I suppose there’s something apt about having to be in my 40s to finally achieve a 4.0, but better late than never, right?
It’s been a long two years (and technically I’m still waiting on an approval on my graduation portfolio), but it’s a wonderful feeling to be more or less done. I made some wonderful new friends in graduate school and I learned a lot to boot. Some classes stood out more than others, of course, but there’s only one class choice that I genuinely regret and I consider that a real victory.
I’ve half-joked about writing a book on how to go back to school in your 40s and who knows? With ebook self-publishing what it is, that may happen. But I’ve got a lot of other things still on my plate too; two years worth of pleasure reading to catch up on, all sorts of games that are waiting to be played, and (lest you think there’s nothing but frivolity ahead) plans to work my way through the LIS 7440 Scripting Languages for Library Applications syllabus. We’ll see how far I can get through that last one, but it would be good to learn PHP if nothing else.
It still feels strange to not have classes kicking in at the end of the month, though. I won’t miss the lack of free time, but I must admit that I will miss the chance to learn something new and to interact with some really great fellow students. In the meantime, though, I’ll enjoy getting my life back, or some approximation thereof.
It’s been a while since I’ve biked home from work: April 2011, to be precise. That was when I used to live in Arlington, and while it was a convoluted route (due to a general lack of bike-friendly routes in McLean) it wasn’t too bad. Recently I decided it was time to try and bring that option back on the table, so after a lot of scouring of maps and checking out some areas in person, I found a method to get me from McLean into downtown DC in one piece. (Getting from there to home has many options.)
On the whole, it wasn’t a bad route, a little over 19 miles. There were only three parts where I found myself audibly groaning:
- Within the first quarter mile, the sidewalk/path used to get out of downtown McLean safely became completely overgrown with plants. I had to go extra slow because it was like being in some sort of awful movie set in a jungle. Getting hit in the face with mammoth weeds, no thank you.
- For the last little stretch in Virginia, there’s a route specifically for bikes to get down from the Military Road area to Chain Bridge. It’s probably a 60 degree incline. Maybe more. Not for the faint of heart. Fortunately it’s also very small. Next time I may actually walk my bike down it.
- Finally, I made the decision to cut across the National Mall and then go home on the Metropolitan Branch Trail, instead of just hopping up the Rock Creek Park path to Blagden and then heading home that way. So many children on the Mall. So many school groups. All of them hogging all available points of egress. Next time I’m skipping the Mall.
I’d like to keep doing this once a week until the weather gets to be too hot. It’s a good way to get some extra exercise, and I need to start biking more often. For now, this will do.
Once again, and attempt to keep track of films seen and books read… I know I missed a lot of graphic novels when you count the collected editions (since I read a fair number for review purposes in serialized formats), as well as for the various zines I’ve read. This was a hectic year in terms of school and this fell to the wayside a bit. I added a bunch in at the end of the year but still, I’m sure there were some big holes. Unsurprisingly, the numbers went down because of graduate school.
- The Wolf of Wall Street
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Live Action
- The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Animated
- The Lego Movie
- Stranger by the Lake
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Under the Skin
- Late Spring [晩春 Banshun]
- The Immigrant
- 112 Weddings
- Deor and I
- Art and Craft
- Obvious Child
- Magic in the Moonlight
- To Be Takei
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- The Skeleton Twins
- Gone Girl
- Human Capital [Il capitale umano]
- Two Days, One Night [Deux jours, une nuit]
- Falling Star [Stella cadente]
- Richard III
- Welcome to Night Vale: The Librarian
- The Importance of Being Earnest
- Henry IV Part 1
- La bohème
- NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour Live Show: December 2014
- The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan
- The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- This is Oakland: A Guide to the City’s Most Interesting Places by Melissa Davis
- Organizing Knowledge: An Introduction to Managing Access to Information by J.E. Rowley
- The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
- Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi
- The Process of Legal Research by Christina L. Kunz
- Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
- Management Basics for Information Professionals by G. Edward Evans
- Unexpected Stories by Octavia E. Butler
- The Old Funny Stuff (Author’s Choice Monthly #1) by George Alec Effinger
- Emphatically Not SF, Almost (Author’s Choice Monthly #15) by Michael Bishop
- True Minds (Author’s Choice Monthly #12) by Spider Robinson
- Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
- Understories by Tim Horvath
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
- Who’s 50: 50 Doctor Who Stories To Watch Before You Die – An Unofficial Companion by Graeme Burk and Robert Smith?
- The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
- Digital Curation by Ross Harvey
- Miguel Covarrubias Caricatures by Beverley J. Cox
- Metadata for Digital Collections: A How-To-Do-It Manual by Steven J. Miller
- Cruddy by Lynda Barry
Fiction Magazines, Chapbooks, and Zines:
- Kinfolk Vol. 10
- Lucky Peach Vol. 6
- Kinfolk Vol. 11
- Lucky Peach Vol. 12
- Kinfolk Vol. 12
You may already know that in addition to being a big comic book fan, I own a fair amount of original art from comics. And if you know me really well, you may know that I am a huge fan of Grendel, Matt Wagner’s signature series that my friend Dave Gross turned me onto in college. I already own some Grendel art that I adore; a Pander Brothers piece as well as a solo Arnold Pander piece, Jay Geldhof’s painting for Grendel Cycle, a J.K. Snyder III pin-up… well, now I have two more pieces that are both heading my way even as I type this, both in the hands of various shipping companies.
The first is a page from Grendel Tales: Devils and Deaths by the late, great Edvin Biukovic. Biukovic was an artist who had a short career in comics; he made his big North American debut through Grendel Tales and quickly became in-demand for his clean art style. Sadly his career ended at the age of 30 from a brain tumor, just as his career was getting huge. Earlier this month, his family released a limited number of his original art pages for sale, something that almost never happens. I ended up purchasing this beauty; I was a huge fan of Biukovic the second I bought Grendel Tales: Devils and Deaths #1, and he was a talent that was silenced far too soon.
The second is a page from this year’s Grendel vs. The Shadow, drawn by Matt Wagner himself. I never thought I’d own a Wagner Grendel page, and having the opportunity made my head explode. And if that’s not enough… just look at the detail and the graceful shading here. The art dealer whom I talked to about it said that it looks even more gorgeous in person. I cannot wait.
Once I get them framed sometime in the new year, I’ll probably swap out some pieces either at home or in my office (or both?) with these. I love the art I have hanging right now. But I really, really love these. And it’ll be nice to see something new on the walls.
I love to travel. I own guide books to places I’ll probably never go; I love reading travel diaries. My biggest complaint with my job is that I don’t get a crazy amount of vacation time with which to travel all over the world. So it’s with that in mind that I must admit that over the past three weeks, I’ve had too much travel.
I ended up with three trips; one for work, two for pleasure. And let me quickly state that the two for pleasure were both great. I had a fantastic time on both of them and I’m so glad I did them. But I am run ragged, now. I miss my routines, even if it’s just sleeping in my own bed and sitting down at my own desk.
It probably doesn’t help that in between trips #2 and 3, I also had a three-day work meeting which had me slightly wiped out by the end. Or that this semester of graduate school is proving to be the most difficult/intense one to date. (Fortunately the classes are also interesting.) Or that right before leaving for the third trip, I came down with a cold that I’m still trying to shake. None the less… it’s nice to be home. Very, very nice to be home. Fortunately that should last for the rest of the month and then some.
No doubt, by this time next month, I’ll be dreaming of travelling once more.
It’s a little hard for me to believe that I’m already halfway through my graduate school program. When classes began a year ago, graduation seemed very far away, although that could have been in part a level of nervousness. After all, it had been 18 years since I completed my undergraduate degree. And while I design online courses for a living, the idea of shifting to a fully online format for school was also a bit daunting. So, with that in mind… what have I learned so far?
Graduate school was a good idea. Of the six classes I’ve taken, I’d say that four of them were well-worth the money. I’ve learned a lot about cataloging and researching, adding to the skill sets that I already possessed. I also increased my knowledge of Access databases and SQL queries immensely, neither of which I knew very much about. Strictly from a “gaining knowledge” standpoint, those four classes have been automatic successes. As for the two other classes… well, honestly, if I was someone fresh out of my undergraduate degree and without any real-world/job-market experience, these would have probably been a lot more beneficial. So there’s certainly no anger or disappointment when it comes to those two remaining courses; they just weren’t helpful to me because they covered ground that I had already tackled or experienced on my own.
Something’s got to give. I knew, going into this, that I’d lose some free time. But somehow, it was still a bit of a surprise on just how much free time I ended up giving up. Usually at least one day on the weekend is devoured by schoolwork, for example. I’ve been reading a lot less, unfortunately, as well as finding it much more difficult to keep up with the few television shows I watch. I also had to scratch my plans to run the Nations Triathlon in DC next month; I have not made it to the pool at all this year to swim laps. (A full marathon is, needless to say, right out.)
Organization is key. I know, this is a library and information science degree, I should already know that. But in this case, I mean more along the lines of tracking my assignments. I create a master calendar with all of my assignments for the semester in the first week, highlight graded assignments in red so I don’t miss them, and then delete items as they’re finished. Additionally, I put the current week’s assignments in an app on my phone that I check off as they’re finished. It might sound like overkill (since I do have a syllabus for each class) but it makes a big difference in getting everything done.
I really do work harder now that I’m older. I will be the first to admit that I did not focus as much as I should have in my first two years of my undergraduate degree. (Spring 1991 and Fall 1992 in particular.) I buckled down after that and improved my grades a great deal, putting a lot more work into my classes. Well, that was apparently child’s play compared to the amount of effort I put into classes now. Sure, it’s graduate school so it should require more effort, but being in my 40s I find myself caring that much more about my assignments and getting them not just completed, but excellent. And honestly, at times I’m a little perplexed that not all of my fellow students are in the same boat. (Then I remember being in my 20s and I’m not that surprised. And there are some people who are almost 20 years younger than me who are even more driven and determined than I am, for that matter.)
Vacation is the best thing ever. I hadn’t realized just how important the three week break in December was, until I didn’t have any sort of break between my spring and summer classes. (Or as WSU refers to them, my Winter and my Spring/Summer classes.) There was definitely a little bit of burnout as a result; having a lot of the month of August off has helped a great deal in that regard now, but it was certainly a difficult May and June thanks to not having any real break.
And so, with all that in mind, classes officially kick off today. Six down, six to go. To use a running metaphor, this is the point in the marathon where you can start counting down the miles, because it’s no longer terrifying to do so. I can’t see the finish line yet, and won’t for a while, but at least I know it’s out there.
Back from Bogota
As hinted a few months ago, I went on a work trip to another country… namely, Colombia (in the city of Bogota). Because it was a work trip the majority of it involved watching training at a government-run facility and being driven between the facility and the hotel in an armored van. But! I did get some sight-seeing in on the weekend, including a trip to botanical gardens, a huge park, a hop up to the peak of Monserrate in a cable car to see the sun set over the city, and (best of all) a bicycle trip around the city for three hours. All in all, a lot of fun and a place I’d have almost certainly never gone to otherwise.
I’ve heard for years and years (you probably have too) that Bruce Springsteen puts on some of the best concerts out there. My friend John A. back in his heyday used to hit multiple stops of a Springsteen tour as it went up and down the East Coast. And now, having seen him perform on the Wrecking Ball Tour at Nationals Park in Washington DC? I get it. I totally get it. It’s funny because while I like Springsteen I am by no means an uber-fan. I don’t have half of his albums. I don’t know the words to a lot of the songs. Heck, I didn’t know half of the songs he played. But it didn’t matter. He performs every song from start to finish like it’s the last song of the night and therefore has to put all his energy into it. Just an amazing performance, and when your concert runs over three hours (who needs an opening act when you’re on stage that long?) you need to be at the top of your game. Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite Tour might still be my all-time favorite concert, but I think this will be a close second.
Aimee Mann’s Charmer
If I remember the chronology correctly, it was right after hearing Aimee Mann’s solo music courtesy the Magnolia soundtrack (and then ordering a copy of Bachelor No. 2 online) that my friend Felicity helpfully pointed me to her earlier two solo albums. By that point I’ve been hooked. But with her last album being a little disappointing, I found myself a tiny bit wary about her new album Charmer. Then I heard the title track courtesy a hysterical video co-starring Laura Linney (seriously, I just about lost it I was laughing so hard), and NPR streamed the album leading up to the release, and all was forgiven. Sure, the second half of the album isn’t as great as the first half, but the 1-2-3-4-5 punch of Charmer, Disappeared, Labrador, Crazy Town, and Soon Enough is strong enough that the second half could have been static and I’d still be happy. (In a rarity, the bonus track I got from buying via Amazon—Brother’s Keeper—is a real bonus and just as good as the first half of the album.) In a year with a lot of disappointing albums from returning artists, this one did just what it needed to.
Not to be a cliche, but I’m an Adele fan. I also like big brassy James Bond theme songs (and not just those by Shirley Bassey, but those are at the top of the list). So when I heard that Adele was performing the theme for Skyfall, I was tentatively hopeful. Could this be it? The heir to Bassey’s Goldfinger theme? As it turns out… yes. Thanks, Adele. This is just what I needed.
After far too many months off due to injuries, I returned to running recently. And last weekend, I got back up into the double-digit distances again with a 12-miler. I got to run it with most of my running buddies (Ben, John, Stephanie, Steve) and not only was the company great, but I felt fantastic afterwards. No marathons on the horizon (I’m playing it safe, probably won’t go higher than 14mi for a while) but it’s nice to know that this amount is once more available.
In addition to my Saturday morning running date with my buds most weekends, for the past year and a half I’ve also been running with some of them before work twice a week down on the National Mall. When I lived in Arlington it was a quick hop over to meet them and back. Now that I’m in Takoma, it’s a little bit farther and there’s a new twist where instead of going home I pop over to the gym and shower there before heading the rest of the way to work.
There are a few reasons why I do this even though it’s not necessarily that convenient. First, the company is great; I love catching up with Ben and Steve and John; we hear about each other’s weekends, chat about television shows and movies, even have the occasional political discourse. Second, having a preset time to meet means that it gets me out of the bed and exercising, something that when I’m on my own is much easier to put off and/or skip entirely.
Well, the view is occasionally spectacular.
(I keep telling myself I need to bring an actual camera with me this time of year. The mid-point of our run is down at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, and the view towards the Washington Monument with the newly-restored Reflecting Pool has been jaw-dropping as of late. Until then, this quick cameraphone shot is better than nothing.)