Can’t make it on my own.

In school news: It’s nearing semester’s end, and I am staring down a frightening amount of exam work needs doing. I am still slated to take them in the Spring, but getting this paper down is going to be fairly horrifying, nevermind finishing reading the rest of my two lists (am a little over halfway on each–finished another three books over Thanksgiving break).

In apartment news: Randomly the water is off, and I’d hoped to spend today cooking for the week. Water shut off mid-cook, no less, so now my hands smell of garlic and the best I can do is handsanitize them and be grateful I wasn’t midway through anything messier. The radiator still clanks, and I’m back to “yup, we need to move,” though I’m off the cliff of “we need to break the lease and move NOW.” I really hope I can find a job post-exams, preferably a job that pays enough to permit me to upgrade to a slightly less rundown apartment. I’m so, so tired of the constant irritations of my personal space being broken. It’s routine-disrupting in the worst way.

In Thanksgiving news: Went to visit Rhin in Missouri, which was lovely and relaxing and rejuvenating (I could sleep through the night there). I got some writing done, read all the things, ate Thanksgiving food every day except the night I took Rhin out for bday sushi, went for long walks in the gorgeous wooded area by her dorm…it was a wonderful time, though she seems bummed out about her diss, and dismal job prospects on the other side (visions of my future, I’m sure). The bus ride from Chi to Columbia is exhausting and long, and I got less work done this time, mostly because of lighting issues preventing my reading all the way there and back. I should’ve gotten through Gravity’s Rainbow, but alas.

Now what should I do with my day? Have until 9pm to putter, and I’d planned to read, write, research, grade, and play email catchup (besides all the cooking). Despite the fact that no water doesn’t preclude most of these things, I’m irked enough that I all I really want to do is get out of the house, to someplace where the toilet flushes and I can get myself a glass of water if I’m thirsty. Might be time for another afternoon spent at the coffeeshop.

Everyone’s been posting what they’re thankful for, to do with the Thanksgiving spirit. There are all kinds of things that come to mind. It’s not a terrible exercise, thankfulness. Simultaneously, I am just not feeling it today. Perhaps it’s reading political blogs this morning–the economy is so, so fucked. Maybe it’s the reminder that I will soon turn thirty with nothing to show for it; these days, “independence” means living in a godawful apartment and racking up debt for a degree that is unlikely to get me a job. My univ’s faculty search has over 600 applicants for one position. Most days I feel like I’m not going to make it on my own. Not me, not most of the people I know. Also, I am too few degrees of separation away from too many people fighting cancer. How did we end up here?

I’m thankful for many things, but some days, brightsidedness seems lawful evil. And now I am going to get the eff out of my house before the grim oversweeps.

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So fluffy I want to die!

So I got to go to Midwest Furr Fest 2011 with the most excellent TimWhoIsAFox. It was spectacular fun–I got to catch up with friends, and then I got to dance, which is pretty much all I require in order to be made completely happy.

The con hotel was a 30 min. drive from our place, and by the time we got there, we only had 50 min. before the show Tim had invited us to attend. So we snarfed down a few plates of hotel buffet food, and it was Clarion redux (the cake? Was definitely Day 1), and then we went to a guitar-and-ukelele performance. And lo, what was the uke song played? Hilarious flashbacks to Scalzi rocking out in the common room.

Then we were supposed to wander around the con, but Tim’s wonderful husband Mark let slip that he was going to a dance, and my little ears perked up. “Dance?” I said. “Can I go too? Do you have to be in costume? Will they play untz-y beats?”

This is where things get funny. I’m on the dance floor with Mark, who’s in full costume, when he gets escorted out by six people in soldier outfits. I was convinced I’d somehow gotten him in trouble, him dancing with a norm and all. But no, apparently there was a comedy show going on in the next room over, and the soldiers were part of the act–they’d been sent to the dancehall to grab the nearest guy in costume and haul him in, to participate (involuntarily) in a sketch. So Tim went racing off to make sure Mark was okay.

Which is how I totally lost my chaperones at a furrycon.

They eventually came back, and Tim explained what had happened, and I stopped panicking and danced til midnight, whereupon I turned into a pumpkin. Thanks, Mark and Tim. A lovely time was had by all, and I’m glad Mark wasn’t actually arrested!

Deja vu all over again.

…and, after a week of Real Sleep, the radiator noise is back. AAAAaaaaRRRgghAAaaa! This blog has become the diary of apartment fail. I sent yet another email to the landlord, since clearly the maintenance guys DID find the problem, it’s just that whatever they did wasn’t a permanent fix. Oh god, all I want is for the sound to go away. It’s been such a lovely apartment this week, all shiny and clean, and we Drano’d the tub so even that was working…why couldn’t it last?

And once again I sit down to grade and work on my proposal on split sleep, with a muzzy head. EFF.

Okay, on to more fun news…

Sleep acquired.

Our upstairs neighbor complained about the pipe making a racket, and yesterday the plumbers came by and fixed it. I was highly skeptical (see previous post re: fixes that make things worse). But lo, whatever they did did the trick, and I slept blissfully last night. It’s amazing how much better I feel in mind and body on a full night’s sleep. Today, I can do EVERYTHING!!

Give me this night my nightly sleep.

I hate my apartment. I have hated my apartment for a while now, and have been avoiding admitting that I hate my apartment, because I also hate moving, and admitting that I hate my apartment is tantamount to admitting that yes, I DO need to go through the moving process all over again, and soon. Ugh.
The repairwork on the ceiling is finally done, two weeks later, which is faster than last time–I can actually take down plastic and clean this weekend.
But I can’t even be grateful that’s over with, because, like all repairs done on this apartment, they fix the problem by creating a new, worse problem. Like when the toilet decided to randomly overflow, and the fix reduced the water pressure to the point where the toilet barely flushes. Or this time, where fixing the leaky pipes in the ceiling now means that every time the heat turns on, the pipes sound like a guy with a hammer is trying to cave them in. I woke up three times last night, and it’ll only get worse as the temperature drops. Last winter I slept in earplugs–bad (ear infections, missed alarms), but liveable. Since the repair, the noise CUTS THROUGH EARPLUGS it’s so much worse.
I HATE MY APARTMENT.
Then there’s the storm windows. Our second-floor apartment is a sauna, but the radiators are marginally quieter when they’re turned on, so I leave them on when I can stand the heat. That often means opening a window, especially if I use the oven (which triples the heat). Today, I received the 8th (yup, 8th) angry email from my landlord asking if I understood how storm windows work.
The condescension is what gets me more than anything. Yes, dude, I’m as sorry as you are that I can’t afford an apartment in a newer building. I would love to have made life choices that mean I can afford an apartment with working plumbing, one with a heating system that doesn’t prevent me from getting a sound night’s sleep eight months of the year.
I really need to just move, but getting out of my lease requires finding some poor sucker to take over the contract. So I would have to lie in order to inflict my apartment–wherein the sink doesn’t drain, the toilet has no water pressure, the shower randomly spikes boiling hot, and the ceiling pipes have broken twice in two years…the list goes on–on some other schmoe. Adding to the black humor of the situation, long before I moved in, I asked the landlord about both the heating system (is it loud) and the shower (does it have water pressure; does it drain).
HATE HATE HATE. I don’t know which is the worse idea: trying to find a replacement tenant and moving during exam year, or attempting to take exams after not sleeping for six months.
I have thus far restrained myself from sending a snarky reply re: the storm windows, but I’m close to a breaking point. And I can’t even block the endless barrage of emails for fear I’ll miss out on a crucial one, say about a missing rent check or something. No, I have not withheld or reduced rent payments, or ever sent rent late, but maybe I should? I just don’t want my credit rating to suffer.
I have a brutal headache from sleep-dep and a paper to revise this weekend. I am completely at a loss as to what I should do; it’s been bad for so long…I would’ve moved this summer but for Clarion. Sigh. I miss having a clean apartment and a shower that works. And sleep sweet sleep.
And yes, I could go the legal route of looking for tenant-protection services, but given the level of stress I’m under with exams, just moving, or tolerating the damn place (and bitching a lot) for another six months, seem like more viable options.
In all fairness, several other people I know live in the building and have had fewer problems, and better dealings with the landlord. Maybe our interpersonal styles just clash. And my apartment appears to be extra-cursed.

Praying mantis.

Today, walking back to my office from a mediocre teaching day (too little time to run the complete exercise I’d planned), I saw a praying mantis.
Those things are the most badass-looking bugs ever. It was enormous, long as my palm, brown and electric green. And it was walking stately like down the center of a main thoroghfare through campus. So I stopped and gawked at a place that also diverted traffic around the mantis. People kept peeking over my shoulder to see what I was staring at. A huge awesome bug, that’s what I’m staring at. You should stop and stare, too.
The mantis made it to the edge of the sidewalk, at which point I abandoned it to the wilds of the manicured campus lawn and headed up the sidewalk and on to my 20th story office.
But it briefly made my day, that bug encounter. What is it about run-ins with the natural world that just does it for me? Double rainbows out the window on the L. Giant blue butterflies landing on the windshield. A big ole mantis.
I wish I could’ve seen it devour another bug. Don’t they eat their husbands or something? That’s a thing, right?

Why so slow?

Since I am now only listing things I have actually done: as of today, Nov. 1, I have TWO stories out in the world seeking homes. My goal remains to keep three stories out on the market at all times. And. And. I’m really proud of these two stories, you guys. I wrote them both for Dr. Grimes’ fiction workshop last spring, and one of them got me into Clarion. Am taking Kij Johnson’s advice and starting at the top of the genre pubs and working my way down through the ranks, which will probably take at least a year (accumulating rejections: a longer process than I’d imagined, aye? Three-month-long queues, what). Or forever, if I can keep getting out a story a month. Twelve a year? That’d be four times my usual annual output. I’d love to do better than that (I NEED to do better than that), but revision is a painstaking process for me. First I have to break a story so badly I think it’s ruined forever, and then I glue it back together until it’s a story-shaped object again. Cthulhu = 12 drafts. Enemy = 10. Each draft is running 2-5 days of poking, picking, knitting. At least I’m carving out an hour here, an hour there, and that time stitched together has gotten me two polished stories, both in MUCH better shape than their original drafty form. One more pre-Clarion story to wrangle, and then I’m on to Clarion revisions. Eek! They scare me. But yeah. Baby steps, little goals. The fact I’m getting anything creative done during exam year makes me happy. I am so envious of all the NaNoWriMo posts popping up all over the Internet. While you are all writing novels? I’ll be over here, veerrrrrrryyyyy sllloooooowwwllllyyy revising yet another 1,500 word bit of fluff. My word count, it will forever be smaller than yours. Perhaps I should buy a large truck to compensate?

Pun.

Halloween got all messed up this year. Sacha threw an awesome party, but we did not get our themed group costume together in time. Last year, we were all Arrested Development. This year we threw around a bunch of ideas (Jem, internet memes), but nothing came together. I thought we’d settled on internet memes, but then one of the two people fronting that idea had her costume (Hipster Ariel) fail to ship. She pulled together a fabulous Rick Astley and rickrolled everyone, while the other meme-guy went as Come at Me, Bro. He brought a giant frame with the words “Come at me bro” at the bottom, and everyone stuck their heads through the frame and made fightin’ faces. The pictures, they are fabulous. But basically no one knew until the 11th hour what all we were going to be.

So…ummm…I have no defense for my costume choice. I mean, my excuses at the time included “Sacha hates puns. She will hate this costume. It’s worth it just to watch her wince,” and “Ugh, I have no money, and I don’t want to spend a ton of $ on a costume I’ll wear for two hours,” and “This is so last minute! How am I supposed to throw something together in 24 hours?” and “All the internet things I like are too obscure. Eff.” They are all excuses. I admit it, I was just entertained by the punniness.

So I printed up a large version of this, with the alt-text printed beneath it, and wore it as a sign on a ribbon around my neck. That was the only real clue. I bought some very cheap plastic weapons (battle axe, scythe) at Target. And I cut up some bright remnants and safety pinned them to a shirt. It looked like this:

You have no idea either, huh? Only four people figured it out. Sacha took 15 minutes, and then the eye-rolling commenced.

Yup, I was an internet flame war for Halloween. I AM A GIANT DORK. But then I took the weapons off because they kept slipping, and Mary and her husband showed up as Mrs. O’Leary and her cow, and I morphed into the Chicago fire, and everything was okay.

Happy Halloween, everybody!