So this is the new year...

A year or so ago, The Atlantic published a story called “Is Google Making us Stupid?” The basic premise was that reading on the Internet has lessened our ability to read. We’re used to getting our information in short, easily digestible bits. We almost never read something entirely – we skim and scan, gleaning the most important parts. I clearly remember my experience of reading this article. I read along – paying close attention to each word, fighting with every fiber of my being to prove the article wrong. What I wanted more than anything was to skip and skim. I mean, I really did get the basic point of the article after a page – why should I finish it? But, I was compelled by the article itself to prove that I hadn’t become stupid. I would read the article in its entirety. And I did. And it might have been the last thing I read, entirely.

Since moving to Durham and getting a full time job, I hardly read anything anymore – sure I’ve read a few novels (skipping and skimming as I went) and I read bits and pieces of articles; book reviews, news blips, opinion essays. But, I don’t read. Not like I did. I’ve tried. I tried just a few weeks ago to re-read a chapter from one of my advisors books, as a way to remind myself what it feels like to be an academic. I failed. I skimmed. I happened upon some great nuggets in my skimming, but I couldn’t immerse myself in the words.

This is a problem.

Now that it is January 2010, I will start working again – actively working – on my dissertation. So, I need to remember how to read, how to write, how to think. To this end, I’m reopening Blue Stockings. I need to get back in the habit of writing about the things that I think about. Yes, there’s an irony there. An article about the Internet making us stupid has spurred my resolve to read and write more – and to put what I write on the Internet, where others might half read it. But, I like to think that I’m a person who can hold various things in tension. So, I’ll note the irony and move on. I hope that if any of my friends still read this, they’ll spur me on to be a thinker, reader and writer. I have some really smart friends (you know who you are!!) and writing here used to make me smarter, so I hope it still can.

Here’s to 2010, and to a dissertation that is actually under way…

The Skivvy

In case you are wondering:

  • Totally relocated. Not just where we live, but what we do. Joshua is the full time student. I'm the full time bread winner. Yikes.
  • In limbo. Trying to finish writing my dissertation proposal. Anxiously awaiting comments from my adviser. Unable to proceed at this time.
  • Disoriented. Can barely find my way to the grocery store in new city. Too big. Too sprawling.
  • Waiting for company. Newly appointed guest bedroom - our first ever. Want to come visit?
  • Melancholy. Missing my friends.
  • Vegetarian. Actually for real this time.
  • Nesting. Love my little house, even though my awesome purple area rug doesn't match the living room anymore. Wishing there weren't so many mosquitoes down here.

This is a test

Does anyone read blogs anymore??? If so, maybe I'll post something soon.


I have this face lotion with SPF 20 in it. It's the only "make-up" I took with me to Uganda last year. I don't use it regularly, but this morning, I was too lazy to go to the bedroom and get my usual lotion, so I grabbed this out of my make-up case that was on the bathroom counter. As I rubbed it on, the smell wafted towards my nose and brought with it feelings of heat, dirt, tiredness, stomach cramps, and a sense of joy and adventure and love and community and all of the jumbled physical and emotional memories of our friends in Uganda. Sometimes I think that, more than the others, smell is the sensory capability most directly linked to our souls.

In the 40 seconds that it took me to apply the lotion to my face, I reflected on how much has changed in the past year. As I looked out of the bathroom and saw our Christmas tree in the living room, I remembered how strange last Christmas was; we didn't have a tree, we didn't see our families, we just hopped on a plane with a backpack and 4 friends and headed across the world. It was something I never thought I would do.

As I sit here now, smelling the remnants of the lotion on my fingers, I wonder what else I'll do in the next few years that I can't see on the horizon before me now. I wonder what other smells will indelibly mark my memory and shape my experience of the world. It seems futile to speculate about the future, since so far, most of my speculations have been wrong. For now, I'll just sit on knowledge that smelling this lotion makes me feel like it's time to crawl into the back of the Land Rover and take another bumpy ride down a dirt road, staring through cloudy glass at the unknown.


Current Song Obsession: "Sister Winter" by Sufjan Stevens. Can't stop listening.

Currently reading: Hooking Up by Tom Wolfe

Current task: grading data analysis projects from 80 students.

Currently wanting: A Christmas tree

Currently avoiding: Making decisions

Currently slacking off on: any real academic work

Currently drinking: Assam tea with milk and sugar (a little bit over steeped - oops!)

Currently missing: my sister and our Christmas shopping extravaganzas of old.