It’s the last weekend in April, and things seem to be getting crazy busy.

We spent last weekend in New York, celebrating SB’s 28th birthday. Happy birthday, SB! We had a great time, saw lots of friends, and ate lots of things that are bad for us.

Thursday was the last day of metadata. I should be hard at work on my final project, but instead I just planted our balcony garden – herbs, lettuce, two kinds of tomatoes, strawberries, and maybe some onions.

I’ve been taking advantage of the nice weather to take 2-3 mile walks on my lunch, which this week resulted in my first sunburn of the season. It is very weird to already have so much color!

Tonight and tomorrow SB and I are going to see the CUBS vs the Nationals. I’ll be cheering for the former, SB for the latter. There’s a chance of rain, but that can’t dampen my enthusiasm.


graduation day

Yesterday was commencement, and now we are both officially masters of science, even though we both actually finished our degrees in December. Shane’s family was here all weekend, and mine came down for the ceremony and brunch yesterday. It was an exhausting but lovely day, and I’m glad we were both able to participate.

Many congrats to my many friends who celebrated achievements this weekend!

Things to see and do

Things I have to do between today and 5 May (aka in the next 10 days):

  • 5,000-8,000 word seminar paper
  • ~50 minute teaching session
  • grant proposal

Things I’m going to do between 6 May and 9 June, when I start my summer courses:

  • Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde in Chicago, 10 May
  • Commencement, 13 May, where my family is going to meet SB’s
  • Morrissey in Chicago, 15 May
  • Riding bikes in Brooklyn with Carrie, 24-29 May
  • lots of yoga, trains, reading for pleasure, Boltini bingo, movies, and Oberon on the porch

What are you doing with your summer?

snow day, pt 2

The University canceled classes for a second day, and this time had the foresight to cancel the night before, meaning I slept in and didn’t trudge to the building through snow up to my knees. My coworkers are going to cover the handful classes that are meeting today, and I plan to do a whole lot of nothing. It’ll be great.

Last night, after I FINALLY got home around 8, SB, Keem, El, and I trudged through the snow to the Esquire for fried food and cheap beer. It was cold and blustery, but strangely peaceful outside. In some places the drifts were up to and past my knees (I’m 5’11-ish), meaning Keem had to do a lot hopping. On our walk home, we briefly visited a totally awesome snow fort – a couple of guys were bored and decided to spend their snow day digging tunnels into the giant plowed-up piles of snow in the church parking lot. I hope it’s still there if I venture out today.

While sitting at the bar eating our fried things, we watched the bartender run outside and push a guy’s stuck car out of the plowed-in parking spot – he came back to a round of applause. These are things I love about days like today – and a huge part of why I supported running classes yesterday and today. Yes, it was lonely and cold and sucky to be there all day by myself yesterday – but I would rather be inconvenienced in order to allow 20-30 people times 7 classes attend class – many of whom are not affected by the storm at all – than cancel because we didn’t want to go out in the snow. Even the gesture of being willing to run classes makes a big difference to a lot of people, and so I’m glad we did it. The Dean said in an email last night that he’s going to share our experience with the council of deans, who are meeting with the Global Campus folks next week to make some recommendations. His email ended with “the example you set today may be more important than you know.”

So happy snow day, folks! Enjoy the winter weather if you can, and stay warm if you don’t want to go outside. I’ll hopefully be doing some of both.

I should be doing work-work, but right now I can’t wrap my head around it, so I’m going to write here for a few minutes.

I had a long, good, helpful conversation with a friend last night that really helped me to examine a lot of my questions, struggles and frustrations with the program. She told me about her own experience being heavily courted for the program, and how it immediately wasn’t what she expected or wanted. She’s now in the dissertation proposal phase, and feels it’s really too late to turn back, but encouraged me to deeply consider my options both here and elsewhere, and not be overly swayed by other people’s ambitions or goals or plans for my own career.

Every hour that I spend in class leaves me feeling more frustrated, angry, and confused about why I’m here. I am, as my friend said, learning more about my interests by doing my job than I am (or would be) from sitting in classes where I’m told how other people think my job should be done. I’ve had a fundamentally awesome working experience since joining the program in 2005; my experience in my courses has been much more mixed. Some classes have piqued my interests, and others have left me wanting to bang my head on a wall. When I first weighed my options – PhD or professional job – I was sold on the idea that if I went straight into a job, I would miss out on the opportunity to do interesting research and to continue to learn. That has not been the case – though I do know that my job situation is somewhat exceptional.

In all honesty, I feel like I’d be better able to do my job if I weren’t trying to pursue this degree. I’d be able to be a better partner if I wasn’t stressed out all the time about classes. I’d be better able to take care of my body if I didn’t come home from work completely drained with a pile of reading ahead of me. I remember calling my mom at about this time last year and crying with frustration because my body was manifesting a bunch of stress-related problems – and she said that I might just have to make the choice between getting a PhD and being healthy.

I don’t know what I’ll end up doing in the weeks and months to come, but I’m thinking long and hard about all of this. Last night’s conversation left me in a place where I think I’m comfortable with whatever I decide. There are a lot of things that make this decision difficult, but most of them aren’t related to the program or the degree at all, and those are things I need to keep in mind as I weigh my options. Thank you for your patience, friends.

Cottoning on

So I get up this morning, bleary-eyed from a night of tapas and wine and friends, still miserably congested from the cold that’s had me in its clutches for almost a week, and I stumble to my computer, intent on my morning blogcrawl while I monitor the cats’ morning attempts to eat each others’ food. I have to finish my seminar paper today, a feat that will probably take all day, but shouldn’t be all that difficult, as I have several hundred pages of reading under my belt – probably close to 1,000, if I factor in the things I’ve re-read – lots of notes, and a genuine interest in the subject. I stumble over to Londonist by way of my Bloglines, and what do I see?

This Day In London’s History
1759: The British Museum in Bloomsbury opens its doors to the public for the first time.

Some may feel that the British Museum these days is little more than a massive boast, bragging about how many cool things the British Empire has stolen from the rest of the world. But regardless of whether this criticism is fair or not, it’s hard to deny that the museum is still one of the world’s greatest museums of human history and culture.

In 1753 Sir Hans Sloane’s large collection of books, manuscripts and natural history specimens from around the world was combined with libraries assembled by Sir Robert Cotton (the “Cottonian Library”) and the Earls of Oxford (the “Harleian Library”). A few years later they were joined by the “Royal Library”, and the British Museum was founded in Bloomsbury’s Montagu House, opening its doors on 15th January 1759.

Oh Cotton, you’re everywhere. And you apparently had a fossilized fish. What relevance that fish has to anything, I don’t know, but it sure comes up a lot.

SB just made portobello lasagna from The Barefoot Contessa at Home. Mmm. We had a salad and a nice Malbec – the latter of which was a Christmas present from Sarah. A nice dinner at the end of a long, quiet, mostly productive day. In a little bit, SB will be going to a friend’s beach party, while I’ll stay home, take a bath, and read more about my good buddy Robert Cotton.

Tomorrow I’ll spend all day working on my seminar paper again, which despite the hassle and the extension and the total hatred I have for the class, I’ve really enjoyed researching. I’m hoping to be at a good stopping-point by early evening, when I’m going to go have tapas with friends to celebrate my birthday, as well as the birthday of my good friend Laurie.

Monday’s a holiday, and I imagine I’ll spend most of it working on the paper, relaxing, getting a crown, and maybe going to a movie. Tuesday is my actual birthday, but I’ll be so busy from 9-9 that I probably won’t have time to even think about it. That’s fine. I don’t have to be a fairy princess every year.

Oh, and we’re definitely going to Boston for spring break. Yay!

What have I been up to?

  • Finished up the semester on the 10th, making me a Master of Science. I have one paper to finish for my doc sem, which I haven’t touched since the beginning of the month. Don’t tell Boyd.
  • Spent a week and a half testing, tweaking, and training on our new CMS, which, after two semesters of piloting, goes live for all classes in t-minus 17 days. I’m anxious about the training issues, but cautiously optimistic.
  • Drank a bunch of barium and saw my insides (looking for an ulcer), but haven’t heard anything back yet. The whole procedure was more miserable than any pelvic exam I’ve ever had in terms of the uncaring touches, the lack of explanation for what was going on, the discomfort, and being left uncomfortable, cold, and alone on a weird table for an extended period of time.
  • SB went to Ohio for almost a week to visit his family. Solo time was nice but unproductive, and I was very glad to have him home.
  • Sid continues to be sick. She’s been on antibiotics for 10 days, but they don’t seem to have done much. Baby kittens with their crazy bugs!
  • Went to Rockford for Christmas, spending most of the weekend chilling with my family. I came home with a pile of cookbooks and a new food processor = yay! Photoset here
  • Received a beautiful necklace and perfect stationery, among other fun gifts, from SB. I gave him a Slimmy, a couple of books, and a few other things.
  • Carrie was here for a few days/ It’s always nice to have her around, even though we mainly just veg out. We went to yoga on Wednesday, and I was pleased with my flexibility, though I’m wildly out of shape. She left yesterday afternoon, and now I owe her a visit. She lives in Brooklyn, which I’m sure is wildly more interesting than Champaign.
  • SB and I rode in our first Critical Mass last night. Only six people (including us) came out, but it was nice to start small and be able to ride at a normal pace rather than going v slow with lots of people.
  • SB and I have been taking advantage of a quiet break to do a lot of cooking – some from new cookbooks, others from books we had lying around. In the last two weeks, we’ve made:
      Bourbon Cranberry Sauce for a vegan Hanukkah. We ate this over soy ice cream, but I’m sure it would be equally good over turkey or regular ice cream.
      – Plantain and Corn Soup and Lamb Tagine with Sweet Potatoes from The African and Middle Eastern Cookbook. My first experience working with lamb, though SB did most (OK, almost all) the work. The tagine was incredibly tender and flavorful. The plantain soup took almost no time to make, and was even better the second day.
      Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Sandwiches and Zucchini Pancakes from The Barefoot Contessa at Home. I added the Barefoot Contessa cookbook to my Amazon wish list primarily so I could remember to buy it for Mom. Instead, she bought it for me, and I’m really glad she did. Roasting the peppers was time consuming but easy, and the payoff (in sandwich form) was awesome. I made the zucchini pancakes for brunch yesterday, and they only reinforced my new love for zucchini – simple, relatively low in fat (a total of 1 T butter and 1 T oil used for the whole recipe, which made 12 pancakes), and very tasty. I’ve marked about half the recipes in the book for later cooking. 🙂
  • I start a work-study at the yoga studio next week. One hour of cleaning per week in exchange for one free class per week. I’m hoping to take two classes this winter/spring, so that will help me save some money!
  • Still not sure our exact plans for New Years, but I’m hoping they’ll involve a few parties and lots of friends

wednesday this ‘n’ that

At the recommendation of my coworker/defacto boss, I stayed home today to work on my CMC paper. The Cotton project is on hold until the end of the week, after I turn this paper in, which is really too bad, because as I said before, the more I read about it, the more interested in it I am. As a total side note, my presentation on Monday went well, and I came away with a stunning redirect that I think will help me finish the project in the next few weeks (encouraging!).

Sid had her first vet appointment on Monday. That was excitement and a half, and we came home $50 poorer but with no real indication as to what’s going on with any of her bizarre-o ailments. She’s happily sleeping in a little cat nugget on the couch behind me. We’re trying new feeding strategies to make sure she’s getting all the (better) food that she needs, while at the same time keeping Basil (who is a little piggy) out of her food and therefore at a reasonable weight.

Leslie posted this link in her advent calendar today, and I’m totally loving it. Things like online advent calendars and funny blogs etc directly impact my productivity, which is why I’m in love with my carrel, even though it’s approximately 1,000,000 degrees up there. I’m on 10 East in the Main Stacks, which means that there (1) no internet and (2) very few distractions. I spent a good part of the weekend locked away up there, and I intend to spend most of this afternoon and evening doing the same thing. It’s very satisfying to go work for 4-5 hours and then take guilt-free breaks at home because I’ve accomplished easily five times what I would have accomplished on the couch at home.