More Traveling! Yay! Sorta!

Soooo…it’s been a little while, hasn’t it? I’ll be honest–it’s because of a couple of rather rough quarters (winter quarter in particular) and a fair amount of traveling that I’ve been relatively out of contact.

But it’s summer at long last! I’m done TAing for a course that only had 12 students (only 11 of which ever showed up, actually), two of my colleagues and I rocked our presentations at Comic-Con, and now all that’s left for me is preparing for my exams.

I gotta be honest. As much as I love Comic-Con (and I really do–so much that I’ll do a separate post about it), it falls into the category of “Aw crap, I gotta travel again?” for me. Even taking the train and not flying, it still means I’m going to have to prepare and pack and schedule and behave myself when we’re running a full hour behind schedule because whatever seems to have happened.

Comic-Con also provides its own set of concerns for the differently mobile like myself. What really bugs me are things that seem to fall into the same categories as when I travel elsewhere by plane, just with their own peculiarities specific to SDCC.

Number one is that if you are in a position where you can expect to be dealing with people who may be physically disabled, don’t act like a total dick. Not kidding. I mean, that should be a no-brainer, but far too often, it isn’t the case. Comic-Con staff really fell down on the job in this respect. The folks staffing the Deaf and Disabled Services booth were great, and the organizers/admins for the Con are well-prepared to accommodate just about everyone, but when it comes to the staff out in the Con itself? Yeah, they tended to suck in this regard, with a real lack of that sensitivity and preparation, and the attitudes seemed to get more abrasive as the weekend dragged on.

Not all, mind, but many–the lack of support and awareness, let alone the outright lack of common sense was striking at times. The people the Convention Center contracted with (an event management firm) knew exactly what they were doing and how to do it, and did it with politeness and good grace. The CSC folks, who are, I swear, at every major event I’ve ever been to, tended to fall somewhere in between.

So yeah. Avoid the dickish behavior. Train your front-line staffers on how to best work with people with disabilities so that everyone is able to participate in the week’s festivities fairly and equitably.

Point number two is this: for the love of all that is good and holy, people–be aware of your surroundings. I was on crutches for this event. The maneuverability on those things sucks noodles. Same for folks in wheelchairs or with canes–there’s a lot less freedom to make quick movements. And being on crutches = easily tipped over.

I am watching where I am going, but I can’t predict when you’re going to run right in front of me, or stop suddenly, or, hell, even rush past me and clip me. This is why I ask that people be aware of who and what is around them. I know everyone wants to get in line for Ballroom 20 NOW, or to chase a celebrity across the floor, or to get an autograph right this moment, but please watch out for the people around you. Be courteous toward everyone, especially those of us who can’t get around as easily. If you see someone in a wheelchair just trying to get down an aisle, consider letting them go ahead of you. Someone on crutches can’t get a door open? Hold it for them–few things are as crappy and, let’s be honest, flat-out embarrassing as getting stuck in a door.

Get out of the Con “tunnel vision” that plagues us all at times, and we’ll all have a better time. (I would also ask for some consideration of personal space–too close to me and I may get bumped and stumble–but let’s face it: there’s no way, at something as packed as SDCC, that’s going to happen.)

We’re all brothers and sisters in nerditry. Let’s make SDCC a nerdvana we can all be proud of.

(Actual SDCC “Holy crap this was so cool and I met a whole bunch of cool people like the Foglios and Jennie Breeden and J Grant and I got SO MUCH cool stuff and oh by the way I presented on a panel” post coming soon!)

Here’s why I’m not always big on travel…

So, part of being a grad student is going to conferences. People are big on us doing professional development, and my MA program hammered it into our heads that we need to be at conferences as often as we can afford (both in time and in money). My PhD program really doesn’t seem to care, but for me, old habits die hard. Which is probably why I managed six conferences during 2012–five of which were research-focused, and one of which was creative. This year, I’m not doing so many, in part because I have GOT to get other things done (*cough*exams*cough*).

I’m also backing off a little because I’m not always fond of travel. For starters, I’ve inherited my grandmother’s tendency for being a nervous flier, which is kind of ironic when you consider the fact that my grandfather (and her late husband) was an aerospace engineer.

The other part of that is that being a disabled passenger isn’t always the easiest thing in an airport, even if you fly a disability-friendly airline like Southwest (which always does right by me). I’ll be honest–I’m more mobile than many, and if pressed, I’m sure I could get through airports without assistance. It’d be tough; I can and will sprint on crutches, but the energy burns out fast and pain builds equally fast. So I get help from point A to point B, especially in places like Phoenix’ Sky Harbor and Albuquerque’s Sunport. Beautiful airports, but very convoluted if you have to get from one terminal to the next. I also ask for early boarding in part because I’ve found that my crutches will get gate-checked if I board later (which means I will have to wait to get them back–thanks SO much, other-airline-with-rude-flight-attendants, for checking mobility devices and not the behemoth rolly bags that people are too cheap to check at check in and instead cram into overhead bins), and in part because it’s easier for me to maneuver in an empty plane than a full one. I almost took someone’s head off on accident trying to retrieve my crutches from the bins–I don’t want to be doing that more than I have to.

Now, you’d only know all of this if you bothered to ask. And I’d be happy to explain. But most travelers in the airports, they don’t ask. They just glare. It makes me more frustrated than I’d really like to be when I’m already working hard at suppressing my anxieties about soon being crammed in an aluminum cylinder in the sky. Because how dare I need a wheelchair escort to the gate? How dare I then crutch it to whatever food place is close or to the bathroom–do I need the wheelchair or not? If not, then I’m just a fake who probably doesn’t even need the crutches too. I’m conning the system, using pity to jump in line ahead of good, honest people.

Sound like I’m putting words in people’s mouths? Maybe. But I’ve also been *fortunate* enough to hear most of those things (or ones close to them) in various forms over the years, and often paired with the same looks. People don’t seem to trust disabilities they don’t/can’t see, and this seems even more so with disabled young people. Like because we’re young, we can’t have mobility problems? Uh huh.

On the flip side, there are some super-nice people when I travel, too. There were some middle-aged guys who grabbed my bag from the carousel for me, and there were two great women in particular who walked literally out of their way to hold a door for me because I got stuck in it. In fact, away from the TSA lines and the airport gates, people can be pretty cool.

On buses, there are always the masses who sit in the “for handicapped and elderly riders” seats, totally ignoring me and the crutches (or, like the air passengers, giving me dirty looks for daring to want to sit there). But by and large, there are some good eggs out there, and often, they’re the ones who most people would look askance at. Goth kids have helped me out greatly by offering me seats or holding a door, as have punk students and kids who’ve looked like they’ve been in their fair share of fights. Kind gestures that remind us not to judge on surface appearance.

So while there are plenty of asshats out there who make traveling by any means very uncomfortable for me, there are some good folks out there too. Thanks to those people who have helped me out–I appreciate it.

And to those people who think I’m a faker, at least have the balls to stand up and say something to my face, rather than hide behind nasty looks, pissy and over-emotive sighs, and emphatic eye-rolling. Please. Sit and talk to me–let’s hash out why you really have a problem with me and my crutches. Until then, I’m going to keep right on traveling, whether I like it or not.

Exam lists–because progress is good.

Yeah, okay, I really need to get better at this whole blogging thing.

So today I finally got to sit down with my exam committee chair and talk lists. She’s pleased with the minor field list–mostly because my minor field faculty member is pleased with it. Hell, he seems entertained by my analyses. She says I’m good for him, that he needs to get used to dealing with grad students whose major focus isn’t his field, and this is good practice. I maintain that he gets a kick out of me trying to wade through all this material.

Now, the major field and the methodology, those need some serious work. Well, not so much serious as thoughtful–the American religious history needs to be reviewed with an eye toward trimming the overlapping historical material and bulking up the theoretical side, along with limiting the civil religion stuff. There will be time for that later. The methodology needs to be more focused on narrative and written materials–leave the radio/TV/film stuff aside for right now.

And she’s okay with the whole webcomics thing for the dissertation! Woohoo! I’m hoping to propose it (or some feature of it) for a research grant. Because money, that’s why. For right now I’m writing about them. Maybe someday I could make my own, but at the moment, my focus has to be on these exams. Pass the quals first, art later.

Officially past the dead moose phase!

Our bagpipe class sounded, for a very long time, like a moose being hit with a steamroller. Repeatedly. It was painful–my sister-in-law, a professional musician, once sat in on the class and was horrified by the noises. (To be fair, she plays the flute, which, while still in the general woodwind family, produces sounds of a very different nature.)

Last night, we played our first song the entire way through, and I think we’ve actually started to (reasonably) consistently play what we intended to play! Sure, there’s still a fair amount of the wheezy-squeak happening, and there’s a lot of work left to do, especially in terms of tempo, but for the first time, “Scots Wha Hae” actually sounded like “Scots Wha Hae”!

Now we’re on to learning “Auld Lang Syne.” Yeah, just when we thought we were getting the hang of things, we’re off onto learning some new techniques and speeding up our playing a little.

I’m actually having fun with this. I only wish I had more free time to work on this in more detail so I could feel like I personally am improving to some degree, but grading and reading and things must be done, too. Balance. I will have it someday. :P

Friday Fund: Holy Crap, Corgis!

Okay, so I’m not the absolute best at updating on Fridays right now, but we’ll keep working on it! In the meantime, here are two organizations both dedicated to caring for one of the floofiest favorite breeds out there: the noble corgi! And honestly, who doesn’t love those flufftastic little guys?

Both CorgiPals and Corgi Aid help corgis in need. The first, CorgiPals, is dedicated to helping corgis (Pembroke and Cardigan) and corgi mixes and their owners. Should a corgi need veterinary treatment beyond the routine–say, in the case of injury or severe illness–their human(s) can apply for financial assistance in taking care of their beloved corgs. One special sub-fund is The Baxter Valentine Fund, specifically for aiding corgis with cancer. Named for the illustrious Baxter Valentine, a beautiful Pemmie who lost his battle with prostate cancer, this fund supports other corgis in the same way the corgi-loving community helped support payment for Baxter’s treatment.

While CorgiPals is for corgis already in their forever homes, CorgiAid supports rescue of corgis and corgi mixes–moving them, treating their medical woes, and generally making a second chance possible for these deserving dogs. If a rescue takes in a dog who needs something major done medically, CorgiAid helps with the costs of such treatment. So far this year, CorgiAid has given grants to help seven rescue corgis in need.

So if you’re corgi-crazy (and there are tons of people out there who are–be honest!), check out these sites and consider being Funders for either of this week’s groups!

CorgiPals

CorgiAid

And until my next post, corgi on, my friends!

+1 Milestone!

I finally hit one pre-exam milestone–I got one of my reading lists approved!  My minor field advisor is pleased with it (He actually said it was excellent! Yay!), so I can start rolling right away. I meet with him once a week to talk about articles I’ve been reading, just so he knows I’ve been getting the right things out of them. After all, he’s kind of The Guy in this field–he doesn’t just know the articles and books, he knows the people who wrote the articles and books. No slackery allowed on my part.

One list down, two to go.

***

So I’ve also been in conversation with the director of our health center. I’ve come to her twice with concerns and questions, and she has been immensely helpful. She asked if I’d be willing to talk in front of people about the health center and its value to our campus community. She’s also encouraging me to talk with the director of our school’s student wellness program and with faculty in our new medical school.

She’d like me to talk to the wellness director and pitch some of my ideas, specifically that we need to have some really remedial health education seminars for the students: “Here’s when you should stay home from class,” “This is what antibiotics are NOT for, so stop asking,” “Here’s what you need to know about your own medical history,” and so on. Because let’s face it, many of the students here haven’t done much with doctors without having a parent close at hand to fill in information gaps. It affects treatment when someone doesn’t know their personal medical history, let alone the issues that run in their families. A Health Center 101 series, if you will.

I should contact the medical faculty member to ask if they’re starting a “standardized patient” program (also called OSCs). Basically, they’re actors trained to act like patients so the adorable little noob med students can practice their dealing-with-patients skills on people who aren’t sick, so if they biff it, they biff it before it could do real damage. Honestly, if they’d pay me and cover the same fees that being a TA does, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I have the acting chops, and I don’t mind being poked and prodded, especially if it keeps the little noobs from growing up into colossal assholes someday.

Of course, I also joked that the ultimate test should be to try to draw blood from me. I say, if they can hit a vein in one shot, they deserve to pass.

We also talked about my outreach in talking to cancer patients and survivors. In all honesty, I’d do that professionally if I could. She suggested talking to the major research and teaching hospitals out there–there may be a demand for what I’m passionate about out there.

So. Lots of things happening. Lots of people to talk to. And, as always, lots to read and think about. Tomorrow: our next Friday Fund! It’s a two-fer!

Friday Fund!… a little late, but still!

I’ve spent the last almost week sick, and now that I’m able to breathe again, I realized that I didn’t put up the first official Friday Fund. So, without further ado (and before another coughing fit starts), here’s the first of what I hope will be many worthy causes.

***

I’ll preface this by saying that I love dogs. I can’t remember a time growing up when my family didn’t have a dog; being here in my PhD program (with its dismal campus housing and its backwards regulations) is the longest I’ve been without a dog by my side. Getting out of the hospital and back home to our dogs was a driving force for me when I was a little bald kid. I love animals, but dogs will always hold a special place in my heart. So it makes sense that I would pick this group for my first Fund day.

Carolina Loving Hound Rescue is a phenomenal little rescue based out of the Carolinas (which explains the name, I think…), and when I say “phenomenal,” I really mean it in the truest sense of the word. Angela, the powerhouse behind CLHR, is truly an amazing individual who is dedicating her life to giving hounds a second chance. Beyond rescuing from local shelters–which is a major deal when one sees the pictures, the condition of these abandoned dogs–she has also helped with pulls on puppy mills and hoarder-type situations.

The pictures speak most clearly. When Angela posts pictures of recent rescues on her Facebook page, you see what so many of these hounds look like–they’re skin and bones at best, some with open wounds or skin diseases, so afraid of being touched or handled that they cower submissively or urinate in abject terror. They’re so new to interaction of any kind that new people and new dogs are an overwhelming experience, and some have been so affection-starved that they don’t know what to do with toys. Toys, folks. Angela doesn’t hold back on the gritty reality of what happens to hounds out there.

But then you get to see photos of what the “loving” in Carolina Loving Hound Rescue can do. Glossy coats and wagging tails, dogs who are happy and healthy, playing actively with balls and Bobos and chew toys. Dogs curled up on people and sharing beds and being fed good food. These are dogs who came in injured, riddled with heartworms, and in such poor condition that you see the photos and wonder just how anyone could do that to an animal, and now they’re full of life and the picture of health.

This rescue started with the dedicated efforts of Angela and Mark and a few hardy souls who made it run. Now it has… Angela and Mark and a few more hardy souls, and a steady community of fans and supporters who support with what they can, sharing pictures and stories with their own Facebook communities, and getting the word out to give more dogs more happy endings to their stories. Check out their site’s adoptable pets page for individual stories of hounds they’re helping, or their Facebook page’s many, many, MANY pictures. I think Sir Walter Spot is my favorite–if I lived somewhere I could have a dog, I’d scoop him up in a heartbeat!

Share your love with Carolina Loving Hound Rescue–hop on over to their Facebook page or website for info on how to donate. We may be a little tardy to the party to make this a true Friday Fund, but a little money on a Monday couldn’t hurt.

(P.S.: Want to donate something a little more tangible? We’ve got you covered! CLHR also has an Amazon wish list with things that can really help a rescue out.)