Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Old Books Stink

Yesterday I went to the library to pull some books on working-class fiction. I was there for a couple hours but spent very little time in the actual stacks -- hunting for 19th century British working class fiction is computer labour intensive because the catalogues of 19th century lit still suck a bit. So most of my time was spent in a fairly new study carrel, in a fairly young building (40 years, and recently updated or being updated), dealing with my own fairly new and clean computer. And I left the library feeling like I'd inhaled a pile of asbestos, dander and dust.

It's not just the stinky carpet or the construction dust -- there's actually not a lot of carpet in the library, and the construction work is confined to outside the rear of the building, and the windows looking over that area don't open. Fact is, old books make me sick. The library has about 2 million paper holdings (plus multi-media and microfilm/fiche) -- that's 2 million dusty, decaying, smelly tomes ready to attack my mucous membranes.

I left the library looking like a pot smoker, but a pot smoker who holds the joint on the left side of the mouth almost exclusively (my right eye was far less red and puffy). Feeling itchy and stuffed up isn't a great incentive to work in the library. I actually find the basement a little less allergenic (possibly because there are fewer paper holdings there, possibly because the carpet is newer), but all the books I need are normally on the third floor. Oh, and sitting by a window won't help. There are only a few windows that actually open, and they're small and near the floor. There's also no air conditioning and the ventilation system is generally horrible, which is bad for me, but also bad for the books and thus exponentially worse for me.

The university is springing for a huge library expansion, but my suggestion is to fix up the air filter system, rip out the carpet, and for god's sake rebound some of those smelly books. A million computers aren't going to make the place any cooler or less dusty, or my face any less pink. Ugh.
doctor T 11:34 PM | 1 comments |

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Naan? Really??

Since my bloggy peers are most excited by my naan making skills, I figured I'd post my recipe and instructions. My oven sucks and I can still make good naan, so y'all should be able to make it too.

No-Yeast Naan Bread

4 cups white flour (Maida)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
4 tablespoons oil

Stir the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl and make a well in the middle.

Mix the sugar, milk, eggs 2 tbsp of oil in a bowl.

Pour this into the center of the flour and knead. If you have a mixer, use the dough hook; if not, stir with a wooden spoon and then knead on a floured surface, adding water if necessary to form soft dough.

Add the remaining oil, knead again, then cover with damp cloth and allow the dough to stand for 15 minutes. Knead the dough again and cover and leave for 2-3 hours.

About half an before the naan are required, turn on the oven to maximum heat. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to warm up. I don't have a stone, but I use the underside of a large ceramic baking dish and always get perfect results. As long as the surface is unglazed you'll get good bread. An unglazed tile works as well.

Divide the dough into 6-8 balls and allow rest for 3-4 minutes.

Shape each ball of dough with the palms to make an oval shape. Pat it out on a floured surface until each piece is about 1 inch thick.

Bake the naan in small batches -- 2-3 at a time -- until puffed up and golden brown. Time will vary depending on your oven. Mine takes about 10 minutes for the first couple and about 7 minutes thereafter. They should bubble up and develop dark brown/slightly burnt bubbles. Don't pull them before they start to bubble and darken or they'll suck.

Let them cool on a wire rack. Whee -- yummy naan!
doctor T 11:47 PM | 4 comments |

Friday, January 26, 2007

Smarties, Raquel and llij have tagged me. I have to write five exciting bits about myself and then tag five other bloggers.

1. I have a horrible phobia of moths. I can trace it back to an accident I had as a kid, but I still can't get over my fear.

2. I have never owned a cell phone.

3. I can make naan bread from scratch.

4. I've never been able to do a cartwheel.

5. I've lived in 9 houses, 2 townhouses and 4 apartments. Now I live in the lower level of a house and have a kick-ass garden.

I'm going to tag wind-up bird, Goon (who sucks at blogging), Maryanne, Jaime and scs.
doctor T 3:13 PM | 4 comments |

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bad Day, Better Night

Most of the time it was probably real bad being stuck down in a dungeon. But some days, when there was a bad storm outside, you'd look out your little window and think, "Boy, I'm glad I'm not out in that."

Thanks are due to Jack Handy for the above bit of wisdom.

I had a shitty day today. I barely slept last night, missed two buses getting up to school, and then realized my counselling appointment was actually at 2, not 2:30, so I missed that and was stuck at school with no books or dissertation materials. I tried to hit payroll to get some money they owe me but they'd moved to a complex off the actual campus (what fucking genius decided PAYROLL should be a 15 minute walk from every other employee resource on campus? I mean, come on. Really.).

At that point I was ready to randomly smash terracotta pots, because they break nicely. Or scream -- screaming almost always helps.

Luckily things started looking up once I checked my department mailbox. A cheque was waiting for me -- glorious money! -- for the money payroll owed me, so I didn't have to trek to the new payroll office. Then I chatted with the grad chair and he made me feel human, smart and normal. Then I caught a bus that only comes 5 times a day to my bank and pharmacy. Then I walked home and actually enjoyed the walk.

I went for a run after getting home and it felt so effing good. Now I'm resting my feet in a snazzy massaging foot bath thing and having some wine. I'm still a bit frazzled, but I'm feeling better. I don't have that nasty I'm Going to Vomit or Cry or Beat Someone feeling I had earlier today. I don't feel like a complete loser because I wrote down the wrong time for an appointment. I don't think everything is falling apart because I missed the bus. Small things, but good things.
doctor T 7:09 PM | 5 comments |

Friday, January 19, 2007

Last-Minute Poetry Friday

Inspired by The Clutter Museum, I've decided to post one of my favourite poems. The author is Seamus Heaney, and the poem is from North (1975).

Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication

For Mary Heaney

I. Sunlight

There was a sunlit absence.
The helmeted pump in the yard
heated its iron,
water honeyed

in the slung bucket
and the sun stood
like a griddle cooling
against the wall

of each long afternoon.
So, her hands scuffled
over the bakeboard,
the reddening stove

sent its plaque of heat
against her where she stood
in a floury apron
by the window.

Now she dusts the board
with a goose's wing,
now sits, broad-lapped,
with whitened nails

and measling shins:
here is a space
again, the scone rising
to the tick of two clocks.

And here is love
like a tinsmith's scoop
sunk past its gleam
in the meal-bin.

doctor T 11:55 PM | 2 comments |

Meetings

This week I went up to the uni twice -- and NOT to use the library. I actually had dissertation-related meetings to attend. Joy! I went to a thesis-dissertation completion group on Thursday that made me feel like a normal doctoral candidate (scared, depressed, slowly making progress on the dissertation) and allowed me to reconnect with another English ABDer I haven't seen in a few months. A good day.

Today I had a meeting with my supervisor, and she gave me a small dissertation-related task to complete by next Friday (a chronology of books I'm writing about and historical events related to my topic). Now I feel like I have something real to do again, something to be accountable for. We're going to have regular meetings and hopefully have a chapter hammered out by the end of the semester. A good day.

That's two good days in a row. Things are looking up for Doctor T.
doctor T 6:29 PM | 1 comments |

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Random Wednesday Bits....

doctor T 7:20 PM | 1 comments |

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Back to school, but not really....

The holidays are technically over for me. The university opened up yesterday, and classes started today. I'm not in classes, though, and I really have nothing to do on campus besides using the library and occasionally popping in to the department to check my mailbox or meet with my supervisor. But it's still "back to school" time, which seems to confuse anyone who isn't familiar with the humanities PhD life.

When I was doing my MA, everyone assumed I was writing a thesis. I'd do my best to clear that misconception up ("no, it's a course-based program. I take graduate seminars and write long essays for each class. No, they're not as long as science/history/insert-other-subject papers. Because that's just the way English papers work. Right. Get it? No? [pokes own eye out]"). After the MA, I got a job teaching at my former uni, and then everyone asked me how my courses were -- only they didn't mean the courses I was teaching, because apparently what I'd explained the year before had only just sunk in, so they thought I was TAKING courses. It didn't get much better when I did start taking courses again in the first year of the PhD -- suddenly people were confused as to why I was taking courses, since I had already taken courses for my MA. Wasn't I done courses yet? ("No, the PhD still requires a year of coursework. No, not as much as the MA. I don't know why. Yes, I know they don't do coursework in England. Yay for England. Yay yay yay. [pokes other eye out]").

Explaining the second year -- reading hundreds of books and writing candidacy exams -- was pretty much pointless. Even older profs in my department didn't understand how the system works. I've ranted about it before, but the quick recap of second year is read too much-write pithy essays that are supposed to make it look like I read 300 books and can quote from memory even though I can't and it's all a giant artificial illusion-get marked by profs who still insist on pretending I should be producing amazing work in 3 hours even though they probably haven't written 3 essays in 3 hours on 300 books since they were PhD students and they probably sucked too but would never admit it-feel like shit after getting feedback but rejoice because I passed everything and then want to poke my eyes out once I realize my project has changed completely but have no eyes left to poke out because I lost them earlier in my schooling.

I'm starting the second semester of my third year now, and people have started asking me again how my courses are. I'm not sure what to say now. Maybe I should just smile, grit my teeth and say "Great!" and leave it at that. Or maybe I should make up little business cards that detail each year of the PhD and put a little sticker that says "I AM HERE" at the appropriate stage in the degree. Sort of a road map for the grad school uninitiated.

I have no idea what I'll say next year, when I'll be pretty much done writing but still in the throes and revision while I teach classes and apply for "real" jobs despite not having a degree yet. I foresee much confusion and eye-poking in the future.

On a more productive note, I'm off to write a page of my dissertation now. It's nearly 11pm, and I'm pumped. Go me!
doctor T 10:31 PM | 3 comments |

Monday, January 01, 2007

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.

I was born in 1980. Being born in a year ending in zero has been a blessing for me, as I can always remember how old I am, or what age I will be later in the year, by looking at the calendar. This might sound silly, but as a child I loved it, and for someone who still counts numbers using a system of dots, the simplicity of the zero-ending system is a gift. I feel sorry for people who don't have the lovely simplicity of a zero-ending birth year.

I've never been a great lover of New Year's Eve celebrations. As a child, I was never awake at midnight. As a young teenager, I babysat, expecting the awesome windfall of $100 in cash, but I never got more than $50 (I gave up babysitting on New Year's Eve fairly early on as a result). As an older teenager, I was either at home or drunk in the woods, and as an adult I've yet to establish any sort of New Year's routine. Usually we end up with an impromptu social of some sort, but it's rarely an amazing party. I can't say I'm bothered, honestly; last night we spent the night with friends and some of their friends, and the night was short and passable but certainly not a ring-dinging, memory-making event.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. 2006 left me a bit frazzled, so some downtime to end the year is a good thing. I've made a few plans/resolutions for the year (the most important being to write a bit of my dissertation every day), but all I really want is some serenity. I'm not going to dwell on the bad stuff from the past year. I'm not even going to bother idealizing the good stuff -- whatever happened happened, and it was good, and that's nice. I'm quite happy to coast into a new year in my happy home and keep living.

Best to all!
doctor T 7:14 PM | 0 comments |