(Trying) To Get Things Up To Date

I have been really bad at blogging since … well, quite some time (last post in mid 2014 oops!). The move to the UK and starting at Brunel has taken most of my mental bandwidth since last fall, but now with a full semester behind me, and only 4 weeks from the end of second term, I am hoping to get back into keeping my digital spaces up to date (or start thinking about shutting them down). First thing on today’s to-do list- update that darn CV!


A ‘Tattoo Woes’ Update

I am happy to say that I had a meet-up with the shop manager today and discussed both my experience and the unsatisfied results – she saw where I was coming from, was very apologetic, and more than accommodating, offering full service to finish/add to my tattoo. I am excited as it means I get to have a wee bit more work done to fill it out and tie it all together (and who doesn’t love more ink?!).

She thanked me for coming in to tell her as she said that most people would simply not return and slag the shop/artist and since so much of the business is based on reputation, it is good for them to know. This is the first time I have ever followed through with this type of complaint and it feels really good that it was well received. I can honestly say this whole process has been a growth experience for me and it feels pretty good!

p.s. I have consciously chosen not to name the studio or artist – even the best places on the planet can screw up and I do not want to give them good or bad publicity publically.

Reconciling Regret

I am not usually one to keep my mouth shut. I am not usually one who let’s others shut me down. Yet, yesterday, this is exactly what happened and I am struggling to deal with it in a productive and “let it go” kind of way.

It all started out quite well – I had waited (or perhaps procrastinated) almost 2 years to finish my tattoo – so yesterday was a big happy day for me. I had been to the studio a few times before and always loved the welcoming friendly service from the staff (and yesterday was of no exception). Unfortunately, walking out of the tattoo shop, that feeling had completely turned around. I should have said something, I should have trusted my instinct and said fuck this, but instead, I let myself be talked down to and treated like the work I was getting done was irrelevant. The artist was disinterested in the work (I admit it was a simple addition).There were no questions about the backstory or history of the work, (for those who know me, it is a piece with a story, tho many would not consider it an epic piece – it is not a sleave of flowers or abstract swirls, no thematic style or extravagant detail – but each stroke of ink means something to me and that – imo, is more important than having a generic looking piece of ink on my body) ….

Any attempt at communication with the artist was shut down quicker than the words could come out of my mouth. Everything I asked for (which REALLY wasn’t much) was disregarded as not possible or ‘wouldn’t work’. I am not sure why I continued on with the appointment – part of me felt pressured, I felt like my voice would be challenged (or ignored – perhaps I didn’t want to cause a conflict….) nonetheless, I approved the stencil, the placement, the sizing and the fonts, but I wasn’t … happy …the fonts were not quite right, the sizing was bigger than I had wanted (and not in a cool its bigger sort of way like my last one), the placement was a bit squishy w/my existing tattoo, and worse of all, I got no joy out of the process like I usually do (the interaction – what there were – with the artist were terse and condescending) and this morning, the day after, I feel a slight tinge of regret. There is nothing inherently wrong with the addition to my tattoo – it *is* what I asked for / handed the artist on paper – but I was hoping to engage with him, to talk it through get feed back and work through perfecting it together – it is what I have done for the last 3 tattoos I got, and I always walked away much happier than I would have imagined.

Don’t get me wrong. I am happy that it is done. It looks good, the work is crisp/sharp for the msot part, I did approve it before the needle touched down (unfortunately, I can see I will have to go back for touch ups already as a few strokes/lines missing in the coloring) — but I am sad that I am not over the moon that its done. I am sad that I am not staring at it excitedly, but instead looking at it critically – but most of all, I really regret not waiting to go the artist who did the original work – even if he did move well out of town.

And so today, I am struggling with how to reconcile regret. I don’t regret getting a tattoo, I sort of in some sad way regret how it turned out. I wrote requesting the contact information for the studio manager, hoping to at least express my disappointment in a productive manner. The lesson I did learn was no matter how good a tattoo artist’s portfolio is, if he is a dick, walk out before you let them permanently ink you. The client/artist dynamic means a lot more than I thought it did. I knew right off the bat that I was uncomfortable. I should have trusted myself. Lesson learned. Now to figure out how to let go and be happy with the (now not finished – as I need to add something to balance the sizing) product.

Digital Conversations Turns 10!

In six days …. my first post was January 19th, 2004…. so very strange! Some years I blogged more than others and as time went on, the content and tone changed (evolved?), but ten years have passed nonetheless! I created this blog using Blogspot (really liked the ability to change the back-end easily) but eventually got swayed by the shiny coat that was/is WordPress. Blogging – and mine specifically – has changed a lot in the last 10 years (a quick google search will give you tons of ‘histories of blogging’, some more thoughtful than others).

I started this blog as a way to think through and ramble on about almost everything ranging from grappling with course content as an undergrad, negotiating the generation gap between myself and my fellow classmates (often a good 10 years) to complaining about getting carded at the liquor store despite my age and sharing cocktail recipes. It feels surreal to go through my archives and read things that I’ve written, no matter how frivolous, and realize that those are my words on the screen, preserved like a picture in an old photo album, are mine. So. very, strange.

Goals not Resolutions: Plotting Out (and fretting about) The New Year

2013 is almost over, and while it was not a bad year, the promise of a ‘clean slate’ that the New Year brings is almost always welcome. Of course, it is not all roses and unicorns (or is that glitter and unicorns.. would glitter even be considered a good thing!?). January starts off with a bit of a mixed bag of emotions as my oldest daughter leaves for a year in Australia on Jan. 26th. While I am extremely excited for her, as a mom who is extremely good friends with her girls, it will be heart-wrenching to see her go. The house will be quiet with both girls gone (and no, we will not be getting a dog …). On that note, I admit I have never been as thankful for the advances in global communications technology as I am in this moment, knowing we can Skype and email each other while she is away.

With my maternal duties have all but been put on hold (besides my eternal love and support), it is the first time since I’ve entered academia (I went back to university in 2002, when my girls were 8 and 12) that I will not have to think about being home in time to make dinner, or to try to read and write around the schedules of my children. Just as well, since I have two co-authored book chapters due in March. It will be interesting to see if I can figure out how to actually wholly focus on my work. My colleagues have always laughed when I told them that I cannot work in silence.. it puts me to sleep! I went through all three degrees with the TV and/or radio (or video games) blaring in the background, and my work space was in the living room until midway through my PhD (figured if I had to “working” at least I was physical visible and available for them). During the last bit of my PhD, I worked through the night, freeing up more time in the day for family responsibilities. But from January 26 to December 6th, the only person I will have to worry about (in a manner of speaking) is myself – and if I am being nice, my partner come meal times. In February I get to plan my partner’s 40th birthday party. Never quite sure what to do for his birthday, but I think this milestone should be celebrated if only by (finally) getting him an HDTV to game on so he can stop squinting at the minuscule words on the old picture tube television I have in my office.

That brings me to the end of March. It is so strange (and extremely unsettling) to not have any clue what comes after March 31st (besides April 1st ….). As mentioned in my last post, there was comfort in knowing what year after year had in store for me while I was in school. There was comfort in knowing that January, May and September marked the start of a new semester. My funding was also relatively stable so I could plot out what conferences I could attend. These days, it’s all so up in the air that every time a call for papers comes out I get anxiety – wanting to submit, but not having any idea if I can actually attend. But there are a handful of conferences that I will definitely try to attend this year like the Canadian Game Studies Association annual conference “in St. Catharines, Ontario, on May 28 and 29, in conjunction with the Congress of the Humanities & Social Sciences”, DiGRA which will be held in Snowbird, Utah August 3-6th, and of course IR15 (AoIR’s annual conference) in Bangkok this October. Those three alone will probably bust my current annual salary but hey – at this stage of my career, networking is half the work! That being said, I also have a few pending job applications out for review – and that can mean anything can happen. I spread my applications far and wide, so who knows what continent I will be on come fall.

Of course, in terms of fitness goals for 2014, I still have my Spartan Race season pass that the company honored from last year (silly me under-trained last year and suffered a stupid season ending injury). The first race of the Spartan season (for me) is May 18th … not much time to get my act together and get back into *finishing* shape (I run these races for *fun* and personal challenge – I would be silly to say *compete* but I digress). It is hard because so many of my racing friends are signing up for all the races, Spartan, Mud Hero, Prison Break, and so many more – and I sit on the fence, being out of shape again, but mostly because I have no clue where I will be when the races roll around.

So that’s my year in a nutshell. More waiting, wondering and working towards finding stability again. But looking around me, I know that life is pretty good regardless. So while I rant and ramble on about not knowing what the future holds, I know there are worse things in life!

So – all that to say. My Goals for 2014:

  • not cry too much when my baby leaves for Australia
  • organize a 40th bday party for my partner (even though he’s not a big party guy)
  • write two kick-ass chapters with my co-authors
  • complete my Spartan trifecta come hell or high water and maybe get a Mud Hero and Prison Break race under my belt this year
  • keep applying for and hope to get an academic job in my field
  • attend at least 3 conferences


Post-PhD: The Liminal Academic

That liminal, ‘in-between’ stage can sometimes be a very fantastic place to be. I love taking the train when I travel because I’ve always loved that feeling of being in between where I left and where I was going. I loved that “liminal” feeling when I was a student. There was a freedom in that in-between stage of what/who I was before I went back to university, and becoming what I was working towards. Finishing the PhD was one of the most exhilarating and scary things I have ever done (short of raising two human beings!). After the defense, there was such a sense of accomplishment; of reaching the end of something big. But what that end really meant was the beginning of something new all over again.

For some, the transition between PhD and professional life is an smooth one. Perhaps they have a teaching position lined up or have successfully applied for a post-doc. But for others, that post-phd phase is a scary, bottomless vat of unknown. A full time job of sifting through grant and job applications, searching beyond ones area of expertise and desired geographical locations as well as contemplating employment opportunities outside of academia proper that are at least related to the focus of the last 10 years… Suddenly, liminality is no longer a space of freedom and unbridled opportunity. Added to trying to find one’s place in the academic world, the post-phd/pre-employment liminal period of academic life gets filled up with self-directed (and often unpaid) projects and events aimed at staying in-the game, maintaining connections with colleagues, keeping up that intellectual momentum until something comes through.

And I believe it will. During a recent lunch chat with my phd advisor, he reminded me that it is all about timing. Keep at it, and when the timing is right, someone, somewhere will be looking for exactly what I have to offer. But even though I believe that good things will happen, I am a bit more uncomfortable with liminality without a specific destination in sight.

The Serendipitous Pleasure of Cable Television

So many of my friends have abandoned cable television (or satellite) for view-on-demand platforms like Netflix or Hulu (if you are lucky enough to live in the US). I admit to having enjoyed the convenience of Netflix (even if there offerings here in Canada are quite dated), I cannot argue with the pleasure of being able to watch an entire season of a favorite show in one sitting. But I don’t think I would ever want to completely convert my television viewing to an on-demand system. Besides the lack of options, if I am not set on a specific show or movie, I have a hard time figuring out what I want to watch when browsing through the menu. After spending hours on itunes looking to rent a movie or two for a recent 32 hour train trip (16 hours each way) I was hard pressed to find much even after a hundred recommendations from friends and colleagues, I settled on 4 titles that I admit to being happy with in the end. But that is not saying much in terms of the hundreds of options I had to choose from.

While it is nice to watch what you want when you want it, what I like most about cable television is the ability to simply flip through channels, pausing on something that catches your eye, watching for a few minutes, waiting to see if you get sucked in. I am the first to admit that more times than not, I am irritated at how much I pay for the channels that I have and so many times am disappointed that nothing is on when I want to watch television. But I would not trade my cable bill for the serendipitous moments of viewing bliss. Movies that I would never actively choose to watch (or pay for) playing on late night television end up being a lot better than I would have imagined (or perhaps it simply entertained me to the right degree for that moment in time….). For example, it was around midnight a few weeks back, and I was not tired, didn’t want to read or work, so I flipped through the channels and stumbled on the 1993 Tom Cruise film The Firm. I don’t much care for Tom Cruise, and I have never read a John Grisholm novel – needless to say – it was not a film I would have ever chosen to watch if I had to pick it out of a menu. But I must admit – I really enjoyed it. Or just the other night, everyone had gone to bed, and I turned the television on thinking I would watch some Home and Garden Television (my favorite channel along with the Food Network) for mindless background television, and I stumbled upon a new documentary on the Bones Brigade (skateboarding team from back when…). While I know that I would have chosen that one on my own – but stumbling upon it made it that much sweeter to watch.

Beyond the sense of serendipity I feel when I flip through and land on something I never thought I would enjoy watching, or stumble on a documentary I never knew existed, I also enjoy plotting out my work & life schedule around the time slots of my favorite shows. While it would be nice at times to be able to watch them all at once when I have a lazy Saturday ahead, I like that the shows are paced for me. I enjoy the anticipation you feel when you are forced to wait until next week to see what happens. I like to use them as rewards – knowing that my show comes on at 8pm, hustling to get my work done before then. Of course, I could do the same thing with on-demand viewing, but I am nowhere near as disciplined to wait – and not having a choice of when I can view it makes it feel that much more special (at least to me). Perhaps I am the odd one among my friends, but I still enjoy my cable television =)

[A nod to my friend Nikki Porter, PhD, and her poignant dissertation “Isn’t it about time? American television networks in the face of temporal and institutional challenges 1970-1985” ]