Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Scheduled Haircut

I just thought I'd let you know, following our previous "conversation" about this (OK, It was a conversation between me and one commenter, Ink*, and I didn't even respond to her comment  but whatever.)...

...that I scheduled a haircut for tomorrow! I'm excited, though I've decided not to go radically short just yet. I'll go medium short in the back and see how I like it before going even shorter.

I need to be brave, so I thought I should blot about it to help me out! ;)

I don't know if I'll post before and after photos or not. I'm thinking I have to delete all photos of me from my blog for the sake of keeping my semi-anonymity intact. I don't want to be Dooced, you know... or something. I should have known for years that Jo(e) was right not to include faces in her blog. (sigh... pout... sigh again). I LOVE photos, though and I don't mind having photos of me taken and sharing them. I'm really upset about this issue.

OK.. gotta go now, my to-do list is so despair-inducing that I'm not even writing it here, I'm just trying to remember everything I need to do and not to panic, which is really, really hard. OK... not so hard.

I'll "publish" this silly stream of consciousness post that is probably annoying enough.

* I have to add you to my blogroll, Ink, and go read your blog too! Thanks for the comment in that post, BTW, it was oh, so helpful! And encouraging! [checking your archives]: Wow... you've been blogging for as long as I have. [checking out your first post]: Oh, OK, I'm wrong, several years longer, but you archived them. Got it.

"The City of Samba" -- An Amazing View of Carnaval by Jarbas Agnelli

I have already featured Jarbas Agnelli's work on this blog (remember the song about birds on wires? This is well worth checking out if you haven't already).

This is his latest production, based on footage from last year (2011)'s samba-school carnaval parade in Rio de Janeiro (desfile das escolas de samba). I'm definitely sending a link of this video for all my students! I hope you enjoy it!

The City of Samba from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.
Tilt shift of the Carnaval party in Rio de Janeiro.

Made by Keith Loutit and Jarbas Agnelli.
Captured during Carnaval of 2011.
Music by Jarbas Agnelli.
Special thanks to Rede Globo, Liesa and Jodele Larcher.

The Grant-Writer Scientist's Wife

It's only my husband's 2nd year as in a tenure-track job and I'm already getting tired of all the grant writing. And this is because the real deal (applying for NSF & other agencies) hasn't even started yet, these are his "trial runs" with university and state sponsored grants.

The thing is, preparing for teaching at the beginning or one's career does take hours upon hours (over 10 hours [mostly at home] each week for him, not counting grading, office hours, etc.) and when you add time at the university teaching, trying to run the lab, etc.... if you add grant writing to the equation, wow... there's one busy professor! So... in anticipation of his upcoming deadline and also our trip, K is pulling an all-nighter at the university. Sigh.

Digression: Why am I still up, BTW? Well, my youngest son asked me to lay down with him and I "dozed on an off" for about 2 hours. I got up at 12:45 and then spent one whole hour cleaning the kitchen (which totally made me want to have domestic help) and one whole hour answering email, and wasting precious minutes of my life on facebook (gotta hate that, but it sure is nice to be in touch with a few people -- I should unsubscribe from a lot of others).

But back to the subject at hand, this feels very similar to what it felt to be the wife of a newly-started-in-the-lab wannabe-scientist graduate student husband (with a crazy army trained Israeli post-doc as a vice-boss). K spent many nights in the lab running experiments back in 1999. I'm glad he moved to a different lab later and then he only pulled various all-nighters right before the annual conference in his field.

All right, I should go sort the laundry and try to pack my bag for the trip a little more and... hopefully sleep.

Should I disclose that I was supposed to be grading now and pulling my own all-nighter? It goes without saying that this is the last thing I want to do in the world, so I'm procrastinating like I always do. No wonder my sons left their work on their school project that is due tomorrow for the last minute as well (hence the late bedtime, hence the exhausted parent who had to help them write their reports). A pathetic family of procrastinators, we are. Sigh.

Not my poor husband, though! He's been working on this grant literally for years... He's come a long, long way from those days as a dedicated graduate student and I'm sure all his efforts will pay off in the end, but it will take many more nights of patient wifely waiting for that to happen!

Edited to add: K got home less than 10 minutes after I posted this (3:14), yay! I get to talk to my husband! And I hope he gets this grant.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's OBVIOUS that a roaring Samba wouldn't win!!!

I will say one thing about the Oscars... I thought it was ridiculous that only TWO songs were nominated for best songs -- the only "Brazilian Oscar nod" this year (Rio's "Real in Rio"), but when I googled the question, Rolling Stone magazine had the answer (two many songs initially nominated -- 39, so only two got enough votes to make the cut).

In any case, Real in Rio isn't even the best song in Rio (my sons were listening to the soundtrack in Spotify everyday two weeks ago), but it is one with pretty authentic samba drumming and rhythm. So... yeah, OF COURSE it wouldn't win!!

"Am I a Man or a Muppet?" is feels WAY more familiar and American (thus comforting, and not "the other"), so... of COURSE it was going to win...

Here's a link to a Youtube video of it (embedding disabled).

So... are you a man or a muppet? I prefer to be a Brazilian... ;)

Utterly Frustrated: I CANNOT watch the Oscars

I guess this is the first time in many years in which I won't get to watch the Oscars. And was almost positive that I'd watched it online before in the past, but maybe I was wrong. Or maybe the rules for online live-streaming change every year. And this year is a "nay" year for Academy Awards online streaming.

In any case... I have been watching the Oscars live for many many years, even when it aired really late in Brazil (2 hours ahead of the U.S. right now). I think the first time I watched the whole broadcast was during my senior year of high school, 1989. I went to bed sooooo late, it was crazy! But I totally loved it.

(Slightly unrelated subject: You may not know this, but I am a night person and have always been).

More related to the subject... I have always been a big fan of movies, even though I never watched a lot of them (and when I did, it was only on video or on TV). I always read film reviews (in the São Paulo edition of the Brazilian national news magazine Veja, in the cinema section) and invariable followed which films won Academy Awards so I could watch them if they interested me. Another BIG motivator to watch the Oscars was to see clips of the nominated films and performers, so I could get a glimpse of what they were, even though I probably would never get to watch them. I felt it was part of my "getting to know what's going on in the world" strategy.

Now, the problem is that I want to watch the Oscars every year, but I do NOT watch any TV and I cannot possibly pay for a cable or satellite subscription only to watch live events a few times a year (thankfully I'll be in Brazil for the Olympic Games this year*) [side note, we would probably have the "antenna cable" of about 14 dollars if we had comcast, but this house is subjected to a HORRIBLE local company owned by Sprint, so they are totally to blame for this fiasco tonight. :(] So... yeah... frustration.

I even live blogged the Academy Awards (with LisaV) back in 2008 -- ha! I saw La Vie En Rose (LOVED it!, but still haven't seen Dream Girls, should I?).

Anyway... I don't know if abc picks up well here in this town. All I know is that the first thing I'll do when we finally buy a new TV (ours is from 1996, can you believe it?) is to get an antenna and figure out whether we can get anything over the air... Sigh.

I wish I could be happy that I'm not wasting my time, but instead of doing something useful, all I'm doing now is writing this post and moping. BLAH. I will get started with our packing for the trip right now! Promise!

Sorry for being so annoyingly frustrated!

P.S. I was equally frustrated about the Super Bowl (which this "mashable" site tells me way too late WAS available streaming online) -- and in the end I was glad I didn't watch because the Patriots lost (I lived in MA for 8 years, peeps, my first state in this country, my sons were born there... that state has my allegiance, sorry!) AND about the Grammys.  BLAH!!!!! :(
* I think I may have mentioned my OUTRAGE with the Olympic Games coverage in this country in this blog before, maybe I'll write more about that later this year.

A Week of Firsts, Part II (Stephen Sondheim!!!)

I discovered years and years ago... 23 years, to be more precise, that Stephen Sondheim was a brilliant musician* (I blogged about my favorite song EVER, "Send in the Clowns" here), but it took me all these years to finally see one of his musicals, isn't that crazy?

Nah... not really. I couldn't really afford it earlier, so I'm at peace with it, why regret something I cannot change? I just hope that now that I've seen my first, others will follow. Perhaps even on Broadway someday. A girl's gotta dream, right? ;)

It was this musical and it was an amazing production!! The best part of it is that I knew two of the songs really well ("Pretty Women" and "Not While I'm Around"), but I had no idea of the context in which their appeared -- AWESOME! And I didn't know the details of the plot, so I was surprised and moved at the end.

OK, I can't stop gushing about this, so I will just close with a clip of when Sondheim was interviewed by Stephen Colbert. Don't miss the "Send in the Clows" conclusion:
Fun, huh?

*He's both a lyricist and composer and in his best works he does both.

A Week of Firsts, Part I

The first "first" is so prosaic I even considered not blogging it, but... since this is a "mommy" blog, I decided to go for it in the end! ;)

This past Monday was the very first day EVER we had a "baby-sitter" (the grandmother of my son's classmate who lives in the street at the back of our house) come to our house to take care of the boys for several hours. We have left them with friends before (generally at our friends' houses), even overnight, and, of course, with my parents and in-laws both at our house and their in Brazil. However, I had never let them with an actual sitter, an acquaintance who had never been to our house. This week they had two days off from school and it was a big hassle, so we had no choice but hire a sitter! We anticipate that their Spring Break (which will be a busy week for us) will be even worse! We've already asked the "Neighbor Granny" to help again!

It felt strange, it really did, to leave and wonder what the kids would be doing and how that lady would handle being with them (and her grand-daughter) at our house for so many hours. Obviously, everything had gone smoothly, my youngest son had done his homework and they had all played games together and watched videos only after lunch as I had recommended. It seems like they all enjoyed it and the granddaughter (who lives with her mom and grandma and sees her dad and two older half-brothers every other weekend), didn't want to leave, particularly because she loved playing with the cats. I think they will all have a good time on Spring Break!

I had prepared plenty of food (rice and beans & some veggies) ahead of time and when I came back, "Neighbor Granny" had washed the dishes and said the only reason she hadn't cleaned my (dirty) stove was that she couldn't find S.O.S. pads... and I felt glad she hadn't. You see, even after having grown up with people helping my mom our household all my life, I've never had anyone help me at my own house and I've grown more and more unaccustomed to the idea, to the point that I feel strange and somewhat bothered by it when I go to Brazil.

It does make perfect sense to have help, though, particularly when I think of both of my parents working full time (or more than full time since my dad was both boarding school chaplain + church pastor [which included building a church over a period of 4 years]). Now that I'm working almost the equivalent of a full-time professor and I'm getting home so tired that I often don't have the energy to cook, let alone clean, etc. So... yeah, it would be great to have help. I don't know if we'll ever go ahead and hire it, though... (and we obviously can't afford it either! ;)

Well... I don't like this post, but I'll post it anyway... :P

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Panic and Relief...

... Phew!!!

I can cross a few more items of my To-Do List (I'm doing that right now, including the book reading ;)

Today's item was hard to achieve, though... and nerve racking. Mostly because trying to book award travel tickets with United Airlines is incredibly difficult! After waiting for the necessary miles to be credited to our account, we tried to call them last night to book the boys' tickets and we were on hold for ONE FULL HOUR with that annoying music & announcement music playing before we simply gave up.

And the whole time I was panicking because I'd just checked the mileage booking online and I could only see travel for 110,000 miles on the dates we needed to travel whereas 10 days ago there were 60,000 mile seats available.

Tonight we tried to call again and costumer service picked up after less than five minutes. It was an Indian lady -- I don't know whether from a call-center in India or here, I don't really care, I was just delighted that she picked up my call -- and she was really patient trying to look up flights for me for nearly an hour before we finally decided on a date.

In the end, we're flying only a week after our desired date, on the 4th of July, but the trip is through Toronto (way longer)! :( Now I need to get ALL the information to the travel agent that works for the university and I hope that the office who awarded me the grant can agree to pay for a much higher (by 800 dollars) airfare than I had originally anticipated. Even if the grant money gets to cover only airfare and one car rental in Brazil, that will be fine with me, since I am able to travel with my family.

I'm very relieved that it all worked out, I just hope my travel authorization can be processed soon (I hadn't submitted it yet because I wanted to know how much  my airfare would cost before filling out the form), in spite of the fact that it will have to be signed by the university president! Keep your fingers crossed for me so that it all works out in the end.

Friday, February 24, 2012

On (Electronic) Feedback (or trying not to panic because I have 43 papers to grade)

Before I forget, I want to register here that I think that this post by Anastasia is excellent (and not really a ramble, BTW, because it's important to revisit one's history with this particular subject ;). Maybe I should check the post she links too (Dr. Crazy's), but I'll do that later.

I have a hard time giving significant feedback to my students. I even participated of a "rubric design" workshop a while back, but I still have a hard time coming up with a good rubric. I wrote TONS of the "bad feedback" comments that Anastasia describes in her post in my three years as a teaching assistant and my two years as a instructor during grad school.

Anastasia's argument in a nutshell: "The clearer a teacher can make expectations and feedback, the better the work she'll get from her students, and the more they'll grow."


I wish I could do that for my students -- but I don't know how clear my expectations about the paper that they turned in last night are. Several students talked to me and two of them even provided me with drafts so I could annotate them (I did that twice for one student yesterday! I hope it helped, because her paper was really bad).

In any case, let me ramble now. I could even find lots of links for posts in this very blog in which I talk about the kind of feedback I received for my dissertation (useless from one person, way too useful from two others -- thankfully! That's why I'm a doctor today), but I'm too tired to go look and re-read these posts.

During my classwork in graduate school I didn't receive very good feedback (similar to the feedback received by Anastasia), but in the last three months "dissertating" I guess I received a huge mountain of feedback that would be enough to correspond to all of my ten years of being a graduate student!

Why so? Because of electronic annotating and track changes in ms word.

How many of you use that? I know (from my horrifying experience working for Axia/ University of Phoenix for a few months) how hard it is to provide electronic feedback, it truly is. And I am eternally thankful for the effort my former advisor and the (unofficial) co-chair of dissertation for having provided me with electronic feedback.

So... I argue here that writing with pen on a printed copy your student's makes it harder to give good feedback. At least for me and based on my experience with the dissertation. Most people can type way faster than writing on paper and that alone helps with the amount of feedback that can be given. Of course, since it's easier to make comments, we run the risk of writing excessively when annotating a paper electronically (I did get really long, rambling comments on the dissertation and while they were helpful, they were sometimes overwhelming).

Now, there might be a downside to tracking changes when correcting grammar and structure -- do the students really learn if all they have to do to have their paper corrected is to "accept changes." Isn't that part of the job of a good teacher, though? To help the students write better?

OK, I have no idea whether my arguments make any sense from you. Can you please let me know what's your opinion about giving electronic feedback to students?

One important perk: it saves paper and trees!!
(but you risk taking forever to actually grade and a pile of paper is lighter than a laptop!).

I wrote this late last night, but I'm publishing today 'cause it looks like I'm in a "blogging binge" these days & I have to spread out the posts!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Reading 'till 2 am

I'm trying to make a dent in the backlog of blog posts I "need" to write to catch up (to the roster of scheduled posts that is inside my head, mind you!), so here we go, a quick one.

I stayed up 'till 2 am to finish reading this book last Monday to prepare for an upcoming conference. I first started reading it back in January when we were driving to Maryland and I couldn't stop, I was really enthralled, but I obviously had to put the book down when we arrived at BIL's house. Then I read it in short spurts at home and then got stalled for a bit -- there was a part there in the middle that was hard to plow through.

Then on Monday once I started I had to finish because I wanted to know the end of the story. Too bad I was a bit disappointed at the end. More than a bit, actually. This is one of those times in which I fully agree with the book's reviewer (at the NYT). I think that Michiko Kaukutani nails it when she says: "the novel as a whole feels simultaneously contrived and improvisatory, schematic and haphazard."

I also like these statements by Kaukutani, the first referring to various hard to believe scenarios in the novel (grandfather who doesn't speak and [my opinion, not hers], the man who had never left the apartment in years): "There is something precious and forced about such scenarios, as though Mr. Foer were trying to sprinkle handfuls of Gabriel García Márquez's magical realism into his story without really understanding this sleight of hand."

On a positive note, turned negative at the end (that's how she concludes her essay), certain
passages underscore Mr. Foer's ability to evoke, with enormous compassion and psychological acuity, his characters' emotional experiences, and to show how these private moments intersect with the great public events of history. Sadly, these passages are all too few and far between in what is an admirably purposeful but ultimately mannered and irritating novel.
I was disappointed at the "revelations" at the end, I expected more of them. I felt that there were still lots of unanswered questions and loose ends that weren't tied up -- probably on purpose. But some of these unfinished plot lines weaken the book considerably, particularly because of the sense atmosphere that surrounds certain sub-plots. Of course if I wanted any "closure," there couldn't be any, since there is little, if any closure for most people who lost loved ones in 9/11. It was a senseless and world-shattering event and the book demonstrates that.

The book does have lots of strengths, but I feel that it lost considerable steam towards the end. And I fully agree with Kaukutani that Oskar is a really annoying character. I actually thought (was convinced by him, I guess) that he was 12, but he's supposed to be NINE! No WAY! I have a nine year old who's geeky and all, but I don't think Oskar is a realistic 9 year old. Twelve would seem fine to me, but then, again, I don't have a 12 year old son and maybe even 12 would feel off.

Ultimately, it was funny because when I re-read the book I'm presenting on (after having started this one) I was really disappointed with it, thinking, something like "Oh, this is definitely a book for kids, pretty simple, with not enough psychological depth and complexity, etc." And when I went back to reading this one I was pumped up (though it seemed WAY too complex for a children's book and it does talk about sex quite a lot, so it would be more appropriate for older kids, probably not for a 9 year old like the protagonist). I think my disappointment with this book was bigger because the expectations were higher.

Oh well... I'm not even that excited about seeing the film now, just curious. I can definitely wait until I can see it streaming online.

P.S. And I was really tired the next day, which was really intense and in which I stayed at the university until 11 pm for a show.

Anxiously Waiting...

... for this month's credit card earned miles to post to my mileage account so I can schedule the boys' flights to Brazil.

It's complicated because the travel grant I was awarded. Since I'm traveling with my sons, who are flying with miles, I need to book their flights first.Then, I'll contact the university to let them know which flight their travel agent should book for me, since they'll be paying for my trip. However, before they can purchase my ticket, I need to have my travel authorization form approved and I haven't even filled that because I don't know the boys' travel dates and how much my ticket will cost. What a nightmare!

Here's the problem: this process is WAY more involved than I thought it'd be because K could only transfer 15,000 miles to my account and not the nearly 20K that we needed. That brought our total of miles 2K under what we need to book two tickets for the boys. so we had to go ahead and buy K's ticket as well as computer to his mom on our credit card to earn the necessary miles to reach what we needed.

The miles were supposed to have been credited yesterday, but they haven't (YET), so I'm on pins and needles here, obsessively checking the mileage plan website and (yesterday at least) and the credit card site. I hope everything works out smoothly. I really need to have this trip all figured out so I can stop feeling anxious about it.


And that's just ONE of the many things that has been in my thoughts lately. That's why it's hard to blog... I have way too many things to obsess worry about.

The Boy and the Blue Flowers: @ Longwood Gardens 2005 - 2010

2005: 9 months old
2006 - Almost 2
2008 - Almost 4

2010 - Almost 6!

Growing up:
2010: Complimentary extra photo, tree-hugging brothers 
(following in the footsteps of their tree-hugging forester uncle!).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Too much talking, very little action

In the end, I wrote that I was going to edit past posts, and I never did it! I should have done it without a "warning" because when I went back, trying to find those mistakes, I couldn't anymore. I know they're all there, but now I'm not so keen on looking for them anyway... Sigh.

Life continues to be crazy-busy and I don't know how it's going to be next week before our trip. The boys have their Social Studies fair (to which a large part of the work needs to be done by a parent, or at least all the checking that the boys have fulfilled all requirements). In fact, I shouldn't be writing this post, I should be making homemade playdough so my son could build his "island" tomorrow with mountains, lakes, hills, etc. You know... I feel it'd be easy just to buy playdough or use everything we have stashed somewhere so he wouldn't have to paint it all later. Would that be cheating? Maybe I'll call his teacher tomorrow morning. :(

In any case... I just thought I'd say hi. I want to post older photos, particularly of foods, but these resolutions never seem to come true. Let's see!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Editing as I re-read old posts

I began systematically reading my archives last night, starting with May and then June 2008, and I realized that there are typos and errors in those old posts, so I will being to do some proof-reading and editing. I think the typos were from before the time when browsers had automatic spelling correction (I like that so much, it keeps my writing much cleaner!).

In any case, I don't know if editing old posts shows up in peoples' feeds of my blog, so I wanted to give you fair warning before I do "republish" edited old posts, OK?

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

23 lovely comments...

... that was what I got on the day I defended my dissertation: April 16, 2008.

I was just browsing through the blog archives and I came to that post. Wow... it was so amazing to have so many people sharing my triumph that day. I get emotional just thinking about it. Two of those commenters were already my friends (Lucy & Keiko) and I already knew Libby since 2000. As for the other blogging friends who commented, I got to meet five in person: diber, Articulate Dad, Rocket Mom, Jo(e) and Scrivener.

I still want very much to meet everyone else, although I'm no longer in touch with Prisca & Jennie and I don't know if they still read. I hope I get to meet M, Aliki, Jody, Tracy, Dawn, and Prof Mama (no longer blogging under that name, brave friend) and Alice and Kate in Europe.

I'm sorry for not including links... it would take too long and most of you  know who you (and the others) are.

Blogging is amazing and it brought so many dear friends into my life! Thank you for being there and also for sharing your life with me in your blog as well.

P.S. and I acknowledged my blogging friends in my dissertation too, remember?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentine's Day Gift (to myself!)

Last year I leisurely read my favorite Jane Austen novel on Valentine's Day, but this year I took a different approach. I decided to go to my very first "real" yoga class (i.e. in a yoga studio, not a fitness class at the university, where most of the classes are taught by undergraduate students).

I chose this particular studio and teacher because last July she was a substitute teacher one day and I thought that was the most perfect class I'd ever had, the first time I was doing "real" yoga. This semester, I'm enjoying the instructors I have at the university (I take classes two days a week), the Yoga II one is really good (the others not so much), but I wish I could try to go to this studio to have a third class each week.

I really loved it, too bad it was a lunch-time class that only lasted one hour (I shouldn't even complain about that because at the university the classes only last 50 minutes because it's lunch time too).

I did go out to lunch and then frozen yogurt with my dear (and cute)* husband afterwards, but the yoga class was the highlight of my day! I wanted to watch this (which I got for Christmas), but I have to prepare to teach tomorrow! :(

*OK, I have to share this silly thing. K is still kind of puzzled as to why I think it's so cute, and even I can't explain it, but I just think it is. Here's what happened... he turned to me last Friday and said, "Hey, I listened to the song that won the Grammy, and it's nice!" And I -- really puzzled -- responded, "What do you mean, by 'won the Grammy'? The Grammy is on Sunday!" And now he was confused and said, "I don't know, then maybe it's the song that's going to win the Grammy." "Is it by Adele?" I asked, and then I got really excited because I like Adele and I immediately opened a couple of videos for him to watch online and he confirmed that it was "Rolling in the Deep" that he'd heard and liked. I just thought it was so cute of him to be so clueless both about the Grammy Awards and Adele! At least he has good taste, right? (look who he chose to marry! ;) -- silly joke, fit for VD, though!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Would you do LASIK @ 40?

I actually wanted to title this post something like "Cranky Lilian is Back, with the eye & eyeglasses trouble," but it was too unwieldy and negative.

The truth is: I can't stand wearing eye-glasses. They make me beyond cranky and depressed because I'm constantly reminded me of my physical "handicap" of having poor vision. Not to mention that they are uncomfortable, a pain to wear with hats in winter, get smeared & foggy, etc.

I don't like glasses because I never had to wear them, since I was blessed with good vision for the first 18 years of my life and then wore contacts for the 22 years after that. Well, except for the nearly 6-7 months I was forced to avoid wearing lenses last year (because of this, you'll recall), a period in which I was always cranky and upset too, but I tried not to express those feelings in the blog.

The problem is that when I'm wearing contacts, I act like I have good vision & wear them for 16 hours straight (for as long as I'm awake, which most nights is very late, like 1-2 am). I suspect that this is what caused my GPC in the first place. You'd think I'd learned my lesson after having a "sick eye" for most of last year and then having it finally heal, but no! :(

I will probably have to go back to my new doctors -- optometrists this time because the ophthalmologist plain LIED to me about GPC's connection to contact lenses (as I wrote on the post linked to above, he said it had nothing to do with lenses, which left me flabbergasted) -- and get my GPC treated.

I wonder, though, should I even consider getting LASIK*? At 40? (when the chances of needing reading glasses increase every year). It annoys me that to even consider it I have to wear contacts for at least two weeks before the doctor's visit to check surgery eligibility. One good thing is that I don't have to pay for the visit! One other thing to consider is that the surgery is risky, am I willing to run this risk just so I can ditch the glasses for a few years?

After I buy new, more comfortable, eyeglasses, I think I will schedule an appointment. Let's see. One thing is certain, if I new I could safely treat and, most of the time, prevent GPC, I wouldn't even give LASIK another thought because I'm really OK with contacts and I don't mind having cloudy vision in the morning... I can read without glasses or contacts and use the computer, I just can't see far away.

What would you do? I think I'll go as far as having the appointment, for now... and I'll keep you posted.

* I never liked this acronym (thinking to myself that people "had" to say here in the U.S. it because it was a trademark or something, and it IS. In Brazil we call it simply "laser eye surgery"), but I was surprised to learn that it actually means something: "laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis." The description of the surgery is pretty scary!

Friday, February 10, 2012

On Giving Up (Academic Publishing)

I gave up on academic publishing and, in a way, on being a "real" academic, many years ago...

In fact, in digging through our desktop just now, I came across and read the two blind peer review reports from the first and last article that I submitted to a more serious and prestigious academic journal (Children's Literature). I received those back in September 2005 and I never revised and submitted that particular paper (which I had written 5 years before to begin with) -- re-engaging with the literature would have been a lot of trouble and, besides, I had my dissertation to work on. I began working on the dissertation that same month and three years later I finished.

My only two publications were basically "requested" by the editor of another, much smaller journal, who is a friend of mine and a wonderful editor. I really  like my two published articles and the Brazilian children's author I wrote about in one of them loved it and after I translate it to Portuguese, it's supposed to be published in the journal of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. Have I translated that yet? How long ago did she give me the good news of the possible publication? I don't even know, maybe three, four years ago?

I guess you could say that  in fact I gave up on myself and my capacity to put concentrated effort on something that is interesting but, in the grand scheme of things, meaningless like most of academic research, particularly in the humanities. Don't get me started on that... of course you can say I'm only using this argument to justify not working, which is true, but... whatever. I'll try to think and write more about this some other time.

I feel frustrated and like a failure because I gave up, though. I guess I'm just plain lazy and I'm only doing easy academic things, i.e. presenting at various conferences, I really enjoy conferences and I generally do a good job (except back in 2009 at Harvard when I we were putting the house on the market & I was a wreck). I just don't try to work on my papers and submit them to publication.

Another problem is how incredibly hard it is for me to deal with negative feedback. I literally cannot get over it. So... there you go. Another reason why I knew I could never ever apply to a tenure track job and gave up on that too... sigh.

Sorry about the depressing post. I just needed some space to vent a bit after reading those reviews (very helpful, by the way). Now I'm going to go and have some Chai. Recipe and photos upcoming!!! So exciting!!

Tidbits of Acute Inarticulateness

  • I am just loving my "job" right now, but I can't really articulate my thoughts about it at the moment. Because it's complicated, this adjuncting gig-thing, as Anastasia says it always so well -- (I want to come back and blog about that post, BTW).
  • I'm slightly stressed out but wildly excited about our South Africa trip. 
  • The mommy thing. It's hard.  HARD! I cherish & adore my sons, really, I do, but it's so involved, this parenting gig, especially the piano practicing and the homework and what with the constant bickering and fighting. I don't swear, ever, but this "iconoclastic" Pulp Fiction-style* post by Jo** is pretty fantastic and may be shocking if you think that parenting is this holy sanctimonious institution.*** 
  • I'm falling in love with my house too & need to write about it, but I'm afraid can't be sufficiently articulate for good blog post.
  • I'm deeply into an Asian food phase: cooked very first Thai vegetable curry two weeks ago, had sushi, miso, Asian noodles overdose two weekends ago with large group of friends, cooked sushi again last week (! have to blog 'em!); & you already know I'm craving & drinking tons of chai (post coming up later today).
  • I miss Brazil and don't miss it at the same time. Can't articulate that either. How frustrating! The good thing is that I'm perfectly happy with how I feel about it. Weird, no? That's why I can't write about it either.
  • Oh, this and that other thing are totally complicating a whole lot my feelings about the first item above. I don't want to feel exploited. I CAN'T! And in a sense those things make me exploited if I don't have a real deal (job) but get these perks here and there. HUGE SIGH. 
  • Edited to add: My eye trouble came back. It's mild, I'm being careful, but I'm upset and, understandably, I can't talk about it because of that. :(
There's one place that I seem to be super articulate now, thankfully: when writing emails and guided reading questions for my students. Maybe that's why I love my job? I feel articulate & pretty capable?

P.S. and I'm getting addicted to Pinterest & writing lots there too. NOT GOOD. One more thing to add to my horrible and incurable (because I don't want to be cured) internet addiction.

from the queen of the footnotes to you, my dear friend!
* When many years ago I told my brother that I'd seen Pulp Fiction and loved it -- up to a certain point, obviously -- he was astounded. 
** Who came back to blogging, YAY, Jo!
*** She blogged about people getting upset about it here the very next day.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

"As Vitrines" - my favorite Chico Buarque song

Today Joy Mars commented on my post about the song "Beatriz."

While I wait for Joy to tell me which are her favorite Brazilian songs, I thought I'd post about my favorite song with music and lyrics by Chico Buarque. I chose to share my favorite interpretation of it by Gal Costa:

Here are the lyrics and my (quick) translation, I'm sure it doesn't do Chico's lyrics any justice, but at least it conveys most of the meaning:

Eu te vejo sumir por aí         I see you disappear over there
Te avisei que a cidade          I warned you that the city
era um vão                          was an empty space
- Dá tua mão                      “Give me your hand”
- Olha pra mim                   “Look at me”
- Não faz assim                  “Don’t do that”
- Não vai lá não                  “Don’t go there, no.”

Os letreiros a te colorir         The neon signs coloring you
Embaraçam a minha visão     Entangle my vision
Eu te vi suspirar de aflição     I saw you sigh from affliction
E sair da sessão,                   And leave the screening,
frouxa de rir                          weak from laughter.

Já te vejo brincando,        I already see you playing,
gostando de ser               enjoying to be
Tua sombra                     Your own shadow
a se multiplicar                 multiplying itself
Nos teus olhos                 In your eyes
também posso ver           I can also see
As vitrines                       The shop windows
te vendo passar               Seeing you go by  

Na galeria, cada clarão   In the gallery,* each bright light
É como um dia                Is like a day
depois de outro dia         after another day
Abrindo um salão           Opening into a large room
Passas em exposição      You go by as an exhibition
Passas sem                    You pass by without
ver teu vigia                    noticing your watchman
Catando a poesia           [who’s] picking up the poetry
Que entornas no chão    You pour on the ground

sigh... I just love this. I actually enjoy singing it and hopefully I will later this semester when we have our MPB night at the university.

* Before there were shopping malls in Brazil, the bigger cities had "galleries" which were long "corridors" with shops on both sides on the first floor of commercial buildings. People could actually enter the building on one street and exit onto another street crossing a whole city blog. It was like a small mall. Sometimes galerias were open in the center to the floors above with stairs and balustrades around looking down.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

My New Sweet Obsession

I know it may sound lame because it's made with decaf black tea (with added red rooibos tea) and because I'm using almond milk (should I try a non-dairy creamer in my chai if I want to keep it vegan? suggestions appreciated), but...

It is really delicious. If you're not a big coconut fan (I only like coconut on certain things), I must say that you can barely taste the coconut that they've added to this particular blend and it has just the right spiciness and body. I drank a lot of chai in Florida (this one, provided by my SIL, thanks!), but I'm not used to caffeine and had headaches for a few days at the end of our week there, so I need to drink decaf chai. I know Tazo sells it too, and I'm planning to check it out.

I'm actually buying the spices to try to make chai from scratch. I'll try to blog that if I do it, OK? Meanwhile, I have a lot of grading to do for tomorrow, so I should probably go make some of it right now!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Off with the fluff/ To-Do List!

I don't know how/why I left that post there for so long... it's true, or was true, but it's a bit embarrassing, I think. whatever...

the truth is that I embarrass myself more often than I'd like. A place I do that A LOT is in other people's blog's comment sections.

truth is, my brain's too tired to think up & write intelligent & coherent blog posts. All posts I can think of writing are "fluffy" so... I may throw a few more at you just to keep this blog going. Not that much goes on here.

One non-fluff stuff I can say is that my to-do lists are so big that I just haven't been able to finish them and I'm getting really nervous about the big trip coming up next month. I really NEED (I'd written want, it's NOT want!) to be all caught up with grading and everything I need to take care of before we travel to South Africa.

Ha!! there's nothing less fluffy in the world than a matter-of-fact to do list. And I'll get to come and cross out the items with the date of completion (which is a bit fluffy, but, whatever....!)

Lilian's To-Do List before March 2, 2012

- Finish filling up travel authorization form for conference and submit it to dept; 2/7/12
- Submit book receipts from last semester for reimbursement; 2/7/12
- Buy plane tickets to conference at the end of March; 2/7/12 (night)
- Become a member of Professional Organization and register for conference; 2/7/12 (night)
- Finish re-reading book I'm writing my paper on; around 2/9/12
- Order film based on book (it's being released before the conference, YAY!) & watch it (again) to help write paper;
- Write paper (IMP: start before I get the film) and prepare presentation;
- Finish reading book from panel and see the corresponding movie before it's not in theaters anymore (I'm afraid I won't have time to do the last part! :( ); (2 am, 2/21/12)
- Decide dates of trip to Brazil & "buy" award travel tickets for boys -- do that ASAP!!; Woo-Hoo!! It worked out!! 02/25/12
- Get documents notarized & mail the paperwork for L's Brazilian passport (ASAP too!);
- Be up to date with the grading;
- Clean and organize endless piles of paper in my office (probably won't get done).

If I remember anything else, I'll come edit this list. I should probably be able to cross out at least one item by the end of the night. Maybe.

P.S. feel free to email me if you're curious to know which books & films I'm talking about!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Beauty Brings Me to Tears: "First Impressions" & "The Summer Day"

Last week I turned on our desktop computer maybe for the first time since we moved to this house (it is not connected to the internet just yet)* and while digging through old files and checking out the music that is in that computer I found this piece (together with "Appalachia Waltz," which is beautiful, but cannot compare to "First Impresions," IMHO) -- the audio quality is not great in this Youtube video, but it's better than nothing (if you have Spotify, please listen to it over there!):
I wasn't expecting such beauty when I clicked on that track, so I promptly burst into tears and cried silently for several minutes (my boys were in the room & I didn't want them to freak out), listening to the song over and over again. Even I was surprised at how deeply it touched me. Then, while the song was still playing, I found this poem by Mary Oliver (by all means, read it while listening) and I cried even harder:
(I hope Oliver doesn't mind that I didn't ask permission to reproduce it in the blog, I found it here -- a government site)
The Summer Day
Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA

Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver.

Those last lines I knew, from longtime blogger and talented writer Catherine Newman. The piece of music and the poem together just filled me with beauty in such a way that it simply overflowed in tears that I couldn't contain.

And then I desperately tried to remember who had told me about this album by Yo Yo Ma, Frank O'Connor and Edgar Meyer. I thought it was Susan Ito and I combed through her archives to try and find a reference, but I couldn't (maybe it's there somewhere). If it was you, by any chance that first told me about this music, could you let me know? I want to heartily thank whoever gave me this gift of beauty.

*because the room we chose to be our office/library doesn't have a phone jack (unfortunately we have DSL internet) -- we need to pull the cable from the next room to inside the closet and install the phone jack, but we haven't done it yet.

Sick Children & Academic Work Days/Schedules

It is hard to work when one's child is sick, but K & I have been juggling our boys' sicknesses and not skipping work (i.e. teaching our classes). That's one of the many good things about an academic (or, in my case, "pseudo-academic" ;) career -- it generally gives you more flexibility.

We didn't really work on it this semester as we should have (except for office hours), but K and I will probably try to always teach at different times so we can "juggle" the kids if needed. I will never forget those days back in 2002 when I would hand newborn Kelvin to K so I could go teach my class and then I'd get him back after the class period and go home. We did that for two years (including one summer session [class almost 4h long, baby 4 months old], night teaching [2.5 h] and one winter session) and it worked just fine!

What complicates matters considerably now is that we live about 20 miles away from the university, so when the kids are sick and we want to teach anyway (this is what I did today -- after all, I only want to miss a teaching day when I am sick, not my children!), we have to drag their poor sick selves to the university with us for a couple of hours.

Last semester Kelvin stayed in my office for 1h15 minutes one day with a high fever, poor thing, while I taught my class and the next day he had to stay at his dad's lab for a couple of hours. Today, I had to cancel appointments with five students in the morning because Linton woke up with a stomach bug. I didn't want to miss teaching my class, though, so I put him in the car, brought him to K's office (where the poor boy had to stay by himself for about 15 minutes until dad finished teaching his class), taught my class and 2h later came to pick him up and bring him back home.

It worked out fine, but only because K didn't have to teach and could stay with Linton while directing a student at the lab. Tomorrow K will stay home from the university in the morning (since he doesn't teach until 12:30pm) while I go in early for office hours and teaching. The boys have a half day of school tomorrow because it's ski day (I doubt poor Linton will go), so K will have to bring them to the university to teach his class and I'll pick them up in his office at 1:50pm... Sigh...

Talk about Tag Team Parenting! (which used to be the very fitting name of my friend Aliki's old blog).

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

P'Interesting -- and my Dream Destination

So, yeah... today, after I read my friend's Anjali's post, I went ahead and logged back into Pinterest after a couple of months not going there.

Then, I began to pin photos of my UTMOST "Dream Destination" (The Havasupai Reservation, close to the Grand Canyon National Park where the amazingly blue Havasu river flows, falling into four spectacular waterfalls.

It all started one day back in 2006 when I was supposed to be hard at work on my dissertation. I "needed" to take some time off, so I spent HOURS day-dreaming over this Flickr set posted by Jessica/"Crunchy Girl" May of 2006. I would post some photos to this post, giving full credit to Jessica (and I have been wanting to do just that for nearly 4 years), however, I don't feel comfortable simply saving her photos and posting them here as I've done with random internet photos in the past. That's why I didn't do it in the past 6 years (I always thought I should send her a message and ask permission, blah, blah, blah).

Well, a few minutes ago, I pinned several of her photos, and... low and behold!... within SECONDs tens, almost hundreds of people were liking and re-pinning my pins. I hope Jessica doesn't mind!! But I do feel a bit guilty.

This just demonstrates that Pinterest is something that people definitely "dig" nowadays... is it just a fad, though? I also pinned some recipes today, it's easier than writing full blog posts about thinks I like online.

Am I officially hooked? I don't think so, but I'm definitely p'interested! ;)