Acade(me)

The dissertation was only the beginning.

People & Places
T: Amazing Husband
ST: Three-year-old Wonder
Prof. G: Advisor I
Prof. C: Advisor II
Julie: Stylish Sister
Rob: Awesome Brother
Belle: Our Cat
Bill: Grumbling BIL
Rita: Uncomplicated SIL
SMU: Smallish Midwestern University
Doctoral University: where I got my Ph.D.
Technical
Blogwise - blog directory
Drop Me A Line
academeblog AT gmail.com
Quote of the Day
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Cabin Fever
After weeks of amazing weather (highs in the 70s, slight breeze, mostly sunny), today we have all been forced to stay inside because of intermittent rain showers, mired in that big swath of radar green that covers the midsection of the country on the Weather Channel's map. I was actually looking forward to the rain, to a day inside. But after hours and hours of dribbling rain (no thunderstorms, which would at least be interesting), my entire family is ready to get outside. If it wasn't so chilly and windy, I'd have no problems heading out into the swampy weather with ST, rain boots on and ready to jump in puddles. But alas, the wind is whipping down the street, it's raining at a slant here, and it's downright cold outside.

ST has such a bad case of cabin fever today you'd swear it was the middle of January and he'd been locked up inside for months. There was a break in the weather for about ten minutes earlier this afternoon, and ST -- whose nose had been pressed against the glass of our front window for half an hour as we waited for that very moment -- ran to the closet to grab his shoes and a sweatshirt. Of course, by the time he got his shoes on, the rain had started up again. He was nearly in tears. "I just want to check on my tomato plant!" he insisted, eyes welling up. We planted a tomato plant on Wednesday, and every day he has to check on it multiple times to be sure that there aren't any tomatoes on it yet. I let him outside to check on the plant for a few minutes, but then corralled him back inside to play with his dinosaurs. (The dinosaurs ended up huddled under a pillow, because it was also raining in their world, too, apparently.)

T never does well with inclement weather. He hates feeling cooped up, trapped inside, and it's especially bad now that there's really nothing to do with the house. He spent the day listening to the inane NFL draft and playing a computer game (time that he could have, of course, spent putting together cover letters and resumes... but I didn't say anything about that). Now he and ST are out shopping for my brother Rob's graduation gift and for the ingredients for T's Sunday meal, shrimp scampi. (T usually cooks on Sundays -- I cook the other six days.)

As for me, I've been sitting up here in my office for awhile, ostensibly working on the last third of Chapter Seven (the first two-thirds are done). I can't see out of my office window because the rain is pounding on it so hard that it's blurring my view outside. I would love to be outside right now instead of in here. I feel trapped not only by the weather, but also by this project. Until it's done, I can't really do anything else with a clear conscience. Not only that, but I feel a little closed in by the ideas: the dissertation is so far along now that changing anything major is all but impossible, and there's too little time left to worry about it. It's not that I want to change something, but I feel a bit hemmed in by my own ideas, ideas that have been rattling around in my brain for over a year now. The ideas are starting to feel a little stale, and the thought of having to cope with them for another few weeks is rather unappetizing. But it must -- and will -- be done.

My reward for getting good start on the final piece of Chapter Seven: baking cookies. There's nothing that warms up a rainy day like the smell of freshly-baked cookies, and nothing that makes me feel more "balanced" than mixing, scraping, and shaping ingredients into dough. Back to work, then, and onwards to the kitchen.

UPDATE: never made it back to Chapter Seven tonight because a woman emailed us wanting to see our house tomorrow! So, we've spent the evening cleaning and polishing the place for her. She said she noticed our house as she was visiting an open house across the street -- yep, you guessed it: the house belonging to the neighbors who have an offer on our house. Complicated.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/29/2006 05:59:00 PM   2 comments
Friday, April 28, 2006
This is a Little Boy's House

Under ST's bed

Under my bed


Under the dining room table


Behind the couch in the family room

Next to the television in the family room

Stepping on these little cars in the middle of the night or having to move millions of them when it's time to vacuum is a small price to pay for the joy I feel just knowing they are there.


Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/28/2006 03:21:00 PM   2 comments
Random Thoughts on a Gray Day
I've got too much going on today to write a coherent post, and so today all you're going to get is a witty (wishfuly thinking) list of stuff that I'm thinking about or working on.

1.) I think I'm keeping cat hours, and am more successful for it. As I've mentioned before, I'm not at all a morning person, and instead am at my best later at night and into the small hours of the morning. Each night at around 10:00, T goes to bed (he's a wacko morning person, remember) and sweet cat Belle and I stay up together. She comes into my office to watch me organize my papers, and then I sit down to work. At some point Belle leaves and goes bonkers downstairs, jumping on and off the couch, sitting in the kitchen sink (!), pushing her water bowl across the kitchen floor, and chasing imaginary "prey." I was listening to her last night as I had a tremendously productive time writing and researching -- while she was going nuts downstairs, my brain was coming up with (dare I say) clever twists on Chapter Seven! At around 1:30am, Belle decided to curl up with T in bed for the night. I did the same.

2.) Today is my Mom and Dad's 33rd wedding anniversary. I wonder when I will be organized enough to actually remember to send them a card or something on their special day? No matter what, my Mom always sends T and me a card on our anniversary, and I always fail to reciprocate. I called them today to wish them well and thank them for being a great example of what a happy marriage is.

3.) I have several appointments set up to see houses in New Town next weekend, all with different realtors, of course. I am now turning the remainder of this exercise over to T, because I am sick and tired of trying to think of something to say when a realtor emails me back about a listing and says, "You know, I can show you ANY property you want to see in New Town -- not just this one. Just email me a list of your criteria and I will research properties to show you. I would be delighted to serve as your agent in New Town and assist you buying your new home here." My first reaction to these pleasant emails is to say, "YES! Do it!" but I know T would hate that. Grrr.

4.) Our neighbors got a new puppy yesterday. I am not a huge fan of dogs, but man! This puppy is the cutest thing I've ever seen (and should totally be a feature on Cute Overload). Beagle/Shitzu mix and all paws. I think it's going to rain all weekend which is a bummer because I am looking forward to playing and snuggling a bit more on the lawn with this dog.

5.) I am not sure what is going on with ST and his bathroom habits lately. In the past week, he's wet the bed FIVE times, after going several months wetting the bed maybe once or twice a month. I'm thinking that maybe he is getting so tuckered out from all of the hard outside playing he's been doing lately that he's sleeping harder and forgetting to wake up to go. Last night, for example, he slept from 8:00pm to 7:30am, and woke up with soaking wet underpants and sheets and didn't even notice until I pointed it out. He's also started sleeping sans pajamas -- he just wants to wear underpants to bed -- and I wonder if this is part of the problem. Maybe he can't feel how wet his underpants are, but is more aware of wetness if that wetness travels down his pajama pants leg? Or maybe when he's only in his underpants he's too cold to get up and use the bathroom at night?

6.) My wireless connection keeps going out today. This doesn't happen often, but when it does it is mighty annoying.

7.) The administrative assistant for my department at SMU completely and totally rocks. I've been bombarding the poor woman with questions in the past few days and she answers them all IMMEDIATELY. Looks like my senior seminar class is already almost full! What's awesome about that is that I now officially have enough students to do my simulation, something I've been cooking up for a few months here. I haven't written it all up yet because I wasn't sure if it was going to work, but now WILL work and so after this dissertation business is complete I will dive into the task of syllabi creation.

8.) I went to campus yesterday to meet with an undergrad who is travelling to one of the European cities I've spent some time in and who wanted my advice. It was a delightful visit -- I forgot how much enjoy interacting with students (haven't taught all year due to my fellowship), and I also forgot how heartbreakingly young they are. I am looking forward to teaching these babies again at SMU in the fall. Actually, I'm just looking forward to having people write down what I say.

9.) And speaking of talking, has anyone around here tried Audioblogger? Anyone game to do it? It's easy and free, and I'm thinking we should all do an Audioblogging day, just for kicks. I'm not sure if doing so would unmask some of us, but I sure would love to put voices with names. We could maybe even set a specific time to do it, and then remove the posts.

10.) When I was on campus yesterday, I also chatted with two of my colleagues who just defended their dissertations two days ago. That made me happy. First, I was happy for them because they were done and they were so relieved, and second I was happy because if their dissertations passed muster, then mine surely will. (That sounds cocky of me and I don't mean it that way -- it's just that they've each had several "issues" in the past that led some to believe they wouldn't finish at all.) Prof. C. saw us all standing there yesterday and put his arm around me and said, "Well, three new doctors here!" I said, "Well, almost." And he said, "Yes -- and soon." The sooner the better.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/28/2006 01:08:00 PM   1 comments
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Dollars and Sense
Several weeks ago, T and I did this "quiz" in Money magazine designed to "test" financial compatibility. There was a series of ten questions, and each of us had to answer the questions for ourselves and then try to predict what the other would say. For example, one of the questions asked: "At what price is a purchase so expensive that you ought to clear it with your spouse before buying the item?" The others dealt with what you would do with an inheritance, how you feel about giving kids an allowance, how you handle financial disagreements, etc. When we traded our "answer" sheets, T and I were not surprised (we talk about finances a lot) to discover that we'd matched on every single item -- except one.

The last question was the Bonus.

Complete this sentence with one of the choices from below: 'Money, at heart, is really all about...'

a.) Security.
b.) Freedom.
c.) Pleasure.
d.) Prestige.

T picked "freedom." To him, money is about having the ability to do what you want, and mostly to be free from worrying about money. To me, however, money has always been about security.

Ever since I was a teenager with my own money, it has always been a source of stress for me. This is because my mother was always stressed about it. It's not that she was worried that we didn't have enough money; rather, she was always worried that we wouldn't have enough. It was always an unnamed worry about the future, one that never went away despite the fact that our family circumstances did not ever change much (e.g., my Dad has been with the same company since he was 18; my Mom stayed at home with us until I was 12 and then took a part-time job, the same job she has today). I can distinctly remember sitting at the kitchen table with her when she paid the bills (Mom has always handled the finances), and how she'd say, "Well, we're covered for now," or "That's the last of it" or "Can't wait until next payday." She used to keep envelopes of cash hidden around the house, labelled with things like "New Drapes for Living Room," "Car Repairs," "Landscaping," or "Christmas." She used to round up her purchases in the checkbook (i.e., if the purchase was for $14.34 she'd enter the amount as $15.00) so that she'd have a "slush fund" in the checking account "in case something happens." We never went without anything in my family, but for some reason Mom always felt that we were on the cusp of financial disaster.

Aside from hiding money in obscure places (an envelope full of cash in the linen closet, for example) and rounding up in the checkbook, another one of my Mom's money manias was never looking to see how much she actually had. One the one hand she'd be panicked that there wouldn't be enough money in the future, but on the other she never knew how much was in the bank, where my Dad had his investments, how much her checkbook "slush fund" was, or how Dad's retirement account was growing. When I was in college I participated in a pricey study abroad program, and I remember talking to my Mom on the phone about making the first down-payment on the trip. She freaked out a little when she heard the amount I needed, which in turn made me freak out, we both ended up in tears, and hung up without a resolution. Two minutes later my Dad called me back and said, "Look, how much money do you need? If it's $15,000, we can handle it. If it's $50,000 -- sorry, but we ain't got that kinda cash." That short exchange really put things into perspective for me, and I realized that although I knew I had inherited some of my Mom's money "issues," I had to find a way to get over them.

I have always hated money. I hated balancing my checkbook, I hated credit cards, hated going to the bank. When I was in college, I remember trying to avoid money altogether, and I simply refused to look at my bank statements and my credit card bills. A few times I didn't pay my credit card bill (which was, in college, only about $150!) and then called the company to tell them that I'd never received a statement (a lie). I wouldn't pay my rent until the last possible moment. Once I had a problem with my checking account and I didn't resolve it for three weeks because I simply didn't want to deal with it.

Then I met T. T comes from a very financially-savvy family. His Mom and Dad have made a lot of good investments over the years; they were never "rich," but they lived comfortably. When his Dad died, T helped him Mom sort through their finances, and it made T happy that his Mom would be well taken care of as she grew older. It made him happy that she would never really have to be concerned about money again (unless she lives to be over 100!). T has inherited his parents' financial confidence. He financed the bulk of his college education from savings he started as a sixth grader with a paper route. He financed part of his graduate education with investments he made as a junior high schooler (the other part was financed through his lovely bride, who worked at his school and got tuition remission for him!). He's not at all obsessive about money -- he thinks of it as a tool, something to be managed, something to have some discipline about. For him, it is not something to be "afraid of" as I am and as my Mom is.

I have learned a lot from T. I know all about our investments, I regularly check our savings, checking, and money market balances. I check my old TIAA-CREF account from when I was staff at a University, I check my student loan balances. I know how much is in my IRA and when my contributions go in. Overall, I feel quite "balanced" about it now, comfortable about how our money is "working" for us. But deep down, I'm still not feeling the "freedom" that T feels about money.

T and I were talking about this last night, as he shared with me some news about a few small job leads he'd discovered. He said that he was thinking to himself about why I was so worried about him finding a job, and then he said that it dawned on him that it was about security -- it was about having enough money, whatever "enough" really means. And that's true -- I worry about maintaining, about keeping a comfortable lifestyle. This doesn't mean I worry about not being able to buy lots of "stuff" -- I'm not a shopper. That's not it. It's about that deep-seated, inherited feeling of having a financial security blanket in the future, worrying that the blanket might not be as thick as it is now. I explained this to T. Then he put it this way: "You should not worry about the possibility of a 'thinner' financial security blanket. You should be happy that because we've been diligent with our money, we are free to rely on that blanket if we have to."

T drives me nuts sometimes, but he's practical and smart.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/27/2006 09:26:00 AM   5 comments
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Ubiquitous ABC Meme
Seen everywhere (except at Articulate Dad's -- have you ever done a meme, AD?).

Accent: There are a few words I say that reveal me as someone from "up North."

Booze: I really enjoy sweet German wines like Riesling or Gewuerztraminer, and if I have anything aside from wine it would be an Amaretto Sour.

Chore I Hate: I actually really like to clean (sick freak), although mopping/sweeping are definitely at the bottom of my list.

Dog or Cat: Cat, Belle, adopted from the Humane Society in Western State.

Essential Electronics: Laptop and digital camera.

Favorite Cologne: I don't like too many, but I have found a few that I can wear without feeling sick: Kenneth Cole's Black for Women, and White Musk from The Body Shop. On men, my favorite is Reaction by Kenneth Cole (it's what T wears).

Gold or Silver: Silver, definitely.

Hometown: Up North.

Insomnia: Not too often.

Job Title: Mom, ABD Graduate Student, Assistant Professor-to-be.

Kids: one son, ST (3 years old).

Living arrangements: 3BD, 2.5BA house we adore and must leave to move to Midwestern State.

Most admirable traits: I'm very positive, on the whole.

Number of sexual partners: One.

Overnight hospital stays: Once when I was three and had pneumonia, and then again when I delivered ST.

Phobias: I don't know if this is a "phobia," but collections of small circles make me queasy. I cannot, for example, eat couscous (although I enjoy the taste), cannot look at people with rashes if those rashes are collections of small bumps, cannot look at a color-blindness test, etc. The split peas I used last week for soup gave my stomach a churning, but it was OK because the circles were irregular. Sometime after 9/11, there was a photo in our newspaper of someone suffering from smallpox. I saw it and threw up immediately. A few minutes later, T called from work to warn me about the photo but it was too late. Now that I think of it, a more "general" phobia might be skin diseases. I could NEVER be a dermatologist.

Quote: "Madam, I have been looking for someone who dislikes gravy all of my life. Let us swear eternal friendship." (Sydney Smith) This quote, while not terribly profound, always makes me smile. My real favorite quote is discipline-specific, so I won't include it here.

Religion: Practicing, but relatively liberal, Roman Catholic.

Siblings: Two, Julie (28) and Rob (23).

Time I wake up: on ST's schedule, usually between 6:30am and 7:15am.

Unusual talent or skill: I'm a pretty good multi-tasker, although I'm not sure that this is unusual.

Vegetable I hate: Okra. It always looks sticky, and it has a lot of little circles (see "P"). To be honest, I've never even tried it because of those two facts. I like most other vegetables, though, aside from carrots.

Worst habit: Procrastination!

X-rays: Teeth.

Yummy foods I make: I love to cook and bake, so this list would be long! My specialties of the moment are Wild Rice Soup, Italian Potato Cake, Black Bean Soup, and any kind of cupcake.

Zodiac sign: Sagittarius. I don't know much about the signs of the Zodiac, so I'm not sure if it fits or not.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/26/2006 12:34:00 PM   1 comments
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Language Lesson
ST: Mom, how do you say "bed" in German?

Me: Das Bett.

ST: How do you say "door" in German?

Me: Die Tuer.

ST: Mom, how do you say "table" in German?

Me: Der Tisch.

(Pause)

ST: Mom... how do you say "Jehosephat" in German?

(!)

Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/25/2006 10:56:00 PM   4 comments
Worry Tree
T and I planted a Prairiefire Crabtree in our backyard four years ago, and every spring since I've looked forward to seeing the flowers on this little, scrawny tree turn from pink to brilliant white. As I look down on the tree now from my window, it looks like the tree is covered in popcorn. It is my favorite tree, the crown jewel of our yard. I check on it nearly every day; I just like to stand next to something so perfect.

Every winter, I worry about this little tree. We've had mild winters the past few years, but it still gets pretty cold here and I am always afraid the belle of the backyard won't make it. In the spring, I notice little scratches on the trunk from various small animals who were looking for a cold-weather snack. The trunk is not at all sturdy yet -- we have metal stakes on either side of the tree, twine connecting the stakes to the tree. During severe weather, the tree sways violently. Since it's right outside our patio doors, we watch it as the wind and rain whip it around, and we pray that it will survive the storm. It always survives, and ends up looking more beautiful than ever despite the trials of nature.

Spending my time worrying about this tree is pointless, really. No amount of fretting could save it from a tornado, no amount of panicking on my part saved it from a collision with one of ST's friends last week (when it lost one of its lower branches and gave ST's pal a nice scratch across the nose), and nothing will save it from being used as a latrine for the neighbor's dog. What will happen, will happen -- I can do my best to protect it and care for it, but it will thrive or fail to thrive largely on its own.

I was thinking of this tree last night as I reread my post from yesterday. I fully admit that I can be a bit of a control freak, and this was very obvious in my last post. Last night, T and I had just a short conversation about everything that's going on in our lives right now, and I asked him if he really, really wanted me to stop thinking and worrying about his job, the house, etc. He smiled, took my hand in his, and said, "Hon, have I ever let you down before?" He hasn't. "I know what needs to be done, and I need you to trust me on this."

So I find myself again letting go, something I vowed to do last year when the job search was just beginning. I told myself then that if I did my best putting together job applications and did my best at any interviews, something would happen. And if not, then not. It was just too much energy to think about it back then, and firmly resolving to stop panicking about it really helped me. I'm hoping letting go will help me in this set of uncertainties, too.

Much better to focus my energies on something I can control: the dissertation. And what better day to write than when the wind is whipping outside, it's rainy and gray, and my little crabtree is looking just as beautiful as ever?
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/25/2006 12:15:00 PM   4 comments
Monday, April 24, 2006
Something's Gotta Give

The feeling of stress and tension is so thick in this house you could cut it with a knife right now. I hate this feeling, but I know that I'm in for a few more weeks of it, if not a few more months. To recap (you've heard it all already):

Stress 1: T's job. We haven't heard anything from anyone, and T isn't working on it very diligently. There's a Very Important Task that he MUST complete, and soon, and so far he's just not doing it. I keep nagging him about it ("Did you get anything accomplished on Very Important Task yet?") which is just about the WORST thing I can possibly do, but it's on my mind all the time. It drives me nuts that he's not putting more time and effort into the job search, although I know that time is not something he has in abundance these days. His annoyed final words to me last night: "The only thing YOU can do to help me right now is to stop pestering me about this because it's getting old."

You'd think I'd know this about T by now. He does not respond well to nagging, which is why I rarely do it. Very rarely, in fact, and that is probably why he's so peeved at me about Very Important Task and the job search. (I can tell he's peeved because he's "cordial" to me, but not "affectionate," as he usually is.) I will try to be better about this and stop reminding him every five minutes that he needs to find a job. BUT: he needs to find a job!

Stress 2: House Issues. First, our neighbor's house is not yet sold, and it must be sold by June 15 in order for the contract they have on our house to be valid. Granted, it's only been on the market for three weeks, but still. Apparently, they have had two offers on their house, but both of them fell through for financing reasons. Hopefully something will pan out very, very soon so I can stop thinking about it.

Second, T, ST and I are traveling to New Town in two weeks, just a quick trip after we see my brother's college graduation. We've been looking at houses online and have a list of about eight that we'd like to see in person. Fortunately, T and I agree on every house on the list, and the prices are just about right. The source of disagreement: realtors. T despises realtors, thinks they're lazy scam-artists, doesn't trust them at all. This hatred comes from the type of work he does, so at least I understand the source. My thinking is that, since we will only be in New Town for a day and a half, we should have a realtor show us the houses that we're interested in seeing -- easy as that. T refuses to do this; instead, he wants to email all of the listing agents and schedule private tours of the houses WITHOUT having an agent of our own. Sounds like a big hassle to me: making appointments with eight different realtors to see eight different houses? Ugh. T is convinced that buyers without a realtor are more attractive to sellers since the selling agent doesn't have to split a commission, and he's also sure that buyers without an agent receive a better price on a house because of this. I am NOT convinced of this, and would rather play the real estate game like normal people do. But there's no persuading him, especially given his line of work and the stories from the "real world" as he knows it.

Third, there was one house that we both fell in love with online, and although it was not exactly where we wanted to live, we would've sucked it up for this house. The price was a little steep for us, but we're both willing to sacrifice for a home we love. Last night, however, we discovered that the house is in an area with SKY HIGH property taxes -- taxes that would add $500-600/month onto an already large mortgage payment. So, it's out. For now, at least.

Stress 3: stupid dissertation and defense. Actually, I shouldn't complain about the dissertation right now since it seems to be going pretty well and I'm actually looking forward to finishing Chapter Seven this week and beginning the conclusion. My goal is to have a mostly-complete, unrevised draft ready to hand to my Mom when I say goodbye to her after my brother's graduation (I actually want to leave it on her seat in the car). I don't think she'll ever read it (I wouldn't, either!), but she's been so wonderful at asking me about, trying to understand it, keeping me on task, and encouraging me that I know she'd be so proud to actually see the document in person.

On the defense, I can't get an answer out of the department's administrative assistant. I've emailed her twice and she hasn't gotten back to me yet -- I've heard that she does this to everyone, though, and that the trick is to keep pestering her about it. Grr. I just want a solid date so I can mark it on my calendar and count down the days.

That's enough for now. The only way I can feel better about any of this is to press on, pray, and have faith that things will come together at the proper time. It always happens that way for me -- God never lets me down. In the meantime, I'll think ahead to the fall, when I can smile and look back on these sources of stress and think, "Why did you waste so much energy on this stuff?"

Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/24/2006 10:50:00 AM   5 comments
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Spring = Summer

Sprinklers + Soft Grass + Barefoot Little Boys = Might As Well Be July
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/23/2006 07:48:00 PM   3 comments
Friday, April 21, 2006
New Look (Again)
I'm taking a (late and well-deserved) lunch break, and I decided to look around for a new template. My criteria: 1.) Template had to be clean and use subdued colors; and 2.) template had to be easy to install (no uploading images elsewhere business). This one, from Isnaini, fit the bill. It's refreshing and it was installed in just about ten minutes.

Now, back to "real" work for me.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/21/2006 01:44:00 PM   10 comments
Thursday, April 20, 2006
He's Baaaaack!
Tonight, while riding his Big Wheel along the sidewalk, ST announced that he was going to work. When I asked him what kind of work he did, he said that he was "going to help his clients" (a phrase stolen directly from T, of course). He then introduced me to his new (imaginary) friend: New York City (who was formerly a Lego fireman). He's back, and this time he's one of ST's friends who "helps clients" by giving them M&Ms. Apparently, New York City said that ST was out of M&Ms at his "office" ("office" = the fire hydrant at the end of our cul-de-sac), and ST said, "No, I bringed some more M&Ms with me, New York City!" I corrected him by saying, "No, brought." Without missing a beat, ST told New York City that yes, he bringed some brats, too, and with ketchup.

*****

In other news, Chapter Seven is coming along nicely. I'm still plugging away, and am going to get back to it now. The light at the end of this dark, twisting tunnel is growing bigger and brighter with each passing day.

*****

And in yet other news, I discovered that I really don't like Split Pea Soup. The only reason I made it was to get rid of my Easter hambone -- I will not go through the trouble again. Of course, now I have 18,652 gallons of split pea soup (excellent soup, according to T) sitting in my refrigerator, so if you come over to my house, come hungry.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/20/2006 10:07:00 PM   3 comments
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Our Job is to Make Soup
Wednesday is my favorite day of the week, since I get to spend it with ST and not with my other "baby," the dissertation. Today was a rather ordinary day for us, filled with errands to run and small tasks to accomplish.

Our first errand of the day was to go grocery shopping. We only needed a few items, and since we have a cute little grocery store just about a mile from our house, we decided to walk there. ST proudly announced that he'd carry the "little groceries" in his Firefighter Backpack, and so we emptied it out (amazing what things a preschooler finds "necessary" to load in his backpack: Chapstick, four Matchbox cars, a small box of raisins, six pennies, a rock, a wilted dandelion, and an extra pair of underpants) and made our way to the store.

Walking for any distance with ST is always an adventure, since he makes so many discoveries along the way. The highlight of our walk this morning -- during which we stopped no less than 12 times to admire the dandelions, and even pick some -- was finding a dead mouse near someone's driveway. ST was genuinely sad that the rodent's little life was gone. "I hope that mouse did all of his work," ST said, pointing to the poor creature.

I wasn't sure what he meant and so I asked him. This is what amazes me about kids: they remember everything. He proceeded to recount for me an explanation I had given him four weeks earlier about how every animal/insect had a "job" to do in the forest: the worms make dirt, the bees make honey, the birds make music (lame explanation, but whatever), etc. He told me now that it was the vulture's job to eat the mouse. "The vultures clean up messes in the forest, Mom. They eat the dead stuff," he explained.

I was pretty impressed with this lesson, but we moved on. We bought the ingredients for split pea soup so that I could use the ham bone leftover from my spiral-cut Easter ham. When we came home, we made some ham broth together and prepared the split peas, sorting out the discolored peas and the grit. I had forgotten how bad split peas smell after their initial soaking -- revolting, in my opinion. ST was faking a cough and holding his nose from the smell. "Mom, let's stop making this stinky soup," he said.

"But we have to finish it. We started a job, and we always finish what we start," I said in my Platitudes-Aplenty Mom Voice.

ST thought for a moment. "Vultures eat dead stuff in the forest for their job. Our job is to make stinky soup."

Right.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/19/2006 10:36:00 PM   4 comments
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Epiphany
So I'm struggling with Chapter Seven (surprise, surprise), struggling with the language component (as always), and was just feeling pretty miserable about it yesterday because this was supposed to be the "easy" chapter (delusional me). I sat here at my computer yesterday and just couldn't get my mind around how the chapter was supposed to look after I dropped one case study in favor of another.

But then, just as I was leaving to pick ST up from daycare, the skies opened and there was a loud chorus of angels overhead and I realized that, hey! these case studies could be combined in an umbrella chapter! I don't know why I didn't think of this before: each case is about something related to a larger issue, and each case reveals something slightly different about the overarching issue. If I include both, I get 1.) more variation and 2.) more complete coverage of the theme of the dissertation. Win-win situation.

I've been working on it today and it's actually starting to take shape. I have to keep pushing myself because this is it -- after this comes a conclusion, and after that: freedom (and revisions).
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/18/2006 01:58:00 PM   5 comments
Monday, April 17, 2006
Tension
My hands shake a little. My mind races. My heart thumps more quickly than usual. I try to take a deep breath and, although my lungs fill with fresh air, I don't feel refreshed. I have this nagging feeling like I'm forgetting to do something, even when the items on my "to do" list are all crossed off.

Since about Wednesday, this is how I've been feeling -- not all the time, but enough that I'm concerned about it. Even when I'm enjoying myself -- time at the park in the lovely sunshine, playing or chatting with ST, spending time with T, preparing Easter dinner -- I cannot get rid of this feeling of tension, the little fluttering in my stomach that tells me something is amiss, something is undone. I'm eating well, getting exercise (ran two miles again on Saturday and will go again this afternoon), drinking a lot of water, progressing on the dissertation, am almost caught-up with the weekend's laundry (sans ST's wet bedsheets, currently in the dryer), and am generally pretty happy. But still, my body is telling me that something has to give.

I know part of what I'm feeling is sympathetic tension for T. It's been a very busy few weeks for him at work and he's been stressed, and the job search in New Town is only plodding, plodding along. He's still sure that he'll find a good job in the next few months, but it's not going to be easy (for various reasons, all too situation-specific to reveal here). Because of what's going on in his life, we haven't been able to do much about our impending move to New Town; indeed, the stress in his life has put a lot of our immediate-future plans on hold. So I know that part of my feeling of tension is from him, from taking on too many of the stresses that only he can resolve.

ST is also making me a bit tense, as he seems to be a ticking time-bomb lately. He's such a happy-go-lucky kid most of the time, but then all of a sudden he just explodes with frustration. Mornings have been especially rough lately. In the past two weeks he has decided that he hates getting his clothes on, hates brushing his teeeth, and hates having his face washed. Every morning is a battle royale, complete with ear-piercing screeches, mule-like stubborness, spitting, slapping... it's terrible. This goes on until he's ready, after which he magically transforms back into a delightful little boy. But the morning battles affect me long after they're over; it's already been two hours and I still feel annoyed by the whole thing.

And the house, of course, is a latent source of stress for me. We have a good offer on it (for our full asking price), as you know, but that offer comes with the contingency that our buyers sell their house first. Their house hasn't sold yet, and although it's only been on the market for two weeks, I just want it to sell so we can consider ours sold. Because of the contingencies, we have a "For Sale By Owner" sign in our yard, and I'm already sick of having people slowly drive by our house, peer in the windows, and tromp around the yard (thinking no one's home). In fact, a van is outside our house right now -- been there for five minutes already -- and the driver is standing in my yard. I appreciate the interest in our house, but I feel a bit like I'm in a zoo.

And it goes without saying that the dissertation is a source of tension. I feel it. But I also know that it's almost over. I need to make good progress on this final case study this week, and then I think the dissertation tension will be substantially reduced.

So today I am going to put on some good, relaxing music (I'm thinking Vaughn Williams, Ravel, or Malcolm Arnold) and get to work. I need to push this tension aside so it doesn't paralyze me.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/17/2006 10:24:00 AM   5 comments
Saturday, April 15, 2006
"As it is written..."
In my family, the classic 1956 movie The Ten Commandments is an integral part of our Easter ritual. When I was a child, the night that movie was on television was a special night, a night when we were allowed to eat in front of the TV and stay up until the credits rolled. The movie is not only a beloved Easter tradition, but also the source of a lot of family jokes. My Dad, the biggest softie in the world, is fond of doing his best Yul Brynner imitation and saying "As it is written, so it shall be done!" with as much authority as he can muster. And my brother Rob can do a perfect Charlton Heston impersonation, often adding bits I don't think Moses would have actually uttered: "Let my people go! Let them go... south of the border, to Taco Bell! Let them enter a land flowing with processed cheese and reconstituted beef...!" And my mother has not-so-secretly been in love with Charlton Heston her whole life, despite his NRA involvement. His role as Moses trumps all of that gun business in her mind.

This year, someone tried to do a remake of The Ten Commandments; it aired last week. My Dad, recovering from knee surgery, decided that he would take the plunge for all of us and watch the movie and report back to us on how it measured up to the "original." He called me earlier this week.

Dad: You know that new Ten Commandments movie I told you about?

Me: Yeah. Did you see it?

Dad: Sure did. Wow. Was that a bad movie.

Me: Really? What was wrong with it?

Dad: (pausing) Well, for one thing Moses didn't look anything like Charlton Heston...

I fear my entire family will be bitterly disappointed if we reach heaven and discover that Moses does not actually look like Charlton Heston circa 1956.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/15/2006 11:28:00 PM   4 comments
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Slow Going
I've been diligently working for most of the day on Chapter Seven, but I'm going nowhere fast.

The last time I met with my advisors, they both said that they were more than happy to let me drop my fourth case study entirely -- it really was rather superfluous. So, I'm working on the last case study, the third, and it was going well at the beginning of the week until I realized that it 1.) contained way too much overlap with Chapter Six (let us never speak of it again); and 2.) was really, really, mind-numbingly boring. This is the case I knew the least about pre-dissertation, the case that was recommended to me by the outside member of my committee (but not enthusiastically). So, after getting a few pages into it, I decided (and my advisors agreed) that it would be best for the dissertation to pick up the dropped case study again. So, that's what I've been doing today -- sifting through documents, tracking things down, wading through stacks and stacks of paper.

The upside: the case study is pretty interesting, and it covers some aspects of the process I'm studying I had, up to this point, only superficially analyzed. In addition, there's not a whole lot of information out there on this case -- and I know this because I've been searching for it all morning -- which means that, after the initial sort, there will be less to write about than in the previous chapters. That's good. It means that this chapter will be pretty short, which is what my advisors wanted anyway. Short chapter = that much closer to writing the conclusion.

The downside: it's another incredibly complex issue, and I can already feel my little brain pulsing in my skull, begging for mercy. Grr.

Aside from wasting reams of paper printing dull, possibly-useful, possibly-not-useful documents today, I used part of my self-imposed lunch break to take some more pictures with my fun new camera. Since ST wasn't here, I resorted to two of my favorite non-human subjects, one of which you're very familiar with -- my kitchen sink -- and one of which I don't write about often: our 12-year-old cat, Belle.


My sparkling clean kitchen sink and new faucet. If it's not clean, I am paralyzed in the kitchen. I had to scrub it last night because ST tossed a bowl of soggy Raisin Bran in it yesterday morning and I didn't catch it until late afternoon, which meant I had gummy brown flakes all over the stainless steel. Not attractive. A little elbow grease and my ever-present Mr. Clean Magic Eraser made quick work of the mess, and I woke up to this shiny gem this morning. As T likes to
say, "Ah, her sink is clean. All is well in the cosmic order."


Our cat, Belle. We adopted her in 1998 from the Humane Society in Western State -- they estimated that she was about three years old then. She had been a family pet, but then the family who had her moved and decided not to take her with them. Sad for her, good for us! We "interviewed" dozens of cats at the Humane Society, and we knew instantly that Belle was a perfect match for us (despite the fact that her previous owners had named her "Calista Flockhart." I'm not kidding.).
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/13/2006 02:57:00 PM   3 comments
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Love At First *Click!*
We lost our digital camera over the holidays -- we don't know what happened to it. As we packed our Honda to leave my parent's house and return to Home State that day in December, I distinctly remember setting the camera down on the floor next to our other bags. I did not carry it to the car myself, but I know that it was there. We left the house and went to get gas. Then we were on the road for eight hours, and in about the fifth hour of travel I turned to T and said, "Hey, have you seen the camera?" He thought for sure it was in ST's toy bag, and so at the next rest area we checked. It wasn't there, and it wasn't anywhere to be found in our car, in any of our luggage, or at my parent's house. After holding out hope that we'd simply misplaced it, after four months without a camera we decided to cave and buy a new one. (The fact that Best Buy had 18 months interest-free financing didn't hurt, either; although we'll pay it off next month, it's nice to have that 18 months dangling out there.)

So, we bought a little Canon Powershot SD450, and I've been playing around with it for a few minutes. I am in love. It has so many more features than our old Nikon Coolpix 4300. For one, it has movies with sound (our Nikon recorded movies, but no sound!), it can stitch together pictures for panoramic shots, and it can take pictures in low light (which our Nikon also did, but poorly). Here's an example, taken just a few minutes ago -- I love how the picture looks exactly how my messy desk looks right now (new camera paraphrenalia all over the place), at 10:30pm with only my desk lamp illuminating the room.

I love that the camera didn't wash out the gentle light of the lamp. I'm a complete camera dunce, but I know what I like and this is it: pictures of my life the way I actually see it.

I took a movie of ST reciting "Peter Piper picked a peck of picked peppers" and singing "Baa, Baa Black Sheep." With sound! So exciting.

A real post on real things follows tomorrow. Just had to share the news of our newest (little!) addition. I sense mysterious, Jo(e)-esque back-of-the-head photos and B*-esque nature shots in this blog's future!
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/12/2006 10:19:00 PM   3 comments
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Campus Love Letter
I cried big tears when I walked off of my undergraduate campus for the last time. I lingered a bit on the lawn in front of the performing arts building, the building in which I'd spent many happy hours in practice and in conversation with good friends. I drove one last time past the library (which would be completely rebuilt just three years after I graduated) and recalled the insane number of quarters I'd plugged into the copy machines, the frustrations I'd had with my oh-so-sophisticated PINE email account, and the times T and I would spend at a table near the reference desk, pretending to study. I loved that campus, loved my time at that university, and I was certain that I'd always be a [Insert Team Name] at heart.

Then T and I moved to Western State, and we both attended Private University for graduate degrees. T was seeking a professional degree, and I was working to support him and also studying for the infamous Master's Degree I Never Use But Am Still Paying For. When we left Private University, we felt no attachment to the place whatsoever. We were eager to leave. Off the top of my head, I cannot remember the name of the mascot for Private University's sports team, and I do not own anything that says "Private University" (PU!) on it.

My final academic destination was Doctoral University. Because I am no longer teaching or taking classes, I do not go to campus regularly -- it's a 20 minute drive for me, parking is atrocious, and I gave up my graduate student office in favor of a tiny library carrel I never use (I work better in my home office, despite the distractions). Today, in order to solve a data problem my advisor uncovered yesterday (quick fix!), I drove to Doctoral University after dropping ST off at daycare.

I've always known that I really liked Doctoral University. But today, I realized that I love it, and have a depth of feeling for it reserved only for places like my parent's house and the place T would have proposed to me had I not spoiled his plans (long story). Walking on campus today, using the library, seeing the eager undergrads in their wildly inappropriate attire, observing the massiveness of the building I work in, I realized that this is the place that has changed my life. And I know that, until I've worked at another university for a good long time and have built up an allegiance to it, Doctoral University will be "home" for me.

What do I love about it? I love the substantial, stately old buildings on part of the campus, and I love knowing that the pillars in the inside of my building aren't really marble. I love knowing the artist who faux-finished them to look exactly like marble. I love the huge trees outside, a label beneath each stating when it was planted and in what part of Home State it grows best. I am proud of the new, expensive buildings that aren't at all related to my discipline, with their flawless windows and glinting metal exteriors. I love the general state of unfinishedness about the campus: there is always a new building going up or renovations taking place. I have always had the sense that this is a place with a mission of constant self-improvement, and I have always been smart enough to avoid certain streets because they are always congested with construction trucks.

I love that the library has everything I need, and that there are reference librarians who can get me items from other libraries within days. I love the wall of Theses and Dissertations, tucked away on the third floor; I love seeing this wall of scholarship developed and nurtured by Doctoral University. I love the art displays that are ever-changing in the library's main entrance.

Most of all, I love the "bigness" of the place. I love that, driving around town and even on the outskirts, there are signs all over declaring property for the University. I love that even residents who didn't attend Doctoral University still wear its apparel with pride and decorate their cars with its stickers. And even though I couldn't care less about sports, I love that fans of Doctoral University's sports teams are crazy, and that our sports stadium has more seats than the population of our city. I love that there's a medical school and a law school, and that when Engineering got a shiny new building, Art and Art History did, too.

Life at Smallish Midwestern University (SMU) will be very, very different. The campus is compact, the sports teams aren't excellent. A lot of people wear the colors of Midwestern State's R1 University, located just an hour away from SMU. If next year I need to check the kind of data I had to check today, I will have to drive an hour to R1 University. I will have to find a new hospital, one unaffiliated with any university -- I've never done that before. And if I have to do legal research (which I often do), I'll again have to trek to R1 University. There is no fancy architecture at SMU (although my department will be moving into a brand-spanking-new "green" building in 2009) -- everything is neat, orderly, and practical, but nothing screams "major research institution" about the place. I will miss Doctoral University's prestige.

Doctoral University has served me well -- paid my tuition, funded my research, paid for my health insurance (as well as T's and ST's), and given me a great education. I am sad that it is almost time to leave. But I know that opportunities abound at SMU, opportunities for me to pour myself into a new place and change it. I was perusing SMU's website the other day, and noticed one silly thing that made me feel very, very confident that I'd taken the right job: the official school colors at SMU are identical to Doctoral University's, and as luck would have it, the mascot looks similar, too. Home away from "Home."
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/11/2006 12:06:00 PM   5 comments
Monday, April 10, 2006
The Odds
Probability that, in any given year, I'll buy Cheetos at the grocery store: 3%

Probability that, if I have Cheetos in my pantry, I'll eat them (and only them) for lunch: 100%

Probability that I'll be able to feel the grease from the Cheetos on my skin after lunch: 100%

Probability that I'll be hungry in 20 minutes: 100%

*****

Probability that I'll remember how I constructed a dataset I initially created in 2000: 12%

Probability that my advisor will ask me to update the data in 2006, in the midst of dissertation work: 100%

Probability that I will be able to reconcile the new data with the old: -14%

Probability that my advisor will be peeved: 72% (he's gracious)

*****

Probability that I am going to get anything decent accomplished today because I am worrying about above data problem: 23%

Probability that the data issue will keep me awake at night, although it's a minor issue in the grander scheme of things: 95%

*****

Probability that the UPS truck sitting outside my house right now is delivering a cute new jacket for me from Banana Republic: 100% (hurray!)

Probability that said jacket will need ironing: 110% (boo!)

*****

Probability that we'll buy a new digital camera in the next week: 75%

Probability that T will still blame me for losing our old one, even though the last time I saw it was in our suitcase at my parent's house before driving home after Christmas: 100%
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/10/2006 01:36:00 PM   1 comments
Opposites Attract, But When?
T and I have always operated on opposite schedules because he is an incurable morning person and I am a consummate nightowl. This is a little annoying, but we've made it work for over a decade (we've known each other since 1995, married since 1999). An example:

Saturday, 5:00am

T: (Rubs my back, kisses my neck, feeling amorous.) Are you awake? Hey, are you still sleeping? You are? Not interested? .... OK. I'm going for a run and to watch the sunrise. (Bounds out of bed, leaves for a five mile run.)

Me: (Not at all awake or chipper, barely comprehending what he's saying or doing.)

Saturday, 8:30am

T: (Finished with his shower, breakfast, and reading the newspaper.) Hon, I think I'm going to go fertilize the lawn. And then I think I'm going to hop over to the hardware store to get the lawnmower blades sharpened. Would you mind if I took ST with me? I need to stop at Lowe's, too... and should I stop by the market to get stuff for supper?

Me: (Eating breakfast, slowly, bleary-eyed.) Sure, yeah. Whatever. Sounds good.

Saturday, 4:00pm.

Me: (Just finished with two loads of laundry.) I'm going to clean the bathrooms. And then ST and I are going to bake a cake. Do you care what kind we make? Oh, and I just finished the thank-you notes for ST's birthday; do we have stamps? And did you see ST's Easter basket? I just finished it... I think ST and his friends are going to play tee-ball later and then I'll freshen up the flower bed outside...

T: (Yawning, sitting down to make a few job-hunting calls.) Man, I need a nap. Would you mind if I laid down for a little bit? (Makes his calls and stretches out on the couch.)

Saturday, 10:00pm

Me: (Curling up around T in bed, feeling amorous.) Are you sleeping? Sweetie, are you really tired? Huh? Are you?

T: (Legs twitching, breathing deeply, eyes fluttering.) Hmmm? (Silence.)

Me: (Hop out of bed, clean the kitchen, organize my office, make a grocery list; in bed by 12:30am.)
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/10/2006 09:11:00 AM   3 comments
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Pop Quiz
Which one of these is true?

1.) I have really been finished with my dissertation for six months, but I've been pretending to "work" on it just to make all of the other ABDs out there feel better.

2.) I moonlight as a waitress for Hooters.

3.) T has just signed me up for a 5K race at the end of the month, and I am going to die.

You have one minute to select the BEST possible answer.

Scoring:

If you guessed (1), you are insane. If you truly believe that I am faking all of this misery, then I am one heck of a good actress and have seriously misjudged my calling.

If you guessed (2), you... well, let's just say that choice (2), if it WAS true (which it isn't) would be so hysterically funny and sad that I surely wouldn't write about it here.

If you guessed (3), you are, unfortunately, correct. Well, you're correct about the 5K in my future (because T, my unofficial trainer, says I'm "ready" despite the fact I've never run more than two miles in my life, and a 5K is 3.1 miles), and you might also be correct that my death is imminent. The race is at the end of the month. I ran two miles today and I could already just about feel my major bodily systems shutting down. This is not going to be pretty, folks.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/08/2006 11:00:00 AM   6 comments
Friday, April 07, 2006
Moving On
You all know that Chapter Six has been the bane of my existence for the past few weeks. I was scheduled to finish it by March 20th, and only finished it today, April 7th. That is disappointing, for sure, especially considering that I still don't feel like it's "done." In fact, I'm sure it's not "done," but the state it is in now will have to suffice until I feel up to looking at it again. I need some distance from it in order to look at it objectively -- I couldn't even bring myself to print it off today because then it would be sitting here on my desk, watching me, waiting for me to do something.

So now, on to Chapter Seven. I was going to write about how Chapter Seven, my final case study, will be shorter than Chapter Six and even easier than Chapter Six (anything has to be easier than Chapter Six, can of worms that it was), but I'm not going to say that for fear of jinxing myself. I'm hesitant to say what my deadline is for Chapter Seven, since every time I set myself a deadline for Chapter Six I felt worse and worse when I couldn't meet it -- in fact, I'm not going to reveal my deadline here. I am going to print off some documents I'll need for Chapter Seven this afternoon and then give my addled brain a rest.

Instead of sitting at the computer for the rest of the afternoon, I think I'm going to get some other things done around here: laundry (of course), some additional ironing, and I'll give my poor kitchen sink a good scrubbing. Cleaning makes me feel very accomplished, perhaps because I can see the results of my work. Sure, Chapter Six is "done," but no one will see it for another few weeks (my advisors said that they don't need me to turn in individual chapters anymore -- they want the entire dissertation next) and so I don't really feel "relieved." If my laundry baskets are empty and my sink is sparkling, I feel like I have something very tangible to show for my day. (Naturally, if I had the nerve to print Chapter Six I'd have something tangible as well, but I truly am not up to it.)

This weekend should be nice, though. Barring any major catastrophes at work, T won't have to go into the office this weekend and so we'll have time together. Since the house is basically sold (contingencies pending, of course, keeping my fingers crossed), we're not going to do any major "projects" this weekend, and I'm only going to work on the dissertation if I feel like it (hah!). And since ST's birthday bash is over, we can finally take the time to assemble his new toys (this is my favorite, from MIL) and convince him that pedaling his "big boy bike" is preferable to scooting along with his Big Wheel. I think T and I are also going to have a short "date" tomorrow night. Even if it's just a quiet dinner alone, it will be a welcome break. We might even -- shocker! -- have a glass of wine! Or two! Bring on the Riesling, I say.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/07/2006 01:31:00 PM   3 comments
Thursday, April 06, 2006
That StatCounter Paradox
I have a love/hate relationship with StatCounter. On the one hand, I think it's a completely amazing tool; it is fun to see what countries readers come from (hello visitors from Malaysia!), what cities (I know who you are in Perth!), and which websites my visitors read before coming to this blog (ABDmom). But on the other hand, I'm really struggling with not being creeped out by the power of StatCounter and the knowledge it provides. And I am creeped out by it enough that I'm considering getting rid of it altogether.

I didn't even know about StatCounter until a few months ago, when Articulate Dad accidentally convinced me of its wonders. How did he do it? (AD, I hope you don't mind that I recount this story!) A few months back I asked AD a question about something unrelated to the blog and he replied to my email using his real name. I deleted the email after a week or so. Then a few weeks after that, I was reading AD's blog (part of my daily blog ritual) and I got curious about his work, wanting to know what his mysterious [Field 1] and [Field 2] were. Although I had deleted his previous email, I still remembered his real name (he has a lovely real name -- it sounds both scholarly and poetic, very unlike my real name) and so I Googled him to find his professional website. I found the answer to my questions about his fields, satisfying my curiosity and giving me more insight into the dilemmas he writes about in his blog. A few hours later, I received an email from AD telling me that he saw that I'd visited his professional website. I was astounded until AD revealed that he could trace me via StatCounter, and could match my identity from his blog to my identity as it came through on his professional website. (Which, of course, would not be difficult to do since I am a very regular visitor to his blog.)

Because the email was from AD, I wasn't creeped out. I trust him, he knows who I am in real life, and now we chat on occasion. I trust my academic blogging friends in general, and it truly wouldn't bother me if some of my regular blogging pals knew who I am in real life (and several of you do, and I'm happy about it). But as I started to think about it more, and as I explored StatCounter, I realized that I am not very comfortable with it anymore. I also realized that, simply by knowing about it, it has changed how I operate online. For me, StatCounter is a deterrent.

In my pre-StatCounter days, if I was curious about something, I simply Googled it and found out what I needed to know. If the information was about a person, I had no qualms about perusing personal websites to satisfy my curiosity. But since StatCounter entered my life, I don't do that anymore -- it feels wrong to me, especially if I my curiosity takes me to the website of someone I know or "know" online. It feels like a horrible invasion of privacy, an invasion I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with if it happened to me. Here's another example: I recently sent something to La Lecturess via regular mail, and to do that I needed her real name and her address. When she sent me that information, my first urge was to Google her -- after all, her blog paints the portrait of an endlessly interesting individual, so who wouldn't want to know more about her? But then I caught myself thinking, "What if she has StatCounter, and then takes the time to trace who's been on her websites [if she has any], and then finds out that I've been snooping around, finding out about her real life, and then gets all creeped out because she shared her real identity with me?" That seemed unfair to me, especially considering that Lecturess didn't have my real name at the time (although she does now). The asymmetrical information game is one that frightens me a lot, and moreso when I am the holder of the information.

I am not, by nature, a "snooping" sort of person. I do not open other people's medicine cabinets, I look away when someone is typing their password on a computer and I'm standing beside them, and I don't look up my professors' salary information when it's published in the newspaper. Google, however, makes it easy to snoop, easy to find out anything you need to know. It's wonderful and useful. But with StatCounter, the people who you're curious about know that you're curious about them -- StatCounter is the horrified homeowner who barges into the bathroom to discover you poking around in her medicine cabinet. And I do not like being the person caught in the bathroom with my paws all over someone else's personal items.

Maybe I'm taking the privacy issue too seriously. After all, if we didn't want the world to know something about us, we wouldn't be keeping blogs, right? We wouldn't post anything about our lives, and surely we wouldn't accept comments from strangers. We all know on some level that tools like StatCounter exist, and we must accept that people will use them and all of the consequences that go with that. We all know that posting completely "anonymously" is not really possible anymore because we all leave a traceable digital footprint.

For me, there's a StatCounter paradox: although StatCounter (and tools like it) make it easy for me to find something out about visitors to my blog, at the same time it deters me from trying to find out more about those visitors because I fear that they have StatCounter, too, and could see that I'm snooping. It's a security dilemma of sorts, I suppose. Now that so many of us have the bomb, do any of us dare to use it?
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/06/2006 09:30:00 AM   12 comments
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Open Letters, All Unsent
Dear Advisors,

No, Chapter Six isn't finished yet, but it will be finished this week. It is much more complicated than I imagined it would be, but that means it is also much more interesting and a better test of my hypotheses. Yes, I still think I can give you a completed draft of the dissertation by Deadline #1. At the very most, only Chapter Eight (conclusion) will be incomplete by that deadline. I am working diligently and thank you wholeheartedly for your continued nagging.

Best wishes,
Prof. Me, ABD

***

Dear Brigitte,

I really do enjoy spending time with you and Hans. In fact, I look forward to it every week and I am sad when we can't meet; you have become a very dear friend to me. But I would appreciate it if you didn't call me several times each day, as 1.) I do not like talking on the phone; and 2.) it is distracting when I am trying to write. And, although it is very, very cute, I cannot understand Hans when he leaves messages on my answering machine.

Much love,
Prof. Me

***

Dear ST,

I know you are very curious about what is in the cupboard under the kitchen sink. I am sorry that it is locked, but it is for your own safety. Unscrewing all of the knobs from the kitchen cabinets and hiding them all over the kitchen is not going to make me more willing to show you what is in the cupboard under the sink.

Also, when you have to pee please remember to point your penis down so that the pee goes into the toilet. The garden hose effect you have going for you now is making your bathroom smell like a camping latrine, and I really am tired of cleaning the wall behind the toilet. Remind me to buy more Clorox Antibacterial Wipes when we go shopping tomorrow.

Love you always,
Mom

***

Dear Julie,

I cannot tell you how much your visit meant to me this weekend -- I really love spending time with you, reminiscing and being silly. You are a very fun person to be around. Thanks, too, for spoiling ST rotten on his birthday and for giving me a great haircut (again!).

We enjoyed meeting your new boyfriend. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, and I know that you care about him a lot. It was apparent over the weekend, however, that you are husband-shopping, and although you know in your heart that the new boyfriend is not husband material, you are hoping against hope that he will magically become husband material. He will not. He is a sweet, 26-year-old frat boy who is not looking for a wife, no matter how awesome you are. No amount of nagging from you will change that until he's ready.

Love you,
Your Big Sister, Prof. Me

***

Dear Mr. Ngaire Nakomi of Nigeria,

I am very sorry to hear that your father, the owner of Nakomi Oil, was tragically killed in an airplane crash a few years ago. I understand how stressful this must be, especially now that you have discovered that he has over USD $21,000,000 (twenty-one million dollars) in an inaccessible account that should rightfully be passed to you. Although it is very generous of you to offer me half of that sum if I email you my bank account numbers, please understand that I am slightly protective of that information. Regretably, I cannot help you access your late father's fortune.

Considering that, could you please stop emailing me every day? It is tiresome and a burden on my already overstuffed email inbox, and I hate to think of all of the other people who are missing out on this potentially lucrative opportunity. I wish you the best of luck in the future.

Sincerely,
Prof. Me

***

Updated because I forgot one that is still bugging me, and now that I've thought of it I feel really, really sad. Shoot.

Dearest T,

I hear your clock ticking. I hear it loud and clear. But your comment last night, as we snuggled into bed after putting ST down for the night, made me feel kind of crummy: "Now that he's three, the clock isn't telling me how old he is," you said. "It's telling me that we now have, at minimum, three years and nine months between our kids."

I know that you really wanted to have three years (or less) between children. I know that you want another baby almost more than anything else. I want it, too. But I don't think you really understand what's going on in my life right now, no matter how compassionate you try to be. I cannot give birth to another baby and a dissertation at the same time. I cannot give birth to a baby in my first semester as an Assistant Professor next year. I promise you that we can work on this "issue" this summer, and plan for a Spring 2007 baby. I promise. But for now, please be patient and don't make me feel worse about it than I already do.

Love you always,
Prof. Me

***

And another, because I'm on a roll.

Dear Gap, Banana Republic, Levis, and Liz Claiborne,

Because my sister the shop-aholic was in town this weekend, I had the pleasure of shopping in your stores. In an unprecedented shopping spree, I actually bought four items (a big deal for someone who hates to shop).

My problem is this: I bought four items, and all of them are different sizes. I bought items that were sizes 7/8, 8, 10, and 12. In my mind, there is quite a difference between size 7 and size 12. But to you, the sizes are equivalent.

I humbly request that you actually speak to each other as you manufacture your clothing so that, in the future, I actually know what size I am. This would save me from many half-dressed trips to the dressing room.

Most sincerely,
Prof. Me
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/04/2006 11:09:00 AM   7 comments
Monday, April 03, 2006
By Request: Food Blogging
Peri made a request in the comments last week for the recipe for Apple Bars with Oatmeal Crumb Topping. Since these bars are so unbelievably good, and since they're also unbelievably easy to make, I thought I'd post the recipe here for your enjoyment. These taste like little slices of apple pie -- they're fantastic with a scoop (or two!) of vanilla ice cream. I'd encourage anyone interested in baking to have a look at the cookbook More From Magnolia -- it is a gem. I've made several recipes from it (including ST's birthday cake as well as the Magnolia Bakery's signature vanilla cupcakes with buttercream icing) and have been very, very impressed each time. I have a lot of baking books, and this is by far my favorite.

Apple Bars with Oatmeal Crumb Topping
from More From Magnolia, pages 36-37

CRUST
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour

TOPPING
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking), plus 3 tbs.
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup (1 1/3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

FILLING
1 (21 oz.) can apple pie filling

GLAZE
1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted*
1 tbs. plus 1 tsp. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the crust. In a large bowl, using the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter and flour until crumbly and well-combined. Pat the mixture evenly into an ungreased 9x13" baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely, about 45 minutes.

Make the topping. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender (or two knives), cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Then toss the ingredients with your hands until well-combined. Set aside.

When the crust is cool, spread the apple pie filling evenly over the crust, leaving 1/4" all around the edge. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the filling, then sprinkle the addition 3 tbs. oatmeal over the crumb topping. Bake for 45 minutes and then cool to room temperature.

Make the glaze. Combine the sugar and water and beat until smooth. Cover until ready to use. When the bars are completely cool, drizzle the glaze decoratively over the crumb topping**. Allow the glaze to set 15-20 minutes before cutting and serving.***

* I made the full amount and did not come close to using it all. Next time, I'd make half of this amount.

** I used a zip-top sandwich bag with the corner snipped off as a pastry bag and piped the glaze in a lattice pattern over the top of the bars -- very pretty.

*** I think these bars were best the first two days after making them. Although they tasted fantastic even four days later, the topping got a little soggy from the apples underneath and the texture wasn't as pleasant. If I were to serve these as dessert after four days, I'd definitely serve them as part of an apple pie sundae. Before then, though, they are perfect without accompaniment.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/03/2006 10:27:00 PM   1 comments
Three Years
A post in honor of my delicious son on the occasion of his third birthday.

T and I decided in March 2002 that we were ready to try to have a baby. It had taken him a few years to convince me; I wasn't sure that I wanted children, and certainly wasn't keen on being pregnant or having a baby when I was taking my comprehensive exams. But I remember sitting on the edge of our bed one day at the end of March, listening to T tell me about how much fun having a baby would be and how great we would be as parents. I thought about it all that day and then ordered a book from Amazon about pregnancy.

In August 2002, after being off the pill since June, I realized that I hadn't had my period. I glanced at the calendar. At first, it didn't register with me that my period was technically 17 days late. I guess I expected that it would take my body a few months to adjust to being off the pill, and since T and I hadn't been paying any attention to things like ovulation, I didn't suspect that I was pregnant. As I did the grocery shopping that afternoon, I picked up a pregnancy test just in case.

The test sat in the bathroom unopened for a few hours. What was the protocol in such a situation? I wondered if I should wait for T to come home from work before I took the test. Or should I just take it and call him? If I was pregnant, is that the kind of news you relay over the phone? If I was pregnant, should I ask him to come home so I could tell him in person? I didn't know what to do. After finishing some revisions on a paper I was working on, I decided that I might as well take the test, especially since I knew that T was going to be late coming home from work that evening.

You're supposed to wait for three minutes before interpreting the results of the test. My plan was that I'd go downstairs and make myself lunch, and then go back and look at the test. I didn't get the chance -- the test showed a very, very clear "positive" instantaneously. There was no doubt.

I looked at the test. I laughed, really, really hard, and for about twenty minutes. I was alone in the house, pacing around, jumping a little, and giggling. I looked at my stomach in the mirror. I looked the same, but suddenly I felt very, very different. I am normally a very happy person, but on that day I felt like I was going to explode with joy.

I didn't tell T until he came home from work, and at first he didn't believe me. "Are you sure?" he asked, excitement in his voice. "Really sure?" I showed him the test, showed him the calendar. We worked out when the baby would arrive, assuming no complications -- early April 2003.

I had a blissful pregnancy, everything by the book. No morning sickness, thank goodness. I enjoyed being pregnant. For the most part, I even enjoyed taking my comprehensive exams while being kicked from within. I enjoyed the attention from my fellow graduate students, who treated me with the utmost in love and respect, and were overjoyed for T and me. I enjoyed the helpful faculty who allowed me flexible TA and RA schedules, and who gave me advice (although mostly old advice, since their children are mostly in college now) on strollers and colic. I worked steadily on schoolwork until April 2.

I awoke at 3:00am on April 2, feeling a little sick. It was nothing terrible; I attributed it to the fabulous Mexican Lasagne we'd eaten the night before and my heightened susceptibility to heartburn. At any rate, I couldn't get back to sleep so I got up and went to my office to finish coding a pile of data for Prof. C. I didn't stop working that day, actually -- I was scheduled to give a research presentation that weekend at Huge Conference, and so I spent the bulk of the day writing my presentation notes and preparing my slides. At the end of the day, I started having mild contractions. I told T about them, and he paced around the house, worried, while I kept working. But by 10:00pm, the contractions had gotten bad enough that I couldn't sit still at my computer anymore. I dashed an email off to a dear friend and colleague who had promised to take over my presentation if I went into labor: "Having lots of contractions -- not sure what's going on. My presentation notes are attached. Good luck!" He called me back almost immediately to make sure that T was there and that I was OK. (Very sweet.)

T tried to make me laugh as I writhed through the contractions, and for the most part, it worked. We watched "Tom and Jerry" re-runs while we timed the contractions, and T walked with me around the house, catching me under the arms each time a contraction brought me to my knees. T called the hospital and told them we were coming in.

Of course, as soon as we got into our car and were halfway to the hospital, the contractions stopped altogether. What to do? We stopped at a little park at 2:30am and walked around until they started up again. We were at the hospital by 3:00am.

After a few hours of labor, my doctor arrived. She had just returned from vacation and had dashed to the hospital to meet us. Realizing that, by this time, I'd been awake for 24 hours straight, she said, "Get the friggin' epidural and get some sleep!" So, I did -- it was heavenly. No pain, just a little tugging sensation to remind me that something was indeed happening in there. T napped in a chair beside me.

Finally, at about 1:00pm on April 3, the nurse checked me and announced that it was time to push. For the first time, I started to cry as I realized that, in just a short while, my life would change forever. I was happy, but petrified.

Since my hospital is the medical school attached to Doctoral University, my labor and delivery was observed and assisted by no fewer than 18 people: medical students, nurses, nursing students, doctors, midwifery students. It was fantastic. I was rested, the epidural was working brilliantly, and I was ready to go. We were all cracking stupid jokes as I pushed. The crowd in my tiny room was cheering, and complimenting everything I did. "You're doing great!" "You look awesome!" "Keep going, you're almost there!" I was one of two women in labor at that time in the maternity ward, and since the other woman's labor had stalled out I had all of the attention. There was lots of chatter, lots of laughter, lots of encouragement. After one last push, a cheer went up from the crowd as ST emerged. The nurses cried. T teared up a little. I laughed. "It's a boy!" my doctor declared. "And he's really cute!"

My doctor placed the little warm ST (who was, obviously, not yet the "SuperToddler!") on my abdomen and I pulled him toward me. He was crying a little, but as soon as I said, "Hi, ST!" he recognized my voice and was calm. The nurses grabbed the ward's digital camera and snapped some pictures for us (our camera battery had died the night before!). T beamed as he held ST's little hand.

And so it began.

What do I have to show for that day? A fantastic, joyful, sharp-as-a-tack little preschooler who has brought more happiness and contentment to my life than I could ever have imagined. A little boy who loves trucks, bugs, and dinosaurs, a little boy who wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. A boy who can almost dress himself, who can say the "Peter Piper" tongue twister perfectly (after a lot of practice), and who has a serious sweet-tooth. A boy who can run for miles without stopping but who can then sit still through innumerable books before bed. A little boy whose joyfulness sometimes overwhelms him, and he just has to roll on the floor and giggle to himself.

Happy birthday, perfect boy.


ST, three days old (4/6/2003)
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 4/03/2006 11:08:00 AM   11 comments
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