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

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Books: My Drug of Choice

I've decided to reread my entire collection of Octavia Butler. I started with her only collection of short stories--Bloodchild--and then went onto the Xenogenesis series. This series is made up of three separate novels: Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago; but has also been packaged together in a volume entitled Lillith's Brood. In Book One we discover that we have destroyed the world and ourselves in a nuclear war. An alien species rescues the last remaining humans. The aliens have three genders: male, female and ooloi and have an irresistible desire to heal, transform and reproduce with humans.

This series, like most of Butler's work, explores issues of "otherness" and belonging. She portrays kinship bonds--mates, parent-child, sibling--highlighting the extreme joy and pain each can bring. The novels cover what it means to reproduce, as an individual and as a species, and what it means to change--particularly how hard change really is--as well as our limits to see outside of our own culture, gender and upbringing.

Science fiction allows us to imagine possibilities as well as see the here and now from a different perspective. When it is really exceptional, as Butler's work is, it forces us to feel our humanity with no sugar-coating. The woman did not win a MacArthur Genius Grant for nothing. Whether you like science fiction or not, if you've never read her work you should give it a try.

Next up for me: Wild Seed.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Funeral Songs

So MoxieMama had a post the other day about her choice for songs at her demise. Granted a morbid topic but I guess sometimes a girl needs to think about these things. Tonight I told b that his is what he should play at my funeral, should I go first.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Break-up Songs

Having only been in two committed relationships throughout my life, I don't have much experience with break-up songs. I did play an Etta James CD to death as I wrestled with leaving my first husband but I don't think that really counts.

If there ever were such a thing as an "empty-nest song" (and I think there should be as there's a lot about it that feels like a break-up), this would be mine.



Much thanks to Ms. Prufrock for introducing me to the amazing Ben Harper's talents.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Votes Are In...

...and it seems we have a 3-way tie. Angel, Mr. Mister and Harvey all got 5 votes. Not quite what I expected but there you have it. Since Angel was Boy's choice it seems only right to go with that (he was dreading Mr. Mister).

That being said, Angel is ensconced at school and I am...still here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Randomness

Nit tagged me for one of those fun random memes and it was wonderful timing on her part because people--I've got bupkiss..nada...zilch..zero....NOTHING these days.

Here are the obligatory rules:
  1. Link to the person who tagged you
  2. Post the rules on your blog
  3. Write 6 random things about yourself
  4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them
  5. Let each person you have tagged know by leaving a comment on their blog
  6. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted.

Below are random Brigindo factoids:

  1. I've had an hourglass figure for most of my life. However as I grow older my hourglass holds more sand.
  2. I don't particularly like cakes but I love cupcakes...especially chocolate ones.
  3. My chocolate must be dark.
  4. My father was an only child, my first husband was an only child and my son is an only child (well technically he has half- and step-siblings but he was certainly raised as an only child). I am the youngest of four.
  5. My father died when I was sixteen. I met my first husband when I was sixteen. He was 18 years older than me and my teacher. You don't have to be Freud to figure that one out.
  6. I have 5 nieces and nephews. They range in age from 4 to 22. I find it amazing to see an entire new generation of my family growing up. They are so much more together then we were/are.
So in addition to having NOTHING these days I'm really not in the mood to tag anyone. You're on your own. If it sounds like fun, play along.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Sad End to an Otherwise Lovely Evening

b came to pick me up from work today. He got off a little early, it was raining, and he had the car. He got to see my new office, which he claims is the best of the three so far. I have to say I've gotten surprisingly comfortable in there (the only downside that I've come across is that right outside my door there is the shredder--loud annoying noise--and the coffee pot--disgusting smell of burnt coffee).

It was a migraine day and even though my meds had started kicking in I thought it best to forgo the dojo. Boy went without me. b made us a yummy dinner of roast chicken, carrots, potatoes, onions and garlic-sauteed green beans. After dinner I caught up on my blog reading while b watch Alton Brown.

b came up with the fabulous idea of going out for ice cream. It was surprisingly chilly went we left the house and it was beginning to get dark. We saw the neighbor's kittens playing on the front yard, but they didn't want to come close for any pets or snuggles. We drove over to Ben and Jerry's and then walked around the outdoor shopping center as we devoured our cones--talking about how confusing women's clothing really is and other assorted nonsense.

We drove home and just as we pulled in front of our house the headlights flashed on the body of one of the kittens sprawled in the middle of the road. She must have just been hit. We weren't sure what to do but knew we couldn't leave her there. b went into the house to get gloves to pick her up with and noticed that our neighbor's light was on and suggested I go tell her.

Those of you who have been following along will remember my neighbor and her animals.

I knocked on her door and delivered the sad news. She ran out into the street and picked the little kitten up and brought her back, cradled in her arms. At first she wasn't sure if she was dead, although it was quite obvious. I stayed on the porch with her as she pet the kitten and talked about how much she meant to her. Her dog and another kitten kept trying to escape the house while all this was going on.

It was awkward and sad. I tried to be comforting because I could tell she was truly distraught but I was honestly mad at her for letting her animals out in the first place. She told me that she gave three of the kittens away to a home with dogs and two of them had been killed by the dogs already. She wondered if she should take the third one back now. I really have no idea how to answer such a question. Obviously the kitten wouldn't be safe in either home.

I left her after she placed the kitten's body in a little basket on her front porch. She went inside to get a towel to cover her and asked me to ask Boy if he'd help her dig a hole when he got home. Boy came home minutes later, with tales of a big night at the dojo filled with tournament sparring--it seems he did really well. I told him the story and her request. b was having nothing to do with it. His grief over the kitten had solidified completely into anger. Boy really didn't want to help but, being the good soul that he is, went anyway.

So now the kitten is laid to rest and I can only hope she doesn't get another.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Complete the:

As seen over at Dr. Curmudgeon's:

1. My uncle once: wrote for a pornographic magazine.
2. Never in my life: have I been as blessed as I am now.
3. When I was five: my parents bought me a cat who hated children.
4. High school was: filled with nerds and yet I still hated it.
5. I will never forget: giving birth...that's why I never did it again.
6. Once I met: Alan Alda in my best friend's living room.
7. There’s this boy I know: who's about to embark on an amazing journey.
8. Once, at a bar: I kissed b for the very first time.
9. By noon, I’m usually: almost awake and mostly coherent.
10. Last night: b and I enjoyed cocktails on the veranda.
11. If only I had: high cheekbones I could wear my hair really short.
12. Next time I go to church: the devil will cry.
13. What worries me most: is turning the corner and meeting overwhelming grief.
14. When I turn my head left I see: b surfing the internet.
15. When I turn my head right I see: Pupzilla chewing her leg.
16. You know I’m lying when: I stammer and turn several shades of red.
17. What I miss most about the Eighties is: irrelevant since I can't remember the Eighties.
18. If I were a character in Shakespeare I’d be: played by a man.
19. By this time next year: I'll be submitting my tenure packet.
20. A better name for me would be: Snorsie McSnorington
21. I have a hard time understanding: materialism.
22. If I ever go back to school, I’ll: know that I lost my mind.
23. You know I like you if: I cook for you.
24. If I ever won an award, the first person I would thank would be: my husband, who is responsible for the rotation of my world.
25. Take my advice, never: say never.
26. My ideal breakfast is: waffles and eggs!
27. A song I love but do not have is: impossible to find.
28. If you visit my hometown: pick up the pace and, no matter what, DO NOT stop in the middle of the sidewalk to gawk at the buildings.
29. Why won’t people: save the whales?
30. If you spend a night at my house: you share a bed with Pupzilla.
32. The world could do without: McMansions.
33. I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: live through adolescence again.
34. My favourite blonde(s) is/are: Boy.
35. Paper clips are more useful than: academic committees.
36. If I do anything well it’s: completely by accident.
37. I can’t help but: smile when Boy calls me "mama."
38. I usually cry: quietly.
39. My advice to my child/nephew/niece: is "be yourself."
40. And by the way: consider yourself tagged.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Work Before The Work

I never learn. No matter how many years I've been running projects, analyzing data, and writing papers, I am still caught completely off-guard by "the work before the work." I don't know that this phenomenon is really unique to academia but I do know there is no getting away from it.

For those of you who may be blissfully ignorant of the term: "the work before the work" refers to everything that needs to be done before you can even get started on the long and drawn out process that will ultimately result in a publication or grant or something. But really it is the list of tasks that show up out of the blue and continues to multiply with every check of a To Do List box.

Let's say, for example, you have collected data on your topic of interest and have been processing/cleaning/coding/whatever that data for a while and are now ready to analyze said data and, ultimately, write a paper from the data. Let's say you are an organized person, who loves a good To Do List, and you have blocked out some time to begin the analysis and have listed this task on this week's list. So what do you do? You sit down, pull up your dataset/database/whathaveyou and start analyzing--wrong. You sit down and realize that there is one little piece that is missing in your dataset or one little thing that needs to be checked/confirmed/whathaveyou before you can begin. Whamo, 5 hours later you have a brand new To Do list for the week that if you manage to complete you will maybe, just maybe, be at the point where you can think about doing the analysis.

Of course you can blame yourself for the above example. After all if you had really really been as organized as you claim you wouldn't have had to check/confirm/find/etc that one little piece of information. An even more frustrating example is when you are about to go into the field to run an experiment/collect data/whathaveyou but first you need to purchase something for which you have already budgeted and have a vendor in hand. Again what do you do? Do you happily place the order, await its timely arrival, and then proceed into the field? No you do not. Instead you become embroiled in an institutional argument over the price/vendor/purchase order/whathaveyou that again dumps at least a week's worth of work in your lap before you have a chance to begin "working."

But really, I love my job.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Myths

I have always loved myths and myth-making. I love stories of gods and saints (pagan or otherwise) and constellations that explain phenomenon that would otherwise puzzle us. I love learning myths from different cultures. I also love fairy tales, which have many of the qualities of myths but focus on entertainment and (sometimes) teaching morality rather than explaining phenomenon. (Probably an oversimplification of the distinction and my scholar friends in lit, please do chime in here). I love to anthropomorphize, especially in poems. Here's one I've been working on:

Recovery Myth

Hurt follows me;
a hungry child whining
'round my waist.

Cupid’s baby sister;
Lust’s progeny;
born to soon and then forgotten.

Lank hair falls on gaunt eyes,
her long limbs reaching up,
until I bend and cup

her strained face in my hands.
I brush a dry kiss across
her cracked lips and bring fire

to her cheeks. Her eyes change from want
to greed and she grows; mighty and strong.
Her arms circle me as we stand

foreheads touching. Flinging
my head back and opening my throat
I shout: long, strong, and full.

She whithers from my anger; slowly
receding but not yet gone, she clings
with the frailest of fingertips.

Unprying them from my flesh
I feel her slip and fade
from my side.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Potential Pets

Here in the House of Dirt and Rocks we spend a lot of time discussing possible future pets (once Pupzilla and the cats have "gone to college"). Below are some of the candidates:

Boy and b are often asking for something along these lines.



I think b would really prefer one of these



Boy and I have always wanted one of these but b says they're just big stupid dogs



b really wants one of these but I say no



Actually b and I know what we really want, we just can't decide what type.

These



or these

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Audience*

An email conversation with Julie (what a world we live in where the phrase "email conversation" actually makes sense, eh?) got me thinking about audience. I've written before about some of the reasons I started blogging: to expand my writer's voice outside of academic rhetoric and to more actively participate in the conversation I was following on academic blogs. As both voice and conversation are welded to audience I think it makes sense to address it here.

While I do not teach writing as a course I do infuse teachings about writing in all my courses and my interactions with my student research team. I do this because I think education is about extending our thinking and I believe writing is directly related to thinking. Often we don't know what we think until we write it down. The act of writing leads to a re-vision of both our thinking and our written work. But I, once again, digress.

One of the things I like to discuss with my students is the concept of audience. Identifying your intended audience while you are writing affects your writing deeply. Sometimes the effect is positive but often it can be negative. Not having a specific audience or having multiple audiences often leads to muddled writing. More often we have critical audiences in our heads and this can cause very stilted, overly careful writing or no writing at all. I like to tell students that we can not only choose the audience in our mind but we can change that audience with each draft.

For myself, if I'm writing an academic piece--particularly one that is difficult or new to me--my first audience is two of my BFFs and partners-in-research-crime: A-girl and Sparkle (otherwise known as "the girls"). We've worked together for years doing collaborative writing and sharing drafts. They "get me," they know my work, they always provide useful suggestions and positive feedback. Now I'm not saying I necessarily show them the piece but my first draft is written (almost as a letter) to them. This way I can explain my work and my ideas to a friendly and supportive audience. It makes it easy to get a draft out. However once the draft is written I realize that, since they know my work so well, I have let out details and the draft would be confusing to people without an intimate knowledge of my agenda. So my next draft is either to a friendly colleague at work or, if I'm feeling confident, an imaginary friendly reviewer. The final draft is usually written to an imaginary critical reviewer or my previous boss/mentor--who is skeptical of the type of research I do now. This forces me to write tightly and to "cover my a$$," if you will.

So what does this have to do with blogs and email conversations, you ask? Well exactly that--I now have a "you" that is asking (ok, maybe you're not but I now imagine you asking). When I started this blog my "audience" was a faceless, nameless blogosphere. I started writing not knowing if I would continue but more importantly not knowing who, if anyone, would be writing. Now I have a--admittedly very small-- handful of regular readers who not only provide feedback through comments and email but I follow their stories and know them (in that strange kind of knowing but not really knowing internet-way).

So I've been asking myself--who am I writing to? How does it change my writing? And what about the ones who don't comment (yes I know there are at least a few lurkers out there)--how do they affect my writing? I also think about my archive. I realize that both my present and past writing is out there for yet-to-be-discovered audiences--how does that idea affect my writing? Or maybe it doesn't?

In some ways it definitely feels easier to come up with post topics and to write them as I have a specific and friendly audience in mind. However, as I often do with friends, I'm more likely to blurt out personal information that might best be left unsaid/written. Blogs are a public forum and not a private conversation. What might be understood or appreciated in the context of friendship can be taken quite differently by a stranger. In truth we are writing for two very different audiences. Keeping that balance in mind and not producing muddled or stifled writing is a tricker task than I first imagined.

*Much of my thinking on writing in this post is based on books I've read on strategies of writing (academic: Boice & Silvia, creative: Le Guin & Brande) and teaching writing (Elbow).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pupzilla's Bed

Pupzilla has a bed that lies next to our bed. She is not allowed on our bed. The Brute is. Many think this is unfair. I am not one of them.

Although I wash the lining of the bed occasionally it often looks dirty and it smells. (Is it just me or do unbathed dogs always smell like this?).

Before we switched rooms and b built us a new bed, Pupzilla's bed was on his side. He really likes hearing her snore as she lies next to him. However if her bed was on his side it would block the door to the laundry room.

I have bed issues that must drive b crazy, although he is too sweet to admit it. In addition to my insistence on an incredibly firm (hard) mattress, the side of the bed that needs to be mine is decided on by some strange inner sense of place that only I understand. In other words it is not necessarily the right or left side; it is not necessarily the side by the window or the side by the door; but rather is the side that once I see the bed in the room says "Brigindo this is for you." I'm the same way in hotel rooms when there are double beds--one speaks to me the other doesn't. And yes this is another way I channel my mother but I'd rather not discuss it, thank you very much.

So I have the side next to Pupzilla. I get to hear her snore (ok anyone in the room can hear her snore) and I get first whiff of her nightly flatulence.

My side also fits the nightstand--which is good because I have a place for the stack of books that are always there--but is bad because (a) I'm now in charge of the alarm clock and (b) The Brute likes to climb on the nightstand, sit on my laptop, and knock my glasses to the floor when he wants someone to get up and feed him (which can be several times a night).

But this post is about Pupzilla's bed not mine.

The Brute, who believes it is his world and we are all welcome to live in it, has taken to sleeping on Pupzilla's bed. He snuggles right into the middle and starts his obssessive cleaning when she's not there. Eventually Pupzilla comes in and finds him there and is at a loss about what to do. She'll stand over him and glare but he just stares her down. She tried a very low growl the other night but he ignored it. (b made The Brute get up at that point for fear of it escalating). Last night she finally sighed and squeezed herself next to him. He snuggled in closer, gave her face a few licks and then got up and left.

We all eventually learn to give him what he wants.

A Break From Our Regular Scheduled Programming

Dr. Medusa introduced me to the much needed Lazy Blog Post Generator and this is the result:

Crikey! I just got slapped with a wet salmon - really - I have not updated this since people stopped clapping and Tinkerbell died... You would not believe how hard it is being waited on hand and foot and generally lounging around. I prostrate myself in sorrow and beg thy forgiveness..

I am distracted with sleeping my way to the top, being distracted by the shiny, just generally being the life of the party to the local soccer team, my day lasts forever from midday to I run out of alcohol. I am not complaining though. I wish you could be here to share it.

I swear on the bones of my ancestors I will update you with my nefarious activities as soon as I get a chance. Well, I'll try. Unless of course the pool with the cocktail bar is heated!.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

RBOC: Taking the Good with the Bad

  • We put Boy's car into the shop for a general tune-up before he takes it with him to college. What we thought would be a minor expense turned out to a hefty little sum and they claim the clutch is on the way out (both b and Boy disagree with this diagnosis - I try never to drive that car).
  • The car is 16 years old. Boy bought it himself shortly before getting his learner's permit (almost 3 years ago) and it has never had anything seriously (read expensive) wrong with it before.
  • Boy paid for the repairs himself from his savings and assures us his next paycheck will cover the entire amount (he's been working lots of overtime).
  • I've been weighing myself daily, trying to track myself for a month. I'm currently at my heaviest and should lose at least 10 lbs to get to my normal (but not optimal) weight.
  • I continue to eat ice cream and french fries and drink beer but my (over)weight has remained stable.
  • I was carded (or proofed - depending on where you're from) twice this month. Once while at a restaurant/bar with Boy (I'm much more likely to get carded with him) and once by myself at the grocery store.
  • b has been waiting for a certain job opportunity to be announced. The announcement came but the opportunity is in another state. It will probably come here some day but we don't know when.
  • b is seriously rethinking his career options and is talking about going back to school.
  • I did, in fact, lose my office.
  • I not only set up my new monitor and printer in my new office but my old DH painted the new office for me (himself) a very lovely shade (sort of almond-white). I'm actually rather comfy in there.
  • Had a really bad class at the dojo on Thursday.
  • Got to spar at the dojo today.