Hello, goodbye

It’s been over a year and a half since I last posted, so I think it’s safe to say that this blog is defunct, for now at least. Who knows, maybe I’ll feel a need to come back to it, so it’s not going to go anywhere.

But before I sign off, I thought I’d do some important catching up. Between the last post and this one, I contributed an essay called “Downtime” to the collection How to Build a Life in the Humanities, edited by Gregory Colón Semenza and Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr. I was asked to contribute to that collection because of this blog, and in my bio, I name the blog. So it’s possible that you’re here because of that essay, in which case, I wanted to add an update to that piece. In it, I talk about the importance of having a “third thing,” an activity (or set of activities) for rest and relaxation that are neither family/home responsibilities nor work responsibilities, and I chronicle my experiences with my major “third thing” for many years, long-distance running. At the time I was writing, I had burned out on marathons and competition and had not yet found a single “third thing” to replace that pastime. But since then, I am happy to report, I have gotten back into running — this time half marathons instead of full ones. I trained for and ran my first in late 2014 and have run two more since. (I also trained for another this past fall, but ended up not being able to run because of other things going on in my life — updates I’ll give below.)  And now I’m training for another one in April. Right now, my current PR is a respectable 2:01, and though it would be nice to get it under 2 hrs, I’m happy just running. And really, that was my secret to getting back to running and racing: I’m focusing *only* on the running, on the process, *not* on any time goal. I’m trying to be very Zen-like in my attitude, and living in the moment of a run-day or a rest day of my training plans, or in the run itself. If I focus too much on the results, that’s when I’ll burn out again. I don’t want to end up crying during a race again because I’m not going to make a certain time!

That’s the good news. Sadly, the last year also brought with it terrible loss. In mid-December, “Bullock” (my pseudonymous spouse) and I had to say a final goodbye to our dear, sweet, soulful, smart, beautiful dog, Pippi. Many of my regular readers are also Facebook friends, and already know this, so I’ll spare the details, especially since narrating everything again will make me terribly sad. In short, Pippi died of an aggressive stomach cancer that didn’t show even the vaguest signs until October (and only in retrospect did we realize they *were* signs). By November, right before Thanksgiving, she was very sick, but with what *seemed* to be a stubborn pancreatitis (and in fact, it was — it was just *caused* by the cancer). By a week before Christmas, we had a firm diagnosis, and it was clearly time, so we let her go before her pain and discomfort escalated. She was only about 10 or so (the Brittany is a long-lived breed, generally) and we’d only known her for just under 8 years. We’re still mourning.

Pippi lived her life on this blog, in a way. I first wrote about her when we were still in the adoption process and even posted a poll to help us choose her name. (I actually went with readers’ second choice, because as soon as I finally met her, I knew she was a Pippi.) There are people in my life who only know her through the internet, and yet who have mourned her passing with me. She’s internet-famous. If you do a Google image search for “Pippi Brittany,” she’s the first image (and others in the first ten), and even a more generic search like “roan Brittany” turns up her pictures from this blog. And, of course, she has her own page here (which I will update).

Only time will tell if we adopt another dog. Pippi was one of the great ones, and they’re hard to get over. In the meantime, though, we’re helping with the rescue organization that brought us Pippi (and with a few others). We’re volunteering for transports to help dogs get to foster and forever homes, sometimes even giving them an overnight place to stay, and soon we may be fostering a young Brittany (as I write, we’ve volunteered, but he’s a stray in a county shelter and may still be claimed by an owner).

In the meantime, I run, I work, I spend time with Bullock, and I try to think of happy times with Pippi. And maybe I’ll come back to this blog when I have more interesting things to say again.

 

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A Monday lunchtime post of fluff

I really wanted to write about my first week back to teaching after a year-long sabbatical, but I haven’t had time. Maybe I’ll write about my first *two* weeks later on this week.

In the meantime, I started playing with Google’s new image search while I was eating lunch and found it highly amusing. Have you tried it? Drag and drop a picture into the search box once you’re on the image search page and see what you find.  Here’s one of the giggle-inducing results I got:

Why yes, I think Pippi looks *just* like Johnny Depp, don't you?

I feel sorry for those non-famous people — they’ve just been called a dog! (Johnny can handle it. He lives on his own island, after all.) But at least they’ve been compared with a pretty dog.

Don’t be too impressed, btw, that Google found another picture of Pippi on the old version of my blog and matched it with the one I entered.  Not only do both URLs have “quodshe” in them, but just before this search, I searched for the very picture that appears on the front page of the old blog, so I think Google was learning.  When I put in pictures of Pippi that I *haven’t* blogged or posted on G+, it couldn’t find the pictures of her that *were* out there.  And in that case, too, it matched her with people, not dogs.

Well, see, that just proves that Pippi is people, too!  That’s the way we think of her around here anyway!

I need to dream bigger

Last night I had a dream that a more prestigious university in a much bigger and more economically vibrant city called to offer me a job. No search, no campus visit — just an automatic offer of a job. And when I mentioned Bullock, they cheerfully said they’d get in touch with the relevant department and they’d be calling to make *him* an offer. OK, so we’re *definitely* in fantasy dream land, right?

Yeah, except for one thing: the salary the dream school was offering me was a mere $3,000 more a year than I make now, but in a much more expensive city.  And I was still *really* excited about the offer and ready to say “hell yes!” as soon as the offer for Bullock came through. And I was particularly dazzled by the salary! What the what?

Bullock thinks my unconscious was trying to tell me that we have it pretty good here in Rust Belt — that we have “big city” salaries in a small city. (I don’t think he was saying that was necessarily, actually true, but that my unconscious was making that the guiding metaphor.)

You know what I think? I think my unconscious hasn’t looked at my pay stubs in a really long time!

********

PS — Also, in the dream, we lived in the country and had *three* dogs, including a red colored setter or retriever of some sort and a Bernese Mountain Dog, along with Pippi. We took long walks through woods and fields with them all off-leash and Pippi would sometimes pick fights with the setter/retriever and the sweet, gentle Berner would break it up. And Bullock was wearing Wellies and a barn coat (?!). And I kept thinking, “Where are we going to put all these dogs in the big city?” but I was still excited about the job. Geez, do I have conflicting desires or what? That country fantasy sounds really nice, but so does the big city!

>Goggies! (That’s "doggies" in LOLDog)

>I’ve been transporting more dogs on their way to foster and forever homes since I first posted about doing this. And today was a treat because I got to meet my first German Shorthaired Pointers (GSPs) in person. Someone on the NBRAN volunteer list forwarded a call for drivers for a “GSP Express” run for National GSP Rescue carrying two 2-year-old GSP females; since it was coming right through our area, I volunteered. And I fell in *love*. If it weren’t for the fact that Bullock *really* doesn’t want a second dog and we’re not sure Pippi would be happy to have a dog friend, I’d be signing up to adopt a GSP right now. And Bullock was pretty charmed, too — I took him along because these were young and rambunctious dogs, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive and manage them at the same time.

Anyway, let me give you a sense of how lovable they were. Meet Blue (the black and white dog on the left) and Cora (the liver and white dog on the right), two of the sweetest love-bugs I’ve ever met:


They look a little scared here (and wouldn’t you be in their situation?), and Cora kept a kind of curious and serious demeanor most of the time, but they were also eager to be petted and to give kisses in return, and they settled into the car almost immediately. Blue even rolled over for a belly rub as soon as she got in the car, and Cora rested her head on the back of my seat, next to my head, for most of the ride as she watched where we were going. Blue, meanwhile, rested her head on the console in between the seats — all the better to get ear-scritches from Bullock. And they were hilariously bi-polar: in the car they were mellow and calm (Blue even slept soundly for half the ride), but out of the car during the exchanges from one driver to another, they were insane balls of excitement and energy. Blue tried to crawl over my back to get out of the car as I untethered their leashes from the seatbelts because getting out of the car was SO EXCITING she just couldn’t wait! But both in and out they were full of kisses and doggy affection. Adorable! And just look at Cora’s eyes and reddish-brown fur. Wouldn’t she look great with Pippi? And apparently Blue’s coloring is rare — it’s likely she comes from a true *German* GSP pedigree since black and white isn’t yet recognized by the AKC as part of the breed standard. Or maybe she’s part English Pointer (which does come in black and white). Eh, who cares — she was a doll. It was hard to hand either of them over, and now they’re already half way through the next state in their journey. Sigh.

Btw, GSPs also come in a roan variation, like Pippi, and a roan GSP is the star of that Toyota “squeaky toy” ad you may have seen. (“Roan” in this context means the colors are blended together — so liver and white are blended on GSPs and the orange and white is blended on Pippi. An American Brittany can also be liver and white, whether roan or not.) This also give you an idea of the crazy energy of a GSP. If you have a dog, you might want to play this video when the dog isn’t around. Or, play it and watch your dog possibly go nuts looking for the toy:

Anyway, before Cora and Blue, I did two more Brittany runs. I promise not to post about *every* run I do — I’ll generally stick to notable dogs. But since I could never get Toby, on that first run, to face the camera, I thought I’d give you the opposite now. Meet Silas, who wanted to know, “What’s that thing you’re pointing at me? Can I eat it?”


Silas was a sweet, older gentleman, and a good copilot, as you can see here:


And before Silas, there was sweet, adorable Julio, a 10-month-old who wanted nothing more than to cuddle in my lap and get belly rubs. Luckily once he was getting said belly rubs, he was pretty calm — a bit like the effect of a snake charmer’s music on a cobra — and so I was able to drive one-handed and rub Julio’s belly with another. And oh, he was so, so soft. I often say that petting Pippi, who is also very soft, is like petting a bunny, but Julio was even softer. So I guess petting him was like petting a *baby* bunny. Heavenly! Unfortunately, what I wasn’t able to get from Julio was a picture, because I was driving him after dark. But here are the small photos from the adoption site:



But don’t fall in love with him — turns out his foster already has and is adopting him. Hooray for Julio!

And what would a dog post be without a bonus picture of Pippi for all of her internet fans? Here’s one of Bullock’s 1,000+ photos of her (no, I’m not exaggerating!), this one from last summer:

>New desk chair!

>I bought my first new desk chair for the first time since circa 1999 and it was delivered yesterday. The old one was a $49 number from Ikea, which I bought when I also purchased my giant Ikea “Anton” computer desk plus rolling CPU/printer stand and file drawers. The desk and its accessories are still going strong. The chair…eh, not so much:

Crappy Old Desk Chair

No, you’re not seeing things; the seat really is sloping to the left (or to my right as I sat in it – probably from years of leaning right to the file drawers, printer, etc.). Anyway, after spending about $500 on the perfect “dissertating” desk, that lame chair was about all I could afford.

This time, now that I’m a tenured professor on sabbatical, and therefore spending a *lot* of time in my desk chair at home, but also making a decent living, I put down serious money and got something like the comfortable, multi-adjustable chairs they gave us in the new building at RBU. (I wish I could have figured out how to get that *exact* one, because it is teh awesome! But it’s made by a company that only does bulk office orders, alas.) At any rate, the one I got cost more than Anton and his pals combined, but if I use it at least as long as the cheap Ikea chair, I’ll get my money’s worth. And it was actually right in the middle of the price ranges at the local office supply store, so it’s not exactly extravagant as far as office chairs go. And I got to pick out the fabric! And the arms! And they delivered!

Anyway, here it is, right next to Anton (ignore the wall color — someday I intend to change it):

Awesome New Desk Chair!

You can’t really see this unless you “embiggen” the photo, but the fabric has a kind of funky dot pattern that seemed a little mid-century modern to me — or at least as mid-century as a high-tech, 21st century, ergonomic office chair can get. The other colors were definitely mid-century: avocado green, tealish blue, Wedgwood grey. I got black, though, because I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the rest of the colors in the office, so I figured I’d stay neutral and also match my black filing cabinets. This chair does *not* have a right-sloping seat, though I think the angle I took the picture from makes it seem so. D’oh! Also, I have the arms high and pivoted inward in this picture because I was reading in it before this, resting my elbows on the arms. (If you’re looking *really* closely, I have no idea why I stuck those red felt hearts on the desk drawer. I guess I was having a fit of whimsy that day.)

I’m still learning how it all works, which is why, in the background of the picture above, you can see the directions for the chair hanging off a bulletin board on the wall. Check out all the levers for all the adjustable stuff! Look! —

Levers!

Besides the four you can see on this side, there’s another on the left side and one underneath. The back is adjustable in height, of course, and the arms not only pivot, but can be made wider apart — though I don’t think I’ll ever need that. And they have soft gel cushions (though I wish the cushions were wider, but these were the only ones that weren’t hard plastic). If only the pivoting arms went totally parallel to the back — then I could get closer to the desk. Bullock may help me raise the desk because right now the arms won’t go under it unless I lower the chair so much that I feel like a kid at the grown-up table! (That does work for my keyboard drawer, at least — just less so for the other half of the desk.)

Right now I’m still fussing with all the adjustments and trying to find the sweet spot for my various tasks. And all this forced sitting up straight is actually making my back ache, ironically enough. Bullock swears this is normal and that I’ll get used to it and be better off in the long run. At the very least, my butt is more comfortable than on that sloping piece of 11-year-old junk I had before!

*******

Bonus Pippi picture! This is what Pippi was doing for most of the time I was writing this post:


It’s her way of saying, “Feed me!”

>Random bullet points of "I’ll get the hang of sabbatical yet"

>

  • You’d think that because I’m on sabbatical, I’d be posting more. Well, clearly that’s not the case. And it’s bumming me out a little because after I kinda, sorta, not really came out at NCS, lots of people told me that they liked my blog and wished I’d post more and I promised I would. And I meant that. So what’s up? Well, there are a couple of factors, too long for a bullet point, so maybe I’ll write about them in a full post. And maybe *that* will get my blogging engine started again.
  • I feel like I’m frittering sabbatical away. That’s a post in the making, too.
  • I really need to start exercising again. I’m trying to get back into it, and lord knows there’s no time like a sabbatical year to do it, but I need to find a new thing or find a way to make running new again for me. After the Boston Marathon in 2007 I got really burnt out, plus I no longer had any more goals that really meant anything to me. That’s a post brewing, too. But I’m riding my bike. Today I rode 12 1/2 miles and every time I have to go to campus, I ride it there, too. So that’s something.
  • The frittering, not-blogging, and not-running are part of my time management anxiety. Sabbatical is slipping away!!! Only 10 1/2 months left!!! (See counter to right.) Oh noes! Yeah, ridiculous, isn’t it? But that’s how I feel. WTF? What’s wrong with me?
  • On the positive side, I *have* been reading stuff for fun. Finally finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which I liked a lot. As a fan of crime fiction, I especially enjoyed the mash-up of various sub-genres, and the way it kept switching things up. Also, I think I need to emulate Blomkvist’s schedule in Hedeby for his research routine — it would work for my rhythms. So see, the pleasure reading may have had a therapeutic effect on the sabbatical anxieties. Maybe.
  • I’m also re-reading The Iliad. At first it was because I thought I’d be teaching our European Lit to the Renaissance class next year for the first time, so I set myself a schedule to re-read all of my undergrad great books syllabus, but I may now be needed for Shakespeare. So now I’m just re-reading it for fun. Shut up! It is *too* fun! I may even continue with the plan since I might still teach that class in the future, and there’s no time like sabbatical, right?
  • Also, I’ve advanced to the Budokan concert in Beatles Rock Band and have 5-starred every song up to that point on the bass. OK, so I have to keep it on the Easy level, but I’m still pleased with myself.
  • My research? Yeah, don’t ask about that. The first rule of Dr. Virago’s research is that you don’t talk abut Dr. Virago’s research.
  • Seriously, it’s going. Sloooooooowly, that is. Here’s some advice: don’t apply for a sabbatical when you’re at the beginning of something. Apply for it when you have something to write — as Dr. Crazy smartly did. Her productivity is both inspiring and also, yes, anxiety-inducing.
  • If only my research were as exciting as Blomkvist’s. Or that I were stranded in a small, northern Swedish town with nothing else to do. Huh, do you think Bullock would mind if I took off for Sweden for six months?
  • And now, for Eileen at In the Middle, a random picture of Pippi, “the super model of dogs,” as I called her at NCS. (Yes, that’s right, Pippi came up in the discussion at the blogging panel at NCS. She’s famous!) Here she is, hittin’ the road at the end of summer (photo by Bullock, dog wrangling by me):

>What do Puritans and my dog have in common?

>Answer: They both object to Nativity scenes.

Yesterday evening the neighbors set up their garish Nativity scene on their patio and plugged it in to glow its tacky plastic glow all evening. It’s one of those molded plastic numbers that light up from inside, which brings new meaning to the Christmas song lyric, “…With their faces all aglow!” They used to put it out front, but the baby Jesus was stolen one year, so now they set it up in back. (Hmph. Serves them right for putting out baby Jesus *before* Christmas!) Last year they set it up around the concrete goose already back there — you know those ones that you can dress up, that people often have on their front stoops? — and gave the goose a Santa hat as it gazed upon the baby Jesus. Yeah, I know, it boggles the mind.

Anyway, this was all done while Pippi was indoors and paying more attention to Bullock’s pork roast* than anything outside. But when we let outside before bed time, she quickly spied the tacky ensemble, raced over to the neighbor’s fence, raised her hackles and barked at it in her “I don’t like you one bit — back off!” bark, which she usually reserves for the poor UPS men, all of whom are terrified of her. (This bark is not to be confused with her “hey you cat/raccoon, get out of my yard!” bark of mild warning or her “squirrel! squirrel! omg, squirrel! must get the squirrel!” Technicolor whine of madness.)

She has since made her peace with the set in the daylight — thank god, for us and the neighbors (whom I like, despite their lapses in taste) — but she still occasionally gives it the stink eye when she sees it from the corner of her eye and momentarily mistakes it for a threatening intruder.

I think my dog may be a French Huguenot (well, she *is* a Brittany). Either that or she just has good taste.

*With no kids and no old people this Thanksgiving, we chucked the whole turkey tradition. Who wants turkey when you can have pork??

>Weeeeee!!!!

>
That’s Pippi running with a friend at “dog camp” while Bullock and I were in Paris last month. Our trainer/boarder took this picture and others, and gave them to us in an envelope on which was written, “What I did on my vacation…” Vacation is right! Doesn’t Pippi look like she’s having fun? Lisa, her trainer/boarder, has a 5-acre lot of land and the dog run is at least a full acre. I don’t know the other dog, but in all the pictures s/he was either with Pippi or on her way over to Pippi. Clearly they made fast friends! And I have to say — what a good idea to take pictures, especially for those of us who were boarding our furry family member for the first time!

Pippi’s not the only department dog who goes to Camp Lisa, as we call it. We learned about it from our friend Victoria, and the department secretary — whom I shall call Wonder Woman — has also trained and boarded her dog there. It’s a popular place — with good reason.

Anyway, I offer this in lieu of a substantive posting, which I hope will return soon!