Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I woke up this morning to an e-mail from a former student asking for a letter of rec.


- I can barely remember who he is.
- He admitted he didn't do well in the second class he took from me.
- He attached a kind of lackluster essay from the first class.
- He asked me to "take five minutes" to write him a letter of recommendation.
- The letter is due today.

OK, student, here you go:

Dear Professional Organization Internship Committee,

Stu Dent, who did not distinguish himself in my class, asked me to only take five minutes on this letter. Since he asked me to write it today, I'm happy to drop everything and oblige him those five minutes.



He's damn lucky I'm not sending that letter--or any letter.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

New women in STEM blog carnival -- submit!

cross posted at BlogHer

I'm a frustrated scientist. I didn't realize this, of course, until well after earning my first two degrees, in English and creative writing. Somewhere between degrees two and four (I collect them!) I began to wonder why, if I'm so interested in the ways and wonders of the natural world, I'm not a scientist.

Enter feminist science studies, my passion for several years. I can't get enough of women writing about why women do or don't succeed as scientists, how women do science (sometimes) differently from men, and how we can get girls interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Now, instead of scanning the entire academic and feminist blogopheres for answers, I can find largely like-minded folks at a single source: the new Scientiae blog carnival, founded by skookumchick of Rants of a Feminist Engineer.

The carnival goes up on March 1, and submissions are due on Tuesday, February 27. If you've recently written a post about women in STEM disciplines or you've been meaning to write one, tag your post for the carnival (here's how). Skookumchick is especially seeking posts on the following topics:
    - stories about being a woman in STEM

    - exploring gender and STEM academia

    - living the scientific academic life as well as the rest of life

    - discussing how race, sexuality, age, nationality and other social categories intersect with the experience of being a woman in STEM

    - sharing feminist perspectives on science and technology

    - exploring feminist science and technology studies

If you miss this carnival, another one is planned for March 15.

Friday, February 23, 2007

And suddenly I'm an expert.

I've been asked to be one of two people on a panel at my university's annual career path symposium for grad students and postdocs. My area of expertise? Transferring from teaching to what is generously being called "academic administration."

This makes me giggle, but I suppose by May I really will have a bit more perspective on my decision to switch career tracks.

Meanwhile, I'm supposed to provide a brief biography for the conference literature. Perhaps this?

Trillwing is a recently minted Ph.D. in Farcical Interdisciplinary Humanities. An unhealthy addiction to blogging helped her to land a job where she doesn't have to grade papers, a fact she likes to share with her grumpy grad student friends during midterms. Although she misses classroom time and office hours, she's glad to finally have some separation between her work and home life. When she's not helping faculty with technology and pedagogy, she's watching her toddler spin around in circles and stumble drunkenly around. During these times, she is a bad mother because she laughs at him rather than with him.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Worst (and best) U.S. metro areas for children--and trillwing feels white guilt

Courtesy of The Creativity Exchange:

Worst Metros for Children

Bakersfield, CA; El Paso, TX; Fresno, CA; Jersey City, NJ; Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA; Miami, FL; Mobile, AL; Modesto, CA; New York, NY; Riverside-San Bernardino, CA; Stockton-Lodi, CA.

Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY; Chicago, IL; Cleveland-Lorain-Elyria, OH; Fresno, CA; Jersey City, NJ; Louisville, KY; Miami, FL; Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI; Mobile, AL; New Orleans, LA; New York, NY; Rochester, NY.

Bakersfield, CA; Fresno, CA; Jersey City, NJ; Jersey City, NJ; Los Angeles- Long Beach, CA; Miami, FL; Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI; Modesto, CA; New Orleans, LA; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA-NJ; Providence-Fall River-Warwick, RI-MA; Sacramento, CA; Stockton-Lodi, CA; Tacoma, WA.

Bakersfield, CA; Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY; El Paso, TX; Fresno, CA; Hartford, CT; Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA; Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI; New York, NY; Providence-Fall River-Warwick, RI-MA; Rochester, NY; Springfield, MA; Syracuse, NY.

I was raised in Long Beach, and Mr. Trillwing would like to move back there (I'm ambivalent). I just saw a really neat job posted in Stockton. Good thing Lucas isn't Asian, since we live just outside one of those cities designated as sucky for Asians.

So, you ask, where should we be living? More from the same site:

Best Metros for Children

Ann Arbor, MI; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ; Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MI-WI; Nassau-Suffolk, NY; Newark, NJ; San Francisco, CA; San Jose, CA; Washington, DC-MD-VA-WV.

Colorado Spring, CO; Denver, CO; Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ; Nassau-Suffolk, NY; Portland-Vancouver, OR-WA; Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC; San Antonio, TX; San Jose, CA; Tucson, AZ; Vallejo-Fairfield-Napa, CA;

Austin-San Marcos, TX; Baltimore, MD; Monmouth-Ocean, NJ; Nassau-Suffolk, NY; Newark, NJ; Washington, DC-MD-VA-WV

Ann Arbor, MI; Cincinnati, OH; Colorado Springs, CO; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Jacksonville, FL; Monmouth-Ocean, NJ; Nassau-Suffolk, NY; Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA; Washington, DC-MD-VA-WV.

I'm trying to imagine what it would like to be Black (hard enough for me to imagine just that) and living in Colorado Springs or Napa. Since Lucas is white (as am I--surprise!), I guess we should be focusing on those cities, but only SF and DC appeal to me. And guess who can't afford to live in SF, and whose family lives about 3,000 miles from DC?

On the other hand, my current fair city did recently make a best-places-to-visit list, and I'm guessing it's a damn good place to raise a white or Asian child. Not so sure about Hispanic or Black childrearing here--I sense a good deal of discomfort on the part of my Black and Latino friends. Which of course makes me uncomfortable. What's a mom to do, though? What a choice to have to make: Do we live in a place that's truly diverse (e.g., Long Beach or Sacramento, both of which have been designated at different times the most racially/ethnically diverse places on the planet) or that's good for my child's health, education, and well-being?

Certainly being raised in a diverse city contributed significantly to who I am today. But we all know educational resources are distributed inequitably by race and class, and I benefited from this privilege, landing in the best programs in my school district (which required me to attend five different schools instead of the usual three). Would Luke be so fortunate? Only if we were upper middle class and he were gifted. And he'd acquire the same damn reduced lung capacity of all the kids in Southern California (yours truly included--thank you, coke plants, Port of Long Beach, 405/605/710 freeways, LA Basin, inversion layer, and Reaganomics).

Of course, I'm setting up a bit of a false dichotomy between metros-suck-because-they're-unhealthy-and-distribute-resources-inequitably-but-
good-god-are-they-diverse-and-maybe-progressive and smaller-towns-are-great-but-good-god-are-they-ever-white-white-white. There are not-terribly-provincial places to live outside of metropolitan areas; I live in one. But our eventual decision about where to settle won't be based just on race and class--there's also family to consider. I want to be near my parents and extended family in Long Beach--a situation from which Lucas would benefit. But then Lucas would also suffer from the pollution, crowding, poor schools, etc.


Also: If California is supposed to be such a great state, why are there so many sucky places to live in it?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Textbook Pricing: Extortion of Students by Publishers and Faculty?

(cross-prosted at BlogHer)

Imagine you paid more than $75 for a textbook, and then your professor made you tear out and turn in particular pages from the book--meaning you couldn't sell it back to the bookstore at the end of the term.

Oh, and did I mention the textbook is written by the professor?

This very scenario is being played out in Liz Applegate's Nutrition 10 course at the University of California, Davis. A discussion of Applegate's practice--and what students see as a poor rationale for tearing out the pages--took place on the Davis Wiki and then made its way into the California Aggie, the UC Davis student newspaper. Applegate, who was awarded an "Excellence in Education" award from UC Davis students in 2004, claims requiring students to turn in the pages discourages cheating.

Blogger Margaret Soltan of University Diaries picked up the story. Check out the comments of her post for more discussion of Applegate's practice.

There's more good discussion about textbook pricing in the comments on this post at Marginal Revolution.

Faculty may not be the only ones to blame for the huge dent textbooks make in college students' budgets. In early 2004, CalPIRG published the report "Rip-Off 101: How The Current Practices Of The Textbook Industry Drive Up The Cost Of College Textbooks." I read this report when it came out and found some big holes in its reasoning, but as a recent graduate and as an instructor I certainly understand the pain textbook pricing causes students.

The crux of the problem, CalPIRG's report asserts (correctly, I think) is that publishers encourage faculty to order "bundled" resources--textbooks that come shrink-wrapped with workbooks or CDs, for example. And certainly publishers are a bit slimy strategic about this practice. For example, a colleague of mine said he wanted to use a particular anthology of American literature, but the textbook didn't include poems by Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson. (WTF?! What American lit text skips those two authors? Clearly this is a tactic by the publisher to get faculty to order something extra.) The publisher's ad rep encouraged him to order pamphlets of Whitman's and Dickinson's poems for a mere $1 each. Of course, the publisher would shrink-wrap these texts to the anthology, which means students who wanted these texts would have to buy a new, full-priced book. My colleague caught on and decided instead to have the bookstore order used copies of the anthology as well as inexpensive Dover editions of Dickinson and Whitman.

Publishers claim--also correctly--that textbooks are expensive to produce. Paper costs rise. Color printing isn't cheap, even if done overseas. Neither are reproduction rights for images and texts. Add in the salaries of writers, editors, designers, sales reps, and the countless other people involved in textbook research, writing, production, shipping, and retail, and you have a hefty price.

What can be done about this widespread problem? Susan Smith Nash of Xplanazine offers one fairly radical solution. Lawmakers are also getting in on the deal: a Connecticut law is trying to lower textbook prices. More student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) are adding their voices to the chorus; MASSPIRG's report was released this month. And if you live near Santa Clarita, California, the government is holding a hearing on textbook affordability.

What ideas do you have to solve this problem? How can students, faculty authors, and publishers benefit?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Letter of recommendation

Dear Admissions Gods of the English Department,

You should really, really, really accept Julie to your program because she totally rocks. Besides, you're her #1 choice. And I want her to live nearby. I can't emphasize enough how important this is.



Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Inspirations to creativity

I've been casting about for inspirations to creativity. I really need to visit some art museums; I always find the more playful examples of art revive my creative impulses.

Fortunately, my internet addiction has also paid off in spades. One example: For the past year or so, I've been listening to the Craftsanity podcast by Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood. I enjoy crafting, but I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a crafter, since I do it so infrequently these days. Nonetheless, I enjoy listening to Ackerman-Haywood's interviews with crafters who have made some kind of livelihood or social contribution with their work. I especially like the stories of people who have taken their passion and combined it with writing.

The podcasts are kind of long and rambling, but that's a huge part of their charm. I feel as if I've settled down into a room where a couple of really bright, interesting people are having a conversation about everyday things about which they're passionate.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Look! It's an actual substantive post!

My parents came to visit this weekend.

I have what is in many ways an amazingly straightforward relationship with them: Though we may criticize one another's choices, we love one each other unconditionally. As an avid blog reader, I've come across so many stories about dysfunctional families, and I feel blessed to have grown up under the care of these particular people and their extended families.

We talk several times a week. When I went to college, I was horribly homesick for, oh, 2-3 years. And I don't especially like my hometown--I missed my parents and the loving environment they created for me. (My sister had much the same experience when she first went away to college and decided to go back home to the local university and live with Mom and Dad until she graduated.)

Yet the older I get, the more conflicted I feel about my relationship with them. Clearly, I am my own person--I don't cling to my mother, nor am I a daddy's girl. I feel I've struck a healthy balance when it comes to physical and emotional proximity to my parents.

But now that I'm an adult, I realize the standards I've placed upon myself are my parents', and in particular my mother's. And I've failed to meet those in three key respects: housekeeping, finances, and physical appearance.

My mom isn't one to obsess over her own physical appearance. She hasn't had plastic surgery, she doesn't wear a lot of makeup, and she hates spending money on clothes. But she has always wanted her daughters to look presentable, meaning, I think, slim and trim, neatly dressed, and, I'm afraid, pretty. There were several years where she tried to get me to wear makeup--"At least try a little lipstick, Honey"--even though she knows that the thought of putting makeup on my skin makes my stomach churn. (See, when I was 12, my Girl Scout troop did this stupid "Looking Good" badge, and we had to learn about skin care, makeup, and fashion. And when the volunteer moms put a bunch of cosmetics on me at one troop meeting, not only did I end up looking like a whore in a theater production, but I also broke out shortly thereafter and had acne for, oh, a decade.)

Right now I'm carrying an extra 20-25 pounds. Working full time, being a mom, and being on a budget means I don't have the time, energy, and resources to meet all those wonderful fitness goals I'd like to set for myself. And so I look more than a bit frumpy in my clothes. Also, my skin is starting to age. And my hair is blah. These are things I could fix with money enough and time, but (aside from improving my overall cardiovascular fitness, which is quite poor) these goals just aren't priorities right now.

And then there's housekeeping. Again, I don't have time or energy to keep the pristine house my mother does. So when she comes to visit, she always starts cleaning something. This time it was the kitchen, and she volunteered to vacuum as well (we had two dogs here this weekend, and the floor got fluffy pretty damn quickly). It really, really stresses me out when she starts cleaning because it's a not-so-implicit criticism of my care of my family's environment and because it means I'm not being a good enough hostess.

Finances. We have a lot of debt. A LOT. It's my not-so-secret shame, and it comes from being a grad student and having low-paying jobs for the past 10 years. I just wasn't making ends meet, and so when Mr. Trillwing needed extra dental work, the dog needed emergency surgery, or the cars needed maintenance, a lot of that stuff went onto a credit card. And Mr. Trillwing came into the relationship with a lot of debt. Add on student loan debt, and we're a mess. My parents partially rescued us from the consumer debt a few years ago by giving us a large low-interest loan so we could pay off Mr. T's credit cards and car. And then loaned us money again recently so we could make the deposit and two months' rent payment required to move into this house.

And so everytime I balance the checkbook and find I can't send a healthy chunk of change to them, I get embarrassed and chagrinned. I do make more than the minimum payment most months, but I'd like to be paying everything down faster. Of course if we moved back into a tiny apartment and gave up daycare for Luke, we could do that. But then, seriously, our marriage would fall apart from the stress.

Occasionally Mom brings up our debt and it's always with a tone of concern, but underlying it is a good deal of criticism about the choices, financial and otherwise, I've made that got us to this point. Mr. T and I are in a position to pay down all of our debt (student loan, credit card, and to Mom and Dad) within a decade, and when we first moved up to Davis, we paid off a HUGE amount of Mr. T's debt (which I see now, if we had saved, would have kept us from racking up further debt. *sigh*).

Anyway, I'm not sure how to tell my parents, with whom I've always had a very open, trusting, no-secrets relationship, that there are just certain subjects I no longer want to talk about with them--namely finances, housekeeping, and my health/appearance--without raising such high concern that my mother (the tension-carrying one in the relationship) would have a stroke. I need to separate myself from them in these three areas so that I can set realistic goals for myself, so that I don't set myself up for failure and disappointment.

That's what's on my mind. What's on yours? And if you have any advice, please leave it in the comments or e-mail me: trillwing -at- gmail.

A most excellent video

I may find this funnier than most because of my job, but hey, I think you'll enjoy it, too:

Blogging rut

I'm in a blogging rut and casting about for topics.

Any requests? Anything you absolutely must know about all things trillwing? Leave 'em in the comments. (What Now--I realize I haven't answered a couple of your questions about writing. I'm still musing about them.)

I'd also be open for another edition of "Ask Trillwing" if anyone is in need of some very bad advice.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Alphabet meme

As seen at Rev. Dr. Mom's place.

A- Available or Single? Nope. Married and thrilled about it.
B- Best Friend? I have a few. Mr. Trillwing, Breena Ronan, and Daughter of Famous Marxist Literary Theorist Who Doesn't Like People Around Here to Know He's Her Father Because She Doesn't Understand His Work, Either.
C- Cake or Pie?
Cake. Unless maybe it's a crumb-top apple pie in the autumn
D- Drink of Choice? I don't think I have one. If it's alcohol we're talking about, I'm a strawberry margarita (but only if made with real strawberries) or amaretto sour woman.
E- Essential Item? Laptop. Also clothing. I don't like to feel exposed.
F- Favorite Color? I don't have one--I seem to like all of them. This is a problem when it comes to dressing and decorating.
G- Gummi Bears or Worms? Blech.
H- Hometown? The LBC. I currently live about 400 miles north of there.
I- Indulgence? Renting a house instead of an apartment; daycare for Lucas. Big indulgences, no?
J- January or February? February, because the flowers start to bloom.
K- Kids and names? Lucas, age 17 months.
L- Life is incomplete without...? Mr. Trillwing, good food, and books.
M- Marriage Date? July 2002 (I almost wrote "July 2005," which would have made it a shotgun wedding.)
N- Number of Siblings? One fabulous sister.
O- Oranges or Apples? Either, if they're in season and tasty. I like my orange juice pulpy and my apple juice as freshly pressed but chilled cider.
P- Phobias/Fears? Losing Mr. Trillwing or Lucas.
Q- Favorite Quote? Oh, there are so many. At our wedding we used the first stanza of Yeats's "The Two Trees," which begins "Beloved, gaze in thine own heart, / The holy tree is growing there. / From joy the holy branches start, / And all the trembling flowers they bear." The lines remind me to remain true to myself.
R- Reasons to smile? Friends, family, finishing the damn Ph.D.
S- Season? Spring for weather, summer for fruit
T- Tag 3 people? Anyone who wants to join in, please do.
U- Unknown Fact About Me? I'm messy with paper. My desk is a distaster area. That makes me brilliant, n'est-ce pas?
V- Vegetable You Hate? Mashed potatoes. Bleah.
W-Worst Habit? Procrastination, hands down. (See "blogging.")
X- Xrays You've Had? Dental, spine. Also lots of radiation (at age 17) to kill my friggin' NASCAR thyroid. (NASCAR in the sense that it was both too fast and carrying some white trash genes)
Y- Your Favorite Foods? Vegetarian stuff. Thai especially. Also desserts.
Z- Zodiac? Gemini. For those of you playing along:
Individuals born under this sign are thought to have a sociable, fun-loving, versatile, communicative, liberal and friendly character but one which is also prone to moodiness, changeability, superficiality, laziness and impatience. In terms of anatomy, Gemini is said to rule the shoulders, upper arms, nerve fibers, lungs, thymus gland, trachea and bronchi, structural features of the clavicle, scapula, and humerus. . . .

Among medieval astrologers, Gemini was thought of as a fortunate sign, and its subjects were considered to possess the qualities intense devotion, genius, largeness of mind, goodness, and liberality.

(info from Wikipedia, which I can now cite since I'm not teaching and no longer need to be a role model)

I love that shit about Gemini and the body. I mean, the thymus and clavicle? Really? Who's keeping track?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Random bullets of trillwing, up late reflective edition

  • Had six appointments today, each at least an hour long. Thank goodness one was cancelled.
  • Had lunch with Fantastic Mentor (formerly known as Fantastic (Dissertation) Adviser). She's so damn impressive. Over lunch we talked about mentoring, career paths, how a particular academic unit might be imploding and why, the ethics of being on the dissertation committees of students in my field (of encouraging them, even) when jobs are so hard to come by. Talked about teaching and how a love of it can wax and wane and that's OK. Talked about eggs, briefly, and about the importance of doing research and work one loves on both a micro and meta level.
  • Learned how to host a videoconference using Adobe Connect (formerly Macromedia Breeze). Pretty nifty stuff!
  • Sympathized and strategized with colleagues about a particularly difficult person who sees me as an ally. Tough decisions to be made, thank goodness not by me.
  • Ran into a passionate but aggrieved grad student from my program, inviting me to a town hall meeting for current students and recent grads.
  • Mr. Trillwing, today, in passing, in relation to something having to do with Lucas: "These moments are more special because you're never around."
  • Feeling guilty about that last bullet. Must remind myself that work is necessary, for financial reasons and for my own sanity and self-esteem.
  • Not feeling fully a mother these days, though. Mr. Trillwing shoulders the bulk of the parenting during the workday (except when Luke's in daycare, of course).
  • Felt a little more like a mother when I heard Lucas coughing in his crib and went into administer grape-flavored cough syrup.
  • Feel a great creative force swelling within me. Not sure what to do with it. I'm thinking the egg piece finally needs to be written, but when?
  • When I come up for a job performance review (mine's slated for October), Fantastic Adviser suggested asking for a four-day workweek so that I could have one day a week dedicated to writing and personal projects. Not sure how that would work with Lucas and Mr. Trillwing, since I'm assuming I'd have to work 10-hour days. Ideas, anyone?

Monday, February 05, 2007

I don't read much science fiction these days, but. . .

. . .if I were to write some, it's nice to know that I'd be in good company:

I am:
Ursula K. LeGuin
Perhaps the most admired writing talent in the science fiction field.

Which science fiction writer are you?

(last seen at scribblingwoman)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Belated productivity

Now that I can think about it without succumbing to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it's time to do something with the dissertation. I'm printing out a cover letter, two sample chapters, and miscellaneous required materials to send to a university press editor-in-chief I met at the American Studies Association conference who seemed genuinely interested in the work.

I don't have my hopes up that I'll place the book with the very first press I send it to, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Would you mind doing so as well?

(working dog photo by Natalie Downe)

More developmental craziness

Today Lucas and I went out for sushi with a friend of mine. The meal proceeded normally--Luke dumping food from his plate, Luke putting food back on his plate, Luke categorizing his food in small piles.

But then all of a sudden my friend is staring at him and saying, "Can he use chopsticks?" And sure enough, Lucas has picked up a pair of chopsticks correctly and is using them to place a piece of teriyaki chicken in his mouth.


It's not as if Mr. T and I use chopsticks at home, or as if we frequent sushi joints. Luke probably hasn't seen a set of chopsticks for months.

I called up my mom to share the weirdness, to tell her about her 17-month-old grandson's latest stupid pet trick, and she said, "Well, he must have been Japanese in a previous life. You know, just like you were Spanish."

Me: What?

Mom: Well, you always called a pencil "lápiz."

Me: Because you taught Spanish when I was a baby?

Mom: No. We never used that word at home.

Me (thinking to myself): And it's not like we had a lot of Spanish speakers hanging out around the house.

Mom: That was just your word for pencil.

So there you have it, folks.

Lucas: formerly Japanese wunderkind of fine motor skills.
Me: editorially-inclined former Latina.
Mr. Trillwing: as yet undetermined.

(chopsticks photo by Steve Ling)

On dreams: dinos in the suburbs

I've never been big on dream interpretation. I don't believe that a horse in a dream always stands in for, say, jealousy, or that wallboard means I must be feeling depressed. I mean, what if my memories of wallboard are all happy ones?

I do know, however, that my dreams are my brain's way of trying to make sense of all the things I experience in a day, of reordering and purging things, sort of like defragmenting a hard drive. So if my students and my grandmother show up in the same dream as a vampire, fine. That's my brain's way of trying to make sense of three different experiences: family, work, and Buffy.

I do not, however, know where the dinosaurs come from.

For years--since my childhood, long before the cinematic dinosaurs of Jurassic Park--I've had dreams about dinosaurs appearing in whatever neighborhood I happen to be living in at the time. And last night was one of the most intense, and longest, dinosaur dreams I've ever had. This time, instead of there being some rogue dinosaurs on the loose in the suburbs, the whole infrastructure of the city was set up to accommodate dinosaurs and to separate them as much as possible from humans--as if someone cloned some dinosaurs, and even once they started wreaking havoc on the city, environmentalists said, "Hey, it's their planet too, now. . . Leave them be."

So there were special tunnels for dinosaurs to travel in, and special roads where humans could take their cars only if they were being pursued by a rogue dinosaur--you know, empty roads where you would always be assured swift travel. And in this particular dream, there was a really bad tyrannosaur problem--nobody could control them, and it was illegal (or maybe impossible) to harm or kill them, apparently. When a T. rex came to the burbs, everyone yelled "Tyrannosaur!" and got the hell out of Dodge.

Fortunately, since I finished my dissertation, in my dreams I've been able to run very fast and even fly. (Pre-completion, running felt like being trapped in a tar pit.) So in part of this dream, as I was being pursued by a T. rex, I ducked into a pterodactyl expressway (kind of like a long bat cave) and flew with them as I tried to protect Lucas from their sharp teeth.

And whenever I visited someone's house, everyone had assigned places to hide when the particularly carnivorous dinosaurs passed by. Lucas and I were to hide in a particular closet at my grandmother's, for example, and I was supposed to give him a sippy cup of milk to keep him quiet.

Anyway, the dream and all its details have been with me all day. It seemed so real.

Do you have a recurring dream? What about?

(dino photo by Paul Armstrong)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Not quite as sick: a stab at gardening

This morning I felt at lowest ebb, but after a good nap and a warm lunch, I went to my very first ever massage appointment, courtesy of Mr. Trillwing, who insisted I go after I complained about how stiff and sore I was. And boy, was it nice! I have a thing about being touched by strangers, but this woman immediately put me at ease. I made another appointment for a few weeks from now because hey, we're made of money, right?

The massage, coupled with some really nice weather, made me feel well enough to go outside for awhile. I did some very tentative gardening. In the backyard (which I need to document in a "before" photograph because it is very dull), I picked up a bunch of dog poo and turned over the very hard, clay dirt in one section of the yard. It doesn't look as if anyone has gardened there for a long time; the only visible signs of life were a couple of ants. I think I'll start a compost pile soon so we can get some quality soil amendments.

Major milestones for Lucas, who was wandering around the yard while I stabbed at the dirt with a shovel:

- putting a dirt clod in his mouth for the first time.
- stepping in dog poop for the first time.

Way to go, son!

My front yard is also pretty nondescript. The yard is oddly shaped because the house we're renting has a HUGE garage that juts out well beyond the front of the house. About half of the deep, narrow yard is covered in ivy, which makes sense, since it's shaded and grass probably wouldn't grow there. Then there's a strip of grass, and then, along the walk up to the front door, some really ugly bushes that the guys who do the lawn apparently have hacked into rough, elongated spheres. The worst offender is a giant rosemary bush (about 6 feet in diameter) that has eaten several other plants, including a huge salvia and a couple of miniature rose bushes. So I hacked away at the rosemary and salvia and uncovered not only a rose, but several old beer bottles. It looks as though some previous renters or their friends were a class act.

Unfortunately, when you garden, things look worse before they get better, and I'm sure the neighbors across the street don't appreciate the half-hacked rosemary and salvia bushes, which now display several years of dead wood. I didn't clear them because I developed a blister from the clippers before I got that far into the task. (I am a wimp, and have not yet resupplied myself with the appropriate gardening gear, e.g. gloves or loppers.)

I'm hoping to put in some small colorful flowers to start, and then when the family budget settles sometime in March or April, buy a few rosebushes and some other nicer plants for the spring. Maybe I'll even be inspired to buy a little table and chairs for the backyard so we can eat dinner outside from time to time, or so I can read out back while Luke plays--you know, in those few precious weeks of spring before it gets to be 95 to 115 degrees every day.

Gardening is a good way for me to ease myself back into exercise after many months of being pretty damn sedentary. And if I plan it right, I can get everything into the ground before May, and then simply do light maintenance during the summer months.

Bonus: We have a cherry tree in the backyard. I can't wait to see what type it is (keeping fingers crossed for Bing) and if it fruits well. Unfortunately, someone has pruned it back so that it's very tall and without much of a canopy, so I'm not sure how many cherries we'll be able to harvest.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Pop quiz! (viral vector edition)

Which of the following members of the Trillwing household is NOT actively sick?

a) Mr. Trillwing
b) Lucas
c) trillwing
d) The Liability
e) none of the above

The correct answer is. . . d, The Liability, which is funny because the dog takes, I kid you not, 87 pills per week. (Hence his name. And lest you worry we practically have him on life support, his quality of life is good--he's 12.5, but most people think he's between 2 and 5 years old. And frequently, unfortunately, so does he. That's why Mr. Trillwing has a series of "How old dogs get broken" photos of Woody leaping over things and twisting in the air.)

I'm miserable. Mr. T. is getting sick. Lucas has had a fever of 102. Bleah.

So I skipped work today. I had intended to go in long enough to give a two-hour workshop, but it quickly became apparent that wasn't feasible by any stretch of the imagination (unless you imagine me strapped to some kind of board to keep me upright while someone else speaks for me and grabs my hand to help me point to things--sort of trillwing as ventrioloquist dummy. Not pretty).

Still, I feel guilty about having to cancel the workshop because there were actually quite a few people registered for this one. Bleah.

Why can't I ever get sick when it's convenient for me? Oh wait, that would be during vacations and breaks, and I do tend to get sick then.