A Quirky Academic Meets a Normal Academic: And Hilarity Ensues

Academia is one of the few places that accommodate quirky people. Which is why I’m there. Annoyingly, academia also includes perfectly normal people. Which is where the clash between the normal and the quirky happens. Guess on which side I am. (If you hazarded “normal”, I forgive you because you must be new here.) As a junior academic at the mercy of senior colleagues, I have it tough. But I fight like an angry grumpy cat.

The other day I received a mail from Professor Pfeiffer, one of the angry old men who guarantee my doctoral study programme. At face value, he asked me to submit my individual study plan signed by me and my supervisor. In between the lines, he was blaming me for not having delivered the document yet and was craving my blood. There ensued an exchange of passive-aggressive mails between Professor Pfeiffer and my supervisor, all of which I received in copy.

Doctor Jefferson, my supervisor, wrote along these lines: Dear Pfeiffer, Mara was the first to come have her documents signed in September. Will you kindly fix the mess you notoriously have in your darn papers? Xoxo, Emma. On which Professor Pfeiffer wrote laconically: What you say may or may not be the case. But I got no papers from her. Pff. When I discovered that the paperwork I was required to procure now was different from the paperwork I had already handed in, I thought it fit to visit Professor Pfeiffer in person to avert a looming feud.

My Scottish blue pencil
My Scottish blue pencil

Except I’m not a people’s person. So in the process of solving one problem, I created a bunch of new ones. I should have known better. I cornered the professor in his office while chancing to wear skinny jeans, furry heels and red lipstick. (My outfit, not the professor’s.) It was clear from my looks that I was meaning business. (Irony intended.) I knocked on his door, and undecided whether I heard come in or not, I proceeded to let myself in using the key left in the door from the outside.

Has no one stolen your keys yet? I said by the way of greeting as my head emerged in the office, the body tentatively remaining outside in case I was not invited. Uh, er, nope, the professor managed to respond but looked as though he were confronting the spectre of a white rabbit. Actually, what he was facing was an army of black owls, which happened to be the print of the obviously work-appropriate shirt I was wearing. (Sardonic sneer.) Come in, sit down, the professor ventured. I waited for him to offer me something. He didn’t. I should have brought my slivovitz.

I initiated a bit of beating about the berry bush, that is, small talk intended to prove me as the normal member of society which I am not. I talked weather (So, it’s freakin’ freezin’, right, professor?), but for mysterious reasons it didn’t work. Also, I’m kidding. As a respectful student with a reputable language register, I spoke thus: Good morning, Professor Pfeiffer, I’m so sorry to bother you, but I’d like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by my failure to submit my paperwork in time. I will rectify this regrettable situation immediately. Please don’t fire me.

The professor seemed well pleased with the outcome, admitting that the individual study plan was a momentary random idea he got on Friday. I understood that instead of going for beer, like any sane person on Friday does, he sat down to contrive a plan how to engage doctoral students in a regular one-to-one interaction with senior department members. With a benevolent gesture, he waved my questioning stare away and observed, beaming with pride, that his brilliant plan was working because I indeed came to him for a talk.

Sticky notes love
Sticky notes love

Whatever. I concluded that Professor Pfeiffer was simply feeling lonely, so I offered I’d come see him more often. He refused in order to save his face. Not a people’s person but a people’s expert nonetheless, I decided that some Scottish Literature talk was what the professor needed. I asked him an academic question or two to cheer him up. It worked perfectly. The professor started purring like Lil Bub and observed casually, Perhaps Professor Berryman is mistaken to believe that you don’t know what you’re doing. On which I screamed internally, WTF?!?!

Now this hurt. A lot. Professor Berryman is the single person with whom I disagree on everything, and more than everything, yet whose lifetime achievement I deeply respect. I actually started to suspect that he hated me, hated me so much when I saw his sternly disapproving face in the first row of a recent conference where I presented my leftist separatist paper. Professor Berryman, of course, is a strictly right-wing globalist who strangely enough managed to retain his visionary optimism throughout his long life, while I lost mine very promptly in the process of growing up. Heck, professor, but does that necessarily mean I don’t know what I’m doing? I’m crying internally.

Disinclined to further discussion as I was processing this mortifying piece of news, I suggested to no one in particular that I could ambush Professor Berryman and demand that he reconsider his shockingly low opinion on me. Professor Pfeiffer contemplated my plan and contended that I might prefer to return home to my proofs. I was wondering whether to interpret this paternal advice as something like, Your research sucks, but cheer up, we need your proofreading. To spite Professor Berryman in absentia and demonstrate that my visionary optimism is not dead yet completely, I decided against this discouraging interpretation. We literary scholars have it tough, always interpreting stuff.


Scenery with a Cat


My cat looks somewhat melancholic today.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge


The clue for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is converge. I say converge what? Is that a swearword? While not being able to properly imagine converge, I imagine it could be something like electrical wires converging at the mast.

Photo 101: Triumph

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The last prompt of Photo 101 challenge is the word triumph. I don’t believe in triumph. The existentialist in me wonders how one can triumph when we all die at the end? I’m presenting an ambiguous triumph then: Edinburgh’s Holyrood Abbey, a triumph of the medieval builders as much as a triumph of the storm that took its roof in the mid-eighteenth century.

Photo 101: My Recent Photoblog Discoveries

WordPress Photo 101 challenge is done with, but not so much the beautiful photoblogs I came across when participating. While I risk that I’ll get my camera thrown at my head for not mentioning everyone, I’ll hazard to commend to your attention a few of my new favourite photobloggers.

  • Andy Townend’s Belgianstreets and Belgradestreets have city life photos that will draw you in with their atmosphere.
  • Rebekah McNulty’s Coldweather blog features clean and crisp Canadian nature and wildlife photos.
  • Albert’s Passionately Curious photofolio showcases the work of a newbie blogger who deserves your support.
  • Amy Sampson’s Playing with My First DSLR Camera is miles from being as amateurish as her modest blog title suggests.
  • Nalinki’s Angle and Views presents not only a great talent but also huge versatility.

Those whom I omitted, kill me now. Or enjoy the blogs that I listed here, based on my selfish taste and erratic memory.

Photo 101: Double

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Today’s keyword in the Photo 101 challenge, double, made me chuckle like Chucky Doll. It was a private joke of a person whose diploma thesis dealt with the literary motif of the double and who leads double existence as a sane person by day and an insane blogger by night. For the sake of your sanity, I’ll spare you my diploma thesis and present instead double lines found in the fields.

Green Macro

Photo 101: Edge

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Are you fed up with my railway photos yet? I’m fed up with the railways, but I can’t help using them. So in response to Photo 101 clue edge, I’m vengefully posting another pair of railway landscape, appropriately grungy and edgy, as one would expect at the edge of civilisation. The photos show a disused bridge that arches over the tracks and leads from the railway station on one end to thick bushes on the other end. Very useful.

Photo 101: Glass

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For Photo 101’s prompt glass, I swear I was trying to shoot a dram of whisky. I failed in that the dram proved too tempting not to down before the shooting session, which consequently never happened. In keeping with the Scottish topic, though, here are shots from Edinburgh’s St Mary’s.

Photo 101: Treasure

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Finally! Photo 101 challengers came up with a prompt for which the cat lady can rightly use a cat picture without being called gratuitous. Guess what the cat lady’s treasure is. (That wasn’t a real question.) Here is the cat lady’s lady cat Ella, two and half years old and still acting like a kitty.