What is it with the three crosses (middle cross yellow, outer crosses white) one sees on the drive from Virginia through West Virginia to Kentucky? I mean, I gather that it's supposed to symbolize Jesus and the, uh, other two dudes who were crucified with him that day. Or at least that's what I was told at some point. But is it a Baptist thing? Or some other denomination? And, what's the idea: to glorify Jesus? To proselytize?
In any event, it was a lovely drive, with the leaves ever just barely starting to change despite the 99° temperature. Or maybe those were just some dead trees.
We're going to a formal wedding this weekend, as in the invitations tells men to wear tuxedos or black suits. Is it true that women's formal hairdos are all ugly? For this sort of thing I usually just wear my hair well-brushed, or with clips, or a simple ponytail, but basically I just try to remember to actually brush my hair and trust that no one actually cares. But look at my new dress:
I am super excited about it. (From Modcloth.)
For an upcoming project (which project remains unnamed as of yet), I have to learn this song:
And, I have to say: I find the chorus hook to be quite catchy. HOWEVER, the lead singer's antics are so over-the-top in that video. He clearly takes himself way too seriously.
I've mentioned before that generally acquaintances don't pour out their hearts to me. Something about my cold robot heart demeanor just sends the wrong message. Occasionally I'll get a Type A student who wants to talk about something personal, and it generally will be that she has mapped out her future and wants validation that she hasn't overlooked anything crucial.
I'm friendly with the custodial staff. One of the custodians has unexpectedly begun opening up to me. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah I cannot contain the size of her problems I must purge all over this page thank you.
Her daughter was living with her boyfriend. The daughter has seven kids, ages 1 - 9. Daughter and boyfriend broke up and daughter moved into a hotel at $200/week. (Let's call the custodian "Grandma" and the daughter "Mother".) Grandma reminds Mother that she needs an address to register the kids for school. Last time Mother was in a hotel, kids went 6 months without being in school and Mother got in trouble. Grandma tells Mother that she can use Grandma's address. So she does.
Mother lives an hour away, so when school starts two weeks ago, she's hauling kids an hour, and parking the three younger ones at Grandma's apartment. Eventually the elderly neighbor complains about the noise. Grandma is forced to break her lease. She pawns her car title for $1000 and uses the money to get the kids school supplies and to find a place big enough for all nine of them. They moved over this weekend.
Now she's stuck living with 7 children who are destroying her beloved couches and just being extremely chaotic when Grandma would really like some solitude after working at her physically demanding job. Also she's worried that the mother will reunite with the boyfriend, and leave her in this new place which is too expensive for her to afford on her own.
Also she hurt her shoulder on the job, and needs surgery, and is basically doing her job one-handed in the meantime. I asked her about workman's comp, and she said her supervisor had encouraged her to apply for it, but that she was still scared because she'd heard stories about getting fired over something trivial after going on workman's comp. She implied that she had applied anyway, though.
No, not that Kompakt crap.
I made a totally poppy mix which is also, for the most part, extremely quiet and somewhat glacially paced, featuring the cream of the cream of New Berlin onkyoductionistic silence. (And others too.) Here is a zipfile and below the fold one may find a tracklist.
1. Tetuzi Akiyama - Preparation
2. Magic I.D. - Wintersong
3. alva noto & Blixa Bargeld - One
4. Art Bears/Yasushi Utsunomiya - Tokusa-no-Kankadara
5. Christian Fennesz & Ryuichi Sakamoto - Mono
6. Christof Kurzmann & Burkhard Stangl - In the Global Snow of Things*
7. Faust vs. Dälek - untitled
8. David Sylvian - Random Acts of Senseless Violence
9. Brandlmayer, Dafeldecker, Nemeth, Sieward - Die Instabilität der Symmetrie pt. 3
10. Akron/Family + Imperign - Interlude: Ak Ak Was The Boat They Sailed In On
11. Nicola Ratti - Il silenzio di Annibale
12. Derek Bailey - When Your Liver Has Gone**
* A cover of "No More Songs".
** Not terribly ambient but excellent.
I had a curious experience involving a dog! (Not like that, you preverts.) The story begins after I had just met the friend of a friend—let's call my new acquaintance Juan, shall we?
Anyway, Juan has a Queensland Heeler, which I gather is one of these, and which creature accompanied a group of us recently to a somewhat crowded beach (specifically, this beach, not that it really matters, but, hey, details).
So! Right. There we were hanging out on the beach, and I wandered away from the group for a bit to go skip rocks and look emo and stuff, maybe thirty yards away from the others. And some dude approached me to ask the time but didn't make it past "Excuse me" before Juan's dog came flying into the scene to stand between me and the dude, barking aggressively in his general direction, which, if you're a dude who's wicked stoned on a beach (gathering seaweed for some reason, I should add), and you just wanted to know the time, well, that's probably really damn freaky. And I thought it was really kind of freaky, too.
Which was about the time I wandered back over to the group, where Juan's dog continued to be friendly and playful—until any other creature, human or dog, got too close to us. And this behavior, Juan explained, was nothing he was trained to do; it's just something that breed does.
But what's really stuck with me is that the dog had met me only half an hour before "saving" me from the stoned dude but already had me mentally filed away as on the Good Team. Maybe that's not terribly impressive, but I thought it was really kinda neat. And that's without even mentioning the quantity of dollars the dog found on the beach.
Stanley will be pleased to know that it seems that my student was probably bitten by this. Or at least he believes he was. It looks like a lot of websites confuse brown recluses with the Hobo kind, and the former is common here, while the latter doesn't appear to be. And then it got infected and he had surgery.
Also the more I hear the Nicki Minaj Super Bass song, the more I like it. Video under the jump but be warned that it involves a pool of Pepto Bismol.
On the Savage Love podcast recently, Dan Savage asserted that being screwed required more emotional and physical effort than screwing someone else. He was very clear that this is what he meant - in his experience from having done both, receiving was more emotional and physical effort. (And he was giving advice to a girl, and he is aware enough that he wouldn't be failing to generalize gay sex.)
I've only been an innie in the bedroom, but this surprises me. I would have thought, first, that being on top or bottom determines who's spending all the physical effort, which is not necessarily the same as the innie and the outie, and that whoever didn't initiate sex is spending more emotional effort, as they choose to engage, or not.
Certainly something to argue about on a boiling hot Wednesday.
Sometimes I have what seems like a great question, followed by the overwhelming sense that, no, self, that must be a dumb question that's easily answered by something you're just not thinking about. And then I don't ask it aloud.
But, since the internet isn't actually real, I see no reason not to write up this morning's great dumb question here.
So here goes: when the wind blows a turbine, transferring some amount of energy to said turbine, doesn't that energy show up "missing" somewhere else? That is, is there, to put it in a simplistic way, some missing wind somewhere else?
For bonus embarrassment points: this is what I was thinking about while showering this morning.
Today I went to the bank and got a safe deposit box ("safe-deposit"?). I'm having a mixed reaction about the experience.
On the one hand, it felt like I was really late (once again) to the Responsible Adult Party, where everyone's doing the things my parents did.
On the other hand, is there anything more antiquated than this two-key-requiring metal box tucked away in a bigger metal box, tucked away in a lovely marble-floor building? Will anyone even use these things ten years from now?
On the third hand, it was cheap. And I feel mildly more secure now that my car title will survive when one of my fellow renters accidentally burns down the house.
I actually don't agree with this Ta-Nehisi post on The Help whatsoever. The book at least does have several good white people who are still racist. (If I remember right.) (I agree about his general point on one-dimensional racist character portrayals, though.)
What's obnoxious about The Help is that it's total wish fulfillment by a white 20-something young author who grew up in Mississippi and would love to believe that she'd have known better if she'd lived back in the 1960s. Also the renderings of black accents are grating. Also the identifiers of 1960s life are sometimes glaringly hamfisted, and other times just plain wrong. Also it's just not a very good book.
Apparently USAID outsources a lot of its development to consultants, in really impractical and poorly thought out ways:
I've met a number of people at USAID over the years, and it apparently conducts most of its projects this way. Get an idea, hire a consultant, hope for the best. The staff of USAID itself is basically a bunch of accountants, making sure all the Excel sheets are in order and that consultants are meeting their self-defined objectives. Oversight is limited to reading summary reports.
Prompted by reflections on how rebuilding Haiti has gone: (Quoted in the linked post from Rolling Stone article.)
After looking at the photos in Dalberg's report, he said, "it became clear that these people may not even have gotten out of their SUVs." [...]
Vastine says the entire process could have been avoided if USAID had simply relied on its own surveys of the area, which had been done on a regular basis for the past 50 years. "I kept telling these State Department people to go and look in their frickin' filing cabinets, but it fell on deaf ears," he says. "It was truly astonishing to me. The amount of previous study on Haiti is immense. But there was no reflection on the existing knowledge base.
And from the linked post again:
Professions like human rights, international development and humanitarian aid aren't just playgrounds for bleeding-heart Harvard kids who want to 'make a difference' between summers in the Hamptons. They're technical, professional fields that require long-term knowledge of the languages, economies and cultures of developing countries.
Sounds about right to me.
Here's a bad combination: being low on the totem pole, and having to enforce a lot of rules. One of our secretaries is required to collect syllabi from all the professors and double-check them for containing the required features. She's vented to me how difficult this task is, too. Many of the professors are total shits about cooperating on this kind of thing.
Even though I know perfectly well that she's in an impossible situation, I get momentarily aggravated when she dings my syllabus for missing some criteria that I don't think applies to my class. I basically think the criteria are fair-ish; I agree that there needs to be a process to ensure we're complying; I agree that it's not her fault she's in such an awful position. And yet.
I went up and introduced myself to a new VIP at Heebie U. Since I was part-time in the spring, I'd been absent during the search process and hadn't met him yet.
Me: "Hi Dr. VIP. I just wanted to catch you and introduce myself. I'm Dr. Geebie."
Him: "Oh yes! I remember you from the emails."
Me: "We've never emailed."
Him: "Well, let's just wrap up this awkward conversation. Bye." (Not really.)
Then I felt like a complete tool, because obviously his e-mail comment is one of those things you just toss out in conversation to cover your bases, and I don't know why I called him out on it.
I learned only today that Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" uses the word "faggot" like a bajillion times.
Having never gone to graduate school or moved away from the Triangle, I'm particularly unsuited to answer this. So have at it, academic Bedouins.
Should I leave grad school? And if so, when?
I'm through two years. I likely have 4-5 more to go. Here's the thing: unlike most of the people who leave grad school, I have no real complaints about it. I like or love my field, my department, my lab group, my advisor, my research area, and my fellow graduate students. My PhD program is more pragmatic than many in terms of how it sets me up for future employment. The only complaints I have are things that I recognize as totally normal for a career in any research science: you have to deal with your shit not working and that's frustrating and demoralizing, but I think I enjoy the work enough that I should learn to suck that up and push through.
I don't like where I'm living. For eight years after graduating from college, I lived in New York City. I moved to a small Midwestern city for grad school. When I accepted I spent the afternoon crying because I was so flipped out about moving, and as it turns out I was right to be flipped out in every particular.
1) I have a lot of friends here and I go out and do fun things with them. If I were in my twenties, in many ways my life here is better than what most of my twenties were like. But I'm not in my twenties -- I'm about to turn 32 -- and I am lonely, enough so that this spring I got in a transparently self-destructive relationship (it was transparent to me at the time) because I was trying to reach out for anything that would make me feel like I had someone I was very close to. I have a few relationships with people I love that feel like deep lifelong commitments. I want to live near at least some of them, to feel like I have love in my everyday life. One of the two people I'm closest to is my most recent ex-boyfriend, and he lives in NY right now (we are definitely not getting back together; there are good reasons for that). My ex before that also lives in New York, and we are also very close friends. I have other friends in New York as well, some of whom read this blog.
2) Historically, the way I form these close relationships has been to go to high school with someone or to date them. Having been here for a couple of years and surveyed the dating scene, for me, it is fucking bleak. Dating in New York was not easy for me. Some readers will both know who I am and remember some things about just how not easy it was. But it was a different kind of not easy. In NY I met plenty of people who I was attracted to and had rapport with. Then they turned out to be assholes. Here, I don't even get to that stage. My personality is not well-matched to this environment, while it was excellently matched to New York, so I met lots of people there I was basically in tune with. It also seems to be an unfortunate cultural quirk of this city that of the people who it feels like I could potentially have rapport with, a startling percentage of them are poly. This was not true in NY. And there are just more people in NY; it's easy to generate prospects, to at least feel like you're working on the project. I told myself before I moved that I could meet people in the major metropolitan area that's three hours from here (which I love, by the way), but though I've done that a little, that was unrealistic. A three hour bus ride puts a lot of pressure and stress on a blind internet date, and there's enough pressure and stress on them already.
I want to have a baby. I was ready to start seriously looking for a life partner four years ago, and for reasons all connected to this move, I have not been optimizing my search, and time's winged chariot is making a lot of noise and freaking me the fuck out. Although I recognize that these are hazy probablistic judgments, I feel like I could more likely find a partner in New York. It's going to take me till I'm 36, possibly till I'm 37 to finish this program. If I were in my twenties I would think I should absolutely push through and just get done, but these are just poor, poor years to feel like I'm seriously handicapping myself in the search for a partner.
3) This is less important than either of those things, but it should be noted that I love New York. I feel happy and stimulated walking down the street here in a way I don't here. I love food and theater especially. I like and belong in big cities.
If the situation were just that, I think I should drop out. I had been planning on giving it a year to try to work it out here, but on a recent trip to NY I observed myself so happy hanging out with my ex there that it really felt like it would be right to leave, as scary and sad as it is to give up on a goal I've been working towards since I was 25. What complicates matters is that the most recent ex might leave NY, and he's waiting for information (that he'll get by January) to determine that. He gives it 50-50. So the sense of connection I would be moving for might not be nearly as strong. One place he might go is Seattle, which is another place some close friends have already collected, including another close high school friend. But I'm nervous about that. I don't know if I'd like Seattle. My very best female friend is in medical school in New Orleans right now, which is just not a place it makes sense for me to move. She's also unpartnered, and we've started to talk about a future in which we prioritize living near people we love, including each other, but that can't be for a couple years.
Of the plans I've considered for what I would do for work, I think the best immediate one is this: I think it would me about three months of serious bootcamping for me to get ready to be professionally employable as a programmer. (I code now, well enough to be able to get some useful things done for work, but there's a ton I don't know. I started 2.5 years ago and I've never devoted a lot of time to it.) I like doing it, there's some indications I could be pretty good at it, I think I would be able to get a job hopefully even in a crap economy (although it's scary to be giving up my secure, funded setup right now), it would soothe the blow of giving up a very serious lifelong goal to be making at least reasonable money, and a few years of professional programming experience would actually help me get a job in my field if I wanted to go back to research in some capacity. I maybe should note that I never really wanted to be a prof -- I always imagined myself working in a lab in some other capacity, and I could do that without a PhD.
I have a request in to my ex to stay with him during this time (he also knows a lot and enjoys teaching about programming). He's currently sleeping on it; maybe the answer will be no. His possible moving schedule might create a lot of complicated demands on when I spend this three months -- in one extreme case, I might have to pick up in six weeks. We have to talk about this. I also have some family in NY, but it would be best for me both emotionally and practically to stay with him. He might have a lot of fun during this time, too. He loves me and loves teaching people about nerdy things.
There are graduate programs in my field in NYC. They don't have the more applied component of my degree, which I was excited about, and which is what made me allow myself to be taken away, but it's possible that I could be a graduate student again some day and prioritize location.
My advisor is unfortunately on sabbatical far, far away. I'm scheduling a skype meeting with him next week.
So, what do you think, Mineshaft? What should I do? Sorry this was so long. There was plenty I left out.
Perplexed in the Heartland