Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Comps day #2

Question #1 - my advisor's historiographic question - COMPLETE. (Well, I need to finish the last paragraph, but that's it.)

I wrote barely two pages last night and went to bed around 2:30 (though I didn't sleep until after 3). For whatever reason, I woke up at 7:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. I didn't start writing again until after 9, and basically wrote 14 pages throughout the day. Grand total: 45 citations, 15.5 pages, and most all of my energy.

I have been trying to take care of myself physically, so last night I made a really simple meat & potatoes casserole - just garlic mashed potatoes and ground beef, some mozzarella cheese, and some cayenne pepper on top. It was delicious, and so I ate half last night and the rest today for lunch. Tonight I made my mom's green bean casserole - french cut green beans, white corn, water chestnuts, mixed with mushroom soup and sour cream, with a dash of soy sauce and black pepper. It was delicious. I'm really happy that I made just exactly enough of both casseroles (neither of which I had ever made before yesterday) - I ate around half the green bean casserole tonight and will eat the rest tomorrow for lunch. It was delicious.

I also took a quick bike ride this afternoon when I needed to clear my head.... but that didn't turn out so well. I rode only 5.5 miles, but for over half of it the wind and dust was atrocious, and by the time I got home I had drunk my entire 24-oz bottle of water. I felt awful after that, and ended up with a decently bad migraine for about 4 hours. Ugh, so not fun.

I had hoped to be asleep by now, but I'm still trying to finish the conclusion to this essay. I am a little worried I'm not going to sleep well. My migraine meds often make it hard to sleep at night if I had to take them after dinner. I am not sure if I'm going to try to answer my second Spain question in the morning or if I want to switch gears for a day and answer the European women's history & industrialization question I outlined. I guess I'll see in the morning if I'm sick of thinking about Spain or not.

My plan for the rest of comps (migraines willing, that is) looks something like this:
1. One day of planning, to outline as much as possible 3 essays - that was Monday the 16th
2. Three days of writing the essays outlined - today was day (and essay) #1; so Wednesday and Thursday should be writing days
3. One day of planning to outline second set of 3 major field questions - should be Friday, the 20th
4. Three days of writing the final major field questions - Saturday through Monday, the 23rd
5. One day of planning to outline three minor field questions - should be Tuesday, the 24th
6. Three days of writing the minor field questions - Wednesday-Friday, ending the 27th.
7. Final three days to review and ponder, if needed, or to continue any problematic essay - Saturday-Monday the 30th.
8. Submit questions via email and in person as soon as the office opens on Tuesday, March 31st.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Today is the day. I have my comps questions in an envelope on my end table by the door. They're sealed. I haven't quite gotten the courage up to open them yet.

I slept hard last night - from 10:30 until 7:30. My nerves are through the roof right now.... I have no idea how to start... I think I'm going to get dressed, make some hot tea, and take the plunge by 9. I'm hoping today will be a planning day - a day to outline and try to figure out basically how I should start.

Two weeks. *sigh* I have no idea what I'm doing. God grant me strength...

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I made a leap of faith today. After reading dozens of reviews, consulting three good friends whom I trust, and my parents, and praying about it last night and this morning, I made the leap:

Within the last hour, I booked both my flights and a bed at the hostel so I will be in Sevilla from May 18th through June 4th. (I'll actually start the trip on May 17th, but you know - over-night flights and such.) I got to pick my own seats, since the flights are fairly empty right now, so I picked seats near the front of the planes and either on window or aisle seats (depending on whether I want to be able to lean against the wall or stretch into the aisle). For $597, I have a flight cross-country to Atlanta and on to Madrid, and back again in June. When it gets closer, I'll book passage on the AVE high-speed train from Madrid to Sevilla - you can't book more than 60 days ahead of time, which is perfectly understandable. Round trip, the train will cost around $180, which will still make this plan cheaper than flying directly into Sevilla!

So I'll get into Madrid in the morning, in the 9-o'clock hour. Then I'll have to figure out how best to get down to Atocha to get the train. [Just looked at the metro maps - it looks to be a 40-minute, 3-train ride. Not too bad, really. My trips to the AHN were about as long last time I was there.] Hopefully I can find one of the little sandwich shops I used to pass each day down there and grab a little something to eat. Or I think I can eat at the train station, if all else fails.

I'll stay at the hostel from the 18th through June 1st, and then I'll splurge and get a hotel for two nights in Sevilla. I'm considering taking the train back up to Madrid on the 3rd, staying at a hotel near a metro station and taking the metro to the airport the morning of my flight. So three nights in a hotel as reward for working for two weeks and putting up with other people. Not bad, right? And since I don't eat a ton, I figure if I cook/make my evening meals at the hostel (simple things - sandwiches, pasta & veggies, rice & veggies, etc.) I probably could get away with using only half of my grant money on lodgings and travel... which would be awesome!

I'm so excited, I can barely contain myself. I can't believe that, including the travel insurance I got with the plane tickets (for a whopping $32), my grand total for both lodging and transportation for two weeks so far to Spain have come out to all of $990. !!!!!!!!!!!

* * * * *

Now ask me if I'm getting any work done here in my office? Um, yeah. Right. :-p

A tale of comps, migraine, and Spain

So yesterday had the drudgery, the unpleasant, and the giddy.

The drudgery - first, I biked to campus a little before 9 a.m. to try to do some prep work for my meeting with one of my committee members on Monday. I printed out most of my notes for her list, organized them in chronological order within each section, and put them in a notebook so I can just flip through and see my notes on each source if I so choose. I'm trying to do this for each list if I can, just because sometimes I like having things in my hand. A decent number of things on this list were from my seminar with this professor, and I didn't re-read the books, so I had to find my precis for each book and decide which ones I needed to print. I had hoped I'd also do some more work on those lists - finding patterns and such - but since I have no idea what kinds of questions she's going to ask, I didn't even know where to begin.

I then realized I had forgotten to send my rent check, so I had to trek to the post office down the street and send that. I called my landlady to let her know that it was in the mail but probably wouldn't get to her before Monday. She confirmed that she is quite incompetent.

After that, and lunch, I read a book for this prof's list. Now for the unpleasant. Then evil beast migraine returned, and returned insanely fast. K had mentioned that he was staying home, so I called and asked if he could possibly pick me and my bike up so I didn't have to bike home with a migraine for the second time this week. He immediately agreed and came to my rescue. Me, the bike, and 1,000 pounds of books (okay, maybe 5 pounds) got a lift and I got medicine and an ice pack and lay down for an hour.

Now comes the giddy part. I started looking again at flights to Spain for May. I have grant money that I need to use, and I need to go to Sevilla to use it, since that's what they gave it to me for. I have been looking at flights during my last two migraines, and have found some amazing deals to flew to Madrid or Barcelona - we're talking in the $600-$800 range (including taxes). If I flew in to Madrid, I could take a high-speed train and get to Sevilla in 2-3 hours. I kind of like this idea, because I could take the train round-trip for under $200, and I'd get the chance to see the countryside. My hope is that it would be a little less stressful, too...

Then I started looking for places I might be able to stay. Eventually, I found a hostel that, from all the reviews, seems to be quite clean and safe, and has good amenities - breakfast, free wi-fi, 24-hour security and reception, a kitchen, laundry room... but the best part is its location. I saw its basic location on the map and thought it looked somewhat close to the archive I need to work in. So I went to Google maps and put both places in. It couldn't give me the distance in miles because the hostel is located 375 FEET from the archive!!! It's literally around the corner and two buildings down. I about fell off the couch. You're telling me that for around $450 I could stay within a 30-second walk of my archive for 2 weeks?

I emailed them to ask if they allowed smoking (since that would be a deal-breaker), to make sure of the location and proximity to the archive, the proximity of markets/stores, and the noise at night. I'm guessing the guy on the night shift at reception was bored, because he replied within 30 minutes - at 3 a.m. his time! They don't allow smoking in the rooms or anywhere on the premises, they really are that close to the archive, there are 4 supermarkets in walking distance, and they have some rules against noise after a certain time.

It sounds almost too good to be true. I've looked at reviews on probably a dozen sites, and most of them are really good. So now here's my dilemma: do I go ahead and book flights and the room, which assumes that I will pass both my written and oral exams... or do I hold off and wait to see if I can figure something else out after comps?