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.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Just for the record

I did manage to post a set of summer goals today, but they had to be fairly specific, so I've posted them elsewhere to avoid giving away too much. I've got a lot to get done before the next school year, so here's hoping I can manage to pull out of this slump and that my dizzy spells, oversleeping, and other weird symptoms will fade soon, with or without medical intervention.

Thanks for your advice on the job I mentioned in my last post: I did decide to turn it down. I've gotten another job offer for the new school year, but it involves counseling undergrads, so Kindly Prof is advising me not to take it, saying he suspects it'll end up taking too much time away from my dissertation. He may be right, and I'm pondering what to do. I also am still waiting to hear about another job that would begin during the summer.

You know, it's hard to overstate how difficult it is, as a grad student, to figure out what the right balance is between ensuring a reasonable amount of financial security and finishing one's degree within a decade.

Hoping to return to more regular postings soon.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Flotsam, Jetsam, and Advice-Seeking

Yep. Still tired. But I am recovering (I think) from a two-day visit with Old Man Trouble (otherwise known as exhaustive depression). I have a crapload to do in the next three or four days, so that's a good thing. Of course, it would've been far better if I hadn't lost about 30 out of the past 48 hours to generally feeling like a big lump of self-pity and self-loathing (the latter having been induced largely by the former), but there you are.

I hereby vow to have a list of summer goals and priorities on record here by next Friday. And I also vow that at least four of them will involve working specifically to help myself detox from the effects of the grueling academic year I just completed and the residual effects of the couple that came before it.

Meanwhile, I can announce that I have (finally) managed to pass my orange belt tip test. So I should be in reasonable shape to test for the yellow belt next month. Wish me luck on the formal, dojang-wide demonstrations going on this weekend: I'm afraid I might need it, since I'm not nearly as conversant with the long form I'm performing as I ought to be.

Also meanwhile, I seek your wisdom, O Ye Internets. I have been offered a steady summer/next-school-year job which would be very flexible, would require me to work no more than 10 hours a week, and seems to be gratifyingly low-key. Needless to say, it also would go a long way to ensuring that I could comfortably pay my bills. The catch is that it's only paying $8.63/hour: it's a position usually reserved for undergraduates. And I'm also in the running for a much more desirable (and better paying) job that I think I'll be asked to interview for within the next week or so.

Despite my tendency to play it safe in such matters, I'm inclined to turn the current offer down: I suspect that I really shouldn't take a position which is paying as little as that, not only because I'm A.B.D., but also because that pittance will be even more of a pittance once I count in the cost of transportation, on-campus lunches, and taxes. And because I'd probably do better to eat PB&J for the rest of the summer and spend the extra hours on writing projects than to earn so little for my time.

What do you think?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Poetry Friday: Christopher Smart

I took the exam today, so that's behind me, and I think it served its purpose in making me learn stuff I wanted to know. That is good.

I seem to have enough work to pay most of my bills for the summer, if all goes as planned.

Though he still has to have surgery, Boy Roomie will not have to move out, after all.

We bought blue raspberry slurpies which we've spiked with rum, and we're going to watch "Arsenic and Old Lace" here in a minute.

So, although I still have a metric crapload of papers and exams to grade by early next week, things seem to be looking up a bit. I will probably be able to start blogging more regularly soon and even return calls and emails.

Meanwhile, here is my favorite cat poem. I like it even better than the marvelous "Pangur Bán," which I think New Kid posted at her place a while back. The first time I read this poem, it was while I was married to Ex #1, who was violently allergic to cats. I assumed my weepy response was due to a catsickness only partially assuaged by working in a rescue shelter. But I've teared up at least a little every time I've read it since. So I reckon it's just a really good poem.

Of course, knowing that Christopher Smart wrote this while he was in an asylum between 1759 and 1763 and realizing that Jeoffry probably was his closest friend during his confinement might have something to do with my reaction, too.

I found this in a poetry anthology that I rescued from the trash today, so I guess that pretty much means this is destiny. Or something.

"For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry"
(from Jubilate Agno)

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthy he goes in quest of food.
For having considered God and himself he will consider his neighbor.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defense is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacous of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Savior.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord's poor, and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually--Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can sit up with gravity, which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick, which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for signal services.
For he killed the Ichneumon rat, very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire.
For the electrical fire is the spiritual substance which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Still tired

I have had all sorts of posting ideas: yet more belated poetry; shoe blogging; cat blogging; music blogging; an unfinished, complicated, and overdue rejoinder; ridiculous medievalist t-shirt ideas; and meditations on matters blogular, aestival, and aspirational.

And that is not to mention all your more recent comments, which I have left scandalously unanswered, though not unpondered.

My apologies for failing to deliver on any of the above. But I'm still bone-tired, and the energy reserves are low.

I also have a huge stinkin' pile of stuff to do during the next week and change: two sets of papers and a set of exams to grade, final grades to calculate, two short paleography assignments and a paleography exam to complete, and a book review to write up for publication. So I reckon I'd best be paying attention to, you know, all that.

I won't be posting for a while as I try to get through with everything. I'll be around, though, feeling oddly bereft and lonesome as I confront the towering stacks of books and papers which are likely to be my sole companions for the next five days or so. (I really must avoid feeding my steel-guitar addiction in the meantime; steel guitars do not provide the music of motivation for tired hearts and minds.)

Congrats and many happy returns of the season for those of you who've already embarked on your summers. May you suffer few distractions from the writing, researching, and conferencing most of you are probably hoping to get in while you're on hiatus from other obligations. May all of you have at least one good and guilt-free summer read in your near future. And may the livin' be a little easier for all of us.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


I am feeling both exhausted (as I have been for God knows how long) and weird (as I have for about the past three days). I'd like nothing better than to stay at home in bed with Mousie nestled up under my chin and sleep for a day or two. Maybe read something kinda dumb for an hour every once in a while.

But I have to go to campus and start grading one big-ass stack of papers, which needs to be ready, despite intervening office hours with students (thank God at least two of them are good students) by 4pm.

I am sick of this. I am tired of the endurance tests. I am tired of doing everything at breakneck speed. I am tired of being perennially behind on everything. I am tired of having to adjudicate about who it's least awful to disappoint on a daily--nay, an hourly--basis. I am tired of apologizing. I am tired of feeling like crap and not being able to stop to do anything about it. I am tired of forcing myself to get out of the bed three hours before my brain wakes up. I'm tired of having approximately three hours of real alertness per day. I'm tired of shifting pound after pound of material in and out of various bags every morning because I don't merit having an office to keep all this crap in. I am tired of meeting with students I'm trying to help and having them pitch temper tantrums because I'm not telling them I'll give them an A for their work as it is. I am especially tired of busting my hump for students who, at the end of the term, say things to me like, "It's only fiction." I am tired of hesitating to call students like that on their shit because (a) they're my sole source of performance evaluations and (b) most of the kids who act like this are so smug and view their instructors with such open disdain that it wouldn't make any difference anyway. I am tired of having to worry about making photocopies for my class because the departmental budget for copies is so weensy that I actually owe them nearly $200 I can't afford to pay for materials I need in order to do my job. I am tired of feeling like somebody in a Woody Guthrie song. I am tired of trudging back and forth to the bus. I am tired of sitting at bus stops for nearly an hour waiting for buses to show up. I am tired of running so late that I have to take a taxi I can't afford. I am tired of having taxi drivers question what I'm doing for a living (if they're not particularly nice people) or tell me that my "student days" are "the best days of my life" (if they are particularly nice people). I am tired thinking how much easier it would be to just get locked in somewhere on campus overnight in order to avoid the effort of getting home and back. I am tired of finally conceding that I have to go to bed for four or five hours and then lying awake thinking of all the things I haven't done--or done well enough.

In a week and a half, maybe I get to rest for a day. At least, I'll get to rest as much as it's possible for me to do that while I contemplate still having no guaranteed source of income after July 1. I may yet face the irony of wishing for most of the year that I could just stay home one day without having to work, only to get to the summer and be desperate to have work to do that would get me out of the house.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Teaching facilities

Okay, so my students and I have dealt with the small room with the bad ventilation, echo-chamber effect, and inadequate blinds. We have even dealt with the almost overpowering noise that occasionally comes from the naked pipes running directly overhead from the neighboring bathrooms.

But it's a good thing that this is our penultimate class meeting, because I don't think I could continue to deal with feeling a little drop of liquid fall on me from those bathroom pipes as I'm leading a discussion.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Very belated Friday Poetry Blogging: Edward

This is my favorite ballad. I've hesitated to post it here, because it loses so much in black and white. There really is no way to convey in a typescript what it feels like to hear (or sing) this poem to its keening melody. It raises hairs and invokes silence.

I mean that quite literally. More than once, I've sung this one and heard the entire room fall hushed for full seconds afterward. In Ireland, grown men stood with their heads bowed until I was both awed and embarrassed. I asked one class to whom I sang it what difference it made to hear the text performed as a song, and a girl hugged herself, rubbing her upper arms, and said, "It's spooky."

Indeed it is.



"How came that blood on your shirt sleeve,
Oh, dear love, tell me?"

"Well, it is the blood of my old grey hound
That chased the fox for me, me, me,
That chased the fox for me."

"It does look too pale for the old grey hound
That chased the fox for thee, thee, thee,
That chased the fox for thee."

"How came that blood on your shirt sleeve,
Oh, dear love, tell me?"

"Well it is the blood of the old grey mare
That ploughed the field for me, me, me,
That ploughed the field for me."

"It does look too pale for the old grey mare
That ploughed the field for thee, thee, thee,
That ploughed the field for thee."

"How came that blood on your shirt sleeve,
Oh, dear love, tell me?"

"Well, it is the blood of my brother-in-law
That went away with me, me, me,
That went away with me."

"And it's what will you do now, my love,
Oh, dear love, tell me?"

"Well, I'll set my foot on yonder ship,
And I'll sail across the sea, sea, sea,
I'll sail across the sea."

"And it's when will you be back, my love,
Oh, dear love, tell me?"

"When the moon sinks yonder in the sycamore tree,
And that will never be, be, be,
And that will never be."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Learning to see

Master Fuzzy is definitely on the/my case. He stopped me while I was cleaning today to show me (again) how to throw a reverse punch, which I am having the hell of a time learning to do correctly.

In fact, I am having the hell of a time learning to do anything correctly. I really hate being such a consistent idiot.

Later, he had a long-ish talk with me later about my really severe mind/body disconnect: how I seem to have a terrible time actually getting my body to do what both my instructors and I want it to do. I told him I knew and that it was driving me insane that it took me so long to get things: that I had to be taught the same technique or move over and over. He says the connection will get stronger. I hope to God it starts to at least get better soon, because we're all getting damn frustrated over my inability to pick things up more quickly.

He also pointed out how submissive my body language is, and he is, as usual, absolutely right. This makes me so ashamed. How in the hell have I internalized this crap? The ducking of the head, the avoidance of eye contact, the swiveling of my body away from others, the clasping my hands in front of me to demonstrate that I'm no threat? When and how did I learn to do this?

I suspect the answer is that I kinda learned it everywhere without even noticing. After all, as Master Fuzzy points out, it's classic girl posturing. As he also points out, it's classic victim posturing.

It's true that I'm not as bad about this out of the dojang as opposed to inside it, where I'm feeling desperately intimidated most of the time. (I think I'm less intimidated by the possibility of physical harm than I am of the likelihood of disapproval.) But since a senior student pointed out my chronic inability to make eye contact, my constant "glazing over" as I withdraw into myself to avoid looking outward, I have noticed that I do this fairly often in everyday life, too.

This makes me feel ill.

Even more than I want to train my body to learn more quickly, I want to unlearn moving--and seeing--like a victim. I wonder how much of the world around me I have missed, simply because I was looking away.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A very boring little post about having a decent day.

This was a long day, but it also was a pretty decent one. After my mid-day paleography class, I had a good talk with Famous Paleographer, and I think he believes I'm not a total idiot. Now, let's see if I can keep him under that impression by passing the course exam.

Then, along with Map and The General, I helped give Morgan a mock exam. She's gonna kick ass on the real thing.

Then I met up with an out-of-town friend for coffee and a bit of a chat: it was wonderful to see him and do some catching up!

And bus karma was with me, so I still got my butt into the dojang on time.

Master Fuzzy Slippers is kinda giving me a hard time lately: he singles me out in front of the entire class pretty often, these days. But I think it's because he's noticed I'm discouraged and unfocused and need to be forced back into line. He is right. It didn't bother me so much tonight, because I was able to correct the mistakes I was making after he reprimanded me. (Unlike Saturday's sparring class. And also unlike Tuesday night, when I was just a total dumbass and couldn't pull it together on much of anything and made everybody have to do 40 push-ups because I couldn't get my sparring gear on fast enough.)

It also helped that we worked on basics tonight--the mechanics of punching combinations and kicks and grappling techniques--which made me feel much more like I had a chance at figuring out how to get better. So that was good.

And Master Fuzzy even obliquely praised me at one point, because he gestured in my direction when he was talking about students who come to the dojang not assuming that they know everything and who are humble and willing to listen.

So that was okay.

And then I felt very virtuous because I stayed after to use the exercise bike and practice my kicking mechanics for about an extra hour.

And then I felt kinda cool because, despite having locked myself out of the apartment building and despite an uncooperative call box that wouldn't let me buzz Boy Roomie to let me in (and yes, I am still sans cell phone), I successfully scaled the security fence back into our apartment complex--in a pair of flip-flops!

So I'm going to bed while I'm still ahead. I will just get up early to grade those quizzes.