Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Sabbatical


The dissertation demands my undivided attention for the foreseeable future, so I'm going dark for a good long while. Good luck with everything, keep running and try not to set anything on fire while I’m away. That would be bad.

Later gators.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Dancing with Dolly

About two months ago I mentioned I had a run in with the cows in Port Meadow and promised to write about the full story.

Yeah, didn’t quite get around to that, did I?

Since I don’t have much of interest to say about things of late, I thought I would regale you with that story. It’s the least I can do since I know you all crave my witty words and are still reeling from the loss of Ian in the running blogosphere.

Or else you’re just bored and want to procrastinate at work.

Either way, it’s all good.

So here goes...

Port Meadow is public pasture land. When the weather permits, it’s a beautiful place for a stroll, run, picnic or boat ride on the river. When I lived in Retardia, it was the location of my regular four-mile out and back route.

So early on that long ago Wednesday morning, I headed out to the Meadow for a relaxing run. As I passed through the last of the three cow gates, I noticed a large herd of cows in the field to the left of the trail. By the time I was heading back after the turn around point and approaching the cow gate again, the cows had decided to migrate to the trail and were congregating in front of the gate.

The cows and horses in the Meadow are quite used to humans being in there midst. I run by and zigzag around them all the time. However, I’ve never had them completely block off my exit before. The herd was four cows deep in front of the gate.

And their asses were all pointed at me.

The fence isn’t climbable and I really didn’t want to take a fully-clothed swim in the river to get to the other side. I had to get the cows to move.

After assessing the situation, I slowly walked towards the cows. The ones on the periphery could see me approaching and calmly moved out of the way. When I was two rows of cow butts away from the fence, things got a bit more difficult. The cows in front couldn’t see me and if they did, there was nowhere for them to go since they were hemmed in by their fellow cows.

That’s when I felt a cow nose at my back.

I was surrounded.

I had a moment of insanity and confused cows with goats. I thought the cow was going to start eating my shirt off, but then realized he/she was only trying to figure me out. Either that or it really liked the smell of my sweat.

Ew.

So at this point I’m completely surrounded by cows and I have a firing squad of cow asses between me and the gate.

With no other option, I started to dance.

Shuffle, shuffle, left. Shuffle, shuffle, right. After each shift, the cows in front could see me and then move to the right away from the river. One of the cows right in front of the gate turned its head and gave me a look of total fear which in turn freaked me the fuck out since its ass was right in my face. I backed up as much as the cows behind me would allow until the scared cow was able to amble off with its friends.

Finally, after five minutes of dancing and projectile poop avoidance I made it to the gate and slipped through intact and untainted.

The cows immediately crowded back around the gate giving me curious looks. I thanked them for not shitting on or trampling me and then headed back home.

I sure do miss those cows.

Okay, that’s it for me. Have a fabulous weekend, everyone.

Later gators.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

All good things must come to an end

So, yeah, about that streak...

It ended on Day 16.

I got home late on Thursday and didn’t have the will or energy to do anything except crawl into bed and sleep like the dead.

Thus endeth the streak.

I began a new streak that day though by doing jack-all for four days straight. Go me!

Friday was taken up with work and goodbye drinks for my friend and office buddy Canadia who flew off to her homeland to start her new job. There was much booze, laughter, a few tears and promises to meet up again in the coming year.

Saturday was all work with a brief break to help celebrate another friend’s very well-deserved job offer. (*selfish pout* And that adds another to the long list of people ditching Nerdtown and, more importantly, me. WAH! */end selfish pout*)

Sunday was Life Admin Day. I cleaned, laundered (sadly not money), and cooked like a madwoman. There’s food enough for most of my meals for the rest of the week as well as yummy banana bread and cookies. I’m currently trying to pawn the majority of the baked goods off on others to prevent further bloating of my person. My tiny flat now smells really good though.

Thanks to the encouragement of friendly folk both near and far, I finally got off my butt last night and went for a short run. I took a new route, a very scenic one, which I repeated this morning before heading into the department.

Although I failed at achieving my streaking goal of three weeks, I did learn a few things from the days I did complete.

(1) I’m more apt to do meaningful cardio in the morning.
(2) Using an egg timer made strength training more tolerable as it ensured I did no more than the bare minimum.
(3) If I spent less time dithering, I’d get things done faster and with a lot less self-inflicted mental anguish.

Okay, folks, it’s time for me to get back to writing about rubbing and polishing erect (column) shafts. (My dissertation examiners are going to love me. Well, as long as they have a crass sense of humor.)

Catch up with you when I can.

Later gators.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

How to be popular

Because I’ve been extra cranky this week, I didn’t feel like going to spin class yesterday. Instead I did my arms and core routine. Passing over cardio for strength training? Me? It’s amazing what this exercise streak is doing to me.

Two weeks down, one more to go.

Sell yourself
A while again some fellow nerds and I chatted about getting our dissertations published and how to make them palatable to a wider market. Most publishers will request a catchy and/or straightforward title, preferably with a buzz word or two so that the book will be easily brought up in online searches. We then proceeded to try to ‘popularize’ our diss titles.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I work on ancient construction. While everyone else was coming up with interesting titles referencing modern politics or global issues, I came up with this title for my work:

Huge Roman Erections

With the possible subtitle of:

How They Rose and then Stayed Up for So Long*

Since my work deals with a very specific time period, I could even go with this title:

The Emperor’s Many Erections and the Thousands of Men Needed to Make Them Happen

These have potential, no?

All right, I need to get back to work. I’m still trying to edit this godforsaken chapter. Since it’s taken me so long already and I really need to finish it, I’ve banned myself from the blogosphere (after I post this of course) until it’s completed. Hopefully it’ll be done on Friday, but possibly not until next week.

Argh.

So until then,
  • cross your fingers that Barefoot Josh steps in poop today (must. win. contest.)
  • sign up for MCM Mama’s virtual race (that is if she’ll still let you)
  • enter one of the brazillion blog giveaways that seem to happen whenever I’m away
  • run like you stole something
Later gators.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
*Answer: Roman Viagra.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Hard habit to break

The streak continued over the weekend with a three mile run on Saturday and a nice scenic walk on Sunday afternoon. Sunday night is when things took a turn for the worse.

I have a buddy. We’ll call him Geordie. Geordie and I are each trying to pursue our health and fitness goals while finishing up our dissertations. We eat healthfully when away from each other, but when we get together, things most often take a turn for the worse. It doesn’t help that Geordie is a very good procrasti-baker.

For instance, there was the Cookie Dough Disaster in the spring which nearly killed both of us and an unfortunate third party who actually did vomit from the sugary excess of it all. Granted he had also been drinking, but it was mostly because of the cookie dough. It should tell you something about our collective mentality that the cookie dough never made it into the oven to form actual cookies. Yes, we are that sad.

And now there is the Pizza Incident. We made plans to have dinner together on Sunday. Since it was the end of the weekend and we’d both been doing well all week, Geordie and I decided to have pizza for dinner. But Geordie has this weird thing where he always wants garlic bread along with pizza.

Enter the large pizza and a side of cheesy garlic bread.

I had a quarter of the garlic bread while Geordie had the rest and we each ate half the pizza. I didn’t want to eat half the pizza. I wanted to stop after slice two, but I kept eating because it was there, I had helped pay for it and Geordie kept eating it so why shouldn’t I.

I’m an idiot. And my stomach let me know that.

I was experiencing a lot of discomfort. Geordie too but less so. I dubbed my food baby Cibo (the Italian word for food).

Trying to go to bed last night was a joke. I typically lay on my stomach or side when falling asleep. I avoid laying on my back because it encourages me to snore (hey, at least I acknowledge that I do snore). Laying on my stomach was out. Laying on my right side was impossible because it made the pain worse. Therefore I laid on my left side with the duvet packed gently around my stomach because for some reason that made it feel better.

It took a while before I finally fell asleep. When I woke up this morning there wasn’t anymore pain, but my stomach was feeling rather sensitive and I had some mild heartburn. I still made it out for my three miler today, but I’ve been trying to take it easy with my food intake so as not to upset the stomach any further.

I want to resign from the Clean Plate Club so badly. Unfortunately, I think it’s like the Hotel California – you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Friday, 6 August 2010

How I roll

The streaking continues. Of the nine days I have completed, six consisted of strength training/pilates and three of running or walking. I’ve pretty much been getting in the bare minimum according to the guidelines I set up for myself, but I have to start somewhere so I’m not getting down on myself. Actually, I’m pretty psyched considering how much strength training I’ve been doing and not actually hating. It’s like a freaking miracle.

My goal is to work up to doing 45-60 minutes of activity 5 to 6 days each week. I’m going to have to work hard to make sure I get that it early each day so that I can still spend massive amounts of time on my dissertation. I’ve recently re-worked my timetable and now I have to start writing a minimum of 1,000 words each day if I’m going to complete this mess on time. Doable, but made more difficult by the fact that there is still a substantial amount of research and calculations to be completed before a lot of that writing can be done.

Crapola.

There are worse fates to have though. So to get me through this shit, I’ve stolen borrowed MCM Mama’s motto: Suck it up, Buttercup.

Word.

Secrets to graduate student living
On Wednesday's scenic post, Nitmos remarked: “Man, this poor, college student life has got to be rough. I looked at those photos thinking How.Do.You.Deal? I even threw in a head shake and a tsk tsk.

This is a somewhat common comment grad students in my field get from people with real jobs. Wanna know how I do it? Okay, here goes...

Traveling in Europe on the cheap:

(1) Live in Europe. Traveling within Europe is pretty affordable...as long as there aren’t travel-industry strikes or volcanic ash to screw things up. There are tons of budget airlines and frequently good offers with major carriers. Taking the trains is also a cheaper and scenic option if you have the time. I find it’s cheaper for me to get a roundtrip ticket within Europe than it is when I’m in the states. I bet you that the roundtrip ticket I end up buying for a conference I need to attend in Texas in January (I’ll be flying there from Boston) will be more expensive than the multi-city plane ticket I purchased for my recent Rome-Greece trip.

(2) Have a family who live in a foreign country. My dad is from Greece and almost all of his family still live there. When I visit I stay with them (I get in trouble if I don’t) and they stuff me full of food till I wanna puke, all for free. The only things I had to pay for when I was there recently were my plane ticket, chip in for a rental car for a week, and the expenses associated with the three-day trip to Santorini where my family does not live.

But the question remains, how do I still afford to travel when I don’t make a living wage? This is how:

(1) Con people out of their money. I spend a good chunk of time applying for research and travel grants and if I’m lucky I even get a few of them. The Rome-Greece trip was the result of having leftover research grant money. Also, a few years ago, I scored a fully-funded fellowship in NYC one summer. I ended up saving money on living expenses by crashing with my bff Ellen (I’m not a total mooch—I gave her money to help pay for monthly expenses) and was therefore able to purchase my one and only ipod – an ipod mini. It’s still kicking five years later and I won’t get rid of it till it dies or when it ends up being cheaper to buy a new one rather than a second replacement battery.

(2) Live like a pauper. In order to splurge on travel, I have to cut back on expenses in other areas of my life.
(a) I walk or cycle everywhere so I don’t have to pay for a bus pass or (god forbid) purchase a car.
(b) I don’t have a tv because, well, first I’d have to buy a tv and then I’d have to pay for the mandatory tv license and THEN I’d have to purchase some sort of cable box for it to even get any channels. No thanks.
(c) I buy cheap or on sale items and use them until they fall apart. For instance, I wore the same black pea coat for ten years until last Christmas when my mother (my role model for economic living) said it was too beat up to wear anymore. So I bought another more stylish one (on sale of course) which I will wear into oblivion over the next decade.
(d) I cook in large batches and eat leftovers for the majority of each week. It gets boring eating the same thing 5 to 7 days in a row, but it’s the healthier and cheaper option so I do it.
(e) I take advantage of student discounts. I get a third off of train tickets, cheaper meals out, discounted office supplies, etc. In some ways it’s going to be a sad day when I finally finish.

So that’s Xenia’s Guide to Cheap Living. If you still hate me for all the travel fun I have, just remember that six months after I finish my PhD I’m finally going to have to start paying back all my undergrad student loans.

Balls.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Later gators.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Calgon, you know the deal

I was going to post a long detailed rant about the Tweedles, but then I read this via Merry’s blog and I just couldn’t do it. However I will allow myself a small rant:
  • Don’t say you’ll meet me at a certain time and then show up an hour late AFTER posting a stupid ‘trying-to-be-funny-but-pity-me’ status on FB at the time you should have been meeting me. Excuse FAIL.
  • Never let mathematically disinclined individuals sort out bills. The Tweedles still owe me the equivalent of $15 US and Dipshit looked at me as if to plead that I let them out of that. Not a fucking chance. They’re paying me the rest next week when they come back to Nerdtown.
  • Don’t whine to me about your pitiful little problems when they’re all self-created and minor. I’ve got bigger shit to deal with. Oh, and I don’t like you so I don’t care. Cry about it to someone who does.
And I’m done. I just want to get the last of my money as soon as possible so I can get them and their awful juju out of my life.

Since it’s pissing down outside and I’m shackled to my desk working on my dissertation yet again, I can’t help my mind from wandering to the last three days of my working holiday. They were the best three days of the whole lot, hell of pretty much this entire year. I’ll show you why.

Red Beach

Local delicacy - tomato balls. Didn't know tomatoes had balls. They were pretty tasty though.


The island behind the cruise ship is actually a volcano.

Yes, the teetotaler went to a winery for a wine tasting. Apparently I can tolerate reds better than whites and I really don't care for port. The cheese was super yummy though.




It was the first time I've ever been, but hopefully not the last.

Oh, and the streak continues (I’m on Day 8!), but I’ll talk about that more next time.

Later gators.