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, July 28, 2006

Poetry Friday: Pain stayed so long

In honor of this week's medical diagnosis, I went searching for a poem on migraines, and found this one at a whole web page dedicated to art about migraines.

This is no masterpiece, I'll admit, and I think it elides some of the true horrors of severe and chronic pain, but it does say something important.

I count myself very lucky that I don't have migraines which are anywhere near as bad as the ones the people at this site describe, or as the ones my Mom or Crafty Jew have. In fact, this poem reminds me more of my experience with depression than of my migraines. But there you are. However it happens, and no matter what desperate measures we'll take to be rid of it, pain can be a good teacher.

Pain stayed so long

Pain stayed so long
I said to him today,
"I will not have you with me anymore
And paused there startled at the look he wore.
"I who have been your friend,"
he said to me, "I who have been your teacher
--all that you know of understanding love,
of sympathy and patience,
I have taught you.
Shall I go?"
He spoke the truth,
this strange unwelcome guest;
I watched him leave and knew that he was wise.
He left a heart grown tender in my breast.
He left a far, clear vision in my eyes.
I dried my tears, and lifted up a song
Even for one who'd tortured me so long.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Another hodgepodge update, but this time with a genuine medical diagnosis!

I'm pretty harried these days: I owe a prof an index by Friday and I owe somebody else an encyclopedia article by Monday. And then two sets of papers for grading come my way on Monday. Meanwhile, signing on for my usual gig with Nameless Summer Program has become much more complicated than usual and working out those issues is taking up a lot of time I don't really have.

Fortunately, it looks as though it's going to work out okay. That's very good, since not working for the Nameless Summer Program would make a difference of $6000 in my income, and I still need to pay my taxes, repair and insure my truck, and pay off some credit card debt. Meanwhile, it's becoming all too clear that my cheap old futon couch is about to give up the ghost, Mouse needs to have some expensive dental work done, and I've got some medical bills to pay, too.

On that last point, I have at least found out why I've been having all those "dizzy spells" and other weird symptoms. Turns out it's all in my head, after all--but in a very literal sense.

After three office visits, many phone calls, and working my way through a whole pile of red tape, I finally got an appointment with a head and neck specialist yesterday, and he's certain that I'm having atypical-symptom migraines. Whee. I'm on meds for the next month to see whether that clears them up, and alcohol is verboten. Guess I'll have to take my slushies without rum for a while.

Which is a shame, because I may not have mentioned it, but I heartily hate Big City's narsty summer weather, and slushies spiked with rum do make it a bit more bearable. It's been godawful lately, too. I've had to spend more than one night sleeping in the living room because my bedroom was just too oppressively hot. I am not built for this kind of weather: it's making me cranky and unproductive, as well as giving me what I now know to be migraines. People look at me funny and make comments about my supposed affectations when I walk around in big-brimmed hats and carry parasols, which doesn't help with the crankiness. Folks, I cannot help it that I was born virtually melanin-free, and I'm not imitating Nicole Kidman because I read some interview in Vogue or trying to look like a Southern belle. I'm just trying to avoid writhing in agony from a sunburn that requires me to mist myself with vinegar until I smell like a pickle.

Fortunately, the department has new TA work stations which are well air-conditioned (as my library carrel is not), so I've spent parts of the last few days settling in there and am planning to start spending a lot of time there, just getting stuff done and soaking up the free environmental control.

Anywhoo, though I plan to post something for Friday Shoe/Cat/Poetry Blogging, this site is likely to be particularly quiet for a while. I know it's been a good, long time since I posted anything truly substantive, and I'm feeling like a Very Bad Blogger Indeed. But, perforce, a Wiseass must eat, pay rent, and manage not to piss off faculty members who have hired her to work for them. So there we are.


UPDATE: Funny, the doctor and the pharmacist both failed to warn me that my new meds apparently also work really well as sleeping pills. I am, therefore, incredibly drowsy and discombobulated on a day when I desperately need to get a crapload of work done. Oh, joy.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Tournament results

More than twelve hours after I first arrived at the dojang, the tournament is over. I don't think I have ever spent that much time actively watching a sporting event in my life. Given that the whole thing took place in a dojang with no air conditioning on a particularly hot and muggy day and given that I was too engrossed to eat between 11am and 9pm, I'm both wiped out and ravenously hungry. Fortunately, I feel okay about rewarding myself with delivery Thai food and an early bedtime because I managed to place 2nd in sparring in my division!

Okay, there were only four women in my division. But I only lost by one point against a tough fighter, and I'm still pleased. So there.

I didn't place in forms, having flubbed at least one move. But that was a close competition, too, and I was up against people who've been training for some time, so I don't feel so badly about that.

Here's hoping I'll be able to show you a more toned torso if I place again next year.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Shoe Friday

Some of you will probably have noticed that I've been rather remiss in my Poetry Friday postings lately. Many more of you will have noticed that I'm sometimes rather neurotic. This means that selecting just the right thing to post can take me a very long time. While that means I get an excuse to spend several hours reading poetry, it also means that I might be neglecting other duties. And that I don't always have a chance to find you a nice bit of poem in time.

Meanwhile, particularly following the 'Zoo, I remember that there was much curiosity about my shoes, and Mouse is (deservedly) a perennial blog favorite. So I hereby pledge to you that, on Fridays, I will post for you either a nifty poem, a selection from my shoe collection, or a photo and/or anecdote about one large and rather skittish orange tom cat. That way, I'll be more likely to keep my promises, I'll get an excuse to show off both shoes and Mouse more often, and I might even manage to entertain a few of you in the process.

To that end, here's my first Shoe Friday entry. These are an informal entry, clearly not in line with the rather stratospherically high heels which piqued people's interest back in May, but I am particularly proud of these. That's not only because of their splendid, flirting-with-tragedy color scheme and their ties to my elementary-school days,* but also because they cost me a mere $18.



* I have to admit that I almost miss the Velcro closures on the pockets, which have been replaced by zippers. Remember how nuts everyone was about Velcro in the 80s? My poor elementary-school librarian had to resort to making everyone remove the ubiquitous pairs of Roos before beginning story time. Otherwise, her voice was drowned out by the constant "skrrrip, skrrrip" of kids messing with the Velcro on their shoes.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

How much do I love "So You Think You Can Dance?"

So much that I will stand in front of my television set in positions of varying awkwardness, manually adjusting the antennae sitting on top of it every 30 seconds or so, and even hold them in the only position that will keep the picture from rolling, gritting my teeth through the inevitable forearm cramping.

The whole time I am cursing the Local Cable Fascists for charging $40 per month for basic access and saving the choicest words for the Bermuda Triangle of TV we happen to live in. GAH!

May I admit to you my deep and guilty love for the Paso Doble? Why must an insanely macho dance about murdering bulls be so damn sexy? And despite my general dislike of Contemporary and my profound loathing for Celine Dion, I have to say that Mia Michaels is one hell of a choreographer.

While I'm in the process of making proclamations, I have been watching closely as often as I can for weeks now, and I've made up my mind. I declare allegiance to Donyelle.

Love. Her.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Random Bullets of Crap: Catch-Up Edition

More than one person has complained of my being incommunicado recently, both virtually and otherwise. In my defense, I can only plead that I have been trying to get over a really quite frightening level of exhaustion, make sure I can pay my way through the summer and into the Magical Land of Academic-Year Fellowships, and catch up on a variety of important tasks that went undone during the past school year. My plea is a particularly weak one, I'm afraid, since I'm not succeeding as well as I'd like on any of these fronts.

Nonetheless, here is some of the stuff that has happened recently:
  • I got my email backlog down from more than 300 messages to around 100. Yes, I do still have many important messages to return and am unforgiveably late in getting back to a lot of folks (most humble apologies to Scott and Little Womedievalist, in particular). But it's a start.
  • I spoke to The Kindly Professor this past week. He was very kindly, as usual, and re-iterated his determination never to nag me about my dissertation. But he also said he was worried about me and followed up with an anecdote about a long-enrolled grad student he fought to keep instated against the efforts of her disapproving department and who then went away to have a baby, stopped communicating with him altogether, and was dismissed from her degree program. I have mostly succeeded in convincing myself that he wasn't telling me he thought I wasn't going to finish or that I was going to go off and have a kid anytime soon, but rather that he just gets anxious when his advisees don't talk to him regularly. If I'm right, then I can only say that's a very refreshing change for the better, since I am all too used to advisers who ignore me for months at a time and then aggressively demand completed work or who couldn't be more obvious about trying to get me out of their offices in 15 minutes or less.
  • My poor Betta fish Achilles, having been a rather sickly fella whom I cured of several bouts with ick, passed away some time ago. I finally got around to repopulating my little tank with an African Dwarf Frog and a couple of snails. The frog is very small and so young that he still has a little tail stub. I'm quite fond of him, though I haven't named him yet. My last frog (who lived for an extraordinary two years) wasn't named for several months; when he ate the fish who'd been his tank mate, he became Hannibal. Let us hope that Hannibal's successor will be a little more peaceable.
  • Boy Roomie seems to be doing terrifically well, having had almost no pain in the aftermath of his surgery. But he's getting very restless after five days cooped up in the apartment. I tried to entertain him a bit today by buying a passel of half-priced VHS tapes at a local Goodwill. Probably today's best entertainment, though, came from my re-discovery of a tape of Sid Laverents shorts. Sid Laverents is like some particularly precocious and weird eight-year-old's dream of the perfect grandpa: nestled in the apparent placidity of 1960s suburbia, this former vaudeville musician who'd re-trained as an engineer started making astonishingly professional but deeply odd home movies about things like snails, his dog, and the multi-track capacities of the audio recorder he got for Christmas.
  • I bought Mouse a new collar. It is extremely purple. And reflective. And has a loud bell attached to it. I also bought him a leash.
  • I enrolled Mouse in Pet Club of America, too.
  • I bought some stuff at IKEA. In addition to getting inexpensive chairs and tables for our tiny little porch, I also bought a lightweight quilt, a feather pillow, and a white quilt cover. I felt horrifically guilty about buying the bedding for about 6 hours--even though it wasn't all that expensive. And then I went to bed, an experience which felt an awful lot like drifting away on fluffy white clouds of bliss, despite my crappy, decades-old mattress. So I have not felt guilty since then.
  • I am researching an encyclopedia article that I have to turn in at the end of the month.
  • I am teaching a short test-prep course later this week.
  • I finally got news that I will probably be teaching for the Nameless Summer Program again this August.
  • I accepted a part-time job which will begin during the regular school year.
  • I am working on my third book index and discovering that I have a weird affinity for indexing academic books.
  • I am scheduled to grade two sets of papers for Kindly Prof's summer classes and am going to have to do a fair amount of refresher reading before the students turn in their work at the end of the month.
  • I have not touched anything having to do with my dissertation in about a month, and it's really starting to get to me.
  • I'm trying to get an article under submission by October.
  • I still have work to finish from the past school year which I haven't touched.
  • I am fretting about getting my taxes finished (I filed for an extension, since my qualifying exam was scheduled only a few days after tax day). And fretting even more about paying them once I finally figure out what I owe.
  • I have become infatuated with the combination of organic vanilla yogurt, honey, a store-brand granola that is so good that it must be infused with crack or something equally unhealthy, nectarines, and blueberries.
  • I am making a lot of iced tea.
  • Following up on a resolution to read some things that did not have to do with my career this summer, I read this. It was quite stupid, horrifically written, and weirdly prudish, but entertaining. I also read this, which was weirdly prudish, desperately in need of an editor who'd jettison about a quarter of its page length, and entertaining. Elizabeth Kostova also has a much better sense of how scholars go about their work than Dan Brown does. This meant I never had to resist the urge to throw her book at the wall, as I did with Brown's, although I'll admit to rolling my eyes at her repeated ecstacies about the past having really happened to real people for, like, real and stuff.
  • I realized tonight that I had forgotten to make about four phone calls I'd promised various people.
  • I have learned (again) that it is insufferably difficult to buy pay-as-you-go mobile phone service in this country.
  • While shopping for some reasonably attractive, mid-sized plant pots, I've discovered that I apparently need to be in a higher tax bracket in order to afford them.
  • I spent $8 on a very nice Zara shirt and a pair of Benetton drawstring khakis at a thrift shop and felt ridiculously smug about it.
  • I had lunch with Crafty Jew, which was very nice.
That's about all I can manage, and my fluffy bed awaits . . . .

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Yellow Belt

I'm a yellow belt!

I put in a considerably better performance today than on my orange-belt test, having dedicated most of the past 24 hours to practicing and studying and worked very hard to keep myself as calm as possible. Still, I was terrifically glad I didn't get some of the questions Master Fuzzy asked during the oral portion of the exam, and I need to do some serious work on a few things before next weekend's tournament.

Yes, that's right. I said "tournament." It's mandatory, and I'll have to compete in my long form and in sparring. Sparring doesn't worry me so much, except that I apparently smile (!) too much while I'm doing it. I'm still godawful, but I'm okay with that, so long as I'm improving. And it's hard to get distracted by worrying over what everyone's thinking of your performance when you're focused on your opponent. The long form is another thing altogether, particularly since I've been doing the formal bow-out incorrectly without realizing it until today. A row of poker-faced judges will be staring me down while I try to execute the entire thing flawlessly--and remember all the etiquette surrounding the tournament performance, too. I am not looking forward to it.

Still, I think I earned a Fudgesicle today.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Boy Roomie and Wonder Woman Health Updates

Boy Roomie's surgery went beautifully, and they seem to have given him some pretty good pain medication, so all's well thus far with him. And I got news from home recently that Wonder Woman's doctors have decided to forgo the last four rounds of her chemotherapy, because she's doing so well.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Found Mouse

After a full day and night of printing, paper-cutting, shelter visiting, false alarms, weeping until my eyes swelled up, walking until I bloodied myself, posting flyers on light posts, inquiring at the friendly corner liquor store and strip joint, and distributing cards at every residence and to everyone I met on the street, I finally went to sleep on the couch with the sliding door open again, hoping Boy Roomie was right that the smelly tuna and smelly pile of clothes I left outside would tempt Mouse back to the porch.

I woke up a little before 5am and went out calling for him up and down my street only this time, taking New Kid, ADM, and PhilosopherP's advice that perhaps he needed a little targeted echolocation to help guide him home. Then I got online and started posting and emailing everywhere I could think of.

Mom called around 8:30 to check in while I was making some more flyers, crying some more, and telling Boy Roomie that I'd pretty well decided to hire a woman who finds lost pets with a trained bloodhound. While I was on the phone, another woman called to tell us she'd seen a cat matching my description, so Boy Roomie and I dashed over in his car, but it was only one of the cats we'd already encountered as a false positive.

Just after I'd come back and gotten hold of Mom again, I saw a bit of orange under the porch fence. Sure enough, it was Mouse, standing right in front of the pile of smelly clothes and smelly tuna (for the record, that definitely works). I called for him, but he couldn't get under the fence, so I went around front and called until he came to me. Other than a particularly plaintive note in his meow as he came over to me, he has seemed remarkably composed. And he's unhurt, though he's managed to rough up his collar and is a bit dirty.

Very nearly one of Mouse's first acts was to eat too much too quickly and puke all over the living room carpet.

It's good to have him back.

Many thanks to all of you who left comments and good wishes, to Boy Roomie for walking around the neighborhood on his already distressed ankles two days before his surgery and being kind to me while I wailed and gnashed my teeth, to Morgan for taking me to get more ink cartridges and to the animal shelter, and to Mom for the moral support.

Thanks also to the guy who hadn't seen any orange tabbies, but called to find out if he could do anything to help anyway, because he and his girlfriend had just moved to the area and promptly lost both their cats to our neighborhood's crazy traffic. And to the older lady with a one-eyed cat in her driveway, who looked at me suspiciously when I came to her screen door, but ran toward me as soon as I said I'd lost my cat, exclaiming "Oh, honey!" Her eyes welled up like mine when she looked at Mouse's picture. I'll be going back to visit her later today.

Who says Big City is unfriendly? Just lose your cat, and you'll make plenty of friends.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Missing Mouse

Mouse ran out the front door last night, and we can't find him. I am heartbroken and terrified for him. I know he survived for a long time on the street before, but I don't live in the very best of areas for a timid, frightened cat, and he doesn't know his way around.

Keep your fingers crossed, please.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Stuff. And things.

The past two weeks have essentially been a desperate effort to get my ass back in gear and do some paid work while also attending to a bunch of things that have been neglected during the school year. Like my apartment (hello, IKEA!). And my finances (let's not talk about it, please). And my health (loads of doctor's appointments). And research for things that I'll actually publish somewhere under my own name (astonishing!).

A brief vignette from the latter activity: a few days ago, I was walking around in the library, luxuriating in the chance to really dig into some research, a sense of serenity that had settled over the stacks, and a feeling of comaraderie with the other few dedicated scholars I saw among the books. And then I went down one floor and ran into a horde of undergraduate workers who'd apparently taken advantage of the library's chiefly deserted state to congregate on one of the floors and loudly brag about such things as having spent $172 on nothing but alcohol at a grocery store the previous weekend.

Oh, well.

I also confess that I have watched some DVDs, that I went to an actual suburban block party on the 4th, and that I spent a $50 gift card at a Big Chain Bookstore entirely on cheap trade paperbacks. In fact, I forced myself to buy nothing at all related to my own work. Of course, we all know that's a big load of hooey, since I'm a literary scholar, since I haven't been able to read anything at all for years without devoting at least 25% of my neurons to thinking about how I could maybe use it in the classroom or write something about it. But some things are still more enjoyable to read than others, and I am determined to read a few of those things this summer without feeling (too) guilty about it.

Nevertheless, I have an unbelievable amount of stuff to do before October, and I'm going to have to start setting some specific and draconian goals for myself during the remainder of the month. I may have more time and flexibility for now, but I will probably be teaching full-time again next month, so I really have no time to waste.

Among other things, tomorrow is email day, so some of you may expect to get long-overdue responses from me.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sparring practice

Remember back in January, when I noted that I might just be a little crazy for going into martial arts training, since it certainly meant I'd get hurt sometime or another? And then I said that it didn't matter, because I needed to know whether I could handle it when somebody's punch or kick got through?

Well, I did. We had an optional scrimmage match in sparring today, and the only other beginners who stayed behind were two athletic guys at least six inches taller than I am, but I sparred with both of them anyway. Both kicked my butt pretty soundly, but I also got a point in on both of them. One of them knocked me over because my balance was off, but I popped up again and went right back at it. Then he accidentally smacked me a little silly when I blocked one of his blows and it ended up hitting my faceguard, but I wouldn't let the judge stop the match.

The major criticism I got afterward was that I was being too aggressive and bomb-rushing my partners without paying enough attention to the openings they were leaving for me. So that means I've gotten over hanging back too far. Now I just need to get better at standing my ground and learning to strategize.

Tell you a secret? I like sparring, even though I am absolutely terrible at it. And I think that's a first, because one of my most ingrained personality flaws is a tendency to avoid doing anything that might make me look foolish.

But, when I'm sparring, all I'm thinking about is trying to land a kick or a punch. I am not fretting about my low bank account balance or my high credit card and student loan balances. I am not obsessing about deadlines or unfolded laundry. And I am not thinking about being a short, clumsy, pudgy braniac who has no clue what she's doing. All I'm thinking about is fighting.

And I like it.