succumbing to peer pressure

Friday, January 11, 2008


So I was a little overly-ambitious with my reading plans over the holidays. But I did finally manage to finish The Last Town on Earth (overall very good, quite impressive for a first novel, but somewhat dissatisfying ending) and the collection of Sebastian Junger essays, Fire (from which the two articles about Massoud that I linked to previously came). Fire contains some excellent information about Massoud and (unrelated, obviously) the diamond trade in Africa and the ongoing conflict in Cyprus. There are other pieces about fighting forest fires, post-civil war Kosovo, kidnap victims in Kashmir, and whale hunting in Bequia. They're all fairly interesting, but I can't say that any of them turned me into a big Junger fan or anything. It's sort of not surprising that I found this one in the bargain pile.

And now I'm fully entrenched in the Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman. I polished off The Golden Compass a few days ago and promptly headed out to Wordsmiths for The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass (because I like my gratification to be instant). Although the stories themselves are quite enjoyable, I have to say that all the anti-Church stuff is actually a tad distracting. It's too clumsy and heavy-handed and, frankly, not clever, to really add much to the story. It feels a lot more like Pullman had this interesting story idea, and developed this cool other world with witches and fighting polar bears and dæmons (all humans have dæmons, get it?) and then shoehorned this anti-Church agenda into it. I certainly dig, from time to time, criticisms of organized religion, as there is certainly plenty to criticize, but I guess I was just hoping for/expecting something more interesting and subtle and clever. Then again, I'm only halfway through the second book, so maybe things improve in the end.

I'm also continuing to page through The Impossible Will Take a Little While, though I have to confess to being a tad disappointed thus far. I'm only a few selections in, still in the first section ("Seeds of the Possible") but nothing particularly moving or inspirational to report so far.


I finally got around to watching Talk to Me last night (Netflix delivered it weeks ago) which is worth watching for the depiction of the night MLK was assassinated alone. But there's plenty of other good stuff too, and stellar performances by Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Taraji P. Henson.

Feeling Accomplished

Despite all my pop culture indulgences recently, I'm actually feeling (for a brief, fleeting moment) pretty good about my research. And now I've gone and jinxed myself. But I thought big thoughts about two of my research topics yesterday and today, and actually, maybe, made just a bit of progress on this sticky theoretical problem that has been intimidating me for weeks, and edited a paper and an abstract, and re-did some analyses, and just generally chugged right along on my agenda (which I finally wrote down in excruciating detail earlier this week because I was starting to freak out about everything). So there's that.


Oh, and I need to do just a bit more research, but I think I've decided to go ahead and get a cortisone shot for my hip. My doc didn't put any restrictions on me in terms of physical activity, but still, I've been feeling guilty ever since the MRI results, like I'm blissfully running around damaging myself, which may or may not be true. But the cortisone shot should reduce inflammation and may potentially slow down my joint degeneration, so I think I'm going to go for it. And keep planning to put surgery off a couple of years...unless...


I've been avoiding talking about this, but last month I applied for a teaching fellowship. I'll find out in 11 days whether or not I got it. I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but I can't seem to stop my brain from making plans for if I get it. And one of those plans loops back to the timing of my potential surgery. But I don't want to say anymore, because it entails laying out all these ideas about how the next year would shape up and I don't want to write them down in case it all falls through...but I'll keep you posted.


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