Friday, August 28, 2009


There's a thunderstorm growling outside, and though I need to go to the Library of Congress to see if the twenty-odd Pirogov-related books I requested yesterday can be transferred to my reading shelf (as of June, they finally have an online request system, but there's no spot where you can ask to have the books sent directly to your personal shelf--they just arrive at a central distribution point), I am hoping if I sit here for a few minutes and blog, the rain and lightning will move elsewhere.

Babysat for one of my 4-year-old honorary nephews Wednesday night while his parents went off to a back-to-school meeting ("Hello, I'm your child's teacher and this is what we plan to teach your child..."). We discussed whether Australia had two or three time zones, played kickball, and read stories. "David and Goliath" produced some typical boy reactions: "If I see a tall mean man, I'm going to throw a rock at him!" which I tried to mitigate: "Only if he's carrying a really big sword." By that time, his mother had returned and was listening to our conversation on the baby monitor downstairs and chortling.

Did a bit of document translating for a Kazakh Protestant pastor and his wife who are locked up (separately) in a common jail with all sorts of unsavory American criminals while they await a deportation trial. Hopefully their lawyer will be able to convince the judge that they should be given refuge, rather than incarceration, here in the US, given the state of religious persecution in Kazakhstan, where the two official religions, Islam and Russian Orthodoxy, don't allow for any "sectarian" competition.

Ah, the rain has stopped. Must run.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

To Press!

Two Motherlands, Two Fatherlands is heading to press! The Russian version, specifically. Please pray that it becomes a smashing success in Russia, the better platform from which to launch the English version.

Susan is back safely from France. Steven treated the two of us girls to dinner out last night, having taken me and a lovely bouquet of three roses to greet Susan in the airport yesterday. An enormous arrangement of 24 red roses was already ensconced on our table, awaiting her return. She was delighted with the small bouquet, and so absolutely flabbergasted when she walked through the apartment door and saw the arrangement. As Susan is a treasure, I am pleased to observe Steven's practical expressions of proper regard! It's reassuring to note as well that his courtesy is not just extended to the woman he is courting: he always opens doors for me, too.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Should be Vacuuming

But instead I'm frittering away my cleanup time (Susan is coming back tomorrow, and I don't want her to see the squalor in which I live when she's not around) surfing the Internet, doing silly things like ordering deposit envelopes from my bank and paying credit-card bills. I did just get a brief note from The Awesome Sandmonkey (hereafter TAS) saying that he was slowly getting back to blogging after being totally bummed out by the Iranian situation. I'm glad he's back--I was concerned, particularly given the Egyptian police tendency to arrest people for exercising non-sanctioned speech, that he might have been "disappeared." Who seem to have been effectively disappeared, rather, are all those tens of thousands of Iranian protesters who took to the streets after the last elections, and from whom little more than a peep has been heard since. I hope TAS can give us more information on this, speaking on the basis of news from a network of friends in and around Iran. He's probably the best source that I know of for news from that area--the western news media doesn't seem to be paying it any mind anymore, though the suppressions are likely equivalent to those conducted during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, if not worse. Speaking of Russo-Soviet history, I read Golyakhovsky's autobiographical Russian Doctor the other day, and am currently working on Rybakov's Children of the Arbat. I liked Orson Scott Card's Enchantment, though its Mormon ecumenicalist "romantic love is the only eternal certainty" got a bit wearing toward the end. Hooey, frankly, though Card's interweaving of Russian folk tales with a story of post-soviet doctoral dissertation research was providentially pertinent, and exponentially more amusing to me due to its multi-thematic personal relevance than to most other readers.

Friday, August 21, 2009


I really need to go to bed--it's past 1 AM, and I have to get up in 6 hours to head to the market--but I wanted to write a quick note on the wonderfulness of my friends. I'm really blessed.

Tonight, I got to spend five hours with three friends that I've had since the first year I was in college (sixteen years ago!), and it was so comfortable and fun, and (despite that two of their collective four sons were denied dessert for misbehavior, and that all of the small fry were less than willing to doze off quietly when put to bed) relaxing. They are family--they've stuck with me through depression, elation, physical challenges and academic successes. Being with them is being safe, and frequently, amused. :-)

Thanks, God! Thanks, guys. Now, off to bed...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gym High

So, I've been working out. Two hours at the library today, then two hours at the gym. Brain, then body. I had planned to go back to the library after the gym, but I ended up returning home to shower because I was soaked with sweat and starting to get chilled.

I'm starting to get the weest bit of bicep definition, and I am most definitely feeling more energetic. And then there's the all-consuming endorphin high that rushes through me after an hour at "7" on the Stairmaster. I feel relaxed and giddy and pumped all at once. It's probably not a good thing to get behind the wheel under such conditions, so I walked a mile on the treadmill and then spent half an hour in the "Lady Gold's" room stretching my arms, back and thighs, winding down from the delights of the chemical onslaught. Hours later, I still feel great.

I think it must be a mark of good health to sweat easily when exercising, because my shirt was wet through all over. There's one muscular guy who I've seen on the exercise bike at Gold's who has rivulets pouring off when he rides--there are always one to two cups' worth of water on the floor around machine when he's done. It's like he's made of ice, and melts. It's somewhat yucky, but I know he must feel the same sense of accomplishment I do to have sweated so vigorously--I don't trust those calories-burnt read-outs on the machines, but if I'm absolutely stinking and dripping with sweat, I know I've gotten my money's worth, so to speak.

I may not have to go to the library tomorrow--my friend Paul is lending me his "connect to the Internet from anywhere" wireless plug-in while he's in Ukraine (he doesn't leave until Saturday, but brought over the thing tonight so I could install the software), so I temporarily can access my email at home, even blog a bit.

Using WorldCat, I've confirmed that no biography has been published on Pirogov in English, though the man not only founded the Russian female nursing corps, was a major proponent of the introduction of anesthesiology to surgery in Russia (an investigated questions of its physiological effects), pioneered all sorts of surgical techniques, weighed in on social issues (Jews and Judaism in Russia, in particular) and moral issues (his memoirs, "Questions of Life: The Diary of an Old Physician" are in print in Russian and in English), he was a noted teacher and celebrity, known throughout the Russian Empire, and the Soviet Union. Thus, it seems odd to me that he is not better known in the West, that his life and legacy have not been studied by non-Russian scholars. I shall do it, since no one else has. It is a magnificent excuse to become thoroughly acquainted with the outline of the development of Russian medicine since about 1825, the curious synergy between the state and so-called "private" practice, and even the rise and fall of socialized medical care in that country, while limiting my focus to a single man and the manipulations of his memory.

So yes, I'm officially on Leave of Absence from my doctoral work in Georgetown's History Department, but I have another, workable, dissertation project in hand. Pavel Alexandrovich didn't give me the Pirogov papki this summer for nothing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Warm August

Although I've heard lots of complaints about the heat, it's not really been bad at all in DC this summer. True, the prospect of a 100-degree day, with tropical humidity, sent me fleeing South (where it was much less humid) with my 5-weeks worth of travel- and home-laundry to the longsuffering Paxifist's house in North Carolina, this past Monday, but for the most part the weather's been quite comfortable, hovering around 90 with pleasant breezes. The city air here's so clean compared to Russia I've been happy to be outside sweating and soaking up the green. I should say that this "green" has been more in the picturesque sense--the shadows of sunny summer leaves--than the metaphorical (money), though I did OK yesterday at what is now known (new signage, much welcome) as the Arlington Courthhouse Urban Market. Tres Chic. And packed with vendors, if not customers. If you build it, they will come.

Susan's Marine Lieutenant suitor and I drove her to Dulles August 2, and the next week for me was filled with a flurry of straightening out finances and other housekeeping matters, several hospital visits (Mr. B had a bleeding pancreas and ended up staying three days in the local multistory medstation), and driving over to Alexandria to see the latest Harry Potter with my friend Leah, and another trip thataways to pick up the jewelry my honeymooning business partner had left in her apartment for me to retrieve and sell.

It was so good to be back at the Market for the first time in two months! Hugs, smiles, the sense that everyone was where they belonged (we even got our old booth location back, and our director has returned from Tyson's!) and all was right with the world. Two small sales only, but nice weather and seeing friends and regular customers made it an altogether happy occasion. Plus, I got a couple of commissions from reliable folks for the next week.

Steven (Susan's suitor) took me and Merry M. to church Sunday, and then afterwards I assembled my paraphernalia and took off for Mebane and friends. The week without Susan was already draining me, despite my busy schedule, and I needed to be with a kindred spirit.

Monday, while she was at work, I hung out with the older two of Paxifist's three under-5 sons and her Army brother, and that evening she and I drove said brother back to Fort Whatsitsame. Paxifist's brother reminds me a good bit of my own Navy brother Bob in personality. They both are slightly misanthropic, make snide comments about people and events and laugh at my jokes. Bob's to be moving to Charleston, SC, in a few weeks, while two days from now Dan is being shipped over to a desert camp outside Fallujah, from which I hope he will indulge in relentless blogging . Tuesday, Paxifist and I and the trio of energetic male offspring got together with our school buddy Mary for lunch and a stroll.

Wednesday, my six bags of clean laundry and I came back to DC to find that my computer wasn't functioning properly. I went to the gym. I've been to Gold's five or six times in the last 14 days. Loneliness is driving me to exercise. I'm also eating salad and bananas and thinking pure thoughts. And drinking gallons of water.

Friday I ran errands (mainly school-related, trying to get my health insurance straightened out, and then I ran into an Air Force Colonel friend of mine, and she and I ended up talking for over an hour about current events and jobs and such), made the aforementioned commissioned jewelry pieces, fixed my computer (thank you, Miscrosoft tech forums!), went to the gym (for 45 minutes on the stair climber and another 20 on the treadmill), and then after I'd gotten all showered and primped, my friend Paul showed up to take me to a nice Mediterranean restaurant outside of Chinatown. Delicious. I was waddling afterwards. Saturday, as I said, my day at the market was moderately profitable (what I would have considered "bare minimum" two years ago, but in what is commonly referred to as "this economy" and "these tough economic times," pretty darn good).

Last night a friend came over for pasta and salad, and she and I rented "17 Again" (the Zach Efron flick). I really enjoyed it. Efron is a kid, but he's a pretty good actor for being such a pretty boy, and I liked the geek jokes. It's now a "match my price" item on my pre-order list. If someone wants to part with a like-new DVD of it for $1.50...

I was in bed by 11, but again, I couldn't sleep. I've had a rotten time resting the past four nights, and so this morning, when a sweet old lady asked me before Sunday School how my mom was doing, I burst into tears. I knew I had to go home or I'd just sniffle through the lesson. Steven was nice and ran me home--"After all," he said, "Neither of us are going to be in that class for long." Children's Sunday schools start in just a few weeks and both of us have signed up to be teachers. I've asked for 4-year-olds. He and Merry are supposed to be leading the 5th and 6th-grade boys.

After a much-needed 3-hour nap, I met Lana, a 22-year-old Russian girl who I'd gotten acquainted with on the plane back from Moscow (actually, we met in the waiting area at Sheremetyevo, and had decided to sit together on the 9-hour flight, during the whole of which we talked in a patois of Russian and English) and her 47-year-old fiance down at the World War II memorial, and I showed them the lay of the land, momuments-wise, at the Potomac end of the National Mall. The fiance was pleasant to me, but I got the feeling that he's posessive (when I suggested the two of us could meet for tea, he told her he doesn't think she's capable of riding DC's metro by herself--and she's a girl who navigated Moscow without a problem!) and wants a cute controllable thing to cook and clean for him and to have sex with. Russian women aren't like that. If they ever were (in general), they aren't now. Lana's pretty superficial (she talked about fashion and consumer brands and money throughout the plane flight), but she's sweet and she's young, and she's all alone in a country she's never visited before. And this middle-aged naturalized Russian guy had his arm around her almost the whole three hours we were together today, and it was hot out. In the one thirty seconds of alone time we had, she told me he broke her snuffbox and threw away her cigarettes (not that I'm in favor of smoking, but that's her business, not his--he doesn't own her). The whole situation is unsettling. It's all very well to joke about what you'd be willing to put up with, matrimonially, in order to assure yourself the comforts of life, but this is silly. I hope Lana realizes this in time.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

I'm Baaaaaack

From Russia, anyway.

Still have no Internet access other than that borrowed from friends, school, or the library. This is beneficial in that it keeps me from wasting time online, but bothersome in that I cannot do things I need to do conveniently.

I'm networking like crazy, in hopes that it will land me both a job and a publishing contract. Besides the 191,000-word Two Motherlands, Two Fatherlands translation (word count includes footnotes and extensive endnotes for foreign readers), which is ready to be shopped around to Knopf, Random House, et al., I've written two children's books. Short of schmoozing with the right person, there doesn't seem to be a way to break into the popular markets for adults or for children. So, I schmooze. The right person's gotta come along sometime!

The university's career office, if to judge by the woman at the front desk, sucks (and I don't think I've used that expression before). Totally unhelpful. They don't return phone calls, either. Wretched customer service, a testimony to the irony of the statement "those who can't do, teach." I'm just going to have to get friends to help with my resume and cover letters, but thank God I've got good (and capable) friends!

Lots to do--will update the blog with dazzling prose soon. I promise.