Sunday, February 24, 2008

More Mommy in Mountain View

So it looks like I'm living the free life in the hotel on behalf of a whole internet full of mommy bloggers who need a break.

What's life looking like now?

Well, I explored Mountain View on foot yesterday. I walked downtown, found a bookstore and a book, and then a coffee shop and a coffee. I walked back the hotel, had a nap, and settled in for an evening of quality time ...

Do I know how to have fun, or what? By the way, it's not a really huge pizza; it's a really tiny bottle of wine.

Today the Museum was open, so I decided since I had lots of time to spare (!!), I would walk there. There really are a lot of freeways around here, and it's noisy to walk over them!

But some of the walk was quite nice. I mapped out the back streets (you'd better believe that Google's home town has a fully implemented Street View on the map) and, once I crossed the Great Freeway, I basked in the green. And the flowers!

At the Museum, I dorked out, taking pictures of all the 1980s-era computer keyboards. I didn't realize that the PET keyboard was so freaking tiny! The whole thing is only about eight inches across. Of course, I put up my hand to all the questions the docent asked on the tour. I'm a dork, for sure.

(Can you see? That's my arm and the camera in the shadow?)

On the way home, orange trees!

Tomorrow, it's back into the archives, and then an overnight flight home. I'm glad to have this change; I'm glad I got to share it, vicariously, with you. Have an orange and make like you're here with me!

Friday, February 22, 2008

When mommies go on business trips

This is the sort of thing that happens:

I'm in Mountain View, and just got back from a full day in the archives of the Computer History Museum. I think it's a really neat place: I don't know, though, because I slipped in the back way and got a cubicle in a warren of archivists and staff, and a big pile of historical computing industry promotional materials. As well as a copy of Playboy, from May 1978, boxed up with a set of other documents, notable for being the venue in which Apple Computer ran its first paid advertisement (it's on page six, if you're interested.) I'm going to go back tomorrow as a tourist, and then up again to the cubicle on Monday.

I love it. I feel like a real researcher now. There is an archive I can visit, sit quietly with boxes of paper, hand over my pens and promise only to use pencils, sign release forms and craft acknowlegments, sifting the raw materials of my scholarship. That feels nice. Away from the now-sold house and the scary realization that our settlement is not likely to buy us the house we want. Away from looking. Away from shoveling and mid-night wakeups. Away from my pounding head cold and barking bronchitis exacerbated by cold. My lungs love rainy Northern California. I love losing myself in my work, a welcome distraction, a welcome reminder that there are things I am good at. Reading. Writing. Thinking.

Three times zones and eight hours of flying away from home, I'm excited and free, quiet and introspective, adventurous and withdrawn, engaged and interested, but risking overstimulation. I watched an episode of Angel on cable, from bed!, at 6am because I couldn't sleep anymore. I met a man, in a Google t-shirt, at the continental breakfast--he was reading a Kindle and showed me how it worked. I guess I really am in Silicon Valley, a place I know so much about from my research but have never actually seen or smelled or walked before. And here I am, in a hotel overlooking the highway.

I miss my family, yes, but it's nice to get away, you know? Nice to have the time to sit and hear my own thoughts as they work their way to the surface of my mind, nice to work them through, to sift them and consider them. To remember who I am, consciously, alone, for a couple of days. Jumping on the bed when no one can see me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


The trip Way the Hell Up North was wonderful, everyone mutually impressed. My mother, though, berated me for still being a little sick: if only I'd take echinacea like she does / eat meat like she does / take home remedies like she does / get more sleep and exercise like she does I wouldn't be so constantly under the weather. I tried to tell her that it's the exposure to a very unhygienic daycare-habituée toddler that does it. She scoffed.

36 hours after our arrival, she was proclaiming her imminent death from nasal congestion. I was a little gloating.


Munchkin, though, was angelic. Here she is, watching Grampa with the snowblower:


We came home last Tuesday, in yet Another Goddamn Snowstorm. It took an hour and a half longer than usual, and we slid all the way through our city once we got here. Wednesday morning, I got up at 6 to surprise Pynchon by doing the shoveling. I couldn't quite finish it all, and when he tried to clear what the plow left behind, he broke the shovel.


Thursday, Valentine's Day, was a shambles. For the second year in a row. Munchkin was up most of Wednesday night and seemed to be running a fever. I had to bring my friend to cancer treatment in another city--a four hour round trip commitment--and Pynchon had work in the afternoon, as well as a job interview in the morning. We juggled. Pynchon cancelled the interview and arranged to get to work after I returned from my trip. He took Munchkin to the doctor. On the bus.


She was truly pitiful all day Thursday and Friday, and kind of a screechy mess for parts of Saturday and Sunday. Monday we became cautiously optimistic, and today she's back at daycare, her cheerful (if barky) big-girl self.


Now I have bronchitis. I slept all day Sunday. Pynchon slept all day Monday. I fly to the US on Thursday (any one live in Mountain View, California?) and Pynchon starts a new job tomorrow, completely on the opposite end of our widely dispersed city from daycare. We have no food in the house, and because our current work schedules don't really mesh, it looks like one of us will be doing a midnight Sobey's run tonight or tomorrow.

We are a shambles. Munchkin has to go to daycare with me in a cab on Thursday so Pynchon can have the car so I can get to the right part of campus with my luggage to catch the shuttle to Toronto for my flight.


I renewed my passport nearly three weeks ago, but (understandably, I think) I only made it in to the passport office today to pick it up. I had to drive out of my area into another, find parking in a busy commercial area, stand in line and wait while they hunted for the passport I'd paid $10 extra for the privilege of picking up.

They mailed it to me. It was at the postal outlet in my neighbourhood. The one right next to the Starbucks I sit in EVERY DAY. What a colossal waste of time.

My mother? Told me it was my fault for not picking up the passport sooner. Honestly, I wanted to punch her.


At least I look like an International Woman of Mystery in my passport photo.


I'm so very very sick of being sick. I've been hacking and wheezing and dizzy and plugged up since New Year's day, frittering away my sabbatical blowing my nose and dragging my ass to the doctor's office. My house is a mess, my kid needs a haircut, my husband needs some attention, and I need some sleep. Jesus, Pynchon took pity on me while I was up north and took down our Christmas tree. Yes, that's right. In February. That's the kind of winter it's turning out to be over here in Casa Breach. One foot over the abyss, and with my sense of blocked-ear balance lately, I'm not betting on remaining on the top of this particular precipice. I'm kind of demoralized.

Oh yeah. I'm tired of complaining, too.

How're you, Internet?

Friday, February 08, 2008

See you later!

Ack! 80 posts in my Bloglines, and here I am signing off for the next four or five days to drive Way the Hell Up North with Munchkin for a trip to Gramma/Grampa, as she says.

You know that when I get back I'll have lots of eye-rolling stories about my mom critiquing my parenting, and possibly pictures with lots of snow in them.

For now, I can offer you (as an antidote to revive those of you who got lost halfway down the first half of the giant answers post ...) a short and sweet critique of my own parenting.

Last night, Munchkin peed on a library book. It was Stumbling On Happiness, funny enough. Totally my fault. She likes to run around naked, doing the 'No Pants Dance' and occasionally sitting on her potty and making peeing noises ('Psshhhh! Mommy! Peepee toilet! Pssshhhh!)
. Well, the telltale psh suddenly issued in earnest, as she squatted down to peruse 'Mommy book' more carefully. With remarkable bladder pressure, she peed directly forward, and all over the book.

Awesome! I rinsed the pages in question, and let them dry. I imagine they smell like musty book, rather than musty diaper. I hope.

See you next week :-)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Answers! Part 1

So, the doctor says its viral, and yes, I've been sick for two weeks, but I can expect to be sick for another two. What I really need, she said, is a week of rest. Ha!

And herewith, answers to your delicious questions! Part 1, because, Holy Moley, there were a lot of questions! May your curiosity momentarily be sated!

Kidlicious wants to know: "What do you like to do if you're not blogging, taking care of your daughter, knitting or reading... ?"

Honestly? Lately, that would be blowing my nose, getting dizzy, and sitting on the kitchen floor until Pynchon tells me just to take the night-time drugs and go to bed already.

Motherbumper next asked, "You've probably already told this story a gazillion times but I really do want to know: are you huge Jane Sibery fan or how/why did you select your blog name?"

I did write about this! When no one was reading! So it's okay if you don't remember. I like Jane Siberry, and own the 'Best of' CD, but Mimi was a childhood nickname, and the pun was too much to pass up. I like obscure song reference, mostly 80s, which is why I'm so sad no one picked up on the Smiths reference in my ask-a-question post--the title is a lyric from their song 'Ask me.'

Debbie says, "I'm curious how you got to where you are in your profession. What led you there, and how was the journey?"

Totally happenstance! I'm an English professor who teaches computers: I wanted to be a computer science professor for a long time, but the totally male-skewed classes in high school turned me right off. Then during my BA I dated a multimedia guy and took some classes and got a job at a university computer lab. Then from that I got a teaching gig, and did some web page coding, then a research position during my MA, and that set me up for my PhD work in cultural studies of technology looking at, among other things, why computing has a culture that turned me off in high school as too 'male.'

I love it.

I'm an assistant professor in my fourth/third year on the tenure track (my year off with Munchkin is a 'stop' year on the clock, but I actually started work here in 2004).

Beck, who like me is from the boonies, lays it on the line: "Okay: Do you ever miss Northern Ontario? What book should I read next? How did you name your daughter?"

Slow down, Beck! Yowza. Yes, I miss it. I miss the crispness of winter, it's abominable whiteness against the deep black night sky. I miss the trees. I miss that weird Northern Ontario accent. I miss casual franglais conversations. I miss my parents. You should read Pamela next--I just did, and it's a total hoot. Munchkin is named for my maternal grandmother, and I shoulda thought it through a little better

bubandpie is nearly bursting: "How is the house-hunting going? You need to send me MLS listings for the EXACT houses you're looking at because I'm nosy! (I've been searching [name of my town] listings for you, but I haven't found anything yet. Also because I'm nosy and like to look at everyone's cabinets and paint colours.)"

Gah! Keep looking! But don't tell me! Condo bastards have signed the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, but retain the right to back out for any whim at all, without penalty, up to and including February 29. So I'm studiously avoiding the listings. What if my New Perfect House is there, and I can't even in good conscience make my agent bring me there? AHHHHHHH!

ewe are here is concerned about neighbourhood harmony: "Oh, and are your neighbors still speaking to you, you know, since you held out, did some research, and got the best must-sell-out deal on the block?"

Yes! They are really great people--they told us they figured we'd get more, because, well, at our stage of life we need it more, and they are the first to acknowledge that we have a bigger lot and more square footage and such. We got about 20K more than them--really not that much more, considering.

Jenifer asks a good one: "Hmmn. If you were not a teacher/professor what would you be doing?" And, similarly, "If you could pick a dream job, anything, what would it be?"

I would probably be doing some sort of multimedia/electronic text computer industry something or other. BORING! But my dream job? That's easy. I've got two: professional closet organizer, or crowd-wrangler for movie productions. I'm very very good at both of these things, and they bring me joy!

Mike D. aks, "What is your favorite color, and has it always been your favorite color?"

Hi Mike! Nice to see you ... Oh my God. You know, I totally don't even know. Is that a colour I like to look at? Or to wear? Or to paint the walls or dress my baby in? I guess the colours I'm most partial to are a lime green and a bright acqua. These have been in the top ten since at least high school, and that was, um, 20 years ago.

Kittenpie stopped barfing long enough to get all serious on me: "What exactly do you teach, and give three titles that you consider the base reading in your field."

This question terrified me and sent me into a tailspin of intellectual self-doubt. I teach a lot of things, but the canned answer is that it's mostly media theory and history, cultural studies of technology, and multimedia theory and design. If you wanted to read some stuff that I think made me the thinker I am, then I'd suggest Sandy Stone's The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Machine Age, and Donna Haraway's Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, and probably Lev Manovich's The Language of New Media. It is just KILLING me to name three titles. KILLING ME.

Omaha Mama sets me to dreaming: "If you could go on a trip, anywhere, this weekend...where would you go? Who would go with you?"

This might sound weird, but I think I would go to Montreal with Pynchon ... and my sister. I love hanging out with the two of them together, and my sister sorely needs a break just to do something for herself. Pynchon arranged for her to come last weekend to go out for Birthday Supper with he and I and it was so nice. I miss hanging out with my sister, and seeing my husband in a date or fun setting. Sigh.

the new girl loved this q/a thing so much, she did it too, but before she left, she dropped the bomb on me: "What is one thing that you've learned about yourself as a result of becoming a mother?"

That I'm still me: I'm no more patient, I'm no less sleepy, no more insightful, but no less funny. Motherhood is very much a new state, and one that challenged me to the core, but the mother that emerged? Is a lot like the woman I was going in.

Kait said, "What ONE thing would you tell me to experience before graduating college and entering the "real" world? (I'm always hearing people talk about things they would have done - but now it's "too late...")"

Hi Kait! Nice to meet you! One thing? Become who you are: you'll never have so much time or opportunity to focus on getting to know yourself as you will at college. So far as particular 'things' go? It's never too late, really, not if you take the time to figure out who you really are on the inside, what you really want, and the path you need to take to get from here to there. The real world should be, if you do this right, even better than college, not the beginning of the end. IMHO.

But you seem to have this totally under control, anyway. Hats off to you!

Oh, and sleep in a lot. The real world is not so gentle on matters pertaining to schedules.

crazymumma expostulates: "Every time I click over to your space I start singing a song by Jane Siberry in my head (you know the one haha). Are you an eighties kinda gal?"

Hell yeah, baby!

Kyla asks: "Do you totally miss me?"

Of course. I don't even want to ASK you if you're going to BlogHer this year, because if you aren't, I'm going to cry. WAH!

Oh, The Joys is looking for trouble. She wants to know, "What got you in the most trouble growing up?"

Sarcasm, laziness, and a near total disregard for due dates of all kinds.

Patti wonders, "As a university prof, what advice would you give about going back to school for a different degree (Sociology), while still working very full-time, and maintaining sanity?"

Take it one course at a time, and remember, you're in it to learn--if you're not enjoying it, it's probably not the right time. You should talk to Kyla! She's kicking ass and taking names. The good news is that returning students often do much better than what we call 'traditional' college students, who don't have the time-management skills, the life experience, and the multitasking pragmatism of people who've lived life on the outside, as it were. Good luck!

Oh yeah. Start the big assignments as sooooooon as you get them. Spread the work out, because it always takes longer than it takes.

If you made it this far, you deserve to see what Munchkin looks like when she has a 90 minute tantrum after her bath and won't consent to a diaper. Obviously, she looks hungry and pants-less: