Weather, or a lack thereof

It’s fall, even in California.  Last October I barely noticed fall; the leaves changed, the air grew crisper, but it was almost Christmas before we turned on the heat.

This year fall seems more present.  Last night when I was riding back from the gym it was in the low fifties/high forties, people were bundled up (YES, bundled up!!) and I decided to ride home in a sleeveless top and jeans.  It felt good, cruising downhill towards home, cool air on my arms.  This is close to the coldest it will ever get out here, with the exception of some especially chilly, rainy days.

It’s strange to think that I might not have another real fall for the next four years.  It’s days like yesterday when my friends here point at me and say “You are DEFINITELY headed back east once you’ve graduated.”  Who can say for sure?   I just hope I don’t wind up making a rash decision and moving to, say, Montana in search of some real weather.

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3. Go without Facebook for a month [The Conclusion]

So it’s been approximately one month, perhaps a little more, since I shuttered my facebook.

To break it down quantitatively…

 

Number of Facebook friends: ~255

Number of friends I text/talk to on a near-daily basis:  8

Number of distant friends who contacted me after realizing I left Facebook: 2

 

I was hoping to come up with a few more numerical measurements, but I’m at a bit of a loss due to a severely fried brain (thanks, STS reading!)  However, the conclusion that I’m trying to get at is that while I no longer have hundreds of ‘friends’ within reach, the ones I do talk to regularly are the kinds of people I would share almost anything with.

The other reason I wanted to step away from Facebook was due to all the time I spent self-fashioning and making sure my public persona matched the person that I want myself to be.  It seemed like a lot of work, this process of getting people to like and/or admire me, and generally not worth my time.  This turned out to be true, although I realized that we all tinker with our identities in different ways both on and offline to make them conform to what we perceive as our inner selves.

I also waste much less time checking Facebook on my phone and, as a result, feel a little bit more connected to the world around me.  Making eye contact with and talking to strangers, what a novel concept!  I still usually have my headphones in while I’m walking, but I like to think that not constantly having my nose buried in my phone has made me more approachable and social.

Things that I feel I’m missing out on: photos of friends (especially my friend’s adorable kids!), events (I’ve missed a few since the invite was only on Facebook) and access to my own photos, some of which reside solely on Facebook.

I haven’t reactivated my account yet because I still don’t feel the need to do so.  When I feel like it’s really hampering my enjoyment of life (unlikely) I’ll return.

 

12. Get my nose pierced

I always thought that after I got my cartilage pierced, I’d be finished with piercings.  More holes in my body?  Pass.  Plus, needles were never my favorite.

Recently I’ve gotten considerably less squeamish and did a bit of thinking about if a nose piercing was something I wanted.  They’re much more common in California than in New Jersey (or maybe I just happen to notice them more here) so maintaining a ‘professional’ look wasn’t much of a concern.  Once I decided to take the plunge, I contacted a local friend of mine who has a few tattoos and piercings to ask for a recommendation.  Even better, Jayne was willing to come along with me to the tattoo parlor and grab a beer afterwards at the Trappist.

I was barely nervous waiting my turn, listening to the tattoo guns buzz and the girl in line in front of me pick out jewelry.  But sitting up on that table with a heavily pierced asian woman’s hands up my nose?  Yes, yes, that was weird and stomach churning and oh-god-please-don’t-put-any-holes-where-there-shouldn’t-be.

It hurt for a split second; by the time I registered the pain it was over and I was trying to get used to the feeling of metal inside my nostril.  It turned out pretty darn cute, if I can brag for a moment, and I’m currently resisting the urge to pierce anything else.

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Productivity

It’s very easy to figure out ways in which I’m not productive but significantly more difficult to determine how I can flip those around and make myself more productive.

I think everybody involved in a competitive endeavor, whether graduate school or otherwise, is striving towards maximum productivity.  Personally, I’m looking for maximum productivity while simultaneously maximizing my enjoyment of life, which includes doing things that seem counterproductive (drinks with friends in the city on a school night? why not!) but are in fact just as productive as all of the hours I spend sitting in front of the computer.  But that’s a totally different topic.

I’m slightly unexcited to announce that, starting tomorrow, I will be doing two things to make myself more productive:

1. No email before noon.

This will be difficult. First I need to turn off the push notifications on my phone.  Then I need to simply not check my email before noon.    I might eventually modify this to be “No email until you’ve gotten up, ready, and have done your obligatory one hour of seminar paper research.”  Which leads me to…

2.  One hour per day, in the morning, of seminar paper research.

Seminar papers are, by far, the most important part of graduate school at this stage.  But I find myself leaving the research off until the end of the day, when I’m exhausted from GSI duties and reading for other classes.  The easy solution is to block off an hour, immediately after I’m vertical and have had my first cup of tea, to just buckle down and do it.  That way when I get to the end of the day I can let my mind wander a little more when I’m doing the tasks that are less essential.  This idea is courtesy of accountability buddy Eric in Chicago and those faculty diversity emails that I’m signed up for (Monday Motivators, huzzah!)  Both of them happened to have the same idea at the same time, which means it must be worth trying.

I also need to start trying to fix my awful sleeping patterns.  I’ve been averaging about 5-6 hours a night, usually waking up every few hours for no reason at all, and taking ages to fall asleep.  I’ve tried white noise, audiobooks, regular books, no screen time before bed, no food before bed, no caffeine after 5 pm… but no luck.  So that’s going to be the next thing that gets fixed around here!

 

“Social Construction”, a mid-reading rant

I am tired of hearing about how things are “socially constructed” (in this case, technological artifacts.)

EVERYTHING is socially constructed!

 Everything!*  

Saying something is “socially constructed” PROVES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

 

*So not exactly everything, but in the realm of theory I subscribe to, this is true.

 

 

3. Go without facebook for a month

Three or so weeks in and I’m still facebook-free.

I’ve had two people this week suddenly notice my absence from Facebook which is apparently cause for concern.  Like, am I okay?  I love how quitting social media is the new first symptom of a mental breakdown.*

I know a few people who have ‘rage-quit’ from facebook, always posting statuses about “wanting to free their lives of drama” by leaving social networking “forever”.  That’s definitely not what I’m doing.  I didn’t use Facebook much to begin with, but it was a huge time suck when I did.  Furthermore, it didn’t help me feel any more connected to my friends.  If anything, I felt less connected, less compelled to text or email or call to ask what’s up, because I had their daily happenings right there on my newsfeed.

I thought I’d be excited for the month to be over but I’m actually rather indifferent.  Maybe I’ll return, maybe… I won’t.  What a possibility.

 

* But I am touched that people care about my feelings and all that jazz.

4. Read twenty-five novels/poetry collections/non-fiction-non-architecture books [7/25]

First, I’ve decided to revise this goal to include non-fiction books that are not architecture or school related because I’ve got some awesome looking non-fiction on my to-read list and I don’t want to limit myself to books that are entirely devoid of anything educational.  As long as I’m not reading about gothic cathedrals/modernism in California/urban planning, it’ll count.

1.  A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin

The first half of this book was painfully slow, which is probably why it took me over a month to read it.  Eventually it did live up to its name, with character deaths galore (both happy and sad) and all the usual, confusing drama that comes with such a large and confusing cast.

2.  A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin

I pushed through to the next GOT book, but this one was even more bizarre and less enjoyable than the second one.  A Feast for Crows is still sitting on my bookshelf but I’m unsure if I’ll read it.

3. The Kitchen God’s Wife, Amy Tan

I first read this book in high school for an independent reading project and remembered liking it so much that I brought it with me to the west coast.  It was a fast read, but not nearly as enchanting as the first time around.  Amy Tan does do an amazing job of describing the Chinese immigrant community in San Francisco and the complexities of mother/daughter relationships.

4. Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali

When my friend Annie came to visit, she brought this book with her and finished it while she was here.  She generously left it for me and it sat on my bookshelf for months before I decided to pick it up.  Heartwrenchingly sad yet simultaneously uplifting, Ayaan’s story of female genital mutilation, family strife, war, refugee camps, atheism and her eventual rise into Dutch politics left me feeling inspired by her desire to change her circumstances.

5. Drown, Junot Diaz

I adore Junot Diaz’s writing style.  The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao and This is how you lose her are two of my favorite books, but I’d never picked up his first book (a collection of short stories) until now.  To be perfectly honest, it didn’t live up to my expectations.  Some of the stories were honest, funny and able to strike a beautiful emotional chord, but others fell a little flat with me.

6. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett

Oh, I expected so much more from this duo.  To put it frankly, this book sucked and I can’t wait to toss it into the returns bin at the library.

7. Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman

Ever since finishing devouring the netflix series in a week, I wanted to read the book that the series was based on.  Coincidentally, my roommate Amanda bought a copy and offered it to me when she was finished.  I’m excited that the series was only loosely based on the author’s experiences in a women’s prison in Connecticut since some of those events seemed crazy even for prison (but probably just the right about of crazy for television).  It’s an easy read and although Kerman’s self reflections occasionally cross the line into pretentiousness, she’s wholly aware of the role that prison played for her personally and how it effects the lives of other women who find themselves locked up.

Next up:  Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfield, The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel, The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The nine-to-five

Before I started graduate school I had this really crazy idea.

I thought that, no matter what, if I worked a solid eight hour day I would be able to survive (nay, thrive!) in graduate school.

Ha. HAH.

Not even close.

Last semester I couldn’t maintain that sort of schedule due to studio.  This semester teaching is chewing away at the majority of my time.  It’s supposed to take up 20 hours a week as per union regulations, but sometimes I find myself going the extra mile for students, doing things well and not just to get them done, and unintentionally pushing aside my own research in the process.

Anyway, my point is that my day went something like this:

9:40 am-12:30 pm:  Seminar

12:30 pm-1pm: Prep for teaching, devour lunch

1pm-3pm: Teach

3pm-6pm: Unwind, grade a few proposals/type notes, take the bus home from campus

6pm-7pm: Dinner

7pm-8pm: Grey’s Anatomy because dangit, it’s still Friday and I need mindless television to keep my brain from revolting. Typed more notes to keep myself busy while it was on.

8pm-9pm: Read articles for seminar paper.

and that brings us to right now, as I sit here debating if I should finally try and finish Barnes’ T.S Kuhn and Social Science or if I should just call it a night because right now, that’s a twelve hour day (with about 2 hours worth of breaks).

But I’m honestly not sure how I can make more time for paper research this semester.  Just completing all my tasks for GSIing, plus reading for seminar, plus little projects and assignments, makes me want to come home and collapse at the end of the day.  I like the research I’m doing and find it truly fascinating but is it really impossible to do everything and do it well?

7. Take one weekend adventure per month [September, Las Vegas]

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I had this crazy idea not too long ago.  It goes something like this: if I do absolutely no work all weekend, I won’t be badly prepared for the week.  I won’t fail out of my program.  The earth won’t crash into the sun, et cetera, et cetera.

So Friday afternoon, after teaching two completely awesome sections on the Pantheon, Brannan and I set off on the eight+ hour drive through the California desert to Las Vegas.  Why Vegas?  Because we could.  Also because Brannan had a good deal on the rooms and we were ready for some debauchery.

We arrived at the Bellagio around 12:30 am, feeling much less tired than I had just an hour before in the car.  It’s something about the darkness and gentle motion of the car that just tires me out.  Instead of going to bed, we changed into some snazzy clothes and went downstairs for some drinking and gambling.

I didn’t get to bed until I’d been awake for almost 24 hours, which I’ll count as a successful first night in Vegas.

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The next day I was a little hung over and bothered by how dry the air was (you never miss the humidity until it’s gone!) and we’d decided to do whatever we felt like without an itinerary, so the day consisted of exploring, napping for me and gambling for him, and finally awesome fancy dinner at Sensei.  The vegetarian options in Vegas are, surprise surprise, not great, but the tofu scallops that I got were amazing.

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We’d planned on going out Saturday night, but after a couple of episodes of Adventure Time we decided to close our eyes for a bit, and… suddenly it was Sunday morning.  But it was the best night of sleep I’d had in a long time– maybe because the room was so dark, or because I was so tired, or the bed was comfortable.

Sunday morning we wandered around a bit more in search of breakfast and decided on the brunch buffet at one of the neighboring casinos.  The amount of choices was insane- quiche! crab legs! about a billion types of dessert!  I tried a tiny bit of everything.  So good.

And then it was another eight hour drive back through the desert.  This is definitely the longest weekend trip I plan on taking, but I felt incredibly relaxed on Monday morning.  Going back to work/school was much less painful, although I felt a little bad that I’d been off having fun while my friends/classmates worked.  Well, plenty of weekends for that, and life is short.

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