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, November 27, 2009

After The After Party*

I spent this Black Friday cleaning the house. When I reached several hours in and was (almost) done with 2 rooms, I decided to call it quits for the day. Hopefully my enthusiasm for a clean house will continue tomorrow. If not, I'll live in these two rooms for the next few days.

b left early this morning to do a brief stint in a neighboring state. He works in retail and is always busy Black Friday but this year his efforts were needed elsewhere and he won't be home until Monday afternoon. Angel went back this afternoon. He works in hospitality so he worked on Thanksgiving (until 3 pm) and had a shift that started at 5 pm tonight. So I am alone in the house for three days and pretty much caught up at work. In addition to the cleaning and cooking that I have planned for the weekend, I can actually get a little ahead on my research and perhaps even begin pulling the syllabus together for my Spring class.

So yesterday was Turkey Day, for us and the rest of America. We kept up our tradition of a camping Thanksgiving. b, Pupzilla, and I headed to the campsite Wednesday evening and spent a quiet evening and morning by ourselves. I think that may be my favorite part--the calm before the storm and a little alone time with my hubby. Pumpkin and BB showed up at 11 am, as b was preparing us a late breakfast. We were joined this year by a friend of Pumpkin's who has become a favorite of ours: HungryGirl. HungryGirl is a rail-thin model, aspiring archeologist, and GRE tutor who is brilliant, beautiful and funny. She absolutely adores b's cobbler and is always hungry...hence the name.

As usual, b spent the entire day cooking and this year he added a new dish: mac & cheese. There was a lot of fire poking, a little bit of dancing and some card playing. At one point I left the crowd and took Pupzilla for a small hike around the park. The campground was quiet (except for us) and it was a lovely day.

Angel arrived around 5:30 just as dinner was ready. Fortunately/unfortunately his place of business fed the entire staff a huge (and yummy sounding) lunch so he wasn't hungry. The rest of us put a dent in the feast without him. Shortly after he arrived it began to rain. We were safe and dry under the tarp b had erected but it literally put a damper on the sitting around the fire with hot cocoa, cobbler and a reading of A Christmas Carol.

Pumpkin and BB had planned to spend the night but Pumpkin bailed because of the rain. HungryGirl is not a camper and had always intended on going home. Angel, for a number of boring but complicated reasons, had also decided to stay at our house instead of camp. Due to the rain, everyone left far sooner than we originally anticipated. b and I spent a warm, dry and comfy night in the tent (Pupzilla went home with Angel) hearing the rain patter. b read me a bit of Dickens and I fell asleep.

While it was a nice day, it was sad to have everyone break up so soon and it seemed wrong to spend so little time with Angel, especially since he had to go back today. If everything remains the same next year, I think I would prefer a more traditional Thanksgiving at home. Angel and I did have a nice breakfast this morning at our favorite diner and he hung out with me until the last possible moment, which was great.

Here are some highlights:

The Fire

Early Cooking

The Stuffing

The Three-Legged Turkey

Eating Buffet Style

*The title of a favorite song written by one of my favorite people

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's All About The Writing

If last weekend was the Weekend Of Cooking, this is the Weekend Of Writing (or WOW). Next weekend (after The Big Day) may end up being WOW II. Now that my classes are just about a thing of the past and I have only 6 committee meeting scheduled until the end of the semester, I actually have some mental space to get serious writing accomplished.

As you can see from my little cartoon counter above, I've been very slowly plodding away at InaDWriMo. I have not been able to track my # of days spent in writing-related activities very well but my sense is, in spite of my Week Of Conferencing, I'm not that far off the mark.

Here's what I'm trying to accomplish before the semester ends and the holiday festivities begin:
  • Get 2 papers--that are currently completely drafted--polished, to co-authors, and out the door. One of these needs some serious editing to get it down to the 3500 word limit, which messes with my InaDWriMo word tracking system something fierce.
  • 1 article for a cool encyclopedia on a topic that interests me greatly but I know very little about. Article has a 1220 word limit but is due December 1st.
  • Revisions to Mmy NIH grant that needs to be submitted in February but my wonderful, excellent, oh-so-amazing grant writer editor wanted to see the next draft in December.
  • This paper that has been the bane of my writing existence for far too long now, has come back as a revise and resubmit. For those of you following along, it took a long time to come back from the last journal as a revise and resubmit but with comments from the Editor that (a) made no sense and (b) gave me reason to believe the Editor did not want it published regardless of reviewers. Revisions from the current journal are not that difficult but one reviewer wrote a 9-page review! It was mostly complimentary but will require some effort making sure all the suggestions are incorporated or explained.
If I can get all of the above accomplished it will leave me free to start and/or get back to analysis on 5 papers (that I have desperately been wanting to write for some time now) in the Spring semester (when I thankfully am teaching only 1 class). I also have 2 articles currently under review that I am anticipating major revisions. It will be nice to have these out of the way before those reviews come in.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

RBOC: Migraine Edition

  • Woke up this morning feeling really awful. I was convinced I'd finally caught whichever of the nasty bugs that are going around SouthLite: my body ached, my throat was scratchy, and my head was both foggy and hurting. I took some Vitamin C and Motrin and headed off to the office. About halfway through the day it occurred to me to take my migraine medication. It worked.
  • I have a bunch of posts that have been running through my head this week but with a migraine the best I can manage is this RBOC post.
  • One of the posts I've been thinking of involves my love of a certain tea. I drink this tea all winter long. I drink this tea whenever I'm on a diet. I drink this tea when I get migraines. It is currently rainy and yucky outside; I'm on a diet and I have a migraine but I have no tea.
  • I've been out of tea for almost a month. b has been valiantly checking our local natural food coop for the latest shipment every week. Two weeks ago he tried to order it online for me (I also take this tea with me when I travel and desperately wanted it for my conference trip) but no luck--distributer is all out.
  • I fear my tea is being discontinued.
  • My favorite bra was discontinued many years ago and I have not been the same since.
  • Pumpkin, b and I got into a conversation about being particular. I am convinced I am the most particular of the three of us. b agrees but Pumpkin does not.
  • Angel got negative feedback from both this classmates and his teacher on his poem. He has to revise it and both he and I disagree with the suggested revisions. While the poem can use revising, my feeling on the suggestions is that they show a lack of understanding of the poem.
  • One of the suggestions was to not label the man in the 4th stanza as "black" but to find another way to describe him. It was implied that to describe the man by his race was racist. I find it disturbing that college students do not understand the difference between racist statements and descriptions of racism.
  • Tomorrow is the last day in the semester that I actually have to teach my classes. I will still have another week and a half of class meetings but they will be spent listening to presentations. The thought of not having to prep another class until January is very comforting right now.
  • This entire week has been taken up with other people's needs. End of the semester is a very needy time and while I'm less busy then most (due to how I plan my classes) I don't want to spend the time I have on other people's agendas.
  • Pressure is growing on me to take on an administrative task in the department. I've effectively put it off until tenure is official but I'm seeing that it will be close to impossible to avoid it completely. Soon my strategy needs to turn towards negotiating compensation.
  • Having administrative talents does not equal wanting to do administrative work.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend of Cooking

I told b today that when I slow down (as we both know I'll never actually retire) I think I'll spend my spare time cooking and baking. It is what relaxes me. However I think I'm going to need a ton of grandchildren to cook and bake for, as once I get going there is way to much food for either of us to consume. Right now my money is on Pumpkin producing the grandchildren, as Angel is having none of it.

I had a wonderful and stress-free weekend. I had three work items that absolutely needed to be done (class prep, journal review and student paper feedback) and I accomplished each one but did no other work at all. I then cooked the following:
  1. Indian-styled red beans
  2. Curried rice and chickpeas
  3. Curried potatoes
  4. Sauteed spicy cabbage
  5. Roasted veggies with garlic and balsamic vinegar
  6. Roasted eggplant, chickpea and feta cheese dip
I also baked my first No-Knead Bread.

The first three recipes come directly from Bittman's "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian." The cabbage and roasted veggies are regulars for me. The dip recipe actually came off of the yogurt container of my favorite greek yogurt.

I've been ignoring the No-Knead Bread for many years. My in-laws were the first to start (from a recipe in the New York Times), however I am a big fan of kneading (it's what makes baking bread fun in my book) so I didn't think I'd ever need (no pun intended) such a recipe. Then Macheesmo started several post about this method, the man who made it famous and his book. Finally my doctoral student has been baking this bread regularly and brought a loaf over at our Pumpkin Carving Soiree. The bread was delicious and the simplicity convinced me that I could have bread like this every week (SouthLite just doesn't "get" good bread). So I gave it a try. Here's the result:

Personally I think the recipe calls for a tad more salt but I'll be baking it again next week. The other thing I learned this weekend is that home-cooked beans are vastly different from canned. I know, I know....all of you who have learned this lesson years ago are laughing but I think beans and bread are going to be a weekly event at the House of Dirt and Rocks from now on.

The bigger problem I ran into this weekend was a lack of storage containers. I thought our house had an inordinate amount of tupperware but it seems I was mistaken. I either need to invite large quantities for students over for a feast or invest in more tupperware and a larger freezer.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Conference Life: Part II

I am finally home from my conference extravaganza and I'm just beginning to recover. The excitement was nonstop from start to finish. If you haven't guessed by now I'm pretty much a Straight-A Introvert and, while I had a blast, it was difficult being so social for so many days. I need a few days of hermitage before I'll be myself again.

There is way too much to discuss in a blog post so I've pulled out some of the highlights below:

Being with Friends

I think this was the best part of the entire conference. A lot (and I mean A LOT) of my colleagues and students went and that was nice and fun but truth be told I see them all the time. We're a close bunch and have many opportunities to socialize. What made this special was being able to spend real quality time with my favorite women ever. LTTS and I roamed the conference together for a few days and I went out to several meals (as well as a cool museum--see below) with her and Beau, who I totally dig. A-girl showed up Monday evening and the three of us (me, Sparkle and A-girl) were pretty much inseparable until it was time to travel home. I miss them dearly when I'm not with them and we're trying to come up with more opportunities to see one another.

Cool Presentation

I had so much going on at this conference that I had decided I would not go to any presentations beyond the ones that included my friends and colleagues. However, as I was sitting through one very boring talk (I was waiting for a good friend to have her turn to present) I went through the program and found a presentation that was on the EXACT same topic as the chapter I'm writing that happens to be due at the end of the month. I got up early just to attend this presentation and was very pleased I did. Not only did it help immensely with my work but it was fascinating. I'd like to write more about the topic here but don't think I can just yet. I'm currently rethinking this whole idea of being pseudo-anonymous but am pending the official tenure decision before I go there.

My Presentations

What can I say, I totally rocked all three of my talks. I'm very comfortable with public speaking (which doesn't really match with the whole introvert thing but I can put it aside for the occasion) and I'm feeling very confident and sure of my work lately, so its not a surprise. In spite of that it still felt great to nail each one. The one poster that I presented did not go as well but (a) it was not on one of my studies so I was less sure of the work and (b) it was placed with the wrong group. Although the presentations went exactly as I wanted, next time I think I'm sticking to one...maybe two at the most.


The restaurants in the City of Brotherly Love were excellent. I was less than excited before I went because all I knew of the city was cheesesteaks--which just don't do it for me--but we ate at some lovely restaurants and I quite enjoyed myself. Better yet, I ate sensibly and walked so much that I still managed to lose a pound this week.

The Mutter Museum

Many years ago, when b and I were still dating, we saw a TV special on the Mutter Museum and instantly wanted to visit. While I've been in the City of Brotherly Love since, I never managed to find and visit the museum. LTTS and Beau were more than willing to accompany me. While we didn't have much time--the museum closes at 5 pm--we managed to get it all in. You really haven't seen everything in life until you've seen what's in this museum.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Conference Life: Part I

I've gone to a fair number of conferences over the years and for the majority of them I've gone alone. Many many years ago I used to travel with Angel and my mother. Mom would take Angel sightseeing during the day and then we would have the evenings together. It worked but was a fairly schizophrenic experience for me. I've been to conferences with colleagues before and the conference I am attending now has always been done with my BFFs. However I have never had such a wide assortment of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances at one conference with me before.

I arrived in the City of Brotherly Love Saturday evening. It took as long to get out of the airport and to my hotel as it took to fly from SouthLite. Our department was hosting a "social" in a nearby restaurant and a friend called when I hadn't shown up in the first half hour. So it was a very quick change of clothes and I was on my way. The event was fairly well attended and I entertained/was entertained by a small gaggle of students for most of the evening. I then got into a deep conversation with one of my favorite colleagues--our ex-department head and the main reason I ended up in SouthLite. I ended up leaving with the friend who had originally called requesting my presence and we stood on a street corner (we were staying at different hotels) and talked for over an hour. It was a pleasant evening--a mixture of office gossip/politics, jokes and booze (the free drink tickets were flowing freely). I do love my colleagues and our family-like environment.

I had my hotel room to myself on Saturday night. The internet is incredibly slow but other than that it is a fairly pleasant stay. I woke early, with the sun, Sunday morning and went out for a run. Currently I'm holding steady at 3 miles so that felt good. I managed to get a little writing done and started reading student papers that are due back the day I'm due back (ugh). Leaningtowardsthesun (LTTS) called to say she and her beau had arrived. We all met for coffee. I had met "Beau" before but only briefly. I liked him when I met him and have liked everything I've heard about him but was still pleasantly surprised to find him so charming, sweet, and sincere. He's the kind of person I would hang with even if he wasn't my friend's boyfriend and that is a good thing.

LTTS and I had a poster to present so we headed over the convention center. The presentation went well--almost every colleague or student of mine came over to see LTTS (she graduated from our program in 2008) because they either missed her or wanted to meet her (she has a reputation in the program for being such a superstar). We also had a fair amount of interest in our study and lots of questions. I found a poster that was presenting a study/findings that perfectly complimented and enhanced a study I'm presenting on Wednesday. The PI was not at the conference but is just a city or two away from SouthLite so that will be a cool contact to follow up.

The Expo at this conference is none for its freebies and give-aways. LTTS and I enjoy perusing the booths and collecting pens and chocolates. This year I also got a cool pedometer, a mug, a water bottle and several bags. As we were walking, talking, and collecting stuff Sparkle called. She had just arrived and was wandering the Expo as well. We managed to find each other and the LoveFest officially began. Today A-girl arrives and it should be through the roof.

We spent several hours in the Expo, walking around, running into people and seeing poster presentations of students and friends. Plans were made to meet up with some of my favorite students for drinks and a small group of us headed back to my hotel room. I'm sharing my room with one of my undergrads and she showed up and joined the party. Back at the hotel we met up with Beau and realized we were all too hungry to just drink (yes I am really feeling my age at this conference--particularly with the number of undergrads I have here). After much discussion we settled on Chinatown and headed over to pick up my favorite doctoral students.

By the time we reached the restaurant we were a party of 10. The food was divine as was the company and the evening went by very quickly. At the end of dinner it was clearly bedtime for many of us but my roommate and the other undergrads decided to find a club or clubs. I was too tired to pay much attention. By the time I arrived back at the hotel I had logged 24,000 steps on my pedometer and was feeling every one.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Conference Bound

I'm sitting in the airport, enjoying free wifi, and waiting to board a plane to the City of Brotherly Love. I think I'll be renaming it the City of Sisterly Love as I will be seeing all my "girls" at this conference. This is the largest conference in our field and it is pretty big. Not only are many of my colleagues from SouthLite going but so are a fair number of my students. Two students just left on an earlier flight that was delayed but my flight is on time and filled with 4-5 undergraduate students from my department.

I have a lot going on at this conference this year: 3 posters (2 being presented by students or former students) and 3 papers. But more importantly it will be an opportunity for me to spend some quality time with A-Girl, Sparkle and leaningtowardsthesun.

Looks like we're boarding. I hope to keep you posted on all the conference excitement.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Posted with Permission from the Author

Trek Back to 187th

That day in middle school a bully

joked about airplanes hitting buildings.

I couldn’t believe

When we sat spaced out in homeroom,

Staring at the fluorescent lights

And clock, towering over the intercom.

My name was called and father appeared

Standing outside the sunlit streets of New York.

He took my hand and pointed to

The steel smoking across the sky.

He said, this is the sight I never want you to see.

The sight of war.

We walked the streets of the city that never sleeps

And witnessed its bi-polar depression.

A women in a red dress, face wrinkled from tears,

Broken in the middle

Of the intersection. Like

A car accident, She collided with

Pavement and waited for help.

A man wedged his car door

Open blasting victims with news updates.

A couple stopped with us and

Stood around. Grim faced, crossed arms

We knew,

There was nothing we could do.

We joined a crowd.

And waited for a bus on 63rd and Lex.

Taxi’s sped past like angry

Yellow-jackets. One stopped

And a black man was first to reach it.

The driver argued against the man

And my father cried for justice

As it flew off.

That day I was afraid of sticks and stones

And towering buildings falling down on me.

-Angel, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

InaDWriMo 2009 Begins

InaDWriMo 2009 begins today and I haven't written a single word. InaDWriMo is the academic equivalent of NaNoWriMo and you can learn more about it over at Brazen Hussy's place. The rules are pretty simple: pick a writing goal (most choose number of words but there have been other ways of quantifying your writing in the past) and track your progress through the month with a handy-dandy writometer (see above). Each Saturday we post our progress over at Brazen Hussy's blog.

Last year I failed pretty miserably. I had three encyclopedia chapters due by December 1st for a total of 7500 words. I forget how many words I managed but in the end I pushed the deadline until January 15th. This year I have one encyclopedia chapter due on December 1st for 1500 words and 3 papers to finish. You are allowed to count revisions but quite frankly that seems like a lot of work. Also not all my "writing" results in written words, therefore I'm going to set two goals and hope I can make good on at least one. The first goal, as depicted in my wordmeter, is 5000 words. My second goal is to engage in the academic writing process (including analysis & reading of the literature) for 21 out of the 30 days in November. The 21 days covers the number of weekdays in the month this year. Of course I'll be allowed to write on weekends (in fact that's when I normally do the most of my writing) but this will force me to spend a lot more time writing during the week, since I'll never accomplish my second goal by just writing on the weekends. It will be particularly difficult since I'm going to a conference for 5 days in the middle of the month and I rarely write while I'm at conferences.

Wish me luck.