Tuesday, December 30, 2008


My hair is back to its normal straightess. Now that it doesn't matter a bit. Stupid hair.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Notes from the MLA

Why did my hair choose today to curl? It's never done it before in my life, yet this morning, when I cared what I was going to look like, it chose to do floopy maneuvers over my left ear. Which is exactly what you want your hair to do while you prepare to go and do THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB INTERVIEWS OF YOUR LIFE.

We've had words, though, and it has promised to behave tomorrow.

In brighter news, a child on a San Francisco street corner saw a sign that amused him, and recited over and over and over "World Famous Male Nude Revue? That's HILARIOUS!" Which it was to all of us that heard him.

Anyway, two interviews down and three to go. Tomorrow evening, I'll be a puddle of puddliness, but I'll no longer have to worry about the strange perambulations of my hair.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Hope everyone has a pleasant and enjoyable day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Today's Progress

I have written 4 pages of my dissertation, revised 20, wrapped 7 presents, and eaten a bowl of soup. It's going to be a good day!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Worst Idea in the World (Or Why Christmas Will NOT Be Fun This Year)

There's a conference every year the week between Christmas and New Year's. It's where most of the job interviews for academic jobs in my discipline are done. I'm on the market this year (and even have some interviews, so I might manage to make it in this career), which means that my Christmas is going to be miserable. I'm beginning my panic now, and intend to keep it up through the 29th of December (the day of my last interview). I will then take 3-4 days off, and begin to panic again about whether I've made it to the next level. If you see me, and I gaze at you with glazed eyes, scream, and run away, it's nothing personal, I promise.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A shout out

To everyone I know that has a blog:

I've been getting too much work done, which means that you're not doing your jobs. I want distraction -- at half-hour intervals, and in five minute bites. Coordinate that amongst yourselves, but make sure that you've got it covered, and don't think that you get to take the weekends off. I ESPECIALLY need amusing on weekends.

Thank you; that is all.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

This is not a political blog


Because all I've been hearing is how wonderful Palin's convention speech was. And it wasn't. It was not a good speech. Her timing was off. I'm admitting that she read it with expression, but she isn't a good speaker. Good speakers know the crowd, and the crowd knows how to respond. People laughed when she paused after jokes, but not at the joke. People clapped her points, but only after she'd paused for them to do so. It looked good, but the timing was about a half second off.

And it was a mean-spirited, petty speech. And it said nothing about issues people care about.

Oh, and I'm from a small town too. And I don't think that she represents my mode of thinking.


But you know what? I'm trying my level best not to pay attention to her, because she is an irrelevance and a distraction. An irritating distraction, but nothing more.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'm not stupid, Mr. McCain

I just wanted to get that out there. I know I'm a woman, and maybe a little slow, but it seems to me that I am capable of saying to myself "She doesn't have dangly bits, but she still DIFFERS FROM ME ON EVERY MAJOR POLICY ISSUE AND IS APPARENTLY AGAINST POLAR BEARS so I won't vote for her."

I think I can do that.

Also, I'm tired of hearing people say that she and Obama have the same weaknesses so we have to talk about the issues. Lack of experience? Well, Obama has been representing a bunch more people for quite a bit longer than her. That counts. Executive experience? I think that the Obama campaign organization might actually be bigger than Alaska. Just sayin'.

And if Obama (who is in EXCELLENT health) dies, we'll have Biden. If McCain (who isn't) dies, we'll have Palin. Who may be a very nice woman and I will admit that she seems to say what she means and mean what she says . . . BUT she's too far to the right for me. So though she shares the same chromosomal pairing as me, I have to decline to vote for her.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tetanus shots

Head over to scarlet panda and read her post on them. I should have listened, and now I'm waiting for my doctor to deign to see me tomorrow (I cut my foot yesterday, but it was on concrete, not anything metal). Stupid tetanus shots.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Elitist? Moi?

I'm pretty certain that I'm an elitist. I am amused by the quaint (or, as I like to say, wrong) speech patterns of the less educated. The misplaced apostrophe on a certain bar's credit card receipt BOTHERS ME. I assume that everyone, if they were clever enough, would want to get an advanced degree. I have been known to pity my mechanic/plumber/electrician/hairdresser for their lot in life.

But this morning, I managed to cut Leo's hair, and it doesn't look at all bad!!! I mean, it even looks good (if only I can persuade him to comb it). I took clippers and scissors and removed fuzz from his head in a mostly symmetrical pattern so that he can go off to his lawyering looking like a grown-up, not an ultra-cool indie rocker. I wonder if the thrill goes away. I never feel that accomplished talking to a student. Are useful skills actually gratifying? I wonder.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Please go off the trail and urinate on a rock

In a place of great natural beauty, danger lurks. In the heart of the Olympic National Park, there is a RABID MOUNTAIN GOAT waiting to kill you. Luckily, it is frightened of shouting and sticks.

In order to prevent this horror from dogging your steps, please observe these simple rules (see fig. 1; it involves peeing on a rock!)

Needless to say, this made me very happy.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ick. Hot. Fingers Melty.

Did you know that it's possible to become one with your clothing? I am going to go get ready for bed in a few minutes, and here's to hoping that I haven't actually grafted me shirt onto my back.

It was (according to NPR, fount of all wisdom) 105 degrees today with a heat index of 115-120. (You can't do all caps with numbers, but if I could, I would). I think I'm going to go live in my refrigerator.

I called my mother in Washington today and said "tell me about your weather." She wanted to know why, and I told her that I wanted to fantasize about it. I called my mother for WEATHER PORN. It is time to get out more. Or actually, come to think of it, stay in more so that the heat doesn't get to me. Bless my air-conditioned cave of a house. I'll be in the basement if anyone wants me.

If anyone's weather is better, tell me so I can imagine it.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I'm Back

One twenty-six hour day through airports involving TWO pat-down searches (apparently I look suspicious. Or random. Who knows?). One not too bad case of jet-lag (I woke up at six this morning and knew I wasn't getting back to sleep). A lot of laundry to do. And I want breakfast.

Also, watch this space for a comparison of English and American Skittles. (The English ones they've made fruit-flavoured instead of color-flavoured!)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Public Transit

I'm very conflicted. I miss my car terribly when I have to go do things like get my dinner; yesterday it took me an hour and a half to walk to the store, buy the groceries, and walk back. I could have taken a bus, but I wasn't sure which one and I hate asking directions. (This process was no doubt slowed down by the fact that I walked straight from the tube stop, and so had a whole bunch of books over my shoulder). On the other hand, I kind of like my morning and evening commute. I'm sure the novelty would wear off eventually, but since I'm going to the library from 10-7, the trains aren't crowded, and it's kind of soothing. It does take two hours of my day . . .

The one thing I don't like is that all the shops close between 6 and 8. Don't people need to do grocery shopping at midnight like normal people? Also, what's up with pubs stopping food service at 6:30? Of course it just means that I have to drink my supper on the nights that I don't get away from the library soon enough to shop.

As a sad reflection on the times and growing older, on my first trip abroad, I ordered a Tennants and thought it was enormous. I've included a picture with a salt shaker for scale. They aren't that big at all. I am sad to discover that my memories of pints of beer taller than a horse are simply fabrications of my memory -- it's sort of like going back to one's elementary school.

Monday, July 14, 2008


So this is embarrassing. I'm sitting in the rare books room of the British Library with the point of my journey in front of me (it's really cute! It's about the size of my hand and has really small type). I've been transcribing for the past couple of hours, and I just realized that I had been dozing and hallucinating, and then finally just plain asleep. In the reading room of the British Library. In the special section you have to sit in when you're looking at super-special old books. Asleep. There are enough people here that look next to death that I'm not sure anyone noticed, but it is embarrassing.

Luckily, I didn't drool. I'm trying to do something not quite so mind-numbing in hopes that I will wake up, but I think what I'm going to have to do is take the book back and have them hold it for me, and go and have some caffeine. Because, come to think of it, I haven't had anything caffeinated yet today, so that might be part of my problem. Hopefully that's it and I'm back soon, all bouncy and full of energy. Or drugged to the gills and needlessly perky. Or something.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

So here is the egregious swan. There it is, floating along with its cygnet, living happily. But within its breast beats the breast of a vicious, nasty bird. I haven't forgiven it yet.

But I have clearly learned to use my camera to post pictures to the net. It's not that I didn't know how, but rather that I had left the cable in London. But as I'm back in London and enjoying a day of relative quiet before going back to the library fun, I thought I'd stick up a picture of the offender. Who, it might be noted, brings its children with it on criminal activity. And didn't share the food with it, so my opinion of its parenting skills took a nosedive. But as any Scottish poet will tell you, the birds are very nasty. Just ask John Damien, the flying abbot of Tungland, whose launch pad I saw in Stirling as well.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I want a scriptorium

The National Library of Scotland is the coolest place ever. They have these pleasant rooms with long tables with plugs for laptops, and when you want a book, you have to go and fill in a request form and then they go into their secret underground lair and bring it up for you. And deliver it to your place at the long table. When you leave, they frisk you. They won't let you have pens in the library. I spent all yesterday there, and will spend all day today and tomorrow there. It makes me feel like a real scholar.

And on a plus side, they have no swans.

Oh, and an update? Even though it was 50 degrees when I was walking all over Stirling, I am sunburned. I went on the coldest, wettest vacation I could find, but still I am burned.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

stupid swan

I was attacked by a swan today. A vicious, cracker-eating swan. I'll try tomorrow to post a picture of it (it was quite friendly until it tried to eat my book and then me).

Also, I walked around a very nice Loch and then climbed the hill to the penis-shaped Wallace monument, and then climbed the 236 stairs up to the top of that.

And then realized I'd left my camera in the car park.

So my legs are tired and I have no pictures of the best view I've seen in my life. Poop.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Internet Deprivation

Do you know that England doesn't have internet? I just spend a week without it, and it hurt my soul. 5 days of that week were on a university campus without internet access. All email had to be done from two common computers which were slow and had a line stretching back.

Good Things About This Week:

1. I got to see the last half of the Chester Mystery Cycle performed at Chester Cathedral. It was a bit like a really well done kids nativity play until they brought on a real donkey for Palm Sunday (which was SO CUTE. I want a donkey), and then the play of the Antichrist was all German -- weird music, Margaret Thatcher, the Antichrist was a crucified clown. It rocked.

2. The conference was interesting (I met people who like what I like)! And it looks like I'm going to get my paper published.

3. Trains are soothing.

Bad Things About This Week

1. Took tube from Heathrow to far reaches of North London at rush hour with all luggage. Ick.

2. London was hot.

3. Not enough sleep to go 'round.

4. Yesterday, we realized that the nice ticket lady had not mentioned that we had to SWITCH TRAIN STATIONS TO MAKE A CONNECTION, so we had a frantic taxi ride with all our luggage. And a rugby match had just finished, so the streets are swarmed.

So that's the news. I'll try to post a picture of the hybrid banana/sheep that is the new mascot for Liverpool.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

All packed

I am ready to leave. There are these awesome vacuum bags that suck all the air out of your luggage. My sweaters look freeze-dried. It rocks.

Watch this space for pictures of the reading room at the British Library. And bits of countryside seen out the window of trains. And possibly the view from the top of Arthur's Seat. (Which sounds far lewder than it is.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I don't think he understands

My cat and I clearly need to sit down and discuss the terms of his lease. I'm not being picky here -- we jump when he meows, we give him food, we pet him when he wakes us up at improbable hours, we scratch his ears whenever asked. We ask little in return: a few snuggles when he doesn't want them, some aesthetically pleasing sunbathing sometimes, and a bit of ad hoc vermin control. This is where the communication broke down, so I use this forum to say gently to him:


Last night, Leo whistled for him to come in (whatever you may say about him, you can't deny that in some ways he is a well-trained animal), and he came happily trotting up the steps and into the back room. It was only when he got in that Leo saw that he was carrying a mouse in his mouth -- a live one -- that he proceeded to drop and bat around. I'll admit that we're probably boring at night, and I can understand that he might want to bring a toy in, but we have a cat so that we DON'T have mice.

Leo came upstairs and explained the situation to me, and we agreed that mice that come in of their own free will looking for a handout deserve what they get, but mice that are dragged inside deserve rescuing. Leo rescued the mouse. All is well.

But Puck is in the doghouse.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Things to do

In the week before I leave for England, Scotland, etc (libraries, folks, not fun) I have to:

1. Write paper for conference at beginning of trip. Being heard by large people in field. No competing sessions. Eep!

2. Finish essay to send to LARGE SCARY JOURNAL with a habit of rejecting people.

3. Figure out what I'm wearing to things (including, but not limited to the conference). This involves checking weather, because though it's summer, I'm pretty sure England is not 100 degrees. Also shoes. Figure out how to take the fewest number of shoes that allow me to have appropriate shoes for all occasions and not be carrying a giant suitcase with me everywhere.

4. Get some English money so I can leave the airport without pawning some of my clothes. (Or, I suppose, carefully selected shoes).

5. Gather books. Both academic (which involves figuring out which papers I am planning on working on besides the giant book I'm transcribing) and amusing. For amusing books, need a combination of frothy yet not embarrassing.

6. Pack (see 3).

7. For 6, try to acquire voluminous luggage. Also for 5. Also figure out luggage weight limits and spread books about.

8. Print out ticket reservations.

9. Buy train tickets.

10. Figure out whether my cell phone wants to work there and how much it costs.

And probably a whole bunch more. If anyone can think of anything that I need to do that I haven't, please do remind me.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I want to be a Luddite . . . but I can't

I went to the library this morning. I had emailed myself a list of books and articles that I needed to get. The moment I walked into the library, the internet went down, and I realized that you can't do anything in a library without internet. They've removed the card catalogue. I didn't have my list of books, and there was no way to get it back. There's a Frog and Toad story by Arnold Lobel that seemed strangely apropos.

So I've decided that I'm against technology, because it raises expectations and then just lets you down.*

* I realize that there's some irony in the manner of my complaint.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Impossible Question #7

I have been given a Herculean task -- I'm writing an essay on a 15th century Scottish poem written by a poet that may have been blind. Other than his name (Blind Hary) we don't really know much about him except that he occasionally got paid for something. I have to construct a paragraph that says "We don't know what books he may have had access to or known. We don't really know much about his education. But since a chunk of my argument hinges on him knowing some things about a series of saints, we're just going to assume that he knew their fairly obscure biographies in detail. And for two of the series who may each be one of two saints, we're just going to go with the one I picked, yeah?"

I can't see it.

But then, neither could he.

Unless that was just a nickname.

So I am going to hie me to the library tomorrow with an agenda: I'm not leaving until I have come to some conclusion about things, and framed it in brilliant prose.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


But I can't help it.

I have a student who is hearing impaired, and it's driving me completely crazy. I know that she's not trying to annoy me. I know that she is entitled to learn just like everyone else. I know that she can't help not being able to hear. I feel an immense amount of compassion for her. But . . .

Well really, my objection is that I have no training to deal with this situation (and it is a situation; she can't understand my normal speaking voice). But it puts me under an immense amount of pressure trying to balance her needs and the needs of the 16 other students.

Also to do with not hearing things and how I am a bad person, this amused me greatly. We could use it as a jumping off point for a discussion of censorship, but we could also just laugh hysterically.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Apocalypse soon?

Leo is sitting in the room with me, reading my blog. Shouldn't he know what I'm up to without having to read my blog? Is this evidence of the coming apocalypse? Should I call him to find out what he thinks about this? Or just wait until he comments on this post?

Friday, May 30, 2008

I can be googled!

One of the sad side effects of my marriage was that it made me ungoogleable. Try it. You don't really get much that is linked to me. But now, because I have an article published in an online journal (which is published by a real and reputable publisher, so it's a real thing) you can find me! I exist on the web!

(Of course, you have to google me in quotation marks with all my middle initials, but it's still progress. Of a sort).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pointless Reviews

I have, I admit, a somewhat snobby take on productions of Shakespeare, but the current Richard III running nearby has one serious problem; I put to you a hypothetical situation:

Say you need to portray a character whose arm is withered and needs to be tethered to his side. Do you simply have him put it in his pocket, or do you have him grabbing his crotch? The Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis seems to have opted for the crotch-grab. They have also given him a glove on that hand and not the other. It means that he looks a little like Michael Jackson . . . but mostly he just looks pervy.

Particularly when he gives Anne a ring that he takes off his finger (at least, I assume it was his finger . . . )

Friday, May 16, 2008

not QUITE right

My summation of grading possibilities was not quite right, but was close-ish. I had 4 students whose papers were less than half the length they were meant to be, 1 plagiarist, and 1 who turned papers in after the deadline for grades.

Oh, and one person (the one who wanted me not to enforce my attendance policy) that gave me a paper on something we read earlier in the semester that he'd already written a paper on, instead of something that we'd read recently.

I have decided that I am happy to be done. And I graded 60 papers in one day, which left me with a throbbing headache and a sense of righteous accomplishment.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It begins . . .

In a few minutes (after I finish blogging to waste time and put off the evil day) I am going to start grading my stack of final papers. I'm projecting (and, if anyone wants to make it interesting with a little friendly wager, let me know) 2 cases of plagiarism, 4 people whose papers don't make the required length requirements, and at least one person who gives me a response paper along the lines of "I like The Importance of Being Earnest, because of the pretty costumes," which will also tell me that he/she didn't actually read the play, and is relying entirely on the film.

But the rest will probably be fine.

On the bright side, this is the last grading/teaching/thinking about students that I will have to do for at least 15 months.

Monday, May 5, 2008

mmm . . . carrots

Check out this rather disturbing quiz --


It tells us exactly why Hilary needs to get the hell out of the race so that we can focus on the actual presidential campaign and keep McCain from getting a free ride.

Friday, May 2, 2008

whining, moaning and students

(You notice how I'm leaving ambiguous whether it's me or the students who's whining and moaning? That's cleverness!)

So a student came in yesterday to see me. He admitted right up front that he'd missed a third of the classes this semester, and he said that he hoped that it was all right. Or rather, he hoped that I wasn't "going to be super-mean on your attendance policy." By "super-mean" I think he meant enforce it at all. When I said that it depended a bit on why he'd missed the classes he said "I'm not going to lie to you -- some of the time it was laziness, but some of the time it was because I had a really hard class right after yours, so I had to skip yours to study for the other one."

This is, by the way, not an answer that will endear you to a teacher.

When I said that I wouldn't automatically fail him, as my policy says I would, and rather would grade his work as it was, he asked what grade he was likely to get. I said that he might get a C. He said he was really hoping for a B or even an A. I ask you -- what sort of person thinks they deserve an A for showing up 66% of the time? In a class with an attendance policy?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Well, this is new

So I decided to blog. I'm not sure why, but it seemed like something everyone else was doing.

I think it was part of beginning to feel old. Because nothing keeps you young like sitting huddled over the keyboard typing words that no one will read.

I'll come up with something clever to say later.