Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Picture of a Living Person You'd like to trade palces with for a day:

This is a photo of Kate Bornstein, who is, undeniably, the most inspiring person ever to live. Them's the facts. Check her blog here. Yea. I just bought her "Hello Cruel World" app on my ipad, and sometimes I fangirl her like mad.
This may be it today, internet. I have just come off of the most challenging school term of my life, and then a weekend of drinking and debauchery. I am exhausted. Literally, the rest of my plans for the day include drinking coffee and watching Glee. If you need me, you'll know where to find me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 04 - A picture of your night

Do you see that, internet? That is a bottle of wine, and a wine glass. Yes it is, oh yes(!) Providing that i am ever happy with (erm, finished) the paper I am currently in the midst of (and that will be handed in later today), I will do exactly what this picture suggests: drink an entire bottle of wine. I did try to find a picture with two glasses, implying that I would share the wine, but apparantly people on the internet drink alone. A lot. This was also the only pouring wine picture I came across that didn't resemble urinating. Yay!
In other news: only several more hours until wine drinking and being social again! Yay!
(stay tuned, internet. I will likely blog again later, while drunk!)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 03 - A picture of the cast from your favorite show

Day 03 - A picture of the cast from your favorite show.
Sheldon Cooper is possibly my favourite fictional character. Ever. If he was real, I would marry him in thirty seconds. I like him so much that I tell people that my brother in law, who is a physicist, is exactly like him, even though my brother in law is more of a Leonard.
In other news, I am on my last day of paper-writing madness. I have one more eight page paper to hand in for this term before I surrender to the holiday break (and the mountain of PhD applications, though I've mostly got all of the parts for those and only need to put them together). I don't think I've been this burnt out before. All term I managed to adapt to the level of reading and work expected. I succeeded at this. And now, at the final push, I just really want to take a nap. Really. Yesterday I napped twice. I am having trouble putting coherent thoughts together that are not related to this paper, the small stack of marking I have left, or books I really want to read. Last night, when I should have been writing, I read the first fifty pages of Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, which I highly recommend.
So, internet, I will leave you with this point-form-thought for the day:
*I will get everything on my to-do list done. I just will. I always do.
*When I am done I will drink an entire bottle of wine and then pass out.
*Everyone should read books all the time.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 02

Day 02 - A picture of you and the person you have been closest with the longest
I do not have an Alaskan Mamalute. If I did, I would not be here. I would be playing with it. This picture represents me and my mom. As dorky as it is, my mom is the person I've been closest with for the longest. Most of this has to do with having moved away from home about six years ago, and starting over with friends for the most part.
I am now going to retreat back into my hole of essay writing and grading, but I hope you enjoyed the photo.

Monday, December 6, 2010

30 Day Challenge

In order to keep myself actively posting through the holidays, I am going to steal this facebook trend and use it as a blog motivator. A blogivator, if you will. Here's how it goes:
Day 01 - A picture of yourself with fifteen facts.

As you can probably tell, this is not me. I will not post pictures of the real me, not yet. Maybe, internet, if you all start being my friends and commenting, I will one day repeat this with more real (realer? Is it time for holiday brain yet?) pictures. I digress.
1.) If I were an anime character, this would be me. Scissors and all.
2.) Today I completed the longest paper I've ever written.
3.) Tomorrow I will start and complete a shorter paper.
4.) I am knitting a fashion-scarf.
5.) I am an excellent dancer.
6.) I haven't stretched in weeks because I've been tired and busy- must get back into it!!!!
7.) I have two rabbits. They are lovely.
8.) I have one husband. He is also lovely.
9.) Avacados are my favourite food.
10.) I drink too much coffee.
11.) red wine is probably my favourite beverage. I can drink an entire bottle myself. This will become a problem when we decide to have babies.
12.) I dream of having a whole room dedicated to books (instead of the half-room we currently have dedicated to books)
13.) I fell down the stairs last weekend- I did an entire summersault!
14.) I am very lucky I didn't break my neck!
15.) I don't have good enough words to talk about the Montreal Massacre. You should look it up and have a moment of silence for those brainy, brainy ladies.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's that time of year again...

... Exam time is here again! And my mom!

Alright, so I don't actually have exams... but I do have a ton of essay writing and marking to do, and five application packets to get together for PhD programs, and am still in a state of constant exhaustion. Plus I am researching for someone, plus I am working two days at a diner. Except that, well, I'm not. I've taken my last three shifts (one and one half weeks!) off because of school/stress. There aren't enough hours in a week to accomplish everything I need to. There aren't enough hours in a week to spare the eleven that my current job is taking from me. Don't get me wrong, I love this job. However, when I was on the phone with my boss this morning, explaining that I had asked another girl to cover my shift for tomorrow because I just can't do it right now, I secretly hoped she would fire me. Yup, you read that right. I hope she would say "you're taking too much time off and you're being a huge pain. Please pick up your cheque and don't come back." In real life I really hope that when I leave this place I do so on excellent terms- they've been wonderful to me as friends, employers, and coworkers. I love the job, but I hate how tired I am all the time. Waking up and thinking "I don't want to go to work today" is especially terrible when what you reall mean is "I could really use that six hours for writing or researching."
On the plus side, the prof that I am currently working for has offered me another job helping with formatting on an anthology she and another academic are working on. We're waiting to see if she gets the grant she's applied for, and then how many hours she'll be able to pay me for. If it all works out, and I can get enough hours, I am going to consider leaving my other job. Maybe. I always feel bad quitting, even under the most terrible working conditions. Leaving a place that I love sooooo much will be even harder. I'll keep you updated.

Have any of you had to leave a place you loved working?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A tangled end-of-term rant.

There will be no paragraph divides in this post, because I feel like torturing you the way first year essays sometimes torture me. Not that I blame the students 100%, not even close. Right now, in a single class I've got several students that are writing pretty medium to well papers. They exist on a range of "pretty okay argument that you maybe should have thought about a bit longer so your ideas would be better organized" to "this is an excellent thesis, great work!" Their writing ranges from "I can understand what you are trying to say, and this excites me!" to "once you develop stylistically your writing will probably be pleasurable to read." It's great. Why, you ask, have I grouped this wide range of students together (I forgot to mention that I am only including a small portion of the class). Because they are all consistently telling me about "the kings hat" and how "three king's went to buy a hat." Do you see the problem? They all know that there is a rule here, and they are all messing it up consistently. This wouldn't be so bad, if the rule were not to end a sentence with a preposition. This rule sometimes makes writing more terrible. Yes. It can make writing terrible-r (my ipad actually won't let me do this without the dash). Example (courtesy of a lovely friend and lovelier conversation yesterday): "That is something up with which I will not put." Yeah. Because so many students are going to read something as convoluted as that and think "that's way easier and clearer than writing "that is something I will not put up with," thanks grammar handbook!" How will these students tell the difference between "students work" and "student's work?" Most important to this particular rant, how did a whole group of students coming into university at the same time learn this mistake so well? I am suspicious that they may have all had the same high school teacher, and this makes me sad. In other news, I am reaching the end of my term as well, and am hammering through seminars, papers, and research that I should not have put off so much earlier in the term. Lesson learned! I am also sliding into procrastination mode, but it is a very new kind of procrastination for me. Rather than cleaning the house instead of doing work, I have been rewarding myself for doing work by giving myself breaks with which to clean the house. Is this an effect of grad school, or simply a sign that I am getting old?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mouse: Remixed

So our very humane trap caught a mouse within an hour. Yay for us, being so smart and loving! Yay for hippies! Yay for coddling the smug bastard of a mouse into a new home... or... not.
Apparently the husband killed the mouse. I was very upset about this, but did some reading about it- you can't catch and release a mouse unless you are going to release it miles and miles from your home, and it was past 1am and below -20 when the husband came home. I understand not wanting to sit beside mr. smug supreme in the car so that he can be let go. I was still very sad (and took the opportunity to remind the husband that I still need to learn how to drive again- I have kept paying for my license, but haven't driven seven years, and never in the city. Plus our car is standard, and all of my driving experience, except my initial few weeks of training, have been on an automatic)- I was already contemplating letting it go just because it clearly didn't know it was caught. It oscillated between grooming itself and throwing itself at the top of the cup to get more cream cheese. And pooping. I probably should have just knocked the cup over and told the husband that the cup wasn't heavy enough. As far as modes of execution go, the mouse froze to death. Apparently this is one of the most humane ways to let them go, which made me a bit more happy.

This happiness was crushed shortly after when I dragged my lazy bum out of bed an hour after the husband had left (to be fair, I usually stay up quite late working, and then sleep until ten or so) and found that he had re-set his trap. I say "his" trap because we had both made humane traps- he had made the glass trap, and I had made a bowl trap (a ramp for the mouse to get up into a metal bowl that has been oiled- the mouse can get in, but can't climb back out) . So, he has reset his trap, which leaves me a bit hurt. We we had agreed to leave my trap up to give it an equal change at mouse-catching, mostly because we had bet each other a massage that our trap would catch more mice, and here he was mocking me by trying to catch way more mice because his trap is better. Unfair!
And then, I noticed the mouse poops. I immediately put more cream cheese into the glass (it is the more effective trap) so that it would be fresh and attract this other mouse.

How many can there be? Will this trap be successful a second time, or does it now smell like mouse-leader death? internet, if you have a god/dess, please pray for our mouse problem. Pray that I learn to drive in time for our next mouse release, and also that we catch these mice before they give us all the red death. This effects you too, internet. That is how plagues work.

PS: I really enjoyed reading that comment that was mostly me commenting on my own blog. It was great, real satisfying. I know that there are a group of people that are keeping track of when I blog, because there is a flux of traffic here whenever I post. Do you like what you're reading? I am very excited to finally be doing this blogging thing- I think this medium is crazy interesting, effective, and versatile. And I want to keep it up, internet. Tell me what you've liked and haven't liked. And, perhaps answer this question:
Have you had mice? How did you get rid of those mice? How many mice are probably in our walls still if one is dead and one is pooping next to a trap? Were you humane about it? If this were reality TV, would I learn to drive in time to release mouse deux?
Ha! I have fooled you, internet. That was more than one question!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Of Mice and (Wo)men. Yes, this title is that corny.

So we've had a mouse. Not just any mouse, but a mouse(!). This thing is the smartest and boldest rodent I have ever met. Seriously. We've had trouble with mice before, as ours is a hundred year old house with plenty of mouse-doors and such. We've also had trouble with humane traps- mice quickly become too smart for any trap at all, and our mice are organized! We had tried everything- live traps, snap traps, poison (I hate this, btw. This is inhumane, plus it almost killed my aunt's dog the day before our wedding, which is another post for another day. Also, the poison has never killed a mouse). We have tried glue traps. The only glue trap that has ever caught a mouse in this house was the one that my husband forgot about for years. We didn't know this particular mouse was in the house until it started screaming. Don't use glue traps. Just don't. Not only are the inhumane, but mouse get way too smart for them very quickly. In fact, our mouse was all "bitch, please. What do you think I am? A vole?"
Did I mention that our mouse is bold? Yeah, so bold that he started calling himself "sir mouse-a-lot." So bold that he not only stole food from our rabbits, but mocked them. "Oh yeah," said our mouse, "well your mama's ears were so big she couldn't wear fashionable hats!"
(Ophelia, our lop, responded by saying:

and Wolfgang Van Halen the 2nd replied to with:

That's right, mouse. We know all about hats.
Aside from terrorizng our loving and lovable lagomorphs, this mouse was mostly a terror and a pain. And besides all of this, we caught him, and we did it with a trap that was pretty much free, and without killing/torturing him. Heck yes.
Here's how we did it:
Get a glass (about a dollar ten at ikea)
Put something delicious at the bottom (free: anything in your fridge that is spreadable. We used cream chees)
Prop the glass up onto a nickel (0.05$ in Canada)
Wait (also free)

It took less than an hour for us to catch our mouse.
For me, being too squeamish to remove the mouse, and with the husband being gone and all, this meant two hours of mouse-mocking.
I saw him throw himself at the top of the glass to get the cream cheese. I contemplated letting him to and blaming it on a bad trap. I had to leave the room to stop myself from doing this.
Anyways, humane traps, all the way. Also, they are cheap!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

You've been Busy, internet.

There will be another post later today, and it will be better than this one. Right now I am mostly trying to deal with a hangover while also dragging myself to autopac to renew my driver's licence and change my name. Unhappy face. In the meanwhile, internet, we need to talk yet again. I almost had a heard attack this morning, because one hundred and forty five of you looked at my blog. On one day! (<-- there will be more excitment when I am less hungover). So, onehundredandfortyfive, what have you been up to? You can't possibly *all* lurk forever.

Frozen edamame beans= best hangover food ever. Seriously. In five minutes (the time it takes to cook the frozen edamame beans) I went from "kind of nauseas and 100% shitty feeling" to "Hey- I feel pretty okay!" Consult the frozen foods section of your local grocery today!

Monday, November 22, 2010

On Marking

*warning: this is a really heavy post, all about grading and stuff. There is fluffier content at the bottom, if you don't feel like reading my thoughts on grades*

Many grad students will work either as student markers or TAs, who have grading of their own. My school only has seven MA programs, and no PhD students, and so many undergrads get to do these sorts of jobs as well. I have had the good fortune to have two and a half years of experience as a student marker under my belt, and I want to take this opportunity to talk about it.
Grading is not as simple as a letter at the top of an essay, though in a lot of ways it is fair to say that this is really what it amounts to. Having marked for four professors in the same department over a relatively short period of time I can say with confidence that most professors both love and hate rubrics. Those professors that I have worked for that have given me rubrics in the form of complex, organized charts loathe the essays that refuse to fall into their neat little boxes. I don't mean to say that these professors desire to categorize and label their students (though I am certain that there are some out there that do), but mean to comment on the mostly arbitrary nature of the rubric itself. Sure, a rubric is designed to be a set of guidelines for assigning grades, and many are highly organized into someone's professional opinion of what makes an A thesis, a B thesis, a C thesis, and how to discern which arguments are an A and which are a D. Most rubrics of this sort are based on experience. They are formed around the types of papers that have been received by a professor in the past, and are modeled to reproduce the same distribution and standardization of grades in relation to one another that is already occuring. Still with me? The standards for an A paper are based on A papers gone by, and this differs from professor to professor for a wide range of reasons I don't have the energy to think about. These charts are problematized by papers that don't fit easily into a letter grade range, by the students with "A" ideas but only "C" communication skills, or by those that have a "D" thesis, but prove it like an "A" student. This is frustrating. More frustrating, in my experience, is how difficult the damned things are to interpret. I once marked for someone that moved the grades I assigned to students up or down an entire letter grade routinely. I was initially hurt by this (the third year, anxiety ridden form of myself was, anyway), and so I asked about it. The professor and I sat down and went through a few examples, and we both gave our reasons for choosing the grade we did. In the end, either of us could have been right, we simply had different ways of reading the rubric.
I know what you're thinking. You're sitting there, all smug in front of your screen going "yeah, but I worked for a prof that didn't have a rubric. She hated them, and called them useless. What about that? Where's the love/hate in this one-sided relationship of ... erm... hate?" Well, internet, you see, I have also worked for this professor. Twice. All I can say for these professors is that I strongly believe that they adhere to the rubric that haunts academia. The vague concepts of "standards" and "ideas" that make up the illusion of higher learning. Do I mean to say that these professors don't know what they're doing? No way. Many of them know exactly what an A paper (a C paper, etc) looks like. They could likely articulate exactly why they've given any grade to any paper (I've never asked), but they don't dissect each essay and examine its parts in the same way. In fact, many of these professors, in my experience, are better at placing those essays that I mentioned previously, the ones that don't quite fit into any single column of the grading scale. This is likely because they consider each essay as a whole, and evaluate how each piece works with the others, rather than each piece by itself. (Also, this is a simplistic division. There are other teaching and grading styles. If you know about them and feel I need to be better informed please comment, I would love to learn more.)
So, if the rubric is a construct that can be interpreted in any number of ways and also functions in the grading process even when uninvited, what is the use of this discussion? Here it is, get ready: I believe that the most useful place for a rubric is in the hands of the student. How many of us have struggled and slogged through a year of two of university without any concept of expectation? How many of us have written papers and gotten them back with feedback that doesn't really tell us how to get a better grade, but mostly tells us what we did wrong? As much as there are many ways to interpret anything, I really think that having some concrete way of dividing "bad", "medium", and "good" (in the eyes of one particular professor, that is) is probably more useful than a hunch and a few hours of caffeine driven panic.

And Now for Something Fluffy:

Alright, internet. Let me begin this fluff by saying that I don't believe that it is my right to police the body of anyone else. As long as you are being respectful of others, do what you like and like what you do. That having been said, I have a terrible history with diets and eating disorders. I hate them. I hate getting ads on facebook that remind me that I could be twenty pounds slimmer. I already know that facebook, and I don't like myself twenty pounds slimmer. The me that weight twenty pounds less than the me now has no energy, obsesses over calorie counts and exercise schedules, and is all bony and gross. Even if the twenty-pound-lighter-than-me me wasn't all bony and gross, she would still be sick and unhappy, and this is not okay. Winter is an especially difficult time for me. There are fewer opportunities to be active in my daily life (I prefer walking to work over going to the gym, biking to school over going for a run), and I have this desire to eat wonderfully fatty baked goods constantly. And so, in order to combat the guilt that I am always fighting, but even more so during these cold and blubber(in the traditional keep you warm sense, not the fatphobic sense)promoting months, I would like to make a list of celebrated winter foods. Here it is:

candy canes (peppermint!)
stuffing (only twice a year!)
tomato aspic (most normal people find this gross. it is tomato jello with olives, celery, and onions. it is fantastic!)
mashed potatoes (these happen all year, but I crave them way more in the winter. with garlic and butter!)
OMG baked brie (no event tastes more like Christmas than one that includes apple cinnamon brie)
mandarin oranges (in your stocking!)
sweet potatoes (we only have these at Christmas!)
white wine (it goes well with turkey. the rest of the year can have red wine. i don't eat turkey, but refuse to allow this to make me a hypocrite.)
fudge (all kinds)
creamsicle fudge (the best kind)
sugar cookies
egg nog (homemade! one egg and one nog- and a whole bottle of rum!)
spiced rum (see above)
pancakes (on Christmas morning!)
honey (I do not use honey as topping or sweetener most of the time. And then it is Christmas again, and honey just seems like the best thing ever)

What are your favourite winter foods, internet?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Are you always watching?

Okay, Internet. We need to talk.
Here's the scoop. I haven't posted in like ten days, for the reasons that I told you about. I also did not expect to post, go away for the day, and come back to find that nine people had looked at my blog. Nine. That's possibly the most internet popular I've ever been. Do you know what all nine of you failed to do? Leave me any comments. That's rude, internet. :( Remember back in high school, when you used to write on your desk, and then the person who had that desk in the next class would write back, and then you'd have a little conversation with an anonymous stranger that lasted weeks and had several day long gaps between entries? This can be like that again, but without the waiting!

In other news, last week I realized that a professor of mine is 100% brilliant. There are many brilliant people that teach in universities, and I have had the great privilege of learning from many such brilliant folk. In this instance, however, I was beginning to doubt the brilliance of this particular professor. Now, let me be clear about this: it is never okay to think your professor is stupid. This happens, often (I've even overheard students in the class I TA for remarking on their professor, who is a friend of mine and, more importantly, a superstar academic who is incredibly intelligent and also did her PhD in three years. THREE YEARS!!!), and it is not okay. Do you know why, dear Internet? Because the professor is always an expert in their subject. Your professor may not always be a good teacher (remember, profs don't often get teacher training), but they do have a PhD. They've PUBLISHED in their area. They are contributing to scholarship in their area. They may even be a leading scholar in their area. The book you're reading in class? They may have written it. These are not stupid people. Getting back to my point, I was beginning to doubt my professor, and was frustrated with myself.
You just read my little rant about professors not being stupid, and I believe every bit of it. Again, I was frustrated. She seemed disorganized, and like she wasn't focused on the material or structure of the course. She missed two days at the start of term due to illness, and once left early. BAH!! Frustrating, right? Well, for starters, this was more frustrating for her, I am certain. After having an excellent talk with her the other day I realized I had been neglecting her own academic work- this incredible woman has been all over the country doing surverys and interviews on homophobia in high schools with the eventual goal of bringing her findings to people who have the power to change policies. Yeah. She's doing the legwork to try and make high school more livable for gay teens. Be stunned, internet, because not only are you reading the very blog of someone who KNOWS THIS PERSON, but she exists, and is doing work that may benefit you, your friends, siblings, cousins, or your children. Okay, so I neglected to think about the fact that she is doing astounding work and also teaching. This was a terrible mistake on my part, clearly. AND THEN, I realized that she has been teachign us two classes (!). Hear me out, Internet. The class she teaches in the terrible requirement course, "Research Methods for Cultural Studies." It is boring, and though she picked the most exciting textbook she could find it is still dated and dry. However, she's also been teaching us a much more practical class (in secret!, the "hey listen up grad students, this is how the real world of academia works" class. And it is amazing. We've practiced "blind" (it's hard not to know whose paper you have in a class of ten people in which only one is interested in psychoananlytic theory and you've got a paper on Lacan) vetting at two stages, and are participating in a mock conference complete with panels, chairs, discussants, and snacks. It has been eye opening and rewarding.
Thus, dear Internet, I will leave you today with two posts, a very happy tale, and this question:
What must I do in order to get comments?

Why I've been away

My family is pretty tight. We're all close, and there's a lot of sickness in my family, particularly cancer. My mom and my dad's sister are both survivors of various cancers, and make frequent trips to the city I live in for related checkups and appointments. So the other day, when my aunt's daughter gets a phone call informing her that my aunt should have next of kin with her at the appointment because she will be getting some very bad results on a few tests she's recently had done everything stops. We went out for dinner. We rented movies. We played games. I handed in two essays late, and all of my professors understood (because I have wonderful, understanding professors). Imagine how frustrated we were when my aunt's results were clear.
Our initial responses were joyful, as they should have been. And then we got thinking, and when my mom had her appointment (half an hour later), she asked the doctor about what might have happened. You know, because news like that is really hard to take, and can really influence life decisions. People take trips they can't afford to take when they think a relative might be dying. In this instance, my aunt's daughter (my cousin) did not travel the 10 hours she would have had to travel to see her mom, but sent her daughter (my second cousin) to my aunt's hometown for a visit and was planning on making the 15 hour trek to visit her mom at home after the appointments. What did the doctor think? That someone thought they saw something that wasn't there on her lab samples, and really, really felt for the family. So, after all of that, we're grateful.

In other news, I gave my second guest lecture. Let me tell you, internet, that this class has restored my faith once again, but troubled my allegiance to the academy. I wrote a quiz for them (it has been the habit of the prof to give them quizzes on the last day dealing with a text, and left that as optional for me), and told them they didn't have to take it if we could, instead, spend the allotted ten minutes discussing pedagogy and assessment. And then we did. !!!!! They had amazing things to say about learning styles, about how some small assignments are useful and others are simply not. Many of them expressed their own difficulty remembering ten random details from a text they had spent a week and sometimes more reading, and feeling disheartened at having to do so to prove they had read the text. Some of them enjoyed the effect of the quizzes, and said that because they knew the quiz was coming they found themselves taking more time for reading. We got into complexities, we did. And then, there was forty minutes of lecture and discussion, and they were incredibly engaged! Do you know what I noticed, internet? I noticed that every student that felt comfortable speaking up yesterday had something a little bit different to say about the text (and its relation to life, culture, politics, literary analysis, course themes, the real world, etc) that we could have had an entire class on. I cannot begin to tell you how encouraging this is, to see people excited about reading texts. On the other hand, I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is, having to say (not exactly like this, there was more tact in the classroom, but the overall message is:) "yes, the final fight scene is very childlike, a direct reference to the childhood fights between the two characters. But this lecture isn't on that, and now we have to move on to talk about language as a colonizing force, because that's what my notes are on and we only have fifteen minutes left. Good point though, really."

And I was left with a beautiful dream about a class structure that allowed professors the freedom to let their students discuss whatever elements of the text they've latched onto (with guidance, of course), instead of one that makes professors anxious about organization, structure, and, I hate to say it, but, legitimacy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Not the post I meant to write.

Often during the day I think about what I will blog about, and usually have a pretty clear outline ready when I get home. All day today I planned a post about retired white man entitlement in the service industry. All fucking day. And then, at the end of my shift, I overheard this:

"Sometime, in certain company, I am ashamed by the colour of my skin."

And instead I decided to say this:

The struggle to end racism cannot only be the struggle of people affected by it. In order for racism to end, actually end (as in: no one is affected by the colour of their skin, their accent, their hair, etc in any way, ever, and especially not negatively) it must be a struggle that we all participate in. Just because you might be white or present as white or pass as white does not mean you are not involved. Do not be complicit in racist behavior: if you see something going on that is racist, and you don't do anything other than watch, you are allowing it to happen. Be aware of white privilege. Think about how being white allows you to move through certain spaces, or to say certain things (or not say certain things). Do not feel shame or guilt (these are not useful), but think differently about how you interact with others, and about what it might mean to not have white privilege. Do not ever use your privilege to hurt anyone, to disempower anyone. Do not lord it over anyone. These actions, which happen all the time, unconsciously, are racist.

Was this preachy? I hope so. Was this the post I meant to write? Not at all. It is better.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rant and Ramble

I just got home from seeing a production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" with my husband and another couple. How do I feel? I'm not sure. I think the text makes some very interesting and valid commentary on the manner in which power is distributed, and the tendency of current western society to pathologize that which is non normative. Despite racist language, I thought the play's treatment of Chief Bromdon was moving, compelling and hinted at a progressively critical reading of treaties, reserve and welfare systems, and racism more generally. I really felt like the play lacked a female character to counter Nurse Ratched. The only female characters present were the tyrannical bitch, the silent and sexually abused nurse who walks around with her head down and/or in fear, and the "cheap" women that are mostly eye candy (one of whom is named Candy). Is there something critical here that I'm missing? Possibly. I found the party break up scene, in which Ratched and Candy are together on stage very interesting- Ratched demeans Candy to the point of not allowing her to leave, and does not allow her to speak. Is there a possible reading here, other than that the powerful woman destroys the really problematic sexualized woman who is clearly the type preferred by the men of the play? Is this (<<--) reading complicated by the fact that the "men" of the play have all been pathologized? What do other people here think?

In the spirit of being confused and sad I am drinking a beer (a St. James Pale Ale, which gives away my location and also shows I have excellent taste!) and remembering other points in time in which I felt the same way, Such as the time that I was student teaching and brought in "The Laramie Project" for my 9/10 double credit English class to read. We had previously studied the "Maus" books, and they responded in really mature and empathetic ways. How did they respond to this? By arguing and generally being quite angry about this text being toted around as fact (!). They refused to believe that this could possibly have happened in 1990, and shut down critical discussion immediately. Why? I have no idea. Maybe they were outraged that something so terrible could happened in 1990, or today, or maybe they identified very closely with a young teen in a middle-of-nowhere kind of place who doesn't quite fit in, and were outraged that he could be treated so... terribly. I really don't know.

Bah, do other people have stories like these?

On Teaching: wherein I ask you questions, internet.

Alright. Pull up a chair, and ponder some stuff with.

While sitting in on the class that I TA for, I witnessed an exchange between the professor and a student that just didn't sit right. Basically: the student brought up something related to the current text but outside of the prof's expertise, and the prof said something (very politely) to the effect of "sometimes we have guests that experts in those things, you should save your questions for those times."
Now, I don't think that either the prof or the student meant anything negative in this exchange, I just wonder (as someone who wants to be a prof someday) if there is a good way of getting around situations like this when they arise. I mean, let's face it, students... wait... EVERYONE synthesize information all the time. We all know how awesome it can feel when we make a connection between two things we hadn't seen as related before- in this case it something high-tech (and beyond my own capacity, can I indulge a bit and say it made me really happy to have this high-tech thing I can't explain come up from a female student?) that all of a sudden made sense as related to a text. Cool beans! How do profs/teachers/role models address things like this in a way that lets the student have that "wow, neat" moment but doesn't overtake the class or take the discussion into unrelated tangents?
Let's break it down:

Good Things that Happened in this Exchange:
*the student felt comfortable speaking out about something obscure (though connected) even if it might have made them look like techo-nerd (which, btw, I was super jealous of. OMG, you understand how my computer's BRAIN works!!)
*the teacher addressed that the classroom would (at specific points in time) have space where those things could be explored by people who are actually able to engage.

Bad Things that Happened in this Exchange:
*the student may have felt brushed off.
*possibly the prof addressed the student in this way because there was only a small amount of time left in the already short (50 minutes) class.

So. What next? Where do we go from here, is there something that could have been done differently, and who, really, is the most important person in the classroom? Does it all go back to the idea that the teacher has some know-how, and will then put that know-how into words that you can either listen to or not? Anyone?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trigger Warning, and also Political Stuff

On October 28th I was thinking about writing this post, going over what points I would cover in my head and stuff like that, when I came across this, which led me to this, which led me to not writing this post. I was afraid, because suddenly the thing that I had planned on writing about had become topical. It took me a few days to get over that, and I'm back and ready to tackle this. That having been said, if you're reading this and thinking that I missed something and would be way less ignorant if I saw it, post it, please.

This came up in my personal life before it also came up in the discussion/cute cartoon video I reference above. Before I say anything about anything I want to clarify:
*I do not dislike the discussion or the video mentioned, nor do I mean to suggest that I think the stuff being said here is wrong. I think that, for the most part, it is absolutely right.
*I do not mean to attack any single person here. The issue I have is with a trend and a phrase.

Here is my issue:
I have heard TAships called "slave labour for the university" often enough that I am certain that this is just a phrase that gets said sometimes. By that, I mean one of those things you say without thinking critically about. This is a problem, and it is a problem mostly because it is coming consistently from people within academia, the same people that I hold to the very high standard of trying to be politically correct because they understand the power of language. I am not (NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT!!!!!) aligning myself with the "Just Be Grateful" crowd that is mentioned over at Shitty First Drafts. In fact, I understand where the phrase, and the though process comes from. Academics work stupid long hours, are under the pressure to publish or perish (which means doing a shit ton of your research and writing in addition to teaching classes and doing hours of class prep and grading), and are expected to do all kinds of committee work (I've even probably missed things that are par for the course, I'm still in grad school so I can't speak to this reality yet) , all without any guarantee of job security, and, according to the discussions mentioned above (I say according because I can't speak to this experience, but I do trust these sources) are being expected to do more work for less money all the time. When the phrase in question came up in my personal life it came from a professor that I work for who was encouraging me to keep track of every hour that I worked, and to make sure not to work more hours than I would be paid for (at my school research and teaching assistants are allotted a number of hours per term, and must claim those hours throughout the term to be paid for them). I am certain that she did this 1.) because it is common for student markers to work more hours than they will be paid for in the interest of getting all of the marking given to them finished (I do not think that professors do this on purpose- it is probably really hard to keep track of the number of hours your TA has worked, especially since you can only usually estimate this, but it is really easy to know how much marking you have left), and 2.) to make sure that I don't get into this habit, which can only lead to worse and worse situations.
That still does not make it okay. Why? Because there are still people involved in slavery. Human trafficking is, as far as I am aware, currently the most commonly reported form of slavery, but there other manifestations out there. There are real bodies being affected by slavery in real, damaging ways all the time, people that are forced against their will to continue to work in bad conditions for little or no pay. .
Do you know they call it when someone leaves slavery? Escape. Liberation. Freedom. When someone leaves academia we call it leaving. This is the crucial difference.
Does this make everything in the university system okay? No. Does this mean that all professors, even those on contract work can pay their bills and live comfortably? No. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the system is set up to make grad students feel like working overtime as a TA is a privilege, because having the opportunity to do that work is really good for your CV and might increase your chance of work later. Maybe. If you do a good enough job, get a good enough reference, or make enough contacts. You know what you don't mean in your academic future? A contact that perceives you as lazy because you didn't put those extra hours in, and even if this isn't likely the way professors will actually view you I think that fear is still present and motivating. I know it is for me. Again, it is not slavery. I can leave if I want to. Professors can leave if they want to. They should be paid more, and have a more reasonable workload, (yes, yes, yes!!) but are not slaves.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Once upon a time I gave a guest lecture and did not die of nerves.

First, some housekeeping. Literally. The Husband and I were gifted a set of wallflowers for our wedding, and put them up the other day to try and make our dining room look like a friendly space, rather than a bright red, dark hole. Seriously, you guys, it's kind of gothic-ish in there. Or it was, until we put these things up.
Here is how it went down:
Husband: puts tacks into wall
Me: puts flowers over tacks.
Us: small talk.
Me: Stepping back. "Um, did we mean to make a Jesus fish?"
Husband: "It's not a Jesus fish, where do you see a fish?"
Me: "Well, that is the eye, and..." (pointing to the glaringly obvious fish shape on our wall)
Husband: "Shall we call it Moby?"
Me: "That's too obvious. Ishmael?"

So today I gave the guest lecture that I mentioned being terrified about earlier, and it went stupidly well. I learned that lecturing is not at all like giving a seminar, mostly because the dynamic is so different. In my experience, nervousness during a seminar stems from the fear that all of your classmates have a more sophisticated reading of the text than you do, and that they are waiting for you to finish so they can bust it out and make you look stupid. Today, my nervousness had more to do with delivery. Am I covering the most important parts of the material? Are they engaged? Am I being clear enough? Are they understanding me? Do I need to clarify anything? I stuttered at least twice, lost my place in my notes as many times, laughed nervously a ton, and actually stopped at one point to say "can you tell that I'm nervous?" At this point, they laughed. Not the "OMG, how can you expect to teach if you're so imcompetent that you're nervous" type of laughter, either. This was the understanding, "of course you're nervous, you're doing okay" kind of laughter. I felt better. Then we broke into groups and looked at passages and discussed them as a class. The discussion went beautifully- they were engaged and articulate, and at one point they even started debating! I take no responsibility for this, the class that I was in front of were just a set of students who worked well together, enjoyed the material, and all decided to focus and participate. That being said, the experience was super empowering and fulfilling- I can do this!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wine and Books

You have a *happening.* There is awkwardness, or a fight, or an argument, or a something between you and a partner. You get upset, your stomach gets that knotted feeling, the one that won't let you sleep or think, or do anything except worry about the *happening.* You go downstairs, pour a glass of wine, pick up a novel (one that is for class, of personal interest, and relatively light- you tried to read some theory, but wanted to puke). You feel... relaxed?

Is this a sign that the program you are in is the best possible place for you, or the worst possible place? Anyone? Internets.... I know you are out there reading this...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yes: it is always this busy.

Funny Pictures
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

OMG internet! I checked my stats, and yesterday, there were seven (SEVEN), yes, seven (7!) of you. So I know you're out there, and you're reading the stuff I write (and looking at pictures!)

A few things before getting down to business:
You may have noticed that I seem to love rabbits. This is correct. None of the pictures of rabbits are my rabbits, however. If you are good to me, dear internet, you may someday see pictures of my rabbits (and they are the best rabbits ever). Similarly, deducing that I love smirnoff ice based on that lone picture will get you banned from my blog. For reals.

In news related to school, I had a great talk with a professor today about doctoral studies and comprehensive exams. Before these exams terrified me, and to be truthful they still do, but having an idea of what to expect tames the beast a little, if you know what I mean. She described the exams as this:
*you choose two sub-areas within your discipline to become an expert in (scary stuff!)
*you outline a list of 150 books! For each sub-area!
*you read 150 books. X2!
*you sit an exam that your supervisor writes for you.
*If you don't do well enough they make you write an additional essay.

This information is incredibly comforting (if you are thinking that feeling this way makes me crazy you are correct). Why? Because you get to choose your list of books and then read them- the whole thing is set up such that if you aren't a total failure you inherently know everything in the exam. I am not pretending that this is easy- 150 books is still 150 books. That's a ton of content, theory, and nuance to get through and understand. However, having the material beforehand is a major comfort. Maybe this stems from my grade twelve English class, when my teacher decided to focus really well on some of the texts that would probably be covered, so much that we didn't end up getting to everything. There were questions on my grade twelve exam on texts that I hadn't read (and I read everything for that class). We didn't even start talking about what would be expected on the exam until five days before it. No one bothered telling me that the essays I had been writing, that were getting 10/10 with my teacher would only get me a 3/5 on this exam (perhaps because the teacher didn't know). The whole system of standardized testing will get its own post, but let me just say that my grade twelve english exam is THE blackspot on my academic record.
I digress. The best part about the doctoral comprehensive exams, neigh, the second best part, is that if you don't do well enough they give you an additional essay. This suggests to me (and please, tell me if you've been there and know that this isn't true) that no one right-out fails. Maybe your score isn't as good as it should be. Here, write another essay. And, you know what? I LIKE writing essays. That's right. Sometimes I even love it. The really great thing about this is that you get to read 300 books related to the subjects that you want to teach. That makes for a wonderful background, and, ideally, a diverse one. The very word "comprehensive" suggests that in an ideal world you and your supervisor will devise a list of texts that covers the entire range of scholarly conversation in the area you are interested in, including scholars that disagree with one another, or that you disagree with, which can be very important in academia.
In other news, nest Wednesday I will guest lecture to the science fiction class that I am marking for on this . On the one hand, it is long, and dense, and interesting, and terrifying (this is not the extent of my literary analysis, for anyone who is doubting me right now, merely my initial reaction to the task) . On the other hand, I am interested in gender and feminism, have read the piece before, and will be lecturing to a second year class. Plus, the prof is willing to go over my notes with me the night before, and will be there to supervise/step in if need be. Not that she will need to (yes, she. She is the coolest professor ever, a wonderful friend of mine, and a lady who teaches sci-fi. No, you cannot have my friend group), but having that support makes the whole thing feel... safer. This is all probably mostly indicative of my own anxieties. Yes. Yes, it definitely is.

In the interest of knowing you are out there (because I do):
what has your experience in academia been like?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sometimes I muse about stuff and then post vaguely related photos.

This photo is more related than you might think, but you have to read to the end(ish) to find out how!

The thing that prepared me most for feminism was encountering my own sexism, especially since I already had a big head about not being sexist by the time it happened. It goes a little something like this:
I started working as a server when I was 19. The food industry is full of teenagers, 20somethings, angry clientele, reasonable clientele, a gender hierarchy (cooks=male, servers= female, as always, there are exceptions and will hopefully continue to be more and more exceptions through time), male clients that think they've paid for your time with their tip in ways unrelated to food, and female clients that sometimes send food back. Obviously this list is not comprehensive.
I want to focus on that last category: the woman who sends food back to the kitchen. Or complains about it. Or who is suspicious when something doesn't look right.
Fact: restaurants screw up. Not at all the time, but often enough.
Fact: if you are paying for a meal, you deserve to get what you expected to get for the price you expected to pay, regardless of sex/orientation/skin colour/hairstyle/anyotherdamnthing.
Fact: if ever you get your food at a restaurant and the above is not true, send it back.
Servers occupy two spaces in the restaurant: the dining room, and the kitchen/back area (dealing with customers, dealing with each other). Often is a customer is being silly, stupid, sexist, annoying, or even, rarely, fun, servers will talk to each other about it. Yes, while you, the innocent (eye roll) customer is seated several feet away enjoying your pint and steak. It took me over a year (holy crap is that embarrassing or what) to realize that this trend is not uncommon, and was even quite common in the place I was working at the time (I can't speak for other places, but I assume):
Male customer sends food back. Server is polite to his face, grumbles a bit in the kitchen, sometimes argues with the cook who thinks the food is just fine, sometimes deals with an obvious mistake. Server takes food back out, apologizes, forgets about encounter.
Female customer sends food back: Server is polite to her face (most of the time). Server takes food to back to deal with cook. Server immediately starts bashing "that bitch" to other servers. Server is usually visually more disgruntled than they would be when dealing with male customer.
The worst part about my own participation in this behavior is that it didn't 100% occur to me why this behavior was sexist until my partner at the time and I were eating at a restaurant and I had to send something back. I refused to do so. I said I didn't want to make a scene, when really I was afraid of being "that bitch." I realized that if my partner had the same plate in front of him he would not hesitate to call the server back, and that if he did there might be grumbling, but not anger. I also realized that he was probably less likely to have the same plate in front of him. Servers are not stupid, they know who is stereotypically most likely to complain (maybe this is part of the reason we get so offended when they party we pegged as "easy" turns out to have the same standards as everyone else).
I have since tried to control this behavior, and made a conscious effort to:
*treat all customers equally in all situations
*confront my own anger/frustrations in certain situations in order to understand where it comes from and deal with it so I don't participate in reproducing the same behaviors and attitudes

Reason for the photo/ something funny:
I still complain about my customers, but in a non-gender specific way. This is because servers encounter stupid people all the fucking time. Case in point:

*group of students come into lounge area, order drinks and appetizers.
*I serve them.
*Person approaches me, and asks "hey, can you send a smirnoff ice to that guy in the green sweater. Put it on my tab, but don't tell him who it is."
*me: "I'm sorry, I can't. According to my serving licence I have to check with him that he wants the beverage at all, and also that he is okay with having a drink bought for him by you." (in my head: smirnoffice? I cannot condone this. I cannot condone that the joke is "hey look, you drink like a girl" either, and also smirnoffice is gross)
*Customer "No no no, it has to be anonymous."
*Me: "Sorry, I really can't do that. I realize that no one here is likely to get hurt by this or report me, but I've got staff in the back that are training to manage the new location, including dealing with liquor laws, and I risk a personal fine and a loss of our liquor licence by feeding alcohol to someone who may or may not want it." (<-- all true)
*Customer "are you saying that I can't buy a drink for someone?"
*Me "No, I am saying I can't send an anonymous drink to someone, or give someone alcohol that they don't want. If your friend was already drunk I would also refuse."
This customer proceeded to sit down and complain loudly enough for my manager to hear about how I refused to let her buy a drink for someone (which actually made me look very good in the eyes of my boss).
See? Stupid people everywhere.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wherein there are rabbits and tales of camping and woe.

I have decided that my blog needs more pictures. Thus:

Tada! The most bestest, adorablest bunny ever seen on the internets!
Now, back to business.
Last week I worked, in small bits, on a 1500 word paper. 1500 words is a small amount of words. Tiny, in fact. By Friday night I had a solid third draft that needed probably one more edit before it was ready to be handed in and graded. And then, for The Husband's birthday, we went camping, and everything went to shit.
Let me explain.
My husband is basically what survivor man would be if survivor man was also an engineer. This means that he is crazy, can survive in the wilderness for days with a piece of rope and some beef jerky, and makes spreadsheets for everything all the time, including his camping trips. Yes, I said spreadsheets (he also has a label maker, but we won't get into that just yet). So, for his birthday he decides to organize a mass camping trip, one that is pretty medium-to-light on the hardcore scale because some of the participants hadn't camped before outside of folk fest, which is really more like car camping but with more music and less underwear.
So I wrote this paper.
Then I hiked 8KM, got hammered, slept on a rock, hiked another 8KM, showered, and sat down to edit a paper that suddenly looked like the biggest pile of shit anyone had ever left on my desk. I was embarassed. I was in the final stages of editing this... this... thing. I decided that any decent person would have put the thing out of its misery, and so I did, through a panicked email to my professor that kind of rambled about needing to shape my paper into something that didn't make me want to vomit until my eyes bled.

And do you know what he said??

He said "These things happen sometimes. Put it away for a few hours, return to it with fresh eyes, and see if you can get it to me in two days."

In conclusion:
my ass aches (ACHES!)
I have a shit-pile pretending to be a paper to resurrect and frankenstein the hell out of.
I'm pretty sure I have a fever.
AND shin splints.
I've read more critical theory in the past two hours than I had, on averaged in entire days before this.
I am the luckiest woman alive, with the most understanding professor ever to exist.

Dear Professor:
I hope that when I become a prof (if I survive grad school) that I can be a small amount as awesome and understanding as you. Thanks for helping me feel okay about my perfectionism and anxiety.

a total freaking adult.

On an unrelated note:
I am a masochist. I have decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. Yup. I feel that in addition to all of the stuff I have to do for school and work I should also write 1666 words per day that, if I have the time and energy to edit in December will be a novel of sorts. I think there is an old saying about how if you want something to get done you should give it to someone busy. This is true, because busy people are masochists that have no sense of how much is too much.

Anyways, I will be posting about this, and hope that others will also participate. If nothing else it should be an excellent exercise in forcing yourself to produce more. You know, capitalism.

Has anyone reading (all one of you) ever participated in this challenge before?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Of Wine and Editing.

I mentioned last post about my near nervous breakdown, yes? Well, my mother has taken it upon herself to force me to see a doctor of sorts. She called me the other day (seven times!) while I was at work, sick to death that I had run away or hurt myself (even though I always work Tuesdays) and threatened to take time off, come down to the city, and drag me into a doctor's office. Which will not happened, because I will muster all my moxie and go by myself like the total adult that I am. This decision did not prevent me from drinking an entire bottle of wine before the husband got home and being drunk all night instead of writing my paper. Which I wrote last night and this morning (1200 words!) and will now be blogging about.

Okay, so essay writing 101 (because this, being only 1200 words, was a pretty 101 paper, a nice first real essay for a degree, if I do say so myself):
The biggest thing that I can say about writing essays is: edit. That is all. Period. The end.
A lot of undergraduate essay writing (from my experience as an undergraduate who did this, a lot) goes like this:
read book
make some notes
decide on a topic
hand in.

(where *internet* refers to fooling around on the internet, rather than shopping for topics and being a plagiarist)

I have always worked (as an undergrad and a grad student) as a student marker. You know what? People who read your papers can tell that you did this. Yup. They can tell because the last page is way less coherent than the rest of it, and you leave out silly words. Sometimes you leave notes for yourself in the middle of the paper like *remember to come back here* or *OMG delete this it is terrible!! ;( *. I panicked the first time I marked an essay that had been composed this way, struck almost unconscious with terror at the realization that other people reading my work could tell, too. And then I started editing.

Very basic things you can do to help yourself out:
!.) start your paper at least two days before it is due. Even if you mostly make notes, collect quotes, whatever. You should probably start sooner, but this is a pretty decent amount of time for most undergraduate essays.
2.) finish a "mostly final draft" the night before. Sleep.
3.) Wake up, edit. (you CAN edit sooner if you want, this is okay too!) It is important to take some time between finishing a draft and editing, or else you'll just see what you THINK you wrote on the page, rather than what is actually there, those pesky things like missed punctuation or extra words. The stuff that screams DID NOT EDIT at whoever is reading your work. If you can't give it an entire night give it at least an hour. At least.

Okay folks, off to class to hand in my paper. More later!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The holidays.

Once, over at Hyperbole and a Half she posted something about how most bloggers don't blog over the holidays, and so she posted three pictures of Rick Morenis over Christmas break (which apparently did not count as blogging either, but that is between her and Boyfriend, and none of my business). Anyways, this past weekend was Thankgsiving here in Canada, and so my husband and I went to visit my parents up in the rural area of my province (anyone who can read IP addresses can probably tell where I am (?), but I don't feel like talking about it just yet). We drank too much and ate too much, and not only did I not blog, but I also had a minor nervous break down. My mom has called me six times today to tell me I need to see a doctor, and has threatened to make the five hour drive to the city to force me to do it. So I might just do it. I know I promised her I would.
Anyways, I hear there have been at least 8 (!) people other than me that have seen this. Maybe you are the same person 8 times (!). That would be okay too. Also: maybe you are 4 people twice each(!!). Whatever you are, all of the internet places that talk about blogging suggest asking questions to get more comments (<----this is hinting, right here, because I want to know that some of you aren't me and I am not just misreading my blog stats), so I have a question for you here:
Tell me about your thanksgiving traditions?**
Also, to make up for not posting all weekend and for posting mostly fluff that explains that I did not post all weekend today I will try to make this a two post day, and to make the other post suck less. Yay!

**not really a question.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Death of Picture Books!

This post (two post day- can you tell it is a holiday?) will be link heavy. Get ready.

Check it out, picture books are dying

Or, check out Kate Harding's (*swoon*) post on how picture books are, in fact, not dying

I am pretty sure, along with Kate Harding and others, that this is not the death of the picture book. Remember when CDs came out, and everyone panicked about the death of the book? That didn't happen, though when encarta released their CDROM encyclopaedia that kind of was the death of the print encyclopaedia, so I do understand the persisting fear. Books are great, and reading is good for, and books are... tangible. There is something so very satisfying about being able to pick up a book that is new and fresh, and to be able to put it down again when you're finished. Okay, enough nostalgia about books and stuff. The part of this article that concerns me is the part where all of the bookstore people they've interviewed talk about parents telling their kids not to read picture books because they can *do better* (and also because picture books will not get you into Harvard. My suggestion: don't put them on your CV if you're that concerned) and read texts that are more "difficult." As someone that loves and studies graphic novels, I find this idea very troubling. I think that graphic novels, comics, and, yes, even picture books have the potential and capacity to be eloquent, challenging, and even more difficult than some novels-of-the-harvard-going-sort.

Anyways, it is a holiday, and I don't want to make my brain hurt anymore with all this thinking. What do others think about this?

Things that make me feel nice:

I am currently in a course on affect theory, werein we get to read all kinds of interesting texts on affects (I tried to find you a link to a definition of affect, but kept getting affect= emotion, which is not true. If you are actually interested I suggest Eve Kosofsky Sedwick's "Touching Feeling", or Sianne Ngai's "Ugly Feelings"). I came across this during my reading on envy the other day, and, as the titled text indicates, it made me feel nice:

"Let's say there is a certain model of femininity that I recognize as culturally desirable and invested with a certain degree of power. If from a feminist standpoint What I struggle with most is my having been acculturated into admiring and desiring that femininity, envy would seem to enable me to critically negotiate rather than simply disavow or repudiate this desire, which would entail positing myself as immune to acculturation. Moreover, envy would facilitate a transition from desire to antagonism that might enable me to articulate what I have been trained to admire as something possibly threatening or harmful to me." (Ngai 163)
(Ngai, Sianne. "Ugly Feelings." Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 2005.)

Yesterday I also had the pleasure of having two really amazing conversations about why it is not only okay but necessary for feminism to be open to all kinds of voices, experiences, and subject positions, even if they disagree with each other (as long as they're disagreeing in a manner that is still feminist, I am not suggesting that we let a bunch of anti feminists in to our club because they use the word "feminist" in their self description) because sometimes those disagreements are actually good for the movement. I still need some time to think about this, but will post some examples and more commentary when I come up with them, I just thought the realization was, for me anyways, a bit profound.

This also ties into my personal experience with self-identified feminist friends. When my husband and I announced our engagement I basically had a sector of friends that responded by saying things like "don't do it!" or "but you're a feminist!" No one had the ear to listen to our side of the story- that, while yes, there is a sketchy and unkind history of marriage, and that many people from a variety of political and personal stances have rejected it for some very good reasons that, well, we don't grow up in a vacuum. My husband and I had both lived with previous partners and neither of us wanted to do that again without some sort of long term commitment to the relationship outside of having decided to live together. We also both have families that would have been offended as hell if we had decided to have a civil wedding, or even to become common law: his family because they are culturally and religiously mennonite (well, most of them, my husband isn't religious), and my family because they are Ukrainian, and in that culture weddings= huge celebration with good food, dancing all night, and booze. That having been said, my experience of marriage has always been that way- I understand that historically it has not been, and would never deny anyone their right to decide that marriage= bad. But for us, we wanted to include family in our commitment, wanted to have a huge party to celebrate our future together (most of our anxiety was over how the mennonite half would take the drinking and dancing. It all turned out well). It made sense for us in this stage of our life (wanting to make that commitment, but also because I will be going somewhere else to do a PhD soon, and we wanted to be married before the hisband had to move his whole life and career (he has been in our city his entire life, and has been out of school for almost six years already). Is there privelige acting here? Yes. We could afford to have the wedding we wanted (we did a bunch of stuff the budget way, but even a budget wedding is super expensive). We could also afford to decide not to live together until we were married. Rent is expensive, living together can cut costs immensly. Does this make me less feminist? I hope not. I am still the same, radically thinking and acting person, still engaged with the same reading and writing and cultures (still examining my own choice through them, and ultimately feeling okay about it).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On Being a Grad Student: Unrewarding Work

A more appropriate title for this post would be "On Being a Grad Student: I get to do really rewarding work in my field that pays me (which is pretty cool) but doesn't pay me enough to cover my bills/help pay down my student debt (because I am a arts student, because grant money is hard to get, because they're paying a bunch of students, which is also pretty cool) so I work another job as well, and sometimes that job is unrewarding. But that seemed long.

First: I go to a small school, so even as an undergrad I got to do some pretty awesome work, both as a research assistant and as a student marker. This year I am able to continue that experience and to work with professionals in my field that I really admire. This is really cool (and challenging), and I am really fucking lucky to be where I am. That said, my husband and I have a mortgage to pay, and I am determined to fill my contribution regarding paying for our house and for our general cost of living, and those amazing, challenging, university jobs just don't cut it.

So I work two days at a local diner. Let me tell you about that (without giving too many details. After all, this is the internet, and anyone could be here). This diner has been around longer than any other diner in my area and is family owned and operated. These two things, along with the family that owns and operates the business being, generally, very high on the awesome scale, makes my other job the most excellent other job ever.
Some Facts About My Job That Make it Awesome:
*they put up with my school schedule (and thus my available days) changing every term.
*they provide me with full time work during summer/ reading week/ Christmas break to the best of their ability.
*I have never had trouble booking a day off for an exam, or even because I have a few deadlines close together.
*they respect me both as a server and a person- my managers have supported me emotionally through difficult times (I don't think this is very common, and I love it!)
Basically they are made of gold and chocolate and I am very fortunate to have found them.

And then:

Today, there was a terrible happening that involved a chicken club and some general discomfort. It was unpleasant, it was spurred by frustration over an extremely busy Tuesdsay lunch rush (very rare, we were understaffed), but it still made me feel bad. Variations on this happening have happened at other restaurants I have worked at, and I have left them for it, sometimes on the spot. However, I love this place, and these people, and this job. The other server and I talked about it, and they are going to bring it up neutrally tomorrow and then call me. I really hope that it can all work out so I don't feel like I need to quit: this job, along with being, as aforementioned, OMGTHEBESTJOBEVER, is also probably one of few that will provide me with enough income to dissipate money stress while not taking up enough of my time to cause school stress. And, also, I am personally invested in the people. Stay tuned...

Monday, October 4, 2010

And now for something a little bit lighter!

I have never been a very good cook, or comfortable in the kitchen at all. Let's face it: clumsy folk just don't go well with knives and fire. So, in the interest of eating properly so as not to wear myself out during the school year, as well as not re-creating scenes from my childhood in which my mom announces that it her turn to cook and all four of us respond by groaning, I have resolved to learn to cook. Thus far I have been cooking large amounts of food once a week, and then taking portions with me as lunch, ensuring that 1.) I eat lunch, and 2.) I don't just buy a pita from pita pit across the street.

My first adventure in school-food was this amazing black bean slow cooker soup. It was probably the most amazing thing I have ever eaten, once I added the remaining two cans of beans (I used canned beans instead of dried beans- how was I supposed to know that 19oz of dried beans= 3 19oz cans of canned beans??) and had soup rather than colored water. I also just added some cumin powder to sour cream instead of making the toasted cumin seed creme. It was still amazing, as is everything that has appeared on the smitten kitchen blog in all of history. However, despite that it is tagged as a "budget" meal, I actually found this soup kind of pricey. This probably has everything to do with my lack of kitchen expertise (and, all things considered, even a slightly pricey soup evens out if you can turn it into meals for six days). Anyways, the point here is that this soup is is the best soup ever, and that if you can't afford to make this soup for some reason you should make couscous.

My husband has long hair and is barefoot most of the time. This, along with introducing me to couscous last week, gives him official hippy street cred. Also: couscous. This stuff is like heaven in a grain. It is super easy to make (portion out some couscous, boil an equal amount of water, pour water over couscous, stir, cover for five minutes, stir. The end.) and you can do pretty much anything with it. My favourite (slash the easiest thing you could possibly make that is also delicious) is just to make it into a salad. Chop up some cucumber and tomato, scrunch in some feta, add some lemon juice and cumin, and you are set!! This morning I made coffee, did dishes, and made lunch for the week in about twenty minutes. So good!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

On Being a Grad Student: Habits

I recently attended an information session for potential grad students at my school, and, in addition to giving my very fresh-faced-and-hopelessly-naive account of my experience of the program thus far, I was taught that graduate school is, in many ways, an exercise in breaking the bad habits that students pick up during their undergraduate degrees (in addition to inspiring this post, this experience also ensured that this post over at Shitty First Drafts really resonated with me). Thus, I have decided to look at just which habits I am currently unlearning.
Before I can actually say too much more, I have to admit that my undergraduate experience was very post modern in the sense that I wasn't ever really a single student, but at least three. Behold:

1.) In my first year I was, pointedly, First Year Student. I don't mean that I was in my first year and therefore _____, but rather that this was a specific point in my formation as a student. I was coming from a mostly working-class background in a small town to the biggest city that I had ever been in. I was an integrated education student (more on this later) majoring in English Lit and double minoring in history and theatre (which I loved to talk about because it just sounded so smart). Having graduated in the top ten of my graduating class I went in with a bit of a big head. On my first day of class I learned was an AP class was, and suddenly felt like a huge imposter- sure, I was in the top few of my graduating class, my my school didn't even have an AP program! All year long I read everything I could get my hands on that seemed even remotely like stuff I would probably need to know to succeed at university and feeling like a huge failure. At the end of the year I received a letter asking me to take an honors degree in my major.

2.) Super Student. In my third year of study, after I had gotten over the fact that I was OMGANHONORSSTUDENT(!) I made the commitment to pursue graduate school, dropped out of education to focus on my new goal, and, ultimately, felt the need to make up lost time. This year I took four honors seminars, the introductory and intermediate courses in Biblical Hebrew, and a course in playwrighting. I spent all of my time reading, writing, and memorizing verbs forms and vocabulary. My social life suffered horribly, but my GPA went through the roof. The degree ended up taking five years regardless, though that had everything to do with some family and medical issues that I won't go into at this moment.

3.) Year Five. I had a terrible case of senioritis in my fifth year. I had been accepted into my top choice of graduate schools and was done with undergraduate work. I read maybe half of the required material and wrote papers that I will never look at again for fear of dying of embarrassment. (I also met, became engaged to, and married my husband during this year, in addition to learning a ton of cool stuff like how to camp in the winter).

My point? My point is that I really think that this degree is really producing a new stage of student in me, given my past with making and breaking habits on a yearly basis. But anyway.
*So far the biggest change has been in procastination. I (mostly) don't do it anymore, because there simply isn't time. Want to get everything read on time/well enough to engage with the material in a seminar discussion in class? Don't put it off for hours. Because you can't.
*The only other major change in my student-ness has been my relationship to editing. Perhaps the only consistent habit that I had through my undergraduate degree was my desire to research and produce work in a mad dash, print it, rush it to school barely in time for the deadline, and just not think about it anymore. As a master's student I really can't do that anymore, and so have been forcing myself to re-read and edit even the limited amount that I have produced to the point that it almost makes me vomitty.

Really this entire post has been an excuse for me to feel good about actually having everything read on time for class and getting over my fear of editing. And it worked!

Friday, October 1, 2010

I wish there was this, but for arts students :(

Check this out! Did anyone else do this:
"Dance your PhD!
(worries for another day)
Dance your PhD!
(down at fraggle rock!)

I sure did.

The best introductory post ever

Things that make you a grad student: *being in grad school.
Things that give you imposter syndrome: * everything else.
* also being in grad school.

Yesterday I almost had my frist ever graduate school induced panic attack.
First: I received my first ever *grade* in graduate school. Last week I handed in a two page masterpiece of a lit review, complete with unpadded bibliography that had taken up most of my time the previous week. Seriously, I spent hours on the thing, getting it just exactly right, only to be extremely dismayed to be graded eight out of ten. Once the dismay passed and I convinced myself that 80% is actually a pretty okay grade (and still a 4.0 by the grading scale that my department uses) I decided that an 80% average is probably not good enough to get into a PhD programme, even a bad one. Insert shallow breathing. I also started fortifying myself with vitamins at this point- 0ne vitamin C everytime I feel sick or panicked, and one vitamin B (note to self: buy vitamin B) every time I feel panicked!

Second: I gave my first ever graduate school presentation, and I'm pretty sure that they are now going to fire me from the programme. Some of the contributing factors to the overall wretchedness of my presentation were out of my control. For instance, the guest that spoke for one and a half of our three hour class slot, and the fact that there were two presentations that had to fit into the remaining hour were out of my hands. Oh yeah, and the fact that EVERYONE STARED AT ME BLANKLY WHEN I SPOKE AND DID NOT RESPOND TO MY QUESTIONS . The actual assignment was to "facilitate discussion" for at least twenty minutes. Don't get me wrong, Im all for a good challenge, but this would have been a heck of a lot easier had I more than fifteen minutes all told by the time I was able to start. No one needs to relive the horror of it all, but suffice it to say that the whole ordeal ended with my professor kindly suggesting (after having stare at me like I had sprouted horns for a full fifteen minutes) that I post my discussion and questions on the online class forum. Heck.

At the end of this superbly shitty day I decided to make myself feel better (?) by researching potential PhD programmes (!?). Because I am a masochist. I sat down at my ipad, ready to put the day behind me and look forward. Except that when I googled "PhD Culture Studies" google suggested that I get my stupid, incompetent ass in gear and search my own goddamn field of study properly (or, asked me if I wanted to search "cultural studies" instead). So much fail.

Update: as of right now none of my colleagues have looked at or responded to my questions. *panicpanicpanicpanicpanic*