Friday, March 30, 2007

Adventures in Nashville....

Adventures is putting it kindly. While I have had a wonderful time in Nashville thus far, it has most definitely been an adventure (and that's not always a good thing).

I departed from my home in the sticks on Thursday morning at 6:30am with a warped notion that I might miss some of the Dallas traffic, but an overturned 18-wheeler on the interstate to the airport, in addition to construction along the way and general absurdity from 80% of the drivers around me, prevented me from making the quick trip I originally envisioned. Two hours later I found my way to the international terminal for my very domestic flight (your guess is as good as mine). Now, the international terminal at DFW is VERY swanky. Very swanky indeed. Picture space-age leather chairs, marble tables, walls of glass, a neon light or two, and you probably have a fair mental representation of the surroundings. Add 3.2 billion disgruntled travelers stuck in very long security lines and I'm sure you can also imagine the state of the union within that so swanky terminal. Thursday's security line was one of the bitchiest I've ever been in. While I was suffering along with everyone else, I managed to keep a pretty positive attitude (even though the over-surgeried hussy in front of me was carrying 2-too-many carry-on bags through security and a pool worth of illegal liquids). But, for the sake of example, I'll tell you that the man behind me, in what I perceived to be a fit of goodness toward strangers, passed one of those plastic security tubs ahead to a soldier to put his laptop in. However, after doing this good deed in the midst of the bitchy maelstrom, he turned to me and said, "I didn't do it to be nice, I just didn't want this line to get any longer."

Yeah. Bastard.

The flight was fine, and upon arriving in Music City I boarded the Gray Line shuttle service bound for a number of hotels in the greater Nashville area, and proceeded to almost lose my very life when the driver decided it was perfectly fine to execute a 3-point turn in the middle of a street that ran parallel to Vanderbilt University and the respective medical center next door.

Yeah. Awesome.

Since then things have been relatively smooth sailing. I haven't been accosted by the droves (really, droves) of homeless people hanging around music row, but I was accosted by a fellow Children's Lit scholar who mistook me for a good friend. This particular scholar is a relative big-wig in the field, so when she came up and put her arms around me, I was a tad taken aback. But I hugged her anyway. Because who doesn't hug a big-wig scholar when the scholar initiated it? We all had a good laugh (I was talking with some of her friends when the incident took place), and I thanked her for the warm welcome to my first big Children's Lit conference. Not all fields are this warm and fuzzy.

Thesis Director and I headed out on the town last night and consumed a heartbreakingly wonderful meal (it broke my heart when I wasn't able to eat it all) of shrimp/spinach/cheesy dip and spinach tortellini in alfredo sauce at the Old Spaghetti Factory. There was only one scary moment...when I realized I'd left my credit card at the Spaghetti Factory. Luckily, the manager had it in his pocket.

Today's been relatively uneventful. Thesis Director departed this morning but called a few minutes ago to inform me that her flight has been cancelled due to gawd-awful weather in DFW, and she might end up back here with me tonight. Fine with me. I spent the morning rattling around Painter's Alley and other main-draggish parts of the city. I bought pralines at Leon's Candy (featured on the Food Network), hit up Sun Records (bought a t-shirt), and puttered around in the Charlie Daniels Museum (more to see than anticipated).

For the remainder of the day, I'll finish up an article for Estella, look over the paper I'll be presenting tomorrow, and have dinner with some ISU girls.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Music City, here I come!

I'm off to Nashville tomorrow for a biggy conference in Children's Lit. Thesis Director left today and I fly out in the morning. Should be a good time as some of her friends are going to be there. She flies back to Dallas on Friday while I'll be staying over until Sunday, so I'll have some time on my hands to lounge and explore. And I'm staying at the Doubletree downtown, so it should be relatively posh and lovely. There's free wireless, so I'll be online plenty, I'm sure. Watch for pictures and updates!

As for the state of other affairs, I'm gearing up to write--sit down if you're not already--my letter to Ill. State declining the PhD. They haven't offered me any money and now is the time to turn them down if I'm going to. I can honestly say this has been one of the hardest decisions I've EVER made, and sometimes I can't even believe that I'm turning this PhD down, but I've come to the conclusion that there are other things I'd like to do with my life right now and flogging myself with stress isn't one of them. While I understand that there are plenty of stresses outside of academia, I'm quite burned out (charred, more like). I plan to secure a position teaching in a community college or try to snag an editing or tech writing job and spend time reading what I want to read, reviewing, working on the 'zine, and writing creatively in hopes of someday landing that fabled book deal. If I decide--at some point, somewhere--to go back, I can do that. If not, I have other options, and they're looking bright.

Thanks to everyone who has followed this saga along and given me good advice, kind words, and encouragement. Decisions suck. I'll let you know if I change my mind again tomorrow. ;)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A brighter day...

There have been some good reports from the direction of NC, so those prayers must be helping. Keep 'em coming because we aren't out of the woods, but the good reports certainly do make the days a little brighter.

In other news, I have nothing to report.

I'm busy, as usual. I should be busier doing things related to school, but it's much more fun to get the April issue of Estella ready to go and to read fun stuff!

Here's what I need to do:
Finish The Secret Garden, since I didn't finish it on my trip.
Grade papers.
Re-read and polish my conference paper for Nashville (I present on Saturday).
Write a letter for a professor.
Read some theory and write a response for Thursday.

Here's what I've been doing:
Reading Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures for a review.
Prepping Estella.
Playing SIMS2.
Getting 2 new tires on my car and got my car inspected.
Teaching a class.
Checking e-mail (several times).
Reading blogs.

Meh. Responsibility is a drag.

What's everyone else up to?

Monday, March 26, 2007

I'm back...

I hadn't intended to go so quiet, but life went awry early Friday morning. A member of B.'s immediate family was involved in an accident, and I'm hesitant to share much more by way of details than that. I will just say that there has been a lot of waiting around in the hospital and many tears upon my departure because I really didn't want to leave with this particular family member in such critical condition. I know there's nothing I can do and the care is excellent, but sitting and waiting and being close felt like something.

So, with that small amount of information (details withheld out of respect for him and his family), I do ask that any and all of you who pray, please do so. For those of you who don't, some good positive healing vibes would be much appreciated.

My plane rolled into DFW last night around 11:40 (after an hour-long delay in Charlotte), and by the time I collected my bags, hopped the shuttle back to the remote parking lot, and got myself through the hour-long drive home, I fell into bed around 2:15am, got up this morning, and hauled myself to work. I fly out Thursday for a conference in Nashville, and I can honestly say that I don't give a damn about the conference. I would rather go back to NC than anything else right now.

However, with all the tragedy afoot, I'm eternally grateful for the time I got to spend with B.'s family this week. I hadn't been back in almost 3 years and it was very much like going home.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Further Spring Break adventures...

Last night I ventured out to Raleigh to meet up with Sherrie (a friend I taught with here in NC). She moved to the big city last year and has since taken it upon herself to search out all the relaxing spots to eat and drink, and we landed at Bahama Breeze for an early dinner.

Oddly enough, considering how many food adventures Elise and I have, this was my first time with Caribbean food. As a result of this experience, I WILL be hunting down a Caribbean restaurant in Dallas as soon as humanly possible.

The menu was chock full of amazing dishes including appetizers of baked goat cheese, coconut shrimp, and entrees of jerk chicken, kebabs, and steak prepared any way imaginable. I decided on the seafood paella. I lust after paella any time I see it prepared on TV, so I jumped at the chance for a big dish of my own. The rice was delightfully spicy and the dish was filled with mussels, chicken, spicy sausage, shrimp, scallops, and fresh fish. Paired with a Bahamarita (the very tip-top in the pic...the multicolored fiesta of a drink), it was a luscious, extremely filling meal.

And the best part? I somehow managed to miss every bit of the Raleigh traffic. Say a little "amen" with me!

Today: reading The Secret Garden for next week's class, writing some things for Estella and waiting to hear if B. will be able to come home tonight. *crossing fingers*

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Bluestalking Reader is *squeeeing* over at her site today, so I thought I'd take my cue from her and squeee a little myself. Go check out her squeeeing, too. It's very big news!

I just received e-mail interview responses from Sara Gruen, best-selling author of Water for Elephants. This is, by far, the biggest interview I've done to date, and Sara was so wonderfully, delightfully delightful that I can just hardly stand it.

I hope you'll all stop by to read the interview (also with interviews of Stacey Ballis, Melanie Lynne Hauser, and hopefully Billy Collins) in the April issue of Estella's Revenge.

And many many many many thanks to Bluestalking Reader for actually tossing the Gruen interview our way. She's too good to us.

Review: Getting Stoned with Savages

Getting Stoned with Savages: Tripping Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu is the second offering from travel writer, J. Maarten Troost. I read and adored his first book, The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific, a few years ago and fell instantly in love with Troost's humor and candor. So, as you might imagine, when I heard about Getting Stoned with Savages, I quickly and single-mindedly stalked it on until I had a pristine copy in my talons.

Maarten and his wife, Sylvia, after returning from a harrowing few years on the South Pacific atoll of Tarawa, resume a somewhat normal life in Washington, D.C. Maarten, with an eye on earning a living, takes a job as a consultant for the World Bank but soon finds that he is inching dangerously closer to what seems a full-blown career. With that horrifying fact in mind, he promptly gets fired and the Troosts set off for a life in Vanuatu, a small, rugged cluster of islands. Sylvia works for an international aid organization and earns a Western living that comes in handy on Vanuatu, and the arrangement leaves Maarten the time and opportunity to write. When Sylvia becomes pregnant the family relocates to the slightly more "civilized" Fiji where they round out their latest round of island adventures.

While both of Troost's travel memoirs have undoubtedly catchy titles, this second offering has much more to do with its respective title than Troost's first book. On the islands of Fiji and Vanuatu a most popular social activity is the consumption of a hallucinogenic drink called kava. Traditionally produced by the chewing of a root by male adolescents and then mixing with water, the kava is then served in bars (shacks more like) called nakamals. Shortly after arriving in Vanuatu, Maarten and Sylvia have the pleasure of consuming a few "shells" of kava. Troost writes:

Clearly this was different than drinking wine. With kava, one didn't admire its lush hue, or revel in its aromatic bouquet, or note the complex interplay of oak and black currant. This was more like heroin. Its consumption was something that was to be endured. The effect was everything. What concerned me, however, was not the taste but the possibility that this bowl of swirling brown liquid may have had as one of its essential ingredients the spit of unseen boys, which, frankly, I found a little off-putting.

Much to Maarten's relief, a friend informs him that while the chewing of the kava is generally the preferred method because it produces a supremely potent product, the kava they ingest is simply ground and strained through a sock. Better? Perhaps.

The kava story is just one of many instances that are enlivened by Troost's humor. But beyond the blatant out-loud laughing that I did while reading the book, there's also a real humanity and wonder in Troost's writing. The overall theme of the work is aptly expressed when he writes, "Paradise was a place that could be seen only from a distance, but it pleased me knowing that we lived so close to it."

Quite literally there is a dark side to island life. The islands harbor a history of cannibalism, there is overwhelming poverty, rampant prostitution, and political instability. On the side of the positive, however, the majority of the people are friendly and welcoming and willing to help the foreigners along in their new surroundings. In a more philosophical way, Maarten begins to see that while chasing paradise has been a good experience for his family, and they quite often find it in even the most outrageous of circumstances, at some point it becomes important to pursue a type of paradise near family and friends, even if it means rejoining the Western world with all of its bustle and baggage.

I think what I admire most about Troost's writing is his supreme respect for the cultures in which he lives. While he is quick to make jokes about his feelings and reactions to new cultural experiences, he is also more than willing to devote time to real evaluation of the culture's economy, hardships, priorities, and the well-being of native peoples. What sets the Troost family apart from the tourists they often encounter on the islands is an honest willingness to engage with the culture, observe it, and try to avoid infringing on the world in which they live, even if some parts of their character and situation will always make them outsiders. It is this attitude of curiosity and respect which really makes me a fan of J. Maarten Troost and his adventures.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Books I can't live without....

Kailana over at The Written World is collecting bloggers' top ten favorite books they can't live without, and who am I to pass up a chance to sound off about my favorites? Here we go...

1. The Cider House Rules, by John Irving - One of my favorites ever, the characters in this book stayed with me long after the last page was flipped in a very real way. I think about Dr. Larch and Homer Wells often, and I think it might be time for a re-read.

2. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien - One of the most engrossing tales I've ever read. No one makes me feel more a part of a fictional world than Tolkien.

3. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham - The three tales in this novel are so expertly woven together that it drags you headlong into the story.

4. What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt - Siri Hustvedt reminds me very much of Joyce Carol Oates in the way that she's able to create an uncomfortable--but intriguing--mood. What I Loved was at once disturbing, powerful, insightful, and beautifully peppered with references to folk and fairy tales, psychology, art, literature, etc.

5. The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster - Much like his wife, Siri Hustvedt, Auster creates a great sense of atmosphere, and his books are full of references to other works. This particular book is stunning. I won't try to describe it in any more detail than that.

6. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald - I've re-read Gatsby more than any other book I've ever picked up (5 times to date). I love everything about it: Fitzgerald's use of language, the symbols and metaphors, the self-centered characters, and his portrayal of the death of the American dream.

7. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens - Containing one of my favorite characters in all of literature--Estella--this book literally changed my life. When I first read it as a freshman in high school I fell in love with the idea of "classics" and started to turn over the idea of being an English teacher.

8. The Waste Land & Other Poems, by T.S. Eliot - Another one of those life changing reading experiences. I first read The Waste Land in an undergraduate British survey course. I was incredibly burned out (last semester of senior year), but this poem and my professor's passion for it gave me the courage to try graduate school.

9. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak - I read this very large, very affecting book for an Adolescent Literature class, and I have to say, it was one of the most engrossing, heartrending books I've ever read. I certainly foresee myself re-reading it in the future.

10. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens - Another favorite from high school that made me love literature all the more. Never have I read a more twisted book, and that's one of the things I adore about it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I was made for Spring Breakin'...

Here I sit, in lovely North Carolina, in my pajamas at 4:30 in the afternoon. I do love Spring Break. My day has consisted of waking up at 5 when B. left for work, going back to sleep until 9, and the rest of the day has been a fiesta of noshing and napping. I'm up to my proverbial, hypothetical, totally-non-existent balls in junk food (Spicy Nacho Doritos and Birthday Party ice cream). B. is working until at least Thursday, so I have much napping, reading, socializing, and wireless net surfing to do until then.

The trip to NC wasn't too harrowing save a very delayed layover in Atlanta due to all the snow and ice in the northeast. I chatted with many an unhappy New Yorker while I was waiting for my very small plane to Wilmington. When all was said and done I was only about an hour and a half late arriving, and we quickly adjourned to Sticky Fingers for ribs. Sticky Fingers makes everything OK (and I was in very good company).

I hope your respective weeks have started off right. I think I'm gonna bed down with J. Maarten Troost for a bit and finish Getting Stoned with Savages.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Here I come!

I'm leaving tomorrow for a week-long impromptu trip to North Carolina! Gonna hang out with old friends, eat seafood, bbq, and enjoy the scenery! And read! I'll probably blog over the course of the week, but I wanted to let y'all know!

Happy Spring Break!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rainy days and Wednesdays always get me down...

Today was quite a day, and I say that with a distinct air of loathing.

First, I went through McDonald's for my bi-weekly sausage, egg and cheese biscuit and Diet Coke. The very frightened-looking new window worker forgot to give me both a straw and napkins.

I decided to try out one of my new cute outfits today in spite of the fact that I felt like a zombie due to last night's lack of sleep (I generally prefer to look like ass when I'm that tired). I wore the blue/grey/silver striped button-up with a navy tee over it, nice jeans, and my newish brown boots (heels). The weather was slightly drizzly outside, and as I rounded the corner to my office, walking on linoleum, one of two things happened. I either stepped on the edge of my jeans and lost traction or the floor was a bit slippery. Anyhow, I managed, within the slimmest nanosecond, to twist my left ankle, land on my ass, and simultaneously twist my right knee into a contorted mess. And of course there was a class going on across from my office, so there were gawkers. The ankle began screaming with pain immediately, but it wasn't until this afternoon that I realized how badly my knee is jacked up. I'm heavily dosed up with Aleve at the moment, knee propped on a pillow because it hurts to straighten it, and I dug out an ankle brace that I was an absolute necessity when I played sports in high school. But I didn't spill the Diet Coke I had in my hand! That's nothing short of a miracle.

And the real topper of the day was the sad news that one of my great uncles passed away last night. He's been in very bad physical shape for some time and living in a nursing home. Until recently his mental state was quite good, but beginning a few weeks ago his mind started to go downhill as well. I'm relieved that he passed quite peacefully. The funeral is Friday morning at 10.

For now I'm off to bang out a few pages of the mid-term I have due tomorrow. I hope you all had less frustrating days. And I hope my tomorrow improves on today.

Let's compare..

Andi on a normal day. Notice the sparkly eyes, the pleasant, somewhat introspective demeanor.

Now we have the unrested, overloaded, must-take-to-the-clock-tower look. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting closer the more sleep I lose. Kids, I implore you. Never grow up.

Note: I think I took this picture when I had some sort of plague a few months ago. The irony is that I'd just woken up from a multi-hour nap at the time. How I wish I could nap right now.

2nd Photo Removed in Order to Preserve What's Left of My Dignity

This public service announcement brought to you by another sleepless night at my house.

If I didn't have to be up at 7am, I would mainline some Tylenol PM right now.

Listening: "Stop This Train"...John Mayer

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Thinking Blogger Awards

Bluestalking Reader was kind enough to tag me with a "Thinking Blogger Award." Now, coming from Bluestalking Reader, this award is quite the honor as I tend to think of her first when I ponder thinking blogs. Her site is one of my very favorites (I'm a bit obsessive, checking it multiple times a day with fingers crossed for new posts), and I always wish my own posts resembled hers more!

In turn I will tag 5 blogs with the award and on it goes.

Sojourner's Truths is the blog of one of my favorite New Yorkers who has now transplanted to Texas. She is one of the smartest, most ambitious women I've had the pleasure of meeting online (and hopefully I'll get down to Austin to meet her in person one day). I don't think she knows just how much I admire her.

Death Wore a Feathered Mullet (began as Viva las Vegass) is like a mini, cruder version of The Onion. Todd is wickedly funny and smart as a whip. I can't get enough. He's a bloggy overlord in my book.

Land-o-Lulu is the bloggy home of a fellow English teacher and snarky super-grrl. You never know what you'll find when you go to Lulu's site, but it's always something thoughtful.

Bookfoolery and Babble is a fantastic site by a dear bloggy friend of mine. I'm always bowled over by her thoughtful reviews and humorous ponderings. I don't think she knows just how wicked smart and insightful she is.

Book Nut is a newish blog for me, and I always look forward to new posts. Her reviews and musings are involving and thoughtful. Perfect for the Thinking Blogger Awards!

It was really hard picking 5 blogs to single out because there are sooo many I enjoy and that I make a point to read every single day. I'm very lucky to know so many thinking bloggers!

Plane Tickets and the Ph.D. Saga

I can't sleep worth a flip, so I'm up making a flight reservation for a conference in Nashville at the end of March. I'll be flying into Nashville on March 29th and flying back to Dallas on April 1st. I hadn't planned to stay that long, but with the way the presentation schedule worked out, it was the only option. Thesis Director will be leaving on the 30th, so I'll have some time on my own in ole Nashville. We'll see what I can get into.

I'll be staying at the Nashville Doubletree, so if anyone out there is familiar with the downtown area, give me some tips for things to do.

On the Ph.D. front, the latest developments indicate that I'm 1st or 2nd in line for an assistantship, so I'll probably have one offered to me before the end of April. Still waiting to hear from the U. of Florida and Middle Tennessee State.

Decisions, decisions.

I had a whole introspective, thoughtful post planned, but now I find myself lacking the energy to write it. Instead I think I'll lie down for a while longer and if I don't have any luck sleeping I'll read. Two books have me hooked. I expect to finish them both tomorrow after I write a mid-term.

I have a little extra time on my hands this week because the junior college where I teach is on Spring Break, and next week the university has Spring Break. I plan to nap in a multitude of positions for two weeks straight.

And I should get back to my thesis. I haven't touched the damn thing in 3 weeks (or more). I'm three-quarters done, just gotta drive it home.

Listening: "Lonely Tonight"...Matt Wertz

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Books that jumped into my arms and magically came home with me...

The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
Goodbye, Columbus, Philip Roth
Inappropriate Men, Stacey Ballis (just interviewed her for the April issue of Estella)

I also had my first tasty treat from Coldstone Creamery today: the "Birthday Cake Remix". Ohmagod. Cake batter ice cream, brownie chunks, hot fudge mixed through, sprinkles. My butt is expanding just thinking about it again.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

More goodies...bookish and otherwise...

I happened upon a clothing sale today. I walked away with 8 tops and 2 bottoms for...get this...$130. Almost all of the items were buy one...get this...get one for A DOLLAR! And, no, I wasn't at Goodwill. For the clothes whores, here's a short description of each:
  • camo capris
  • brown cargo pedal pushers
  • black t-shirt hoodie thing with rockish print on front
  • black tee with red swirly something on the front
  • 3 plain fitted tees for casual wear or layering for work (brown, black, navy)
  • a blue/white/grey/silver striped button-up for work
  • coral tunic with mild embellishment around the neck and 3/4-length sleeves
  • black "corset-like" lace blouse (corset-like because it has silver hooks down the middle)

I really needed some casual clothes, so now I feel ready for summer to arrive (any was 80 today).

Aside from all the great clothes, I picked up the newest SIMS2 expansion pack and have already wasted hours playing it. Seasons is a great addition for any SIMS2 lover. Now my SIMS can fish!!! And garden! And freeze to death during the winter!

I've become rather addicted to a website called BookMooch. For those who might not be familiar with this literary genius, BookMooch is a site at which you can inventory books you'd like to give away and then people mooch them. Likewise you can mooch books off of others as well. You earn points for doing good things like adding books to inventory (1/10 of a point), giving books away (a point for each shipped within your home country, 3 points to other countries), and likewise it costs you a point to get books from folks within your own country, etc. It's been a great way to clear out some space on my shelves, and I've mooched somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 books so far. And all it costs is the price of shipping (usually $1-$2 if I ship books via media mail). If you haven't joined yet, DO IT! Go! You'll love it!

Review coming up for The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a fantastic novel/graphic novel/children's book concoction I just finished.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Retail-gasm and Miscellaneous

I've been looking to engage in some inexpensive retail merriment lately, and so far I've done quite well. Today was an especially good day because first (and completely unrelated to retail anything) I was named an Outstanding Master's Student in the department (gotta go to a luncheon).

On the retail front, I found a shoe sale! I bought the following:

Comfy and cute! These will be great for teaching and going to conferences.

I couldn't resist these flirty wedges. Also good for work or going out.

I have this thing for camo! I have a couple of t-shirts that include touches of camo, I have a handbag that I ordered from Funky that's camo, and now I have shoes. Disclaimer: The aforementioned camo pieces should never be worn at the same time.

I got the bath bombs I ordered from FantasyBath, and they're amazing! I used part of the Bora Bora one tonight, and I can't stop sniffing myself. Cherry blossom is tomorrow. They're really a good deal seeing as they're HUGE (see below). You could get 4-5 baths out of each one, easy.

And I had one more surprise. When I checked the mail I found that Les had mailed the John Hiatt CDs she burned for me!!! She sent three, and I'm currently drowning in John Hiatty goodness. Thanks SO MUCH, Les! I've been dying for new music lately.

Now I'm off to catch up on some fun reading since I'm done with my homework for once. On the go as we speak:

  • The Brooklyn Follies (Paul Auster)
  • Getting Stoned with Savages (J. Maarten Troost)
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Brian Selznick)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

House MD...took out the spoilers

OK, I felt guilty about the spoiler. I've taken it out. However, I'm still going to gush even though it's now nonsensical and cryptic.

Thank you JESUS. I heard the wild shrieks and then a vast contented sigh go up from all the House/Cameron fans across the country. Dear God I almost lost control of my bladder.

One of the best TV moments, EVA!

Gonna watch it again (love DVR).

Yep, there was the moment. Holy crap.

My mother says, "He looks like he could be her grandfather!"

I reply, "I know! Isn't it HOT!"

Twisted, probably. Still sexy, shyea!


Monday, March 05, 2007

PhD: Good News and Bad News

Which would you like first? OK, everyone always wants the good news first.

Good: I got accepted to the PhD program in Illinois (first choice).

Bad: They did not offer me an assistantship. Yet. I've been waitlisted.

Now, I should explain that I'm incredibly relieved, pissed, and conflicted...all at once.

I'm relieved that I was accepted at all because apparently it was a very competitive year. I'm pissed because the lack of assistantship is a kick in the crotch. I will be unable to attend if they don't come through because I refuse to go another 50,000 dollars in debt by paying out-of-state tuition. I'm relieved because if they don't come through I can turn the offer down without guilt and without letting Thesis Director down.

Those of you who have been following this crazy graduate school debacle for the last almost-two-years know that I'm rather burned out.

Very. Burned. Out.

There are other things going on in my life that are exciting...aside from the PhD possibilities. Estella's Revenge is truckin' right along, I'm having A LOT of ideas for writing projects (a book idea, review stuff, etc. etc.), and there's a man in my life who I'd love to be with. In short, a normal life is looking really good right now. Get a job. Pay off loans. Buy a house. Start a family.

The niggling elitist in the back of my head keeps screaming, "TERMINAL DEGREE!!!!! If you get a PhD you will have gone as far as one can go in terms of degrees!" I keep trying to squelch that fuckin' annoying voice to get to what I really want.

I really want the freedom of the normal life. As exhilarating as academia can be, the reality is that I will have to live this crazy, insane, exhausting, break-neck life for at least another 10 years if I get the PhD and go into a tenure-track position. 4 years for the PhD, and at least six to get tenure. Thinking about it sort of makes me want to die.

It's all scary.

Edit: Perhaps I should clarify the use of the word "normal." It is certainly not a negative thing, in my opinion. And I highly doubt anyone would count the life of a graduate student (filled with obscure philosophy, all-night drinking parties, rampant fornication, professional depression, etc. etc.) normal or necessarily healthy.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Books through the ages....

J. Peder Zane, the book review editor and Sunday Books columnist at the Raleigh/Durham News & Observer has a new book out called The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books in which he catalogues the top 10 favorite books of many many famous authors (among them some of my favorites, including Paul Auster).

Mr. Zane also has quite the enticing blog, and recently he asked his readers (following the lead of Richard Powers) to comment with their favorite books throughout their lives. So, I'm giving you mine here, and I invite any and all of you bookish readers to do the same on your blog. Make sure to comment so I can pop over and gawk, ASAP.

And thanks to Bluestalking Reader for introducing me to The Top 10 via her delightful blog!

While Richard Powers had a very proper timeline jumping every five years or so through the age of 50, mine would be significantly shorter given the fact that I'm only 26, so I'm going to deviate and throw in some very odd ages with some very memorable books (and short stories).

Roughly 4-5 years old: Sesame Street books and She-Ra books (scary)

6: The Ramona books (Beverly Cleary), Miss Rumphius (Barbara Cooney)

10: Fear Street series (R.L. Stine), anything by Christopher Pike

14: Great Expectations (Charles Dickens). Surely the book that changed the trajectory of my life towards all things bookish and gave rise to my "online identity" as it turns out.

15: The Vampire Diaries (L.J. Smith...and all of her other books), "A Rose for Emily" (William Faulkner), "There Will Come Soft Rains" (Ray Bradbury), Antigone (Sophocles)

16: the stories of Flannery O'Connor

17: The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)

18: A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens), Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

21: A Moveable Feast (Ernest Hemingway), Rodin: The Hands of Genius (Helene Penet), Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Harriet Jacobs), Til We Have Faces (C.S. Lewis), Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)

22: Pope Joan (Donna Woolfolk Cross), Cider House Rules (John Irving)

23: The Waste Land and Other Poems (T.S. Eliot), The Hours (Michael Cunningham), Beasts (Joyce Carol Oates), Sailing Alone Around the Room (Billy Collins)

24: The Alchemist (Paulo Coehlo), What I Loved (Siri Hustvedt), Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov)

25: The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman), In Cold Blood (Truman Capote), The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

I can remember what it was like to finish the last page of each of these books and want desperately to begin reading them again immediately...the sure sign of a favorite. All of these titles are like landmarks along the way, reminding me of who I was then, what I was struggling with, where I was going.

With that sentiment in mind, I think I'll start a new tradition. I'm going to take more time to post about my bookish memories from now on. Books have been a measuring stick throughout my life, and have affected me profoundly. Watch for the bookish memories. Coming soon....

Review: The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963

#7 for the year: The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963,
by Christopher Paul Curtis

Pages: 210

Date Finished: 03/04/2007

Genre: children's lit

Rating: 7 of 10 (good)

Reason: Teaching it

Thoughts: I knew from the get-go that this book was about the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. I assumed the actual event would play a much larger part, and while that would've been fine with me, I was equally pleased--and more than a little surprised--to discover that this book actually revolves around a fictional family that makes a trip to Birmingham and unwittinginly stumbles into an historic moment.

The "Weird Watsons" as they're called in their Flint, Michigan neighborhood are endearing and
delightful. Mother, Wilona; father, Daniel; sons, Byron and Kenny; and daughter, Joetta are a tightly knit, fun-loving group until Byron, the oldest of the children, begins to find himself in constant trouble doing, as they say, what little boys do: taking change from his mother's purse, disappearing with friends, pyromania, and generally sulking. After he pushes his mother and father one step too far, they pack up the "Brown Bomber" family car and head to Alabama with plans to leave Byron with his grandmother for the summer.

The story is told through the eyes of Kenny, and one quickly falls in love with his family. The Weird Watsons are an all-American family during a time in American history when African Americans were considered anything but all-American. The normalcy and compassion the family
represent are a lesson for children in themselves, and the fact that the Watsons are largely divorced from
the racial politics of the Civil Rights Movement as a result of their residence in Michigan, makes the harsh realities of Birmingham and bigotry all the more powerful and painful to read.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Save Braille in the UK

Go HERE. Read. Sign.

Book lists make me quiver...

You've probably seen this meme floating 'round the 'net. I know Bookfool and Stephanie have done it (and countless others I read...*waves*). So, I had to do it too.

Look at the list of books below: *Bold the ones you’ve read* Italicize the ones you want to read* Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in. If you are reading this (and haven't participated yet), tag, you’re it! I will also be highlighting in red those books that I've read part of. Because the running joke is that I've read part of almost every great book (and a few crappy ones as well).

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)

5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)

8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)

14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)

17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) (but it was only a few pages left before I had to return it to the library! I swear! I claim this one as read most of the time)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)

23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold) (piece of shit)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) Alternate TBR
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) (I'm notorious for not finishing this one. I've tried at least 3 times and never get past page 50)
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck) (ran out of steam)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)

31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks) (one of my former high school students made me)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell) (I don't have a good excuse for not goin back and finishing this one)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)

36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)

41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom) (piece of ....)
45. The Bible (Actually, I've read a bunch of the books....never all at once) (you had to expect this one)
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)

49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)

55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)

61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)(for a high school scholarship contest. I think I got 100 pages in and literally threw it at a wall)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)(slogged through it to the very end)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)(petered out, but plan to revisit)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)

70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)(I know everyone loves it, but I didn't make it through when I tried. It's still on the shelf, though)
78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)(I love Irving, but the first try never works for me)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)(will conquer this one someday)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)(hasn't everyone tried and failed once or twice?)

And generally the italicized "want to reads" are already on my shelves. I have a lot of reading to do!

Sipping: English Breakfast

Watching: Rachael Ray stir shrimp

Friday, March 02, 2007

Douchebags, every one...

Pardon the crass rant ahead...

According to the Urban Dictionary:

1. An object used for vaginal hygeine.
2. A student or instructor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.
I don't know about that Minnesota thing, but I certainly do know that at my respective university there is an overabundance of douchebags, and if we apply the douchebag sentiment to a verb: douchebaggery. Let's investigate....

This is a douchebag. The real thing. Not exactly what I'm going for.

President Bush. Hmm, much closer to what I'm going for.

Now I think we've hit the nail on the head. Whether we're talking about the douchebaggery of the students in my classes or the ingrates in the registrar's office, this cartoon really captures the essence of the douchebags and their respective douchebaggery.

I have to ask myself what it is about my students that makes them

1) incapable of turning a paper in on time
2) incapable of following a writing prompt
3) incapable of understanding why ignoring the prompt or turning their work in late is inappropriate

Furthermore, I don't understand why

1) the ingrates in the registrar's office can't send a transcript correctly the first time
2) can't send a corrected transcript to one of the schools to which I applied for a PhD
3) they can't answer the phone when I call them to straighten out the mess
4) return my call even after I've firmly but politely requested that they do so

Perhaps the university students eventually end up working on the university staff?
Images by Freepik