Saturday, December 22, 2007

He was tabbylicious

So my school work is done, I just have grading to do. I'd be feeling pretty good except that Paul's cat, Monsieur Willy, had to be put down today. SHNIFF.

He'd been off his food this past month, though still strutting around yelling. We babysit him a couple weeks ago, and he was okay. But today Paul found, just before going to work, that Willy was acting different. He asked us to check on him--Fernando went over, and was concerned that Willy seemed to be in pain. He thought it best to take him to the vet.

Myriam's in town, so her mother drove them all down to the emergency vet in the evening. And the long and short is that they, in conference with me on the phone, and later Paul on the phone, decided it was probably best to put him to sleep. (Me balling away on the phone while trying to get out my opinion to F.) At least I got to give him some last pets before he left--I had a feeling this was how it would go. He's an old cat, and he just had that Death's Door look about him.

Even if he'd had something semi treatable (the vet thinks he was diabetic, and maybe other problems, so it wouldn't have been a simple treatment) he still would have had to be kept at the vet's for a couple days, to have an IV to rehydrate. I thought that would just be too awful for him. Cats HATE being away from home. How terrible to put him through trauma, only to have to bring him in again in a couple months, and still put him down. Instead, we figured, he's only been feeling sick a short while, he hasn't reached the stage where he's totally unresponsive to everyone (it's really sad to see an animal get to that point), he was sitting calmly on his velvet blanket with F and M petting him... it seemed like this would be the best way to go. Even for a human, non?

Oh la. Poor Fernando. He just LOVED that cat. Willy was one of the nicest cats I have ever met. So calm, so sweet, so friendly. We would have loved to take him, but... that would have set off the Meowee East again.

Even so, when F brought back our cage with the blankie, I wasn't thinking and set it down on a chair, and Sherry took ONE sniff and... FIVE ALARM FIRE!

Hiss! Hiss! Growl! Moan!

Haley of course gave as good as she got. I isolated her before she got really offended. Then locked up Nombly, while Sherry hid behind a bin hissing. I threw some niblets at him, and left him alone til he was ready to emerge.

And now, all night, he's totally accepting of Haley but he thinks Nombly is a new cat (just like whenever we bring N home from the vet.) I don't know if it's because Haley made it pretty clear that she was still she (HISS YOURSELF ASSHOLE! -- Oh, ya, that's Haley alright) or if it's because N looks like Willy, and Sherry knows Willy's smell. Or option C., Sherry's just a big dumb jock... which is the most likely reason.

Whenever Sherry hisses at N, Haley doesn't even get threatened (as one would expect), she just looks startled. "Dude... are you kidding me? Even I know Nombly, and I haven't lived with him ten years."

All this to say... taking Willy in would have meant another year of Meowee East negotiations.

Oh la. Anyway... poor Silly Willy. I'm going to miss that damn cat.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ooo more dickens

I've never managed to read a Dickens cover to cover, except Christmas Carol, but I've discovered that I love watching them. I'm watching Martin Chuzzlewit while sorting and entering grades, and it's just so great. Dickens was capable of creating the most fantastic characters! I really fell in love with his abilities when I watched Bleak House, and Chuzzlewit is also wonderful. I love sweet, bald, little Mr. Pinch! And I love old Chuzzlewit.

Sigh. Tomorrow it's back to Indonesia and the female workers. Well, at least they've given me some ideas for my own story.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

woe is moi

Crap my head's been getting worse all day. It's definitely worse when I have to do a lot of sitting around bent over papers all day grading kinda stuff--it was during grading last semester that my headaches became really unbearable. The Tyl/codeine isn't working now. The last few days, if I press on the muscles in my upper back they're more painful than they've been in months.

I'd love to go out and walk down the hill, get some groceries, get a little movement... but I have to get this blasted grading done, and it takes so long... I can't interrupt myself for more than 30 min/1 hour, or else it's too hard to get back into it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I can't give'r

Had another bloodletting today. Because of my "I'm gonna faint" problem, they can either hook me up to an IV while taking the blood, or just take less. Since I'm not on the verge of dying (normal ferritin levels for women are up to 200, and I'm in the 200s right now - men with serious hemo. have levels in the 800s or more) they just took half a bag instead of a whole bag. And even then, just when she was reaching the end of the half bag, I started getting That Prickly Sensation.

It's like my body doesn't want me to be an academic--it's all "oh she doesn't need blood in her head, let's take it from there first."

It sucks. I'm a bad blood giver-er. I drank two Nalgene bottles of water between 6 AM and my treatment around 9, and still... still! The passing outness. And I have small veins too--my vein was very uncooperative today, she had to squeeze the line to make it flow. And then they make you wait around cause they're afraid you'll leave and pass out somewhere in the street, your head stuck in a cold, wet snowbank...

So all in all this hospital trip took 6 hours out of my day. That's almost an entire Harlequin novel. (Between bus rides, waiting around, laying around being phlobotomized, I read almost the whole Jennifer Crusie book I started that morning.)

I'm a blood failure. I feel so ashamed.

[Today's needle spot and tape marks.]

Monday, December 3, 2007

Philosophy in a can

Alright, home now. Classes over. I've retreated into cruising for Christmas songs mode. But in the meantime I always come across other things

When I was a teenager I started a small collection of bookmarks with self-esteem poetry on them--I've probably blogged about that before. I used to read them like affirmations, or if I was feeling crappy, or nervous about something etc.

Those poems are corny, they're not Great Art, but they do the work, ya know? And once in awhile someone manages a new one and people go crazy for it, like the Wear Sunscreen editorial, or REM's Everybody Hurts, or Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance." People go crazy for these things either because it helps them through a suckitudinous time, or because they recognize the ideas being expressed and know they're true. And they're better when put to music, because Voltaire was right when he said "Anything that's too stupid to be spoken, is sung." (Lucas' horrible love scene writing would work great in a musical.)

Wear Sunscreen has yielded a lot of Advice for me. When I walk around McGill looking at the 18 year olds, I know that part from Wear Sunscreen is totally right: "Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked."

EVERYONE is gorgeous at 18, they really are. No joking. The other one I quote at people ALL the time is: Don't be reckless with other people's hearts, and don't put up with anyone whose reckless with yours." Sheesh that's good advice that people need to remember more often. And the one I tell myself: "Do one thing every day that scares you." Okay, I don't follow it, but you know... I try.

Now, I'm not crazy about "I Hope You Dance" from a tune perspective--it's just ok. But lyrically, it's a bookmark classic. I gotta give it my nod of approval. It's the chick version of all those "get in the game of life!" sports analogies.

Lee Ann Womack - I Hope You Dance lyrics

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake
But it's worth making
Don't let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance

The Thrill of Karl

The other thing on my mind concerns the books we read for this same class. This year the prof assigned a lot of "great works" so to speak--we read a lot of the classics of social science: Popper, Kuhn, Skinner, Foucault, Marx are those that come to mind (and I had to write short papers for all of those weeks). These books were a joy to read. You don't have to agree with what they're saying, but there is something so fabulous about reading an author who has really gone to the table and given it their all.

This came up in the meeting I organized on methods, where one prof said (and all agreed) that you have to do what you're passionate about, because that's what, in the end, makes for potentially great work--as well as making you happy. And I thought--that's exactly the same in the land of fiction; they warn you to stop trying to catch trends, and just do what you love. And I assume that rings true for most professions.

I read (ahem sped-red) Das Kapital for the first time this weekend, and it was incredible. I loved it! One minute he's all dry and logical and slowly, meticulously laying out this argument to the point of making you shout "enough! I get it!" and then he has a passionate outburst about the evils of capitalism. And no wonder, because then in another section he'll give you this minute description of the terrible working conditions of the time--of a man carrying his 7 year old son to work a 16 hour day in a factory, and he has to feed the child while he works because he's not allowed to take a break.

On the flip side, that's why I love to read Ayn Rand too. And I loved Imagined Communities. And Thoreau. All these people can be critiqued, they're loved and hated--but the thing is, this is great writing, great research. These are the Mozarts, while most of us will be Salieris. But there's something nice about being Salieri too--watching genius from the sidelines. Reading these works is like listening to great music, there's an intellectual exhilaration to it.

In reference to writing good social science, the best way my prof could come up with to express it was--you gotta give'r. I'd never heard this before seeing FUBAR, so I guess it's an Anglo-Quebec thing. But it's the perfect expression. Marx knows how to give'r.

So all this to say. Enjoyed some good books this year. And the next time I'm at work and I see a new scheme for increasing sales per hour, I'll just be thinking: Hmmm increasing the surplus value from the labour commodity... I see I see... Puts me in the mood to read Dickens.


Rant 1: The horror, the horror (of grading papers, that is)

I'm in the Islamic Studies library - it's one of the prettiest, and one of the quietest. I'm supposed to be grading papers, but my mind keeps wandering off to a couple things.

First--our prof is the Director of Grad Studies, and very active in the department (improving it, etc.) So he was asking our feedback on the course, and then on the department. I brought up the whole TA problem, where we have this agreement to work 180 hours, but a lot of profs don't know how to manage that properly etc. Bla bla bla. We were talking about how long it takes to grade papers, and the prof was saying you shouldn't put any comments in the paper, just give summary comments at the end. And I noted that at the 200 level the writing is really, really bad and they need enough feedback to improve for the next level.

He disagreed, in the sense that we're not here to teach writing, we aren't qualified to teach writing - we're qualified to teach political social sciences. Point taken. I, of course, consider myself qualified to teach writing ;-) but in principle I agree that once you get to university, you should already know how to write.

There are two problems, though. One is--clearly there's a problem at the level of either Cegeps or high schools or whatever. Two--there aren't good enough resources for students at this institution, and that's even been recognized. The writing center gives courses, not tutoring; and you can go for tutoring, but I don't know how much that pays--plus, apparently they're often short on people to do copy-editing etc. Anyway, I only learned about the tutoring option last week, so it's something I would suggest to students in future.

There are some other problems, but I'll leave it at that. I still feel the need to give some feedback at the 200 level, in the papers themselves, so that anyone who cares to improve (and that's not everyone) can... but within 30 minutes per paper. But really. The writing is so, so poor at this point... I think a lot of professors who haven't graded a 200 class in a long time would be shocked.

The other thing on my mind is a different topic, so I'll start a new entry.

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