Monday, October 31, 2011

An Artistic Interlude

The art in this little video is just gorgeous. Watch, and enjoy the sublime music by Josh Garrels while you're at it (or better yet, download the entire album for free!):

Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Quick Takes

- 1 -

Welcome to this week's mind-blowingly exciting edition of 7 Quick Takes. I would like to set the tone for today by offering this most awesome little GIF:
How awesome is that??? Help my identify them: I see Megaman, someone who looks like a cross between the Hulk and Aladdin, Michelle Kwan, and Spiderman. All doing a dance that I must learn to do because it's so cool! Whoa! Whoa!

- 2 -

Glad I got that out of my system. Now onto more mundane matters. Like, I'm going to Paris the first weekend of December, bwahahahaaha! Mundane THAT, ese! I'm super excited. Getting in Thursday evening, staying till Sunday lunch because I have to sing that Sunday evening back here in the G-dot. (No, I'm not going to expand on that completely obvious dirty joke. Go somewhere else. Or just wait two minutes until my resolve crumbles in a ridiculous bout of "But it's so funny!!!") I'm going to visit my friend from Dublin who works there as a journalist. Can't wait to see her!

- 3 -

In other awesome news, I did it! I got through a whole judo practice, only had to sit out 3 or 4 times, went two rounds in a row each time between rests, no major or minor injuries, only made a minor ass of myself, AND got tips on where to go dancing in the area to boot. Wooo! Wooooooo! 

- 4 -

Halloween party tomorrow night, then I'm trying to decide what to do for my birthday next weekend. I'm thinking go out for fondue at Les Bains de Pâquis with some girls from the res, then head to Jonction to one of the clubs for some dancing. I'm wicked excited, yo, should be great! I just have to remember to make reservations at the fondue place in the next few days; hopefully they'll have space.

- 5 -

I think I figured out what gave me my near heart attack the other day: coffee. I'm not generally a coffee drinker, but here I've been drinking it at least once and often twice a day. And I went for lunch a couple days ago and had a coffee after, and my heart just started racing like crazy again, and I started to panic. And I realized, holy crap, I've practically developed an allergy to caffeine! So, from now on I will be having tea with breakfast, and no coffee mid-afternoon snacks. Hopefully that will help. I skipped the afternoon coffee today (though I had WAY more sugar than I should have, that's another thing I don't metabolize well) and I felt much better (after I got over the sugar crash, lol). 

- 6 -

French has been going better. (I'm going fine, and you?!) I haven't necessarily improved, but I get less embarrassed and flustered when I screw up. So a mental rather technical improvement, but the more important one by far, I think. I still get lazy and speak English at judo, but people have been just speaking back to me in French, which makes it easier for me to remember to reply in French. To make the effort. And I don't mind when they laugh at me.

- 7 -

I had a LOL moment this week (actually my life is a series of LOL moments, but only when I'm in a good mood). The book I had to read for my methodology class was so boring that ... and I kid you not ... I had to read it out loud to myself in order to keep from falling asleep. I have never, in my extensive and sometime extensively boring academic career, had to do this. Have I told you how much I hate philosophy, and philosophers in particular, and philosophers who write books that I am compelled to read most of all? I promise to write a post on it someday. But today has just been too awesome to bother. I'm going to go wallow (or whatever the positive-connotation word for "wallow" is) in the awesomeness for a bit. It will involve a can of Coke, 2 small pieces of chocolate, Têtes à claques, Les Trois Accords and Switchfoot, and possibly CFCY. And a comfy pillow.

Have a great weekend, and head over to Jen's for more Quick Takes! I'm going to go practice the superhero dance.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A List

Things I want to do in Switzerland:

* Take a picture of the rapids/tiny waterfall near where I live
* Visit Paris
Visit Rome
*Apply for (more) grad school
Visit Interlaken
Visit Ticino
Go swimming in the lake
Visit Lausanne
Go into the Alps, somehow
* Finish my Huguenots-in-Ireland research
Go salsa dancing
Become comfortably fluent in French
* Eat cheese fondue
Eat raclette
Try kirsche
Learn German
Learn Italian
* Take more pictures
* Do something fun for my birthday
* Visit Carouge
Stop drinking so much coffee
* Find Calvin's grave
Get through a full two hours of judo
Stop procrastinating on the interwebs

* A star means it either is likely to or it must get done

And finally, completely not in relation to anything above, please enhance the next five minutes of your life by listening to this video. Turn up your speakers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Dear self, you are not made of iron. Stop being retarded, take your damn ibuprofen, and drink a Coke before working out. And speak more French while you're at it, stop being so lazy.

Yeah, I should listen to myself more often.

I'm not really sure what's going on; it's the third practice in a row that I've had to stop because I was getting dizzy. Tonight I was actually starting to black out before I sat my ass down. What the hell, I should be getting better, not worse. Oh yeah, and my hips have decided not to rotate. Again. Last time that happened it bothered me for months.

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

In other news, the sisters here at the residence threw us a little potluck party tonight. It was really cute; they were clearly all very excited and dressed in their nicest skirt and sweaters, and everyone brought something to share, and the sisters had even made little flag indicators to show what country the food was from. I hope they were happy with the turnout.

I've been gathering girls from the res to go to what is apparently the really super cool awesome omg Halloween party organized by Glocals, that expat pseudo-Facebook website. But girls who have gone in past years tell me it's actually a lot of fun, and I already have two people who will definitely go. It's from 10pm to 3am though, which is, you know, normally the time I'm sleeping. I hope I stay awake enough to have a good time. I'm going to have a sleep-deprivation hangover for the next 3 days, I'm sure. Should be fun though. In fact, the last time I went to a club was also at Halloween ... 2004. Organized by McGill Rez Council. At La Boom. When I was 17. ... Wish me luck, everybody.

And today wasn't all bad; I just get really frustrated at judo and my inability to make my corpus do what I want. In fact, one awesome thing did happen: I had a presentation to do in class for the most boring book evar omg and I decided that it would be easier to write out my points in English and then translate them, because the book was so confusing I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep it all straight in French. Well, of course it took me much longer than expected (mainly because I had written a lot more than I realized; the translation part was surprisingly, and reassuringly, easy), and I had to go to class with about the last 3rd of it untranslated. I was horrified - I had given up my whole weekend to work on this damn thing, and not only that, but this is the prof I want to impress the most because she's the one I want to work with if I come back here. (Her brain scares me, but that's a post for another time.)

Long story short, the first presenter took a full hour for her presentation, so by the time we were wrapping up the second presentation it was already five minutes to 6. I got off scot-free, and managed to ask some intelligent questions, in the appropriate language, to boot. (Actually they weren't even that intelligent - I pulled the "indignant historian criticizing a philosophical work" card. In academia, when in doubt, be indignant. It somehow legitimizes whatever stupid things might then come out of your mouth in the eyes of those who have to listen to you.) (Academia is so stupid.)

I'm going to read some Milton, and go to bed. And try not to think about all the other projects I have to do in the next 2 months.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Language Learning and Laziness

Latin class this morning was downright silly - in a good way. Half the class was missing because pretty much everyone but me and one other guy are in the Theology faculty, and they had some sort of theology practice this morning out of town. Yes, "theology practice", and no, I don't have any idea what it means. Being a Catholic, however, I have visions of Protestant wannabe ministers chucking Bibles at each others' heads. But I digress.

Basically, the prof started making jokes about how much she enjoyed making our lives difficult by teaching us irregular verbs (so sue me, just about anything is funny at 8am on 4 hours of sleep), and we all kind of came down with a collective case of the giggles which erupted during random translation bits, and it finished off with one of the guys buying us all coffee at the break, and then class ending early. It was pretty ridiculous, in a very fun and relaxed kind of way. Maybe you just had to be there. But I definitely hope we have class like that more often.

The translations seemed rather easy for the second week in a row. This led me to a disturbing conclusion: my inability to speak French here, I think, is an entirely psychological impairment. Allow me to draw the connection: The first few weeks we were doing translations from Latin into French. Normally this should be easier; it's always easier to translate from a new language into the language that you know. But during the last couple of weeks, we've been translating from French into Latin. To me, this is (comparatively) a breeze! It should not be thus. And in fact, when I realized that this was the case, I went back and tried some of the Latin-to-French sentences and nearly panicked. I could not, could not do it. 

Ergo, my problem is clearly twofold: firstly, I have totally psyched myself out and I need to get over it. Secondly, I need a lot more practice being creative with French. If I'm having an easier time creating sentences in Latin, a language that I've been exposed to for only five weeks, than French, which I use every day, this is bad. Ergo, assuming I ever become disciplined enough, I think the best way to attack this is to do translations of English writings into French, one paragraph at a time. They don't have to be perfect, it's more a matter of getting those neurons firing in my brain. For whatever reason, they've decided to go on vacation, and I need them working. Eleanor Roosevelt, your autobiography is soon to be françaisized. 

Also (part 3 of 2), I need to get over my fear of embarrassing myself, and just enjoy the chance to be the new girl with the cute accent. Soon (hopefully) I will speak well enough that I will no longer have that excuse when I say wrong things, so I should really milk it for all it's worth now, while I have the chance.

Now I have to go make myself read the last 10 pages of the damn philosophy book I'm presenting tomorrow in my methodology class, and draw up the presentation, so that it will be done and out of my life. I suffer, suffer, through philosophy.

Friday, October 21, 2011

7 Quick Takes

- 1 -

Remember that big presentation I had on Halloween? Totally in French, which I was getting all worked up about already? Well, it got bumped back by a week, so now it's on my birthday. Humph. Which is kind of nice, because it means I'm not trying to prep for it now, but still: the weekend of my birthday I'll be reading up on Irish dudes killing each other, and then trying to make a coherent (and long) French presentation out of it.

- 2 -

Proof that my brain has been completely turned to mush by this whole language thing (no one who has talked to me on the phone recently needs any more, I'm sure): on Monday I had my first inability to find the English term before the French term during a conversation, so I ended up having to use the French term due to a complete lack of mastery of my mother tongue. So I was talking to my (American) professor, and ended up saying, "I'm really sorry about doing the wrong readings, but I somehow missed the memo about the ... [pause] ... retardement par une semaine." At which point he looked at me very strangely. I'm not even sure if that was a correct phrase or not, but it allowed me to say what I had to. 

This was then followed by  a complete inability to speak French all day Tuesday. See yesterday's post for an explanation and short video clip.

- 3 - 

My research project has been encouraged, and I've been trying hard to (a) not get overwhelmed by it and (b) not get ahead of myself, like I have a tendency to do. For instance, it is very important right now that I read the secondary sources so I have an idea of what has been done and also so I can get some leads on existing primary sources. That way I can structure my paper in my head using existing background knowledge before I go trotting off to the four corners of Europe to get primary sources, thereby ensuring that I use them wisely and efficiently, and also that I don't miss anything. This makes me anxious because I'm going home in two months (aww/yay!) and I want to have a working draft done before I go to make sure there are no gaping holes in the project that can only be fixed with stuff I can get here. And also, the primary source work is the most interesting anyway, so I really want to get to it. But I have to be disciplined and hold my horses for another few weeks.

- 4 -

Concordia University has informed me that my degree has officially been conferred, hooray! My friend Matte picked up my bound thesis copy for me, and is holding it until ... sometime. She took a picture and sent it to me; it's so shiny and red and gold and professional looking. Since I'm in Switzerland, obviously, I won't be making it to my graduation on Nov. 22 (hey Matte - what color are our robes in Theology, anyway?), but Matte and I have discussed plans to just photoshop my smiling visage into random pictures that she will take on the day. Assuming the fax went through and isn't lost in the quagmire of Concordia Internal mail (which I can't at all assume), I will be receiving my (registered) mailed diploma a bit before Christmas. Then I can order a hideously expensive frame for it, and it can go on my wall above my McGill diploma. Take that, McGill!

- 5 -

During my bouts of being able to speak languages this week, I had two totally strange experiences. I will tell you about one right now, because the other one is still weirding me out. I met a guy who works in the Institute who had been away so I hadn't met him before. He came by to introduce himself, and we had a few-minutes-long conversation about studies and history work. While I didn't identify an obvious accent, it turns out that he's from just outside of Montreal, originally, and he did his two degrees at McGill. Later that day, two things occurred to me: first, he totally could have switched to English, and he didn't. That was very nice of him. Second, I had an entire conversation with him in which I did not once have to ask him to repeat what he said. This is in stark contrast to European French speakers, who I normally have to ask to repeat every sentence twice in order to give me time to figure out what they said and fill in the missing parts. This has nothing to do with my French getting better; it simply reconfirmed for me that there is something particular about the way Quebecers talk that matches the frequencies in my brain labelled as "French" and filed under "Languages I know, understand, and speak", which is not present in continental French. A dozen cookies to the first person who can pinpoint what it is, because I am at a loss.

- 6 -

That being said, I'm looking forward to one aspect in particular about going home and being in an English milieu: I will once again be able to use odd English idioms, complicated words, and the random smatterings of yiddish. They add such spice to my everyday language, and it's lacking here, amongst mostly non-native speakers. I miss them.

- 7 -

That's about it for this week. I have to go do my laundry and keep chugging away at a horrible philosophy book which I'm presenting on Tuesday, because tomorrow I want to go to Lausanne for the day and poke around. Two girls downstairs are going to Bern on Sunday for the same reason, but as much as it would be nice to go with people (especially ones who speak German), I think I will need the day to get some more work done. We'll see.

Don't forget to head over to Jen's for an extra helping of this week's Quick Takes!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Le vrai français

I think I hit the point this week where my brain has totally given up with the French. Hopefully this is just the point at which my brain is re-wiring, and that by next week everything will be functioning in tip-top shape and I'll be close to fluent. Or something. But on Tuesday I hit a low point: I was having such trouble expressing myself in class that my prof (who was trying to be kind, and reassured me that "it's not a language course") told me just to speak English. *sigh* And at judo it was no better, I simply could. not. speak. French. And just in the last couple of days I've found that I'm having an easier time getting words out in a reasonably quick manner (think: the chatter you get from an attention-starved four-year-old), but my comprehension has totally backslided (backslid? can we say that in English? Please add English to my growing list of "defunct languages". Soon I'll be at the point where I can only point at my own reflection in the mirror while I babble and drool).

Anyway, please watch this clip in order to better understand what my daily life is like here. I can't figure out how to embed the link, though it's probably not that hard. For those of you who understand le vrai français, I hope you laugh as hard as I did (okay, still do) when I first saw (and continue to watch on a regular basis) this clip. And for those who can't understand ... well, you'll have the more authentic-Kathryn-experience that way anyway, so don't worry.

"Je veux juste ... un sundae ... aux peanuts!"

Yeah, you and me both, buddy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Matchmaking: The Dead Art

Normally when people this of matchmaking, they think of yentas, overly-involved mothers, dowries, and nightmarish blind dates. Which stereotypes, like all stereotypes, are partly grounded in truth. But I think our culture has been deadened to the possibilities of the art of matchmaking by endless accounts and angry diatribes of gratuitously liberated professional women in their mid-30s screaming "I'm happy being single, leave me along already!" Which is fine, if that works for them. No one should have to suffer through 15 years of well-meaning friends and family members setting them up with guys who are just so sweet and, well, he's a little bit awkward but he means well and he has a good job, so just give him a chance, okay? If she's happy, leave her be.

But what about the rest of us?

Case in point: I go to lots of weddings. Lots and lots of weddings. I love weddings. But how many times have I been seated at a table entirely composed of single girls, or, alternately, a table full of people that I already know really well? I mean, hello! Earth to the bride - your new husband has brothers/cousins/friends/frat brothers/cousins' frat brothers who are dressed in snappy suits and looking great, I just spent an hour doing my hair and I'm wearing a new dress and shoes that hurt, and everyone's liquored up, dancing, and having a good time - you will never have a better opportunity to have young, single, hormonally-driven people meet each other than at a wedding reception! So why, why, why must I sit with my friends (whom I love, don't get me wrong) for 3 hours while I awkwardly attempt to catch the eye of the dude 3 tables over who had the cajones to wear a purple shirt with a silver tie and who, therefore, I could potentially consider as manly enough to deal with the likes of me? If I wanted to date any of these people at my table that I know, I would be doing so already!

Matchmaking doesn't have to be in-your-face, and it doesn't have to be well-organized. In fact, it doesn't even have to be known to be taking place, especially if your single friend is the type to get very flustered and do things like get drunk too fast and/or say embarrassing things in an attempt to be funny and/or go hide in your bedroom closet, where she may or may not end up crying into your old stuffed animal collection. Let's not analyze the reasons why your poor sobbing friend is single, since, as you hear warbling strains of Yesterday floating down from some corner of the second floor, they are perhaps more obvious than anyone would like to admit. Nor should it be a double date with you and your long-term chum/hubby - in fact, it shouldn't be, unless your friend is the type who needs to be dealt with in a manner containing all the subtlety of a hammer to the face. No, no.

Just throw a casual party, make sure there's wine and beer, and some good (not classical or light jazz) background music to kill the awkward silences. Invite a friend or two who is good at talking and gregariously outgoing. Once Potential Guy and Potential Girl have eased into the atmosphere a bit, introduce them to each other. Get them talking. Then scat. If they wander apart, try again a bit later. Then stop trying. Sometimes it just won't happen. But if you can find a way to get them in contact in the following days, say by email, or a Facebook message about "Hey, weren't you guys talking about swing dancing the other night? A colleague of mine goes to this club for the lessons on Fridays and I was thinking about going - have you heard of it?" by all means, do so! If they were smart and/or savvy enough to have gotten someone's contact information during the party, they probably wouldn't be single, and you wouldn't have had to go through the effort in the first place. Help a brotha out, yo. 

Now, doing this too often is called being a pain in the ass. But every once in a while is totally called for. Especially in our modern age of tweets, texts, Facebook, and hook-ups, it has become almost impossible to meet an unknown person of the opposite gender and engage them in conversation long enough to learn more about their personality than she drinks Heineken. Seriously people, for all y'all who've been lucky enough to be self-made in this department, extend a helping hand to your old buddy who's just such an awesome person, I can't believe he/she is still single! What's wrong with this world? 

And for the love of Pete, have some foresight when organizing your wedding tables. You shouldn't be the only ones celebrating when the clock strikes twelve.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Boardinghouse

It occurred to me earlier today that I live in a boarding house. Coming from a place with a history like Lowell's, I found that thought rather startling and just a tad bit depressing (anyone who's read Lyddie will understand). I was actually just going to leave it at that, when it occurred to me that I had not, in fact, told you anything else about where I live. Hence, this post.

(Can you tell that this Monday didn't kill me? I can write full sentences!)

I'm staying at L'Accueil, a foyer (residence) located near Plainpalais in Geneva. It's a girls-only res run by the Sisters of the Cross. So, technically, it's a convent, since the sisters live here too: their rooms are located in the same halls as ours, throughout the building. There are 6 floors: the ground floor has the reception area, phone booths, laundry machines, a Coke machine, a small study room with a piano, and the cafeteria where we eat breakfast 6 days a week. Floors 1-4 are bedrooms for the residents and some of the sisters, most of which are singles (like mine). Floor 5 is only sisters. (This is the French system, where they have the "ground floor": hence, floors 0-5 = 6 floors!) Floors 2 and 4 have full kitchens, and Floor 2 also has the chapel and a library/TV room. Every floor has a big table for eating at and hanging out, 2 bathrooms, a hallway of shower rooms, a room for ironing and a room for hanging your clothes to dry (useful because there are two washing machines but only one dryer). There is an elevator in the middle of the entryway, but this being Europe, most people take the stairs. We also have a small gym in the basement with yoga mats, exercise balls, a bike machine, and a rowing machine which you can sign up to use at the front desk.

My room is long and narrow. When you first walk in, there's an area with a sink, mirror, shelves, towel racks, and a bidet (!) on your right, and two large closets on your left. Then a sort of half-wall partition, and I have my bed with a shelf behind, a desk between the foot of the bed and my nice big window where my computer is, and then another desk built into the wall opposite the bed (next to the window) that has shelves, and since it gets less natural light than the other desk, I just use it to toss stuff on. Outside my window, I have apartments with nicely-kept balconies to look at, and the ambulance parking for the hospital (which is just around the corner). We're on a sort-of dead-end street, so there's not too much traffic noise, which is nice. (The ambulances don't seem to use their sirens between about 11pm and 7am, thank goodness!)

As I said, we get breakfast every morning but Sundays, which is really nice and takes a bit of hassle out of the beginning of the day. The sisters keep the common areas clean, and once every two weeks we get a change of bed linens and they come in to clean our washing-up area and to vacuum the floor. Also, there's "quiet hours" starting at 10pm, so even though we are free to come and go as we please (such an improvement over the place in Ireland!), we can't talk on the phone in our rooms or generally make noise after 10pm. Which is great for me, actually, because I usually go to bed around 10:30-11pm, and it's nice to have some quiet time to study and chill out a bit.

It's an older building, and like most post-WWII Catholic construction, it's ugly as sin. But it's comfortable and well-kept, and in a fantastic location. It takes me 12 minutes to walk to school, 5 minutes to church and any shop I could want (including groceries), two small blocks to the tram, 5 minutes to judo, 15 minutes to a lovely big park, etc. If I ever were to search for an apartment in this city I would want one right in this neighborhood. I might as well start selling my kidneys now, though. Geneva is such a touch place to find housing, and it's so expensive. But I like being in the foyer. Besides the great location, it's nice that I don't have to worry about major cleaning and upkeep, and it's also nice to have neighbors to hang out with sometimes. Especially between about 7 and 10pm, the place is really bustling, as people come home from school and work, and start making dinner and doing all sorts of other stuff. You always run into people in the hallways and kitchens in the evening. Pretty much everyone is friendly (and English-speaking!), so it's just really nice to have that option. If I lived alone I'd be depressed, bored, and lonely. So yeah, it's just really good here.

And that's the boarding house story.

Friday, October 14, 2011

7 Quick Takes

- 1 -

I'm wrecked. This is a very useful phrase that I picked up in Ireland to describe the level of my tiredness. I have to be careful not to have another flare-up. It's because I was putting in too much time at the library this week, trying to get information together for my paper. I'm a little concerned about my time frame, especially if I'm going to be getting things and/or going to get things in Zurich, Paris, and Oxford. Hopefully everything can be ordered. But it's also because the libraries aren't open all the time here, so instead of being able to work in the morning and evening and taking the whole afternoon off to rest and recupe, I end up having to spend all day in the library almost in one stretch because it closes at 6pm (and also for 2 hours at lunch - like, who does that?). So it's kind of rough on the system. Hopefully once I get over the initial beginning-research hump I'll be able to spread out my work in a more sane fashion.

- 2 -

Directly related to the above post, I left judo a half hour early this evening. I was so tired I was shaking (again). It was time to call it a night. I just get so frustrated that I'm not anywhere as good technically, or as in shape physically as I used to be. I forget what I'm supposed to do during sparring and I off-balance to the rear a lot well, because of my rear! There's a lot more of it now than there used to be, you see. Anyway, wicked frustrating. The guys are really nice about it though, I have to say. If they weren't I would have quit already. But they encourage me and take time to explain what I can do better, and some of the best ones loosen up a bit so we can work on techniques and timing instead of just muscling around. It's a really good club, I'm so happy to have found it.

- 3 -

On a related note, and then I promise that I'm done with judo stuff for the evening, I just signed myself up for a training weekend in Lyons with the club. Road trip! I hope I don't end up sharing a room with any dudes. If I understand it right, we'll drive in Saturday, hit the mat right away for training with the club there, and break for dinner. Stay in a hotel that night, see a bit of Lyons the next day, then go home. Should be fun, I think. 

- 4 + 5 - 

How could I forget this: Toni Morrison and Dick Marty were given honorary doctorates today at my university, and I remembered (and borrowed some headphones) just in time to watch their speeches by simulcast. It was supposed to be about human rights; Dick Marty spent 30 of his 40 speaking minutes dragging the US through the dirt and not really making a point. One more guy spreading hate and making it more difficult for people like me to live in places other than my own country. But Toni Morrison was actually very good. I was a little wary because her books are (very good but) kind of radical, and aside from the obligatory dig against "young white women who aren't feminists", she made some very good points. Basically, they were that she couldn't understand why she had been asked to speak about human rights and women's rights, as if, you know, women aren't human. [THANK YOU! Now can we abolish "Women's Studies" departments while we're at it? Talk about restraining the advancement of women - let's isolate ourselves so we can study and/or whine about how we're isolated.] She also said that women need to stop being violent to one another, and not just physically; and that when a women does violence to another person, it's a woman who needs to be the one to stop her. I was waiting for the obligatory "abortion is a good thing and a right!" nonsense, but actually instead of that, she even made mention to "when a woman slaughters her children", which I'm sure went over the heads of everyone listening but was an important point nonetheless. Baby steps, and all that. An interesting historical moment, watching these speeches. I can't say I was edified by them, but they were ... interesting.

- 6 -

Experiment Skinny Jeans was a success today - I wore them for the first time just with regular sneakers, and I didn't feel the need to go home and change all day! That was the last hang-up I had about wearing them, that is, wearing them with regular shoes and not just ballet flats (which kill my arches after a while). I have strange neuroses. Don't ask; I might just tell you. It would seem, more than 6 years after they first appeared on the style scene, that I've finally come around to wearing skinny jeans. It helps that I have great legs, if I do say so myself. May as well show 'em off from time to time.

- 7 -

I need a massage, like whoa. In lieu of that, I am going to go eat a cookie with chocolate on it, and go read in bed. Because, you know, that's what someone in the last few weeks of her first quarter-century does in a happening European city on a Friday night. 

Actually, that was depressing. Now I'm really going to bed. 

Don't forget to head over to Jen's for more, less depressing Quick Takes!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Playing Hooky

I played hooky today, kind of. Yesterday was a stunningly gorgeous day, and I spent it almost entirely in the library. Today was more of the same. Ergo, despite the fact that I have lots of work to do, I decided to take the afternoon off. So, so glad I did. I'll be extra productive tomorrow as a result, I'm sure.

Oh gosh, how can I describe the beauty of today? The sun was shining, the only clouds were little puffy ones hugging the tips of the mountains that ring the city, and the air was clearer than I've yet seen it (in general, the air quality here is pretty bad).

For some reason, I got hungry today way earlier than usual, to the point that I was afraid I was going to faint during my second class. I ended up leaving 15 minutes early so I could go downstairs and get a sandwich and a coffee. I sat outside in the sun and fresh air, ate some lunch, and felt ten thousand times better. I then decided that going back inside to read would be one of the Stupidest Things Ever, and that I should go wandering instead. Fortunately, I had remembered to bring my camera with me that morning, because I wanted to take a picture of the Reformation Wall, and morning is the best time to do it, because by noontime Guillaume Farel's head (guy on the far left) is obscured by shadows of tree branches.

Anyway. I proceeded to hop on a bus to see what "Genève Plage" was. As far as I can tell, not actually a "plage", though there were a large set of stone steps leading down into the lake. I must be spoiled, coming from the coast. Then I decided to hop on one of the little across-the-lake ferries and just ride around for a bit. It was really windy on the water, and the lake was super choppy. I sat right up front and got facefuls of water in between snapping photos of the vineyards in the distance. It was totally awesome. After a while I got off at "Parc Mon Repos", which is actually a rather large green space along the edge of the lake, and I laid in the sunshine and read a chapter of a book relating to my paper, and got some good ideas, and felt very rested and productive. Rejuvenated, really, is the term to use here. I kept getting distracted though, by the gorgeous panorama of the green lawn and purple flowerbeds rolling down to the blue blue lake, with the green mountains across the way and Mont Blanc appearing out of the clouds in the distance.

I'm home now, to update my blog and eat some dinner. Then I have Adoration tonight, and choir right after. How could today get any more awesome? Seriously. I'm going to get so much done tomorrow, all because I took a few hours off today. Awesome awesome awesome.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I think I've hit on a topic! For my major paper, that is. I was hemming and hawing because I wanted to do something that was related to Geneva, but continental reforms are totally not my specialty and also I really just don't know what sources are available here. But, I'm here, so I should really take advantage of the local materials and not just stick to EEBO like I've ben doing. The other problem, too, was finding a topic profound enough to be of publishable quality, but small enough to fit into 30-40 pages. (I can hear you all reacting out there, and you are divided into two groups: those who have not yet written a Master's thesis are scoffing and choking in disbelief, while the rest of you are nodding solemnly in agreement.)

So I spoke with my professor, who suggested I look through a collection of books just published by another one of our professors, which catalogues a set of correspondence (about 5,000 letters) written by a guy who lived in the Old City at the turn of the 18th century. Long story short, after lots of speed reading and flipping through pages, I think I will be examining something to do with the French Huguenot refugees who came through Geneva on their way to settle in Ireland during the 1690s.

Whatever, I think it's exciting. Cover your mouth when you yawn, would you?

So now I'm all excited to finally have a direction to move in. It's really hard when you're first trying to think of a project or a question, when you don't really know the area or what materials might be available to you. I'm also feeling the pressure because I'm leaving in 2.5 months and I need to have all of my primary research done by then so I can write my paper in the comfort of my home. At my desk in the kitchen. In between milkings and class prep. I live such a strange life.

One very fortunate thing was that I had gone into the professor's office to return her books, and I figured I should ask her now, while she was there, how to access the letters held in the private collections. She proceeded to tell me how difficult it was, but then said, "Oh, but I have photocopies of all the letters here which you can use!" and drew my attention to the hundreds of manila folders that took up most of her massive bookcases, where every one of the 5,000+ letters is photocopied and filed according to month and year. It was a researcher's dream. She's going to become my best friend, this prof. If she doesn't mind the drool spots on her floor.

Anyway, I'll be back in the library bright and early tomorrow. Which is good, because it's just starting to get chilly so I'm not so inclined to go out and nap on the lawn when I'm supposed to be working. I just hope I can find enough good material here to build a good case.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Facebook Poaching

But whatever, because it's my blog and I can do exactly as I please. I posted this on Facebook and thought myself so witty that I decided to repost it here, mainly so I can make myself laugh again.

I'm going to show off my mad German-reading skillz, and interpret for you this sign that I saw on the bus in Zurich. By "interpret", I mean more along the lines of "liturgical dance".

The rules for riding the bus are as follows:
1. No exploding and/or setting fire to the head of the person in front of you.
2. Don't not know why you are poor.
3. If you play guitar, we will put a large hole in your face.
4. No carpentry permitted.
5. Skating: ur doing it wrong.

Aren't you glad I can read German?

Friday, October 7, 2011

7 Quick Takes

- 1 -

I feel so moron. Every time I go to judo I end up getting a minor injury. Like nothing bad - the worst is my repeated sprained ankle and big toe. But for crying out loud, today I got laid up with a leg cramp in my calf. And on Tuesday, it was - get this - a friggin stretched tendon ... in my butt. No, I did not attempt to explain its exact location while I was limping around the mat. The worst part is, whoever I happen to be working out with at the time always is some guy who feels awful that he just hurt me, when it wasn't even him, it was just my body being retarded! And then they spend the rest of the evening apologizing to me, and then never work out with me again because I'm so fragile and delicate. Gah.

- 2 -

This is not related to anything, ever (hence its being in the Quick Takes), but this summer my hair has decided that it wants to be curly. Like, I sometimes get Shirley Temple-esque ringlets, especially in the front of my hair. It's so weird - I was the only kid in my family who didn't have curly hair when Iw as little (which was, in fact, because I didn't have any hair when I was little, but let's not get hung up on the details here), and as a general rule my hair was always very fine and stick-straight. In the last few years it started to get wavy and thicker, and now voilà the curls this summer. I love them, and I wish they wouldn't go limp after a few hours. Has anyone else experienced major hair changes as they've gotten older?

- 3 -

I should just rename this blog "I Love Switzerland." Because seriously, who wouldn't love a country where every grocery store has a chocolate aisle? And I mean real, good, quality chocolate, not the too-sweet North American crap. A whole aisle, dedicated to the stuff. 

I would also like to add that I bought two bottles of wine and a bar of chocolate yesterday for less than 9 francs, total. The wine was cheaper than a sandwich. I love this country.

- 4 -

One more Switzerland thing and then I'm done, I promise: I think its hilarious to see men in expensive business suits zipping along the sidewalk on little scooters. Not like Vespa scooters, though there are plenty of those (and sometimes on the sidewalk, I kid you not), but I'm talking the little metallic fold-up ones with neon green wheels that were all the rage when we were 10. Those kinds of scooters. Cracks me up every time.

- 5 -

Because I am the world's most ADD person ever, I've decided that I don't already have enough to do, so I just joined my church's choir. They only sing once a month, but the two guys in it are AMAZING omg omg omg. The rest consist of a handful of screechy old ladies (who put their heart into it, I must say) and some younger girls who whisper-sing. So the guys are excited to have a soprano, and they have already given me some short Palestrina-and-co. pieces to sing with them. I am, like, out of my mind excited. I heard them sing on Sunday evening (luckily I happened to go to the one Mass they've done since I've been here) and I was literally crying, they were so good. I've cried over church music before, but never, ah, as a positive reaction. I thought I was going to float away during the Our Father, it was so beautiful. So now I'm in. And I wish we could practice 6 times a week.

- 6 -

I've started doing Language Tandems this week. It's an online thingy run through the university that hooks up people who want to exchange languages on their own time. It's basically just one-on-one with a native speaker, and free, and so it's a lot more intense and can be more frequent than a hour-and-a-half, once-a-week, 50-students-in-the-class oral French course which I had intended to take originally. I had a Spanish meeting with a doctoral student, and even though I was mistaking a lot of French words, it just feels so much more natural to speak Spanish. Physically, it's comfortable, whereas with French I feel like I'm constantly in danger of choking on my own tongue. I'd like to be able to practice my Spanish more just so I don't lose it entirely. It's all in my head; after a half-hour I could already feel it flowing more easily. And I've also had two French meetings so far with a secretary at the school (and her friend, today), which is great, again just to get the language flowing. I make a lot of mistakes but they correct the worst ones, and it's good just to get my tongue moving and wrapping around the words. And it's nice, too, to be able to make mistakes in a comfortable atmosphere like that. So, so far, so good. 

- 7 -

Wow, Quick Takes flies when you ... uhh ... don't post all week. One last piece of awesome: my mom sent me an email the other day - in Latin. To tell me, in fact, about an online radio station where you can listen to the news in Latin. I defy any reader out there to out-geek my mother. Go ahead. Just try.

Thanks for reading, everyone! I promise to be a better blogger next week. Don't forget to head over to Jen's for some more awesome Quick Takes!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Nice Little Post

Dear everybody,

Sorry for being such a blogging flake this week. I was in Zurich Friday to Sunday (which I haven't written about yet because I keep telling myself that I will make a whole post on it, and of course I'm not that organized), which, while super fun and a great trip, put me 3 days behind in my school work. At the end of the second week, I'm already feeling overwhelmed by the amount of reading I have to do. I have, however, made myself a study schedule, which helps me procrastinate less simply because, when I have extra time and no idea of what to do, I can just check the schedule and see "Oh yes, I should read for my class on Milton" or "I should start reading for my giant in-French presentation at the end of this month!" etc., rather than what I normally do, which is "Oh, I know I have some reading to do, but it's probably not that important if I can't remember it. Maybe checking my email for just one teeny little second will jog my memory and get me back on track..." Which is, of course, bigger than the lie told to Eve in the garden.

But I'm home now, done with classes for the week, and with nothing scheduled for this evening. So I can just read for the next several hours, while I happily chomp on my lovely European "butter-flavor" popcorn. I also think that I've hit on a possible paper topic, inspired, in fact, by what I saw in Zurich (I know! I'll get to it!), so I'm going to read through a book published in the '60s to see if I can determine whether it will be a viable idea. After that, I'll find a prof to supervise. Hopefully. That's the plan, anyway.

Also, it looks like it's going to rain. We have some dark clouds rolling in over the mountains to the west. As much as the "23 degrees and sunny" was totally and completely fabulous, it's a little less disorienting to have seasonable weather. Maybe it'll rain and then get nice again. Because, you know, that's what weather does. It rains, and then it doesn't rain.

Maybe I should take a nap. I'm having a lot of trouble stringing together sentences, and even more trouble typing them.

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Procrastination - ur doing it wrong

I sat down at my computer approximately 2 hours ago with the intention of finishing the article that I need to read for tomorrow's class on images in John Milton's Paradise Lost. Instead, I have been creeping blogs, checking my email (over and over and over), and posting links on Facebook.

And here I was, at the end of the day, congratulating myself on getting everything done that I needed to do during the daylight hours.

Thusly: a post.


Never mind. I'm going to go read some more. Real stuff, this time. Hopefully, real blogging to take place before the week is done. No guarantees though.

Thanks for hanging in there.

Marching Band Is ... Cool?

Here's your optimism update for the day. Because if this doesn't make you want to get up and dance ...

Monday, October 3, 2011


At the end of Mondays, I want to die.

I promise that this will be an optimism update, btw.

But Mondays are rough. I have 3 classes, which means nearly six hours of class in the same 8 hours. They are all in French, so by the end of these 8 hours I can no longer think in any language, never mind process complex information. I usually can't string enough thoughts together to talk.

My first class on Mondays is Latin. Now, that's bad enough; but I study Latin in French. Which means for every on-the-spot translation (which is mostly all we do), I have to think either Latin-English-French or French-English-Latin. Tedious, of course, but also problematic because all three languages have slightly different sentence structures, especially for compound/complex phrases. So, I can't go right along word for word and translate direct English/French, because then I hit a "wh-" clause or "that" clause, and then I'm screwed because that's something you have to foresee before you even open your mouth, because it might have to be placed in an entirely different place in the sentence. Like the beginning, for instance. And my Latin prof just says (very nicely, I might add), "Start by identifying the verb". Which is all well and good, when you can tell which one is a verb. And then you can figure out the subject. And then its modifiers. And then the object(s), and its modifiers. Then put it all in the right order in another language. Then re-order it and translate to another language. Do this all in front of people you don't know, at 8:30 in the morning. Then cry.

To top it all off, today another one of my profs "suggested" we (the certificate minions) go to a history lecture this evening that the Institut was putting on. Which meant of course we had to go because all the profs would be there. What I was able to catch of the talk seemed very interesting, but my brain was so fried that I was only getting about 65% of it. I hadn't eaten dinner, either. So I came home, burned my dinner, tried panickingly to set up a study schedule and Latin noun and verb charts (for which I had to call my little sister, btw), and generally was having a crappy evening.

But then a bunch of girls from the floor came in, chatted with me, and we all sat down and ate dinner together and told funny stories (in English). And I relaxed. And then the night was good.

I'm glad I live in this res.