Thursday, December 25, 2008


It's been a fairly typical holiday for AK and me - meaning we pretty much lazed around the house or worked on individual projects. Our nod to the season was a walk in the fiercely melting snow (a second walk was cut short when we both sank up to the ankles in melted snow), a tree drawn in washable markers on the sliding glass door, and the surprise win of the Lakers over the 19-in-a-row-win Celtics (and Phil Jackson shaved off his beard! neither of us can cope with this fact). We didn't do presents this year because we're both horrible about asking for gifts and the procuring them in a timely fashion. We pretty much stick to the "Oh, I saw this and now it's yours five minutes after I've purchased it" school of thought when it comes to birthdays and other major gift giving events. This isn't necessarily a stand against commercialism and the acquisitive nature of society, since we do buy stuff. I am never left safely alone in Powell's (even when doing class research there I had to try to focus on the "serendipitous exchange of information" instead of what was newly remaindered) and AK has a serious problem when it comes to fencing shoes. Expressing love through gifts isn't something I inherited from my bargain hunting grandmother (it all went to the twin sister). I'm better at feeding people or finding them books or other bits of info (there's a bit in the JFW podcast mentioned below about how librarians express love through neat bundles of information and I am someone who routinely brings home articles on fencing or interesting bits for her husband in neat pdf form).

While walking today I talked with AK about a number of conversations I've had/blogs I've read lately about people "de-cluttering" - clearing out the garbage and excess possessions in their lives. One blogger I've been following calculated that in a little over ten days, she and her husband took nearly three-quarters of a ton of stuff to the dump or Goodwill. It's difficult for me to wrap my head around that amount of stuff. I get cranky and stifled sometimes when I look around our apartment and realize that it would take me more than a few hours to pack everything up and ship it out (a product of living primarily in dorms, even over the summer, for five years). The husband does hold onto stuff for a while, but it's never gone beyond the level of "Let's take and hour and recycle the soda cans and this room will be normal". What else is going on if you have that much excess in your life?

Maybe what it comes down to is that I find stuff to be overwhelming and often expensive. Some stuff in life is necessary. Some stuff in live makes the act of living more enjoyable. And some stuff seem just to be there for the gathering and collecting. There are a number of pursuits taken up by friends (often of a geeky nature) that seem wholly about acquiring things. Not experiences or knowledge or personal growth, but stuff. If you're into BPAL, you buy and trade imps of scent. If you're into roleplaying, you buy a number of expensive hardbacks. Boardgames have expansion packs. Films keep coming out with special editions or high def versions. Some knitters have stashes that are probably half the size of my local (tiny) knitting store.

Yes, you can certainly get pleasure from a scent and personal growth from problem solving games. These are not empty pursuits. But where's the limit? At what point do you stop enjoying the objects and are just gathering them to have them? Lately I've been clearing out some old magazines and books, including back issues of Victorian Studies. Did I subscribe to this journal because I really cared about the content or because I wanted to be the sort of person who subscribed to the journal? The clothes make the man and the possessions the person. The Ipod and trucker hat makes the hipster. The limited edition BPAL and SF hardback make the geek. What I'm trying to figure out is what exactly makes the M and am I made out of stuff I actually value, stuff I actually need? Do I need all my old notebooks from college? Do I even need the photocopies of my readings from this past quarter (I should probably finish the degree before I start pitching things). At what point do you stop owning stuff and it starts owning you?

This is perhaps not the merriest of Christmas themes, but I'm in the middle of Dickens' "The Haunted Man" and it's not exactly the most cheerful tale I've ever read.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow snow snow snow...

Sometime today I believe Portland broke a 40 year record for the most snowfall in December. Outside is just unending white, with that sharp wet smell I associate with fall finals as an undergrad (often a blizzardy time of year). I've baked a few half-hearted batches of Christmas cookies (adjusted to the particular tastes of AK), finished a book, made great progress on Nicholas Nickleby, and bought my texts for next quarter (a most expensive expedition). Since his work is still closed, AK has turned nocturnal again, slipping his cold feet under the covers just as I'm ready to stumble into the kitchen for a pot of tea. I shouldn't complain, since it was in just such a wintery situation that we decided that being together in the long term wouldn't be such a bad idea (he coached late into the night and I was fighting with the dreaded undergraduate thesis).

Things seem to be improving outdoors, and I say this after attempting a four mile walk this afternoon where a friend and I managed to completely cross paths, each arriving home cranky and exhausted two hours after we left. The snow has taken on that dense slushiness that forewarns a great thaw and that also seeps deeply into old running shoes that anyone might be using instead of snow boots for traction. Hopefully all will be approaching well in time for my flight to NY on Friday evening. Trips home are always complicated - I want to see my family, but they also drive me insane. I own that this is by no means an original complaint and I do love my family. I've just lost the ability to understand them. It's mostly my fault - I've moved on from them willingly, both emotionally and geographically. For a very long time I wanted to be someone different. I had a very specific vision of this new person: skinny, well-read with an appropriate quote at her fingertips, well-dressed, possessed of a strong voice that was vaguely sweet and which lacked even a hint of Queens, an Important Job with an office that had a door, a couch, and some art on the wall. Nothing of substance, as you can see, but that's as far as I could see as an awkward eighteen-year-old who was very conscious of her jeans, her hips, and her lack of Milton.

Right now, I think I can say that I'm happy. I have a cup of tea, a desk, and a rather welcoming postcard of Elizabeth Bishop (she's caught mid-sentence and seems so enthused by what I'm producing that I'm inspired to keep on going). It's trying to convince my parents, who aren't quite sure what a librarian or a fencing coach does for a living and who haven't seen how comfortable and happy I am in this small room, that I'm approaching content. At least the Little One (14, but that's what I'll always call her) is excited by arrival. I hope I don't disappoint.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Notes and Nigella

Okay, so this isn't the promise paean to JFW (as I'm now calling her, because we're clearly on a initial basis). Winter has visited its fury upon the Pacific Northwest and after a few days of cabin fevery, a frustrating day at work, and a two hour bus ride home, I'm a little too worn to do the task justice.

So how does a budding librarian shake off the cares and worries of the workaday world? By organizing her Documents folder and by reading Nigella Lawson cookbooks, of course!

My virtual and actual desktop both look rather similar at the end of a quarter/semester - covered with random copies of documents in various states of completion or usefulness and other detritus (for the actual desktop, this includes about 4 tea mugs and several empty gum packets). There's something soothing about tidying away your materials at the end of a project. You're replete with the smugness of completion and the knowledge that, should you choose, you never have to look at any of this ever again in your entire life. The hardest part of this program was realizing that my classmates would actually be looking at my work. My style as an undergrad was one of last minute flair and very little editing, so you can understand my apprehension. I gave myself plenty of time this quarter and while it all wasn't perfect, it was pretty damn good and I probably won't burst into tears when I take this all out again in three years for my portfolio.

I must admit that I am taken, every so often, to look back on old papers or assignments - I did this lately in order to show a friend what I thought an art history research paper looked like. I do this sort of archeological dig with my paper and online journals. It's a check to see how I'm growing and developing as a writer and as a human. While I appreciate my enthusiasm for the portraiture of John Singer Sargent in my Junior year, I wonder why it took three paragraphs to get to a thesis statement. The less said about my first research paper on Owen and Sassoon, the better (thought Craiglockhart is still one of my favorite words to say). My paper on L.E.L. and Felicia Hemans still sounds rather tight (even my bitchier sections on Greer and Armstrong still sound convincing). Will I feel this way about my discussion of context in IB? I've never really been concerened with readibility (at least for posterity - if it sounded okay when I was printing it and waiting to run it across campus, I went with it), so it's satisfying to see my prose coming together into something better. I have edited our more needless words (per Strunk and White) for LIS 510 than I have in my two previous degrees. Concision and clarity usually took a back seat to turns of phrase and enthusiasm. Yet, I'm still not sure if this is where I want my voice to go. We'll see.

How this ties back to Nigella Lawson? I could sit and read her cookbooks all day. Her prose is amusing, original, and frankly the next best thing to sitting down and eating something warm and freshly baked is reading about warm and freshly baked things (also, easier on the thighs). Her previous Christmas Specials (provided by an anonymous hero on Google Video) have provided background noise to a number of projects in the past few weeks. I love this woman. She's smart, she eats, she reads late at night with a snack at hand and seems rather happy, thank you. I was a little annoyed the other night (while reading in bed with a snack at hand) to see this rather dissapointing view of Nigella as a role model for women. Okay, she comes from the top of the Tories (this was a Torygraph poll afterall), her brother got her a sweet job, and she's married to an eccentric millionaire. She's not perfect and I don't think she really gives off that vibe - it's all quick because she's clumsy and lazy and would rather be off writing or reading a novel. She's suffered more loss than is fair and still manages to remain a powerful brand name. Stop hating.

And with that, I will retire with this cup of Lady Grey.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Future

Thanks to Maria, I am now falling in love with Joan Frye Williams. I'm listening to her podcast on the Indispensable Librarian (the link on her site doesn't work, but go to the ITunes Store, type in her name, and you'll find it for free download from ASU).

This is totally inspiring. This is why I'm in the field at this moment. Even though there is still a small part of me that is terrified of becoming obsolete, if we as a field can move forward with the patrons, we'll be fine. We'll be better than fine.

When I'm done listening I'll be sure to write something here of use.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


The end of the quarter is here. I've handed in everything, I've had a few celebratory gins and some poutine, and I should be relaxing. But there's this small voice in the back of my head wondering if I am done, a voice that can't believe that I don't have any articles to read or lectures to listen to. It's strange to be free, and I'm sure as soon as I get used to it, I'll be on a train heading north with another bag of text books.

Today was lazily productive. I cleaned a bit and traveled to the knitting store with LBA. I acquired some yarn for last minute Christmas gifts and I'm only halfway done with my holiday cards. I should have started on all of this weeks ago, but I've been feeling so out of it lately - it being the normal flow of life. I feel so disconnected from the normal flow of the seasons and the holidays. Maybe it's a byproduc of growing up or maybe it's the last twinges of my lapsed Catholicism that causes this craving for a deeper connection with the passing of the seasons. Sometimes, when completely underdressed for the weather, I look up in surprise at the leafless trees and wonder how the hell I got here. I suppose the same could be said for my schoolwork. I'm still not exactly sure how I didn't crash and burn or hand in things late. I'm still surprised by my focus and my sanity. Mind, not that I want to continue on without them.

I should probably head to bed and nurse this cold instead of doing a few more repeats on a scarf or reading more of Dickens' Christmas stories. I promise to be more coherant and meaningful in the future.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Corner of One's Own

I am both easily distracted and easily engulfed in a project. Some days I sit down to work (work-work or schoolwork) and can easily conquer the world before my coffee is cold. Other days it is pulling teeth to eek out at least an hour's worth of salvageable dreck. For me, the environment quickly changes a slackful mood into a workful mood. There must be auditory distraction - as little as the sound of the dryer or as loud as the TV. It is impossible for me to work in absolute silence (or sleep in absolute silence for that matter... I blame my twin sister). I should be neither too warm nor too cold. Distractions for when the words stop or the ideas jam must be easily at hand, but not so easily accessed that I lose all will to do anything but play Solitare. Some days I'm a social worker and other days I need to be several layers away from people. It's a difficult balance. I think my best consistent environment was the British Library. I usually had BW nearby for tea breaks and lunch. I could switch between a well-stocked IPod or the shufflings of pages at the desk next to me. A novel was never further away than a look up computer and a willing staff member's trip to the stacks. When I had enough of Victorian Spiritualism or Scientific Romances, I could trudge downstairs to the cloakroom and then make my way home to my dorm room. Absolutely idyllic (in hindsight, of course).

This quarter has been absolutely experimental in terms of creating a space for schoolwork. In anticipation for the start of my new program, a friend and I ventured to Ikea, where a small folding table was purchase and then ceremoniously placed in the middle of a bedroom wall. I think I sat at it exactly twice for schoolwork. The desk sat parallel to the bed, so the chair barely fit, and it was too easy to unplug the laptop and curl up on the bed. I started sprawling out in the living room instead, losing my readings under the coffeetable while my lectures fought with the XBox for aural dominance. Wretched, but at least effective enough to allow me to complete my work (admittedly, AK would scurry off to his office when I started shouting at the screen).

In a fit of making space and time for finishing the last of my class presentations, I cajoled a sleepy boy into shifting the dresser so I could move my desk to the corner of the room. To get to the bed, I actually have to stand up and walk. I can't see the TV or the door, but there is a window. I've two lamps and all my papers. It's actually rather snug and I've knocked off a fair amount of work this evening (and this post). I still wish I had an office proper, but I lost that battle three years ago when we moved in and his drumset won the office. I dream of having a proper work office, with a door and a filing cabinet and artwork and everything. Really, that should have been on the top of my goal sheet for LIS 500.

But enough of this. I've more presentations to watch before I sleep tonight.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


The Great LIS 510 Group Project of Doom (TM) is finished, and involved surprisingly less doom than anticipated. My group really pulled together and we turned out a product that I think is pretty spiffy. It's amazing how fast 15 minutes speed by when you're recording a presentation. I think I've started nearly every project this quarter with the gnawing fear that I would come up short, and instead have spent the final hours tweaking and editing and reducing the content to pithy perfection. I know as an undergraduate I had a tendecy to go on and over the page limit, but I was never reall strictly enforced. We were expressing and evoking! But here it's clear that the limits are absolute and I find that I've responded by tightening my prose and by taking better care in how I compose my thoughts and sentences. It's also telling that I begin my writing earlier than ever. It's actually strange for me to have mutiple days if not weeks to consider and mull over a question or problem. I no longer end papers surprised at the conclusion. I go into a paper with a stronger idea of what I want to say and how to say it.

That being said, I'll still be thrilled when the end of the quarter is here. I'm pretty much done with my database design course and have a little more editing and layout organizing to do on my webpage for my web design class. I should also go and listen to the other presentations in my class. That's more than a little nervewracking. I've never really been in courses where classwork is laid out so openly. The idea that other people are looking at my final projects bothers me because of my own insecurity. "What if all the other presentations are awesome and it just makes me realize how crappy my voice/ideas/etc. are?" Pathetic? Quite possibly.

But dinner and then another step away from procrastination and towards several weeks of knitting and reading!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Since the past few months have been filled with a metric ton of whinging, bitching, moaning ,and panic attacks, here a list of things that are somewhat awesome.

  1. Netflix streaming video on the XBox 360.
  2. My friend and cohort member Maria(h) for providing a place to bitch and much fun.
  3. My group members for being diligent, responsible, and quick with the emoticons.
  4. The sweet soul who uploaded a ton of Dylan Moran to YouTube.
  5. The sweet souls who uploaded Q.I. to YouTube.
  6. My New York/East Coast friends who love from afar.
  7. The Nursing Department at UP.
  8. My family, who don't care that I can't do much in the way of Christmas presents.
  9. A washer and dryer in the apartment.
  10. A fridge full of food.
  11. Steady rent money and benefits.
  12. Charles Dickens.
  13. Jane Gardam.
  14. Stephen Fry.
  15. Junot Diaz.
  16. Explosions/ridiculous races on Top Gear.
  17. A husband who loves unconditionally, laughs easily, and who can brew a proper pot of tea.
  18. Parry two ripostes.
  19. Vladimir Horowitz.
  20. Coffee.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

From Student to Scholar

An idea that's been bouncing around in my head is a change in my self-image from student to scholar. The difference between the two is slight in theory and gigantic in application. I've always considered myself a student of Victorian Studies. Even when I was doing original archival work in the BL or Senate House, reading up on forgotten scientific romances, I never thought of myself as a scholar. Scholar always felt too professional a term for my work - I was reacting to assignments and small personal curiosities. The main intention of my research and essays was never really to add to the body of work on a subject, but rather to get a good grade while writing on something that at least somewhat caught my interest.

I began my work at the iSchool as a student, admittedly a student who was somewhat nervous and apprehensive about the focus on theory and the workload. My intention was to get a degree often termed by some associates as "The Library Union Card". I would develop a skill set, turn in a portfolio, and get cracking on professional job applications.

A series of exchanges with the Dean of the school of nursing where I work altered this perspective. In her emails and during an unexpected and delightfully rich phone call, she referred to us as "fellow scholars". My IRB application (still in process, cross your fingers) asked for me to demonstrate how my efforts for my information behavior class would add to a greater body of work or understanding of the world. And for once, I had an answer. True this project isn't one that I would have necessarily chosen for myself, but I find myself inexplicably drawn to the subject. Perhaps I'm simply too in love with Gregory Bateson, with "the pattern that connects". I love jumping from text to to interview and back, to creating what is a holistic vision of the world (or at least a very tiny slice of the world for a very tiny portion of the population). There's an excitement for my work (and indeed, it's work now) that I've not felt in a long time. There's a sense of meaning with this project, that I might actually impact that world some way.

I'm not sure why I feel the world will benefit more from an understanding of the information behavior of nurses as supposed to an examination of nineteenth century critics vision of women poets or the time shared by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Art and literature and their criticism surely have an important place in our society and I wouldn't denegrate that for all the world. It's just that I used to believe that my goal in life would be to write a seminal text on something that a student, lost in the middle of a term paper, would happen upon and shout with joy at finding a critical quotation to link together her paper. Or maybe just another good article to add to the bibliography. One of the two. Either way, I would prove to be of use to someone. Maybe the clear definitions of my users or user groups allow me to look out and see the benefits immediately. Of course, this doesn't answer why I have the need to be useful, to help or be recognized for that help, but there it is.

I'm at the beginnings of my individual paper for this course and I'm having to cut myself off from reading. There are too many interesting paths to follow. But most importantly, or excitingly, I'm starting to see the holistic nature of the field. I majored in Victorian Studies because I loved the moments in my liberal arts career when it seemed that all my courses were collapsing in on each other, that the same themes and issues and ideas made up the entirety of the world that I was on the verge of understanding something big, something great. I doubt that this complete understanding is anywhere within reach, but it's nice to have that feeling again. I means that I'm on to something at last.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Calm Before the Calm

Usually at this point in the semester (my mind still won't wrap itself around a quarter system), I'm hoarding sources for papers (sources that will remain unread until the last minute), trying to keep ahead on reading, and generally hiding under the covers and panicking like mad.

This time around, things are a bit different. I'm pretty much on top of work, in a few days I'll be drafting a paper a full week in advance, and it looks like the Great Final Group Project is heading towards awesome. Of course nothing goes smoothly and I'm facing a few setbacks and difficulties, but it's nothing that won't work out in time, nothing that can't be fixed. And I have absolutely no idea what to do with this surprising turn of events. Sure, I see the final days of the quarter (unhappily coinciding with the launch of the new consortia borrowing software) will probably be approaching fraught, but at the end of it is the rest of Nicholas Nickleby and the collected Rankin Bass Christmas DVDs.

There's a small part of me that's ready to panic about not panicking, but it's surprisingly silent.

Let's hope it stays that way.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Caffeine and Community

At the end of my road (a short bike ride or a leisurely walk) are the building blocks of my early days here in the Oregon: our bank, the post office, Planned Parenthood, and a fabulous 24/7 cafe with wireless. When we were visiting Oregon to see if it was for us, I spent time at the library working on term papers. On a whim during one of these trips, I looked up a book I needed to cite in the public catalog. Somehow, miraculously or by another form of divine intervention, they did indeed own the book and it was checked it. They also had the great two-volume set of Wilfred Owen poems. Clearly, I was home.

Since starting work at an academic library on the other side of town I've not really visited my public library. Everything I need is closer to hand at work - I have my preferred informal personal sources (hi IB homework!) and the ability to waive fines. Still I keep thinking I should be spending more time there since it's becoming more and more difficult to focus at home, at least when AK isn't out at classes and I can sprawl out in the living room. I know that I don't want to work in public libraries, but is that also part of my aversion to the space? Or it is more of an aversion to packing everything up and bicycling or walking in the cold and the dark to another space, one without a kettle and the laundry the needs to be folded?

Right now I'm at the aforementioned cafe (more coffee, easier to talk) waiting for the arrival of a group member who has been having a hard time and needs some help catching up. I've actually spent a fair amount of time these past few weeks with people in my program. It's not really what I expected - I think I figured that online meant I would be working alone all the time - but I'm grateful for the opportunity to vent and to get some perspective from people who are going through the same thing. This program is taxing on my time, my sleep, and my sanity. It's strange to think that we're so close to the end. In about a month I will hopefully be on a couch with a pile of novels and Christmas music blaring in the background.

What a fantastic dream.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


In a rejection of my iTunes, I've pretty much been listening to the following two videos non stop for the past four days.


Not exactly sure that that says about my musical tastes or state of mind.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Mind the Gap

Yeah, it's been awhile. The ease of LJ and the notion that I am not required to post anything of substance there has been almost too great to resist. The message boards for my program (see below) take up some of the "typing ideas in a box and hitting publish" energy. And then there are the thoughts for the paper journal. Anyway...

A summation of sorts before we begin.

I'm in grad school, am alternatively terrified and deeply in love with what I'm learning. There's more group work than I anticipated, the boards are easier to navigate than I thought (I really do need the extra time to ponder), and the balancing act of full time work and part time school seems to be working. What I didn't anticipate about this program is that I would find myself thinking about the program all the time. There isn't a minute of my day where I'm not either puzzling out some concept (metatheories, how you vex me!) or planning my attack on homework for the week. On top of this I've found myself "being there" for friends and then feeling guilty that I've lost precious studying time. I guess the balance isn't as perfect as I thought.

However, none of this compares to the blinding panic and fear that coated my first quarter at Birkbeck. There's no new city to navigate, no bank accounts to create or any of that administrative BS (though it did take several weeks to straighten out my student account, but that required phone calls more than anything else). I have the necessary resources to deal with panic this time around - familiar places and people and habits to keep me steady. But I find I'm not really reaching out to them as much as I thought I would.

The residency was hard in that I was again in the middle of a new city, trying to make friends with the 80 or so people in my cohort, and crashing on a couch two buses from campus. There were moments when I doubted that I could deal with this at all - that I was far too stupid or weak to take on grad school again. I pushed myself through it and left the residency feeling positive, feeling capable. I can't emphasize enough how different this feels from my first grad program, how calm I am and how unanxious I am about grades. My adviser (who I may have to change from in a year or so as she's in the iSchool, but not inlibraries) gave me a fantastic pep talk in week three, about learning for the sake of learning, for improving oneself and the world. It seems cheesey, but it really resonated with me. I have to do this degree so I can go on and make more money and have a proper career, but it's also because I love the work I'm doing and want to take on more. Working in libraries is what I do and what I love. I need to keep plugging away at this and hope for the best.

The other major change I've noticed is my ability to just keep doing. I used to be paralyzed by fear in London. I would curl up under the duvet with a novel checked out from Senate House and just ignore. Today there's a new coping mechanism - the doing things in tiny bits and tricking yourself into thinking you're not doing work until the assignment is done. Case in point - looking at web design assignment turns into just preparing for it turns into completing it. Worrying over an assignment turns into looking at the criteria and then an email to the reference librarian for an appointment. This is how I wound up getting my application for grad school done with plenty of time - "I'm just going to sit here and draft and not finish anything brain, so no need to put the perfectionism into gear!" Let's hope I can keep tricking my brain for the next three years.

That's essentially life - posting and reading and staving off anxiety. I've been reading, but mostly re-reading old favorites (I picked up A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the first time in three years) and papers on information behavior. Exciting times.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Social Distortion

Before my dentist appointment this morning, I bought my train ticket up to Seattle. This time next week I will probably be passed out in the living room of a good friend, if I successfully manage Amtrak, Seattle Public Transit, and the labyrinth that is the UW campus.

I feel like I should be more apprehensive about this. I whine at AK that I'm nervous and scared and that I hate being a big responsible person, but really underneath I feel like I have all of this under control. There's apprehension over being able to find the time to do my homework (I have to build an Access database, something I haven't even tried since high school), about getting meeting new people. But there's also this sense of "Been there, had to get a visa, and then got the t-shirt in Heath row". I can't go quite so far as to say that I'm excited and ready to take it all on, but I'm calm about. That, or it just isn't real to me yet and next week will find me in a classroom in Suzallo, weeping.

But maybe not. The worst part of grad school the first time around was settling into a new way of life. Naturally this meant a lot of showing up at random offices asking for forms and help and a lot of chatting up new people who had enough in common with me in that we both were spending thousand of pounds to sit and read the same texts. Socially speaking, I think I'm a stronger person now. Being "the Supervisor" forces interactions with all sorts of people, each with their own problems and own way of perceiving the world. I think that I'm very good at reading social situations; I'm just not very good at addressing them. I'm always standing on the stairway just as the words come to mind. This is why I spent so much time at college huddled in my room or standing on the edge of group.

I'm not exactly sure why, but I still perceive myself as an intensely unsocial and unsociable person who should be left locked in a room with an internet connection and a kettle. Yet unbeknown to myself, I have become a social person. I have two very good friends right now who I try to see at least once or twice a week. One is also newly married, a runner, and basically someone who will nerd out with me over random things. She's most excellent. The second is a friend I met through fencing who turned into a non-fencing friend (meaning we have interests and participate in activities together outside of fencing... in fact we haven't fenced together in months). She's incredibly sweet and is going through a bit of a rough patch right now. I keep wanting to have the words that will make it better, to be able to be that friend who can say something meaningful and useful. I don't think I'm there yet. Someday... hopefully.

So that's where I am right now. I'm not writing enough poetry (got caught up in my woeful sense of rhyme and haven't finished the exercises). I'm not reading enough (though that's going to go to hell soon anyway) and am knitting only the most basic things. But I think I'm happy. I think I can do this.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Gaming and Girls: Part the First

A few weeks ago AK and I visited our local independent bookstore for the very necessities of life: books and coffee . As usual, AK wandered away for an hour or so. When he returned, he gleefully handed me a book entitled Confessions of a Part-time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to the D&D Game. The book was a gift for me, to finally start me on the path towards true gamerdom.

Despite my own geeky tendencies and the hardcore geekiness of my friends, I've never actually played D&D. When it comes to a game that takes longer than 20 minutes to play completely, I tend to lose interest. I want to smash you up in Soul Caliber, cut your head off in Guillotine, and completely dominate you in Uno, and all in under fifteen minutes. I don't think it's necessarily an attention problem --I did major in incredibly long papers on incredibly long Victorians novels. I've just never been a fan of long on-going story lines that aren't contained between two covers. AK finds this to be a major flaw in my character, as it means I refuse to re-watch all of Buffy or do more with Battlestar Galactica than pop my head into his office for a recap of the episode and then cry "Lee yelled his love to the stars, Aaron. TO THE STARS!"*

D&D always seemed unnecessarily complicated and picky to me. Maybe this has to do with the sort of dedicated, 12-hour marathon loving, rule freaks I've met in my life. My only personal interactions with RPGs has been one shittacular session of Vampire where I had no idea what was going on and then NPCing at a Changeling LARP (run by my only reader). I liked the interacting with people part. I liked wearing shitkickers and looking fierce. I hated the constantly referring to my piece of paper with all the numbers and codes and the fact that no one actually explained to me what I was supposed to do other than stand around in shitkickers looking fierce.

So when AK proudly held the aforementioned book in front of him, I thought that maybe my time to game had come. I've grown and changed from the days when I would walk past a parlor in my dorm and stare, increduously, at friends who were so deep into the game they would scowl should you dare to say hello. I have gained a certain sense of patience, a willingness to try new things without immediately throwing up my hands in disgust and frustration. Surely a better M would make a better gamer.

We returned home with more books than we should have bought (this is the problem with having a local store with a sick amount of used books, especially used Simon Armitage) and I settled into my corner of the couch with more coffee and the shiney pink paperback.

I think I managed about four pages before attempting to chuck the book at AKs head.

Though I am highly impatient when it comes to things like tax forms, insolent computers, and husbands who can't figure out how to put dirty dishes in the sink, I am an incredibly forgiving reader. Until recently, I would never give up on a book, no matter how painfully bad it was. I would slog through until the end, confident in my moral superiority and the scathing review I could post on Goodreads. Lately I've abandoned this method of reading - there are simply too many good books out there to waste time on crap. So I thought I could handle this book, even despite the garish pink dice on the cover. I wanted to give the author a chance to convince me, to lead me down the path of stylish gaming.

Unfortunately I am not the audience for this book. I'm not yet convinced that this book is intended for girls at all. Right now I'm about halfway through the book, and as far as I can tell this is a book for teenaged boys/young men. They will see this strange thing sitting in the gaming section, right next to the brand new release of 4th edition, and suddenly realize that lo, they too can have that gaming girl of their dreams. Here, in plain English, is a tome that will lead their girlfriends down the path of awesome. Within are witty asides about shopping, fun new classes only found in 4th ed, sidebars in pink, illustrations in pink, and more witty allusions to shopping. Surely this could turn an otherwise normal person into someone who wants to game. They will plunk down this book (and another copy of the 4th ed. rules book) in front of the cashier and go home, confident that they will now be able to share this passion with someone they love.

In a way, this is truly a noble goal. I can honestly support any effort towards sharing passions - be it fencing or reading or knitting or whathaveyou. However I find myself caught up in the tone of the book. It's written is a very conspiratorial voice, "You know those icky gamers and the 10000 stereotypes about them that I'll bring up every five minutes? Guess what? They're people too!" Such a revelation! It's also somewhat condescending - the author is convinced that, without a revelation such as can be provided by this very book, normal women won't play D&D. And by normal women she means shoe, makeup and sales obsessed girly girls.

I think this is the part of the book that catches me and leaves me completely uncertain of my point. I am not very girly at all and still have a latent sense of dismissive disgust towards women who are (a by-product of growing up as that smart girl who was taught to believe that you can't be a girl and truly intellegent or good at science). This is an attitude that I'm trying hard to change (Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs was a great help), but I still find her "Wow, like I was totally into shopping and now kicking ass with spells is totally bitchin'" attitude to be disconcerting. I'm happy that the author at least tries to dismiss the idea that girls are too dumb to handle the rules or not naturally strategic enough for RPGs. It's her technique, her playing behind the stereotypes while still trying to dismiss them that irks me so.

As I said, I'm still not done with the book and as the book follows the authors journey as a gamer, her tone gradually changes and improves. But I'm still left wondering what exactly is the purpose of this book, if not for Wizards of the Coast to sell more books and more copies of 4th.

More when I'm closer to done.

*Only two people will get this, but I don't care. It's a true story.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Set Up

My new computer arrived today and I spent perhaps thirty minutes adjusting the settings and moving over the roughly four gigs of data I had on the old machine that's not music. Thanks to the brilliance of Windows, I'm moving things to the new computer via a 4 gig flash drive. This is a painfully slow process, compounded by the fact that my ITunes settings on the new machine were initially screwed up and while the songs were copied to my library, they were not actually saved to my hard drive. I am less than pleased by this, but since I am the sort of person who needs to follow a project to its immediate end, I'm sitting here copying and pasting and waiting to re-install ITunes.

Once again I feel like a failure in the face of technology. After spending an hour and a half trying to network the two computers together (and failing) and then trying Microsoft's new file migration software over our current wireless network (which is flaky and also failed), I'm just ready to be done with this. Like I said, I'm very much the sort of person who likes to tackle a project and single-mindedly wrestle it into submission. I hate when I know a solution to a problem and yet am unable to put it into play. The worst sort of impotence comes when you realize that, should the circumstances be but slightly different, you could have managed it yourself. I'm less bothered by the idea that I'm incapable of doing something; knowing that just can't do something allows for an excuse, an out. It's the potential that kills me, the wasted posibility.

Part of the problem is that I still tend to rush blindly into thing. I'm impatient and stubborn. My vague comptence allows me a certain fearlessness, a sense of "Psh, I can do this, no problem". Just a tiny scrap of knowledge and I'm running headlong into traffic. This can sometimes be a useful skill. In a field that's as ever changing as mine, I sometimes need to just hold my breath and jump. Sink or swim, but sometimes the solution presents itself. Or I wind up losing about 20 gigs of data I thought I had transferred and instead sit up way too late into the night with the original Star Wars on VHS to keep me company.

This is also the strength of will that allowed me to write multiple final papers in one night (a good skill for a former World Class Procrastinator). I'm less of a procrastinator than I was in school. It's harder to get extensions when you're an adult. My version of procrastination tends to be avoidance. I drag my feet on starting a project because I know I won't enjoy it, or I'm terrified of it turning out wrong (so starting on it last minute will certainly ensure success, right?). When I begin to feel myself shy away from tasks, I do the opposite of what my mind wants. I throw myself at the task, finish it up, and then generally feel magnificently productive.

This has worked for things like talking to customer service representatives, paying bills, and preparing applications for grad school. But will this work in grad school? I'm terrified that with a full time job and part-time school that I'm going to fall back into old habits. I did successfully graduate from two programs despite my dragging feet and perfectionism. Can I risk a third? Will it be different this time around since I'll be working on something more concrete than literature (could there actually be right answers?)? AK is confident that I'll be fine, that I've had good break from school and will be studying so much that I either already know or can immediately apply to my work.

It's all uncertain. And I still have 15 gigs to go, but it's far too late for me. So I'll post this and head to bed.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nights like these...

When I find one song and play it over and over again, it either means that the song is absolutely amazing or I'm in the sort of mood that could go to hell at any minute. When I would get panicky in London I would recite Hail Marys. The rhythm and the idea that maybe, just maybe, someone out there would hear and understand would pull me towards the edge of sanity. I also find it's easier to think with that sort of aural repetition, my own particular sort of white noise.

When my relationship with Alex was in its death throes, I kept listening to "Buying Time" by Great Big Sea. It wasn't until a year or so later that I actually sat down and listened to the lyrics and realized that the song perfectly described my vain attempts to keep us together. I'm not sure if the lyrics to today's song will be the same sort of oracle (but I've read them just in case), but I've just hit repeat for the third time in writing this.

I'm up much later than usual, old married lady that I am. AK is by nature a creature of the night. Indeed, his mother recently apologized for passing on that trait. Right now he's sitting on my (little used) exercise ball playing some XBox game about WWII planes. I'm at the dining room table, since this is currently the only place in the house where I can get wireless (hopefully solved on Friday). This chair is incredibly uncomfortable, or maybe I'm just not used to sitting with proper posture.

I'm feeling alone tonight, but it's an okay sort of alone. By nature, I think AK and I are some of the most social anti-social people I know. At times we crave people, but more likely than not we'll spend our nights holed up in our respective rooms reading or gaming or otherwise ignoring the world.

Really, I'm just projecting - I'm far more anti-social than him. In my mind I suppose I'm still 15 and awkward (great progress, since it used to be closer to 13). It's strange sometimes how I can crave people, but it must be the exact sort of people and at the exact right time. Otherwise I just want the world to fuck off a little. I've been taking long walks around the neighborhood behind our apartment every night. AK sometimes joins me, but really I crave the solitude. I let my mind wander or guide it through day dreams or worry about whatever it is that needs to be tossed turned.

Today I thought on the late arrival of our new debit cards, the smell of the new dish soap, how AK had dinner ready when I came home from work yesterday, the usual day dreams of living the life of a single poet in London (the escapist fantasy du jour), the smell of the rain soaked pavement and the growing tightness in my Achilles tendons.

Sometimes I don't understand how I wound up here - in Portland, with AK, with a VC diploma, with sanity, with a life that's seemingly on track and ready to grow. I don't understand why there is a tiny part of me that wishes I were someone else entirely -- someone with a capacity for foreign languages, who travels, who is fearless, who hasn't a large nose and thin hair and thick hips. I look at all my bookmarks about library science and Top Gear episodes, my Goodreads list, my bare bedroom wall and wonder if this is right.

That last sentence makes it all seem a little more "Oh no, existential crisis" than it really is. I suppose since I'm on the edge of the next big step I'm going to freak out a little bit. I remember sitting on the stairs at my parents house the day I was supposed to fly to London. I was crying and crying and couldn't stop. I couldn't properly explain why I was crying - I would miss AK, but there was something else eating at me, something for which I had no words. I haven't the words now, though this ache is more of a dull throbbing, the sort of thing that wouldn't even make you reach for the ibuprofen. The worst it can do it make me question - was I right to do X, to love Y, to let go of Z? As long as I refuse to answer, I'm safe.

These are the nights when I wish I could show up at a door in Brooklyn or Iowa or London or Berkeley, completely unannounced. These are the nights when my comfort in solitude turns slowly into apprehension, apprehension to panic, panic to terror if not checked. These are the nights when I wish I had a patrolled campus spread before me, a pile of homework to hide underneath. These are the nights when I need that dream of a new and better me, something I can pull around me that's safe and familiar, like the sweater I would steal from the back of my mother's door on the few nights she actually went out.

These are the nights when the words just seem to show up and fall out behind the cursor, unbidden. I'll leave them here and head to bed, after just one more repeat.

The Safe Color is Yellow

I am the first to admit that when it comes to cinematic violence, I am a big fat baby. I still remember being about seven or eight and the terror that would strike when the theme music to Tales from the Crypt came on. My mother, who was probably sick of small children dominating the TV, let us watch a behind the scenes episode where it appeared that the Crypt Keeper was perhaps not as fake as I was originally lead to believe. For years the moaning of the organ fighting against the eerily cheerful bells forced me deeper and deeper under the covers. My internet research has recently revealed that the theme was composed by Danny Elfman, which now sounds obvious. I'm surprised I didn't notice it at the time, as Beetlejuice was one of my favorite films. And I must admit that I feel slightly betrayed.

It does seem strange that I would like one slightly comedic horror work and completely eschew the other, but who am I to argue against the vagaries of a seven year old? But this is how it's always been with my taste in movies and violence. I absolutely adore Vin Diesel's XXX (and you can all shut your faces). Lots of explosions, fights, hot double agents with Russian accents - it has it all. But no one dies violently or openly. The blood is at a tasteful minimum and the bad guys get it in the end. Yet I can do bloody, if it's at over the top levels of ridiculousness, such as with Kill Bill or Versus.

What I find myself incapable of handling is violence that appears too real. The moment I can identify with the violence, I shut down. I wince or bury my head in AK's shoulder (and he knows when to tell me it's safe to come out). This amazing ability is not limited to live action. Last night we watched the animated Beowulf, which deserves a separate rant. AK was in his chair and curled up in a corner of the couch with my knitting (we are boring old married people and that is what currently passes for an exciting Saturday night). Within minutes of the opening credits I began to cringe and yell "Oh for fuck's sake" at the screen. Did I need to see Grendel tear that guy in half? Did they have to have that much screaming? I spent the rest of the movie throwing snarky comments towards the screen (since I've read Heany's translation once, I am clearly a Beowulf expert) while reading.

What struck me about Zemeckis's version of the epic tale is how I felt much more aware of the violence in the poem. Of course a soldier devouring demon and a dragon are going to do some damage, but it felt less real on the page. Violence in books always feel less real to me, perhaps because I can choose how much I want to see and how much I want to feel. I lack that option with movies, short of closing my eyes or getting up and leaving the room. Emotional tension is harder to block out on the page, but perhaps that's because it's harder to stop myself from feeling than it is to stop myself from visualizing. This is why I still have not finished Natsuo Kirino's Out.

Maybe I'm sensitive or maybe I'm not. It's hard to say when the only perspective I have is my own. Maybe my distaste for a certain form of movie violence comes from being human (though does that necessarily make those who can deal with or enjoy it not human?). All I know is that I'm sitting here at my dining room table while AK watches The Village.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Every Day

Last night I found myself curled up in my living room chair (as supposed to my bedroom chair, where I'm now writing this) with AK stretched out on the couch. For the first time in long time we were quietly reading together; I had the aforementioned Murakami and AK had the first volume of White Wolf's collection of Fritz Leiber. There are the usual reasons for the rarity of such an event. We're both busy and often work on opposite schedules. AK reads novels at a much slower pace than me and in random spurts. However he's constantly reading stuff online while holed up in his cave. I'm still very much attached to my print and a good light source. This reliance on print is partially because the last thing I want to do when I come home from 8 hours of staring at a computer screen is to stare at another one (yes, I know I'm doing it right now, but how else to share?). I'm also addicted to the smell of ink and the texture of paper. I freely admit that I am a fan of the book as a sensual and tactile experience.

More on that at another time. The reason I bothered to mention such an idyllic domestic scene is for the conversation AK and I had about working as a writer and that it is, in fact, work. I have long lived under the illusion that writers just sat down and magically perfect prose or verse flowed out from their pens. Take Dickens. Clearly he would realize a chapter was due and then set about furiously scribbling, jumping out of his chair to mime a face in the mirror, and then back to the desk so he could finish his copy before taking a long and brisk walk through the seedier sections of London, followed by an evening at the theatre where he would talk long and loud and probably crack a few jokes at Thackeray's expense and then back the next morning to dash off another chapter.

I don't need my (otherwise useless) degrees in Victorian Studies to deduce that Dickens didn't just sit down and effortlessly compose fourteen and a half novels and god knows how many Christmas books and magazines (Kathleen Tillotson probably knew...). He worked hard and it was his dedication to his craft that made him one of the greatest novelists in the English language (NOTE: Those of you who were subjected only to Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities should go and pick up a copy of Bleak House and read the first page or so outloud to yourself. Then you can judge.) Murakami dedicates the early hours of the morning to writing every day. John Updike actually rented office space early in his career and still writes a set amount every day during the same set hours.

They're mad.

Well, not entirely. If I was a writer, it would make sense to dedicate at least several hours a day to my work. Just as a musician must practice, so must writers. I was a musician at a point in my life. I practiced 5-6 times a week for anywhere from half an hour to an hour, not including lessons or rehearsals. I gave up on majoring in music because I realized that not only would I never master the rudiments of piano or music theory (small stumbling blocks) but that I couldn't bring myself to practice enough. I couldn't force myself to do scales or articulation work for more than the prescribed minimum of thirty minutes. If I had an English horn and some Vaughn-Williams I could get up to over an hour, but interpreting Vaughn-Williams's cello pieces on English horn isn't exactly the most promising career option (the choice of Victorian Studies now appears blatantly obvious).

I don't mean to argue that in order to do something that you love you must do it every waking moment of your life. That would only leave you miserable and hating whatever it it you originally loved. However if you're thinking on taking on the New York Philharmonic, it might behoove you to practice for more than 3 hours a week. I'm competent at my job because I do it for 40 hours a week and have done so for two years now. It's not because I think that composing Local Holdings Records in OCLC is the greatest form of expression possible (okay, you could wax poetic in an 866 field), but rather because I create these records all the time. For a writing related example, let's take the manual I'm composing for one department. My early entries, written at least a year ago, are long winded, obscure, and poorly formatted. My newer entries are shorter, tighter, and easily skimmed. Practice, fucking practice.

This is why I'm sitting here in my chair (the bedroom one, not the living room one) and writing. I'm still not sure if I have anything really important to say, but I'm practicing.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I Talk About When I Talk About Writing

Even though cataloging was awesome and rushed it, I've only now started to read Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I've missed his prose. I should really be better about rereading him (and another two dozen books I can name off the top of my head), but always overwhelmed by the feeling that I should be reading something new, something different. I was a big rereader as a child - I have beat up copies of Jane Eyre, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to prove it. Why as an adult do I now feel this pressure to consume, to take in at an absurd pace?

Anyway, the reason I'm writing this entry is that I'm in the middle of a writing kick jump started by Murakami's prose. I've caught up on messages that have been lingering for months and am about to clear out my inboxes. In writing to a friend on Facebook today, I told him this about Murakami:

I just today started his memoir on running and have fallen in love with him again. All of his sheep craziness and lack of coherent or emotionally potent endings have been forgiven. He's the sort of writer who makes me want to write - do you ever get that feeling? They're so clear, so controlled (or control their chaos) that I can't help but want to put together words of my own.

I think the best art I've experienced pushes me towards creativity. It sets off something inside me that can only find relief in words. It always comes back to words. I've rarely felt the desire to paint while standing in a gallery, but maybe that's because I know I haven't the skills to paint. I do have the ability to write, to string words together into sentences and then sentences into paragraphs. If I can't write, I talk it out. Talking it out rarely works for me. I find I'm more likely to be misunderstood or to lose the point. I do remember walking around campus my senior year after seeing Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice with AK. I remember pacing around the observatory, talking and talking. I don't really remember what I said, but I remember how it felt, how I felt in the middle of it all.

The feeling isn't always apocalyptic or soul-shattering. There's a quieter sort of appreciation that leads more to reciting out loud or running into the other room to share a passage with someone. That's how I felt today when I reread Simon Armitage's translation/reworking of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I got excited every time I saw him change the alliteration from a liner pattern ("It's Christmas at Camelot - King Arthur's court...") to an inset pattern ("of blasting trumpets hung with trembling banners..."). Dorkish to the extreme, but combine that with a mug of tea and the sort of wind that promises a summer rain, and you've got yourself a very comfortable morning.

I suppose that the point of the entry comes to this: I write because I've been moved to write, because there's something building up in that corner or my mind or in the center of my throat and it won't be shifted otherwise. And I suppose then that I read in the hopes that something will build up in the corner of my mind or the center of my throat.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


In the spring of my Junior year, I decided that I could not longer bear being shackled to my pale Dell desktop and that I needed the freedom that only a laptop to provide. I had a summer job as a research assistant lined up, which would require hours spent typing up files of information from the university archives. I had amassed the cash and the odd VC desire to simultaneously laze on the grass outside while checking Livejournal.

With my excuses in good order, I sat down to configure a new system and then promptly turned the keyboard over to my then boyfriend. What sort of processor did I need? Graphics card? Memory capacity? Did it have wireless? My eyes blurred, my stomach turned, and I decided it was better to "let someone else deal with it". I handed the task over to my then-boyfriend and took on the massive Dell laptop on whose screen this entry currently appears.

Please do not misunderstand and label me a Luddite (especially since I have nothing to do with the textile industry). I love technology. You cannot imagine the depths of despair I can reach when my IPod runs out juice. I cannot imagine life before Wikipedia or IMDB (how did people solve arguments?). I adore jet engines, electronic databases, the beautiful scanner/fax/copier at work, and all of the wonderment that is the medical field.

Technology can be a wonderful and intensely useful thing, but there's a side of it, complex and dark and filled with sparking wires, that I simply cannot face. Today I sat down in front of my work desktop with the goal of buying a new laptop for my grad program. I had reviewed the tech requirements on the program's website and knew sort of what I needed from talking with my iPeer. I worked on the assumption that a big hard drive is good, memory essential, Vista is icky but I'll probably have to get it anyway, and that I cannot be bothered to configure a Mac for use with my grad program. I have been rather underwhelmed by my Dell laptop and have a nice discount through the IBM employee program (Thanks, Dad!), so Lenovo won.

After putzing about and annoying my husband, I pinged a wonderful coworker of mine for help. She's the systems/tech librarian, sat down and helped me configure the laptop I needed and then ran it against another online deal she had spotted. Twenty minutes later I punched in my credit card number (though no one really needs to punch nowadays, do they? Keyboards are far more sophisticated... or is it referring to punch cards?) and I'm now checking the website every three minutes to see if it's shipped yet.

The above is partially why I'm terrified of entering a field that is becoming increasingly entwined with advances in technology. Though I haven't any problems with software or playing around with software or breaking software. It's the hardware that's scary and expensive and difficult to recover if I suddenly wipe something. But then I sit back and wonder is this will actually make me a better librarian because I too have tasted fear and have had to work hard to understand exactly what's going on? I know that I'll never be the sort to be able to build my own computer from scratch, unless technology advances so far that Legos will soon have more hard drive space than the antiquated thing I'm using to right now. But maybe hardware is just less important now. It's all about apps and what you can download and what you can do. We seem to be less and less concerned as to how it's done. That's certainly the attitude we assume in our patron base; they're really not going to care if it's VPN on the back end or if they're looking at our OCLC vs local holdings. They want the item and they wanted it yesterday.

It's learning to use the software that's key and this seems to be mainly where library instruction lies. There are so many databases and finding aids and entry points out there that keeping them in order or learning to use them in the best manner can be virtually impossible. This is perhaps where I'll find my place as a librarian. Technology can't possibly make us obsolete as it keeps opening doors and dumping data all over the place. We can help people pick through it and store and use what they find.

This was rambly and not very original, but I wanted to get something down today. It won't get better unless I practice... or until my new laptop shows up.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Statement of Purpose (or at least a Statement of Something Approaching a Goal)

For the first time in weeks I went for a long run and remembered why I miss NY summers. I miss my weekly rainstorms.

Don't get me wrong, Oregon certainly delivers on the precipitation front (get it?), but usually the heavier rains coincide with lower temperatures and nasty winds. I miss getting soaked when it's warm enough to venture out in a t-shirt and shorts. I miss the smell of hot, damp pavement. I miss waking up shivering to booming thunder.

Anyway, we've finally hit a break in the heat and I'm glorying in it, especially because I can run more than a mile when nature provides a continual aid station. Around mile 2 today my legs started to get that "I could run forever" feeling. I haven't felt that in too long. It made me remember why I put on my shoes at all.

When my legs go on autopilot my mind finally starts to relax. It becomes wonderfully quiet and functional all at once. I don't obsess over not having researched a new laptop this weekend or the amount of loan I'm taking out for grad school or that I've gained weight or any of the normal shit that bothers me when I'm trying to fall asleep. Maybe it's increased blood flow or brain chemicals or the solid rhythm of my feet - I don't really know, but it works.

The point to all of the preambling is I finally figured out what I want to do with this space. I read a number of blogs where people have solid opinions, be it on books or politics or feminism or the state of the world. I admire them all but I finally have to admit that I cannot do what they do. I've never been the sort of person who has felt comfortable taking a solid stand and broadcasting it. My mind is too slippery or, when I do have a solid opinion, I find I lack the means to express it in a coherent way. It never comes out right.

However I do want to write. Correction - I need to write. I've kept a paper journal since I was 13 (they're all stored away in the trunk my mother bought me when I went away to college, along with old letters, programs, and my prom corsage). There are certain thoughts that need to be scraped out of my head and laid onto paper in order for me to digest them or share them or be rid of them. It's just the way I've always been.

But I'm still not sure that I'm a word person. I lack the facility of certain polyglot friends with the intricacies of language. I probably couldn't properly diagram an English sentence. I have a handful of French phrases left, a few Latin words and that's about it. I write the way I speak, the way I think it should sound. And yes, along the way a few commas will be lost or unnecessarily added, but that's just how I roll.

Anyway, the point is that I think I am going to use this space to train my writing, like trellis for ivy. I agree with Stephen Fry (and others) that poetry is a distillation of language. I often quote Strunk and White: "Omit needless words". Yet writing this I have already deleted over two dozen unnecessary bits of verbiage. I can't seem to help myself. Perhaps I read too many long-winded Victorians as an impressionable child. Perhaps I just lack the self-editing gene (which would explain why I am incapable of outlining papers or drafting properly).

So this space will be a dumping ground for the refuse of my mind, which I will then attempt to stack in some sort of orderly fashion. I will try to post at least twice a week. I will avoid filling this space with "I drank a cup of black tea and stared at the wall and decided to take a walk" shit. I will someday get the balls to post some poetry. I doubt I will ever get the balls to post fiction.

And the gauntlet is thrown. Let's see if she can keep it up.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Well, this has worked out well...

I'm not quite sure what's accounted for the silence of late. Grad school chaos? The typical frantic nature of summer (the husband works non-stop and travels and is generally all over the place)? A certain reluctance to share any thoughts because I'm not convinced they're worth sharing or even well presented?

Let's try again.

The banal update: still alive, not running as much (too hot and I've given up on trying to do the PDX marathon this year), reading as fast as I can in fear of the approach of grad school and the cessation of free time, not traveling to see people I care about, panicking about purchasing a new laptop for grad school, freaking out about grad school, quietly anticipating Summit migration, working my way through The Ode Less Travelled, and trying to find a local substitute for Twinings Black Currant tea. All in all, exciting times.

On a somewhat, but tenuously so, related note:

In the last issue of the OLA Quarterly, the twin ideas of change and embracing change threaded together each article. The past year (well, honestly the past two years... three?) have been nothing but unending and ever increasing change. I think I've learned to roll with it better than before; I make this assessment based on the number of panic attacks suffered/prevented, number of passive-aggressive locked Livejournal posts, number of snark filled lunches etc. I'm incredibly excited about the future - I'm taking the first major step towards becoming a professional and towards actual adulthood (i.e. I will someday be able to afford a house) in a field that is constantly moving, that always seems to be looking for the best way to do something, for ways to improve. It's fucking terrifying, too. I'm not really as ballsy as I think I am. I mean, talking to customer service representatives on the phone is still an act of incredible will and fortitude. But I'm starting to feel that life is pulling together somehow.

Last night AK and I took a long walk around the neighborhood after dark. We started to talk about friends of ours who have problems working with particular coaches because the coaches are their friends/partners etc. AK brought up the point that from fairly early on in our coaching relationship, which is concurrent with and a part of our emotional relationship, we knew we were heading towards marriage. We had to develop ways of communicating respectfully with each other on the strip and that carried off into the rest of our relationship, and vice versa. I'm still struck sometimes by how well we can communicate. He often understands me better than I ever could have hoped and when I compare us now to how we were back in August of 2005, I'm shocked. I didn't really think we could have turned out this well.

But back to work I must go, and listchecking and reserves and all of that. Here's hoping I'll actually post content again in the future.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Blissful 3 Day Weekend

I love national holidays and the extra days off they provide.

Sunday I was up early and in Forest Park with part of the running group. It was muddy and rainy and wonderful (except for the part where I tried to crawl down a slick hill that was at about 45 degrees, because I have no sense of balance and hate falling down.. good times!). My shoes were trashed - I had to rinse them out and then leave them in front of the dryer. My hamstring gave out around 7.75 miles, but then I walked another 3 miles out of the trail.

It's hard to realize the mileage I'm capable of now, especially when you compare it to how little I could accomplish when I first started back in January. I'm still a bit nervous about adding extra mileage because I can't seem to find a consistent running groove. I'll have fantastic days and terrible days and nothing in between. I'm not quite sure what makes the fantastic days fantastic, so it's hard to replicate. Is it sleep? Training? What I've eaten? Obviously over training is an issue for me; I know that my body is unhappy if I try to run two days in a row (which is something I'd like to get over by slowly adding more workouts). My hamstring on my right leg is also a factor as well, due most likely to the fencing and my en garde.

What else to mention? Devoured two novels by Michel Houellebecq, but I'm still not sure what I think of him. I love John Banville's prose, but am still uncertain about his plots. I've also found the energy/interest to knit again. Huzzah.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A month.... That's not so bad, is it?

So it's been pretty much exactly a month since I last posted anything (note I didn't say anything of value). It's been a crazy month: old coworkers leaving, new coworkers arriving, getting accepted into grad school for the fall, freaking out about getting accepted into grad school for the fall, AK's ridiculous schedule, too many overnight trips to Seattle, the continuing fight for Accutane (finally finished), and running. Lots of running.

I've made it to running 8 miles straight and finished my first 10k in just over an hour. On Sunday, due to the heat, we hit the trails in Forest Park and rocked out 7.5 miles. I absolutely love trail running now. I think the constantly shifting grade and ever changing background engage my mind more than just crusing along a road. And I am madly in love with running downhill. Yes, it can be a bit harsh on the knees, but it's the closest thing I've ever felt to flying (Delmar once said that the fleche in saber was just like flying, but I can't do that without drawing a card). There's just something so monstrously satisfying about turning around from an 11 min/mi uphill to barreling along at 8 min/mi. Forest Park will probably be the training ground of choice for the summer (once the sun and the heat return), and I look forward to it.

Sunday will bring 10 miles, which I'm nervous about. I managed 8 miles on a very good morning - I was up in time, ate and hydrated, and just seemed to have the energy for it. Even though the important part is that I get up and manage to tie on my shoes, I still don't want to crap out in the middle. Right now I'm running 3 days a week: long run on Sunday, short run on Tuesday, speedwork/track workout on Thursday. I'm trying to walk on the days in between and would like to build up to running more days a week, but right now I know my body can't handle it (my right hamstring rebells furiously if it's forced to work too much).

My knitting is not going so well - I've left AK's sweater at an annoying point and will have to pick it back up soon. I'm nearly done with the sock yarn scarf and have at least two more cotton bags to knit up for my mother and my sister. A trip to the Knitting Bee is in order, but I have to find the time. That seems to be the main problem of late - finding the time.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I've been too busy with life to do much updating lately.

Yesterday I slept in accidentally and missed the big Sunday run. My running partner knocked, but since we have stupid, stupid woodpeckers attacking the side of our bedroom, I didn't wake up. Good times. They did 8 miles in the cold and the rain, so I'm not really feeling all that bad. In the afternoon I went out and did 30 minutes at a hard and fast pace. Today I got up and joined the aforementioned running partner on a 7.25 trek (walking and running) to the Portland Running Company so she could get fitted for shoes and then back. I invested in a fancy pair of running shorts and two fancy bras specifically designed for those of us who are flat (they had a line of bras for the less-than-well-endowed called "Handfuls" that I wanted to buy just for the name, but they're not recommended for more than a couple of miles, so I picked something else).

Today is basically laundry and sulking at the sweater I'm making for AK (the process for picking up the stitches for the pocket on the front is admittedly clever, but it's intensely frustrating). And napping. Napping sounds like an excellent plan.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Finished the knitted cotton shopping bag today. After a few failed attempts, I managed to bind off a reasonable number of stitches and then knit up some handles for the damnable thing. The handles don't quite line up the way that they're supposed to, but the thing looks reasonable and is finished. I'm slated to knit two more (one for the sister for our birthday and one for my mom for Mother's day), so I should be able to figure it out. There's still a fair amount of cotton left over and I'm tempted to try my hand at some dishcloths (matching ones shipped out with the bags would be a nice touch).

Headachey and vaguely coming down with something on top of everything else. I've spent the evening curled up in bed with a boy and that aforementioned bag, which was exactly what I needed. There's still too much going on in my life. I keep thinking that I'm cutting down on responsibilities and projects, only to suddenly find myself covered under three or four more. At some point I either have to learn how to say no or how to ask for help... more the former than the latter though.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Culling and Cutting

I keep trying to avoid the news so I don't hear anymore on the raid of the FLDS compound in Texas. Just reading about it makes me ill; I'm terrified for these girls, for what they've experienced and the struggles they'll face in the future.

Yesterday I cleared out half the closets in the house and all my drawers and bagged up clothes and shoes for Goodwill. When AK comes home we'll go through his closet (he never throws anything away) and then I'll feel somewhat settled for spring. I also reorganized all the DVDs, CDs, and my books. I can find things now (you would think someone who works in a library would be better about these things). I've just been feeling so overwhelmed lately by the amount of stuff that fills this apartment. Some of it is needful and useful and some of it is nice to have around, and a lot of it we can do without. There's no point in holding on to clothes I haven't worn in 4 years or books I never read or cookware that friends could use. I come from a family where you either moved every 4 years or you completely went through everything you owned. I know that someday I'll have to look at the three boxes of college and grad school notebooks and photocopies, but not today. Today I am happy that all my Margaret Atwood novels are stacked together and that I can find my work shoes in under a minute.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

It's less awkward to type than to talk...

I suppose that my body agreed that I've been too busy and too stressed lately with work and life in general. Last Saturday I noticed that I was losing my sense of taste, but chalked it up to a cold. On Sunday, about ten minutes before a number of friends were supposed to converge on the apartment for dinner, I noticed that my face wasn't working right. I was trying to rinse my mouth and noticed that water was shooting out of the left side. I started to call the Urgent Care Advice Nurse, since I could move everything else on that side of my body, but couldn't get through. AK came home about five minutes later, put me in the car, and drove to a clinic on the other side of town.

I've been diagnosed with Bell's Palsy. It's by no means life threatening. Basically I've lost my sense of taste, the ability to close my left eye easily, and the ability to control my facial muscles on the left side of my face. I was diagnosed and treated within hours of noticing the symptoms and have been stocked up with the requisite steroids and antivirals. I called out this entire week at work, since my eyes tire easily, I have to remember to take my pills five times a day, and it's difficult to eat or drink without looking like a total freakazoid.

The PA who saw me also suggested that this could be the result of stress (because I haven't been busting my ass at work, applying to graduate schools, worrying about AKs car, or a friend's visa, or my performance reviews...). A friend, echoed this, reminding me that sometimes our bodies break down as a way of forcing us to sit still for a minute. It's frustrating as hell, since it'll be at least a month before things are normal again. I am grateful that this is more of an inconvenience than anything else, but it's still hard for me. I'm not used to sitting still or calling out for work in Circ. My coworkers have been amazing covering everything, so I have no reason to worry. It's just hard to stop moving.

On a happier note, I helped a friend out in her lab on Monday. I rinsed out test tubes filled with the stuff that mothballs are made out of and bacterial gunk, and then rinsed them in bleach and put them in an industrial dishwasher (with door like Star Trek.. truly the most impressive piece of machinery they own). I then labeled 200 more test tubes, labeled 200 of those little plastic tubes with caps and watched my friend begin the inoculation of her subjects... or whatever that meant. I'd like to help her out again, since she hasn't any undergraduates or anyone else but herself on the project. It was actually rather relaxing, which of course my friend found astonishing. But you guys know me. I got to spend the day cleaning stuff and then putting labels on them and then putting them in order. And free coffee and tacos.

AK will be heading up to Seattle on weekends until Nationals to work with a group of saberists. It's pretty exciting since it means a new set of people to work out with (if I can head up with him on a Sunday). L, one of the fencers up there, is someone I'm looking forward to training with. We seem to be on the same track, fencing-wise, progressing in a similar fashion. I'd also like to become more familiar with the train up to Seattle (if things work out, I'll be heading up there often) and wandering around the city. However the odds of me ever getting a job up there is slim to none (over saturated with MLIS grads).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I've not been as diligent about updating this as I would like, but honestly I've been running around too much to stop and compose something. There have been at least half a dozen nascent entries/ideas floating about, but when I finally found the time to sit down and stare at this cursor I couldn't pin anything down.

I've kept up the running, managing my fastest 5.3 mile loop yet (57 minutes and change). I was pacing with a more different homeschool mommy, who is very cool and very active. I'd love to be able to work up to the point where I could run a marathon with her, but we'll see. I think my goal will be to run the PDX Marathon in two years. Two years should allow me to really make running a part of my routine and should allow me to build up a solid base of cardio and strength. The idea of it, in the abstract, is only vaguely daunting. Twenty-six miles doesn't seem so large from here (here being the futon), but I have no real notion of what that means. If some days five miles can feel like an eternity, what about more than five times that? Still, I think it's something I want to accomplish. I want to prove to myself that I can be that strong, that I can complete something that massive. I'm not very good with massive undertakings (see the breakdowns/freakouts surrounding the undergrad thesis and MA dissertation). I suppose I need to prove to myself that I can set out to finish something without fear and pain (one would think library school would qualify, but it'll be another two months before I know if I'm in or not...). I think after running that far I can finally classify myself as an athlete (because fencing at least three times a week, running three times a week, and lifting do not an athlete make). Could I include anymore parenthetical asides in this paragraph (of course I can)?

The sorta-lace-scarf-from-sock-yarn is nearly a foot and I'm almost at the point on AK's sweater where I'll need help (picking up the stitches for the pocket). I'm trying to get a regular knit night going, but the scheduling is proving difficult. There's also the idea of a regular dinner night (bunch of friends get together with food, essentially) and a Geek Night (D&D and food, which should be hilarious since I've never played before and AK will have to DM). I'm in the middle of four books all at once (the memoir of the woman who escaped from FLDS, a biography of Colette, a historical mystery, and another feminist book).

The feminist reading has really been kicking my ass lately in that I'm left constantly questioning my own attitudes, preconceptions, and life in general. This is a good thing in that I will come out a better person for it, or at least a person who is better aware of her own ideals and motivations. However the turmoil of such constant probing is taking its toll. I half decide to have children, to forget the idea all together, to have AK raise them, to not have them, to send them to daycare. I poke and pick at old relationships and current ones and try to tease them apart to find their cores. It's exhausting work and rather self-centered. I can only hope that this will have some sort of far-reaching results in the future, but for now I'm trying not to think ahead that far. AK wonders aloud how it is that I'm managing to worry about worrying things. I tell him that I'm just that good.

Other than that I'm taking the evening easy in order to recover from the hard lesson, plyometrics, and run yesterday.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Catch up...

The trip to the Right Coast was successful in that I managed to eat plenty of food, read a few fabulous novels, and chill with kittens both cranky and aloof. I really needed a few days of not having anything to do - no applications or pressing projects or editing for AK or balancing anything at all. It was absolutely lovely to be awoken Banzai Kittan style to a day filled with little more than reading, walking around, coffee, more reading, and Courbet (his current show at the Met is fantastic and features one of the best posters for a show that I've seen in a while). I miss being in that city or, more properly, near it.

I cannot profess to be a true New Yorker. People outside of the tri-state area assume that anyone who identifies as "being from New York" was born and bred in Manhattan. However I did grow up never more than a 2 hour train ride away (faster if you caught the commuter express) from all the museums and theatre and life that is NYC. There's a particular smell that catches you when you step out of the MTA car and onto the platform at Grand Central - electrical and dank and hot - that I find so comforting. While I love PDX and its cleanliness and devotion to all that is green and progressive, sometimes I want to walk around a city with a patina of exhaust and sidewalks cracked and skewed by tree roots, where everyone walks quickly and speaks even faster. I feel recharged when I visit, as if I'm somehow stronger, more of a badass for surviving my stay. When I touch down in PDX I feel my Queens' vowels start to fade and my gate soften, but a thin coating of something (dirt, attitude) remains.

The awesomeness of the trip was continued by a day spent checking out local knitting stores with a very awesome person. It was great to just rant and chat and squish yarn all afternoon. Should she open her knitting store with chocolate bar, I will be the first person on the couch. I finally bought the yarn for AK's sweater: a dark blue superwash wool (a Cascade 220). He loves the color and it's actually rather pleasing to knit with, though I am completely over this ribbing already. The pattern (the Wonderful Wallaby) looks like it won't be too much of a challenge. Picking up the stitches to make the pocket will probably be the most annoying part, but this is why I have a Trish. I really need to get a regular knit night going again. I don't think I would have finished my sweater if I hadn't had a set night a week to work on it. In my travels I also picked up some beautiful sock yarn that I'll be turning into a lace scarf (the pattern is, I hope, relatively easy and I can read my work better than before, but I'm still terrified) and a cheap ball of variegated wool that is slowly turning into my third Quant. I really adore that pattern. I wish I could find something else featuring entrelac that I really liked (not too big on the scarf since the wrong side is a bit funky looking).

What this post comes down to is that I miss Edd and I like my new knitting friend and yarn and that I want a cup of coffee now please.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Quickly now...

I'm busy at work and with preparing for a short jaunt to the other coast, so pardon my brevity.

Sunday featured an excellent long run. We did the same trail as before, but this time I managed to go a little further and finished without stopping for walking breaks. 5.3 mi. in 59:20. I'm rather thrilled I managed it all in less than an hour (barely less... but it's something!). Once again I was pacing around the middle of the pack - the leaders were having a very good day and were at least 5 minutes ahead of me by the end. I noticed that I seem to have a problem somewhere in the middle of mile 3 Everything starts to hurt. Every step seems heavier than the last and the urge to just sit down and take a break gets overwhelming. Then suddenly the pain starts to dissipate and I'm cruising along without any problems. I'm sure it's more mental than physical and I'm trying to notice the physical and mental cues so I can nip it all in the bud. I'm sure it will take time though.

This weekend was short (just Sunday) since Spring Break is almost upon us. I'll be in the air on Thursday morning and back in PDX late Monday. The beauty of it all is that I'm only burning 2 vacation days on a 5 day vacation. I'm really looking forward to this trip; I feel that I've been going full tilt since before Winter Break (weeding and grad applications and more weeding etc.). I'm looking forward to sitting down and reading without worrying if I need to do another load of laundry or if there's another piece of paperwork that absolutely needs to be faxed. Also, kittens and my favorite person on the planet.

I've also been thinking about memory lately... but that's for another post. Local Holdings Records won't update themselves.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


A somewhat successful week work-out wise. Monday AK and I (eventually) made it to the gym. I did squats for the first time in forever and really felt it... until about yesterday, actually. I'm happy that I can seem to do more weight on my upper body (not really pressing more than 20 lbs., but it's more than 10!) even with a bit of break from regular lifting. Seems like things are starting to stick, so to speak. Ran for a full half hour on Tuesday - 15 min. out and back. I think I did at least 3 miles (should properly gauge my usual routes), which was pretty satisfying. I just felt fast.

Yesterday was open bouting. It was a small turn out (most of the competitive kids cleared out early), but I still got a lot of practice in. I'm trying to work on parry-ripostes and, as always, finishing my attack. I was pretty successful on doing parry-riposte off the line (Russian #2 action/countertime), but not so much running backwards. I need to stay on the blade more, bind it more in some cases. I kept pushing one fencer to the end of the strip and then would get caught up in a counter-riposte war. Must Stop Riposting to Four! Still, a good bout.

I was really happy that I made the coach change on multiple occasions and picked up a parry when he thought his riposte was assured. I noticed that while fencing the rest of the class I was pretty calm and my endurance levels were excellent (hurrah for running!). But against the coach I found myself panting and tense. The few running books I've read have advised runners to occasionally "check in " on their bodies: Am I slouching? Is anything hurting? Can I push this or do I need to slow down? For the first time, I really checked in with myself on the strip: How's the brain dealing? Feet? Hand? I tried to relax back into my en garde after every touch, to let go of all the tension that developed during the action. I think it sorta worked. I felt more awake and "eyes open" actions came a little easier. I need to practice this in lessons, especially when I'm screwing up an action and about to lose it.

After practice I started writing in my running log (now training log I suppose) and started to wonder what my priority is in terms of sports. Am I a runner (albeit a newbie) who fences to cross-train or a fencer who runs to cross-train? I'm not really sure of the answer. I have more time for the running - it requires less equipment, I can do it as soon as I get home, and it's easy to drag people along. Right now I'm only bouting one night a week (getting to the competitive practice is doable, but a pain in the ass) and taking about two or three lessons a week. I'm not really competing in either sport. Maybe this is something I'm not suppose to answer right now. But it's still strange to think of myself, the girl who did stats for the high school volleyball team, as an athlete, let alone a multi-sport one.

That's pretty much all that's going on. There's the potential for huge changes at work (workflow/software related), but I can't really talk about that (there's also not much to report other than that we're waiting). I managed to make a meal tonight that featured four distinct food groups. I spent all of Tuesday night reading Full-Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti (founder of The book raised so many thoughts and emotions and rants that I'm determined to read it a second time before I voice an opinion. I find it so difficult sometimes to have a solid, well-supported opinion on an issue or an idea. I tend to rely a lot on instinct and emotion. This is not to say that opinions founded on such a basis are necessarily inferior. Most of the time it's an emotional reaction to someone else's clearly parsed argument. I just find myself so completely unable to articulate my ideas when I feel passionate about something. There's a lot of stumbling over words and cursing involved instead of a well-outlined proposal. I'll sit down with the aforementioned book and a stack of paper and see what comes out. Hopefully more than "It's shitty, but it's not, and we can do better, and does Bush really think he can do that, and why is she writing with this voice, and god why have I never seen the classist side of things....."

But for now I'm going to curl up with American Gods.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

1 hr/5 miles

In preparation for today's run, I was up at 6:30 with AK. I showered and ate a Larabar (AK can get them at a discount at work and I wanted to try something mostly fruit and protein based before I ran). My usual running partner begged out of running today (too much stuff going on and she felt too tired), so it was just the four of us. I was picked up by the other part of the running group around 8. On the way to the trail it was announced the JG wanted to do a full hour today - half an hour out and then half a mile back. Considering I only did four miles last Sunday and haven't run all week I wasn't sure I could do it.

Started out at a slow pace and eventually sped up. Turned around at a little over 2.5 miles and turned back. On the way back I took 3 small walk breaks. I would keep asking myself, "How are we doing? Can we go to that tree?" and if yes, I'd keep going. If not, I'd stop and walk, setting a spot ahead where I would start to run again. I'd start strong from the break and then feel myself slowing down. Repeat. My right foot started acting up around mile 4.5, but I took a quick walk break to stretch it out. Finished 01:00:20 and 5 miles and change. We were all pretty beat at the end of it and I've been hydrating (did not do enough of that to start) and watching The Six Wives of Henry VIII. All in all, a very productive Sunday morning.