If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Friday, October 31, 2008

InaDWriMo 2008

You may have noticed the new word counter in my sidebar. Saturday starts InaDWriMo 2008, which will last throughout the month of November. The idea is to set a goal for your academic writing and then track your progress throughout the month.

This could not have come at a better time since my writing has been suffering and I have a major deadline on December 1st. Technically I don't have to write much -- just 7000 words--but they need to be finalized and I've yet to begin. I also need to push an article along so I've made my goal 15k. I've never tracked my writing by number of words before so this should be interesting.

For those of you who would like to play along, InaDWriMo 2008 is being hosted by Dr. Brazen Hussy.

Happy Halloween!

b's jack o'lantern

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sci Fi Marthon II

I finally finished my Octavia Butler marathon. I ended where she did, with Fledgling. A great read. I've always been a fan of vampire stories and this one does not disappoint (except of course that there can be no sequel...but that is sad on many levels).

So I've decided to move on to my other favorite sci fi writer, Ursula K. LeGuin. However I'm not sure where to start. I have 2 collections of her short stories, so I may start there. However I first found Ms. LeGuin through her Earthsea books, so part of me feels I should start with that series. This would mean having to re-buy the first book, as that one has somehow gotten misplaced. I will also have to repurchase The Left Hand of Darkness. However it is highly likely that I never actually owned that one. Much of my sci fi reading started by borrowing from my mother's bookshelf.

I have never read any of her Hainish series. Once I work through everything I have I'll have to decide whether to start on them. It won't classify as a reread of course but there is something very satisfying about reading an entire body of someone's work. She even has a new novel out, which will definitely be on my Christmas list this year.

This is going to take a long time.

b and I often talk about our retirement/escape plan. It mostly consists of getting all of our earthly possessions down to a car load and hitting the open road. The other day we discussed how this would mean parting with all my books. Luckily retirement is still in the distant future as I've decided that I will need to reread the entire collection before I can do that.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Angel Update

Angel is feeling down. He is working hard at both school and extra-curricula activities (the good kind). He is putting school first, extra-curricula responsibilities second and hanging out/socializing/beer third. He is making friends, fitting in, and maturing. However he is still having academic difficulties. Angel is learning disabled (hate the term but it is what's used). It takes him a lot more effort to get something done than most of his classmates and, while his effort pays off, it is never to the degree that satisfies him.

Reading takes him a very long time. Writing is a mixed bag. He has a vivid imagination and a poetic sense but horrible grammar and atrocious spelling. His grasp of concepts and ability to analyze is outstanding. His ability to write about what he understands succinctly and clearly is another story. His spatial skills are very limited and math is always a challenge.

He's passing his classes and learning a lot. His writing is improving but improving your writing takes a long time for anyone. I try to tell him this but he is still disappointed in himself. I tell him that I'm proud of him and I am. I think he is proud of his effort but not of the outcome.

Part of me is happy he is so hard on himself. Most kids with Angel's disability would have given up on school years ago. He enjoys college and it is the first time in his life that he has ever enjoyed school. I have always been amazed that he didn't just give up and act out. I'm not saying he tried this hard all the time but he did try hard in spite of very little encouragement.

But part of me wishes he didn't take each grade so hard. Part of me wishes he could see the progress he is making and be satisfied. Part of me wishes it could be easier on him. However life isn't easy and he is resilient and really that is better in the long run.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Little Meme Interlude

Saw this over at my friend Deb's and grabbed it.

A is for age: 43

B is for burger of choice: Don't do red meat and turkey burgers are too dry, so it's generally grilled chicken sandwiches for me.

C is for the car I drive: 1994 Toyota Corolla

D is for your dog's name: Pupzilla

E is for essential item you use every day: my laptop is pretty much glued to my fingers

F is for favorite TV show at the moment: Hmmm...Grey's Anatomy? Celebrity Rehab?

G is for favorite game: Othello

H is for home state: Up North

I is for instruments you play: i wish

J is for favorite juice: cranberry

K is for whose bum you'd like to kick: my sensei's...well I don't really want to...just want to be ABLE to, but it's never going to happen

L is for last restaurant at which you ate: local irish pub for brunch today, where they served me hazelnut coffee (very disappointing)

M is for your favorite Muppet: Snuffleupagus

N is for number of piercings: one in each earlobe but they've gone unused for about 6 years now...I doubt they work

O is for overnight hospital stays: just the one night for birthin' Angel...almost 19 years ago

P is for people you were with today: b

Q is for what you do with your quiet time: work

R is for biggest regret: not having a baby with b

S is for status: middle class? married? sane?

T is for time you woke up today: sometime between 9-10 am

U is for what you consider unique about yourself: my love of a male-dominated ancient fighting art?

V is for vegetable you love: spinach and brussel sprouts

W is for worst habit: coffee addiction...technically I'm decaffeinated but really I'm only fooling myself

X is for x-rays you've had: 3 or 4 I believe...broke my wrist twice and my ankle once

Y is for yummy food you ate today: Ben & Jerry's waffle cone with a scoop of coffee and a scoop of chocolate therapy

Z is for zodiac: Taurus the bull

Friday, October 24, 2008


I teach Thursday nights and don't get home until around 9:30. This means I don't get to watch my guilty pleasure--Grey's Anatomy. Angel has always hated that I watch this particular show and used to make it a point to come into the living room while it was on to berate it--a huge downer. I discovered that downloading it from iTunes and watching it from my laptop was much more enjoyable. So a few weeks ago I bought the season pass. Now I get my guilty pleasure on Friday nights.

Somehow I managed to skip last week (probably had something to do with Angel being home) so when I downloaded this week's episode I got two new ones. Major score! Just finished watching them back to back and I'm feeling just fine.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Car Talk

b and I used to listen to these guys all the time. That was when we were living up North and spent a lot more time in the car. Now we rarely hear them. We did catch part of the show while we were driving around the beach vacationland past weekend.

Cars have been much on our minds of late. Angel's car was due for an inspection and the last time it was in the shop the mechanic told us it would need a new clutch soon. So there was much planning done to get his car into and out of the shop during his visit last week. All went well except the mechanic couldn't get the clutch to slip and so no new clutch was installed. While you would think this would be good news, it just caused anxiety for Angel, who is worried it will go out on him one day.

A day after getting Angel's car back with the good/bad clutch news, our car's clutch starts acting strangely. According to b it has gone "soft" and doesn't want to downshift. This occurs the morning we are supposed to be driving 4 hours to our vacation destination. There are a few attempts to get someone to look at it, but since this is the weekend, it doesn't happen. We leave for our vacation in the rain with a tempermental clutch.

The drive was long and a little anxiety producing but we get there in one piece. By the next morning the sun is out and we are beginning to relax. We listen to a bit of Car Talk as we ride into town for breakfast. Fast forward to later that day when I get a call from Angel. He got into a car accident on his way back to school. Luckily he hadn't gotten more than a few blocks from our house but he did manage to lock himself out of the car. I give him the AAA number and the car is towed to our mechanic--but its Sunday so that really does no one any good.

The next day he discovers our mechanic can't do anything because they don't do bodywork. There seems to be a leak in the radiator but the bodywork needs to be done before they can look at it. This involved several phone calls between Angel, myself, b and the mechanic. Finally b gets the mechanic to at least see if the car is drivable (it is) and Angel heads back to school.

Now he has to find someone there and b needs to deal with the insurance. When we arrived home from vacationland, just 2 days after the accident, there were 6 pieces of mail in our box addressed to Angel: 3 advertisements for lawyers and 3 for chiropractors.

And the problem with our clutch? Seems to have disappeared...at least for now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Third Time's a Charm

Last night was the final session of the workshop for my research project. b and I drove back from our mini-vacation at the beach and then I went straight to the session. It was hard turning it all back on from vacation mode.

However it went well. My participants continued to be enthusiastic and the program seems a success. We still have plenty of work (such as data entry) and at least one more series to do (but not for a few months) but it was nice to put this first attempt to bed.

I must admit I feel like I might soon be too old for this kind of work. I believe interventions are a young woman's game and, while I don't feel old, I certainly no longer feel young. I enjoy it, working directly with people and working so closely with students, but it is a huge commitment and very draining. I look forward to sitting behind my desk and analyzing some data for a while.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

First Visit

Angel came home for Fall Break. It was his first visit home. We did many things that we have always enjoyed doing together.
  • The three of us went to the dojo together twice. They love Angel at the dojo and it is fun to have him there.
  • b and I cooked him many of his favorite meals, such as arroz con pollo (me), honey-mustard chicken cutlets w/ smashed potatoes and broccoli (me), meat and spinach lasagna (b), and meatballs (b). He even got to take some of it back to school frozen in individual containers.
  • We went to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner, another for lunch and a third for brunch. (Ok so a lot of what we like to do involves eating).
  • We watch 1 1/2 samurai movies (Angel has a paper due for English on the genre of samurai films)--Roshomon and Sanjuro.
  • We watched the final debate and talked politics. Angel went off to school swearing he would not vote or even register. He was completely turned off of politics and declared the entire system meaningless. I knew he would not be persuaded otherwise by his parents and hoped his peers would do the trick. Seems they have.
  • Angel and b got to play videogames together--Call of Duty 4, I believe.
  • Angel and I got into an intense debate of our own over when, if ever, it is appropriate to use anti-gay humor.
Angel also got to spend some time with his friends; some time alone at the house; and gave Pupzilla a couple of long walks. All-in-all it was a good visit and I was glad to have it.


It was a visit. I expected this. So I was not shocked nor surprised when it did not feel like he was "home." He wasn't. He is quite clear that school is his home and he visits us. I know he loves us and I know he enjoys spending time with us and I'm very grateful for that (although he didn't really need to say how much he misses his frat brothers or how he wishes he could have gone to the impromptu camping trip instead of coming home, but whatever). But a visit feels like a visit and there's no denying the difference.

In a nutshell I got what I expected and I enjoyed it but I can't get what I really want. What I want won't/can't come back and I accept that. I just don't have to like it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another Day

Today was the second workshop for the research project that has me so giddy. We lost a few participants, which is to be expected, but I was happy to see an email from one when I got home. She hopes to be there next week.

This evening went just as well although I didn't come home with the same high. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy but tired. I teach directly before the workshop and last week I had my class watch a movie. Today I had to do a regular class and then race over to run the workshop. That's a lot of "on" time for an introvert like me.

Also I had a student in tears at the end of class today and, while I was able to reassure her, I didn't feel like I left the situation resolved. Funny thing is I just attended a workshop on working with students in crisis last Friday. In the workshop they went over a number of scenarios that might cause a student to come to you in a crisis and then--bang--it happens today.

I don't have a lot of experience with this and I'm not sure why. As I've mentioned before this is my first time teaching undergraduates. I can't imagine that graduate students don't have crises, but maybe they have more resources for handling them on their own? I don't think it is age, since this woman is a non-traditional student and many of my grad students are hir age or younger.

Angel has spent the day working on a paper that is due tomorrow. He found me online after the workshop and asked me to read a draft. I'm Professor Mom. I gave him feedback and now he's working on a revision. I believe I'll be reading that before I go to sleep.

He comes home tomorrow for a long weekend. It is his first visit and the first time I'll see him since we dropped him off in August. I'm excited and nervous.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I've Forgotten How Nice It is....

...to work at home for the day. Today is the first day I've stayed home since the semester began. Not only is it relaxing but I got so much done. I was able to clear away enough of the grunt work (except for grading...I'm just keep putting that off) that I could get back to my REAL work. Fabulous indeed.

Unfortunately it is back to the office tomorrow. However I only have to teach one class and then no teaching for a week!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

As Seen Around the Blogosphere

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are a Joan!


You are a Joan -- "I need to succeed"

Joans are energetic, optimistic, self-assured, and goal oriented.

How to Get Along with Me

  • * Leave me alone when I am doing my work.

  • * Give me honest, but not unduly critical or judgmental, feedback.

  • * Help me keep my environment harmonious and peaceful.

  • * Don't burden me with negative emotions.

  • * Tell me you like being around me.

  • * Tell me when you're proud of me or my accomplishments.

What I Like About Being a Joan

  • * being optimistic, friendly, and upbeat

  • * providing well for my family

  • * being able to recover quickly from setbacks and to charge ahead to the next challenge

  • * staying informed, knowing what's going on

  • * being competent and able to get things to work efficiently

  • * being able to motivate people

What's Hard About Being a Joan

  • * having to put up with inefficiency and incompetence

  • * the fear on not being -- or of not being seen as -- successful

  • * comparing myself to people who do things better

  • * struggling to hang on to my success

  • * putting on facades in order to impress people

  • * always being "on." It's exhausting.

Joans as Children Often

  • * work hard to receive appreciation for their accomplishments

  • * are well liked by other children and by adults

  • * are among the most capable and responsible children in their class or school

  • * are active in school government and clubs or are quietly busy working on their own projects

Joans as Parents

  • * are consistent, dependable, and loyal

  • * struggle between wanting to spend time with their children and wanting to get more work done

  • * expect their children to be responsible and organized

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz at HelloQuizzy

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Day Off

So I'm mired down in work. It is actually worse than usual and more just keeps getting added. The current pace is set to continue at least through the month and more likely through to Thanksgiving. On top of the actual workload is my desire to get a little ahead so I can (a) spend some quality time with Angel when he comes home for his first visit next week and (b) not completely work through the 3-day trip to the beach that b and I have planned once Angel's visit is over.

All that being said I have to admit I took the day off and feel much better for doing so. Sometimes a day off is exactly the right approach when you're behind with no chance of getting ahead. Curious about what I did? Here's my day in a nutshell:

  • Slept late (9:30 am)
  • Drank coffee in bed while reading blogs (ok and a grant that someone sent me but technically that's prework--not work)
  • Straightened up the kitchen and cleaned the kitty litter box
  • Went with b to meet my old GA (she needs a better name, let's call her DeeDee) at our favorite breakfast place
  • Ate a big old omelet with home fries and a biscuit
  • Talked a lot
  • Brought DeeDee back home and sat around in the yard enjoying the beautiful and gossiping (b was kind enough to go food shopping without me)
  • Said good bye to DeeDee and went to the sporting store with b
  • Bought a new heavy bag, a pair of gloves and rubber matting for the floor
  • Helped b carry our stand for the heavy bag from the backyard into the living room
  • Helped b set up said heavy bag stand and hang heavy bag
  • Cleaned living room
  • Hit the heavy bag--wearing new gloves--and practiced kata
  • Chatted with Angel online (he spent the day playing paintball with his frat brothers and took pictures with his new early birthday present camera)
  • (Ok, read a little more of the grant that is prework not work and answered an email or two)
  • Ate dinner that b cooked in his brand new dutch oven (we're up to dutch oven #4)
  • Laid in bed with b and watched this movie:

  • Stayed in bed and watch last Thursday's Grey's Anatomy (I teach Thursday nights so I bought the season pass)
  • Read more blogs
  • Wrote this blog.
  • It's almost 11 pm and I think I may read some more of Kindred (only one more Octavia Butler to go after this)
Tomorrow it's all work.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Research High

I came home tonight feeling the same euphoria I feel after a really good run. It was a great day all around and it ended gloriously. Like a runner's high, this research high is hard to describe.

I've spent many many years engaged in intervention research. This type of research is very labor intensive and requires recruiting participants, developing instruments, developing the intervention (including producing the actual materials and making them look professional), collecting data (and the entire informed consent procedure that goes with research), and actually implementing the intervention. It can be exhausting but is very hands-on and interactive. I get to work with real people (not just scientists) and I have to learn a variety of skills and interact with professionals that fall outside of regular science.

I've done this work and I've enjoyed it immensely. However, up until today, I did all of this for someone else's intervention; someone else's research. Now I did it for so long I certainly left my mark and I felt a great deal of ownership but it was never my original idea. Tonight I ran the first workshop of an intervention I thought up 3 years ago. I've done all of the formative research to get it to this stage and now we're actually running the study.

Granted we're running it on a small scale. It is the first baby step on a long long path to see if I can actually make a difference in people's lives but it felt great. On top of actually seeing my work come to life I also saw my student research team in action and they were awesome. My other big dream for the past three years has been to do this type of work with students; to work with them in a way that gave them true ownership. I wanted them excited and invested in the work and I wanted them to learn that this type of work exists but most importantly I wanted them to see that they could create something--research or otherwise--that both feeds their passion and helps others.

The design of the study called for us to run simultaneous workshops, so I couldn't be there with them to help them through it. They so didn't need me. They totally rocked and were completely pumped afterwards. Our participants also left the building feeling great and looking forward to coming back next week.

I may be completely burnt by the time this month is over but I'm feeling pretty good now.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hate Me If You Will...

...but I just not a huge fan of children. Don't get me wrong, I don't lure them into my candy-covered home and stuff them into ovens. In fact there are quite a few out there in the world that I'm fond of, especially the ones in my family. What I mean is I don't go ga-ga over babies and I don't immediately get down on my knees to play with toddlers. I don't try and engage every child I meet in conversation and I don't think they're all cute...not even the babies (I mean most babies are but there are a few butt-ugly ones in this world).

My take on children is pretty much my take on all people--there are some I adore, very few I despise, but most of them I can take or leave. I also don't quite understand why young people are automatically cute and precious but old people--not so much. In fact I've been known to get crushes on little old ladies, because many of them are damned cute.

But anyway, kids are people and I don't raise them above or below any other age group. However I really don't like teaching them. At the dojo we don't have a separate kid's class, instead we all line up together. I like the idea of that more than the practice sometimes. Of course some kids really want to be there and others have parents who want them to be there. Tonight I had to teach a young girl, who everyone finds remarkably cute but no one wants to teach. She wants to play and I believe someone her age should be allowed to play. Unfortunately karate is not about play, especially when you are the only child in the room.

I do have a special fondness for adolescents/young adults (I'm channeling my mother right now, which is more than a little disturbing). There is something about this age group that I find appealing, especially young women who are on the brink of discovering themselves. I seem to be collecting daughters post-forty. My latest acquisition goes as far as to call me mom and came running into my office the other day because a bee flew up her pants leg and stung her twice. I made an appropriate amount of fuss and sent her on her way.

We're working closely together on one of my projects and she's been amazing. Sunday I attended an event she put together (she is president of the honor's society - what else would you expect from a daughter of mine?) and then we worked in my office for a few hours. I invited her over for some of b's famous chicken chili and a good time was had by all.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My Poor Little Blog...

...is so very neglected these days. The guilt would be overwhelming if I had any time to process it. Worse than my blog however is my journal. I've never been a successful journal writer. I usually can't get beyond 2 or 3 days. However when we moved down here and I started a new life in academia I decided to record the process in a daily journal. Since my computer functions as a camera the idea was to take a picture a day and to just describe what I did.

I managed almost every day for the first few months--this was before blogging and summertime in a brand new job--but then settled down into a more detailed post about once a week. I've managed to keep it alive for two years, which is really quite remarkable to me. However both August and September both have one entry each. Maybe it will become a monthly fixture...than an annual one and then what, one entry a decade? That will be one long-a$$ entry.

I think the decrease in both blogging and journaling happened because of the whole sending Angel off to school. It seems when I'm really sad or upset I don't like to write or to drink--when I'm extremely stressed I don't eat but I clean, which means that both my person and my house look their best when things are at their worst, pretty messed up eh? I have been feeling better of late (although I think that will be completely shot in 2 weeks when he comes home for his first visit) but this semester is kicking my butt big time. http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif

I have two community-based interventions running this month, a grant, 3 papers, a gazillion committee meetings and my two classes. All good--well not the meetings--but just no time to breathe. I've been trying to stick to going to the dojo three times a week no matter what as I believe that is my only outlet at the moment. However this is being threatened by some last minute service work that needs to be done Monday night.

Other than the dojo I think my only non-work activities are watching a smattering of TV shows and occasionally going to the movies or for drinks with b (last night we went to see this--I have mixed reactions). I haven't even been able to finish my Octavia Butler marathon. I'm two books shy of the finish line and my favorite ex-GA is reading the same one. We're supposed to be doing an email book club but I can't get to it.

Sorry. I know I'm whining and really its not bad and is just so hard to imagine how it can go from zero to 160 in a month.