Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Green Birds

Yesterday was a strange day for me. I left early to go to U of C. Almost the first thing of note that happened was that I was hurrying to catch a train and I fell on the escalator. I caught the train and then looked at my left hand, which had born the brunt of the fall. It was totally black with grease, but under the grease there was a long, shallow cut on running vertically on the outer palm. I have no idea what was so sharp and so dirty on that escalator. Happily, I had some hand sanitizer, and had sat in a seat where someone had left their newspaper, so I got myself cleaned up more or less. It was a startling way to start the day.

There's more though. When I got out at the Garfield stop as usual, I had to wait a long time for the bus. While I was waiting, I looked about me vaguely. The freeway was rushing by under my feet. People were shivering and complaining about the cold. And suddenly, a small ways down the street, I saw a flock of birds rise out of a tree. This is not an unusual sight in October, which is after all a season of migration. But these birds were green, and I don't mean brownish green or dark green or yellowish green--I mean bright grass green, GREEN. I couldn't believe my eyes. They rose out of the tree, flapped around, settled back down on the grass--and they were the same color as the grass. They might have been tropical butterflies, but too big. They might have been parrots, they were that green, but parrots don't live in Chicago. San Francisco maybe--I saw The Parrots of Telegraph Hill--but not Chicago, not with frost coming on, surely! I walked partway down the street, rubbing my eyes and trying to get a better look. No one else seemed to find it the slightest bit strange. I still couldn't quite make out the shape of the birds, but there was so much traffic, I was worried that if I crossed too many streets I'd not make it back if a bus came. So I gave up and decided it would remain a mystery.

Later, at home, I told Pocket of Bolts about the surreal green birds. I suggested that perhaps I had been hallucinating, but thought hallucinations were a kind of on-again off-again phenomenon, and I had looked at these birds for a really long time. He said he was sure I wasn't hallucinating, and said I should google it. "Google what?" I said scornfully. "Green birds?" "Green birds Chicago," he suggested. You know what? Google knows everything; Google holds the key to (nearly) all the mysteries in our lives. I did the search he suggested, and sure enough, actually did manage to track down the green birds of Chicago. They are better known as "the Hyde Park Parakeets," a flock of feral Monk Parakeets (a sub-tropical species native to Argentina). (The photo at left gives you a sense of how green they were--not my photo, just found it on the web.) According to a web-site devoted to this fascinating phenomenon, "Chicago probably has the harshest winter monk parakeets face in the world, and it has been speculated that they survive exclusively on bird seed in backyard feeders during the coldest months." Well, now I have actually seen them.

I suppose from a blogging point of view the rest of the day is a bit anti-climax. I made it to campus, did some research, took a while to settle down, but finally got down to work and wrote my daily two pages of dissertation. I found a really nice comfortable sunny spot to do that in. At three, I went to the paleography class. At four hours a session, it's amazing I can keep focused, but it's actually really interesting. The class has no structure whatsoever. The teacher just flits from one character to another. Gradually, though, I am getting the feel for certain principles, begin to recognize certain forms, and acquiring more familiarity with the vocabulary of the discipline. I am learning something about the less obvious ways that character forms are related. A long time ago, I took a Chinese Historical Phonology class, where we were encouraged to think of etymology as inextricably linked with phonology, and were studying the changes in the language and explicitly NOT in the script. Here it is the reverse. The phonology figures peripherally, and what is of most concern is development of script forms. It's like the other half of the coin. Both sides are interesting. This side is actually a bit more accessible.

It was a cold night, and as I made my way home, I realized my phone battery was totally dead. Usually I call Pocket of Bolts to let him know when I'm on my way home, and I was worried that he'd be worried. He was a little worried, but is a steady chap. Our apartment was warm. He and I have been vying with each other in nostalgic cookery--foods from our childhoods. Last night he made pot-roast in the crock-pot, traditional recipe, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup and all. Surprisingly, it was really quite good!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Plants are Good Company

Yesterday was another very quiet day. I just stayed home and sat on the couch. I ate things, did work, played some solitaire, did more work. You get the idea. Because it was supposed to get down below freezing on Sunday night, we brought in all the plants. I'm not sure if it did get below freezing but it's nice having the plants for company in the house. They have been out on the back porch all summer, and look unusually flourishing and happy.

Sometime in the afternoon, I went out and did the grocery shopping. It was very cold outside, a windy and grey day. Occasionally a little ball of ice would fall out of the sky, but it wasn't really precipitating in any serious way. Later Pocket of Bolts came home, and eventually we made it to the gym. Going to the gym in the late afternoon leads to late dinners: we sat down to pasta romano and green salad with citrus-pomegranate dressing at around eight.

We have gone back to watching Battlestar Galactica again (i.e., the new version), and are trying to rescue the colonists from their failed experiment on New Caprica. It's not easy, since Cylons are so sneaky. If that doesn't mean anything to you, never mind. Just doing a little geeking out.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Apple Picking

Yesterday we had a fine adventure. We had been wanting for some time to go to an apple farm, since we are in such good apple country. Of course since we don't have a car it's a pretty big feat of planning. Since most of those places close after Halloween, though, this weekend was our last chance. Pocket of Bolts reserved the I-Go (car), we put all our work and stress on hold, and went off to Indiana!

The first thing we did when we got there was get coffee and hot cider, and pumpkin and apple cinnamon donuts. Then we headed off to the corn maze.

I had never been in a corn maze before and found it pretty fun. Pocket of Bolts said that this one was less dense and difficult than some he had been in. It did have some interesting features though. It was made to be on the "border" between two different states. On the Indiana side, there were stumps labeled with Indiana cities. On the Illinois side, Illinois cities. Part of the game was finding the stumps. Of course we wanted to find Chicago, and eventually we did find it.

Another cool thing was that there were some bridges where you could climb up and look down over all the corn in the maze:

After the corn maze, we went on to the main attraction: apple picking. The trees were just laden. In season right now at that farm were Fujis, Blushing Golds, and Sundances. Those were the ones we liked best. There were also Red and Golden Delicious, Galas, and McIntoshes, but we didn't want any of those.

Walking down the rows of heavily laden apple trees reminded me so much of the farm where I grew up. It had to do with the smell of apples starting to ferment, and the taste of slightly underripe apple in my mouth. We walked all around through the mud and tasted everything. Of course we also brought back a mixed bag of tasty tasty apples. They taste so much nicer when you get them straight off the tree than bought from the grocery store!

By the way, note the reappearance of my old grey coat! I have had that coat for a really long time, and the lining was in tatters. I hadn't been able to find anyone who was willing to repair it, apparently a big and difficult job. Then I made the acquaintance of a seamstress, who did the alterations for my wedding dress. She said that of course many people weren't willing to reline a coat, but SHE was trained in Germany, and of course such a thing would be no problem. So my parents took it to her and got it relined (also cleaned). The new lining is lovely, actually nicer and heavier than the old lining. Now that the wind is getting chilly, it's nice to have my old coat back.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Keeping Still

The hexagram for yesterday was Gen, mountain doubled, "Keeping Still." Certainly it was a propos. After a late start and pie for breakfast, we walked to another of our favorite haunts, Cafe Avanti. We got there around 11, and I at least stayed there all day. It's a pleasant place. They have free wireless, abundant electrical outlets, comfortable tables, bottomless coffee, and tasty food. I have a particular fondness for their tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich special. It took me a long time to get started working, but when I did it was quite productive. Pocket of Bolts left at some time in the afternoon, but I stayed until a quarter to six. Back at home Pocket of Bolts made tasty tortilla soup and salad and we had lots more pie for dessert. A quiet pleasant Saturday!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pumpkin Time

Yesterday I had to get up early and go to the Lama's reading group. I never want to go but I always love it once I get there. As usual, I got a later start than I meant to and had to bike. (That is the fastest way to get to DePaul from my house as it turns out.) We read more Zhuangzi, and just like last time, I got very excited about a possible paper I want to write on the subject--I mean, someday when I have time.

Afterward, I chatted with the Lama outside the building and accidentally made him late for his next appointment. (Oops!) We are both too busy to actually hang out, but we always have lots to say to one another.

Next, I biked back north. I was looking for the Buddha Bowl place but couldn't quite remember where it was, so ended up at Einstein Bagel instead. Then there was a fancy cupcake shop next door, so I went in to try a fancy cupcake. It was tasty but overpriced. Then I biked to the coffee-shop that PoB and I call "good Caribou" and sat there proofreading my cover letters for the next round of jobs. Actually, they needed it--many mistakes. Good Caribou is next door to a copy shop, so I went there and got the final copies made, then biked to the post office and got those sent off. That makes it a productive day right there.

Back at home, PoB and I procrastinated going to the gym but finally did make it there. Afterwards, we had the MOST delicious dinner, grocery store roast chicken (cheap quick and healthy dinner!), black rice, and a superbly tasty salad that PoB made. We watched the last episode of season 1 of Madmen, and I have to say I'm nearly won over. It's really a nicely put together show in fact.

After dinner we had meant to do a bit more work, but neither of us felt like it. So we carved our pumpkin instead. Without further ado...

After carving, PoB made roasted pumpkin seeds. He has a special secret recipe, and they were incredibly delicious. I made pumpkin pies with the inner scrapings. Usually carving pumpkins aren't so tasty, but neither of us had any complaints about this one!!

What a lovely evening it was, really lovely. Outside there was a big storm, thunder and lightning. Inside it was cozy and romantic, with good smells of roasting and baking and pumpkin.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Eight Jewels

Yesterday I got a late start. I did what has become my usual morning routine--made a blog post, studied the day's hexagram (it was "Coming to Meet", heaven over wind), and then tracked down some sources. It is much easier finding things now that my files are reorganized!

Then I had an early lunch and headed down to U of C. I decided to take the red line el all the way down to Garfield and just ride the #55 bus over. I had tried it before but been a little creeped out by what I perceived to be the bad neighborhood at the red line Garfield stop. I had been assured that it really wasn't very bad, though, so I had a go. In fact, it wasn't so bad. For one thing, the bus stop was right in front of the el station. For another thing, there were lots of other "U of C types" waiting for the bus too. It was also a much faster route, clocking in at only an hour door to door.

The class was interesting as usual. Professor Blue-Eyes (as I shall call him) guided us through some oracle bones and talked about the general divination practices. As often happens to me in graduate seminars, I felt both excited/interested and a little wrong-footed as regards the things I said. Sometimes I worry that my manners aren't good.

I went home the same way as I came, and on the long uninterrupted train ride back, I actually managed to do some good dissertation research and thinking. Pocket of Bolts had a talk and reception to go to, and then after stopping by briefly at home he went out to a bar with one of his buddies. So, we were "ships passing in the night" as we call out when we have these incompatible schedules. Actually, I had a pretty productive evening, and managed to write up almost two pages based on the research I had done earlier.

Also, I made this delicious "Eight Jewels" dessert, which has become a regular favorite now that I have assembled all the ingredients: glutinous rice, sugar, candied ginger, dried fig, red dates, pine nuts, and coconut. Not quite eight "jewels" but since it's just for me, I don't mind. It was tasty!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Yesterday I was in an unusually self-indulgent mood, I mean, unusual even for me. I had decided to go and work in the downtown library, but didn't make it there until 10. Then, before I got in the door, I got lured by the siren song of Dunkin Donuts. Here's the thing about donuts, the goodness to price ratio is incredibly high. As is the calorie count of course. However, I guiltlessly indulged myself with a lovely double chocolate donut, devoured outside the door of the library. It was a cold day; I was planning on working hard. Somehow I just felt like I deserved it.

Inside, it took me a while to get started. I had decided to warm up by copying out a passage from a classical text. It's an interesting way of reading, very different from translating because you start getting the feel of a text while still being able to defer decisions about what the text means. I was enjoying it immensely so I kept at it for something like an hour. Then I did get down to work.

At 2 or so, I went out and had lunch at Panera, half sandwich and cup of soup. Then a quick pass through the clearance section at Old Navy where I bought a slightly silly dress for $4.99. At that price, you can't lose, right?

For dinner I made tacos. It is a meal I remember my mom making often when I was a kid. It turns out to be the easiest thing--you just prepare all the ingredients, put them in separate bowls, and everyone makes their own. Between us Pocket of Bolts and I managed to polish off a pound of ground turkey and a dozen or so little corn tortillas. We were very intently watching Madmen, which was especially interesting tonight.

Later we actually got to the gym to work it off. I spent nearly an hour on the elliptical at heart rate 150, intermittently watching TV and reading. I watched a history channel program on the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. It was extremely dramatic and exciting, though perhaps rather exaggerated. Certainly a big asteroid hitting the earth is a catastrophic and disturbing event. Then I watched something about the Chicago Seven, the late 60s conspiracy trial regarding the 1968 Democratic Convention riots. I got sucked into it because the courtroom scenes were done in rather handsome animation. I was a bit disappointed even that everything else was real footage, because the animation was so cool.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lots (of Meat) and My Diagram

Yesterday, after a slow start, I managed to work some more on my job talk. I typed in an outline and did some thinking. Today I need to flesh it out and actually do some of the research.

Had leftover chili and corn tortillas for lunch, and must register a correction to yesterday's post: the big beans didn't totally dissolve this time, as I found a couple. They are huge, maybe favas? Lately, I have also been enjoying lowfat cottage cheese and a spoonful of jam for "lunch dessert."

For some reason, I got behind and had to rush to get to U of C in time for paleography class. I had to sprint two blocks to catch the #6 bus (but I did catch up with it)! Once there, though, I enjoyed the class very much. Paleography seems to be a field that consists mostly of accreted bits of knowledge, with a few general principles that have slowly been developed. Sometimes I feel like it's just one damn thing after another, but other times I pick up interesting bits of trivia. Yesterday, for example, I learned that the character for "many" 多 (duo1), which is always explained as two "evenings" (on the principle that "night after night" is "a lot" of nights) is actually two chunks of meat. Presumably TWO pieces of meat is "a lot" of meat. Furthermore, the character for meat, 肉 (rou4), was often used in place of the "many" character. So instead of "many sons" you could have "meat sons" (though it would have had a different pronunciation, and still would have meant "many"). Isn't that odd?

On the way home, I started thinking about my Yijing diagram. Every few years, I get started thinking about it and how to make it--a diagram that illustrates the paths of change from one hexagram to another, organized by degrees: so two hexagrams that are only different by one line will be directly connected, but two hexagrams that differ by two lines will be connected through some other hexagram. It's easy to think about but hard to draw. After I got home I kept working on it, even temporarily sucking Pocket of Bolts into the endeavor. A major breakthrough came when we started representing the hexagrams with two digit numbers instead of drawing them all out each time. The numerical representation also helped in recognizing patterns that aren't necessarily obvious from just the hexagrams. Also, they are faster to write. I got closer to finishing than ever before, but still had a very hard time finding a symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing way of arranging the row of 20 (hexagrams that are half weak and half strong). Reminder to self: this project always turns out to be a time thief. Stop spending time on it!

As of yesterday, Pocket of Bolts and I have been married for a third of a year, i.e., four months. Coincidentally, the heat came on in our apartment yesterday too, so we got to celebrate the occasion by being nice and toasty warm.

By the way, the Asian news list I'm on has been having a discussion thread regarding the echo wall at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Here is a very cool looking old picture of a debonair Australian fellow trying it out. And here is a panorama view. I have very fond memories of going to the echo wall with Pocket of Bolts and him figuring out the trick.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More Muscles

Yesterday morning I succeeded in working on my job talk for a while, something I've been having a really hard time with. I have a big 14"x17" newsprint pad, and I did some brainstorming with a blue highlighter. Working in such a childish, cartoonish way was really helpful in taking the pressure off. Today, I need to type those notes in and seriously get down to work.

Around noon, I put some "special beans" in the crockpot. "Special beans" are a strange bean mix that we got at the Korean supermarket. Some are gigantic (but they always dissolve completely). Others that I can identify include black beans, red beans, chickpeas, and green peas. But there are other kinds in there also I think. It's a huge colorful bean mix, with which Pocket of Bolts likes to make vegetarian chili. We cook up the beans and then add TVP and lots of other tasty ingredients. It makes a delicious chili. Even though we're not vegetarians anymore, we still enjoy eating veg food sometimes. It gives the body a clean feeling.

After getting those started, I did another thing I had been avoiding--I went and did a lifting workout at the gym. I had done 25 lifting workouts and then stopped for several weeks. Then I was dreading starting again because I knew it would be really hard and I would have gotten weaker. I had gotten weaker. But as Pocket of Bolts said, the longer you wait the worse it will be. So I steeled myself and did it. Workout 26 was thankfully a "whole body" workout, which means that every part of me hurts, but no one part is excruciating.

I did not have a very productive afternoon, I must confess. Maybe I was tired from the workout. In any case, I wasted time. I thought listlessly about the bit of dissertation I'm supposed to be working on... but didn't actually work on it. The best I can say is that I did some reading for the Book of Changes seminar. Oh, and memorized a hexagram, "Fellowship", heaven over fire.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Yesterday was meant to be a proper work day, but somehow we woke up late. Then the morning just kind of got dragged away. We shook ourselves out of lassitude to go out to Brown Elephant (I found a sweater and a couple little shirts) and to do the week's shopping. We spend a lot less on groceries if we do meal planning and shop all at once, so we're trying to get back into that.

We had hummus and pitas for lunch, with arugula from our back porch, together with some vegetable soup and fresh pineapple. It was an amazingly homelike domestic sort of lunch.

I did a bit of reading and a bit of job market stuff, but mostly just got distracted and squandered the day. Pocket of Bolts went to work out, and I stayed home and made bibimbap, which he loved. For the first time, I made it with actual beef! My dad's verdict would have been "not sweet enough" but PoB liked it that way. Other ingredients included carrot, bell pepper, cucumber, lettuce, shiitake mushrooms, and of course the obligatory rice, kimchee, fried egg, and kochujung sauce. I don't think I'll win any authenticity prizes, but it was a creditable imitation at least of the dish!

After dinner, I finally got into gear and reorganized ALL my files. The proximate cause of this was that there was one particular file I knew should be there but couldn't find. But of course, organizing my files (which were in no discernible order at all) is something I've been meaning to do for ages. I keep re-photocopying articles I already have, because I didn't realize or forgot that I had them. It wasn't until two hours into the task that I actually found the file that I was looking for, but I felt pretty proud when I did. And now things are in much better order as well.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Brunch and the Last King

I like this picture, which I took some time ago, because it gives such a strange impression of flatness and whiteness. This is totally without Photoshop manipulation (aside from changing the size)--it just looked like that when I took it, almost like an artichoke picture inside the bowl.

Yesterday Pocket of Bolts and I indulged in one of our fondest weekend temptations and had brunch at a nearby diner. This is bad on two counts: first, it's paying roughly $20 for food we could make at home for a fraction of the cost, and second, WE make it in a much lower calorie version, with olive oil instead of butter and so forth, so its a tremendous caloric indulgence. On the other hand, it is lovely to sally forth from the house and sit in that relaxed diner atmosphere, drinking bottomless coffee and chattering a mile a minute.

After brunch, we went to one of our favorite coffeeshops and sat there working... almost all day! We'd eaten so much breakfast we didn't even eat lunch. I think we didn't leave there until four. Then we went home; I was suddenly ravenous and ate a big snack. Pocket of Bolts had a long workout while I digested. Then I had a short workout while he started dinner. We had a baked chicken dish, and when I got home I made biscuits. We didn't start eating dinner until after 9--a very decadent late schedule.

Over dinner we watched one of our Netflix, The Last King of Scotland. It was really good. It's a semi-fictional story about Idi Amin, given from the point of view of his personal physician. (The doctor was the fictional part.) The story was fast-paced and exciting (suspenseful, terrifying) throughout. PoB and I usually have a hard time watching an entire movie, but we were on the edge of our seats to see what would happen to the poor guy. Also, the working out of his character development was really skillful. It gave a good picture of how different motivations align and re-align, how a multitude of choices are open to you at the beginning and slowly the sum of those choices begins constrains you until there are no choices left at all.

The movie was also permeated with the roller-coaster of African dictatorship: celebration, hope, rhetoric, suspicion, violence, inexcusable brutality, terror, regime change, and then starting all over again with celebration. The next one promises to be different, and how earnest he is. You don't want to be cynical in case he's the real thing. But is he ever the real thing? Ever?

We didn't get to bed until after midnight, and I slept like a log.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Quiet Home Day

Yesterday was a good and productive day if not a terribly exciting one. After all the racing around during the week it was nice to have a quieter time. I succeeded in writing my two pages in the morning, almost painlessly. I know I'm not writing this in the most efficient way. What I should do is get all the translations done first and then figure out what to say about them as a group. What I ended up doing is having about half or a third of the translations done, and then having to do new ones as I go along. The result is that I feel like a miner: I keep working a vein until it's exhausted, and then I have to go find a new vein, build all the infrastructure, and only then get some more of the good stuff out. So I exhausted the vein and now I have to go searching for the next one, which is today's project.

Back to yesterday, though: after that and a few other small tasks, I actually made it to the gym, where I did an hour of hard elliptical in front of the TV, and then had a long relaxing sit in the steam room. I need to get back into exercising every day, not least because we're paying $2/person/day whether we go or not!! Well, took the first step yesterday.

Had a late and very healthy lunch of hummus and crudites, a toasted piece of flatbread, and some yogurt. Then I had some annoying errands to do, so I just took a book I'm reading for the Book of Changes class and rode the red line down and back, dead to the world outside the book. I also had to do some grocery shopping, since I owed Pocket of Bolts a nice dinner. At the grocery store, I noticed that pumpkins were on deep discount, so I picked one up. This turned out to make things a bit difficult, given that I had to carry that big pumpkin all the way home, together with the groceries. Somehow I managed it, but it wasn't easy!

At home I made Pissaladiere, a kind of fancy quiche, with a home-made whole wheat crust and a pretty pattern of halved grape tomatoes on top. Served with a green salad and my latest experimental dressing (caesar-esque), it was a light but pretty meal. I really like cooking, although it does take energy. I even did all the cooking dishes while I was waiting for the quiche to bake, so I felt pretty darn virtuous, but also pretty tired. We had grapes and Cool-whip Free for dessert, which is always more satisfying than I remember. Then I went to bed really early, slept deeply all night, and didn't wake up until several hours later than usual today. I guess I really needed a rest!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Intellectual Stimulation

Both yesterday and today have been so eventful it's been hard to find time to blog about them. If you are reading this, you may have noticed that I've tried to improve the frequency of my blogging. This because for the whole of this year Pocket of Bolts has been keeping a little day calendar and writing a short record of what he's done each day. Over the course of the year I have become increasingly jealous and really want to start one! He says he won't mind if I start one, but because it's an actual calendar, I have to wait until New Years. I have been impatient. Then I realized that the things to do would be to start the discipline on my blog. It hasn't been easy!

Anyway, yesterday I had a very productive morning. I wrote several pages of dissertation, in addition to drawing the above picture. Irises are one my favorite flowers. I think they are so amazingly beautiful. I never buy them, though, because they fade so quickly. I guess that makes them especially essentially flower, insofar as part of the essence of flower is its fading. Anyway, Pocket of Bolts bought me some the other day and I had to draw this picture because they were so very lovely.

I wasn't too productive in the afternoon, but by 5 I had managed to get myself all the way up to Evanston, to hear a lecture by one of my intellectual heroes, Hayden White. If I start on how great Hayden White is, I won't ever finish with this blog post. Suffice it to say that he's a guy who tried to shake up the field of history, and maybe even succeeded, by making various arguments about its similarity to literature. Very applicable to my field, though he doesn't seem to do anything with China. Actually, that's a good thing or I would be out of a "job"--well, a task anyway, a direction.

I came back from Northwestern, very excited, in time to watch most of the debate. I have now watched all the debates, and I have to say that I've found them reasonably entertaining. I like our candidate. He seems calm and intelligent. Actually I like his VP even more. After I saw Biden in action, I stopped worrying about the experience issue.

Today I spent most of the day at the U of C. There's not too much to say about that, except that it makes me really happy going down there and hanging out with people in my field. Also I found out that I can get a "reference card", which is basically a pass that lets me go into the library. Alas, I still can't borrow books. At least if I want to I can now go in on weekends now, even when the visitor office place is closed, and I don't have to get a day pass each time.

I spent a long time helping one of my classmates scan some articles that we all have to read. Much better to centralize that work than have us all looking for the articles at the same time, and it was really fun talking to him too. I got home late again though and for the third evening in a row Pocket of Bolts had dinner waiting for me. He is turning out to be such a good husband I feel almost guilty about it. Well, I surely owe him three lovely home-cooked meals in a row as well this weekend. :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Virtue and Paleography

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I don't have too much to write about regarding yesterday. Hopefully this picture will stand in for a few of the missing words. The grey sweater is new and yesterday was the first time I wore it. I saw it at Filene's Basement and liked it because it looks almost like a blazer but it's more casual. I think blazers actually look pretty good on me, but I rarely like to be that formal. Anyway, I took the picture because by the time I got dressed Pocket of Bolts had left for the day and couldn't give the me the thumbs up or thumbs down, so I wasn't sure whether I looked okay.

I got a good start to the day in that, while in the shower, I finally made a decision I had been wavering over for some time. I said to Pocket of Bolts, "I have decided I am going to delete the Farm Game from my computer." (This is Farm Frenzy 2, which is a time management game involving raising farm animals and selling the various products. Also, it's like crack for me. I sit down to play one game and look up four hours later.) Pocket of Bolts said, "Well, you have been living the life of a gentlewoman farmer for some time now, so perhaps it is time that you retired." Which was a gracious acknowledgment of victory, since every time I go on a farm frenzy binge PoB tells me that I should delete it. I can hardly blame him...!

So that was the day's major piece of virtue. I tried to spend some time in the morning working on the cover letter for some history jobs I'm going to apply to. It was rough getting started though. Finally, about 45 minutes before I had to walk out the door I managed to settle down and focus on the task. I did actually make some progress, though I didn't finish.

The afternoon and evening was taken up by the paleography class I am sitting in on. It has its up side and its down side. The up side is that it's in Chinese, which is great for my language. The down side is, it is completely unstructured. Explicitly: the guy is extremely brilliant and knowledgeable and he is visiting here this year. I believe he must have agreed to teach the class on the condition that he gets to teach it in a way that's easy and fun for him. This is fine for the budding paleographers, who already have a foundation and merely need to ask questions and add to their knowledge and familiarity. But I don't have much of a foundation, so a more structured approach would be slightly more appropriate for me. On the other hand, I learned the ancient Chinese character for butt, so what can be better than that!?

Yesterday's hexagram was Dun, Retreat, heaven over mountain.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Summer Weather

It was another very warm day, got up into the 80s. Just like yesterday, I spent most of the day inside, partly working, partly trying to work. After a few weeks of shameful neglect, I am also back with the cleaning rotation--yesterday was the bathroom, today the bedroom and the hall. This is partly inspired by the fact that last night I noticed that the bottoms of Pocket of Bolts' feet were BLACK! He generously said that really he ought to wear slippers instead of going about barefoot, but it's my fault for letting the floor get so dirty.

For an hour or so while working this morning, I found some real joy in it. I was translating a passage that had always seemed too hard before, something I had put off doing until "some day" when I had time to sit down and do it. Now it's time to put the passage into the dissertation, but it turns out to be a really interesting passage, albeit long. I had a number of ideas about it even. But I have to learn to run with these things and pound out some pages, instead of doing what I did which was get distracted... wander off... start worrying about other things.

Pocket of Bolts came crutching home early, and helpfully interrupted my afternoon procrastination. I got a bit more work in, then did the cleaning as mentioned above, and went off to the store to shop for dinner. Pocket of Bolts' ankle is getting a little better, now that we have figured out how to wrap it correctly. It seems to be less swollen and painful, but I persuaded him to use the crutches anyway.

I am sitting in on a seminar on the Book of Changes. The prof said that we should at least memorize the basic trigrams, which I did. That gives you eight hexagrams right off the bat, because each of the trigrams doubled is one of the sixty-four hexagrams. For fun, I have decided to memorize the rest of the hexagrams too, one per day, not in the traditional sequence but in a mnemonically simpler order involving simple combinations of the trigrams. You might think I'm crazy to take on any more projects, but this one is quite relaxing. It makes me feel like one day is different from the next, and that each day if I've done nothing else I've at least learned one new thing. Pocket of Bolts tested me on my trigrams and said my memory is scary-good. I do miss having simpler tasks like classroom language-learning, where your success is measured by your skill with flash-cards...

Today's hexagram is Pi, heaven over earth, standstill/stagnation. Nowhere to go from here but up!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Staying In Day

Today was a very fine sunny day. We stayed in for most of it, but at least we had breakfast and lunch out on the back porch. Pocket of Bolts overdid it with his ankle yesterday, and I insisted that he should go around with crutches all day today and not put any weight on it. Usually we each make our own breakfasts but today I made his and mine and had him sit in a chair and talk with me. Lately he likes very much to eat "Phillipine breakfast" from Sundays at the Moosewood, which involves rice, garlic, eggs, and chillies marinated in vinegar. It is a very Pocket of Bolts sort of food. I had rice with strawberries, raisins, and a little milk. To each his own!

After breakfast, I started the laundry and tackled the horror that our bathroom had become after about two (okay maybe three) weeks of my neglected my duty to clean it. I will not speak of that further (shudder). Laundry is usually Pocket of Bolts' job, but he can't very well do it on crutches, so I did it with a glad heart. Actually, it's quite a lot of work, which he does uncomplainingly almost every week. He is such a good man. We were a little short on quarters and the day was fine and dry, so I hung most of the clothes on the line.

I also spent nearly an hour listening to Pocket of Bolts practice his upcoming talk. He is doing a power point, and talking mostly improvisationally. I was impressed.

Pocket of Bolts made us a simple lunch of tofu with satay sauce, leftover rice, and kimchee. It was really tasty though.

After lunch, I sat down to work although I did not get as much done as I would have liked.

For dinner I made spanakopita and salad. About half the greens for the salad were from our back porch lettuce buckets. They are still going strong, especially the arugulas!!

Lately we have been watching a television series called Madmen, about the characters who populate an ad agency in, I guess, the early 60s? I am still undecided about whether I like it or not, but I do have to admit that it is becoming more intriguing.

It was not a terribly productive day, and I neither worked out nor left the house. But I did spend some quality time with Pocket of Bolts and helped him not make his foot worse, so it was a fairly satisfactory sort of day in that way anyway.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Morale Adjustments

Things have been very busy of late. I decided that it would improve my morale to sit in on some classes down at U of C, so I have been doing that twice a week. It is a HUGE improvement in my morale. It allows me to be down there enough to actually start making friends, and getting to know professors, and maybe one day I'll even make it into the library... One of the classes is taught in Chinese, which is also incredibly good practice. Of course on top of that there is job market stuff and still trying to finish up my fourth dissertation chapter, but somehow when I am feeling happier it all feels more doable.

Pocket of Bolts is very busy too. The time-line for job market stuff in his field is very much stricter. His jobs got announced on Friday, and he has to have some back and forth with his placement coordinator, but he'll probably be sending stuff out within the week rather than dragging it all out like I have been. Probably I should take a leaf from his book and send all the rest of the things out at once, but I've been dragging my feet a bit...

I put it in a good full day's work today, translated four passages and wrote about a page. That may not seem like a lot, but it was hours and hours worth of effort. The stuff I do just isn't that easy or quick!

Pocket of Bolts has sprained his ankle and has been gimping around. It is most pitiable to behold. I have just fetched the crutch from the closet in the study and now he is stumping down the hall. He says that he REALLY misses working out, and it is such a pity, we had both been making such progress and then I got too busy and he got too crippled.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Ant and the Grasshopper

Fall weather has come to Chicago. For some reason, I am feeling cold all the time. Pocket of Bolts goes out in a short-sleeve shirt with a wind-breaker over his arm and I'm wearing polartec and a wool coat. You just have to get used to it again, he says. I'll be happy when they turn on the heat in our house. I see some sweater shopping in my very near future.

I have to say though that not having any income makes me very reluctant to spend money. I've never been a huge spender, though there have been times when the money coming out has nearly equaled the money coming in. The key, though, is nearly. I'm a strictly live within my means kind of gal. Of course being married has brought some changes to the notion. With a little adjustment the two of us can live with just PoB's income, leaving my savings as our savings. It makes good sense but it also feels... weird. I'll be glad to have a paying job again, even though we plan to continue pooling our resources. It will just be nice to feel like I'm contributing.

I've still been reading novels at a terrific rate lately, but I feel like at last I'm starting to hit my stride with work. Being on the job market, of course, counts very much as part of that work. I have different moods, but in some of them cover letters and research statements and such feel just as difficult to write as dissertation pages. In some moods they are even much more difficult. But if I stick them all in the same category--stuff that has to get done in order to move forward--it helps a lot. I aspire to be the ant rather than the grasshopper I often am with regard to work. I want to develop the skill of plodding!