Friday, 15 April 2011

Shut It Down

Over the past three weeks, I went back to the US for a marathon tour of law schools in New England, reconnected with tons of friends, more-than-friends, and frenemies, made what was probably the most difficult decision of my life, and then linked up with David and Emma in London and went backpacking in Turkey for a week. And at no point during this period of high-stakes decisions, interpersonal dramas, and novel desserts did I feel compelled to write about my day on the internet.

This is either a sign of maturity or a sign that my life has gotten so boring that I don't feel as sassy firing stories out into the ether, but either way, I think it probably means that it's time to shut it down. When I started blogging eight years ago - eeep - it was right after I left Fargo to go to college and knew absolutely nobody, and so nobody I knew read my blog, and it was a good way to brag and vent and process very new experiences to an undifferentiated mass of readers. Now, I think the only people who read my blog are people I know, and I feel weirder about bragging and venting to them, and the experiences don't seem so new, and in any case, the advent of Facebook and Twitter means that I'm more or less covered for my lingering fits of exhibitionist self-performativity.

I've been crap at blogging lately anyway, and I'd rather bow out gracefully than watch my readership continue to dwindle into the double digits. If I resurface and pick up blogging again, it'll be anonymously, and at a time in my life where it serves a purpose that picking up the phone and calling somebody can't quite serve. Until then, know that the glory days of this blog were probably my favorite experience that will never end up on my CV, and wish me luck as I drop offline and try to handle all this on my own. It's been all kinds of fun.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


You know who would risk missing a bus to New York and getting stranded in Cambridge for a Hubbard Park from Darwin's? This guy, like anybody who is reasonable and has good taste in sandwiches.

(I still managed to make the bus, which I am now on and about to eat my priceless sandwich and pass out, because I made every appointment and meeting today despite getting three hours of sleep, most of it on a pre-dawn Greyhound. I'm the definition of classy today.)

Friday, 25 March 2011

Game On

This is the new obsession that is guiding me toward completion and publication of my DPhil. I feel like anthropologists have an unfair advantage in the crazy book titles category, although "Living with Crazy Buttocks" is obviously tough to beat. (That doesn't mean I won't try.)

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

This is the Wire, and We Are Now Down to It

Visiting law schools next week was supposed to give me a solid month to make this decision, which I had kind of envisioned making while sitting in contemplation on a plateau somewhere in Turkey. And then that fell apart yesterday, when all of the financial aid information - and a new batch of deadlines - came through, which turned this into a $160,000 question that requires an answer by April 1.

Obviously, that's like super exciting, and a fantastic opportunity, but it took me ten minutes to decide what to put on my bagel this morning and you can imagine how I've been handling these developments. (I got approximately two hours of sleep last night, and when I spilled a spoon of basmati rice on my sock yesterday, I almost burst into tears.) I've developed Stockholm Syndrome with all four of the schools I'm still considering, and the thought of visiting all of them and then making a decision within 24 hours is kind of terrifying, especially when it involves a kind of financial commitment that makes me uncomfortable even when I'm playing Monopoly. The worst part is that I don't even get to have a revelation in a desert in Cappadocia, and will probably instead be making it on Delta - Delta - somewhere above the Atlantic, at 5am, while watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls on their awful in-flight entertainment and trying to get Rory Gilmore to help me understand how to pick schools before I land at Heathrow and have to phone it in. AWESOME.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Acronym Game

In one paragraph of my DPhil, I've managed to use LGBT, UN, UDHR, ICJ, NGO, ECOSOC, UNGA, and GEAR. One more and I would have a cubed hat trick.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Gross Adventures in Doctoral Study

You know when you read a novel and it says that somebody smelled rotten milk and they retched? And you're like, whatever, plug your nose and I don't understand what the big deal is? Everybody just shut up and leave them alone.

I've never smelled rotten food and almost vomited before, mostly because I pride myself on having a kitchen where I notice when things have been neglected for so long that they are chemically transforming. The same is not true of the basement of my department, which is nominally used by an entire building full of faculty and students but doesn't seem to have anybody specifically tasked with cleaning it. And earlier this week, I opened the kind of gross fridge in the communal kitchen and literally almost threw up. (I didn't, because I have an iron constitution and also because I really wanted coffee and my tiny jug of milk was in that fridge.) It had kind of smelled weird before I left with my brother on vacation, but now it smelled rotten, mostly because everything inside was rotten. Like, there was my milk, but there were also four other things of milk, all of which had curdled, probably weeks ago. There was what appeared to be a piece of bread, which had been completely encased in fuzzy green mold. There was a package of salami labeled "April 4," which had begun to grow moldy, which led me to believe that it was not this April 4, and was possibly not last April 4 either. It was like a Steven King novel.

Except Kathy Bates did not break my knees and make me do it, I did it voluntarily, because I am apparently at the point where I will edit journals and do my taxes and scrape mold out of butter compartments and still think of it as a break from my work. And that is why I spent the next hour taking apart the fridge and scrubbing sheets of mold off the interior so that I can use it instead of walking to our apartment - literally 30 seconds away - for milk. It's probably good that I'm going to the US next week.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Fights in Our Household

RT: "Ooh, sorry I wrecked your progress narrative."

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Caption of the Day

Domestic Bliss

DN: "I've always wanted to get the print edition of the New York Times! We could read it over breakfast in Stamford - you could read the arts and culture section, I could read the science and technology section, and we could burn the sports section for kindle in our fireplace."

The Decemberists

I'm still a total sucker for the Decemberists, and actually really like their latest album, and was totally not ashamed to go into London last night for the sole purpose of seeing them at the Hammersmith Apollo despite the fact that nobody would go see them with me. And that was a good choice, because it is unlikely that I will get a chance to sing a cover of "Night Moves" with 5000 people ever again. (This still doesn't top Lily Allen's cover of "Womanizer," but it's up there.)

(Also, they closed their set with 16 Military Wives and I almost peed.)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Family Ties

My younger brother is visiting and I was worried we wouldn't have enough to do, but then we had pies and went to see the shrunken heads and xylophones and bottled witches at the Pitt Rivers and then went to the pub. Ta-da! When it comes to food and weird things and beer, we are not so different, actually.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


I know that normally my blog is like, "oh, LOL, I am such a shambles" and I'm like performatively overworked but this past month has actually kicked my ass, as evidenced by the fact that I've let my blog sit idle for the longest time in seven years. In the meantime, I got all my law school decisions and have run up a ridiculous phone bill talking to faculty and students and planning visits. I went to Johannesburg for a week to visit a friend and her family, launch the book I co-edited last summer, and go to a conference. I took a red eye back and made it to Oxford just in time to meet Brady and Emma and host a dinner party and go to an auction, then spend the weekend with Brady generally causing total chaos in London. I then realized I was supposed to be doing my DPhil, and did a bunch of other boring stuff including but not limited to writing two chapters, presenting my research to my department, finishing a draft of a book chapter, filing my financial aid forms for next year, and agreeing for some terrible and unknown reason to take on a week of full time work as an editorial assistant for a journal. In the interest of surviving the spring, I also planned a trip with my younger brother to Barcelona next weekend, and a trip to Turkey with David and Emma in a month.

There were things I meant to blog about during this - I got locked in my hotel bathroom in Johannesburg for 30 minutes and picked the lock with a piece of wire I managed to pry from the bathtub drain, and William Shatner is planning to release a heavy metal album, and David and I invented toaster pancakes - but I failed. Miserably. And my only hope is that when I start law school, so many comically terrible things will happen that I will be writing constantly.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Luckily This is Exactly What My Dissertation is About

D: "There are ladybugs all over the house! And I can't kill them, because they're ladybugs!"
R: "Well, then we have to learn to coexist with them."
D: "No. I just have to dehumanize them."

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Unnecessary Roughness

If it is possible, there are two last things on earth I need right now:

1) Having my blog hacked into along with my Gmail, so that it redirects everyone to sites for Viagra and cheap prescription drugs from Canada, and
2) A sudden meeting with my supervisor to go over drafts before I leave for Johannesburg in, oh, 36 hours.

(The first part I fixed after twenty minutes of troubleshooting, while the second is unexpectedly on the agenda for tomorrow.)

This is in contrast to exactly what I did need, which was to go into London today to get quiche, see The Children's Hour, and then have a debrief coffee with Emma. Elizabeth Moss was fantastic, and even though Keira Knightley doesn't really do anything except look wispy and alternates between carefree and solemn for the better part of two hours - so basically, exactly what Audrey Hepburn does in the film, slash every film she has ever been in - she totally pulls it out in the last fifteen minutes and goes absolutely buckwild. If I were Ellen Burstyn, I would have wet my old lady clothes.

My plan is basically to keep my head low until I get to Johannesburg, where I'm attending a conference but also - and just as importantly - hanging out with Sam and watching as many episodes of 7 de laan as I can before somebody notices and judges me. And if it turns out that my supervisor has negative feedback, I will just pretend she is Keira Knightley and tell myself that if Ellen Burstyn can handle it after all the horrible things she has done, I should be able to handle it too.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Take That, Pile of Three Ring Binders I Am Currently Buried In

Like somebody playing rock and roll in reverse and hearing the voice of Satan, I've just realized that basically all I need to do for my doctoral dissertation is take the literature review from my old thesis and reverse it. Bam! 10,000 words! I feel like I should write a thank you card to myself circa 2008 and send it back in time.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Happy Together

In the midst of DPhil hell, David and I have been trying to get out and go on dates on the weekends. This week is going to be kind of grueling and then I'll be in South Africa next weekend, so tonight, we went to see Happy Together at the Magdalen Film Society. At the end, David was like, "it seemed like they were not actually happy together." I nodded. And he added, "and they were pretty abusive." I nodded. And David was like, "well, at least we got free wine and I didn't really understand what was happening."

I really need to start reading spoilers before dates.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Why I Invite People Over for Dinner

"I think I've had too much wine. Ooh, can I alphabetize your spices!?"

This Goes Out to the Chicago Manual of RUINING LIVES

Editing footnotes is one of the things I always think I will enjoy because it requires relatively little brain power and I can do it to music without getting distracted. (This is relative - I'm not good at focusing under the best of circumstances, but let's be real, changing commas to periods is not quite the same as struggling to articulate a theory of human agency.)

And then I try to navigate the Chicago Manual of Style and try to format things with like thirty tabs open to help figure out how to format snarky asides made in footnotes or references to e-journals that refuse to do anything but look like a half-baked journal footnote or an overlooked hyperlink. And slowly, I lose the will to live. I've been working on this off and on all day and I'm about two hours away from replacing all of these references with one footnote that says, "I tried my hardest and concluded that if you have any questions it's probably best if you just call me."

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Huntsman in 2010!

Signs I have WAY too much time on my hands, and also why tabbed browsing will keep me from ever being successful in life:

Adventures in Basic Daily Tasks

I got to the graduate student office to bang out a press release and a couple hundred words of my dissertation, saw that the alarm on the office was set, and was like, whatever, they gave me the code for the alarm earlier this year, I can handle this. And then I stopped, and I was like, Ryan, empirically, can you handle things like this? I shook my head no.

But I tried anyway. As I'd entirely expected, I punched in the wrong code approximately five times, started panicking and just pressing random buttons to clear the keypad, and set off the burglar alarm for the building, which happens to be where most of the professors in my department work. (In retrospect, I feel like this whole working in the department to demonstrate that I'm an attentive and competent student thing is going to backfire horribly.)

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Egypt, 24/7

For my second book, I'm going to write a collection called "People Who Erroneously Thought Appointing a Novel Pick for Vice President would Save Their Chances at Executive Office." It currently has two chapters.

Watch Al-Jazeera's coverage here:

Friday, 28 January 2011

Tea(rs) and Crumpets

I've just hit 70,000 words on my DPhil - all quantity, not quality, don't get excited, everybody calm down - but the best part is that thanks to Mike, I finally have a provisional title for my follow-up book, which is "Tea(rs) and Crumpets: What I Ate During My Dissertation." It will be a bestseller among the kind of people who would like a coffee table book showing literally hundreds of crumpets with Nutella on them and nothing else because I have devolved to the food level of a three year old. I need to find Gushers or I'm going to get scurvy.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A Night of Blackmail, Which is So Much Less Intriguing than It Sounds

The fact that I can still trick myself into pulling all-nighters by promising that they'll only be half-nighters blows my mind. Hullo, 6am.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Back to the OX1

We're finally back in Oxford after six weeks away, and I have never been so glad to come home to a drafty firetrap in my entire life. Against all odds, the tiny bit of milk that I forgot about in the fridge seemed weirdly fine after SIX WEEKS, and somehow did not smell at all, which makes me never want to buy or drink that kind of milk again. Our rosebush is alive too, despite not being watered in six weeks, and even still has a very sad looking flower growing on it. Hooray!

I'm anxious to get back to work, but have actually spent the better part of the day trying to internationally fax a set of police reports and documents to various airlines, airports, and police stations after realizing that it wasn't just my camera that was taken, but about $200 worth of other stuff, including emergency cash and - very weirdly - two Uniball Vision pens. (I like these pens too, but not enough to jack them from a stranger.)

The gaping hole in my very small pantheon of possessions has been filled by a modernist reproduction of one of the fat ladies of Malta, a set of very heavily glittered stacking dolls I picked up from the market in Budapest, and a mug from one of the law schools I applied to, which was waiting for me when I got back to Oxford. It's kind of interesting how the fat lady alternately looks very thoughtful with her hand on her head or very hopeless with her head in her hand, depending on whether I'm finally getting back to work on my DPhil or the umpteen publications I have ignored for the past two weeks or incompetently trying to file insurance claims, combine PDFs, and send international faxes. I've spent way too much time today looking at her suspiciously.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Blog of Job

We left Pisa and made it to Malta today, where I got to our apartment and promptly realized that somebody had stolen my camera from my checked luggage. It's not the worst thing in the world - I've had it for two years, and I had just uploaded all my photos from Italy and didn't lose any of those - but the staff of both airports and of RyanAir have literally been as unhelpful as possible, and it's probably not covered by my insurance unless I can hunt down the receipt. I probably would have handled it better, except that literally every person I talked to reminded me that this was my fault, seemed to neither be surprised nor care that my camera was stolen, and refused to take any personal details to contact me on the off-chance that somebody actually did find a camera. I'm bad enough at dealing with airports when I'm not paying to use my cell phone internationally to be belittled in multiple languages and dialects.

After a brief visit to a very dusty but helpful Maltese police station, we looked for lunch and realized that it was now nearly 4 and everything was closed, and ended up sitting on a park bench eating a greasy but kind of excellent chicken pie. The day picked up when we found cappuccino, went to the National Archaeological Museum to see the fat ladies from the ruins, and I got a duck salad. It took a sudden turn for the worse when I found out that my trip to Joburg was scheduled two days after a launch event I was supposed to help with, took a turn for the better when we successfully took a bus back to our apartment, and more or less evened out when Orbitz allowed me to cancel and rebook my flight for only $10.

And then I found out that they updated the zodiac, and it turns out I'm a Libra and not a Scorpio, which is awful. I will be robbed and mocked and coerced into eating approximately 75g of saturated fat in my lunch, but I absolutely refuse to acknowledge that I'm not a psychotic tempestuous narcissist. That will not stand.

From the Annals of Silver Linings

David and I left for the Cinque Terre yesterday, which was beautiful except a) the train we planned to take had decided not to exist, b) when we arrived in La Spezia, we found out that half the route was temporarily closed because of landslides, and c) virtually everything was closed until early February for the holidays. Yay!

Somehow, this did not stop David from hiking half the route and insisting on visiting all five towns - and not only visiting them, but going through all their streets with a Pac Man like thoroughness. (We also managed to find one restaurant we'd wanted to go to that was open, and had ridiculously good seafood risotto. They were like, "it takes 25 minutes to make," and we were like, hooray, please bring us a half liter of wine.) I'm all pastelled and cobblestoned out now, which is perfect, because we're about to take off for Malta for four days, after which we'll finally go back to Oxford and not be transient and have clean pants and reliable internet, which will be kind of thrilling in itself.

Monday, 10 January 2011

The Bois Do Bologna, and Other Terrible Puns About Italy

This is about the first time I've had wifi since Vienna, save for the random spurts of connectivity that I've been able to hijack on my iPod to update the NYT Crosswords app so I have something to do on planes, trains, and buses besides re-read the one Nadine Gordimer novel I brought with me and become clinically depressed. Over the past two weeks, we've left Vienna for Budapest, and then flown to Italy to trek from Bologna to Florence to Pisa and then to the Cinque Terre tomorrow. It was freezing, but Budapest was tremendous - David and I spent two days there wandering around the city and going to the baths before Emma joined us, when we tackled Castle Hill and ate ridiculously well. (My favorite dish was what appeared to be an entire chicken encrusted in fried cornflakes, served on a bed of inexplicably green couscous. I thought it was awesome, and David thought it was gross, which is a reversal of how these things normally work.) After that, the three of us flew to Bologna and did all of the usual stuff in Bologna, most of which I did seven years ago and promptly forgot until I returned. Emma had to fly back to London to start classes, but David and I made it to Florence for two days, where we rented an apartment from this woman who a) thought we were minors and b) very clearly expected that we would burn down her apartment. (She had nothing to worry about, since our wildest night involved lying around the apartment drinking chianti and watching a BBC special on electric cars.) I expected Pisa to be the worst part of our trip because I booked us a double room in a hostel for 20 euros a night and we really had no idea why we were going to Pisa except that it had cheap flights to Malta, except that we randomly got upgraded to a boutique hotel and I just had a mushroom pizza that is literally the best pizza I've ever had in my life. It's also getting warmer as we head south, meaning that we have stopped piling on layers and trudging through snow and have started sitting outside without coats drinking wine at noon. Win!

Saturday, 1 January 2011


We're shutting it down in Vienna after a fantastic two days with Yussi and his parents, which began with dark orange hot chocolate and a visit to the UFO in Bratislava, clipped through St. Stephen's, a bunch of markets, a phenomenal exhibit on Picasso's political works (along with an exhibit of William Kentridge's work) at the Albertina in Vienna, and ended with a very late party for New Year's with punch and fireworks and a cheese hedgehog (which I will have at every party that I host for the rest of my adult life) that meant that we didn't do a whole lot today except schlep out to the palace for a tour, found a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant for dinner, and went out for coffee before packing for our bus to Budapest tomorrow. And then it's only t-minus two days until we meet up with Emma in Budapest, and Team Fabulous rides again.

"I hope you know that as we visit a few castles, my expectations are going to change."
- David, after visiting Schloss Schonbrunn in Vienna