Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Aude Lang Syne

2008 is almost over. It was a mixed year for me--lots of good, peppered with a fair amount of bad (or at least difficult to deal with).

The Good:
  • I finally (finally!) finished my dissertation and managed to graduate.
  • As a result, I am now gainfully employed full-time. With dental, even!
  • And I'm teaching a course on Jane Austen this summer, also as a result.
  • G got several excellent grants which enable him to do his dissertation research (see, also, "The Bad").
  • I have a new nephew, who is fat and funny and smiley and completely adorable.
  • Nephew-the-elder is also funny and smiley and completely adorable, albeit in a much skinnier fashion.
  • Nephew-the-elder continues his love of hand-knit socks.
  • My friends and family enjoy (mostly) good health and happiness.
  • There has been lots of knitting.
  • I got to go to Poland where I fed the birds (and squirrels) and see the salt mine.
The Bad:
  • G's grants required him to spend the fall semester in Poland.
  • Miscarriage #3, right before said trip to Poland.
  • Too much time apart from G, which makes me sort of blah about everything.
But on the whole, more good than bad.

On the knitting front, this year I finished:
  • 1 sweater (Ramona)
  • 6 pairs of socks (4 of them for nephew-the-elder)
  • 1 baby blanket
  • 1 pair of Fetchings
  • 1 cowl
  • 2 hats
  • 3 Elefantes
  • 8 lace projects, including my favorite: Madli's Shawl
Of course, there were any number of false starts, as well, but I'm not counting them.

We had a bit of a snow storm today, so our New Year's Eve plans are lots of hors d'oevres from Trader Joe's, along with a couple of movies--I'm thinking Iron Man to start. Of course, that's our plan every New Year's Eve, so the storm really didn't change much. :)

Happy New Year's to everyone--I hope 2009 will be a wonderful year for everyone.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

12 days

It's not quite time for the 12 days of Christmas to start, but a friend sent me to this:

Grading is moving a pace. 32 down, 22 to go. And the biggest reason they're not done is that I'm goofing off on YouTube.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

grading jail

54 out of 56 students turned in their final portfolios yesterday. I wasn't really expecting the last two, as they've both fallen (yikes. I hit post with a sentence that read "they've both falled off the face of the earth. and they let me teach in the English dept.) off the face of the earth (or at least campus) as far as I can tell.

So today and tomorrow (and hopefully not Friday) I am in grading jail.

Which isn't as bad as it sounds, as
  • I'm only reading final reflections
  • Which are letters to me
  • Which makes them easy to read
  • And often full of entertaining observations on their (sometimes perceived) progress
  • Excel figures out my grades for me
  • Which means that the only maths I need to do anymore is for knitting
  • Which is more fun than the maths for grade figuring.
I should really get started, though, since even if it's not as bad as it sounds, I still have to do it.

Is it sad that I'd rather clean the bathroom?

I'm holding out several carrots for myself, including knitting and cookie baking. I have in fact finished the knitting portion of a Thorpe hat I'm making for my dad, although I cannot for the life of me locate one of the seven or eight yarn needles I know are somewhere in this apartment. I lost the last one in Poland, so I have a toe to graft on a pair of socks, as well.

And pictures to post, except G has confirmed that the camera cord abandoned ship and stayed in Poland with him, so I can't actually get said pictures out of the camera for another ten days.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Poland, part 3: Christmas in Krakow

Krakow is a charming city--fairly compact with a lovely old town. We walked all over, on Friday, and the weather was perfect. I should have taken more photos--we went to the Old Synagogue, for instance, which holds a wonderful museum, but it was starting to get dark (night falls even earlier there than it does here!) and I didn't take any pictures.

Earlier that day we went to Wawel, however, and I got this picture of Wawel Cathedral:

No photos of the dragon, alas, as the dragon's cave was closed for the winter.

That evening was the first night of the Krakow Christmas Village--maybe 100 stalls of ornaments, gifts, and food. G took a few pictures--this one give you a sense of how it looked

And this is a close-up of one of the Christmas stalls. I bought a glass ornament for my mom (not from here--a stall in the next aisle had the exact same one, only for 5 zloty less!). But I love the picture--it almost looks like a Christmas card to me!

I'd show you pictures of what I bought, and the knitting I did (almost two whole socks--albeit not matching socks, as it was the second sock of one pair and the first of a different pair), but I can't for the life of me find the cable to connect the camera to the computer. I've looked all over, and I'm afraid it might still be in Poland! Thank goodness there are less than 12 days left until G is home.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Poland, part 2: Salt Mines

The last time G was in Poland, he spent six weeks in Krakow taking language classes. One of the field trips he took was to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, which is located about 20 minutes outside of town.

Ever since he came home with pictures, I've wanted to go--both to Krakow and to see the Salt Mines. So on Thursday (Happy Thanksgiving!), we got up insanely early (4:30 a.m.) in order to catch the 6:05 express train to Krakow. We arrived in Krakow 3 hours later and found our hotel (a quite lovely Holiday Inn only a few minutes walk from the main market square), where they actually let us check in at 9:30 in the morning.

From there, we made our way to the Salt Mines.

(puts on tour guide voice)

The Wieliczka Salt Mines is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It's been in operation for over 900 years, although now it only produces small quantities of salt via evaporation, rather than actual mining. There are over 200 km of passages in the mine, with over 2000 caverns, and it's been visited by tourists for most of its existence.

Somewhere along the line (I suspect a real tour guide would know when this happened, rather than going with a vague "somewhere along the line"), the miners started carving statues and things into the rock salt.

The current tourist route starts 64 meters under the surfaces, and ends 135 m below; it follows about 2 km of the passages. The route includes St. Kinga's Chapel:

All carved out of salt, my friends. (G tried to convince me to lick the wall to see if it tasted salty, but I declined.) You can get married here (there's a restaurant 120 m. down for the reception), and they have concerts (the acoustics rock).

There's a salty John Paul II:

And salty chandeliers:

There are also salty dwarfs along the way:

We took the tour in Polish, so I'm a little fuzzy on some of the details, but it was an unbelievably neat place. And the ride up on the elevator at the end is worthy of a theme park!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Poland, part 1: Feed the birds, tuppence a bag

I'm back from my trip to Poland. We crammed so much in that I'm going to try and split it up a bit. Especially since I put off all the grading I would normally do over the break to this week, so I'm grading frantically. I've told myself I don't have to start until 8:00 this morning, but I'm up early (the advantages of jet lag coming back from Europe!), so I'm putting up some pictures.

The trip over to Poland was fine--I left for the airport after my classes, and flew Northwest through Amsterdam, with only a short layover. The flight was quite pleasant--window seat, individual screens on the backs of the seats (I watched Dark Knight, which I hadn't seen, and thought was quite good.) And the hubby was waiting in Warsaw--his was the first face I saw when I walked out of customs.

We took a taxi back to the apartment he's renting, which is a nice flat, even if it is a fifth-floor walk-up. (Stairs were a running theme in this trip, as we managed to hit both the highest and lowest points in the Krakow area within 24 hours.)

I managed to stay up until almost 7 pm local time--I don't sleep well on planes, so hadn't slept the night before. (On a side note: has anyone else noticed how flights east and interrogation tactics are very similar? Meals served at irregular intervals--we had a snack, dinner, and breakfast all in the course of 6 hours; lights turned on and off--it's evening! it's night! it's morning! all, again, in those 6 hours. Very disorienting!)

The next day we had a lazy morning--G went to get ponchkis, which are basically jelly donuts, only so much better. And then we walked over to the Royal Baths (Lazienki Park) to see the red squirrels:

Cute little guy, isn't he? They have a Pavlovian response to people--when they hear someone coming, they sit up, look hopefully in your direction, and wait. If you crouch down with your hand out, they'll spring over to see what it is.

They are not, however, very patient (or very bright--they get confused very easily and have the attention span of a goldfish). If you stand up to get more seeds, this is likely to happen:

Red squirrel attack! They climb onto you, looking for seeds. They're fast, though, so when G tried to take a picture, he focused on his boot. But you can see the furry ears and the eye, if you look closely.

The park is also filled with birds, including a ton of chickadees:

Who, while a bit more timid than the squirrels, will also eat out of your hands:

Unbelievably cool. So cool, in fact, I made G buy more seeds and go back again the next day.