Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Real Housewife of Champaign County

Chatting with Dear Husband from the ladder while installing aluminum covers over the gutters of our house on Saturday afternoon, I jokingly asked whether he thought my life would be worth a reality television show. The last week had been momentous, and with my needle-nosed pliers in hand, I was feeling particularly accomplished. He replied that we may have been to two parties in as many days, but I would have to bad-mouth the neighbors while hanging out the laundry if I expected to be (in)famous. So my turn on the celebrity D-list seems to have ended before it ever began. Nevertheless, I would like to remember what happened over the last week of November 2012--when the TA and GA union managed to avoid a second strike in as many contract cycles--so I present it here to you in sketch form.

Monday: Having finished drafting her fourth dissertation chapter (of six) more than a month ahead of schedule, Frau Doktor Doctor went back to Chapter 1 to begin the editing process. She spent the early afternoon observing contract negotiations at the University and the late afternoon teaching her undergraduate students about NGOs engaged in treating and curing tuberculosis in countries like South Africa and Peru. Fell asleep reading a colleague's diss chapter after dinner and therefore had the energy to join a minor act of civil disobedience on campus: a "work-in" at the Union that lasted all night (the building officially closed at midnight). Did some committee work while others played cards, edited the union's history for its webpage,  "slept" on a couch.

Graduate students "occupy the union" to demand a fair contract.
Tuesday: Worked from home until early afternoon when it became evident that major decisions were being made in caucus, so took the bus to campus to participate. Witnessed the tentative agreement signing that forestalled a possible strike. Ran the sound board for the union meeting. Kept a Skype date with a friend. Fell asleep during Bible Study.

Wednesday: Dissertated all morning, taught in the afternoon, joined the colloquium to discuss her colleague's chapter (which she had since finished reading). Had drinks briefly before attending a teaching seminar on "how to hold effective group discussions." Went to choir practice to rehearse Sunday's liturgical dance.

Thursday: Dissertated an impressive 8 hours in and around chatting up the neighbor who decided to hire a tree-removal service to cut down all the branches of the two large trees growing in our yard that extend over the property line into her yard. Apparently she had discussed this with the previous home owners (i.e. at least 5 years ago) and had recently decided something absolutely had to be done about it and as soon as possible so she never got around to asking/telling us about it. Hung wet laundry on her lines because the arborists were working in our yard.

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(Switzerland, 1956)
Friday: More dissertating in the morning, financial aid meeting at noon, and then teaching prep. Frau Doktor Doctor considered the day's lesson a complete success: two pairs of teams debated whether it was ethical, socially responsible, cost-effective, and/or medically necessary to (in)voluntarily isolate individuals infected with either active tuberculosis or with HIV. The two cases are not entirely equivalent, but that was the point: does it matter whether the infection is curable or life-long? The students seemed really taken with utilitarian arguments about the good of the many out-weighing the good of the few. Even though the current international standard of public health practice is community-base, out-patient care of TB (via DOTS)--because most patients are not infectious after two weeks of treatment--the students in the audience voted unanimously that the team arguing for (in)voluntary isolation had made the better arguments. This may be because the team fudged a little on the length of treatment in closing statements (leaning toward 2 weeks instead of the 6 months required for treatment and outlined in the debate guidelines). The second vote was much closer: 5 to 4 in favor of allowing individuals infected with HIV their freedom. This may be because the student delivering the closing statement for the "con" team made a slippery-slope argument about human rights and even played the "Hitler" card. Frau Doktor Doctor tried not to laugh at the audaciousness of the move but did not disqualify it.

She was able to slip in to hear most of the job talk by a fellow historian of medicine before taking the bus home and prepping for a potluck dinner. After some mulled wine that was strong enough to get someone drunk just from the smell of it, she and Dear Husband slipped out early to go home but fell asleep before getting around to the movie they were going to watch (GATTACA).

After seven years of marriage and four Christmases in this house, we decided we were ready to graduate to nets of colored lights on the bushes out front. Because we're running out of replacement bulbs, half of each strand of white lights blinks, as the photo demonstrates. Don't the gutter covers look nice?
Saturday: After a trip to the farmers/holiday market, Frau Doktor Doctor decided to make the most of the unseasonably warm weather to hang another load of laundry, the Christmas lights, and some new gutter covers. No one was bad-mouthed. The evening was spent at another holiday party: she attended as a "sexy elf" (green dress, red scarf, and fishnets); DH went as a "sexy dreidel" (navy Dockers, blue-striped sweater, and blue sports coat).

Sunday: Attended the contemporary worship service to practice sign language. Danced with the children at the main service to an inspiring rendition of "Kumbaya" (really!). Did committee work all afternoon and evening while "watching" football at a friend's place. Much sleep. Being a real housewife of Champaign County is exhausting! But sometimes satisfying.

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