Monday, February 26, 2007

The great big happy-along

After I finished my previous post about how I've been enjoying life in academe these days, I got to thinking that this enjoyment is what brought me here in the first place. At the end of my senior year of college, feeling the angst of impending unemployment, I finished my senior thesis. I was so excited! I did well on it, too, which no doubt helped me take the plunge into grad school.

Spring was in the air, and spring in Massachusetts is a beautiful thing. Maybe I was just being my usual self, high on the changing seasons, but did I ever want to just keep that feeling of being high on life - or, as my favorite burrito shop says on its wall, "Drunk on dreams, high on life, and just now seein' the sky!"

I'd also started downloading music, but only a little, since my hard drive was very small. I remember typing into Google - or was it Yahoo back then? - the lyrics to a song that kept coming into my head as I took my "last" walks around favorite haunts on campus: "All I want is to feel this way / to be this close, to feel the same / All I want is to feel this way / the evening speaks, I feel it say...." I don't think that the actual meaning of the song really applied, but something about the sense of joy and longing still came through.

I don't think I really had that rush very much at all during my master's program, at least not for what seemed like days on end - not until I almost got into my current program. They had waitlisted me, and one night, I heard news that made it possible I might get in. I wandered down to the Charles River in Boston on a similar purple-skyed spring evening so like the ones I'd had in college, and thought of those walks and that song that was in my head. I didn't get in that year - so I waited it out and got in another year, and here I am.

Now, strangely, it's back. I'm not asking why (though I think it has to do with my thesis and current area of interest being quite similar) and I'm not expecting it to last (but maybe? Maybe a little something could stick this time?). Regardless, like a marker or a signpost, it's good to see that once again, I'm back where I started, knowing the place for the first time (to borrow my favorite line from T.S. Eliot). Sheepish Annie is right; those weeks are a happy time in my life to look back on, and hopefully in a year or two when I'm stuck in dissertation doldrums, this time will be one too.

In that mode, I've decided to join Zarzuela's Happy Along!
All I have to do is 1) knit something that makes me happy...

Blue cable sock

Yes, I think that'll do the trick (and so does Mage)!

And 2) make someone else happy. Since Coffeeboy and I are at diametrically opposite points in our grad school careers (he wants a divorce from his dissertation and mine's in that early rush of blushing possibility), I really need to do anything I can to help him finish the darned thing in the next week, to be precise. If finishing will make him happy, then help with the finishing I shall!

Speaking of finishing, we've both gotten a lot accomplished... a finished object, finished exam, and finished dissertation post (or set of posts) is in the works over the next few days!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Knitting, between the times

Juniper is clearly pleased that I've been working on Clapotis #2 and decided to photograph it!

June on Clapper #2

She seems to think she's going to have a new blanket to knead and suckle (yes, she's odd) but noooo, Juni, it's not for you! (That's not the most flattering picture of the little dear, either... a head, tail, and furry body!)

I really am almost done. See? Just a few more rows!

Almost a clapper!

Coffeeboy and I had a nice time in DC. I knit a bunch. I would have finished the Fetching mitts if I'd had the pattern. Oops! Now I just need to put them and the knitting bag in one place so they actually get done. I didn't manage to get to any yarn stores, unfortunately, we really were stuck out by Dulles, in a hotel surrounded by a few office buildings and tons of surprisingly good restaurants.

It's strange how different life can be from one semester to the next. This one is amazingly busy in comparison to last. You'd think that taking my general exams (last semester) would make me busy, but in reality, it was monotonous to read 3 books a day, and have that be it. This semester has been nothing but teaching, reading, revising a paper, going to lectures, writing proposals for presentations, proofreading Coffeeboy's dissertation, visiting family (this past weekend) or having them visit us (Tuesday-Thursday), and generally zipping around like a chicken with its head cut off. Somewhere in there, I knit a row or two. I read a blog or three (not ten-zillion like when I was procrastinating away from exams) and try to post once a week, but I just don't have time! I've totally ignored Socktopia, having completed only 1/2 of one sock this month.

(Strange how when I'm enjoying life, I feel less like blogging and recording things. When I'm less excited and into life, I dwell more on things in writing. It was like this for me with my old paper journal, and it seems to happen for my blog as well. Anyone else share this same pattern?)

And yet, there's something about the intensity of these days that I really enjoy. I wouldn't say my life is exactly balanced or predictable right now, but it's intense, and I'm enjoying it, which is enough for me. For the moment. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Actual knitting content

That's right, everyone! I'm here, alive, cold but not snowed in, and I've even been knitting!

Blue cable sock WIP.JPG

Guess what it is! A new sock! Just a very basic cable-with-ribs pattern. I've started cabling w/o a needle, which is the best trick ever for making cabling across a row go faster. It makes knitting cables on socks so much easier!

My other main projects continue to progress slowly. As Angel recently said, I must be in a knitting slump. Gosh. I haven't had one of those in a very, very long time.

Fetching: mitt #1 is done, but I don't think I should have added the extra repeat at the cuff; it makes it hit my sleeves awkwardly so I haven't loved it as I expected to. Maybe it's just a little too tight around my sleeves? This uncertainty has (ironically without doubt) impeded my progress on mitt #2.

Clapotis: I've done the 13 straight row repeats and it's far shorter than I'd like. I'm not sure whether or not I should start the decreases. Last time I waited until it hung right around my neck, and it ended up a little long. Now, I'm thinking that even if I started the decreases, it would be a little short!

The nice thing is, I'll have time to figure out these knitting dilemmas this weekend! Coffeeboy and I are off to DC this weekend to visit his family, who have flown in from Colorado for his littlest brother to participate in a hockey tournament. We'll be going down there to watch him play and to hang out. I'm obviously bringing all this knitting with me that's been languishing while I spend my time elsewhere.

Like at school, for example. The two discussion sections that I'm TAing look like they will both be great groups of kids. It's a Bible As Literature class, so you get an interesting mix of students. The funny thing is that I haven't actually studied the Bible that much, despite studying religion, so I expect this class will be very useful to me as well! Also in terms of school, I've been helping Coffeeboy finish up his dissertation. He has about a week or so left, in which he hopes to write the conclusion. The man is a dissertation writing machine. I hope I'm that produtive in the final stages of my diss writing! Everyone wish him luck as he churns out those final few pages!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The week of academic meet-and-greet

Talk about getting all of one's semester of socializing taken care of in a single week! This week marked not only the first week of "spring" classes, but also a busy week for my department. We interviewed potential job candidates in my subfield, meaning that grad students and professors came out of the woodwork to greet them. We ate lovely fancy dinners and drank coffee and discussed potential classes, methods, approaches.

This week also started the spring semester, adding a further element of busyness. I'm a TA for the second time ever, and I was happy to say that this time I felt a little less nervous than last. We'll see how that continues into the actual discussion groups next week!

Not only that, but one of our professors announced that she's pregnant, causing much enthusiastic discussion amongst, well, just about everyone, on top of discussion about new classes and job candidates. That same professor also co-edited a book, the publication of which is being celebrated this afternoon at some kind of eat-drink-and-be-awkwardly-merry event.

To add the final touch of craziness to this week, tomorrow, we grad students are starting a series in which we introduce each other to the rudiments of our subfields. We all take classes on approaches to the study of religion, but this often leaves Islamicists without a working knowledge of the rudiments of Buddhism or Christianity - or vice versa - not to mention what it means to study religion in America or what, after decades and centuries of debate, accurately describes the current state of discussion about the origins of Christianity. Each week is devoted to a different topic with a grad student presenter, and we're all supposed to pretend to be totally ignorant and ask really basic questions. The presenter has 20 minutes, and then there are 40 minutes for questions. I think it'll take about 4 minutes for someone to gripe that "this is an essentializing narrative of X religion that doesn't take into account the Western hegemonic narrative of oppression that causes X religion to be described that way, when really isn't it all just about power?" Thus will commence a great intellectual food-fight amongst overeager graduate students. Yee-haw!

Oh... what's that? This is a knitting blog and you hope I won't mention Foucault? Don't worry, I won't. You want to know if I've been knitting? ... Oh yeah, right...

You see, my various "friends" in the archives have been sort of captivating my attention, making a nice quiet distraction from academic angst. I loved all your comments about love in the archives, by the way! From the way things are going, I certainly know the "type" I'm looking for, just not quite why!

I don't know if I should confess this here, but I haven't actually touched the needles since... Sunday? How... very odd! Am I ill? (Oh, yeah, I did have an upset stomach on Monday or Tuesday that made me want to lie down rather than click the needles). Have I actually posted three times now about academic rather than knitting? Am I actually in a knitting slump? Have I really truly been more interested in school than in socks? How very bizarre! If this course of events continues, I might have to consult Dr. Knit!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Looking for love in the archives

My meeting with my advisor went very well. Now I'm just trying to find the appropriate love interest to star opposite myself in the forthcoming motion picture "Lazuli and her Dissertation." (The trailer [um, the proposal, that is] is supposed to appear sometime in May, I imagine). Thankfully, this search isn't quite like looking for love on, say, match-dot-com, since most of my potential prospects passed on before World War II or so. So I don't have to write little rejection letters to the catalog entries on OCLC, and apologize that I won't be trysting with them during a visit to their special collections rooms in Chicago, New York, DC, or wherever. I know which subset of potential partners I'm going for, it's just a matter now of brown hair or blond... so to speak.

Seriously? It feels gosh-darn good to be done with incomplete "coursework" and the nasty long exams so that I can actually get back to what really interests me and what I came to grad school for. I was positively giddy as I looked up various names from previous papers and notes and started to think more concretely about possible directions. Yes, I have a couple of papers that count as exams coming up, but they're both in my area of interest so I won't have to read zillions of pages about stuff that's not of primary interest. I've also gathered a bunch of new possiblities since I started grad school, hence the current need to chase around the archives trying to figure out what my "true love" interest is.

Is it true love? I certainly felt a flash of interest upon reading the WorldCat entries of a few potential matches today, but only time will tell where those will lead. My advisor was certainly adamant that my specific topic has to be something I "truly love" - with which I'd tend to agree. I mean, why spend all that time with something if you're not really "into" it, right? Especially now, as I see Coffeeboy stressing during the final months and weeks of his dissertation, I have a very vivid picture of why love in the archives can be so important.

But enough of this blather. I have a date with catalog entry number XYZ; maybe I'll wear a handknit shawl and some wool socks? It can get cold there in the archives.