Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A good book

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but I'd like to recommend a good read, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. Thanks G+B for the Christmas present!  When my Dad told me that I probably would be finished in a few days, I assured him it would more likely take me a month to read, because I don't dedicate very much time to reading. But lo and behold, not a week later and I'm all through.

There aren't too many things that make my 4 or 5am preg-o insomnia fun, but over the past week I've had to ask myself, can I really not sleep, or do I just want to read that book?

Well, whatever the reason, this was a great read. So strange, so very strange. It also helps that I plowed slowly through a really mediocre book immediately before this one... it will remain nameless. I see that there is some talk of making Sisters Brothers into a film, but I'm not so interested in that. To me this book does the thing that only a really good novel can do, which is somehow to transport the reader slightly beyond the limits of their imagination, and capturing the story literally in film would eliminate this magic, I think.

The Sisters Brothers has been shortlisted for all kinds of stuff, and has won some things too, including the Governor General's. Which reminds me of Crabby's GG project, and I see this is still on the list of books yet to be read... you are in for a treat Crabs.

That's it for nowzers.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The other pregnancy

I stumbled on these photos earlier.

I miss this beast.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baby surprise and Tuesday notes

Tuesday seems to be a good clogging day for me. Of course, I mean blogging, but clogging is kind of appropriate today too.

I should be at Namaste Babies right now, but I think not being able to breathe is probably a good reason to skip that tonight.  Yes, the pregnancy sneezes were a warning of things to come. Now I'm just consuming vast quantities of hot lemon drink with honey and hoping this doesn't settle into my chest.

On the bright side, I recently (mostly) finished my Baby Surprise Jacket! I'm pretty pleased with it, although I feel like the knit is a little on the loose side. I sized down the needles but I am still just a very loosey goosey knitter. I think it mostly happened when I made the transition from English to Continental style knitting. Interestingly, Continental style knitting, according to Wikipedia "being associated with Germany, fell out of favour in English-speaking countries during World War II; its reintroduction in the United States is often credited to Elizabeth Zimmerman." Part of what is interesting about this is that Elizabeth Zimmerman is the author of the Baby Surprise Jacket pattern! But that is an aside. I wouldn't go back to being a "thrower," being a "picker" is much faster, especially for ribbing (although I do have a sentimental attachment to the English style, it being taught to me by my granny on pick-up sticks at the cottage). And for the record, I taught myself how to knit Continental style with a youtube video.

OK, that was a long introduction for..... the baby surprise!!! It is mathemagical! Almost hyperbolic!

I used Noro Silk Garden sock yarn, which is beautiful, although I'm a little disconcerted by the pink and purple sections, which weren't so visible on the outside of the ball. This may end up being a prototype for another sweater on smaller needles.

After some clever folding, ta da:

And (this was the kind of thing that mattered a lot more when the pattern was written in 1968 than it does now) you actually work buttonholes on both sides of the jacket. Then, immediately after the birth of the baby, you can sew the buttons over the holes on the appropriate side for a boy or for a girl. Do people still pay attention to appropriate sides?

I'm not sure I'll wait that long to sew on the buttons. I found these sweet wooden buttons that I believe came from my (other) grandmother's supply, and they are too perfect to resist, even though I am one short.
Well, if you have read all this then I'm impressed, dear reader. These sentences are poorly structured. Too many commas! I blame the clogging.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pregnancy sneezes

Here is one of my least favourite things about pregnancy: the sneezes! They hurt a lot around the ribs, I don't know why. But that this is one of my least favourite pregnancy things means that things are really pretty good.

And while on the topic of olfaction, sometimes I feel like I'm permanently sporting one of these nasal rangers.

Here we go... 26 weeks... less than "100 days" left (what does it even mean?)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Q.C.

Dernier fin-de-semaine, nous sommes allés à la ville de Québec. Elle était très belle. Mais, il était très très froid.

This was the view of P I had for most of the weekend (i.e. not much):
But it didn't slow us down too much... nous avons fait la raquette...
And did a lot of wandering around....
A high of -24 degrees does have some advantages: discounts on the most delicious squeaky-curd poutine ever!!!! (Rabais météo at Chez Ashton). According to the Poutine Pundit, this may actually be the best poutine in.... The world. OK, well at least in all the places the pundit has reviewed. We tried to go to the other place that gets a score of 90/100, but sadly a 2:30pm poutine hunger went unfufilled by this nighttime spot (where poutine isn't even on the menu, yet they have the best in town....?)
We also stayed inside a lot to watch les émissions sur la Canal Vie! Quality programs such as Enciente.... sans le savoir. I could feel my french improving and my other mental abilities declining at the same time!
It was a lovely weekend.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Compliments from one pregnant lady to another

I received some high praise from one of the other ladies in my prenatal yoga class.
"Look at how good you are with your socks!" [upon seeing me putting on my socks standing up]
Yes, this is the kind of thing that garners compliments, these days.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Zoom in on cute

Yesterday I saw this fantastic sight:

Zoom in, you say? (taken with the phone, hence the surveillance video quality)

The problem with postdocs

Yesterday I made the super-annoying discovery that I am not going to qualify to receive any kind of maternity benefits from the government. The reason for this is the uncertain position postdocs hold with respect to universities. In Canada, postdocs are typically not classified as "employees" of the university. Nor are they students.

In the words of CAPS-ACSP (the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars),
"[I]t is widely acknowledged that the current diffuse organization of postdoctoral training leaves this class of highly qualified personnel in an especially vulnerable position. Not graduate students, not faculty members, postdocs have so far slipped between the cracks of the recognized workforce of the scientific community and represent a heterogeneous group of poorly defined ‘apprentice’ scientists. As such, postdocs generally do not have well defined expectations of employment, appropriate employment rights and responsibilities, commensurate or even normalized pay scales, performance evaluations, employment benefits such as proper health care, pensions, occupational health insurance, or procedures for resolving conflict. To date, the treatment of postdocs within Canada is inconsistent at best, and largely ignored, at worst."

They also have an excellent FAQ on what a postdoc is, anyway, and how it is classified in Canada. I guess I fall into Category 4: "The Postdoc with no official status."

The thing I don't really understand is why universities are so reluctant to give postdocs better benefits and status. I suppose that classifying postdocs as employees opens the door to the potential of collective bargaining, and who wants that (from the perspective of the administration)? Certainly not York. Unfortunately, postdocs are typically in their late twenties to mid thirties -- prime childbearing age. And in some disciplines (say math) it is not atypical for an individual to rack up four or five years of postdoc before being considered a serious candidate for a full-time (tenure-track) position. It probably isn't the greatest idea to reproduce in your first year or two of a new job, in fact, it is probably best to wait until you actually have tenure, another five or six years. By that time the fertility train may have long since departed.

It is a sad state of affairs in my mind. It seems so openly hostile toward women pursuing academic careers, or indeed toward any individual who wants to take an active role in the early life of their children.

Before I fill this page with complaints though, I will say that I feel lucky to be in a position where the (small) amount I would have been bringing home via EI benefits isn't absolutely critical (due to the fact that P. now has a tenure-track position, and will NOT be taking advantage of the oh-so-generous paternity leave on offer there: time without pay, but that is another can of worms). I also should acknowledge, as I have before, that being a postdoc is a truly excellent job in other ways, especially as a pregnant lady. I don't envy the women in my prenatal yoga class who are working nine to five jobs. It is a luxury to be able to sleep in on the days when the 4am boxercise routine in my belly keeps me up for hours. But the overall situation for postdocs is no good.

Who could provide a better final word than PHD Comics:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

O Tannenbaum

I thought I should post this before the season completely departs. Our Christmas tree!
Now, I'm pretty scroogey about Christmas, and my husband is even more so. But somehow I convinced everyone (including myself, and egged on by Dr. A.) to get a Christmas tree for the first time ever this year. It helped that my parents weren't getting a tree, so we borrowed all of the family's beautiful (and not-so-beautiful in some cases) ornaments. We also put the four ornaments we own on the tree.
I loooooove it! I love it at night when the lights are on, and I love it during the day when the sun shines through it. I'm never taking it down. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The sweater blanket


One of my ongoing projects that is currently under attack in the unclutterer/getting-shit-done-pre-baby frenzy is my sweater blanket. I've had this big pile of old sweaters sitting around for months, probably years if I am honest, and it is time to get rolling on fun part.

So far I washed and cut apart the sweaters (most of which are now nicely felted). Then I ironed them with lots of steam to further the felting (and release the charming aroma of wet wool combined with the fumes of previous owners). Now I'm at the cutting stage, which is by far the most satisfying. Each sweater is getting cut into two big squares and two half-squares, which are known as rectangles for the geometrically inclined. Eventually I'll sew or serge (haven't decided yet) them together into a big patchwork blanket, that will hopefully be big enough for a queen size bed. I also haven't decided whether I'll leave it there, or whether I'll put some kind of backing on it and do tufting, to make a somewhat quiltier blanket. Yeah, I said it.... quiltier.

But right now I am in love with my cut pieces, which are like slabs of felty goodness. I almost don't want to sew the slabs together, they are so lovely just as slabs.

Monday, January 2, 2012

24 Weeks

Well, today I am 24 weeks pregnant.  According to my handy iPhone app, I have 112 days to go. Eeeee! I'm really starting to feel more pregnant. I find myself inadvertently making sounds when I stand up or sit down. And after booking international flights for my 31st week last night, I woke up in the middle of the night concerned that maybe I wouldn't be able to get my tray-table down. Belly as table?

Today I may have gone for the last run of this pregnancy. It felt so good to begin with, but then I started to notice some ligament pain in my belly. Here is a picture pre-run, don't know what is happening to my face there, but that is what happens when P. takes the pictures.

Plus, soon enough my running jacket isn't going to zip up.
To give you some idea of how this goes, today I ran my usual 5km railpath route in 40 minutes. Last years resolution was to run that path in <28 minutes, because I was having a lot of trouble breaking the 30 minute mark. Obviously things have slowed down a lot since I became pregnant, and I have no complaints about that. But today was a whole new slow. Still no complaints: it gave me lots of time to appreciate the sunshine and the snowflakes in the air.  

I know that some ladies run right through their pregnancies, but I don't think that will be me. I think I'll renew my membership at the community centre instead and move elliptically from now on. Plus it is winter! The predicted high tomorrow is -12 degrees! 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Resolution times

Yes, it is the resolution season.

This year, things are a little different. Looking back at last years resolutions I'm pleased to say that I have managed to accomplish some of them. However, some of them I have accomplished only by accident, for example "drink less wine". Some were taken care of by what I now see as an improvement in work-life balance that naturally followed the completion of my PhD. So things like "read more non-work books" got a big checkmark.  Others, like "run faster" I have obviously not accomplished, as I am now running at least twice as slow as I was when I made that resolution. But I'm growing a human!

So this year I don't feel motivated to make any health and fitness resolutions, I'm already pretty motivated by the squirmy wormy to take good care of myself (though perhaps some postpartum fitness goals are in order... I'll cross that bridge when I get to it, but let me just say that I am excited about the super effects of high-altitude running), and I'm lucky that my job is flexible enough to allow me to spend time doing this.  I am drawn toward making goals that involve being more creative, and also about getting things done. So here is the list (isn't it true that going public with your resolutions makes it more likely that you will keep them?)

1. Keep a sketchbook (I talked about that yesterday)
2. Less diddling on the internet, more doing!
3. Actually finish the decluttering/de-crapifying project, before the baby arrives
4. Finish some ongoing projects, specifically the sweater blanket, the quilt (ehh... might be getting demoted from a queen size to a baby quilt... a very pink baby quilt), and other knitting projects
5. Keep the house cleaner (this is a resolution that has been hanging around for a few years now.... but as with all bad habits, many many opportunities to change!)
6. Work on my French (I'll be taking classes starting next week)
7. Write more letters to councillors and politicians (this is also a 2011 resolution)

Are these even "good" resolutions? Probably not. But I'll spare you the nitty gritty of how I plan to get these things done. Right now I'm just happy to have the opportunity to take stock of things and feel pretty content with life.