new place

N and I just finished up the first day of moving to a new apartment in the same complex, over the course of which I developed an intimate relationship with shopping cart that had a funky blue front wheel which spun around spasmodically.  Luckily we're able to move over a 47 hour period, so while today was exhausting, this is one of the least stressful moves I've experienced.  And maybe I'll be able to spend more quality time with Ol' Funky Blue tomorrow.

Since we have so much time, we're doing this move a little differently than I've done in the past.  Previously, I've packed up non-essential things ahead of time; now, we've moved in all the things we need immediately--the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.  Craft supplies, some books, backpacking/camping gear,  decor, etc. get left behind for now, and I'm really digging this system.  We're forced to re-assess if we need certain things, especially since we're moving to a smaller space.

Our new place isn't perfect: the kitchen has no pantry (something will need to be done about that) and we didn't escape having a disability-friendly bathroom like our last apartment (It's considerate of the University, but really ugly and impractical for those that don't need it.  At least this time we have a tub.). Two more gripes are the cinder-block walls (can't hang anything, not aesthetically pleasing), and the stove is electric (which is just a matter of preference and my smallest gripe.  At least I have a stove, right?).

The things I like about the apartment far outweigh the disadvantages.  For starters, the kitchen has a better layout on average--it's wider and more open to the living area.  Since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, it's nice to be able to talk easily with someone in the living space, especially when there are guests over.  I've already said that it's smaller, but it's definitely more suited to our needs.  There might be some shrinking pains, but it'll be better overall.  There's a bathtub, which theoretically provides an occasional luxury, but is also useful for hand-washing clothes and letting things soak; it's also easier to clean than a straight shower, in my opinion.  Alright, that's enough blather.  Quick list of more pluses of the new place: bigger fridge, AC, views of the woods, and better overall layout.  Also, no bus stop outside the door.  BAM.

Life is breezy.  I'll post photos when things settle down a bit.


Brave Trailer

I've been anxiously anticipating Pixar's Brave since I saw the concept art forever ago.  The first trailer is out at!  I love that Merida looks like she's not wearing any makeup (contrasted with Rapunzel in Disney's Tangled who has blonde hair and black eyelashes); they make it obvious that the story is not about her looks or her love life, which is really refreshing.  The clip is too short to make any final judgements, but thus far it looks like a story about a strong character who just happens to be a girl.  I'm stoked.


there are always more firsts to be had

This weekend was the first time my in-laws visited us--as opposed to us visiting them in Denver, which has happened twice.  I like both of them, we interact well, and they aren't particularly judgmental or nagging or any of the old-school negative in-law stereotypes.  Despite this, I still felt the compulsion to have everything perfect and spent the day of their arrival cleaning and prepping; when I get obsessive over guests (or anything) like this N calls me by my maiden name because it's inherited/learned from my father (Love you, Dad!).

Anyway, I cleaned a bunch and made a nice dessert (which unfortunately I didn't photograph, so I'll just have to make something similar but even nicer for a certain wedding dessert-potluck this summer!) and tried out an experiment inspired by the latest Bon Appetit magazine.  [Imagine the structure of cinnamon rolls but with a savory spinach, shallot, and goat cheese filling.  (BA had a cilantro/scallion filling topped with sesame seeds)  I didn't like the dough that much, so I'll try a second round before posting a recipe.]  I even bought a bundle of lavender for use as a bouquet. (I'm drying the flowers now to make sachets).

Double anyway, the visit went well and now I'm exhausted.  Time for a nap.

Also wik: we saw Memphis on Broadway with them on Saturday, which was amazing!


Mars, Venus, and gender identities

The topic of gender has been floating around my conversations more over the past few days than usual--and it's usually pretty high up there anyway.  The two main events contributing to this were the sexing of a fetus-in-law (and discussion of if a quilt-in-production would be a well-received gift) and an explanation to my brother of why Live it Up! by Mark E. Petersen is hilarious and mildly offensive, complete with an introduction to the idea of gender as a social construct.

I could rant and rave about the gender in the Mormon context, but so many people have already done so very articulately that I would most likely be regurgitating their ideas, even if that wasn't the intent.  Instead, I want to explore the Mars and in, the Roman gods.

Mars and Venus are only one of the six god-goddess pairs in Roman mythology.  Why did they become our modern gender archetypes?  For one thing, each have a planet in their name (and Venus is the only female name among the planets), so it's simply a matter of history, for better or worse.  However, if the planet Venus had been called Minerva (equivalent to the Greek Athena), would that have changed much?  Would we just have ignored the planets and come up with something else?

Anyway, the Roman pairing are as follows, with their Greek equivalents and a rough description of their jurisdictions, mingling the mythologies together.

Jupiter (Zeus: king of gods, sky, thunder) and Juno (Hera: women, marriage)
Neptune (Poseidon: water, sea, earthquakes) and Minerva (Athena: wisdom, civilization, warfare, crafts, justice, poetry, etc.)
Mars (Ares: war and agriculture) and Venus (Aphrodite: love, beauty, fertility, sexuality)
Apollo (light, sun, truth and prophecy, medicine, healing, arts, etc.) and Diana (Artemis: hunt, moon, wilderness, childbirth)
Vulcan (Hephaestus: fire, volcanoes) and Vesta (Hestia: hearth, home, family)
Mercury (Hermes: messenger of the gods, trade, guide to the underworld) and Ceres (Demeter: agriculture, fertility of the earth, seasons, and motherly relationships)

There are so many more complex male-female relationships and distinctions listed in these pairings than the simple and prolific Mars-Venus analogy.  Archetypes and mythology are both intriguing in that they reveal aspects of the nature of the world, perpetuate ideas, and demand inspection of their subjects.

I just don't identify with Venus or many of the traits modernly associated with women.  There are many things I do like that are "womanly": skirts, cooking, sewing; but just as many things that are "manly": computers, cars, backpacking.  I hate being conscripted.  I've said it many-a-time and will continue to do so until the day I die: men and women are more the same than they are different and I wish we (encompassing many levels) would stop focusing so strongly on the differences.  But individuals love being different and cling to archetypes like Mars and Venus to emphasize their distinctiveness.  Just WHY VENUS?  I would take any of the others...Athena, Hestia, Demeter, Artemis (I'm obviously more familiar with Greek Mythology), even Hera.  If only one of them had a planet named after them, I'd have a catchy retort when people say things like "men are from Mars, women are from Venus"--which I have heard/seen used in earnest, mind you, which was actually one prompting for this post--I'd be able to say, "Actually no, I'm from Minerva, thank you."


being human

This past week, N felt like starting to watch a TV series that was sci-fi-y. "Star Trek TNG?," I suggested, which hit the spot. At this point, we've watched the first seven episodes of the first season sequentially--a new experience for both of us. Both our parents were Star Trek fans, but watching them in order never was particularly important; except for the occasional two-episode plot, each one was pretty stand-alone. In what little I've see over this watching, I can pick out elements of character evolution, but nothing that demands a sequential understanding or that pulls a viewer into the need to watch more immediately. While I tend to like shows that have a larger story arch pulling it along (which TNG still has, but it's very, very mild), I'm glad I'm not feeling the compulsion to watch all 178 episodes in rapid succession.

One thing that is a large concept explored in the show is humanity; this theme is much more pronounced that I remembered, my memory being limited to Data's desire to be human. In particular, the attitude of the humans in TNG seems to be very apologetic about the past; they cling to the idea that they have evolved/changed to be a better species. In the pilot, for example, Q tests the the crew of the Enterprise.
PICARD: What? That nonsense is centuries behind us.
Q: But you can't deny that you're still a dangerous, savage child race.
PICARD: Most certainly I deny it. I agree we still were when humans wore costumes like that, four hundred years ago.
Q: At which time you slaughtered millions in silly arguments about how to divide the resources of your little world. And four hundred years before that you were murdering each other in quarrels over tribal god-images. Since there are no indications that humans will ever change.
PICARD: But even when we wore costumes like that we'd already started to make rapid progress.
Then, later:
PICARD: Alright! We agree there is evidence to support the court's contention that humans have been savage. Therefore I say test us. Test whether this is presently true of humans.
Still later...
RIKER: Have you understood any part of what he's tried to tell you? Humanity is no longer a savage race.
But it's not just the first episode.
PULASKI: I'm just glad that humans have progressed beyond the need for barbaric displays. (2.14)

DATA: Judging a being by its physical appearance is the last major human prejudice, Wesley. (2.19)

RIKER: Maybe if we felt any human loss as keenly as we feel one of those close to us, human history would be far less bloody. (3.5)
Data and Q both exist, in part, to tease out the essence of humanity over the course of the show.  Humans are good and they keep getting better is the message we are sent.

Then there's Firefly, where human nature stays more or less the same through time.  This is implicit in the world, but it is also made explicit in Serenity, where improving humanity artificially is villainized and the messiness of humanity and human life is almost glorified.
The Operative: I'm sorry. If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to. You should have taken my offer. Or did you think none of this was your fault?
Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: I don't murder children.
The Operative: I do. If I have to.
Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: Why? Do you even know why they sent you?
The Operative: It's not my place to ask. I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. A world without sin.
Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: So me and mine gotta lay down and die... so you can live in your better world?
The Operative: I'm not going to live there. There's no place for me there... any more than there is for you. Malcolm... I'm a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.
...and then later, referring the discovery of Miranda and how the Alliance both killed people and created monsters while trying to make people better by adding drugs to the air:
Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: This record here's about twelve years old. Parliament buried it and it stayed buried until River here dug it up. This is what they were afraid she knew. And they were right to fear. There's a universe of folk who're gonna know it, too. Someone has to speak for these people.
Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: Y'all got on this boat for different reasons, but y'all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave.
So does humanity evolve?  Social expectations surely do, but those are localized.  Even if they were universal, would our changes be for the better?  How could we even know if we are part of society?  Technology and access to knowledge surely evolves.  Can knowledge and understanding change a person, or are people static machines that change their actions according to their respective situations?  I tend to divide our individual influences into genes and memes, but is that the right model?


Joseph Smith papers

The Church History Department of the LDS church released the Joseph Smith papers online relatively recently and it's blowing my mind--N discovered the site today.  Take this journal entry, for instance: the page includes a photograph of the original document, a transcript, and notes on the historical context of the journal.  I'm getting an itch to run topic models on a giant church history corpus...

see how my garden grows!

brandywine tomato marigolds! eaten tomatillo leaves...I thought I had lost all of these plants on transplant, but discovered 6 or so of them hiding in the weeds this past week!

tomatillo blossom swiss chard yellow pear tomato blossoms

green beans tom thumb butterleaf lettuce beets

carrots morning glory making its climb pea pods


what's the point?

Every so often N or I get in a mood where we feel no motivation to do anything.  It's the kind of very mild situational depression that I think many of us experience from time to when an all-consuming project ends, or when something wonderful in one's life goes sour, or some other change recently occurred and you're floundering for a hold on life.  When this happens to one of us, we communicate it to the other by moaning, "What's the point?" with a healthy helping of humorous dramatic flare. 

I experienced one of these moods recently, which is odd because I've been fairly busy.  Usually the remedy for me is to just stay occupied with whatever nonsense I can conjure until I find my hold again.  But I've had no need for conjuring of late: we went up to NY last weekend to see friends that were in town (the High Line is amazing, btw); two separate jump-starts occurred with my work this week, so that's kept me busy; my garden has needed a bit more work than usual since many plants are starting to bloom and I needed proper supports in place (we harvested the first lettuce this weekend--yum!); I started work on a quilting project; I visited with another friend that was in town; I made strawberry freezer jam with a yet another friend; and N and I went to the opera in Philly last night.  Lots of friends and lots of busy-time.

Admittedly, I don't feel the apathetic mood currently (the opera kind of cured it--N decided to buy tickets a few hours before the show, so it was wonderfully spontaneous and just what I needed), but it occurred over parts of the last week and it made me ponder the causes of such funks.  In particular, I want to contrast the funk mood of this past week with a meditative experience I had about two weeks ago: I had recently read about wandering thoughts during meditation and how one should acknowledge them and let them pass.  One night I tried this and it worked phenomenally.  I was already relatively calm to begin with, but I had some elements of stress in my life--deadlines and the like.  When a distracting idea came, I more-or-less said to myself, "yes, that is a thought" and centered again on the focus thought of my meditation.  The acknowledgement made it so much easier to let the distractions pass since I was no longer focused on trying to forget them.  The point of mediation in my own life was made was a chance to relax from stressful thoughts by allowing them to pass through rather than sit in the mind.

The "what's the point?" funk is on the opposite end of the spectrum; stressful thoughts, if they exist, are pushed away easily in the flood of apathy.  Stress is almost desirable and the mood is sometimes cured by artificially created stress.  However, I wonder if meditation can help cure these funks; if you create a space for calmness to pool, you may feel increased drive in other areas.  Next time the apathetic mood comes, I might have to try meditation and see what happens.  That is, if I feel like there's a point to even trying.


gimmick of the week

N says that every week I have a new gimmick, and he's right.  Some days I proclaim new routines or desires, other days I bring home oddities; today was one of the latter.  I've been lusting after a French rolling pin ever since I started making pasta from scratch (which is an occasional treat for us, since it's no walk in the park when rolled by hand).  I looked up lots of them online, but it's not exactly a French rolling pin I desired...what I really wanted was the rolling pin described in Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which described a dowel 1½ inches in diameter and 32 inches long.  The length was the catch.  Since pasta sheets can get really absurdly big, I wanted that extra length.

After not really being able to find what I wanted online for a reasonable price (although there were many options in the $10-20 range, just none as long as I wanted), I went to the hardware store today and picked up a 48in solid oak dowel for under $4.  There was an in-store saw for molding and such that you buy by the foot, so I cut it in two, came home, sanded the ends of the longer piece, washed it and let it dry, and just recently "cured" it with mineral oil.  (I'll do the same with the shorter piece soon too.)  Voilà! ...or Ecco! or whatever the Italian equivalent is.

This style of rolling pin will be good for a lot of things, from the homemade cereal and crackers that I've been experimenting with, to tortillas and pastry dough.  I think I'll still like my handled rolling pin for things like breads, but we shall see.  My preferences will probably have to do with the mass of any particular project and the desired thinness.

 My 32 in (1¼in diameter) dowel rolling pin.  (Also, in the background, a new comfy chair bought at a sale of recent graduates' unwanted furniture.  It's almost as wide as the moon and I love it.)  I really need to stop collecting things.