Saturday, November 14, 2009

the hill times

Today's soundtrack:
"A Plea From a Cat Named Virtute" by The Weakerthans
"We Suck Young Blood (Your Time Is Up)" by Radiohead
"Brandy Alexander" by Feist

Last week, I went to Ottawa for a conference. I delivered my Tristram Shandy paper first thing in the morning on November 5th, which also happens to be Tristram Shandy's birthday. That reference probably escapes the majority of you. Savages. In fact, you folks probably only know "Remember, remember the fifth of November" from a) V for Vendetta or b) "The Hollow Men" by T.S. Eliot. My money's on the former. Conveniently enough, Parliament was right down the street from the conference hotel, but since no one had a stick of dynamite, we contented ourselves by drinking to Tristram Shandy's health. Shockingly, I didn't get to the Hill until the last day of the conference.

I took the afternoon off and set off with my camera to do the tourist thing. First stop, Parliament.

I went up the Peace Tower with an elevator full of Mexican university students who'd escaped Montreal for the weekend with their parents, who were visiting. It's odd, but it really feels like I speak more Spanish than English when traveling in Canada. Contrary to Lou Dobbs, I happen to think this is a rather lovely development.

After the Peace Tower, I went on the free tour of the building. After reminding the tour guide that Borden was our other wartime prime minister, I pressed my nose up against the windows as I looked into the House of Commons (the Opposition side, naturally). I half-expected to see paper airplanes and spitballs discarded under the chairs, but I imagine they get cleaned up after every Question Period.

The Library, which was the next stop, was the most impressive part of the tour. It's the only part of Parliament that didn't burn down, which is amazing when you consider that it's all wood and paper. The floors, the woodwork, the stacks and stacks of books left me speechless. I wanted to jump the barrier and dig into the card catalogue, but the security guard looked formidable, so I resigned myself to taking an obscene amount of photos and contemplating my chances of winning a seat in the House so that I could (legally) wander through the stacks.

The Senate, which has never held much appeal or interest, was nice enough. What made me giggle, however, is the stained glass ceiling in the foyer in front of the Senate. The first few Senate Speakers had their names up there, but eventually, one of the Speakers decided that this practice would soon run out of space, so he put up a panel for himself and all future Senate Speakers.

Now, this should translate to "somebody," which in itself is typical of Canadian understatedness, however a closer look of the French reveals a deeper problem. It should be "Quelqu'un". They misspelled the French, which, if I'm not mistaken, is also typically Canadian.

After Parliament, I walked over to the Byward Market, which is really just a bunch of restaurants. And restaurants aren't nearly as much fun when you're exploring on your own. So I hit a nearby Starbucks and wandered the Rideau Canal with coffee in hand.

The Canal is actually a lot narrow and shallower than I thought it'd be. It's actually quite quaint.

The stairs from the Canal lead right up to the War Memorial, which was next on my list. In the middle of an intersection (a very European location, I must say) there is a great space given over to the Memorial and a little plaza in front.

There was an older gentleman standing in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, looking quite morose. I kept my distance, taking photos of the monument itself. After he'd moved off, I noticed he'd slipped a photo of (I assume) a fallen Canadian soldier from the War in Afghanistan. I moved off a bit, down the steps, and watched in near-horror as a group of 20-something giddy Canadians laughed and posed in front of the memorial for pictures. Shaking his head, the older man left and I walked back towards the conference hotel.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

glowsticks for everyone!

Today's soundtrack:
"Porcelain" by Moby
"15 Step" by Radiohead
"Stay With Me" by Spiritualized
"Hotel Song" by Regina Spektor

This past week has been a bizarre trip back to the '90s. It started with the serendipitous finding of the sister of my childhood best friend on Facebook. Don't get me wrong - I still think Facebook is the devil, but it is undeniably useful in finding people (hence why it's the devil, but I digress). Through this sister (who happens to work at my favourite restaurant in Saskatoon - cue the X-Files music) I found out that things were pretty much as I feared regarding my childhood best friend. So I threw on some Nirvana, nostalgically thumbed through the few pictures I have of her, and tried to remember the early '90s. A completely futile and empty gesture, but when that's all that's left, what more can you do but remember the summer you helped to build the treehouse in the backyard? Or suntanned on the roof? Or the afternoon you spent at Woodgrove Mall before she completely disappeared?

The week was looking like a bad movie of the week until my new BFF won tickets to see Moby perform on campus. I brushed the early '90s aside in favour of the just-as-tumultuous-but-slightly-better-dressed late '90s. So off we went, surrounded by undergrads who believe this Moby guy has potential, mid-to-late (ahem) 20-somethings who hear Moby every time they open their high school yearbooks, and cougars who seemed to have brought their grey-haired husbands as some sort of back-up plan. We stood in the back (not a big fan of crowds since I somehow got stuck in a Foo Fighters moshpit) and people-watched. Well, more aptly, I'd saw we people-mocked. We mocked the girl with leggings and a fanny pack. We mocked the girls who firmly believe leggings ARE pants. We mocked the seemingly contagious dancing happening beside us. We mocked the heavy-set 30-something whose idea of dancing was spinning around in ever-narrowing circles, followed by some kind of Bollywood mash-up, beside the guy who looked like his dance abilities peaked with his Jolly Jumper. We mocked the cougars who believe that every 20-year old girl wears tight black tanktops and big hair.

And in between the mocking, we watched Moby, blue Moby, hair-light Moby, and this amazing woman who stole the show. Not that Moby is a very confident stage presence at all. The man is painfully awkward and hands most of the singing duties off to his bandmates. But this woman with her sunglasses would strut across the stage with a voice that forced me to stop people-mocking. During the encore, she and Moby did this amazing call-and-answer routine that made me wish I had experienced rave culture firsthand back in the '90s. Silly me, wasting my time with books and obeying my parents when I could have been dancing until 6am! Glowsticks for everyone!

I explained my lack of raveness to the Spaniard when I got home that night and he seemed quite aghast that I'd never been to, as he put it, "a disco". First of all, how wonderful is it that it's still called a disco in Spain? I envision a line of John Travoltas dancing to bad '70s music, but with glowsticks. Next time I'm in Madrid, I'm going to go to one of these discos that doesn't close down until sunrise and dance until my feet bleed.

And glowsticks. There better be glowsticks.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Today's soundtrack:
Begin to Hope by Regina Spektor
Buena Vista Social Club by Buena Vista Social Club
Viva la Vida by Coldplay

On Wednesday, the Spaniard and I rented a car and drove into the Rockies for a midweek mini-break. We had decided to stay at the Chateau Lake Louise, as Miguel had gotten a ridiculously good deal and we just couldn't say no. Mountainview hotel room for $139? Sure, why not? Who needs a view of the lake anyway? So we threw our clothes in the trunk, quickly burned a few cds, charged up our cameras and took off.

Since we couldn't check into the hotel until 4pm, we decided to spend Wednesday meandering about the Rockies, slowly and leisurely making our way to Lake Louise. We stopped in Banff and had a quick lunch at Subway (even though we were staying at Chateau Lake Louise, we were on a budget. We're students, after all) before driving to Sulphur Mountain. This is where the Banff Gondolas are, where you can ride all the way to the top of the mountain, enjoy the view, and ride back down before your Starbucks coffee gets cold. Being on a budget, however, we decided that the $24 per person ride just wasn't worth it (also, I am rather terrified of heights). Besides, why be lazy and take a gondola up when you can hike up the mountain! What's 5.8km and a vertical climb of 655m? The guidebook says it only takes about 2 hours each way. It'll be like a walk around Westwood Lake.

Within a few hundred meters of the beginning of the trail, I was already cursing Miguel. Whose brilliant idea was this anyway? At 1/4 of the way up and I'm sweating, panting, and seriously considering turning around. And just when I'm about ready to pack it in, this view erupts in front of us.

Okay, maybe we'll keep going. By the time we were 3/4 of the way, I understood why people took the gondola, but Miguel reminded me that the fellow who lived in the weather station at the top of the mountain would hike this trail everyday. Well, if a Brit could do it...

When we reached the top in 1 hour 30 minutes, I felt like I'd just climbed Mount Everest. I am Kate, Mountaineer. I was feeling very proud of myself. We hiked over to the weather station, from which the view is amazing, and back to the top of the gondola station. As we climbed a small flight of stairs, I felt as though my legs were about to fall off. I, quite literally, could not walk another step. All illusions of a future career as a world famous mountaineer disappeared as we hobbled towards the gondolas. What was normally a $12 one-way trip was free because the ticket agent wasn't working that day, so we hopped on a gondola and rode down the mountain. And while it was a lovely view from the gondola, it goes by so quickly that there is no real opportunity to soak it all in. Although my hip was screaming at me that night and the next day, the hike up Sulphur Mountain was worth it.

We arrived at Lake Louise and checked into our hotel, surrounded by young men in green Swiss mountain guide outfits. Turns out that's their uniform. We, to our great surprise, were put into a lakeview room on the 8th floor. The walls on one side slant in a bit on account of the gables and we had the most amazing view of the lake. In short, we couldn't have had a better view if we'd paid $500 a night. We snickered at those folks who did.

The next day, with my hip screaming at me, we were determined to hike the Plain of Six Glaciers, which is 14.2km roundtrip and a vertical climb of around 365m. Miguel, having visiting Lake Louise before, had hiked the Big Beehive and over to the Lake Agnes Teahouse, wanted to see the Victoria Glacier and the other teahouse. I had no real interest in heading to Lake Agnes, as it seemed like everyone went there. The trail is marked easy, after all. The Plain of Six Glaciers, however, is labeled "strenuous, steep sections". Excellent. We left at noon, pack filled with snacks, and started our trek with very few folks nearby. The trail was not busy, although we rarely went an hour without seeing someone. For the best, probably, as I spotted bear droppings in two places - not more than a day or two old - so the more people on the trail, the better.

The views from the trail were amazing. Rockfalls, glaciers, peaks, and rose quartz cliffs meant that we stopped pretty frequently for pictures.

At the teahouse, we scarfed down tuna salad sandwiches and lemonade. The teahouse itself is staffed by lovely folks who live in the cabins nearby for 5 days at a time, then hike down at the crew change. Afterwards, they hike back up with a full pack of supplies for the teahouse. What took us an hour and a half takes them an hour or less - with a full pack. There's no electricity and everything is cooked and heated by propane stoves and lamps. Essentially, they are camping in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Nice work if you can get it.

After lunch, we hiked out to the Abbott Lookout. What was a nice path turned into a goat path (all I could think of was when Lady J and I were lost in Cinque Terre), and then into a shale, rocky goat path. Summoning the little courage I had, I followed Miguel up this narrow goat path on top of a pile of rocks which overlooked a steep fall onto a glacier (and death) on one side and a less steep fall onto jagged rocks (and serious injury) on the other side. The filling of pants was worth it, though, when we reached the very end of the path and had this amazing view of the Victoria Glacier coming down the mountain. We couldn't see the little cabin, though. The very cold, very strong wind off of the Glacier sent us back down the mountain and towards the teahouse after only a few minutes.

My very fancy wool sweater actually kept me very warm up on the Lookout. Other folks (mainly Germans), with their fancy mountaineering clothes, rushed back shivering. Thank you, Elizabeth Zimmerman.

The way back was slower, as by this point my knee was hurting from compensating for my wonky hip. Miguel borrowed my Warmest Mittens, as his hands were freezing, and liked them so much that I'm now knitting him a pair to match his fancy orange scarf. At about 4:30 in the afternoon, we arrived back at the Chateau, jumped into our swimsuits and headed down to the steam room to warm up and rest our weary bones. After an amazing dinner and dessert in the Lounge, we headed back to our room and watched a Ken Burns documentary on the National Parks in the States. I'm already mentally planning our next hiking trip in the Rockies.

The next morning - our last morning there - we woke up to snow and fog. The other end of the lake wasn't even visible. Worrying about the roads, we left earlier (much to Miguel's chagrin) to avoid snow and ice. We stopped in Canmore for lunch and wandered around the downtown. I even managed to accidently stumble across a yarn store - Knit and Caboodle - but managed not to buy anything. Shocking, I know.

Today, being Saturday, we are no longer on vacation, although we have not yet had showers or moved from the futon. Miguel is reading Norwegian Wood and Regina Spektor is on the stereo. Maybe one more day of vacation wouldn't kill us...

Monday, September 28, 2009

no virginia, that wasn't vanilla ice

Today's soundtrack:
"Cheap and Cheerful" by The Kills
"Raygun" by Matthew Good Band

I can barely keep my head up today. It's probably for the best. Sleeping last night was a bit dodgy, as the bed didn't stop spinning until about 9 this morning. My head was made of glass until about noon, when I crawled out of my bed, staggered to the futon, and collapsed. What was the cause of these insults to my delicate constitution?

We christened our apartment last night.

No, not in that way. Pervert. Get your head out of the gutter. We christened it in that we finally had a big party. There's nothing like squeezing 20 people into a tiny room and plying them with beer to make a house feel like a home. Even though we didn't get to do any knitting, I did manage to tell the Canada Research Chair that he was wasting his potential in Computer Science. The looks of absolute horror on the faces of his grad students was all the entertainment I needed. I'm still giggling. It's always good when the faculty has a sense of humour.

In that way, this group is a lot like the HCI crew at the U of S. Sure, there was no one singing in a bad British accent to "Wonderwall" while playing Rock Band, but we did have a good time making Miguel paranoid... although for the life of me, I can't quite remember what we were making him paranoid about. I met more knitters and crocheters, one of whom is now my new BFF (poor girl), and no one complained about the Radiohead-heavy music selection.

However, it's just not quite the same as Saskatoon. First of all, Alberta folk are drinking lightweights. They'd never make it through a Bunker Party. Secondly, all of these people work together professionally, so there isn't the complete and utter disregard for propriety. Also, no one got folded into the futon.

That being said, my new BFF and her lovely although tragically illiterate boyfriend (I mean, honestly, who pronounces Z "zee"?!) didn't leave until after 2am, I'm pretty sure nobody got sick in our bathroom, and the neighbours didn't call the cops. So all in all, a successful night. Once we get these Calgary folk trained up a bit, they should pass for half-decent Saskatoonians... Saskatooners... Saskatoonis?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming

Today's soundtrack:
Begin to Hope by Regina Spektor

First, we've had a bit of a summer. Between weddings, last minute moves to other cities, and seemingly endless days spent hovering over a blank page on my computer, I've completely forgotten both about this blog and my summer list. So let's see how I did:

- Read Wuthering Heights, The Sea, Niebla, The Idiot, Leaves of Grass, Norwegian Wood and The Rainbow. Also, I want to finish Possession and re-read The Divine Comedy. Hmm, that's a somewhat pretentious list, no? Well, you can just suck it, Stephanie Meyer.

Well, I did finish Possession. I also read Wuthering Heights, The Sea, Norwegian Wood and am mostly through The Rainbow. Possession was everything I'd been lead to believe it was. Essentially, a lit student's wet dream. It was fantastic and had references to my comp's reading list almost every chapter. And here I thought I never come across a textual reference to Roderick Random. Wuthering Heights and The Sea should always be read together, especially since it's impossible to understand the depth of the main character's suffering in The Sea and that moment he lashes out, screaming in anger at his dead wife, without having read Heathcliff's shouting out over the moors. I so thoroughly enjoyed these two books that they are now on my Top 5 list of the greatest books I've ever read (along with Dante, Austen, and Sterne).

Murakami, on the other hand, was a complete and utter disappointment after Brontë and Banville. Self-indulgent and repetitive. Nothing shocking or out of the ordinary. Dare I say it? It was boring... although perhaps not as boring as I've heard Atonement is. As for the other books, well I didn't get around to them this summer. In fact, I bought more books (Headline: Kate bought books - Moon also not made of cheese) that may supplant the rest of the books on my list: Don Quixote (in English translation), Not Wanted on the Voyage and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

- Go quasi-vegetarian for the summer. Why only quasi? Because giving up eggs, cheese, and milk is just not going to happen people. Also, I might sneak the odd bit of fish. But no red or white meat.


- Make my Ravelry queue, which is finally down to a reasonable size. At the very least, I want to have my Christmas knitting done by the end of August.

Would be done if people would keep their legs together for 5 minutes. I mean, Jesus Murphy people, give a knitter a break!

- Swim continuously for at least 45 minutes, twice a week. That means no more than a 30 second pause to grab water or a flipboard.

Okay, so that didn't happen. I did, however, perfect the fine art of deck slugging up at the Lake. And that takes some serious training and intensive practice.

- Finish a chapter of my dissertation.

Ha! Who was I kidding?

- Be less antisocial.

Only if people stop being idiots.

- Meet Lady J for a day-long coffee.

This only happened once, which makes me sad; however, Lady J was very busy and important with various wedding duties. I reinterate: This is why we eloped!

- Drink a beer at sunset on the roof of the Yard. Drink a beer at sunset at the Lake.

Didn't get up to the Yard for a beer, but did get to the Lake. Besides, there's always next year.

All in all, a nice and relaxing summer to help me recover from the burnout of field exams. As I'm feeling almost sane again, it's obviously time to begin work again in earnest. This time, however, in Calgary - a city which I am extremely ambivalent about. Sure, there's mass transit and an Ikea (woot!), but there's also Hummers and conspicuous consumption of every variety. I've never seen such pretension or entitlement as I've seen walking around the U of C campus. This student body is far removed from the farm kids of U of S and the hippies of Mal U/C. In truth, what this city reminds me of most is my high school, where if you didn't have name brand this and that, you just weren't worth the air you were sucking in.

But it's two years at the most and we're out of here. Away from steaks at every meal, 3 cars in every garage, and Louis Vuitton on every arm. It's true what Peter said in Florence: Too much love and too much money ruins everything.

Monday, June 22, 2009

phew, for a minute there i lost myself

Today's soundrack:
"Karma Police" by Radiohead
"Testify" by Rage Against the Machine
"All Along the Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix

This is what you'll get when you mess with us:

This is footage from Sunday, June 21st, showing a protest successfully forcing the Basij to back off in defeat.

Not all protests are successful, however. The rally that was planned to honour the memory of Neda was blocked and scattered by the Basij and riot police for the main reason that can public mourning is an incredibly powerful force for change in Iran. For a primer as to the importance of mourning rituals in Iran, see Robin Wright's article in Time. One of the Ayatollahs has called for 3 days of public mourning for the murdered protesters beginning June 24th. However, according to Iranbaan, as reported by Sullivan, there are reports of upwards of 2000 riot police and paramilitaries camped out in Lelah Park, a clear positioning to allow for the effective quashing of any and all protests and public mournings.

In response to the continued aggression and brutality of the regime, Iranians are preparing for a national strike in an attempt to cripple the government (such as it is). This, combined with the unconfirmed report that 40 out of the 86 leading clerics on the Guardian Council have called for the nullification of the election results, could do much to advance the protesters cause in the coming week.

If you haven't written a letter through Amnesty International, contacted your foreign minister, or taken to the streets in protest, please consider doing so. The protesters need to know they're not alone. At the moment, according to "Iran expert Jason Rezaian, who just left Iran, says that given the media blackout protesters 'feel like they're in this alone'" (Sullivan's Twitter Round-Up, Day 10).

The hour is getting late.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

if you tolerate this, then your children will be next

Today's soundtrack:
"If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next" by Manic Street Preachers
"Knockin' On Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan
"Shed a Little Light" by James Taylor
"2+2=5 (The Lukewarm)" by Radiohead
"Justicia, Tierra y Libertad" by Maná
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2

This is video - a short video - that has been posted to the live blogs I've been following. It's of a young girl named Neda who was standing by the roadside in Tehran, watching the protests with her father. She wasn't protesting herself. She was just standing there and bearing witness. She was shot through the heart by a Basij for watching the protest. The voice you hear is her father, who had been standing beside her.

Graphic is an inadequate word to describe this video of the last moments of Neda's life.

A Huffpo reader sent in the transcript. This is what Neda's father said:

"Neda, don't be afraid. Neda, don't be afraid. (There is yelling and screaming.) Neda, stay with me. Neda stay with me!"

Andrew Sullivan, whose blog on the Atlantic I've been following, posted this email that he received explaining the video:

"At 19:05 June 20th Place: Karekar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st. A young woman who was standing aside with her father watching the protests was shot by a basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house. He had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her. However, he aimed straight her heart.

I am a doctor, so I rushed to try to save her. But the impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim's chest, and she died in less than 2 minutes. The protests were going on about 1 kilometers away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gass used among them, towards Salehi St.

The film is shot by my friend who was standing beside me. Please let the world know."

Bear witness:

amnesty international canada: Send a letter to the Government of Iran (such as it is) and please consider donating to keep the Urgent Action Network viable. Let the Iranian Government know that the world is watching.

Consider writing to your own governments asking them to open their embassies in Tehran, Iran, to help the wounded (if the wounded protesters go to hospitals, they are arrested). If your country's embassy has already opened its doors, thank them. Note: There are reports of the Basij blocking the entrances to the embassies. At the moment, the Canadian Embassy is not accepting wounded protesters. Email the Canadian Embassy in Tehran at and Lawrence Cannon, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, at to help change that. Ask them - politely - to open the embassy to accept wounded Iranians whose only crime is protesting for their rights.

Get out and show your support for the Iranian community in your city, courtesy of those helpful folks at Anonymous. The Spaniard and I hit the Calgary rally the other day (photos by Amir-Reza) and I was left speechless by the passion and the hope within the Persian community.

At the very least follow the work being done by Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan and Huffpo's Nico Pitney.

Also, check out fellow Raveler and revolutionary Burrow's blog for some fascinating insights into Iran, both before the protests and now. She has links up for how to make your computer into a proxy for the folks in Iran, as well as solid commentary on the events themselves.

Monday, June 15, 2009

tonight, in iran

Today's soundtrack:
"Rise Up With Fists!!" by Jenny Lewis and the Twins

I've been following the coverage of the Iranian elections somewhat religiously since my internet was gloriously restored to me the other day. I don't know why exactly this particular revolt strikes a cord with me. I'm not Persian. I have no friends that are Persian. I don't know anybody in Iran. So it's clearly not the fact that this is happening particularly in Iran that has my interest. It's that were the situations reversed and I were in a country where the elections were stolen, I'd be doing the same thing as the thousands of Iranians students who have taken to the streets in protest.

The coverage on Huffpo was difficult to watch - especially the beating of women in the streets -, but it wasn't until the coverage of the police attacks on the universities that I felt my guts tying themselves into knots. Rubber bullets and riot police tearing through the dorms in search of any students, because students (as we all know) are the real shit disturbers. Faculty have resigned in protest of the elections and the students have taken to the streets. Thousands are marching... but over a hundred have been arrested.

Once they're arrested, they enter a no-man's land as far as the media is concerned. We don't really know what happens there. We can imagine, sure. The disappearances in Argentina aren't so far out of the collective memory of the world. However, thanks to a Canadian journalist who was "mistakenly" arrested, I now have a clearer picture of just what those protesting students face:

Inside a concrete room to my left, I could see more than 50 others being made to stand in uncomfortable positions – on their toes with their hands pressed behind their heads. Some were covered in blood, and police with batons patrolled the rows, tapping some detainees on the shoulders with their sticks. There was no screaming, just the sound of boots pacing on the concrete floor.

Tonight, while I lay in my bed beside Miguel, there are hundreds of protesters in Iran who are being tortured merely for marching for their human rights. You try sleeping soundly.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

did i mention?

Today's soundtrack:
Whatever what playing at the party last night.

Well, it's done and I've passed. Now I'm trying to recover from a rather miserable hangover, organize our move, prepare an abstract, and figure out just what my stomach wants to eat today. It's the last item that I think will give me the most trouble today.

Friday, May 22, 2009

the list

Today's soundtrack:
"La Vida es un Ratico" by Juanes
"Me Enamora" by Juanes

Another update? It's as though I suddenly have free time. I just don't know what do to with myself. I've phoned some of my friends up and harassed them and my parents will begin to screen my calls any minute now. I've organized the big house party we've been talking about for a while. I went swimming this morning (and then promptly realized that my favourite part of swimming is the lounging on the deck that happens afterwards) and even bought groceries. That's right, my cupboard now contains more than rice cakes and peanut butter.

I thought I might like to follow Lady J's example and make a 101 things in 1001 days list, but math has never been my strong suit so figuring out what day it'll be 1001 days from now is just too much for my rum-and-coked mind. Besides, 1001 days is a big commitment (which, I suppose is the point), so instead I'm going to make a list of what I want to accomplish this summer:

- Read Wuthering Heights, The Sea, Niebla, The Idiot, Leaves of Grass, Norwegian Wood and The Rainbow. Also, I want to finish Possession and re-read The Divine Comedy. Hmm, that's a somewhat pretentious list, no? Well, you can just suck it, Stephanie Meyer.

- Go quasi-vegetarian for the summer. Why only quasi? Because giving up eggs, cheese, and milk is just not going to happen people. Also, I might sneak the odd bit of fish. But no red or white meat.

- Make my Ravelry queue, which is finally down to a reasonable size. At the very least, I want to have my Christmas knitting done by the end of August.

- Swim continuously for at least 45 minutes, twice a week. That means no more than a 30 second pause to grab water or a flipboard.

- Finish a chapter of my dissertation.

- Be less antisocial.

- Meet Lady J for a day-long coffee.

- Drink a beer at sunset on the roof of the Yard. Drink a beer at sunset at the Lake.

I think that's a pretty good list for the summer, although I may only accomplish the last two goals. In the meantime, however, if anyone has another goal to suggest for the summer, please feel free.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

survival of the fittest

Today's soundtrack:
Just the sound of pen on paper.

To paraphrase Lovelace, "The exam is over. Katherine lives".

exam bathous; or, the art of sinking in comps

Today's soundtrack:
Fantasies by Metric

Dear blog:

Yeah, it's been a bit hit and miss this year, hasn't it? The Saskatoon Knitting Circle hasn't seen me in months. Jason, whose birthday is today (Happy Birthday, Jason!), has religiously and very sweetly avoiding phoning me... although this may have something to do with me freaking out on the phone "I HAVE NO TIME TO TALK! THE FUTURE OF CIVILIZATION RESTS WITH MY FIELD EXAMS!" And I haven't had a good virtual coffee with the dear Lady J since the last time we actually had coffee. And the Spaniard? Last I heard, he was somewhere in Calgary, wondering who thought snow in May was a good idea. I spent most of April wondering if I was turning 27 or 28 in May (the answer: 27, so I feel like I gained a year) because all modern knowledge had been pushed completely out of my head. Sure, I don't know how old I am, but let me tell you about the evolution of the epic form in the Eighteenth Century...

But all this insanity is almost at an end.

I wrote the first half of my field exam today.

Sure, the moment I stood up from the exam I realized that the last question I answered revolved around the evolution of Sensibility, which of course my answer circled around without actually explicitly stating... but hopefully I can fix that during the oral examination. But enough about that.

Tomorrow, I'll have another three hours of writing, then a break until June 2nd, when I do the oral examination. Hopefully it'll go something like my thesis defense, when the whole procedure took two hours, but an hour and a half of that is full of the professors asking questions. And at the end, somebody got bingo.

In quasi-celebration, I ordered pizza, moved some boxes into the office (so that's where the dust bunnies were coming from), SWEPT MY FLOORS (this is news to those who know that cleanliness and... well... food has become a non-existent priority. I call it the field exam diet), and in a few minutes, will be drinking a rum and coke. Tomorrow? More pizza (okay, leftover pizza) and rum and cokes. And sleeping. Oh yes, sweet, glorious, undisturbed sleeping.

I think I've handled the whole thing well, and I write that fully aware that many women think they've handled menopause well, too. The only time I've broken down completely was on the phone with Daniela the other day when the stress had piled up to hyperbolic levels. She very wisely pretended not to notice. I'd love to say that in hindsight, all the stress wasn't logical, but it really was. Field exams, regardless of the fact that they are tailored for each candidate, are just as terrifying and difficult as you imagine. A breakdown is inevitable and maybe even useful (big fan of the catharsis am I).

Regardless, as of 4pm tomorrow, I'll be finished the most important test I'll ever write. At 4:01pm, the debauchery will be just beginning...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

a vindication of the rights of readers

Today's soundtrack:
"Pop is Dead" by Radiohead
"Piano Concerto K. 365" by Mozart, as performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra

Those of you who know me in real life know of my disdain for Dan Brown. Some of you, who live with me, remember the obscenities shouted at the terrible writing and ridiculously misogynistic pseudo-feminism.

Today, I'm happy to report that I'm not the only one who thinks Dan Brown is a hack writer who deserves to be pilloried like Colley Cibber. Ladies and gentlemen, Stellan Starsgard.

Yeah, I don't know who he is either, but seeing as we agree on Dan Brown being the epitome of everything that is wrong with the literary scene today, I think I'll be imdb-stalking his movies from now on.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

lockean humour

Today's soundtrack:
The Hazards of Love by the Decemberists

I've been reading Adam Smith and John Locke for the past 24 hours, which is insanity in itself, but when I got to this passage, something odd happened:

This might with Justice be expected from those Men, who lay stress upon this Opinion: and it gives occasion to distrust either their Knowledge or Charity, who declaring, That God has imprinted on the Minds of Men, the foundations of Knowledge, and the Rules of Living, are yet so little favourable to the Information of their Neighbours, or the Quiet of Mankind, as not to point out to them, which they are, in the variety of Men are distracted with. But in truth, were there any such innate Principles, there would be no need to teach them. (Essay Concerning Human Understanding 76)

After reading this, I began to laugh hysterically. See, what it means is that if God was an innate idea, along with all his rules for living, there would be no need for churches to teach us about God because we'd already have that knowledge. Get it? It's hilarious!

So clearly one of two things have happened: Either I am completely ready to write my comps or I've lost my mind entirely. Any philosophy scholars out there want to make a case for Locke's wicked sense of humour?

I thought not. I'll be awaiting the men in white coats, then.

On a slightly saner note, Happy Birthday, Mom. If you could possibly let me know how old I am, that'd be helpful. I haven't been able to remember in a little over a month.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

fear is the mind killer

Today's soundtrack:
Explodo 3

Have been re-reading V for Vendetta in a vain attempt to keep my sanity as I prepare for comps. Noticed that V quotes "And did those feet" by Blake early on in the text. Made my 18th-century day.

I have a pile of books beside my bed, books that I'll read once comps are over: Wuthering Heights by Anne Bronte, Divine Comedy by Dante (this is re-read), Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, and Don Quijote by Cervantes. I've been told that nothing beats the first time you read Wuthering Heights, which reminds me of what I was told about A Confederacy of Dunces. Turned out to be true. I still can't see a hot-dog stand without snickering. Between this list and the promise of a night of sheer debauchery to celebrate the end of comps, June might be one of the best months I've had in a while.

But back to Pepys, that wife-beating, lecherous ass, and a cold glass of Moosehead. Cheers.

Friday, April 10, 2009

are you now...

Today's soundtrack:
Battlestar Galactica

So I know I haven't been blogging a lot lately. Something to do with my upcoming comps. But every once and a while, I feel like I should crawl out from under my rock to see what's happening in the world. And then I see something like this that makes me want to crawl right back under. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the latest McCarthy incarnation, as reported by today's Huffington Post:

Not too long ago, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was on Hardball, calling for the media to investigate her Congressional colleagues to "find out if they are pro-America or anti-America." Well, it turns out that someone has taken up Bachmann's call on a proactive basis! His name is Spencer Bachus and he has made a list -- a secret list! -- of the socialists in the House of Representatives. Or so he told the Birmingham News. Who are the seventeen socialists? That's the secret part, apparently.

From The Hill's Briefing Room:

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) puts the number of socialists in the House at 17.

"Some of the men and women I work with in Congress are socialists," Bachus told local government leaders on Thursday, according to the Birmingham News.

Bachus gave the specific number of House socialists when pressed later by a reporter.

Run! Hide! The socialist menace is upon us! Won't somebody think of the children?!

And back under my rock I go.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

in which i agree with karl pilkington

Today's soundtrack:
"15 Step" by Radiohead

The other day I decided to find out what all this Twitter buzz was about. When it first came on the scene, I saw it as nothing more than solipsistic self-indulgence, spewing 140 characters into cyberspace because everyone in the world is entitled to know exactly what you thought of the latest Survivor challenge or the dog shit in your backyard. This theory has now been confirmed.

Admittedly, I only spent a few days on Twitter. During those few days, I was repeatedly spammed by the anti-Obama brigade (do you know the truth about Obama?) and friended by various creepy personas. After updating post-Stewart/Cramer smackdown, I was instantly added by someone else who had also updated about it. Well that's just a little too much in my personal space for me.

More and more, the internets seem to a be a place where those who feel the real world just doesn't understand their brilliant insights to spew their self-congratulatory praise. Lookit me! Lookit how clever I am! I don't have to write that I love something, I just put a 3 and a bracket together! See? <3 I'm brilliant! Oh, and Paris Hilton is a whore. Well thanks for the insight there, Sparky. Next!

Twitter seems to be the most annoying of these developments. 140 characters that reveal nothing but soundbits (if that), directed at no one in particular. A group of people talking at each other. Just what the doctor ordered.

In the words of Karl Pilkington, it's just not worth it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Today's soundtrack:
"Narcissist" by Sage Francis
"In the Bleak Midwinter" as sung by Harry Christophers & The Sixteen

It is cold. Bitterly cold. Miguel has a new method of measuring just how cold it is. If you can walk to the end of the block and you just begin to feel the cold in your jeans, it's not too bad. If you only get into the alley before the cold sets in, it's damned cold. And if you only get outside the door, it's just insane and you stay home.

But we are hardy folk so we trudged to school, our long underwear mocking our attempts to remain warm for 15 minutes. By the time we got to the university, Miguel had sprouted snotcicles - that is, icicles in his mustache, right beneath his nostrils - and was doing a pretty good impression of Dr. Zhivago (you remember the scene, when he's left the partisans and is trying to get back to Lara).

Just as we got to Place Riel, a kid from the Residence came bounding out the door in a flimsy t-shirt and jeans, and sauntered into Place Riel. Miguel and I could only look at each other in utter disbelief.

In my mad effort to stay warm, I'm knitting up a baby blanket for some friends Miguel will see in his round-the-world trip. I'm using leftover black yarn, which I figure is appropriate for a Danish baby. Get it? It's a Blanket for Baby Hamlet!

Alright, it's possible that I'm the only one that finds this completely entertaining. The rest of you are just a bunch of savages.

Friday, January 16, 2009

now hear this...

Today's soundtrack:
"I'm So Tired" by the Beatles

I am not wearing any long underwear.

For the first time in weeks, I am long underwear-free. I'd do a little dance to celebrate, but it's so warm that I risk breaking a sweat if I do so.

I am, however, wearing my lovely handknit socks. They're made out of the Bearfoot Colors wool that my aunt gave me. Although the wool bleeds like a demon anytime it's near water, they are the most comfortable, lovely pair of socks that I've knit. And at this point, I've knit more than a few. See for evidence.

But the sky is blue, the temperature is hovering around 0ºC, and I'm facing a weekend of bodice-ripping literature (re: Aphra Behn, for the uninitiated). Good times.

Monday, January 12, 2009

tying up loose ends

Today's soundtrack:
"Me Enamora" by Juanes

Just snuck a peak at the 14-day weather projections for Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It is going to be so cold that the yellow line literally plummets off of the graph. There is no numerical value for the degree of cold we're in for. And it's snowing. Again. Another 10cm today. Thank the gods I have a handy Spaniard at home who still regards shoveling snow as a novelty. Hopefully by the time the novelty wears off, we'll have kids that can shovel it for us. What better reason to have children, really, than to have people to shovel the walk and clean the bathrooms. Clever evolutionary invention.

Must distract self in order to maintain sanity, therefore...

So there are some loose ends from the vacation that I haven't tied up yet. So here they are, in no particular order other than the order in which they are presented.

1) During our walk in El Retiro, we saw a bunch of men on rollarblades playing hockey. Not field hockey. Real hockey. Well, minus the ice. Don't believe me? I give you photographic evidence that Canada is slowly taking over Spain:

2) In honour of the emblem of Madrid, I give you Miguel doing his best bear impression, although this may only be funny to the Spanish:

3) In Madrid, even the statues are well hung:

4) Although Spanish meals are something like final exams, something must be said for Dutch cooking. No, seriously. Witness the bliss on the Spaniard's face as he digs into a typically healthy Dutch lunch. Yes, those are giant chocolate sprinkles on black bread:

Although the jetlag is now gone, it's been replaced with a paralyzing fear that on good days manifests itself as nothing more than sheer panic. Comps are four months away and I'm bunkering myself into my office for hours every day. In light of this, I'm seriously considering changing my answering machine message to the following:

"Hi, we can't come to the phone. If it's urgent, leave a message and we'll get back to you in May. If it's not urgent, call back in May. Thank you, that is all."

Saturday, January 03, 2009

when in spain...

When I left you all here, hanging on the edges of your seats, I was off to Spain. At the moment, I'm now back in Utrecht. Internet access was limited in Madrid as Miguel's parents are computerless, so I hope you'll forgive the silence of the past few weeks. Nevertheless, I'll try to sum up, as briefly as possible, my past two weeks y pico in Madrid.

After we arrived in Barajas, we took the metro back to Miguel's parents's place. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy the metro in Madrid? Well, they have a new metro map and it's nothing short of a postmodernist nightmare. The stations on the map bear very little resemblance to their actual spatial arrangement in Madrid. Sure, it's pretty but I spent several minutes looking for Cuatro Caminos with no luck.

But not to worry, the metro was completely redeemed for me two days before New Year's Eve. Miguel and I were taking the escalators down and in front of us were four rather rowdy teenagers who were trying to pick up every girl that passed them by. "Feliz año, guapa!" over and over again. We all ended up in the same train car and the boys launched into a Spanish Christmas carol that sounds pretty flamenco (to a Canadian anyway). "Ande, ande, ande la Marimorena. Ande, ande, ande que es la Noche Buena!" was sung over and over again, with some pretty funny verses inbetween, by one of the guys while the other two clapped and the last one danced around the car.

The metro is actually a pretty critical part of any family dinner. It seems to be the custom, as the party is breaking up, to discuss which lines are the best or fastest to get home. Now why they don't just pull out the map and all look at it is beyond me. They prefer to do this by memory. Trouble is that their memories aren't always what they should be. "You should take Linea 9 until Plaza de Castilla, then switch to Linea 2" one would say. "Linea 2 doesn't come through Plaza de Castilla" the other replies. Such disagreements usually end with pistols at dawn in el Retiro.

We didn't spend the whole time in the metro, though. Miguel and I snuck out to the Museo Archeologico, the Museo Thyssen, and the Prado. We spent hours wandering around the Puerto del Sol, Palacio Real, and el Retiro. We went to an Improv competition that Miguel's friend Beatriz was performing in. We went for cañas and coffees and chocolates con churros. At one point we ended up in a bar in a district that Almodovar used to hang out in when he was younger. I don't think I stopped eating the whole time I was in Spain.

Christmas Eve was spent with Miguel's family, although we later went to mass with his friends. I didn't know the majority of the traditional Spanish Catholic songs or Christmas songs, but I did like the one that went "oh no, no pasaron!", which I believed was a direct reference to the Civil War Republican slogan in Madrid, but Miguel assures me that it is not the case.

I think I saw every Spaniard that I know while in Madrid. Even Marta, who we hadn't gotten in touch with but managed to run into accidently in a Gino's the night before we left Madrid. Que casualidad. We spent a lot of time with Miguel's friends who are all kinds of entertaining, although some are still battling tuberculosis.

We spent New Year's Eve with Miguel's parents, and later with Miguel's friends Dani and Maria. I still haven't managed to eat all 12 grapes during the 12 campanas, but I have another two years to practice. After the bells and the fireworks (oh those Valencians), Miguel and I went to play boardgames with Dani and Maria until 6am, when we decided that we should probably call it an early night.

But now we're back in Utrecht, after spending the night in Eindhoven with Richard, Sonia and the soon-to-be Small One/Pequeñin, crashing at Yvon's for the night. Tomorrow morning, we're going to take the train to Schiphol Airport, and then back to Canada and the -22 that awaits us. It'll be a bit of a change from the 18C we had in Madrid.

All in all, a nice long and relaxing trip. And now, the insanity of comp prep and dissertation writing...