Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Wreck Me

Celebrating a beautiful spring day.  I'm promoted to Full Professor, the work is speeding along, the sun is shining, and the weather is warming.

"Now and again, I get the feeling
Well, if I don't win, 
I'm gonna break even."

Sunday, April 26, 2015


It's that time of the year when the To-Do List seems to replicate itself exponentially. 

Case in point: I spent all of last week reminding myself that "all" I "had to do" was "make it to Friday 5:00 p.m.."  At that point, I'd have the weekend for myself.

Well, sort of.  Because this weekend, I need to finish the gift I'm knitting.  I've got until later in the week, but I've decided that it needs to be basically finished by tonight (or so), if I want to make sure I have time to wash and block it and not run the risk of giving someone a damp gift.

That just sort of kills the mood, in my opinion.

But the plus side of the non-stop knitting weekend is that it gives me time to catch up on some reading.  (Yes, I can read and knit simultaneously.  It depends on the pattern, of course, but I always try to have one reading-friendly knitting project in the works.)

I finished The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons (2014) by Sam Kean.  The down side is, because I spent months working my way through it, little by little, I find the task of blogging about it nearly impossible.

My overall impression of it was, it was good, most of the time.  Some of it was a bit repetitive for me--I'd heard some of the "True Stories of Trauma, Madness and Recovery" announced in the title already.

I would also say that the stories tended to focus more on the "trauma" and "madness" topics than on the "recovery."  Some pretty gruesome head-injury stories in there--but then, that is often the case in books about the study of the brain.

Because I'm quirky like that, I liked Kean's discussion of odd brain diseases and their effects.  Some of them make the symptoms of Alzheimers pale by comparison, if you can believe that.

I also liked his discussion of the history behind diseases like beriberi and kuru.  (I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not like the other girls.)

I think where I began to lose interest was when the stories focused on male rivalries--ironically, the "dueling neurosurgeons" of the books title were of little interest to me. 

What can I say?  Competitive men get on my nerves.  And competitive men who carve up other people's brains and/or undertake disturbing experiments on cats?  Really not my thing. 

Overall, I'd recommend Kean's book to anyone who has an interest in brain studies: it offers an interesting overview of key cases and historically significant developments, and his writing style is very accessible.  If you've read a decent amount of the literature out there about brain development and/or brain studies, though, you might find Kean's book a bit repetitive and--on occasion--a little campy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Playing Catch-Up

I was supposed to be traveling this weekend, but I ended up postponing my plans and boy, am I glad I did.

It gave me a chance to begin digging my way out of a pile of grading.

It also gave me a chance to recover from 5 weeks of cat-parenting.  Freya was diagnosed with   "Feline Idiopathic Cystitis" (FID) several weeks ago.  It's a notoriously stubborn condition to treat, but I think we've finally--finally!!!--turned a corner.

In case you're wondering, "cystitis" is fancy for "bladder infection."  "Idiopathic" is fancy for "no known cause."  Put 'em together, and you have fancy for, "Your cat is using the litter box 50 times a day and never peeing, but we'll be damned if we know why... Your guess is as good as ours."

Hence, the difficulties involved in treating FID.  As you may imagine, it's hard to cure something when you can't find anything that's actually causing it.  In the cause-and-effect scenario, you've got lots of effects and no cause.

So basically, I've been spending the past two weeks doing all kinds of clean up.  Because I'm here to tell you that if your kitty uses the litter box 50 times a day (no, I'm not exaggerating), she will get litter absolutely EVERYWHERE.

Everywhere.  Ev. REE. Where.  Sigh.

Plus, it's a little-known fact that cats who can't pee will often end up pooping instead.  Think about it: you probably would too, if you keep "trying to go" all the time.

So, at one particularly low point last Sunday night at 3:00 a.m. (so it was technically Monday morning, I guess), I found myself carefully wandering from room to room with a litter scoop in one hand and a roll of paper towels in the other, on "Poop Patrol."  (You can't sleep when something really stinks, it's as simple as that.)

I fell asleep about a half hour later, only to be awakened by a horrific howl and a mad scramble.  I bolted awake thinking that Freya's bladder had probably ruptured and she had fallen off the windowsill next to my bed.

But no.  It was Smokey.  Some outside critter came a bit too close to the window, so he sounded the alarm.  And nearly gave me a heart attack in the process.

But things are a bit better this weekend.  The weather has turned perfectly lovely, and I've decided that if I'm not being tortured by cats and litter boxes, I'll need to torture myself by painting the ceilings.

They've needed to be painted for some time.  I just really don't want to do it.

So I've decided that instead of doing my usual kamikaze style painting sessions in which I try to do absolutely everything all at once, I'm going to budget my time differently and distribute this task over the course of however long it takes.

Days?  Weeks?  T'sall good.  (Actually, I really hope it doesn't take weeks.)

This way, maybe I won't end up with a major crick in my neck.  That's the hope.

I've also been using the past week to finish up another tank top.  Yes, I know, we're coming out of one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recent history and I spent it knitting tank tops.  I really do think that makes sense, in some way.

I'm also on a renewed sock-knitting binge.  Not that the binge ever really stopped, but I paused it just long enough to knit another tank top and start a small gift.  I need to not get too immersed in the socks right now, though, because the small gift needs to be given in another week or two, which means it will need to be, you know, finished.

I've also been reading--rereading, actually.  I reread Toni Morrison's Beloved for the first time in a long while, and I enjoyed it as much as I did back in the day.

Right now, I'm reading Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies (2008).  It's going relatively quickly, so I'm hoping that, sooner or later, I will actually have something new to blog about.

In the meantime, it's all about playing catch-up.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Roll

Well, we are already well into April, and I have already fallen well behind on my blogging.

And given that I had this post entirely written and foolishly closed the app thinking it had been auto-saved only to reopen it 2 minutes later and realize it hadn't been saved at all, I think that may be saying something about how well the blogging is going to go for me right now.

The good news is (knock wood): all three of my kitty cats (knock wood) are happy and healthy (knock wood).  So we weathered that little storm.

The other good--or goodish--news is that I'm on a bit of a roll with my writing, even though you'd never know it to look at my blog.

I've been determined to finally finish up a couple of articles that I've either received "revise and resubmit" recommendations on, or that I've written to the point of nearly being finished and then just... never finished.

So that's what I've been doing, and I've been on a bit of a roll with that for the past week or so, and that's why I haven't been blogging.

Because if I've learned anything after all the years of writing, it's this: respect the roll.

I've also learned that, if you spend 5-6 hours on any given morning writing, you won't feel like opening a webpage and... writing.  Hence the hiatus here.

And I can't even use the blog as a way of thinking through my ideas because, quite frankly, I've already done that.  So, for instance, I'm currently working on the article about Zola and the Paris Morgue, that I blogged about here.

After that, I'm hoping to revise and resubmit the article about Defoe's Moll Flanders that I blogged about here.  (Aww...how funny... it was actually my very first blog post!)

Then, it's time for the one about the role of rumor in Dostoevsky (see here).  And when all those are finished, it's time to write up Hersey and Hiroshima (here).

If all that gets finished, then there are articles about Capote and Atwood to write (here and here).

And of course, in the midst of all of this, I'm researching an essay about Eliot's Middlemarch and the poetry of John Donne.

More later.