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Jan. 23rd, 2014

Students say the dardnest things . . .

My office is at the end of a narrow hallway that also has a men's washroom and a janitor's closet. My office looks like a closet. There's a couch where my narrow hallway meets the rest of the building, and I often over hear conversations students have on this couch. I don't think they realize how their voices carry.

So, here I am typing away at a paper and I hear a student call her father and ask for his "expertise." Not too interesting, until she asks her dad about how to read philosophy, because her philosophical issues in feminism class is looking to be really hard. Wait--that's my class. So for the past 15 minutes I've listened to the student talk about how hard the first reading is, and how she is concerned with the class, and my expectations.

So much for being the approachable teacher. The first reading IS hard. I gave the students some reading guide questions and told them which pages to focus on. I warned them it was hard and that we would get through it together. Now I feel slightly awkward, and a bit discouraged. Should I email the class another encouraging email? Should I poke my head out the door and talk to the student? should I quit assigning hard material on the first day?

I also feel kinda like Big Brother.

Oct. 9th, 2013

In the Office

I've been yelling profane comments at an abstract I am working on. Then I realized--hey, I'm in the office. Perhaps I should lower my voice?

Sep. 3rd, 2013

Today's Disasters

Tried the campus pool today, It was nice--only 25 m long, which is easier than the 50 m lengths I used to do sometimes at Western!

While I was swimming I imagined Cthulhu coming for me

But the disasters began after I left the pool:
(1) I couldn't get my shampoo tin open. I have a LUSH travel bar of shampoo, but its container is a bit warped making it hard to open. So I have non-shampooed hair.
(2) I did not bring a hair brush. I normally don't brush my hair, and it is normally fine. But when you have un-shampooed, chlorine soaked hair (a rinse just doesn't cut it), you look a bit like a drowned rat without a hair brush.
(3) I had lunch with my chair in the cafeteria and we sat with other profs, some of whom I am meeting for the first time . . . looking like an unbathed, unkept person. Really, I just saw myself in the mirror and even I thought I looked bad, and I under usual circumstances am quite happy being frumpy.

I teach in forty-five minutes. Hopefully the disasters are over. 

Aug. 13th, 2013

Drain unclogged. Huzzah!

Okay the drain worked much better after my baking-soda vinegar mix. But, I also had the garbage disposal repaired. So perhaps Tim the Handy-Person should get all the credit. But, the whole ordeal has led me to be interested in urban composting. Here is one portable composter by dad sent my way. it's a little large for my patio. Actually, the size doesn't bother me, but would it smell weird? Not that I use my patio much now . . .

I wish there were some community gardens near me. Perhaps I shall start them.

Aug. 12th, 2013

Back after a long hiatus . . . and natural drain un-clogger

Wow that picture is old . . . wow my hair was red.

Since I moved recently from Ontario to Maryland, I figured it was a good time to pick up blogging. I imagine my main topics will be teaching and radical homemaking (a term I picked up from a book of the same title, which refers to ways people are leaving capitalist economies and taking up more self-sufficient modes of life. It would be interesting to connect radical homemaking with more community-centered projects, such as urban gardening).

Anyway: I miss having a yard where I can compost. But, apparently, you cannot treat a garbage disposal unit as a composter. I'm not sure if I clogged the drain, or if something else happened. In any case, the disposal unit won't run and water drains painstakingly slowly.

Let's try this:

  • Put 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain.

  • Pour 1 cup vinegar down drain.

  • Stir and plug (quickly).

  • Wait 30 minutes, then pour a quart (couple cups should do) boiling water down drain.

Will report tomorrow. Also, my new office is the size of my living room. No joke. 

Jun. 24th, 2012

Too Many Hours in Airports and I'm Only Halfway There

I asked the TSA officer if many people refused the X-Ray body scans. She looked at me as if I were crazy. “No.”

“Ah,” I said, “just the paranoids like me then.” That received a hearty chuckle. Following the wisdom of Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein, I don't quite trust the security or the privacy ensured by the TSA about the body scan images.

I'm really tired. The wedding, after all, was beautiful and fun, but I was in bed too late (1:00 am) and up too early (5:40 am) to catch my flight to Atlanta, then on to Toronto, then to the Netherlands—hours and hours later. My mom and step-dad drove me to the airport. We all must have been a bit drowsy, because no one pointed out that I have mascara and eyeliner smudged half an inch below my bottom eye lashes (the right side is worse). Classy way to show up for a conference!

The Memphis airport is crowded, especially with what seems to be church groups headed on mission trips to exotic parts of the world. The orange shirts are going to somewhere in Central America . I'm guessing the red shirts are a church group, because the front of their tees say “Send Me.” Seems Christian-y. My studies in global feminism, and my brushes with postcolonial theory, make me skeptical of such trips, even though I know nothing about the details. Can short-term ventures to other countries, which we say are struggling, me done with dignity and respect? As much as my own research can, perhaps, when I sit in London, Ontario (or airports flying across North America) flapping my fingers on the keyboard, writing about contract pregnant women in Gujarat, India.

This post is for my college buddy Will who gave me an Ann Lamott book, Traveling Mercies, when I was in Memphis previously. I read the book on the plane to Memphis. I did not like it.

By the end of the book, I kinda liked it. About a third of the way in, I thought it atrocious. Some of its tenderness got to me the more I read. Some individual stories I liked. For example, there was a lovely story titled “Grace,” which not only had a nice point, but also played off the word 'grace' in entertaining and charming ways. Lamott's style was okay, I just found her voice, generally speaking, to be pretentious and the book a bit forced. In the introduction, in which Lamott leads you through her downfall so that you better appreciate the mercies she shares along the way, I didn't feel a sense of connection with her story. I didn't care, and it just seemed like she was setting herself up for eventual praise and admiration. I also felt like she was too public. I felt like she was writing for an audience in a large auditorium, not for me. I felt she was too intimate without it being meaningful or important.

In the end, Lamott is either Christian story-teller lite, or she is incredibly deep. I admit I was a fairly uncharitable reader, and though I tried to see the humanity, to me it just seemed to miss the fatty juice that makes a vegan chickpea-quinoa-kale loaf so tasty. I decided to give the book to my brother. As a hipster (my half-hearted label, not his), he sometimes appreciates pretentious things. When I asked him if he liked Lamott, he said he loved her. “Don't you find her a bit pretentious?” I asked.

His look was half withering, half despairing: “That's what makes her books so good.” Well, there you have it. When I gave my brother the book, it turned out he already owned it. I've left it on his bed anyway, with a note that says to pass it along to someone, as Will passed it to me. 

Dec. 29th, 2010

Baking through 2010

 A year and a half ago I discovered The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking, and my friend Ariella bought it for my birthday after I’d re-checked it from the library for several months. I fumbled through a few recipes in the fall of 2009. I liked baking bread, but found it extremely frustrating when loaves didn’t turn out. I started reading the author’s notes on making bread and watching videos on kneading techniques. At this time, I was mainly just making Olive Bread [Liv’s favorite]. For 2010, I decided to bake my way through my bread book. A new recipe, every week. Fair enough, I’d probably have been better off choosing one recipe and making it every week to perfect it, but my way allowed me to try lots of different kinds of bread while perfecting the skills we always use in bread making.

I didn’t make it through the whole year. Even though I made bread while in Montreal for the CPA, the week I spent in Germany [with Martha Nussbaum. Sorry, I can’t say that enough] was the first week I didn’t make bread. When I returned back to Canada I moved, which slowed me down a bit, and then I sliced through the tendon in my right index finger. Being splinted and unable to do dishes pretty much killed bread making.

Once the splint came off, I didn’t pick up my pre-Germany pace, but I still tried several new bread recipes a month. I made a repeat recipe only once; Olive Bread for Canadian Thanksgiving dinner.

As a side note, the best thing about being American living in Canada is two Thanksgiving dinners. Bring on the pumpkin pie, and vegan Turkey if Dylan is roasting it.

I’ve just returned home from visiting Tiffany and Davis in Connecticut, so I have just enough time for a final bread recipe. I flipped through my book, referencing my list of breads I’ve made thus far, trying to pick the perfect bread to end the year. I am limited in a few ways--having just returned, I’m out of several baking essentials, namely eggs and butter. The recipe I made will have to be fairly basic--or I could use a number of my vegan substitutions, which I did for a number of recipes. Remember when I actually was a vegan? Armed with my Christmas gifts--vegan cookbooks--I may take it back up. Damn butter, being so tasty in baking. If it weren’t for butter . . .

Anyway, I finally settled on “Brother’s Bread.” It seems appropriate, given what Brother Curry, the Jesuit who put together my bread book, has written: “This was the first recipe in our loose-leaf binder at Wernersville and this bread was probably made more than any other.” What better to end the year with than the first recipe in Brother Curry’s collection? I must confess, it will also be excellent in the “Peachy French Toast” I plan on making for New Year’s Day brunch. You have to check out the other amazing cookbook, from which comes the yummy French Toast recipe, that I got for Christmas: The Harrow Fair Cookbook.

Brother’s Bread is rising in the oven. I could tell from the feel of the dough as I kneaded it that it will be fabulous. Mmmm.

Here’s a few favorite bread-making memories from the year. Following that, I posted a list of all the breads I’ve tried this year. I have not yet made all the recipes in my book, but it’s getting close. I starred some of my favorite recipes, and indicated which ones failed to turn out.

Top memories:
Last New Year’s Ariella and I made Challah, but we forgot to add the eggs at the appropriate point. We added them right before kneading. I was sure it would be a disaster, but it turned out to be one of the best recipes I made--probably Ariella’s magical [Jewish?] touch.

When Ariella was in Toronto and I was watching Sushi, I baked bread at her house because it allowed me lots of Sushi-cuddling time. Ariella’s smoke detector is sensitive and it started going off. I couldn’t get it to turn off, I couldn’t get the smoke to leave the kitchen, and Ariella’s landlady came into her apartment and berated me for trying to bake and trying to take the smoke detector off the ceiling. Oops. I think this disaster occurred while making Spy Wednesday Biscuits.

Another time I was making bread at Ariella’s, I made a poppy-seed loaf for Dario, who adores poppy seeds, as a surprise, only to find that he spontaneously went to Toronto for the weekend. It was gone by the time he got home. Sorry, Dario. I’ll come to Montreal and make it for you.

Having Adam in town when I made sourdough. You have to knead that sucker for twenty minutes, not the usual eight to ten. We took turns, and made three sourdough loaves that week.

Making three-seed bread on my birthday. First bread since my finger injury! Breadmaking has become a regular practice in my life, and I was probably pretty grouchy that I hadn’t been baking for so long. I couldn’t have done it without alot of help from Patrick because my finger was still splinted at that time--at least, I couldn’t really knead--but it was lovely to be baking again.

Here’s the weekly list. If you ever want a loaf, let me know. I love baking them! My favorites [yes Becca, you can have more than one favorite] are starred, my least favorites have crosses.

1. Week of December 27 : Challah ★
2. Week of January 3: St. Alphonsus Rodriguez’s Raisin Bread
3. Week of January 10: Apricot, Orange, Cranberry Bread
4. Week of January 17: Sister’s Herb Bread [did not turn out]
5. Week of January 24: Yeast Rolls
6. Week of January 31: Rick’s Cranberry-Walnut Buttermilk Loaf
7. Week of February 7: Bran Corn Bread ★ [also, made Sister’s Herb Bread and it turned out]
8. Week of February 14: Poppy Seed Braid Loaf
9. Week of February 21: Date and Walnut Bread ★
10. Week of February 28: Sweet Potato Bread ★
11. Week of March 7: Green Chili Corn Bread
12. Week of March 14: Brother Buchman’s Cracked Wheat
13. Week of March 21: Sourdough
14. Week of March 28: Spy Wednesday Biscuits
15. Week of April 4: Jesuit Easter Bread
16. Week of April 11: Brother Andrew’s Pumpernickel Bread [did not turn out]
17. Week of April 18: Bagels
18. Week of April 25: Holy Thursday Apple Bread
19. Week of May 2: Whole Wheat-Wheat Germ Bread
20. Week of May 9: Onion Bread ✝
21. Week of May 16: Brother Leikus’s Oatmeal Quick Bread [substituted applesauce for oil and eggs]
22. Week of May 23: Honey Whole Wheat
23. Week of May 30: 100% Whole Wheat
24. Week June 6: Sweet Potato Cornbread
35. Week of August 22: Three-Seed Bread
41. Week of October 3: Loyola Buttermilk Bread
43. Week of October 17: Rosemont’s Bread ★
45. Week of October 31: Brother Fitzgerald’s Basic White Bread
48. Week of November 21: Pane di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Bread) ★
49. Week of November 28: Altar Bread
51. Week of December 12: Johnnycakes
52. Week of December 19: Christmas Morning Cinnamon Buns ✝
53. Week of December 26: Brother’s Bread

Recipes from the bread book I made prior to 2010:
Olive Bread, French Bread, Potato Bread, Pan de Sal [did not turn out], Wernersville Corn Bread, Maple Corn Bread, O’Brien’s Oatmeal Bread [did not turn out], Irish Soda Bread, Overnight Basic Italian, Cracked Wheat Bread ★, Oatmeal Bannocks, Zucchini Bread

Aug. 30th, 2010

Killing Time

 I have to pick up my exam in a few hours, then I will have twenty-four hours to complete it.  I slept in till seven-thirty and had a decadent breakfast of cinnamon raisin toast with almond butter and an macintosh apple.  By the way, I've never had macs until I moved northwards, but they're better than granny smith's!

What does one do while one kills time?  I did some laundry, watched the new True Blood episode, and changed the sheets on my bed.   I made up some tea to steep in the sun so I'll have a treat this evening.  Yesterday I organized my books.  I have some lovely hydrangeas that I got for my birthday, and I put a few in a small vase for my desk to cheer me up when the stress got bad.  

I guess I could eat second breakfast?  Nah, wouldn't enjoy it, not hungry.  Well, there is the NEVER ENDING pile of dirty dishes.  Time to get busy!

Aug. 27th, 2010

Stress

 I will write my area comprehensive exam [feminist philosophy] on Monday.  It is a twenty-four hour take home exam, and I have to write four questions for a total of about thirty double-spaced typed pages.

I think I am stressed. My body absorbs emotions and outputs crying.  Yesterday I cried while washing dishes.  Right now, I just burst into tears while reading about surrogacy.  It will be a long, exhausting weekend if I keep crying like this.

Wish me luck!

Aug. 24th, 2010

A Series of Poor Choices

 Background Knowledge:
a. After yesterday's visit with my therapist, I only have to wear my splint at night and when I engage in "dangerous" activities.  
b. I go running right after I wake up, and I don't usually wear my contacts so my eyes can wake up slowly.  I can see all right without them, I just can't read.

It felt nice to run in the cooler weather, and because I ate a ton of rich foods over the weekend.  I was in such a good mood, I decided not to wear my splint.  I have a standard path that I take, and it's all paved, so I wasn't too concerned about falling.  When I hot the university, I impulsively decided to run through the trails rather than on the paved path.  I hadn't done that in awhile,  For a second it seemed like an unwise decision, since I had no contacts in and no splint.  But I was familiar with this section of trails, and I tend to run a bit slower on the trails.

So, there I was, pleased with myself and thinking about how awes--omely I was tripping over a tree root, crashing to the right side.  My right, unsplinted, injured hand side.  I lay in the path, Becs old iPod, which I am borrowing, and my keys flung to one side.  You could hear the faint beat of music playing in the stillness.  I lay in the path for a moment, checking my finger first to see if I hurt it too badly, then inspecting my other scrapes.  Because it seemed like the thing to do I muttered--out loud--"Fuck, I suppose running IS a dangerous activity,"  and started laughing.  

Luckily, I braced myself with my forearm rather than my hand, and beside a small cut and bruise on my right knee, I was golden.

After the fall, closer to home, "Guilty" by Marina and the Diamonds came on the iPod.  It seemed appropriate.  "Guilty on the run, and I know what I have done.  Guilty on the run, and I'm never forgiven."  That was me, guiltily running home, hoping my therapist and my lovely housemate, who takes such good care of me, would forgive me for my trespasses.  

I suppose the real question should be about repentance--will I be wearing my splint the next time I go running?

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