Friday, April 29, 2005

Indiana Pulls Their Head Out

Indiana doesn't have Daylight Savings Time, although it looks like they're on the verge. There have been many, many jokes cracked at Indiana's expense over the years - and it is an indisputable fact that the highways improve dramatically when you're driving west and cross into Illinois - but my favorite has to do with the drive from Champaign to Indianapolis. It's a straight shot on I-74, and when people ask how long the drive takes, the colloquial reply is: "Three hours to get there, one to get back."

Now if only we could get Arizona to follow suit.

My Alcohoroscope

Courtesy of Mags, a very cool woman whom I've known for almost six years but have never actually met:

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GEMINI
Geminis can drink without changing their behavior much -- they're so naturally chatty and short-attention-spanned that it's just hard to tell sometimes. They can amaze you by conversing with finesse and allusion, then doing something to believe an extremely advanced state of intoxication, like puking in your shoe. Geminis possess the magic ability to flirt successfully (and uninfuriatingly, which is very tricky) with several people at once. They like to order different cocktails every round -- repetition is boring -- and may create a theme (like yellow drinks: beer, sauvignon blanc and limoncello) for their own amusement.

That Goddamn Linguistics Paper is done.

It's all perfect and pretty and sitting in a folder, waiting to be turned in at 1:1o this afternoon.

Allelu, allelu.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

"It is kind of like finding Elvis."

An ornithologist gets excited about a bird in Arkansas.

The Conference Paper

I presented my conference paper ('Where the hell did you get that idea?': The Mirror and the Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey) last night for my Senior Seminar in English class. A few of my friends were able to attend my session (there were four sessions simultaneously, so people had to pick which sets of presenters they wanted to see), as well as my Young Adult Literature instructor. I thought it went pretty well, mostly, and even won a runner-up prize for "Best Response to an Audience Member's Question."

Today I'll be spending a few hours polishing That Goddamn Linguistics Paper, and depending on how that goes, working on final projects in Quantitative Reasoning and Young Adult Literature. I also need to develop the aforementioned conference paper into a full research paper, which will require doubling its length. This actually won't be too bad; I noticed as I edited the conference paper (due to time constraints it was required to be about 5 pages) that I was paring out a bunch of minor details which supported the argument, so a good part of the rewrite will simply involve explaining and expanding upon ideas already present.

Anyhoo. It's snowing here, and the walk to the gym was treacherous so I think I won't be driving downtown to the coffeeshop anytime soon. It's actually great writing weather.

Onward!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Uh. Wow.

That Goddamn Linguistics Paper? The one I've spent over 20 hours working on? Yeah, I have a draft. All twelve pages, mostly cogent, spotty in parts.

I quit last night at ten pages of iffy source material thrown together and pretentious academic writing. I woke up this morning at 6:30, and made a deal with myself that I would write at least a paragraph of solid work each and every time I sat down at the computer today. My first round, before the gym, yielded a full page. A second round between breakfast and my afternoon classes produced some key transition sentences. A third round this afternoon after class put me just past the minimum page requirement.

So, the text is mostly there. I still have a ton of editing and APA formatting to slog through, but the ideas are on the page. Technically speaking, the paper is where I wanted it to be by yesterday afternoon. All told I probably have another three hours of editing and tweaking - which is way better than where I thought I'd be by now.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A Break

At one point this afternoon, after Coe but before I found out I was effed, a fellow RA grabbed me and asked if I wanted to check out a concert over in the fine arts building. It's a quick walk from here, and I was putting off returning to That Goddamn Linguistics Paper, so we agreed to go for a half hour or so.

It was the UW Wind Ensemble and Collegiate Chorale performing "Mass" by Leonard Bernstein. I was immediately glad I went as soon as it started, for three reasons. First, I have a supersecret crush on someone in the ensemble (glasses, short hair, AND a musician). Second, I realized about five minutes into it that I don't tickle my brain enough; I don't get out and experience fine art nearly as often as I should. A part of me really gets a charge out of experiencing art - in this case, music - with which I am simply not familiar. It's not that I feel more cultured or anything; it's that it literally tickles my brain.

The third reason is even more personal.

My favorite brass instrument - hell, my favorite instrument after guitar - is the French Horn. This could be because my mom used to play it; I have vague memories of her practicing in the basement. So, whenever I hear a French Horn, I think of my mom. On top of that, though, there's just something about the sound that gets me: gentle, modestly noble, and a hint of sadness. For you rock 'n rollers in the Dearest Readership, the best example of a French Horn in pop music is the beginning of the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." I'm currently struggling to come up with other examples, but given enough time I'm sure I could (and if any of you can come with any, we'd all appreciate your input).

So, anyway, during the concert there was a twenty second French Horn solo that tore my heart out. When the rest of the ensemble kicked in, a small part of me wanted to yell at those asshole trumpets and trombones (even you, cute saxophone girl!) to shut the hell up. But I thought that might be bad form.

Beyond Effed

Way back at the beginning of last semester, one of our fellow RAs started using the euphemism "effed" as a replacement for "fucked." Our staff is a fairly cleancut bunch, and while some of us swear like sailors in the privacy of our own rooms, we do try to maintain a certain level of professionalism at the lobby desk or in any working capacity. So while it's completely okay to say, while working the desk, "I totally effed up that quiz," it's generally a bad idea to say, "I totally fucked up that quiz." Someone even rigged The HR Cell Phone to display the message "You are effed" as its default. And really, nothing could be more appropriate for the HR phone.

That said, I'm compelled to share with the Dearest Readership that the linguistic gloves come off, for some reason, during meals. Some of the most disgusting - and most hilarious - conversations I've ever had in my entire life have taken place in the Washakie dining area. But I digress.

So, I woke up this morning with the intent of knocking out another 6 pages (double spaced) of That Goddamn Linguistics Paper. I had a few texts to review and from which to glean source material, but mostly I thought I could just pull together all of my transcribed notes, throw in a few transition sentences, and essentially have a workable draft. I spent 4 hours at Coe Library getting more notes together and came home with the intent of going to the coffee shop downtown where I could cut and paste paragraphs into the main body while sipping a nice decaffeinated tea. Piece of cake, I thought.

Then, on a whim, I checked the assignment outline the professor gave us at the beginning of the year. To quote, "Use direct quotes sparingly, for example when the original is much clearer and more precise than any paraphrase you can come up with."

I am beyond effed. In fact, at this point, I think it's safe to say I'm fucked.

I still went to the coffeeshop, but it was cold and noisy and there was no way I could concentrate. So I came back to my room where I at least organized what paragraphs I've already written into a logical order, with little blank spaces where very large chunks of lucid, intelligent text should go. Not that I know what that text will say. But I know where it should go.

Yikes.

Friday, April 22, 2005


The new glasses. Posted by Hello

Hallelujah!

People, things are looking up.

I got my notification today that I will be placed in Laramie High School for my student teaching next year; not only that, but my mentor teacher will be the teacher that some of the locals from my floor (who attended Laramie High... and also attended Laramie high, but that's a different story) absolutely worshipped. So: I got the school and the mentor that I really, really wanted.

Second, I ordered some glasses online yesterday, had them rushed, and they arrived this afternoon. See the above pic. I like 'em. Unfortunately, I also really, really, *really* like this other funky pair at the optometrist's office . . . which are made in Denmark and cost, no shit, $250. I have two student loans plus a loan from the International Bank of Dad, and I'm seriously considering getting those glasses. They're that fucking cool.

Know what? It's Friday afternoon, I have a decent handle on my papers (my Linguistics professor wrote back and said it was no problem to change my thesis - thank Christ), and I'm off to Happy Hour.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

My Vision, and an Update

Well, it turns out I have perfect vision and there's absolutely nothing wrong with my eyes. The optometrist did say that the headaches are probably due to normal strain, and that a pair of +1 prescription reading glasses might help. So he gave me a loaner pair to try out for a few days. If they seem to help, and I already think they are, I'll go back to the office to pick up a pair of bona fide reading glasses.

Yes, I know I could buy a cheap pair at Wal*Mart. But I think their sense of style might be, um, lacking.

This afternoon I did laundry and got started on That Goddamn Linguistics Paper. I'm about four pages into it and am hoping to knock out another two pages tonight. I'd resolved on Tuesday to get halfway through the thing today, get the other half laid out on Sunday, and then spend next week puttying in the cracks. I realized today that my thesis won't work, so I fired off an email to my professor asking her if I could change. Haven't heard back, but keep your fingers crossed. If I'm stuck with my original thesis idea – that Gaelic poetry is a source of power within the discourse of Scottish nationalism – I'm fucked. Well, maybe not fucked. But I'm not getting as much mileage out of that idea as my research notes had indicated I would. Turns out Gaelic didn't decline because of oppressive policies so much as the natural forces of modernity affecting daily life. If you're gonna make a buck in this world (or at least, in Scotland in the 20th century), it behooves you to speak English.

Meanwhile, the conference paper is coming together but is far from complete. The final title, submitted today, is "Where the Hell Did You Get That Idea?: Lacan's Mirror Stage and the Monolith's Meaning in 2001: A Space Odyssey." I wish I could have come up with a better title, but the part before the colon comes from one of the funniest/most terrifying moments in the film, and fits in nicely with some revisions I'm writing about HAL.

Back to writing.

Ditto. Posted by Hello

A loaner pair of reading glasses. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Straight Dumpin,' Yo

The front that brought snow to Lander this morning finally delivered its frozen payload in Laramie this evening. When I went in to Senior Seminar at 4:30, it was windy and generally crappy out. When I came out of Senior Seminar at 7:30, it was snowing, heavily, with three inches of slushy goodness already on the ground. It seems to be tapering off a little now.

The slushy walk home reminded me of a fun little game we used to play in high school. I'm not sure it ever had a name, but it was the result of that ingenious cruelty that only teenagers seem to possess. The gist went something like:

1. Drive like hell.
2. Swerve into the gutter to soak someone with slush.
3. Drive like hell.

Part of the game's beauty was that conditions had to be perfect, the result of either a freak warmup in the middle of winter or a spring snowstorm. It also had to be sunny, or the gutters got a little treacherous with the ice and all. All of these things had to happen on a schoolday, when the poor suckers were walking home.

From what I remember, we aimed exclusively at the "hoods," those assholes who deserved every last drop of frigid retribution they got. I distinctly remember one guy whose face registered the horror of what was about to happen only when the 8 foot wall of slush was airborne, and far too close to dodge. A cigarette jutted from his fingers as he turned to see who was honking at him, and the look on his face went from low-key cool to wide-eyed panic in two seconds. I think he might have mouthed the words "you fuckers" as he realized what was happening, but I could be making that part up.

Looking out my window.  Posted by Hello

Looking northeast. Usually you can see small mountains in the background. Posted by Hello

Happy 420!

After a boring night, during which I actually got some important writing done on the conference paper revision, I woke up this morning feeling marginally better for, like, a minute. Then my eyes started itching and I began a series of sneezes which technically hasn't ended yet. So I think this crappiness is just allergies.

On my way back from the gym this morning I realized it's April 20th, or 4/20, or 420. For those of you who aren't exactly immersed in the drug culture, today is a pot smoker's equivalent of Christmas morning. Legend has it that "a 420" in cop jargon refers to a marijuana bust. Pot smokers picked up on this and now celebrate April 20th as a day specifically set aside to toke up. And at 4:20pm on 420, if you stick your nose out the window, and if you try really hard, you'll probably be able to smell it.

Rumor has it that hippie towns go absolutely nuts this time every year; some guys I know are taking a roadtrip to Boulder for the afternoon. I've already wished "happy 420" to a few guys on my floor, who immediately cracked huge smiles and said, sincerely, "thanks, man. You too."

In a parallel universe, I'd be partaking. And while we're on the subject, I might as well admit that yeah, I've smoked weed. Frankly, I think it should be legalized; I disagree strongly with the notion that it's a "gateway drug," and I think it's a lot less harmful than alcohol. But I digress.

Happy 420, folks. I think it would be really funny if those of you who, until I mentioned it, had no idea what today means to many people, wished "happy 420" to those you suspect smoke reefer. You know, just to see how they react.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

[insert witty title here]

The weather, metaphorically enough, is turning nasty. This coincides with my outlook; besides the homework and the malfunctioning spacebar on my laptop, I'm coming down with whatever has been going around. It's 5:30 in the evening and what I really want to do is take some Ibuprofen and go to bed.

Here's where we stand with various assignments: after spending over 6 hours collecting notes for this Linguistics paper, I still don't have a good handle on what I'll be writing. A meeting with my Senior Seminar professor today demonstrated that my conference paper on 2001: A Space Odyssey needs a LOT of work. I also have a project in my Education class to work on, as well as a final project in my Young Adult Lit. class. Then that conference paper has to be expanded by twice its current size into a research paper.

I'm on HR tonight, so hopefully I'll get some writing done.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

It's Got a Good Beat and It's Easy To Dance To

With nod to my stepbrother's brilliant idea, I submit a far from comprehensive list of songs to which I like to boogie.

1. Franklin's Tower - The Grateful Dead. But only the album version. There's something about that cool, subtle, shuffle rhythm on the album version that all live recordings seem to lack. I defy any of the Deadheads in the Dearest Readership to prove me wrong.

2. Beast of Burden - The Rolling Stones. Not sure this one would have made the list without Chad's reminding me that this song just kicks ass.

3. The Way You Look Tonight - Frank Sinatra. I liked this song way, way, WAY before the whole lounge resurgence '90s. Face it. I'm cooler than you.

4. Tighten Up - Archie Bell and the Drells. Actually, this song (along with #5) makes me want to strut more than dance.

5. Chameleon - Herbie Hancock. The first "song" on the Headhunters album.

And you, Dearest Readership, get to fill out the next five.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

I Might Need Glasses

Several months ago I mentioned to my mom and dad, individually, that I sometimes get headaches when I read. Independently, they each said "Get your eyes checked." Well, I finally got around to scheduling an appointment this morning, so by this time next week I'll know for sure.

Between you and me, Dearest Readership, I'm kind of hoping I do need glasses, because I think glasses are sexy (on women. In my case, they will simply aid in the ongoing struggle of Not Looking Like a Fucking Twelve Year Old). If I do need them, I will almost certainly get a pair of Buddy Holly / military issue type. No wire frames for me! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We'll find out next Thursday.

The hair is coming back, except in those places it wasn't growing anymore to begin with. Note the kayak in the background. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

It Has Started

We have two and a half weeks left of class and then Finals Week, and that's it. As is tradition around here, I list for you all the exams/projects/papers that are due.

That Goddam Linguistics Paper - Linguistics. Thesis: Gaelic and Its Role in Scottish Nationalism. Due April 29. 12-15 pages. None written.

Conference Paper - Senior Seminar. Thesis: Lacan's Mirror Stage and the Other in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Due April 27. 5 pages delivered verbally. Draft written. Needs significant revision. Classmates seem to think I've written a narrative of the film instead of a critical analysis. They're right, of course. The fuckers.

Final Research Paper - Senior Seminar. Thesis: Lacan's Mirror Stage and the Other in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Due May 4. 12-15 pages. Will be a revised and expanded version of the current draft.

Novel Set Paper - Young Adult Literature. Thesis: Sex, Sexuality, Gender, and Transgender Issues in Three Texts. Due next Tuesday. Draft written. Need to add a more detailed explanation of my classroom approach to teaching this stuff.

Exam - Linguistics. Next Monday. Will cover phonetic and articulatory linguistics. I've been getting low A's on the recent quizzes but got my ass handed to me on today's homework.

Exam - Quantitative Reasoning. Next Wednesday. Will cover statistics and shit.

Final Exam - Linguistics. May 2. Will be cumulative. Will be an ass-kicking.

Final Project - Quantitative Reasoning. May 3. Not at all sure what this is supposed to be. Will review guideline and rubric tomorrow at coffee shop.

Final Project - Young Adult Literature. May 3. Must respond creatively to any novel I've read this year. This includes writing a song or poem. Will write a song. Will try not to be profane.

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I think that's it. And just tonight I realized I've shifted gears; now I'm living in that psychological place where every spare moment is dedicated to studying, reading, writing, or thinking about any one of the above.

Michael Berube Kicks the Rhetorical Shit Out of David Horowitz. Again.

God, I just can't get enough of this.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

From the National Weather Service

This is a Severe Winter Warning for southeastern portions of Wyoming including Albany county and the greater Laramie metro area. A Winter Storm Warning means a significant accumulation in your area is imminent. Take precautions immediately. Seriously, folks, you won't believe the amount of snow coming your way. We really hope you haven't boxed up your thermal underwear or put away your hats or gloves, because holy shit, you're in for some seriously heavy snowfall. Your shovels better be those titanium kind because plastic will be no match for the blizzard about to descend on you. You know those pictures of trains going through snowdrifts that reach higher than the train itself? That's how much snow you're going to get. Shit, you won't even be able to see the top of War Memorial Stadium. There's going to be so much snow, man, so much fuckin' snow, you'll be buried for weeks. We here at the National Weather Service have seen some pretty big snowstorms in our time, and this one's gonna be one for the books. Look out, Laramie. You people are fucked.

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That was the general tone of the most recent forecast, give or take a few adjectives. And as with all snowfall predictions around here, it was woefully overrated. They predicted ten inches, we got less than one. They were right about the wind, though. We got plenty of that.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

I Cut My Own Hair

For ten years now I've kept my hair very short. Not only does this simplify hair management issues, but it also saves a ton of money (since I have clippers) and helps in the ongoing struggle against what I like to call "looking like a fucking twelve year old."

Tonight I got a little bored, so I decided to skip the plastic clipper attachments entirely and just shave my head. Not sure how I feel about it; I think it will look a lot better in a week or so.

I also got bored enough to go to Wal*Mart and buy a webcam. Wheeee!

Me and my new haircut. 2005. Posted by Hello

Me and my Telecaster. 2003. Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Sex and Space Babies

Alright, well, the Linguistics paper – which I have come to refer to as That Goddam Linguistics Paper – will have to wait. I have two other papers totaling 15 pages due early next week. How many pages do I have written? None. None pages.

One paper is for my Young Adult Lit class, and while technically it's only a draft that's due, I'd really like to turn in a workable, almost- finished paper. It's a "novel set" paper, in which we compare three texts, discussing their themes, styles, and explaining how we'd go about teaching them in a public school setting. I'll be writing about Luna; a short story from Losing is Not an Option; and The Flip Side. My focus? Sex, sexuality, gender, and transgender issues among teenagers.

Now, there are two minor obstacles I'll need to overcome here. First, sex, sexuality, gender, and transgender issues are the sorts of discussion topics about which one could write either one paragraph or a small forest's worth of pages. I'm aiming for eight, which will allow just enough room to write compelling sentences but not actually discuss the ideas behind them.

The second issue is, How in the hell am I going to teach this stuff, or even pretend like I'm going to teach this stuff?

The other paper is a little fiver for my Senior Seminar class. We're supposed to apply a theory we've learned to a text and write up our first paper for Wednesday night's class. We will eventually be presenting a version of this paper to a conference of faculty. After that we'll be turning in a bonafide research paper.

I thought for a while I'd be doing the Saussurean problems of meaning in Don DeLillo's White Noise; then I thought maybe I could take an Althusserian approach to To Kill a Mockingbird (I can see it now: ". . . and so as the soap figures hail Scout and Gem, the children are compelled to respond in a way the ideology finds acceptable; the ideology expects a material practice in return for a material practice. . . "). Um. No.

And so I'll be applying Lacanian theory to 2001: A Space Odyssey. My professor suggested this topic after I mentioned that it's one of my favorite films, but I don't know why it's one of my favorite films. She said that might be an excellent place to start.

I'm still laying the groundwork, but I'm sure the paper will have something to do with metonymy and metaphor; speech as a form of psychosis; the idea that what we're not talking about is what we want to talk about but can't talk about. In a film with as little dialogue as 2001: A Space Odyssey, this might get interesting, not to mention the fact that the movie just totally fucks with your head. Kubrick's penchant for throwing cinematic curveballs is everywhere in the film; it intentionally defies traditional narrative and its meaning is elusive at best, but more likely, infuriatingly vague.

So a paper there shall be. I mean Jesus, between bone-huckin' apes, a creepy soundtrack, and a gigantic space baby, there has to be something to write about here.

Fuck You, Blogspot!

I just wrote a huge post about my projects coming up, and then blogspot wouldn't load the page, and then it also deleted what I'd written.

I swear to God there's a conspiracy against me.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

My Mom Rules

How dedicated to Illinois basketball is my mom? See her comment on the previous post to find out.

Monday, April 04, 2005

And Then a Very Bad Night

Well, Illinois lost the championship game tonight. Figures.

There's some other drama too which - how very ironically postmodern - I can't write about here for reasons which will be revealed if/when you talk to me in person.

Ugh. Off to bed.

A Very Strange Evening

Last Friday night I went over to my best friend's house (well, my best friend from high school). I think I've mentioned him before - we had a falling out after he came to Laramie for school 14 years ago and got all weird with religion.

Anyway, he's now an assistant pastor at a fundie church here in town, and I saw him preach a few weekends ago. He called me earlier this week and invited me to dinner at his house last night, and hey! I'm always up for a home cooked meal. And yeah, I try not to eat beef, but when you're invited to someone's house and they serve spaghetti with meat sauce, and when you've been living on a diet of cafeteria food, you don't complain.

Now, H has always been a very, very smart guy. He majored in electrical engineering and would undoubtedly have pursued and obtained a doctorate had he not heard the voice of God in his ear. And when I asked him, as delicately as possible, to explain his views on who controls the keys to heaven, I listened patiently as he explained that those who think their deeds on earth are important are actually "slapping Christ in the face." (The reasoning here goes something like, you are saved by grace alone, and to think you can EARN your way into heaven is like saying you have the right to ask God to owe you something.)

Some of H's religious stuff was reasonable. But when he started in with his assertions that the earth is 4500 years old, and that we deserve hell for simply existing, I got nervous. What put the evening over the top, though, what moved it from "uncomfortable" to "straight out of a Stephen King novel," was how H talked to his kids.

He has two sons and a daughter. At one point during dinner we were talking about their new church going up out by the interstate. His five year old daughter piped up with, "And there will be a cross on the top of the church so that everyone will know Jesus Christ died for their sins."

Now, I'm fine with the church itself - unlike some of my more radical friends, I don't equate separation of church and state with separation of church and society. I'm also fine with the belief itself; that God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son. For that matter, I'm fine with the Buddha achieving perfection or enlightenment or whatever. But hearing religious dogma from your former best friend is one thing; hearing it from a five year old with spaghetti sauce smeared across her face is quite another.

There was some other stuff, too, but I'll let it lie.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

It's Nice Out

It is a gorgeous day in Laramie. There's still ice in the shadows and grit on the sidewalk, but it's a warm wind blowing out there.

Of course, I'm not out there enjoying it; I'm inside worrying about assignments.

I walked down to the UW library to get crackin', finally, on that damn Linguistics paper. Somehow during my initial search I'd missed some great texts which relate specifically to Gaelic as a site of power in the discourse of Scottish nationalism, so even though I haven't written one damn word of the paper itself, I did find some good source material. I pretty much cleaned out all of Coe's books on Scottish Gaelic, so hopefully no one else is writing on this, or yours truly just plain screwed them.

My Senior Seminar project is a concern as well. We have to apply a theory to any text, and then present it to faculty at a conference. Granted, the conference is put on by the English department and the only faculty who will be there will have been invited by the students, but still. . . Jesus.

Speaking of Jesus, I went over to my friend-turned-holy-roller's house for dinner Friday night. More on that later.