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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Mid-Week Adventure

Today, I'd like to tell you about my Wednesdays.

Wednesday, as we all know, represents the mid-point in the work week. Back when I was in grade school, we had "Wonderful Wednesday"- which meant school ended an hour earlier on that day. I've also been told that my Alma Mater, Mercer, used to have their own version of Wonderful Wednesday, and that Wednesdays used to not have any classes. There is, I think, a good reasoning behind these practices, which is that come Wednesday, you need a little extra time to recover for the first 1/2 of the week, and a little extra time to prepare for the next 1/2.

Ever Wednesday my alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m., like it does every weekday. And every Wednesday, I roll over and reset it for 6:30 a.m., like I do every weekday. But when it goes off the second the time, after struggling to consciousness, I remind myself that my class isn't until 11:15, and that as long as I'm on campus before 8:30, I can usually find a good parking place. Besides, I'm tired from staying up late Monday and Tuesday to finish work, and have everything finished for class that needs to be. So I reset my alarm for 7:00, and go back to sleep.

I get up when my alarm goes off at 7:00, and begin to slowly make my preparations for the day; brush teeth, get dressed, then head into the kitchen to make breakfast. At this point, it's usually around 7:15. As I walk towards the kitchen, there's something nagging me in the back of my mind. Something I've forgot. Then it hits me.

Monday and Friday, my first class is at 11:15. But on Wednesday, I have a once-weekly class that meets at 8:00. And today is WEDNESDAY!

I instantly become a flurry of activity, grabbing notebooks and stuffing them in my bag, searching for my reading glasses, packing up my computer, and reassuring myself that I can grab a granola bar from my kitchen on the way out for breakfast. I get everything packed, fill my water bottle, decide I can go one day a week without makeup for the sake of arriving on time, and rush out the door. I make it to school with minutes to spare, park, and run to class, always making it just in time. I sit through the lecture, then head down to my office in the basement where I make a devastating discovery: I forgot my granola bar.

The thing is, this hasn't just happened once or twice. It happens every. single. Wednesday. Now I ask, who would schedule an 8:00 a.m. class smack dab in the middle of the week? Hmmm? Someone who has it in for poor grad students, if you ask me. But at least it guarantees I have an exciting morning once a week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Teaser

I've had an idea for a short story in my head for a while now, and finally decided to start writing it. I'm not sure when I'll have time to start working on it again, but here's a (very) rough draft of the introduction.


Undestined

It was Fortune Day. Most towns had coming of age rituals, but the one here in Dagrosa was unique, as unique as it’s people. In a world of magic, the Dargrosians stood out. It was commonly said that all great Heroes came from Dagrosa. Mind you, not everyone from Dagrosa was a Hero, but if one was a Hero, it was certain you came from there. For the people of Dagrosa each had a Destiny. Oh, often enough it was simple: to be a good cook, to make gardens grow, to sing away people’s worries. But every now and then, Dagrosa would produce a Hero.

What is important to know about Dagrosa is that not only did each person have a Destiny, but each person knew it. That was what Fortune Day was all about. All the children who would become adults that year gathered at the small cabin of the Seer, and she would look into their eyes, into their souls, and tell them what their Destiny was. And today was Fortune Day.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Field Guide to Graduate Students

Graduate students are a unique class of students that can be found in many major universities. While they are a varied group, there are certain characteristics by which one can identify them. Should you for some reason wish to identify these students, the following guide has been designed to help you.

Appearance: Of all the characteristics belonging to graduate students, appearance is probably the most varied. Graduate students range in age from anywhere from 22 on up. Most of them, however, are typically in their early to mid-20s. Their clothing often resembles their status -- somewhere between student and professional. Jeans worn with a nice top are typical, and reflect this dual status.

Habitat: When not engaging in "study breaks" (see Behavior),  graduate students can typically be found in one of four locations. These are, in order of frequency, the building that houses their department, the library, in class, and their apartments. I say apartments, though some graduate students also rent or even own houses. The majority of grad students, however, rent one-bedroom apartments. Graduate student living spaces are typically better furnished than their undergrad counterparts, and generally contain a large number of books concerning  their area of study.

Dietary Habits: The dietary habits of graduate students are wide and varied. They are typically healthier than those of undergraduates, but not necessarily. Often, they are a mix of quick, easy meals, and healthier, more involved meals. Breakfast is often the meal given the least amount of attention, as can be attested by the large quantities of granola bar wrappers that can be found in most students' cars. Lunch is typically a packed sandwich, leftovers for dinner, or a quick meal purchased on campus. Dinner ranges from frozen microwave meals, to proper meals with a meat and vegetables.

Behavior: Graduate behavior consists mainly of two activities- doing work (AKA "studying"), and avoiding work (AKA "study breaks"). The term "study break" covers a wide range of activities, from eating meals, to parties, to taking naps. Such behaviors are typically reserved for the weekend, and most graduate students spend their weekdays trying to get enough work done to justify taking a study break at some point on Saturday or Sunday.

Disclaimer: This is by no means a comprehensive guide, and the author takes no responsibility for its use. Please be aware that approaching a graduate student, especially one engaged in "studying" can be dangerous. Approaching a graduate student on a "study break" also carries it's own risks, including, but not limited to, being engaged in an in-depth conversation of an obscure field, witnessing a nervous break-down, and receiving a lecture on why one's chosen field of study is, in fact, "useful and important". 

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Teacher Becomes the Student

I've taught a lot of people how to knit, and a couple of people how to spin. I'm pretty used to be one of the most experienced knitters in the room at any given time, which means I do a lot of knitting "troubleshooting". A couple of weeks ago, however, the tables were turned on me when I mentioned that, despite being shown how to by several people, I've never properly learned to crochet. I mistakenly said this in earshot of an avid crocheter. And now...well now I have this:

A crocheted dishtowel, in Lily's Sugar & Cream in Denim (it's a variegated blue, you just can't tell in the picture. The colour pooling made an interesting design, though).

It's not perfect- if you look closely you can see I added a stitch on the edge of the left side. But I've been assured by my teacher that it's good for a first piece, and that the stitches are even and not too loose or too tight. 

It was interesting being the student and not the teacher when it came to a fibre art. I found myself struggling to get my hands to twist the right way to crochet, when they wanted to twist like they were knitting, and I kept trying to wrap the yarn around the hook in the wrong direction. I also felt the need to check with my friend every couple of stitches: "Is this right? Should it look like this? Is this the way the yarn should go?" She was incredible patient, and I'm pretty pleased with the end result.

So, it looks like I've added one more fibre skill to my arsenal. Next up? Weaving :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Translating Poetry

The other day, my Latin professor asked us how to properly translate poetry into English. I suggested that the only way to do it was to understand Horace's poem, and then writet your own, and she agreed (though, apparently, we can't do that on the test ;) ). The conversation reminded me of a poem I wrote about/right after a Latin class where we were translating Horace in undergrad. It's not my best, (actually, I don't think it's at all that good), but it's an interesting example of this idea.  Here it is, inspired by Horace, Ode 3.13 (and no, this is not a translation, and no, the lines under the Latin are not translation of the Latin above them). (Carmina 3.13 in Latin (scroll down), and in English).

Frustra

O fons Bandusiae, splendidior vitror!
I hear sirens outside, growing louder.
Dulci digne mero!
digne, digne
The sirens -- are they worthy?
Worthy of my attention?
But they are fading now.
Unde loquaces
lymphae desiliunt tuae.
I hear them no longer.
Nam gelidos inficiet tibi
rubro sanguine rivos
lasciui suboles gregis.
Tonight, in high-def; a shooting
rubro sanguine
rubro sanguine
rubro sanguine
We sit and watch.
Frustra.
In vain.
The world continues outside.
Frustra.
In vain.
On T.V.
Rubro sanguine
in high-def.
Frusta.
Rubro sanguine.
Frustra.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mid-term Recap

So, I'm about mid-way through my first semester of graduate school, and figured I owe everyone an update on what I've been up.

1. The Parking Situation: You may remember the trouble I had finding a parking spot on campus. We,ll I've solved the problem, though at the expense of an hour of sleep. My earliest class MWF is 11:15. On T/Thur. it's 12:30. But I get on campus everyday before 8 to guarantee a good parking spot. 

2. The Dungeon: The Dungeon is what the Classics dept. calls the basement of our building. Graduate TA's have their "offices" (i.e. desks) down there. It has now become one of my most frequent hang-outs on campus, since it's quiet, has internet, and has electric outlets. I spend most of my mornings there before class. Occasionally, a student will find his or her way down there for help on a paper.

3. Teacher's Assistant: I'm a TA for a myth class, and am enjoying it for the most part, though I have ridiculous number of tests and papers to grade. I get to give a lecture on Thursday, and am excited about that.

4. Greek: Greek is the bane of my existence right now. I still like Greek, don't get me wrong, but I'm really struggling in the class, and it can be frustrating. But I'm hanging in there, and my professor is incredibly understanding and has been helping me develop better studying/translations skills to help me improve. 

5. Sleep: About a week ago, I finally realized the truth: There are not enough hours in the day for me to get everything done. Something had to give. I confess, I love to sleep. I don't sleep in very late, but rather like to go to bed early(ish), and take naps. But I've found that if I want to get everything done and have some time leftover for a life, then I have give up an hour or two of sleep of night (don't worry- I'm still getting enough sleep- just not as much as I would like). 

6. Church: I thought it would take me some time to find a church and get involved. Instead, my first week I walked to a church near my house and felt right at home. I'm now a part of the young adults group and the handbell choir.

7. Knitting/Fibre Friends: About my 3rd or 4th week here (can't remember which) I invited a few friends over to my house on Friday to eat dinner, watch a movie, and knit/spin/crochet/cross-stitch. Since then, Fibre Friday has ceased to be just an abstract concept on my blog, but a regular gathering. Every Friday we take turns hosting the group, and just hanging out and talking. 

8. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: As I mentioned on Friday, I'm now pain-free almost all the time. I still ice my wrists every other day or so, and take it easy on the knitting and typing, and that seems to do the trick. It's an amazing thing to not have pain from every day activities again. 

9. Humilty: Graduate school has been a great lesson in humility. I'm used to being one of the top students in my class, and generally the one who knows the most about all things Classical. But now I'm with a group of students who were also all top students and studied Classics, and I'm just one of the many. It's been interesting, sometimes frustrating, but overall, good. I love getting to hang out with people who think "Hephaestus' Happenin' Hammer" is a good name for a Quiz Team, and that "Aristophanes: The Original Player Hater" would make a good t-shirt slogan. 

10. Community Supported Agriculture: One of my friends and fellow Farmer's Market shopper introduced me to the concept of a CSA, where you pay a certain amount of money to a local farmer upfront, and every week for a set number of weeks, you receive a bag of produce. After some research, we decided to split the cost and get a CSA to share. I now have a huge amount of fresh produce to use every week; this week I received, along with many other things, four eggplants! So of course, I made eggplant parmesan. I'm really loving this, it was really affordable. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Spinning a Good Yarn

You may remember that I've been dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome. Well, I have good new to report: I now have almost no pain in my writs, and can do small amounts of knitting and typing again. Yay! (I will avoid dragging you through a philosophical discussion of pleasure and pain- at  least for today.)

Some good, however, did come from not being able to knit. I discovered that spinning didn't hurt my wrists, so I picked up my spindle and started to work on my much-neglected fibre stash. A quick re-cap of my earlier spinning projects:

Project #1: black alpaca from Colorado:

 
Very loose twist and plying. This became, unintentionally, thick-thin yarn, going from being very thick to very thin with no pattern. It's very soft, but I have some worries how it will hold up when knitted (it might untwist). Also, because I did a poor job of drafting the fibre (pulling it loose so it can be spun) I ended up wasting a lot.

Project #2: Hand-dyed alpaca from...somewhere.

Way over-spun and over-plied (I was determined not to make the same mistake I did on my first try), this yarn retains none of the softness characteristic of alpaca. I spun it as a gift for a friend. I don't think she's used it yet (and, honestly, I don't blame her), though it will be interesting to see how it knits up. I think it'll be very energetic and twist and pull the fibre. Could actually end up really cool.

Well, the say "practice makes perfect" and "third's time the charm", and that seems to have been the case. The yarn I just finished spinning came out, well, wonderful.

Project #3: light brown Alpaca from Victoria, Canada


This yarn is a dream. It's soft, has a gentle halo, and is spun so evenly I can actually get a good idea of its gauge (it's not perfect, but close). If I saw this yarn in a yarn store, I would probably but it. My plans are to dye this yarn (along with the yarn I'm currently spinning) and weave it on a loom I'm planning to build. More on that later.

(By the way, does anyone else love the title of this post? I t makes me happy because it works in two ways- literally spinning yarn, metaphorically telling a story :) )

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dude, It's Like an Ancient Flamethrower!

So, I was like reading Thucydides the other night (for, like, class, duh), and mostly he's like all about this war, and like, all names and dates and stuff, so I'm just reading along, right? And then there's like this passage, right? And I'm totally like "whoa, dude", 'cause it's totally an ancient flamethrower.

Check it: "They sawed a great beam in two, hollowed it out completely, then fitted the two parts precisely together again, like a pipe; at the far ends they suspended a cauldron on chains, with an iron nozzle curving down into it from the beam [....] Wherever they got it close, they applied large bellows to their end of the beam and made them blow. The pipe was airtight so the blast went straight through to the cauldron, which was full of lighted charcoal, sulphur, and pitch. The result was a huge flame which set fire to the wall" (Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War  4.100, trans. Martin Hammond)

And I was like, "how cool is that? Maybe those Greeks aren't so boring." So I like googled it, right? And I totally found this sketch of it here (scroll down).


P.S. I actually do like reading Thucydides.

P.P.S. I've decided that discipline of keeping up with my blog is good for me, so I'm going to start blogging regularly again. The one big change is that, because I don't have much time for creative writing, Wednesdays are often going to be my thoughts on what I'm reading or translations of Latin poetry ('cause I'm cool like that).