Saturday, September 19, 2009

So much for the best laid plans

So this week, the class for which I am serving as a teaching assistant had its first sessions. The lecture session went fine - I frantically took notes and tried to discern the important points of the presentation. The class is held in the evenings, and it ran late, and I had already put in a full day at work, so by the time I got home I managed to stumble into bed and that was about it. Then we had our review session. I didn't embarass myself, which was pretty much all I was aiming for. I did forget to introduce myself, but since they met me at the lecture and I work at school and we're a tiny program, I'm going to figure that that didn't matter too much. Thankfully they were very talkative, which was perfect because in my nightmare scenario they sat silently and stared at me for 75 minutes while I tried to recap the lecture material. This week was made especially difficult because it's probably one of the trickiest lecture subjects of the whole semester, and I'm not entirely sure I understood all of the material.
I know this week was hard, being the first session and all, and there were also several other school-related events going on this week which took up lots of time, but I am just beat. I certainly hope things calm down a little because otherwise I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to make it through the semester.
In other news, I did sign up for a spot at the Ph.D. forum for early spring, which means I need to get my proposal in and start some research so I have something to say by then. I've finally settled on a topic, which was very hard for me. I had about four options, all of which I liked and all of which were feasible. It helped to realize that by picking one I'm not writing off the others for good. They'll still be there when I'm done.
I'm taking today off and then it's to the library tomorrow to get some research done. As a grad student who doesn't get to church much anymore, Sunday in a quiet library is the closest to a religious experience I have these days.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Summer's over

***I looked really hard for a free version of Jonathan Coulton's "Summer's Over" to go with this, but couldn't find one. But I highly recommend the song, so go look for it.***

Well, after I finished my last exam, I promised myself that I could take the summer off. "Off" only in a loose sense, of course, since this summer I started working full time. But "off" from school, "off" from scholarly work, "off" from my dissertation proposal. It made for a nice change.

But now summer's over. And school starts tomorrow. And I can't put if off any longer -- I have to start thinking again in earnest. I can't say I'm looking forward to it. It was kind of nice to tune out for a summer. I knit, I read, I made my way through my netflix queue. It was wonderful. And now I have to shift my mind back into student mode. Not to mention into teaching assistant mode. I'm a little nervous about that.

This fall's gearing up to be pretty busy. In addition to the job, the t.a. gig, and the dissertation proposal, I'm also committed to write a book chapter by February. I'd like to think I work best under pressure, but this may be too much even for me.

Firmly believing that a new school year requires new school supplies (even if I am technically in grade 21 by now), I have a new book bag and new shoes for tomorrow. After work tomorrow, I'm going to head over to the office supply place for new pens and a new notebook or two. It's sort of a psychological boost to help me get ready for what lies ahead. I just wish I could think of a good excuse to buy some new crayons...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Working stiff

The books are in, and in order (a week and a half of shelf reading and book shifting is an excellent exercise plan. Step on the ladder, reach up to move books, put books in new location, step off the ladder. Why, it's almost aerobic!)
The air conditioning works and thank heavens because it is hot here. When summer finally arrived, it really arrived.
We're still in a construction zone with temporary walls and plastic sheeting, but things are getting more and more settled every day.

So work is fine, and if nothing else, it hasn't been boring.

But I was very happy to see the weekend finally get here. I need some time to recover.

I'm home in my comfy chair, relaxing between half-hearted bouts of housekeeping and trying to achieve an ideal air circulation scheme between my three open windows and two fans. The cat is also trying to stay cool, which means we're both vying for the same prime location in the room. She doesn't seem to mind sitting on top of me, but hot + sweaty + cat on the lap is not really a recipe for comfort as far as I'm concerned. With the air on me, and with judicious application of popsicles, it's actually not too bad in here. Unless you have to exert yourself, that is, which is why the housekeeping is being punctuated by a series of breaks.

I've been knitting merrily along on socks, a sweater for a knitalong (you can see a photo there), a knitted tank, and a blanket. I was making good progress on all of them, but the blanket's about to go on hiatus until it cools down a bit. Some photos:

The bottom section of a Lotus Blossom Tank:

The Girasole blanket:

Jaywalker socks:

And now I guess I should get back to work. The vacuum isn't going to run itself.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

If it isn't one thing, it's another

The past 6 weeks or so have been a little crazy for me, and as I often do when things get nuts, I coped by withdrawing from people, and from this blog. Sorry about that.
I'm feeling a little better now, and though I can't really say that things are settling down, at least I feel like I'm coping a little better than I have been.
When last I wrote, I was getting ready to go to my aunt's 75th birthday party. It was a family reunion, with all my aunts and uncles on my mother's side as well as many of my cousins. I hadn't seen my parents since Christmas and hadn't seen most of the rest of my family since my uncle's funeral last March, so it was really nice to get to reconnect with them. The weekend went by much too quickly. I finished my aunt's scarf a few days before I left, and I'm pleased to report that she loved it. (And everyone else was really impressed, too.)
I'm glad I got to see my dad, because the week after the party, he had to go into the hospital for surgery. He came through with flying colors, and seems to be almost back to normal.
I wasn't able to go home and see him, which really sucked, and which was one of the reasons I am so grateful I got to see him at the reunion. I couldn't go home because the next week was when I started my new job. (See what I meant when I said things were going a little crazy?)
The job is great. I really like my coworkers, and I'm very excited for the semester to get started. The job's also a little hectic right now (but what isn't?) We're finally geared up for the big library move, which is taking place on Monday. We're getting a whole new building, and it's mostly done. It's the mostly part that's a little worrisome. I'm really not sure what we'll be moving into. Given the weather this week, I'm just hoping that the a/c will be on.
So that's more or less what I've been up to the last month or so. There's also been some reading (romance novels and sci fi), some tv (I finally got cable again, and I love it) and some knitting, which I'll try to get posted up as soon as I get a few photographs taken. I can't believe that it's August already.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Knitting content!

Since it's been ages since I've shown any actual knitting on the blog, I thought it was about time to put some up.

First up, a gift I made for my friend Bekka who had her baby in April. A baby surprise jacket from the Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern, an Umbilical Cord hat from the first Stitch n' Bitch book, and a bunny hat from the pattern by Adrian Bizilia. The yarn is by Yarn Bee: Baby Bee Sweet Delight in Bare Blue and Teddy and Baby Bee Sweet Delight Twist in Teddybear. Yarn Bee is one of the house brands from Hobby Lobby, a craft store chain in Texas that I miss very much.


The Baby Surprise Jacket (my second, though I haven't even sewn up the seams on the first yet)

I really love these buttons I found -- I think they're a perfect match.

The bunny hat:

As seen on Mr. Bear, a very reluctant model:

The umbilical cord hat, one of my favorite baby gifts:

Still to come: the yarn I bought (and made) in Tucson, some mmmm...Malabrigo (gosh I love that yarn), my aunt's birthday present, and the scarf and skein that would not end.

Friday Fill-In #128

Friday Fill-in blog is here we go!

1. I grew up thinking _that my family was so boring. Boy was I wrong.____.
2. _Crazy Aunt Purl ____ was the last website I was at before coming here.
3. Why don't you _go have some iced coffee? It's my summer beverage of choice.
4. _My cat _ helps me relax.
5. Thanks for the _late night pan flute concert, mysterious street flautist. It was certainly unexpected___.
6. _I think that cliquishness is _ very off-putting.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to _trying out some of my newly acquired Trader Joe's wine_, tomorrow my plans include _cleaning up the kitchen_, and Sunday, I want to _finish my aunt's present_!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Friday Fill-in #127 (better late than never edition)

Sorry to be late this week. I got distracted last night with knitting and never got around to it.
Friday Fill-in is here. we go!
1. _I miss my family and wish I could go visit_ home.
2. My favorite thing for dinner lately has been _asparagus. I got some from the farmer's market last week and it was wonderful_.
3. _When he gets lonely, the dog next door goes _ bark! bark! bark!
4. A nice long walk _would be nice, now that it's stopped raining____.
5. _Is it really gossip if you're only sharing____ some good news.
6. When all is said and done, _I don't think any place will ever feel like home the way Texas does____.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to _knitting____, tomorrow my plans include _making pizza and knitting____ and Sunday, I want to _go to the park and do some knitting____!

When I'm not missing the deadline on memes, I've been busy with a secret knitting project for my aunt's birthday. I'm only a few rows behind schedule, but I'm hoping to catch back up today. I'm also working on updating my flicker pool and ravelry notebook, so that I can share some of the knitting I've been doing so far this year. I completed a few small projects, mainly baby gifts for friends, but I was also afflicted with a terrible case of startitis, and now I've got tons of unfinished objects laying around the knitting corner of my apartment. I think I'll be playing a little game of "finish it or frog it" this summer.
I've also been working on cleaning up my apartment. I've gotten the basic cleaning done -- things have been swept and mopped and the many small piles of paper, knitting, etc., have been consolidated into a few humongous piles of stuff. It's still a little messy, but it's much more livable than before. Now comes the harder part -- sorting, thinning the herd, and organizing it all. This is the overwhelming part, where I'm not quite sure how to start. I guess I should just jump in. Right now I've got a choice of books, paperwork, yarn stuff, other crafting stuff, or the closets (I feel like there should be some ominous music here). Any thoughts?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Fill-In #126

Shamelessly yanked from the blog of my friend Wife, Mom, Knitter, who got it here.
I thought this seemed like just the thing to ease back into blogging. we go!

1. It's cold and _muggy here, but I won't complain because I'd rather that than hot weather_.
2. _When I was little I only liked ketchup and spaghetti sauce, but now I like all kinds of __tomatoes.
3. My favorite health and beauty product is _vanilla bath gel____.
4. _If I had I car, I could go for ____ a nice long ride.
5. Well, first of all _it's so nice to be done with exams. I feel like a whole new person____.
6. _My friend J. and I_; those were the cast of characters in a recent dream and it was _weird. I went to Boston but it was closed. The whole city was closed. That's just my luck__.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to _a South Park marathon____, tomorrow my plans include _going to the farmer's market and picking something interesting to cook____ and Sunday, I want to _go see some art exhibitions____!

That was kind of fun. I might have to keep doing this.

I've really been enjoying being responsibility-free this past week. There has been lots of knitting, and lots of fun (my friend J., of the Boston-is-closed dream, came to visit for the long weekend, and much fun was had by all). And there was even some cleaning. The apartment went from disaster zone to relatively under control. There are still assorted piles of paper and books to be sorted, but at least you can see most of the floor and the number of cat-hair tumbleweeds has been drastically reduced.

I have to go make the first part of item number 7 happen now. I just recently discovered that you can watch most of the seasons of South Park on the Netflix instant viewer. I can't wait! It's one of my go-to shows when I need a good laugh.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stick a fork in me

Because I'm done!

Monday I took and passed the last of my three field exams for my Ph.D. It was American Cultural History this round, and while each of the exams was hard in their own way, this one was by far the most challenging. The reading was the hardest to digest, the written exam was the hardest to do, and the oral was hard, largely because I was a little "thought-out" by then. Also, there were no pictures to look at, unlike at the other exams. I liked the pictures. This exam was tricky. I wrote about the ways in which issues of identity -- class, race/ethnicity, and gender/sexuality -- have impacted American cultural history in the past several decades. During my oral, the professors asked my why I chose that topic (there were several possible essay prompts). They laughed when I said because it sounded easiest. (Honestly, it did.) The examiners were two of my favorite professors, and even though it was difficult to answer their questions at times, it wasn't too bad. It was very much a conversation, and it was very nice to be treated as an equal in it.

It still hasn't quite sunk in that I'm done with it all. The last few nights when I've gotten home, I've been really surprised to realize that I can relax. I don't have to read anything off my list, or make any notes on my collection of index cards, or anything. I can do whatever I want and I don't have to deal with (much) guilt about it. That hasn't happened in a while.

The next steps are picking a dissertation topic, writing a proposal, and getting said proposal approved. Then there's the small matter of writing the dissertation. But these are all things that can wait for a while. Right now I'm going to relax.

(As an aside, one of the peculiar things about being in a small program at a small school is that everyone knows what's going on with everyone else. While this can be annoying at times, it's been very nice to be congratulated every time I see a fellow student, teacher, or staff member. That kind of thing is very good for the ego.)

In the meantime, I've watched tv, I've been knitting, I even read a book. For fun. It was wonderful. I'm trying to decide what I want to read next. I'm thinking I might work my way through the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, in order. They're just about my favorite mystery novels ever, and while I read Gaudy Night once a year or so (best book about murder, romance, and higher education ever), I haven't read some of the others in ages. I also want to organize my giant stash of craft stuff so I can do some sewing and play around with the doll house this summer. It's just been sitting around since I moved to New York. I figure if you're going to keep a dollhouse in a studio apartment, you'd better be getting some use out of it.

I also have other good news to report. While I'm going to be able to enjoy my free time this summer, come this fall I'll be nice and busy. I've gotten a full time job in the library at school. With benefits! I am beyond excited. I'll also be serving as a teaching assistant for the big design survey. I'm a bit concerned about being able to get it all done, but I'm not the only student who juggles a workload like that, so I know it can be done. I'm really looking forward to getting some teaching experience.

Anyway, I think that's about it for now. I'm hoping to be a more frequent blogger, as well as a better commenter, now that I don't have the guilt of not-studying hanging over my head. But right now you'll have to excuse me. There's some knitting and a movie calling my name.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's really a post!

Just poking my head above water to say that I just took and passed exam number two on twentieth-century decorative arts and design of Europe and America.

Since I normally focus on early America, this one was a big stretch for me, and I hope I manage to retain at least a little bit of all the stuff I've been cramming in my head this semester. I'm afraid I'll forget it all now. Though I've been in a state of perpetual nervousness for the last few days, I actually really enjoyed both halves of the test. Is that weird? Probably.

I feel a great sense of relief, tempered by the knowledge that exam number three is lurking just a few weeks around the corner and there are still so many books to read. I'm taking tonight and tomorrow off, and will then dive back in to American cultural history.

I'll be back again on May 18th, hopefully with some good news.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Quick Update

I have tried to write a post so many times, and it's just not happening. Everything I put down on paper (or screen, as it were) sounds too flip or too whiny, or too, I don't know, wrong.

So I'll just say this: I'm fine, mostly. I'm battling a bit of the winter blues. And I'm not studying nearly as hard as I ought to be. And those exams keep getting closer and closer. But I'm hanging in there. It will all be fine in the end.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I am beginning to wonder...

if it's possible for me to go a week without injuring myself or suffering from some kind of illness. Between the face-to-the-door thing and the cold I've caught (darn you grad school germs!) I haven't been able to breathe right in weeks. I'm hoping the cold is on it's way out, thanks to copious amounts of orange juice and generic cold medicine. It's funny, I'm very reluctant to medicate for actual pain (I think I'm stoic, my mom thinks I'm stubborn), but the minute I start sneezing, I break out the troops -- cough drops, daytime medicine, nighttime medicine. Out comes the tea with honey and lemon, the hot soup, and my warmest, fuzziest socks. Sometimes it really sucks to live alone, and being sick is one of those times. The cat is not a very sympathetic nurse.

I want to thank everybody for their well wishes regarding the whole nose/face/glasses thing. I never did get any bruises, but my face was pretty sore for about a week. Every now and then I stop to think how lucky I am that I didn't get hurt worse than I did. The scars are really not that noticeable anymore, and I actually really like the replacement frames I got for my lenses. Don't worry, I'm going to get brand new glasses ordered next week with a brand new prescription. I'm just waiting for one more paycheck before I go. Glasses should not be so expensive.

I'm working on posts with actual knitting, and with details of my whirlwind trip to Arizona, but they may take me a while, as I'm right back in the thick of exam reading again. Luckily, my examiners for the next two topics are adamant about not loading me down with an excessively long reading list. That's the good news. The bad news is the books that are on my list are very, very dense. I'll definitely be putting the new glasses to the test.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

In which I make a spectacle of myself.

In my daydreams, I am fabulous. Glamorous, well-dressed and perfectly groomed, graceful, witty, the center of attention wherever I go. But that's just my daydreams.

In real life, I'm actually fairly content to go about my day unnoticed. I don't really like to draw attention to myself. Which is just one of the things that makes what happened yesterday especially embarrassing (and, as you'll see, kind of painful).

Yesterday after work I thought I'd go shopping. I had a lot of errands to run before I head out of town this weekend, and decided that a certain store whose logo is a red bulls eye would be the best place to go. I rode the subway to the shopping center, stopped at the bank, popped in at a clothing store to peruse the sale, and headed to the big store, list in hand.

I was about four feet from the door when I felt it happen. My feet just went out from under me. I reached out for the door handle to stop my fall and missed. But my face didn't miss. It hit the door just fine. I hit the door, nose first, right on the handle, and then hit the ground. I broke my glasses, got a bloody nose, and, to add insult to injury, got cuts on my face from where my glasses frames hit me. I was stunned, and then I started freaking out because I am blind without my glasses. The employees and some nice customers helped me get up and get out of the way and collected my belongings (and can I just say how grateful I am that all the undergarments I had just purchased did not spill out of their bag? That would have been the icing on the awful cake). By this time I had realized that my glasses were destroyed, and was crying and bleeding everywhere. I finally remembered that I had an old pair of glasses in my book bag, so that calmed me down a little, since at least I could get home that way, and then I started worrying that maybe I had broken my nose, but the paramedics who came (the store insisted) said I was okay. I filled out a bunch of forms, cleaned up as best as I could, got some kleenex for the road, and headed home.

Did you know that if you're covered in blood, nobody will try and sit by you on the bus? It's true.
If you like to people watch, and you take a lot of public transportation, you have seen that person. That crazy-looking scary person on the bus or the train. Yesterday I was that person.

I spent an uncomfortable night trying to sleep, and then spent most of today getting the glasses taken care of. The frames were shot, but the lenses were okay, so I found a place that could pop them into a new frame, so at least I can see again. (The old pair wasn't quite right, and I was not looking forward to having to wear them for long). I also got an eye exam and a new prescription, and am going to go order a new pair when I get back next week. As an aside, I went to two different locations of a place that rhymes with schmenscrafters, and they were so rude (although their doctor was very nice). I got much better service at what the schmenscrafters saleslady nastily referred to as "the lower end" place across the street, where they found me new frames and where I will be ordering my new pair later. Seriously, those ladies were not nice and so they won't be getting my business in the future.

Now that the glasses are taken care of, I've just got the bruises and cuts to deal with. (and a really sore nose. I keep poking it to see if it's still hurting. It is. I should stop doing that).
I have to wear a bandage on my nose because the cuts are right on the bridge of my nose where the glasses sit. I tried to be as inconspicuous with the bandages as possible, but I do look like I've had a nose job or something right now. And of course this would happen at the start of a two-week period in which my social calendar is fully booked for once. Including a date-ish thing.
Just my luck.
On the train, on the streets, at school, I felt like everyone was staring at me and my messed up face today. This is not what I had in mind when I wanted to be noticed.*

*Although, this being New York, I was still not the oddest person on the subway this morning. That honor goes to you, man wearing multiple strings of pearls.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Late as usual

My New Year's resolution post is a week late. That seems typical for me these days. But, as I so often say during situations such as these, at least it's getting done at all.

First note: my dad's socks were finished at approximately 11:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Dad wore them to ring in 2009 and reports that they are very comfortable. I've got pictures, but am not sure where my camera has wandered off to.

Second note: I'm currently reading Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation and loving every page. But Erin, you might be saying to yourself, isn't that a book about American history? Yes, yes it is. Didn't you swear off history in your quest to get the fun in while you could? Yes, yes I did. But I don't care. This is her book about traveling around the country to see sights related to the first three presidential assassinations -- Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Why am I reading this instead of a romance novel right now (and there are a couple of those waiting their turn on the nightstand, too)? Well, it's about the "dirty" side of history, something I always enjoy, and I really like Vowell's deadpan (no pun intended) style (I'm a big fan of her appearances on NPR, too). But mostly, it's because this book is really about more than assassinations -- it's about the way that people remember, the way that we construct history and the way that we tell our story as Americans. It's actually an area that I'm very interested in, academically speaking. But it's not dry and boring like so many of the books I read last year for my exams (and will be reading again soon). I've often wondered if there's some prohibition against being an interesting writer and also being an academic. So often the two things are separate, and that's a shame. But that's also a topic for another time.

Now the real reason I'm here: Resolutions.
Here are mine: I'm not making any.
Well, that's not precisely true. I want to pass my exams. But other than that, no resolutions for me. And that's not really a resolution so much as it is a requirement by my academic program. I don't really have any choice on the matter if I want to keep going.

I acknowledge that there's room for improvement in so many areas of my life, and I do hope to take steps toward making those improvements this year. But my history of resolution-keeping is not that great, and frankly, I don't need the pressure right now. It seems unfair to me that we should be encouraged to upend our lives and reexamine ourselves so thoroughly at the darkest. coldest time of the year, right after all those holiday excesses. It's all party, party, party, then suddenly the lights go on and you're forced to stare blearily at yourself and your life in one of those hideously unflattering department store mirrors. No wonder it's so easy to make long lists of things to condemn and improve. Nothing and nobody looks good in those mirrors.
Over at Shapely Prose, they've got a great post about this that says it more eloquently than I can, encouraging us to remember what we accomplished in 2008 as we look forward to 2009.
Here's my brief list of what I'm proud of:
1. Passed my first field exam and my German language exam.
2. Wrote several catalogue entries for (eventual) publication.
3. Made it through a year of graduate school and a year of life in New York.