Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Plagiarism and grants

The number of hours I am spending catching plagiarism is bringing me down so, so much. It is happening sooooo often. Even on assignments that are supposed to be relatively plagiarism-proof. They're spending so much freaking time plagiarizing creatively that they might as well write the damned thing. Really, it's unimaginable how much of this I'm finding...I have a growing pile of photocopies of plagiarized documents - starting with this infamous one, of course - on my desk. The size of the pile - and the number of hours I spend on this - is really too, too dispiriting.


In other news, though, I've been awarded an internal grant that will fund a month in Paris in the spring/summer, even if I don't get my SSHRC. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Continued drama

I haven't known what to blog about. There is so much f'ing drama. On two fronts: medical and emotional. I am now having pain "in my ovary" or whatever - of the kind that took me to the doctor in the first place, leading to the diagnosis. It's been over 24 hours of constant discomfort now. I haven't had this since that first time. It makes me feel nervous and worried.

I am seeing my specialist again next Monday so that I can tell him about this, and tell him that I want the surgery in January instead of waiting until April. My Chair is being amazing. He has consulted with the Dean, and they will find someone to replace me in one course, and they feel fine with cancelling the other - it has low enrolment, anyway. It's funny how over-responsible I feel for everything. Well, not funny, but problematic. It was feeling indebted and responsible that led to my saying I'd wait until April to have the surgery in the first place. And yesterday, when Chair told me he was fine with cancelling the second course, a wave of guilt washed over me and I offered to "make podcasts" of my lectures for that course, for the 4-6 weeks I'm off. (I'm going to plead temporary insanity on that front...I won't have time to make 15+ hours of podcasts in December!!) My reaction to being "let off the hook" like this was to feel bad and as if I owe someone something. Thankfully, Chair seems to genuinely think that's ridiculous. I seem to have to keep telling myself to get a grip, that this is the benefit of having a full-time, permanent job...that the employer will take care of me to some extent. I need to let that happen.

And last night there was continued drama in this other area. I really am so tired of things going wrong that I just feel like one big mass of scar tissue...I really don't feel much anymore. So I took in upsetting news with much less conscious upset than the last time. Instead I just somatized it all, and immediately developed a headache and had to sit in a darkened room for the evening.

And now I can't work. Tomorrow is the last day of classes, I have lectures to prepare, and most importantly I have a pile of grading to do. And I can't bring myself to do any of it. I'm nervous and jumpy and distracted.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Damn my health

My dear friend, M, likes to point out when he or I "somatize" our emotional lives. I thought of him today as I walked the 25 minutes home from my gynecologist's office and felt completely, falling-down dizzy...the whole way.

I have been monitoring the growth on my ovary since last March's unpleasant scare. (Well, "I" haven't been monitoring...doctors have.) Every two months, I go for an ultrasound and then a follow-up appointment with the specialist. It's mostly all stayed the same...same size, etc...and we were vaguely discussing the eventual need for surgery, but it all seemed far away. There was never any real urgency after the initial scare. But today, I learned, it's growing again. And he's clasifying it as a tumour, not a "complex cyst." So we are looking at surgery. I told him I wanted to do it in April, after classes are over. He hemmed and hawed about whether it would be okay to wait that long, and decided that it would. BUT he wanted me to have another ultrasound in a month or so, and a certain blood test, and if either of those indicates further rapid growth, then he'll want to do surgery immediately. I.e. in the middle of the teaching term, I'd have to be off for at least four weeks. Ugh.

And he also told me that my research plans (3-4 weeks of research in Paris, in late May/June) will perhaps be messed up by travel insurance, which will not pay if I have a pre-existing condition. So that leaving the country just, say, 6 weeks after this surgery, is very risky. Damn. Damn damn damn.

So I walked home and felt very, very dizzy and just tired of all this. Just kind of small and unexpectedly a little scared.

Also tired because this morning I went to another specialist - a neurologist - about the insane headaches and strange facial and aural things I've been having. (He thinks it's nothing, really.) And two weeks ago, went to the orthopaedic surgeon after I came home from that dance weekend and basically my knee was completely fucked. I've been doing physiotherapy for over two months now, and it's becoming more and more clear that my knee is just not ever going to be the same. the initial goal of physio was to strengthen so I'd be able to run again. But I am seriously doubting that I'll be able to run again, given the way my knee is - even in the face of my diligent and zealous commitment to my intense exercise regime. The physiotherapist - I adore him - has gone from extreme positivity to a much more tempered and sober outlook.

The surgeon was a dismissive ass and now I'm on an eight-month waiting list for an MRI. (That's right, Michael Moore, the free healthcare system you laud is BROKEN.)

I think I'm dizzy because I'm overwhelmed by having gone from the picture of health, one year ago, to this...where I have four health-related appointments this week alone. I'm only turning 34 next month, for chrissake. What the hell is going on. I feel old and tired.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I am back after my conference and my forced detainment in an airport hotel.

Reflecting upon my conference, I think: I am not thrilled about the facet of the profession that is all about who you know, and what they are planning, and whether you'll be in on it, and so on. I mean, I was in some senses inducted into some sort of in-crowd, given a dinner that my co-editor and I had with some folks. But I note so much anxiety in myself about that, and about whether I'll be left behind in certain plans, yada yada. I don't want to care. But I must care. I must cultivate the relationships.

It was lovely to spend a good chunk of time with my co-editor, with whom I get on famously. She was great to have in the background of our hotel room, to chat idly with as I drank minibar vodka in some kind of celebration about our panel/wake about the news that had come as I traveled to the conference.

That news has stayed with me, weighing heavily. Making me dream strange dreams, and experience odd, feverish hallucinations. It has affected me more than I imagined such news could. Though the heaviness was mitigated in some small part over the weekend, with some more correspondence with the person from whom the sadness and drama have sprung. So now, rather than being in the kind of dreadful, shocked, publicly weeping state that I was in, I am in a blunt, cynical, and inert state that doesn't feel much better. I see that my heart is sewn up so tight after this latest blow, I don't know if it will ever open again.

But I have come back with some ideas for writing - expanding my conference paper, which was really quite flawed, into something less flawed and more interesting, and hopefully publishable. I want to try to do this by early January, and feel some excitement about it. Excitement in which I can subsume my heavy, sad self.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

God, Air Canada sucks.

My everyday hate for Air Canada - which I share with most Canadians, it seems - has today reached murderous new depths.

I sit here writing this in a cheap Best Western airport hotel, where I have been forced to stay for the night (on a travel voucher) because of Air Canada's spectacular incompetence. I had three flights booked home from Conference City to Scary City - an epic day. I won't get into the boring details, but I was bumped off the second leg of my trip, and can't now get home until tomorrow. This makes me miss both of my classes tomorrow, at a crucial time in the term, with work coming in from them. It means Diamond is without me for another night, and the cat sitter isn't coming in. I don't have any clean socks or underwear left, nor any comfortable clothes. I don't even have any toothpaste left.

The rage I feel is pretty strong. Not least because the people around me were given flight vouchers, and I wasn't. The customer service agent just shook his head sorrowfully at me until I wanted to strangle him. Due to some arbitrary technicality, they are calling mine a "missed connection," when it wasn't. I was there, at the gate, while they were boarding the flight, but they wouldn't let me board. Everything that happened is their fault, and others got compensation, but this bullshit means I didn't. God, I'm angry. This is simply too much.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I am still conferencing. In the end, thank goodness for distractions and the friend/collaborator I'm sharing a room with, with whom I can talk about trivial things when I don't have panels to distract me. I can go for a couple of hours without thinking of the thing below. Then, of course, I remember, and I am gripped - absolutely, physically gripped - by panicky sorrow. I think I panic because this felt like a chance at happiness, and it's been wrenched away, and - because happiness has been far away for a long time - I feel deeply somewhere that I have lost my only chance. I know that is illogical, not true, but certainly it's how this feels. It feels like a tragedy. I have never had a story like this.

But I can report that I tried to do some positive visualization before my panel - imagining myself calm, etc. - and it worked! The extreme presentation nerves that have been sabotaging my conference participation for a long time - and which have somehow gotten worse in the last year or so - seemed to be mostly banished, and I got through my presentation more smoothly than any I've ever given. I even remained calm in the face of an interesting, fairly strongly worded challenge from an audience member - and had a good talk with him afterward. And I even remained calm in the face of the recognition that my paper was deeply flawed, especially at its repetitive end. I'm happy about that. Happy to have successfully repressed something. If only I could visualize away the panic and sadness now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

There was some hope in my life for a while there. I was being awakened. It just got shut down. So that I spent the evening crying in an airport last night – on my way to this fucking conference. Now I’m sitting in a Starbucks warehouse, having been in the same clothes for 29 hours, slept for a fitful two hours or so on one flight, and am not able to get into my hotel room – it’s too early - to have the good fucking bawling cry I need – and a shower, and a lie-down in clean sheets and maybe a preciously hoarded Ativan, which I take only on the most dire of occasions. Instead, I’ve been weeping in public all too many times. Just last night, on the first leg of my journey here, I was reading something for teaching that was speaking to the hope and awakening I was feeling. Which was attached to someone, but also - more - was about finding myself again. Rescuing me from wherever I’ve been these last couple of years. Reading this, I felt excited, as if there were possibility. An hour later, an email told me everything was a grand, cosmic joke. I’m devastated. And I’m here in this place, with nobody around to vent and weep to, and I am just sick to death.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I have just essentially finished a draft of a conference paper for later this week. As always, I write in a kind of fog, finding my meaning as I go. The result is more severely damaged than usual this time, and I have basically ended the paper on a completely different note than I started on. After having installed about five different things as the major theme along the way. So the process of writing went like this, essentially, and this is reflected in the complete draft I have now:

"This paper identifies foxes as the operative concept. But in fact, the great significance of this is that is about marigolds. Actually, the over-arching point of all this is humidifiers. One sees, thus, that this is most usefully read as a comment on whaling. Finally, the belatedness of the birthday emerges as the dominant concept."

Augh!!!! I have finally arrived at something I like ('the belatedness of the birthday') but the thought of revisiting and substantially revising the rest of this terrifically difficult paper to support that theme makes me want to tear my hair out.

So. I hate writing conference papers. There. I've said it. Something happens in the process that is different from when I just write, say, for publication. I wonder if this insane directionlessness that is much more characteristic of conference-paper-writing, for me, is the result of imagining my audience in a different way from the way I do when I write something that will not be presented aloud. I remain a very nervous presenter - that does not seem to be diminishing at all, unfortunately. And so I am wondering if those nerves play themselves out in an excessively jittery, unfocused approach to writing the actual papers for presentation.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wow, and whoa

Congrats and a major hug and smile for all my US friends who helped to elect Barack Obama last night. I'm so thrilled for you all.


Someone I know has just emailed me to strongly encourage me to apply for a seriously Fancy-Pants position. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What?! I'd seen the ad for this job, at an institution I'd die to work at - in the city where my best friend lives, as well as a past and current object of romantic interest - and written it off because they seemed to be looking for a much more senior scholar than I. I hoped that - as I'd heard - they might post a more appropriate position in my area next year, and that I'd have a shot at it.

But then today this email from a senior insider there, saying I'd be a super candidate. Encouraging me to call hir to talk about the position. I'm pretty stunned. Knowing a bit about the politics there, I'm just hoping that zie doesn't want to suggest me because I'd be a good puppet for hir. I'll try to suss that out when we talk.

But for now, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Random bullets of "christ, what a day"

- I have been led to believe that the plagiarism of the MA thesis may be met with a warning letter, and that is all??? I weep, I tell you. And gnash my teeth. I want out. Everything to do with graduate studies at this institution makes my eyes bug out of my head with frustration and anger.

- Today after my 100-person lecture, a student came to talk to me. Zie is one who is very vocal in lectures and yet usually just. not. getting. it. - so much so that you can hear the other students buzzing with frustration and amusement when zie speaks up. So zie came up to me to take me to task for representing [topic I was lecturing about, and about which they had a reading] in what zie took to be politically neutral terms. Since this is a topic that zie is impassioned by, zie thought this was inappropriate. Thing is, zie didn't have a clue what I'd been saying. The reading was an indictment of [phenomenon], and offered a framework for understanding it. My lecture and this reading - which zie admitted to not having read - were littered with signals that problematized the phenomenon I was talking about, including words like "racism." The way I was framing it theoretically was as intensely, well, evil. This was the whole point of the discussion! Other students were on the same page, I could tell from their responses to my questions. Therefore I don't think I was being unclear; I was calling a spade a spade about [phenomenon.] So this one comes up to me and starts to lecture me about this thing!!! Give me a break!! I had to say, over and over, "We're on the same page. I agree with you. That's exactly the point I was making." I don't know why I found this so irritating. But good lord, to be called to task for saying the opposite of what you're actually saying is really freaking irksome. Go away!!

- While all the rest of you do InNaNo-whatever-it's called, I have my own writing goals. I mean, I have some professional writing I need to do - I'm halfway through a conference paper for next week - and I have some editing of contributions to our edited volume. But I don't need any more scholarly pressure or I will implode, quite frankly. So for me this November, the goal is to begin writing in my journal several times a week. I need to do life writing more than anything right now. This represents a big shift for me. In 2001 my now-ex, JZ, read my journal and I had hell to pay. Though I'd been journalling for over a decade by then, that violation shut me down completely. I basically haven't touched it since. But I bought a new one this weekend. I'm so, so in need of unstructured writing that will allow me to work some things out, I tell you. I am in some serious need of real rumination on a number of issues. And since I think through writing, then personal writing it will be.

- My life is a bit sordid right now. My best friend M and I were talking yesterday about how sordid both of our lives are. I thought it would make a good, depressing film, featuring exhausted, bored-but-overworked, emotionally aimless junior professors in their thirties doing stupid things for the hell of it. I know you can picture it - though you probably wouldn't go see it.