Friday, December 29, 2006

Family fun.

This house is somehow very conducive me to being a complete night owl. My sister too. It's good for catching up on "The Office," but bad for managing to drag oneself out of bed at an archive-going appropriate hour. Sigh. All of which is to say that yesterday I went to the bank, took the dog for a walk, and helped unpack boxes of books in the basement, but that's about it. Today was a little more productive and exciting, but not terribly. Allow me to explain. I was at the archives today just after 12pm (noon). Plenty of time to photograph documents in 8 folders already ready for me to look at, since I would have until 4:45pm when the staff leave for the day. Or so I thought. (Ready for it?) The archivists left at 1pm today . . . because it's the "day before" New Year's. Huh? I don't get it. Whatever. Nice job, though, eh? Not only do you get the stat holiday (on Monday), but you get half the day before it! Sigh. Well, serves me right for not double checking . . . though I had no idea about this.

Anyways, so I took pics for 50 minutes. And I got halfway through the folders. Not bad, I guess. (Stupid, stupid, stupid me.) What this means is that I'll have to come visit my mom/parents in the spring! They can't complain too much about this.

At the archives I ran into a prof. friend of mine from Carleton. I never had a class with her or anything, but she works on similarish stuff to me, so I lectured in her class when I was in the first year of my PhD, and we were on a panel together at the SHAFR conference in June. It was nice to see her again, and here what she's been up to. She said the British Red Cross archives was really nice and easy to navigate, so that's good news!

After that, I hung out in the lobby reading my new favourite self-help book (ha!): Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day. It's seriously useful, PhDers. I read that until the rest of my family (sans brother and dog) came by to pick me up . . . and head over to the casino! Yes, you read me right. My dad's xmas present to us all was a trip to the casino, $20 in spending money each, and dinner at the buffet there.

We had a good time! My mom and I spent $20 between the two of us, on slot machines we mostly didn't understand. "Just press the button and see what happens!" My dad and sister went off for their own one-armed-bandit adventures. We then hooked up again for---you guessed it---more slot machine playing. At one point, I was up to $10.20 from a start of $2.50. But then . . . my dad came over and was all like, "Guess what I just won?" (Grinning.) "What?!" "I put in $5.00, and I just won $92.50!" My mom would not let him spend it, and so that's what paid for (most of) dinner. Fun times. My sister ended the evening with $5 more than what she started with; my dad with about $75; and my mom and I lost everthing. Not bad for a nice family outing, eh? It's a nice casino, methinks, not that I have vast experience with such things. (Clearly.) And dinner was very, very yummy.

Tomorrow is more organizing off jun . . . I mean, stuff, in the basement, and then I head back to TO on Sunday afternoon. Have a good weekend, all!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Complaining about relatives.

My parents/our family got two Christmas cards this year. (This is normal, since we don't send out any ourselves.) One of them was from one of my mom's work colleagues. Fine. The other was from my cousin (my mom's niece), her husband, and their child. This is the one I want to complain about. The card was your standard pre-printed holiday greeting, and then it was signed "happy holidays," followed by their names. And that's it. At this point, I don't really object, but I find it kinda stupid to send a card that clearly has no thought behind it except "must send them a holiday card." But then today my sister, my dad, and I went to visit my grandmother (mom's mom; cousin's grandmother) who is living in a retirement residence and who is not doing well at all . . . and I spotted that same xmas card in her suite. My cousin, living in the same general area as all of us, is of couse aware of her grandmother's health. I pointed the card out to my sister, who immediately opened it up to see what was written. And, guess what? The exact same thing: "happy holidays" followed by their names. Also, this was apparently written in English! (All these people are francophone.) My mom told me later that my cousin's been to visit her grandmother once in her residence. This is, well, kinda shocking. I mean, she's an adult (over 30), and quite able to go visit once in a while. I live in Toronto and I've been several times! I still feel bad about not seeing her more often, but that's because I have a conscience.

This is just one more piece of evidence proving that my cousin and her husband have no souls. They are nice people, but they are completely without substance. All they want is to gradually make more and more money, move into bigger and bigger houses, and generally live their lives like richer and richer people. They care not for self-enlightenment or learning or, well, thinking about the world. Example: They registered for their son's 1st birthday at a big toy store. (My mom was disgusted and brought some books instead.) I haven't ever seen this child (who is now more than 2 years old), and neither has my sister (who lives in Montreal), but I don't feel badly about it. I just don't have much to say to this family. It's too bad, really, but what can I do. I might be being unkind, but I think I'm basically right about them.

Anyways, my grandma was apparently a little better today than she was the last time my parents saw her, but not much. Sigh. Oh well. She's really out of it, and needs to move to a higher level of care pronto.

Yesteday was another family-filled day, this time with part of my mom's side of the family. It was fine, though we have thoughts about a couple of the kids. Ah well. What's Christmas without bitching about relatives, eh?

Also, to quote my sister: "this house is bad for my health!" Seriously. All we want to do here is watch TV, stay up all night, and eat junk food. My sister and I watched 6 hours of TV last night (11pm-5am). Oy. But I better eat up now because soon enough I'll be in Washington and will have to fend for myself. Double oy.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Xmas!

After a sleepless night---I must have been reliving my childhood of being too excited about Santa Claus to sleep---I awoke this afternoon in time to hurry up and join my parents and sister in the car for the drive to visit our friends. We had a lovely time, eating good food and playing a card game and generally catching up, etc. I ate way too many sugar cookies (mmm), and am eating them still, since HB packed some up for me to take home!

I brought my camera along to document the event. My sister absolutely would not let me take a decent picture of her! But here's one anyway: (She's wearing my brother's favourite shirt . . . from when he was ca. 5 years old. Perhaps because he couldn't come with us.) And also one of my parents:
And that's pretty much the day. I should probably go to bed early to try and get back on a normal-ish schedule, since I am planning on hitting the archives later this week. But I have a suspicion that won't happen.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dinner with family.

Yesterday I finished grading (in the wee hours) and packed for my trip home. In the morning (after the sun was up, that is), FN and I went to get breakfast and then chilled out for a bit before I left for the train station and she to a xmas brunch.

Union Station was a mad house! There were so many people, and nearly all the trains out of town were sold out. But in the end the train only left 5 minutes late, and we were totally on time (miraculously) until suburban Ottawa. So we ended up getting to the Ottawa train station rather late. Stupid suburbs....

But here I am in Ottawa, and all is good with the world.

Today was dinner (etc.) with my dad's side of the family. The regular shenanigans ensued. But then my dad decided to drink way too much and had to pass out just as we were sitting down to dinner. As in, he didn't eat with us. My mom is not impressed. Whatever. (He hardly ever does this, hence his not being able to hold his liquor.) It was a good evening, despite the drunken passing out. (My aunt passed out on one of the sofa's later too! What crazy people.) I don't wanna make it sound like these people are all losers: they were having a good time!

My aunt nagged my brother until he sang a song for us. He's a singer in a rock-'n-roll band, you know. And he's much better than he was the last time I heard him. Not that he was bad before or anything. Him and my sister were jamming too, him on the guitar---here he is, and she on the banjo. (But, no, I have no musical talent.)

After dinner my mom and I watched "Little Miss Sunshine." It's fine, but I'm not in love with it like some people I know are!

Tomorrow we're doing the usual Christmas thing, but this time with a twist. We always host our old friends / former neighbours, but this year we're going to their house. Should be good. Also, we decided there will be no presents in our family this xmas (and no tree either), which is most excellent.

To end, here's a pic of our dog, Xena. Happy xmas and etc. to all!!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

78 down, 4 to go.

Almost finished grading! I would have been done already, but was stricken by a crippling headache this afternoon/evening. Awful. And since my prof. doesn't want the papers until 1 Jan., there's no big rush. I will finish them all in the next few hours and then they can hang out here while I'm in Ottawa for a week.

There's not much else to report. LG is gone; FN is busy being a social butterfly; EC is in Europe; and most everyone else has fled Canada's largest city for their respective home towns. I am sad that I'll have to miss brunch in the morning at JDS and TC's place. FN will entertain them in my stead while I pack up and head to the train station.

The black flies have stopped appearing, which is nice. They were driving us batty. But now there's another potential problem with the apartment: the fridge is acting up. By "acting up" I mean that it has decided to make a very loud buzzing sound periodically. It did this last night when FN wasn't home and it was dark inside and totally freaked me out. Imagine it: I'm all alone grading, and suddenly this really loud noise starts emanating from the living room! And it didn't stop for another 15 minutes. I was worried something was going to explode, and I didn't really want to be in the way when it happened. I only realized later that it was the fridge, and I don't think that's going to explode. But still: sheesh!

I will miss TO when I'm in the nation's capital, but it will be a good change of pace. And then I'm back for less than 2 days before flying out to the other nation's capital, the one south of the border. I will definitely miss Toronto when I'm there. Sigh. But I will likely enjoy the archives!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Proof that I am what I read.

My first attempt at drafting's today's posting did not start off too well. Actually, it was rather disastrous. And then I realized the problem: I was writing like my students! To wit:

This blog was began so as I could tell my allies how my days was passing by. Thusly it was a Chronicle, of Jen's life. A few people only know about it's existence, and over the several months for which it was being written by myself there are fun times, boring times. The state of blog today is such; I want to write what I want.
And so I took a break and thought about my peers and read some news online. And now my English has improved somewhat. But hopefully this grading will end soon so I can begin the recovery process in earnest.

Conclusion: Good lord, people [read: my students]. Learn how to write!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Not much to say.

I've only marked 8 papers since I woke up Tuesday morning. Sigh. I really didn't waste much time doing unimportant things, yet here I am.

Laundry took hours. Goodness. I always forget how long the entire process is, but, man, it is long. Think of all the stages: (1) gathering dirty clothes and other things to wash; (2) getting out cart to carry the bag in (because it's invariably too heavy for me); (3) measuring laundry detergent for the both of us; (4) heading out the door (which is never a fast process); (5) walking to the laundromat; (6) loading the machine and starting the wash; (7) going home again---often with a stop at Shoppers along the way; (8) going back 30 minutes later to switch to the dryer; (9) doing that; (10) going back home---today with a stop at the dry cleaners; (11) going back to pick up (hopefully dry) clothes; (12) shoveing said clothes and assorted other items into my bag/cart; (13) going home for good; (14) unloading, folding, and putting away laundry; and (15) today that included making my bed (and helping FN with hers), and that always takes a while. Phew! Ok, I'm whining, but seriously people: it's a long, tiring process!

So now I am grading. "And miles to go before I sleep."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I spent all day grading.

Yeah, that's right. And I didn't even leave the house. Only 40 more essays to go! I think that they are making me dumb, though. You know, in the sense that being around smart people makes me smarter . . . and grading undergrad papers makes me stupider. Sigh. Once the lawyers emerge from exam hell, they will have to have intelligent conversations with me. Or, well, at me.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Grading hurts.

It pains me so. I have a rubric to use, and although I really think I'm being generous most of the time, so many of these assignments are in the 50s . . . or worse. This is a third-year course, and half-assing it just won't cut it! Well, we'll see what the instructor thinks when I tell him about my troubles later this week. Sigh.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Russianists are the best people.

I went to a(nother) party last night, this time at SM and J's place. All the cool Russianists were there, plus a smattering of east Europeanists. Excellent. It was too much fun, and included a couple shots of vodka (AB insisted I celebrate with him), yummy munchies, and lots of good conversation and laughter. True to form, GO got on my case about being single and getting older! (But only because he cares ;-). And, I got him back by countering with, "well, I am dating someone!" Haha.) And his wife SF was looking beautiful (as usual). My other favourites were there too: AB and OB, PR and AM, WB and his M, SJ and his great family, and MK the young. I took lots of pics to remember the occasion.

I left just after midnight with big plans to grade essays. I did one or two, but spent the better part of the rest of my night putting the pics online for all to see. Grading can wait.

At the moment more procrastination is taking place, but this time it is totally necessary: I am reading about philanthropy! Oh, and tonight is another party. Of course.

Friday, December 15, 2006

It can no longer be avoided.

Yep, it's true: grading is upon me. Finally. How dreadful. But I really must do it or else I will never be able to go home for xmas. And that would be uncool.

In happier news, I had lunch with my main supervisor today at a local pub. (Fellow historian CS was also there.) It was fun, though I find I don't have too much to say to my supervisor. I feel boring when I'm around her! I think it's just that I haven't read the books or seen the movies she mentions. It's also that I'm in the midst of researching, which isn't particularly interesting to talk about. I mean, I'm gathering material at this point; I'm not even reading it yet.

I stopped by the department a couple times today, and ran into historians (as usual). PM and JT were out enjoying the unseasonably warm weather (well, ok, JT was smoking); EW was in the office; and super-cool east Europeanist SJ was there too! He is too awesome. I bothered LG for a few minutes before coming home early in the afternoon to face my doom. But first I procrastinated for a long time. Sigh. And then FN came home with dinner, so that (mercifully) took me away from work too. After dinner we put up art (totally necessary for our mental health), and then I had to rearrange my desk (so I can grade). I feel like Steve Carrell's character on that episode of "The Office" where he has work he must do, but he does everything except do it until the last moment . . . at which point he tells his underlings to do the work for him. Double sigh.

So now there's really no getting around it. Grading is upon me. After I eat.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Tonight some of us gals gathered at HD's place for cheese and chocolate fondue. Yummy! It was a nice evening, and good to see CS, VMc, AG, and EC. Thanks, HD! (Also, appenzeller really is the best cheese. Ever.) DR showed up much later, sporting an interesting new hair look. Hmm.

Once again, I managed to do very little work today. I am still feeling weak, but really need to get grading so I can go home for the holidays! How annoying.

Until tomorrow . . . .

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Side note: I have supervisor love. I can't help it: They are all too awesome.

Anyways, today I went to another book launch, this time at the Munk Centre. It was for Allan Gotlieb's Washington Diaries. He spoke---seems an interesting fellow---as did CSIS director Jim Judd (booooorrrrrring), Historica president Colin Robertson (nice, intelligent, interesting fellow), and Janice Gross Stein (of course). The talking ranged from excruciatingly boring to semi-interesting. But the reception and milling about afterwards was great fun. (It was also great fun to sit beside one of my supervisors, who provided some entertainment during the excruciating parts). Since I am on a mission to convince said supervisor that I do drink, I had a glass of wine. Two of my (very tall) supervisors then got to work introducing me to all their friends in high places. (I exaggerate, but you know what I mean.) I met Roy MacLaren, whose book on Canadians in Russia I have read and enjoyed, and re-met David Hilton, an excellent person who once met one of my Siberian guys! Yeah, he told me he once spent a day and a half in a company of the former trade commissioner to Vladivostok. Crazy! I must find out more about this encounter, because I know almost nothing about this particular official. There are only a few reports or letters of his at the archives. Oh, and Robertson told me at the reception that he liked what I had written. Now, at first I thought he meant the report that I had written for his foundation. But I soon realized that he meant my blog post! (This one.) Seems like it made the rounds a bit, and there were some mean e-mails back and forth, etc. How crazy.

After the reception I headed over the Massey to find LG (no luck), and then off to Bloor Street to pick up art and buy bread. And now I am still feeling the effects of supervisor love but must get over it so I can get to work!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Historians, and more historians.

Turns out the book launch event was on Monday, so that's what I did last night. It was held at my supervisor's place on campus, and it was a lovely affair. I caught up with some fellow grad students whom I hadn't seen in a while, chatted with my favourite historian/prof couple, spotted Jack Granatstein, and talked with some new people. It was nice, though I do have something to say about two of the new people I met. Both are former students of the prof whose book was launched. One of them was a Massey fellow while he did an MA in history; the other was a history undergrad a few years ago. Apart from both of them being very tall---thus making is slightly painful for me to talk to them (despite my being in heels)---I soon came to realize that they were very uninteresting people. Nice and stuff, but boring. Maybe because they are both corporate/banking types now. How unfortunate. The former Masseyite was waxing nostalgic, but only managed to prove my point about Massey being white, preppy, and elitist. All of which is fine, except that he didn't see it this way. Strange. Apart from them, though, the conversations I had were interesting/entertaining. I heard tell how Michael Ignatieff was "quite pleased with himself" and "pretentious" during his early undergrad days at Trinity. Awesome. And, because I know the prof/author/committee member pays attention to such things, I drank most of a glass of wine! (Instead of opting for water.) I must add his book to my to-read list.

After the party I headed over to visit LG. It was nice to see him.

This morning I had a reading group meeting. A few new historians have joined, and we heard about one of them's project. Very interesting and cool! We talked about it for more than 2 hours---and it totally didn't seem that long.

Apologies for the boring post. My brain is moving slowly these days. I am mostly better, but quite tired because I have been having trouble sleeping. Sigh.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Too much excitement.

I am feeling ill again. My head hurts. It's unpleasant. I am sapped of energy. I feel slow. Even looking at the present I got yesterday from AB2 and SA doesn't make me feel much better. Boo.

But I am determined to be better tomorrow so I can party it up with more historians at a book launch event for one of my supervisors. How fun!


I am feeling better today, thank you. Enough so that I had a very full day of hanging with historians. My favourite thing to do! After a student association meeting and lunch with AB, DS, and YT, I headed home for a nap to gather my strength for our grad student wine & cheese. Much fun.

Some of my favourite people were there . . . HD, JDS and TC, AG and JC, AT and JS, EW and CW, PR and AM, AB and OB, YT, HD2, DS, AC, and the super-cool upper years (some of whom are now Drs) and the crazy MAs and new PhDs: DR, CB, PM, JT, CS, MK, MS, etc. I'm getting tired of the initials. You get the point.

I am looking forward to a weekend of relaxation, reading, and maybe grading. Ok, so I'm not really looking forward to doing all those things. Night!

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Blech. I am not feeling well. My body has been fighting this for a few days, and yesterday, it lost. I decided not to leave the house today and rest. But that doesn't mean I was totally unproductive! JT and I did our search committee report this afternoon.

I hope I feel better soon, because I wouldn't want to miss the wine & cheese Friday night!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Discussion is the spice of life.

There was lots of this going on yesterday in the history department and at Massey College. The third job candidate gave his research talk in the morning, and sparked a lively (of sorts) discussion afterward. I learned a few important lessons from the experience: (1) When giving a job talk, make sure to speak directly to larger historiographical, methodological, and theoretical issues. You must do this to show intellectual depth and engagement with the broader world of historians (beyond your subfield) and because most of the people in the room won't know or care much about the details of your research. (2) If you're questioning someone in a professional setting, and the person being questioned isn't understanding you, you can reformulate your inquiry in an attempt to get an answer, but there's no point doing this more than once or getting upset about the other person's inability to respond adequately.

After the job talk I had lunch at Massey. I tried my best to ignore the lawyer talk going on beside me, and eventually found myself surrounded by intellectual types. Yay! Much interesting discussion ensued. Back at the department for coffee, I had a great chat with a fellow historian. He told me a little about being an Aboriginal historian (as in, a historian who studies early Canada, or whatever I should call it). Cool. JT and I then had our interview with the candidate, and then some more history talk before class. After the lecture, I dashed home for a bit to drop off my stuff, and then went back to school to give my lecture at Massey. I was slighly worried because I hadn't prepared much, but it went ok. But the discussion afterwards was awesome! I do like some of those Massey people. I think I will go back there today for lunch.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I tried. I really tried. To do work today. And I did some. I stared at microfilm for 2 whole hours! And I even thought a bit about the presentation I have to give tomorrow. But that's pretty much it. The rest of the day I, well, hung out with / talked to people. To be fair (to me), it turned out that I was needed for consultation on various academic matters from at least a couple people. And I did some catching up with another three academic colleagues (but ok, these people are also my friends). So, you know, I wasn't just being lazy or anything. However, this re-proves my point about it being extremely difficult to get work done in Toronto, especially on campus. Historians and their ilk seem to be around every corner! Or leaving e-mails in my inbox! Or at the other end of the telephone line! Sigh. So, all in all, I didn't manage to be overly productive today.

(I suppose I should point out that I also ignored my alarm and got out of bed ca. noon. Bad me.)

Tomorrow is another day!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A date and a resolution.

Yes, fine---say it with attitude---I'll admit it now: I went on a proper date with a boy last night. It was fun. I'm still not completely convinced that he equals FN, but I'm going to give him a chance. I'm looking forward to a whiff of scandal (or something much less interesting) about the whole thing, since we were spotted together by a couple historians (JT and NL) and a Masseyite. ;-) I'll keep you posted.

In other news, I have big plans to be productive this week. I'll keep you posted about that too.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Interesting, entertaining, unproductive days.

Yesterday EC inadvertantly came up with a new expression: "packed the boat." She was telling FN and I about PB's birthday bash on Monday night, which I skipped out on, bemoaning my old age. She said that he had packed the boat. Or, that's what I heard. What she really said was that he had packed "The Boat." (The Kensington Market club where the festivities were held.) Apart from this being a case where having our conversation take place in proper written English would have solved my confusion, FN and I found this expression rather amusing. She had images of Noah's Ark in her mind. I was thinking about a raging harbour party. Anyways, so now we have a new expression to describe someone with lots and lots of friends. "He can really pack the boat, that one." AG confirmed later in the evening that PB is a legend. "Yeah, he packs the boat."

But anyways, getting back to my own less exciting life . . . .

Wednesday: lunch with SW ("the theologian") at Massey, failed attempt to hunt down and chat with one of my supervisors, coffee with PC in the afternoon, session in the department on moving from research to writing. Good day, though the lunch crowd left something to be desired. The usual entertaining suspects weren't around, though SW is always fun to spend time with. The departmental session was definitely the highlight of the day. Very little was said that was directly helpful in a practical way, but the sense among the profs presenting and the other (more advanced) grad students in attendance was that writing a dissertation is damn hard. "I am so glad that I'm not you," said awesome professor LV. "It was the hardest thing I ever did." This makes me feel better, since I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by the potential enormousness of my project.

I stayed home most of Thursday to continue .pdf'ing images of archival documents and catch up on other work. After dinner I headed over the Massey to learn about concrete recycling and its environmental impact. This isn't something I'd necessarily be interested in, but it was good to support a fellow junior jellow (that's awkward phrasing, right there), especially since I am going to give my own lecture next Tuesday. After the lecture I went and visited LG for a few minutes, before dashing off to the pub. Yes, another history pub night! It was much fun. Let's see . . . DR was his usual laugh-riot self, and talking and laughing with AT, PM, MS, and HD took up most of the rest of my time. Historians. They are an entertaining bunch. I love them.

Yesterday I went to school bright and early to take in the job talk of the second candidate for the search that I'm participating in. The talk was awesome. I don't know anything about the topic, but the candidate was very impressive and got me excited about her research. The room was buzzing during the questions. The profs in the room were totally into the research and couldn't get enough of talking about it. After the formal session was over, people were milling about in little groups to continue the conversation. In the afternoon JT and had our interview with her, and she continued to impress. Did I mention that historians are cool? Actually, at lunch at Massey yesterday, I went on another tirade about the inherent awesomeness of historians. Turned out that one of the guys with whom I was talking is a physics prof---and a very handsome one too. Ah well. I can sometimes be a charicature of myself, and I wouldn't want it any other way!

FN, EC and I had dinner at home last night, and then EC and I went to Massey for X-mas festivities. This was mostly entertaining, and I introduced her to some of my friends and acquaintances there. Here is EC decorating a gingerbread cookie in the Junior Common Room! Some of the junior fellow are so odd, though. What I mean is the ones who seem to have no interest in knowing who I am. Well, maybe they are just shy. But still, it's odd. I am very friendly and generally nice, right? Whatever. I'm sure some people there must find me tiresome and offensive, but if so, well, it's their loss! The evening's activities ended with wine at AG and CB's house. Good day, but clearly unproductive. Today I must do laundry and hopefully finish some school-related work. Bah.