Ok, so that wasn't so bad after all. Five days and 30 pages later, I'm still standing. At least until the oral exam, when my committee gets to tear into all my perceived weaknesses. Should be fun. Then I only have two years of research, a dissertation to write, and a final oral defense before I finish. I'm almost halfway there!
Wow, that's totally exciting and totally depressing all at the same time.
Posts have been scarce recently because my preliminary written exams are coming up this week. 5 days. 5 exams, one from each member of my dissertation committee. 40 mind-abusing hours racing the clock to answer questions meant to stump and humiliate test my knowledge of ecology.
And this is only the written component. The oral exam comes in two short weeks: an afternoon of me, a chalkboard, and my committee asking me whatever the feel like asking. There is no time limit. I have to stand there being peppered by questions until a) they get bored of me or b) I collapse into a twitching mass at the front of the classroom.
It's one part comprehensive academic assessment, one part rite of passage, and one part petty hazing ritual.
I get my first exam at 6am tomorrow. I won't know which committee member wrote it until I receive it. It could be on just about anything.
But at least it's only my entire professional future hanging in the balance.
These two photos were taken exactly one year apart:
Red is wasting away! Well, apart from the fantastic thunder thighs, that is. But what happened? One day he's cute and larval, with what appear to be triple-jointed elbows, and the next you can see his ribcage. Oh, and he's giving you some serious attitude because you took him down off the table where he was happily walking around.
Not sure if you noticed, but Chins has undergone an awful lot of vertical growth during the past several months (oh wait, I was AWOL, so nevermind) and has only been shrinking in girth. He even fits some of the pants and diapers he had grown out of in the fall.
What this means is that he does, in fact, have only one chin now.
Besides, just in case he's a chunky kid like his old man was (is?), I figure I should nip this particular nickname in the bud before it causes lasting harm. I won't be able to afford his years of therapy as it is.
So innernets, meet Red. Fairly appropriate, no?
Now I just need to decide if my blog needs a new name. No zygotes have been around here for a loooooong time...
The thing about having a 16-month-old who nurses is that, well, he's 16 months old. And he nurses.
OK, that seems like an obvious point, but consider this: he's extremely mobile, he communicates readily, and he nurses.
He is not above walking up to d.w., pointing vigorously at her chest, and declaring, "That!"
Thanks to d.w.'s steady prodding he's now fairly adept at giving the sign for "milk", but he's taken that to mean extending his arm toward her chest, pantomiming milking a cow, and loudly saying "That!".
I'm not sure that's all that much better, actually. But at least he's learning.
Um, hi there. Thank goodness for RSS feeds, you know?
Anyway, I've spent the last couple of months figuring out what exactly I want to do with this here weblog, seeing how I've been struggling to maintain the itch to blog. Photography has pretty well taken the place of writing as my creative outlet, so let's see if we can combine the two in some way. I've been posting regularly to Flickr, but maybe a photo or two will make their way over to this corner of the innernets, too.
YOU ARE HEADING FOR A LAND OF SUNSHINE AND RELAXATION
Thus the fortune cookie's utter cruelty was laid bare. It had shown such promise, an unassuming pod of sweetened dough, gently cradling words of wisdom passed down through the ages. And winning lottery numbers, natch.
I gingerly snapped it in half, eagerly anticipating what the wisest of mass-produced sweets had divined for me.
A land of sunshine? And relaxation?
How could you, fortune cookie?
Did I do something to offend your candied conviviality?
Do you not realize it is January in Iowa, thousands of miles from the verdant California winters of my youth? Do you find perverse pleasure in my torture because my preliminary exams are this semester, relaxation remaining an impossible dream for months?
You have crushed my very soul, fortune cookie, but somehow I must try to persevere.
So after more than two hours of various arcane procedural rules, mysterious calculations of delegate assignments, and repeated head counts (yes, head counts), we finally left our local caucus, only to find out that Obama had already been declared the winner. Hooray for democracy in action.
But I must say, there is something really refreshing about experiencing the purest form of American participatory democracy. Sure it's complicated, inconvenient, and disenfranchises thousands of people at work and in war zones, but I doubt that's any worse than rigged electronic voting machines.
And besides, it is just so damn exciting to be in the middle of what feels like a defining moment in American history. It's almost enough to exorcise the cynic in me.
Well, Iowa's quadrennial political circus ends tonight, at long last. After being inexplicably at the center of the political universe, we will once again become fly-over country for the very people who for months have been pandering to our every whim, neurosis, and idiosyncrasy. Chins' aunt and uncle were in town over New Year's, just in time for the final push through Ames of just about every single presidential candidate (where are you, Dennis Kucinich?). We missed Richardson's early morning art gallery appearance, and Clinton went suspiciously long, preventing us (and probably hundreds of others) from attending an Edwards event, but we managed to make most of them.
A few highlights, then, of the festivities:
In a moment of shameless pandering, Joe Biden picked up a nearby toddler during a question about health care or education or something, and the toddler promptly punched him in the face. Then his mom made a "surprise" appearance, but thankfully there just happened to be a chair there waiting for her. Boy, that was sure lucky.
Rather than attend a Barack Obama New Year's party, I got to drive Chins around while he fell asleep. The sub-zero temperatures woke him up after I drove him to sleep the first time around, so I bundled him up and drove him around again, just in time to pass Obama's motorcade as it headed toward the freeway. Better luck next time. The bro and sister in law were able to see Obama speak, seeing how their hotel room was just right upstairs. I must say I've never seen her so smitten before, and certainly not by my brother.
While Chelsea Clinton was talking and shaking hands with those of us in the front row, a campaign aide asked my brother, "So, are you going to caucus for Hillary?" My brother answered, "Well, I might for a night in the Lincoln Bedroom." Looking suddenly stricken, the aide said something about a "sore point", before moving down the line. Nice one, bro.
One thing is for certain: Iowa is a surreal place every four years. I'll let you know how the caucus goes, once we're firmly back in flyover state status.