Bracing up

We will draw a veil over the months of intermittent pain, and the recent visit to a very annoying orthopedist who needs training in how to listen and how to answer questions. The bottom line is that for the next two weeks I will be laced into what I am trying to think of as an ankle corset.

A corset, after all, can be sexy, an object of fantasy and fetish. Much more attractive than a brace.

But when you think about the basic purpose of corsets, it gets hard to keep up the fantasy. They constrict; they make it hard to move at a brisk or even normal pace. If worn, now, as outer wear, they are clearly costume. If worn for their original purpose, modern clothing does not fit well over them; once more, you wind up in costume.

And this is what is happening to me, and my plans for an English travel wardrobe. Most of my shoes, particularly those I was going to take with me, do not fit once I’m laced into the ankle corset. It hides under trousers, but looks fairly awful with a skirt. Part of me says, “Who cares? Dress as you like down to the ankles, and then if you’re in brace and special shoes, it’s clear you’re making an effort despite your impairment.” And part of me says, “I’d rather hide it. I cannot bring myself to wear athletic shoes with a skirt, in London, where most people are well dressed.”

So I went shopping. Instead of a skirt, I’m taking another pair of trousers, and I bought two pair of shoes that are flat, hideous, comfortable, and not white with colored trim. One pair of black lace-ups, work shoes, the next thing to hiking shoes; one pair of brown Mary Janes, with bold stitching and wide toes, cute if you like sporty German-style casual shoes, which I’m not usually a fan of. I’m more the penny-loafer type. But I need flat shoes that can both accommodate the brace and fit the unbraced foot, hence lace-ups and adjustable straps. And multiple pairs of socks.

I thought about substituting a pair of lace-up boots for the brace; then I could have gone neo-Victorian in style: a little costume-y, but within academic tolerances, and perhaps not inappropriate for my itinerary. But the ones I have don’t lace high enough, and it is not a good time of year to buy boots in local stores. There wasn’t time to order online and take delivery before I leave. So I’m bracing myself.

It’s not as if anyone is going to notice or care. It’s just that I tend to deal with my travel anxiety by obsessing over the clothes I pack, and I dislike having the plan disrupted at the last minute.

Dream jobs

I didn’t see this post of Ink’s till a bit late to comment. But I loved the question and the answers. In many ways, my dream job is the one I have, tarted up a bit (as many of the other people who commented seem to have felt). I like the idea of teaching Latin to enthusiastic students and spending summers in the Mediterranean; being a curator of medieval manuscripts would be great; or maybe I could be the engineer who invents Belle’s “poof” machine for idiots.

And finally, I would love to be in charge of caring for big cats at a really good zoo.


30 June – 3 July: London
3 – 5 July: Oxford
5 – 8 July: Cambridge
8 – 13 July: Exeter

Overlapping dates are travel days, starting one place and ending up in the other.

If anybody overlaps with me anywhere, and would like a blogger meet-up, drop me a line.

There goes the neighborhood

Our living room usually has one or more empty carboard cartons lying on their sides, because the cats enjoy playing and sleeping in or on top of them. When they get bored with one, we recycle it and get a carton of a different shape. I buy groceries at a store that gives the option of getting a box rather than bags, so we have many opportunities to get new and exciting boxes.

To encourage peaceful interactions when Basement Cat is out among the other cats, I have taken to sprinkling catnip inside the largest box. It keeps the nip from getting spread all over the house.

We’ve started referring to that box as “the crack house.”

This place has really gone downhill since Basement Cat moved in.


Got a flight. Not on an Airbus. Making the distinction is probably pointless, but allows me to assert a smidgen of control as I yield my life into the hands of engineers, mechanics, pilots, and whatever other personnel can influence whether I live or die on my next trip through the air.

(Query: is space opera my version of horror fiction? Is dying outside planetary atmosphere really any worse?)

Next I’ll have to organize places to stay in London and Cambridge, since I’m not actually planning to die before I get there (the scholar’s maximum horror: I will find out something crucial and die on the way home, before I can do anything about it!). Oxford and Exeter are taken care of already. I have a couple of familiar London hotels to contact, but I’ve never been to Cambridge: any advice, either about lodging or dealing with CUL?

(Ignore the jitters. I always do this. This is what Xanax is for. Better research through chemistry.)

Keeping track

I’m re-visiting the journal meme. Even though I have a research journal and a teaching journal (lab notebooks in different colors), lately I’m using my personal journal as a repository for thoughts about both teaching and research.

There are various reasons for this. For one, since a friend of mine said she couldn’t remember anything much from the first year after her mother died, I decided to try to ward off any such memory loss by writing more regularly about the events of the day or week, so that I’d have a record even if my brain refused to hold on to things. For another, I tend to use the notebooks to record definite plans or report on what I have actually done (wrote 530 words on Project X; e-mailed with Grad Student Y about a chapter; made up a quiz to go with the Shorter Poems unit). Then there’s that keeping-up-with-thoughts problem: I can type about as fast as I’m thinking, but I can’t write that quickly, so if I’m trying to work out what I think, I want to type.

Why not use some other document(s)? I could have a thinking-it-through journal in the Teaching directory on my computer. But thoughts come to me when I’m writing about other things. Life, research, and teaching plans seem more interconnected, these days, than they used to. And as far as finding things again, I am a strongly associative thinker.

That is, if I’m trying to remember where/when I wrote about teaching plans for Fall 2009, I don’t automatically think “dated document in Teaching folder.” I think, OK, it was right before I had to serve as outside reader on that dissertation defense in History, I was in my study looking things up and piling books on my desk when I’d just cleared the desk of all the post-K’zoo piles, I had to stop Basement Cat from chewing on Gower, it was around the time Sir John and I were scheduling dinner with his dissertation director . . . and all of that makes it easier to search in the Journal folder than in the Teaching folder.

I guess what I’m saying is that my journal is becoming my brain’s external hard drive for all kinds of stuff. The kind of associative thinking I do makes it easier to find things organized temporally (I start a new journal document each month) than by topic, even though organizing by topic seems like it would make more sense.

It seems like a good sign that my journal is filling up with thoughts about teaching and research, and how to integrate them. In recent years, it had a lot of thoughts about my parents and things I should do for them or encourage them to do, guilt about not visiting as often as my mother would have liked, worry about their situation. I am now giving (am now able to give) more attention to my own life than to theirs. It looks as if my work is my life . . . and I’m okay with that. I went into this field because I loved it, after all, and because I wanted my work to be my play. It isn’t always, of course (how I want a Grade-o-Matic!). But it’s nice to find that work is something I want to think about and write about, these days.

Bad timing

So I’m supposed to be going to England in about a month, or maybe less, yet I still have not booked a flight. I tend to put these things off, because I’m afraid of flying. I understand the physics; I recognize that terrorism doesn’t happen very often; what I fear is mechanical error, systems errors, pilot error.

I woke up this morning and thought OK, I’m going to do it.

Brought in the newspaper, and saw the Air France 447 coverage.

I haven’t done it.

The last week has not been a good one. I had a birthday, the first one since my mother died; no one I’m biologically related to remembered it. I attended the funeral of a friend’s father. I can’t find various important receipts (probably due to the parentally-induced brain trauma of the past year), and my study is a wreck. I need to start the summer over, but I feel more like going back to bed with a pile of space-opera sci-fi and pretending that my real career involves translation from alien languages, interstellar diplomacy, and shooting bad guys with tentacles.