campus tour

I'm starting my first semester of grad school this fall. I've been living on campus for a year and did a lot of my paperwork with the early arrival group, since I was already, you know, here. Today, I got an email which read:
Dear Graduate Student,
The Graduate School is planning an in-depth Orientation for incoming students, which will include campus tours for graduate students. We would like graduate students to lead the tours to give students a perspective from another graduate student. We will provide basic guidelines on sites to visit, but students are free to personalize the tour based on their experiences. The tours will be <time details>, and will begin and end at <location details>. If you are interested in volunteering to help out your fellow students, please contact me by email to sign-up.
We sincerely appreciate your help in welcoming the new graduate students to campus!
Thank you,
I found this thoroughly amusing and began to narrate possible tours that I could give to myself.

Welcome! We're going to start at that Lawrence Apartment complex, since that's where you live. You sleep, cook, and hang out with your husband here. You have a garden that's in a state of late-summer post-hurricane decay. There might be some tomatillos left to harvest, since they can survive nuclear apoclypse. Anyway, Lawrence. It's lovely. Moving on.

Now we'll skip on over to the CS Building since that ranks #2 in the time that you spend there. This is your office, which smells a little off. Maybe they'll put your name outside the door eventually, I don't know. These are offices for relevant people, like your advisor and group mates. These other places are where you have meetings, reading group, and classes. They're fun, I promise. And finally the tea room and the mail room, where you don't have a mailbox yet. Patience, little one.

Off in that direction you can find food. Your husband works over there, across the street. The Engineering library is over there, and Firestone is way off in that direction. You can take out novels and Russian history books there. Have fun with that.

This is the health center; everyone is pretty awesome here. The gym is this way, but you hate going there. The only thing you use it for is the squash courts and the pool, which has far too many people in it, except for the times you're not supposed to be there.

I think that pretty much sums it up. Wasn't that fun?  I'm going to go take a nap now, okay?


in the dark

the power is out
(it's easily said)
and this time
the danger bears
fruit like teeth

it's laughable really
the number of times
i've already made mention
this one thing
splintered a million ways

well at least
i'm glad i didn't
go shopping
for groceries

Finger snaps, everyone!



Yesterday, N and I went about surveying the flooding damage.  Here are some pictures.

 Once upon a time, this was a bridge over the canal.  Note the stuck car in the background.

 This used to be a road, now it's knee-deep in water about 100 ft from where I stood for this picture.  I walked through it too and my galoshes were rendered totally useless.

 Barricading the bridge.

 A few days prior to the storm, we went kayaking on the canal with my brother.  Then, we passed under this bridge easily.  Now, a toy boat would get knocked over in the attempt to pass.


a'ight, Gaia

Mother Earth, you and I need to have a sit-down.  An earthquake, hurricane, and tornado in one week?  Is there something on your mind?  Did I do something wrong?  Can you spread out the love a bit in the future?  ...I promise I'll be better at composting.

Meanwhile, as expected, the hurricane damage is minimal here.  The roads are plastered with leaves and meter-long sticks, but not much else.  There wasn't even too much lightening last night.  I slept pretty well except for the half hour we spent in the bathroom due to the tornado warning at around 3am.  That was fun.  It's still raining, but it's lessened greatly.

Church is canceled though, so what to do with the morning?  (or what's left of it...)


welcome to the system

I've been teaching the "Sunbeams" class at church--the three-going-on-four-year-olds.  The kids are adorable and the lessons are wonderful: "I am thankful for my eyes," "I am thankful for my home," "I love my family," "I can say I'm sorry," etc..  But no more.

I was recently called to be in the Primary Presidency, which was kind of surprising, given that I'm more comfortable with middle-schoolers than eight-year-olds.  I can't tell if it was a surprise for the President herself, but speculation on that front leads only to negative places.  Regardless, somebody's decided that I need to be elbow-deep in church: N and I are working at the temple once a month and I'm still a VT supervisor for the Relief Society.  Have I mentioned that N and I just chaired a service project too?

The more bureaucracy I see, the more I want to change.  For example, on the service project, I got a fair number of emails, probably about half of which concerned publicity.  Not publicity as in getting the word out to up the number of volunteers, but publicity as in can you give us a quote for this newspaper article? or can you read this statement from the governor of New Jersey at the event?  No, was usually my answer.  Especially when reading the statement from the governor would be patting ourselves on the back in front of those who we were serving.  We'd be telling adults in a group home that they were a service project.  Yeah, not gunna happen.

And now I'm in Primary.  Recently there was a lesson in modesty and they talked about how we should keep our shoulders covered.  To kids aged three to eight.  Several of whom were wearing sun dresses without sleeves.  I told one afterward that I liked her dress, and she shamefully replied that she had left the jacket at home.  I told her it was okay, but I don't think it sunk in.  I don't feel good about passing on some aspects of the culture to kids so young.  I don't want their bodies sexualized or them to feel that kind of shame at seven.

I'm supposed to be in charge of the Primary program coming up in October.  One of the songs I take issue with: The Lord Gave Me a Temple, to be sung sweetly.  It seems wrong to have kids singing about being "clean and pure and habit-free."  Ugh.  I get shivers.  We aren't open enough to say we're talking about sexuality, drugs, etc. for kids, and so we use these vague terms, which frankly makes it really creepy.  Another nit: reading your scriptures is a habit.  So there.

As long as I'm ranting, Mormons say "I know ___ is true," a whole heckavulot.  The scriptures, the gospel, the church, whatever else.  What does it mean that the scripture are true?  Does it mean that they're literally true?  Does it mean that they're inspired?  Does it mean that they exist?  If the church is true, does it mean that other churches can't be "true" too?  Again with rampant ambiguity.

Finally, I've been in a whirl of streamlining my life.  I've become pretty efficient in general, but I'm now using the GTD system and taking it up a notch.  Given that context, almost everything systematic in Primary is grossly inefficient, to the point where it might be twitch-activating.  What I really need to do is focus on the wonderful people I'm serving with and try and feel their concern for the kids, which is where the real beauty lies.

On some level, I need to stop worrying about being right and start worrying about being good and loving.  I don't need to come up with a way fix everything I see.  I do need to make sure those that I interact with are treated respectfully and with love.  It doesn't matter that I'm recycling almost every piece of paper that's passed my way (in favor of digital copies I've requested from the fabulous secretary).  What matters is that we're there for the kids.  I'll do my best to teach what and how I think is best, and I have to trust everyone else to do the same.

blackout bread

Last night I was feeling a little adventurous, and given that we might be experience a blackout this weekend, I decided to make some bread that would hold us over if anything happened (our stove is electric).  I concocted a yeast bread (yeast, warm water, honey, flour, salt) with grated carrots, pecans, and rolled oats for texture, taste, and nutritional balance.  I then rubbed the outside with honey, ground nutmeg, and salt and let it rise.  Right before baking I added some grated gruyère to the top.

Man, it was so good that we've gone through half the loaf as of this morning.  I'm letting a second batch with zucchini and almonds rise as I type.  The veggies keep it really moist and the cheese adds a wonderful flavor, especially paired with nutmeg and honey.

I don't have the exact amounts/proportions of everything, since I was kind of winging it, but the ordering is pretty intuitive: mix the yeast (5g?) in warm water (~1 cup) and honey (2 T?) in a large bowl, let it bubble.  To this mixture, add grated veggies (4 sizable carrots or 2 medium/small zucchini), oats (~2 c), salt, nuts, and mix thoroughly.  Add flour and mix until everything is fairly well coated in flour.  Kneed and add flour as needed.  This is trickier than regular bread dough because of the moisture in the veggies--add flour slowly.  You can let the dough rest a little (15 min) before shaping, or just do it directly; I chose long loafs.  Rub in honey, nutmeg, and salt into crust and let rise 1-2 hrs.  Top with grated cheese and bake at 350 until cheese darkens.  Let cool and devour.

Also wik: we found a friend outside our window today.  Red-tailed hawk?  N thinks it might be a beaver.  


turning into a caricature

I just realized I'm turning into Maureen from Girls with Slingshots.  I blog, wear cardigans all the time, and now have her haircut.  I'm happily married, use a Mac (on that count, she's turning into me), and use a wrist brace from time to time.  All I need is the glasses to complete the look, and I was recently considering getting a new pair.  Maybe I'll stick with the contacts.

first and second

The earthquake earlier this week was strange enough, but now there's a hurricane on the way.  It's the END OF DAYS.  Ironically or not, the Christian-type station I've been listening to on the radio has been all about relaxing and being prepared physically and has totally abstained from any kind of apocalyptic rhetoric, which I find refreshing.  I'm trying to finish up the sewing-machine-dependent part of my quilt so that in the event that the power goes out, I'll have something to do (hand-finishing the edges).  When it comes to other emergency preparations, I'm not worried: our camping/backpacking gear will cover us easily for a week; light, cooking, and water included.  N says that there's a 5% chance that anything bad will actually happen; where he pulled that number from, I have no idea.  Frankly, I'm a little excited for the storm.



My oh my.  I move from California out east, and I still can't escape earthquakes; we just had one under a half hour ago.  It lasted only a few seconds...maybe ten.  And I thought the shaking was related to the construction on our building, until I heard the workers talking outside.  It was pretty small, but to hear the folks talk, doomsday's-a-comin'.  Best be prepared, and all.


new notebook

I have a tiny little red notebook that has been a lot of places and held a lot of information, but now only has half a leaf of empty space.  It's basically this, with lined paper.  I went to Labyrinth on Tuesday since they're a listed vendor for that brand, and ended up getting something a little bigger than my old one: a small flexible notebook with 300 plain pages, also in red.  It won't be quite as easy to lug about, but my old one was a touch cramped at times.  I don't like the new cover material as much (it doesn't feel as nice), but that's okay.

Since I'd rather not keep the old one around (more clutter), I'm trying to digitalize anything interesting.  In doing so, I discovered a page that reads as follows.

JMT - Day 1 got permits early, started late afternoon got into camp at dark, stayed at half dome hiker's campground.  day 2 made it to sunset camped a little past 130 mosquito bites kept going w/ no breaks once we hit the mosquitos.  day 3 thunderstormy. got to lyle canyon  day 4 more thunderstorms had to pitch tent to wait it out camped just before Donahue pass  day 5 lots of lakes

Not so bad for one little page.  I gave up on journaling the JMT and the next ten pages are fill with brainstorming for foodstuffs--everything from cafe menu ideas to dinner parties, muffins to salads, simple dinners to homestead productions, ravioli fillings to cookies.  I obviously was not pleased with the backpacking food and needed something to obsess about as I hiked.  Good times.

I think I'm going to try and do this more incrementally for my new notebook: when a page no longer contains unique information to be revisited, I'll draw a slash across it.  We'll see how it works.  This is all part of a larger scheme to get more organized.


It's rare that I encounter a restaurant that I love. Usually the food is good, but I can make it at home for less cost and equal satisfaction. I might never master some ethnic cuisines, but I've come up with good enough approximations for many of them. Going out for food is more experiential: a time to be with people and not worry about preparing a meal.

Last night, however, my parents took us out to elements, a local restaurant I may have heard of before we went--the name tugged at the fringes of my mind. I loved it. It was, of course, experientially pleasing, but not only because I was with good company. You could tell that the chef/owner was meticulous in his attention to detail, from food to decor. It was the food, though, that made my night.

First they started us off with some artisan breads. And not just the kind of "artisan" where they tack on the label half-heartedly. There was focaccia with three distinct seasonings/colorings/toppings; smooth, thin, crisp bread sticks; swirled bread sticks with a flaky pastry texture; rich, whole-grain rye bread; and small, spherical whole-grain rolls with a honey glaze on top. I could have eaten just the bread and been more than satisfied for the night.

Then they brought out a taster plate for each of us--this was on the house, simply to tantalize us. Some of us got a fried seafood something with dry seaweed shreds over raw scallions/onion with the tiniest little tomatoes I've ever seen. Others got a spoonful of cold, smooth potato soup; a tiny slice of toast with a dollop of some of the best guacamole I've ever had; and a quarter-sized pastry disk with roasted red bell peppers and a dab of goat cheese on top. At this point, I was already sold forever.

I ordered a salad, or "a composed salad," as it was titled in the menu. There was a creamy peachy base, and then goat cheese, hazelnut, Mangalitsa jamon, finely squared peaches, barley, and a poppyseed sponge cake all arranged beautifully on a long, thin slate-like plate. My dad got a melon soup (with those tiny tomatoes again for garnish).  It also had a very mild, refreshing something with an almost ginger-like taste.  My brother a garden salad.  Pfah! Garden salad, you say? Which happened to include vegetable purees, Mangalitsa lardo, and pepato cheese.  I don't even know how to pronounce those.  My mom ordered something wonderful that I can't remember, and N got an eggplant soup with tapioca pearls and a kick to knock your socks off.

Then there were the entrees.  I don't need to itemize everything we got, but suffice it to say that we all tried each others meals and everyone was impressed all around.  I do have to mention that N had fried broccoli (that wasn't greasy) to accompany his dish, which was spectacular.  There was also dessert--a sharp, soft cheese with tomato puree and corn and toast; and then a more traditional chocolate mousse.  Did I mention that everything was well-portioned so that we didn't feel bloated afterward?  There was also a good presence of veggies--all of the dishes were nicely balanced.

I made a special request of N that this be our "special place," or at least my special place.  Love.


and then stepping forward

Setting a recreational internet time daily limit of ten minutes didn't last long--maybe a day or two--but it was enough to push me in the right direction.  I now have a limit set to 30 minutes a day, which I rarely hit, partially because there's just a lot going on right now.

On the productivity vein, I've started reading GTD and using the free trial of OmniFocus, which is working really well for me.  I like the concept of putting information somewhere that's not in your brain so you can focus on the current context.  I tend to waste a lot of time flitting between contexts, so this is very useful.  My productivity is already ramping up, or at least it feels that way.  I'm not a GTD cult follower yet, but I might get there.


google recipes and as close as it gets to a makeover

N was describing tortilla espanola to me, which was a little silly because I've had it before, but so it goes.  Anyway, he googled "tortilla espanola" to find that there are recipe selection options in google now.  For this search, it suggests chives, potatoes, etc., and give cook time options, calorie count options, and suggestions for related foods.  I don't know how well it works yet, but it seems promising.

In other news, I cut off about 13-15 inches of hair, which was a tough choice, but much needed.  The long hair was getting to be more trouble than it was worth, and this is the first new hairstyle I've had since I decided to grow out my bangs in the second grade.  Heavens, some change comes slow.  Now all I need to do is replace the glasses I've had since the fifth grade, and that'll be as close as it gets to giving myself a makeover.  Back to the hair, I'd like it a couple inches longer eventually, but in the short term, this style is forcing me to not pull it back constantly, which may have been damaging it.  I also have zero split ends, which is a novelty.

Here are some low-quality bathroom before and after shots.  Don't be fooled by the mild curls in the left one; they aren't natural.

Otherwise life has been busy, per usual.  There was the wedding in DC, with all sorts of romping about. Then my family took us to see Spiderman on broadway, which was spectacular, though in some ways it was more like a loud, showy concert than a musical.  And then the family will be in town a bit longer, so more good times to come.


gunna be a great week

My cousin is getting married in DC this week, and I'm excited to see her and that whole side of the family.  In preparation for this event, my mom was trying to get the address of the hotel that my grandma was staying at.  The following conversation occurred.

My mom to my grandma: "So mom, where are you staying?"
Grandma: "Oh, at" *proceeds to give corporate address of priceline*

Yup, s'gunna be great. :)


just you wait

The rabbits have now decimated my swiss chard and my beets; there is no hope of any of it surviving or even sprouting a single new leaf.  I've been patching holes constantly and even did another pass of coating the lower fence with a cayenne pepper/oil mix, but they still get through.  I'm steaming mad.  Therefore:

Just you wait, little rabbits, just you wait!
You'll be sorry, but your tears'll be to late!
You'll be starving outside my fence;
Will I help you? Don't be dense!
Just you wait, little rabbits, just you wait! 

I thought I was being overly prepared by burring my current fence six inches deep all around.  Next year: taller fence and actual chicken-wire instead of this chew-through-able nonsense.  Anybody know a cheaper source than homedepot/lowe's?  I guess I could peruse craigslist for used stuff when the time gets closer.


stepping back

A while ago, N and I tried limited our recreational internet time.  We set the limit at an hour a day and I tried a bunch of different timers like iChrono, StayFocused, and Thyme.  It worked for a while but we eventually lapsed back into our old habits.

I get distracted easily, which is no news, but recently I've been less satisfied with my online distractions which mostly consist of news, comics, blogs.  I feel like there have been some excellent things that I'm glad I've read, but that I'm starting to be apathetic about most content.  Part of me just wants to buckle down and write a smarter RSS aggregator, but part of me wants to just take a break.

I'm reminded of my new year's themes, particularly the first one: physical over virtual, though others apply as well.  Given that, I think I'm going to take a week off from reading online content that's not related to either 1) work/research/school or 2) Russian History.  I want to break the habit of "I'm bored.  I'll check Google Reader."

I have a quilt to complete, a pile of papers (and then some) left over from the move that need to be sorted through, plenty of academic work to do, a string of guests arriving over the next month, several half-finished books, and a million other odds and ends to manage.

Anyway, I'm reinstating the StayFocused extension for Chrome with a time limit of ten minutes a day; the goal is to keep it enabled for a full week.  We'll see how long it takes me to get twitchy from withdrawal.