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.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Hot Fuzz

It's just possible that people who know me IRL may hear me utter any one of the following catchphrases in the near future:

--"By the power of Grayskull!"

--"I have to water my peace lily."

--"Want anything from the shop?"

--"There is no way you can perpetrate that amount of carnage and mayhem and not incur a considerable amount of paperwork."


I apologize in advance to those people. I can only hope that I will not be as obnoxious as I was post-Wayne's World, back in the day.

Anyway, point is: that is one funny movie.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ancrene Unplugged?

I'm thinking about leaving my laptop behind when I go on my trip. I'm a little concerned about aggravating the cracked screen, but I also want to avoid adding weight to my luggage and hope to carry as little in the way of valuables with me as possible.

I figure that most of what I'll be doing in the way of notes will be in notebooks, anyway: there are too many things about manuscripts that don't transfer well into a Word document. And I'm thinking that I can go to internet cafes a few times while I'm gone to find out whether anything urgent's shown up in my inbox.

This would be a pretty drastic change for my internet-addicted self, but I think it also might be a good thing. Going cold turkey for a few weeks could at least help me break the habit of checking in with half a dozen sites first thing in the morning and opening my email at least that many times again throughout the day.

What do y'all think?

Five Reasons Why I Do This

Bardiac tagged me for a "Five Reasons Why I Blog" meme, so here goes:

1) Being in grad school just plain feels lonely a lot of the time, and sympathy and advice aren't always forthcoming. Not many people understand why we're doing what we're doing--or what we're doing, for that matter. I started blogging, in part, because I was seeking a larger sense of intellectual community, support, and guidance. I'm happy to say that I've found it, and that's a large part of what's kept me blogging, despite having considered quitting earlier this year.

2) I hope that posting about some portion of my experiences in grad school might help to humanize us as academics and promote more understanding of who we are and what we do for a broader audience.

3) Because our profession is pretty rigidly hierarchical, it can often be difficult for grad students to have an authentic voice, to speak out. In some ways, this medium allows me to speak more authentically--particularly since I'm anonymous--than I often can otherwise. Given the pretty radical changes that have been taking place at many universities as a result of changing market forces and cultural trends, there are lots of misunderstandings even within the academy about what it's like to be a grad student now as opposed to having been one even ten years ago. So being able to speak more freely not only helps me to feel better, but may actually promote a more accurate picture of grad students' daily lives, even for their own instructors and advisers.

4) I find that the posturing that tends to go along with academic life--and, well, probably life in most professions--shows up less in the blogosphere. Brain-on-a-stick think just seems to happen a bit less out here. So this often is a much more open space that helps to break down some of the hierarchical tendencies I've mentioned and allows for serendipitous connections with scholars in other fields--not to mention people from entirely different walks of life--on an international scale.

5) It's an easy and inexpensive way to stay in touch with friends and family who are far away when phone calls across different time zones are expensive and difficult to coordinate.

Okey dokey. Now I get to pick five people to tag, so I'm gonna tag Acre, Dr. V., Dharma, Anniina, and History Geek. Of course, if you're reading this post and feel inspired to participate, you're invited, too!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Plans, Dreams, and Shopping

Edited to note that I had to "put down" the previous version of this post, which turned nasty and started eating comments. Just like in Old Yeller. It was very sad, particularly since I lost Zelda's and Tiruncula's comments in the process and had to re-type the whole damn thing. Ah, well. Such are the hazards of blogging . . . .

I have been emailing myself dozens of links and scraps and tidbits to blog about for the past week. I have things to say, but I don't have the energy or mental acuity to say them right now, for reasons which some of the posts I keep sending myself notes about would help to explain.

Right now, I should be in bed, trying to escape the horrible sleeping patterns (or, rather, the sleeping anarchies) into which I've fallen during the past few months. But I feel like there are too many blogging posts knocking around in my skull. There's the link-heavy piece I've dubbed "Feminist Frankenpost," for example; the one called "It's a Dog-Eat-Melamine, Human-Eat-Melamine, Cow-Eat-Cow World, or, Sinclair's Jungle Revisited;" and one about the unexpected ways in which the VTech massacre hit home for me--among others.

If I don't let at least one post out to play, I know I won't be able to sleep well, because my neuroses act out in strange ways while I'm asleep. Which means my sense that there's something I ought to be doing other than sleeping might manifest itself as Miltonic fallen angels wielding cattle prods; post-alien-invasion human internment/harvest camps; or an angry God who's decided to end the world by implanting a secret bomb into an initially unsuspecting person. Or, if I'm unfortunate, maybe all three will show up in the same dream, like a surreal curtain call from "Philip K. Dick Does Broadway" with a score by David Lynch.

If the neuroses are especially energetic, I might even have to battle The Suitcase again: an infernal piece of luggage I am irresistibly compelled to pack, but which cannot be packed because it has the power to so befuddle me that I am forced to put exactly the most inappropriate thing into it, over and over. All this, mind you, while armed terrorists are attacking my apartment building and other people are hazarding their lives in an attempt to make me leave.

Seriously: I shit you not.

Remember that dream nearly everybody has, in which something's after you, but you can't run? The Suitcase Scenario is like that dream retooled for the OCD set. It has occurred to me more than once that this may well be some metaphor for grad school. I'll let you decide whether it's profound or deranged. I haven't really gotten enough sleep to tell.

At any rate, writing about The Luggage of the Damned at least gives me a bumpy segue into what was supposed to be the topic of this post: my upcoming research trip to the UK.

So, yeah: I'm planning a research trip for the end of next month and just bought my plane tickets last week. Fortunately, I managed to get a pretty good deal on them, despite waiting for longer than I should have. this will be my first time looking at manuscripts in any real quantity or depth, and I'm getting increasingly nervous. In fact, I suspect that part of the reason I've been so slow to make my plans is that the whole prospect freaks me out not a little.

I don't have the sense of purpose and direction I'd told myself I'd have by the time I started working in ginormously prestigious archives, so I feel as though I'm going to be improvising even more than usual. I'm telling myself that I'll be fine, that I might actually be better off not knowing exactly what I'm looking for yet, that all I'm doing is writing down and typing up as much information as possible for later analysis and getting used to locating and handling medieval documents. But I'm not thoroughly convincing myself yet.

At any rate, one of the particular forms my freak-outs have taken, now that I can no longer conveniently ignore the ever-closer dates on my wall calendar, is staying up late to buy supplies for the trip online. Having realized how little time I had to prepare, I then realized that I really ought to buy a big backpack in order to keep my luggage manageable as I travel around the country. And then I realized that none of my shoes were both presentable enough to look professional and well-designed enough for comfortable walking. And so on. You get the picture: I have gained favor in the eyes of the retail gods.

Honestly, provisioning this trip is necessary, since I generally avoid buying high-quality, sturdy things in favor of saving money and don't hve much in the way of travel gear. But I also know there's a large helping of procrasti-busy with a dollop of retail therapy on top involved here.

Anyway, now for the fun part. This is where I tell you about stuff I've bought. Ready?

1) To make getting through airport security easier: a luggage tag that converts into a mesh bag to hold keys, watches, and coins.

2) Is my toothbrush smiling at me?! Why yes, it is!

3) Mother Earth thanks me: no more plastic forks!

4) Possibly the most upbeat pair of shoes in my closet.

5) An even more practical pair (in black) for good measure.

6) For only $7.95 apiece!

7) Finally: my perfect eyeglass case!

8) I can be a fickle bag lover, but this time, I think my love is here to stay. This bag is actually even nicer than the catalog description allows.

9) This looks pretty Big-Scary-Library appropriate, don't you think?

10) As if never having to iron this weren't enough to make me happy, the colors are almost ridiculously cheerful.

11) The piece de resistance.

I'm still dithering over the blue version of this coat. Do those of you familiar with UK weather this time of year think I'd have any need for something like that, or is this just wishful thinking on my part?

Did I mention that retail therapy comes into play here?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Some reactions to the VT shooting from Asian-Americans

I do have some things to say, some posts to write that aren't composed primarily of links, but I'm still working them out in my head, mulling them over.

In the meantime, a few links via New American Media about the Virginia Tech shooting:

1) "Hurt, Sad . . . Koreans React to the Virginia Tech Shootings," Aruna Lee.

2) "He Was Like Me," Autumn Lee. While I do think this article somewhat oversimplifies things, it certainly does make some interesting points about dynamics within and surrounding the Korean community from the perspective of a young, first-generation immigrant.

3) "Let it Be Some Other 'Asian,'" Andrew Lam.

All the articles make this very important point, though I'm going to use Lam's words to highlight it:

“Every time there’s an incident like this, every ethnic group is on pins and needles,” said Khalil Abdullah, an African-American colleague. An Anglo shooter may be an individual, a loner, but God forbid if a person of color goes on a shooting rampage. His whole tribe would be implicated. “I still recall my aunts when President Kennedy was assassinated. They were praying that it wasn’t a Negro.” Many ethnic communities do not feel that they belong to the core of the American fabric, Abdullah added. “The action of an individual can cancel out the good image of an entire group.”

I also find Lam's last paragraph utterly fascinating.


Edited to add a link to "Asian-Americans dread backlash in wake of Va. Tech carnage," by L. A. Chung, forwarded to me by a friend.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In Memoriam is compiling a list and bios of the Virginia Tech shooting victims as they become available.

Like millions of other people, I'm compulsively checking Google for new information on yesterday's massacre, trying to understand what happened. I am thinking of the dead, the wounded, and their families. I'm angry at the senselessness of it all, but also sad for Seung-Hui Cho, a young man apparently so immersed in his illness that he wasn't capable of reaching out for the help he needed. I'm even more sorrowful for his family, in seclusion and dealing with grief for the loss of their own son, grief for his victims, and shame at what he did. Probably more than anybody else, they are wondering whether they couldn't have done something to stop this.

And I am thinking of the Korean and Korean-American communities among us, hoping that the ugliness of this disaster won't spill over to affect them during a time when people are frightened, upset, and looking for someone to blame.

All the stories at the Newsday site are heartbreaking reminders of lives that ended too soon, but the story of Prof. Librescu is especially powerful, so I've extracted it verbatim here.

Liviu Librescu

Librescu, an Israeli engineering and math lecturer, was known for his research, but his son said the Holocaust survivor will be remembered as a hero for protecting students as the gunman tried to enter his classroom.

Librescu taught at Virginia Tech for 20 years and had an international reputation for his work in aeronautical engineering.

"His research has enabled better aircraft, superior composite materials, and more robust aerospace structures," said Ishwar K. Puri, the head of the engineering science and mechanics department.

After surviving the Nazi killings, Librescu escaped from Communist Romania and made his way to the United States before he was killed in Monday's massacre, which coincided with Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Librescu's son, Joe, said his father's students sent e-mails detailing how the professor saved their lives by blocking the doorway of his classroom from the approaching gunman before Librescu was fatally shot.

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Librescu's son, Joe Librescu, said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his home outside.

That, surely, is a noble death.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech Shooting

Lots of eloquent bloggers are saying moving things about the horror at Virginia Tech today, but the post over at Half an Acre is, I think, the most moving of all.

Friday, April 06, 2007


For no apparent reason, a crack has appeared in my computer screen. The crack is spreading.

Damn. It.

I do not have the money to buy a new computer--or to repair this one, if that's even possible.

I'm wide awake and backing up every file I can think of ever possibly needing again.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I Heart No Nym . . .

. . . for posting this as a guest on Dr. B's blog.

Just how accurate are Hollywood's historical movies?

Click here for the answer, courtesy of Perry Bible Fellowship.

Monday, April 02, 2007

File under "irony"

Seen at a library book sale, in a box, next to each other:

1) Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
2) The Joys of Marriage