Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Things I Learned in Grad School: An Ongoing Series

1. It only takes one week back in college to begin seriously arguing that pub mix is so a food group.

2. Noun style is bad, usually. Sometimes it's good, but only when it's well done. Verb style is good, except when it isn't. Bad, good and well done are totally subjective and you shouldn't use them (except when you should). Semi-colons however are always awesome and indicative of great intelligence; they should be used frequently.

3. Many English profs cannot spell worth beans. In addition, many English teachers are hypocrites, a fact they will happily admit.

4. If a particular prof squints sideways at you and asks a horrifically difficult question and you find yourself squirming and desperately trying to think of something that is a)succinct b) cogent and c) witty but can't even figure out what the heck the questions actually means, cop to this fact and said prof will cheerfully say, 'Yes! Damned if I know either!!' Granted, you'll have to go have a lie down for the rest of the afternoon but at least you're still alive.

5. I can go an entire post without once mentioning THAT APPLE THING!!

6. Damn.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Did any of you see this?

A U.S. contractor producing gun sights for the military has been engraving bible verse references on them. Really.

Now, the follow up story is that this company has voluntarily decided to stop doing this which, in my opinion, at least upgrades the execs from 'underpants on the head loony tunes' to 'capable of comprehending the concept of organizational meltdown,' so, well done execs.

However, doesn't it sort of beg the question of how this whole idea became a reality in the first place? Was there some top level think-tank meeting where they were tossing over ideas?

Think 1: Dang. Our gun sights lack economic diversity. It's tough out there guys, and, yes there's war and mayhem the world around but what if peace breaks out? What then? I mean we have to be prepared for a downturn just like everyone else.

Think 2: Oooh! I hadn't thought of that! I mean sure it's never happened in the history of ever, EVER, that the world has totally been at peace and no one has been contemplating offense or defense and not one nation has felt the need to beef up their military, BUT! You know, there's Google now, and Twitter, and while those particular bits of tech are currently aiding tremendously in global misunderstanding and lack of communication you JUST NEVER KNOW. We need something on our product that says we do peace as well as war!

So... what - let's engrave Bible verse references on gun sights? Brilliant! It not only gives credence and support to those who argue that Western armies are in the Middle East as Christian crusaders, also, as the Church of England said in a statement to the Guardian: "People of all faiths and none are being killed and injured in these ­conflicts, on all sides, and any suggestion that this is being done in the name of the Bible would be deeply worrying to many ­Christians."

On the other hand, they've managed to offend not one or two creeds, but pretty much every last belief system possible, which is some darn impressive stupidity.

Well done chaps.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Things I Learned From My Required Reading

Possibly a continuing feature! Aren't you excited? I know my family, with whom I already shared a number of fascinating items, are totally thrilled.


1. No one should ever produce a design text book because students (meaning me) will inevitably spend all their time being snotty about the examples (as in - 'this example sucks!') rather than oh, say, learning anything.

2. Text books still say the obvious as though it were mind-shatteringly new.

3. 'Glottal Stop' is an amusing phrase and makes me want to work it into today's conversations.

4. If it's sort of late at night and you're re-reading your chapter on 'What is Language?' you will derail everything entirely if you arbitrarily decide to consider 'vowel' a euphamism. On that note, Linguistics is a dirty, dirty subject and if Pat Robertson is done looking for Satan under the rubble in Haiti he might want to check out the filth in my History of English text book.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


It was the first day of school yesterday.

Which immediately brings images of white socks and pig-tails and metal lunch boxes (mine always had rows of banana stickers on the inside of the lid because nothing is quite so valuable and important to save in a neat row as the Dole sticker off a banana).

I had been so excited when I registered. I was going to do this just for me, make a plan and look ahead after a long and rather awful time of can't-go-anywhere. I set up my work schedule to fit neatly (and slightly insanely) around my classes and I checked the bookstore web page regularly just to see if the required books were posted yet (New! Books!).

And then, meh.

Not angst or worry or anything, just meh. I bought some of my books (and read them) but then sort of waffled on the others. I forgot to download my schedule to see where my damn classes even were. I didn't check my email properly and so missed the email where my online class was canceled (DUDE! How can there not be enough people interested in Information Architecture?? I ask you?) and so had to register for another at the very last minute, meaning my work schedule had to be shuffled again (and as my boss had her door closed I couldn't get in to run it past her for an okay. That was fun).

And yesterday, when I finally worked out where my classrooms were going to be and was about to walk out the door I realized I didn't even have a notebook.

How did that happen? I mean, school supplies have always been the best, the absolute best thing about back-to-school - even after I was too old for the most sacred and desirable of all school supplies, the ginormous pack of crayons. Fresh, crisp, unspoiled notebooks; neatly organized binders with dividers all beautifully labeled (not that I took notes in them in high school mind, but damn my binders were a thing of beauty); new pens, chosen after careful testing for just the right feel on the page; rainbows of highlighters; newly sharpened pencils smelling of powdered graphite and wood shavings: I loved them all. And here I was shuffling through my drawer for a pen that actually worked and tearing the first three pages off a slightly-used writing pad three minutes before I had to be in the classroom.

I'd lost it - I'd lost the school mojo and I didn't know why. I told myself it was because I was taking on something that would keep me in this arid city I hate for another year and a half. I refused to consider it was possibly because I haven't done this school thing in a long time and who knows if I can pick it up again.

But I tracked down that first class and sat in the plastic desk-cum-chair (with the weird jointed back that gives juuuust enough when you lean on it that you have a brief moment of panic the whole thing is going to topple over) and I put my notebook on my desk and clicked my pen.

This was the class I registered for at the last minute, the filler class to tick off a requirement rather than a class I was specifically interested in. I know the professor - I work in this darn department so I'd better know him - but I hadn't seen him 'on,' doing his professor thing. Nice enough man, but let's face it, the subject was a bit of a snooze. He looked out over our ten or so faces, gripped his three ring binder stuffed with yellowed paper, and began to talk - passionate, almost singing, about the wonders of prose, about prosody and tropes, about how this class, his class, was going to change our goddamn lives. He handed out a sheet of written samples and let us read through them before he picked out a few and read them out, tasting the words lovingly, teasing out hidden treasures in the shortest of phrases, pointing out that nothing, nothing at all is more powerful, more worthy of study, more human than language. And I believed him. Sitting in that dingy, scruffy, ugly little classroom I remembered how it feels to really study, really burrow into something that truly matters to you. I found my mojo.

Today I think I'll buy a pack of crayons.

Friday, January 15, 2010


You see!

I make these non-resolution things with every intention of not doing them, or kind of doing them, or saying I was but then not or saying I wasn't but really meaning to all along AND having one or two up my sleeve that I was totally going to do but wasn't going to tell anyone about so I could be secretly virtuous and stuff.

Only it never works that way, does it?

So here is my short, in order of occurrence, list of excuses as to why I haven't posted more regularly:

1) There were too many things to post about. No, really! Child 2 came home for the holidays and left again and Child 1 is back now and we built a counter top because that's what EVERYONE does for Christmas and... I was drowning in content I tell you, drowning.

2) Only I couldn't be arsed to actually type any of it up in any way that was a) amusing or b) even remotely interesting. And then

3) when I actually had a post all mentally written (it was a deeply moving post. About my new cordless drill.... ooooooh.... cooooordless driiiiiiiiilllll) the world decided to crack open and absolutely nothing seemed important any more, certainly not blog posts.

So, I will be better (I sort of promise) and post and comment

And in the mean time why don't we all go over to Medecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders. It's just a drop, I know, but when the world is so very broken and everything has drained away they do need all the drops they can get.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Child 3 is experimenting. This sentence has sent a frisson down the back of all adults who know Child 3, so I want to clarify at once:

1) The experiment is ON ITSELF
2) It does not involve any explosives at all. None
3) Nor does it involve fire, projectiles, spinning things or combustion engines
4) Except incidentally

What happened was last week some time Child 3 looked up with innocent blue eyes and began to muse about modern life (you know, as you do) and electronics in general and specifically its own reliance on these electronic devices. I provided my usual high level of parental support and interest (non-committal grunting and, every third paragraph, a short comment demonstrating ongoing awareness of the general gist of the conversation) and somehow, by the end of the evening, It had decided it was going to try going for a week without any electronics at all. That meant no cell phone, land phone, computer, iPod, television, video game, keyboard or electric guitar.

We did iron out a few things, such as giving Its friends and family a bit of warning so It wouldn't suddenly disappear off the electric grid, and deciding NOT to impose Its experiment upon others. It also decided that the one exception to the electronics rule would be five minutes or so at the end of each day when it would records Its thoughts on the experience. Then Child 3 laid down the iPod, backed away from the keyboard and logged off the computer.

I have to admit that while I was entirely supportive of Child 3, and intrigued by the idea (and Its plan of documenting the whole thing), I was also comfortably sure that it wasn't going to cause ME any difficulties.

However, when you have one member of the family who can't sit down for the evening brain rot of choice you suddenly realize just how often the television is actually on, and how frequently 'doing something together' is really just 'watching Buffy/The Good Life/ Top Gear etc.' While Child 3 has been learning a lot about time and distraction and focus and other things I have, unintentionally, been seeing a great deal about family choices and my own habits. Although Child 3 has been charming about the whole thing, and has never once complained if someone wanted to watch a movie meaning Child 3 often went back to its own room to play acoustic guitar or read alone, it was a stark reminder that just being in the same room isn't being together if everyone is gape-mouthed before the television.

Granted, as a family we do have the irritating habit of talking through shows which means there is a constant conversation happening which is fun and healthy, but when one person suddenly cannot be there for that conversation it rather points out just how much time is spent on that one kind of activity (or... okay, INactivity). So a few days ago we all sat down together to play a game (and I LOATHE games as a rule, but hey, it was with my favorite people so some things are worth the struggle) and yesterday we all went snow-shoeing (FANTASTIC) and took down the Christmas tree (which had been up until Child 1 returned to have a bit of Christmas with us) and rearranged the living-room WITHOUT a television/movie background. And it didn't hurt, not even a little bit.

Mind you, Child 3 is now talking about trying the experiment for a full 4 weeks.

I'm pretty sure a month in Its room won't kill It...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


I don't DO resolutions and I reject the idea that January 1st is some mythical magical time to get over your bad self and Change Everything. However for some reason this week a sort of, kind of... we'll call it Not A List at All set of things has been building itself in my mind. Viz:

1) I'm not in shape. I'm not OUT of shape, I'm just not in shape either. I've not been as good as I was about regular exercise (for various reasons) and it makes me unhappy. So
  • Get back to doing something at least 5 days a week. Which also needs to include
  • weight training which I haaaaaate and loathe and also includes
  • remembering that I'm not out of shape just because I'm still getting out of breath - the fact that I've speeded up considerably AND am going farther might just have something to do with it so
  • in order to keep better track of that I am going to be posting a little daily note to self on Twitter about just what I've done (apologies to Twitter followers, but on the other hand see below) and finally
  • take advantage of the darn cool weather and get to the mountains every possible weekend
2) I haven't been eating well. I mean, I've been eating DELICIOUSLY, but not well. Therefore
  • Stop being so darn lazy about side dishes and don't count a main course as a full meal. To clarify
  • Crackers or pistachio nuts do not qualify as side dishes
  • Vegetables do. Fresh ones which means
  • a bit of actual meal planning is in order to keep the house stocked with said fresh veggies [aside, darn Trader Joe's and their limited selection of veg! However, their herbed salad mix is v nice indeed] and remember
  • Costco, while useful for many things, is not really the place for veg.
3) I have not been terribly good with online friendships so
  • Clarify just what online communities and tools I can and will use and then use them which also means I need to
  • Respond better to comments, emails etc and
  • Actually sort out Twitter and figure out why it's not working with my phone
4) Keeping every last scrap of paper that ever has been, will be or is in the house is NOT an organized filing system so
  • Go through those two boxes (plus two smaller boxes) of files and
  • come to terms with the idea that it isn't actually necessary or helpful to keep pay stubs from when Kirk was working for Siebel systems seven years ago. Also
  • Off load the Children's stuff on the two Children who are now old enough to have filing systems of their own and make THEM figure out just which grade school report cards are precious and valuable. Then
  • Set up two boxes, dated, for older papers which can eventually be shredded and put a reminder on your darn phone so that the shredding gets done and things are properly gone through every year. All of which will
  • Justify that very nifty and great fun label doo-hickey thing you just bought (and did make a start with last night - whee! But the temptation to misuse was already there...)
5) Finances. Nuff said. [might be a post in this - very strange experience this is!]

And then some minor stuff like going snow-shoeing (got snow shoes! For Christmas! And there's snow! In some of the mountains! Am a bit excited), getting this Master of Arts thing organized properly, looking into a couple of non-MA related classes possibly and so on.

And to make a start on Issue 1, sub-list item 4, on Monday, 20 minutes on the bike trainer, 20 minutes weights; Tuesday, 20 minutes on the bike trainer - 3 sets plus cool down. Next update on Twitter.

Phew. Lucky I didn't make any resolutions this year, I wouldn't have the time!

Monday, January 04, 2010



That was a year, that was (points, big ones, to anyone [outside of immediate family] who gets the reference ).

It was though, wasn't it? I mean, here, in this house, it started a bit slow, then picked up rather much and then there was a sort of Whoosh, BANG!! at the end. In fact, I'm still sort of recovering from all the whooshing and banging and I'm not quite sure where the dust will settle.

For example.

I find it just a bit amusing that I got a Very Important Letter - so important that it meant signing for and going in to the Post Office for (what with not being home for the signing) and this Very Important Letter (which said, sort of, "Things Might Just Happen. So... LOOK OUT!!") came to my home address. While, a good bit later, this rather ginormous check? From the government? All official and that?? It came to the wrong address, through the post, and with the wrong name (only a little. I mean, it's a long name and easy to get wrong, and the leaving off of one letter is rather understandable, but... still). In fact, if you were nefarious in intention and of evil mind then you could totally have lurked around The House I haven't Lived In For Two Years and scored BIG TIME.

But who am I to talk, as the ginormous check then lurked in the house for quite a while and then took up residence in... oh dear, this is embarrassing, my BACKPACK just sort of lingering and waiting to do something other than be a small bit of paper.

The trouble is I've had to hurry a bit of stuff into effect - grown up stuff that I didn't actually have, like grown-up investment plans and things like that, what with living in the moment etc. ect. I had a bit of a strange moment when I realized that the silly backpack on my back as I scootered valiantly down to work was, strictly speaking, worth more than my house. And all the tatty furniture in it. I'll tell you, that takes you back a bit.

However, I've rallied, and researched and, I dunno, burnt a few hapless chickens or something, and come to a sort-of-kind-of financial plan that makes at least moderate sense.

I've also sent a polite letter asking a certain gvt. department just what they're playing at what with knowing where I live for Very Important Letters (of legal but not street value) but NOT knowing where I live for Rather Large Checks.


Who sends SCARY LARGE CHECKS through the post??

The government does, that's who.

Anyway. It made for a rather interesting end of year and a particularly interesting start of a new one.

I mean, it was a new year. And a new decade (oh GOD don't start with the decade arguments, eh? It sounds good and that works for me). And there was a full moon - a blue moon at that. And, against all the odds something actually truly went the way it was supposed to and I can get an MA (if I want it) and buy a house (if I find one I like) and... here's a phrase I hate... have a new beginning.

And I think, I really do think...

... I'm ready.