Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Five


Which is my polite way of saying, &*#$*A@#*$#A(#(@()$#!!!!!!

I've started round two of grant proposals, and the process is even harder the second time. Because now, in addition to having the voices of my advisor and my inner critic interfering, I also have a chorus of rejections chiming in every time I sit down to write. The result is utter crap.

And don't just take my word for it: My advisor agrees. I met with her this morning, and her feedback was very discouraging. I knew my revisions were still far from perfect, but I was hoping that she'd say that it was stronger in some sections and needed work in other areas. But she trashed the whole thing. Really. She didn't have a single positive thing to say, and her disappointment in me was very visible.

So I'm back to the drawing board. Again.


Thank goodness I'm meeting friends tonight for margaritas and chocolates.


I finally picked my first tomato. It was only a little bigger than a golf ball, but fully ripened. I'm still not sure if I just selected a small variety or if the cold weather stunted the tomato's growth.

It was so yummy. I sliced it and sprinkled it with a little salt, pepper, and fresh basil.

Now I'm even more impatient for the rest of the tomatoes to ripen.


I'm also eagerly awaiting my birthday present:

My current vacuum is crap for picking up dog hair---or anything else. This one has gotten great reviews in Consumer Reports and the store sites where it is sold.

It should be here any day now.


Classes start again on Wednesday. I still can't figure out what happened to the past three months: It's all a haze of pain, meds, undergraduates, and CSI reruns.

At least I have a soft start to the new term: Only one class and no discussion sections for TAing during the first week.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Five: On the DL

I started this post last Friday. But about one third of the way through it, a combination of pain and the meds I'm taking to "manage" the pain kicked in, and the need to be horizontal outweighed the want to get a Friday Five posted.


It's baaaaack: the horrible, terrible, no good, very bad back problem.

I exaggerate. A bit.

I was feeling great for about three weeks. Then, on Monday, while doing a seated head-to-knee pose as part of my regular morning yoga routine, I felt a tightness in my lower right back. I tried to push into the tension a bit, without overdoing the stretch, and when I finished, I felt a little sore in my right leg, but a good sore. Except, not so much good. Because over the next few days, that soreness got worse. Monday and Tuesday, I had constant pins-and-needles along my right leg, with the occasional sharp pain when I moved the wrong way. By Wednesday night, however, the pain was almost constant; I couldn't find any position---seated or laying down---that was comfortable. When I woke up on Thursday, after a long night of tossing and turning and trying to find a comfortable position, I had a dull achy pain all along my leg and couldn't put much weight on it. So, for once, I admitted that I had a problem and called the doctor.

The diagnosis this time: a bulging disk (simply put, a disk has slipped out of place and is pressing against a nerve). Possibly. The doctors are still playing a guessing game because they want to eliminate all the obvious possibilities before they'll send me for an MRI (a decision that I'm sure has been influenced by insurance regulations).

So I got another set of drugs (extra-strength ibuprofen and Vicoden) that make me spacey but don't seem to have any effect on the pain. I also got a referral to a physical therapist, who gave me yet another list of exercises. Both the doctor and the PT say that I've got at least a couple months before I'm back to 100 percent. And so the doctor is focusing on managing the pain, and the PT is focusing on gradually moving the pain into a single source and strengthening my core to prevent future pain.

Of course, all of this treatment is based on the assumption that the doctor correctly diagnosed the problem.

ETA: The pain meds and exercises are helping. I've managed to remain awake and upright for most of the days this week, and I'm able to get around enough to get some errands done. I may have overdone it last night, though, when I had friends over to watch Project Runway; I've been feeling sore and crappy today. So, of course, I'm going to spend tonight cooking for the weekly sailing social. I expect that I'll be a very unhappy camper tomorrow. (It's not really "volunteering" because I'll get $35 refunded from my membership fee, which is the only reason that I haven't backed out.)


Obviously, this week has been a total loss for doing any work. I'm either in pain or knocked out by the supermeds.

ETA: This week hasn't been much more productive. I've absolutely hit the wall.


I've been watching "More to Love," much to my shame. I'm generally opposed to dating shows. Perhaps I'm naive about the dating scene, but the idea of women competing for a man who is openly pursuing multiple relationships and judging the women on an arbitary set of criteria in an artificial environment is so distasteful that I'd rather remain a lifelong spinster than participate in that.

But I was intrigued by the idea of a dating show that focused on "normal"-sized women. And I have an ongoing fascination with the current obsession in popular culture with weight and food.

This show, however, manages to take poor taste to a whole new level. I was expecting the women to be overweight but to have healthy self-esteems, to be members of the "fat pride" movement.* And some of the women do have a high opinion of themselves. But most of them need therapy a lot more than they need a reality show. Putting these women, who have some serious self-esteem issues, on a show that constantly focuses on their weight and keeps them in constant fear of rejection, just seems cruel.

Of course, they would have to cast some really desperate women if they want to find someone willing to put up with the bachelor. He is beyond obnoxious.

So why am I still watching this trainwreck?

* I'm also turned off by the idea of "celebrating" severe obesity. Although some of the women are a "normal" weight compared to the super-thin ideal perpetuated on TV, many of them are obese. And although I realize that I'm a bit of hypocrite saying this, given my inability to take my own advice, I don't think we should accept obesity. It's a very real health concern. Yes, self-acceptance is a laudable goal, but in conjunction with---not in place of---efforts to reach a healthy weight.


Project Runway is back! Project Runway is back!

And so are Top Chef and Rachel Zoe's show.

Just when I had started to wean myself from TV, after tiring of endless reruns of the various iterations of CSI and L&O.


My first tomato is turning red and is almost ready to harvest. I have more than a dozen others at various stages of growth. I can't wait!

I'm still trying to decide on names.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday Five: Rainy Day Edition

We're having a cold, rainy day, which should be conducive to getting work done, but oddly, is not.

I'm struggling to get my prelim statements written and my proposal revised. I'm lucky if I get 50 pages read in a day, and I'm excluding about half of what I do read as not relevant or useful. Which I suppose is progress of a sort.

I'm just very disappointed in myself for my lack of real, tangible progress, and I'm worried that my committee members are getting tired of my excuses.

Unfortunately, the deeper the hole I dig for myself, the more inclined I am to wallow in that hole. Today, I picked up a tall pile of research books---then left them in my backpack for the rest of the day while I watched DVR'd episodes of "The Superstars," surfed the Internet, and read "The New Yorker."


I'm starting to contemplate a life beyond grad school. I've applied for a couple of jobs, but the market is tight, and Madison isn't really the best place to find a job in publications or marketing. In the meantime, I'm taking advantage of the university's free computer courses to update my software skills so I'll be a bit more competitive when the job market does recover.

I'm not giving up on getting my doctorate yet, which is why I'm reluctant to leave Madison. I'm still planning to resubmit my proposals. But I think I need to be realistic and prepare for the very real possibility that I may get rejected again.


I watched Network last night. For a 30-year-old movie, it is surprisingly relevant today: concern that media has become an opiate of the masses, the ubiquity of corporate influence, the co-option of radical action into dominant discourse, paranoia about the Middle East.

I'm also constantly surprised when I revisit older movies by how intelligent, articulate, and subversive they are. The writing in Network is so smart and thick; I had to actually pay attention to the dialogue---and even occasionally replayed a segment because I couldn't keep up as the characters debated social theory.

Not that I don't enjoy my mindless entertainment---the Bring It On series is high on my list of favorites---but once upon a time, films could be smart and witty and relevant and fun.


I finally got some sailing in this week. I went out for about an hour on Wednesday, and in that hour, I managed to hit two keel boats. Both were parked at buoys. The first one, I hit when my boom fell down after the line came undone. The second, I hit when I got my rudder caught in the buoy line.

Other than those two incidents---and a less than elegant landing---I did fairly well. Or, at least, I didn't capsize. Which I count as success.

I'm signed up for a couple of lessons next week: a landing clinic and a lesson on one of the cruising keel boats.


We're supposed to continue having cruddy weather over the weekend, so other than trying to get some prelim reading done and spending half of Sunday at a class on Access, I'm planning to stay in with a pile of movies and a stack of magazines. I also finally got a library copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Hmmm . . . that prelim reading might get put off yet again.