Monday, March 31, 2008

Not safe for the squeamish...

Bullock, don't go any further.

On the other hand, Karl Steel, this post is for you. (H/T Bardiac)

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Planning ahead for K'zoo -- meet-up?

OK, just so my entire front page isn't taken up by dog stuff, a quick query of a post...

Is anyone interested in taking over K'zoo Blogger Meet-Up duties from me this year?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My dog is a circus freak!

Bullock and I don't celebrate Easter, so we took the opportunity of fewer people in the city parks today to take Pippi on her first fun outing other than her daily walkies. (We also went to the vet on Thursday, but I don't think that counts, even though she enjoys meeting new people and doesn't seem to have vet anxieties.) It's important for her to meet other people and dogs, too, but it's also nice to have a park largely to ourselves and to be able to observe how Pippi reacts to a handful of runners, cross-country skiers, and dogs with their walkers, rather than whole hordes.

Anywho, I took along my camera to record the event, especially since it was a pretty, snowy day. I took a lot of pictures of Bullock with Pippi walking along, from a distance and from behind, to try to capture the solitude we had. In the midst of taking those pictures, I serendipitously captured this one:

No, you're not seeing things. Pippi is standing completely upright like a soldier at attention (minus the salute), and her leash is totally slack, so Bullock isn't helping her balance at all. And what's more amazing is that she stayed like that for at least 30 seconds. She stood up just as I was snapping the picture, although I didn't quite realize it. I heard Bullock laugh in wonder, looked at the image I'd captured, and then looked up to see Pippi still standing and watched her continue to do so for a little while longer.

This is what she does all the time to look out the windows in the house, but we'd never realized until now that she stands up first and then puts one paw delicately on the sill to hold herself there longer. Bullock now wants to teach her to do it on command as a party trick.

So what inspired this little freakish display? These creatures, of course:

We figure she stood up to get a closer look, since they were on slightly higher ground. For awhile they were just standing there, too, but by the time I got the camera on them, they took off. Oh well -- can't get every shot.

Btw, substantive, non-dog-related posts will return to this blog, I promise. But in the last week, all of my free time has been spent with Pippi, so I've been a little dog-obsessed lately.

Also, I really wanted to call this post "She is risen," but that was too much of a groaner even for me. Plus, I didn't want to mislead people to think I was then going to do a Carolyn Bynum-esque thing on the feminine Jesus or anything. But clearly I had to tell you anyway, for those of you who like your humor with bad puns and blasphemy.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pippi settles in

We've finally got some good pictures of Pippi at home with us now, and I thought I'd share them. None of them quite does justice to the color of her fur, but they're close.

Day 1: checking all the perimeters and discovering good windows to look out of. So exciting! --

Day 2: getting some snuggles (her belly's still shaved from her spaying operation) --

Day 3: sacked out in Dr. V's study -- must have been all that excitement! --

Btw, note the framed X-Files trading cards in the background of that last photo. My roommate from my first two years in grad school bought that for me at a sci fi convention years ago. Hey, why didn't we think of naming the dog Scully? Oh well.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Tra la la la la, you'll love her too!

Freckles on her nose
Diddle diddle dee
A girl came riding
Into town one day
Diddle diddle
She was quite a sight!
It's Pippi Longstocking, hey ho ho, hee ha ha ha!
It's Pippi Longstocking - there's no one like her!

Yes, we named the doggy Pippi, despite the fact that that wasn't your collective first choice. (Last I checked, Poppy was on top. Close, but no cigar.)

And it fits. In person her fur is as orange as Pippi's red hair in the books and movies. And like the Swedish Pippi, our Pippi also has freckles on her nose, fluffy red ears that don't quite stick out like the storybook Pippi's braids but which approximate the look, and an impish personality.

But what's most Pippi-like about our Pippi is her uncanny strength for such a little girl. Oh. My. God. Pippi is a 34-pound dog who thinks she's a Bull Mastiff or Bernese Mountain Dog. This dog could pull a cart loaded with hay all by herself, I swear. The first time Foster Mom gave me the leash yesterday afternoon, Pippi nearly pulled me off my feet. From that moment, we knew Pippi had to be the name. (There was a brief period last night when I thought we should change it to a Hobbit name -- either Rosie or Poppy -- because she has furrier than furry toes, with these adorable "feathers" sticking up out of them, but then I decided Pippi had already stuck, and we could perhaps see it as a feminine version of Pippin.)

Plus, she responded to it immediately. The first time might have been coincidental, but she's already learned it in less than 24 hours and comes when she's called. We could probably change it to any of the other names if we wanted and she'd learn that, too -- this girl is smart, just like Swedish Pippi. Foster Mom told us she didn't know "sit." It took me one lesson to teach it to her and now she sits on command instantly.

I have to admit I wouldn't say the Swedish Pippi is beautiful (though I might say she's cute!) and our Pippi definitely is. The pictures didn't do her justice. The one that's most accurate is the top one in this post, but there she's clearly just had her hair clipped there, and now it has grown out with characteristic Brittany feathering on the legs. She's so gorgeous in fact that people stop us to tell us so and ask what kind of dog she is.

And what a personality! I'm totally in love. Yes, she's very, very active, but right now it's amusing the hell out of us. She's not nearly as serious as in the pictures -- she's rather clownish, actually. Neither of us have ever known a dog like this. First of all, if something is in her way, she is just as likely to climb over as she is to walk around it -- person sitting on the floor, bed, sofa, whatever. And there will be no keeping her off the sofas and chairs, especially since a couple of them are her means of getting to the window to look out. In some ways she seems more cat than dog. We've gated her out of the really nice rooms for the time being -- the living room and the newly finished dining room -- until we figure out if we can teach her what furniture is "hers" and what's off limits. Thank god the family room sofas are microfiber -- dried dog slobber and hair brush right off. And we've already moved some things around so that she has some benches under windows to sit and lay on so that the sofas aren't her only options.

And she is so incredibly affectionate. It's pretty easy to turn her "off" just by inviting her into your lap, where she'll happily loll for some time. In fact, she prefers laps to just about anything (except maybe sofas), but we're already teaching her some boundaries -- no lap sitting at the dinner table or our computer desks -- and she's learning quickly. And she just loves Bullock. She likes me, too, but she's completely fallen for him, it's clear. Her Foster Dad spent a little more time with her than her Foster Mom, so I think that's the main reason, but Bullock is also one of those people that all animals gravitate towards. And who can blame them? He *is* a lovable man after all!

And you should see her run -- she prances or trots! It's so cute the way she picks up her feet! Whenever she's in the back yard, she races around the perimeter making sure birds and squirrels know this is her yard, and then she runs back to us for petting and cuddles, because, after all, she's just showing us what a good bird dog she is, pointing out all the birds to us. And then she runs some more.

Yup, I'm totally in love. As the Pippi theme song goes (in English, anyway): Tra la la la la, you'll love her too!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Publications and visibility

ETA: Read the comments if you haven't already done so. Thanks to my readers and commenters, there's really good stuff there! ETA (2): Ooh! And now Dr. Crazy and Horace have taken it up, and broadened the discussion beyond us medievalists. (I love Crazy's Star Trek / Lost in Space / Heroes analogy!)

In the comments to a post at In the Middle (unfortunately, I can't remember where or how it came up), JJC posited that the trifecta of article publications for a medievalist in literature was Exemplaria, JMEMS (ETA: that's Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies for the uninitiated), and Speculum. For me that's one down, two to go, and in fact, I've been thinking for some time that I need to develop two projects that I've only been toying with until now, and to develop them with eye towards each of the journals I haven't published in yet.

Other than the one journal I have published in -- my first article, actually; and now reprinted in a large collection of essays meant to represent the "state of the field" in that particular area (how cool is that?) -- my articles, both published and forthcoming, are all in essay collections.

That's not the way to be visible, is it? That's both a rhetorical question and a real one, because while that's my impression, I also want to know what you think. Do journal articles "matter" more than articles in collections in terms of visibility and weight on your CV? (And btw, I know there are different practices out there, but here I'm talking about essay collections that were peer reviewed, both at the individual article level and at the level of the whole collection. So in those terms, they have equal weight.)

And after tenure (assuming that the provost, president, and board sign off on mine -- still haven't heard from them), is publication visibility just about professional reputation and influence? And how much does that matter in promotion to full professor? I mean, presumably one wants one's work read so that it has an influence on the field, but beyond that, what choices should a person be making in terms of where to place things, and why?


No dogs were mentioned -- and certainly not harmed! -- in the creation of this post.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


If you were here for the brief minutes that a post called "Sad" and featuring a video with a dog in it was here -- or if it shows up in your RSS feeder -- you might have been confused. I tried to post that thing from YouTube *days* ago. WTF? Anyway, I made it go bye-bye, because I am not sad any more. Why not? Because the Brittany is coming! The Brittany is coming! See the happy post below this one.

The Brittany is coming! The Brittany is coming!

She's coming by car, so should that be one lantern or two? Hee.

We're arranging with Foster Dad for the delivery of the delightful Dog Currently Known as Rowan. His schedule depending, we'll be welcoming her over the next three days. We've bought the supplies will need right away -- crate, leash, bowls, food, treats, etc. -- and we're making things ready for her.

But we still don't have a name for her. So I've created a quiz and posted it below. I think it should show the results after you've taken it, but I've never done this before, so I may come back here and edit this post if it doesn't work.

The names we're thinking of include: Rosie, Poppy, Pippi, Birdie, Hildy, Gertie, Ruby, and Lucy. (Almost all pets in my family and Bullock's have had people names, btw.)

Anyway, before you vote, there are a few things you should know. First of all, here are two more pictures of Rowan (from the rescue agency website -- we don't have our own yet):

As you can see, she's a roan Brittany -- hence her name. And in these pictures she has the stance and alertness of the bird dog that she was bred to be.

Other things you should know: I've read that dogs are more likely to respond to two-syllable names, and that they particularly respond to the the "ee" sound. I don't know how true this is, but I've used it as a guide in picking names. I don't know if Rowan already responds to her current name, which she has had for only about 2 months. If she does and we still really want to change it, that makes "Rosie" the best option.

Bullock is a red-head himself, and he's Swedish-American on both sides of his family -- hence Pippi. Bullock and I are both fans of Lord of the Rings, especially Bullock, and Rosie, Poppy, and Hildy are all Hobbit names -- appropriate for a small fuzzy creature. (Rosie was the beloved of Sam Gamgee and Poppy and Hildy were in the family trees in the appendices.) Also, we have a weird running joke about the actress Poppy Montgomery. Then again, poppies are the flower of memorials to the war dead in Britain, so maybe it's not the right name for a dog, even a reddish colored one.

Birdie is a variant of Brigid/Brigit, and so it has medieval connections, as well as a Gaelic language origin (suitable for a Brittany). And, of course, she's a bird dog. Hildy is both a Hobbit name and potentially a reference to Hildegard von Bingen.

Ruby and Lucy have red associations (as in the jewel and I Love Lucy).

And Gertie was one of the original names I thought of when thinking of dog names in general, long before Rowan was the dog of choice. (If we'd gotten a boy dog, Gus was Bullock's name of choice.)

So enter you opinion below, or make other suggestions in the comments (and also vote for "none of the above"). I can't say that we'll use the name that wins the most votes, but I'm still interested in what you think! (ETA: I voted once just to see it work, but it still showed all choices as 0%. Hm. Well, if that happens to you, feel free to express your opinion in the comments!)

ETA 2: Stand by while I replace the currently crappy Quibblo poll with one from Poll Daddy and see if that works better....Ah, much better.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Doggie! Part Deux (because I don't know Breton for 'two')

Anubis works in mysterious ways.

Betty Boop didn't work out for us, but that just opened the door for the Dog Currently Known as Rowan (pictured above with loldog additions courtesy of moi).

Our home visit went well -- it lasted all of 5 minutes and consisted primarily of the regional coordinator making sure we weren't lying about our fenced-in yard. (Apparently people do, which is weird to me, since there's always a home visit!) She'll send us the contract by e-mail, and then once we fill out that and pay the adoption fee, then we coordinate with the foster dad to make arrangements for Rowan to be delivered to us.

We've already talked to Foster Dad about Rowan and she sounds *awesome*. She's high energy, but I'm looking for a running companion, so that's fine with me. And other than that, he says she's been the easiest foster he's had -- eager to please, easy to train, and already knows and always obeys a number of commands. She's a two-year-old who came to her foster home with bordatella and parasites, as well as matted fur that had to be nearly shaved, but she's been treated for all of those and was a stellar patient and grooming client according to Foster Dad. She's spayed, house-trained, crate-trained, and good on a leash, and though she's an alpha who makes sure the other dogs know she's boss, she's not aggressive. She's also apparently a "great napper" according to Foster Dad. This cracks me up, but I guess it's Foster Dad's way of saying once she's had her exercise she's a calm house dog, which is good.

And there was no other applicant interested in her, thank god! And as soon as I told the regional coordinator that my conversation with Foster Dad was great and that we wanted Rowan, her website bio was updated with "adoption pending."

So, unless Rowan exhibits some previously-unknown fear of red-headed men or curly-haired brunette women, or some other weird and hard-to-overcome trait when we meet her, it looks like she'll be ours. (Knock wood, knock wood, knock wood!!!) We're even running through possible new names, and there's a strong favorite, but we'll wait until we meet the wee beastie (she's only 34 pounds -- she's pretty wee, even for a Brittany). The name Rowan just doesn't do it for us, despite the appropriateness of being Gaelic and meaning red -- it's too masculine, for one thing, and I like dog names that end in -ie or -y. I'll keep you posted on possibilities or decisions made when/if she's truly ours. (I'm sure you just can't wait!)

Friday, March 7, 2008

I am a sad puppy

We didn't get Betty Boop. I have no idea why, but I hope the home she did find is in fact, truly, the best home for her.

I feel like world has turned upside-down and inside-out and *I'm* the dog in the kennel in the shelter in that Pedigree commercial who keeps getting passed up even though I'm so clearly very awesome. (You know the one -- the one with David Duchovny's voice-over that makes me want to give the dog the lines, "David Duchovny, why won't you love me?!" I keep trying to post it here from YouTube but it's not showing up for some reason.)

I feel like baying a sad song, "Ar-roo-roo-roo."

But, there's still hope. There are other doggies we're interested in who need homes. And tomorrow the regional coordinator woman is going to visit our home with one of her dogs, and when she sees that I have the perfect Brittany-sized arm chair in my study, where I spend all of my time, and where a Brittany can happily hang out and watch the birdies in the tree outside, and when she meets Bullock -- whom she hasn't talked to -- and finds out he's gentle and kind and adorable around dogs, she'll know we're the *perfect* Brittany home!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ack! I can't take the suspense!

There's another applicant interested in Betty Boop. The coordinator says she'll let me know what the foster mother's decision is as soon as she knows. In the meantime, Betty has been labeled "adoption pending" on the rescue organization's web site. Ack! I can't take it! Pick us! Pick us!

Good news!

No, it's not about sweet faced Betty the Brittany -- still no word on when our home visit and meet-up will be, and now there's another applicant interested in her, so there's competition! Oh no!

But never mind that. I've got other good news: my bestest friend from grad school, D., got a tenure-track job offer! Yay! And there's a chance he'll get a counter-offer from the place where he's a VAP. He might have choices! Woo-hoo! This is after at least four years on the market, and only this year did he get campus visits. He's an Americanist and works on 20th century fiction, so he's in what seems to me just about the hardest sub-field of English there is because there are only a handful of jobs out there every year and tons and tons of applicants. He's been moving around from one short-term contract position to another for the last four years and my heart was vicariously breaking for him every time job season didn't work for him. But now I get to celebrate with him over his good news! Yay!

On a slightly less celebratory note: this reminds me of Squadratomagico's post on what sacrifices we make in this profession (which I've been meaning to respond to more personally, but haven't gotten a chance to do). D. is only a year younger than I am -- he's 37 -- and he entered grad school with me in the same year in the mid-90s, after having taken off 2 years between college and grad school. And he's only now getting his first stable, full-time job at 37. Bullock's story -- in a different discipline -- is similar: really competitive sub-field with only a handful of jobs, many years of VAP jobs, and no stable employment until he was 35, even though he only took one year off between college and grad school and moved through his Ph.D. faster than either D. or I did.

I think D. will be really happy in his job whether he takes the one being offered or gets a counter offer at his current institution and stays there. And he's a fabulous teacher and an incredibly smart and creative thinker with much to contribute to his field. I can also see him forging a a career as a public intellectual as well as a more specialized scholar, and so I think the greater intellectual world will benefit from his continued presence in it. And so I'm very, very happy for him. But damn, it took him a lot of super-human perseverance and patience and hope and fortitude to get there, as well as a lot of emotional, personal, and financial sacrifices. I need to tell D.'s story to my students every year in my "intro to grad study" class (especially since a number of them are interested in 20th century American literature), only in that version of the story, the focus will not be on the happy ending. Instead, I'll start there and work backwards, so they have a better sense of what happens along the way.

But for now, I just want to jump for joy and celebrate with D. Yay, D.!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Bullock and I have started the dog adoption process with an area rescue organization that specializes in the Brittany, a bird dog bred for hunting, and thus, for better or worse, plentiful around here. We're currently considering this cute 3-year-old girl, whom the rescuers have named Betty Boop:

Squeeeee! How can you not love that face?!

Betty has some house-training issues still to deal with, because it seems she came from a home where they didn't follow up on such things or else kept her somewhere where it didn't matter (her story isn't clear, except that she had several litters of puppies, and yet through it all is still sweet, social with humans and furry creatures alike, and gentle in nature). And so Bullock and I are trying to figure out if we can handle the extra training. Originally we were interested in adult dogs so we wouldn't have to house-break them, but Betty seems so good in so many other ways, that we're still considering her. We still have the house visit by the regional coordinator, and we may go meet Betty or she may come visit us. So keep your fingers crossed for us that whether Betty is our girl, or some other dog becomes part of our pack, that we end up with the right dog for us, and the dog ends up with the right people for her (or him, as the case may be).

Btw, if you're wondering how we ended up looking for a Brittany, this is how it happened. After lots and lots of research about various breeds, as well as obsessive watching of both the AKC/Eukenuba and Westminster Kennel Club dog shows (at least on my part), we came back again and again to the Brittany. For awhile there, as you may recall, I was infatuated with Portuguese Water Dogs, but I decided that the breed wasn't right for us. Working dogs are too clever and willful for me. The Brittany, as a breed, is affectionate, eager to please, not generally willful, smart enough to learn but not deviously clever, and people-oriented. They're an active breed that needs lots of exercise, but I'm looking for a running partner, so that's a good thing in my book. Plus, they're a medium sized breed, which means that in case of an emergency I can pick the dog up myself. After Wiley's ear infection last year, when he was too dizzy to get down from our second floor on his own, I was adamant about getting a dog I can pick up myself. But neither Bullock and I wanted a very small dog; I figured it wouldn't be a great running companion and Bullock just didn't want something too, well, foofy. So that's how we ended up interested in the Brittany. And the fact that the rescue organizations are over-populated with them around here -- this is a big hunting area, and sometimes hunters surrender the dogs who turn out gun shy or don't bird well, or whatever -- made me feel like they were a breed in need.

The regional coordinator was so excited to read in our application that we'd done our research, btw. One of the main reasons dogs end up in shelters and rescue organizations is that people get a dog because it's cute and don't know anything about the breed's general qualities and needs. There's a Boxer down the street who's suffering because of that. Poor thing is left out in the back yard by himself all day and he's clearly bored out of his mind. He barks all day -- and I know it's him because of that characteristic Boxer bark that sounds more like a baby crying than a dog -- and frequently jumps the fence. And I *never* see his owners walking him. Poor thing.

Anyway, not only did the rescue coordinator *tell* me she was impressed that we'd done our research, but the fact that she called at 8:30am this morning after I'd submitted the adoption application around 11pm last night told me something! I suppose the fact that we *weren't* asking for the one puppy they have right now (actually, Betty's pup) made her leap at the chance to give us a call. She was definitely very excited to talk to me this morning!

This is all proceeding much faster than I thought it would. Who knows -- we may have a new addition to the household pretty soon!

Monday, March 3, 2008

BSG - What the Frak is Going On? (Official Recap S1-S3)

Don't know or remember what the frak has happened on Battlestar Galactica over the last 3 seasons either because you haven't seen it or because it's been too frakkin' long since the show last aired? Then catch up in 8 funny minutes with this video! (Yeah, I know I've just embedded a commercial in my blog, but I don't care, because I love BSG and it's only a month until the new season! Woo-hoo!)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The table, it is done!

Voila - four views of the finished table. (Note: some of the pictures make the top look like it's shinier and slicker, and sometimes even darker, than the bottom. It is not.)

All hail Bullock's talent!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Leap! Leap! Leap!

Happy March 1st everyone! And happy first day of Spring Break for me! Of course, I've got plenty on my plate to get down over break, including the draft of an article, but not having to *go* to work in other ways is still a break.

In the meantime, I've declared today a day without agendas -- I'm just going to do what I feel like doing. And right now, I feel like doing a version of the Leap Day meme I saw at What Now?, even though Leap Day was yesterday. (I know, I'm so *crazy*! I'm a radical!) The point of the meme is to look at each Leap Day you've lived through as a snapshot of your life at the moment. So here's what Dr. Virago was up to over the years:

Feb. 29, 2004 -- I was in my second semester here at Rust Belt U., teaching 3 classes at a time for the first time, having only ever taught 2 classes at once the previous semester and the last quarter of my post-doc lecturing gig. So I was struggling a bit. It didn't help that two of the classes perplexed and puzzled me in terms of what I was supposed to be doing with them. (The third was Chaucer -- that one I'd done in my lecturer gig, so I was good to go.) One of the classes was a literature class for non-majors, except that it wasn't called "X for non-majors," so I didn't know that it was really geared for non-majors and thought it was more a gateway kind of course. And I hadn't realized or been told how not quite ready the students were for the kind of gateway course I'd taught before and was adapting for this class. The other class was the first iteration of Middle English. My very first year my otherwise lovely colleagues threw me into the OE-ME sequence, both of which are cross-listed with linguistics and taken by linguistics majors, even though I'm neither an Anglo-Saxonist nor a linguist. OE was actually a little easier -- well, there was trouble with a couple of students, but that's another story -- because there are OE textbooks out there that go systematically through the process of learning the language so that you can then start translating. But with ME I had no idea where to start. I'd taken an ME class in grad school, but as a grad school class full of medievalists, we were digging into numerous texts that we'd read already as literature and talking about them in more linguistic terms. Clearly I couldn't do that with a class full of non-medievalist undergrads and MA students. And while A Book of Middle English is a fine anthology for such a class, it doesn't have a very detailed introduction to the phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon of ME. So I made the mistake of getting Horobin and Smith's An Introduction to Middle English, which is a great book in many ways, but seriously went over the heads of a number of the students in my class, and also, frankly, was too technical for *me*. (Although I have to say, I've learned to love teaching the Middle English Open Syllable Lengthening.) Luckily for me I had a fun and patient group of students who seemed willing to put up with the fact that I had a learning curve, too.

Feb. 29, 2000 - I was living in LaLa Land, the city of my grad program, and working as a research assistant for one of the academic centers on campus, which meant that I really was only working 20 hours a week at most for the first time in my grad school employment career. That meant I was also actually getting time in on dissertation research and writing. I *also* had the time to train for my very first marathon, which was only a few days away at this point. My goal was to finish under 4 hours, but weather conditions slowed me down -- it rained an inch an hour and I've never been so blistered and chafed in my life -- and I finished in 4:05. Still, that put me in the top 400 women finishers (in a race that had about 20,000 participants total), and so I got my name in the paper the next day, in the sports section. How cool is that? Meanwhile, I lived in a neighborhood I'll call the Aspiring Mile because it was full of "aspiring types" -- mostly in the entertainment industry, but also a number of grad students -- and my immediate neighbors in my Spanish courtyard apartment building included a costume assistant, a buyer for a high-end department store, a screenwriter, two actors who did a lot of commercial work and ran commercial acting classes in their living room, a musician and his art gallery manager girlfriend, and an actress who would eventually make her name playing the foul-mouthed whore with a heart of gold on this show.

Feb. 29, 1996 - I was in my second year of graduate school, juggling course work and teaching for the first time. I think this was the quarter that I lucked out and got assigned to the Shakespeare for non-majors course instead of composition. I'd teach composition one more time, but that was it, and to this day I have an irrational fear of composition because of my lack of experience with it. I wasn't yet living in the building described above, but was instead living in West LaLa Land, closer to campus, because I'd move there from NYC and didn't have a car. I would actually manage to live for 5 years in LaLa Land without a car. But I did have a roommate. She was a good roommate in many ways -- responsible, quiet, and generally a good person -- but she had strange neuroses and had an oddly small and provincial life for someone who had chosen to go to college in the big city and stay there afterwards. I did not get her at all. And I didn't really want to be best friends with, but she really wanted to be best friends with me. And she didn't get that when I was reading or writing, I really didn't want to be regaled with 30 minute long stories about how she thought maybe the guy she'd been hopelessly in love with for a year maybe showed the tiniest glimmer of noticing her. So when the lease came up that summer I found a one bedroom in the Aspiring Mile, where the rents were cheap because the landlords didn't ever actually repair anything. Oh, and one thing you might have noticed in these entries on my grad school years: no mention of a romantic interest. That's right. While I did much dating in my years in LaLa Land nothing ever developed into anything steady. Actually, the most stable quasi-romantic relationship I had over the years (unless you count the ways in which I often played "substitute girlfriend" for my charming friend C. when he was between girlfriends and needed female company -- by which I mean just company) was the weird shows-up-once-every-6-to-18-months dalliance I had with that famous director guy I've sometimes coyly mentioned here. Somehow that seems appropriate for LaLa Land.

Feb. 29, 1992 -- I was not quite a year out of college, living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with Virgo Sis, and working as a legal assistant in a small midtown law firm. I liked most of the lawyers I worked for (except for the weirdly socially inept one with the ridiculous come-over than he spent all day smoothly back into place), but the office manager of the firm made my life a living hell, even though she really wasn't my supervisor. Somewhere in my collection of junk I have a notebook with a list of the injustices she enacted against me, most of which also prevented me from working efficiently, which I was compiling to bring to the partners to get them to get her off my back. But then her husband got seriously ill and she had no extra energy to torment me. In the meantime, I realized that I didn't want to be lawyer -- despite clearly having a knack for documenting evidence! -- because so many of the lawyers in the firm, especially the associates, were pretty darn miserable. So I started exploring other careers and eventually when back to school, as you know.

Feb. 29, 1988 -- I was a freshman in college at a university that was my first choice and which lived up to all of my expectations of it. I was in the big city and taking as many chances as I could when I wasn't enthusiastically studying to hop on the subway and just explore, usually by myself. I did have friends, of course, but I also relished the independence a city with public transportation gives you. And it made me feel so grown up! Meanwhile, I'd already suffered heartbreak at the hands of a suave sophomore named JJ who I'd started to refer to as the Anti-Elvis (there was this song that said Michael J. Fox was the Anti-Elvis and JJ kind of looked like a taller MJF). My best friend was a Latino guy from New Jersey who had a TV-sitcom-level hopeless crush on an Indian woman from a different, posher town in New Jersey. I hung out with poets and musicians and filmmakers and thought how cool and cosmopolitan my life now was in contrast to my suburban Kansas upbringing. Oh, and I'd joined the archery team because it sounded like fun and was a real varsity sport. (Yes, I even have the varsity letter to prove it.) Because of that -- and also because of an art history class in which the prof. abused the phrase "vis-a-vis" constantly -- I met The Pastry Pirate and became fast friends with her.

Feb. 29, 1984 -- I was just shy of my 15th birthday and in my first year of high school. I went to a small, private, Catholic girls' school, for which I am grateful in many ways. Although the misogynist side of individual uptight Catholics drove me nuts -- like the vice principal who told one of my friends that she should quite her job as a traditional Greek dancer at a Greek restaurant because it was unseemly, and if she didn't, and she became pregnant, it would be her own fault (wtf?!) -- the school's main focus was on rigorous academics across the arts and sciences, which suited me just fine. And the absence of boys was such a tremendous relief. I watch all these movies about cliques and bullies and mean girls in high school and I think a) to what extent is this realism or exaggerated satire? and b) if it is realism, damn I was lucky to have gone to a girls' school! Because even there, the girls who might have been the mean girls had no incentive to be. There's not a whole lot of point to posturing and parading yourself, and marking yourself as superior to others, if there's no mating ritual going on. (That's not to say some of our classmates weren't lesbians, but in a Catholic school that was all on the DL.) About the only competition there seemed to be was who had the cutest clothes (when we had civvies days), but since we wore uniforms most of the time, that was also toned down.

Feb. 29, 1980 - Let's see, I would have been nearly 11, so that means I was in 5th grade, right? Ugh, fifth grade. Um. OK, I really can't remember much about 5th grade itself. But I do remember later this year, when I was in 6th grade, when John Lennon was shot. I wasn't yet as obsessed with the Beatles as I would be a couple of years later, but I had a huge crush on a boy I'd know all through grade school and *he* was obsessed with the Beatles (hence why I did start to get interested in them). In 6th grade we were in the same homeroom and other classes, and since our names came near each other alphabetically, we were seated next to each other. In one teacher's classroom, this put us in the far back corner, and we spent a lot of time goofing off together back there, since we were both smart kids who always finished our work quickly. Alas, my growing romantic fondness for him went unrequited, and I'd become so stalker-like in my obsession that he ended up *hating* me. He's now happily married, with children, and getting a divinity degree in sacred music -- having converted to the Anglican church -- and he's been a music director in a number of Anglican churches (all this I know because of the interwebs), so I hope he's found forgiveness for my crazy adolescent ways, despite the fact that I'm now clearly a cyber-stalker! :) (Hey, I read a review of a Broadway play that mentioned a performer with the same name, and though maybe it was him -- he had been interested in musical theater once -- and so I googled him.)

Feb. 29, 1976 -- Er, this is getting hard. Let's see, I was about to turn 7, so I was in 1st grade. Ooh, wait, I remember something about first grade. I was the last kid in the class to learn how to spell my whole name, first and last, without having a little name plate thingy on my desk. Yeah, I know, not exactly an auspicious sign for a future English prof., but my name has a *lot* of letters in it and some complicated consonant sequences and clusters. Had a kid named Pryzbylski not been in the grade behind me, maybe I wouldn't have been the last.

Feb. 29, 1972 -- OK, I was only just about to turn 3, so I don't remember a thing. But I can tell you I was growing up in a mid-century ranch house in what are now "close in" suburbs of Cowtown, but then were the edge of growth. In fact, less than a mile away was a small ranch with long-horn cattle and a saddle club next to that. I lived all my life in that house until I was 18 and went away to college, and my dad still lives there now. Not much has changed. Indeed, the carpeting currently in my old bedroom is the same carpeting that was put in when my sisters redecorated the room when they had it when they were in high school, about the time I was born. Ew!! But when I was 3 the carpeting and upholstery, etc., were all newer and less germ-filled. But the house was a little crowded since my siblings were teenagers and there were only three bedrooms: one for my parents, one for my sisters, and one for my brother. At 3 I think I was still sleeping in a crib in my parents' room. At about 5 or 6, I think, they moved me into a big bed in my brother's room, since he was away at college. But when he was home that meant he had to share his space with his baby sister. Poor guy. Then finally Ms. V. moved out of her room when she got married -- Virgo Sis having already moved out -- and it became mine.

That was kind of fun! And now the world has nutshell biography of Dr. Virago. Gosh, lucky you! :)