Tuesday, January 30, 2007

From home to home.

Tomorrow I'm leaving this home to go, well, home. Toronto home. It's kinda sad. The archives are great fun---it's a learning adventure every day!---and I like living with the Js. (Especially the male J, who's super awesome.)

I'm sorry to say that I have not been a good tourist this month. I did not manage to buy postcards ever, so none of you are getting one. Oops. Also, I missed a whole lot of sights in DC, but I feel less guilty about that.

I've managed to get through everything that I really needed to this trip. Or, I will do that tomorrow, assuming the boxes I've requested come through. There's some other stuff I could have looked at, but I can do that another time. I mean, let's face it: chances are I will discover something that I should have looked at and will have to come back anyway. For the moment, though, I'm pleased with the tens of thousands of images I took! It'll take months just to read through everything. Yikes.

Time for me to go make my last dinner here in College Park.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A bit of what we saw.

This is my first attempt at (a) videotaping something, and (b) posting it on my blog. So go easy on me, ok? ;-)

Suburban kids in the District.

On Friday I turned down an invitation to go to a local happy hour so I could chill out a bit and get some work done on my documents. But then night-time rolled around and I was finished working and there was a party downstairs. So I joined in. (I'm a sucker for socializing, you know.) I ended up out in DC with J and some friends of his, including DJ. It was a fun evening, though the boys had too much to drink. (Why I am not surprised?) On the way home, though, DJ was quite inebriated and was being pretty annoying. We had to babysit him. And, good thing I was ok, because DJ was set on driving home! He couldn't even stand up straight. I did the only thing one can do in such a situation and convinced him to let me drive and come in with me to hang out. My housemates were really surprised, they told me later, that I got him to come back. Apparently DJ never wants to stay over. But Friday night he passed out on the sofa and left late the next morning. I hope the kid smartens up because this is not a cool way to act.

On Saturday me and the roomies went to the zoo followed by an early sushi dinner in Adams Morgan. The zoo was fine and the food was good. Zoos are, well, kinda strange places. You know what I mean. After dinner J and I left the other roommate and went in search of a festival he wanted to check out. We discovered it wasn't quite what he was expecting, so I asked some metro attendants where a big movie theatre complex was so we could go watch something. And so we went to Chinatown and took in "Children of Men." It was good, but somehow I don't think I liked it as much as FN and EC did.

Today I must go grocery shopping for the last time in Maryland and get ready for my last few days of research at the archives. I hope everyone in Toronto is having a great weekend too!

Oh, and here they are . . . the Js I live with. Aren't they cute?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Losing my oomph.

I'm tired and feeling boring, so here's a brief recap of my various adventures (such as they were) over the last few days.

Monday: Salmon for dinner. Mmmm.

Tuesday: J made chicken pasta with Alfredo ("white") sauce. Saw "Pan's Labyrinth" with J. I didn't watch the gory bits, so I liked it. Good, but strange.

Wednesday: One of the archivists took me up to the stacks where the records are kept so we could figure out what was up with the stuff I wanted. Here's the thing. The records of the consular posts in Russia during my period are only listed in one database that only staff can access at the archives. And once the records come up, there's no dates indicated. These are the ones I want, but it isn't always clear how I go about ordering them so the archives' staff will know what to get me. Hence the trip to the stacks. It was fun! The archivist then found a primary source for me that I hadn't heard of before. It probably won't be useful, but it was really great of him to point this out to me. He even showed me exactly what it looked like in the library upstairs. Cool. Later . . . pita pizzas for dinner. J and R drove me to Kinko's so I could mail HD's mom's computer back to her.

Thursday: Pesto pasta for dinner. And now I must work, work, work.

See how boring I am? Yawn. Back to work.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Just another weekend in DC.

Actually, not really. I didn't do anything particularly touristy. On Saturday, I bummed around and then J and I went to Adams Morgan to dance and (gulp) drink. (See if you can find us here. I am in pink.) Adams Morgan is kind of like a cross between Bloor St. and College St. in Toronto, and it was jam packed with people having a good time in the freezing weather. I figured I had to have some alcohol (when in Rome, you know), so I opted for something vodka-based to avoid a hangover. Smart, eh? What wasn't so smart was the amount I drank. To make a long, yucky story short, I threw up to end the evening. Lovely. But we made it home safely and hung out with J's best friends (as far as I can tell, since they are always over). It was actually a fun evening, though remind me to refuse alcohol the next time someone hands it to me.

Sunday I lazed around some more and caught up on sleep. One of the great things about this house is that it's right near the metro. But this also means that it's right next to the train tracks. And some of the trains that go by---the regular commercial ones---feel it necessary to blast their horns as they roll on by my window. This can be very loud and makes for difficult sleeping at times. Oh well.

I'm pretty sure now that I won't get through all the material I wanted to at the archives before I leave on the 31st. There's just too much of it, and my topic and the organization of the various files are such that I have to spend a lot of time just flipping pages. I've been going as fast as I can, so I don't feel bad about not finishing. And I don't think the extra few hours I could have done last week during extended hours would have made much of a difference. So, College Park, you'll be seeing me again before I graduate! (You hear that, J? It means I will make you hang out with me again.)

Oh, and it snowed for the first time here this winter yesterday. The roads (I heard) were chaotic. And as of right now, the snow hasn't melted yet. But it probably will soon. Sigh. So much for winter. And to think there's snow in Ottawa 6 months of the year!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Another blog posting.

Yesterday was back to the archives again. I was a wee bit slow and decided to eat breakfast at home, so I took the 9am bus to the archives. It almost comes out even, since I get to the archives just a few minutes after I would have stopped eating breakfast on a normal day. But it feels good to leave the house at a less early hour. The party from the night before meant R was asleep on the couch when I woke up, and J was not feeling well. (Poor him.) I was slightly amused.

I took a lot of pics as usual, and found some good stuff in boxes that hadn't been looked at since at least 1994. They were still shrink-wrapped from the move to this facility! I suspect the vast majority of the material I'm looking at hasn't been looked at by anyone in decades. But, the other day, I was annoyed because one chuck of material was really messily arranged in the folders. I mean, the stuff was probably mostly in its original order, but the papers were sticking out any which way. (I always make sure to put things in neatly. They last longer this way.) And what's even more annoying is that chances are I know the person who last looked at this stuff. Either it was one of two people I know either by e-mail or have met in person, or a bad research assistant. I was unimpressed. Oh well. At least I am a good researcher!

Friday night I made pasta for J and then we went to the movies with his friend A. J picked this one, which was kinda entertaining in the moment, but very stupid. Goodness. I must forget that I ever saw it. Afterwards, we watched another movie at home, which was much better, if a little gross. Another late night!

Although Thursday and Friday the archives were/was open late, I didn't take much advantage. The bus stop is very awkwardly placed. It's just around a bend on a busy regional road, and I didn't want to stay much after the sun went down. I think this is a wise move. But today the archives is/are open again, so I must go for a few hours. I slept in, which I feel a little guilty about., since it means I won't be able to do as much research as I might. But it's ok. I will at least finish the most important research before I leave town---enough to do the dissertation for sure. If I need to spend more time here next year, well, there are worse things, eh!?

Come to think of it, maybe I'll just skip the archives altogether today. MK did tell me that seats were hard to come by on extended days unless you got their early. And I'm definitely not early. Hmm. Downtown DC instead? Double hmm.

To end, here's a pic of Chance, the local cat.

Because you really wanted to know.

On Thursday I logged my day just to give you an idea of what I do all day here in College Park, MD. It wasn't a completely typical day. Here's the run-down:

7:20 alarm
7:28 get up, shower, get dressed, check e-mail, pack up
8:15 leave for the metro station
8:22 board bus to archives
8:26 bus leaves the station
8:30 see Canada Geese on a lawn at the university
8:39 get off bus
8:42 arrive at archives, go through security, get new property pass (because I forgot my old one)
8:49 enter cafeteria, eat breakfast (muffin, banana from home)
9:06 done breakfast, head to locker room
9:12 leave locker room, head to main floor for more security
9:15 enter research room
9:20 sign out documents
9:25 start working
9:47 time out to vent

When I went up to the desk to get permission to take photos, I was asked (as usual) whether any of my documents were still marked classified, etc. I answer, no, as usual, because it's always true. There are no secret or classified or whatever papers in the American Red Cross records. Most days they take my word for it, but today the guy gave me attitude. ("None of your documents are marked secret?") Goodness, dude. Well, fine, give me attitude if it makes you feel better about yourself. But then he pissed me off by practically yanking a chunk of papers out of a folder in the box I had brought up to show him. WTF?! I wanted to give him serious attitude back to the effect of, "God damnit, man. These papers are 90 years old and some of them are falling apart, and you go yanking them out of a tight box like that? These things are irreplaceable." When I got back to my desk I noticed that some of the pages in the folder he had manhandled were torn. I don't know whether his actions are to blame, but it just made me angrier. They have all this security and rules here, and lots of reading room staff to make sure you are following them, but sometimes they are the worst offenders. And they won't ever know it. Damn it.

9:50 back to work
13:33 check e-mail and late bus schedule
13:38 back to work
13:46 time for lunch
13:50 eat packed sandwich in cafeteria
14:02 back to work in the reading room
17:12 decided enough is enough: home time
17:15 return documents, pass security, and head to locker room
17:24 leave locker room and exit archives
17:29 arrive at bus stop
17:41 bus arrives
17:53 get off bus at station
18:00 home!
18:07 check e-mail
18:27 time to see what's up with food (getting hungry)
18:56 put dinner in oven---pita pizzas!
18:59 check e-mail
19:06 dinner is ready
19:09 start eating

J's (AKA other J's) friend R comes over (again) and hangs out with us while eating. He's too cool.

20:00 TV time with J and R
22:05 yet another J comes over (again)
22:22 finish hanging out with the boys when they all head to the bar with other roommate (also named J, of course)
22:23 check e-mail and MSN with FN, EC, and LG
22:30 download images from camera (I took 1896 of them today!)
22:35 copy downloaded images to external hard drive, continue reading e-mail
22:40 work with images (yawn)
23:40 finish transferring images into folders based on the record groups, series, subseries, boxes, and folders that the actual documents are in
23:45 brush teeth
23:50 one last e-mail and MSN check before heading to bed

This was supposed to be the end of my day . . . but alas. It took me a long time to fall asleep. And then I was either still awake or awoken by the return of the partyers (is that a word?) at 1:15am-ish. I remember checking my clock at 3:17. Oy: still awake. Oh well.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Living well.

The archives is (are?) treating me well. Yay! Know what else? I'm totally eating well too. Yeah, despite FN not being around to feed me. Shocking, but true. For example, breakfast usually consists of large muffin and banana; lunch is a homemade sandwich with cheese, meat, tomato, and cucumber, all between healthy bread; and dinner is filling and balanced (sometimes). Tonight I feel like bragging, because the other J and I had a scrumptious meal. I made garlic-butter baked salmon (soooooo good), salad with strawberries and goat cheese, and steamed green beans. J pitched in a steak. Mmm. Fresh food here is more expensive that in Toronto or Ottawa. The prices for fruits and veggies tend to be the same, but of course the dollar isn't. Too bad, really. But Americans can get a McD sandwich for a dollar.

Disclaimer: Any cooking abilities I may have I owe to FN's teachings . . . except for my specialty, pita pizzas.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Another day at the archives.

The National Archives was pretty quiet today. There were noticeably fewer researchers around than there was last week. Nor sure why. But I'm still there! Research is going well, but it's definitely a good idea that I am here for the whole month. There's lots to do yet.

All is well otherwise. Other J and I ate his leftovers for dinner and hung out with a friend of his for a bit before we parted ways. My schedule is pretty boring at night: dinner, chill for a bit, catch up with Torontonians, work on documents, make lunch for tomorrow. (But not necessarily in that order.)

Here are some pics I snapped on my way home. This is the sky above the College Park post office at about 5:30pm tonight.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"Support our Terps."

Yesterday afternoon I finished the National Gallery of Art and then came home exhausted and famished. But I did see some cool stuff, including (over the course of my 2 days there) works by Renoir, Picasso, Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Rothko, O'Keefe, Pollock, and the large Campbell's Soup painting by that guy who's name I forget. An excellent gallery: you should go if you're ever in DC.

Today---Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the U.S.A.---I took the subway out to Prince George's Plaza for some grocery shopping, and then took a long walk around the University of Maryland. Wow. Such a huge campus, and with such amazingly enormous red brick buildings. The university just celebrated it's 150th anniversary (1856-2006), and the school teams are known as the Terrapins . . . or Terps for short. And, because EC wanted pictures, here are some that I took to document my travels.

First up, some examples of the architecture. Please note that I am not a photographer, so don't expect artistic composition!

And here's a last one that I took of a window on the Ritchie Coliseum:
Did you notice how the buildings are all very similar? And also that there's no snow here? That's right. We've hardly had any proper winter at all yet, despite the fact that it's now the middle of January. Today it was supposed to be 21 celcius. I even had to take my jacket off when I was strolling through campus.

Speaking of campus (again), there's really something about space and place that makes a big difference on these sprawling grounds. It's very impressive. For example, here's a (admittedly sad-looking right now) Greek memorial of some sort right in the middle part of the huge mall that leads up to the main library. The memorial features a MLK, Jr. quotation on the bottom right of the picture.

And this is a walkway alongside said mall. Imagine walking up this every day?
There were very few other people around since the students are still on break. I also walked past more than a dozen Greek houses, and they are enormous and mostly impressive looking too.

Oh, but the oddest things were seeing a building named "Armoury" with two cannons out front, and this bird. What is it?!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Partying with the college kids.

Yep, that's right. Last night I joined the festivities. This involved beer pong, hide and seek, and "The Anchorman." Also general drunkenness. It was fun, but beer tastes too much like water. Which I guess is a good thing, since I like water.

Earlier in the day I went to the National Gallery of Art on the Mall, which was excellent. Except that nearly 3 hours later I had only managed to do about a third of the gallery. I didn't even make it to the 19th or 20th centuries. So I will have to go back another day. Maybe today?

Here's a bad pictures of the cheery blossoms blooming along the Mall, and you might be able to make out the Capitol building in the background. And there were people ice skating outside, despite the warm weather. I don't understand how that was possible, but it apparently was.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Wow, this 9-5 thing is exhausting! I was ready for bed at about 8pm last night, and today I was so very tired at the archives. But I found some entertaining material, so that's good. I also found myself sitting beside one of my supervisor's old friends! Crazy.

My archives buddy MK is headed back home, so next week I will have to make new friends at the archives. Sigh. It was nice to start and end the day on the bus with her, and chat over breakfast and lunch.

I've now got a three-day weekend, so will have lots of time to recuperate and cross some DC sights off my list. I'll keep you posted, and promise to take pics of my adventures . . . .

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My back hurts.

Sorry I haven't been posting this week yet. Every day it's pretty much same-old, same-old.

Alarm goes off at 7:20am. I ponder for a few minutes whether I really want to go to the archives before deciding that I must. And so I get ready and dash off in time for the 8:26am bus. I meet up with MK, my new archives buddy and we have breakfast together in the cafeteria. (I bring food to eat and buy a tea to get me going.) We head up to start our research. I take many pictures, and then we go for lunch. (I usually bring a sandwich, but today I forgot, so I ate chili instead. Yum.) After lunch I go take more pictures. The day ends and MK and I catch the bus home. Once home I eat dinner, catch up on e-mails, and work on the pictures I took. And then I go to bed. Exciting, eh?

Tomorrow I will hopefully finish the current batch of boxes on working on, and will start on the next ones. Actually, the next bunch coming is a bit of a mystery. I hope they're the ones I want!

Research is fun, but hard on the body.

Yesterday I read the following in the report of an American Red Cross official. He was writing from the Siberian interior during the Russian Civil War, and was clearly feeling a bit isolated: "If there is any news or scandal in Vladi[vostok] let me in on it." I feel this way about Toronto: I want all the gossip!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A tourist in Washington.

My new (temporary) roommate and I were out for about 7 hours today, and spent most of that time walking, taking in the Washington sights. It was fun! We headed downtown and started at the Mall and then saw pretty much all the monuments and memorials that one can see around that area. These included: the Washington monument (the big phallic symbol); the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials (large columned structures with enormous statues of the men inside, along with excerpts from their famous speeches etched into the walls); the George Mason memorial, looking lonely and neglected; the sprawling FDR memorial; the various war memorials (the famous Vietnam one, the Korean one---way cool, and the large new WWII one). The other J was a real trooper, despite his aching legs and feet!

Here I am in front of the Jefferson memorial, and that's J in the red hoodie behind me.

Here's part of the Korea War memorial. Images of soldiers are etched into the granite. It's very cool.

This last one is of part of the FDR memorial, which is huge, and covers all four of his terms as president. Neat-o. This is a scene memorializing the depression.

We of course managed to get lost on the way to find some food, but eventually found a place and got out of the rain for some good college boy fare near George Washington University: chicken wings, burgers, beer (for J), fries, and frat boys yelling at football on a big screen. It was an excellent day.

Tomorrow, back to the archives!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Summer in January.

Yep, that's right: it was hot outside today. But I didn't spend too much time outdoors. Instead, I went and bought a new computer and then spent the rest of the day setting it up and doing some of the research work I couldn't do over the past couple days. Oy. I'm sure I could have gotten a better computer deal, but as you know, I didn't have time to do proper research on this! I ended up getting another Windows machine because of worries about not being able to access my research notes and because of my love for Wordperfect. So, a Toshiba is it. It's fine, though I would have preferred my old laptop not to have broken down!

Tomorrow I will finally head out into the city for some sightseeing. There's no excuse not to . . . except for all that .pdf'ing I need to do. But that can wait.

I miss Toronto!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Computer headache continues.

Today was my first full day at the national archives, and it went well. At the moment I am going through the most important boxes, and finding tons of good stuff. I was to be found standing up over my desk with a slight stoop, taking hundreds and hundreds of photographs. Sixteen hundred, actually.

I rode the bus to and from with my new researcher-friend, and it's nice to have a bit of human contact before and after a long day!

But the computer issues continue. Although thie borrowed old one that I'm using now does work, the screen keeps flicking off. Like, every few seconds. Which is most annoying and unconducive to getting anything done on it. I was mighty depressed after coming home too, because not only was the screen causing me problems, but I couldn't connect to the internet! Isolation!! So after downloading all my images to the computer and my external hard drive, I took a nap. And now the internet is working---yipee!

In the morning I think I really must buy myself a new computer. Thanks for all your advice. (And if I don't answer your e-mails over the next few days, please accept my apologies and blame my computer problems! And blame the screen flickering for any typos in this post.)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Have (temporary) laptop, can research.

The new/old laptop came this morning! So I am now reconnected to the world. After installing some necessary software, I went to the archives this afternoon to start taking pictures of the American Red Cross records. There is a lot of stuff, which is great!

The archives here are very different from the national archives in Ottawa. First off, here are a ton more people working here. In Ottawa, there are a few commissionaires, and then a very few scattered reference staff who are publicly visible. And that's it. Most of the archivists have their offices in another buidling (which, I hear, they are none too thrilled about). But at the College Park archives, there are dozens of staff members, and they are everywhere! I think it's in large part because security here is so much tighter, and the rules of research are a little stricter too. The main research room itself is really nice, and overall I think it will be a good research month. And, I made a friend today while waiting for the bus home! She's a dissertator from the University of Michigan, and I think we are on for lunch in the cafeteria tomorrow. Excellent.

This weekend I have to seriously start shopping for a new laptop. Sigh. So far, it sounds like people like Toshiba. What do you think? LG is trying to convince me to get a Mac, but I don't know whether this is the best time to switch. I don't want to have conversion problems with my research notes! That would be disastrous.

I'll also do my best to get in some touristy things on the weekend . . . an enjoy the spring weather we're currently having! What ever happened to January? There are flowers in bloom here.

P.S. EC: Where are you?

P.P.S. See this.

Unexpected adventures.

Here's a brief run-down of the unwanted occurrences of the past few days.
1. The night before I flew to Washington my computer stopped worked. Well, to be precise, it works fine on battery, but the plug thingie is not working. So, I can't plug it into the wall through the AC adapter, or use my external battery. Which means there's about 30 minutes left of power in it. Sigh.
2. I took the subway and bus to the airport. This took too long, and then I got off at the wrong terminal, so had to trek back to the right one. This made me a bit nervous because I was already late!
3. Got to the correct terminal, and it was a madhouse! OMG, there were hundreds and hundreds of people lining up for US flights. I was very impressed with the airport staff. They went up and down the huge lines, gathering people up for specific flights and moving them ahead so people wouldn't miss their flights. A clump of us DC-bound people ended up spending way more time together than we'd ever imagined! (At this point, though, my being late to the airport didn't matter anymore, since the guy right ahead of me in the customs line had been there 2 hours early.)
4. Security was very tight. The customs agent asked me all kinds of questions, even about what my dissertation was on! My checked luggage was then inspected by hand. And then the regular carry-on checking. I then rushed down to the last gate, and waited in another line. I was very thoroughly checked with a metal-detector thing. Very. And ALL my carry-on items were opened and carefully inspected. Wow. I finally made it onto the plane just a few minutes past the original take-off time. So the flight wasn't delayed that long. Crazy times. I was on the go (or waiting in a line) from 6:45am until I got my luggage at Reagan National Airport at 11:30am. Good thing I didn't have to go to the washroom or get something to eat!
5. I ate my first soft pretzel at the airport. Yummy! Why don't we have these things in Canada? Or do we?
6. My new landlord picked me up at the airport, and gave me a quick tour of some of the tourist areas of DC before taking me to my new home in College Park, MD. He then ordered food for us, because at this point it was approaching 2pm, and we were both starved.
7. I slept for several hours that evening (Tuesday), and then woke up to start worrying about what to do about my computer situation. I need one for my research. HD and her mom promised to fedex an old laptop to me the next day! They are too awesome. Good thing I have a US cell phone with me, because it was my only means of communication with the outside world. (The cell comes from HD's mom too, so extra thanks to her.)
8. Wednesday morning I discovered the metro and a local mall and bought groceries. In the afternoon I took the bus to the archives, survived more super-tight security, and started my research! Yay! I also got to check my e-mail for the first time in a couple days.
9. I waited almost 45 minutes for the bus to get back home. Oy. Once here, I turned on my computer (with battery) and transferred all my files to my external hard drive. The I hung out with one of my new roommates for a bit before doing some work and going to sleep.
10. This morning I woke up to wait for my Fedex delivery. And I'm using my new/old/temporary laptop now. While waiting I read some of my supervisor's newest book. It is so good. Wow. She is amazing.
11. At the moment I am installing some programs and transferring important files to this new computer so I can start using it at the archives this afternoon.
12. Phew! And if you actually managed to read this far, you are crazy, but I love you anyway ;-).

Monday, January 01, 2007

My New Year's Resolution.

Happy New Year!

I am not one for resolutions, but this year it just so happens that I've decided to make a change at the same time as 2007 begins. What is it, you ask? I've started a "dissertation diary." Every day (or just about) I will write something---anything---about my dissertation and related work. This comes about because of that book I've been reading about writing dissertations. And I think it's an excellent idea. It's stupid that I wasn't doing it already. My first entry was this morning.

I came back to Toronto yesterday afternoon. The train was nearly an hour late getting in to Union Station (sigh), but this was to be expected this time of year . . . except that there wasn't any snow on the ground once we got a bit away from Ottawa (where it is totally white, and has been since Boxing Day). So, grr. I'm pretty sure that I saw an old friend of our family's on the train. Actually, at the Ottawa station, on the train, and then again at Union Station a couple times. She was with some people, and I chickened out and never said anything. Not sure why, since I really think it was her. Oh well. Another thing to add to my list of mini regrets.

Last night FN and I hosted JDS and TC, whom we love, love, love. I wrote "hosted," but it was hardly that. We had good Japanese food for a late dinner, followed by "The Devil Wears Prada," and lots of talking throughout the evening. A perfect new year's bash, to my mind.

Today I must pack and return those papers I graded before I went to Ottawa for xmas. And then it's off to Washington in about 24 hours' time. If any of you have recommendations for touristy things I must do while I'm there, please send them my way.

Have a great time in Atlanta, JDS and HD!

P.S. I'm now reading this article from the NYT.