January 31, 2007
Why I'm Not An Historian (Anymore)
Kisha's recent post reminded me of just why I gave up on my brilliant career as an historian. Historians suffer some of the world's worst working conditions. Okay, that is probably an exaggeration -- it would (probably) be worse to work in a third-world sweatshop for pennies a day -- but considering that we are Americans with close to a decade of post-college education, our working conditions are abominable.
Granted, faculty positions can be pretty cushy for tenured professors, but in order to reach that near-mythical status, one must spend quite a bit of time in the dreaded archives, the subject of Kisha's post. In the archives, you can't eat, drink, or go to the bathroom. The chairs are uncomfortable and the documents are dirty. The archives can get away with treating historians like that because we aren't employees of the archives. Believe me, however, if the archivists couldn't eat, drink, or go to the bathroom all day, OSHA would close down the archives. Furthermore, when you think about the fact that grad students are paid on average about $15,000 a year for an average of about 60 hours a week, that works out to about $5 an hour, less than the federal minimum wage. Add on to that the fact that we have higher than average living costs because we have to travel to the archives and pay ridiculous amounts of money to stay in sub-standard housing while we are there (in London, I paid $50 a night to stay in a dorm), and it gets even worse.
The worst archive I worked in was the Public Records and Archive Administration Department in Accra, Ghana. The catalogs were scattered on the floor, half were missing, and the archivists kept the most important ones hidden. But what really bothered me was the bathroom situation. To begin with, it was kept locked, so I had to suffer the indignity of asking the archivists for the key whenever I wanted to use it. One would think that a locked bathroom would stay relatively clean, but not so. Just imagine what could be all over the walls, floors, and other surfaces of a bathroom. It was. Finally, there was toilet paper only for archivists and not for researchers. They got it out of their locked desk whenever they used the bathroom, but didn't give it to us! It was particularly disheartening to hear from another American historian there that Ghana's archives were better than most in Africa. After the first day, I just didn't eat or drink all day (since I couldn't do so in the archive anyway) in order to avoid having to go to the bathroom. I returned to the US 10 lb lighter than when I left.
So now that I have spent all this time complaining about the archives, you may be wondering why I work in one. I have addressed this in a previous post, but Kisha's post reminded me of more reasons why it's better to be an archivist than an historian. To begin with, as an employee of an archive, I have to be paid at least minimum wage and all of the usual OSHA standards apply to my working conditions. But I think I work in the world's best archive because researchers don't ever have to come here. All of our holdings are digitized, so scholars can download our materials from the comfort of their homes and offices, sandwich in hand if they so choose. They don't have to fly to Detroit or pay the exorbitant Ann Arbor hotel rates. For this reason alone, being a sociologist or political scientist (our main clientele) is way better than being an historian. Unfortunately, I didn't think of that before I applied to grad school.
Now if only someone could digitize historical documents...
January 30, 2007
Five Things You Might Not Know
My friend Janet tagged me with this meme -- five things you might not know about me:
1. I sleep with two stuffed animals, a pig and a cow. They are both male (don't ask how I know, I just do), but David doesn't mind. The pig was a gift from my grandmother when I was about six. His name is Porkchop. My mom gave me the cow when I started college because I had had a dream about a baby cow. His name is Cow. You can tell how creative I am. I'll probably name my first child Kid. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and can't find Cow; he is small and likes to go exploring in the big bed. When this happens, I can't get back to sleep until I find him.
2. My first job was at an ice cream store. Everyone told me I would get sick of ice cream, and I secretly hoped they were right, but I never did.
3. I hate swimming. It's actually not so bad once I get in the water, but I hate anticipating getting wet, and I'm not a big fan of being cold either.
4. I used to love cooking, but now I avoid it as much as possible. If I could have a personal chef, I wouldn't mind never having to cook again.
5. I proposed to David less than six months into our relationship. He said no.
January 29, 2007
Et Tu Brute?
Last night I went out with my friend Diana to celebrate her 26th birthday (!) and she told me to check my History Department mailbox because teaching evaluations from last semester had come in. Eager to see them, I set out extra-early this morning (6:45) so I could stop by the History Department on my way to work. Let's just say, I shouldn't have.
To begin with, my 1pm section didn't even bother to turn in their evaluations. That's right -- out of my 37 students, I only had 16 evaluations. I opened the evaluations for my 10am section first. This section had been my favorite to teach and, judging by the midterm evaluations, I really thought they liked me. But I was wrong. All of my scores were between 3.13 and 4.20 (on a five-point scale), and most were in the bottom quartile for the university as a whole. Even though I had very few scores of one or two (strongly disagree or disagree with statements such as "one real strength of this discussion section was in the classroom discussion"), I was surprised at how many threes (neutral) I got. Please, kids, have an opinion! My highest scores were on "the discussion instructor seemed to enjoy teaching" and "the discussion instructor was friendly." What bothered me the most, however, was that only two of the nine respondents in this section took the time (and I gave them plenty of time) to answer the open-ended questions. One person actually did answer all five of these questions, demanding "more light, individual work." What is the point of coming to a discussion section if the instructor has students work individually? Another person simply said "this discussion was largely unhelpful" and nobody else wrote anything. I have to admit that I'm pretty pissed off at these kids for giving me low scores and not even explaining why.
Opening the 9am evaluations made me feel a little better. My lowest score on those was 3.67 ("I reconsidered many of my former attitudes") and all of the other scores were above 4.25. I even got unanimous fives on "overall, the discussion instructor was an excellent teacher." That warmed my heart. These students did answer the open-ended questions, saying things like "the quality of instruction was excellent, Emily was friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
She listened well and always gave positive feedback on responses;" "Emily was such a viable component to our success. Whether fielding questions, providing her own, or engaging us in debate, she was always there to help;" "Emily was an amazing GSI. Her passion for the subject clearly showed whenever she was teaching...She was very good at getting everyone to participate in duscussion and understood that some people, though they aren't necessarily vocal are actively participating and listening. She even got me to speak a lot in duscussion section and that says a lot." The worst comment I got from this section was "9:00 is too early."
So what were those 10am kids thinking?
January 28, 2007
Holding a Grudge
Last week, David rented The Illusionist. I made it through about half of the movie before I had to go to bed, and David was surprised that I was reluctant to watch the rest of it the next day. Yes, it was a pretty good movie, but I just can't stand Jessica Biel, the lead actress. When I told David, he gave me a puzzled look and asked what I have against her. Granted, she hasn't been in enough good movies for me to have a strong opinion about her acting capabilities, but what I have against her goes far beyond her on-screen performance: she was rude to me when I worked at Starbucks. There I was, nineteen years old and slinging coffee on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica to make some money and keep myself out of trouble the summer after my first year of college, and in walks sixteen-year-old Jessica Biel. I recognized her from the television show Seventh Heaven (though I'm terribly embarrassed to admit that now!) and, when she got to the front of the line, I asked her if I could help her and her male companion. She sneered at me, told me in a super-snotty voice that they didn't need any help, and then went and sat down at a table without having ordered any coffee! David pointed out that it would have been more grammatically correct for me to have said "may I help you" instead of "can I help you," but her response wasn't smart, it was just rude. And, yes, I'm still holding a grudge almost nine years later.
January 27, 2007
Because I know you were all very concerned, dear readers, I thought I would let you know that I found the missing Bukeye hat, which was hiding behind the box where I keep all my winter accessories. I'm not sure, though, why I didn't find it last week, when I took the whole box off the shelf where it lives and removed all of its contetents. Perhaps Mr. M--- returned it when he came by to take David to the Earle on Wednesday night. In any case, I'm glad to be able to show my true colors ;)
January 26, 2007
Those Wacky Pollsters
My favorite thing about my job is the amount of bizarre information I come across. While working on the documentation for the November 1995 ABC News HMO Poll, I learned that the second-to-last question was, verbatim: "what's your favorite on Thanksgiving dinner -- the turkey, the stuffing or the cranberry sauce?" The last question was, "is that the white meat or the dark meat?" I kid you not. If I were a sociologist, I could use this dataset to write a dissertation on whether or not there is a correlation between liking dark meat and having a particular type of health insurance.
In case you're wondering, out of 1005 respondents, 487 (48.5%) preferred turkey, 356 (35.4%) preferred stuffing, 117 (11.6%) liked the cranberry sauce best, 27 (2.7%) expressed a different favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal, 4 (.4%) don't celebrate Thanksgiving, and 3 (.3%) had no preference. Of the 487 who answered turkey, 318 (65.3%) prefer white meat, 115 (23.6%) prefer dark meat, 53 (10.9%) like both equally, and one person (.2%) refused to answer.
I'ts All in the Timing
David has a knack for telling me things he thinks I won't want to hear at the time I am least likely to react or even register what he is telling me. For example, he didn't tell me that he voted for George Bush in the 2000 presidential election until the morning after our first date. Last night, he asked me if I remembered him telling me that he gave money to John McCain. I hadn't remembered, and it turned out that I didn't remember because he had told me when I was asleep! Apparently, though, we had had a whole conversation about it on Wednesday night when David came to bed. I know he isn't making this up because I am a sleep-talker and frequently have entire conversations with David without waking up. Sometimes they make sense, as our conversation about John McCain apparently did, and sometimes they don't, like the time I told David that I couldn't smell him commuting, whatever that means. Sometimes the converations seem to make sense, but I'm saying something totally inaccurate. Last Wednesday night, long after I had gone to bed, David asked me what I was doing for lunch the next day, and -- without waking up -- I told him I was going to Amer's. On Thursday, he called me at work to ask when I was going to head over to Amer's, I replied that it was Thursday and I only go to Amer's on Tuesdays. So David pretty much knows that he can tell me anything when I'm asleep, and I'll most likely reply, so he can say that he told me, but he won't have to face the consequences the next day!
January 25, 2007
Welcome to the Twenty-First Century
David and I have finally become full-fledged citizens of the twenty-first century. That's right: we have cell phones! David did his research, figured out which plan and which phones we should get, and ordered them from Amazon. They arrived in Tuesday's mail, so we charged them up Tuesday night and were ready to activate them on Wednesday.
Even though we have resisted the cell phone craze for about the past decade -- or perhaps because we held out for so long -- we were pretty excited to finally have cell phones. We set up our voicemail, entered contact lists, changed our ringtones, and set the wallpaper. I even used mine to take a picture of David! When my new phone rang for the first time, I was delighted, and ran to answer it, even though I had just stepped out of the shower. This morning I made two calls on my way to work, but I think it was a bit early for the people I was calling -- they still had their phones turned off.
Ultimately, we will ditch the land line and have that number transferred to David's cell phone. He brought the phone number into our relationship (he has had it since about 1994), and so he called dibs on it: when I moved in with him I had to agree that he could keep the number if we ever broke up. I'm surprised he didn't have me sign a prenup for it when we got married. In any case, my new number is very easy to remember, so email me if you want it. Or just call the old number and ask David for my new number ;)
My next knitting project? A cell phone cozy!
January 24, 2007
I officially start work at 7:30am, which is early enough, but today I got in at seven, not for any good reason, just because I could. I usually talk on the phone from 6:30 to seven and then leave for work, but today I didn't have my phone calls, so I was ready to go at 6:30. It is always dark and pretty quiet out when I walk in, which surprised me on my first day. I really expected the sun to be at least partially up by seven, but I guess that, since Ann Arbor is on the far west side of the Eastern time zone, the sun rises here about an hour after it rises on the East Coast. Today it was even darker and quieter. The joggers and dog walkers who might be out at seven are definitely not out at 6:30, and I only saw one other brave soul walking to work. Walking down Main Street, the only business open that early is Starbucks, and the Christmas lights in the trees are still lit from the night before. It almost feels like going to work at night. The nice thing about going in early in the morning is that it is still light when I walk home in the afternoon. David and I are pretty much on opposite schedules: he walks in to work in the daylight and walks home in the dark. In fact, we are on opposite schedules in just about every way -- some nights we only overlap in bed for about four hours, and there are days when he has his first meal while I'm having dinner! It is actually kind of a nice arrangement because I can take care of early morning business and he can take care of late night business. The problem, however, is that we don't get to see a whole lot of each other, and sometimes I wonder if there is some kind of law of nature preventing us from being in the same place at the same time for too long.
January 23, 2007
"Where'd you get that Buckeye hat?" my father-in-law asked last Wednesday as I bundled up to go out to the Earle. Although he grew up in Ohio, Mr. M--- has always been a Michigan fan. He moved here with David and the rest of the family in the early 1970s, and immediately got season tickets for Michigan football, which they still have. To him, anything even remotely resembling red just screams Ohio State. For the record, my hat is not red and gray -- it is pink and oatmeal -- and I made it several years ago, before I even knew what a Buckeye was or why I should hate Ohio State. Nevertheless, it was still too close for Mr. M---, though he told me that David's Uncle Bob, who still lives in Ohio and fervently supports OSU football, would love it.
Two days later, my Buckeye hat had gone missing. I know I wore it home on Thursday night and wore a different hat Friday, and now I can't find it anywhere. I thought Mr. M--- was just joking about it being a Buckeye hat, but maybe he was really offended by it and somehow engineered its disappearance. It is all very mysterious...
January 22, 2007
Cars, Cars, Cars
Yesterday David and I went to the North American International Auto Show with our colleague Dieter. Several friends expressed surprise when I told them we were going, but David and I are probably slightly more into cars than the average person. After all, he grew up in (the suburbs of) Detroit and I in (or just outside) Los Angeles, two very car-obsessed cities. And we are car snobs: we won't go near an automatic transmission and we turn up our noses at anything American, with the exception of pickup trucks, in which case the Ford F-150 is the only way to go.
We all enjoyed different things about the auto show: Dieter liked the music, David liked the spokesmodels, and I liked the people watching. David's favorite car was probably the Saturn electric concept car, followed by the Mini Cooper convertible and the Volvo C30, which is not yet available in the US. I didn't see anything I liked better than our 2001 Volkswagen GTI. Even the new GTI didn't impress me.
David and I have pretty similar tastes in cars -- we both like small cars, both for the gas mileage and because we enjoy being able to zip around other cars and park in tight spots. If I had to choose a car from the auto show to actually drive, it would be the Honda Fit. What I don't get, however, is why people keep saying it is such a small car. "Small" cars must have gotten a lot bigger over the past couple of decades because even this car, which was designed to be small, is quite a bit larger than the 1984 Honda Accord I had when I was nineteen. I have always had a thing for Hondas but, when we got our car, David insisted on a hatchback so that we could haul around a lot of stuff, and Honda wasn't making a hatchback then. Now I'm glad we have the GTI because it is a lot of fun, but David still has to make several trips each spring and fall to buy enough mulch for our garden. His solution: buy a pickup truck as a second car for mulch time. My solution: "mulch? Who needs mulch?"
January 21, 2007
A Solution to the Energy Crisis
Yesterday I encountered a group of kids just bouncing off the walls -- running, screaming, everything -- and I wondered why kids have so much energy. Oh yeah, it's because they don't work. Maybe those nineteenth-century factory owners who employed children actually had the right idea. With all that energy, child workers could probably be pretty productive. I suggested this idea to my ex-boyfriend Erik, who is a pediatrician, and thus knows more about children than I do, and he was skeptical that child energy could actually be focused in that way. After all, kids' energy is totally random, which is why they have trouble sitting still and concentrating in school. But, he continued, if we could hook them up to some kind of giant hamster wheel and harness their energy to a generator, we might just have a solution to the energy crisis. Parents' productivity would also go up because they wouldn't have to spend as much time running around after their children. I think Erik has a real solution on his hands, but he is hesitant to propose it to anyone, for fear that he might get kicked out of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
January 20, 2007
It snowed all day yesterday, creating the perfect conditions for donuts. No, not fried circles of dough with a hole in the middle, but the kind you do in a car. I had heard rumors of such tricks back in California, but without snow (back in my day, before all this global warming nonsense, snow in Los Angeles was unheard of), there was always too much friction between the tires and the road to make a car spin. And no, mom, I never tried it -- it was simply a thought experiment :)
Last night, I had some things to do after work and told David I would be home shortly after nine. When it got to be close to ten and there was still no sign of me, David got in the car and set out to find me, which he did just about a block from our house. When I got in the car, he told me that he wanted to find a parking lot. I reminded him that we are married now, and therefore we don't have to "park," but he didn't want to park in the parking lot, he wanted to slide around in it. It had to be a fairly large lot, with no other cars, so we ended up at Pioneer High School. I was actually pretty relieved to see how difficult it was for him to make the car spin: first he had to take off the traction control and, since our car is front-wheel drive, he had to put it in reverse. The craziest thing about it, though, is that we had company sliding around out there in the parking lot; at least one other person had the exact same idea of how to have fun on a Friday night.
January 19, 2007
That's How Rumors Get Started
"So," I said to David yesterday, "have you heard that I'm pregnant?"
"Is that the new rumor?" he replied.
Apparently, friends of ours have been speculating on why we got married at the beginning of January on very short notice, and pregnancy seemed like the most obvious explanation. I guess it makes sense, but David and I were the last to know!
So, if I'm not pregnant, why did we get married when we did? Really, it was just because we could. We had been engaged for three years, but couldn't get married when I was in grad school because I had a need-based fellowship and would have lost a significant amount of funding if I had married someone with a full-time job. When I decided to leave grad school, we could finally get married. Why such short notice? The less time we had to plan the wedding, we figured, the less time we would have to stress out about it!
January 18, 2007
One of the things I disliked most about being a historian was working in the archives. And what am I doing now? I'm working full-time in an archive. But being an archivist is totally different from being a reader. Being a reader is like being a long-term guest in your fusty great-aunt's house, while being an archivist is like having your own house.
Working at ICPSR, I have my own office (okay, it's actually a cubicle, but it is quite large) that I can decorate and dwell in. When I get in to work, I can take off my coat, get a cup of coffee, and settle in. I can leave personal items here overnight and I have a picture of my husband on my desk. As a reader at the various archives I used in London, I had to put all my stuff into a locker, taking with me only what I could fit into a transparent plastic bag. In the National Archives of Ghana, they didn't even have lockers or bags -- I just had to leave my stuff at the door, bringing in only notebook and pencil. And that was the other thing -- as a reader, I could only use pencils with no erasers. As an archivist, I can use pens, highlighter, erasers, whatever. As a reader, I hated not being able to retrieve documents myself (especially when the archivists didn't know where they were), and I resented the stupid rules about how many boxes I could have out at a time. At the Bodleian Library I even had to swear an oath not to light a match in the library. Maybe if they just turned the heat up a little, I wouldn't have to burn documents to stay warm! I'm also allergic to dust, which frequently made handling the documents unpleasant. As a reader, I couldn't drink water or coffee while I worked, and had to leave the reading room every time I got thirsty or had to pee, getting searched on the way out and having to show ID to get back in. What a pain! Here I have my water and coffee right on my desk, and the bathroom is just around the corner. As a reader, I was just a visitor: the staff treated me with suspicion (I wasn't even allowed to wear a jacket in the freezing-cold Wellcome Library because they thought I would try to smuggle documents out) and none of the other readers wanted to talk to me because they were busy doing their own work. Here I work with other people (nice people, who I like), and I can always chat with them when I need human contact.
ICPSR is also a very different kind of archive than the ones I used as an historian because we archive data rather than documents. Our data is all stored in computers, so readers don't come here to use it; they simply download it from our website. Furthermore, no documents means no dust and no boxes to lift, cart around, or shelve. It also means that preserving our data and its documentation is a technological problem rather than the physical problem of document preservation: rather than worrying how to keep paper from crumbling, we worry about how to maintain computer files that will still be useful when various software packages become obsolete.
But the best part of being an archivist rather than a reader is that I get paid more :)
January 17, 2007
Over the weekend, a friend of mine had about fifteen women over to her house to watch The Secret, a DVD about the law of attraction, which says that you attract what you feel and think about. For example, if you dwell on your problems, you attract more problems. If, instead, you visualize something you want and bring yourself into alignment with it, it will come to you.
Before last weekend, I wouldn't have given much credence to this supposed law of nature. In fact, it has always seemed to me that the more I thought about and imagined a certain scenario, the less likely it was to come about. But last weekend, the movie spoke to me much more powerfully because I had just experienced a rather bizarre occurrence of the law of attraction. I had attracted a new bag.
Now I know this sounds terribly mundane, but I had been thinking for a while that I needed a new bag. Specifically, I needed a knitting bag, but I was hoping to find one that would double as a purse. Without even realizing that I was practicing visualization, I spent a lot of time fantasizing about what I wanted this bag to look like. I didn't specifically go shopping for a bag, but I kept my eyes open when I went into a store that I thought might have one. Then, last Tuesday night, a friend told me that she had something in her car for me -- a Sak purse that her daughter didn't want anymore. Not knowing what a Sak even was, I almost told her that I had plenty of purses, but instead I went with her to her car, thereby putting myself into alignment with my new bag. When she opened her trunk, there it was: a bag in a beautiful shade of green, large enough for knitting, my wallet, and my planner -- it was the bag I had been dreaming about.
So now that I have successfully attracted a bag, I'm trying to think about what else I want. How about a personal chef, so I never have to cook again?
January 16, 2007
In the course of making a gift for a friend (yes, I'm being a bit cryptic here because I don't want to spoil the surprise), I learned (from an online tutorial) how to knit two tubes at the same time on two circular needles.
As is probably obvious even to non-knitters, circular needles were invented for knitting tubes: you just go around and around and there it is. The catch, however, is that the circumference of the tube must be at least as large as the length of the needle, and the shortest circs I have ever seen are nine inches. Nine inches is still too large for socks, mittens, and the project I made over the weekend. In situations like this, knitters usually resort to double-pointed needles (dpns). Even on a hat, the bulk of which can be knit on a circ, it is necessary to switch to dpns to decrease at the top of the head because the circumference gets too small for circs. Double-pointed needles work very well, as long as you don't accidentally pull one out of the stitches thinking that it is the working needle. They are also much slower than a circular needle because you are constantly switching from one to the next. There is also the issue of the dreaded ladder.
The cool thing about circular needles is that they are flexible, so you can put half the stitches for the tube on one circ and the other half on the other circ, and the flexibility of the needle accommodates the curve of the tube. You simply knit the stitches from one needle onto the other side of the same needle. With two circs, there are only two joins, rather than the three or four you have with dpns, and the flexibility of the needles helps to prevent ladders. On two circs, because you are simply going across each side, rather than around and around, you can knit two (or more) tubes at once, simply by casting them on one after the other from two separate balls of yarn. You then knit the first side of the first tube, switch yarns, knit the first side of the second tube, switch needles, knit the second side of the second tube, switch yarns, and knit the second side of the first tube. In theory, it is all very logical, but in practice, my yarn kept getting tangled. The benefit, however, is that you avoid "second sock syndrome" -- both are done at the same time.
It was fun to learn a new technique, but I felt a bit silly sitting in a giant chair at Sweetwaters (free wireless) knitting with my computer balanced on my lap!
January 15, 2007
We have had quite a bit of freezing rain over the past few days, a natural phenomenon that is still quite new for me as an erstwhile Californian. Needless to say, in Los Angeles we didn't have freezing anything, except ice cream, and I had never even heard of such things as sleet, freezing rain, or ice storms until I moved to Ann Arbor. I knew to expect snow, but it didn't occur to me that there was anything in between rain and snow.
We don't get ice storms very often, but we had a pretty spectacular one my first winter in Ann Arbor. I woke up one morning and the world was encased in a thick sheet of ice. When I got down to the lobby of my apartment, David was waiting to escort me to work. It was only a ten-minute walk from where I lived at the time, but he knew I would never get there on my own. Before we set out, he sent me back upstairs to change my clothes, telling me to put on my snow boots and tuck my pants into them. Tuck my pants into my boots? The indignity! But I was glad for this instruction when I stepped on what looked like solid ice and landed ankle-deep in dirty slush. David was puzzled about why I had stepped there -- to him, it was obviously not solid. "Give me a break," I replied, "I was raised in captivity!"
This morning's walk to work wasn't nearly so treacherous because it has been warm enough that the sidewalk wasn't frozen. Nonetheless, the trees are all coated with ice, producing the distinct impression that I was walking through an enchanted forest. The whole world seems different after an ice storm because the ice weighs down the trees, so branches that are usually well above my head are instead right in my path. Add to that the fact that I walk to work in the dark and, with moonlight glinting off the ice, it truly felt magical.
January 14, 2007
I woke up today at about three am with the sudden realization that I can't put it off any longer. I need a haircut. Unlike most women, I'm not a big fan of haircuts. In fact, for me, getting a haircut rates just above going to the gynecologist, and I do it about as often. I think I don't like getting haircuts because it forces me to face the reality of my hair: it isn't quite blond and it isn't quite straight, but it isn't anything else either, and it never looks quite how I imagine it should look.
My last haircut was around mid-July, and my hair has grown quite a bit since then. In fact, the haircut has grown out to the point where it just doesn't make sense anymore: what used to be cute layers when my hair was only chin-length amounts to a shaggy, scraggly mess now that my hair is shoulder-length. I hadn't even noticed that my hair had grown so much because I wore it in pigtails for about six months. Now, not only is it way too long, but it is also abnormally fluffy, and not in a good way. As I said to David last week, I'm getting old lady hair, which isn't fair given that I'm only twenty-seven.
When it got to be a reasonable hour this morning (about eight-thirty), I got out the phone book to try to find a haircut. It turns out, however, that it is impossible to get one's hair cut on Sundays in Ann Arbor. Most salons are open Tuesday through Saturday, and the really daring ones are also open on Monday. Given that most of the world works Monday through Friday, I would think that a salon would get a lot more business on Sunday than on Monday, so it makes more sense to be closed on Monday if the stylists want to have a day off. But, no, Ann Arbor hairstylists just don't cut on Sundays. I wonder if there is some kind of city ordinance prohibiting it...
January 13, 2007
Having been out of the full-time work force for the past three and a half years, I had forgotten what the weekend means. Technically, the weekend is just Saturday and Sunday, both of which were still days of the week when I was in grad school. Certainly in grad school I didn't have class on Saturdays or Sundays, but I had to read, write, meet with classmates, and sometimes even attend lectures. I still set my alarm for 6am, and I still worked about twelve hours, just as I did during the week. Weekends were especially meaningless during semesters when I only had class two or three days a week or when I didn't have class at all. Technically, most of the week should have been weekend, but my days without class were actually my most productive days. That is, until the end of 2005, when it all went to hell. Since then, weekends have been meaningless because I wasn't working period!
But on Friday afternoon, when people around the office started getting this weekend-anticipation buzz, I remembered what it was like back when Saturday and Sunday were magical days. In the working world, the weekend is sixty-three hours in which I don't even have to think about my job. From 4:30pm on Friday, when I leave the office, until 7:30am on Monday, when I return, I am free. I don't have to look at data or think about documentation. The word "homework" is meaningless. In fact, I couldn't take work home with me even if I wanted to because it is all on the ICPSR server, which I can't access from home. I also can't go into the office and work on weekends because I'm not exempt and I haven't been authorized to work overtime. So I am really and truly free. And what am I doing with this free time? Staring at a computer screen -- just like I do at work!
January 12, 2007
Early on in our relationship, David developed the nickname "Troublemaker" for me, and not without good reason: when I am around, xerox machines jam, toilets clog, and coffee makers overflow. I did, however, manage to get through almost three full days at my new job without causing any major disasters, but that streak ended yesterday when I tried to make an afternoon pot of coffee.
It was 2:30pm, I had just finished my lunch, and I knew I wouldn't make it to five unless I had a hot cup of coffee (rather, decaf, but that is another story for another day) in my hands. Given the fact that I have been drinking coffee since I was fifteen and even worked at Starbucks for a whole summer, one would think that I know how to make a pot of coffee. And I do -- in fact, I know how to make a damn good pot of coffee. But I don't always know how to get the coffee into the pot as opposed to on the floor. It seems that each time I use a new coffeemaker, I end up with at least one pot on the floor until I get the hang of it. I did it at David's mom's wedding, I did it in the History Department (fortunately none of my committee members witnessed it!), and yesterday I did it here at ICPSR. I felt particularly stupid yesterday because the problem was that I hadn't inserted the filter holder far enough into the machine, which meant that its hole wasn't lined up with the hole in the top of the coffee pot. Quick action resulted in most of the coffee ending up in my cup and in the water pitcher, but enough landed on the counter and the floor that I used up all the paper towels mopping it up and had to go to the bathroom for more. Perhaps if I had been drinking real coffee instead of decaf I might have noticed that the filter was out of alignment before it was too late. I guess I won't be losing my nickname anytime soon.
January 11, 2007
Sock Number Two
Last night I finished the second of Mike's socks. For the most part, they are beautiful. I wish I had a digital camera so that I could post a picture, but they are various shades of blue in thick stripes. I don't know if I'll be able to wait until his birthday on March 18 to give them to him!
There are, however, a couple of problems. Sock Number One was, for the most part, a lovely sock. As I posted before, however, I accidentally did the toe decreases along the top and bottom of the sock, rather than along the sides. On Sock Number Two, I stuck to four double-pointed needles instead of five and managed to get the toe decreases in the right place. The problem with this sock, however, was that, in order to be extra-careful about getting the toe decreases in the right place, I refrained from doing my handy trick to eliminate ladders. What are ladders? Well, when you knit a tube on double-pointed needles, it is very hard to avoid getting a slight gap where the needles join up. On one round, it isn't noticeable, but when you have that little gap on round after round after round, it produces a row of little gaps, known as a ladder. In general, I avoid ladders by moving the needle break every row. For example, when I knit all the stitches on one dpn, I knit a few more from the next needle without changing my working needle. This trick does a fantastic job of eliminating ladders, and using five dpns instead of four also helps because it reduces the angle at which the needles join (they form a square rather than a triangle).
This trick, however, is what got me into trouble on Sock Number One. The pattern told me that, for the foot, I should use four dpns -- one to work with, one to hold the stitches for the top of the foot, and two to hold the stitches for the sole of the foot. But I said, "forget that -- I'll use five dpns, and split the stitches for the top of the foot up onto two separate needles." I used a stitch marker to keep track of the beginning of the round, conveniently located at the middle of the heel. My ladder-prevention trick also helps keep the stitch marker in place because I never finish a needle at the end of a round. Anyway, when I got to the toe decreases, had I been working with four dpns instead of five, it would have been obvious where the decreases go: at the end of the first needle, beginning and end of the second, and beginning of the third. It is also obvious which needle is which because needle two has twice as many stitches as the other two needles. On five dpns, the decreases go at the end of the first and third needles and the beginning of the second and fourth needles, all of which have the same number of stitches. So far so good. But at that point, my stitch marker slipped off and I lost track of which needle was which! It should have been pretty easy to tell which needle was which, given that needle one starts in the middle of the heel, but I guess I'm just not coordinated enough to tell where the middle of the heel IS!
So Sock Number One has the toes in the wrong place and Sock Number Two has the toes in the right place, but also has ladders. The other problem I ran into with Sock Number Two is that, when I picked up the stitches around the heel, I got some gaps on one side. I managed to avoid them on the other side by knitting into the back of the picked-up stitch and thereby twisting it, but when I got to the next side, I think I picked up the stitches twisted, so when I knit into the back it untwisted them!
I realize that this post probably makes less than zero sense to nonknitters, but suffice it to say that I still have a lot to learn about sock knitting!
January 10, 2007
Feeling the Burn
Last Wednesday I burned my foot. That's right, I burned my foot on the evening of my wedding day. How? By spilling an entire cup of hot tea on it. Fortunately, I was wearing socks and slippers, but somehow the heat went right through. Prior to this incident, I had really thought I was immune to hot water. I worked at Starbucks the summer I was nineteen, and spilled coffee on myself all the time. I was once carrying an entire pot of just-brewed coffee, holding it against my body so that the spout opened and coffee poured right down my leg, and it didn't burn me. I was invincible. But coffee is only 170 degrees, whereas boiling tea water is 212 degrees. I guess that 42 degrees makes all the difference.
At first, my foot was just a little red and tender. Then some parts within the red area started looking purple. A few days later, the red had faded and the purple had deepened. It now looks like an oddly-shaped bruise across the top of my foot. Most of the time, it doesn't hurt, but the top of my super-cute shoes (I would link to a picture, but they have been discontinued and are no longer listed on the Dansko site) digs right into the burn. For the first couple of days, I just wedged a paper towel in there to pad my foot, but after I realized that the burn wasn't going away anytime soon, I invested in bandaging materials. Yesterday I started using antibiotic ointment in addition to the bandage. Somehow, though, the burn doesn't seem to be getting any better. I'm really glad it is on my foot and not a more visible part of my body; I just hope it heals before summer!
January 09, 2007
So here I was on my lunch break, reading Bitch, and there it was: a reference to my new/old employer. Okay, it wasn't a direct reference, and the magazine never actually named ICPSR, but in an interview with Christine Whelan, author of Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women, Whelan mentions that her argument is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics's Current Population Survey. The CPS is, of course, archived right here at ICPSR!
Back to Work
I haven't blogged much about the status of my job search in the past few months, not because I wasn't making any progress, but because I didn't want to jinx anything that was in the works. As of today, I am officially back in the labor force. I have returned to The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (aka ICPSR), which is where I worked before grad school, and also where David works. ICPSR is the world's largest archive of computerized social science data, and is housed right here at the University of Michigan. We archive census data and all kinds of social survey data, including the General Social Survey and the Survey of Consumer Attitudes and Behavior.
My official title is Research Technician Senior, but I haven't quite figured out what that means. I do know, however, that I will be working with my dear friend Sanda on the Data Documentation Initiative. She has already explained to me part of what I will be doing, and I have to admit that it was rather overwhelming.
Coming back to work has been a bit strange. I'm in the same building where I worked before, but in a new cubicle that feels very empty and far away from my work group. I'm grateful that so many of the people I worked with before are still here, but there are some people who have left, and many new people I need to meet. Strangely, I'm having trouble navigating around the building because a whole new wing was added on after I left. Even though I'm still in the old wing, I'm having trouble remembering, for example, how to get from my cubicle to David's office. And it is very bizarre to be working in the same department as David again. People keep asking if we are still an item, and then I get to tell them that we are now married!
January 08, 2007
The Best Wedding Present
David and I didn't really want any wedding presents. Having lived together for over four years, we felt we had everything we needed and didn't want anything we didn't need. After all, stuff we don't need just needs to be stored or disposed of, both of which take time and energy that we would rather devote to other things (like clipping our fingernails). I think David just hates receiving stuff, but what clinched the deal for me was watching a friend of a friend throw a garage sale last summer, simply to sell off wedding presents. She sold a lot of nice stuff, stuff that I really liked, but the point was that she sold it because it was stuff that (at best) gets used once every few years. In theory, I would love to have a set of espresso cups or a crystal vase, but in reality, how often would I really use them? And knowing myself, on the one occasion that I did make espresso (I guess that would also require being given an espresso maker), I would probably forget that I had the espresso cups and just serve it in shot glasses! According to my uncle, the perfect wedding gift is something that we don't need and probably won't use, but that we will be glad to own thirty years from now. Perhaps, but what do we do with it in the meanwhile?
In any case, my parents came up with the absolute perfect wedding present, and now I am convinced that wedding presents can be fun and useful, even if there isn't anything David and I really need. So what did they give us? A gift certificate for a Couples Massage at the Relax Station! A couples massage is a one-hour table massage for two people -- two tables, two massage therapists, one room. So as I was getting my massage, I could listen to David getting his massage. There were also candles and soft music, so the whole thing was very romantic. The only drawback was that my therapist used so much oil that I had to shower as soon as I got home! It did smell nice, though -- lavender.
Thank you, Mom and Dad, not just for the wonderful gift, but for restoring my faith in gift-giving.
January 07, 2007
I got this from Kisha:
|This Is My Life, Rated|
|Take the Rate My Life Quiz|
I seem to be doing very well in love, but less well in mind. Is it rating my intelligence or my sanity? Maybe I'm doing so well in love because I'm insane...
Yesterday I finished sock number one of a pair I am making for David's brother Mike's birthday. I had made one pair of socks several years ago, and then went on a knitting hiatus until about a year ago, and this was my first sock attempt since my return to knitting. I used a beautiful sock yarn from last week's field trip to Lansing, and the sock pattern from The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns. Everything seemed to be going along fine -- except that I somehow ended up picking up eighteen stitches along the heel flaps, rather than the expected fifteen. But I decreased back down to my original number of stitches for the foot, and then decreased again for the toe. It wasn't until after I had successfully grafted it shut with the dreaded Kitchener stitch (named after Lord Kitchener, head of the British War Department in the Boer Woar, who encouraged British women to knit socks for the troops), that I realized I had made the toe decreases along the top and bottom of the foot rather than along the sides! The sock looks fine in two dimensions, but I think this error will make for a rather bunchy toe. At first, I wasn't quite sure how it happened, because I kept careful track of which needles I was using for the decreases. Or so I thought. But I had done one thing differently than the pattern recommended. Instead of working the foot on four double-pointed needles -- two for the sole, one for the top of the foot, and one working needle -- I used five dpns -- two for the sole, two for the top of the foot, and one working needle. With four needles, all with the same number of stitches, I must have somehow got one needle off center when I began working my toe decreases. So then the big question is, do I make the same mistake intentionally on the second sock so that they match, or do I try to do it right? Given that I'm knitting for a man who knows nothing about needlework and probably wouldn't notice if the two socks were slightly different, I think I'll try to do it right, just for the practice. After this sock, however, I think I'm going to swear off dpns and start knitting socks on two circular needles instead. Ideally, I would like to learn how to knit two socks at the same time, because the discipline it takes to turn around and make a second identical sock after finishing the first does not come easily to me.
January 06, 2007
Yesterday my cousin came over for a cup of tea and, when she arrived, asked how the first few days of married life had been. I replied that they had been frustrating, which produced a worried look on her face. It isn't actually the marriage that has been frustrating me (that has been going very well), but the process of changing my name. I had planned to keep my full name and add David's last name on to it, so that I would be Emily Rose K-- M--, but after standing in line for an hour at the Secretary of State (Michigan's version of the DMV), I learned that their computer system will only take three names. So my choices were Emily Rose K--, Emily Rose M--, Emily Rose K-M, or Emily K-- M--. As I have said before, there was no way I would hyphenate. I'm not against it on principal (except that it is only a one-generation solution -- if kids with hyphenated names hyphenated their names, the system would quickly get out of control), but I think it is just wrong to hyphenate when both parties have 8-letter last names. I also didn't want to lose my middle name because I like the sound of Emily Rose. So I exchanged my father's last name for my husband's, and now I have three names that are easy to spell and easy to pronounce. I'll never have to say "Merchant with an M."
After the Secretary of State, I went to one of my two credit unions. David and I have a very complicated banking system. We each have our own checking and savings accounts at two different credit unions. Then at his credit union we also have joint checking and savings accounts that we use for shared stuff like the house. I showed my new temporary driver's license (a big piece of paper with my new name on it, stapled to my old driver's license) to the lady at the credit union. She asked if there was anyone else on my account. "Yes," I replied, "my, um, husband." I think that was the first time I had used the H-word to refer to David. It turns out that she needed his signature too to change my name on the account (what is that all about), so he had to go in the next day and sign as well. The form also asked for my driver's license number, and when I looked at my new temporary license, I realized that I not only had a new name, but a new number as well. In Michigan, the first three numbers of your driver's license are based on your last name, so now David and I have the same first three numbers.
Yesterday, I tried to change the name on my Social Security card. At first I thought I would be able to do it just by calling Social Security, but no such luck. A recording told me that there was a form I had to fill out and send in, along with my marriage license. So then I thought I would just drop by the Social Security office, conveniently located in the Federal Building on Liberty Street. But when I got to the Federal Building, I learned that the Social Security office had moved to the other side of town. I downloaded the form I needed and started filling it out so that I would be all set when I went down there, but I got stuck when I realized that the form required my parents' Social Security numbers in addition to my own. The whole thing is so crazy!
Fortunately, it was much easier to change my name at the video store when David and I went there last night. He just deleted the old name and typed in the new name.
Going through this whole process has made me see why getting married sometimes seems like a bigger deal for women than for men. We got married on Wednesday, and on Thursday David just got up and went to work. He was still the same person, but with a ring on his left hand. I got up on Thursday and didn't know if I was Emily K-- or Emily M--. Not only do I have a whole new identity, but I have to go through miles of bureaucracy in order to put it in place.
January 05, 2007
The Wonders of Technology
Thanks to the miracles of twenty-first century technology, you can now watch our wedding. That's right, just click here:
You can also view still photos here: www.flickr.com/photos/emilyrosemerchant
January 04, 2007
We Did It!
David and I have now been married for twenty-four hours. I have to admit, it doesn't feel any different yet, except that I have a ring on my left hand (I had been wearing my engagement ring on my right hand). It was, however, the absolute perfect wedding. My parents drove us to the Chelsea courthouse, with the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" playing in the car. I got us checked in and paid for the ceremony ($10), while our parents affixed their flowers. After that, we had about fifteen minutes before the ceremony, so we took photographs with just about every permutation of relatives we could think of: David and his brother, me and my cousins, David and me with his parents, with my parents, with my aunt and uncle, etc. Between all the relatives there were five cameras: two film and three digital. I'm working on getting the pictures up on the internet so that our friends can see them.
The ceremony itself only took about two minutes. The judge warned us that marriage is a solemn commitment not to be entered into lightly (he was a very serious older-looking man in judical robes -- I certainly wasn't taking him lightly!), and asked us if we took each other as husband and wife and if we promised to care for each other for the rest of our lives. I had imagined being married to David so many times over the past 5+ years, but I had no idea what it would feel like to actually say "'till death do us part." It was pretty magical. The best part, of course, was what happened after the judge said "you may kiss the bride."
After the ceremony, David stepped on a light bulb that we had brought per my grandfather's instructions. The judge jumped, startled, and admonished David for breaking glass in his courtroom. But it didn't matter -- we were married!
January 03, 2007
T - 5 Hours and Counting
Today is the day -- David and I are getting married at noon! The only thing left to do is pick up our flowers: a bouquet for me, boutonniers for David and our fathers, and corsages for our mothers -- all in orange Gerberra daisies.
Last night we went out for dinner with my side of the family -- mom, dad, aunt, uncle, and two cousins -- to La Shish. None of us had ever been there before, but somehow the restaurant's connection to Hezbollah came up in conversation a few days ago -- my uncle Richard was telling my mother about bad luck in franchising: the Ann Arbor franchise of La Shish opened right before the founder of the chain was indicted for funding Hezbollah. Apparently the restaurant was a front for laundering drug money, which was then funnelled into the Al Mabarrat Association, one of Hezbollah's fundraising organizations. The point of Richard's story was that the owner of the Ann Arbor La Shish is now trying to break the franchise agreement so that customers can eat there without having to feel as though they are funding terrorism. At some point during the conversation, my aunt Lesley suggested that we go there for dinner the night before the wedding, so we did. The food was excellent, but there was way too much of it. My cousin Becky was already full before her entree even came out, and it looked like about four dinners' worth of food. Considering how well they fed us, I don't know how they make any profit at all, much less enough to fund Hezbollah!
Last night I finally understood why it is traditional to go out and get drunk the night before one's wedding: I was so nervous and excited that I didn't think I would sleep at all. Instead of hitting the bar, however, David and I took my dad out for coffee after dinner, and picked his brain about marriage. I have tried asking several people for advice now, but they usually just tell me that I'll figure it out or that David and I should just keep on doing what we have been doing. I think I'm most nervous because, having never been married before, I just don't know what to expect. But after we took my dad back to his hotel, we came home and I got to sleep pretty quickly. When I got up this morning, I was apparently still quite nervous, however, because I cleaned the bathroom before getting into the shower!
January 02, 2007
The Bad News
Yesterday was our last day of free dial-up internet. Today I'm blogging via wireless pirated from my neighbors. We'll see how long that lasts. David and I also tried to get into the pilot project for Washtenaw Wireless, which would give us free wireless months before the rest of Ann Arbor has it, but we haven't heard back yet. Readers, I promise to keep blogging as often as I can, but please bear with me if entries become more sporadic!
Several weeks ago, the Ann Arbor News announced its annual news haiku contest, soliciting haikus about local events over the past year to publish on New Year's Day. I got out a pen, jotted down four haikus on a post-it, and emailed three of them to the News the next day. Despite getting over 500 entries, the News published all three of mine. Because I just can't help bragging, here they are:
July is Art Fair
Art and food, both on a stick
Don't park on my lawn
Bo Schembechler dies
The sun sets on an era
Michigan fans mourn
Build a new high school
See the salamanders run
But what to name it?
I'm so excited -- I never expected to be a published poet!
January 01, 2007
Happy New Year
It is hard to believe that it is already 2007. I feel excited about this year, not only because David and I are getting married in two days (!) but because I just like the number seven, so it has to be a good year. 1997 was a good year -- I graduated from high school and started college -- and I'm beginning this year as an ex-grad student, which to me feels like complete and utter freedom. On the other hand, it also means I'm unemployed and uninsured, but I'm still determined that this will be a good year!
Last night, David and I celebrated the three-year anniversary of our engagement. Three years ago last night, sitting in the Power Dam Express bar (known to David's family as the Powder Dam Inn) in Defiance, Ohio, drinking cans of Rolling Rock, David proposed to me immediately after midnight. The bar patrons counted down, we kissed, and then he got this terribly sentimental look on his face, and asked if I would marry him. I heard him the first time, but made him repeat the question before I said yes. It was far too noisy in the bar to tell David's dad, brother, and uncle, who were sitting there at the table with us, so David leaned over to Mike and said, "Emily and I are getting married, pass it on." Mike told Bill and Bill told Bob and we spent the rest of the evening (early morning, I guess) celebrating.
Last night, David and I were actually standing in line at the Main Street Party Store at midnight. We had left my aunt and uncle's around 11:45, and David needed a couple of grocery items. We tried several stores on the way home, but they were all closed until we got to Main Street. So there we were, waiting to pay for David's milk and ice cream, when midnight hit and the party store owner popped open a bottle of champagne. When we got back to the car, we kissed, and David proposed to me all over again. I replied that I would indeed marry him, in two days!