Saturday, December 02, 2006


My prospectus is officially filed. Got all the signatures from my committee, the grad coordinator, etc. I wish I felt more excited about it, but it's such a joke. My thesis will be on the topic that's in the prospectus, obviously, but other than that it will bear little or no resemblance to the outline I made. I need to reorganize the information I have, and determine what the actual point of the whole project is - you know, like, come up with some kind of "thesis." In theory, I'm supposed to have at least an outline done by December 15th so I can give it to Blackwood. Yeah, that'll happen.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

just for you, Anna

Breakfast of Champions

breakfast of grad students

breakfast of Anna and Brooke, and sometimes Jacob

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

oh yeah ... school

Day 294

14 June 2006


As a student, I try to be conscientious. I do the assigned reading. I turn assignments in on time. I try not to let my personal life affect my academic performance. If that means the occasional late night reading or working on a paper, that's fine. But at this point I am faced with the fact that I am about to end a term without having done the required work, and it pains me deeply.

While we were moving, I got so far behind on the reading for my theory class that it became impossible to catch up. And the professor knows that I haven't done the reading, because I haven't been turning in reading logs. It's unfortunate, too, because I find the class much more engaging than I anticipated. Class discussion has been lively and (do I want to admit this?) fun, and the reading has actually been interesting for me. Instead of reading about feminism, or New Historicism, or whatever, we've been reading feminist criticism of Shakespeare, New Historicist criticism of Shakespeare, etc. and then discussing it in class. Of course, when I say "we" have been reading this stuff, I mean "the rest of the class has been reading it, and I've been showing up to class and pretending to know what's going on." I was really lost with the New Historicist stuff, because I literally never opened the textbook. I also skipped class the night we cleaned the rental, which didn't help. I mean, it did help us get the rental clean, but it definitely didn't help me catch up on my schoolwork. Anyway, now our final projects and presentations are coming due, and I haven't even started my research. This is going to be a long weekend of quick reading and frantic writing.

Friday, June 09, 2006

oh. my. gosh. BUGS.

Day 284
9 June 2006

I put a load of laundry in the washer yesterday evening. At 2:00 this afternoon, while Peach was securely strapped into her high chair, I went downstairs to put the laundry in the dryer. Upon opening the washer, I was confronted by a HUGE COCKROACH, lying on its back, obviously breathing its last (or whatever it is they do – I have no idea if they even breathe). The fact that the beast is dying is good. The fact that it is dying in my washing machine is BAD. Armed with a wad of about 16 paper towels, I remove the creature, which is still twitching feebly, and deposit it in the outside garbage can. One by one, I take each article out of the washer, shake it, and scrutinize it carefully. Then everything goes back into the washer for another wash cycle. I am NOT OK WITH THIS.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

liveblog: cleaning the rental

Day 275
31 May 2006

We've discovered that it's nearly impossible to get any packing or cleaning done at the rental when the kids are with us, because the rental is now decidedly un-babyproof. So Glen and I have taken it in turns to go to the rental, pack, clean, and bring stuff back to the new house. Finally, at about 6:00 this evening, we realized that we were going to have to make a bilateral attack on the kitchen if we were going to get out in time to avoid paying extra rent, so we hauled everyone back to the rental. We stuck Peach in her stroller, parked her where she could see us, and supplied her with snacks; Link we left to run amok if he so desired (which he did). As you might imagine, much hilarity ensued:

6:40 Peach grows weary of snacks, starts throwing them on the floor. Counterproductive! Time for a bottle.

6:42 Peach settled in with bottle. All quiet on the Western front.

6:43 Link screaming incoherently in living room. Run to living room, find Link with nosebleed.

6:45 Look for paper towels to clean fresh blood off of living room carpet. Tell Link that he needs to sit VERY STILL, or his nose will start bleeding again.

7:08 Link’s mantra “can I get up yet?” becomes more annoying than his running around. Reluctantly tell him he can get up.

7:27 Link in charge of stroller. Peach giggling. All is well.

7:31 Instruct Link to slow down with the stroller.

7:33 Advise Link that wheelies are not OK.

7:35 Admonish Link to slow down, or he will not be allowed to push the stroller any more.

7:38 Link enters kitchen, advises me that he “turned too hard.” Rush into living room, find a bewildered but otherwise unharmed Peach sitting in her stroller, which is reposing on its side.

7:39 Inform Link that he is in BIG TROUBLE.

8:00 Go to grocery store in search of those little metal saucer thingies that go underneath the burners on the stove, because no way am I going to be able to get the old ones clean in under four hours.

8:49 Three grocery stores later, return in triumph with complete set of burner thingies in hand.

8:50 Discover that I have purchased the wrong variety of thingies. Sigh deeply. Turn my attention to cleaning the oven.

9:28 Glen heads back to store in search of correct thingies.

9:57 Glen returns in triumph with correct thingies in hand.

10:08 Mopping commences.

10:11 Peach's complaints become unbearably strident. Remove Peach from stroller. Make futile attempt to convince her that she really, really needs to stay out of the kitchen while Dada is mopping. Resign myself to carrying her around for the next half hour.

10:42 Hand Peach to Glen. Commence vacuuming.

11:05 Leave keys on counter for landlord. Return home to sleep like the dead.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Day 271
27 May 2006

Sore muscles, scrapes, scratches, bruises, broken fingernails ... either I've been playing rugby, or we moved our furniture today. Let the baby-proofing begin.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

hooray! we're infested!

Day 264
20 May 2006

Steps for moving into our “new” house (actual date of construction:1977)

1. complete closing

2. get sale of house recorded

3. get keys from realtor

4. gather a few personal effects, go to newly-purchased house

5. carry personal effects into house

6. discover cockroaches in basement

7. remove personal effects from house

8. return to rental house, peruse yellow pages for information on exterminators

So that's where we are.

Friday, May 19, 2006

full committee

Day 263
19 May 2006

And did I mention that I found a third member for my committee? I talked to Dr. Victoria yesterday about my project, and she agreed to serve as my second reader ... or maybe my third reader. I'm not really sure how that works. If my committee chair is also my first reader, then Victoria is my third reader. Whatever. Anyway, I have a committee now.

I'm excited to work with Victoria; my non-evil twin recommends her very highly. I had originally intended for my project to be more involved with the history of the novel, and to examine how the early-nineteenth-century novel is either an outgrowth of or a break from previous trends. But I wanted to work with Victoria badly enough that I've adjusted the scope of my project: it will now focus more on where the novel is going in the nineteenth century, as opposed to where it came from in the eighteenth.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

hooray! we're poor!

Day 262
18 May 2006

This blog is pleased to announce that we will have no money for the next thirty years, because we have bought a house:

We are very excited about this. We closed today, so we should be able to start moving in on Saturday. This will give us a window of about ten days to get everything moved out of our current (rental) house and get it clean before the end of the month. Alas, I fear we shall see the Christmas lawn ornaments of doom no more.

Monday, May 15, 2006

not the Annoying Boy

Day 259

15 May 2006


Today in class one of my colleagues wanted to argue that Shakespeare really is timeless, because people from every time period since the theaters reopened after the Restoration have performed his work on stage. On the other hand, I argued, each of those time periods has adapted Shakespeare’s work in one way or another, and some of them have changed it significantly (happy ending to King Lear, anyone?) This is an extremely reductive argument which leaves out many important factors which blah blah blah, but my point here is that he and I argued back and forth about it vigorously for a couple of minutes, the discussion moved on, and nobody got snitty about it. Such a nice change. See how pleasant it is when we all realize that a discussion is, in fact, academic?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

an open letter to Dan Brown

Day 255

11 May 2006


Dear Dan Brown,

I'm not Catholic, and I really don’t care that you wrote a fictional story wherein Jesus got married and had children and then the Catholic church spent hundreds of years trying to hush it up and kill his descendants. However, you are the poster child for the phrase “source check,” and in that way you really irritate me. In your little blurb at the beginning of The Da Vinci Code you throw around words like “fact” and “accurate” and well documented, and imply that under a thin veil of fiction, your story might really, essentially, be true. Setting aside the issue of truth claims, I would like to say the following: shut up about your sources already. Your “sources” are a bunch of wacko conspiracy theorists. And somehow, with all your “research” (which your wife did for you anyway), you couldn’t even manage to correctly describe the geography of Paris, which is not exactly an obscure location. As someone who actually does scholarly research, however lowly, I find your posturing offensive. Also, your writing is very bad.


Octavia S.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

my last theory class ever, probably

Day 248
4 May 2006

I only have one class this term: Theoretical Discourse. I was initially encouraged by the fact that the class is on Shakespeare criticism (specifically Hamlet criticism) because it makes everything a little less nebulous if you can see it applied. Alas, it's still Theory. After two and half hours of the professor giving a brief review of the history of Western thought, I left class yesterday with a staggering headache and a fervent desire never to return. I can see the possibility that other people would find this stuff interesting; what could be more fascinating than the history of ideas, of how we attempt to understand the world and ourselves? In theory (ha ha) it sounds great. In practice ... well, it's good that I'm getting it out of the way.

It appears that I will be having at least one big issue with this class. Prof’s estimate of how much time we should spend on classwork goes like this: for an undergrad course during a regular semester, you should plan two hours of homework time for each hour in class, so for a three-credit class like this one you would spend six hours a week studying outside of class. Since this is a graduate course, you can multiply that by two (=12 hours). And since this is a Spring term (half as long as a regular semester), you can multiply that by two again (=24 hours). He graciously rounded his estimate down a bit, but still said that in terms of time commitment, this class should be “like a part-time job, about 20 hours a week.” Riiiiiiight. As it happens, I already have a part-time job, but thanks anyway.

On the plus side: Spring term is only 8 weeks long. There's no final exam. There's lots of reading, but not too much writing. What is it that he thinks we're going to spend 20 hours a week doing, anyway?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

eau de frat boy, part deux

Day 247
3 May 2006

Time to box up Del’s stuff for shipment. He has already assured me that there is nothing either illegal or alive amongst his belongings. I have, however, taken the precaution of donning latex gloves before digging in. I decline to ship the acoustic guitar (sans case), the George Foreman grill, and the two crock pots – too much trouble. The rest of it is mostly clothes. Among the expected hip and/or snarky t-shirts and baggy jeans, a few items of interest:

  • something that appears to be a shoe-polishing kit, in a ziploc. Why? Is he huffing the shoe polish? The only shoes he wears are Etnies.

  • I'm going to assume he wears the D.A.R.E. t-shirt ironically

  • not one, but two bright purple polo shirts, one of which is from Eddie Bauer

  • an “alumni” t-shirt from “the UCMT family of schools.” He must get these at thrift stores.

  • A hillion jillion gazillion dirty socks, including one oddball tube sock with rasta-colored stripes around the top. I can see the advantage of having that many socks: you never have to wash them. When you've worn them once (or however many times you can tolerate, which in his case appears to be significantly more than once) you simply move on to another pair. But in that case, why not just throw them away when you're done with them? Why keep them around to clutter up your apartment and vex you when it's time to move? They are neither useful nor decorative in their current state.

Total: 5 medium-large moving boxes, exuding just a hint of eau de frat boy. I intend to ship them USPS, but am not sure what I should do when they ask me if the packages contain any hazardous materials.

Monday, May 01, 2006

eau de frat boy

Day 245
1 May 2006

Mom went home on Saturday (April 29th). It was a good visit, relatively stress-free, and Link and the Peach had a really good time with Grandma. Then yesterday I came home from church to find three messages from Mom waiting for me, asking me to give her a call. Her tone of voice was pretty casual, but the fact that she left three messages in a row without giving me any information about why she was calling was, you know, a little suspicious. (Last time that happened, she was calling to tell me that my father had died.) I decided to call her back sooner rather than later.

This time, it turned out that she just wanted me to help my Delinquent Younger Brother (shall I call him "Del"?) move home. And even that wasn't as annoying as it sounds. He was all packed up and ready to go, but he was traveling by bus, and couldn't take all his stuff with him. No problem, I can stash it in my garage and ship it to him later.

OK, saying that his stuff was already "packed" might have been a teeny overstatement - it was actually stuffed into numerous garbage bags. Whatever. It all fit in my Corolla just fine. I dropped him at the bus station and headed home. By the time I arrived at my house (about an hour later) I was starting to notice an unfamiliar smell coming from the back seat of the car ... a pungent mixture of sweaty socks, stale beer, and cigarette smoke, a sort of Eau de Frat Boy. Nice. I hope it's not permanent. Link tends to throw up if there are funny smells in the car.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

happy birthday, Princess Peach

My second child has survived an entire year in my care. Happy birthday, Peach.

Wrapping paper! The best present ever.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

three strange days

Day 242
27 April 2006

For three strange days, I had no obligations
My mind was a blur, I did not know what to do
And I think I lost myself when I lost my motivation ...
- School of Fish, Three Strange Days

Finals week passed in a blur of sleepless nights and badly written papers. My Mom came to visit from Idaho; I pressed her into service as a babysitter while I took the final exam for my drama class. I was nervous about the exam. I hadn't had time to prepare as well as I would have liked. There was at least one play on the syllabus that I never read. Plus I felt that my term paper was a tad subpar (read: total rubbish) so I figured I needed to do really well on the test if I wanted to get a good grade in the class. As it turned out, I got a 95 on the paper - but of course I didn't find that out until I'd already sweated through the exam.

Now it's time to spend a few days just breathing. I only have one class for Spring term, so I'm hoping to be able to get my prospectus filed in June ... but until next Wednesday, when classes start up again ... no commitments, no obligations. What is it that I do when I'm not in class, anyway?

Oh, and the assignment to write and produce a stage scene? It didn't actually kill me. I am persuaded more than ever that I should not do any kind of creative writing, but I fudged a bit on this assignment. My script turned out to be more like creative non-fiction. I took bits and pieces of actual conversations I had with Glen over the course of the semester, tidied them up, and cobbled them together until the script was 5 minutes long. Link had his stage debut, as himself, interrupting our conversation to tell us that he needed to go to the bathroom. He was fabulous. Some of the other scenes were really, really good. I was amazed at what people had done with five minutes of stage time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I went to the trouble of emailing Dr. X, who confirmed that my assessment of the origins of Present Day English vocabulary are somewhat reductive but essentially correct. Ha. Take that, Annoying Boy.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Day 226
11 April 2006

Today was my day to give a presentation about my Final project to my translation class. This in itself was not a big deal, because the project didn't have to be finished; the point was more to share our process with the class and get suggestions about things that were vexing us. However, I've had a lot of stress over the past few days because my term paper for Drama was due today, and as of yesterday morning I still hadn't gotten past the outline stage. So I came into my translation presentation at 2:00 in the afternoon, running on four hours' sleep, about a gallon of Mountain Dew, and no food all day. I was also a little concerned because Annoying Boy has apparently studied Old English at some point, and I knew there was at least a possibility that he would want to argue with me about something in my presentation. He did not disappoint. I started by giving some background information about Old English, because it is a dead language that most of the class hasn't studied. I got through all of two and a half points on my list before he objected. Oddly enough, the thing he wanted to quibble about was my assertion that “the majority of the vocabulary of Present-Day English comes from Latin through French.” I can only assume that his argument was a semantic one, because this is a fairly standard, if reductive, assessment of the origin of English vocabulary. As soon as I said it, though, he started shaking his head and waving his hand at me. I asked him to bear with me, because I was going to qualify this by pointing out that the majority of the most commonly-used words in PDE come from Old English, but he kept trying to interrupt.

I suppose an appropriate response at that point would have been, “My source is Professor X, who teaches History of the English Language. If you disagree, I'd be happy to put you in touch with him.” Unfortunately, he picked the wrong day to annoy me. My actual response was, “Would you like to be excused? Because I don't appreciate hecklers.” The thing is, if he disagreed with something I was saying, he could have asked me to clarify, or done any number of things to make his objection more courteous than his blunt “That's not right.” Is is too much to ask for courteous discussion in an academic setting?

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Day 222
7 April 2006

The good news is, I have a second reader for my thesis committee. Blackwood suggested Dr. Descartes (not his real name), who has specialties in 18th century lit and the Enlightenment, among many other things. So I emailed him today to ask if he'd be interested in being on my committee, and he wrote back to say Yes, he could do that, but he won't be able to start reading chapters until after April, but we should definitely get together with Blackwood and work out a “plan of action” in the meantime. Crikey.

The bad news is, I don't have any chapters. Considering that I haven't even filed my prospectus yet, it seems unlikely that I will have any chapters by the end of April. So I had to write back to him and explain that, um, actually, I'm really not that far along with the project, they told me I should get my committee together before I file, but if he thinks it's worth his time, I'd love to talk to him about my ideas ... the truth is, Descartes kind of scares me. Just a little. Blackwood assures me that he (Descartes) thinks very highly of me as a scholar, but still. The breadth and depth of his knowledge are intimidating, and when I talk to him I'm always afraid that I'm going to inadvertently say something stupid. I've had a class from him before, and he always treated me respectfully and professionally. But I've also heard him speak quite scathingly of people he considers stupid, and I would very much dislike to have that directed at me. Also, every time I see him, I just want to apologize for the term paper I wrote for him, which was kind of bad.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

not a morning person

April 4, 11:38 p.m.

I registered for next Fall's classes today. I was pretty excited before-hand because, once again, I get to register before the unwashed masses of undergrads. This makes me feel special. Actually signing up for classes, however, turned out to be a process replete with unpleasant surprises. For example, the British Modern class that I need is going to meet at 9:30 in the morning. I'm excited to take a class from Dr. Modernist, but not that excited ... especially because, if I want to be on campus at 9:30 a.m., I have to get up at 6:30 a.m. This is not an exaggeration. In order for me to get myself, my toddler, and my six-year-old out the door on time, I need to get out of bed three hours before the time I'm supposed to be in class.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "She's complaining about getting up at 6:30? What a wimp!" So, for the record, let me just say that I am not a morning person. I am capable of staying up until two or three in the morning to get work done, but it would be virtually impossible for me to do the same work at, say, five or six in the morning, no matter what time I went to bed. I never feel really happy about being awake until around 10:00 a.m., and before 9:00 I'm barely functional.

So anyway, I signed up for the class, and resigned myself to the fact that two days out of every week next Fall are going to be Bad Days. If I have to get up at six a.m., it will ruin my day every time; there's just no way around it. The next class I had to sign up for was “Composition Pedagogy,” because I want to teach English Composition next year, and the Pedagogy class is required for that. There are two sections offered, one at 1:30 in the afternoon on the same day as the Modernism class, and one at 9:00 a.m. on the off days. If I take the 1:30 section, I will be on campus from 9:30 until 3:00 – not good from a child-care perspective. If I take the 9:00 section ... I'll have to be in class at nine a.m. I've signed up for the morning section; there's really nothing else I can do. But this will very possibly be the worst semester of my life. I'm going to diiiiiiiiiiiie.

Thesis advisor? J'en ai!

Day 219
4 April 2006

I have a thesis chair! I feel so official, so ... legitimized. I hadn't thought that I was far enough along in my research to be thinking about my committee yet, but I went to a prospectus workshop yesterday afternoon where the advisors said otherwise. So I went home and emailed Dr. Blackwood a synposis of my idea to see if he was interested. And lo, this morning in my inbox I find his response. He'd like to work with me, he's excited about my project. Yay! I have no idea who else should be on the committee, but presumably he will have suggestions.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

genius boy

Day 209
25 March 2006

Glen has gone to Chicago with Da Boyz for the weekend, thus guaranteeing that a) the baby will get sick; b) the heater will stop working; and c) I will get very little of my homework done. Bad timing! The first of my term papers is coming due in ten days, and I will make no progress on it this weekend.

OK, the baby is not actually “sick,” she's just teething, but it makes her just as high-maintenance as if she were sick. And yes, the heater did stop working, almost as soon as Glen left the state. This is the second time this has happened recently, so I knew Glen knew how to fix it, but I didn't realize it had died until about 1:00 in the morning. I was tempted to call Glen in Chicago and get him out of bed so he could explain it to me (read: feel my pain), but I didn't ... probably because I thought it wasn't his fault.

So this morning I called Glen, and took my cell phone, a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, a flashlight, and a box of matches down into the crawl space under the house, and re-lit the pilot light. At some point during the procedure it came out that in fact, it is Glen's fault that the pilot went out. He was down there a while ago for some reason that escapes me now, and noticed that the gas for the pilot light was turned up really high, so he turned it down. A lot. So last time when it went out, he turned it back up, just not enough. Thanks, genius boy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Eliot Spitzer

Day 206
22 March 2006

I think I might be in love with Eliot Spitzer. He's the AG of New York, and he's always suing people/companies for doing things that also happen to bug me personally. Example: over the past couple of years, it has come to my attention that numerous people, completely unknown to me, apparently "own" my personal information, including my address, phone number, DOB, social security number, and credit history. Not only do these unknown people "own" my information, but they sell it to other people. This makes me very angry. They have obtained this information without my express consent, they are transmitting it to other people without my consent (and in most cases without my knowledge), and they are making money from it without my consent, and certainly without my receiving any money for it. Spitzer is currently suing a company called "free," who collected personal information from somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 million people, assured them they would not buy, sell, rent, or lend that information, and then turned around and sold it. Quoth Mr. Spitzer: "Unless checked now, companies that collect and sell information on consumers will continue to find ways to erode the basic standards that protect privacy in the internet age.” Amen, hallelujah! Preach it, Brother Spitzer!

Read the article about the lawsuit here:

Monday, March 20, 2006

Edmund freaking Spenser

Day 204
20 March 2006

Around six months ago, the phrase "go little book" came into my head in connection with something that I've completely forgotten now. And I said to myself, "Where did that phrase come from?" So I did what any person of education and sense would do: I Googled it. And came up with nothing conclusive. I suspected that there might be a spelling variation involved, but wasn't ambitious enough to try possible variations until I found one that clicked. Fast forward to this evening, when I'm reading Frank McGuinness's play Mutabilitie. Since Edmund Spenser is one of the main characters, I bust out my old Norton Anthology to read Spenser's bio. (OK, I actually went to wikipedia first, but their entry was a little thin. In fact, I ended up adding something to it.) I also suspect that some of McGuinness's script might be taken from Spenser's writing, and have made a mental note to look up The Shepheardes Calender. As I finish reading the Norton bio, I notice that The Shepheardes Calender is on the facing page, so I start reading. The opening line? "Goe little booke: thy selfe present." Not only that, it's got a footnote indicating that this is an homage to Chaucer's line from Troilus and Criseyde, "Go, litel bok, go litel myn tragedye." I was in the right ballpark, timewise, as I had connected it vaguely in my mind with Sidney. But Edmund Spenser, of all things. I would never have remembered that on my own.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

again, half as long

Day 199
15 March 2006

Have you ever seen A River Runs Through It? I haven't. But when I took Intensive Writing as an undergrad, my writing teacher showed the class a clip from the movie. In the clip, Tom Skerrit is teaching his son about writing. The kid comes to Skerrit to show him an essay he wrote, which is something like a page long, and Skerrit hands it back to him, saying, "Again, half as long." Kid goes, edits the essay, and hands it back to Dad. Dad looks it over and says, "Again, half as long." Lather, rinse, repeat. After a couple more iterations, Dad finally decides it's short enough, then throws it away. (Not sure what that's about.)

Last night, I finished reading Walter Scott's The Heart of Midlothian. Walter* would have benefitted greatly from having a Dad like Tom Skerrit's character. The last 100 pages of that novel were pure agony. At some point I began to suspect that Walt's publisher was paying him by the word. Why else would he drag it out like that? If he felt it absolutely necessary to tie up all the loose ends (Effie's baby, David Deans' death, Robertson/Staunton's just deserts, etc.) he could have done so far more expeditiously.

There's a lot of material for my thesis in the novel, but the thing I found most interesting about it ("interesting" being a very relative term) was Scott's political agenda. His whole approach to Scottish politics strikes me as odd. The Jacobite uprising of 1745, which is one of the focal points of Scottish history, occurs during the course of the novel, yet Scott barely mentions it. He also seems to be a big fan of the Campbells, and especially the Duke of Argyll, who is portrayed as a master statesman, friend of the poor, and all-around swell guy, in spite of the part he played in (or rather against) the Jacobite uprising of 1715. Contrast this with Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped and Catriona: the '45 is the central fact of everyone's existence, Bonnie Prince Charlie's name is on everyone's lips, and the Campbells are a hiss and a by-word. Why is Scott so ardently pro-Union? It seems an unusual position for a Scotsman to take.

*After 532 pages of Midlothian plus extensive notes, I feel like we should be on a first-name basis.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

annoying boy

Day 198
14 March 2006

When I walked into my Translation class today, Annoying Boy was talking to Angela about the relative merits of modern rap artists, and was expounding on some quantifiable reason why Eminem is a really good rapper. It had something to do with meter. I brought up Gerard Manley Hopkins' idea of "sprung rhythm," because it seemed relevant to the concept he was discussing. He replied irritably, "That's not what I'm talking about." Well, excuse me. Is he trying to annoy me, or does he simply have no social skills? I've tried not to let him know that he annoys me, because really, what's the point? But he's making it increasingly difficult. Yes, I'm aware that he probably doesn't make all those smug, supercilious comments in class just for the purpose of irritating me. Yes, I'm aware that for most people, I am the most annoying person in the room. Yes, I'm aware that I'm making a big deal out of a very small instance of rudeness. Shut up.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

drama queen

Day 179
23 February 2006

We read Copenhagen for Drama today. Finally, a play I could read without getting horribly disturbed and going to bed depressed. There is some good contemporary drama out there, and I've been very impressed with a lot of the stuff we've read, but I can't really say I've enjoyed most of it. (Stoppard is the exception to this; we read three of his plays, and I liked all three without reservation.) Apparently modern drama is supposed to be disturbing, because that's what forces the audience out of their comfort zone so they start thinking about the issues presented in the play. Well, OK, but if I promise to think seriously about heavy social issues on my own time, can I stop having to read plays where people do nasty things like put out horses' eyes (Equus) or kill their babies and get dragged away to hell by the fairies (The Skriker) or trick other people into killing them with a matte knife (The Gift of the Gorgon)?

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Day 172
16 February 2006

I read the first 76 pages of Maria Edgeworth's The Absentee last night, and I have had an epiphany. I am not going to do my thesis on gender issues in Romantic novels. I am going to do my thesis on parent-child relationships in Romantic novels. The parents in Romantic novels seem woefully inadequate, qua parents. They are either literally absent (Grace Nugent's parents in Absentee), or emotionally absent (Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice), or mentally absent (Mr. Woodhouse in Emma). Why is this? Is it as simple as a plot device to foreground the young protagonists? Is there a cultural component? A literary tradition? Why are the family relationships in Romantic novels so dysfunctional? And don't even get me started on parents in gothic novels.

I feel good about this. I had been kind of worried, because I felt like my previous idea for a thesis was a good one, but I was at a bit of a loss as far as how to get started and where to go from there. I think there's a lot more possibility with this new topic. I can see aspects of New Historicism as well as psychological criticism fitting into it, which will be fun.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Day 170
14 February 2006

I had to skip my translation class today, which was annoying, because our translation of Baudelaire was due today. I was very anxious to see what other people had done with it, since I myself struggled with it mightily. Correspondances is an incredible poem, and my French is good enough for me to enjoy it in the original language, which made me very reluctant to translate it. I love certain aspects of translation, but if I could, I would always read everything in its original language. Even when something is gained in translation, something is inevitably lost as well. I was particularly looking forward to seeing what Angela had done with this poem, becuase she is fluent in French. Hopefully I will still be able to get a copy of her translation on Thursday. My translation ... well. I gave up on trying to make it into a poem; it would have been such an injustice to Baudelaire's very structured original. I found that to communicate my impression of the imagery in the original, I wanted phrases like "corrupt, sumptuous, and overpowering," and "having the expansiveness of the infinite," which just didn't seem to lend themselves well to any meter I could think of, let alone fitting into sonnet form.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Olympic update

Day 168
12 February 2006

Olympic update:

ski jumping: boring
5,000 meter "speed" skating: also boring
biathlon: weird

The post-event interviews with the athletes are a little surreal. It's as though the interviewer has four questions she's going to ask, and Chad Hedrick's got four answers he's going to give, but somewhere along the way they got shuffled, and now his answers don't match her questions. She asks how he managed to get his emotions under control after his emotional warm-up, and he talks about how he was inspired during the race by the memory of his grandmother. She asks if the memory of his grandmother was an inspiration to him, and he talks about his drive to compete. She asks about the competitive spirit of the Olympics, and he talks about how he was fated to win this race on this day. And so on. Is either of them even listening to the other? Someone should write an absurdist theater piece using transcripts of actual athlete interviews from sporting events.

Query: why do I know the tune to Germany's national anthem?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

faculty basketball game

Day 167
11 February 2006

The grad students played a basketball game against the grad faculty today. It was a pretty good game. Ugly at times, as you might imagine, considering the fitness level and general athletic ability of the participants. The best part was really the end. With ten seconds to go the score was tied, and the spectators started counting down the remaining time ... nine ... eight ... seven ... six ... five ... four ... three ... with two seconds to go, Frank Christiansen drained an unbelievable jumper, and the faculty won it by two points. I hated to see the students lose (which is why I didn't play) but it was just such a perfect ending to the game.

Friday, February 10, 2006


Day 166

10 February 2006


I'm such a sucker for pageantry. I watched the opening ceremonies of the Torino Olympics tonight, and got all weepy when I saw Chris Witty come in carrying the U.S. flag. Other stuff I liked from the opening ceremonies:

  • the buff guy with the hyperbolically large hammer who kept hitting an anvil, and every time he hit it a huge burst of flame came out. (I forget what that was supposed to symbolize; it was just cool.)
  • the in-line skaters with jets of flame coming out of their helmets.
  • the oddly amusing waltzers in cow-print costumes.
  • Carla Bruni in a shimmering floor-length dress, carrying the Italian flag, and handing it off to an Italian soldier in his very ceremonial-looking uniform. She was so beautiful, and her motions and his uniform invested the moment with so much significance.
  • and the fireworks, of course. You just can't beat Stuff Blowing Up.

I had a bad moment when Yoko Ono got up to recite a bit from “Imagine” - I thought they were going to let her sing it. Peter Gabriel sang it instead, which was exponentially more acceptable, but his performance was disappointing, I thought. He didn't look like he was that into it, and he didn't sound like it either.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Day 163
7 February 2006

My translation of Horace was a parody. The professor was emphatic in his belief that we would fail to adequately translate this poem, as generations had failed before us; that we would be wrecked upon the treacherous rocks and shoals of the Horation ode ... oddly enough, the Ode we were supposed to translate used the shipwreck image as well, so I decided write about our presumed failure. Instead of a love-struck youth coming to grief on the violent sea of love, I wrote about a student coming to grief while trying to translate Horace. Probably a cop-out, but I did actually put some thought into the execution.

Annoying Boy showed up with a HUGE graphical representation of the poem. It was odd. Not a bad idea, just ... odd.

Annoying Boy: in almost every one of my classes, including the ones I took as an undergraduate, there has been one person who just BUGGED ME. Sometimes the feeling was mutual; I suspect that most of the time, however, they had no idea how annoying they were. I think it probable that many other students have the same experience, and I think that for many people I am the Annoying Person in their class. (I did have a professor once who asked me to stop commenting so often in class, because another student had complained.) So why does this particular guy annoy me so much? His attitude, mostly. It's not just that he always thinks he knows all the answers, it's the way he talks and the way he responds to the other students - he gives me the impression that he thinks we're all idiots.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

George Gordon, Lord Byron

Day 157
2 February 2006

Believe it or not, I managed to graduate from a four-year university, with a Bachelor's degree in English literature, without having to read anything by Byron. So my first exposure to his work came last night, when I read the first Canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. I know the guy was a big noise in the Romantic period, and he sold a hillion jillion copies of his work, etc., but I had to laugh when I read the stuff. Honestly, he just sounds like an overwrought goth kiddie. Observe:

"Yet oft-times in his maddest mirthful mood
Strange pangs would flash along Childe Harold's brow,
As if the memory of some deadly feud
Or disappointed passion lurked below:
But this none knew, nor haply cared to know;
For his was not that open, artless soul
That feels relief by bidding sorrow flow,
Nor sought he friend to counsel or condole,
Whate'er this grief mote be, which he could not control.

And none did love him! -- though to hall and bower
He gathered revellers from far and near,
He knew them flatterers of the festal hour,
The heartless Parasites of present cheer.
Yea! none did love him ..."

... yeah. It goes on like that. I don't question his sincerity, I just think he needed to get over himself.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Day 156
31 January 2006

Had to turn in my first translation today, of a classical Greek poem. I really struggled with it, because the actual Greek words just didn't say anything to me, so translating it was more like someone giving me a topic, a few details, and telling me to write a poem. I am a person who just should not write poetry under any circumstances, as you will have realized if you read my haiku in an earlier post. The tone of the Greek poem was very much elegiac, so I finally decided to write mine in Anglo-Saxon long-line alliterative form. The Anglo-Saxons were big into elegies, so it seemed like an appropriate choice, besides which the big caesura in the middle of the line adds a visual and aural suggestion of absence. The result was not great, but it could have been a lot worse. And it was not the worst poem that was turned in, IMO. One of other students turned one in that I thought was a little careless – it was like he hadn't really put a lot of thought into his imagery. He used lines like “AK-47's don't cry,” which seemed a bit facile to me. OK, so mine wasn't that much better. Here's a fairly literal translation, not done by me, of the original Greek, followed by my effort:

Callimachus: Epigram on Heracleitus
Heracleitus, someone mentioned your death, and
brought me to tears; I remembered how often both of us
made the sun set by our talking. But you,
Halicarnasean friend, though you long, long ago became ashes,
yet your nightingales live on, upon which
Hades, plunderer of all things, shall never lay hands.

He feels so stupid, having said your name.
A grave error, indeed, but I had not forgotten.
Trying to atone, he stumbles on.
"At least we have her letters! Death can't lay a hand on those!"
I could kill some time re-reading them, I suppose,
But I can't converse with them. Their terse cantos have
Nothing new to say.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

alter ego

Day 146
21 January 2006

One of the assignments for my Romanticism class is to pick either a work or an author that we are studying this semester and do a survey of recent criticism on that topic. We had to email Dr. Blackwood (the professor; not his real name) yesterday afternoon and let him know which topic we wanted to work on. Then while I was talking to Sara this afternoon, we discovered that we had both requested the same topic (Maria Edgeworth). So I emailed Blackwood again and asked him if we could work together on it. I am beginning to think that Sara and I are actually the same person ... or perhaps I am her evil twin.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

first response

Day 142
17 January 2006

We're required to write a response to three of the plays we read in Drama over the course of the semester. We get to choose which ones we want to respond to, but I haven't even heard of most of the stuff we're reading. I signed up for one by Tom Stoppard, whom I've at least heard of and know I like, and two others completely at random. I'm also a big fan of getting stuff out of the way early in the semester, before bigger assignments start coming due, so I chose to write a response to the very first play we're reading, Arcadia. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but really struggled to write two whole pages (single-spaced!) of analysis. Also, it wasn't until I looked at the syllabus that I realized I was going to have to read my analysis aloud to the class, as a basis for that day's discussion. Yikes. And of course I put it off until the absolute last minute, and then stayed up until 5 a.m. writing the response, which was incredibly stupid, because after about 2 a.m. my brain is no longer capable of producing good writing. Fortunately I don't have class until 1:35 on Tuesdays, so I had time to finish up my response this morning. My new resolution: never to stay up past 2:00 a.m., even if it means not getting my homework done.

It turns out that having a geek husband can sometimes be an advantage, even in an English graduate program. Arcadia had a lot of math in it – not numbers or equations, necessarily, but math concepts and math jokes, some of which I only understood because of conversations I've had with Glen. Stoppard started the play with a joke about Fermat's theorem, which I understood (the joke, not the theorem, obviously), and was inordinately pleased with myself for understanding. Fractals showed up a lot in the play as well, both implicitly and explicitly, and I was also pleased with myself for noticing that. My classmates declared themselves impressed by my mathematical knowledge, and I was terribly flattered.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

more back to school

Day 135
10 January 2006

Honors 303: Translation
Yes, it’s an undergrad class. No, I’m not getting graduate credit for it. I don’t care. As previously mentioned, I enjoy grappling with problems of translation, and I love Old English, which is the language I’ll be translating for my class project.

Before going to this class, I was thinking about dropping it. It kind of comes down to a question of pragmatism versus ... well, hedonism might be a little strong, but I’m really only taking it for fun. Anyway, having been to the class once, I am determined to keep it on my schedule. The professor’s enthusiasm is infectious, and I’m very excited about the prospect of reading Anglo-Saxon poetry again. There are about a dozen students in the class, and at least ten different languages intended for translation, including the usual (French, Spanish, German, Latin) and a few that are more exotic (Old Spanish, Korean, Arabic, Latvian, Chinese).

English 641: Drama
I’ve been looking forward to this class at least as much as the others I’ve signed up for, but when I saw the syllabus I almost gave up and left. I am expected to write and produce/direct an original 5-10 minute theater piece for the class, dealing with some aspect of “ritual.” I’m terrified by this. There’s a reason I’m not in the creative writing emphasis, and that reason is that I’m not a good creative writer. Non-fiction I can do. Analytical work I can do. Translation I can do. And I love acting. But creative writing? No can do. I suppose many children read books that really inspire them, and then want to write stories of their own; I know I did. And I have a fairly vivid imagination. But somewhere along the line, I realized that a vivid imagination does not necessarily translate to good creative writing. (Fortunately, I realized that before I started showing my work to other people, thereby avoiding a great deal of unpleasantness.) I am seriously thinking about dropping this class.

I had an interesting conversation with Brook just after class let out. She is going to Africa this summer, and talks about how she wants to travel the world doing humanitarian work (admirable) even after she gets married and has children. She’s currently investing in real estate in order to finance this proposed career; she feels that really, everyone could do this kind of thing if they wanted to, but people just don’t make it a priority. Spending the rest of her life in suburbia, she says, would drive her to suicide. She drifts into another conversation, and I am left to ponder my lack of both hip-ness and ambition. I can’t afford to travel the world; I can’t afford to invest in real estate; I can’t even afford to buy a house like the extremely suburban model I currently rent. My husband works a 9-to-5 in order to finance my expensive tastes (like education), and his employer declines to pay people who don’t show up for work, regardless of what other admirable or noble activities they may be performing in the interim. I freely admit that I am not nearly as cool as Brook - she’s a modernist, after all, and I’m a Romanticist - but I’ve never felt that bad about enjoying my quiet suburban life. Am I too boring/selfish to make humanitarian work a “priority”? Apparently so.

Monday, January 09, 2006

back to school

Day 134
9 January 2006

English 674: Romanticism
Nice that this is my first class of the semester - my first “real” class in grad school, in fact. I feel comfortable here, socially and academically. I know most of the people in the class. This is the time period I want to study. Sara is here, which means I have at least one actual friend in the class. We’ll be focusing on the Regency (1811-1820) and reading several works from that time, which is good, because in all honesty I have to admit that I’m a bit behind in that regard. I’ve read some history of the period, and a moderate amount of criticism, but if I’m going to write about novels of the Romantic era, I think it might be best to read some of them first.