Month: May 2016

Texting with DH

My husband (DH) and I don’t communicate much during the work day, and when we do it’s usually via text messages. Mostly we discuss child pickup or dinner plans, but it can often turn hilarious. Fair warning: Considering that we spend a lot of time around small children, it’s not a particularly highbrow kind of hilarity. Here are a few snippets; expect some swearing and typos.

This one is from a few days ago, Friday. DH picked up the kids and got pizza, as I worked a little later than usual.


This one is from a few months ago, as DH was installing Windows 10 (he’s among the brave early adopters).

IMG_1511 IMG_1512 IMG_1513 IMG_1514 IMG_1515


Btw, the button says the chracteristic “Shiiiit” of a character from The Wire, a phenomenal HBO show that you need to go see now.


I Heart Suburbia

Clarissa‘s post “Provincialism” gave me much food for thought. She used to be a big-city person, but now fears she’s become provincial because she is dreading traffic, crowds, and noise in the big city where she used to live and that she’s about to visit with her husband and baby.

I grew up and spent much of my youth in a big city. The apartment where I grew up was on a major street, with a busy bus stop right below. I spent years riding overcrowded public transport. I have smelled enough unwashed armpits for five lifetimes. Having various body parts of strangers shoved in your face and pressed all over  you in scorching 100-degree weather on a bus without airconditioning was just way of life. In a part of my childhood, my parents and my sister and I shared one bedroom in a three-bedroom apartment; my aunt and her daughter were in another, and my maternal parents in the third bedroom. Later, the aunt moved out so I just shared a room with my sister. Whenever my parents and I we would travel anywhere, we’d stay with friends or relatives. I always shared rooms and beds with mother, sister, grandma, cousin, someone. On a daily basis, we always had to be mindful of neighbors and not make too much noise. There were people everywhere, all the time, always around, and they all had to be considered, all the time.

When I moved to the States I thought I’d, of course, always live in a big city in an apartment. Why, that’s the only way to live, and nothing else will do!

Only now I own a big house in a suburb and I drive a car, and I love both the house and the car as fiercely as you can love inanimate objects that make you very, very happy. I am never moving to a big city, where all the people are. *shudder*

One of the best things about living like I do now — in a big house, with lots and lots of space — is how calm and comfortable I feel. I also love driving, it’s one of my favorite activities. If I were to never ride public transport again in my life, I would be totally okay with that. When I travel, I thankfully have enough money to never have to stay with anyone and can go to a hotel and have my space. (Now if only I could do that when I go visit my parents; my mom would never forgive me is I stayed anywhere but with her, even though I am totally putting her out when I do.) A dear colleague recently offered that I stay with him and his family at an upcoming conference. I just can’t. That’s too much togetherness. I need to be able to go to my hotel room and unwind all by myself.

Perhaps this makes me provincial, but I don’t think that’s the right term. Would a curmudgeon fit better? I still enjoy theater and concerts as much as ever, probably more than before because now with kids it’s always such a treat to go out. There is more to do here than we are able to pull off due to work and family obligations, and I don’t think I have become less worldly simply by living in a comfortable house.

Mostly, I never knew just how much I needed space and how much the perpetual intrusion of other people in a big city really bugged me until I got some space. Now that I know what it feels like to have some and to be left alone, I just can’t take the crowds any more. Air travel also bothers me more and more, because it’s so uncomfortable and so crowded; we are packed tightly like sardines. I have traveled extensively all my life, so travel logistics don’t faze me; really, it’s mostly all the darn people. I think I am also getting more introverted with age, in that time around people exhausts me much more than it used to even when I nominally enjoy it.

But will this lifestyle make my kids provincial? Perhaps. Almost certainly so, I’d say. But there’s something to be said for not being squished between strangers in public transport on a daily basis, at least not until the kids go to college. After that, the crowds of the world await them.

Fellow Travelers

There is a whole genre of books and movies that could be termed “deep and meaningful stuff coming out of random people’s lives intersecting by chance.” Sometimes they are well done, but as a concept they are not longer new. To me, the epitome of the genre is the movie “Crash” circa 2004. A cool IMDB list called “Multiple-Storyline Films” collects many examples, among them some excellent movies such as Short Cuts, Night on Earth, Pulp Fiction, Amores Perros, and Babel.

We all meet many people throughout our lives. A few we call family, some more we call friends or colleagues, but the vast majority are people whose lives cross but never really intertwine with ours. Sure, I can imagine a skilled movie director making something out of a mundane interaction between a grocery store clerk and a patron (or, say, between a department store clerk and a patron), but for most of us such interactions are barely noticeable and don’t really add color to the daily routine.

But there is a group of people with whom most of us interact a significant amount as adults; we intrude upon each other’s private lives, yet we are seldom friends.

They are the parents of our kids’ friends. They are the people whom we text when we need our kid picked up or dropped off someplace and we can’t make it. They are the people who have our precious babies in their care  for hours on end, sometimes even overnight. Then the kids grow up or their friendships fade, and the parents fade out of our lives, too. Sometimes we like them, sometimes we don’t really, but we trust them with the most valuable of all our riches.

They travel a really important part of our lives right alongside us and provide real, tangible support. They also share their wonderful kids with us, and their kids make our own family seem bigger and warmer. And then they part ways with us.

Happy trails, fellow parents. Thanks for the playdates and the sleepovers and the snacks and the chauffeuring. Thanks for your hospitality and your warmth. May your kids grow up to be all that they can be.


What always pisses me off amuses me is the use of the adjective “real” to indicate something that the person using it imagines they would prefer over whatever it is that you are trying to make them do instead.

Academia is not the real world and is not preparing the students for the real world.

That means “I don’t want to do class work, and even though I have no idea what I will need in order to get a job, I know it’s not this boring crap that I sooooo don’t want to do now.” Because becoming a corporate cog is infallibly riveting.

I wish academia weren’t the real world. I wish it were this world or that world. Alas, judging by the politics, budget cuts, and rampant corporatization, I am pretty darn sure it’s very much the real world.

We need less math and physics, we need more real-world applications!

This plea for more “real-world applications” really means “How about you hand-wave your explanations, and don’t make me use any math (even though it boggles the mind that someone who hates math would be in this major, but whatever) and don’t make me think deeply why certain phenomena occur or how they can be useful to us. Instead give me a whole bunch of shortcuts and mnemotechnic rules and software packages that I can cram how to apply without thinking why or how. ”

I am very sensitive to the fact that students need to get jobs, and the students in our major do. But I hate it when people are given a chance to think, to learn, to make high-level connections that could make them better at their jobs and give them the tools to appreciate the world around them just go through the motions instead. I know not everyone is suitable for college, and it’s a shame college now seems necessary for even low-level jobs, but still…. What a waste.


Crowdsourcing Linguistic Support

I am very excited. Like, embarrassingly, ridiculously excited.

Da book that I have been boring you all with is really 97.34% done. Obviously, I just made up that percentage, but we are really close to done. We have one more pass through the text and finalizing the cover and then it will be off to a print test!

Here’s a very nitpicky detail about the subtitle and I would appreciate your help. The four versions below (title: subtitle) differ only in a single word and therefore differ slightly in meaning.

Pick the one that you feel would be the most appealing to you. I am going for a subtitle that will invite someone to read. What I am offering the reader are the stories of my experiences, as well as advice on how they can find their own path through the academic maze.