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I voted a week or two ago, since I live (according to Google Maps) 4,200 miles from my polling place. That polling place is the gymnasium of the elementary school I 'graduated' from in 1992. I would love to go back and stand in line in a gym full of memories, before taking my turn in a catywampus, aluminum-pole-outlined, voting booth with raggedy red and blue curtains, but I have never had the chance. I turned 18 in 1999, in a dorm room in Eugene, Oregon, high on codeine cough syrup and wishing the fever would just kill me already. It wasn't a presidential year, but I was so proud to vote - absentee - for the first time, on the ballot I had applied for before leaving for college at 17.

In 2000, 2001, and 2002, I lived a six-ish hour drive over an icy mountain range from my polling place, so when I voted it was absentee. Since then I have been here, several (less terrifying, but still tall) mountain ranges and a whole 'nother country of driving from home. I continue to vote absentee, in the place I identify as home. I read something outrageous this morning which suggests that Alaska may go Democratic in the Presidential Election this year - possibly for the first time ever.  I doubt it - I am hoping we dont re-elect a recently convicted felon to the US Senate, but cant even bring myself to count on that, knowing the people I grew up with - but it is hopeful.

I have never actually voted for anyone in a state or federal election who then won. This is rotten and true, and yet I resist moving my vote to the swing state in which I currently live.  For me voting is tied up with residency, which jangles my heart strings in a way people who have ever gotten a driver's license in a new state may not understand. My Alaska residency is convenient, in that I get the dividend and impoverished graduate students like free money, but it is also defining. My dad's family drove up the Alcan in 1958, so us Zils have been in Alaska since before statehood (Alaska's statehood came late, in 1959). I was born there, and I am quite literally the only person in four generations of Zils to live outside the state right now. Everyone else is in Alaska, and mostly within easy reach of Anchorage (my school teacher sister, living in south-east, is the exception).

I've been eligible to keep my residency because I am a full time college student (and have been, an infinitum). That exception will expire soon, and along with figuring out my new life, I have to come to terms with either going home (where there just aren't the jobs I am looking for) or figuring out how to unhook my legal residency from my identity.  I am dripping tears as I type this, which is totally ridiculous and also utterly indicative of my feelings on the subject.
Setting my personal churning aside, I have candles lit as a way of recognizing that today matters and making my hope concrete. Please Vote. Please let us - the collective American us - vote from hope, and get the President who will help us towards a more reasoned, peaceful future.
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Summer is passing, at a rate I can't quite understand.

I arrived in Alaska mid-May, with three gorgeous, unstructured months ahead of me.  It felt like eternity, in the best possible way: endless hours with friends, time to soak up Alaska's uniquely precious outdoors, and seeing my family without a plane ticket breathing "hurry up and enjoy this!"

Somehow it is July.  My endless summer is half over, the lupines fading and the fireweed beginning to bloom.

I am partial to lupines and they say  "youth" in my personal language of flowers.  One of my favorite pictures from my childhood is baby Redzils toddling through a patch of lupines, grinning, with her red-gold ringlets swaying in the breeze.  They aren't spring flowers, exactly, but they bloom in early summer and fade away gradually.  Watching the bank of soft purple lupines which adorn the hill across from TDaC's driveway fade from brilliant purple to almost purple, with the greenery reasserting itself, cues me that nothing stays the same. 

Around here, the striking pink-red fireweed appears later.  The flowers open from the bottom up, over time, and when the top pods burst, with white seed cotton bursting free, winter is almost here.  Fireweed herald the return of termination dust, when Alaska's short green season ends, the land fades to a crimson brown, and snow settles over everything.  I don’t get to see Alaska's marvelous, albeit short, fall anymore - I am back east by then, turning my attention to school.  And seeing the fireweed bloom, with more pink blossoms bursting free each day, reminds me that fall and my new academic life are coming.

I have not been eating healthily or going to the gym, despite prior assertions.  I have been spending my time and energy on the people I care about, forging new relationships and trying to bolster old ones. I am enmeshing myself in the dance community here, trying to perform well at work, and spending the time I can find with friends and family (that full time job thing really gets in the way).  I figure the fall, when I am back to living a spartan life, eating my own cooking and waking up at the same time every day, is soon enough to start worrying about calories and lifting weights.  Right now I am too busy eating Thai food with my friends, staying up late and sleeping ridiculous hours, and trying to say "Yes!" to every good idea that comes along.

I don’t want summer to end. I am not ready, but I am slowly realizing that I don’t have to be. My endless summer is only halfway gone.  I still have almost a month and a half left, and I mean to make the most of it.  I bought new roller-blades, and the current plan is to get outside and skate as often as I can, rather than attempting to lure myself into a hot, stinky aerobics room at the local gym.  I am going to embrace the craziness of my summer and soak it all up, to inoculate me from the ennui of fall.  And I have to remember: this fall will be different from the four before it. The Wicked Witch of the South East doesn't control my academic destiny anymore, I am going to be living alone in a fabulous house, and dancing a lot. It will still be far from home, and maybe lonely, but ... as always, the good news (and the bad news) is that nothing stays the same.
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I am in Homer.  My drive was fine, although it feels weird to do a trip of that length without at least one mammal panting on me and needing to stop for pee breaks at tennis ball friendly places.

There was a black bear in the Girdwood Tesoro parking lot, so essentially I stopped for a Coke and got a free bear encounter.

Text messaging appears to get all wonky going over the pass, and I am not sure it ever started working again.  [profile] learethak, [personal profile] crisavec, etc, if you got multiples or messages that seem out of synch, blame AT&T.

The boringest part was between Kasilof and Anchor Point, as the light started to fade and the terrain dulled.

Four years of life on the interstate highway system, with occasional forays onto the Washington-Baltimore beltway, have made me much more comfortable stomping on the gas to pass unwieldy trucks, boats, and general lollygaggers. When I started driving back and forth to Fairbanks in college, passing any cars at all required pep talks, white knuckles, and hastily summoned courage.  Now passing pairs of semis just requires a dotted line.

Coming down the hill into Homer, looking out over the spit, the bay, the mountains, and the glaciers, is always breathtaking.  It's a high overcast tonight, and the light is fading to blue.  All the blue (sky, ocean, clouds, sky) and white (snow caps of mountains, glaciers, reflections on the water, clouds) is amazing, and even the air feels special.

Kiska was delighted to see me and did the yip-while-bouncing-in-circles thing.  My mom came out on the porch to say hello, and looked deliciously at home in her bathrobe, surrounded by her daisies. They took our older dog in for a "haircut" and she got shaved - all her fur is about a half inch long and there is a stupid green kerchief around her neck.  She looks very foolish.

There is a momma moose with a baby in the brush alongside the driveway, and they browsed probably 30 feet away as I unpacked the car.

It is good to be here.  Tomorrow should be great fun, as I visit the weir site and dance with the Shiverring Gypsies for the first time in a year.
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We are back in the Blue Ridge mountains - it was an uneventful, boring 12 hours of airport / airplane drive, then a late night drive home since I just wanted to wake up in my own bed.  Between the driving energy and the time difference, I didn't get to sleep 'til 4 am, and was up at 10:30 so  I am having a hard time getting in motion this morning.  I have everything out of the suitcases at least, and a plan to get through some errands and the resettling today. 

I gotta say, coming home to Elsewhere is always great.  I was amused this trip to find a men's electric shaver charging on the counter, next to a three foot edged sword (note: edged but not sharp, it's a dancer's sword).  The shaver belongs to the new roommate and the sword to the old one - it was just an interesting juxtaposition.  Kiska and Chewbacca-the-cat have met. It went well-ish - the cat ran and she chased him, but there was no aggression on either part.  She seems glad to be home too, and is eating one of Raven's rawhides.

RoommateHeather loves me enough to climb out of bed when I called late last night and plug in my electric space heater.  Thank goodness, since my wing of the house has been closed off for the last month and was still chilly, despite two hours of pre-heating.  I think I may need an electric blanket if I am going to keep from freezing to death... Maybe after I get my errands run today I will go find one.
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Dear Family,

I love you very much.   You can tell this because I spent hours last night sitting at the airport waiting for your flight, so I could hand you your down coats as you walked through the gate and take your carry ons away.  I was even relatively glad to be your driver, despite your 3 am arrival (revised from 1:11 am, but not 'til I was at the airport).  However, on any day I go to bed at 5 am (after, say, getting home late from the airport), making me get up at 10 am to entertain company is CRUEL AND UNUSUAL.

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I am typing this from Casa de Chaos, at the dining room table.  It I look ahead, there is a brown German short haired pointer sitting in a wing chair.  There are three golden retrievers at my feet, and a TV program featuring a singing sloth on the TV across the room.  Mara is sitting cross-legged on kitchen counter eating butter and supposedly helping Mimi cook eggs.

I am sipping black tea with two heaping spoonfulls of sugar and a generous slug of Half & Half.  There are feet of snow on the ground outside, and dozens of chickadees, red-polls, and other birds eating seed off the back porch railing and patio table.

I am tired, since I had to get up early to fetch Mimi from her mechanic's, and a bit out of sorts.  But I am also grateful for these blessings and sad that I will be leaving them behind in six more days.
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I have a 69 page draft of my thesis.  I am definitely embracing Ms. Lamott's shitty first drafts idea, but, hey, it's on paper!  And before my deadline (4 am, tomorrow morning, at the very latest).  I know it could be better, but it isn't.  What it is is a jumping off place for the revisions process, and a conversation starter for my advisor and me.  Need I mention that it will be returned to me gutted and dripping Microsoft Comments?  Nah, I didn't think so....

I am going to send the whole thing off and do a quick victory dance, then run into town.  These dogs need to run about 5 miles before we are going to be friends again....
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I rillyrilly hate literature reviews.  I mean, the good ones are a joy to read, but creating them is Not My Favorite.  Everything I need to include has already been said more gracefully by someone else, whose ideas I must now be careful not to plagiarize. 

I have made it through the first 12 pages of my Introduction and Literature review, and I think they are good(ish) as is. I deleted out some stuff which is no longer relevant and threw in a few additional linkages, but they seem sufficient, well-organized, and complete.

The next eight pages - which probably will grow to twenty or so pages - is less fun, since only three of the five constructs discussed in the original proposal remain, and another one has been added.  Lots of linkages to be pruned and recreated using new variables. 

And then, for fun, I get to go back in and add all the stuff that has been published since I wrote the damn thing (March 2005, so 21 months worth of publications).


And then, for even more fun, I get to  go write a discussion, based on the literature review, and make some conclusions. 

But, once I do that and update the reference section, I will have a complete draft to submit to my advisor.  I just need to quit with the squirreling around and focus.  Easier said than done, of course, but I am encouraged by the feedback from a friend in my program (she said I am doing a good job! She also has a huge list of changes to be made, but I am doing a good job!). 

Unfortunately whining about what remains to be completed is not getting anything done.  Must focus...
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I have not sold either of my parent's dogs on Ebay, despite the obvious temptation.

Eventually I whapped one of them with a rolled up JAP article, which still amuses me.  'If you dont behave I am going to get the Journal of Applied Psychology out, and then, buster, you'll have something to cry about!'  It didn't hurt her, but the noise got her attention.  And, since then, she has shut up.  FINALLY.  If only I had figured that out, say, eight hours sooner. 

I went out to breakfast this morning at my favorite cafe because the dogs and I needed an outing, fast.  Then I came home and worked a bit, fell unconscious for an hour, and ate a turkey sandwich.  This being grounded is REALLY BORING.  I know I need to work fast so I can get it over with, but am reminded why sitting at the computer for days on end is just not a good way to get things done.

Anyone want to make a plan to do something fun?  It would give me something to look forward to, and maybe that would help me work fast.  I am getting desperate here....
redzils: (Default)
Okay, I am now about where I wanted to be on the thesis last night. I dont know if this means that I set ridiculous goals, or am inherently slow and procrastinatish.  Either way, I have a complete draft of the methods and results and wrote out the limitations of my study (that was a LONG paragraph. Stoopid project).  I shipped the Methods and Results off to a couple people who might be kind enough to read over them for me (yes, hi, I do mean you.  Have I mentioned how marvelous you are lately?).

My brain is about done for the day, but I think I will spend ten minutes bringing the pieces together, into one document before I take my headcold and go to bed. 

I printed the 19 pages left of my Intro./Lit. Review (after cutting out all the stuff that was removed from my original model), so tomorrow's first project is to outline it, with a one sentence summary per paragraph.  That "map" will enable me to see what is missing / needs to be expanded on and make sure I have a cogent, complete literature review and introduction.  Those are my least favorite parts of the project to work on (especially since I have a bunch of recently published articles which need to be integrated), but I need to finish that before I can write the discussion and conclusions....

Two more days to get it done, which means a) I need to work like the wind, and b) in two days I get ungrounded.  If only I survive that long...

PS - I am sorta sickly today, so went to Fred Meyers to buy groceries and stock up on cold medicine. I think I managed to trip their methamphetamine warning system, and they me choose between these two boxes or that one instead (I went for Advil cold medicine - in two forms - rather than the Claritan.  Allergies be damned, I guess). They took my ID and disappeared into the back for awhile before making me sign my life away in exchange for cold medicine.  I wonder if that means the DEA will be calling?  I would be glad to cough on them if they feel like coming by. If I am feeling nice, I'll then share my cold medicine , but they will have to bring their own allergy meds. Oh well, at least the cold means I have a valid reason to slug down a shot of Nyquil en route to bed.
redzils: (Default)
Maybe when I grow up I can be an executive assistant. 

I have spent the last few days facilitating other people's needs.  I have made phone calls and dropped off boat parts.  I mailed packages, got photo Christmas cards printed, and counted all the money Mom's students made at the social (503 $1 bills, >$90 in quarters). I booked my parent's travel reservations to a training in Plano, and sweet talked the woman who runs the show into putting their names on the list without sending payment (I wanted to know there would be room in the classes before I bought them plane tickets).  I called the cell phone company to get their plan adjusted, and yelled at the rental car people when the car they reserved wasn't there when they landed in Mexico.  I drove my aunt and uncle across town, entertained the baby while her mother showered, and cleaned my parent's house.  Some of it pays and some of it doesn't, but it is disheartening to realize that in high school I made my spending money cleaning houses and babysitting, and nothing has changed. 

I am also taking care of three golden retrievers, since my parents are away.  I am grounded to work on my thesis, and they are getting tired of all this sitting at the computer.  I cant just open the door and let them frolic, since the youngest one may still be in heat, so they are crowding me a little.  It's the constant jolting of having 70 lbs of golden hit my desk chair, hot breath on my knees, and endless chewing and panting noises that makes me think I may not be cut out to be a parent.  I get very tired of feeling breathed on and crowded, and this is when I am getting enough sleep and have all the freedom in the world.  I can only imagine what sort of shrieking terror I would become with a mewling, damp infant in my care for days on end.... At least I can usher these guys out to the garage and lock them in if it gets to be too much.  Generally people frown on behavior like that with little kids...

I am not enjoying the thesing.  However, I am making slow progress. I will have the whole results section finished and the limitations drafted before I go to bed tonight.  That leaves me two days for literature review and discussion, and I will need them.  In the meantime, I am craving distraction and also chocolate.  My mother would be so disappointed to see the Diet Coke stash in her fridge, but, what can I say - I'm working.  Soda is bad for me, but also part of the ritual, and I need all the help I can get right now....
redzils: (Default)
I'm grounded.

I need to send my advisor a complete draft of my thesis by Friday night (night being defined as ending anytime before 8 am Saturday morning, Eastern Standard Time). I have not done any thesising in quite awhile, so it's time to focus.

My aunt Mimi suggested today that I could always blame them, citing pressing family obligations.  Pressing is the right word - as in gang-pressing, a lovely old custom where captains who needed crews would prowl near the harbor, kidnapping poor souls who woke up the next day onboard, far from land, with a new job and life ahead of them.  I love spending time with my family, but, damn, are they capable of derailing my day(s).  I explained to everyone, including my grandmother, that I am grounded to work on my thesis.  They dont necessarily like it, but they understand.

Outside of family life, I have also been being very social, which is delightful.  Delightful, and complicated.  I need some time to myself to recharge, so until Friday night/Saturday I will be grounded.

Speaking of which....
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I just skijored seven miles. It was perfect - crisp white snow, a reasonably cooperative dog on-line, and good company.  Dogs tend to respond to whatever commands they are trained with, so to speed these guys up you yip and holler.  You can't help feleing festive as you speed along yelling things like "yip-yip-yipeee!" and "wa-hoo!"
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A friend of my parents is staying in the house tonight, and I am in the yurt (listenning ot the wind rage, an unexpected benefit of life on a cliff-top).. He has already called me twice, first to find out if I will be by, then again to have me show him the stashed key.

My cell rings again, and his name shows up in the display. I immediately think, "Are we out of water?" (it comes by the truckload on Fridays).

Answer: No. We have water. And a wee black bear, last seen headed down the trail straight to my door.

I dont see him, but I am resolving to sing LOUDLY on all outhouse runs for awhile.


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