Archive for the 'School' Category

Word, redux.

What a fantastic word!!!

palimpsest |ˈpalimpˌsest|
a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.
• figurative something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form : Sutton Place is a palimpsest of the taste of successive owners.
palimpsestic |ˌpalimpˈsestik| adjective
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: via Latin from Greek palimpsēstos, from palin ‘again’ + psēstos ‘rubbed smooth.’

…maybe having caffeine today was a bad idea.


End of Semester

Panic Time.

Two weeks: two papers.

Three weeks: two more papers.

December 16: freedom.

Made my evening…

I’ll be missing the Discussion from Hell tomorrow. It’s unfortunate, because the class topic is really interesting, I’m having fun writing the final paper, and the professor is really smart/ nice/ down-to-earth, but the… uh… range of personalities in the class make for a painful three hours each week. I leave every night feeling like a moron, having contributed very little to a discussion that I couldn’t really follow, because it doesn’t actually stick to the topic at hand. It turns into more of an ego-fest, with certain people engaging in 30 min-long monologues (seriously).  I think one student’s statement sums it up nicely: “You don’t have to actually *be* smart in grad school, you just have to *appear* smart.”  Uh… yeah.

So tonight, I was incredibly flattered to get an email from the professor thanking me for posting my thoughts on the articles to the website and saying that she was very sorry I would not be able to make it to class tomorrow.

Maybe “flattered” isn’t the right word… but her email really made my evening.  I feel like maybe I’m not such a huge moron after all.  I am also disappointed I’ll be missing the last discussion. It was an interesting set of articles/ book chapters this week.

“Help Support Our Graduate Students”

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a time warp.  I’ve been at this school for 6 years now, and I still have about 5 to go (hopefully just 5) until I’m actually “done.”  Granted, I have a degree to show for the first 4 years, and will qualify for a second degree at the end of this year… but it’s a little weird to think that I’ve lived in this place my entire adult life. Yes, I know I’m young. But still, it’s significant to me.

As a result of my being an alumna of this fine institution, I receive all of the usual alumni mail, keeping me up-to-date on the comings and goings while I am so very far away. 3 miles away, in fact. I get the shiny magazine telling me how great the U’s wide variety of academic and extracurricular programs are, the fliers and postcards with pictures of successful students on them (asking me to give the school money), and the forms for the alumni association telling me that my free one-year trial membership is about to expire.

Oh, and my department’s Alumni Newsletter.

This is the document which graced my mailbox this afternoon.  At first, I saw the “Department of Anthropology” letterhead and a wave of panic went through me. Isn’t most communication done over email? What would be so important that they would *mail* me something?!

And then I saw the department chair’s photograph heading up the first column. Oh hi, —-. Class was great today, thanks.

“From the Desk of the Chair” was the heading, and the letter was addressed to “Alumni and Friends.”  I skimmed through the news, noticing blurbs about my professors and fellow students and a lot of other people I’ve never heard of.  And oh hey! That’s my name listed under “student awards”! Cool.

Flip to the back, and there’s one of my undergrad students (the one who emailed me “thanks” last semester)– he’s doing a senior thesis project this year. Way cool.

Finally, the note I was anticipating with great angst: “Help Support Our Graduate Students.” The Department has conveniently included an envelope and postcard should I wish to donate to the Graduate Student Funding pool.

See, having earned a B.A. in Anthropology (and Spanish, and Latin American Studies) from this fine institution, they assume that I am now raking in the big bucks doing… something.

Someday, my friends, someday. After all, I’m in this racket for the big bucks (ahem. not.).

I conveniently put the newsletter, postcard, and envelope on the fridge, should my two cohortmates/ roommates feel generous.

Sorting, Balance, Focus

One aspect of grad school so far has involved sorting things out. Maybe I’m trying to, uh… modernize my life, or something. This sorting and classifying has proven productive: I’ve thought new thoughts and written new things that I might not otherwise have done.

Sorting school from life, first of all. School is not life. School is a job.  Most importantly: I do not live at school anymore (on campus or in the dorms). Never mind that my social life revolves around school… I’m fine with that.

Sorting “things I’m going to study and write about” from “things I’m interested in.” I am interested in food and cooking, bikes, gardening, visual art of various media, language and literature, but I’m not necessarily going to study and write about those things (er, for my job). That does not, however, mean I have to give those interests up.

So I’ve sorted. And am constantly sorting, as new hybrids arise as a result of said sorting. But now I’m trying to find a little balance between the school-life dichotomy I’ve set up for myself.  At orientation last fall, the Department Chair warned the incoming cohort that we would have blinders on for a while– our focus would become very narrow and we might have to give up our hobbies. But not to worry– hobbies and balance would eventually be returned to our lives.

I think she meant “after you finish your degrees” that hobbies and balance would return to our lives… but c’mon! We run the risk of driving ourselves crazy if we don’t find some balance throughout.  I think people with families find that balance (hopefully) much faster than others of us, out of simple necessity (and by virtue of having a spouse/ partner saying “Snap out of it!”). But I have single (or at least, unmarried) friends that seem to find it as well.

This fall was the first time in 5 years that I haven’t raced my mountain bike. In fact, I haven’t touched poor Lucy (geared bike) or Ramona (single speed bike) since April! Tragic.  I stopped because 1) I didn’t have time to drive up to 12 hours each way for races on the weekends, AND finish all the reading I had to get done and 2) While it was really fun to hang out with a bunch of 18-year-old boys when I was an 18-year-old girl… not as much fun anymore (no offense, guys).

I thought that I would miss the social aspects of racing the most (and I could replace those with other social activities), but in fact I missed the actual competition. I missed the nervous butterflies before a race and pushing myself until my vision was blurry. I missed the pre- and post-race rituals too: the pre-race eating, organizing, warming up, going over the course; the post-race eating, cleaning, stretching, and collective bitching and groaning about muscle aches and performance issues. (Hm, eating figures in twice there… surprise surprise.)

I also find that I am a lot less-healthy mentally without some sort of focused physical outlet. I don’t mean that I go off the deep end– I think I’ve hammered out my diet well enough in the past few years that I keep my moods and energy much much more balanced than in early college (I’ve also got a handle– I think– on that transition-time stress that plagues college freshman).  I mean that I can’t seem to *think* sometimes.  The wheels might be spinning, but the hamster is either comatose or dead. I can’t focus long enough to read a page of a book (often an extremely dense and less-than-fascinating book, but still). Thinking, for most people, is an important part of academia (though some of my colleagues might debate this).

In between my two brain-draining seminars yesterday (brain-draining in the sense that I feel like I want a cigarette afterward… and I’ve never smoked in my life) I went to the gym.  It’s the same gym that I’ve been going to for 5 years (now 6).  It’s the gym where I trained for my first Big Bike Ride, and all subsequent races and rides. I was worried that I’d have a panicked “Ohmygodimstillhereaftersixyearsandstillhavesixmoretogo!” attack, but I didn’t.

The familiarity of the place was comforting! Yeah, it was kind of gross and dimly lit, full of smelly jocks, anorexic girls, and other varieties of undergrads, but it reminded me of the fun things I enjoyed doing before work started to take over.

I did a similar routine to what I’ve always done (with a few exceptions).  I spent 20 minutes warming up on an elliptical trainer (I know it’s lame, but real running gives me asthma attacks), and about an hour lifting and stretching. I felt more energized and focused afterward than I have since September.

[I told my roommate that I’d been to the gym yesterday, and she said “What, did they open a coffee shop there?” Har. Har.]

I also drink less coffee when I work out. Bonus!

Of course, being who I am (a planner), I start thinking “Gee, it would be so great to race again in the spring!” I mean, I could fit in workouts in between classes and studying like I did yesterday, and I would feel so much better about life in general!

So I started eyeing the race I originally wanted to do last May: the Mohican 100. I wouldn’t do the 100miler (I simply don’t have the time or motivation to train for that one) but what about the 100k? I could totally do that… right?

The problem is, as soon as I start imposing a regimen on myself, I’ll try to cheat (don’t ask me why, I just will). That has been the trick to eating well– I don’t deny myself a damn cookie if I want one. I don’t eat them very often, but as soon as I start saying “No, cookies are bad,” I start craving them. (That, and I have slowly developed, over 5 years or so, a deep-seated aversion to pre-packaged foods.)

So if I start saying “Mondays are a bike day, Tuesdays are swimming and rock climbing, Wednesdays are lifting, Thursdays are biking, Fridays are biking, Saturday and Sunday are rest days” (which, in fact, is what I was kind of thinking), will I start to think “to hell with it”?

I know I won’t be happy with just racing “for fun”– I want to feel that I did my best. And in order to do that, I have to train well. But will that take the fun out of it? Will I start to feel tired rather than energized (which has happened in the past)? Maybe I’m not cut out for physical competition… maybe it would drain too much of my focus away from other, more pressing things…

Or maybe it would offer a nice outlet, which I could seriously use right now.

Naked Noodles

When we were kids, my brother would order one of two things in restaurants: chicken fingers, or ‘naked noodles’.

Essentially, naked noodles are exactly as they sound: white spaghetti noodles with no sauce, just butter. Lots of delicious butter. Maybe a dusting of parmesan cheez (the stuff that comes in a green can).


I have been trying my best not to do my usual end-of-semester freakout, and so far I have succeeded. I have remained remarkably calm and relaxed despite having two 20-pg (ish) papers due Wednesday and Thursday and 75 final exams and projects to grade for Friday. Deep breath.

Paper number one needs two more paragraphs, a methods section, and an introduction. Paper number two is a mere outline. Exams and projects are in a pile in the corner of my desk.

How do I cope? Compulsive eating. I’m serious. It’s really pretty terrible.

Earlier today I ate four chocolate tofutti cuties, a two-serving gladware container of chicken curry, and a chocolate bar. At 10 pm I decided to make naked noodles. Comfort food.

While the noodles (whole grain with flax, thankyouverymuch) were boiling, I minced a clove of garlic and melted a pat of butter in a small frying pan. I gently sautéed the garlic, added half a lemon’s worth of juice, grated a generous amount of (real) parmesan cheese, tossed all that with the noodles, and voilá! Naked noodles only… updated.

Back to work.


Don’t worry, mom, I’ll eat a tin of mints before talking to anyone.

“Triumphant Blog Post”

Errrr… yeah.

I received the best April Fool’s non-joke ever.  Sitting and waiting for  my least-favorite class of all time to start (I even like monkeys better, I swear), I got an email first from the program coordinator, and then from my [former? current? TBD] advisor congratulating me on my receipt of a very nice fellowship.

Confused, I typed back, “Really? This isn’t an April Fool’s joke, is it? I haven’t gotten a letter yet!”

Come to think of it, that’s how I found out I was admitted to grad school, too. My advisor (same person) emailed me in Guatemala to say “congratulations” and I replied “Seriously? I haven’t gotten a letter yet!”

So I verified it on the fellowship website. It took 10 minutes, because they made me change my password. Twice. Shaking, I stood up and left the class, alarming a few people in the process.

My first thought was “wow! now I don’t have to worry about the 10-term rule!” and then “…but I was looking forward to teaching Latin American Studies next semester.”

I called my mom, and she didn’t quite get it at first. “Wait, so you won’t be teaching? Won’t that hurt your chances of getting a job after you graduate? What about tuition? What about your stipend? They’re still paying you?! Why?” And then it clicked. “Oh! Wow!!”

I had a celebratory chocolate bar during the lecture for the class I teach.

In an incredibly sweet gesture, my friend brought over a bottle of (nice!) wine to share, and the appropriate glasses. He claimed it didn’t taste ‘right’, but I thought it was delicious.  🙂


In other news: I found my second gray hair today. In my eyebrow, like the first.  Maybe that’s a good thing– it’s weird that my eyebrows are darker than the rest of my hair (I don’t dye my hair, really).  If they’re all gray (actually, the hairs are white), then they’ll blend in more.

My mother also (just) informed me (on the phone) that if I would like anything from ‘my room’ [in my parents’ house] I should get it while I can.  Because she’s turning that space into a studio.