The glassware has been packed and re-packed. The mail forwarded for the umpteenth time. And the motherload of our personal library has found a new home. Again. And it the winner of the Our-New-Home-Lottery is???

Baltimore!

Or, Bawlmore, Bawlmer, Ballimore, B’more, or Body-More, if you please.

The land of John Waters, Edgar Allen Poe, National Bohemian Beer (Natty BOH!), The Wire (filmed around our neighborhood in fact), and the grand events of America’s Forgotten War (the one of 1812), is now our new home. After almost 4 years of living apart, Sailor Man and I now share the same home address again, and I for one and damn glad…even if I still wake up in the middle of the night wondering who the hell is that on the other side of bed…

No school for a few weeks yet. I am wandering around this incredible city getting some mileage under my feet and taking in the sights. Some adjustments need to be made as Sailor and I get used to bumping into each other on a regular basis, and figuring out all the one-way streets is a bit of beyotch, but for now, I am utterly content here in Charm City, hon.

 

Vladimir. Darling. We have to talk…

Word around the ladies locker room has been unusually biting, and, well, you know me, despite our failed love affair, I remain your greatest fan and staunchest defender. But dear heart, even I can no longer ignore your latest shenanigans. Your once amusing acts of political derring-do have become fodder for the sheep’s long winter of discontent, and trust me love, you don’t want this winter blossoming into a Perestroika Spring.

You see, dearest, you used to be such a dashing, even if occasionally dastardly, lover. But lately, you’ve been skimping on the romance. First, it was that adorably efficient little title-swap with Younger Brother. Then it was the paltry mea-culpas, and pardon my bluntness sweetheart, but that’s the equivalent of delivering carnations when only hot-house orchids will do. But then the real rebuff come in the form of the deaf ear you’ve turned towards your lovers’ complaints. Let’s be frank, Vova, democracy denied is love denied. Which is not only unsexy, but lacks a certain gallantry, and really, Vladimir, you were nothing if not courteous when you were misbehaving during our relationship…

Sigh.

I miss the days when you were devil-may-care about your missteps and were damn forthright about your faults. It was so – so…so very macho, so wonderfully manly, so very Russian... And now? Now you’ve grown defensive, occasionally petulant, and don’t get me wrong, you know I love you just the way you are, but darling, you really need a better and more discreet artist in the “freshening up” department…Think more Paul Newman and less Mickey Rourke, ‘kay?

So for me, darling, please be the shaggable and gorgeous elder statesmen you are capable of being and not the obnoxious, old boor cruising singles clubs less you want this potential coup de grâce morphing into a coup de tat, after Prince Charming’s kiss fails to awaken Sleeping Beauty and awakens something else entirely.

Glad we had this little chat.

Love you. Call me.

I have just completed the first year of my doctoral program and I find myself asking: what have I learned?

Not sure….can tell you a lot about information management, computer supported cooperative work, social theories of technology, philosophies on science, usability engineering, and most importantly, please believe me when I say this: graduate level applied statistics is a mother-effin’ beyotch….

Other than that? Dunno. I am unsure how this all pulls together into what will ultimately culminate into a doctoral thesis. I cannot even fathom a thesis right now. Maybe it’s because my brain is fried. Maybe it’s because right now I am questioning whether all of this is a good idea. Maybe I just miss Sailor…a little too much. And maybe, just maybe,  a more normal type of existence seems in order, possibly even necessary.

This is so different from the fall, when I arrive here amped-up and ready to burn. Full of ideas. Full of vigor. Ready to absorb every ounce of information I could handle…

Instead, I’m chronically stressed, tired, and my skin is so dry from living in cold and dusty labs that I can barely absorb enough moisturizer…

I mentioned the possibility to Sailor of leaving after next year with a Masters and he wouldn’t hear of it. He thinks I’m too invested. I wonder if that is in fact the true account of things or whether it is everyone else who is too invested on my behalf?

Visited the sister and her family in DC last week. Thought I could stick it out on campus and get ahead of the work load for once, but a few days in, I found myself seeking the last one-way rental car out town, braving the public bus to Bellefonte, and getting the hellllll out of here.

It’s strange that I can go to my sister’s and mindlessly play, watch Sponge Bob, and wrestle with the dog for hours on end, but am completely unable to do so in my own apartment. Most of the week was spent on Molly, or Hurricane Molly as we often call her, at six-years-old she is teaching herself to read and driving her mother crazy.

Of course that craziness was transferred to me before I could even get in a morning cup of coffee. Molly is there, in front of the coffee pot, demanding to show me the latest book she learned to navigate. The afternoon consisted of at least a half hour of Molly insisting on flipping through flash-cards and getting mad at me when she could not sound out certain words correctly. She yelled at me that I was “changing the rules” because she could not figure out when to use a hard or soft “th” sound. I realized for the first time how damn hard it must be for foreigners to learn English.

Every night with Molly was a negotiation of how many books I would read in accordance to how long I could get her to brush her teeth. I’m not her mother, I’m not opposed to bribes. We settled on a short book that she would read and two longer books that I would read. Normally Dr. Seuss, she thinks it’s hilarious the way I fly through the books (she doesn’t realize I have them mostly memorized).

We’re all pretty clueless where Molly has gotten this drive to read. She ferocious about it, really. She is quick to learn and beats herself up over her mistakes. This is odd for a kindergartener whose own class is just learning their ABCs.

My sister is trying to reel her in and I’m ambivalent about the process. We’re first generation Americans. Our grandfather lived during a time in Ireland when the idea of just a proper education, forget a higher one, was a pipe dream for many. My great-grandfather, after the laws changed allowed advanced degrees for the Irish, went on to write a mathematical textbook and a history of Ireland, his brother translated Alice in Wonderland into Gaelic and was published (previously against the law in the country), and my grandfather became an engineer. All spoke more than 9 languages between them.

Education was a treasure, an honor, a gift, and a duty if you had the least bit of access to it. I’m loathed to read school work over spring break, but my niece is determined to read anything she can get her hands on, including the National Geographic where she only picked out a few words. A hundred years ago, a flash in the pan of time really, was a whole other world for the Irish, one of neglect, denial, and state mandated ignorance. So I suppose if Molly wants to read the contents of the known universe, we should let her be, and be thankful for it. She certainly comes by it honestly.

I’m not sure what is going with me these days, but I am discovering that I have turned into a passive-aggressive bitch from hell.

Walking on my side of the sidewalk? Better change course, buster, or I will run you down. Standing 10 feet away from the counter and still believe you’re next in line? Not when I walk around you and stand in front of the cashier, sweetheart. Standing with your friend talking in front of the only door exiting the building? I think nothing of just barging in between the two of you so I can make my escape. Taking forever to perform your OCD-like experiment with your coffee at the condiment counter? Then I’m the person blatantly invading your personal space, standing three inches behind you, silently urging you to hurry the fuck up.

Maybe it’s stress, maybe school is catching up to me. I’ve been under the gun for three weeks straight spending 12 hours a day in the lab. Or maybe it’s just that people have no zero sense of tactical awareness to know that they are moving against traffic, are holding up the line, are bogarting the creamer, or just generally in the way of people trying to get on with their damn lives.

I’ve got a week off and in the first two days, I watched 8 movies, read a book, went to the gym 4 times, cleaned the apartment, caught up on filing, and dismantled the vacuum cleaner for a thorough cleaning. You’d think I’d be overjoyed to get out, amongst the crowds, soaking in the weirdness of human society that usually tickles me pink.

Instead, I am moody on the verge of outright hostile and want everyone to eff off.

Off to the gym, again, trying to work off this mysterious anger.

Spring is certainly in the air this week and with the feeling of love rekindled, and well, Sex and the City reruns showing the Mikhail Baryshnikov episodes, I felt a bit inspired to check up, again, on my dear, sweet Vladimir.

And aside from selling his House that Russia Built and navigating a small to-do over the 2014 Olympic mascot, Vladimir has been keeping a fairly low international profile. So I found it interesting when Mikhail Gorbachev (yeah, remember him?? ) made a public comment that Vladimir should not seek to run for the presidency.

According to Mr. Gorbachev, eight years of presidency and four as Prime Minister is quite enough for one man to feed off the teet of Mother Russia, so Mr. Putin should just step aside and let someone else take a crack at rolling back democracy and increasing public corruption.

Vladimir, dear heart, sounds like you got on Mr. Perestroika‘s bad side. Maybe you should send him a link to this, I know it always cheers me up when I’m cranky with you.

You behave yourself now, darling…call me

My mother always said “You gotta get them on the rug before you can pull it out from under them”. And never have truer words been spoken. Until that is, you are the one on the rug and The Powers That Be decide said rug should operate like a roller-coaster.

The Powers That Be, forthwith to be referenced as “TPTB” are starting to piss me off.

Let me clarify: TPTB are the are college elders who decide your provisional fate in the doctoral program. In the best case scenario, they guide, they advise, they extol academic wisdom and virtue; in the worst case scenario, and that’s exactly what I am talking about here, they fuck with your very existence.

In the last 4 months, the TPTB has decided:

  • That the “roadmap” or document stating “things you can expect from u while you are here” (a basic agreement issued to any student in higher education) is null and void
  • I now have an extra class to take
  • I also have an internal realignment where I will now take up to 4 methodology courses
  • Where in the past, if you fail candidacy, you can do a maters thesis and based on its success/failure, you can/cannot continue on to a doctorate, now, if you fail candidacy, you risk being tossed out wholesale
  • The document I signed that guaranteed 4 years of funding is null and void
  • That candidacy, which is supposed to occur in the fall, is now, after securing internships and other travel/moving arrangements, occurs in the summer

TPTB, in short, have decided to become a bunch of bastards. TPTB, additionally, have made it pretty clear that I cannot trust them in any way, shape, or form. Which sucks rocks when you’ve hitched your wagon to them for 4 years.

Not that all the changes are bad, these are tough times, I understand the funding crisis, and another class won’t kill… But when we signed, what essentially is binding agreement, and TPTB has reneged on half of it within a 4 month period, I have to wonder what the bloody hell I have gotten myself into.

Seriously, this is beyond the Pale.

1. If you’re open to the experience, your head will spin with ideas…a lot of ideas…really, too many ideas

2. Over stimulation resulting in mental shut-down makes doctoral students pretty similar to a highly functioning autistic.

3. A smart cocktail can make 300 pages of reading pretty darn interesting

4. Sometimes there’s just not enough booze to get you through 300 pages of academic journal writing

5. “A PhD is a marathon, not a sprint.”

5. Given #4 and my hatred of cardio, I really should have thought about that before doing this

6. Typical lesson plan: read 100 pages, have students write 500 words responding to 100 pages, present class material on 100 pages incorporating student response, then test students on reading, writing, and presentation…repeat.

7. After 8 months on campus, I still only know where to find my building, the gym, and the library, so don’t go asking me for directions.

8. Despite an advisor, graduate advisors, student representation committees, and your cohort, you are really and truly on your own.

9. “First year doctoral students can expect to feel overwhelmed and ill-prepared resulting in a frequent changing of research topics and feelings of inadequacies when compared to their peers.”

10. .If #9 is true, it’s nice to know I fall within the bell-curve…

Bell Tower that is. Probably not in the style of Charles Whitman, or that German soldier, ass-hat from Inglorious Basterds, but one where I rain down a storm of insults and expletives because I’m just so damned pissed off of late.

Where do I start? With the GOP’s attempt to redefine rape? With the South Dakota’s attempt to legalize murder? I can also throw in the Federal govt’s attempt to pull funding away from Planned Parenthood – again. Or do I go with the publicizing of Lara Logan’s sexual assault as a pre-emptive measure because some other a-hole of some other news agency thought it made for a great story? Or how about this despicable misogynist, Nir Rosen, who thought Logan’s experience was a humorous affair?

We’re just past Valentine’s Day and I’m not feeling the love from the men. I feel like it is open season on women and women’s’ rights, and that we’re half a step away from legalizing honor killings in this country.

Seriously dudes?? WHAT THE FUCK? I woke up today feeling like it’s not 2011 but 1918.

So here’s my 2-cents and then I’m done.

  • I am sick of the idiot men who comment about the “tragedy” of Logan’s experience and how all Muslims are evil when in this country, the United damn States of America, 1 in 6 women can expect to be raped and only 6% percent of rapist will ever serve prison time.  However, Logan wasn’t raped but sexually assaulted, not that many people, men or women, learn the difference. But here’s the fact of the matter: Logan’s assault wasn’t about religion, it was about the same damn thing assaulting a woman is always about: a man feeling free to dominate a woman simply because he fucking could.
  • We are a country of majority rule.  The majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose. And while we’re at it, Pro-Choice does not mean Pro-Abortion. And Planned Parenthood is exactly that: an organization dedicated to the education of women and men on family planning while providing access to contraceptives. No one in this country does more to prevent unwanted pregnancies than Planned Parenthood. No other entity in this country provides low-cost, basic medical services to women than Planned Parenthood. So anyone who wants to yank their funding while damning abortion is a complete moron.
  • Abortion being “murder” is a matter of opinion, whereas killing someone who performs what is a legal activity in this country is, in fact, murder.
  • Nir Rosen, while removing the offender tweet, quitting his job, and apologizing profusely, still doesn’t get what is most disturbing about what he did. His response: “i apologize and take it back. joking with friends got out of line when i didnt want to back down. forgot twitter is not exactly private“. Whether or not it was a private conversation, whether or not you were “just making a joke”, rape and sexual assault are not hilarious frivolities, they are extreme acts of violence. And what is most horrifying about you, Nir Rosen, was that you heard a woman was raped and your very first instinct was to make a joke. I hope this event kills your career.

I’m trying to remain positive despite all this news right now. I’m trying to be thankful that I live in this country when it sucks to be a woman in about 75%  of the other places I could be living. But that being said, it isn’t always a party here either.

Men, you are all officially on my fecal roster until such time that matters improve. In the meantime, get a clue.

I recently fell back in love with fountain pens. We’d been on the outs for a while. My trusty AG Spalding & Bros, my companion for many years, was being petulant and non-communicative. I thought it was me and my left-handedness. We ceased to bond. After many furtive attempts to normalize relations, and one smear campaign too many, I put my Spalding away. I returned to my old-friend Sarasa, color mahogany, intimate yet disposable, and I continued on my merry way for the last 2 years.

But in putting away my fountain pens, I had ceased the letter writing that has seen Sailor and I through this marriage. I ceased writing in my journal. I ceased the diligent note taking that has seen me through school.

Quite frankly, I’ve been a bit lost.

A small shop here in State College carries a very limited supply of writing tools, mostly Lamy pens that the engineers on campus seem to prefer, and the inexpensive but reputation as dependable Retro 1951, of which, I was unfamiliar, but always wanted to try, so I bought a stainless steel model with a .7mm nib. I immediately liked the balance, the heft of this dense pen. I also purchased a 3-pack of Moleskin notebooks with kraft-paper covers for the new school term. Good pens with good inks are only truly appreciated when joined to great paper.

Out of practice, I was holding my hand in an angle that assured everything I would would be smeared. I wasn’t crazy about the ink that came with the pens. Mostly because it was black ink from Private Reserve (a brand I not fond of) and the color black should be relegated to little black dresses and Edward Gorey drawings.

I decided to change the cartridge and found a tin of J. Herbin ink lurking in my desk drawer. I flushed the pen of the black plague and replaced it with the Lierre Sauvage color that Sailor likes to use. Further scrounging awarded me a lone cartridge of Terre de Feu, a particularly Moroccan shade of red I’ve always been mad about, and suddenly, I am pulling out my old Spalding, giving it a thorough cleaning, inserting the cartridge and it is love reborn.

Writing for me has a very tactile quality. As much as I like blogging, without my preferred shade of red, I don’t seem to recognize myself. Recognition is strong sentiment with me when I write or read the works of others. Blogger, Suicide Blond, clearly thinks in pictures and her recent forays that incorporate that element more thoroughly into her posts makes her recent scribblings seem more complete to me.

Memory has always been a hallmark of Girlgriot. She travels back into the recesses of her recollections and you are right back there with her, every step of the way. I always wonder at how she manages to capture that feeling so perfectly.

Twisty Faster at I Blame the Patriarchy can always be counted on for the invention of new words or the re-invention of what you thought was a word and is now your new mantra. I read her posts and those unusual but still perfectly grammatically correct sentences just jump off the freakin page…

Sigh…slightly jealous I am.

But at least I’ve been blogging more recently. That’s a start. Maybe I just need a blog redesign. Again. Maybe I need a redesign. Again. Although I think a blog with a Terre de Feu font color would be simultaneously both awesome and obnoxious to read. If there was just some way to combine my actual writing life with my online writing life, I’d feel more at home.

 

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