Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

And when the night has finally gone.
And when we see the new day dawn.
We'll wonder how we wandered for so long, so blind.
The wasted world we thought we knew,
The light will make it look brand new.

Day after day
We'll find the will to find our way.
Knowing that the darkest skies will someday see the sun.
When our long night is done,
There will be light.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Movies for the Season Ahead

**UPDATE -- okay, so this has to be on the list as well. Duh: The Hobbit -- **

I'm excited to watch...

1. War Horse - Once a horse person, always a horse person. Just wish I'd seen the play in NYC.
2. The Iron Lady - I may be a sucker for historical/political drama, but it's Meryl Streep.
3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Waiting with bated breath to see if it lives up to the book.
4. The Dark Knight Rises - Another must-see.
5. Coriolanus - Was T.S. Eliot correct? Let's ask Ralph Fiennes.

Still need to see...

6. The Ides of March - I've heard mixed reviews, but see #2, and also, the cast...
7. Melancholia - Despite its leading lady, I'm curious if this one will hold together.

What else should be on the list?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

And the Waiting Begins

PhD Applications Status - round 3
  • Submitted: 8
  • To go: 0
Th-th-th-th-that's all, folks.

For better or worse, barring all unforeseen complications, the waiting has begun...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Submit, Application

PhD Applications Status - round 3
  • Submitted: 7
  • To go: 1
So close.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Open Letter to DrP

You know what, DrP*? If you're going to play this commercial every five minutes on Hulu, there are some things you should know.

I am a woman.
I enjoy action movies.
I do not drink diet soda.
I dislike most rom-coms.

You know what else?

You can keep your DrP10.

That's all.

*And by refusing to type out your name, or your product's name, I am refusing you that 1.5 additional hits you might have gained from this post. Then negating my own refusal by linking to your video. Irony. I get it.
**Maybe I have lost my sense of humor. Blame it on repeat number 10.

SUBMIT application!

PhD Applications Status - round 3
  • Submitted: 6
  • To go: 2
Just. want. to. be. done.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Submit Application!!

PhD Applications Status - round 3
  • Submitted: 5
  • To go: 3
Pluhemifractionally there!

Goal: all applications in before Christmas. Looking relatively doable at this point.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Keep Breathing

Dearest lungs of mine,

Please know that in this I mean no offense. I know you are doing your job, and I greatly appreciate your efforts to clear out the remains of my Thanksgiving illness.

I just wanted to let you know that I'm very much looking forward to the moment when I can take a deep breath without a murderous fit of coughing that leads me to believe that you are trying to escape my body.

I'm really not the jealous type. Just a bit possessive. That's all.


Submit Application!

PhD Applications Status - round 3
  • Submitted: 4
  • To go: 4
Halfway there!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Submit Application.

PhD Applications Status - round 3
  • Submitted: 3
  • To go: 5
On a roll today.

Submit Application...

PhD Applications Status - round 3
  • Submitted: 2
  • To go: 6

This is happening.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It is now officially December

Which's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

(and it's finally permissible to listen to Christmas music)

Monday, November 28, 2011


Do you ever have those days when you just feel incompetent, no matter how many things you do well?

Symptoms of one of those days:
  • Failing to check off one of the two items on your to-do list
  • Being late to a tutoring session
  • Spilling tea on your pants
  • Handing the wrong exact change to a cashier
  • Opening a box of Christmas ornaments too quickly and spraying glitter all over your face
  • Hitting yourself in the face when slamming (palming, Allen Iverson-style) the lid of an industrial recycling bin
  • Jamming the tape dispenser five times in a row
  • Getting a hand cart stuck on the door sill, ramming it into your shin, then running over your foot with it
  • Tossing empty boxes toward the recycling area, only to have the wind pick them up and fling them all over the parking lot
  • Dropping handfuls of neatly stacked papers all over the floor
  • Having to look up the terms "hand cart," "door sill," "palming," and "recycling bin" because your brain refuses to think of them on its own
All purely hypothetical, of course.


Friday, November 25, 2011

You Know You're Paranoid If...'re applying for a PhD in English and you feel a strong urge to comment on the web application's poor grammar because you fear that failure to do so might be one of the school's initial justifications for disqualifying candidates.

Get a grip, self.

But still, really, ApplyYourself.

Happy Black Friday!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Submit Application?

PhD Applications Status - round 3
  • Submitted: 1
  • To go: 7
Map forthcoming.

Submitting an application nine days before it is due seems so extravagant. And risky.

Hitting the "submit" button is one of the most terrifying sensations in a graduate student's life.

That being said, graduate students need to acquire some perspective.

Letter on the UC Davis mobilization

This is pretty powerful stuff: Letter on the UC Davis mobilization

For background, read an initial news story from TIME Magazine: A Sleepy Campus in Crisis: Pepper Spray at UC Davis. Also see a recent update from NPR: UC Davis Pepper-Spraying: Police Chief Put on Leave, Chancellor to Speak.

Then watch this video.

Making a list, checking it concurrently

Sometimes, getting through Monday involves a little creative finagling of productivity tools.

Rather than making a checklist, I'm making a list of all the things I have already accomplished this morning.

Today, I:
  • Heard the alarm clock.
  • Got out of bed.
  • Made the bed.
  • Did something with my hair.
  • Cleaned my room, including the stack of birthday cards on the dresser.
  • Paid bills.
  • Killed a cricket that jumped from the closet ONTO MY FOOT.
  • Ate breakfast.
  • Sent an email.
  • Opened the blinds in the house.
  • Watered my plant.
  • Washed dishes.
  • Gathered laundry to wash.
  • Made a revised budget.
Not bad!

(The things I have not accomplished are on another list, one that has a far less cheering effect.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Murphy's Third Law of Fluid Dynamics

No matter how many times you lift, carry, or balance a five-gallon bucket of water when it is eighty degrees outside, it will not spill. At most, a fumble will deposit .0001% of its volume on your shoe.

No matter how carefully you lift, carry, and balance a five-gallon bucket of water when it is thirty degrees outside, it will spill. At minimum, a fumble will deposit 15% of its volume on your pants.

Thanks, Murphy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Departing Boston, Epic-Style

A perfectly epic trip to Boston last weekend ended in what was, for me, a perfectly ironic flight home.

Ladies and gentlemen: exhibit A.

Flying from Boston to a stopover in Washington, D.C., I found myself sitting beside a vivacious and precocious middle schooler.

Now, ever since I tried to color a Snow White cartoon while riding in the back seat of the car on the way to visit my grandmother when I was seven years old, I have known that moving vehicles are a special trial for me. As an adult, I no longer live in fear of car sickness, but motion sickness nonetheless returns at the occasional inopportune moment to haunt my steps.

This was one of those days.

Motion sickness typically affects me only at takeoff and landing in small planes, or occasionally in the mid-afternoon when the plane goes through pockets of turbulence. This was a large plane, but it was full, and the sun was acting as an impromptu heating lamp on my window seat. My usual strategy is simple and effective: 1) lean against the window 2) close eyes 3) avoid conversation 4) focus on breathing.

Not this time.

We were taxiing down the runway, and no sooner had I bunched my coat into a makeshift pillow, but I became aware that my seatmate was straining to see out the window around my head. Courteous seatmate that I was, I slid up the blind on the window in front of mine (halfway between my seat and the one in front of me). "You might be able to see out of this one," I said.

Big mistake.

My simple comment triggered a rush of conversation that did not cease for the duration of the two-hour flight. Topics included, but were not limited to:

-The perils of flying over the ocean, however briefly.
-Which would be worse, crashing on land or in the ocean.
-Refueling overseas planes in Iceland.
-Careers in marine biology for those who fear the ocean.
-Swimming with sharks.
-Swimming with dolphins.
-Alternative careers in veterinary medicine for those who fear blood.
-Which is worse, snakes or spiders.
-Bee stings.
-The length of the danger zone on stingrays.
-Haircuts: specifically, bangs.
-Hair products that speed growth.
-Hairy legs: the commonality between boys and spiders.
-The function of airplane tray tables.
-The Midwest.
-Ports of departure for international air travel.
-Beaches in the Midwest; or, the lack thereof.
-The advantages of waiting to disembark until the plane empties.
-Layovers, and the worst airports for them.
-Metal detectors.
-The age limit at which one ceases to be ineligible for full-body scans.
-The efficacy, or lack thereof, of full-body scans.
-The construction of hairpins: that is, their hollow character.
-The pure metal hairpins that defy this typical characteristic.
-The likeliness of setting off metal detectors with hairpins.
-The distinction between "girly-girl" and one who wears girl clothes.
-The reason behind, "Be sure your seat-backs are in their full upright and locked position."
-The benefits of sitting over a wing.
-Flying with small children.
-The economics of providing a whole can in the beverage service.
-The president.
-Property taxes in the Midwest.
-Renting versus buying a home.
-30 Rock.
-JCPenny sales.
-The White House.
-Immunity to typical anxieties about travel.
-Being an experienced, unfazed traveler.

All this, while eating a burrito, procured in the airport. All this, while I fight down the nausea and realize that I cannot put my head down. I cannot close my eyes. I cannot avoid conversation. And I cannot focus on breathing.

I cannot do any of these things, because I am actively and almost aggressively being schooled by a twelve-year-old not only in knowledge of the economics of property taxes or the anatomy of the stingray, but in the ability to fly the friendly skies of United Airlines without succumbing, in shameful weakness, to air sickness.

Motion sickness is not pleasant. Being shamed in your motion sickness by an unflinching twelve-year-old is more than any twenty-something with a master's degree should have to endure.

I mean, really.

In fact, I blame that experience both retroactively and proactively for causing me to re-watch the entire seven seasons of Gilmore Girls in a single season.

Yeah. It was that bad.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Life in 10 seconds

Now slowly reading Nervous Conditions, Wandering Stars, and One Hundred Years of Solitude--not particularly optimistic nomenclature, now that I think about it. Working six days a week at three jobs. Considering finally finishing my novel as part of NaNoWriMo. Applying to PhD programs. Wandering through autumn foliage on Sunday afternoons. You know. Life. And such.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Let Me Give You One of My Cards

Tonight, I'm listening to Jimmy Stewart's special narrative introduction to the movie Harvey. I'm getting ready to watch the movie, starring Stewart and Josephine Hull. He just used the phrase "squirmin' in their seats." I knew I loved this man.

It's also the perfect background noise for revising my statement of purpose and CV.

JG: "The excerpt I have provided as a writing sample..."
JS: "Now that it's on video and people can have it in their homes...I think that's a wonderful sort of present for the young people of the country."

Gah. Yes, that was a giggle. Be quiet.

JG: "I was drawn to the doctoral program at..."
JS: "Now let me give you one of my cards..."

As I said: perfect.

JG: My chapter on Heywood--
: "You promised you wouldn't say that name and you said it."

JG: The authority of the narrator is simultaneously--
JH: "Myrtle, don't be didactic. It's not becoming in a young lady."

It just keeps getting better.

JG: Agh! Why would any PhD program accept me?
JH: "'re sweet and you have so much to offer."

And better.

P.S. Josephine Hull (comme Veta Louise) would have made the perfect Dolores Umbridge.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Finally, a year with trick-or-treaters!!

I know what made the difference.

This guy was really bringing them in.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Everyone Hates Anonymity

I just read a rather witty and concise article about the new Shakespeare authorship intrigue film, Anonymous: Wouldn't It Be Cool if Shakespeare Wasn't Shakespeare? from The New York Times Magazine. It's full of well-crafted, biting sarcasm--the best kind, in my opinion.

Ignoring the missed opportunity to use (correctly, thus reiterating the article's point) the subjunctive mood in the title, I'm not sure quite what this says about the 2009 Supreme Court decision, but somehow I still want to see the movie. Just for kicks.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

This Pumpkin Is No Cinderella

La-di-da-de-dah, time to go to the pumpkin patch! Carving pumpkins is so much fun!

If I could just--cut--out--the--stem--



Ladies and Gentlemen: this is no ordinary pumpkin.

This pumpkin has, in all likelihood, been genetically engineered to resist carving.

Please observe the following cross-section:

Note the absurdly thick rind. The dense flesh. The self-healing property that instantly converts partially sliced skin into a consistency not unlike the stem.

This is no ordinary pumpkin.

If I were in a horror movie, eerie music would begin to play in the background, and someone would be readying the fake blood.

And yet I had such high hopes for you. Those tattoos? Should have used pencil. Or had lower expectations for my fine detail control when required to use a BUTCHER KNIFE.

And yet, in the end, good triumphs over evil.

Jen triumphs over the pumpkin.

And the year's masterpiece fishbowl of terror is (close enough to finally call it quits) complete. Watch out, little Nemo.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Violating Cameras

In the American language and legal system (albeit not etymologically), the word rape has a precise, ugly meaning. It also has a visceral connotation, so it's tempting to use the term interchangeably with "violate" "attack" or "abuse" to produce a stronger emotional response from listeners.

I strongly dislike the practice, especially in reference to sporting events, but have not articulated or worked through my reasons in writing. This week, in "Celebrities and the 'Rape' of Photography," Soraya Roberts on The Awl does a thoughtful job analyzing this practice using concepts from Susan Sontag's On Photography (1977). The comments section is also worth reading, particularly because Foucault makes a brief appearance.

(I might be adding Sontag's work to my reading list this fall...considering a follow-up post if I do.)

Check it out. Tell me what you think!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Today's Theme Song

Thousand-word Personal Statements

If you miss the theme I'm on, you will know that I am gone
You can hear rejection's "no" [from] a hundred miles,
A hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles,
You can hear rejection's "no" [from] a hundred miles.

Lord I'm one, Lord I'm two, Lord I'm three, Lord I'm four,
Lord I'm 500 words from my goal.
500 words, 500 words, 500 words, 500 words
Lord I'm 500 words from my goal.

Not a thought in my head, not a reason to my name
Lord I can't submit my file this a-way
This a-away, this a-way, this a-way, this a-way,
Lord I can't submit my file this a-way.

If you miss the theme I'm on you will know that I am gone
You can hear rejection's "no" [from] a hundred miles.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saturdays Off

...should end like this:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Proverbial Wisdom (3)

One cannot geographically demarcate the sphere of influence for physical rules that are not related to physical space or geography. Furthermore, any potential sphere of protection provided by a geographically delimited space does not travel with individuals once they leave said space.

The fair comes to town and sets up within its high-arched gates and spiked fences. Outside are traffic cones and high-priced parking. Inside is magical: lights, animals, barkers, rides, and so much more. Within this space, the fairgrounds have been transformed. Don't forget the food. Two words: deep fried. Kool-Aid? Deep fry it. Cheesecake? Coat it in chocolate, then deep fry it. Bread dough? Drizzle it into hot oil, fry it, then coat it in powdered sugar. Potatoes? Pshaw, we did that in March. This is October, y'all. Let's fry some lasagna and macaroni and cheese and place a hamburger between two doughnuts. One might be led to think that within this magical world normal rules of of culinary and digestive health do not apply. One might be wrong.

Culinary and digestive health are not fooled by the gleaming archway, and once you step outside that gate, you are on your own to reckon with your stomach. So, reconsider, "I might just skip straight to the funnel cake" on an empty stomach. Right now, inside those magical archways, you might. But at 2:30 in the morning, you might never be skipping again.

Lesson learned, proverb. Lesson learned.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Farmers Market Fan Club

Nothing smells more like autumn than homemade applesauce. At a chilly 50 degrees and windy, today was the perfect day to hang out in a sunny kitchen and make applesauce with apples from the farmers market.

Nothing more autumnal than a ripe apple.

Or a half peck of them.

I never claimed to be an expert.

But eventually they make it into the pot.

There should be an applesauce foam "latte."

At last, the reduction phase.

(a.k.a. the eating phase).


Saturday, October 1, 2011

October's Shadow

It's October, one of my favorite months. The weather begins to turn crisp and cool, making me sneeze when I first step outside in the early morning. The leaves blush into sunset colors: reds, oranges, yellows. Pumpkins, squash, and apples claim space at the local farmers' markets. The fair comes to town. Halloween is close behind. Somehow, the sky seems a little more blue and a little farther away.

But October also has a shadow.

In 2011 alone, it is estimated that 230,480 women in the United States will receive the heartbreaking news -- no easier to hear the second time or the first -- that they have invasive breast cancer. This year alone, 39,520 women will die from breast cancer.(1)

Men are not exempt. An estimated 2,140 men will receive the same news, and 450 men in the United States will have died from breast cancer this year.(2)

The numbers may sound abstract, but breast cancer is a very personal enemy in my family. My mom is a two-time survivor, and my aunt is also a survivor.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Although fundraising and awareness-building events go on year-round, this is one month when organizations like Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the National Breast Cancer Foundation combine their efforts to reach as many people as possible.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974, First Lady Betty Ford wrote about the difficulty of going public in the face of "this traditional silence" about the disease. Although we have come a long way, the effort is still ongoing to portray breast cancer as an enemy to be defeated, not a thing of shame for the men and women fighting it.

Even if, like me, you are not in the position to donate millions to cancer research, provide free preventive screenings, or conduct public information campaigns, you can still help. If you enjoy running or walking, find a local Race for the Cure and sign up. Another simple way you can get involved is to buy Dannon or Yoplait yogurt --the ones with the pink lids.

Each Dannon lid has a code on the back. For each code that you enter at, Dannon will donate 10 cents to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

The process is similar for Yoplait. Go to to redeem your lids. For each lid, Yoplait will donate 10 cents to Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

You can also take the Pink Ribbon Challenge from the NBCF. Nothing is required of you but two minutes of your time and a click of your mouse.

The most important thing you can do is to know your own body and take care of it. Find out what controllable factors put you at risk, and work to reduce their effects. Find out what screening measures you should be taking at your age, and get screened.

This year, won't you join the fight?

Actress Lynn Redgrave (Gods and Monsters) described her battle with cancer in this way: "But when this happens to you -- and I think other people would identify with this -- suddenly, colors are brighter. You see everything."

October seems like an appropriate month to do just that.

1. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2011. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, 2011.
2. Ibid.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Home, Autumn, and Rain

Stories from the New York City trip to follow, but for now, this is my way of celebrating home, autumn, and rainy weather.

Autumn in a Stew Pot

(measurements are approximate)

about 3 quarts water
1 tbsp butter or margarine
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1/2 tsp dried celery, crushed
1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 small red potatoes, cubed, skin on
3 stalks celery, diced
3 small carrots, diced, skin on

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp Italian spice
1/4 tsp salt
about 1 quart homemade tomato sauce
-chopped Roma tomatoes, garlic, onions, spices, water
(You could also use a pre-prepared chunky tomato sauce.)

Add about 6 oz of water to a large stew pot, with butter, garlic, onion, celery, basil, and a dash of pepper. Bring to a slow simmer on medium heat, and stir. Toss in carrots and celery along with another 6-12 oz of water (enough to keep the vegetables barely covered and to prevent sticking). Raise the temperature to high heat and stir periodically as it boils. Add the butternut squash, with more water, and then the potatoes. Add the salt and other spices at this point.

Stir in the tomato sauce. Once blended and boiling smoothly, reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and allow the soup to simmer, stirring occasionally. It should still be a thick consistency, not watery. Cook until the vegetables are at the desired softness and the soup is at desired thickness. Season to taste.

Total time-to-table, about 20 minutes preparation and one hour cooking.

Completely worth it.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Part of my job this summer has been to write very concise pieces of text about major world events, such as the Cold War, the Renaissance, and the 14th century plague.

The average word limit for the job? 300 words. Let's try that again.

Part of my My job this summer has been to write very concise pieces of text about major world events, such as the Renaissance and the 14th century plague. (Revised for wordiness.)

Imagine my surprise and "delight" to discover that one of the PhD programs to which I'm applying has the exact same word limit for the personal statement. No good skill goes un-recycled, as the saying goes [awry].

One would think that summarizing my [history, educational background, relevant life experiences, aspirations, applicable skill sets, research plan, and compatibility with the given program, or for lack of a better word, life] into 300 words would be much simpler than doing the same thing with the Enlightenment.

Funny. It's not.


Dear Strunk and White, despite your periodic absences from the zeitgeist of writing centers and rhetorical studies programs, I could really use some advice. Or a new red pen. Or the ability to write in Chinese characters.

I mean really--is that too much to ask?

I didn't think so.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Coffeeless Conundrum

So, the catch-22 of going a week without coffee is that you have to be awake enough to remember that you're going a week without coffee.


Without Coffee: 1 day 2 hours

In other news...This happened:

funny pictures - My Mistress' Eyes Are Somewhat Like The Moon...

Saturday, September 10, 2011


In contrast to the theme of August, ("Tumblings-apart"), I am so grateful for a weekend full of "bumpings-into." :-D

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Life in 10 seconds

This morning brought to you by my anti-aging medications of choice-- COFFEE, sour patch kids, the Mountain Goats, and noticing [pale green] things.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Proverbial Wisdom (2)

One cannot accurately judge the damage caused by an action until one is on the other side of a hot shower and a full night's sleep.

If a person were playing Frisbee and decided to slide on one knee across a patch of dried grass, the damage might seem minor. The burning sensation could be ignored in order to continue playing the game. The reddish color might seem insignificant at dusk. The subsequent judgment might be: it's no big deal. Keep running and, hypothetically, diving on the same leg.

The first rush of water in the shower is one clue: this might have been a bad idea. By 1 a.m., the bed covers feel like a cross between a brillo pad and a wax treatment. Two days later, the person in question realizes maybe she undervalued that skin just a little...

Lesson learned, proverb. Lesson learned.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Listening (to snakes?)

On this beautiful late summer afternoon, I decided to take a hike around a local lake. It's about a 7 mile walk, but the trail is shady and smooth, with a few gentle hills and lots of families walking, biking, or running on it.

I was reminded, along the way, how peaceful it can be just to listen.

After approximately a mile of walking, I stopped to sit on the rocks beside a small creek flowing into the lake. As soon as I sat down, a woman approached with two dogs (both off the leash, both with the variegated-cardboard look that half-dry hair tends to produce). One was a lanky black and white mix; the other was a shorter, stubbier brown and black. Sort of a "Bert and Ernie" of dogs.

They immediately splashed into the creek in front of me. All I said was, "Looks like they've enjoyed a swim."

That phrase initiated a 20-minute conversation that covered the entire gamut:

--the draining of the lake
--therapy dogs (her smaller dog is registered and works mainly with Alzheimer's patients)
--the AKC's recent decision to permit mixed breeds to compete in obedience trials...
--which enabled her dog, now highly successful, to compete after two years of being ready but unqualified
--the judge whose Australian Shepherd her dog beat in his own breed show
--the term "sharp pencil" judges
--the animal therapy test and reasons why dogs fail it
--her dog's knee surgery for a roving kneecap
--animal insurance policies.

During the conversation, I asked maybe 3-4 questions and made some affirmative noises. She seemed eager to talk, to show pictures of her dogs, the show facilities where she had competed, and the ribbons they had won. In the meantime, her dogs ambled around us, sniffed, shook water on both of us, and let me scratch their ears.

Then we all moved on.

About mile 4, I had a somewhat shorter conversation with a small snake named Hermann Benvolio. He agreed to keep his older siblings out of the path, and I agreed to stay out of his way while he crossed the trail. We parted friends, in mutual sadness for the animosity between our kin.

It was lovely.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tremor Tuesday

Just felt this.

I'm already imagining the local news headlines...*
  • Krankies' Chill Atmosphere Unshaken by Earthquake
  • Traffic Reporters Hopeful, But Gain No New Stories from Quake
  • Social Media Surge Causes Its Own Earthquake for Time Warner Cable
  • Harold Camping Announces Imminent Relocation to Richmond Area
In all seriousness, I'm gratefully checking "experience an earthquake" off my bucket list, and I hope injuries/damages in other parts of the east coast were not too severe.

*Except that there would probably be more typos and grammatical errors.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Milton Mondays

[T]hough all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?
-John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Rest is Silence

One of the pitfalls of working from home is the challenge of resting. I'm not talking about unexpected fall-asleep-at-the-table-and-drool-on-your-laptop resting (not that I've ever done that) -- I'm talking about intentional, waking rest.

Although I did cheat and do some work this morning, I spent an entire afternoon resting. I read a book (Her Fearful Symmetry), wandered around the house, browsed a used book store with friends, played Frisbee, and then ate frozen yogurt and read some more. It has been delightful.

It's also been really tempting to take just a few minutes to knock out some editing or plan tomorrow's schedule. So far, I'm holding out.

Having a job that permits me to work from multiple locations and to set my own schedule is an enormous blessing. The challenge is to turn off the blinking screen, close the computer (or at least the document), and take time to rest in the silence.


What a novel concept.

I think I like it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Writing in Iron

Just finished reading J.M. Coetzee's Age of Iron. Not my favorite of his books -- the female voice took a while to sit comfortably -- but well worth reading. As usual, there are some beautiful passages in it. Here's one that stood out to me:

I tell you the story of this morning mindful that the storyteller, from her office, claims the place of right. It is through my eyes that you see; the voice that speaks in your head is mine. Through me alone do you find yourself ere on these desolate flats, smell the smoke in the air, see the bodies of the dead, hear the weeping, shiver in the rain. It is my thoughts that you think, my despair that you feel, and also the first stirrings of welcome for whatever will put an end to thought: sleep, death. To me your sympathies flow; your heart beats with mine.

Now, my child, flesh of my flesh, my best self, I ask you to draw back. I tell you this story not so that you will feel for me but so that you will learn how things are. It would be easier for you, I know, if the story came from someone else, if it were a stranger’s voice sounding in your ear. But the fact is, there is no one else. I am the only one. I am the one writing: I, I. So I ask you: attend to the writing, not to me. If lies and pleas and excuses weave among the words, listen for them. Do not pass them over, do not forgive them easily. Read all, even this adjuration, with a cold eye. (104)

I do need to take some breathers in between this heavy stuff, that's for sure!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Life in 10 seconds

Now on a binge of J.M. Coetzee, I'm reading Age of Iron after checking out eight of his books from the public library. Currently listening to: The Sunset Tree by The Mountain Goats. Working a lot. Adding to the legitimacy of my house by getting a real adult table and a table runner. Subsidizing the local Starbucks. Adding new bruises at Frisbee and dance. Trying not to kill my marigolds before autumn. You know. The works.

Monday, August 15, 2011


This is the felt shape of a human life, neither simply linear nor wholly disjunctive nor endlessly bifurcating, but rather this bouncey-castle sequence of bumpings-into and tumblings-apart.”
-Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

I hate goodbyes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Lure of Deliciousness

The promise of frozen custard was too much. I have succumbed to Groupon.

Use my referral link to get your own, and I get a bonus!

11 hours left on this offer.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Cryptic story of my life in ten words or less:

So many dates, and yet so few.

Otherwise known as, fact checking. Forever. And then some.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shall We Salsa?

Jen: Eyes, why do you hate me so much?
Jen's eyes: Maybe because you made super-spicy salsa and then touched us?
Jen: Ah. Yes. I can see your point.
Jen's eyes: How ironic. We no longer can.

Jen: Thumb, why do you hate me so much?
Jen's thumb: Maybe because you cut me with a knife while de-seeding a jalapeno pepper.
Jen: Ah. Yes. I feel you.
Jen's thumb: How ironic. I no longer can.

But it's so delicious.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Normal Days

Last night, I attended a touring production of Next to Normal, the musical currently at number one on my list of new favorites. I won't pretend it's a happy show -- it's not -- but neither does it take the easy route by ending in despair. Without spoilers, the last song is called "Light," and it's appropriate.

I've listened to the soundtrack a dozen times, but seeing it live was incredibly moving, in large part thanks to Emma Hunton. She has a beautiful voice, but she also immersed herself in the character of Natalie, bringing to life the mother-daughter relationship.

Here she is singing an original piece:

Listen to the score. It's worth 2.5 hours. Then go see it on tour (there's still Toronto!).

...the price of love is loss,
but still we pay;
we love anyway...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Impending Epistles

Two days ago, I did a very strange thing. I started writing a personal statement for my PhD applications. It was incredible how quickly the sense of panic began creeping over my fingers, not unlike the cricket that skittered over my foot later that night.

I can't help wondering if the cricket was a personification (cricketification?) of my application-related anxiety...In that case, I should be set for the year, as said anxiety is now irretrievably d-e-a-d.

After taking an hour to write a few paragraphs, I was left with the impression that something was still missing. I pondered the question for a while before realizing that no graduate application can begin without a dedicatory epistle.



Professor of English,&c. Unwilling Protector to the
University's most Pressing Budgetary Concerns.


Professor of English,&c. Dedicated Defender of the Arts'
Both Guardians of the most Noble Order
of the MLA, and our singular good

Right Honourable,

Whilst I studie to be thankful in my particular, for the many favors I hope to receive, I am falne upon the ill fortune, to mingle two the most diverse things that can bee, feare, and rashnesse; rashnesse in the enterprize, and feare of the successe. For, when I valew the place you sustaine, I cannot but know your dignity greater, then to descend to the reading of these trifles: and, while I name them trifles, I have depriv'd my selfe of the defence of my Dedication. But since you may bee pleas'd to thinke these trifles some-thing, heeretofore; and have unsealed them: I hope, that you will use the like indulgence toward the Statement of Purpose, as you have done unto the applicants before. There is a great difference, whether any Graduate Student choose her University, or finde it: This hath done both. For, if it please you, the severall parts of the Writing Sample, although not published, are yours. I have but applied, without ambition either of selfe-profit, or fame: onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a Friend, & Fellow alive, as was our M A S T E R S P R O G R A M , by humble offer of continuance, to your most noble patronage. Wherein, as I have justly observed, no woman to come neere you but with a kind of religious addresse; it hath bin the height of my care, who am the Presenter, to make the present worthy of you by the perfect proofe-reading. But, there I must also crave my abilities to be considerd. I cannot go beyond my owne powers. And the most, though meanest, of comma errors are made more precious, when they are dedicated to Applications. In that name therefore, I most humbly consecrate to you these remaines of your servant's Writing Sample; that what delight is in it, may be ever the reputation yours, & the faults mine, if any be committed, by one so carefull to shew her gratitude, as is

Your Committeeshippes most bounden,


Now that's more like it. Let the Personal Statement writing month.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Movin' Movin' Movin'

Contrary to popular opinion, moving is just great. It comes with its own set of fabulous side effects. For example...
  • Moving gives you an indefinite pass on tripping-related humor.
  • The impulse to talk aloud to yourself in a British accent while unpacking increases tenfold after midnight.
  • When you begin giving yourself "real person points" for things like unpacking the dish rack and setting up the coffee maker, still in the British accent, it's time to go to bed.
See what you're missing?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Orlando's Last Prank

Yesterday, a friend came over to help with the packing as I get ready to move. My bound thesis was sitting on my desk, so she picked up a copy to glance at it. When I looked over her shoulder, something funny had come over Orlando.

First I saw this:

Yep, *cringe* it's Orlando.

Then this:

Wait, what?

Then this:

Title: The Thesis Jen Wishes She Had Written.

Although Orlando may have shrunk 23 pages in length, my illustrious thesis now has a section called: "Wandering Monster Tables." Brilliant!

If only I had gotten this copy before my defense. This could completely revolutionize the teaching of Shakespeare.

All the same, I can't help wondering if someone, somewhere, is now desperately trying to find the Foucauldian Heterotopia on level 5 of Labyrinth Lord, all the while wondering why the character "Pericles" has yet to show up...

Well played, Orlando. Well played.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Life in 10 seconds

I'm getting flashbacks to sitting in an unfurnished living room, reading Terry Eagleton, and feeling excited about getting a new ThinkPad.

Two years go by pretty fast.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stress Craving (2)

...and also waltzing.

...times a million.


Stress Cravings

I'm moving this week. Like the majority of normal human beings, I don't consider moving a particularly enjoyable endeavor. In fact, it's downright stressful. Pressed for time, frustrated with packing, there must be a logical stress reliever. Right?

So what do I do?

I go outside when it's getting ready to storm and I weed the garden-I'm-getting-ready-to-leave-behind.

Logical? Not exactly. But it works.

I douse my nostalgia about the tomato plant that grew from last year's rotten tomato seeds (and is 20 times healthier than my potted heirloom tomato) in a hefty dose of overgrown mint and spiky weeds.

I wax poetic about the next residents who will let the place go to wrack and ruin in my absence while stabbing my finger on a rose thorn and putting a restraining order on the imperially minded morning glories.

Then I go inside, get a drink, and sit on the couch to watch the storm while I pack my silverware.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Literary U

This week, my sister got married! (!!!!!!!!)

In the lead-up to the big day, I spent a lot of time driving around Richmond. I discovered anew the poor state of my distance vision while I attempted to find my way to 102 locations around the city. Google Maps was my friend. However, this week I learned something about the aforementioned friend.

Google Maps loves extraneous U-turns.

The simple answer, looking at a map, might be to make a left turn and then another left. BUT, you could shave off 2.374 seconds by making a U-turn at the light, turning right on an unmarked access road, and then turning left onto your target street.

Google Maps: Do it!
Why, Google Maps, why?

Thankfully, as a Master of English, I know that any number of explanations is possible. It all depends on your theoretical framework. For example...


The shape created by a U-turn speaks for itself. GPS devices are associated with the feminine because they often speak with a female voice, so the obsession of GMaps with U-turns is a manifestation of penis envy and the early stage of an Electra complex -- female drivers are particular targets of the software's ensuing rage.


Mapping is traditionally a masculine endeavor to control the land, which is portrayed as female. Demanding a U-turn is GMaps's attempt to inscribe a phallic shape on the terrain.

New Historicist

Powerful institutions attempt to contain drivers within a regimented system of roads, and technology like GMaps was invented to serve this end. However, unmarked access roads are traces of an earlier system of roads, so U-turns that utilize these older access points represent the geographical subversion of today's technology.


The term "u-turn" represents a collision between the inability of language to account for movement that does not conform to prescribed directions, producing regression to verbiage based on representative sounds and shapes, and the underlying demand of language for an illusion of simplicity as demonstrated in the rejection of the precise term "hyperbolic turn" on the grounds that the adjective "hyperbolic" constitutes a point of contamination between the literary function "hyperbole" and the mathematical shape "hyperbola."

The list could go on and on, endlessly deferred toward the void...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Open Letter from a Escalatorphobic

Dear WAY TOO YOUNG TO BE THAT GOOD suit-clad piano player in the department store,

Your playing is beautiful. Make no mistake. But like 99% of your mall-walking listening audience, I did not expect live music while I wandered through the makeup department. I did not approach the women's accessory department mentally or emotionally prepared for your rendition of "On My Own" from Les Miserables.

That song should come with its own set of user advisories: Do not listen to this recording if you are A) a romantic, B) single, or C) likely to become single. Most importantly, do not listen to this song if you are any of the above and in the process of stepping onto an escalator.

We timing impaired down-escalatorphobics may be few and far between, but there's no need for you to shake our equilibrium right before we step onto a relentless mechanical cliff-walking instrument of doom.

That's all.

But the last arpeggio -- beautiful.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Final Chapter

(Last week's news): Print copy arrives! I give a copy to my parents!

Two minutes later, Dad finds a comma error in the introduction. I think it was on page 3.

He prefaces disclosure of the error with, "I'm assuming it's not actually a mistake, since at this level I would assume..."

Haha. That's funny.



Life in 10 seconds

Working a lot of hours on ever-evolving projects. House hunting before my lease runs out: lots of "exotic animal print" themed rooms and 1948 original fuse boxes. Pool time. Getting ready to celebrate my big sister's wedding. Not reading much, but currently Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet. Very good. Watching (falling asleep during) movies, including The Science of Sleep, I Love You Man, Bridget Jones's Diary, An Education, The Dark Knight, and 27 Dresses. Dancing infrequently. Frisbee-ing.

Just have to make it through June.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Proverbial Wisdom

It is a false logic to presume that love of an activity precludes the consideration of extenuating circumstances when determining the wisdom of the aforementioned activity.

I love to run barefoot. Usually, running barefoot is a great idea. Yesterday, I consulted this logic and went for a short run barefoot, on the sidewalk, at noon. I neglected to consider extenuating circumstances such as 95-degree weather and the thermal conductivity of cement and asphalt, not to mention the delay of temperature-based sensation in the feet due to the concussive effect of running barefoot.

Rather large, rather painful blisters on both feet.

Lesson learned, proverb. Lesson learned.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Stories We Tell

It's ironic. I finished writing my thesis, swore I would never speak to Orlando again, and now find myself pondering some of the same questions it forced me to ask.

Namely, who has the right to tell someone else's story, and to what end?

I've been stuck on a particular passage from Dave Eggers' Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I won't repeat it in full, but a few lines stand out. Out of context, this may not make much sense, but the novel is something like a metafictional fictionalized autobiography, if that helps.

Okay, continue.

"We're not talking about me."
"Yes we are, of course we are. We always are. In one way or another, we always are. Isn't that obvious? ... I mean, how much do you really care about me, outside of my usefulness as some kind of cautionary tale, a stand-in for someone else, for your dad, for these people who disappoint you ... I'm just another one of the people whose tragedies you felt fit into the overall message. ... But see, you cannot move real people around like this, twist their arms and legs, position them, dress them, make them talk--"
"We are all feeding from each other, all the time, every day."
"Yes. That's what we do, as people." (423-5)

Telling someone else's story and making it part of your own seems natural. Sometimes, with permission and in context, it can do a lot of good. But I think the temptation, for writers as well as storytellers, is to use people as characters and fit them into a narrative of our own design.

I know I do that.

Without getting too Derridean for a Thursday morning, I think there's some truth in saying that every testimony carries the possibility of fiction. Being aware of that propensity -- call it exaggeration, manipulation, embellishment, what you will -- shouldn't stop us from making sense of events and relationships or sharing experiences, but I think it does require a pause, a second thought to consider the effects of our storytelling on the real people whose stories we tell.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

If It Ain't Got that Swing

May 26 is the birthday of Frankie Manning, a legendary Lindy hop dancer known as the Ambassador of Swing. Among other accomplishments, he pioneered aerial moves in the 1930s. Manning died in 2009, a month before his 95th birthday.

Check out this tribute video to one of his greatest routines, from the 1941 film Hellzapoppin. Features original footage spliced in with a 2009 re-creation of the choreography. Brilliant.

Also see this tribute video of Manning's signature dance, the Shim-Sham, as performed across the decades by my local swing dance community.

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Decal Art

This week, I officially became an alumna of the graduate school. That meant getting my alumni library card and an alumni parking pass. What I didn't realize was that it also meant being inducted into the secret society of new art at the university.

The following scenario ensued when I entered Parking Management:

::standing in line while a recent graduate tries to argue his way out of multiple parking tickets past appeal deadline::
::more standing in line::
::he's still arguing::
::pulling out the "I could just have left without ever paying these" card::
::response: the "not if you ever want your transcripts" card::
::bam. I smell defeat::
::okay, he's gone::
::note to self: I would not want their job::

"Hi, I just graduated and would like an alumni parking permit - what do I do?"
"Bring in your front and rear parking decals."

::removal of front decal: check.::
::removal of rear decal: umm...::
::after ten minutes, decal detaches in 1/4 cm increments::

::carrying front decal and small sticky clump of detritus from rear decal back into the office::
::sheepish grin::
"Hi, I'm back - the front decal came off without a problem, but the back one..."
::holding out scraps with an attempt at humor::

::parking management lady takes scraps::
::wait, what?::

"That's fine."
::tapes front decal and wad of scraps to the back of alumni application::
"Fill this out."

::kind of hard to write on top of such an uneven surface::
::but done.::

"Here you go."
::and check.::

Universities. Creating new sensations in mosaic art one decimated parking decal at a time.

Guess I'm really an alumna now.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hooding Pictures

I look like I'm in a lot of pain. So does the professor placing the hood on my neck. It's rather amusing, actually. But no, thank you; I will not be spending $125 on these photos.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Open Letter to My ThinkPad

Dear Linus,

It's been a good two years. You stepped in at a time in my life when I really needed support. You helped me see Marvin for what he truly was, and you stood up for my decision to let him go.

We've shared a real connection, Linus. I'll be the first to admit it. Even though you pulled an Eternal Sunshine on me twice, I took you back -- you know why? Because I knew I needed you. You went more days without sleeping than I can count, and the number of times you got a full day off would probably fit on a tetrahedron die.

But we have had our problems. Your reliance on power outlets is neither environmentally conscious nor convenient. Heated arguments are one thing, but you never really chill out. You're always hot under the battery pack. And I need someone I can count on. I can be scatterbrained, but you can't seem to break the habit of losing important documents at the last minute.

When you lost Orlando, it was the beginning of the end. I know you didn't like him (we had our disagreements too), but you can't treat a thesis like that just because you're jealous. I need a computer that can keep up with me, and I don't think you want to anymore.

What's more, now that you've lost touch with your network of friends, I just can't afford to support you. You don't have insurance, and you go to the doctor way more than someone your age ought to. All the features I liked about you seem to have expired. You even get really blue when I ask you to play music.

But I would like for us to remain friends, Linus. I think the phrase "trade him in for a newer model" is kind of crude. Just think of it as you're being let go, your life's going in a different direction, you're part of a permanent outplacement...

I know, I know. It sounds bad. But we can still hang out from time to time. You'll always be my first and only ThinkPad. I hope you can forgive me.



Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Big Day

Today is the hooding ceremony for my MA in English Literature. Everything suddenly feels so intense and final.

And exciting. :-)

We did it, Class of 2011!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I just finished reading Atonement for the first time. The last few

But also this:
"The title lettering, the illustrated cover, the pages bound--in that word alone she felt the attraction of the neat, limited and controllable form she had left behind when she decided to write a play. A story was direct and simple, allowing nothing to come between herself and her reader--no intermediaries with their private ambitions or incompetence, no pressures of time, no limits on resources. In a story you only had to wish, you only had to write it down and you could have the world; in a play you had to make do with what was available..."
I swear, Orlando keeps coming back to haunt me.


Do no go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Though wise men at their end know dark is right
Because their words had forked no lightning, they
Do not go gentle into that good night

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Wild men, who caught and sang the sun in flight
And learn too late they grieved it on its way
Do not go gentle into that good night

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

And you, my father, there on the sad height
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears I pray
Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Monday, May 9, 2011

No more 9-5s

Apparently, the result of graduate school is that my new best working hours are 8-12 (omne die).

This could be a long summer.

Friday, May 6, 2011

More cool stuff from he(ART) for Life

My friend Carrie is at it again. This summer, she's raising awareness about Alzheimer's by selling art across the country.
By sharing my art and my words I hope to express what I have learned from my experience with Alzheimer's Disease and give insight to what a person with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers face on a daily basis.

Check out Carrie's website at to see the art, learn about the artist and the project, and plan to rendezvous with her on her tour.

(And no, I'm not a publicist -- I just like the projects :-) and the woman creating them.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Small Towns, Quiet Thursdays

I spent the morning doing final proofreading of my thesis in preparation for submitting it to the library. Given my current level of over-saturation with the contents of said thesis, I wasn't looking forward to it.

However, just a fifteen minute drive away, the entire process was salvaged by the beauty of a certain small town, where...

  • You can mark time by the older man jogging laps around the town square while rapping along with his iPod.
  • There are park benches shaded by crape myrtle trees in the perfect blend of sun and shade.
  • There's a handy brick wall for foot propping.
  • Coffee shops have porches and rocking chairs.
  • It's quiet enough to hear the birds.
  • On the crosswalk, you're in as much danger from passing bicycles as from cars.
  • Said coffee shop is a short walk from said square/park.
  • There are noon bells!
  • Even proofing my thesis was somehow peaceful (or soporific, take your pick...)
C'est si bon.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Least Favorite Word

You know how some people have these little habits that just get you down? Like Bernie...

Well, sort of like Bernie.

You know how some people have those little words that just get them down? I'm one of those people.

There are a few words that really make me cringe every time I hear them. I want to play two-year-old and cover my ears. I want to (and sometimes do) say "shhh" very loudly to whoever has just rocked the Ferris Wheel car holding my sense of equanimity.

The culprit?


In all of human history, graduates have struggled with the word "last." Graduation is a time of many lasts. Therefore, this blog shows how the main character, Jen, struggles with the word "last."

(end mockery of freshman English essays.)

If I started counting all the "lasts" coming up in the next few weeks, my ability to function would deteriorate pretty rapidly.

Last writing center tutoring session would become last pump of blue hand sanitizer after a sick undergrad sneezes on my hand, last use of the green pens, last sheet of paper dropped into the paper recycling bin...

Last class would have become last thing I say in a graduate seminar (make it good!), last note I take as part of my Masters education, last time I walk out of this building with my classmates, last time I trip over the step leading out of Tribble while wearing a backpack...

Last time I visit my study carrel before turning in the key would become a form of warped nostalgia about a place I hated and avoided at all costs...

Last thesis forms turned in would become the last time I talk to professors, last time I write something as a masters candidate, last time I am a student, last day of not being in the real world, last day of student discounts and lazy afternoons pretending to do homework, last time I get ink on my fingers while signing a student form as a masters student...

Last, last, last, last, last.


It starts to get a little ridiculous after that point. Any time you feel nostalgia for the act of stubbing your toe on a particular hunk of sidewalk is an appropriate time to stop and reevaluate.

So what to do with all of these (b)last(ed) things?

Maybe I need to take a lesson from Lucy.

(I know, from Chicago to Peanuts in one blog post? Who does that? Me, that's who.)

Some people go through life with the deck chairs facing forward, gazing out where they are going...Others go through life with their deck chair facing backwards, looking at where they've been. Which way is your deck chair facing?

I'm pretty sure my deck chair, assuming I've gotten it unfolded -- I'm so used to a desk chair, you know -- would be facing meta-backward, if that's even possible.

Reverse! reverse!

(Cha-cha slide too? This is getting out of hand...)

It would be cliche to say that accomplishing something necessarily means finishing something. And that's a good thing. Maybe the point is to add the next cliche and say that finishing one thing means starting something else.

Could be good. Could be bad. The possibilities aren't endless, but there are a few.

And every time I think about graduation in this morbid and somebody-please-smack-me way, I'm reminded of a funny quote from three years ago. At my first contra dance when I moved here, the person behind the desk asked me, "Are you a student or a real person?"

Well guess what, friends. In the midst of all the "lasts," next week will be the first time I'm a real person again!

How about that.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Is It Really National Book Week?

Well, that depends on whom you ask.


Next question: Does it matter?

No, not really.

For the purposes of this blog, It is National Book Week. The rules [that someone else anonymous designed and that have spread like unset jello across the Internet] are: Grab the closest book to you. Turn to page 56. Copy the 5th sentence. Do not mention the title.

"Some of the boys were useful to him, and he flattered them outrageously."

And done.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Epitome of Cuteness

This morning, I woke up with the urge to weed my back "garden": a much-needed task, but a pretty mundane one.

Then I saw what I thought was the chipmunk that haunts our house in hopes of finding something edible -- like green peppers, basil, carrots, flowers, etc.

But it wasn't!

Cue tiny bunny adorableness music.

Poor little fellow had gotten into the garden and couldn't figure out how to get back out.

We had an eye-to-eye moment, and then I opened the gate and pointed him toward it.

Made my morning.

I hope the little guy makes it home.

(See last summer's post "It's the Little Things" for previous instance of the Jen-Bunny connection. This connection is enhanced by the fact that I currently have no bunny edibles planted in the garden.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rainy Day Reading

Although there's a measure of irony in using my first few days of freedom to go to the library and check out MORE books (having not yet returned the monstrous stacks now subdividing my dining room), that's what I did.

Fun books.

That has made all the difference.

On this drizzly Friday, I'm reading some Vaclav Havel (Czech playwright and politician: The Art of the Impossible and Largo Desolato), some Elizabeth Strout (American novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner: Abide with Me), some Yiyun Li (Chinese-American short storyist and MacArthur Fellow: A Thousand Years of Good Prayers), and some Irene Zabytko (Ukrainian-American novelist: When Luba Leaves Home).

I'm also working my way through Dave Eggers's Hearbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but that one requires some recuperative breaks now and then.

It feels really good to read without a pencil in hand...unless I want to.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In the (Language) of Caesar

...scrīpsī, defendī, vīcī: gaudeō! -- dormiam.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Few Words

I'm reading/skimming Margaret Cavendish's 1666 utopian narrative "Blazing World" for the first time, and I have to say, I'm intrigued. So much is going on in this first passage from the dedicatory epistle.

THIS present Description of a New VVorld; was made as an Appendix to my Observations upon Experimental Philosophy; and, having some Sympathy and Coherence with each other, were joyned together as Two several Worlds, at their Two Poles. But, by reason most Ladies take no delight in Philosophical Arguments, I separated some from the mentioned Observations, and caused them to go out by themselves, that I might express my Respects, in presenting to Them such Fancies as my Contemplations did afford. Ambitious as ever any of my Sex was, is, or can be; which is the cause, That though I cannot be Henry the Fifth, or Charles the Second; yet, I will endeavour to be, Margaret the First: and, though I have neither Power, Time, nor Occasion, to be a great Conqueror, like Alexander, or Cesar; yet, rather than not be Mistress of a World, since Fortune and the Fates would give me none, I have made One of my own. And thus, believing, or, at least, hoping, that no Creature can, or will, Envy me for this World of mine, I remain,
Noble Ladies, Your Humble Servant, M. NEWCASTLE.

Okay, I'm done now.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Atlas Shrugged

Although I don't agree with the full extent of her philosophy, I really like Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, so I'm excited to see the first part of the film adaptation, which just came out this week.

So many things to do post-defense!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Defense Rap

What do you do when you're preparing for a master's thesis defense? I'll tell you - you write a rap about it.

Does it matter that you listen to musicals instead of rap, your voice is better suited to Disney princess songs than to Eminem, and you prefer waltzing to hip-hop?

Not a whit.


Channeling Fresh Prince.*


Shakespeare's Rapper**

Let me tell you how it happened when I scheduled my defense
When I wondered what was happenin' and everythin' was tense
My adviser said the main thing was for me to play it cool
But it's not so easy goin' when you're feelin' like a fool

Like a fool
Like a fool
'Fraid of lookin' like a fool

So I made myself a name-tag for a Master's candidate
And I told the whole committee that the time was gettin' late
Then they asked me who was Shakespeare and I felt a kind of shock
Stammered Bacon-Oxford-Washington while pleadin' with the clock

With the clock
With the clock
Wishin' light speed to the clock

But I knew we'd hit the moment; my degree was on the line
So I hit the rewind button and I told 'em I was fine
If you wanna know the answer to this pressin' mystery
Then you gotta ask me nicely 'cause it's in my custody

Got it under lock and key

They were full of expectation, I could see it in their eyes
Listen close, I said, I'll say it once, you know I tell no lies
Then I slid across the table my examination form
And I said you gotta sign this if you want me to inform

To inform
To inform
Gotta pay me to inform

There and then I saw their signatures appear upon the page
And I said next time you'll laugh when you see Shakespeare on the stage
'Cause by then you'll understand a joke you can't find in his book
You can never trust a grad who has a lean and hungry look

Hungry look
Hungry look
Then I ran out like a crook

*generally, accents on syllable 3, 7, 11, and 15
**The lyrics of this rap, like many, have no connection to reality. Hungry grad students just want to be fed, and are generally very trustworthy and docile. Yours truly also has no desire to comment on who this W.S. fellow might be.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It Became Spring!

(while I was inside writing my thesis.)

Baby Marigold
But it's beautiful.

Baby Marigolds!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

he(ART) for Japan

More cool stuff from my friend Carrie at he(ART) for LIFE: Japan Disaster Trio: Another crisis? So what. Wait...what do you mean, So what?


ONE: Choose your favorite photo you want made into a portrait (anniversary gift? new baby? wedding present? graduation celebration? house warming present?)
TWO: Japanese Artist Sosei Nakasuji will draw and paint the photo as a portrait.
THREE: Send email to and include
  • Photo for portrait
  • You Name
  • Your mailing address
  • The amount of money and organization to which you donated money or time/resources you gave to contribute to Japanese Relief Efforts (see 'Three Ways to Help' post)
Check it out!! especially the photostream of Sosei's work - gorgeous light and color. I really like this one and this one.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dear Orlando

Dear Orlando,

You've grown so much in the time that I've known you. It's hard to believe that it's going on four months now. But now that I'm seeing the full picture of who you are, we need to talk.

See, wanting to spend time together is one thing. Needing to spend time together, that's okay. But this obsessive jealousy and needing to take over every aspect of my life has to stop.

I'm no quitter, and I know we have another two weeks to go, but please. Give me a little room to breathe. You're a grown-up now, after all. You have to learn how to fend for yourself.




Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Considering a New Topic

Orlando - this is what will become of you if you do not begin to cooperate.

Consider yourself warned.

funny pictures of cats with captions

Tonight. It's all going down tonight.

I said that yesterday.

And the yesterday before that.


This time I really mean it.

The power of jellybeans will accomplish this.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Oh, Hobbes

“I say not this, as disapproving the use of Universities: but because I am to speak hereafter of their office in a Common-wealth, I must let you see on all occasions by the way, what things would be amended in them; amongst which the frequency of insignificant Speech is one” (Leviathan, A2v).