Friday, November 19, 2004

I have had a seriously crappy day, and it's not just that I'm nauseous. (They never did figure out what is causing my nausea. I think they got distracted by the dry eyes. And they don't know what's causing that, either. It could be another autoimmune thingie, or I could just have dry eyes.) I was so nervous about the appointment with my advisor to talk about changing my dissertation topic that I didn't sleep last night. And then she stood me up. I sat around for fifteen minutes waiting for her to show up, and then I called her at home. She sounded surprised to hear from me, and then she said "oh, I'm working on something, and I completely forgot about office hours." We're going to meet on Monday. Which is great. I'm really looking forward to three more sleepless nights. And that's assuming she condescends to show up on Monday.

Then I was supposed to have a meeting with a prof and another student to talk about a conference we're organizing. The prof said to meet him in his office, so I dutifully showed up at the office listed for him in the university directory. Nobody was there. So I ran downstairs to the department office and asked if there was anywhere else he might be. They said he had an office in an institute clear across campus, so I ran over there, and he wasn't there either. I assume that the meeting was at another institute with which he's affiliated, but they don't even have their address on their website. It's all very top secret. So I ran around campus in the rain for no reason, and I still missed the stupid meeting. And I'm exhausted. And I don't know where my dissertation is going. And I feel like I'm going to puke.

Yeah, I know. Whine, whine, whine. But what use is a blog if you can't whine every once in a while?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The short version of the dissertation trauma is this. My dissertation is on a particular social movement and how its members viewed questions of citizenship. (I have a very state-centered view of citizenship, incidentally. I basically mean what people owe their states and nations and what they have a right to expect from their states and nations in return. A lot of people use "citizenship" much more broadly, to mean social inclusion and participation in a very wide sense. Not me. I'm limitted like that.)

Anyway, I was going to have a chapter on gender, which makes sense, because my dissertation covers a time period when the relationship between gender and citizenship changed hugely. Basically, two important things happened: the WWI draft, which increased the gap between men's and women's citizenship, and women's suffrage, which decreased that gap. Both of these things loom large in my dissertation, because my people disagreed with each other both about women's suffrage and about the war and draft. I was also going to have chapters on religion, on dissent (and the question of when it crosses the line into sedition), on the relationship between culture and citizenship, and a couple of other things.

But I've realized that all the really interesting and surprising things I have to say are about gender. And I realize that if I make gender the topic of the dissertation, rather than just a chapter, I'll finish sooner, since I already have a lot of things to say about it.

The thing is, it's a bit late in the game to change my dissertation topic. And my topic was already a little esoteric to start out with, and I'm just going to make it more esoteric.

I have a meeting with my advisor tomorrow to talk about it. I have no idea what she's going to say. On some level, I think she may be happy, because she works on gender, and it's always upset her that my dissertation was so far afield from her area of specialization. On the other hand, there's the esoteric thing: she already thinks my dissertation is fundamentally about something pretty unimportant, and this may just make it more so. And then I have to go talk to my second reader, whom I've avoided for six months, mostly because I couldn't decide whether to tell her about my health problems. I have decided that I need to tell her about the health problems, which means that it's going to be a doubly stressful meeting. So wish me luck.

So that's what's going on in my life. In other news, I have decided to make people preserved lemons for their respective holidays. Because I am broke and aspire to craftiness, I've decided to go homemade until I can afford to buy people things that they'd really like. Is that a weird Christmas/ Hanukkah/ whatever present? Also, should I paint or etch pretty little lemons on the glass cannisters in which I put the preserved lemons, or is that hokey? I'm thinking about attaching a card with a couple of recipes that use preserved lemons, and maybe I'll put a pretty lemon on that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I apologize for not posting more recently. I'm having a bit of a dissertation crisis (a productive crisis, but a crisis nonetheless), and it's keeping me busy. Hopefully, I can get back to being a good blogger after it all gets sorted out.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

You know, I really should be mourning American liberty rather than getting upset about the death of a coffee place in a city where I don't even live, but I'm seriously unhappy that Bewley's on Grafton Street is going out of business. Every city needs a Bewley's: a place in the middle of town where you can plunk down a buck or two, buy a cup of tea, and sit for hours doing whatever you want. The food is actually kind of awful, but that isn't the point. Bewley's is a great place to sit with a book, and since I went to school more or less across the street for a year, I spent a lot of time sitting there with a book and a big pot of tea. It's the anti-Starbucks: it could only exist in Dublin, it's been there forever, and every once in a while it occurs to you that James Joyce may have sat exactly where you are sitting now, eating the exact same snack you're munching on. It's probably a bit stupid to think that it could survive in modern, prosperous Dublin: it occupies prime real estate; the food is deeply old-fashioned and, as I said, not very good; and you don't make money off of letting students sit for hours for the price of a cup of coffee. And in general, I don't have a lot of sympathy for non-Dubliners who are nostalgic for the days when the city was really gritty and poor. But Bewley's is part of my personal history and part of the history of a city that I really love, and I hate to see it go.

Monday, November 08, 2004

My first job out of college was being a peon at a bookstore. Working at an independent bookstore is a common nerd fantasy, but it was actually kind of awful. The bookstore, a beloved community institution, was co-owned by two women, and the one who did most of the employee relations was a passive-aggressive nightmare who swore she'd never fired an employee because whenever she called someone in to tell them their tenure at the store would be ending, she framed it as being about their personal development. I'm not joking. Instead of saying "you're fired," she'd say "it's time for you to move on to new challenges," and because she'd never uttered the phrase "you're fired," she thought she'd never fired anyone. She conceived of the store as a family, with her as the mother and us peons as the children, which is a metaphor that masked a whole lot of condescension and a fair bit of exploitation. When your children don't get their chores done, you can insist that they stick around, and you don't have to worry about pesky things like overtime. You're not supposed to do that when your employees can't finish the shelving before their shifts end. After a painful, unsuccessful attempt to unionize the place, I realized it really was time to move on to new challenges and hopefully better bosses.

Anyway, we had a running riff at the bookstore about rearranging the books. We'd joke about coming in in the middle of the night and sorting them by ISBN number or size. But the most common fantasy was that we'd sort them by color. And according to McSweeney's, Adobe books in San Francisco is doing just that for a week. I'm in awe! I want to live in a city where such things are possible.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

I'm going to take a break from blogging about the dismal state of U.S. politics to blog about the Postal Service. Wait, you say. Do you mean the quirky, '80s-inflected synth-mope band with the guy from Death Cab for Cutie, or do you mean the people who deliver your junk mail and bills? Well, actually, I mean both. You see, the United States Postal Service were planning to sue Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello's side project for trademark infringement. But they've kissed and made up, and now they're going to be friends. The USPS, excited to find hipsters who actually used the U.S. mail to make a CD while they were living in different cities, may sell Postal Service albums at the post office. They may use a Postal Service song in an ad. Gibbard and Tamborello are going to perform at the annual convention for USPS bigwigs.

Now, I'm not terribly surprised about the cross-promotional thing: the Postal Service seems to be the go-to band when you want to establish indie cred without putting off the un-hip. I like "Give Up" quite a bit, but I'm pretty square, and you have to admit that there's nothing particularly challenging on the album. But I am sort of shocked that the USPS appears to be under the impression that they have exclusive rights to the phrase "postal service." They are, presumably, aware that the United States postal service is not the only postal service in the world. There were postal services before the U.S. existed, and many other countries have their very own methods of delivering mail. It's sort of like if Harvard objected to a band calling itself "the University" or the Dallas Cowgirls went ballistic about musicians dubbing themselves "the Cheerleaders." Just because you think you're the best and most special university or gaggle of women with pompoms doesn't mean that you actually own the phrase "university" or "cheerleader." Right?

Anyway, if anyone is going to sue a hipster band, it clearly should be Interpol

Thursday, November 04, 2004

I feel like I should have something rousing or at least insightful to say about the election, but I don't. Sorry. The weird thing is that on the local front, things look pretty rosy. With one exception, everyone I voted for was elected, and the one exception was a pure protest vote. The one referendum on the ballot, guaranteeing substance abuse treatment to anyone who wants it, passed overwhelmingly. I feel like I live in an island of sanity amidst a sea of total craziness.

Anyway, on gay rights, things look pretty grim, although I truly believe that the tide is turning, that this is a temporary backlash against the inevitable trend towards equality, and that in 20 years people will look back on anti-same-sex-marriage amendments and be as baffled by them as contemporary people are by anti-miscegination laws. For people living their lives now, though, the whole thing really stinks.

I do think Roe will be overturned, but I also think we need to take a deep breath and not flip out about it too much. I would be very surprised if we go back to the days of coat hanger abortions. I think what you'll see is a lot of traveling to pro-choice states and a thriving black market in RU-486. We're going to need to get organized first to fight Bush's Supreme Court nominations and then, once they get through and take away the right to abortion, to fight anti-abortion laws on a state by state basis. I think we'll probably win a lot of those battles, but when we don't, we'll need to organize to help women who need to travel to pro-choice states.

I've lived in a country in which abortion is illegal. It stinks, it's an abomination against women's equality and autonomy and human rights, but people cope with it, and we will, too. The sky will not fall. We won't let it.

So here's what I propose we do. I think now is the time to invest in a third party. We probably need a new one, because I think the Greens carry too much baggage. Anyway, the third party should concentrate on genuinely-progressive economic measures: single payer healthcare, for instance, and federalizing school funding so that children in poor areas receive the same funding as kids in rich ones. (We'll probably need to give some extra money to the poor districts to modernize their facilities, but we can talk about that, too.) Work at the grassroots level and start running candidates in local elections next year. The idea is that by 2007, the Democrats should both be scared shitless of us and realize that there are votes to be gained by embracing economic progressivism. We need to impress this upon them before the presidental primary season begins. We'll probably need to run a presidential candidate in 2008, but the real hope is that the Democrats will accept enough of our ideas to lure some of our voters away.

Anyway, I'm currently experiencing the emotional perfect storm of menstrual hell, weird health issues*, and election despair, but I'm actually surprisingly energized. I don't know why. I think I have despair fatigue, and the only place to go from there is optimism.

*my eyes are dry. No, seriously, my ophthamologist claims I'm not producing enough tears. It's without a doubt a less annoying eye condition than iritis, but it's actually bothering me more than my asymptomatic iritis did. Also, preservative-free eyedrops are fucking expensive.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Well, I'm fairly numb. I'd really like to give some sort of rousing "don't mourn, organize" type speech, but I'm not up to it. Right now I'm just really wishing I'd been born someplace else.

Who knew? Entertainment Weekly has politics. It's just buried in the theater reviews, which I never read, since I don't go to the theater. About Guantanamo, EW writes "Guantanamo implicates the audience in the crime of indifference to a growing atrocity: the denial of basic human rights to prisoners of an international war." And about Mrs. Farnsworth, a play making fun of George W. Bush, they say "The humor tends toward the heavy-handed (Hey, Bush is dumb! Ha!), and carries an obvious expiration date: Election Day 2004."

God, I hope they're right. Please get out and vote, everyone. And then cross your fingers. I'm off to swing-state-apalooza. With any luck, when I post again it will be at the start of the post-Bush era.

Monday, November 01, 2004

I'm getting exactly nothing done today. I'm too keyed up about the election. I think I'm going to give up, go home, and bake brownies for the GOTV operation. It's not illegal to bribe voters with brownies, is it? I figure that if people have to wait in long lines to vote, they are at least entitled to some of my famous Katherine Hepburn brownies.

(They really are famous. A few years ago, I accidentally dropped my paycheck in the commuter rail station a block away from me. The woman working the ticket window jumped through a lot of hoops to find me and get it back to me, and out of gratitude I made her a big plate of cookies and brownies. It turns out that she's friends with a guy in my building, and he mentions my brownies every time I see him. Last week, someone asked me if I was going to bring my famous brownies to the Halloween potluck the building has every year. And incidentally, I was a little depressed at how surprised and pleased the ticket lady was by my baked goods. She said that the conventional wisdom among people who work in the commuter rail is that good deeds done for customers just come back to bite you in the ass. She said I was the first person she'd done a favor for who had ever seemed grateful. Which stinks)

Anyway, I have a question about exit polls. A huge number of people, such as yours truly, have voted early this year. How are the exit polls going to take that into account? Are they just going to add the existing poll numbers of early voters to the exit poll numbers? Are early voter polls as reliable as exit polls? It seems to me that it's easier to get a good sample with exit polls: you just corner people as they're coming out. With early voters, you have all the problems with people not answering their phones and whatnot. Right?

I really want the damn election be over tomorrow. If they can't call it for a couple of days, I'm going to go totally insane.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?