Wednesday, November 30, 2005

In which Dr. Virago shakes her fist in melodramatic anger at the gods or fortune or whatever

As if noisy, stomping downstairs neighbors weren't enough (and no, I haven't talked to them yet -- I haven't had time to buy the slippers or make the cookies), now my landlord is installing new insulation in the attic, and the window through which the tube (which blows in the insulation) is right above my study. So now I have stomping and assorted machinery noise right above me, while I'm trying to finish editing my *@&%$?!# book (which, btw, I am beginning to *hate*). Oh, and the landlord -- who is otherwise a sweet man and a good landlord -- didn't warn me of this. (Isn't he obligated to tell me about things that will disturb my quiet enjoyment?) I came home yesterday (that's when it started) to find some kid with a reeeeee-al cun-try ak-cent standing in front of my door, laying out stacks and stacks of insulation all across my front walk, effectively blocking access to my door except through the grass and bushes. Nice. I asked him how long it would take. He said, "Oh, 'bout a day or two, I 'spect." (Woah, didn't know people still said "I suspect"! cool!) So I hope it'll be done today. Sounds like they're nailing down floorboards up there anyway. I can only hope.

And yes, yes, I know I have a laptop and could take my book MS and my laptop to the local coffee shop -- and also check blogs from there if I so wished, for free, because you may not know this, but my humble Rust Belt City is, in fact, *the* most wireless city in the country according to some poll somewhere! who knew! -- but the MS is big and awkward and packing up the computer is annoying, and I'm stil in my pj's and was looking forward to staying that way until I run this afternoon. So there.

Grrrrrrr. Dr. Virago is cranky.

She is also cranky because even though Chris Clarke is not, after all, shutting down his blog, GZombie is shutting down his -- though not until March 1. (Scroll down through the comments to his post -- ignore my stupid ones -- to find G's further thoughts on why.) Dammit. Now who's going to tell me interesting things about orality and literacy and sound, or the material culture of the book, and link to the scholarship on these subjects, and who will I count on to pass on cool new music to check out (links included), all while making me weirdly nostalgic for my hometown? No one, I tell you, because that's a pretty statistically improbably combination of qualities! Seriously, I started reading GZombie soon after he started up, when I was still living in Sprawling Big City. I still have the original bookmark to his blog, made long ago, before he was a Non-Zombie, and somewhere in my e-mail archives is the fan-girly e-mail I sent him saying something along the lines of "you're cool and have great taste in music and I want to be you when I grow up" and his polite reply. In fact, his was the first academic blog I ever encountered or read. (No, wait, that's not accurate. I think maybe I discoverd Danah Boyd's Apophenia -- then called something else -- before G's blog, but his is the first English lit one I read.) And, as I said in one of my first posts here, GZombie's blog was one of my models of what I wanted for this blog. Of course, the fact that I haven't met that goal is in no way a reflection on him!! Thanks for Not Being a Zombie will be missed, but I look forward to other encounters with its writer, virtual or in print or perhaps in person in the British Library.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Best. Christmas Lights. Ever.

And by best, I mean "awwwwwriiiiiight, rock on, duuuuuuuuuude!" The dude doesn't particularly have a lot of lights, and there are no figurine villages or anything, but he has synchronized the lights to perform a little show to the tune of the mega-cheezy Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Wizards in Winter."

You can see the video here and read more about it here.

And btw, while I was watching, I was thinking, "That house sure looks like it could be here in Rust Belt City." It's not, but it is in the same state. Ah, suburban heartland architecture.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sigh - I'm microscopic

So apparently the Bear at The Truth Laid Bear has been rewriting the program for his Ecosystem rankings, and as a result I went from being a Slithering Reptile, which I quite liked, to a Multicellular Microorganism. That's probably about right for someone who usually only gets about 25 visits a day when not in a Carnival or two, and is only on a handful of blogrolls, but still, it hurts to go from being a vertebrate to being microscopic. Oh well.

Where Dr. Virago works

Since I haven't had much time to comment much on people's blogs or to blog myself (though I really want to write all about the joys of silly words, including Boyfriend's Nephew's obsession with the word "taco," my obsessions with the "pants" game, and my favorite novelty song ever) because I'm racing to meet the deadline for my book revisions, I thought I'd show you a picture of where I'm spending all my hair-pulling, teeth-clenching time.

Voila, Dr. Virago's home study (click on picture for bigger version):

The desk and the computer where I am now sitting are on the right, a little out of the picture. (ETA: Actually, it seems my computer isn't actually in the picture at all, but it would be in the empty space next to the mouse. Well, duh.) This room is the only one that still has shades of purple as a dominant color -- purple and green used to be my old decorating scheme, but now the rest of my house is in autumnal shades of reds, oranges, browns, and some green. (More pictures in the future, perhaps.)

There, that was a quick and easy post to do. And for you still struggling grad students: yes, look what you'll be able to afford on a prof's salary if you're willing to move to a rust-belt town -- a whole room to work in!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Doubt: a response and tribute to Chris Clarke

Chris Clarke is having doubts about his blog. He's been blogging since 2003 (and online long, long before that) and I've only been around since September, but I swear I could have written the same post, especially about writing for an audience, writing for in-bound links, and reading the site meter way too much. Just to give you one example: ever since I was included in the Carnival of the Feminists (which raised my visits to an average of 65 a day), and because I'm now on the blogrolls of feminist bloggers (sometimes under "feminist blogs") I keep thinking I have to write more explicitly feminist posts instead of being an academic who also just happens to be a feminist. I feel *guilty* that I don't write more feminist posts, even though when I started this blog it was meant to be a personal blog focused mainly on stories about life in my town and my nutty neighborhood, both of which I've hardly mentioned. I'm starting to learn that a blog is a weird and wild thing, almost with a personality of its own.

But this post isn't really about me. It's about Chris. It's also for him. Chris, I've been a lurker on your blog for about the past six months or so and your writing gives me great pleasure. If you stop blogging I will miss you and your writing, especially the beautifully rich descriptions of your world, its flora and fauna, and the people and pets in it. Oh how I will miss Zeke and Thistle! You write so vividly about them I feel like I can reach out and pet them. I will also miss your sense of humor -- in all its forms: whimsical, witty, razor-sharp, satirical, and all of the above -- the songs you make up (like the one you wrote for Twisty, the link to which I'm too lazy to find right now), and your proudly "moonbat" politics.

However, if you need to stop, I'll understand, as I'm sure others will also. Please, though, leave the blog up with all of its archives. I still have much catching up to do! And if you do turn your energies to your "important" writing, please use the blog to tell us when and where they are published. I especially look forward to the book on Joshua trees.

And I hope you'll continue to comment on the blogs of all the usual suspects so that the blogosphere isn't completely deprived of your witty presence.

And PS -- Sorry you're not yet on my blogroll! That thing is woefully unfinished and out of date.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Formatting help needed / Happy Thanksgiving!

OK, I just added a "recent posts" bit to my sidebar (and moved the archives section up because this blog is all about me! me! me!) and I can't figure out how to get the long post titles not to do that weird reverse-hanging indent thingy. Do you see that? Anyone know how to make it into an actual hanging indent instead?

And btw, yes I know I need to update my blogroll. There are about a gazillion blogs that I read on Bloglines now and I need to add them.

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! The boyfriend's relatives are coming to town tomorrow and I think I need to tear myself away from the computer for awhile. I also need some Real Human Interaction™ for a change since I've been cooped up with nothing but text, text, text for oh, about a week. I'm editing The Book, you see. (No, not the Bible. *My* book. Remember, this blog is all about me! me! me!) I have to get it to the series editor by December 7 and I'm doing some major revisions still. Ack! Anyway, this lack of Real Human Interaction™ has had such deleterious effects on me that I had the following conversation today when the Boyfriend called to check in on me:

Me (after seeing caller ID show that call is coming from our university): Hello?
Boyfriend: Hi honey.
Me (relieved it's not the chair or someone needing something): Oh, hi honey. What are you doing at school?
Boyfriend: Um, teaching.
Me: What day is it?

Yeah, that's a sign that Dr. Virago needs some intervention. (Thank god, btw, that I'm on leave from teaching this semester!)

So I wish everyone a happy holiday weekend and lots and lots of Real Human Interaction™. And in case you do end up online and need something to amuse yourself or remind yourself that your addiction to the blogosphere isn't as bad as some people's, go over to Unfogged and read the Best. Comment. Thread. Ever. about a certain aviator-glasses-wearing blogger with an obsession. Someone who calls himself "Armsmasher" re-wrote all of Poe's "The Raven" on the subject and Chris Clarke did some mighty funny photoshopping. Enjoy.

Senate's Tax Bill Includes Incentives for Charity Gifts

As reported in the NY Times (registration required), a new Senate tax bill would allow federal income tax filers who do not itemize their deductions to deduct any charitable donations they've made if they've exceeded the minimum of $210 per individual or $410 per married couple. This seems like a good idea to me on the face of it -- charitable donations might rise overall, and, according to the article, universities and nonprofit hospitals might especially benefit from this -- but it also could mean "$914 million a year in lost taxes," according to estimates by Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (as cited in the article). And in general it suggests a move away from public services to private charities.

That said, as someone who very rarely has the opportunity to itemize her deductions (not being a homeowner with mortgage interest, etc., to deduct -- and in my city, real estate is so cheap that even if I were a homeowner it still might not make sense to itemize, which is actually the case for a large percentage of American homeowners) I would definitely give larger amounts to my alma mater and favorite charities if I could deduct it.

All of which I say as a preface to remind you that charities at work in the Gulf states in the wake of Hurricane Katrina still need your money, as do the international charities working in the aftermath of the Pakistan earthquake devastation. I took down the donation buttons I had in the side bar not because donations weren't needed but because I'm fussy and superficial, I didn't want the blog to look too "busy," and I really wanted to put up that EFF button. But now I'm going to add a permanent button for the Charity Navigator* so you can give a holiday season/end-of-the-tax-year donation now to the charities of your choice, or come back and give later, not because this bill might pass, but because your donations are always needed.

*For those not in the know, Charity Navigator is not a charity itself, but a free website that helps you evaluate a charity before giving them money. Here is their mission statment:

Charity Navigator works to guide intelligent giving. We help charitable givers make intelligent giving decisions by providing information on over four thousand charities and by evaluating the financial health of each of these charities. We ensure our evaluations are widely used by making them easy to understand and freely available to the public. By guiding intelligent giving, we aim to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace, in which givers and the charities they support work in tandem to overcome our nation's most persistent challenges.

Charity Navigator is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization under the Internal Revenue Code and does not accept any contributions from any charities we evaluate.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Well I gues I'm not going staight to hell after all...

...but I am kind of goody-goody for a non-believer. What's up with that? I thought for sure I'd end up among the fornicators in Level 2!

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!
Charon ushers you across the river Acheron, and you find yourself upon the brink of grief's abysmal valley. You are in Limbo, a place of sorrow without torment. You encounter a seven-walled castle, and within those walls you find rolling fresh meadows illuminated by the light of reason, whereabout many shades dwell. These are the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, unbaptised children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven. You share company with Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, and Aristotle. There is no punishment here, and the atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad.

Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)Moderate
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Moderate
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

[Updated to add: Found this at The Green Knight]

Friday, November 18, 2005

Slate enters the fray on the academic blog question

I don't at the moment have time to weigh in on this Slate article with any depth or gravitas right now, but I do have a kind of "why I blog" response in still inchoate form in the back of my brain. It's also inspired by just general thoughts, apropos of nothing in particular, about how this still youngish blog has become something other than what I thought it would be. That and more later.

What I will say right now, briefly, about the Slate piece, is that its headline ("Attack of the Career-Killing Blog") is worse than its more interesting content (it's no Ivan Tribble screed), but that once again, like so many pieces before it assumes that Daniel Drezner was denied tenure for his blog. Please, people. We have absolutely no evidence of that and, in fact, his department has claimed that the blog wasn't a factor (indeed, the Slate reporter even admits this). Let it go.

Anyway, for now, I merely offer it to you for your reading pleasure.

[Thanks to Virgo Sis for bringing the article to my attention. I'd link to her, but she doesn't have a blog. Maybe she should. :) ]

Thursday, November 17, 2005

In memoriam

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my sister's death from breast cancer. Her real name actually started with a V, so in keeping with the V theme I'll call her Ms. V. (In case you missed it, I decided to call my oldest sister Virgo Sis.) Anyway, Ms. V., were she alive, would probably remind you women out there to do your self breast exams and get mammograms when necessary. So do so. (Of course, were she alive, she'd also be smoking like a chimney, so do as she says, not as she does. She'd also say that.) [Updated to add: And given that today is also the Great American Smokeout, you should definitely do as she said and not as she did.]

Ms. V's favorite libation was beer, so tonight I'll raise a glass and drink a beer to her memory.

Here's to you, Ms. V. Cheers.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

You may have noticed the new banner in the sidebar. (If you're reading in Bloglines, go check it out -- it's really cool!) Clicking on it will take you to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's legal guide to blogging. I urge everyone, especially anonymous bloggers, to check it out. Especially noteworthy, given what went down recently at Bitch Ph.D.'s site, is the Blogger's FAQ on Online Defamation Law.

What is the EFF? Here's the first paragraph from their "About" page:
From the Internet to the iPod, technologies of freedom are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. These technologies are increasingly under attack, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense, protecting our civil liberties in the networked world. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990—well before the Internet was on most people's radar—and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.
Whether or not you join or donate -- click on the button above to take you to the membership page -- you should visit the site and learn about your rights, about how to protect your anonymity, and about the work EFF does.

You can also get cool buttons and banners like I did. I particularly like the WWII themed one I picked for the sidebar, since it also happens to nod to the importance of women's labor in that era and to the significance of women and feminist bloggers. The patriotic theme of many of their banners is a reference to their opposition to the so-called "Patriot Act." Posting a button on your sight will also get you a discounted membership to EFF, btw.

Thanks to apophenia for alerting me to this.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Why must my TV shows stress me out like this?

OK, first they killed Shannon in Lost last week and I was so upset by it I couldn't sleep. Seriously. That's just unfair viewer manipulation. The writers finally made me see that she was worth loving after all and then -- bam! -- she' shot in the chest by Ana-Lucia. Now it looks like tomorrow night they want me to find sympathy for Ana-Lucia. Huh-uh. Not gonna do it. I refuse. They'll just go and kill her off right after I finally give in, so I'm not going to give in.

Oh, but that's not all. The gods of TV must toy with me still. Now they've gone and given Luke on Gilmore Girls a 12-year-old daughter he never knew about. As if Lorelei and Luke didn't have enough to worry about and work out. Besides, this is bordering on shark-jumping, Cousin-Oliver-from-The-Brady-Bunch sweeps week desperation. This better be some sort of mistake. This kid better not be a regular feature of the show. If I wanted to watch soap operas, I'd watch soap operas. No more illegitimate children!

Btw, for those of you who know that my students think I look and talk like Lorelei Gilmore (though I don't talk nearly as fast -- despite what someone says here), and that I find the Boyfriend and Luke to have much in common (minus the diner -- the Boyfriend cooks up a mighty storm, but not for profit), and that I think of my neighborhood as very Stars Hollow-ish (including our versions of Taylor and Kirk -- I have stories, if you want them), I want you to know that the Boyfriend does not have an illegitimate 12-year-old daughter. But see -- this is why I get so wrapped up in Luke and Lorelei (oh god, it *is* a soap opera -- it's GH's Luke and Laura all over!): I identify way too deeply with them and their relationship! (Our life does parallel theirs sometimes in odd ways.)

I clearly have to stop watching so much tv.

[Edited for some clarity and to add a link]

I am such a Beowulf-loving geek

First, here are two medievalist-geek quizzes:

As seen at The Green Knight, here's the "Which people of Middle Earth are you?" quiz, in which I get this result, which tickles me to death because it also includes the "ubi sunt" poetic motif and the word "hauberk":


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

And since I'm so clearly a member of the most Beowulfian race of LotR then here, as seen at Ancrene Wiseass, is the "If you were in Beowulf..." quiz, complete with the Sutton Hoo helmet:

You scored as Beowulf. Heroic, strong, and maybe a little on the proud side--not that you don't have a reason to be. After all, you defeat THREE major evils that ravage the countryside as well as many minor beasties that get in the way before you're done in. You simply don't give up. Without you, Hrothgar's Golden Hall would still stand empty.







Grendel's Mother


The Dragon






If You Were in Beowulf...
created with

And then, just to prove I'm all sorts of geek, there's this quiz, which I found myself:

You Passed 8th Grade Science

Congratulations! You got 6/8 correct!

Hmm...I wonder which ones I missed. I have to admit, I forget what parts of the cell do what, so I probably missed that one. Well, at least I passed. Sigh. Once upon a time I was a stellar science student. Just goes to show: use it or lose it!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Christianity in the literature classroom

This post is inspired by, and partly a response to, a substantial post on dealing with religion (as background or subject matter) in early modern texts, written by ScribblingWoman at her site. It also takes up, obliquely, something New Kid referred to in passing (and promised to take up in greater detail herself at some point). It is also a subject that has been addressed in the non-blogging world (what’s that?). It was addressed at last year’s MLA (on one of the Middle English division panels) and the forthcoming inaugural volume (March 2006) of the newly designed ELN (English Language Notes) is devoting its entire issue to the subject in terms of research and scholarship, under the title “Literary History and the Religious Turn.” All of which is to say that this is an ongoing professional conversation about teaching and scholarship, one that is not likely to go away, especially given what seems to be a growing urge to talk openly about religion and religious beliefs in public culture, which wasn’t always the case in what my parents’ generation called “polite” society. But it is especially pertinent to those of us who teach and research explicitly religious texts, in my case, the vernacular devotional texts of medieval Christianity.

It is also very long, and I haven't yet figured out how to use the “below the fold” function of Blogger. Consider yourself warned.

Once in my medieval drama course, a student wrote in his evaluation that I had so much respect for the texts I taught that I made it hard for students to be openly critical of them. And another student, in a similar class at a different institution, allegedly told other students (or so I heard) that he thought you had to be a Christian to talk about these texts and that he felt out place in the class. (He clearly assumed that I and all the other students were Christians. This made atheist Dr. Virago and her Jewish grad student – the one who reported this to me – laugh very hard.) And one of the students in my medieval women writers course thought there were too many religious texts on the syllabus. (Well, now, that was a very frustrating eval, given that most women’s writing from the Middle Ages is religious. What’s a prof to do?) Those are all comments from obviously non-Christian students. Meanwhile, the Christian students of all denominations seem to gravitate towards my classes – it may be the subject matter, or it may be me, or perhaps it’s both. One of these students told me I had a “gift,” and I’m pretty sure she meant that my talent was God’s purpose for me. (That’s usually what an evangelical means when they tell you you have a “gift.”) And another told me (and also Victorianist colleague) that we’re “nice to Christians” (which made me cringe to think what that implied about my colleagues or, more likely, her assumptions about them). Others just keep taking classes with me and some students have taken classes with me on the recommendation of friends from church who are also students here. Plus, I seem to think that there are more evangelicals here than my colleagues think and it may be because more students openly announce themselves as Christian in my classroom.

Now, what on earth has led all these students to think that this atheist, feminist, liberal virago is at all Christian or favors religious texts at the expense of non-religious ones? The Boyfriend says it’s because I can “talk the Jesus talk,” which is kind of true, and it’s also true that I take seriously the texts I study and teach – who doesn’t? – but just because I can describe their worldview doesn’t mean that I share it. But I think many of my students do assume such a one-to-one correspondence. (This is why a misguided Penn State conservative student assumes that courses in Medieval Studies are necessarily conservative in this article. I also think these kinds of assumptions about professors, their subject matter, and their beliefs is part of what’s driving all the nonsense about liberal profs indoctrinating their students. But that’s an issue for another post.) I think Christian texts in particular provoke strong feelings, negative or positive, from many or even most students. If they have reason to fear or resent Christianity, their first reaction to Christian devotional texts is likely to be “Yech. Religious stuff,” and they switch off. I know that reaction first hand. Having been raised Catholic and having survived 12 years of Catholic schools, the last thing I wanted more of in college was overtly religious stuff. But after heavy doses of Modernism (which also has its religious side – Yeats, anyone? – but in a more mythic, less doctrinaire, sense) and time away from all those Catholic schools, I was ready to come back to religious texts with scholarly distance but also a kind of disinterested sympathy (perhaps an oxymoronic phrase, I know). I’d like to be able to teach that stance to the non-Christian students. But they’re not the only ones who need a little distance.

Others who need some critical distance include the fervently Christian students who sometimes over-identify with the texts, often not seeing the historical or theological differences from their own practices. And then there are the few evangelicals and even a few mainline Protestants who think ahistorically that the stuff they like – Julian of Norwich, for example, or Chaucer when he’s making fun of friars and monks – is “really” Christian and the stuff they don’t like belongs to the false “Roman Church.” (Some of them are just confused historically. Some of them don’t know that their brand of Christianity came after the Middle Ages. Some of them have a consciously formed providential view of history and will always interpret things this way. I can’t do anything about that last group, but they are by far the rarest. I think I’ve only ever had two in my years of teaching so far.) And then there are the feminists who think that The Church universally oppressed all women and made them all mere chattel, and that Julian, Margery Kempe, Christine de Pizan, et al., therefore can have nothing to say of value because clearly these women were just mystified and brain-washed. To appropriate La Lecturess’s words in her thoughtful comment at ScribblingWoman: “Not. Useful!” And the lefties (feminist or not) subscribe to a similar view (only replace “all women” with “all people”).

But wait, there’s more. Then there’s the identity politics/experience angle, which makes some of my students think they can’t speak of or about these Christian texts or beliefs because they aren’t Christian and don’t share that experience. On the flip side, for some of the evangelicals and politically conservative students (not always the same thing, remember!) the fact that I even speak of Christianity and Christian practices and do so with any kind of respect or objectivity (or even just the lack of derision) must mean, in their minds, that I am a believer and a conservative, because they have bought the myth of the persecution of and discrimination against one or both groups (Christians and conservatives) in mainstream culture, especially in universities.

Ai-yi-yi! What’s a medievalist to do to clear the air? (Note: I’ve never gotten all these kinds of students in one classroom. The above group portrait is an amalgamation of a mere four years of teaching upper-division and graduate courses on medieval texts.)

I think up until now I’ve simply assumed that students knew, coming in to my classes, that medieval English texts were frequently going to address Christian topics or use Christian tropes. And I forgot what it was like to be a late-adolescent still passionately rejecting or embracing belief systems of all kinds. Tony, another one of the commenters at ScribblingWoman said that literature teachers should not be embarrassed about reclaiming sacred texts as belonging to all humankind. For the non-Christian students and the Christians alike, this is a struggle, though for different reasons, and the same can be said of medieval texts with Christian subjects or themes. So, I think from now on, I’m going to talk, early in the semester, about how to think critically about these texts without either being dismissive of them or over-identifying with them. The way to do that, I will suggest, is to think of them as belonging to a mythos that no one really shares today, that we can only study – e.g., the ancient Greek and Roman cultures and their religions. No one reads the Odyssey and thinks, “Ick, there’s all this god stuff,” or, conversely, “Homer’s conception of the pantheon is just like mine!” (I have to say, I kind of wish that last hypothetical statement were so, if only for the novelty of it.) I’m sure this will appeal more immediately to the non-Christians, but I will emphasize to the Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike, that this will be the best way for them to see the Middle Ages “fresh” and not through the lens of contemporary practices, which even in Catholicism are very different from the Middle Ages. (Heck, the medieval Christian church wasn’t even called the Catholic-with-a-capital-C yet.) I hope this will open up the interest and value of the religious texts for the non-Christians (and for the occasional evangelical worried about popery and Mariolatry) and also make the Christian students more aware of the historical differences between Christianity then and now.

Of course, I realize that I’m kind of assuming here that you can be objective and leave behind your emotional reactions and beliefs in reading a text. I know this isn’t entirely possible, but I think at the undergrad level it’s a place to start. I don’t want to discourage them from really “getting into” a text if they like it and identify with it. The evangelical student who said I had a “gift” also went on to read all of Julian of Norwich on her own, which is great! And I also don’t mind if they decide they don’t like a single thing we read. Really, their personal tastes don’t really concern me. But I don’t necessarily want them to start from the position of personally liking or disliking a text either, for all the reasons I’ve laid out above. So I think a little buying into the notion of critical objectivity is perhaps a practical, if temporary, stance to take.

What do you think?

December 1st will be Blog Against Racism Day

Chris Clarke, who writes a gorgeous blog full of depth, complexity, beautiful writing, and plenty of damn funny stuff (oh, and snark, too), has decided to declare December 1st Blog Against Racism Day. Read his post for his reasons why and his thoughtful discussion of the ways the word "racism" has started to be denuded of any real meaning even as racism itself is virulently present in our world.

I don't know what I'll write, but I'm going to participate somehow. If you have a blog, announce this date and activity there and then participate yourself on Dec. 1. If you don't, go to Chris's blog on Dec. 1 and follow the links to all the blogs participating.

Keeping tabs on the Seven Deadly Sins and other things

This is hilarious. As a demonstration of how their trend tracking tool works, the BlogPulse people have put together a multi-term search of all most of the Seven Deadly Sins to see how much they're being discussed (or perhaps touted?) in the blogosphere. Looks like Pride and Anger have more volume than the rest -- guess we bloggers are not as lust-obsessed as the wingnuts think the modern world at large is -- but all the sins seem to have a similar ebb and flow. [ETA: As ADM points out in the comments, Sloth is missing. But of course bloggers are *never* slothful. Ha! Also missing: Avarice. ]

They also have a search for the 7 Roman Virtues (except there are only 6 of them, so I'm confused). So, on the theme of 7, I decided to search the 7 Dwarves. I didn't know how to do more than three on a graph, so here's Grumpy, Doc, and Sleepy, followed by Happy, Sneezy, and Dopey,* and, finally, last but not least, Bashful.

*I guess no one in the blogosphere was feeling particulary Sneezy or Dopey in the last two months, but gosh, everyone was really Happy on October 31. I wonder why? (Kidding.)

Now how about someone do the 7 Liberal Arts (otherwise known in the Middle Ages as the Quadrivium and the Trivium).

And finally here are the stats for the discussion of Virago. Oh look, isn't that nice: there's a spike on the day I decided to dub myself Dr. Virago. Perhaps the blogosphere was wishing me happy birthday. What's that you say? Oh yeah, that's right -- that's the day "virago" was the Word of Day.

And Unfogged suggests another trend you might be interested in seeing graphically.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Go to Bérubé's blog right now

UPDATE: The post title and the first two paragraphs of this post are no longer relevant. You missed it. Oh well.

That's an order. This is especially important for those of you who read your blogs via Bloglines. Since Bloglines doesn't pick up template graphics, you're missing something today. Go now.

Hee hee!!! (And again, for those of you who don't know what the hell I'm talking about and don't get the joke once there, don't worry, you're not missing much.)

Speaking of Michael Bérubé, it was so cool to meet him last night, though I was disappointed there was no camouflage boom box. His talk was excellent and difficult-in-a-good-way, like a combination of his political posts on his blog and his "Theory Tuesday" series. I just barely knew the surface of the subjects and thinkers he covered to follow the talk (but not much more than follow), so there's absolutely no way I could even do adequate justice to a summary. I'll let him speak for himself on his blog. It was so complex and densely packed that if you failed to listen carefully every moment you'd be lost. (I should say here that he did give nice "signposts" to the listener to let you know where he'd been, where he was going, and how all of this was going to come together. I appreciated that. All public speakers should follow suit, even in short talks.)

Anyway, apparently I had to concentrate so hard that I was frowning all through the talk. I also had my arms crossed because I just sit that way. Why am I aware of this? Because Michael mentioned it and imitated it afterwards. I think it may have unnerved him. I'm sorry Michael! Really, it just means I'm actively engaged and thinking. So, for all of you academics whom I know IRL or whom I may get to know one of these days: if I come to one of your talks and frown all the way through it, that's a *good* sign. And if my arms are crossed, that has nothing to do with you and doesn't mean anything. Now you know.

Also, if I come to one of your talks, I promise not to be 15 minutes late and walk in just as the introductions are finished and you're starting to talk. Doh! In planning my roadtrip to see the talk, I forgot to allow time for negotiating the parking garage and getting from my car to the talk. And there was actually traffic in my town at 3pm. Weird. That *never* happens.

So what's the man like IRL? Well, he's tall. Not freakishly so, just a good tall. His voice is lower than I thought it would be. And, my god, the man talks so fast! I mean reallyfastlikethissoevenifyou'retalkingaboutsomethingnotparticularlysubstantial
likewhetherthebartendermixedupyourchardonnaywithhispinotgrigioit'shardotkeepup. Whew! New Yorkers, man. I've lost my touch. I've spent too many years in the west and midwest. And, of course, he's thinking even faster than he's talking so you move from one topic to another at lightening speed. (Funny comparison: talking to Michael actually reminds me of talking to a certain famously motormouthed film director friend of mine. Both men talk at a rapid-fire pace about subjects I know something about and am interested in, but don't share their depth of knowledge, so I'm content just to listen and go along for the ride.) However, remind me next time I meet up with him or someone like him to 1) eat something before I go so my blood-sugar is at a normal level and my brain is working, and 2) not have two glasses of wine on said empty stomach. Dr. Virago was *not* at her best and brightest!

Most of the 45 minutes we chatted we talked about places and people we knew in common. We went to the same undergraduate college, you see, and playing six-degrees is pretty easy when you add that to the fact that we weren't that far apart in eras there, we're both academics, and there's a high percentage of graduates from our undergrad college who go on to academia. It's pretty disgustingly weird how small all of our worlds are when you think about it. For example, one of Boyfriend's good friends from grad school was one of Michael's colleagues at Illinois (and Boyfriend's not even in English - he just hangs out with us) and she (Boyfriend's friend) also went to the same undergrad college as Michael and I. In fact, she and I were the same year. Sickening, really. I need to get out more. (The Boyfriend would probably agree. I think he's sick of me saying, "Ooh, that person went to Alma Mater," about every other person in the news or in entertainment or the arts or academia.)

Other things worth remarking upon:

  • The man's Middle English is just gorgeous. And what other po-mo Americanists do you know who bring up the word "wlonk" in conversation? Excellent.
  • The other MLA big-wigs should listen to him next time he suggests Las Vegas as the site for the annual convention. It's super union-friendly, it's cheap, it's set up for conferences, the hotels are all close together, and there are lots of cheap airlines that fly there from just about everywhere. Listen to him, MLA! Vegas, baby! I don't even like Vegas and I think that's a great idea. Besides, it's warm in winter.
  • And who knew that there was an elegant, undergrad-free bar in AA within steps from campus! Excellent discovery!
Like I said, most of what we talked about was "do you know so-and-so...and how's so-and-so doing?" kinda stuff. And SiteMeter and Technorati searches. Heh heh. Oh, and a question came up that we never really answered: why is it that most of the anonymous academic bloggers are women? Or is that just our misperception?

And then, on the way home, a little worried about those two glasses of wine, I got a latte at *$$ and blasted At the Drive In and sang along to keep me alert. But the combination of the high-intensity music with the high-intensity caffeine, added to the residue of the high-insensity "speed blogger meet-up" meant that I was so wound up I nearly forgot that I was almost out of gas until I was on a lonesome highway still only 3/4 of the way home. Lucky for me I was near an exit and a gen-u-wine truck stop, the kind with a laundromat in it. I'd never been in one of those before. But no one seemed to notice me, and they had regular fuel as well as diesel. It turned out I had a gallon of gas left and only 16 miles more to go, so I would've made it, but then I would've never learned that there are truck stops with laudromats. So it's all good.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Blogger meet-up

Ooh! I'm going to have my very first blogger meet-up this evening and it's with one of the grand pooh-bahs of academic blogging, Michael Bérubé. Cool! I'm such a dorkus malorkus that I'm actually kinda nervous. Must be smart. Must be funny. Oh the pressure!

God, this is almost like the time that I met The Clash after winning backstage passes at a concert in KC (at Starlight Theater, believe it or not past and present Kansas Citians) and was so nervous and intimidated that I could hardly speak. Doh. Of course, I was only 15 then. Perhaps being a real grown-up now will give me stuff to talk about. And somehow I doubt that Michael will be toting around a gi-normous, camouflage-painted boom box that blasts Mexican folk music, so that should help conversation. (Seriously, that's what The Clash were playing in their dressing room. It blew my mind.) Although, you know, if Michael were toting such an accessory it would be really, really funny.

More on voting

Turns out that my district and the precincts in my neighborhood had some of the biggest problems getting the votes counted in our local races. They weren't done counting until Wednesday morning.

Hmmm....predominantly African-American neighborhood + voting and tallying problems + a mayoral race with a black candidate and a white candidate....coincidence? Perhaps. But cynical old Dr. Virago thinks not. I've got no proof, of course. But then, that was the problem with Diebold machines, wasn't it? -- no proof.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

A disconcerting voting experience

[Note: I'm apparently not the only one who had a hard time voting. See the comments section where G Zombie has left a link to an LA Times article detailing the Governator's bad day trying to vote. Heh heh.]

So I just got back from voting on our local races (mayor and city council) and on our state initiatives and it was an interesting experience. Without giving too much away and leading too many googlers here, I live in a swing state that is just barely more red than blue (a division that aligns neatly with city and country, with the exception of one city in the southern part of the state) and whose election officials were also partisan campaigners for their party (guess which one) in the last national election. But I also live in a city that's largely blue, and in a voting district that's predominantly African-American. My city is so blue, in fact, that both mayoral candidates were Dems, though one used to be GOP. But the state is controlled by the GOP and on the ballot were four voting and districting and campaing initiatives that would wrest much of their control away from them, or at least stymie the ways in which they're used to gaining and holding onto that control. I'm sure in my blue district in my blue city those initiatives stood a good chance of getting a lot of votes.

My district is one of the ones that poll watchers were worried about in the national election, though things seemed to go smoothly then. The lines were long, but the instructions numerous. In fact, from the very moment you approach the polling place, there were people helping you figure out which precinct you lived in and what line to get in. Then there were more people giving you instructions about the mechanics of voting.

Since the last election my polling place has changed. I got a postcard in the mail informing me of this and at the polls I noticed other people had their cards, as well, so I guess the word got out. But there was other confusion. There are five or six precincts within my district and therefore five or six separate registration tables. These were in *separate* buildings, and in one building they were spread out in different rooms. When I first walked onto the grounds of the polling place, I was completely distracted by the cars pulling out of the parking lot (which I had to walk through) and the campaigners handing out info on their candidates (much closer than 100 feet, btw), so I really couldn't tell you if there were people there to mention that there were separate buildings. But I know there were no signs inside the first, larger building I entered. I wandered around until I found a room with voting going on in it. Luckily this particular precinct wasn't very busy and the helpful young man behind the sign-in table walked me back out and pointed out the building where my precinct was.

Once there, I got in the right line, which is always the longest. (I don't know if my precinct is more civic-minded or just more populous.) Anyway, it wasn't nearly as long as in the national elections, but while waiting in it a woman realized she was in the wrong line -- in the wrong building -- and had just wasted about 15 minutes there. Lucky for me I'd just been where her precinct was and so I was able to point her in the right direction.

Once I signed the register, I had to sit and wait for a machine to use. The voters and the volunteers were all pretty spontaneously organized for letting people know who was next and when a machine was free, but after that you were completely on your own. This wasn't a big deal to me, but the machines are totally new and I'm sure they threw some people off. In the national election, my polling place used scantron bubble sheets (number 2 pencils were provided) but now my district has been changed to the controversial touch-screen machines made by Diebold, a company with strong GOP ties.

The print of the directions for how to operate the machine was *tiny*. This tiny. And while that didn't bother my 20/20 vision, I can only imagine what it did for the older people. There was a button for larger print, but the glaring colors might have confused just about anyone not used to a computer or touch screen. I can only imagine one of my parents having to deal with it. I know where to look for "next" buttons, but does everyone?

Aside from the general questions of "user-friendliness," my biggest worry came at the end, after I'd picked all my candidates and positions on initiatives and got to the printing stage. Now, the machine doesn't make a print copy for the voter to take home. It only *supposedly* makes one for backup, somewhere inside it. It certainly did make printing sounds, but I really have to take it on faith that that's what the machine was actually doing. And how much faith do I have in Diebold? Not much. I realize, of course, that I also always had to take the punch cards on faith, too, and though I know I filled out the scantron sheets correctly, who knew for sure how the machine read it. But still. At least hanging chads and scantron sheets physcially exist to be examined and I had empirical evidence of that. Again, how do I know for sure anything tangible was printed from the touch screen machine?

[UPDATE: OK, I'm an idjit. Apparently there was a little box with a lid which you could lift up to see each page of the printed record. The Boyfriend told me this after the fact. But no one told me that. No one told the Boyfriend in his district, either -- he just happens to be one of those guys who checks machines and things out to see how they work. So the point remains: there was precious little clear information in this voting experience.]

But most worrying of all was the message that came up after I "cast" my ballot, at the very end. That message said that the machine was low on paper and that an election official should be notified. So I notified an official. He had no idea what to do. I'm not sure he even understood the issue. He just kept telling me that no one got a paper receipt. I understood that, but it seems the machine was saying paper versions of the votes weren't being printed for possible future auditing, either. I don't think he knew they were even supposed to do that. Instead, he just hurried me on my way. Who knows for sure if my votes were even properly registered. The GOP keeps touting "faith-based initiatives" -- I guess this is one of them!

And that's the story of the most diconcerting voting experience I've ever had.

Giving some love to Bitch Ph.D., who really does save the world one bra at a time

This post is about bras. And *everyone* love conversations about bras. (That said, Fast Fizzy, since you're my brother and all, you might not want to read this. I don't mind if you do, but *you* might not want to.)

Because of Bitch Ph.D., her blog, her commenters, and countless discussions of women's undergarments, which I am too lazy to go find, I finally high-tailed it to Nordstroms a few weeks ago (when I was in a town *with* a Nordstroms), whose bra-fitters are known to be among the best (according to at least one person on one thread at Dr. B's -- or perhaps Dr. B herself, I can't remember) and got myself measured by a professional. I also did this because I'd been *mis*measured at evil V's Secret, where if they don't sell your size (and they have a limited range) they'll convince you you're one of their sizes.

Well, I marched into Nordstroms and said to the fit specialist: "I think I'm a 32C, which I have been for some time, but some idiot tried to convince me I'm a 34B and I don't think that's right." Well, she measured me, and lo and behold, I was NOT 32C, but -- wait for it -- wait for it -- wait for it --


Sweet Jebus, how did I end up a D cup?! (Granted, it's still on a small frame, and cup size is relative to band size -- yes, guys, there are many kinds of D cups -- but still! I'm shocked!) But sure enough, the 32C bras (which she still had me try on because I was a smidgen in-between) didn't fit. I got that "double boob" lump thing from them.

And also because of Dr. B., I told the clerk I was interested in Wacoal bras -- which she concurred were well-made and came in a variety of sizes and style. Well, they certainly did come in a vast array of varieties! It was actually all a little overwhelming. So many styles! So many sizes to sort through to find mine!

In the end, I found my size in one of those convertible numbers where you can arrange the straps in numerous ways, so it was like getting five bras in one, which was a good thing, because those damn things are expensive ($50 and up). One of these days I'm going to have to get some more, but one at a time is all I can afford at the moment.

But now at least I have one appropriately fitting bra that actually does its job and holds me up.

Thanks, Bitch Ph.D.! The 'internets' is truly a wonderful place with you in it!

Problems with downstairs neighbors

Those of you who know me IRL know that two years ago I kept having to do battle with downstairs neighbors who I suspected were using my washer and dryer (and thus costing me money, especially in my gas bills). I had to wait for tangible evidence (and got it in the form of a sock in the dryer) before I could confront them.

The washing machine theives eventually moved out and a family of three moved in. In most respects they are good neighbors and I like them as people. But one thing has been driving nuts since they moved in last year. Every morning, at least during the school year, they get up either an hour or at least a half hour before I do to get their kid off to school. How do I know their schedule so well? I know because my sleep is disturbed for those 30-60 minutes by the sounds of them stomping through their apartment, rushing back and forth between the bedrooms, the bathroom, the front hall, the living room, and the front door. The kid is hyper or something -- definitely a morning person -- because he usually greets the morning by *bounding* out of bed and rushing up and down the apartment with the dog. But mom and dad are problems, too. They're big people and "heel-strikers" (they hit their heels hard when they walk fast) and every morning it sounds like the mom is in a rush to get the kid ready. And these are downstairs neighbors. That's how damn loud they are. Every morning sounds like this: BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM. BANG. BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM. BANG. BANG.


This morning was the last straw for me, though, because they got up extra early (perhaps because mom and dad had to vote) and the kid would not stop fucking around in his room, which is right below mine. It wasn't just (marginally) forgivable rushing around, but a whole lot of messing around -- I could even hear his mom yelling at him. I finally lost it, bounded out of my own bed, jumped up and down, and screamed, "For the love of god, BE QUIET! It's 6:30 am and I. AM. TRYING. TO. SLEEP."

It did nothing. Apparently 10-year-olds don't know that when upstairs neighbors pound on their floor that you should SHUT THE HELL UP. All I got was more booming and banging and rushing around in response. I swear to god he also plays basketball in there.

So, internets, here's my question to you. When I am calm and reasonable (not now, as now I have Crazy Ham Radio guy coming out of my sub-woofer again -- for the love of god, this neighborhood is INSANE! -- and that is also making me cranky) can I talk to my neighbors about possibly practicing stealth walking in the mornings? At the very least, can I ask them to get the kid out of his bedroom and behaving with his "indoor manner" in the mornings? I don't suppose I can ask them to get up earlier so they don't have to rush and I know I can't do anything about their being big and tall people who hit the ground hard, and perhaps I should go to bed earlier and get up *with* them so that my sleep isn't disturbed, but can I at least ask them to help out a bit in the quiet department?

What do y'all think?

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Tracking Fast Fizzy in NYC

It's just after noon EST on Sunday, Nov. 6 and the men's leaders of the NY Marathon are nearing the finish. If it started on time (10:10am) then they only have about 15 minutes to go as I write, based on leader Meb Keflezighi's 20-mile split of 1:38:40 and projected finish of 2:09:15.

My brother, meanwhile, is a *little* behind those guys. I don't have a 20-mile split for him yet, but at the half marathon (13.1 miles) his time was 1:31:56, a 7:01 min/mile pace, for an estimated 3:03:52 finish if he holds that pace. But I'm a little worried he took off a bit too fast and that he'll pay for it in the end. His first 6.2 miles (10K) was 43:15 -- a 6:58 min/mile pace -- which means he's already slowed down. I'm hoping that slow-down was conscious -- an effort to hold back so he doesn't bonk -- and not gradually building fatigue. Keeping my fingers crossed.

He said he'd be happy with a 3:20 finish, but right now he's on his way to amazing new PR (his current PR is around 3:13) and a sub 3:05 finish, which would make him *40* minutes faster than I am now.

Go, Fast Fizzy, go!

Keep your fingers crossed for him and I'll post an update when I know his 20-mile split and finish time.

UPDATE: Ooh! Paul Tergat (Kenya), the world-record holder, won the day for the men with a 2:09:30 finish. Meb, who was leading their pack at mile 20 (the front runners generally run together for most of the race), finished 26 seconds behind at 2:09:56. That's only a one second per mile difference, but he came in third place. Hendrick Ramaala (South Africa) squeezed in-between for a 2:09:31 finish -- ONLY ONE SECOND BEHIND THE WINNER. My god, that must have been exciting! Meanwhile, the women's winner, Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia), finished in 2:24:41. The women's race was an exciting, close race, too: the second place winner, Susan Chepkemei (Kenya), finished in 2:24:55. I wish I could've been there to watch -- or at least watch on NY tv.

UDPATE ON FAST FIZZY: OK, I have a 20-mile split for my brother now: 2:22:17 (7:06 pace) and a projected finish: 3:06:23. He's slowing down a smidgen, so I don't think he's going to speed up to finish under 3:05, but he's well on track to set a great PR if he doesn't run out of steam in the last 6.2 miles.

HOT DAMN! FINAL EXCELLENT UPDATE ON FAST FIZZY: My speedy bro' finished the race by setting a new PR in an amazing 3:08:28 (chip time). Way to go big bro'! Congratulations!

Damn, he's skinny! And yes, I guess the face-obsuring white hat is a family fashion now.
Mustache optional.
Post-race photo courtesy of Virgo Sis, who was there, along with Fast Fizzy's wife, kid, and in-laws.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Ah, running back to normal finally

OK, clearly I can't decide if I'm super girly or super athletic tonight, because first I post about my blue eyeshadow and now I'm posting about running.

Well, anyway, just thought I'd let the internets know -- in case you were worried -- that my post-marathon aches and pains are subsiding and this week I was able to run at various paces between 8:00 mins/mile and 8:24 mins/mile with little or no effort. Excellent.

And now that I figured out how to save and post the little preview pictures from the official marathon photographer's website and how to obscure my bib number as well, here's a reminder (to myself as much as to y'all) that all those aches and pains were worth it:

Yup, that's me with the white hat and upraised arms. Since it's just a preview pic, it's low-res and small. Maybe once I get the CD of all ten of my pictures, I'll post another. There's a profile shot where you can't see my face or my bib number. You know, I didn't think of blogging when I wore that hat, but it sure turned out to be handy!

Tonight Dr. Virago answers the age old question:

Can a green-eyed, pale-skinned, dark brunette pull off blue eyeshadow?

Why yes, she can. (Or he can if he's so inclined.) That is, s/he can if it's a blue like this (called "Faded Denim"):

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Interjection or exclamation! Longer exclamation!

This is just to say that I will no longer use the 'style' (if it can be called that) of blog entry title that I mock in the title of this post. Honestly. And I will reduce the use of exclamation points. What am I -- a thirteen year old girl? Sheesh.

On a more positive note, I now have the School House Rock "Interjection!" song going through my head.

Innnnn - ter - JEC - tions!
Show excitement!
Or Emotion!

Well, yeah, but so does nuanced writing. I am going to try to aim for more of that.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

The mighty Giblets raised my spirit; perhaps he will raise yours, too

OK, Giblets at Fafblog cheered me up a little with this satirical post on Frist's finger-wagging at the Dems' "stunt" of, gosh, demanding accountability from the GOP. Thanks to Bitch Ph.D. for pointing it out.

If you haven't discovered the brilliant madness that is Fafblog (and especially Giblets) you must. Giblets won't take no for an answer. I especially recommend Giblets' review of The Passion of the Christ for starters (well, you know, Passion drama and bashing Gibson is sorta my bag). Proceed at will from there. Giblets will be pleased.

Frak. I think I'm depressed.

The evidence:

  • It takes me 30-45 minutes to stop hitting snooze and drag my ass out of bed.
  • I dawdle over breakfast, the newspaper, blogs, showering, getting dressed, making up, packing my stuff for the office, etc., so that it takes me at least two hours to get out of the house after getting up.
  • If I add a run to that routine, it dawdle over suiting up, getting to my route, stretching, etc.
  • Sometimes I don't start my "real" day until lunch time (though then I usually work through much of the evening to make up for it).
  • I play Free Cell and online blackjack repetitively.
  • I can't seem to keep up with any personal life obligations: letters, gifts, and other correspondence I owe people; house cleaning; laundry; doctors' visits and hair cuts, etc.
  • My house and office are both a mess.
  • Every time anyone asks me to do anything my first reaction is to hide or freak out.
  • Any new obligation or reminder of one I haven't completed makes my stomach hurt.
  • I'm filled with a constant sense of dread.
  • I can't concentrate, especially on work. I can't even concentrate on posting to this blog long enough to type up two substantial entries I've already written.
  • My energy is low.
  • I feel a lot of guilt for having low energy, which only makes my energy lower.
  • My sleep is uneven and even after eight hours of seemingly uninterrupted sleep (like last night) I feel unrefreshed.

Yup. I think I'm depressed. Or as a therapist I once had said, after the initial get-to-know-you appointment: "Congratulations. You're depressed." (Maybe, if I'm very lucky, it's just a PMS slough. God, can't believe I'm hoping for PMS!)

Frak. I don't have time to be depressed!!! Frak. Frak. Frak.

Now what? This isn't "about" something -- it's that physiological demon that has no rhyme or reason, the kind that really frakin' annoys me because I can't "solve" it by putting my mind or energy to taking care of it. Do I get a therapist? So I take St. John's Wort or eat more protein? Do I hope this too shall pass (as it usually does, except for those two awful years in sprawling Big City when events exacerbated the situation)? Is naming it and announcing it to the whole freakin' internets enough catharsis?

Don't worry. Quod She isn't about to become The Depression Blog. In fact, so far, I haven't posted a single inner-turmoil/emotional entry here, and I probably will rarely do so. I'm not so good with expressing my emotions (except maybe "pissed off" or "annoyed"). I really am like a guy that way. Or maybe just a WASP like my Mom. But if I was all "la-la, happy, happy fun time, all is great in Dr. V's world" all the time, I'd be really annoying, wouldn't I?

But still, I'd really appreciate it if this particular depression demon would get the frak out of my head and leave me alone. I have shit to do, dammit. Tons of it. Clearly the gargoyles outside of my office windows are NOT doing their job protecting me from evil spirits.* Dammit.

Grrrr. That is all.

*Note: I don't really believe that depression is caused by demon-possession, of course, but it makes a good metaphor. It feels like that. Even in our modern world, we still use metaphors like "I'm not feeling like myself" to describe depression and mental illness.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Ooh! A red-tailed hawk!

Cool! There's a red-tailed hawk sitting in the tall tree in the courtyard outside my campus office window. At least I *think* it's a red-tailed hawk. I haven't been able to see its tail clearly, but the rest of it matches. Plus, they're pretty common all across the States, so it's more likely to be a red-tailed hawk than just about any other species.

I love the courtyard outside my office. Gargoyles and hawks -- what else could a medievalist want?

[UPDATE: OK, I'm almost certain my avian friend is a light form of the red-tailed hawk. And, btw, s/he just caught another bird -- a pigeon, I think, judging from the color -- and is feasting on it in the crook of the tree right at my eye level. It looks like it's plucking it first -- just like we pluck chickens -- but that's probably just an effect of the feathers flying around. I'm fascinated. I've never watched a bird of prey eat in real life before....Can you tell I'm having a hard time concentrating on work?]