Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Getting dumber

I have made some headway on work in the last couple of days, finishing up a syllabus for my upper-year class (though I am still going to work on it, tweak the assignments), and starting to think about the challenge of evaluation for my 90 first-years.

And today I started to write. Got most of a blustery introduction together. This is a new article that I want to have a draft of by the time classes start on September 5 (laughs uproariously). Well, mostly new. It may - will, I hope - involve pieces from my dissertation. Though I can never tell, given my writing process. But yes, that's the general idea. To incorporate some dissertation bits. I thought I was done with dissertation material, after publishing one chapter from it. But I realize there's some more to be gleaned, I guess - just reorganized and repositioned alongside some new material.

So I went reading my diss, looking for what I could pull out in relation to my new idea. And dudes, I was smarter then! And it wasn't long ago - I submitted it in October '05, and defended in December. But as I was reading bits, tracing debates, I thought, wow, I couldn't just write that with such ease now. I don't know this stuff as well. I was, in fact, surprised at some of what I knew. Where did it go?

Sigh. This does not bode well for a robust intellectual future.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Just bullets. Not random bullets. Real ones.

In unpacking and getting set up, I've been using a plastic bin I have full of tools and nails and such. Not a toolbox, for that would be too competent for me. But a bin o' things. I haven't had to get out the bin o' things for years, now, since I was living with R for so long - and she had a real toolbox, as any butch worth her salt does, she would jokingly say (though it's just for show, really, because she's not much more competent than I).

Aaaanyway, so, I've been nosing around the bottom of my bin for various nails for hanging artwork, and I have been reminded of the unpleasant fact of bullets. Yes, there are real bullets in my bin. And they freak me out.

You see, in 2000-01, my then-girlfriend JZ and I sublet our Home City apartment to spend the year in France. We made what in retrospect was a very poor choice of subletter. A Really Weird Guy, but one who seemed harmless enough. Anyway, that was a bit of a mistake - there were a couple of rent problems and personality conflicts while we were gone. But he stayed. And JZ and I never did come back to the apartment, because we broke up.

When I moved out, and began using my bin o' things to set up my next place, I discovered that there were about a dozen real bullets in it. I was freaked.* I mentioned it to the friend I was having a sort of dalliance with at the time, because she was a brand new cop (gawd - that's another story...). She was intrigued and outraged, because apparently these were powerful bullets or something, and she began running police checks on the subletter's name. She never found anything on him.

We forgot about it all, I guess, but now I have unearthed the bin and there are the bullets. And I don't want them there!! I want them gone!! And yet I don't know what to do with them. I can't just put them in the garbage, can I? And I don't want to call the police to ask them to dispose of them - I don't want to stir up interest.** Especially not in this city.

So will these bullets just sit in the bin forever? Sigh.

* I have never been around a gun before.
** I don't know if this actually would stir up interest, but I got the sense from my cop friend's reaction that it would.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Getting back to work: assignments for large classes

I am nearly finished unpacking. If I put in a good day today, I can probably finish all that can be done right now, including hanging artwork. Then I'll just have to wait a few days until I rent a car and can unclutter the study area by driving ten or so boxes up to my office at the New Uni (will think of a name for the Uni soon...and am still working on the more positive name for Scary City!).

So, what this means is that I'm about to get back to work. And, given the crazily over-ambitious late summer to-do list I've posted on my sidebar (especially crazy given that R will be here for eight days in the middle of it), that is a great thing.

The first order of business, to ease myself back into things, will be to finish course design for my two fall courses. Readings are all set, of course, but I need to design the evaluation structure and write the syllabi.

I will have just over twice the number of students I had last year (yeah, I was one lucky contract/visiting prof last year at Dream Uni). I'll have about 110 students. 90 of them will be in my first-year, Intro course. And there are no tutorials (which pisses me off - my first order of business in this new job will be to change that, get a TA, for next year). This means I'll be responsible for grading for 90 students in this one class. Apparently I can get an undergraduate TA, but the only thing I'd trust an undergrad with would be things like quizzes - no written work. I have never given a quiz - it doesn't make sense with my discipline, nor my teaching style. Ugh. (Though will probably give in to it.)

So my question is, how have some of you managed with designing assignments for huge classes where you have to do all the marking yourselves? What have your evaluation structures looked like? How do you not get swamped??

In 2005-06, on my first contract gig, I taught a class of 50 and one of 60. In those big classes, I assigned way too much. It was back-breaking. Now that I'm TT at a place with fairly ambitious research goals, I just can't do that to myself. My fall is going to be insane enough as it is, what with a SSHRC proposal, two conferences, a couple of visitors from Home City, and getting acclimated to a new university - and running and growing a program! So, though it goes against my ideas of what good teaching looks like, I want to be pragmatic about this and easy on myself - somehow without sacrificing the students' learning.

Any suggestions for sane assignment design for large classes would be much appreciated.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Random bullets: Getting set up

- Yesterday my new furniture - sofa and chair that I mentioned way back - arrived. I am, quite frankly, in love with them. The colour I chose goes so beautifully with this place and the way I'm decorating it. And, again, the delivery people were wonderfully sweet and friendly...what is it with people here?

- Holy smokes, it's hot here. Ohmigod. It's the sun...I don't know how it's so much freaking hotter and more intense. It's like I'm living on the Equator.

- Oh, IKEA, you know that I have a deep appreciation for the very fact of your existence. However. When it is 35 degrees, and I am bent over with a screwdriver to gouge at and widen your little prefab, connect-here holes in the four dining chairs I have to set up? Because they don't line up, or they are half the size they are supposed to be? Not loving you so much. Update: Also not loving you when I have bought four of said chairs and one of them CANNOT go together, because the not-lining-up issue involves a metal piece, which I cannot simply gouge at with a screwdriver...and so it appears that the chair is unusable, and I have a set of three dining chairs, hundreds of miles away from an IKEA - and this is a discontinued item, anyway. No. Not loving you. Not at all. Too angry even to know what to do with myself. Okay, well, it appears I can sort of provisionally put it together, but it's missing many of its bolts because of the not-lining-up issue. I won't want anyone sitting on it!

- Today I had a little lunch date. Turns out Joan, a friend from Home City, is in Scary City caring for her older brother, who is recovering from a bad accident on his Harley. His wife had to go to Home City for a funeral, and he couldn't be left alone. So Joan and her healing brother and I had lunch at a downtown cafe. She really wanted me to meet her brother, as a Scary City connection. It was so wonderful and surprising to see her here - she really is one of the loveliest people I know. And her brother and his wife will call me up next time they go to the Sunday night blues jam at a nearby bar. Not really my scene, normally - but hell, I'm up for anything right now. And it will be good to check it out because it will be my mother's scene, oh yes it certainly will, and I can take her there when she comes to visit me in a couple of months...

- Tomorrow morning I'm going to go to the farmer's market. Those who know me in real life know how deeply I love markets. Quite honestly, they are one of my favourite things to do. Give me a choice between a blues jam and a farmer's market, and I'll pick the market every time. I look forward to this one, for many reasons...

- Saw my close colleague yesterday for an hour or so - she popped by and admired the apartment and we talked about the upcoming year. And tomorrow night, am going to her place for dinner. I am not sure why I was so reticent about her, at first - I was, after my interview - because she has turned out to be just a wonderful, wonderful person. She was who I stayed with when I was apartment-hunting last month, and I just felt so completely at home with her even then, after having met her only at the interview. And now it feels as if we are actually good friends already. That is a wonderful thing.

- Went swimming tonight to cool off - hurrah!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

From the emergent nest

I arrived in Scary City on Tuesday late in the afternoon. Picked up the keys to my new place (which I do still like immensely) and went out to buy some household items, including a vacuum cleaner for the carpet (It is called a Roadster, which amuses me.) ...The semi-carpeted status of this place is the one thing about it that doesn't thrill me.

The movers arrived at 8 yesterday morning...this move has been so efficient on both ends, I can't quite get over it. They were jovial and bizarrely helpful - one took it upon himself to destroy the mini wasp nest that I had noticed was developing on my balcony. (The wasps have come back to look for their home and, I suspect, to build another...it is time for the killer aerosols, I'm afraid.) The best part was that I was able to get the movers to put together my enormous new bed frame and huge bookcase, and to assemble the futon frame I bought from Grumpy ABD Adjunct (which I hadn't a clue how to put together, since I so daft in such matters...) I paid them some cash, it took them an hour or so, and now it is done! I am so pleased about this, as I thought I was going to have to wait until Saturday to have it done...I had a tradesperson booked to come over then. This puts me significantly ahead.

The rest of the day was a bit frustrating. I was tired and overwhelmed by chaos. I got the kitchen unpacked, and went grocery shopping, but mostly felt like I was treading water. As well, it turned out that my phone service wasn't working - so neither, therefore, was the Internet. A call to the phone/Internet company last night, though, resulted in a service appointment today...and the technicians arrived at 8am, though they were scheduled to come anytime until 5pm. Not only did these - once again - insanely happy and helpful characters fix the phone service problem, but they also volunteered to set up my Internet and wireless for me. I can't tell you what a relief this is...I have to say that I was feeling really isolated, what with the shock of being in a new place and no way to communicate with people...Which was compounded by the fact that my doorbell isn't working, either! I think I was just over-tired, because that is a rather dramatic reaction - it's not like I'm out in the middle of nowhere. At any rate, it's all great now, and here I am, posting this on my very own wireless connection...I've never had wireless at home, so this makes me very happy.

My reactions to being here swing dramatically. Of course, at bottom, it's too early to tell anything - and I'm too ensconced here in my home and unpacking tasks to really get a sense of anything right now. But on the drive in, I was feeling very positive...it's so beautiful around here. I felt full of hope and promise. Yet when I walked downtown (which is very close to where I'm living) late in the afternoon yesterday, I felt dejected. And then I went into a second-hand bookstore that had Internet terminals, since I couldn't get online at home, and when I was leaving I asked the store's owner -a middle-aged guy - if there was anywhere nearby I could buy a phone. He thought for a moment, semi-suggested a couple of possibilities, and then said, very vehemently, "This is downtown Scary City - it sucks!" Well. Quite the vote of confidence in my new home there!

So we'll see how it plays out. Off I go to continue unpacking...if nothing else, at least I have this lovely place to nest in. My colleague - my one friend here, who hired me, and whom I stayed with when I came apartment-hunting - is coming over for a visit this afternoon. She lives very nearby. She'll come by with her dog - it will be nice to see them both, for I am really missing Mr. K still. Tonight, I will have a drink - god, I look forward to that gin and tonic. There has not been enough of that lately, I must say.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Almost there

God, do the days ever run together when you drive for so long. I have a hard time figuring out which day it is, what time it is, where I am, where I was, and when I was there...

But what I do know is that the last leg of our journey is tomorrow...by late afternoon or early evening, I'll be in Scary City. (Still need to find new name for SC - I'm working on it!) I'll pick up the keys to my place, dump off the oodles of stuff in the car (clothes, food, random weirdnesses I forgot to pack) and go out to buy some household essentials. Wednesday, the movers arrive.

I have the oddest feeling. Of not being able to see or imagine a future. This is because I can't, beyond the next few days; I have nary a plan, for weeks to come. (Besides unpacking, and working, of course...) I haven't a clue what my future looks like - in the short term or the long term. Oh sure, I know vague generalities like "I'll start teaching on September 6" and "R is coming to visit on August 24." But I have no idea what life, real everyday life, will look like.

This isn't a bad thing. It just is. And I don't recall ever having felt anything like it before. In that sense, it's quite liberating, actually. I could reinvent myself. I won't, completely, of course. But knowing that I could is an interesting feeling, indeed.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

More journey notes

- What a weird feeling comes over you when you take such a long driving trip. It's both tedious and perfectly alright.

- I am eating quite well, and that is a good thing. Even though I am usually a very healthy eater, I had visions of road trip food - Timbits, and iced caps, and fries from truck stops. Not so, thank goodness. Instead, plums and cherries and spinach salads. Which makes me feel much better than I would with the classic road diet.

- I plan to go for my first run, post-back injury, tomorrow morning. It's been two and a half weeks now. When we arrived at this place today, I noticed that my body was ITCHING to run...just dying for it. A walk "took the edge off," but I feel that my back, though still not fully healed, will probably be okay with a run now. It's the bending and lifting that continue to be a problem (which does not bode well for unpacking in a few days).

- Nostalgic Dad-fest continues.

- I am doing a good half of the driving on this trip, which is cementing my relatively recently acquired driving skills. Some of it has been quite challenging, and I am happy for the practice.

- The LUNATIC email I sent the other day still has not received a reply, which has me chewing my arm off in suspense and dread. And also gives me more time to ponder the consequences of my actions, of which there are some really unpleasant ones. (Sorry to be so cryptic about this piece of drama, which is so obviously good-juicy-gossipy...Indeed, it is...so good, I can't blog about it, I don't think...)

- More soon. Bye!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Journey notes

I am here in a crappy hotel room, at the end of the second day of the journey. (Damn, my body is not used to being in a car for 10 hours a day, multiple days in a row.) In fact, we're in City Where my Incredibly, Life-Definingly Nostalgic Father Grew Up. We're staying here for two nights, in fact, to indulge his nostalgia.

I have only been here once before, when I was 7. What I remember of that trip is mainly impressionistic: a fancy swimming pool, with water slides and a tower; my father's wallet being stolen from said swimming establishment; a cool multicoloured short-sleeved shirt I had, which had "gold" thread woven into the fabric and felt like the coolest thing I'd ever owned; going roller skating; being crushed out on the daughter of my father's old school friend...All fleeting impressions.

But what defines Nostalgic Dad City, much more than any of those impressions, is a mood I remember. I remember very strongly feeling as if this city was haunted, inhabited by spirits. That feeling stayed with me for years - I would get an uneasy chill every time I even thought of this place. As an adult, I became aware of the source of those feelings. I was reading a Stephen King comic book on that trip (who the frack was letting me read such a thing at 7??), and that made me jumpy and nervous in general. (I remember not being able to fall asleep...) And during the vacation days in Nostalgia City, we were touring around and I was being regaled with various famous Native legends that define this place and the surrounding area. Legends involving spirits or sleeping souls of various kinds, all of them. Put that together with the Stephen King, and you have an easy recipe for a haunted city.

So I thought a lot about that feeling as we approached here today, and I wondered whether I would still feel as if this place were inhabited. I don't, I find. Not at all. In a sense, that almost makes me sad. It almost makes me nostalgic for an indefinable feeling, for an "irrational" belief. For the possibility of having such beliefs.

Other journey notes:

- I was wrong about turning to stone, not feeling any more emotion about leaving Home City. Leaving Mr. K nearly broke my heart, it did. I can't even really think about it without getting overwrought, so I have spent a fair amount of my time deliberately training my mind away from it. And indulging the dogs I've met on the journey, and taking pictures of them. A poor substitute. R tells me Mr. K's been very quiet since I left.

- Last night, I sent an INSANE email. It is as if upon leaving Home, I became a different person (a drug-addled one, perhaps??), able to recklessly stir up drama in my own life at the touch of a send button. Oh. my. god. All I can say is, it's a good thing I'm going far away. What was I thinking??

- Then spent most of my day, when I wasn't trying to avoid thinking about Mr. K, meditating on my newfound lack of caution and the email I sent, and anticipating a return email. Which has not materialized. Oh my god, the suspense! The drama! The lunacy! (Perhaps will find a way to blog about this - have to think about it...Just know - craziness.)

- William Hurt reading The Sun Also Rises: a fine audiobook. I recommend it.

- Off to sleep now, and to ponder my personal carelessness some more.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Being rooted...part three

Had a little goodbye party last night...in A's stunning back garden. Many of the close people in my life are away right now. So it was small - fifteen or so people - and somehow sweet. Lovely. I said my goodbyes. You know, it was a kind of ritual.

So anyway, I will be gone by this time tomorrow morning. But I've kind of turned to stone about it. My extremely emotional goodbye with M a little while ago made me turn inward and protect myself, I think...No more of that, it seems I am saying to myself. And anyway, this has all been so drawn out - so goddamn many months of anticipation of this move - that I just need to be there, already!

That makes me return yet again to the question of rootedness in Home City. About how it can be a liability, and I have to be careful of that. What I mean is that I can't fetishize my rootedness here, so that it stops me from actually embracing my life in Scary City. I can imagine that happening. Psychgrad left a comment to my first post on rootedness, in which she said her longing for places and people she's left is usually about imagining them as they once were, bound in time. I can see that. And I need to be careful not to let those moments rule me, to the detriment of forging new relationships with people and place in Scary City.


My dad and I leave on our lengthy roadtrip tomorrow, lots of music and audiobooks in hand - In Cold Blood and The Sound and the Fury seem to be our listening goals, although apparently he's checked out from the library a dozen books to choose from. Don't know how much blogging I'll be able to do on the road. I'll try - and if not, see you on the other side!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Embarrassing moments, of yesteryear and today

Lil'rumpus has tagged me for a meme of her own devising - most embarrassing classroom moments...

While I know I have many embarrassing classroom moments, not many of them are really good stories. They are run-on embarrassments, more like. Like in my first year of full-time teaching, two years ago, when I was teaching a large lecture class for the first time -- and also deciding to incorporate technology into my teaching for the first time. Too many firsts, obviously. For every week, in the large lecture, I would lose my mind as I tried to figure out how to make the projector work. I would get semi-hysterical, and I can still hear the clicking of my shoes as I ran out of the class every week to find the IT guy with the short red hair, calling out frantically to my class, "If you see that guy walk by, flag him down..." This would last for a good fifteen, agonizing minutes every week. I lost a lot of sleep over this. After about 4 weeks or so, I'd sort of figured it out. But boy, it sure did not do wonders for my confidence as a brand new professor.

So I don't know if I have a good, single embarrassing classroom moment that can compare to lil'rumpus'. But I have a non-classroom embarrassing moment -- and it is from mere hours ago!

So I still had this rental car I'd taken away for the weekend. This is the first time I've been the sole driver for a weekend away, being such a new driver. Everything had gone swimmingly, including my navigation of rush-hour 400-series highways on Thursday afternoon. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. But things are getting a little frantic, as I'm leaving for Scary City on Wednesday, first thing in the morning. And there are lots of things to fit into these two days, including a haircut, a couple of visits with people, a low-key goodbye party at A's tonight, etc., etc.

I went out with the car early this morning to pick up snacks and drinks for this party tonight, to drop off at A's. Then A and I had a plan to go for a walk with our dogs - I wanted a one-on-one visit with her apart from the party tonight. So I suggested we drive down to this particular special park, and I drove us. On our way there, I was telling A how happy I was to now have this skill, this ability to drive, and how amazed I was about the fact that I have developed both comfort and competence lately.* We reminisced about how exactly one year ago, when A was catching a ride with us to the same destination I was visiting this weekend, I drove for about an hour, and nearly died of stress. Not so anymore, ha ha ha. Look at me, such a driver!

So we arrive at the park, I park, the dogs and A and I pour out of the car. And I lock the car. With the keys still in it. And the car running.


I called the rental company and roadside assistance was hastily dispatched - in fact, the guy arrived within fifteen minutes. He grinned at me as he handed over my key. A had regaled me with tales of different people, having borrowed her car, locking the keys inside with it running - three times in one year. She said to the roadside assistance guy, "Tell her how often this happens." He said he gets 6 or 7 of these calls in a day, some days. Once, there'd been a baby locked in the car.

But still. Ouch. I am now eating humble pie.

* As nice as it is to have this skill on a weekend away, or a day like today when I have to buy lots of things from the store, am I ever glad that I don't have to do it all the time. It would make me into an unhappy person. Driving in a city sucks!!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Being rooted...part two

I am here for the weekend. In the university town where I taught in 2005-06. I have several family members here, as well as some friends from that year of working here. I chose the dates for this visit badly, because not one of the friends I have in this city is actually here this weekend. So it's been a quiet weekend for R and I, staying at my favourite aunt's house with Mr. K. It's been blustery, rainy, and cold. The picture above shows me taking advantage, on Friday afternoon, of a wee patch of sunlight before the storm clouds moved in...I had a glorious swim off the rocks in the warm, shallow water. (This house is jaw-droppingly situated...)
Being here reminds me that being rooted, as I wrote about the other day, is many-layered. It's not just about Home City, it's about Home Region, too. The wilder landscapes that I've visited all my life - the ones that surround and to a certain extent feed off the city. I know landscape differently from the way I know cityscape. But I take a certain comfort in being able to map a region, I realize.
That's why I wanted to come here just before I leave for Scary City...I wanted to feel this landscape again, so that I could hold it with me over there. There is not the same kind of grief about leaving the region that I feel at leaving the city - and I feel excited about the region surrounding Scary City - but it's very nourishing to be here.
A back update: Things are finally looking up on that front. I drove the several hours to get here on Thursday, and that sure as hell didn't help matters. When my aunt saw me hobble out of the car and immediately lie on the floor, there was talk of "shooting me through the CT scanner" (her husband is a doctor, a radiologist). But she gave me a bottle of Celebrex. Oh my goodness, I heart Celebrex. It appears to have worked a small miracle, and now I'm very much on the mend. Drugs Are Good.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Rockin' girl blogger...me?

I just found out that the amazing MaggieMay named me on her list of 5 rockin' girl bloggers! What an honour! I was tickled beyond belief to be nominated by the rockingest girl blogger I know, whom I always visit first in bloglines...especially because I don't feel like I rock, really (as Maggie perceptively notes about me).

As far as I can tell, the deal is that I have to now name 5 rockin' girl bloggers of my own. Which is, well, fab, because I love the chance to tell some of my lady blogfriends how much I love them! They can't include ones from Maggie's list (which is hard, because there are some serious favourites of mine on that list...(cough)Sfragett(cough)...)But as I can't keep track of all the lists out there, and who's on them, I'm considering everyone else fair game. And I'm thinking about people's blogs, here, not the personalities of people I've met in real life...who are all awesome gals.

And you gotta know that picking only 5 bloggers is a real challenge...I seriously love, like, 30 blogs...

1. Medieval Woman. This girl is a total rocker. It's in her positive energy and sense of humour! But she's not one of those people who uses levity and optimism as shields...her blog voice is a great balance of serious questions and funny delivery. She's the kind of person you'd like to stay at the bar with into the wee hours for that reason...

2. Flavia. Flavia's wit and intelligence slay me. And she always writes these things, including in mine and others' comments, that are just so right on. That leave me thinking, "Well, that's exactly what I was thinking, but Flavia has captured it with so much more subtlety and linguistic precision, not to mention sarcastic hilarity, than I ever could...." Flavia, I bow before you.

3. Squadratomagico. My friend, I especially love your reflections on your extra-academic life! I love that you are a circus performer, and that you write about it. That you call your cat TrannieDiva. That you spend half your summer in India...Your blog is a great beacon to those of us who could become too caught up in our work...and so You Rock.

4. What Now? This woman's embracing of her work and her life is really inspiring. I love reading about her as a teacher, especially in her current incarnation teaching high school...she appears to rock even harder in the classroom.

5. GrumpyABDadjunct. I'm all about the no-nonsense, practical, and sometimes really refreshingly angry voice on her blog. Though she doesn't get a chance to blog much, GAA rocks for her fabulous ethical sense and for her sense of her rights as an adjunct.

Those are my top five rockin' academic girls. While the incestuous academic blogland is where I spend most of my time, there are one or two other haunts I frequent. So I'm bending the rules to include one, because she is surely THE rockin' girl blogger of all time. And she's technically an academic blogger, anyway:

Gone Feral's Feral Mom. Damn, that's some funny shit. Funny enough that I just remain a silent admirer...I can't touch the kind of humour that commenting there would require. She is awesome.


In other news, I am away for the weekend. More on that soon.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Being rooted...Part One

Recently I went to a party, an annual party, of people from my Activity days. I went mainly to see and say goodbye to the host of the party, M, who is a good friend. She was leaving on a trip a few days later, so this would be my last chance to see her before moving away. My friendship with M always delights me...she's in her mid 50s, and the differences in our lives are so profound. And yet we have this wonderful connection...we always have fun.

I could only be at the party for about an hour and a half, as R had scheduled an impromptu dinner with other friends for that night. As M and I stood and talked in the kitchen, I became a little teary. So did she. I could tell she was in an unusual state. She is sweet and polite, but highly composed and no-nonsense -never one to wear her more complicated emotions on her sleeve. It's very unusual for her to cry, in public at least.

When I had to go, M took me to the foyer to see me off. And broke down, sobbing and gasping. Which set me off, too. She made a little speech through her tears about "wishing me all the best" and "have a good life," which was disconcerting, because in my mind, we'll see each other again! I'll be here, for instance, at winter break! And I left the house, sobbing. It was a jarring and unexpected experience, seeing that kind of emotional display from M. I think I was also shocked at the depth of my own sadness at saying goodbye to her.

Anyway. I walked, crying. Hurried, because I had to meet R and these others for dinner. And I realized as I walked that I was on a kind of auto-pilot...I was heading to the dinner meeting spot, which is in a strange location I don't go to that often, from M's out-of-the-way, strangely situated house, without even thinking for one moment about where I was going or how to get there.

The thing is, this complete ease of movement is because this city is in my blood. I've lived in it for twenty-five of thirty-two years, and I know it intimately. And I love it. I really love it, everything that is mundane and unassuming about it. Even writing about it right now makes me emotional.

This conjunction of moments - the emotional goodbye with M, and the sudden consciousness of my auto-pilot moving through the city - made me think about my current move in a new way. Though my upset about the move has been couched in railing against Scary City, what I am really doing is grieving the leaving of this place. So I thought as I walked and tried to compose myself about how I would be perfectly content to live here, in this city where I was born - where one of my parents, and hell, one of my grandparents were born - forever.

That, for me, is the disconnect in doing a PhD and becoming an academic. I don't want to leave my home. Of course, I didn't think about this as I did a PhD - I didn't plan a thing - and even when the probability of leaving for good loomed on the horizon, I couldn't really feel what it would mean to me. But over the last number of months, while it's been imminent, what I've been doing is grieving the loss of place.

And you know what? That day, as I walked, I thought that I would give up an academic career in order to live here, in Home City. I am not doing that now, obviously, but I don't know what will happen down the road, how much I will miss this place. I am rooted enough here that roots might trump all else. It feels rather antiquated and embarrassing to admit that, as an academic, but there you have it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

This post won't let me title it. It is supposed to be called "Don't Mind me: Blogging a Lost Thing"

Oh, please show yourselves, expensive prescription sunglasses! I have had enough of losing things and feeling discombobulated. And while I suspect you fell out of my bag in a taxi last week, the taxi company sure doesn't have you in its lost and found...so a small part of me still holds out hope that you are somewhere here...right under my nose. Please?

Trucking along

So it's still The House of Back Problems and Financial Crises here in Home City. For some reason, my back seems more painful today than it did yesterday...there goes the theory of progress. But at least I am generally mobile now. I do have to say, though, how frustrated I am. I feel as if this is going to really interfere with my running. I had plans to do another half-marathon in early October, but I feel far away from running again. So I wonder if this may have grounded me for too long to get my running up to speed before then, which sucks. I mean, I anticipate being able to run in August (damn, I hope so) but I wonder what taking a month off - if that's what it is to be - will do to me??

And financial woes are no fun!!! Agh...What more to say about that?

Here's the good among all the blech:

- I have a real live web page at my New Uni, complete with picture (which has somehow been stretched in the process of putting it up, making my face look twice as wide as it actually is!). Notwithstanding the botched picture, I can't believe how tickled I am by this. It makes me feel like I've arrived, I have to say. As does the the paperwork activating my start-up funds!

- R, an organizational wizard, sat me down and figured out a budget to help get me through the next month or so, after which point things should even outa bit. Then she emailed me a long-term monthly budget on an Excel spreadsheet this morning, having spent the first hour of her work time making it. It is meant to be the way that I can get rid of almost all my credit debt in a year. She's so smart. Which makes me ask myself how I could be such a bloody idiot with money. How, how? Oh well...this last disaster has made me turn over a new leaf. I really think it has. I embrace the budget!!

Fascinating stuff, eh?

Monday, July 09, 2007

The times, they just get better and better

Oh my god. I am so embarrassed. I have bounced my first rent cheque on this new apartment in Scary City, I just discovered. How could I do this? Could anything look worse? Shit.

The problem is that I had no income for the month of June, and also had to make a very sizeable outlay of cash, what with buying new furniture. My credit is almost all used up, too. So the money is there in my account now - I was transferring it over from a line of credit - but when the rent cheque was put through on Thursday, it wasn't there yet. In fact, it appears that if the cheque had gone through just a few hours later, there wouldn't have been any problem. Agh!!!!!!

At any rate, what a mess. I had to send a very apologetic note to the landlord (whom I've never met, because he lives in another city, and one of the other house tenants manages the rentals for him). What a way to have a first contact with your new landlord. And there is also some niggling worry that he'll try to kick me out for this. Imagine. What would I do then?

In other news, I appear to have lost a $300 pair of prescription sunglasses I've had for about two months. The good news is, my benefits at the last job paid for them. But still! Double agh!!!!

Sunday, July 08, 2007


Well, the back is still quite bad, but it is a bit better than it was at the time of my last post. I spent 48 hours in bed, and then emerged late afternoon yesterday. Took the dog for a short walk, and had to go to a barbecue, which was very painful indeed. Today, I took the dog for a longer walk (which took me about twice as long as it should have, as I was shuffling along), and we got caught in a thunderstorm. Then I slept for three hours this afternoon; I guess it takes a lot of energy, to manage this. NOw, it's 7pm and I feel ready for bed again.

I'd have assumed that three days into it, things would have improved more than they have. I start to get a little nervous about whether I've done more damage than I thought. But I do think that once I started taking arnica late last night, things began to improve a wee bit more rapidly than they had been doing. Still, progress is slow.

Otherwise, when I've not been sleeping I've been emailing and writing my syllabi for the fall. Trying to come up with interesting assignments. Not getting very far on that count.

And so it goes. Perhaps tomorrow I will actually try to get into a chiro not for manipulation but for ultrasound and/or electric stimulation. Anything to speed up this healing!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Still here

Well, folks, the annual summer trip to visit E in Burlington was not to be, due to this back injury. By last night, the pain was so acute that I couldn't really walk and I couldn't even get into bed - R had to lift my legs up off the floor so that I could lie down. I think Maggie's suspicion that it is just a muscle spasm - and that the only cures are rest and muscle relaxants - was right on. I had initially thought I would seek out a chiropractor. But I realized today that I wouldn't want anyone even touching the area, much less manipulating and "cracking" it. (I say this as someone who went to a chiropractor for a long time.)

Time and rest are already healing it. It is better than last night; I can walk now. But my body is on some crazy angle - I am all bent to the right, with my left hip sticking out. Ah, well. It'll pass, I suppose. This morning I watched the British Queer as Folk - which I'd never seen before - for a few hours. Then my mother - with whom I was supposed to have a quick lunch before I traveled - came by with a little lunch and some muscle relaxants. I slept for a few hours, and now feel somewhat human again.

But oh, damn, the trip!! While I know that it wouldn't have been possible, it is such a drag. I miss E very much. In fact, though this is usually an annual trip, last summer was the one time I missed it. So now I haven't seen her in a year and a half, and who knows when I'll get a next chance. Damn.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Eight wonders: A meme

The ever-thoughtful Squadratomagico has tagged me for a meme of her own devising, based on the "eight facts about me" meme that's been circulating lately. What, she asks, are eight things you wonder about? I am happy to comply, especially because I am feeling giddy and in the mood for a meme. Even though I have put my back out today. Quite badly. Oh dear. I can barely walk, and I can't move laterally, bend over, or lift anything. The toll taken by days of moving boxes and heavy furniture around, and scrubbing floors, etc. It happened when I shifted a box this morning - nothing particularly heavy or anything...But it sent the low back over the edge. Hmmm...it hurts. But still, giddy. And I must be damn giddy if I'm still meme-ing through this pain.

Why giddy, you ask? Well, it's because the movers have taken all my things away! On their long haul to Scary City. They came and loaded up the all the stuff from my two storage units this morning, and put it into a container, which was in itself fascinating to watch. All that stuff! One shipping container! So I am feeling liberated from stuff - I have only the bags of clothes and a few books and papers, etc., with me until the unloading in Scary City in three weeks. Which fact - the feeling of freedom - brings me to the first of my eight pieces of wonderment...

1. Why do I - why do we, here in the Western world - insist on stockpiling so much freaking stuff? What does it give us, really? What does it keep at bay? And I say this as someone who has relatively little...no knick-knacks, really. Okay, quite a bit of clothing, but otherwise, the majority of the dozens of boxes moved today were filled with books. But considering how free I feel to have nothing but bags of clothes with me, I wonder if I shouldn't think about seriously scaling down. I think about the Canadian musician Jane Siberry, who recently changed her name to Issa and divested herself of everything she owns - including the masters of all of her music! - except one backpack full of clothes. Well, now that's a bit extreme - one bag of clothes!!! ;) - but I think she may be onto something.

2. Why do people insist on ignoring the undeniable fact that oil is a finite resource? (Like all of the big-picture questions here, this is posed more rhetorically than anything, while still reflecting a kind of grand wonderment...I have some ideas, as do many of us, about things like the reasons for addiction to fossil fuels!) Seriously, something doesn't compute for me. Any kind of governmental commitments to combating global warming seem completely meaningless, in the face of this willful ignorance. I don't really get how people - policy-makers, but also just whoever - make sense of this to themselves.

3. Why do I appear to need external validation in order to feel confident in my abilities? Ahem, driving, is a good case in point. (This is a skill I've learned in order to drive from time to time - like yesterday, when I borrowed a friend's car in order to move some things around - and that's my justification for driving in the face of the above point.) Yesterday when driving my friend's car around the city on a couple of errands, I was driving alone for only the second time. I am, I see, a much better driver when I'm alone. Because I have to be - I have to trust my knowledge. When I drive with someone else in the car, I am constantly saying, "Can I go?" or "Should I move over?" Of course, I know the answers to these questions, as demonstrated by my perfectly capable driving on my own. I just lack confidence. The same was true in the case of the highway test two weeks ago...I took this test - even though I didn't need to - because I knew that having the approval of a driving examiner would make me feel as if I can drive. I can drive, for goodness sake! Why can't I trust that? And this is only one of many instances of this kind of need for external validation. Grrr.

4. Why do most people seem to become more conservative as they get older? I am a case in point. By that I mean that I used to be a young radical, and now I am more complacent, less, well, het up - although my favourite young people are the young radicals. And I have no way, really, of explaining me to myself. There are all sorts of vague but plausible answers involving the words "wisdom" and "experience", etc., but they are not satisfying. This is such a common phenomenon, I need concrete answers! Hmmm...is it because you lose hope? I know that the reason I love the young radicals the best, of all my students, is because they give me hope. I guess the longer I live, the less hope I have?

5. Why do I sometimes have to fight with myself to go for my runs, when it almost invariably feels so great? Not always, but sometimes I fight - and sometimes the don't-go-for-a-run voice wins. But running can be the most profound high - why in the world would I ever not want to do it? Is my memory that short? Do I just forget that it doesn't suck energy, but gives me energy? Why, why? I ask this in the wake of the most glorious hour-long run yesterday, during which I felt like some kind of superhero. How can I not always want that feeling?

6. What's up with (non-)monogamy? By that I mean, why do so many of us folks who understand monogamy to be a social construction, still cling to it? In my case, it's in part because I think it's just too tiring to imagine having other kinds of relationships...I don't have the energy for the constant emotional negotiation any other arrangement would require. But I do wonder about others' reasons. Are they the same as mine? Is it also because, like me, they get to feel morally at ease when they tell themselves, "This is what being an adult is about...managing my desire for this other person...whom I'd really like to, well, sleep with, for starters"?

7. How does the postal system work?

8. Am I going to be able to manage a weekend away in Vermont - my annual visit to my dear old friend, who lives in Burlington - this weekend, what with the fact that I can barely move? What am I going to do about my back? I can't go to a chiro - there's no time. Will something as serious as this just improve on its own?

This feels horribly self-indulgent! Do know that there are plenty of other, more weighty issues I wonder about - in particular lately, lots of questions around Middle Eastern political situations! - but I am not in the frame of mind to tackle them. Please forgive my navel-gazing. And -- this is a great meme. I'm not going to tag specific blogfriends, but do know that I'd be very interested to read all of your questions, should you feel like giving it a try!

Off to drink some vodka with my feet up (assuming I can lie down)!

Update: Perhaps have answers to Question 8: What the hell was I thinking? I can't go to freaking Vermont!! This is getting worse by the minute; no, I can't even lie down. I would require bloody morphine to travel. Uh oh. What have I done?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

An anniversary, of sorts?

Today is R's and my 5-year anniversary. 5 years ago today, we went on our first date - a late dinner. But we're not really an "us" right now. Well, I suppose we are provisionally "us", but we don't know how long that will last. And so, it is strange to consider celebrating today as an anniversary. I am wary of it. It is probably a bad move for my heart.

It is strange all around, in fact. Many things are bad for my heart at the moment. For yesterday I moved out of the housesit (they return today) and back into R's for two weeks, until I leave. So it's a rather strange anniversary, indeed. Here I am, back in this home in which I lived for several years, living out of suitcases. With our dog in his one true home. Knowing it so well, but still feeling like a guest. Knowing that I could relax into not being a guest - that is what R would like, in fact - but being afraid of that.

I don't know. I keep meaning to blog about all of this. But I don't know where to start - there's too much. Until then, an update: I am doing...weirdly. Not badly.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Well, all you kids are doing it, and since I actually have about 1000 things to do today, none of which I want to do, why not try it...

I dunno about this...there are plenty of ways to find fault with me...but when I look at the "real" description of an INFP, it's actually pretty accurate in a lot of respects. Huh.

Your Score: Pollyanna - INFP

20% Extraversion, 53% Intuition, 33% Thinking, 46% Judging

So, you want to make the world a better place? Too bad it's never gonna happen.

Of all the types, you have to be one of the hardest to find fault in. You have a selfless and caring nature. You're a good listener and someone who wants to avoid conflict. You genuinely desire to do good.

Of course, these all add up to an incredibly overpowered conscience which makes you feel guilty and responsible when anything goes wrong. Of course, it MUST be your fault EVERYTIME.

Though you're constantly on a mission to find the truth, you have no use for hard facts and logic, which is a source of great confusion for those of us with brains. Despite this, in a losing argument, you're not above spouting off inaccurate fact after fact in an effort to protect your precious values.

You're most probably a perfectionist, which in this case, is a bad thing. Any group work is destined to fail because of your incredibly high standards.

Disregard what I said before. You're just easy to find fault in as everyone else!

Luckily, you're generally very hard on yourself, meaning I don't need to waste my precious time insulting you. Instead, just find all your own faults and insult yourself.


If you want to learn more about your personality type in a slightly less negative way, check out this.


The other personality types are as follows...

Loner - Introverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving
Pushover - Introverted Sensing Feeling Judging
Criminal - Introverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving
Borefest - Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging
Freak - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging
Loser - Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving
Crackpot - Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging
Clown - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving
Sap - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Judging
Commander - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving
Do Gooder - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Judging
Scumbag - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving
Busybody - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging
Prick - Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving
Dictator - Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging

Link: The Brutally Honest Personality Test written by UltimateMaster on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The posting of tiredness

Igh. I'm freaking tired. So tired that when I woke up yesterday at 7 - next to R., who is my nightly companion these days - my first words were "I can't wait to go to sleep tonight." This morning, the first words were about the possibility of a nap later (not going to happen - too much to do). Absolutely pathetic.

Life feels a little too full of the extremes of tedium and emotion these days. I spent 9 hours yesterday moving all of my stuff out of this housesit into a second storage space (christ on a bike, how did I get so much stuff in my life?? Most of which consists of books?? I am not a knick-knack or junk collector...) and taking the cargo van to IKEA to buy more and more stuff, like a bed, a coffee table, a new shelving unit, lamps, etc, etc. And then moving that into storage, too. Everything hurts - and I am just tired, so tired of moving. That's the thing...it would be seriously indulgent of me to whine if this were the first time in years that I'd moved. But it is the third time in six months - and the fifth time in less than two years, considering that the academic year before last, I moved most of my stuff to another city for 10 months, and came to see R every other weekend. If I have to move again in less than two years, well...let's not go there. Let's just say, I wish that packing tape and bankers' boxes were not my best friends.

So that is all rather boring and tedious and slightly physically painful. (And no, new furniture does not represent fun right now because I don't really have the money to pay for it - had to borrow money from R. And because all I can think about is being in this new apartment in Scary City, by myself, having to assemble about ten different pieces of furniture, including a bed and this ginormous shelving unit, both of which weigh so much I can't even begin to move them.)

And on the other hand, apart from that tedium and general hellishness, there is the imminence of leaving, and what that is doing to me emotionally. Which is another kind of tired. On Friday night I went over to my friends K & J's - my birthday present to K in February had been that I would come over and cook them a dinner. (They are overwhelmed new parents.) So I finally did that, and R came, and the four of us had just such a lovely evening eating and drinking outside. And then I had to say goodbye, and I knew that this was the last time I would be spending with them (apart from a party I am having two nights before I leave - but you know how parties are...it's not quality time, exactly). And it was all I could do not to cry. And in a few hours, I have an annual party of Activity-friends to go to, which I promised I would attend, but which will also be a whole round of goodbyes to dozens of people. Followed tonight by my last dinner at one of my favourite places in this city, with two friends who also want to see me before I leave. Agh. All lovely - but too much. It's just this endless farewell, this constant reminder that I'm leaving this city in which I've lived for 25 of my 32 years, and the networks of people I'm so deeply tied to. Exhausting.

And with all this tiredness, all this overload on all levels, part of me is starting to actually look forward to being in this new city in August, knowing really nobody, and just being able to reacquaint myself with myself. Quietly.