EOS: season of forgiveness

I'm going to follow Dr Crazy's example and start forgiving myself things during this End of Semester (EOS):
  1. The messy state of our house. (And more specifically the grungy state of the bathroom, which I know would only take me 30 minutes to deal with but I just haven't found those 30 minutes lying around anywhere.)
  2. The fact that I didn't make it to yoga or the gym today, even though I wanted to. I did, however, walk with the dogs for almost 2 hours (two separate walks) and mowed the yard.
  3. The patchy scrubbiness of our grass in front, the gaping expanse of dirt in the back yard, and the twiggy remains of two small bushes (plants?) that died last summer. I have never pretended to be somebody who knows anything about outdoor plants or who even cares about them. If it were really our house we'd zeroscape it if I got to pick. (We're renters so every month I feel yard shame when Landlord comes by for the check.)
  4. The fact that Sudoku is my new best friend for Faculty Council meetings.
  5. My underpreparedness for tomorrow, and the next day.
  6. Having only done one of my book orders so far for next term.
  7. The fact that despite my overloaded work state, I have managed to watch one TV show every night this week. (We taped Invasion tonight, and are working our way thru a DVD of Veronica Mars, which we'd never seen on real TV.)
  8. My boring blog.
  9. The breakout on my chin.
  10. The fact that it is 1 in the morning and I still have work to do. And what am I doing? See #8.


Monday, Monday

Well, the evil virus has left my body. Thank goodness. But I had a cranky Monday anyway, faced with the awful feeling of being way behind on everything.

My grant application is done! and so are my taxes. (woo. hoo.) But the grading fairies didn't stop by to magically take care of the bibliographies I have to evaluate, nor to read the Master's theses weighing down my bag. Yup, it's End-of-Spring Semester. Which is way crazier than End-of-Fall. Thesis meetings, committee meetings, committee election meetings, merit review meetings, and meetings of the committee on committees. (Which hasn't yet held a meeting on meetings, but I'm sure it's on the agenda somewhere.) Everyone is distracted, ready to be done with all of this. (Except possibly my Chair, who thrives in departmental bylaws meetings like a vampire feeding on blood.) Maybe it's graduation looming, maybe it's spring pollen, maybe it's the bare skin exposed everywhere. Or maybe our semester is just 1 or 2 weeks too long?


when reality bites...

Well, I made it partway through my ambitious weekend list. I've made good progress on my grant apps and the laundry, and the dogs had two long walks yesterday. But now we are all piled on the bed feeling kind of punk. GF sprained her ankle badly Friday night and has to keep it elevated. And then, starting last night, I seem to have picked up some kind of stomachy bug. I'm just uncomfortable enough (fever, multiple trips to the bathroom) to feel cranky and distracted. Plus I'm achey so sitting at my desk really isn't a comfortable option. So, blessings once again to my Chair for granting me the use of a laptop. But my dream of cleaning up the house, managing all my work, and exercising heavily just isn't going to come true this weekend.

But on the good side: I get to hang out with my family who are all very sympathetic to my plight. Speedy has her head resting on my feet as I type this, and the Boss is curled on GF's pillow. They are kind of tired out after hunting for new dog toys in the yard this morning. . . I hid some rubber balls and new squeaky toys and they loved it. We may have to institute Toy Hunts for other holidays as well...


the list

on my list for the weekend:
  • write two small grant applications
  • prepare and file my taxes
  • attempt long-procrastinated revisions on article
  • grade and comment on student bibliographies
  • post stuff on the department's website
  • do 5 loads of laundry (2 down already!)
  • vaccum and mop the floors
  • clean the bathroom
  • take many dog walks
  • take little blogging breaks
  • get to yoga
  • go to the gym

Friends with Money

I took yesterday as a day off, the first Friday I'd been able to avoid the office for a long while. My gf and I took the dogs to the dog park, went out to lunch, and even made it to the movies, where we saw Friends with Money, the new film from Nicole Holofcener, who previously did Walking & Talking and Lovely and Amazing. Since character-driven ensemble dramas are among my favorite types of film, and this one includes Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, and Joan Cusack in it, I had high expectations and they were all satisfied. The film focuses on four 40ish women friends in LA, and their assorted husbands, careers, children, boyfriends, etc. It's not a comedy, though there are some humorous moments -- it's really more of a character piece. There are bittersweet moments, angry moments, sad and funny parts. I suppose it's part of the whole "40 is the new 30" thing (someone I know actually heard someone say that recently) so that 40-somethings can now in our culture be portrayed as trying to figure out their lives in the way that 15 years ago it was the 30somethings. If you have husband and house and money but you're still not happy, what do you do? If you don't have those things, does it mean you're not going ever to be happy? How do you balance individual happiness against the larger issues in the world -- in your family, your neighborhood, your city, the planet? Each of the women has a different approach to these questions.

One of the truest things in the movie I thought was how we often use other people's lives as a distraction from our own, or as a way to make ourselves feel better. So one couple are having a conversation about depression that isn't really going anywhere -- and then they'll say "well what about Christine? can you believe that...". The film neatly shows us this happening and, I think, offers the viewers the chance to self-reflect a little bit, to consider how we ourselves are inevitably using the characters in the film as emotional or social yardsticks (well, I'd never be as rude as that; my partner is better than hers; but I'm not as succesful as she is). It's entertaining but substantive as well. The reasons why I like this movie are sort of the same reasons I like reading so-called "personal" blogs -- glimpses into other lives that help you understand better the whole messy picture of being human.


which era is it?

You know those magazine ads for Microsoft Office that show dinosaurs in business suits? Today I could see those dino-heads sitting around the table in our conference room during a department faculty meeting. Yup, it's curriculum review time. Time to bring out the same arguments that have been waged up and down these halls apparently since 1961 (the earliest date that was brought into conversation today).

Best worst moment: someone made a motion which she herself labelled "troglodytic" which was seconded by at least four other colleagues.


I just discovered that if you want to check out recently published tech and computing books, like Julie's new blogging book, you can read them through a ProQuest database called Safari Tech Books Online.


bee irritated

In a comment thread at Julie's about Starbucks, a couple of people mentioned the irritating advertising for the upcoming film Akeelah and the Bee which was co-produced by Starbucks Entertainment. I'm equally irritated by the general sense of overload produced by all the signs and coasters that litter the store I frequent. To state in the advertising material that a film is "inspirational" is enough to make me definitely NOT see it. And I'm still not convinced that an entertainment production company is an obvious linkage with the coffee empire. The music CDs made some kind of sense, in that SBX plays music in the stores and some people want to create the same ambience at home. But are they going to serve lattes in the movie theater? That actually would be awesome, since only some of our local theaters offer coffee at the concession stand. But I don't think that's the case here. Judging from the promotional materials on their website, they think this film expresses values that SBX wants to invoke in its customers. Blech.

But my irritation isn't just about the clutter, or the tenuous connection between coffee and a film about children. It's also about the cultural fuss about spelling bees. After all, from the description, this film seems like a mash-up of Spellbound and Bee Season with a little dash of Oprah sentiment thrown in. Now, that documentary and novel each had its strengths and weaknesses. But do we really need more? Plus, there already was a film made from Bee Season (which I haven't seen).

What I find irritating is that spelling bees, and their participants, tend to be presented in the media as amusing/touching examples of nerdiness. Spellbound, for instance, tended to emphasize the ways in which the champion spellers were misfits in their schools, either through their looks, their singleminded devotion to spelling, or their behavior. The spelling bee then becomes this redemptive space where the nerds can finally get prizes too. Because in modern American culture the only way anyone gets any social status is through sports or game-show type models of competition.

There are so many things that I find irritating about this. First of all -- spelling has nothing to do with intelligence, any more than one's ability to pitch a ball corresponds to overall physical health. Sure, some spellers are smart; but some are not. And there are plenty of smart people who can't spell. And we all know about how unhealthy some baseball players are.

Secondly -- if you want to applaud or sympathise with smart nerdy kids -- who are discriminated against and harassed on a daily basis in school -- then find better examples. Sure, they're not so easy to cheer on, because their interests and activities don't conform to a "win-all or lose" paradigm. They're awkward, eccentric, interesting, complicated, and unique. To hold up a few students who are good at memorizing stuff as if they are the ideal for all intelligent people is itself a dumbing-down strategy that tries to make Joe Ordinary feel better. Since coffeeshops are some of the few public spaces left where nerdy people can feel comfortable -- where it's OK to read a book or stare at the computer -- it seems all the more annoying to me that this film is SBX's first choice. To put a word like "pulchritude" on a coaster and make Joe Java Ordinary feel smug because he recognizes it hardly makes the world a better place.


a walking tale

An acquaintance of mine recently said to me that she was glad they had installed a new taller fence around their yard. They wanted more privacy from the neighbors, but she in particular felt that now she was free to play with their dog without feeling self-conscious. I felt both glad for her about the fence, but also sad that she cared so much that it had hampered her play heretofore. For me, one of the many lessons I've learned from our dogs is to let go of self-consciousness. Plus, of course, it helps to be getting older. There are a lot of things I just don't care about as much as when I was younger. This is not to say I'm not self-conscious in certain situations -- being shy, over-educated, and having been raised by parents who were class and cultural outsiders means that I am hyper-aware of myself when I have to deal with the extremely wealthy, or in spaces like suburbia.

But being with The Boss and Speedy frees me from all awkwardness, since they really don't care. They want only to spend time with me. We play elaborate games of "Chase Speedy with the ball" and "Boss's Tugfest" in our yard, with rules and conventions that have developed over time. If my neighbors see me running and playing, who cares? It actually has never even crossed my mind.

When walking with the dogs, I often carry on some running commentary or conversations with them about what we see, how they're acting, etc. Some of it is along the lines of "leave that dead bird alone" and some of it is more personal and nonsensical. I sing little madeup rhymes to them and just have fun. (I do realise that I might sound (might in fact be becoming) Crazy Dog Lady but I still would not share my toothbrush with either of our dogs, which is my personal benchmark for such things. (Based on someone I once knew.))

Yesterday morning, we were out on a walk a bit earlier than usual. Because of the presence of schoolchildren (and the alarming crossing guards who make Speedy anxious) we walked a slightly different route than we customarily do. I was happily singing a little spring song to them as we turned the corner by the Catholic church. And there was a guy in a monk's outfit in a little meditation garden facing the street. I'm no expert in Church garb, but this sure seemed like traditional brown monk type robes I'd expect at the Renaissance Faire. He looked up coldly at me and I stopped singing. Then I nodded and said good morning, and kept walking.

And then, half a block further down the street, both Speedy and then The Boss decided to poop on the grass in front of the church's office building. I picked it up of course but couldn't help but feel like there was some judgment going on.

Friday poetry blogging

I have rarely (if ever) participated in Friday poetry blogging, because I'm usually overwhelmed by the choices. How can I pick one poem? How can I answer when someone asks me what my favorite novel is? These questions undo me. But I've been dipping into other people's Friday poetry blogs and enjoying all that I've been reading there. So here goes.

This is Sonnet XXV from Dante Gabriel Rossetti's The House of Life series (1870).


Each hour until we meet is as a bird
That wings from far his gradual way along
The rustling covert of my soul,—his song
Still loudlier trilled through leaves more deeply stirr'd:
But at the hour of meeting, a clear word
Is every note he sings, in Love's own tongue;
Yet, Love, thou know'st the sweet strain suffers wrong,
Through our contending kisses oft unheard.

What of that hour at last, when for her sake
No wing may fly to me nor song may flow;
When, wandering round my life unleaved, I know
The bloodied feathers scattered in the brake,
And think how she, far from me, with like eyes
Sees through the untuneful bough the wingless skies?


I did it!

Image hosting by Photobucket
Last night I completed the Bikram challenge! 60 consecutive days of Bikram yoga.

The strangest thing about finishing the challenge is that now it seems ordinary to go to yoga every single day. I do remember that five or six months ago I thought that 3 or 4 days in a row was the maximum I could do without needing a day off. Obviously, that's not true. I also used to think I was maintaining a regular practice with 4 or 5 days total a week. I think my standards have now been raised. I know I can do more.

What else happened during the challenge?

My yoga improved. I gained strength, balance, and flexibility. In yoga as in other exercise, I've found that you improve for a while, then you hit a plateau, then eventually start improving again. Doing the challenge bumped my practice up to another level. I'm still very aware of all the poses I struggle with, but I know that overall my practice improved.

My mind improved. I've been a happier and nicer person over the past 60 days. More importantly -- I've had no days of full on depression, which for me is pretty significant. I think I've been calmer in my responses to things. Setting such a clear priority, and making sure that if nothing else happens, I at least get to yoga, helped organize my day, and made me feel that I was accomplishing something. I've been struggling with meeting my goals the past couple of years, and so this feels good.

My body improved. I took my measurements on February 1st, when the challenge started -- I'm glad I did, because now I have concrete evidence of the visible physical changes. My clothes fit differently, and people in yoga class commented on what they saw. But since I live in my body every day, it's easy to become accustomed to it very quickly, and doubt the reality of the change. So, by the numbers: I didn't lose any pounds, but I did lose inches. Chest 3, waist 2 1/2, hips 2, thigh 1.