Showing posts from March, 2011

For anyone who has never been ABD

I took my qualifying exams in May of 2007, which in the system here means that after I passed, I was given permission to begin working on my dissertation. Since then, I have tried out various topics, theories, and approaches, finally settling on something I am happy with. Then I had to do all the research to support the thesis I had developed, and I am still finding holes in my logic and thinking, places that need to be shored up with more research. Now I am also in the writing phase, and am building up confidence that I do have something to say, and that I know what I am talking about, and that the dissertation will be good. Some people give up at this stage. Some people think to themselves that they have done enough thinking about this one subject, and they are ready to move on. I could do that, I could just push the dissertation aside and take a job. Or, I could abandon the dissertation and start working on another project, a book on a different topic or something more creative.

Three-month thoughts

So I have been back in California now for a little over three months, or to put it another way, I have been away from Iceland now for three months. When I was younger, I so idealized Iceland; it was for me the greatest place on earth, the only place I ever wanted to go and indeed the only place I ever went. The language, the people, the landscape leaps and bounds above the rest. California by contrast seemed to me fake and crowded and frightening. I was literally so happy to move out of California, when I was in my mid 20s. My opinion of California had improved somewhat when I moved back in 2004. Then I was living in Carlsbad, near San Diego, and getting to take walks on the beach most evenings certainly helped me focus on the good things about the state. And I began to appreciate why some people might even think California was the best place on the planet to live, with no desire whatsoever to even travel anywhere else. But still my esteem for all things Icelandic kept me from being


Today was the first sunny day in weeks here in California. The lawn out front of the library was teeming with students reading and relaxing in the sun, and watching about 20 undergrad guys, dressed only in baggy shorts, playing a spirited game of frisbee. Yep, spring is in the air here in California, for sure.

Learning to ride a bike

The apartment I have here in Berkeley sits midway up the Berkeley hills, and I have a view that at least equals, if not surpasses, the one I had in Iceland. The funny thing is I had never lived anywhere else in my life that had any sort of view, and now it seems to me an absolute requirement in an abode. There is however one major problem with this apartment: it is an impossible place for Palmer to learn to ride his bike. The street goes downhill at probably a 30 degree grade, and well, I have only seen the craziest teenage boys attempting to go down it (on a skateboard no less!). So while my little guy is still in training wheels, it is out of the question. I learned to ride a bike in my neighborhood in California, which was a little hilly. But the main problem with it was how much traffic was always coming up and down the street. To this day, I still get a little freaked out trying to bike ride anywhere where I have to "share the road" with cars. But I know plenty of


Last year, I went to the website listed on the letter I got from Ríkisskatta whatever and clicked on the thing I was supposed to click on, confirming the amount of money I had made. This year, I went to the site my friend Kolleen told me to go to, and I see there that I am listed as in need of filing paperwork for 2008, 2009, and 2010. So whatever I did last year seems to have been insufficient. Unlike probably all good Icelanders, I had no idea what day taxes were due until yesterday, and of course I had not scheduled  several hours for filling out all sorts of paperwork. If anyone imagines for a moment that I would be the least bit disappointed to see all of this bureaucracy go "poof", they would be mistaken. I can't even say I would be grateful or excited; I would just be happy to be able to get on with the things I want to be working on.

Eureka Moments

Eureka is a town in far northern California, and I have never been entirely clear if the expression "Eureka moments" came from the name of this town, or if the name of this town came from a discovery of gold in the area that made everyone yell, "Eureka!" I was reading something Franco Moretti wrote the other day that talked about scholars, and scholarship. The popular perception of scholars, portrayed in such works as the DaVinci Code and Indiana Jones films, is that scholars are investigators, sleuths looking to solve some big mystery. The idea is that they, sitting quietly alone in a library, will suddenly make a discovery that at least warrants a loud "aha!" or on some occasions even "Eureka!". Part of me likes to think I made a discovery of sorts with my dissertation, and I suppose I have had other intellectual "discoveries" I might consider eureka moments. But I would hate to think I am therefore a victim of the popular media d

Mother and Son Dance

This Friday, March 18th, Palmer and I have a date. We are going to a dance together. I am going to wear my white and black dress, because he said he wanted me to look pretty. The dance is sponsored by his elementary school, and the boys from kindergarden to 5th grade can bring their mommies (well, the mommies need to pay of course!). Yesterday I got an email from the organizers, asking me if I had any songs to request. I thought of two right away, but just now thought of a third, a song that Palmer knows all the words to believe it or not . So now I am even more excited about the dance than I was!

Daylight Savings Time

This morning I observed Daylight Savings Time for the first time in three years. I had forgotten how the media here in the States start talking about it a few days ahead of time, and I had forgotten how little people look forward to springing forward, because one looses an hour of sleep Sunday morning. (Unlike when the clock falls back.) My sleep schedule has been erratic enough that I did not particularly worry too much about it, but I was grateful that my computer and cell phone remembered to reset itself to the proper time. Now I am setting my watch to the proper time, so that my time pieces are in accordance with one another, which is of course helpful. I still have to adjust the clocks in my car, however. One of the many administrative problems Icelanders have found a way to avoid.


I forgot my niece's birthday today. When a student was in my office hours, and I was supposed to be helping him find an article for the paper he was writing, I was instead side-tracked into downloading the articles I needed for my dissertation. Chances are, if I say anything at all to anyone, it is directly relevant to my dissertation. And nothing else.

For the voiceless

This morning I told Palmer about a news article I read about the Eastern Cougar . It was declared extinct. The Western Cougar is still thriving however, so this is not necessarily any sort of tragedy. I did however take the opportunity to tell Palmer a little bit about the competition for resources of humans with wild animals. I have long considered myself a bit of an advocate for animal rights (those are the causes to which I consistently give money). I remember how displaced that concern seemed when I moved to Iceland, and it is one of the things I most welcome about being here in California again. I get to side with the Western Cougar, and that feels nice. And it got me thinking that in my scholarship, I have also chosen to side with the voiceless. Objects, the landscape, and people who have died long ago. To give these voiceless things back their dignity, their simple right to existence, is something I like to try to do.