Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wintry Mix

I woke up this morning full of determination, and made the trek down to U of C to track down some books I needed and hopefully have a good work day. As often happens when I go down there, I didn't need the books quite as much as I thought I did, but I guess that's a good thing to find out.

Sometimes I catch every bus and train just as it's arriving. Today I missed every single one. It was cold, too, especially waiting on the Garfield overpass. There's something of a covering, but snow was being blown straight in. Fortunately I was bundled up--the new sweater mom gave me, warm socks and boots, hat and gloves, wool coat. The weather is supposed to get worse, lots of "wintry mix" (rain and slush and snow), maybe even some accumulation tomorrow.

I got distracted a lot at the library, looking at this thing and that thing. Also, I am starting to come down with a cold, so I had many sneezes.

Back at home, I did manage a workout though. There has been the best TV lately, back to back Star Wars trilogy (4-6, the good ones) and Lord of the Rings trilogy going on both at the same time so you can flip back and forth during commercials. Why can't there be good stuff like that all the time?

We are still dining happily on leftovers and some various thrown-together soups for variety. Looking forward to seeing how long this can last! We decided that making whole roast turkey is a really cost-effective way of getting protein and we're going to do it more often. :)

Pocket of Bolts went to bed much earlier than me. I have been staying up trying to work on my draft. It is rough going. I hate editing so much, and I am nearly out of time.

The wind is rattling against the windows. Tiredness is thick in my chest. I guess it is really time for me to get some rest.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Today is my 33rd birthday.

I have been so happy all day. You'd think I wouldn't be happy; you'd think I'd be worried about getting older or something. However, I can't help comparing this birthday to my 22nd birthday. My life is so much better now. Things are so right.

This is how the day went: I woke up and had some leftover carrot cake for breakfast. Then I did some work (still editing that draft...) and played my game some.

Our gym is having a special temporary free multi-club deal, where we can go to any of the clubs for free. So my plan was that we could go play racquetball at the one club that has a court. Pocket of Bolts called and reserved the court for 2 o'clock. I grabbed a turkey sandwich and we headed down there. We used to play so much racquetball, and now I remember why. It is SO MUCH fun! We are in better shape now. We played for something like an hour and a half. No one can accuse Pocket of Bolts of going easy on me because it's my birthday. He beat me four games in a row, including one that I had decided was "my game." Sometimes I can do that and psych him out. It almost worked, but then he beat me 16-14. It didn't matter; it was such a great time. Leaping and twisting and dashing like a couple of strong young animals.

For dinner I decided I wanted pizza and beer. We hardly ever have pizza and beer because it is so unhealthy, but why not--it's my birthday after all. Went to a cute little place called Pizza Rustica, which we had never been to before. It was really good, and BYOB, so we could get whatever kind of beer we wanted. (I decided on Fat Tire amber ale.)

After dinner we came home and at the cake that Pocket of Bolts had made for me. It was Red Velvet (at my request). Yum! I also opened presents, which were all related to keeping me warm and cozy. Then we lazed away the evening, because that seemed like a birthday sort of thing to do. It was a really special day and I was so happy all the way through it.

This is a turtle hat. That's the head in front, and the tail is behind. (From my mother-in-law, who definitely understands my taste in hats. I also got warm pants and a sweater from my mom, as well as some socks that are wool on the outside and terry on the inside. Mmmmm.... My bro sent me a big box of chai tea mix that he had made himself. Can hardly wait to try it. And Pocket of Bolts made me a fine new mixed CD, which has become a yearly tradition. He makes the best mixes of anyone I know.

Friday, November 28, 2008

No Shopping for Us (+Pix)

We didn't get out of bed until eleven this morning. We were hungover and still full, but in a really great mood! There's nothing like a holiday. Our fridge was full of delicious leftovers, we didn't have to worry anymore about the party, and it was a brilliant sunny day. I mean, not that we went outside or anything. We lazed around the house, got dribs and drabs of work done, but also played and were mellow.

Having gone for the environmentally reprehensible plastic plate option for the party, we weren't awash in a sea of dirty china. Still, there were a good number of serving dishes and pans clogging up the kitchen. Pocket of Bolts washed them all! He is amazing. We agreed that the party had been a success.

We had had a very modest brunch when we got out of bed. When it was dinnertime we weren't at all hungry. We went and worked out instead, then came back and had some soup for dinner--around 10 PM. Now it feels like the evening is just starting, but if we're going to get back on track, we have to go to bed really soon. We're going to see how long we can go without grocery shopping, just eating up leftovers. Our leftovers are SO tasty.

Now, as promised, some Thanksgiving pictures (starting with me mopping the floor in preparation):

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jolly Holiday

It's true what Pocket of Bolts says, that Thanksgiving is pretty much the best holiday. I admit it was a lot of work putting everything together. In total, we made: one roast turkey with stuffing, Parkerhouse rolls (from scratch), a quiche, mushrooms and other vegetables stuffed with a spinach/artichoke heart mix, a (small) pecan pie, two types of cranberry sauce, and gravy. We had been planning to make mashed potatoes, but the luck of the potluck brought some with one of the guests, so it was one last minute thing we didn't have to do. We were also brought three kinds of cookies, a carrot cake, and many sorts of beers and wines. I didn't taste the vegetarian stuff, but it seemed decent. The turkey was good though a little overdone. The gravy came out so delicious, though, that it didn't matter.

From nine AM, when I started the day by sticking my hand inside a big partially thawed dead bird cavity, to noon when I was kneading bread dough and making pie crusts, to two PM, when I was mopping all the floors--it was already a full day's work by the time the guests showed up at three. The last of them left at 10:30 or so, which shows that we managed to give a fun party and/or had a good combination of people. I mean, no one stays in a place for seven and a half hours unless they're having a reasonably good time, right? To me, that is success enough. But boy am I beat.

At least I am well-fortified. I probably consumed an entire week's worth of calories. Whatever. Good motivation to eat sensibly and start getting the gym back into my schedule. I feel approximately like I never need to eat ever again. I will try to post some pictures tomorrow.

Tower Defense

I confess that I stayed up until 3 AM playing a type of game that Pocket of Bolts calls "tower defense." In this particular version, you create gems and install them in your towers. The towers then shoot at an endless stream of nasty and varied bug-monsters. It's lamentably addictive. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever grow up. Also, I am in a vicious cycle of being too worried to sleep, then to sleepy to do things very well during the day, then worried again about the things I didn't do.

That being said, I did do some very good editing work on my chapter this morning. It's very slow going, but makes me feel better about the final product. Writing footnotes is an equivocal art, but when it succeeds, it has a certain elegance all its own.

In the afternoon, Pocket of Bolts and I got the I-Go (car-sharing car) and went to Target, where we spent one of our wedding gift cards on (among a tremendous miscellany of useful things) a new DVD player. We realized that we have been using our current DVD player almost every day, and almost every day it freezes and skips at least once, even on discs that aren't that damaged. The irritation this causes seems really to justify the purchase of a new one. After all, the one we had came from the thrift store and cost about $5.

We also got things for our Thanksgiving potlock--decided to go with classy-ish disposable plates rather than the wedding china due. For one thing, we want people to feel all mellow and relaxed rather than all formal. For another, it's enough work to do all that cooking let alone dishes for seven! That's the kind of volume where not having a dishwasher actually becomes a serious disadvantage.

So I guess we're mostly set for tomorrow. I'll try to take pictures some of the feast!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkeys are Intimidating

I have been too anxious lately, bad sleeping and waking up in the middle of the night. Making a Thanksgiving dinner is really stressful for me, even though it is going to be a low-key deal, just a potluck with a few friends. Still, I have to make the turkey. Turkeys are intimidating. Added to that, I have a chapter due on December 1--due in the sense that I can get some extra funding if I get it in by then. I can, but it will be tight. And, foolishly, I have been spending more mental energy than I ought on the hexagram presentation.

The U of C classes are 100% worth it, though. I went down there today and enjoyed it so much that I felt a strong wave of gratitude that they allowed me to be there and participate just as if I really belonged. There's not reason for them to, necessarily; it is just the goodness of their hearts. I learn so much, but more than that, it cheers me and reminds me that it's possible to finish graduate school.

After dinner, we went shopping for Thanksgiving dinner stuff. I have now become worried about turkey defrosting (the package says thaw for 3-4 days!). Is it too late? Pocket of Bolts says we can thaw the rest of the way in the sink on Thursday morning if necessary. I'm hoping so. How was I supposed to know it would take 3-4 days. It is only the second time I have made a turkey, sigh. I should make extra ones just to practice. It's funny, it's such a Thanksgiving-only type of food, but PoB loves it. Now that I think of it, that sounds pretty fun. ...But first this one.

Tomorrow I am going to do good work. I am NOT going to stay around the house all day in my pajamas. I am at the editing stage. I'm going to take my computer somewhere that has no internet and work on editing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cooking for One

Today it was the old Lean-pocket and Milky Way routine. Is there something contradictory in that? Well, rob Peter to pay Paul. They say that all that really matters is the total number of calories. Oh and the pajamas, that's part of the routine. Today an especially absurd red bathrobe, the kind that has not a single natural fiber in all its fluffy thickness.

I did some work, but also I just kind of slacked off. Outside there was a freezing slush falling. I never left the house. One thing I did work on was the hexagram project I am supposed to do for Professor Blue-eyes' class. After several days of waking up before dawn in meaningless anxiety about it, I finally chose one: Zhun, difficulty in the beginning. It's a nice sexy one.

Pocket of Bolts had a talk to go to and a dinner afterwards, so I cooked just for myself. I tossed some chopped up vegetables (turnips, parsnips, carrots, a sweet-potato, and some baby red potatoes) with maple syrup, soy sauce, olive oil, and chopped ginger root, then roasted them in a hot oven. To go with it, I had a simple but delicious dal (Indian lentil soup). It is the kind of food PoB is not keen on, so kind of fun to have when he's away. I actually was inspired by regular lunch special from the student union of the university where I got my MA. I remember always craving the roast veg and lentil soup, but it was some ungodly expensive thing, like $7 or something, so I only got it once or twice. Very much cheaper to make it myself.

That's about it. Perhaps something more lively will happen tomorrow.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Progress of a Sort

Today was a momentous day. I'm not kidding. It started innocuously enough, with Pocket of Bolts and me going to good Caribou before breakfast. This is a way to really maximize the morning productivity burst, because the morning caffeine happens at the same time as the beginning of work, rather than taking a half-hour or so away froom it. Pocket of Bolts was still full from last night, and I had a piece of gingerbread cake (with frosting).

Research wasn't going especially well, though. I mean, I was doing the work very diligently, but I was just feeling overwhelmed. Walking back from the coffeeshop, I was talking about this with Pocket of Bolts. The problem was, I had written about 70 pages of a chapter, and had only covered the first thirteen hundred years. There were six hundred or so more years to go. Then suddenly I said, Maybe I should just scrap the final six hundred years. (This would make a lot more sense if I gave the details, but I'd rather this blog not be googleable!) It amounts to roughly a third of my project, but that third all lies in the half that I haven't done yet. Pocket of Bolts said: That's a great idea.

It is a great idea. The more I thought about it, the more wrought up I got. It's a strange confusion of feelings, guilt (it's like cheating), disappointment (in myself, because the project turned out to be beyond my strength after all), intense relief (because what's left seems orders of magnitude more doable), and general nervous energy. When I got home, I wrote to my adviser about it. He wrote back almost instantly, as is his wont, that it's a great idea, adding various additional arguments in favor and suggesting that my hypothetical obstacles to the plan weren't so important.

So it seems almost like a done deal. I feel really strange, almost (but not quite) more upset than glad. However, on the up-side, you could say I finished two chapters today (in the sense that I eliminated them from the plan). As Pocket of Bolts says, If you keep on at this rate you'll be ready to defend by the end of the week.

In the afternoon, I went out to chat with the Reporter. He gave me a present (at right), a silk table-runner made in his home town. Chinese people, in my experience, tend to be really good at giving thoughtful interesting presents. I am not so good at it. For one thing, I am really unclear as to when one should give presents. For another, it's typical in China to give presents that come from your hometown, the specialties of the place so to speak. Almost every place has some kind of specialty. But I'm not sure what my place is, that is to say, where I'm really from. Is it where my parents live? where I went to graduate school? Chicago? To Chinese people, I suppose it's where my parents live, but even my roots there are loosening considerably. Then there's the problem of what that place specializes in, and how to get some, and whether the recipient would like it even if I did manage to get hold of something. It's all very tricky. Anyway, my general policy is to thank the person with sincere appreciation but not reciprocate in any material way. Instead, I try to be as helpful as I can with my, ha ha, intellectual capital, as it's the only resource I actually possess.

It was fun talking with the reporter. The piece of paper also visible in this picture is a cool thing--we got to talking about a very famous Chinese fiction-writer, who has written a great number of books. It turns out, someone made a poetic couplet in which each character is taken from the title of a different one of his books. It's actually a pretty good couplet, having the proper parallelism and such. As usual with Chinese poetry, it's difficult to translate, and of course the whole game is lost in translation. But it goes something like:

Driving snow day after day. He shoots a white deer--
That warrior god of comedy, beside the jade green mandarin drake.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Today was a tremendously lazy kind of day. I confess that I spent the greater part of it playing computer games, which reminds me of my wasted youth. I think the problem is that the big burst of diligence and creativity yesterday wore me out completely. It was pretty much time for a day off.

We had Japanese food for lunch: miso soup, rice triangles wrapped in nori, and edamame. It's a surprisingly satisfying lunch for how low in calories it is. Also, it reminds me of the very early days of my relationship with Pocket of Bolts: it was a healthy vegetarian meal that I could make and he appreciated as an interesting novelty. As I recall, I made it rather often!

After lunch we tried to go out to a coffee-shop and work, but it being Saturday afternoon, all the coffee-shops were really full! Because one day is just like another to me, I was shocked and irritated. We ended up working in the Borders cafe for a while, but their bathrooms were not working and anyway it was a bit too bustling to be a good place for working.

On the way home we wandered through the sporting goods store looking at dumb-bells (we are considering getting some) and through Linens and Things, which is going out of business but didn't have anything we couldn't live without. We went to two different grocery stores to pick up various things, and by the time we got home it felt like we'd been walking half the day, and not much to show for it.

The one nice, fun, and productive thing I did was read a draft of a paper that the Lama sent me, and sent it back to him with comments. I really like reading other people's drafts. Collegiality in general is one of my favorite parts of the whole endeavor, even though I'm not especially good it at. It just gives me a warm and happy feeling.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Coq au Vin

It has been a difficult week for blogging. This is mostly because nothing much has happened externally. Aside from going to the gym twice and down to U of C once, I have mostly been sitting at my desk in my pajamas working on my dissertation.

We went out to a bar tonight, celebrating with a friend and former neighbor who just had her dissertation defense. (I'm hoping that a year from now it'll be mine we're celebrating.) They asked how I've been doing, and I said the thing about the pajamas, and Pocket of Bolts chimed in that he comes home and finds the house strewn with Leanpocket boxes and Milky Way wrappers. I think they thought he was joking, but he wasn't!

Professor Blue-Eyes' class yesterday was pretty fun. We went through a Song dynasty description of how to do an actual divination, which we proceeded to act out with handfuls of plastic coffee stirring straws. That is a lot more work than flipping three coins six times. It was interesting though and amusing.

I should also mention that after the class I came home and Pocket of Bolts made coq au vin. He claimed it was inspired by this strikingly appropriate Married to the Sea comic. I thought it was really funny, though he had to first explain the allusion to the following lines from Snoop Dog's "Gin and Juice":

Now, that, I got me some Seagram's gin
Everybody got they cups, but they ain't chipped in
Now this types of shit, happens all the time
You got to get yours but fool I gotta get mine

I suppose that's about all there is to say. I wrote seven pages today, but was robbed of satisfaction by the conviction that it should really have been two pages and I was just waxing inappropriately long-winded. At least I have safely met my November goal.

Also, there is a cold snap here. I got out my down jacket for the walk to the bar, and wore leg-warmers under my jeans. It's going to be a cold winter.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lamest Post this Month

It is too late at night. I am too sleepy. This is a blog post in name only. Sorry! Better one tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Favor

Pocket of Bolts dragged me out of the house yesterday morning, since I hadn't been outside in more than 36 hours! We went to Caribou and did a bit of work. In the afternoon, I worked also, because my usual Tuesday class was canceled--the teacher was sick. The classes do me very good, as I realize when the routine gets interrupted. I get very stale without them. In the evening Pocket of Bolts made us Asian beef wraps, one of our favorite quick and healthy dinners: beef seared, sliced, and marinated in siracha, fish sauce, and lime juice, then wrapped in lettuce leaves with strips of carrot, red onion, cilantro, and hot peppers. Rice on the side. A great dinner. After dinner, I got an e-mail from a grad school classmate. I'd promised him I'd send him a certain document some time ago, then realized I needed to put more work into it then I thought--so put it off. In the e-mail he said, never mind if it was too much trouble, so of course I was galvanized into action. Pocket of Bolts has been having a hard time writing his job talk. He came to talk to me about it when I was several hours into preparing this document. I said: Write it as if you're doing a favor for someone else. Later he said that turned out to be really good advice!

I've had so little to say lately that I'll make up for it by posting this silly picture of my bedhead, taken very early in the morning.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Soup and Study

There is nothing to say about yesterday. The whole day, I never left the house! I sat and worked, mostly the research stage. I took a nap in the afternoon.

For dinner, I made an extremely miscellaneous soup for Pocket of Bolts and myself. It consisted of: barley, white beans, turnips, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, broccoli, kale, and nice chicken stock, together with fresh thyme and oregano. For dessert I made apple pie.

While the pie was baking I happened to open the back door, and noticed that a thin layer of snow had covered our back porch. But I didn't step out and make any footprints in it.

I planned to work out in the evening, but I got on a roll with researching and ended up just staying at my desk. A very quiet day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

First Snow

Yesterday I slept in late as usual on Sunday. I had arranged to meet the Lama for coffee in the early afternoon. Somehow or other, I actually managed to write two pages of my dissertation in between breakfast and heading up there. The power of routine!

Actually, I think it has to do with the phase I was in. I have to gather materials, make translations, figure out basically what I'm going to say and in what order. This is a really frustrating process for me because I always feel that I am going too slowly, running in place, not making progress. Once I have done that step correctly, however, I can write quite a decent amount. Not to say "effortlessly", but at least the process isn't painful. I guess it's good to take things apart like this and figure out which parts are hardest and why.

Lunch kind of fell by the wayside. I had an apple and a soyjoy bar before leaving, and a scone at the coffeeshop where I met the Lama. We had a really fun conversation. It reminded me very much of our friendly meetings in Beijing. We talked mostly shop, but with some personal chatter thrown in. It made me realize how much time had passed since we'd actually sat down like that, informally, outside his campus, and really just hung out. I hope we get a chance to do that sort of thing more often.

It was a very very cold day. The wind, in particular, was quite bitter.

Four years ago, in Grad School town, it was not nearly so cold. Four years ago, I was on my way to a reading group. I was late. I almost decided not to go. But because I went, I met Pocket of Bolts. We talked a lot during the informal discussion after the group proper. Then he invited me to the lounge in his department where they tended to hang out and party. It turned out we lived in the same building, so he offered me a ride home, asked me in, gave me a beer. We sat talking, looking at his books. I won't say it was "love at first sight" but the interest and attraction were definitely there. Four years! Has it really been that long?

Last night, to celebrate the anniversary of our first "date", we decided to go out for sushi. We've never properly eaten sushi together, since Pocket of Bolts was a vegetarian until recently. As we walked out into the cold night, big flakes of snow started falling. It was romantic and beautiful. We sat inside the rustic, wood-paneled restaurant and drank hot sake. The sushi was delicious, and we were full of smiles, proposed many toasts. Sake is good for toasting, since the cups are so small. The whole evening was really charming, and snow was still coming down as we walked back to our cozy little home.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Flowers of the Day

This is kale, the middle of the kale "flower" after we had used the rest of it to make a totally delicious baked kale and gruyere dish. That was a few days ago, but I only just got around to going through the pictures.

Yesterday we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast. But a routine has set in for me now, quite a pleasant routine. After breakfast, I go into my study, put on a little music, play a couple games of solitaire (until I win), and then I'm set to go, dissertation writing time. It has started to work surprisingly well for me, this little routine--to the point where I want to do it, feel unhappy if something prevents me. We'll see how long that lasts, but for now...

In the afternoon, I met the Reporter at close Caribou. It is fun practicing my Chinese with him. We talked for a while about a Song poet we both like, and then about a text he was reading for one of his classes. It was in English, but it was written in 1856. Even I had a hard time understanding it, but in the end I did manage. It was all about railroads. Actually, it was fairly enjoyable explaining it to him. I also heard about his wife and daughter--she is five years old. I did not know he was married, but I'm pleased that he is. He explained to me very carefully about his daughter's name, which is an allusion to the Book of Songs, the ancient poetry Classic of China. It was pleasing.

Had a fairly short workout at the gym, and then home to a nice dinner of broccoli and tofu stirfry over black rice. It was another nice day. In the evening I got some things done--e-mails, etc. Then I read a chapter from a book that the Reporter loaned me, a book in English written by a Chinese person, a biography of the poet we both like. It was relaxing to read, and I slept really really well.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday Movie Date

This is my handsome husband in his new blazer. Doesn't it look nice?! He had gotten a somewhat similar (but not as good) blazer about a year ago, but has lost so much weight that he finally had to give up and trade it in for a different one. That's okay, the new one's better anyway. :)

Yesterday I got up early for the reading group. It went pretty well actually, surprisingly well. As usual, I didn't have many thoughts about the sort of poetry we were reading (landscape stuff, etc.), but it turned out that E.T. did. In fact, she made quite an interesting mini-lecture on one of the poems. She said she just had a lot of thoughts about it. I was really impressed by what she said. It reminds me that I should never write anyone off. You can learn something from absolutely anyone.

After the reading group, I walked some ways to get to the nearest copy shop. I had to print out my second to last job application. Yes, I've been drawing out the process as long and painfully as possible. Pocket of Bolts and I are opposite in that way. He tears the band-aid off fast, all at once. I tear it off slow, a millimeter at a time. I fully admit that his way is better, but I can't help myself.

Anyway, I got my things printed out and then walked back to the post-office, stopping on the way for a Subway sandwich and a Milky Way midnight bar. I just can't help myself. It's a food fad. I mailed off my application and then rode the red-line downtown to the library. There, if you can believe it, I actually succeeded in writing two pages of dissertation as I was supposed to. There was some procrastination in there, but what counts is that the work got done. I also learned a hexagram, "Sun", Decrease. It's an oddly positive one, I suppose because decrease very naturally leads to increase.

Pocket of Bolts met me at the library after work, and we chattered together, then wandered over to the Blick Art Supply store nearby. We get a 10% discount there, and love to wander around. I am working on a mathematical sculpture/diagram project, and was wandering around brain-storming about materials. I got some wire, but have pretty much decided that for the rest I need to visit a hardware store instead. More on this soon!

Back at home, we actually managed to get a workout in before the gym closed. I did a whole body resistance work-out, which meant lots of yucky squats and leg-press, also push-ups and back extensions. But I am getting stronger again.

Finally, to cap off an already pretty good day, we went to the late show at Brew and View, the movie theater where you can get beer instead of Coke with your popcorn. I ate a lot of popcorn, which was bad of me. Pocket of Bolts ate even more popcorn. (But at least we'd made it to the gym.) The movie was Burn After Reading, which was not nearly as amusing as the preview suggested. It had its good moments, but it was really hard to decide how to feel about any of the characters, and the tone felt very inconsistent. It was set up like a comedy, but it as too painful to be really funny overall. On the other hand, the denouement was pretty amusing. In any case, the fact that it wasn't a great movie did not at all reduce the enjoyment of our date. We like going on dates so much. If we had more time and money, we'd surely do it every weekend!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rasta Flower

Our lipstick rasta plant is blooming. Isn't it beautiful?

Having had such an incredibly productive writing day on Wednesday, yesterday I couldn't help cutting myself a little slack. I spent the morning mostly doing small things. I also went back to my alas long neglected study of the hexagrams in the Book of Changes. Yesterday's hexagram was "Bo", splitting apart or flaying. A rather disturbing one, really, but interesting.

In the afternoon, I went to Professor Blue-eyes' class on the Changes. The topic for the week was something he's actually doing research on and he had given us his manuscript to read. I had to revise my opinion of him yet again, because he was disarmingly modest and pleasant about the whole thing, honest about his uncertainties, and so on. I really enjoyed the class, also some of the stories he told as digressions. There was a tomb which had caught fire at some point (presumably an accident caused by early tomb robbers). When it was excavated, the fire turned out to have been really good for the preservation of the bamboo strip texts that had been buried there--they were turned to charcoal. But still readable!! I couldn't believe it. It makes sense for fire to be good for clay tablets, but for bamboo strips!? Then Pocket of Bolts says that the same thing happens with papyrus sometimes, as at Pompeii. Well, you learn something new every day.

I had to do some preparation for the reading group after dinner, so I did that. Didn't get a workout in, but since I feel like I'm fighting something off I thought it would be best if I took it easy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


This squash came in our organic produce box. Pocket of Bolts doesn't much like squash but I like it. I had the first half roasted with salt and pepper and olive oil. I had the second half roasted plain then topped with brown sugar and butter. Pocket of Bolts roasted up all the seeds with oil, salt, and red pepper and we munched them. So delicious.

There is almost nothing to say about yesterday, which is why I'm posting the awesome squash pictures. I stayed in all day. I wrote, four pages in fact. I didn't leave the house until after dinner, when we went out to do some work at a coffee shop. After that, a late long cardio workout on the elliptical, got back around 10:30 PM. It was just a day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Very Quick Post

Uh-oh. In my time zone I have less than five minutes to make this blog post. Where does the time all go!!!

I did very little work yesterday, even in the morning, which is usually productive time. I think I just hadn't had a day off in a while, and it was adding up.

In the afternoon, I went down for paleography class. I learned stuff. It's hard to keep up full concentration for four straight hours, listening to a foreign language and very technical material as well. But I always come away feeling that I got something out of it.

One thing I thought of on the long ride home was a way to integrate foreign language teaching with some engaging and fun information on the history of the script. I think that for the right type of learner, it would really be exciting. I mean, assuming I have to teach Chinese again someday. Certainly it would be exciting for me!

Pocket of Bolts made me delicious polenta for dinner. He is the best husband ever.

Okay, must post this before it's too late!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Simple Day

Yesterday as often happens on Mondays I got up early to eat breakfast with Pocket of Bolts and fell asleep again after he left for work. I did manage to sit down at my desk by nine. I did some stuff. In the middle of doing stuff, I started worrying about some e-mails I REALLY should have answered days ago, so I wrote those. Then did some more stuff. Still no progress on the diss-o-meter! But I hope for a big jump soon. I'm piling up all these preparations.

I had a miscellaneous lunch--acorn squash, a boca burger with cheese, an Asian pear. Lately I have had extreme cravings for Milky Way bars. Why Milky Way bars in particular I have no idea, but nothing else will do. I got some fun size ones thinking that would be a good compromise, but I must confess that what I keep really wanting is a full size one. Why can't I crave... salad, or carrot sticks or something?!

After lunch, I dragged myself out of the house and met Pocket of Bolts at the coffeeshop known as "good Caribou" (as opposed to "close Caribou"). Good Caribou is about 15 minutes walk from our place, but it is more spacious and interesting inside, also they have a big fireplace that actually gets warm in the winter. Pocket of Bolts and I sat and did some more work but neither of us were particularly on a roll.

We had the simplest ever dinner: lettuce, cold leftover jangjorim (Korean soy sauce beef), kimchee, and white rice. Our rice-cooker is great; it has a quick setting and I can't even really tell the difference. Pocket of Bolts makes good jangjorim! We watched Battlestar Galactica, which was the stupid boxing episode. Otherwise known as "we've been over budget lately"? Still, it was amusing.

After we digested for a while, we managed to get to the gym. I did a really like triceps focus resistance workout. One of those workouts takes me nearly two hours. And boy am I sore today. But I feel strong.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tasty Biscuits

Yesterday I started off like a ball of fire.

I have adopted Pocket of Bolts' way of doing a to do list, namely, one large text file with done items moved to the top. I decided to go straight down the list from the top. This was kind of fun because I tend to add items in random order, which meant my tasks were unpredictable and heterogeneous. Of course I always get hyper-focused on the wrong ones... Dissertation work has not been going very well lately. It's especially unfair because I really HAVE been putting in the time. It's just that I keep going round in circles.

By noon I always seem to run out of steam. This time I did a reasonably good job of using that time anyway, though, by cleaning the house. Pocket of Bolts came back in the early evening. I was just starting dinner, one-pot chicken slow cooked in the oven with root vegetables, onions, peas, and stock; also polenta cheese biscuits put on top during the last twenty minutes. It was so grand having my husband back!! I liked how he came in and the house was clean and smelled like dinner. The little white holiday lights were on over the mantle. I was wearing my apron and bustling around. It was like the 1950s but better because I'm only "the perfect homemaker" on rare special occasions--so he appreciates it more, ha ha.

Also, the biscuits came out pretty darn tasty, if I do say so myself. I was in rebellion against measuring anything on that particular occasion, so I couldn't tell you just what I did right. But I'm pretty sure they were the best ones I've made yet. Alas, biscuits are not very diet friendly. We have slipped lately, but vowed to go back to it. After finishing off the biscuits.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Yesterday is brought to you by Caribou coffee. They have their new holiday napkins and java jackets. While I am generally unimpressed by business' holiday decoration-type things, I find the Caribou efforts kind of endearing. It's a startling variation in something whose visual sameness is usually so completely ingrained that it's invisible.

Anyway, I ended up having breakfast at Caribou today because the milk in the fridge soured and I forgot to go get more. I figured, if I had to go out anyway I might as well go out and get started on my workday.

I had a very pleasant morning at Caribou as it turned out. Coffee and pumpkin pecan bread. I find that I enjoy coffee shops in inverse proportion to the amount of time I've recently spent there, and since I hadn't been to "close Caribou" in quite some time, I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Also, owing to my mounting pessimism about the job search and various other factors, I have changed my attitude toward my work. I can't make myself do it from grim determination and self-loathing anymore. Mind you, grim determination and self-loathing can get you a long way. Probably almost anyone who's written a humanities dissertation knows what I mean. You can get a lot done fast. But lately I've instead been returning to the root of the project in my psyche, the feelings about it I had in the beginning, why I initially decided to do it. Thus the work I do is slower, more circuitous. I have gone back to running with tangents, following up on little puzzles, translating delightful but unrelated anecdotes that I happen to run across. Here's one I found yesterday morning (Chinese names abbreviated to prevent sinologists' Google searches from landing them there.

When [ZG] was young, he went around with WA. When WA’s reputation was not yet established, ZG commended him to [his own teacher, an illustrious statesman of the day]. But when WA become successful (because of this introduction), he dropped ZG. The emperor once asked [ZG], “Who does WA resemble?” ZG answered, “In literary learning and moral conduct, WA is not inferior to [the brilliant Han dynasty philosopher] YX, but because he is miserly, he is not quite as good [as YX].” The emperor objected, “WA thinks nothing of wealth and honor. In what way is he miserly?” [ZG] said, “What I mean by ‘miserly’ is just to say that he is bold in his actions but miserly in correcting his faults.” The emperor concurred.

It may be a "had to be there" sort of thing, but I found this little tidbit rather delightful.

In the afternoon, I went downtown to have coffee with my Chinese acquaintance from the bus stop. My instincts proved correct about him, by the way. He was extremely pleasant, polite, respectful, and friendly. He is also well-educated and really good with words. I'll call him the Reporter, although really he is a former reporter. Apparently, he worked for a rather important newspaper in China (I won't name it here, though he did tell me) and worked his way up to become an editor. However, it was a really demanding and high-pressure job and in the end he resigned and took a job in the government instead. Now he is here doing a one year program at IIT. I had told him what I work on, and he had gone to some pains to learn something about it. We had a really pleasant chat about that and the recent election and all sorts of matters.

He had, incidentally, been very curious about the voting process, and even managed to talk his way into one of the polling places, at least for a moment, so he could see what goes on. His overall impression was that voting is too difficult and complicated. (I could just see him thinking: how could Chinese peasants possibly manage to do this?) I asked him what he thought about freedom of speech and the press. He said that owing to the internet, people already have it in a de facto sense, and there's really not all that much the government can do about it. I asked him if he thought that was a good thing and he said yes.

We conducted our conversation in a funny mixture of languages. It is common in language exchange relationships to try to set a period of time for talking in English and a period of time for talking in the other language. However, in practice that hardly ever works; one language or the other just takes over. The Reporter proposed that we each do the hard thing: he would speak English and I would speak Chinese. You'd be surprised how well that works. We both get plenty of passive listening comprehension practice in our classes, but very little practice actually speaking. I brought a pack of notecards for us to write on, vocabulary words, things we didn't understand, etc. It worked better than most language exchange efforts I have engaged in, mostly because the Reporter was an interesting person with a lively mind.

Incidentally, it is so useful being married. Marriage is something that people respect in a way that they don't respect "having a boyfriend." As Pocket of Bolts said, "I have a boyfriend" sounds like a challenge. "I'm married" is--or should be--an incontrovertible "no trespassing" sign. I like it that way, very much. With the Reporter, or in fact any male I encounter now, there is no element of potential sexual tension, mixed signals, or what have you.

Anyway, I think I will continue doing language exchange with the Reporter. It seems like a worthwhile use of my time, and he is certainly grateful. He reports that it is hard to meet Americans because most of his classmates are also Chinese! I was amused.

I did some grocery shopping on the way home. Over dinner (pasta with red sauce from a bottle and chopped up boca burger), I watched the first episode of Dexter. It had been recommended to us by some friends who are not especially good recommenders--as in, our tastes don't really match theirs. So we hadn't tried watching it. But then I noticed it was available for watching online through Netflix, so I decided to try it. It was dark, really dark, but fairly successful I thought. There was this element of black humor to temper the horror. I'm interested to see if Pocket of Bolts will like it or not.

As usual, I didn't use the evening very productively. I miss PoB, in the evening most of all. Good thing he is coming home today. I hope very very much that we won't have to work in different cities next year.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Reading Group Etc.

For some reason, yesterday was a mostly gloomy day for me. It started out all right I suppose. I woke up before the alarm and lay in bed for a while. Then, because my computer was sitting right there, I turned it on and picked up where I'd left off the night before, studying poems for the reading group. I find "preparing" Chinese poetry in this way very tedious. I never learned to enjoy Chinese poetry at all until I went to China and started learning it the way Chinese kids do, just by memorizing it and not worrying so much about allusions or hidden meanings. But for this reading group stuff, for me at least, it was back to the old way, the grad school way, lots of dictionary work. At least my classical Chinese has improved.

The reading group itself though... well, the Lama canceled at the last minute, so we had it without him. It's just never as fun without him. Add that to the fact that the subject matter doesn't do much for me... On the up side, I did sort of "lead" the discussion by virtue of the fact that I probably know the material best. Or at least the culture. Another positive aspect of the experience was that one of the group members, a painfully self-effacing "permanent adjunct" art historian--I'll call her SoSorry--really came out of her shell and gave us a bit of a presentation on our poet's connection with Chinese painting, complete with pictures. I like it when SoSorry does things like this, despite the profuse apologies that usually come with it.

Near the end of the session we got into an involved discussion of whether poets in the Tang edited or altered their poems (shi) after writing them. It's an interesting question, probably an empirical one, but none of us knew the answer so we argued from various related ideas. I argued that they didn't do much editing because of the occasional nature of the genre. One of the other members of the group argued that they did by analogy with Japanese poetic tradition, which he knows much better. Anyway, I ought to try to find out.

Another group member, E.T., followed me down to the el and wanted to chat. Periodically she gets lonely, and I feel for her. But she has a really difficult personality (previous post partly about her here). When I finally extricated myself, I was good and ready to go home.

Back at home, I put in a decent afternoon of work, but it's one of those ebb points in writing. I have the outlines of what I want to say, but to actually write it I have to put in some time casting about and finding some concrete evidence. I tend to feel back about myself when I can't put in the pages. So though I did some good investigations, no increase in the word count, sigh.

Another thing that was weighing on my mind was I got a call from one of the Chinese boys I met a few days ago (described here). In some fit of camaraderie, I'd exchanged phone numbers with him, and he called to see if I wanted to do some language practice. Mind you, I don't usually go giving out my phone number to strangers I meet at the bus stop. But sometimes you just have an okay feeling about someone. And in fact, I had a perfectly okay feeling talking to him too. He was perfectly polite and correct on the phone (also knows I'm married, I made sure of that), just a friendly gesture. So I decided to try meeting him for coffee and language exchange; I should really try to make more Chinese friends, and maybe I'd be less intimidated by people who aren't crusty academics. Still, after I agreed I felt very nervous. I always do when I commit to some social activity, especially with someone I don't know very well, but with pretty much everyone. I just have an unreasoning dread, though it almost always turns out fine. Pocket of Bolts, when I told him, encouraged me, saying it's a good idea and I should go for it. Well, we'll see how it goes.

I had a good long workout in the evening, and a late dinner: brown rice, a fried egg, some jangjarim (sp?--soy sauce cooked beef), and kimchee, sliced cucumber salad on the side. As for the evening, I just frittered it away. Can't be working all the time. I missed Pocket of Bolts.

In the middle of the night (i.e., around 3 AM) he woke me up with a phone call. His ankle was hurting again and he couldn't sleep. You'd think I'd be annoyed to be woken up at such an hour, but not a bit of it--it gave me such a warm feeling that he should do that. In Chinese, the sloppy concept we know as "love" has finer gradations. There is aiqing, the "in love" feeling, heart-thumping passion and all that. And there is qinqing, the intimacy of daily togetherness, a family-feeling which is even deeper and more constant. Don't get me wrong, there's quite a lot of aiqing in my relationship with Pocket of Bolts, but in this case I was very much filled with qinqing. When someone you love so much needs you, even in a small way, you are deeply happy to be needed.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Working Late

Yesterday Pocket of Bolts got up at a quarter to five for an early morning departure. I got up to have tea and breakfast with him, then fell asleep over my desk. I spent the morning doing various small tasks, then headed down to U of C. It was stormy and wet, a drizzle rather than a proper rain, not really cold, just windy. I went to Professor Blue Eyes' seminar, which went well enough. I'm pretty behind with the reading, but I'm doing my best.

After class there was a talk (in Chinese) by a graduate student I don't see very often because he's spending the year abroad. It must be very hard to work on this early writing stuff. He presented a somewhat plausible idea, only to be decisively shot down by several senior scholars who were present. I'm pretty sure they were only so candid with him because he was ethnically Chinese, but ouch, how awkward it was. It reminded me of certain prospectus defenses at my grad school, though of course there was different cultural stuff going on.

After that, I went over to the library. I hadn't been able to log in to the computers there, even though technically I should be able to. Finally, I approached a guy at the circulation desk. He was clearly an undergraduate. He suggested I try computers on the second floor and "if that doesn't work there might be something I can try but I don't want to get your hopes up." I went upstairs and tried but it didn't work so I went back. "It probably won't work," he said defensively, and I reassured him that it was okay, I appreciated whatever he might be able to try. Then I was able to go back to him with the news that it HAD worked. We were both disproportionately happy!

Then I stayed in the library scanning articles until after nine. It's nice because scanning is free, while 12 cents a copy can really add up.

When I got finally out, I was so hungry that I indulged in a Subway sandwich. (I hadn't eaten dinner yet.) They're pretty good if you don't have them very often. I took the slow way home because it just felt too late at night to take the sketchy fast way. Not that I had anything of value on my person, but why take chances.

I still had preparation to do for my reading group in the morning, so I took my computer to bed. It's not a good substitute for Pocket of Bolts. I tried to do work until I simply dozed off, around midnight. A pretty typical day.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Home with My Computer

Yesterday was such an uneventful day that I feel it necessary to give you a "paint-it-like Pollack" picture just to apologize for how uninteresting the post is going to be. The picture is an illustration of my activities such as they were, namely sitting with my computer in the house all day. I worked, I played, I blogged, I sent e-mails. I sat here like a lump. Actually it was really pleasant and relaxing. There was only one really fantastic piece of progress I made, which was to find a citation for an important quotation I wanted to use in my dissertation but was unable to because I had gotten it from a lecture in China and the lecturer didn't give a proper citation. It has taken me over a year of sporadic searching to find it, but I finally managed it!

Pocket of Bolts came home right after his class and we pretty much spent the afternoon having some quality time together. We were ships passing in the night (and in the day) for the past week--when one of us had a day off the other was busy, and vice versa. Then this morning he had to take off very early for a conference he's going to for the whole weekend. So instead of putting in an afternoon's work yesterday, we spent time together. We are such total newlyweds, billing and cooing more than ever.

Among other things, we stowed our deck furniture and our bikes in storage for the winter. We looked at the hermit crab Intrepid, who was crawling around (very rare occurrence). We chattered and cuddled, and failed to go to the gym. A nice afternoon.

In the evening, we watched TWO episodes of Battlestar Galactica, so we could finish out the disk. I made some sort of degenerate pad thai for dinner, degenerate because we were missing quite a number of ingredients (including ginger and lime!--I used green curry paste and Rose's lime juice), and had to use two different kinds of noodles to make up a full amount. Still, it was tasty. Homemade frozen yogurt for dessert. It turns out that frozen yogurt is pretty much cheaper to make than to buy. I'm still experimenting, but it's really pretty easy, especially compared to ice-cream. In this case, I mixed a 32 oz container of plain yogurt with a cup of sugar and dumped it into the ice-cream maker with a teaspoon of vanilla. Near the end of the processing, I ground up some frozen strawberries in the food processor and added them as well. It came out pretty tasty, though a bit on the too-soft side. (The ice-cream maker is old...) Pocket of Bolts thought it was a bit too "yogurt-y," which is to say, there was the slightly sour under-taste of real yogurt. I think I could get around that by using flavored/sweetened yogurt instead. That would make it even easier to make.

Anyway, now I'm baching it until Sunday. As usual, the prospect makes me both anxious and a little pleased. Sometimes I do really well when I am completely free to set my own schedule. Other times, I fall down a hole of degeneracy, play solitaire all day, stay up half the night, forget to eat or eat too much. We'll see how it goes...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Indian Summer Days

Just for the record, I'll say a few more words about my recent activities. On Monday, I finally forced myself to finish an application that I really didn't want to do. I was unhappy because it felt like a bad fit, and I hate trying to talk myself up as something I'm really not. It also made me unhappy because part of it required me to go back to some of the intellectual interests I had in college. They were right for me then, I suppose, when I was much more confused and alienated than I am now. But going back to them brought me back to thoughts of sadder times. Apparently, it also brought me back to the worse habits of those times, because the application was due ON Monday, and I didn't finish it until around 1. Then I took the train down and hand-delivered it, two plus hours which were made happier by the warm weather and the fact that I was doing some very light but fascinating reading (see Book Draft post).

As for the rest of the afternoon and evening, I frittered it away completely. I can't remember much about it except that Pocket of Bolts was at a talk and I had an English muffin with an egg and a slice of turkey bacon for dinner, also some fresh pineapple. I finished off the day NOT by working out but by just going over to the gym and sitting in the steam room.

Yesterday Pocket of Bolts and I got up reasonably early to vote. We vote in the same building that our gym is in, about half a block away. The population density around here is so high that there's a polling place about every block, can you imagine? We ran into our landlord and one of our neighbors while standing in line. We didn't wait in line too long incidentally. The atmosphere was very cheerful.

After that, I ran around doing a variety of errands, and then headed off to my seminar at U of C. It was interesting, but more draggy than usual, more mechanical. There was an election party I wanted to go to up near Evanston, and I could just hardly wait for time to pass so I could get up there. Still, I took notes dutifully enough. I also managed to a run to the library afterwards and photocopy some reading for the Thursday class. Then off to the party! The streets and trains were incredibly empty. It was like the whole city had headed off to Grant Park, which, when I saw the crowd on TV, seemed about the long and short of it.

The party was jolly, lots of good snacks, champagne toasts when the results finally rolled around. Then Pocket of Bolts and I headed home. Strangely, while running to catch a bus, I broke the strap of on my show, which is really too bad because it is my favorite pair of shoes which I wear everyday. It's such a sturdy pair of shoes too, I was most surprised. I will have to try to get it repaired somehow, or maybe Pocket of Bolts can jerry-rig something. But it was almost impossible to walk with it broken, so I had to walk home from the bus-stop in my socks.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama! (Under the WIre)

I have failed to post about yesterday because I was out partying to celebrate today! Today is much better than yesterday was anyway. Both days have been Indian summer in Chicago, no coat and too warm in a sweater weather. Only a few miles away Obama is having a heck of a party. I have no stomach for crowds, so I watched the results roll in at the home of a colleague of PoB's. It was a stretch, but we managed to stay for the speech. Pocket of Bolts and I both found it really quite touching. The guy must have been exhausted, but he looked great. The exhaustion worked for him, just making him seem serious and patient and dignified. Hurrah for our country! For once I think I may actually feel proud to be an American.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Changing Times/Feasts

I have been sleeping badly again lately. It goes in cycles, and whatever it is that has me waking up anxious varies. Yesterday it had to do with the time change. I had vaguely seen something about it but wasn't sure. Then I worried about whether the clocks would be set right. We have a supposedly auto-re-setting alarm clock, and I had my phone as a backup. But I never trust the alarm clock. As it happened, this time it did better than my phone, which rang an hour early, causing me considerable confusion.

Managed to drag myself back to the conference. It's not that it's so unpleasant, but it did remind me of China, and was definitely outside my field. Also, I was stressed about an application I had been putting off most egregiously. In the event, though, I did make it there, only missing one talk. I listened dutifully to the rest of the talks while devouring donuts. For some reason, my craving for donuts has grown to monstrous proportions. They are cheap and wonderful and comforting, but unfortunately terrifically caloric. I do my best to resist this craving, but I am powerless when there's a huge box of donuts being enthusiastically urged on people ("they're just going to be thrown away..."). I managed to limit myself to two, but that still comprised more than half my normal daily caloric allowance.

The conference drew to a close and there was a fantastic brunch buffet to celebrate. I partook in that as well, most liberally: scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, bagels with elegantly sculpted cream cheese and a "salad" of bite-size lox, red onion, and big capers, brie and baguette, small slices of steak with horseradish sauce, a delicious caesar salad with big curls of salty cheese, and a dessert table with cakes, fruit tarts, chocolate covered grapes (!) still on the stem, and so forth. I did forgo the champagne, but that's the only thing I denied myself!

After that huge meal I rolled down to the library and did a bit of research for my wretched application.

My good friend H was in town with her husband for the big religion conference, and after several attempts, we decided that I would meet her downtown for dinner at around 7. That left me a weird amount of time, a little too long to stay around campus, a little too short for going home. I decided to go home and at least drop my stuff though.

On the way I met two young Chinese fellows. They seemed a bit lost, so I decided to ask them in Chinese where they were trying to get to. Of course, they were more thrilled to talk to a Chinese-speaking white person than they were interested in finding their way. They were doing a year-long MA program, but had so far only been here a month. One was a journalist in China; both were from Zhejiang. It was a little nostalgic. After spending all that time in the conference where my lack of Chinese language skill was glaring compared to most of my fellow Americans, here were some people who were extravagantly impressed by my ability to communicate naturally. Of course I knew better than to feel too good about it. They'd've praised me to the skies were I a lot worse than I am. But I did have friendly feelings about the encounter.

After an hour at home I hopped on the bus back downtown. I had a to walk a few extra blocks to get to the restaurant. There was a sprinkling of rain, and yellow leaves were swirling around. It was strange going out so late. The restaurant turned out to be a very fancy steakhouse. Having embarked on the path of sin, I decided to continue along it. I split a steak with H, had a glass of wine, broccoli with garlic, several rolls, and even key lime pie. I was full to bursting. The company was good. H's husband told me the best possible bad news regarding a job I had been applying for at their university, namely that my application looked great, and if it weren't for the fact that they were looking for something completely different from my specialization... I was okay with all that. The company around the table, all Daoism scholars, was very jolly.

I walked back with H all the way to their hotel and we talked warmly. I always dread trying to set something up with her, but as usual was glad that I did.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Kafka Under the Wire

This post is entirely for the sake of having one on November 2. I will blog the actual day I had tomorrow morning, which is a much better system for me. For now, in the seven minutes I have remaining, I will just say that I've been reading up a bit on Kafka. This is for the sake of a certain application I'm working on, not for my dissertation thank god. The first thing to say is that when I thought about The Castle (probably the Kafka work I know the best) a great heaviness came over me as I remembered those times when I was studying it so intensively. So much modernist literature has a cruelty in it, toward the characters, the readers, the whole framework of reality. Then, reading some basic theoretical takes on various of the shorter works, I also remembered how fascinating Kafka is. He created a dark world but it is a whole world, a true microcosm that has room for as much as the real world has room for, but in miniature. I remembered the dark and interesting times I had when Kafka was about all that was rattling around in my brain. I came up with an idea or two. But my time is nearly up. More on my day when I get up tomorrow morning!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Statehood Quarters

I have fallen off a bit in my daily posting discipline, but I have recovered in time for NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month, November). Not that I can promise anything interesting. In particular, I was very useless today. There's a paleography conference going on, which I spent all day at yesterday, but I just failed to make it down there today. It was all too much. Then I spent a lot of time trying (and failing) to get a prescription filled. It turns out that if the doctor writes one number in the date slightly indistinctly, everything goes to hell. It was very frustrating, especially because the pharmacy was busy and they made me wait an hour and a half before they got around to telling me this. Meanwhile, I tried out a new coffee shop called Kahawa House. It was cute, very neighborhoody feeling. The only thing was, it wasn't our neighborhood so it felt a little odd. I didn't get any work done. In fact, I didn't do any work all day. Nowhere to go but up, from here.

On the bright side, I did a very nice shoulder focus lifting workout. For cardio tried the treadmill, but didn't like it. It shakes my head around too much. Pocket of Bolts' best man is in town, staying with us. We went to dinner at Joy's, good cheap plentiful Thai food. We (or rather PoB's friend) came up with a brilliant scheme of having statehood quarters that were the actual shape of the state and proportionately sized. Alaska quarters would rip your pockets and you'd be in danger of inhaling Rhode Island quarters. Hawaii quarters would come in sets of five and you'd have to keep them together or they wouldn't be worth anything. Washington quarters would have a lot of delicate filigree up by Puget Sound which would break off easily and invalidate the quarter if it broke off. Vending machines would have to have fifty different slots. I was practically falling on the floor laughing. It was the funniest idea I've heard in months.