22 May 2007

The Thin Green Line

Yesterday I got rolled by the U.N.

It was our first full day of survey; we'd done a practice unit the day before in the afternoon, but yesterday was supposed to be the first day entirely in the field for us undergrads. The project had gotten permission from the British to work in the UK Sovereign Base Area (SBA), which is right by the buffer zone between Greek and Turkish Cyprus; indeed, the units we were to walk nearly abutted the buffer. We could see into what Bill (Dr. Bill Carahar, University of North Dakota) knew was the buffer zone. He wasn't sure where the buffer started exactly, since there was a big modern highway on the northern edge of the field that he assumed would have to be in the SBA. But whatever--we started walking.

I discovered that I really like survey. It's not terribly exciting, but it is relaxing. What you do is line up at one end of a squareish plot that's been marked off with flags, take a bearing to the opposite line, and walk straight along that bearing scouring the ground for pottery, glass, mortar, tile, and any other kind of artifact. It's repetitious, by no means mindless, yet allows you enough free brainspace to think about other things. It's a good time.

Partway through our fourth unit (of 15, I believe), a white van pulls up the side road. It's got blue paint on the side: "UN". Bill gets kind of tense, quietly passes by all four of us who were walking and facing away from the van. "Finish the unit and drop your bags by the pin flag. I have to go talk to these guys." We did.

Turns out that the U.N.'s maps differ on the minor point of where the buffer zone starts, and we were in it. Systematically walking in straight lines picking up artifacts in the demilitarized buffer cutting across an island that could blow up at any moment, the island with the last divided capitol in the world.

The Slovakian UN unit kindly asked us to follow them to the base in Pyla.

In the car, Bill kept telling us to keep our heads, not do anything stupid--in fact, just to shut up and let him do the talking. We were not actually trying to restart open hostilities, so we had to make sure our intentions were not mistaken. We met with the base commander, a very nice man from Melbourne who'd only just gotten back from vacation. Bill showed him our permission from the Brits and explained how the maps at the SBA HQ looked a lot different from the one he was looking at here at the UN HQ, and this must be just some confusion here. He volunteered to abandon that field entirely, which the commander readily accepted. The commander seemed very glad to help and to avert the political headache that could arise from a team of Americans wandering into the buffer zone. He called in an escort to take us back to the field to get our flags, so that the UN didn't have to, and then sent us off to get a coffee and wait for our escort to arrive.

We had Cyprus coffee, which was excellent. It's kind of like Greek or Turkish coffee (imagine!), and comes in similarly tiny mugs. Having been surviving on the Nescafe provided by the project, I was glad to have something I didn't have to bury in sugar to get down.

Our friendly Dutch escort arrived and followed us out to the field. We found our flags and collection bags, dumped out the artifacts, and brought the empty bags and flags back to the car. It was a shame to lose the collections. There were some very nice pieces there, including some colored glazes that Bill estimated as medieval. But given the sensitivity of (a) the island, (b) the buffer, and (c) removing archaelogical materials from anywhere, leaving them was our best option. The Dutchman identified our orange flags with his country and asked about the significance of the site, we piled in the car, and we headed back to the range. Joe Patrow, our videographer, was very, very sad that he had missed probably the most exciting thing to happen this season on the project. But that's probably for the best, since he's rather attached to keeping his camera and footage intact.

Welcome to the exciting world of archaelogy, everyone! Fedora and bull-whip donations appreciated.

20 May 2007

First Cyprus Photos!

On Friday, my first full day here, we (Bill, Dave, John, Megan, Mara, and I) went on a walking tour of the town of Larnaka and some cool old shit within its boundaries. These include: the Church of St. Lazarus (alleged resting place of that Biblical Lazarus guy), its attending Byzantine museum, a very comfy-feeling local mosque, and the Mediterranean Sea. In more site-seeing later in the day, outside of Larnaka, there were: an ancient Byzantine church with amazing artwork and the Sultan Halal Tekke Mosque, which was lovely. Good day.

There are also a couple of photos from the roadtrip to the Nebulas with Diane and Mike, and more from NYC with Anna.

Photos are here, at my Flickr account.

And photos from the Nebulas with me in them are:
here (no dress),
and here (no dress),
and here (no dress),
and here (photos I may have
taken: three in the middle of the authors at tables, including their
name tags)
and here (still no dress),
and finally HERE (CRAPPY SHOT OF DRESS -- also of me being Very Obviously Oogled in a manner that makes me feel very uncomfortable, esp. since it's on the nets at a well-respected site).

And that's today's photo post! Enjoy.

18 May 2007

Frequent Flying

I am in Cyprus. I remain tired and cannot wait till my circadian rhythm gets its shit together again. Already been to two mosques, two churches, and a Venetian watchtower. Many pictures to come.

And now, something I wrote in the Heathrow Airport:

Behold now unto you, a tale of airplane woe. Remember ye that my original itinerary was to fly from JFK in NYC to London Heathrow to Frankfurt to Larnaka.

The JFK-LHR flight was fantastic. Virgin Atlantic rocks my socks; it's like British Airways but with bells on. They have individualized movie capability in all the seatbacks, and a very nice database of movies and TV episodes, on call whenever you want them. I watched The Illusionist (not bad, great atmosphere) and the Dr. Who episode "The Girl in the Fireplace" (bloody fantastic, Tennant is still hot). Plane came in pretty much on time despite storms racing across all of North America, including NYC.

Which was not true of many, many other flights. LHR Transfer Connections was a freaking zoo, with only one very slow guy checking in transfers onto Lufthansa. Net result: by the time I reached the desk (now staffed by an additional person, Prussian Efficiency Lady) I had twenty minutes until my plane left. Prussian Efficiency Lady told me I was too close for her to give me a boarding pass (wtf) and sent me to Terminal 2.

Terminal 2 was empty. There were shops, gates, and people, but no desk at which one might obtain a boarding pass. I stuck my head into an open office-type room and made a general plea for help to a very nice lady who sent me through immigration to the Lufthansa ticket office. This meant going through a Restricted Section* because you're really not supposed to do this. It's kind of cracked-out to try, apparently. The man at the immigration desk thought my plight was hilarious but managed to keep a straight face...mainly.

Lufthansa ticket desk informed my watch-less self that my flight had left already and that rerouting me would be Virgin's problem. Virgin's ticket desk was in Terminal 1.

The wonderful, dignified Irishman at Virgin found me a flight directly from LHR to Larnaka, leaving at 3:40 pm, a full three hours later. I could have kissed him. I estimate by that time I'd speed-walked about a mile from terminal to terminal, and it's not like I got a full night's sleep on my plane across the Atlantic. I checked in, was assured that my bag would be transferred with me, and updated Dr. Moore (whom I am now training myself to call Scott) via pay phone.

And now I've gotten through security again, eaten an overpriced though tasty sandwich, and found The Tiniest Chocolate Bar in the World. And one of the stores nearby is playing "The Final Countdown." In conclusion: human institutions such as airlines and airports are far more convoluted than than is advisable, but the people who run them tend to agree with you and are largely fantastic individuals. Also, Vigin's ticket desk had a "Don't be a bitch to our peeps. We will smack you down" sign; whatever stupid institution (LHR, Virgin, the UK?) is responsible for that is doing at least one thing right.

Now, since I wrote that bit, I've landed in Larnaka at 10 pm, found that my bag was not transferred with me, met the other project people, and jaunted around our bit of the island a little. Apparently we're in time for Kataklysmos,** which is only a one-day holiday for most of Cyprus. Larnaka, however, is there with Gigantic Glittery Extravagant Bells On. It lasts for a week. There are carnival rides already appearing. Our hotel is just a block or two from the boardwalk. It's gonna be a paaaar-tay.

So now I'm here in the Internet cafe, discovering that uploading photos and video from camera may indeed be possible and that when I'm actually paying for every minute on the Webs there really isn't as much I need to do. Also waiting for my bag, which carries within its bowels not only my shower stuff, sarong (for religious sites), and camera cables and plug adapters, but most importantly my teddy bear. Never put your teddy bear in your checked luggage! It's cruel! My teddy bear has been nearly lost to me many times before; I hope he manages to return to me again.

To keep in touch with me, comment on this blog or my vlog (see next post) or send me an email at damnowls@gmail.com. I'll be checking the internets 2-3 times per week. I arrive back in Pittsburgh on the evening of 7 July.

*and only narrowly avoiding the screaming book.
**Hey, Anna, is this a Russian Orthodox holiday as well, or are the Greeks just weird? I'm curious.

08 May 2007

In the Wex

Moved out of the BGH now. Back at my parents' house in Wexford and I'm slowly unloading the Unholy Landslide of Boxes, Laundry Baskets, and Miscellaneous Loose Items that my mum, Cassidy, and I somehow filled the van with. Why do I have so much freaking stuff? If I took all this stuff and lobbed it into Lake Erie, I could build a land bridge to Canada. (Well, a stuff bridge, anyway.)

Now I'm going through my exciting to do list!
Laundry: in progress
Packing: to follow laundry
Set up Skype: later tonight or possibly tomorrow
Find Dad's plug converters or buy my own: really, people, what is up with such varied plugs of the world? Can't we all just get along and be compatible with all other plugs?

And then tomorrow there are errands for regular business hours, like bra refitting and getting travel-size shaving cream. (Sorry if that's TMI. I'll also be getting a Greek phrasebook and notifying my bank that I'm leaving the country, if that makes it better.)

And that is the conclusion of Slade's Exciting Travel Update Series, Episode 1. For far more awesome offerings, you should stay tuned. Anna and I are going to be doing a video blog while I'm abroad, like unto one eerily similar blog that shall remain nameless. More details to follow. It's gonna be SO FREAKING FANTASTIC AND FUN. And we'd appreciate suggestions for what to call it, too.

06 May 2007

Moving = LEAVING!

I do not enjoy inhabiting Indiana, Pennsylvania. The town is too small, there are no good cruising highways for half an hour in any direction, the fashion sense is so bad that even I have noticed how bad it is, the college is largely lame, and I've had a couple of really bad roommates. But tomorrow I'm leaving. I'm moving out, going to a huge gala for my chosen profession, and leaving the country.

Moving. Back into my parents' house. Which is almost as far from most of my friends as Indiana is. And means losing autonomy. And I can't walk anywhere. Or talk about how pretty girls are. Or just go out to the bar with friends. Or run downstairs and show Laura some wonderful thing I found on the interweb. Or picnic with Audrey in the backyard. Or scream the chorus of "Luv, Luv, Luv" (by the Pansy Division), or in fact any of my queer music. Or get my head around writing properly.* In fact, my feelings about moving out of my one and only fabulous Big Queer House, successor to the Big Gay Apartment, are more like this.

I love this house. It's falling apart a little, it's been a pretty drama-full semester, and I haven't always gotten along with everyone living in it, but goddammit, I love living here! It's been keeping me sane. I love being able to yell downstairs to Audrey anytime I want. I like having people around with whom I can talk about serious shit or weird shit or utterly silly nonsensical shit. We have our own vocabulary subset. We've proclaimed our own individual gender identities.** For the love of God, I told these guys about pixel-stained technopeasant wretches, and despite being in no way attacted to SFWA or even writing fiction, they've picked it up and use it in conversation because it's such a great phrase and a great thing to do. The amount of knowledge about gender I've simply osmosed, let alone researched! I have drinking buddies, people to go to for hugs, people who like just spending time with me, people whom I like spending time with. I don't want to break up the BGA now! GODDAMMIT, THIS IS MY HOME AND NOW IT'S GOING AWAY RIGHT WHEN I'VE REALIZED JUST HOW GOOD IT IS. How is this right?

*I have to leave the house to write. There's a good place in my neighborhood for this, but Wexford is really not set up for spaces to go and hang out for long periods of time. I hate this.

**I am a slutty goth girl who really wants to wear plaid and climb trees.

Bed or Meditation Platform?

You ever see those people with little daises in their houses, and when you ask them if they're planning a very small dinner theater event, they tell you that it's a meditation platform? Like the lotus Buddha sits on in many Buddha icons?

I have one now. It's made of metal and cracked plywood.

Really, it used to be the thing that passed for a bed frame in my rented house in Indiana, Pennsylvania, but today my dad and kid brother took away the first load of my stuff, and my mattress and box springs were part of that. Tonight I will be sleeping in a borrowed sleeping bag on my new meditation platform.

If I attain enlightenment, they have to publish me. Right?

04 May 2007

Rat-sitter Needed

As some of you know, I have a wonderful little rat named Steve McQueen. He's well-behaved, adorable, loves people, and currently in danger of being neglected for five out of the next seven months.

As you may have noticed, I'm going to be spending a lot of time out of the country. That means somebody needs to take care of Steve McQueen while I'm gone. My mother really, really does not want this job. She hates cleaning out rodent cages. So does the rest of my family. My family also has a tendency to let pets in cages stay in their cages, instead of letting them out to play and be petted and suchlike. This leads to very sad pets trapped in sad cages.

Steve McQueen is a wonderful rat, and I know you guys are wonderful people. I want to hook the pair of you up. I'm looking for someone who is willing to temporarily adopt Steve McQueen into their household while I'm away. I'll buy his food, bedding, toys, etc., so that caring for him brings no extra expense for you. That just leaves maintenance tasks (feeding, watering, cleaning the cage) and playing.

Steve McQueen loves to be played with; in fact that link could be a freaking documentary of this ratty's life. That cute. No joke. He gets along with other animals; my housemate has a cat whose tendency to track our dear rat's movements hungrily goes completely unnoticed by the rat himself. (Steve McQueen is nothing if not friendly and charming, but he may also be a little bit dim.) As long as your current pets can handle cohabitating with a rat, Steve McQueen is perfectly content to cohabitate with them. And petting him can make you healthier, too. He even doubles as a recycling center/garbage disposal, because he chews up light cardboard (such as cereal and tea boxes) as a hobby. Steve McQueen can reduce your environmental footprint.

This deal is really win-win. I get the peace of mind of knowing that Steve McQueen (who is currently poking his nose out of my comforter and licking my fingers) is being well cared for and nurtured as he deserves. You get a happy ratty to pet, play with, and pretend not to secretly address in babytalk when no one else is around. And Steve McQueen gets all of the above, plus new places to explore and elbows to burrow into!

So if you think you might like to rat-sit Steve McQueen for the three weeks I'll be in New York and Cyprus (May 10 through June 6) or the two weeks I'll be in Delaware (July 19 through August 6) or the four months I'll be in Jordan (September 10 through sometime in December or January), please contact me. If you're on the fence, contact me with whatever concerns you have and we'll see if they can be addressed. If you would like to meet Steve McQueen before you commit to anything so that you know he's not secretly an axe murderer rat, then contact me and you can come hang out with him. If you're not sure you'll have a stable address in the future but you think Steve McQueen sounds pretty freaking cute--well, you obviously have good taste, and if you keep me posted on your housing situation, then I can keep you posted on Steve McQueen's, and perhaps they'll dovetail later.

The best ways to effect this contact are:
1. to leave a comment on this blog and
2. to email me at powell.slade @ gmail.com (obviously, delete the spaces before you click "send.")

Thanks in advance for any help you can give us on this front. We really appreciate it. Steve McQueen is even giving you a standing ovation on his hind legs. (Yep. That cute.)

Prepping for the Nebulas, Part 3.6 Gagillion

Audrey (housemate) and I drove into civilization today and met up with Joseph and Kass to scour the Monroeville Mall for formalwear. It was awesome, ultra-efficient (for us), and draining (read: it was shopping). Skip to the end: I have a gown, and it is beautiful. In fact, even after three hours of mall-searching, it was the first dress I tried on. I have shoes and a bra for it, which leaves only jewelry, a bag, and possibly makeup. I'll post pictures when I can get them off my camera; that'll probably be after the Nebulas, because Anna has a thingy for that. Which means there will be marvelous Nebula photos to go with them, and you can see the dress in its native environment.

In news possibly of more interest to other people, I have things to do now! On Thursday I'll be helping with setting up the hospitality suite. And on Friday I will aid Susan Hanniford Crowley by taking names and giving directions for the book signing. (That means I'm like the bouncer, but with more lip gloss and less promise of unspeakable, eternal torment.* Come for the hot chick at the door, stay for the brilliant, famous people you find inside.

*I'm going to hell for that link. You know, as if I weren't before for that whole non-believer heathen infidel denier of the three-for-one true deity of whatever thing...and maybe I shouldn't go around likening deities to really nice sale racks. That can't be helping my case.

**Maybe that link isn't the reason I'm going to hell. Oh, well. Party on the sixth level! We'll be serving hard liquor and chocolate body paint (contraband in heaven)!

03 May 2007


I complain a lot. I know this, and I try to stop myself when I hear myself start, but a lot of the time I fail. For one thing, it's hard to see that line between useful, socially acceptable venting about a legitimate problem and beating the shit out of an annoying yet inescapably dead packhorse. I fail a lot. And I fail more when I'm stressed.

You see, Slade's response to overwork is to look at the length and complexity of her to-do list, freak the fuck out, tell everyone she sees about her to-do list and how it's freaking her out, and then go read Boing Boing for two hours while pretending said to-do list has ceased to inhabit the same plane of existence she does.*

Some of you may remember the last time I blogged while the third stage of this cycle.

Everything I said in that post is still relevant. It's just me that's changed. Because you know what I realized today?

I'm done with Core. If I haven't failed the class, I am finished with the entire Honors College track.

Finished as in done. Done as in through with. Never again. Gone. By the wayside. Completed, finite, nothing, the end. That's it. No more of wanting to shoot myself in the face during in-class discussion with people who militantly misread all the major points of the chapter. No tri- or quarto-weekly** journals full of high school-style regurgitation of the reading. No Thesis, as in no all-nighter to finish a paper you know is shit in which you're supposed to answer one of the Big Unanswerable Questions of Life that all the profs acknowledge are unanswerable. And best of all, No More Consensus, Ever, Ever, Ever Again. No more am I stuck in a room with 20 other students forced to agree on one, unified, coherent, practically applicable answer to Those Same Unanswerable Fucking Questions. How do we understand art? Suck me. How do we tell the good from the bad? Get the hell out of my life. Must the need for social order conflict with individual liberty? Yes, full stop.

I love the HC; it's been a second home for all my three years here. Some--hell, most--of my best college friends are in it. We have great times, we laugh, it's been a great ride. But there comes a time when you've taken the same class eight times in rapid succession when you are just so fucking glad to be done with that shit. As of this semester, if I haven't flunked Science Core, I'll have completed all my HC requirements, including Senior Synthesis. It's a rush. I can't really believe I've come that far, that (1) not only is there a light at the end of the tunnel, but (2) it is not an oncoming train and (3) I have reached it somehow without even noticing. It's a pretty great feeling.

I just wanted to share that moment with you, the one that's about how close I am to the finish line and everything I've done to get here, instead of all the stupid shit I have to do before I can cross it. Tomorrow there will be dress shopping, and then that will (hopefully) be done too. I like this "all things will pass" thing. It's neat.***

*And occasionally, when you're very good and put away all your toys right away, she blogs about it. Highly productive.

**Now I'm making up words.

***I thought about finishing this post with a notice of my discovery that I can continue to have casual, mature, friendly conversation with someone who rejected me on the dating front due to a prior engagement--the kind that comes with kneeling and diamonds--but then decided against it because I couldn't make "prior engagement" sound less stuck-up. Sorry.

01 May 2007

Spring Fever

This is a bizarre time of year. The sun has finally returned to us up here in the north and seems to be here for the long haul till November, even out in dreary Indiana. There is birdsong in the morning again and warmth seeping out from the pavement and the air. The world is gilded with sunbeams. I am happy again.*

However, it is also the end of the semester. Today was my last day of classes. Tomorrow is reading day and Thursday is the beginning of finals week. Next Monday I take my last final, move out of my house in Indiana, and move back into my parents' house for the summer. In that time, I have to write a 20-25 page term paper, take one real final exam,** redye my hair, find an evening gown (and matching shoes, jewelry, and purse), meet with my study abroad advisor to make sure everything is working out for Jordan next semester, finish my paperwork for Cyprus this summer, acquire and fill out job applications for summer, find a rat-sitter for the next seven months (because my mother doesn't want to deal with cleaning Steve McQueen's cage), and pack up all my worldly possessions for transport--twice.

And I am not the only one facing this dichotomy of interest. Check out my flist. Everyone who's in college is posting something along the lines of "OMG SO MUCH WORK JFKDJFKDSJFKDSJFKDJSDSS WANNA GO PLAY IN THE SUN" while the people who are not in college are posting things like "Man, sun rocks. Life is good."

I think the obvious solution to the sun/work dilemma is to make college shorter. Say, ten weeks in a semester. Those ten weeks might be an extra special hell, but then it would be done, just in time for proper spring. Summer classes do something similar; IUP runs three sessions lasting five weeks apiece, in which classes meet every day for twice as long as usual. It's intense and it's a bit hard to get excited about (being, after all, a more intense version of the sun/work dilemma). However, the system works. One of my summer classes was Beginning French, and in this context it was practically an immersion course. My Comics Lit course was similar; for how inept the prof was, I learned a remarkable amount.*** And there was still time for me to complete my final project, a comic script, such that I was proud of it. A shorter semester may interfere with research projects; however, I would gladly put in the extra time and stress every day of getting my research done if it meant I could finish each semester sooner.

What say you? Would you temporarily give up some degree of emotional sanity in order to have more time to yourself in which to cultivate greater inner peace?

*Seasonal Affected Disorder: bitch in the winter, but gods above, if it ain't a treat all summer long.

**The rest are papers. Don't be envious; I'd rather stuff myself with information and then vomit it into a Blue Book than have to pull it out of my ass in a slow, painful, supposedly intelligent and synthetic manner. And I apologize for how disgusting that metaphor turned out.

***In part, this may have been due to my relative newb-ness to comics. I only started reading them in high school, for all that I've fallen hard in love with the medium.