.” Opting to chose words that are inclusive or don’t hurt another person’s feelings hardly seems like a major chore to me. For some, though, clearly this infringes on their personal liberties. To those who whine about “political correctness,” let me say this: “Yes, we are asking you to do some work. It means you will have to think more about your own race, gender, and sexuality. Live with it. We have lost our patience for your racism, sexism, and homophobia.”

Thanks very much to New Kid for pointing out this excellent post. And thanks, of course, to GayProf for writing it.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Zoo in Review

Well, it's drawing to a close. I'm blogging from a lobby on campus as people roll their suitcases through on the way out of town.

I've been to sessions both inspiring and uninspired, seen my friends deliver outstanding papers (sometimes in spite of very difficult circumstances), met people I previously knew only virtually or textually, learned many things, drunk too much, bonded with several people, plotted next career moves with Kindly Prof, found some exceptionally useful and inexpensive books, and been left with much to ponder in general.

And, of course, I went to the dance.

About the dance, I will say this: medievalists know how to throw down when it comes to headbanging, polkas, 80s New Wave, funk, and punk. But if you want to clear a dance floor of those pesky pre-modern specialists, just put on some hip-hop.

I'll also mention that the dance seems to be an event at which dysfunction comes out to play and that it felt more than a little like being in the middle school gym all over again. And that being hit on repeatedly by men over the age of 50--one of whom sought to impress me by saying snarky things about others in the profession and introducing me to An Important Person--drove me to one of my exceedingly rare one-night smoking binges. Nothing makes a gal want to fill her lungs with carcinogens more than being viewed as a potential conference fling by several men nearly twice her age while also witnessing some deeply uncomfortable interpersonal dynamics unfolding around her. Blech.

So, overall verdict on the dance: less fun than I'd have hoped. I'm still convinced it has potential, but one wants to manage the experience carefully.

I also will say that it is possible to wear high heels for the duration of the Kalamazoo experience, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it.

The blogging panel, like the meet-up, was excellent. I had to leave at the end and couldn't hang around to chat with people as I'd hoped, but I do want to thank Michael Drout of Wormtalk and Slugspeak for mentioning this humble blog, thereby giving me my first academic citation.

The session and other Zoo events have prompted me, once again, to re-think the content and purpose of this virtual outpost. Of course, two of the primary features of a blog are its changeability and flexiblity. As blogs in general and academic blogs in particular become more popular and more reknowned, the blogging community and its influence on the non-virtual world also are changing. I think those changes are almost entirely to the good, but I also think those shifts mean anonymous, grad-student bloggers like me may need to approach the process with even more circumspection than in the past.

You'll notice that quite a few of my most recent posts have disappeared: I am editing the blog and moving some of the more sensitive entries to another, more secure location. I also plan to place my most sensitive posts there in the future.

I'll admit to a deep ambivalence about this decision: one of my purposes in authoring this blog is to offer a space where the complexites of current grad-school experience can be explored through the (admittedly limited) lens of my own. Doing that requires candor: as Prof. Drout noted, anonymous blogs can publicly speak truths that otherwise remain hidden and help both author and audience find a helpful sense of recognition and solidarity. Since beginning to post some entries in a more secure space will compromise the public truth-speaking of this project, I'm not thrilled about it. But I also take to heart the comments of some, including Lisa Spangenberg (a. k. a. The Digital Medievalist), which remind me that maintaining true anonymity isn't possible and that blogging balances its benefits with very real risks that need to be handled carefully.

'Cause let's face it, folks: a Wiseass got to get paid.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Zoo Thursday

Checking in from a dorm lobby to say that I'm here, I've presented, I've caught up with many friends, I've met some bloggers, I've bought a manuscript facsimilie, and all is well. I do miss Mouse something awful, but I'm having a good time.

I think my paper went well, though I had a massive attack of nerves beforehand, which Morgan (whose presentation this morning was outstanding) and Owlfish helped to see me through (thanks, you two).

Immediately upon donning the Black Pantsuit of Power, a rather blingy brooch, and The Shoes, I was convinced that I was over-doing it, that I looked tremendously silly, that I had somehow gained 10 pounds overnight, and that the outfit wasn't half as flattering as I'd thought it was in my living room at home. Maybe it was just the flourescent lights, the rather shabby full-length mirror in the hall, and the cinder-block backdrop. Maybe it was the nerves. Maybe it was my always-lurking sense that I am not and never will be a Real Medievalist. Who knows?

Anyway, I carefully minced my way down the precipitous stairs to the right building and managed to get misdirected on the way, thereby showing up a couple of minutes late, just as my (apparently very prompt) panel's presider was wondering aloud whether I'd be there. I do believe I did a solid job, even with reading the Middle English, and that I did a good job (with Morgan's and Dr. V's help!) of editing the thing down into something that still remained intelligible. I got no questions, as usual. I don't know what it is about my presentations that discourages responses, but I find the trend unsettling. I did get compliments from the presenter and others, though, and I'll take that at face value.

Now, I get to spend the rest of the conference going to sessions, socializing, and maybe doing a little book shopping in the exhibition hall. (I was very good today: I bought one thing which was an unbelievable bargain, and then chastely wrote down the titles of other items I was interested in for later reference and library hunting trips.) As several of us agreed at the blogger meet-up tonight, this is as close as I'm getting to a vacation for the foreseeable future, so I plan to enjoy the hell out of it!

As to the meet-up, it was great to meet all of you in person. Look out for those badgers!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

K'zoo packing list

Okay, I have gotten so much advice on what I ought to bring (or not bring) to K'zoo in order to survive in the dorms and elsewhere that my head is spinning. So I'm going to make a very completist list here for my own reference, hoping that it might be useful to others, as well.

--bedside lamp or reading light of some kind
--shower shoes
--light blanket
--pillowcase (and maybe sheets? maybe even a pillow?)
--a pair or two of flats that will fit neatly into a handbag, in case my new pairs of heels make my feet hurt
--shoe inserts
--anti-skid adhesives for shoe bottoms (last three items because, apparently, the buildings are very spread out, making for lots of walking)
--raincoat (last two items included because says it's going to be drizzly)
--clear nail polish (to stop runs in hose)
--sunblock (last three items included because anecdotal evidence points to occasional, surprise heat waves and I am a pasty-pale, light-sensitive, cave-dweller type)
--alarm clock
--layer-able clothing (because it looks as though the weather will be as hot as the 70s and as cold as the 30s while we're there)
--plastic bags
--travel iron
--extra undies, socks, and pairs of hose
--CD Walkman (because I can't afford an iPod), headphones, CDs
--extra batteries for everything

Anybody want to add anything?

Monday, May 01, 2006


It's been a very "huggy" day today.
  • Mouse gave me a particularly enthusiastic kitty-hug this morning, making me about three times sadder to be leaving him behind for five days.
  • Kindly Prof hugged me in the hallway for getting a fellowship. Awww. See? Kindly.
  • I want to hug this man, having read about his breathtakingly brave and deliciously Swiftian comments (a transcript of which appear at the end of this article by Chris Durang, with further commentary and video links here) at the White House Correspondents' dinner. It's still Jon Stewart whose babies I'd have for the good of all humanity (you know, strictly as a progressive eugenics project). But I wouldn't kick Mr. Colbert's genetic material out of the turkey baster, either.