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.