Monday, December 21, 2009

Private Holiday

5 years ago, my mother passed away.

I post this sad fact not in an effort to extort sympathy from my readers, nor to explain why, if you saw me, I was subsisting largely on Egg Nog Lattes and Moose Munch.

I still miss her every single day.

It seemed cruel, then, that her passing coincided with what had always been one of my favourite times of year. Even when I remember that she was very, very sick, and even when I remember that if she had recovered from the direct cause of her passing, she probably wouldn't be with me now. It still seems unfair that Christmas carols make me cry.

Now, I try to remember that her passing coincided with another winter holiday: the winter solstice. Most precisely, the day after the solstice; the day when the light begins to return. Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, the darkest, longest night. Some traditions burn fires on this longest, darkest night to call the sun back, to serve as symbols of faith that the sun will return, warmth will be restored, and the wheel of the year will keep turning. And tomorrow, the daylight will last a bit longer. According to Weather Underground, 1 entire second more of daylight.

And it is in that one second, meagre though it is, that I find my hope, that I find cause of celebration. Because as sad that I am that Mom is gone, in that one extra second of light, I can find hope. That one second of hope leaves me just a little bit stronger for all of those seconds when there isn't much to be found.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Surprisingly Good Weekend

So, remember how a while back, I predicted that my car was plotting something? I was right. I'm probably not psychic, but it is a nearly eight-year-old Saturn, and while Saturns are super cars, this particular one has over 144,000 miles on it, and so it is nearing the days when nothing more difficult that short trips should be asked of it. Friday, after packing up to go on a short trip out of town, loading the dog into the car, and setting off, it struck. Before I even made it out of London, smoke began pouring out of the hood. I said a few choice words, and then pulled over and called the auto club; upon peering into the engine compartment, I saw oil all over the place.

After the nice auto club man came and towed me to a service place, I, the dog and my overnight bags took a cab home, and I spent the next several hours fretting about what could be wrong with it, fearing that the call would come and would go something like this:

Service Advisor (SA): Well, ma'am, you aren't going to like this.

Me: More than I didn't like smoke pouring out of the hood? Are you sure?

SA: It needs a new fibity-widget, and that will cost $5,000 just for the part.

Me: Really?! But the car isn't worth that much. I could replace the engine with one from the scrapyard for that much! Hold on a second, I'm feeling a little woozy.

SA: So, should we go ahead with the repair, or would you like to talk to someone in sales?

My fretting, it turns out, was pointless, because the repair was surprisingly cheap-- a gasket related to the oil filter needed to be replaced, and the engine needed to be "shampooed." (Seriously... the air coming out of the vents now smells a bit like rug shampoo. Like I tell Sally all the time, I can't make this stuff up.) Whew. So after the cab ride to pick up the car, I was restored to my former level of mobility.

This morning, I talked to the Dear Husband using ooVoo for quite a while, which was very nice, as I think we are both getting quite lonely. We didn't talk about anything interesting or important, it is just nice to see him, even if it is only for a bit, and only over the webcam.

My goals for today went like this:

  1. Grade 7 papers (I started this morning with 28 left to go... at 7/day they'll be done by the end of Tuesday, which is my deadline.)
  2. Go to the library to return a book and pick up 3 more
  3. Acquire provisions for and bake cupcakes
  4. Outline a paper that is due in a week
So I took myself out for a waffle and eggs (yum!) and marked 2 papers over coffee, went to the library, where I became one of the only people on the planet to check out a play for the stage directions, then headed to the grocery store.

This is where my day really started to rock: I happened to look down as I passed a bargain bin of DVDs, and they had the 3rd season of Six Feet Under for $12.99. Even though it wasn't on my list, I had to. To add to the deal, the store was running a store-wide no tax promotion!

Now I'm making these cupcakes and they smell pretty amazing.

They don't look so shabby, either!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stuff I Learned Today

1. Irony is only ironic if everyone gets it. While this is a lesson that I learned in the course of reading dense literary/cultural theories of how we communicate in these post-modern times, it is also an important lesson for social networking.

2. Sometimes a day just has to be written off as a research loss. I had 0 attention span today. Indeed 0 seems a bit generous. It was so bad I was afraid I was sucking other people into my black hole of aimlessness.

3. Markers might make everything better. Okay, probably not, but I picked some up nonetheless. These.

4. Just because you get back on the horse doesn't mean it will be easy. Well, in this case, the treadmill. I ran for 1 minute out of every 5 for 30 minutes, and parts of me I forgot I had now hurt.

5. Cold weather is relative: last year we had -40 temps and it seemed unresonable. Today it was -9 C and I thought I might die. But last week it was nearly 10 C, so I feel like I have a valid excuse.

6. This would all seem easier if there was cake. But then, what wouldn't?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Weird Consequences

So the bus drivers here in London have been on strike for over 3 weeks now. This has, on one hand, been a total pain in the rear. I like being able to walk to the nearest corner, flash a scrap of paper and my student I.D. and go where I need to.

Oh, sure, I love having a car, although I am terrified of what might go wrong next with my particular vehicle (it plots... I can tell that in the depths of its greasy soul it has something sinister in mind for my holiday travel). Even when there was bus service, there were certain trips I made by car because of the convenience/cost ratio. But, here in Ontario (and perhaps Canada at large), that ratio is different from what I am used to. Yesterday, when I was driving home, I saw gas at the low, low price of $ 0.96 / litre. That sounds low right? Down right.... 1990? Wrong. Time for some math:

1 gallon (U.S.) = 3.79 Litres
3.79L x .96 = $3.64 CDN / Gallon

Push that $3.64 CDN through a handy dandy currency converter and gas here is $3.46/ gallon in US dollars.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average retail price of gas this week is $2.63 USD. In the closest state to Ontario listed on the site, New York, it is $2.85. When the bus was available,I bought very little gas here in Ontario. Last academic year, I took the bus everywhere but grocery shopping and I visited my parents in the US at least once a month, and bought gas there, for the most part. (Incidentally, my parents are fine and we're not fighting. They're just doing this and their empty house is only so interesting.)

Enter the bus strike, cunningly timed with a sprained ankle (which is recovering nicely, thank you for asking), and the onset of winter-ish weather and suddenly, I'm driving a lot more than I used to. After walking for a few days, I found that my poor ankle, even with a brace, wasn't up to the task. So I sucked it up, bought a parking permit and have re-entered the car commuter rat race.

On one hand, between the extra gas and the $30 CDN / month for my parking pass, I'm definitely spending more money. (I'm also regretting that moment in 2002, when I told the car dealer "this 4 cylinder doesn't have enough oomph... what about the V6?" My bad.) On the other hand, some of the little things that ultimately add up have been falling out of my life. Since the start of the strike, I've had coffee from Starbucks 3x: once on a very bad day from a drive through near the grocery store, once in Michigan for a place to sit and use WiFi, and once as incentive to give a friend a ride... and he bought the coffee. I've also been to the gym a few more times than I might otherwise have been, because I can park next to the rec centre and don't have to wrestle my gym bag on the bus. I don't go to coffee shops to sit and work as much anymore, because parking near some of my faves is a pain. I don't go out to bars or resturants because I don't want to get kicked out of the country over a DUI (or whatever they call it here) and I'm a lightweight, so one drink might do me in.

So this strike hasn't been a total loss for me. I guess the big question becomes will these changes stay in place after the strike ends and I surrender my parking permit. Will the consequence of the strike be a fitter and less caffeinated me? Or just a me who is more grateful for the bus that picks me, my big butt, and my latte up in front of Starbucks?

I do miss the knitting and judging people, though. My sock output has suffered.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I Am Thankful

I've had writer's block, so I am going to try to write a list. That shouldn't be so hard.

I am thankful for the following:

1. Bulk Barn. This place is freaking awesome. Entry to follow, but in preview: they have an entire wall of stuff for decorating cookies! Also Swedish fish, which are, inexplicably, called Finnish fish. (As holiday baking approaches, I will devote a longer entry to the glories of the Bulk Barn. It is truly glorious.)

2. Free WiFi in the airport.

3. The flexibility to travel, despite it being a work day and having heaps of work to do. Sure, I have to write about Shostakovich while I'm visiting with family, but I can.

4. The sort of job where, when I can't find a way to solve a problem, no body gets hurt. Slightly annoyed I can deal with; I need to keep this in mind that the worst that happens if I don't do well, I might annoy or disappoint people who only matter a little to me.

5. Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino. I'm knitting a pair of the Nutkin socks and I'm loving them. I'm enthralled by them. I don't want to do anything else. As in, I don't want to do anything else to the point that this is my new diet plan. (Eventually there will be pictures of these.)

6. My health. I may be sidelined from running, but if that's the only sideline I'm on, I'm probably okay.

7. The health of the people I love.

8. Having people I love who support me on this insane adventure. I may occupy my apartment by myself, but I am not alone. I have wonderful friends in London, Nashville and everywhere, an amazing family, and a beautiful husband who may not always understand what I do but always thinks I'll be great at it.

One of my favourite meditations is a simple, but radical statement on gratitude:

"I am grateful for everything. I have everything I need."

I am and I do. In this upcoming season that so often seems more about gluttony and greed rather than goodwill and thanks, I'm going to sit with this mantra more.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Product v. Process

So sometimes, this blog looks more like a weird hybrid of a knitting blog and a running blog, rather than anything to do with going to graduate school in Canada. There are people who do both better, I know. That said, both are a major part of what I do when I'm not face down in a pile of work with a bottle of vodka glass of wine pot of tea. (Or running was, before an unfortunate incident while trying to catch a bus left me with a sprained ankle.)

But there is something that binds together musicology, running, and knitting, and it is this: the idea that both involve processes that produce products, and one can focus on one or the other and can get more out of either the process of the activity or its product. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka the Yarn Harlot) has written about this a lot in regards to knitting, and has raised the good point that craft cannot be all about process:

"Imagine this: You and I are sitting together on a park bench, and we are having a lovely time, knitting and chatting, maybe we have coffee and some chocolate. It's lovely. I spread my knitting in progress out on my lap to admire it, you know, the way knitters do. . . Then, something catches my eye, and I lean forward to take a better look at the sweater and suddenly you can see what I see. There's a massive mistake. You inhale sharply; this is going to be bad. This is one of those ugly mistakes that can shorten a knitter's lifespan. You slowly look up at me, prepared to help me through this awful moment, and much to your surprise, I break out in an enormous smile of sheer joy and exclaim:

'Wow! Look at that! I made a huge mistake way back at the beginning of this sweater. Oh my gosh, it's enormous. No wonder the rest of the sweater looks so odd. My goodness, that mistake is as obvious as Cher naked at a convent, isn't it? How did I not see that? Well now. What a fabulous turn of events. I'll just have to rip this while thing out. Yup, every single stitch except for the cast-on edge is entirely unacceptable! Oh, but I'm so lucky! I'm glad that I got a chance to knit the whole thing before I noticed this. If I'd seen that mistake right away, then I wouldn't get the pleasure of knitting this practically twice! Oh happy, happy day.'

Having been the knitter who has mad a mistake of that magnitude, I think that if I ever heard a knitter say that, I'd either get up and move, consider talking about her in unflattering terms after she left, or, even though I'm a nonviolent person, I think I'd momentarily consider knocking her off the bench in an attempt to smack the stupid right off the poor unfortunate."
--Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Free-Range Knitter, 107-8

Even the most devoted process person almost has to be, on some level, at least interested in the product, just as the most devoted product person has to be interested in the process, or they would just buy the stuff at the store.

That said, there are knitters who find their joy in having a big heap of finished objects that they use regularly, rather than on the hours of craft that goes into making them; there are runners whose only pleasure in running is in race times, personal records, and statistics; and there are researchers who measure their success in terms of books and articles published and presentations given. I am not one of these people. I might have a better relationship with time if I was one of these people: if I wasn't having so much fun doing the stuff, maybe I'd be more likely to finish it on time.

I enjoy running because I enjoy the journey: I enjoy watching the world around me, seeing places from a particular perspective, the feel of my body moving through space. It is like dancing, but rarely am I judged for my grace. I race, because the particular experience of racing gives is a different experience from that of just going for a run, not because official results impress me. I work as a musicologist because I love the part of it where I sit down with a heap of sources and actually find something interesting. I am less impressed by the actual act of sitting down and writing up my findings. That is, that part is like pulling teeth and must be surrounded by the perfect environment, or I will gladly clean the kitchen before I can even contemplate getting started with the real work in the other room (a room from which I cannot even see my dirty kitchen). I knit, in the full knowledge that socks are available for $5 for twenty pair at Wal-Mart and sweaters can be more efficiently acquired at the mall. I knit because I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of the act of playing with sticks and string. I teach because I like the sound of my own voice sharing what I know and seeing the moment when students "get it."

These processes would be pretty pointless if they didn't have some sort of product. I like my half marathon medal and my collection of racing t-shirts. Upon finishing my master's thesis, I printed it out and stood on it to see how much taller standing on 117 pages would make me. I wear or gift the things I knit, after taking pictures of them, and am proud of what I have made. (A sweater out of sock yarn is nothing to sneeze at.) The thing that keeps me coming back, however, isn't the ultimate product, however, it is the simple, everyday acts of which the accomplishments are built.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Things I've Learned

I've been on this journey to the centre of Ontario for over a year now, and I've learned some stuff:

1. Polite is different from nice. How I didn't know this after living in Nashville for 12 years (where "ma'am"= "f*** off" in some circles), I'm not sure, but something about the fabled politeness of Canadians has brought this point home. Polite means acting appropriately in social situations and saying "thank you" and "pardon me." Nice is meaning it and not adding "f*** off" in your head at the end of it.

2. Public transit is for judging people. Sally and I listened to a conversation on the bus last week that was better than TV.

3. A "double double" is a coffee at Tim Horton's with 2 creams and 2 sugars. I don't care for sugared coffee, and I don't really care for the coffee at Tim's. (Please don't mention this to immigration. They might not let me back in the country next time I leave.)

4. Oprah is obnoxious no matter where you live. I mean, really.

5. Where punctuation goes in relation to quotation marks has nothing to do with the odd and obtuse differences between U.S. English, British English, and Canadian English. It is an issue of which style manual one uses.

6. A "puffio" is: a.) nothing like a panzerotti and b.) a deep-fried calzone. (This may be a Sarnia thing, though)

7. If you give a 17 year old an inch, you lose a mile. If you attempt to treat them like adults, they will fail to live up to expectations. If you treat them like the petulant children they are, they'll whine about that, too.

8. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. It also leads to undone household chores that require a tall person to accomplish. (Maybe this one is just me.)

9. Half-marathons are freakin' hard, but completely worth it.

10. Canada is, like, a completely different country. I'm getting used to it, though.

11. Never wear pretty shoes to walk the roughly 3km home, no matter how nice the day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jess Ran to Canada

Wow. On Sunday, I managed my first half-marathon. I'm sure running purists would point out that at my pace, the term "run" might be an overstatement for what could best be described as a drunken-appearing lurch towards the finish line, but I traveled 13.1 miles on my own 2 feet, with nothing more than a handful of Cliff Shot blox and the knowledge that Sally had already travelled by the places I passed to keep me moving forward.

I ran the Detroit Free Press/ Flagstar bank half marathon, as did my bestest girlfriend, Sally. We both had great races, although hers was substantially faster than mine.

I did learn that those of us at the back of the pack are happy to laugh at ourselves. Somewhere between the 4th and 5th miles of the race, I stopped to use the washroom (it was on on the Canadian side of the river, totally correct term), and was waiting in the line for the ladies, making snarky little comments about how the men's line was shorter than the women's, when the husband of the woman in line behind me said that it was a single stall, no urinal, and we should go get in the men's line, so we did. In that line, some of the guys gave us a hard time, but it was faster. (And surprisingly tidy, all things considered.)

I did the work of training, and it paid off. I finished, although I was a bit crazy at the finish line: I might have accidentally proposed marriage to the volunteer who handed me a banana. But then Sally and I were reunited, had our picture taken, showered, and enjoyed some yummy pumpkin spice smoothies.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Turns Out Moms Everywhere Were Right

"You don't know if you'll like it unless you try it."

How many of us have heard that? Of course, it was usually in regards to spinach or broccoli, both of which I actually quite like, and have since I was small.

I have always had a reaction to the idea of "hot" yoga. You know, the yoga in the room that very closely resembles an equatorial jungle in terms of temperature. I've always thought that it seemed like cheating, heating things up to eke out a bit of extra flexibility, and have always figured that the idea of "sweating out toxins" was a load of hooey. I had a yoga purist thought about it in which I thought any form of yoga that expected one to (gasp!) drink water during the practice couldn't be good; traditional teachings say that this is bad. Well, at the recommendation of several friends, I finally went.

Aside from being profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of appearing in public in only wearing a sport bra and shorts, it was a great experience. I felt great last night, and I feel better this morning. It was hot and sweaty and a bit strange, but what matters is that I feel more relaxed and open than I have in weeks. I feel cleaner and (I'm sure this is all in my head, I was only there for an hour) skinnier!

I tried it. I liked it. It seems to have relieved a lot of the stress my body has been under from all the running and the pesky life thing.

What should I try next that I always thought was stupid/ I didn't need in my life? Who knows, I might like it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Odd Position: On Being an Ex-Pat Americanist

So, I've been in Canada for most of the past year. I like it here. Culture shock has largely worn off. I still think poutine sounds gross, but I'm okay with the fact that it exists. I appreciate the fact that having an advanced degree is a good thing and not a prohibitive factor for people planning on running for public office.

There are still things I find odd or inexplicable, but much in the same way that I found things in Nashville inexplicable by virtue of being a native of the North. I'm used to the occasional befuddlement, and it just a part of living somewhere other than where I was born.

What still absolutely discombobulates me, however, are certain issues around my professional life. As a musicologist, I generally work on North American music (my pop music interests include the Barenaked Ladies, and not just to sound more Canadian on my OGS and SSHRC applications, so I can claim the continent), and I tend to do it from the perspective of how music is a reflection of the culture that uses it or creates it. Here's where I get at a loss for words: any time I have to have an extended discussion of "Americanness" in one of my classes. After all, the vast majority of my professors, fellow students, and students I teach are not from the United States. So when they are talking about "Americanness" (by which I specifically mean "in regards to the United States of America"), they are doing it from the outsider's perspective.

This isn't a bad brain place to be in from a scholarly perspective: while I am too much of a post-modernist to really believe in absolute objectivity, I do think a certain degree of intellectual detachment leads to better work. At the same time, I always get caught up in the strangeness of my personal position in these discussions: on the one hand, I am more or less obligated to participate at the same level of abstraction as my colleagues. On the other, however, I have a huge string of attachments to the U.S. that they don't have, and I want to defend my home just by virtue of it being, well, home.

In a certain sense, this is like having or being a sibling: they can torment, mock, taunt, and tease, but will defend you against outside attack. I feel like I can criticize my country, its politics, its wars, its culture, but I get a trifle defensive when someone else does. This comes into play in these discussions of "Americanness," and I feel like I have to be almost continually vigilant about it.

In the end, I think this will make me a stronger musicologist, better able to articulate my positions, but at the moment, it stresses me out a bit.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Jess Moves Back to Canada

In slow, easy steps:

1. Before the actual moving: I spent most of the last month of my summer vacation at Bliss Yarns, hoping that the lovely Dana would get confused and start giving me paychecks or at least would give me the employee discount on yarn. I also spent a fair amount of time at the Knaughty Knitter, down in the 'Boro.

Because Christmas knitting is well underway (at least in my head), I won't post any pictures of the heartbreakingly beautiful work I have been creating. (Sure, that's a good excuse, ya'll buy that, right?)

2. Packing up my crap. I don't have a photo of how ridiculous my car looked when packed, because frankly, I'm embarrassed. How much stuff do I really need? Yikes!

3. Driving to, oddly, South Haven, Michigan. My folks are on a crazy boat trip, chronicled at Osprey's Adventures, and they happened to be in South Haven, and a nice marina, when I was planning on driving North. I spent about 3 days with them, and they are having a great time, Riley is having a great time, and Calvin had a fantastic time on the boat. He also had a fantastic time escaping the boat, once he got used to it, although unlike his escape attempts in the past, these seemed mischief driven, and not actual attempts to escape into the wild to forage for junk food. One such escape attempt included him wandering down the dock, spotting my dad, and going to sit next to him.

4. Driving from South Haven to Sterling Heights. I stayed at the 'rents place for a couple of days, did some last minute "goin' back to Canada" shopping (I still can't find the tea I love the most in London, so I hit Whole Paycheck when I'm in the States), and had a lovely dinner with my grandparents.

5. The return to Canada, land of universal healthcare, gravy on french fries, and lunatics in the grocery store. (Although it turns out that the odd rudeness in the grocery store and Costco around here is not a generalized Canadianism, it is actually an odd localism. Nonetheless, a Saturday trip to Costco most closely resembles feeding time in the hyena exhibit at the zoo.)

6. Unpacking taking only a day or two, and then the settling in of odd boredom while waiting for classes to start. Work starts Tuesday. Which is good, because I've been looking around thinking "gosh, I've got the weekend, maybe I'll paint the apartment."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

In the Middle of the Mud

Lately, I've felt like I'm in the middle of the mud storm... as politicians in the United States fight back and forth about the possibility of a "government option" to somehow fix health care. The right has been continually saying that they don't want "Canadian-style" health care, and if the government interferes, it will lead to the terribly Canadian system be replicated here. They've even found a Canadian who agrees with them, and have been putting her on TV and in commercials. It seems, however, that there seem to be some inconsistencies in her story. But more concerning to me is the terribly offensive quotation I just read from Congressman Paul Broun, M.D., Republican of Georgia:

". . . and that's exactly what's going on in Canada and Great Brittan today. They don't have the appreciation of life, as we do in our society, apparently. And . . . a lot of people are gonna die this program of 'government option' is being touted as this panacea, the savior of allowing people to have quality health care at an affordable price -- is gonna kill people."

There are so many problems with this. I am not a politician or a physician, and I certainly don't have the intellectual equipment or time to refute the whole thing. However, it does merit a mention that the proposed reforms to the U.S. system bear only the most vague of resemblances to the U.K. or Canadian systems, which further, bear only the most vague of resemblances to each other.

But what really bothers me about this statement by Dr. Broun is that he seems to be seriously suggesting that Canadians and Britons do not value human life in the same way that people in the U.S. do. What does that even mean? Mothers and fathers in the U.K. love their children, children love their parents, people love their friends. Murder is punishable by life imprisonment, not rewarded. In Canada, old ladies get helped across the street, and in nearly a year here, I have yet to hear anyone shout, "hooray for no-seat-belt Friday!"

I am not, by the way, saying that the Canadian or British systems are perfect. They aren't. All three systems are imperfect and financially costly. Since the purpose of this blog isn't to beat politics into the ground, I'm not going to try to fix things, or say "yay Canadian Health care system," although I have had largely positive experiences. As a U.S. citizen in Canada, I can confidently say that neither side has a monopoly on screwing things up.

I think I will just end with a favourite hymn of mine, "This Is My Song" with words by Lloyd Stone:

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine
My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
This is my song O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.
(Generally sung to the tune of Jean Sibilus's Finlandia.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jess Runs to Canada

So I have, like my pal Sally, registered for the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon. You start in Detroit, run across the bridge and back under the Detroit river in the tunnel, then finish. (I'm glossing over the agony that is actually 13.1 miles of running. I'm doing this on purpose.)

Training officially started for me this week. There may be a charity tie-in, watch this space.

The only problem thus far is that training (and ramping up to official training) has left me eating like a Hobbit. Seriously, second breakfast has become a way of life. I'll only be mad if I wind up either gaining weight or with hairy feet.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Patriotic Week/ Joyeux Semaine Patriotique

(Despite the bilingual nature of the title, don't for a moment expect me to actually post in French. My grasp of the French language is weak at best.)

Wednesday is Canada Day. On my recent trip to London, I happened to see to following product display in the grocery store:

All things outrageously Canadian... mostly featuring the omnipresent maple leaf.

Seriously... everything you could possibly need to throw a Canada BBQ, right there. Also some things you wouldn't think of, but holy cow, they've got them.

I mean, throw pillows. Really? Pot holders and flags and windsocks I get, but throw pillows? Really?

Also, the aprons were fantastic:
I mean the one with the maple leaf is fairly predictable, but the one on the left is fantastic. I recently read the suggestion that irony is a defining Canadian value, and there it is. Right there. I mean, if you meet a Canadian and they know you aren't Canadian, if you mention the word "eh" to them, they will carry on about how people from the States think they say it all the time, and that they really don't, that it is a sort of hick thing to say, and so on. And I'm not saying that the SuperStore isn't trying to sell to anyone who will pay for it, but come on. Celebrating your patriotism with a joke? I love these people. They love Canada, but they are also willing to laugh at themselves and the people (you know, Americans) who laugh at them. (Incidentally, they say it somewhat frequently. I actually rather appreciate it as a useful lingusitic device, however-- I know a lot of up-talkers and their use of "eh" helps me understand the difference between a declarative statement and a question. Not always, but sometimes.)

Of course, since I am spending this week in Nashville, I get the 4th of July, too. In the interests of cross-cultural fairness, I thought I would share the holiday display at a local grocery store:

And I went to a nice store, in a good part of town... and other than the red, white and blue plates and napkins, the sum total of US flag-themed merchandise was a few citronella
candles (sort of down there in the picture on the top, and the flag on the chair at the top there). The dominant feature of the display, though was the giant wall of beer. This sort of cracks me up.

One question though:

Since both are bank holidays, one in the country where I am, and one in the country where I work, should I just take two full days of doing almost nothing and blowing stuff up? If not, which should I celebrate?

I think to play it safe, I'm going to take it easy until Sunday.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Short Attention Span Monday

So it has been a while, and I'm going to fly through some of what I've been up to since last I blogged.

Ironically, for a blog about moving to Canada, I haven't been there in over a month, and I'm mostly okay with that. I'm ready to feel more settled, but I sort of wonder if that has something to do with a lack of equanimity on my part rather than my somewhat scattered residences. I'm travelling again, and it is great to visit with family, but I just got settled in Nashville, and now I'm back in Michigan. I'm heading back to London for a few days at the end of the week, and then back to Nashville. I'm getting dizzy.

So, I've been knitting a lot. I'm nearly finished with the socks that I was working on when I did my knitting report last and started a sweater that was my gift from my Dear Husband (DH):

(Sock yarn named here) The sweater (bottom) is out of Knit Picks Kettle Dyed Essential Sock in the colourway "wine". It is a really pretty yarn, that I'm enjoying knitting on, a nice texture and springiness, and is knitting into a nice fabric. The sweater is Abotanicity from Knitty, and it will be super fun just as soon as I get past the ribbed upper section onto the lace skirt. The yarn was a gift for our 7th wedding anniversary, since wool is one of the traditional gifts, and DH (who is a very smart man) knew I would get more joy out of knitting a sweater than out of having a sweater.

We traveled to Michigan for my step-mother's re-retirement party. Now I'm hanging out here at their house, heading to London at the end of the week. On Saturday before the party, I ran a race, set a personal record (PR) for the 10 kilometer distance. I don't have great pictures of it (DH stayed in bed), but I did take one that might show something about how I apporach life/racing.

In the car, all the stuff I thought I needed to manage to run the thing:

Aside from my purse (necessary for the act of driving to the race, as it contains my wallet and ID stuff), there is my iPod (a 2nd generation nano), my hand-held water bottle, Body Glide, my RoadID, and the notebook I had written down where I was going. Also there, in the pocket of the water bottle, were some Sport Beans, for energy, since it takes me over an hour to run 10km, and I need some carbs if I'm going to make it.

And of course, my bright yellow race number.

Beyond this excitment, I've been doing very little. I've been meaning to do work-realted reading, but I just have low motivation.

On to knit some more. I'm so cool.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Week In the Life

So, last Wednesday, Sally and I left for the beach. We had a lovely time, it was windy, which made actually being on the sandy part of the beach a bit interesting and exfoliating, but in the water or on the deck was just fine. Sally hooped in the sand and I sat on the deck and read and knitted. It turns out you can knit this much sock in 4 days:

I cast on for this sock in the car on the way to the beach, and stopped knitting on it while we were there because I misplaced its mate, and need to make sure that the ankles are the same length before starting the heel flap.

Then it rained and we went shopping, and finally we left the beach just in time, since the waves had made their way under the cabin.

After heading back to Nashvegas, I hung out at home with the Beloved Husband and on Monday, a holiday here in the States and our 7th wedding anniversary, I ran a 5k that benefited the Nashville City Cemetery Association. Since my goal was to finish, I accomplished exactly what I set out to do.

Look, me at the start:

Kickin' it in what I like to call "tortoise style:"

Watchin' out for zombies:

And the finish:

Later, the Beloved Husband and I went out for a fun fish dinner, followed by ice cream.

Tuesday night included knitting, which was great, and I cast on a new sock.

Then I came home and the BH and I hung out with Mr. Calvin, who was doing his dangedest to be cute.

Now it is my birthday, and I'm another year older. Not sure about wiser, but older. I'll be inspecting for crow's feet later. There are movers, painters, and the bug spraying guy at our old house right now, getting it ready for potential renters.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I promised a knitting report...

... but I realized that I've barely been knitting.

Oh, I finished a 2 row striped scarf. Mostly. The ends still need running in. Does that count? It took me 4 months to get it to this point. (Noro Kureyon, ball bands lost, colour ways uncertain)

I've been working on a sock out of Happy Choices yarn from Plymouth:

I wasn't sure about this knitting from a flat "scarf" onto a sock, but I have to admit, it's kind of convenient to carry around. But I'm not sure about the way the colours are working out. I can't decide, and the second sock will clearly be a fraternal twin of the first. I also can't decide how I feel about that. I mean, I'm not so put together that I need to have completely identical socks, but then again, I am so not put together at times that if my hand knit socks aren't fairly clearly matching, people might assume I'm even flakier than I actually am. As in flaky to the point of incompetence. And while I ride that line on occasion, I very rarely fall off into incompetence. I can get on board with looking like a distracted hippy. I'm not crazy about looking completely 'round the bend.

I'm working on an entrelac scarf for my Beloved Husband, but it isn't in Nashville with me at the moment, so no picture. Even though I love this yarn, its been boring me a bit, so its having a nap in the knitting basket at the moment.

I tried to start a lace stole, and it turned into a disaster. My brain is not recovered enough from my life to read charts yet. Lesson learned. Pretty alpaca-silk goes back in the stash for a bit.

I have a really lovely merino that I'm thinking about making a water bottle cozy out of. I'm tired of ruining my papers with a sweaty aluminum bottle. I'm also tired of seeing ugly carriers out of "recycled" sweaters. While I'm all for recycling, I'm not sure repurposing an ugly sweater for a practical use is worth it. (Yarn is Crystal Palace Yarns Merino Stripes 90% merino/10% acrylic, colour ways 24 and 69) If I make it work, I'll post pictures here and a pattern to Ravelry.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Freakin' awesome!

That's all. Love it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I'm Not Really a Student...

... except to the people who hold my Federal Staford Loans.

What I mean is this: what I am doing now, being a Ph.D. student in the humanities is not being in school in the sense most people think. I mean, I go to classes and get academic credit for them, I write papers (lots of papers, lots of long tricky papers). But I haven't been to a kegger in over a decade and I no longer wear pyjamas or work out clothes to class.

I am in an apprenticeship phase of my career: I am expected to begin participating in my profession, but with guidance from those more experienced at it than I am, to keep me from making any serious mistakes/ faux pas. My coursework, which at the Ph.D. level really is minimal, is to, for the first few years, give my research a direction, but beyond that, my activities are the same as any other musicologist working in an academic setting: I research, I write up my research, I submit my research to conferences and journals, and I teach. I mark papers and have laughs with colleuges.

I am not a student: I am a musicologist. I'm not even a musicology student: I know this culture now, probably about as well as I ever will. The Master's degree is about inculturation. The Ph.D. is about getting down to work and joining the discourse in the field, a discourse I am starting to shape in some small way. In other fields, entry level jobs involve a lot of supervision, limited authority, and (in good jobs) mentoring. In this university professor gig, the difference is that one ends this entry-level stage with an extra set of initials after one's name.

I have had this realization because I am at the end of the semester. Three small tasks stand between me being entirely free of formal responsibilities until September. Itty bitty tasks. I should feel relieved. I should want to throw a kegger. Nope. Not this gal. I mean I'm glad to have my papers done, but there is still a whole lot of stuff to do. I'm going to have a bit of a lie-in tomorrow morning, maybe crack open a bottle of wine tonight, then back to work. After all, the Society for American Music is having its annual conference next March, and they are looking for papers for it. The deadline is 15 June. I have to get on that.

Unless I happen to owe you money from my undergraduate degree. Then I'm totally a student. Completely.

(Next time, the knitting report)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Completely Worn Out

The end of the term draws near and I'm completely worn out.

I have run out of words. This isn't writer's block, its a complete emptiness at the well in my soul from which musicological discourse usually springs. I think I might be able to write a fantastic novel right now, but not the paper that I must needs finish by Friday. I think this may be tied to a virus, as Franklin has been enduring a similar block... maybe I caught it in the airport on my recent trip to Nashville? No one else here seems to have it, and I'm hoping it isn't catching because a few of my friends start their comprehensive exams in a week or two. I look all scholarly-- computer on lap, discarded Starbucks cup nearby, surrounded by books that make me look smart, but the words in them have stopped making sense. Actually, to be fair, they still make sense. They are not what is flawed. The words I type in the open document on the desktop of said computer are what have actually stopped making sense.

I'm going to try again for another hour. Then I'm going to knit. Or drink. Or have a good sleep. Or maybe all three.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

That's Why I Live Here...

At the halfway point of my run this morning, I had to stop and take a picture. The picture doesn't really do the day justice, but such is the nature of cell phone pictures.

After taking the picture, I went and ran down there by the river. It was lovely.

That's why I live here. There seems to be a consensus in London that almost everyone wants to live somewhere else, but it is actually a sort of pretty city. The greenway system along the Thames is great for running, biking, roller blading, or strolling. I'm not saying that Toronto doesn't have more going on or more cultural institutions or that it doesn't stink that downtown closes at 5pm, just that London isn't all bad.

I can't wait for the leaves on the trees to make an appearance.

Monday, March 30, 2009

What Happened to Spring?

It snowed last night. !@#$ That's right. It is almost April and it snowed. My friends here assure me that this is perfectly normal and I seem to remember that my senior year of high school, it did snow on May 1st, but still. This light dusting of slushy snow seems like a personal affront.

I'm not even going to take a picture, I'm so disgusted. It seemed more reasonable last night, but I had drunk quite a bit of wine, and everything seemed more reasonable.

It might be my fault, though, I put my boots away in the closet. Clearly that bugged mother nature more than the clutter of my warm boots bugged me. Point taken. They'll be in the entry way until July.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Desk Sock

I am, my friends, an inventor.

I have invented a truly amazing study tool. At least for knitters. But if Raverly is any guide, there are a lot of graduate students who also knit.

I present to you, humble reader, the desk sock:

That's it, over on the right. It is a very simple concept, and I'm a bit stunned that I haven't come up with it before, but I'm a little slow. It is a basic sock, out of a lovely yarn, that lives on one's desk and is worked on while one accomplishes the endless reading that accompanies graduate education. I am working on a better system for holding books open, and one of these or one of these would probably help, but after one more chapter of the book on the desk, most of my reading will be photocopies or things I've printed from the internet, so no hurry. (It can totally wait for my birthday.) But the idea of the desk sock is this: because the sock (which should be out of particularly pleasant yarn-- this one is Noro Silk Garden Sock) is always at the desk, one will want to stay at the desk and continue reading. Because it is a basic sock pattern (no monkey business like cables or lace to keep track of), one can set it down mid-round to write down a note and then resume knitting and reading. Short of tea and washroom trips, I can stay at the desk with much more endurance than before because of this sock.

I fully expect royalties from the subsequent innovations of the desk scarf and desk sweater front and back, as they are clearly derrivitave of the desk sock.

(And if you can keep track of lace while reading complex literary theory, don't burst my wee bubble. I'm very proud of figuring this study tactic out, and my ego is a bit fragile lately.) (And no, I haven't decided exactly how to handle the heel in this idea.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Long, slow march into May...

There are only a few weeks left of classes, and I feel insufferably behind. I've been sick, I've travelled, but what it boils down to is that I am wiped out. Mostly mentally. That's what graduate school does.

Lately I'm reminded of a race I ran once in Percy Warner park in Nashville. It was a lovely 10k, and the first half (at least) was entirely up hill. The thing that made it so crushing to the brain was that the trail was winding. So I would get to what I thought was the top, and discover that there was still more up to go. When I bonked, I was fairly certain I was going to hit the sun. (I had some SportBeans and a gulp of water and shortly thereafter the downhill began. My brain started to work again.)

Today I bonked academically. I have any number of reasons, including overwork, pure exhaustion, the afore mentioned illness, student demands, but the point is, I couldn't do it anymore. I was working in my office, and after a brief internet break, I picked my book up to read again. I had to look at it for a full 30 seconds before I realized it was upside down. At which point, I did the academic equivalent of having some SportBeans and some water: I packed up and went to the yarn shop, where I bought a new bag (exactly the sort of messenger bag I've been looking for, and on sale) and a skein of entirely superflous sock yarn. (my only defence is: Noro was on sale. 20% off. As a knitter, I was obligated.)

In other news, I sat in the weirdest in-class discussion of my many years of education. (I am, after all, in about the 23rd grade now.) In the class I TA for, there topic of the lecture was reactions on the part of composers to the Great Depression. In particular, Aaron Copland was the topic at hand. They were talking about his Amercanist period, and the work Appalachian Spring (ignore cheesy powerpoint), and the question came up, "why is this American?" Since the only students who come to class on Fridays are the ones who actually care, and might have even done the homework, a really coherent and interesting discussion ensued. They were talking about the American idea of building things ourselves, and the vast open spaces of the American landscape, and ignoring the plight of native people in order to create a heroic narritive.

Then I remembered where I was, and the whole thing fell apart in my brain. My boss, leading the discussion, is a British woman, leading a bunch of Canadians in their quest to figure out and articulate "Americanness." And I had to sit there and listen. What a weird day. I'm going to spend my evening at home with a bottle of wine, perhaps a pizza, and my dog give my brain a rest, before trying to figure this stuff out tomorrow.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Why Not Wine, Indeed?

So I lived in Tennessee for 12 years, and still am there pretty often. I still vote there, and I'll admit one of the things that confused me when I lived there was the fact that you can buy beer at the grocery store, but not wine.

Today, Red, White, and Food is asking bloggers to use their online space to bring attention to this issue.

I'll mention that I find I buy more alcohol when I have to make a special trip: when I'm in Nashville or London, and I go to a liquor store, I stock up because it is a special trip. When I'm in Michigan, I don't, because I pick up a bottle of wine when I buy my dinner supplies. I have to go to the grocery store next week, so if I need wine next week, well, it can be part of next week's trip.

So if you live in Tennessee, contact your legislator and let them know what you think about this. If you don't, go to Kroger and buy a bottle and raise a glass.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fat Tuesday

So I just found out that pancakes are a tradition on Shrove Tuesday. Seriously. I'm 30, and I'm just learning this. I was invited to a pancake supper tonight, and I figured it was just a pleasant way to spend a Tuesday evening. I had barely registered that it even was fat Tuesday. I'm a bit bummed that I missed my traditional paczki (pronounced poonch-key), but I did have a chocolate doughnut from Tim's to keep me awake in seminar today, so I think I did okay.

I thought the Pancake Day thing was just a wacky Canadianism, but no, not entirely. It is one of those endearing Britishisms that Canadians enjoy so well. Just to keep it Canadian, they do it with maple syrup. If only one could also play hockey.

Happy Pancake Day! Its like cake day, but in a pan.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Challenge and a Shout Out

So, after a perfectly romantic and fun weekend with my darling husband it Cincinnati, Ohio (as a new friend says, Ohio is for lovers), my car went kerflewy. (That's the technical term that the mechanic used.) I didn't make it to Nashville from Ohio. After having a meltdown over that, I (with the help of a handful of relatives and my husband) made a plan to get it fixed and get to Nashville.

It eventually worked, my car is well again. As well as it can be, anyhow. It is old. Old cars, like old people, creak, leak, and sometimes need special attention. It is harder to have patience for an old car than it is for an old person, as the car is unlikely to leave you an inheritance or have interesting stories to tell, but none the less, they do demand this level of attention. Lesson learned.

But I do have a huge shout out to make, and since this blog is my most public vehicle for doing such things, I'm going to do it. I broke down outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and had my car towed basically as close to Nashville as AAA would get it, also known as Bowling Green, Kentucky. The staff of the Saturn dealership there couldn't have been more helpful and kind. I sat there from around 1pm until after 5 with my dog, and when I mentioned that I hadn't eaten since breakfast, one of the sales guys lent me his demo car so Calvin and I could go get a meal at a drive through. They also went above and beyond to find an out of stock part so I could get back on the road last night. It was awesome. If you need to buy a car and are leaning toward a Saturn, look these guys up. They were great. And they're having a sale.

I have figured something out about myself. I can deal with almost anything, if I have a plan. If there isn't a plan, I freak the heck out, and the freak out is not necessarily in scale with whatever has happened. I have a very limited reserve of equanimity, I've found, and I think I need to work on that some, because I need to find ways to deal with the crap that happens in life in a way that allows me to function and make up a plan as I go along. I'm not sure how to do this: do I need therapy or yoga? Xanax or the Buddha? Or should I take up some sort of extreme sport or adventure racing that would put me in the situation of constantly having to adjust my plans based on the realities on the ground? This is something I have to work on, and hopefully I can find what I need to get to a place where I have a well of calm to draw on when things go kerflewy, because I doubt even if Ed McMahon shows up at my house tomorrow with a big check or a brand new car, that life won't continue to throw things at me that will make me want to freak out. I also think it might be possible that my base level of equanimity goes down when I'm not exercising regularly. So maybe step one is to start running again and step two... well, that I've got to work on.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I know this dude.

Check it out! Haywood Banks wrote a song about my old friend:

Thanks to Sally for letting me know about this.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Gone Native

So the weather here has been quite frightful. Cold, snowy, dreary. January into February in this part of the world.

But this morning, while getting ready to go out and take care of the dog, I heard on the radio that it was -6 degrees. I thought "huh, that's not so bad."

I'm starting to go native. If I start eating poutine, then I'll worry.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fun on a Friday

I took the 43 Things Personality Quiz and found out I'm a
Creative Spiritual Self-Knower

I'm not sure what this means, but it was a fun quiz and quick, too... and I don't think being a Creative Spiritual Self-Knower can be bad, right? I mean, it sounds sort of fun and like I might be wise. (Ha!)

On to work. With a broken foot.