Time Vampire: Everything that’s not my Dissertation

As you’re no doubt sick of hearing, I took my PhD qualifying exams this semester. One of the things about the quals process is it leaves you so sick of everything you had to do for them that you’re super eager to have it behind you so you can finally start your dissertation. Knowing I’m someone who thrives under deadlines, I have myself a fairly compressed schedule for my dissertation. I’m supposed to start serious writing in January. If you aren’t paying attention, that’s four weeks from now.

So how’s it going? Well… I haven’t started. I don’t mean I haven’t started writing, I mean I haven’t started anything. Haven’t so much as cracked a book. And while I know some of it’s me being a slacker, most of it is that my life just won’t seem to let me.

First I was behind at all three of my jobs because of taking quals.

Then I had grant proposals due (For grants I didn’t get. Joy.).

Then I had a course proposal due (Which was rejected. Joy.).

Then there were papers that needed grading.

Then I got in hot water with the faculty over other people not doing their jobs.

Then I got severe vertigo.

Then it was the end of semester crunch.

And here we are. The real kicker is that several of those things were done with the hope of paying my bills while I write this here dissertation, and they won’t be doing that.

And at this rate I won’t be writing my dissertation either.

The Olive Oil Conspiracy

As alluded to from time to time I’m not good about using recipes when I cook. But lately I’ve been trying to branch out in my cooking and this has meant using recipes. In doing this, I have noticed an odd phenomenon. I was sort of aware of it before, but only realized now exactly how pervasive it is.

Have you ever noticed how any time a recipe includes olive oil, it is almost invariably 2 tablespoons?

If you’re sautéing something in olive oil, no matter how much something there is, you’re going to use 2 tablespoons of olive oil. If you’re throwing a little olive oil into a dish to give it some moisture and fat, it’s going to be 2 tablespoons. Almost always.

So what gives? Is it some sort of conspiracy? Some sort of code? Some heretofore unexplored aspect of the universal unconscious?

My theory? It’s laziness. Be honest, how often do you actually measure out ingredients like olive oil? Tonight I did measure the amount I was putting in my chickpea cutlets, but really only because my chickpea cutlets came out so badly the first time I tried to make them, but that’s the first time in a very long time. I never measure the amount I’m using to sauté something. And I suspect the people who write cookbooks don’t either. So they need an amount and they just crib from some other recipe which included two tablespoons of olive oil. Like how sometimes forty articles have something cited incorrectly and it’s all because they’re cribbing from one article which cited it incorrectly years ago.

Then again, maybe that’s just what the aliens want us to think.

Coffee with the definitive Carmen

Would we drink coffee with Katarina Witt?

Cammy:  Before I lost my patience with sports that involve judges, I did enjoy figure skating, and one of my favorites was Katarina Witt.  I can’t say I really remember the height of her career–my memories of the Sarajevo and Calgary Olympics are un-reliably foggy–but I liked her when she was in come-back mode.  Maybe it was that she was German (and by Lillehammer, it wasn’t even East German), or maybe it was that she never came off like another damn pixie on skates.  My most enduring memory of her is completely random.  It was seeing her pick up another skater (don’t even recall who) who had taken a fall and put her back up on her feet.  It was just the most no-nonsense random move I’d seen–grab the girl under the arms, hoist her up, set her down and skate off like nothing happened.  At any rate, I think she’d be worth having a cup of coffee with because between the commercials, the Playboy posing and the interviews I’ve seen, she appears to be entertainingly nutty,  There is no way she doesn’t have entertaining stories about the big name skaters of the 80s and 90s and I’ve a feeling she would tell those stories well.  On a serious note, I’d like to get her to talk about her feels about the East German system.  Clearly it provided her with the training to accomplish what she did, but she also had a Stasi file that started when she was 8….

Kristy: For the record, the skater she picked up was Tanja Szewczenko (also of Germany) who had collided with Oksana Baiul. Yeah, clearly I remember that moment too.  I also don’t remember her prime, but I was a serious figure skating fan from about 1993-1998 so I remember her amateur return and a decent chunk of her pro career. If for no other reason, her 1994 Olympic programs would make me want to have coffee with the woman: First she skated her short program, knowing she would get a costume deduction because she refused to skate Robin Hood in a skirt. Then after a career as a coquette she suddenly went beautifully serious with “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?” as a tribute to Sarajevo. It kind of encapsulates why I love her: She has balls and makes her own rules and at the end of the day, she seems to have an amazing heart. Also, I think Cammy’s definitely right about the entertaining stories. I remember seeing a documentary where she looking through part of her old Stasi file, including an entry about her having “sexual intercourse” one night. I don’t remember the details, but it gave the exact time span and it wasn’t very long. She kind of shrugged and said, “Well that was a quickie.” Then she laughed and insisted that wasn’t even what had happened. Not that night at least. Someone has to have a pretty good sense of humor to laugh hysterically at Stasi files on their own sex life.

Rewatching The West Wing

As I mentioned a while back, I’ve been rewatching The West Wing. I started over the summer and finished last week. Some of it I’ve seen a lot—I think I can probably recite most of Season 2 from memory—some of it I’ve only watched once. Actually, I think either my memory is shoddy or there are entire episodes in Seasons 6 and 7 I never saw in the first place. Honestly, I think it’s my memory being shoddy, but still…

There’s an upside to this. Because I didn’t watch those later seasons obsessively (and yes, it’s true, the reason I didn’t obsess over them is because they weren’t as good) is that I get to experience them almost like they’re new. And it’s been a long time since I saw new West Wing episodes.

First, I have to note, that while compared to the first four seasons, the last three seasons are not as good, they are still much better than most shows on television currently. There are actually a lot of awesome things about these seasons, Season 7 in particular. It has: Josh and Donna’s first kiss (seven years in the making), Josh and Donna having sex for the first time, that moment where they go on vacation together… (no, I make no apologies for my Josh/Donna shipperiness). Then there’s also CJ and Danny finally getting together. The live debate episode (though I recommend you don’t ever watch that episode in close proximity to watching an actual presidential debate. It will leave you so disappointed).

Also, a couple of awesome guest stars. Jon Bon Jovi is at the top of my list as far as guest stars are concerned on account of him being Jon Bon Jovi. When Emily Proctor made a guest appearance as Ainsley Hayes, one of my first reactions was, “Wait, she could take a break from CSI Miami, but he can’t take a couple days off from The Lions Den to guest on the show that made him a serious actor again? Then he was in the next episode. Clearly, I should not be so judgey.

Altogether, rewatching The West Wing is almost as good as watching The West Wing for the first time. Highly recommended.