Sunday, June 25, 2006

Wisconsin time

So... lots to update.

Getting out of CA was complicated. I got less sleep than during any finals period, ever. But unfortunately, planes and move-out days wait for no woman. I think I got about 13 hours of sleep over 3 nights. Packing was horrible -- you have to take all your stuff, which was perfectly organized and placed just as you liked it, and cram it into boxes, forcing you to realize just how much crap it really takes to make life "comfortable." Turns out, it takes a 5x5x5 cube of material to keep me going. During the wretchedness that is moving out, I kept somehow having these wonderful moments. Dropping by Jill's, dinner with Lupe & Marissa after a day of storage trips, a late night visit with Jessika.

Friday morning was particularly crazy. I slept on the couch with my beach towel and hoodie (everything else was packed), and got up after about 4 hours of sleep. Finished packing, ran to Jill's apartment to give Jesse one last part I forgot for the espresso machine, negotiated with the cleaning crew to make sure I could leave my luggage in my room for another hour past my official move out day (turns out there was no problem), went on one last trip to the storage unit with Lupe and Marissa, got back just before my super shuttle to the airport was supposed to arrive, dropped off my keys at the office (after propping the apt. door open with frozen tamales, which I had to clear out of my freezer), was late for the shuttle... The driver gave me a hard time at first, with the "your pick up time was 9:30," but finally calmed down when he saw how flurried I was. We even made up on the drive -- he offered me gum.

The flight.was.ridiculous. The plane out of SF was packed -- they had like a hundred stand-bys vying for spots. And, since I used a free ticket voucher, guess what seat they gave me? You got it: a middle seat toward the back. I hate sitting in the middle for a number of reasons. First: Since I'm small, people seem to think it's OK to invade my seat space. Come on folks, give a girl an armrest! Second: Because when you're as sleep deprived as I was, you really want to sleep. But guess what?? You can't lean your head to the right or left, and the seat backs were designed for tall people, so the head rest is just NOT comfortable. And thirdly, because if you want to use the restroom-as-coffin, you still have to bother someone. In Chicago, I had to take the usual 5 mile walk from terminal B to C, involving the under-ground trippy light show. I was pretty hungry: Eating mainly leftover stuff from my cupboards (rye bread, an apple, trail mix, you know). But I figured instead of eating crappy fast food (and heaven forbid a single restaurant carry a single vegetarian meal besides a salad featuring iceberg lettuce), I'd have a nice Starbucks drink (because heaven forbid a coffee place that's not a national chain get a spot in an airport). Merrie recommended the blackberry green tea frappaccino (which was pretty good), and so I figured I'd make it to Madison without collapsing from hunger.

Well. Of course, the flight was late. We saw our boarding time come and go, much as every other flight from Chicago to Madison was delayed. Something about an "aircraft arriving late." So we finally got on board. And guess where our friends at United had me seated this time? In the LAST row, RIGHT BY THE BATHROOM. Which stinks even when no one's in it. And not even in the middle: in the aisle, even closer to the stink pot. Oh, and our like 30 minute flight time? We didn't get started on that for another hour after finally boarding. We sat, on the f*&#ing plane, in a line of like ten aircrafts, for a freaking runway, for an hour. That's TWICE OUR FLIGHT TIME!! Seriously. The goal of airlines should be to take less time to get you from one place to another than driving. (And in this, they completely failed me. Andrew could have driven to Chicago for me and home again in LESS than the total time that I was there.)

Anyway. Very happy to be in Madison with the Andrew! Eating real food again -- pad thai and mango fried rice and home-made chili and veggie lasagne and stuffed zucchini and portabellas and tilapia w/ mashed sweet potato and challah french toast... Catching up on sleep. Going to the farmer's market every Saturday. Eating ice cream. The first couple of days were spent in grading -- one afternoon at the terrace, one evening during Andrew's ultimate frisbee game... then finally sat down and finished them. Then I took another day or two off... Visiting used bookstores, shopping for new clothes and flip flops, journeying through the mega-supermarket that is Woodman's...

Then I started the quals studying.

So here are my general concerns:
1. Middle English. Especially in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Our list SAYS "to be prepared in Middle English," but it's written in a northern dialect... not in Chaucer's London Middle English (which became the predominant form, and fed into our modern form), but a form that is difficult enough to warrant translation in the Norton anthology. So... yeah, I don't know what I'm supposed to do there.

2. When the list says "selections," does it really mean I only have to read 5 pages from the Norton's excerpt? Especially when the actual work is like 100 pages? Confusing. And further, when it DOESN'T say "selections," but the Norton has basically all of it, can't I just read that??

3. Early American Lit. Not a fan. Maybe I'll like it once I get to it?

4. 18th century, in general. Never took classes in it, never really studied those early novels, never read Restoration plays. Oops.

That's about it. So far, I've re-read Beowulf (it never gets old! Grendel eating men in the Mead Hall, Beowful diving into the swampy pit haunted by reptilian monsters, the dragon guarding the treasure hoard), and read through my Chaucer Canterbury Tales. Next I'm onto Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (woohoo). The experience of re-reading is intriguing... the bits I remember from Mrs. Jackson's class in high school, and Prof. Brownlow's survey course at MHC, and studying for the Literature GRE last year...

Other big news: Finally saw Brokeback Mountain. I get the fuss, but it wasn't my favorite movie. Dropped in on Annie's study group, and got some sense of where I should be in a month with my reading. Went with Andrew, Annie, Greg, & Emily to see Rogue Wave and The Stills (so good! And Rogue Wave played the song Lindsey gave me on a mix CD!). And last night we had Andrew's friends John & Katie over for dinner -- we had dinner out on the rooftop for the view of the Capitol.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Impeccable timing

So last night -- as I was packing, grading, and finishing my final seminar paper -- I thought, hey, maybe I should stay up late as I feel alert, and get as much done as possible before tomorrow. As a result, I stayed up till 4 am. But the night's the best sometimes, completely silent, easy to concentrate... OK. So it's finals period, right? And everyone in the studios has to move out by 8 am on Friday. Many of us are TA's, meaning that we have to not only do our own research, but also grade (seniors' grades are due tomorrow at noon), and pack. So what do the geniuses at the grounds maintenance office decide to do before 10 am this morning? You guessed it! YARD WORK! Because if you're going to run trimming machines that rival chain-saws in their incessant and ear-assaulting din, you OF COURSE DO IT IN THE EARLY MORNING DURING FINALS!


Monday, June 12, 2006

Value of women's lives in Ohio: very low

Before I settle down for an evening of paper-writing, I've just got to pass this along...

From the Beacon Journal (via Feministing):

Tuesday has been on Roberta Aber's calendar for some time now.

What she terms ``an extreme piece of legislation'' -- another hot button issue popping up in the middle of this election year -- is scheduled for a Tuesday hearing in the Ohio House, and it has the full attention of the executive director of Planned Parenthood of Summit, Portage and Medina Counties.

House Bill 228, as proposed by State Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Cincinnati, would criminalize all abortion -- whether to save the life of the woman or to end pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

OK. So I get that they're trying to mobilize the Repub base with this ridiculous posturing over social issues (see: gay marriage amendment failure, abortion bills cropping up in every red state). But this has gotten out of hand. When Ohio lawmakers have decided that the life of a fetus -- and mind you, they're calling even a fertilized egg pre-implantation a "baby" -- is more important than the life of an adult woman, we have MAJOR problems. This is the most draconian abortion ban attempted -- they've outdown SD (people seem to be wondering if that's the goal). That's fine if some women want to risk life and limb in order to have a baby: I'm not one of them. If I had a life-threatening pregnancy, I'm going to act in self-defense, just as the law allows for any other member of society (read: men). What sort of society are we living in where, by reason of having a uterus, you are expected to sacrifice your life for the chance that a zygote MIGHT develop into a person within your body? Can you imagine if this bill was actually law, and you were faced with the realization that even a fetus likely not to survive the pregnancy is more important in lawmakers' eyes than your own life?

This is a "pro-life" policy? I beg to differ. Only if you've decided that women's lives down count.


OhmygodIneedtobedonewiththispaper.It's not due till Weds but... my back hurts from shlepping books and my laptop back and forth between my apartment and study spaces... and my attention span has decreased to about all of five minutes... and I'd rather be grading papers and packing than writing... and it's freaking JUNE and I shouldn't be in school... and I want to just magically be transported to WI.

That is all.

Friday, June 09, 2006

June & Finals

This whole quarter system -- we need to rethink this. Seriously. THREE final periods? I'm done with writing papers. I'm done with shlepping my laptop to the library, turning up my ipod, and trying to drown out the coughing/shuffling/whispering of the undergrads. I'm done with trying to cram research into my weekly schedule of reading/preparing for class/ TA-ing. It's freaking JUNE and I'm in freaking CALIFORNIA. The last thing I should be doing right now is sitting in the library trying to construct an argument for how curiosity cabinets relate to Venus's curiosity/taxidermist shop in Our Mutual Friend. But then: that's exactly what I should be doing. The pity of it all is that I would love to be doing this research, if I could work at my own pace. (Which isn't a possibility, since if I took an incomplete to work on it over the summer, then I'd be cutting into my studying time for the qualifying exam.) Woe!

It's been awhile since I've updated. And I actually DID stuff last weekend.

Friday: Highlight of the evening was dessert night in the studio building. Chocolate sorbet is surprisingly good. But I'm sticking with my high-fat premium ice cream.

Saturday: Read all day, in anticipation of an evening out. Our CA took a group of us (we're beginning to actually get to know one another, right as we're also beginning to move out) to see Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

Side note: This movie is freaking incredible. It's even more incredible because Gore has actually been traveling around the world trying to raise awareness (he even visited Stanford last fall). Cuz we know the oil companies (oh, and the puppet government that serves them) ain't gonna take global warming seriously. In fact, the Competitive Enterprise Institute would have us believe that CO2 is so "natural" and "essential to life" that it's A-okay to release as much of it as possible into the atmosphere, without worrying about the fact that we're at drastically higher levels of CO2 than ever before. There's a huge difference between the past balance of CO2 to other atmospheric gases, and the current f-ing up of that balance by burning fossil fuels.

And the logic behind this ad campaign boggles the mind. So... lead is naturally occuring, so that must make lead... GOOD FOR US? (You might also substitute: smallpox, bear attacks, earthquakes, etc.) And um... red wine in moderation is beneficial to our health... so we should drink AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE? (You might also substitute: basically any food, even water, as about anything in excess can be detrimental.)

Anyway, Gore's movie is a must-see. It's nice to get the facts...after all, there are no articles being published in peer reviewed journals that don't take global warming seriously (In other words, no respected scientist is claiming that global warming doesn't exist). But it seems controversial, because you get these organizations and businesses arguing for the right to do whatever the hell they want without government interference. They fund these campaigns to make global warming seem like "just another theory." And Bush of course employs people affiliated with oil industries in his environmental agencies. Really good idea, right? Because that's totally unbiased.

OK. End of side note.

After the film, we went out for ice cream. I got the same thing that I always get at Coldstone: cake batter w/ yellow cake smushed in & whipped cream on top. DEAR LORD. So good.

Sunday: Busy day!

I woke up early -- earlier than I ever get up unless I'm traveling -- in order to go on a kayaking trip. Monterey Bay again, and I met another awesome CA, who was my kayaking buddy. We were out in the actual bay this time. The sea lions were lined up on the rocks barking and flopping about, the seals were balancing precariously on the tops of pointy rocks, and the pelicans were periodically diving into the water. I felt very muscular afterwards, especially as the wind was against us on our way out (making our return trip incredibly easy, on the plus side). The highlight was seeing the sea otters though. They were wrapping themselves up in kelp (so as to stay in one place), and M. and I drifted close to three groups of them -- some off in the distance floating, and the closest sea otter holding her baby on her stomach. SO CUTE. The cuteness kills you. You just want to pet them and hug them (for no apparent reason, except that their fur looks so soft, and their noses are so round, and their eyes so close together... it's completely inexplicable).

Afterwards, we tried to find the fried artichoke stands we saw on the way in, but missed them. Unfortunately, this was a chance for the other girl in the car to insist on going to Santa Cruz for tacos. OK. So this bothered me, because I needed to be home early for Jill's birthday dinner. And I said on the way in, that I needed to be home early. And yet... Ok. So this woman is like "oh yeah, it's right at the juncture of the highways..." leading us to believe that the place is easy to get to. You know, because that's what you do when you're trying to get home in a timely manner: you stick to food places along the highway. So we get off the highway, and we hit TONS of traffic. For the like ten mile drive through downtown SC to get to this place. And the woman is like: "Oh it's never like this... really? why would it be like this on a Sunday afternoon?" OMG. It's a beautiful, sunny day in June. It's freaking Sunday afternoon -- when people go home from vacationing. AND YOU DIDN'T THINK THERE MIGHT BE TRAFFIC??? Just like, maybe the slightest chance that it MIGHT be a bad idea? People astound me.

Anyway, so Las Palmas Taco Bar isn't a bad place (in fact, they have a pretty amazing veggie taco for the price), but it totally isn't worth going 45 minutes out of your way. Especially when you have to inconvenience others in order to get your freaking beef tongue burrito (*I kid you not*)

So. After that debacle, I hurried through my preparations for Jill's potluck dinner. I set the sushi rice to cook as I showered, and got I think 9 rolls of mango/ mango & avocado sushi. Always fun!

We had a lovely evening -- It was kind of a bookend event, as we had our first cohort love event (also a potluck) back in October in the same place. And EM made her famous cake!!

The rest of the week... not quite so exciting. I was reading one of those lost Victorian classics, Self-Help by Samuel Smiles, while trying to do research for a final paper, as well as reading about the grotesque for class... The best part, was watching Spirited Away over at Will's co-op -- Incredible film, awesome group, and yummy pizza.

Actually, I've been eating tons of pizza lately. Pizza Monday night with that film screening, pizza on Weds as I was ordering lunch for our final lecture, and pizza again tonight for our meeting with the second years about the quals exam. Which was also noteworthy. We were actually meeting again, as a cohort, in the room we had our Intro to Grad Studies class in. We sat in the same places -- I had the warm fuzzies. Those bookend moments... when you're like, whoa, I totally HAVE changed since then.

And then, it was rather reassuring to talk with the second years... Although I wasn't expecting to hear that I'll be reading nearly all day everyday. I refuse to miss out on actually living life this summer, in order to prepare for quals. There's got to be some balance between Andrew & family time, enjoying the outdoors, spending time with friends, and, of course, reading. I can't help but feel that there's something really wrong about shutting oneself in the archives to the detriment of every other relationship/passion that one has.

Well. On that note -- I think I should probably do a tad bit more work before bed!