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Snowboarding II

As I prepare myself for day number 2 of snowboarding, I ask myself, what do I hope to get out of this new experience?

First, the thrill of hurtling downhill, slightly out of control, of making those little breakthroughs where I figure out, from fear, how to hold my own.

Second, the satisfaction of taking on a new challenge, the potential for mastery some time in the distant future.  I’ve also started taking classical guitar lessons for the same reason.

Third, the physical satisfaction of re-tuning my body to the board and the mountain.  Developing muscles that had lain virtually dormant almost my whole life.  Feeling very sore.

Fourth, to use all that new gear: board, bindings, boots, helmet and wrist guards.  All those people who helped me: I don’t want to let them down.  These include knowledgeable staff, friends and teachers.

Fifth, I’m  making new friends all over the place, and it is contagious.  Being friends with a snow boarding instructor, having lunch with him, has led a usually diffident me to befriend all kinds of others: book store owners, managers and even people who are already friends I find refreshed by the new post-apocalyptic (post-PhD) positive me.

Sixth, I’m gearing up for Fernie, March 4, where I have a conference.  When I get there I want to be ready to go, hands free, just me and my board and the mountain!

Image Source: http://img73.imageshack.us/i/snowboarding534iw0.jpg/


I went snowboarding for the first time this week.  At Mt. St. Saveur I got a lesson from a great teacher.  Now that I’ve got the basics down, how am I going to put it all together?

My worry is that I can only go about once a week, and that maybe I’ll forget how to do the things learned during that week.

Actually I’m not too worried, it’s just that time on the hill is precious and I don’t want to waste it.

So, after sideslipping and a little traversing what’s next?  Traversing is still hard for me.  I figure I’ve got one more day of hard slogging and then it should get a bit easier.

But I’m sick of being on the bunny hill.  I think I’ve had enough of that.

Image Source: http://img73.imageshack.us/i/snowboarding534iw0.jpg/


I already got the best Christmas present ever, from McGill University.  And I have a loving group of people here in Montreal I get to spend the holidays with.  There are presents under the tree, and the future is bright. (more…)

When I Grow Up

When I grow up I want to be a postdoc, I want to have a job, I want nice things, stability, a partner and a house.  None of these things are guaranteed. (more…)


I had wanted to finish by 40.  I missed it by two weeks and a bit, the discrepancy between my birthday and the day I defended my PhD.

So I am 41, which is just the number of times four seasons have passed in my life.  It is now winter and I’ve been living in this house for roughly 41 months.

The scale of a life in a particular place sometimes hits you with odd force.

The new year brings great uncertainty.  It wasn’t helped much when I read the article on doctoral degrees in the special Christmas double issue of The Economist.  It’s a bracing read, bringing the question of grad studies down to fundamentals.  The question being, is it worth pursuing an advanced degree?

Too late, I’m done!

Now, my PhD recovery plan in place, I will get out there in the snow and play a bit, and not worry about it all so much.

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions were made to be broken, but I always make a few.  This year’s are: 1. pay off credit cards 2. get a better job 3. learn french.  If I achieve all this next year I will be a happy camper.

You’ve got to shoot high with these things, otherwise it’s not worth it.

I’ve achieved my New Year’s Resolutions a few times, but mostly the problem has been that I don’t have a resolution worth actually achieving.

Are there grad student specific New Year’s Resolutions?  I put this out there to you, because I honestly don’t know.

Writing (One Grad’s Greatest Day 10)

I love writing.  As a grad student this was my greatest asset.  In the end, it all comes down to writing.

Let me describe a good day’s writing.  Time stands still.  Time flies.  Words come, hesitantly, then all in a flood.  Words ebb and flow.  I get up, I sit down.  My fingers move and then they stop.  At the end of a few hours, I can produce several pages of good writing. (more…)

Going to Work (One Grad’s Greatest Day 9)

One of my greatest achievements in life happens every day.  I get up and go to work.  The alarm goes off at 5:20 a.m.  I turn on the light right away so I don’t fall back asleep, and I listen to the BBC roudup and review, then we go straight in to local news on CBC.  But I usually get up right away, get the water going for coffee, eat a bowl of cereal, then get back in bed right away again to enjoy my coffee beside the radio.  After the 6 o’clock national news, it’s time to get going.  Just before I spring up to meet the day, I often flip through a magazine or a book, a last little indulgence before another big day at the warehouse.


Movies (One Grad’s Greatest Day 8)

To celebrate or escape I sometimes go to the movies.  It’s easy to get to three really good movie theatres from McGill campus.  It’s easy to wander out of Burnside Hall, especially since no one’s watching or keeping track.  The AMC, Scotia Bank and Cinema du Parc beacon with dreams on screens galore. (more…)

The Defense (One Grad’s Greatest Day 7)

It’s done, and it was neither anti-climactic nor climactic, but somewhere in between.  It feels good to be done, over that hurdle, I’ve passed my oral defense for my PhD, with minor revisions.  It was nervewracking waiting those final few days, trying to convince myself I’m ready (I was), that I wasn’t nervous (I was) and that everyone would show up (they did).  But we started an hour late, because the morning of my defense was also the day we, in Montreal, had our first big snow fall of the season.


Watch Out Dr. Phil, Here Comes Dr. Luke! The Defense (One Grad’s Greatest Day 6)

I’m writing about a day that hasn’t happened yet, about my future, as though, in doing so, words will conjure a desired outcome:  the granting of my PhD.  A lot is riding on one day, at least that’s how it seems.  Behind that one day lies 40 months of toil.


Lachine Canal By Mountain Bike (One Grad’s Greatest Day 5)

My Rocinante, a vintage Rocky Mountain Hammer Mountain Bike, trusty steed of a dozen years or more, used to take me places I’d never seen before.  Walking only takes you so far.  Driving takes you too far.  The mountain bike has flair for middle distances. (more…)

Petite Italie (One Grad’s Greatest Day 4)

I came to Little Italy in two ways.  I lived in Kingston before moving to Montreal, and my barber in Kingston is Italian.  His name is Paul.  It’s just him in his shop.  He always cuts hair in the chair by the window, and there are four barber’s chairs.  The other three are never used.  There’s often a lineup way into the back of the shop where people sit and look at hockey magazines or at Italian soccer calendars on the wall in front of them.  (more…)

Heaven in the Bay is on the 8th Floor (One Grad’s Greatest Day 3)

Ever vigilant, I keep eyes peeled on sales racks wherever I go.  Especially clothing.  For a fellow like me (brand-hag and clothes-hound) clothing costs can spiral out of control if I’m not careful (which I always am).  I love good clothes and became addicted to them after discovering Winner’s in Prince George.

But since coming to Montreal I’ve made an especially good discovery:  the 8th floor of The Bay on St. Catherine Street.  That heavenly location has provided me Christmas presents and interviewing outfits galore, not to mention a bunch of frivolities that appeal to the peacock in me. (more…)

Mont Royal (One Grad’s Greatest Day 2)

Mont Royal

When I first got to Montréal I used to go up the mountain a lot.  I had a Rocky Mountain Hammer model mountain bike that I’d owned for at least ten years.  Unfortunately that bicycle was stolen near University Avenue one Saturday while I was working in Burnside Hall.  Spindly locks don’t cut it around here.

So, back when I had that bicycle, I’d ride up the main trail to the viewpoint, beside the big building my friend and I call “The Banff Building” because it looks like something you’d see in Banff.  It is touristy but inside a wide open space awaits with paintings of Champlain and maps on the walls and squirrel statues on the beams.  In winter we’d rest there after skiing to the top, mittens and coats beside the scorching radiators near a small area with tables and chairs. (more…)

Marché Jean-Talon (One Grad’s Greatest Day 1)

A twenty minute walk from my apartment in Villeray is all it takes to get to what has been described as North America’s largest open air market (National Geographic, 2008 Map of Montreal).

I did this walk just yesterday.  It is November and it is clear after three days rain.  The leaves are mostly down, yellowish brown.   It is a bit misty, you can see your breath, and a slight steam rises from pavement drying in the sun. (more…)

Identities Old and New (or, why I could be a postdoctoral researcher)

Nebulous netherworld.  These two words sum up what it feels like to be a grad student.

Nebulously bounded, with vague beginnings and what sometimes feels like no end.

Maybe I’m just mad because today I didn’t get a job.  Not the dream job but a job at a teaching intensive university in the midwest with good interdepartmental projects, friendly and sincere faculty and good facilities. (more…)

Narrative Devices

A good storyteller is always a good listener.  The converse is not always true.  Storytelling in science provides evidence for my claim.  Were the logical positivists good listeners?  Are they now? (Wittgenstein was a great, if laconic, storyteller once he abandoned positivism).    A legacy of the positivists seems to be an ongoing trend of science students (myself included) to tell only the ‘truth.’  I don’t dispute this goal, but it begs the question, what is ‘truth’? (more…)


I have approximately 2200 books.  Perhaps anxiety drives my need to see, to be near, the fixity and purity of the printed page.  Things can’t change once stacked, filed, piled or lined up beside me in my work room at home.  The ideas stay put.  I can examine at my leisure the lay of the land splayed across, within and throughout 2200 volumes worth of rectos and versos.


Boundary, Scale, Object (Reading Groups)

The object of this blog entry is science and the humanities.  Approaching this object in such a broadly bounded way, such that I do not treat science/humanities as mutually exclusive separate entities, immediately defines the scale of my undertaking which is much too large to do justice in the space of 1000 words.

I am writing in response to Julian’s thought provoking piece on interdisciplinary work: http://blogs.mcgill.ca/gradlife/2010/10/19/interdisciplinary-work/

Our exchange revolves around a weekly lab discussion.  Each week our reading group, consisting of anthropologists, geographers and archaeologists, discusses a new topic led by a different person from the lab each week.  Last week we discussed complexity.


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