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The Bookworm's Lair
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Date:2009-04-30 19:02
Subject:April 30 Update
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Long time, no update.  In any event, I have survived the semester.  I had my prelim exam/portfolio defense on April 15 and survived the experience.  I am now "ABD."  The defense was anti-climactic, as anything would be after spending nine months preparing for it.  I am now free to begin researching and writing my dissertation, though I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30,000 words already assembled.  Life since April 15 has been remarkably relaxed.  I have been able to do mostly my own thing and kick back for a while.  This summer I begin focusing on the dissertation and hope to gather lots of new research materials.  The only task remaining to me is to grade the finals on Saturday for the class that I have been teaching.  They finish at 5 PM, I will fnish grading them before I go to bed that night so it's all done.

I have a few minor little personal writing projects (some gaming stuff, some creative writing) I'm working on as well as an academic book review I'll be starting as soon as I read the book.  I'm going to be getting some minor health-related stuff taken care of over the next few weeks -- a physical, some PT for my injured rotator cuff, new glasses -- since that stuff is all long overdue.  I don't believe I have yet contracted swine flu.

Life is good.

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Date:2009-02-25 21:48
Subject:February 25 Update
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 Life has been fairly uneventful since the last update.  The teaching is still going well and I'm still enjoying it.  I have arranged a date for my prelim defense (April 15); assuming that goes well, I will be "ABD" (All But Dissertation) and in good shape for the next couple of years.  I only have 41 books left to read, which is good, but I only have 48 or so days in which to read them, so I need to pick up the pace a bit.  I have spring break coming up, so hopefully that will help.  I am revising two documents (my prospectus and a historiographic essay), which I hope to complete over spring break.  I have also undergone a two-part root canal that didn't hurt a bit, except in the pocketbook.  That's going to be the biggest expense of the year.  I'll be taking another couple trips to the dentist over the course of the next few weeks for the crown.  Oh and this past weekend I spent the entire weekend seeing a crapload of indy horror films at the 10th annual Nevermore film festival which was a blast.  I'll offer some comments on those films in a future blog update.  This weekend is prospective students weekend so I get free booze and food on the department a couple times.  Good deal.

Other than the Nevermore films, I've seen a couple others.  Some thoughts below:

Non-spoilery movie reviewsCollapse )

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Date:2009-01-29 18:15
Subject:January 29 Update
Security:Public

 Been pretty busy over the last month. New Year's was fun, but then again, it didn't involve family. Have also hung out with friends a couple times and been to a local horror movie double feature. (That's not too much fun for a month for most people, but that's not bad for me.) School stuff is coming along well. I still have 58 books left to read by my defense in April, but that's not going to be a problem. Much of my January involved rewrites to two key documents: my prospectus and a historiographic essay. I have new drafts of those out and am awaiting additional comments on both, so I'm not done writing yet. I am teaching a discussion section of an American business history class and am pleasantly shocked to find that I actually enjoy teaching. It has been an exhilarating experience every week rather than a stressful one, so that gives me hope.



Non-spoilery movie ramblingsCollapse )

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Date:2008-12-28 19:44
Subject:December 28 Update
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Back from Christmas, which was a disaster.  Alas.  Did get some good stuff, which will be behind a cut below.  I am hopeful that the remainder of the holidays will be happier and less stressful.

As far as school work goes, I am in the process of revising two documents: my prospectus (going well, just a couple more sections to complete) and a military history historiographic essay (which is a bitch).  I have 71 more books to read, which hopefully I can whittle down a bit by the time the semester starts, which is an obscenely early January 7.

Christmas Loot ListCollapse )

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Date:2008-12-18 21:08
Subject:December 18 Update
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The last ten days have been relaxing and relatively uneventful.

For fun, we attended a party hosted by two of bittergrrl 's professors (who are apparently f---ing) and had mucho wine and conversation there.  Plus a third professor told us a story about his penis.  Yes, he is a massive oversharer.  We also hosted a small dinner party here on Tuesday, which was also a lot of fun.  Lots of wonderful food made by bittergrrl -- the theme was "Thanksgiving" -- and we cleaned most of the house, which badly needed it after a semester of neglect.  So the place looks pretty nice.  This afternoon we had a "reading date" at a local coffee shop-type place (it's more than that but we never order any real food).  I also met a friend in the department at the same place on Monday to talk about her project.  She needs help/advice at this point because whether she knows it or not, she's in trouble.  If anyone else leaves, she may be it.  The national average is 50% of all people who start history Ph.D.s (the number holds true for almost all arts and sciences) never finish.  I had a large cohort of 15 people to start with and we are down to 12.  I would expect that within the next 18 months we'll be down another couple.

Other than that, I've just been cruising along reading and writing on the last two things I'm working on.  I expect to be done with one of them within three days; it's taken about a week longer than I wanted it to.  The other paper -- the revision of my prospectus -- will be done soon thereafter.  I want to finish both these suckers before we leave for Virginia Beach next Tuesday.  In the last ten days I have read four books (one of which was not on my list but was 800+ pages of goodness I needed to read).  Also decided I do need to read one additional book on my reading list because I last read it in the early '90s, so that means I have 75 books remaining.  I need to pick up the pace a bit if I don't want to be overloaded in the spring.

Couple non-spoilery movie reviewsCollapse )

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Date:2008-12-08 12:46
Subject:December 8 Update
Security:Public

Work continues apace here at Chez Byers.  bittergrrl is steadily churning out her final papers for the semester and I have been continuing to write a final historiographic paper for my portfolio and reading books on my reading lists.  I hope to finish that essay in the next 7-10 days (I still have to read 7 additional books for it and that's more the hold-up than the actual writing.)  I have only 78 books left to read (out of 174) by April, so that is going along very well.  Reading is on track.  I have also started revising my dissertation prospectus, working toward a solid second draft, after getting some feedback from a member of my committee.  I have a few little things I want to do with it as well as write a couple additional sections.  I plan to have that draft finished up by the end of the month, hopefully before Christmas.

Haven't seen any movies in the last week, but I have read a couple Ian Fleming James Bond novels (Casino Royale and Live and Let Die).  Good books, though the introspective and "action lite" Bond is definitely at odds with the movie depictions.

Slacked off a little more this weekend than I had expected to.  Friday night I went out for dinner and a couple beers with a friend while bittergrrl slaved away at home on a paper.  Saturday I abandoned her again to attend a "tree trimming" party and accidentally ended up staying out until 5 am gabbing away (well, listening away).  I did discover that a friend in my department is the great niece of my high school algebra II/trig teacher, so that was a bizarre but fun coincidence.  Last night (Sunday), in honor of Pearl Harbor Day we went to see a rollerderby double header.  Lots of fun.  The rollergirls and the fans were all very into it and everyone had a great time.  We plan to attend more games next season (these were the last home games of the season).  The Carolina Rollergirls are really good; ranked #6 in the nation and they stomped, er, rolled, all over their opponents.  Man, it was amazing watching some of those big girls go down hard.  This is not a sport for the weak or timid.  Afterwards we had dinner and beers at a place in Raleigh called the Flying Saucer.  It's a specialty beer place like Brickskeller with a drinking club, etc.  I think we'll be heading back there in the future too.

Time to buckle back down this week and get some more work done.

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Date:2008-12-01 22:05
Subject:Early December Update
Security:Public

Long time, no update.  Things are fine here, just been busy with school stuff.  I had a light course load this semester and didn't have to grade or teach (that will be changing next semester though), so I have just been reading and writing a lot.  The major effort was to write my dissertation prospectus and a couple historiographic essays.  Just finishing up one last essay, which will be complete within ten days.  I defend my reading lists, portfolio, and prospectus in the spring (April, most likely), so that has been the big driving factor this semester.

Thanksgiving was nice; we spent a placid few days in Virginia Beach.  bittergrrl  has been extra busy this semester so fun has been limited.  Hopefully that will change in December.  We are going to see a roller derby game (double-header, I think) on Sunday.  Never seen one in person, but I used to watch them as a kid on TV in the late '70s or early '80s.  Let's hope the bulk of the athletes are of the lipstick lesbian rather than scary bull dyke variety, but I'll take whatever I can get.


Some quick movie reviews, no spoilers thoughCollapse )

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Date:2008-06-10 15:28
Subject:Must be all that pulp fiction I read
Security:Public

Yeah, that seems about right: I'd have been a pretty decent '30s husband....

52

As a 1930s husband, I am
Average

Take the test!

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Date:2008-05-16 12:55
Subject:Mid-May Update
Security:Public

The semester is over and done with and both bittergrrl and I received our Master's degrees.  Yay.  At least that's over and done with.  I take two more classes this Fall (only one was required but I'm a glutton for punishment) and then no more coursework.  The next year is really all about reading lots of books and writing my dissertation prospectus, which I will "defend" in the spring.  That should be thrilling.

The summer has started off in a fairly relaxing way and we are headed to Virginia Beach this weekend.  That may be fun or may be stressful, depending, as always, on how bizarro my family is.

Otherwise, not too much to report, just decompressing from the semester and taking it easy, which I will do my damnedest to continue through August.

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Date:2008-03-10 21:45
Subject:"Spring Break" Update
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Well, it's spring (I guess -- the weather doesn't seem like it, though the flowers are blooming) and I have off from school this week, so it will have to do.  There are far too few drunken college girls in my future though (we'll see what I can talk bittergrrl into) and no beach trips as far as the eye can see.  Sadly, I have been looking forward to this "break" so I can get ahead on my work.  Guess I'll get the hang of college life one of these days.  Such is the life of a grad student.

We went to see the UNC-Duke basketball game at a local bar on Saturday.  This is supposed to be a big deal here in the area.  I couldn't really care less, but it was nice to get out, have some drinks, and people watch.  This is one of the two bars in town we frequent, and the one with the odder assortment of regulars.  Interesting folk.  We interacted a little with a strange little Asian girl who was really drunk high; she came in with three or four guys (all approximately one to two feet taller than her) and made out with two of them before they left.  My theory is they keep her in a closet when not in use, feed her a steady diet of roofies and protein slurry, passing her around as needed.  But my theories can rarely be verified one way or the other.

We also spent Saturday doing some booking in Cary, a town near us we had never visited.  Had lunch at Chipotle (they have built four in our area since we moved here, woo hoo!) and visited Cary's Barnes & Noble (got a cool remainder) and their Borders (mediocre, no need to go back).  Also hit two used bookstores, one of which sucked, though it won the best used bookstore in the area last year or something (all they had was romance novels, but I guess those are the people who vote in contests) and one which was surprisingly good.  It has the unassuming name of "Mr. Mike's Used Books" and I was really skeptical of it when we arrived.  It's one of those little hole-in-the-wall strip mall joints that never has anything, but it was excellent.  It was Tardis-like, being much bigger on the inside than it appeared from the parking lot and had some real treasures.  I am already kicking myself for not picking up some books I now regret not having purchased.  Such is non-buyer's remorse.

I discovered a really funny singer-comedian named Stephen Lynch on youtube.  Here is a link to his song about D&D (in honor of the Dungeon Master's passing).  All of Stephen Lynch's stuff is really funny though, you can't go wrong.  I also really like Tiny Little Mustache, Halloween, Vanilla Ice Cream, and Beelz.

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Date:2008-03-02 22:58
Subject:Early March Update
Security:Public

My work has been going well.  The research paper I'm writing this semester is moving along well, as is my other class.  The prof really needs to limit the weekly reading load to about 300-350 pages though, rather than the 450 or so we've been stuck with every week.  I've been keeping plenty busy with just those two classes, so I'm very glad that I took an extra class last semester.  A third class would leave me with no free time whatsoever.

I am steeling myself for tomorrow because I receive my second batch of god-awful papers to grade.  Ugh.  There is a large percentage of freshmen and sophomores in the class and, well, they can't write.  Oh well.  I force myself to grade six a day and so the pain will end in six days.  Spring Break next week, so that will help free up some additional time.  Just one more batch of papers to grade in mid-April after I finish with tomorrow's batch of atrocities.

This past weekend was our prospectives weekend where we fly in the new crop of grad students who've been invited for the fall.  Went to two parties for them, which is way more than I normally do, and so I'm a little behind where I wanted to be for the weekend, but I'll catch up tomorrow.  Last weekend was pretty fun as well.  bittergrrl treated me to an extra Valentine's Day gift of tickets to a Will Ferrell comedy show.  Very funny stuff.  Also went to see an indy horror film called "Breathing Room" at the local "Nevermore" annual horror festival (the Carolina Theater is a great place to see a movie too).  Damn, that was a good movie.  I don't know what the budget was (I would guess maybe $50k) but it was definitely more engaging than some $200M movies I've seen.  If you ever get the chance to see it, I highly recommend it.  It was described as "Battle Royale" meets "Clue," but that doesn't really do it justice.

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Date:2008-02-16 11:22
Subject:Romero's Diary of the Dead (non-spoilery review)
Security:Public

[info]bittergrrl and I went to see George Romero's "Diary of the Dead" last night at the only theater in all of North Carolina (supposedly) that was premiering the movie, in celebration of Valentine's Day.  Yeah, I'm a romantic bastard.  I'd say this one is a rental unless you really like Romero-style zombie flicks.  It was fun going out to the movies though, since we hadn't been to one since last summer, so it was a nice change of pace anyway.

The social commentary is so thick it's laid on with a trowel.  College student filmmakers are more subtle than Romero these days.  And it's an odd sort of social commentary because Romero seems to be railing against the flood of unvetted news on the Internet and in documentaries, irresponsible journalists, photojournalists who don't help the people they're filming, and, I suppose, people who spend more time on their computers than they do living.  OK, I guess those things are all problems, sure, but it's not exactly the racism, rampant consumerism / conspicuous consumption, and corporate greed level of issues he's dealt with before.  None of the issues he deals with in Diary seem to warrant getting angry over.  You definitely get beaten over the head with the message.  One review I read described it as "ham-handed," and I think that's the best word for it.  Oh and the two most intense (and intensely disturbing) scenes in the movie don't involve the protagonists at all, if that tells you anything.  The college kids acted (and died) pretty predictably.  Oh well, it was still a zombie movie, and I always enjoy those.  I give it 2.5 stars out of 5.

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Date:2008-01-09 22:33
Subject:Top 100 Facts About Me
Security:Public

 

100 things you never knew about meCollapse )

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Date:2007-12-24 22:22
Subject:Christmas in Durham
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I am back from San Diego, three days ahead of schedule.  I couldn't take it anymore (see bittergrrl's recent post).  Tomorrow will be the first Christmas I have ever spent alone, and the first I have spent without Beth since we met in 1999.  I have very mixed feelings about leaving early; in some ways, I wish I could have swallowed my pride and stuck it out, but I just couldn't engage in that level of hypocrisy.

Enough with that nonsense.  No need to dwell on unpleasantness.

I do offer you one funny sight I witnessed today: I saw a naked man (well, he still had his shirt on) jacking off into a urinal in the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport this afternoon.   He was frantically pulling his little pud, presumably getting off on the fact that he was doing it in a public place.  There were probably 20 people in the same room with the guy and we all pretended we didn't see him.  Serves him right.  And his ass was flabby too.

I wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas and hope that the holidays are everything and more than you hoped!  I hope to see everyone in the new year.

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Date:2007-11-20 23:01
Subject:Mid-November Update
Security:Public
Mood: content

Well, I guess it's still approximately "mid-November" -- Thanksgiving comes early this year.  We head up to Virginia Beach tomorrow and will be there until Saturday.  Short visit, but despite the fact that it's good to see my family again, it's dead boring there and in the middle of the semester, so a long visit is not in the cards.  Is it a sign of sickness that I actually resent the vacation a bit and think about how much further I could get ahead if we stayed here?

In any case, things are going well.   I just have two more major projects I'm working on.  The historiographic essay is monstrously large, but one of the most interesting things I've worked on and some of my best writing.  That's probably 60% done.  I've also got the annotated syllabus still to finish.  The readings are all selected, which was the hard (and time consuming) part, and the annotations are 40% done.  There are 57 of them, and at a paragraph each, there still a fair amount to write, but they don't take too long individually.

On Monday I have the final session of my military history research seminar where we find out what the prof and everyone else thought of our papers.  I'm less than thrilled with mine, but it's done.  I still have to read the other four people's papers this week and comment on them.  They are not exactly fascinating reading (undoubtedly what they think of mine as well).  My students have their final paper due next Wednesday, so I anticipate having to comment on some first drafts.  Grading those is going to be tedious and time consuming; it always is.

But on the up side, I think I may have latched onto a possible dissertation topic.  Two people on my committee love the idea and are pushing me to do it (the others don't know about it yet).  At a minimum, it will give me an interesting paper to write next semester.

Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Date:2007-11-03 18:29
Subject:Early November Update
Security:Public
Mood: calm

The semester has been going pretty well, but I still have a few big projects remaining to be completed.  I gave my practice lecture in Pedagogy on Wednesday, and I think it went pretty well.  I receive feedback from the prof (and the other students anonymously) on Tuesday, so we'll see if anyone else thinks so.  My military history research paper is basically done at this point; I need to refine it, but the heavy lifting is complete.  I still have to do an article report on four articles due in a couple weeks, but that's no biggie.  I also have an annotated syllabus due at the end of the semester -- but the hard part of selecting all the readings is mostly done -- and a historiographic essay, also due at the end.  That one is probably only halfway written, and is consuming a lot of my time each week, but I'm enjoying it.  I still have 31 essays to grade at the end of the semester too, but that's not a big deal either, it will just take a couple days of drudgery.

I am trying to see if I can only take two classes next semester instead of three, since I took an extra one this semester.  There's no reason why they wouldn't let me, but this is a bureaucracy, so we'll see what the final answer turns out to be. That would give me some extra time to beef up my portfolio going into the third year, which would be really nice.

All in all, things are going well.

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Date:2007-10-07 00:35
Subject:Mid-semester update
Security:Public
Mood: calm

 I have been remarkably remiss in updating my blog here, so here goes.

The semester has been going well, but I'm incredibly busy with my four classes (yes, I foolishly chose to take an extra class this semester, so it's my own damn fault).  Those are all going well.  I have to give a practice lecture on Halloween in my pedagogy class and three big papers due in a month or so, but it shouldn't be too big of a deal.

Also, I presented my first paper at a conference a couple weeks ago.  It went well, but I knew before I ever got on the plane that not a single soul at the conference would have any interest in my topic.  Sure enough, no questions.  What the hell, I really just did it for the experience and a line on my C.V.  It served a forcing function for me to do the research and get my thoughts dow on paper, so it was a win-win.

What have I been doing for fun, you ask?  Not much.  Probably an hour or so of pleasure reading a day.  My reading has trickled to near-nothingness.  Pathetic.  Looking forward to reading tons in December.  Celebrated my birthday the other day and ate my first DQ Blizzard in months.  It was excellent, though the only DQ to be found in Durham has what may be the shittiest selection of Blizzard flavors known to mankind.  Cheapass franchise owner, I suspect.

As an aside, why is it that I only seem to post here on days that I've been to Wal-Mart?  Went there again today for toiletries.  Wasn't greeted.  They are the bane of my existence.  A friend did send me a news article the other day about a retarded Wal-Mart greeter with irritable bowel syndrome who is suing Wal-Mart for an ungodly sum of money because he was ridiculed by his fellow employees.  (What did he expect?)

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Date:2007-09-24 12:31
Subject:Birthday Wishes
Security:Public
Mood: calm

Just wanted to wish bittergrrl a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

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Date:2007-07-25 19:15
Subject:As always, I am an INTJ
Security:Public

Click to view my Personality Profile page

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Date:2007-07-25 18:47
Subject:Looking at old stuff in the archives -- my hand
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So, we're all getting older.  I've long since come to terms with the fact that I've had some silver in my hair.  I've even got one, maybe two, white chest hairs.  Discovering that first white pubic hair a year or so was quite a blow to my self esteem, I'm not going to lie.  But today I realized that I think I have a smal liver spot on my right hand.  I've been looking at this sucker all day, so after dinner, I purchased my first anti-aging product: some kind of cream to get rid of age spots.  We'll see if that has any effect.  Vain?  Maybe.  I don't care.  But no way in hell am I going to have a liver spot on my hand if I can help it.

Ah yes.  And this tops it: there was a Wal-Mart next to the restaurant where we ate dinner, so I bought my cream there.  And, since I keep track of these things, I was curious to see if I would be greeted by one or both of the Wal-Mart greeters on duty.  Nope.  Both found much better things to do than greet me this evening.  I have now been dissed by Wal-Mart greeters in three states.

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