Thursday, June 26, 2008

Random things

I'm on a conference-hating kick. Ugh. Sometimes I just don't understand what the point is. Why I do this several times a year. This is coming right now because, I must admit, this conference is chummy-chummy, and I am quite an outsider in terms of the field. I also did not feel like these were my people, you know? You get a vibe from a conference group, even a big one. This vibe wasn't for me.

I did have a couple of insights that are useful for me, going forward - with my work, I mean. Still, though - coming all this way for a "couple of insights." If I weren't having a holiday, I would be sad about having come.

I did see an old friend of mine at this conference - someone I taught in a big course with ten years ago, and haven't seen for a good five years. She is a hilariously manic person who decided that we would be inseparable, as soon as she saw me. So I couldn't walk five feet without her frantic voice calling out to me. Also, she would constantly be gripping my arm tightly during presentations, reacting to what people were saying by hissing - seriously hissing - things like "Bullshit!" and "Why aren't they talking about poststructuralism??!!" I fought some irritation about all this manic behaviour, but in the end I'm so glad we re-connected and we had a lovely time. I went out for dinner last night with her and her husband and daughter, and we had such a delightful time!! They were so much fun...and the twelve-year-old daughter decided I was the bee's knees, and it was so cute....she wanted to tell me EVERYTHING about her life, in that way that only kids can do...but because she's the child of intellectuals, it also is cut with this sort of sense of irony that makes for a very funny combination. She was all, "When you're in Home City, you should come and visit us and the four of us will go to the Japanese restaurant and we can, you know, chat. [This word, "chat," said in a self-mocking voice.] It'll be awesome." She was adorable.

I still haven't been in the water - it's ridiculous. I hope to go for a dip this afternoon. I am switching hotels, from the conference hotel to a "You only have a 40th birthday once" hotel. After I check in there, and before R gets here, I must find my way into the ocean! Tomorrow - the actual 40th birthday - R has told me she wants to "see surfing, to really understand how it works." So we'll find somewhere to do that - I've rented a car for the day. It is too bad R has some water phobia, because what would be fun would be for her to actually try it. But anyway, it'll be great to see it. And do whatever else her heart desires.

On Saturday we are going to the Big Island, and I will have no Internet for over a week, so this is probably my last post for a while. Have good weeks, all of you!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Post of incoherent bullets

- Honolulu: strange place. Good, fine...but so surprising, with its concrete jungle aesthetic, and yet these misty mountains and ocean. Can't get my head around it.
- Nor have I really had time to get my head around it...I've had NO down-time since I arrived, having been conference-scheduled to death. Exhaustion looming.
- My theory is that I got that migraine on Saturday because of excessive stress over my paper for this conference. Not good. Stress not dissipating. Merely in hiding.
- I like the fact that here, when I have gone running at 6:30 in the morning (I really struggle to run first thing in the morning when I'm at home - why is it so easy to do when I travel?), the oceanfront park is filled...FILLED...with people. It may as well be midday. There are hundreds of people in the park before 7am, running, walking, fishing, swimming. That is very cool.
- On Thursday R comes. It's her 40th birthday on Friday. She is currently the grouchiest-guts I've ever known...says she's upset about the birthday. I gathered, from something she said on the phone yesterday, that it's largely because she thinks nobody is marking this birthday (besides me)...none of her friends talking about taking her out to celebrate, or anything. Little does she know that it's because they are having a HUGE SURPRISE PARTY for her on Wednesday night! Hurrah!
- And then we will have fun here for a day or two, and then on the Big Island for a week...I have rented a tiny little teak cottage, and it is near flowing lava, and black sand beaches, and hot springs, and various other delights. Hurrah, again!
- That is all. I am zonked.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Never-ending health emergencies

Oh, goody, a new health problem for me!! Migraine. Never even really had a headache before (seriously) and today it was the full-on deal. Juuuuust great.

Yeah, so I ended up at Emergency this afternoon. I was just sitting at home calmly doing my thing when all of a sudden my vision was basically gone on one started as a quarter-sized bit of completely clouded, swirling, semi-flashing vision (frankly quite psychedelic). I couldn't see through it. Within fifteen minutes, it had grown to half my field of vision and my face was starting to go numb on that side. I was beside myself, thinking I was having a stroke or something. I walked (!) to the hospital - by this time the vision thing had mostly gone away but I felt totally "off" in the top of my head. While I was being registered at Emerg, I couldn't really talk properly...I couldn't identify words, was getting them mixed up, etc. Ugh. This made me cry, and I was there alone, struggling to understand how to work my calling card (my thinking also appeared to be messed up), calling R in Home City and M in Fun City...(Before I left for the hospital I was trying to call R because I was so freaked out, and I coudn't get her. So I phoned M and asked him to try to get hold of her to let her know.) So there I was in Emergency, talking like a madwoman, leaving another garbled message on R's machine, and then absolutely bawling, with more nonsensical talking, to M.

By the time I got in to be examined, the talking was restored. Just the pain set in - and got worse as I waited. So yeah, migraine - the doctor was basically sure of it...he was good, and explained to me in detail the way that things would have played out if it were a tumour or a stroke (of course I was paranoid). Then he also said to go home and google it...Indeed, it is a total textbook case of migraine with aura - what with the vision, the numbness, and the speech, followed by pain. I was given the tylenol/aspirin combo and came home and slept for a while. I feel better now - still some pain and sensitivity, but it's pretty minor.

What I didn't like (well, who am I kidding, I didn't like any of it) was the feeling that the people I wanted to talk to and have there with me were so very, very far away. The one friend here that I really would have liked to call was away. My downstairs neighbour, with whom I've been becoming friendly, wasn't answering her door. It just sucked to be so scared and to feel alone. Yeah, I should have thought of migraine, but I didn't. So I was scared.

Honestly! I don't know what I did in a past life - and why I'm waiting until my thirties to pay for it - but it sure seems like I'm being made to pay for something, what with the last year - and especially the last six months! Good grief.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A current summer music meme: Seven songs

Maggie has tagged me for a meme. Thank you, Maggie! As it was for her, this is a very welcome thing...I am a pre-conference disaster, having written myself into a terrible hole of nonsense (and I really mean it this time) and needing, really, to rewrite my paper...but I leave in less than 48 hours. Yuck. So, music meme good!!! Distraction!!!

The rules:

  • List seven songs you are into right now.
  • No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring/summer.
  • Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs.
  • Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

1. Goodnight California - Kathleen Edwards (This is bizarre because a Kathleen Edwards song is at the top of Maggie's list, too!) I must say, this song has some serious significance for me right now.

2. The Great Escape - Patrick Watson

3. Back in Your Head - Tegan and Sara (God, is this is EVER a fun song.)

4. The Trapeze Swinger - Iron and Wine

5. Les peaux de lievres - Tricot Machine

6. No Heaven - DJ Champion (This kind of electronic music isn't usually the kind of music I'd listen to much, but when M was visiting me a couple of weeks ago he made me a bunch of CDs, including the "A few good beats never hurt no one mix," with this song on it. We turned it up late at night and had a couple of really transcendent times with it. This song kills me. It totally makes me want to sprint to the nearest, sweatiest, darkest club and stay up till 5am dancing by myself. Yeah. That's what I want to do. I'm tired of dancing at things that are actually about drinking, or looking at people, or feeling proudly-yet-ironically queer. I want to dance somewhere where it's about nothing but the dancing. This song is emblematic of that.)

7. Lollipop - The Hidden Cameras

I tag:

Medieval Woman
Heu Mihi
New Kid on the Hallway
Just Me
Feral Mom

(...but please don't feel pressured...)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Regretting my training

I try not regret things. But godDAMN do I ever flirt with regretting the direction I took in my PhD training. I was courted by two very different programs. I almost chose one - then at the last minute thought I wouldn't be satisfied there, so went in the other direction. At times like these, when writing feels like doing algebra because my mind is so tangled round itself that I can't think straight, I wish I had chosen what seemed to me the less interesting path. It was the path of clarity. I could have made it interesting. Had I chosen it, I wouldn't be continually caught up in the incredible, colossal abstraction and obscurity of my writing. That's what PhD school gave me - abstraction and obscurity. So that sometimes when I write I feel like I'm doing word problems in an advanced math class. Like now. Boo, I say. And yet, that seems to be who I am.


In other news, the saga of the cyst/tumour continues - back at the specialist's today. It's no longer shrinking. It's just static. Apparently I'll need to have it out at some point down the road. I didn't clarify what "it" meant - ovary or tumour. I don't care right now - all I care about is abstraction and obscurity. Oh, and then I went for blood tests because of other reproductive-system-related things (that he doesn't think are related but are of a whole other order of problem.) Sigh. This is getting old.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Do you ever feel as if you're just all full up? Of things to do, projects...and people, most of all?

I've been thinking about that lately, and I'm pretty sure it's what is at root of a major outburst of stress and anxiety late today. I feel like I have too many irons in the fire, and I have an anxious personality anyway, and so I'm very, very stressed. For instance, today I should have been concentrating exclusively on the conference paper that is inordinately stressing me out already - I don't have a whole lot of time left for that, and it needs tons and tons of work. (I know I always stress out about papers on here, but this one is by far the worst disaster I've found myself in, in years...I have confused myself, my thoughts are all tangled up, I don't know where I'm going...) But this is the list of substantive things my day included:

- Write and freak out over paper, so much that I felt myself getting physically sick and had to leave the house;
- Long meeting with grad student I am co-supervising as of September, and friend with whom I am co-supervising;
- Correspondence about another grad student of the five or so I'll be involved with next year
(What you need to know about these last two is that working with grad students at my institution is more labour-intensive than at any other place I've ever known this counts as substantive);
- Work/discussions about major conference I'm co-organizing;
- Discussions of research network I'm going to start and mini-conference/workshop I'll organize as part of that;
- Notes toward book project (because the problem with the paper I'm writing is that I seem to be trying to make it into the whole book project, when in fact it's a tiny little conference paper that represents about 1/25th of the book).
- Reviewed and commented on M.'s Insanely-Big-Ass-Important Application for King-of-the-Academic-World position.

The one other piece of major work that's in my life at the moment (which I didn't have to touch today, thank god) is the book I'm co-editing.

So that's a lot of fairly major things on my plate for the next year. 2 books, conferences, very intensive graduate student supervision, and two major pieces of professional service. Ongoing "consultation" to another scholar. (He sends me lots of his work to look at, which is hilarious considering how much fancier he is than I.) And, oh yeah...running my program, since I am the only faculty member in it.

I know it is par for the course for some people. But it's not par for my course, if you know what I mean. And part of the reason why is that I feel like I am starting to know too many people, to be involved in too many networks. I don't think my brain can take anymore.

Do you ever feel that way? As if you are full, and part of that is full of people? How awful. I don't want to feel like I know too many people. But it's like that. Too many networks...of former co-grad students, of friends, of former colleagues, current colleagues, fellow conference-goers, fellow conference-organizers. Ans students!! Now that I've taught full-time for three years, I have a lot of students in my past. And a lot of them sticking to me, still -especially ones from Dream Uni; I've had emails from half a dozen of them in the last two weeks alone. Too many people. No more people! I will start to become a horrible customer-servicey automaton, and we can't have that.


Anyway. Do you know what I was also thinking about. I really, really am too insular in my own writing. I'm collaborating on several things - the edited volume, the supervision, the conference organizing - but when I write, I am entirely, entirely alone. I don't show my work to other scholars before putting it out there, ever. I mentioned to M today that I was feeling stressed, but that I could look at his Fancy App tonight. He offered to look at the paper I'm stressing about. Are you kidding?? No way.

But this is terrible. It means I am so locked-in. And it can only increase the stress I'm feeling.

Today I went over to a friend's house to deliver a key to my place (for she is coming to pick up Diamond when I am going away). She asked me if I wanted to talk through in detail what I am writing about, if it would help me. I thought, "self, this is a good idea. I should learn to do this." Could I even dredge up a single iota of what I'm writing about? No, I could not. I couldn't - even though I had been working at it for hours and days - tell her anything beyond the major "subject" of my paper. I drew a blank. It's bad. I'm too locked up with this stuff. It will make me crazy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Help with annoying Apple device

Okay, I don't usually do this, but...

Can anyone help me understand something to do with my iPod?

I got my iPod 2 1/2 years ago, and there are now 1400 songs on it. I hardly ever add music to it anymore because it is synced up with my old computer, which is a piece of crap. The only reason I ever turn that thing on is to juice up the iPod. I don't want to use it anymore. I want to sync my iPod using the lovely shiny computer that I use now. What I want to do is import the 1400 or so songs that are currently in my iPod into iTunes into my new computer. So I downloaded iTunes to the new computer, and stuck my iPod in, but as I suspected, "an iPod can only be synced with one iTunes playlist at a time."

Does anyone know what I'm supposed to do about this? How can I get the songs out of my iPod into iTunes on the new computer? This must be doable, it must be!

Note: I can get the 20 or so songs that were actually purchased on iTunes into the new computer, but not the rest (which were copied from CD). Don't tell me I'm not allowed to do the other ones at all?!

I'm sorry I'm so daft.

Post-blogiversary thoughts

My blogiversary - two years! - passed on May 22, while I was in Paris. I didn't take the time time to mark it then - I couldn't, really - and though I meant to do it when I came back, I haven't gotten to it.

Part of the reluctance to mark this blogiversary stems from the fact that I am feeling uncertain about the blog, I must admit. This has nothing to do with any of you, lovely blogfriends, or with the blogosphere or blogging in general. It comes entirely from me, not from any exhaustion with blogging or other bloggers. It's more like I'm tired of myself.

You see, when I began this blog, I tended to write weightier posts. I stopped feeling the need to do that after six months or so, when I felt I could relax into just recording my life.

But now I'm wondering, what is the point? And feeling intermittently quite embarrassed to have all this emotion out on display - I've blogged my breakup with R and getting back together, Mr. K's death, emotional teaching times in 2006-07 at Dream Uni, some severe unhappiness this past winter, and other crises. All in raw, charged ways. And when I think back, I feel quite unnerved about how much of myself I've laid bare. You see, in Real Life, I've often been told that "I hold my cards close to my chest." From what others tell me, it appears (and this is surprising to me, because it's not how I experience myself, as I'm sure you can imagine) that I often project a kind of detached calm. I realize that if this is the case, I do it because I don't like to be spectacularly emotive. You know, I'm good with emotions in very intimate situations, but not good at feeling on display with them. Crying in front of almost anyone else is a horror for me.

Yeah, but this blog has become precisely that spectacular, emotive theatre. Oh, not all the time, I know - but certainly it has been a lot of soul-baring. And I worry that it's all just self-indulgent, narcissistic...why do I put this out there for the world to see? It makes me feel slightly queasy about myself...I don't much like receiving lots of attention in RL, so why would I draw it my way, here?

I am perhaps being hard on myself*'s true that I've blogged here for support and company and - dare I say it - friendship. That's been important at some crucial times. But I feel as if I'm expecting people to respond to me, demanding something of them somehow, and that makes me uncomfortable.

I suppose all of this is brought into relief, in a sense, because right now I'm going through something on a personal level that I can't imagine blogging about. Though I know it would make some fascinating reading, there's no way I am going to put it out there on a blog. That recognition has made me question why I've put other things out there in the past, and whether it's been for purely narcissistic reasons...Am I reluctant to put the new thing out there because it doesn't necessarily demand sympathy but shows me in a much more complex and possibly harsher way? Yuck. That's terrible.

So in the wake of the blogiversary, I'm thinking about the blog and even thinking about ending it. I'm torn, though, because I've made so many good connections through it and I don't want to leave behind this community...And also because I like the way I can talk about work on it. Yet I don't think I want to make this solely about work.

So I'm not sure. I may wind it up soon, I may not.

And this here has been another self-indulgent post, brought to you by Hilaire.

*Especially because I don't read others' quite personal blog posts and think they're being self-indulgent, ever. So why am I so suspicious of myself?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesday bullets and a question

Yeah, today's a good day, a day deserving of some bullets...even though it is freezing...

- Before he left on Sunday, M. burned me a whole bunch of music, including some things that I'm finding to be pretty jaw-droppingly fabulous and am having to fight with myself not to play over and over and over again. I so needed new music!

- You know, this whole book project? It is coming together! I think. I have been working around one of two major pieces of the theoretical framework for a few months (in focused reading, I mean, as well as writing one conference paper). I have just moved into thinking about the other major theoretical pole (which I will try to wade into for my upcoming conference paper). Even though I haven't yet figured out exactly how to articulate the connection between these two poles perfectly (or at all), I can sense it brewing. I can sense it coming. And when I sit down to write the first chapter this July and August (for I have decided to start with writing my theoretical first chapter, because otherwise nothing will cohere, I fear), I think there's going to be some good stuff happening. I think.

- However. My upcoming conference? Terrifying. Notwithstanding its amazing tropical locale. Terrifying. Looking over the program gives me cold sweats. It feels really big-league. There are some major, major players scheduled. The only other time I remember feeling this nerved out about a conference was when I presented at a small one at an Ivy League school, and there were no concurrent sessions so everyone attended everyone else's paper, including Seriously-Major-Bigwig. I thought I'd pass out. But then, I try and remember how that conference resulted in a publication for me (as well as support from the Bigwig in applying to do a postdoc with hir) so perhaps it will be good to wade into the big leagues again. Maybe good things will come of it. And anyway, I should stretch myself, yes?

- Yes. I should stretch myself. The distance covered by this particular stretch is a little much for my liking, though - since I am essentially an impostor in the territory of this conference. An impostor trying to remake herself in its image. Yeah, I know that's cryptic...

- Okay, now for some solicitation of advice: I am having a meeting with my Dean soon. I have historically had (what I deem to be) some bad encounters with my Dean (ranging from major awkwardness to outright hostility), which is just silly considering how short a time I've been in this job. The last one was just recently, at Convocation - as always, it felt like a massively failed encounter. Part of what happens in these interactions is that I always always always am being chastised. I always seem to be admonished for something; it's remarkable. Given the fact that I am not doing anything wrong - trust me on this. But the tone, the tone: he approaches every interaction as if he must punish me. And the tone with which I react is just as bad: My reaction, always startled and caught off guard, is to passively take it. It's fucking ridiculous.

So, I want to change that. What should be my mantra? What should be the keywords I repeat to myself as I go into his office a few days from now, just wanting to have a conversation about the future of my program, some strategic direction, and one other little issue having to do with my eventual tenure bid (which hopefully won't happen, but you never know)? I'd love to know your thoughts on how to turn this relationship around. This is a powerful figure in my life. More powerful - because more micro-managerial - than any Dean I've known of. If I do end up being here for the long haul, it's essential that I don't feel so awful about this relationship.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Should this bug me, or do I always over-react?

I made a new friend at Congress. It was someone I'd certainly known of. She had taken over when I declined to embark upon a career at the first uni where I had a Visiting position, in 05-06 . Let's call it First Uni, or FU. (I left because I had the offer for Dream Uni, and didn't like FU enough to be able to fathom spending my career there...) So anyway, we went for drinks at Congress - we had much uproariousness - and spent a lunch together, and the AGM, and the reception, etc., etc. I was all excited about My New Friend.

During one of our times together, she told me that she thought I was an "amazing pedagogue," which was a lovely compliment. She said that because all the previous years' syllabi are on file at FU, and so she has looked at my syllabi. She told me that she has used parts of my course design for her own incarnation of Fun Course (the course I was most excited to teach, when I took the position... it was the first course I ever designed for myself...) She talked about how well the articles I'd chosen worked together, and we mentioned some of our favourites. I imagined she had taken a few readings here and there, gotten some ideas.

Well. Procrastinating yesterday, I ended up on her website, and clicked upon the syllabus for Fun Course. It is exactly the same as mine. Exactly. The weeks have the same theme-names, the readings are the same (but for a tiny handful of additions at the end), and even the evaluation structure is identical. I was floored. I was also bugged. But, though I was stunned and mad, I didn't say anything to M., even though he was sitting right across from me, working. I wasn't sure I should be as bugged as I was. But, man, I'm really pissed off. It feels like plagiarism.

What is more, one of the courses I laboured over and pushed through curriculum committees and Senate to get on the permanent books at my new place, this past year, was modeled after this course. I was planning to teach it much the same way next year. I don't like the idea that there's someone out there replicating it, while I teach it here. Grrr...

The other thing is, there's a certain clause I put in all my syllabi, about what I expect of myself, and of the students. It's basically a pedagogical philosophy. Well, it's in all of her syllabi, too!!! WTF??

But, you tell me. Am I completely overreacting?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bullets of back

I got back from Congress on Tuesday night. Now my friend M. is visiting me here in SCwP. Due to some annoying gynecological issues that are likely related to this scare (which is now being monitored, but seems just to be a shrinking hemorrhagic cyst), I am not feeling up to writing anything intellligent - I had thought I might take a stab at it, but no such luck. Rather, bullets...

- I am now one member of the very small program committee for my scholarly association's annual conference at Congress next year. God help me - why do I take on such things?

- I heard positive things about my scholarship, my pedagogy, and a past unsuccessful job application, at this conference. I don't know what the heck was going on, but it was certainly affirming! It's also weird to begin to be known to exist, to a few people. How odd.

- I had a lovely time with friend C., with whom I was rooming for the last two nights, was a delight as always. I saw a couple of far-flung people I don't see very often. And I had an excellent time with a new friend.

- I still cannot shake major nerves when I have to present - I thought I would die. (Partly because I just stuck out like a sore thumb, really the odd one out, on this panel, and really felt self-conscious about just being the paper people had to tolerate in order to hear what otherwise was a quite coherent panel.) I also made the mistake of looking at the newly released program for the next conference I'm attending in, just a couple of hours before my Congress presentation, when I was just sick with nerves. That combination was enough to send me over the edge - it certainly sent me into the bathroom...

- I watched the season finale of The Tudors last night and was beside myself. It has been years since any film or any such thing has affected me like that. I mean, really now. It's TV! I sobbed uncontrollably. WTF? Did anyone else have that reaction? I talked about it a bit with M, who is using it as "data" for his psychoanalysis of me!

I think that's all. I'm really feeling like hell. I'll hope to be back with something of consequence to say, soon.