Saturday, October 30, 2004

High-/low- lights:

Started new practicum on Fridays at campus health center--I like it, but am already so stressed and overworked that the whole usual "new job" thing is extremely exhausting. Also put me even further behind on work I've been trying and trying and trying to get done before application deadlines. Days, weeks, even months behind. Advisor still won't let me not apply, dangit.

At least I managed to suddenly get a flu shot. One good thing about working at the health center is that I will notice more medical opportunities, such as the flu shot clinic they held yesterday. I didn't have to prove my wretched-lung status, only state that I have it. The nurse laughed when she saw that on the form I had responded "relief" where it asked "have you ever had any reaction to a flu shot?"

Stayed so long finishing up work yesterday that it was far too dark to feed squirrels by the time I left!

Was so exhausted when I got home that I went to bed early and set my alarm for 5am to get up and work more. Unfortunately, I was so anxious and stressed that it took about an hour to fall asleep. Then around midnight, people outside heading for the bar woke me with their drunken shouting. Hard time falling asleep again.

Then around 2:30, people outside returning from the bar to stand around in the parking lot woke me with their even drunker, angrier shouting (exchanged at length with some other tenants in my building who were also woken up).

, at 3:50am, I was woken up again by a man in my building shouting continuous abuse for 15 or 20 minutes at someone. I determined that he was in the hallway, but refused to stick my head out to see exactly where. This is because he was saying (to one of my neighbors, apparently), and I quote, "WHY would you say that about me? WHY? WHY? WHY would you say that, you bitch? ... Go ahead, call the cops! ... I'm gonna break into this apartment and kill you! ... I'm gonna beat your head in! ... I'm gonna break in and stab you!"

At "break into this apartment" I decided that it was time for me to call the cops, so I did. They got there pretty quickly, but the guy must have already left. I didn't hear any killing noises. In fact, I didn't hear a peep out of whomever was being called "bitch," so either she was prudently not responding to him, or she wasn't home, and he was threatening an empty apartment.

Anyway, by then it was 4:30 and I had slept about three hours total. I want some word to express the extreme level of frustration I felt, but there isn't one.

Today, worked forever on big giant thing due last week, then re-re-rescheduled to be due yesterday...still not done. Other huge application tasks also hanging over head on very thin thread. I was determined to make it to campus in time to toss out a few peanuts today, but was about 20 minutes too dark.

Luckily for me, there was one little critter out past squrfew. Consolation squirrel.

Now, back to working.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

(Why does my profile still state that my average number of posts per week is 0?)

Although I was feeling pretty happy with myself today, what with writing a very nice letter of rec for a student, having most of the re-re-re-re-revisions of my thesis done, and teaching, I ended up being completely "hated on" in a number of ways today.

First, my students are upset because of the Great Scantron Scandal, in which a huge number of their midterms were messed up by the scantron. I didn't find this out until I had already posted their grades with a pretty high "curve" (18 points). It's the first test I've ever made, and I thought maybe I had done something to make it really hard. So, lo and behold, after a bunch of people in the class went over their tests with the key, it was determined to be a scantron problem, so I re-scored them all by hand and completely redid their grades. This turned out to be more what you would expect a class to be--a normal curve. So my dilemma was what to do about those 18 points? Some people were extremely happy to get 106 percent or whatever. So today I handed out a poll asking what they thought was the fairest way for me to deal with this. I got comments like "we work harder for your class than any other so why don't you give us a BREAK!!!"

Now, it would be easy to say ... maybe I am a real hardass as far as class stuff goes, and that's why they're upset (well, okay, a couple of them). However, I have really tried to make my section of the class easier than the sections of other instructors. We have the same reading as the other classes, which I admit is a lot.

But instead of intermittent, biggish journals, (which are also graded for grammar and spelling), I give quite short weekly assignments--over the Internet for crying out loud--I don't grade for any grammar or spelling, I give nearly everyone a 9 or 10 out of 10 (even those who it's obvious made the least attempt possible), and even if their answers are wrong I still give points if their thinking is reasonable. Also, I am the only instructor who gives points just for plain ol' attendance (I've even structured it to give extra credit points overall if they attend every class), and so on.

So the upshot is, I do give them a break! Every week when I grade their assignments, give them points for showing up, give random extra credit questions in class, and also give them extra credit opportunities as other people's research permits. So I'm not really happy about that"tone". Especially since I am very open to suggestions or whatever. I would have heard the words without all that rage!

So, okay, there was that.

Next, I was outside standing near the usual stone benches, happily feeding a couple squirrels to salve my wounded ego. A young woman approached me with an odd expression on her face (I thought at first there might be a witnessing a-comin') and said, "You know, when you feed those squirrels, they come up to other people, too." She was so upset and angry that her lips were actually shaking as she spoke.

Completely submarined by this, I answered pleasantly, "Yes, sometimes they do." She replied venomously, "Even people who don't want to be bothered with squirrels." As if in illustration, another squirrel hopped gaily over to my foot. She cringed away from it, even raising one leg.

If I had had the presence of mind, what I should have said was, "Now lissen, lady. Ever since students have been eating on campus, squirrels have been approaching people for their scraps. Those of us who feed them are just taking advantage of this for our own entertainment. Nobody came out here and trained the little bastards to run after you." (Although technically, giving them more food would in fact be another layer of reinforcement, but--whatever.)

Of course, what I ended up saying was something like, "They won't do anything to you." And maybe muttered something dopey about a long tradition of people feeding squirrels on campuses, or something. What a day to have my presence of mind fail me.

There were a couple other things, too, but those ones hit me hardest. Bleh.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

I am so sleep-deprived at this point that I am having hallucinations! That's right, classic visual hallucinations. Although before I had any training I didn't know that's what they were. I would have called them "swirly spots in my vision from being tired." Mine usually follow a pattern where there's what looks kind of like a ring of distorting glass in my field of vision. (It's a similar sensation to looking at something through your blind spot.) But not only is it distorting, it also has kind of vibrating black-and-white stripes running through it. It's very distracting when I'm trying to work. Inevitably the ring starts out very small and fat near the center of my field of vision, like a little solid circle, and then gradually grows larger and more attenuated. Once it's out of the center of my field of vision, I can work sort of "through" it as it grows larger and eventually fades.

Funny, because just last night I was just talking to a relative who called me in a panic because a doctor had suggested she might have hypnagogic hallucinations, and she thought that meant she was crazy (whatever that is.) But anyone can have those, if they stay up until 4am and then get up again at 6. Not that I ever did that, nor did the complex hallucination I didn't have involve a robot standing inexplicably at the foot of my bed.

(However, auditory hallucinations are much more common than visual ones.)

Monday, October 25, 2004

Over the past 4 or 5 days or so:

Introduced TheLimey to the thrill of tossing peanuts three floors down to the parking lot to waiting blue jays and squirrels. Squirrels wait standing on haunches like tiny brown penguins or small begging doggies. Blue jays screech and defy one to toss a peanut--I dare ya!

Spent maybe 40 hours working on thesis and quals, quals and thesis. Yes, they're supposedly "done" but both lack final approval. Tiny revisions turning out to be really big long things. Details depressing, so I won't post them. Still not done, of course, and here comes the week. Man, I am so behind, especially in stuff that needs to get done for/before internship applications November 15th.

Lots of angsting about applying to internships. Yikes! Feel half-hatched and unprepared for application process. Don't even have a CV yet! Nor a personal statement! And my Palm Pilot wiped out nearly two years of calendar entries, thus obscuring god knows how many hours of pre-practicum experience that I am now attempting to re-create in my spreadsheet.

Plus, Clu broke a hinge over the weekend. That little crack on the corner suddenly got bigger and the casing broke open. TheLimey broke off some bits (Yikes!) and collected them (I immediately shrink-wrapped them) and removed a screw. Looks like the hinge is somehow jammed, and has been progressively pushing out the mooring for the screw that holds the monitor to the body. rEMOVING THE --dammit-- removing the screw at least allows the cover to open and shut, albeit held on by only one hinge.

I have duct-taped over the visible cable as a makeshift protectant.

Oh, can't forget that we also broke off our various tasks early on Saturday (maybe 9:30pm) in order to lie--no, to loll-- in bed watching Red Dwarf on DVD. Talk about complete and utter decadence. (However, I am still collecting VHS tapes. He can get all the DVDs.)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

I just have to post today's TopFive list (I'm cheap so I just get the free version)...

For temporary relief of minor heart pain.
October 21, 2004

The Top 5 Songs About Robots

5> Daneel's Song

4> Born to Be Oiled

3> 10 PRINT "Strawberry Fields" / 20 GOTO 10

2> The Way We Whirr

and's Number 1 Song About Robots...

1> You Can Call Me HAL

Join ClubTop5 to see the whole list

(Technically, some of those look like songs about computers, but...)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

I know you will all be as relieved for me as I am when I tell you that today the construction workers finally began laying the asphalt on my street! Oh, sweet mother of god. No more "BEEP--BEEP--BEEP" combined with grinding, crunching, and thumping on a massive scale. No more 3-inch layer of dust on my shoes (nor the rainy-day mud version of the same). No more of same dust filthifying every single item in my apartment and making my asthma worse. YIPPEE!

Of course, once the steady stream of subwoofers begins traveling past my window again, I'm sure I will once again crave some kind of long-distance tech weaponry. (If I could destroy only their speakers, I wouldn't feel guilty!)

The Feminist Majority have some cool items on their eBay fundraiser site; proceeds go to getting women to vote. And since women tend to vote less Elephant and more get my drift. (I can't believe that Wanda Sykes T-shirt is still so cheap! Of course, I think this is still the first day.)
Dangit, UKGeek, you know I have a personality-test compulsion because of my field. How could I not indulge in one with such sheer nerdistry involved?

You are .mpg You live life like it was a movie.  Constantly in motion, you bring pleasure to many, but are often hidden away.
Which File Extension are You?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

All I have to say is, Argotnaut and Frinkenstein's new home is missing only this:

The Galactika toilet seat.

Monday, October 18, 2004

After working on my quals rewrite an awful lot this weekend, including staying up very late last night and setting my alarm for 5am, I awoke with a strange ache in my left arm at about 4:30. It affected my arm from wrist to shoulder. I couldn't figure it out. Did I sleep on it weird? How about weirdly? No position seemed to relieve the pain. Did I overmouse? Seemed likely, and as I settled on the pre-dawn couch to begin working again, it made sense. I took some Advil and tried to find a more neutral position.

As the sky lightened, I began to hear birds outside my kitchen window stirring and cheeping for their breakfast, including the bluejays with their pterodactyl squawk. I refilled the feeder and whistled for the squirrels--both the jays and the squirrels know that's the food call. As soon as I whipped that first peanut out there across the parking lot, I realized what was the matter with my arm.

I splurged on an extra bag of peanuts recently because I had been out of them for a few days. As I sat and wrote in my livingroom all day yesterday, I took frequent breaks to entertain myself by throwing peanuts to the jays and squirrels. I throw them pretty hard, because I want them to reach the other side of the parking lot. But I usually don't throw nearly half a bag of peanuts in one day.

So, yes, I actually hurt myself feeding squirrels!

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Don't forget, women readers, that tomorrow (October 19) is Women's Buycott Day (at least in the U.S.). Just delay one little day to get groceries/bookshelf/art supplies/software/Amazon purchase, etc. (See Google for details, of course.)

If women shut their purses and didn't shop for a day, would the economy suffer? The idea gets tested on Oct. 19 by 85 Broads, a networking group founded in 1999 by Janet Hanson, who worked for Goldman Sachs-headquartered at 85 Broad St.

[So] on TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19th, we invite you to leave your checkbook and credit cards at home as a symbolic gesture that we no longer "buy" the glacial pace of change for working women in America. Instead of shopping, go for a walk in the park, write a letter to a friend, enjoy a museum, or help someone in need.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Normally I don't mock poor, defenseless babies, even human ones. However, I can't help laughing at the Ugly Babies Gallery. Especially that one on the far right. I should save that picture for days when I need a good laugh. So, since I have received a request for the link, I'll post it for all to enjoy.

Ugly Babies Gallery

PS: The thumbnail that looks like it might be something horrible isn't.

PPS: Another non-word: ASHphalt (asphalt). Arrrgg!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Yesterday as I speedwalked through piles of sand, broken curbs, and streets that are nothing but dug-up dirt on my way to an early session, my shopping cart threw a wheel. This is pretty bad, as it only had two to begin with. I also had a whole lot of materials and textbooks and whatnot in it, since dragging the cart is much easier than trying to carry it all, despite the aforementioned obstacles (and despite the "bag lady" comments from colleagues. Materialists!) Turns out it's a lot harder to drag a one-wheeled cart through piles of sand, broken curbs, and streets that are nothing but dug-up dirt, than one with two wheels.

Laugh all you want, but I bid on a pair of 8-inch lawnmower wheels on eBay. They were only 50c! Even with shipping, they'll only be a few bucks. You'd be surprised how few 8-inch wheels are out there (that aren't for some kind of non-loadbearing application).

Next week is the midterm for the class I teach. I think I may have written it a bit difficult, but it's hard for me to tell. Sometimes they know a lot more than I give them credit for, and other times they seem clueless about things that seem really basic and obvious to me. Today I gave them a one-sheet study guide for the midterm, featuring a two-column list of terms.

Then I told them that they are allowed to bring this sheet into the exam with notes on one side of it. (I also said if the writing is really tiny and fills the page, they are being way too obsessive about the exam!)

Now I wonder if I'm being too easy on them?? Earlier I worried I was being too hard.

Note to self: stop leaving boots, plastic bags of noodles, at other people's houses.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

I did a Google search and discovered that so far, there don't seem to be a lot of (any?) references to "Twilight of the Year". So, hey, I actually did coin a phrase! Nifty. Don't steal it for a book, though, because that's what I am using it for. (However, you have my full permission to use it for an album or painting title!)

Now, if only I had time to get back to actually writing fiction... (but please, not the way Frinkenstein did!)

However, I'm still collecting the stories of others...

(I may change the email address on that. I put my gmail address on it, which may be singularly stupid. I'm not sure.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The trees have gone all beautiful over the last week. Squirrels are looking plump: the pregnant ones even plumper than the others, of course. Starlings are appearing again, which they seem to do approximately three weeks after each equinox (or "the Twilight of the Year," as I call it. You may use it as long as you credit me!)

Construction is still occurring in my street beginning at about 7am every day, which makes me not want to go outside for my jog. The workers haven't even been rude or anything, it's just that I absolutely hate them at this point, through no fault of their own. After approximately seven months of this constant SKREEeeeeeeEEEEEEeeeekkkk..... BEEP--BEEP--BEEP ....kaCHOONkaCHOONkaCHOONka.... BEEP--BEEP--BEEP ..... SKREEE--EEeeeeEEEeeekk ... THUDD! .... THUDD! ... THUDD! (months during which I rewrote my entire thesis three times, mind you), I have been pretty thoroughly conditioned to passionately hate them. After all, these kinds of conditions even make lab animals infertile.

I ended up avoiding going outside a lot more than usual, which is too bad, because I feel like I got no summer this year. My house was constantly invaded by thick filth floating in through the windows on a daily basis. And then there have been the times when I awoke to absolutely no water for several days, sometimes with warning, sometimes not. And guests had to park a block away, which shouldn't be a big deal except that we invariably have to make a few trips in order to carry all my piles of books and articles upstairs. (Or away.) And the streets and sidewalks have been torn up and/or blocked of by barriers or giant mountains of one type of dirt or another, so that walking to anywhere while dragging my cart full of books was like a curse of some kind.

So there I was all summer, (doubly) covered in filth, all my materials and equipment similarly covered in filth, unable to make tea or have a shower, listening to the above noises for hours on end beginning by 7am, trying to re-re-re-write my thesis. During 94-degree weather.

No wonder I hate them!

However, I am hopeful that they may be done just in time for winter, as they laid the new curb (or kerb, or bordstein, depending whence you're reading this) in the past couple of days.

Have been running hither and yon trying to get my committee to sign off on the miniscule revisions I needed to make. Have to turn it in to the grad school by the 15th in order to apply for graduation this December. Unfortunately, a committee member today decided that the changes they had mutually decided on (and executed by me) are a) not enough and/or b)not done to satisfaction, so he (today) came up with another list of things for me to change.

Today! He decided this today.

Three days before the turn-in date.

My defense was--what, three weeks ago? Wherein they all mutually, together, as approved by my advisor, decided on what I should change then. And now there's more. With this kind of turnaround time I'll be lucky to graduate next June.

I've had so much to do lately what with new clients and community outreach groups in the offing, teaching a new class, trying to do internship applications, trying to get a handhold on beginning my dissertation, proposing a paper for AWP, and so on. Yesterday as we were discussing how to get my dissertation study approved by the end of December, my advisor shook her head and said, "You are going to be busy this fall."

As opposed to what? The way in which I've been slacking off so much of late?! Sheez.

I have been wondering why I have been so tired all the time lately... Huh.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Having finished my thesis (except the part where I'm running around trying to get signatures) was a little like dragging an old mattress out of a closet I wanted to clean out. Too bad that when I finally got it out, a cartload of other stuff turned out to be stacked up behind it, and is now tumbling down in an avalanche on my head. I don't think there's anything I've gotten finished in "good time" in the past two years. Maybe three.

Getting back to "jogging" in the mornings. Mainly for mood control, since it helps my worry about school stuff shrink to manageable size. Also immediately began sleeping through the night again. Furthermore, reduces my need for a midday nap. All this despite the fact that this is basically just a 1/4-1/2 mile trot around the park! Amazing how much it helps. But I have to do it before 7 or 7:30am, or else it starts feeling like it's edging into my work time. It doesn't fix everything, but it's close to a miracle cure for a lot of stuff, minute for minute.

Return of cool weather = nesty impulses, including cooking and baking. Need to piece together that pink sweater I knitted this summer, too. Had the foresight to purchase window-insulating plastic the exact last week before it turned cool.

TheLimey claims he somehow beat me up in his sleep in the middle of the night last night, but I have no memory of being pummeled or kicked. As far as I know, I slept better than I have in a couple weeks!

Well, better pack up my stuff again to return home and try to do more work. Writing the midterm exam for my students, which is far better than taking an exam, but also far more time-consuming. Hope they read the text!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Another weird referrer to my blog. Like the virtual stock market on Neopets, but for blogs.

I wonder if someone bought mine??

As typically happens in Michigan, the weather suddenly changed over the weekend. Last week it was summer, this week distinctly winterish. (Okay, except for today, which has been aberrantly hot and even brought out a few lingering cicadas.) Anyway, I had to take the fans out of the windows and replace the electric blanket on the bed. You'd think there would be some time in between, wherein I don't need any devices to moderate the temperature, but that is never the case.

Reading Wicked, a Mistress-of-Science gift from the Limey. I can't believe it's been made into a musical already. Didn't it just come out, like, last year? Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister was pretty good, too. It all goes along with my short-story collecting obsession, anyhow.

And speaking of Amazon (which I was) I am pretty disillusioned about this whole book-reviewing business. I finally realized that the "helpful" vs. "non-helpful" rating system really has little, if anything, to do with people who are interested in buying books using the reviews to do so. It's actually just about how much other people agree with your assessment of books they've already read. (Probably with other factors thrown in, like how terrible your typing is or isn't). Which means that those with the highest ratings are those with whom the most people agree. In other words, people who have average or "typical" taste, and can express it as such!


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Have been alternating between cheerful optimism and bleak pessimism, punctuated by frequent 3:30 am wake-up calls of sheer panic and dread/nightmares about applications to internships. Most have application dates of November 15th, which is not very far off considering the things I have to get done (and get others to do) by then.

  • 1. Have thesis committee actually sign off on the revisions I made, so that thesis is considered officially "done". Am expecting/experiencing some difficulties in this area once again. You would think these people would want me out of here!
  • 2. Must propose dissertation...for some sites; for others it's a matter of having it close to proposed. Mine is maybe close.
  • 3. Must rewrite a section of that blanged Quals/Comps paper, as many sites require that a person pass their comps before application. We just got them back today, and frankly I'm almost surprised that I didn't have to rewrite all four sections, considering that was the week I was also redoing my entire thesis. Anyway, not a terrible shock, but is yet another thing to do.
  • 4. Must find certain supervisors and professors (3 or 4) to write personalized letters of reference specific to each application site. Since it is recommended that we apply to between 10 and 15 sites, this could mean managing the sending of between 30 to 60 letters of reference. And all by means of asking people for favors. Sheez.
  • 5. Most upsetting to me is realizing how few "contact hours" (with clients) I have accumulated. After our second year (a bit over a year ago) I was actually ahead of the game, as my practicum worked me somewhat mercilessly. I had great plans for last year to be the year in which I got a lot of experience in assessments and in group therapy.
  • Unfortunately, after the deaths in my family last summer, a lot of my plans went completely by the wayside. I could barely drag myself through my classes and research, and my clinic experience is what suffered the most timewise. Not to mention that whole other incident that happened a few months later just as I was beginning to pull myself together... I have spent the past 8 months or so just trying to catch up on a lot of that stuff. Therefore, I have now ended up being one of the people with the least face-to-face time, which of couse was the exact opposite of my plan.
  • And our clinic (where I am right now) does not have very many clients, as this is the first year that we have had students from all three years (i.e. 35 potential therapists, instead of the 10 we had when we were the only cohort.) So I am actually getting 0 client hours as we speak.

I have been hearing some of my colleagues talking about staying another year (one of them is actually doing so). I am beginning to wonder if I am crazy to try to apply with so few practicum hours, and my dissertation still so unformed, or if I am crazy to think of staying another year (tick-tock, tick-tock!). Perhaps I am simply crazy! I don't know, but this waking up terrified in the middle of the night all the time is getting kind of tiring.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

My aunt Jerrie is showing some of her work at a show in Illinois this weekend, so I threw together a really quick blog where I posted her stuff. Just so she would be able to have something to tell customers who ask if she has a website. I used frikkin' Geocities to make an entry page at, but of course unless you pay a cartload of money you can't even have live link on the page. Oh well. At least it's up there.
Seeing Maya Angelou was kind of like well-seasoned charcoal. It doesn't appear to be doing much, but then it keeps on cooking for a long time after.

She mentioned that audience members should go visit their librarian and ask for various kinds of poetry, and that the librarian would stare for a full two minutes before responding, as she or he would be unused to anyone actually asking for anything. She also adjured students to visit their instructors' office hours, because a good student can make a mediocre instructor great by showing interest. So I pretty much concurred with her on those points. She had some very interesting and personal things to say about her own life and how it led to where she is today.

I am thinking of little 16-year-old (but six-foot-tall) Maya standing outside the UN building, pregnant and unmarried, and how others must have viewed her. How do we see pregnant teenagers? Young Black women full of doubt and worry and defiance? And yet look how she came through that, not by denying or whitewashing anything about herself, but by putting it all out there for others to see and identify with. It's the weaknesses we're hiding that would make others love us.

Melanie and I left the building by the back door, at my insistence, as I wanted to walk across the sweet-smelling grass alone in the dark instead of across the pavement with the hundreds of other audience members in the halogen lights. The grass sloped precipitously down to a parking lot behind the Convocation Center, and as I waited for Melanie to inch down (she fell down a hill once and is now extremely careful on slopes) I realized that the bus in the lot was The Bus that Dr. Angelou now travels about the country in.

As it pulled away, I waved, silhouetted against the one light in the lot. Flickering lights appeared at the front of the bus for a moment, and then stopped. (So I choose to think that Maya Angelou's driver "waved" back to us.)