Sunday, April 22, 2007

Interviews too easy? Here's a suggestion:

--conduct them at midight from a youth hostel pay phone!

Yep: as soon as I left for my conference, I got asked to interview for a one-year position in the Midwest, and the only times that the committee has available translate to midnight and later in this particular time zone. So here I am in the hostel lobby, going over my interview-related notes (which I printed out in conference city; luckily, I brought everything I could potentially need along on a flash drive--vive technology!), and waiting for the interviewers to email me the phone number that I'll need to call.

The situation is actually kind of funny, and, as long as I'm not interrupted by drunken twenty-year-olds staggering back to their rooms (at midnight they should still be at the bars, right?), I really don't mind it. I'm just glad that I got the earliest interview spot--I wouldn't want to be doing this at 3 am! And I'm certainly not going to complain about any interview, no matter how strangely conducted (bearing in mind, of course, that the strangness is all my own doing. This was hardly the best time of year for a vacation).

In other news (while I'm waiting for my email), the conference was great. Really a very good, great conference. It was just the right size and duration: two days, about 20+ papers, and a nice mix of super-celebrity-scholars and totally-junior-scholars like myself. (Actually, there were only 3 grad students, including me, presenting at the thing, which had me pretty intimidated for a few minutes....) The smallness lent the whole production an intimacy which meant that I could actually talk to, and even have a drink with, the plenary speakers and whomever else I found interesting. As someone who's not normally terribly outgoing, especially when intimidated, this intimacy made the conference in many ways more productive and socially enjoyable than such things usually are. Plus, the papers were by and large really good. I'm happy to have gone. I think that, even if I hadn't worked in my possibly-ill-advised vacation, it would have been worth the trip.

I kind of want to talk about where I actually am--it isn't conference city, but the second city on my trajectory--but I'm worried about sacrificing my anonymity. At what point is this mere paranoia? I mean, will my readers see what city I'm in, google medieval-type conferences at nearby cities, and actually be able to piece together who I am? It seems absurd. And yet, if I do end up saying anything particular about this trip, I'm going to wait until there's a little more distance between Me and Conference. I know it's silly know.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I'm Off a couple of hours. It's weird to be leaving so late in the day; I feel at loose ends.

I'm really looking forward to this trip: it's the first time that I've been able to justify overseas travel for work! I'm starting off at a conference in a city I've been to before but never for very long (I'm taking an extra day to walk around and look at things), and then I'm travelling to two new places--one on a layover on the flight back. I'm not taking my computer. I'm not taking any work. Well, I am taking some fiction that I want to revise, but that doesn't really count.

There's one downside to this whole expedition, however. When I bought the tickets, months and months ago, I kind of figured that I'd have next year sorted out by now, and, well, I don't. So I'm having my calls forwarded to my partner's phone, and I'll be checking in with him and checking email all the time while I'm gone, in case someone wants to contact me. Which means that there's a little shred of stress associated with my trip, but there's nothing to be done for that.

And honestly, I've been feeling so much better about the job thing recently. I don't know exactly why, except that maybe I "hit bottom" (as they say) a few weeks ago and came to terms with it? I don't know. But I think that I've worked out the worst case scenario for next year, and am taking some steps to lock that in as a back-up, and it isn't so terrible. In fact, WCS would allow me to visit my partner every weekend--unheard of!--since I'd only be about two hours away from him. And it would give me some time to start working on a new article, maybe. (Provided I could get access to an academic library somewhere. But that should be manageable.) So, while I'm still holding out hope for a couple of things, and some outcomes would be more exciting than others, I actually think that I'm okay with whatever happens. This is such a huge relief. And it's helping me to not resent or envy the few people I know who did get jobs this year, especially who were also on the market for the first time. Besides, it's not all that long until next year's JIL comes out!

But the point is that I'm going away. I plan to check in from the road periodically, but I'm not sure how often I'll actually do that, and I probably won't be reading many blogs while I'm gone (but oh, the hours of reading delight that will await me upon my return!).


In completely other news, I've been thinking a lot about the VATech shooting. I don't have anything to say about it that hasn't been said, better, elsewhere. But my thoughts and sympathy go out to all of those who were affected. It's such a terrifying thing to have happened. Words fail me.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Think harder and you'll come up with something

I just read this post on The Weblog, in which Adam Kotsko promises, as representative of the symbolic order (and his logic in claiming this position is amusing in itself), to grant people permission. To do whatever. Like, to take a nap, if you'd rather do that than read, or something.

So I was thinking a little about what kinds of clever things I would ask permission to do, if I were inclined to ask such things. But I couldn't really think of anything.

What would I want permission for? I mean honestly? Is the fact that I can't think of any questionable action on my part that I actually want to have endorsed evidence of a failure of imagination on my part? Or does it mean that, despite my periodic complaints, my life is acutely in line with what I want it to be? -Well, no, it doesn't quite mean that. A better way to put it would be that my life is organized such that anything I want to do is supported and endorsed by the rest of its structure, even if my attempts don't succeed. Right?

Or maybe I'm just not thinking hard enough. Because surely, two months ago, I would've asked for permission to quit fussing around with my introduction. And three weeks ago, I would have begged (in fact, I think I did beg, right here, and here too, for that matter) to stop preparing for my defense. So never mind. Things just happen to be in a nice state right at this moment, is all.

Addendum (25 minutes later): I obviously wrote all this without giving it any thought at all. Obviously the reason that I was having trouble thinking of anything to ask permission for is that I feel fully entitled to do whatever I want. For instance, I just spent the last twenty minutes, when I could have been reading, reviewing my conference paper, polishing my article, or getting ready for my trip doing nothing more than drinking a cup of tea and knitting. Clearly, what's going on is that I've simply moved beyond work-related guilt. And to a certain extent I think that this guilt-free existence is merited: seven years of grad school should earn you a couple of weeks, or possibly months, of freely engaging in other activities. Right?

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Today somebody linked to my blog through a google search for "very ugly pig photos." I would like to know why this person was seeking such photographs. The mind boggles!

Poetry for a Rainy Morning

I've been loving Wallace Stevens lately. This one's not calendrically appropriate, but it is meterologically fitting, I think:


Yillow, yillow, yillow,
Old worm, my pretty quirk,
How the wind spells out
Sep - tem - ber....

Summer is in bones.
Cock-robin's at Caracas.
Make o, make o, make o,
Oto - otu - bre.

And the rude leaves fall.
The rain falls. The sky
Falls and lies with the worms.
The street lamps

Are those that have been hanged,
Dangling in an illogical
To and to and fro
Fro Niz - nil - imbo.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Frivolous Photography for a Rainy Day

This is the porcupine that I made out of an old tee-shirt and some colorful socks last fall, pictured here with the Brass Duck. LIke so many before it, this project,--which I initially figured I'd complete in about four evenings of work--got entirely out of hand: it took something like seventy-six hand sewn quills to cover its back, and at least two weeks of evening sewing sessions to complete. I am a champion time-filler.

Actually, I was pretty productive this morning: I managed to get through most of my article revisions, even the substantive ones. It's so satisfying to read secondary stuff when you know exactly what kinds of things you're looking for, and how they'll fit into the larger project. Then I talked to my mom for a ridiculously long time and kind of ran out of steam--hence the porcupine photography. Now I'm seriously considering blowing off the various conflicting activities I had scheduled for this evening because it's raining, and my apartment is so very nice! I'm kind of in a hermit phase this week, I think. I went to a big department talk last night, which was interesting, and hung around the reception chatting with people I hadn't seen in a while, which was nice--but, between that and Tuesday's seminar, I sort of used up my university-related social energy for the week.

This weekend will bring more enjoyable socializing: drinks with my friend H tomorrow, who's just back from delivering a big lecture Elsewhere, and then dinner with Medieval Woman on Saturday. Should be fun!

Oh. And because I'm obsessed with photographing birds through my bedroom window, here's another bird picture for y'all.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Of Pilgrims and Patch-Kits

So I had something of a misadventure today.

Remember my bicycle? Whose praises I have been singing (or, at least, sang that one time)? Well, I went out for another ride today. I got kind of a late start, because the weather was iffy until mid-afternoon, so shortly after I hit mile 7 I decided to turn back. And not two minutes after I did so, I began to feel that something bouncy, or something.... Lo and behold, I had a flat.

I was pretty sure that I didn't have a patch-kit.

I looked through my little under-the-seat pouch, and hey! I did have a patch-kit. Look at that! I took it out and rummaged through its contents for the directions. Okay, I'll need to take off the tube, and find the hole, and rough up the rubber with this piece of metal, and then use this glue.... Hm. The glue seems kind of empty. I tested it and, yes, it was all dried up (or the tube was empty; not sure which). So the patch-kit wasn't going to help me.

In fact, nothing was going to help me. I walked the seven miles home. In bike shorts.

Lest you fail to understand the impact of that last sentence, let me spell it out for you here: Bike shorts are meant for biking. They have a large padded area that, well, protects one's nethers from the hard, uncomfortable bike seat. I wouldn't bike without them. But somehow when you walk--well, the best I can figure it is that the legs-to-pelvis relationship changes in such a way that those helpful pads become abrasive. It's the backs of the thighs that suffer most. I was also wearing these spandex leggings things which you're supposed to wear over the bike shorts, to keep your legs warm (it was a chilly day), and I'm quite sure that the extra constriction didn't help. I fully expected to be bleeding by the time I got home (I wasn't. In fact, I'm pretty much fine now. But don't let that stop your pity!).

Anyway, it was a 2-hour-plus walk, and so for a while, to pass the time, I pretended that I was a pilgrim leading my faithful yet slightly injured donkey and wearing some kind of haircloth undergarment. This made the trip more exciting, because I could imagine that I had to look out for thieves, and pretend that my suffering had some meaning or intention or whatever behind it, instead of just being a bit of bad luck. And this reminded me of the fifth book of the Codex Calixtinus, a twelfth-century guide for (French) pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostella. This isn't a terribly easy book to come by, I don't think, but if you do stumble upon a copy (I have the Confratenity of St. James translation), it's a lot of fun. Pilgrims had a lot to worry about in the old days. Take this, for example:
The Gascons are loud-mouthed, talkative, given to mockery, libidinous, drunken, greedy eaters, clad in rags and poverty-stricken; but they are skilled fighters and notable for their hospitality to the poor.
Okay, so the Gascons aren't so bad. But just when you're getting comortable, watch out! For here come the Basque toll-collectors:
They come out to meet pilgrims with two or three cudgels to exact tribute by improper use of their force; and if any traveller refuses to give the money they demand they strike him with their cudgels and take the money, abusing him and rummaging in his very breeches.
In his very breeches! But the toll-collectors are nothing to the Navarrese:
Watching them eat, you are reminded of dogs or pigs greedily gulping down their food; and when you hear them speaking it is like the barking of dogs.... This is a barbarous people...ugly of face, debauched, perverse, faithless, dishonourable, corrupt, lustful, drunken, skilled in all forms of violence, fierce and savage, dishonest and false, impious and coarse, cruel and quarrelsome, incapable of any good impulses, past masters of all vices and iniquities.... In some parts of the region...when the Navarrese are warming themselves [becoming aroused?], men show their private parts to women and women to men. The Navarrese fornicate shamelessly with their beasts, and it is said that a Navarrese will put a padlock on his she-mule and his mare lest another man should get at them. He also libidinously kisses the vulva of a woman or a she-mule.
So, okay, such colorful characters don't actually populate the bike path. I did, however, see a rabbit.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Things to be somewhat cheerful about (or, Things about which to be somewhat cheerful, if you prefer)

As the weather sort of refuses to warm up, various other misfortunes (well, inconveniences) seem to be accruing, as well. For instance, the woman with whom I need to make an appointment to file my dissertation is out of town until like exactly when I go out of town for my conference, and I won't be back until the day before the last possible day to file. And the job stuff trudges on. And...oh, well, I guess that's it. Oh and my cell phone battery is aggravating me, again.

So here are some of the positives:

  • An hour and a half of vigorous yoga can do miraculous things when one is in a self-pitying state of mind.
  • My landlords left me an Easter basket, complete with candy and fake plastic grass.
  • My amaryllis is growing with absurd rapidity. Maybe it'll even flower before I go away!
  • My dad and stepmom got me flowers. Which I find very touching, for some reason. And my mom just said that she's sending me a present; her presents are always strange and cool.
  • I have a fun knitting project going on.
  • I have no real deadlines at the moment. (This one is huge. I should repeat it to myself nine times a day.)
  • I'm going to an exciting conference and then doing a very small bit of exciting post-conference travel in the near future.
  • Making lists of nice things is a remarkable way of feeling better about one's life.

Psychology sure is easy, eh?

Friday, April 6, 2007

But Anyway

After this morning's long plaint, I've been forcing some perspective upon myself. I mean, at the end of the day, this particular stage in my life will pass, right? So in the very worst case, I don't go into academia. I'll adjust. People adjust to things.

More likely, I will eventually find some kind of academic work for next year. Adjuncting is a perfectly reasonable option, if I can swing it.

But my point is just that this period of anxiety and fretting will come to an end, things will get settled one way or another, and nothing is ever permanent anyway.

There. I feel better.

Medievalist for Hire

Well, I didn't get that one-year I interviewed for. The committee chair sent me a really nice note, though, offering some (very helpful) advice about strategies for marketing myself. In the end, however, the deciding factor may have been my ABD status: none of their finalists were ABD. So apparently even one-year replacement positions are hard(er) to get without the Ph.D. in hand. Yes, I am looking forward to going on the market next year. Simply removing the word "expected" from that first line on my CV will evidently have gigantic repercussions on my marketability. I hope.

I mean it: I can't wait to start the whole job search over again. One of my strategies for staving off the how-will-I-pay-the-rent-and-where-will-I-live-next-year panic is to think about how to trick out my CV for next year. Like, okay. If I can get another publication under my belt, and teach a useful class or two, I should be in much better shape, right?

(The other panic-avoiding strategy is less successful: it's to assure myself that I can move to my mom's house and find local adjuncting work. Not an ideal solution, and not even something that I'm sure I can pull off, given where my mom lives, but at least it's something that I could look into. Unfortunately living with my partner won't be an option, since the rent where he lives would be prohibitive, and anyway he's probably going to be abroad for four months next spring, so he wouldn't even be around for most of the time.)

God. Academia is brutal, isn't it? The frustrating thing for people in my position--and I'm aware that there are many, many, many of us--is that we can't go get some other kind of job. Not unless we're willing to give up the profession altogether. And I'm lucky, really, that I don't have kids (or even pets) to support (though I'm a little worried about my plants), and that I can potentially put everything into storage and go live on nothing in some remote village, if I have to.

But enough of all that. I have other work to do. For example:
  • finish up my abstract, acknowledgments, and other supplementary dissertation materials
  • revise my conference paper for what will hopefully be the last time
  • put together a handout for the conference
  • clean up a short story to send out for publication (I might as well pursue my other dream career, right?)
  • on a related note, revise my novel
  • revise my accepted article (due June 1)
  • start thinking about my very exciting next project!!!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Emerging from the Fog

Slowly. Very slowly.

..........still pretty foggy.

And absolutely exhausted. Good God. I'm so tired.

But I need to get organized, at least gradually, because even though preparing for the defense didn't take up all that much time, it seems to have sapped a lot of what they call "psychic energy" over the last month. For example, I've only just realized that I missed the deadlines for a bunch of (rather crummy) jobs that I meant to apply for. See, in my imagination, it's still early March. Anyway, I think that this afternoon will have to be dedicated to applying for said jobs, on the grounds that their deadlines didn't seem to be of the hard-and-fast variety, and really, what's another application more or less.

What I mostly need to do, though--and this might be a nice soothing activity--is come up with some kind of to-do list. I need to sync myself up with calendrical time again. When's that conference I'm going to? What else do I need to do for it? What do I need to do to my dissertation before I turn it in, and when? That kind of thing. Coming up with something concrete along those lines should give me an inner sense of order. Or so I tell myself. Perhaps I just want to avoid the job apps?

(Really, it's silly. I have so many cover letters at this point that I can throw together a new one in about 15 seconds, plus two minutes to read over it. I don't know why I put this particular activity off so much these days.)

I was thinking about going to yoga tonight, but I'm not sure that I can muster the strength. Seriously. I'm so tired. I'm kind of dying for a nap but I've got laundry in the dryer, so I'm holding off.

--And then occasionally it hits me that I don't need to worry about my dissertation anymore, and it's just so fucking weird. Isn't it?

Monday, April 2, 2007

La Defense

--is over!

(Seriously, how do you do accents in blogger?)

So yeah, it's done, and it was fine. My committee had questions and whatnot, but for the most part the questions weren't particularly difficult, and they were also pretty complimentary. So uh...I'm finished! No more grad school for this girl!

(And therefore: No more fretting about my upcoming defense on this blog!)

Thanks to everyone who wished me good luck! Now--to enjoy my free bottle of champagne at the grad bar. Hooray!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Could it be I'm...nervous?

So I couldn't sleep last night. Almost literally. I slept from about 1 to 2, then my chumpy downstairs neighbors (ha ha--I wrote "neighboors," entirely by accident) came tromping home with a bunch of their chumpy friends, and started living it up on the 2nd floor. At 2:30, I decided that the pumping reggae was really too much, and went down there to complain. I didn't have to complain, actually; the guy opened the door, saw me, said "Oh, too loud? Sorry, sorry, no problem, we'll turn it down." Still, I finally got to reveal my grumpy-old-lady colors, and that was satisfying: I've been dreaming of that moment since they moved in last fall.

Anyway. I went back to bed, but still couldn't sleep. The hours ticked by. At 4:30, I was bored and cross and got up to go knit for a while, thinking that that would soothe me. After a bit, I thought that I might as well do something productive, and worked on my defense until the sun came up. I went back to bed at 6:30, slept from about 7:30-9, and then managed to sleep again from maybe 10:45-12:15. So that's, what, 4 hours total?

I mean what the hell? I haven't been insomniac in a long time. My first year of grad school was peppered with nights like this, and they were a lot more dangerous back then, when I had so very much work and actual classes to get to. And you know the thing where the harder it is to fall asleep, the higher the stakes get? So when I'd go to bed after 2 consecutive insomniac nights, I'd be so afraid of not getting enough sleep that I'd find myself incapable of sleep. It was awful.

I feel a little bit nervous about the defense tomorrow, obviously. But not terribly worried--certainly not consciously so. Evidently, however, all is not peace and sunshine in my psyche.

--But how worried can I be, really, when it's 1pm, I've been up for 45 minutes, and I haven't started working yet? Okay. Time to get down to business. 24 hours until The Spectacle begins (and I'm hoping to get to yoga this afternoon, so time is short!).

ETA: Okay, I'm obviously nervous. I just practiced my spiel and found my body engaging in its Relatively Benign Manifestation of Anxiety (i.e. I'll need to wear my stronger deodorant). Funny how the body knows what the mind ignores, isn't it?