Thursday, December 25, 2008

The stones get bigger and bigger

A piece of fatherly advice that my uncle offered to one of my cousins at dinner tonight, as initially inscrutable as it was unsolicited, and repeated several times. We were picking on my cousin's "dating history" and had begun to move away from the topic when this gem was placed before us. I think what he was getting at is that by not picking the first stone you see on the beach, you have a chance to examine and choose from the bounty that remains, and that each time you pick up a stone, you will have picked a better stone. This did not come across right away, and we had a good long wtf moment to savor with one another. This was by far the most interactive Christmas dinner in history, maybe because there were fewer people so us kids could line up all along one side of the table. Also, I cooked the majority of it. I started by making cioppino stock last night, then this afternoon put together mashed potatoes, stuffed peppers (a la mrs. L), macaroni and cheese, and completed cioppino. Janice and Arthur got in around 3, rousing me from my nap, and we piled into the kitchen together. Janice made some nice bruschetta for everyone to snack on while waiting for the rest of the family to arrive, and Arthur heated up the ham and made the glaze for it.

So, a note on the peppers. These turned out very well, but I have to put a warning here to my future self: wear gloves next time, for heaven's sake. The peppers themselves looked pretty mild, and having eaten them before, I was under the impression that the heat level was fairly low. Well, it is, but that doesn't actually matter when it comes to using your bare hands to tear out the seeds. After a while, I found myself staring at my hands, wondering why I felt like they were covered in tiny little cuts. Could I have been that careless with the knife? Probably like an hour later (ok, maybe half an hour), I realized that, oh, the acid or capsaicin or whatever was burning invisibly through my flesh. So I dunked them in milk. Then rinsed them with beer. Now, nearly 12 hours, several hand-washings and a long shower later, my right hand is most definitely still on fire. It's like having my fingers on a hot range. Ooooooow.

Ok, speaking of, I just had to go flush my hand under cold water. And now I shall continue. Food was pretty good. Got a little paranoid with the cioppino, so the fish was a bit overcooked maybe. Dinner didn't last long. Afterwards, some of us sat down to watch a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother, while others started going through old medical supplies. Eventually, I ended up downstairs with Arthur, Janice, and Alex, watching the Top Chef Christmas special.

Afterwards, Janice was really into the idea of dessert. I... wasn't hungry, but I did really have a hankering for whipped cream, and you can generally get me on board to cook around midnight as long as someone else will be doing the dishes. Also, this was the first time post- late nite cooking show that I had enough ingredients/eaters on-hand to fulfill any culinary cravings. Janice thought crepes sounded like a good idea (possibly inspired by the sudden death-round offering of one of the remaining chefs), so we ventured back upstairs to search out the recipe and rustle up interest. Turns out one of my uncles had eaten 5 slices of raisin bread because he'd really wanted dessert. So I whipped up a chocolate sauce, very easy, just by heating up some milk, stirring in some cocoa powder, adding half a large bar of dark chocolate, removing from heat, whisking up, and tossing in some cinnamon and powdered sugar. It had a slightly liquid-chalk appearance before serving since some of the stuff was thrown in after the mixture had cooled, but it was still smooth, drizzly, and tasty. Arthur was de facto in charge of crepe batter and, never having made crepes before, did a really good job and keeping them thin, spongy, and moist, though the shapes ended up being rather non-traditional. Janice raided the fridge, peeling and cutting several apples, then threw them in a skillet with some butter, brown sugar (why do I keep wanting to spell that "shugar?"), vanilla, and spices. She then cut up some bananas, and also put them in butter. I added brown sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg to that. We tried mixing up some whipped cream, but the hand mixer doesn't get enough air in to actually make this work. I pulled the whisk from chocolate duty and started on the cream that way, and it was successful. I set Daniel up with the heavy arm-work, and once he got the hang of it, he whipped up some pretty nice cream. When everything finished, we set up an assembly line, and everyone came to get dessert!

Very fun. Afterwards, Arthur and Janice left with the dog, and I went for my shower. On a completely separate note: I LOVE my new hairstyle. I don't know if this can ever be replicated or not, but I hope so! Maybe I can find some reason to take pictures of myself before it starts doing its own thing again... On another separate note: I'm screwed with these apps. Haven't worked on them in earnest in a week or possibly more. Eek!

Ok, fingers still searing hot. I'm assuming I'll be able to sleep with this going on, and that it'll have burned itself out by morning.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

See you on the other side

Ok, so not to be negative or anything, but it's been really windy outside for the past 12 hours straight and it's gotten me to thinking about whether or not I'll be making it home on time/in one piece for the holidays. I've been a little edgy about flying since last January, and all this winter storm advisory stuff hanging over the places I'm flying through on my dates of travel makes me uneasy. Continental has a re-accomodation option right now for both Newark and CVG through the 22nd, and I'm like... better safe than sorry? That's a huge pain though, I just really really really want to go home!

Ok, article at makes it sound as though the worst of the storm should be past by the time I land in Newark on Monday... so... yeah, let's hope that's the case. I think I just am not that comfortable with the idea of most of our flight coming over the Arctic and the Canadian northeast.

Anyways, it's probably not the best idea tempting-fate-wise to go posting this on the internet, but in case I ever go down in a plane (which, I realized last night, the probability gets higher as I fly more) my loved ones (you know who you are) are welcome to search out my passwords and read all my diaries and tell the relevant people what I've always thought about them. Just don't be too embarrassed for me, please.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Maybe I'm addicted to caffeine again?

I should actually be working on my plan for my project in the spring, but I just spent a few hours editing something for the cardiovascular hospital (and i do mean a few hours), so I'd like to take a breather. I'm surprisingly not into being awake right now, even though it's not yet 11:30 (though, ideally, I'd be in bed within half an hour from now), and I also took the opportunity to pass out for about 3 hours after lunch. I can explain that part though. I got a bit of a headache this morning that I exacerbated by making the 20-25 minute walk home for lunch. I thought it would be nice to get some fresh air and sun and exercise since I'd likely be spending the rest of the day cooped up with various tasks, but did not account for very cold wind. By the time I got up to the apartment, I was feeling all kinds of unpleasant sensations.

I have been wondering a bit about the state of my body recently. As far as I know, I'm eating well, sleeping all right (certainly not as much as I'd like... usually about 5-7 hours a night, 8 on the weekends). But sometimes I'll be walking and... I go out of phase with my body for a moment. It's unsettling, like I lose signal from my limbs for a second or so and just have to wait to get it back again. At those times my arms and legs go all wobbly and my head takes on a gelatinous quality while my vision loses a bit of distinction. Totally weird. I don't think I'm sick. Besides, the illness I had a couple weeks ago was all sinuses and didn't even give me a headache. I'd guess maybe it's stress, but I'm kind of in a state of denial about all my work right now. Not that I don't know that I should be doing it, and not that I'm not doing it (though slowly for lack of looming deadlines) but just... I'm unnaturally cheerful and inexplicably willing to play hours of Free Cell.

Couple other things to talk about. What were they...?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

They made me do it

I hope whoever's reading gets a good laugh out of this.

I went, bitterly, to the school yesterday afternoon to give my "speech." I'd just made a series of notes of things to touch on, and assumed that my rambling ways would fill at least 45 minutes, and that the students would be sufficiently curious to ask a few questions that would let me ramble a further 15 minutes. I went and started talking... the room was actually pretty full, and a lot of my students were there. I chose to gauge myself based on the face of a particular student, who was smiling and nodding most of the time, but about 10 minutes in, I realized that I'd lost most of the room. Soooo I just kept going. I finished with 10 minutes for questions, but there were none. The student who was chairing the lecture got up and said "due to the time, we should bring the lecture to a close..." and THEN suggested that I perform in some way for their entertainment. They wanted song or dance. Obviously I was not going to dance. And sing? Moi? You may not know this about me, but I love singing. But I love singing so that you do not know about it. I'm happy to do it in the shower, in my car, in an empty house, at drunken karaoke... yeah, that's fine. And I'd hazard that, in the absence of anyone to critique my ability, I ain't bad. But I'm sorry, put me on the spot and expect me to serenade you out of my ass, and you're in for an unpleasant experience. Anyways, there was more than 100 of them, and one of me, and this boy very humbly came up and expressed profound interest in it, and I couldn't think of any way to escape... I thought actually how much I wished I was a dude. Dudes I think can really respond to a song request however they want. Girls have some bizarre reputation to uphold with their tinking voices and such. So... I cleared my throat... a lot... reminded them that I was sick (I don't think they understood me) and after a long awkward worst performance of "Another Day" EVER. OH MY GOD I haven't been so embarrassed in a long time. Long long time. I did not like how I felt at the end of that ordeal. I made the insistent student come up and sing also, and he came up bashfully, then like... broke into a rolicking rendition of some Chinese song about a pretty girl (I was implicated here), and it was fun. Then we were all dismissed. I spent like the next hour trying to figure out what I could have done differently to make that any less of a traumatic experience. Sigh.

Other things of note: I was recently trapped in the revolving door at the front of the Archives building. Not like I was spinning around infinitely. Like I must have dodged the sensor somehow, so the door didn't speed up once I entered it, instead rotating at what I'm assuming is its energy conserving velocity. It very clearly printed (in Chinese) at face-level (for me) on the glass not to push the door. But not quite understanding the mechanism behind the door's movement, I figured it was a 50-50 chance that pushing on it would get me out sooner, as opposed to like... setting off an alarm or something. I nudged it slightly, found that it was unforgiving, and decided just to wait and walk very slowly until I reached open air. Then I heard the guard behind me yelling. It seemed like he was saying "[something something] push it!" Well, since I wasn't pushing it, it seemed unlikely that he was telling me to stop. So after a few moments and still not quite getting what he was saying to me, I gave the door a hearty shove. Aaaand it stopped moving altogether, positioned just so I had no hope of escape either forward or backward, like a bug in a jar. A group of workers standing just outside burst into laughter. I... also laughed. The guard behind me laughed and came to my rescue. My first such experience.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Blathering about culture speech

What that whole thing was supposed to segue into was a scratch sheet for this dumb speech I have to give tomorrow. Like I said, I remembered it last night right as I was settling in to watch some Dex before bed. I cussed a bunch, regretted the whole situation, and groaned both inwardly and outwardly, but actually I think I just felt really guilty for having forgotten and not worked on it at all. So what's going down is that tomorrow afternoon I'm going to be set loose in an auditorium of up to 100 students (likely less) to give a speech for culture month. I've been asked to talk about "college life in America." Apparently, there's a teacher from New Zealand (blogger insists that this is spelled wrong. why must it make me doubt myself?) who will be giving a simultaneous talk on Western lit. Um, ok dude. So... what on earth am I going to say to them?

I suppose I'd like to talk about the whole getting-into-college process. I plan on going somewhat into the "infinite possibilities" spiel, but also want to be... sensitive about it because this is a vocational college and they sort of don't have those there, or at least that's what I've been getting. I'm obviously going to talk a bit about my own experiences, but I don't really want this to turn into one big "well, when I was in college" tale, because there is no random discovery of money at the end of it to make it of particular interest. Also, isn't that a bit pedantic? I guess I could talk a bit about the pluralization of college. Pluralization? Popularization? Populization? That last one doesn't make it through spell-check. But then neither do any contractions or, for that matter "New Zealand." What makes college culture in the US? It's the freedom of exploration right? We're safe to go just about as far out there as we want in terms of research and expression. It's like being in a biosphere on another planet. OH SHIT THAT'S WHAT MY DREAM WAS ABOUT THIS AFTERNOON. Man, that was suuuch a weird dream. You're so far away from the things that troubled you before you went, and you're not quite into the things that will trouble you once you leave. It's about discovering the world and yourself. And to do that, you need your professors, your libraries, your quiet places, and your fellow students. What dominated my college experience? Late nights. God, how many nights weren't late nights? I had late nights enjoying company, laughing and playing and whatever. And lots of really intense nights working like a mofo. I had so much more energy in college to devote to stuff like that, and a lot of enthusiasm (well, and also plain old-fashioned fear). Yeah, late nights working. I just... recall so many. But few specifics. Also dominating-- extracurricular... stuff. Getting involved in lots of stuff. Getting to know what I liked and didn't like about being in groups. Meeting tons of new people and working with them on... stuff. Haha.

Oh wait I can shower now. Brb.

It seems to me all of a sudden that maybe this is best continued not on blogger. Not that it would necessarily be any more productive in any other medium, but I want more ease of mobility.

I want futuristic touch screens!

Inner tickings

What I'd really like to do now is shower (like, I'd really really like to shower), but as there are reporters here interviewing Mrs. L, I guess I should be prudent and hold off on that.

My mind hasn't really recovered yet from last week. I'm no longer sick, I don't think. In any case, I'm not snotting up as much anymore, and when I do have to blow my nose, the product is no longer neon enough to grab my attention. Sunday night I took Tylenol cold nighttime medication and basically had to come home yesterday afternoon to sleep the rest of it out of my system for about 4 hours. Or 5? Funny I can't recall. What's troublesome of course is that I can't seem to get things in order. It's like some sort of bizarre manifestation of ptsd. I keep making lists of things I have to do, and it's gotten longer within the past hour or so just while I was at dinner. Write an article about the TCSVA and donate it to Nov's blog. Write two new statements of purpose for UM, preferably before I board my flight on the 22nd. Write a speech for the college's cultural festival to be given tomorrow afternoon (obviously I've gotta get on that one). Ponder the menu for this year's Christmas feast. Shop and purchase gifts online (based on their website Express really doesn't seem like it wants my money at all). Pick a topic for Harvard's silly analysis essay. Draw out a plan for a weekly kid's activity day for the springtime, to be presented to the secretary before I leave next Friday. File Berk's DCRP supplemental form before the 15th. Start thinking about what I'm going to tell the SD people when my interview eventually rolls around. Write a "why you should extend my visa" essay for the authorities. Respond to e-mails.

You know, those kinds of things. Without an applications deadline looming close, it's hard for me to apportion my time. I was doing pretty well before the great brain sewage backup of 3/4/5 weeks ago... whenever it was that I started working on the SD application. What I have now is the illusion of respite, and I really need to fight this. It's just sad because I haven't had much of a chance to get to know this town, and there's some new friends here that I should really be spending more time with, and honestly there's some volunteer stuff that I haven't been able to commit myself to, because I've been hunkered down with these apps. Because I want to dual degree at UM, I think I need to specialize my SPs some more, and that's going to take time if not a fresh start. And both are due at the same time. But between now and then is the stress of travel and then the holidays. And I can't really work up to the deadline this time, because not a week after comes Harvard, who wants customized everything, then not a week after that, several other schools on the same day. Daaaaang my adrenaline just went up.

Oh, another thing: pay my cell phone bill!

Last night I suddenly remembered that I had this speech thing tomorrow and I flipped. At the time I was also just being generally upset about the fact that I'd have to teach this morning. Like I told someone earlier today, it's my least favorite part of the week. I don't mean the actual teaching part. I don't think I really mind being in the classroom, hanging out with the students, talking and so on... but everything leading up to that is just torture for me. When that occurred to me last night, vividly, I changed my gchat status to "I don't think I'm a very good person." The point was not to fish for responses like "oh no you're not," of which, thanks, I got a few. The point was that I really just felt like a shitty person. Why don't I like teaching anymore? I... can't explain really, because the explanation doesn't match like... the fury of the emotion that I actually feel when I think about it. It's just a matter of, I didn't want to do that anymore. I expected that I'd have to a little bit while I was here, because oddly that's my area of expertise, but that wasn't what I wanted to spend all my time doing. And yet somehow I've been forced by etiquette into a situation where most of my volunteer commitment is teaching. It's also not as though I spend much time in lesson preparation. Then I'd really be annoyed and probably for a better reason. No, I decided that I don't mind doing this for peanuts if no one expected more than an organized chat session from me. I got very irate a couple months ago during a coversation with Nov about the inclusion/execution of English language education in the system here, and I realized that it's not something that I want any formal part of anymore. I don't mind tutoring. Despite having turned down several tutoring requests (I could possibly be rolling in the dough right now, but then I wouldn't have been able to complete my applications or maintain a real semblance of mental stability), I enjoy it, because it gives me a chance to really focus on someone. You know, I've always sort of functioned better one-on-one. If I'm going to put any amount of effort into helping someone, I want that person to be putting at least as much into helping themselves. And I feel like a jerk for saying this, but I don't get that kind of cooperation as the kind of teacher I am. It's not that I don't feel like teachers have a responsibility to cultivate that, but for a casual oral English teacher? Good freakin luck. Don't get me wrong either. I've had some really great students and some very successful classes. But it's just not that time of my life right now, where I have that sort of patience to devote to classes and classes of people who may or may not care. I did it for a year, and I may very well do it again, but now? Now's me-time.

Which is a problem. I've been getting to know me-time pretty well over the past two years, and while it's very empowering sometimes, I look back on it and feel just plain selfish, and in a bad way. I feel lazy or withholding or overly demanding. I realize a lot of times when I ask to be left alone or elect to stay indoors working while other people go out to shop or eat, I'm doing myself a huge favor. That's how I've been able to stay on schedule so far for these apps. But that's easy to forget. I mean, if you recall, the weekend before last I never left the building. When I finally did, the construction site outside had made so much progress that I might have been Rip Van Winkle. That's only a minor exaggeration.

Today I was listening to Mrs. L tell more of her stories. And every day you hear people telling stories about her and her generosity or whatever. And I think, man, I am not like that at all right now. I wish I could give more freely of my time. After all, that's the very reason I'm even here. But after rationalizing everything into pros and cons, I find that I'm still conserving a lot for myself. I'm sure my friends would come to my defense and say that it's all for good reason. But... the truth is that things are very lame right now. And add on top of that how I want so very badly to back out of all my teaching obligations. I am so not a good person right now.

I'll be glad when January is up. I mean, assuming that everything goes according to plan and I don't screw up my essays too badly. As disappointing as the fall was (and, let's face it, it always is), I'm looking forward to the spring and can't wait for the summer. Assuming that at least one school says "yeah, ok, why not" I'll be good to go. There's some things in the works and I had them listed then reneged at the last second because I didn't want to jinx myself. I don't mind talking about it in person though, so I can do that with anyone that I haven't already told.

I've been watching the second season of Dexter. I was doing it as sort of a calming-down ritual before I moved to the dorm, but picked it up again this weekend to feel like I had some free time to throw around. The simple idea of being able to actually sit down and watch an hour-long show over the internet is very therapeutic. This afternoon though I found myself identifying with him a little bit. Like... when I think too much about myself and what I want, things tend to get a little rough. Haha, that's as far as the comparison really goes. Beyond that, it's just me thinking how it's easier when I don't explicitly have to worry about myself. I used to do it instinctively and use more of the active part of my brain to deal with other stuff (totally made it up just now). Recently though, I've just been focusing on myself so much that it makes me very uncomfortable. So I'll be glad when I don't have to do that anymore. I feel like right now though, I'd better keep doing it until all the more urgent priorities are taken care of. Surprisingly, I owe it to a lot of people right now to do a good job on these apps. I feel like I've sort of been letting them down with the first few, but we'll see.

This post is getting too long.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Funny, I don't feel like I have my life back...

Three down! I was so excited to be able to take a break after this one, but it occurs to me that that's a really bad idea. I'm feeling a little depressed now because I don't think my application materials were the best. Well, I've got a month until the next two... Did I have more to say besides this? Probably I got sidetracked though and I'm not really fully functioning right now either...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Ok I take it back

I have decided to quit being so crotchety and admit that I'm not as annoyed now with the essay prompt as I was last night. Ok fine, also it's because I read it a few more times, closely. Also because the department's characterization of the essay is slightly different from the graduate division's. I'm sort of almost done with it, but it's coming slowly. I'm finding that I'm easily distracted at this point. Also though, I think what I'm writing is somehow missing the point, so I'll need to do a bunch of tweaking to make sure I get it in 750 words or less...

It's late again wtf

I'm working on this essay now, but I just wanted to state for the record that I kind of resent the phrasing of the prompt. And no, this isn't just be complaining because I don't want to write anymore (though to be totally honest, I would be very happy sleeping right now). Way to be really specific about the type of story you obviously want to hear while still managing to use the word "might."

In an essay, discuss how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include any educational, familial, cultural, economic, or social experiences, challenges, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey; how you might contribute to social or cultural diversity within your chosen field; and/or how you might serve educationally underrepresented segments of society with your degree.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Touch me

Monday night I wound up doing some random interpretations for an acquaintance, then afterwards collapsing in a heap on the couch. Rather than do any work, which would have required energy that I didn't quite have at that point, I caught up on something like a week's worth of episodes from the Daily Show, which I haven't seen since before the election. In one of the episodes, John the correspondent went to investigate CNN's giant touchscreen and interviewed its developer. I got really excited at this point... something stimulated the Jetson-envy part of my brain. First of all, that screen is exactly what I need right now to rearrange all my essays and stuff. Second... oh my goodness, it's meant to be touched! And when it is touched it does what you want! What a wonderful piece of technology.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Chalk up another

Well now that's over-with. What an interesting weekend that will be embarrassing to recount for weeks to come. I quite literally haven't left the apartment since Friday afternoon (it is now Monday afternoon). I showered once and subsisted mainly on a diet of coffee and chesnuts. The evidence was scattered on all the tables up until this morning, damp bags of coffee grounds by the pot on the stove, and jagged nut casings on plates, in bags, on tissues, and on paper towels. Pretty disgraceful. At mealtime I'd treat myself to rice and a fried egg... sometimes two fried eggs. The little trash bin is a tower of tissues (I was allergic to something on Saturday) and eggshells. This afternoon I'll have to buy eggs to replace the ones I ate, and bread to replace the bread I ate. Otherwise I'd feel like a jerk. But there are no chesnuts left, I have no soap left, and no facewash left. Good thing today was the last day. Well... sort of...

Last night I was reading an article in New York Magazine (ok this one: and thinking... wow, I'm so at risk right now. Looking forward to venturing outdoors today. Human interaction's gonna be awesome.

I went to bed sometime between 3:30 and 4 am, got back up between 7-7:30. I stayed up late to get everything to a place where I could feel comfortable about leaving it... had heartburn for a while, one assumes from all the coffee I've been imbibing. Surprisingly alert right now. I guess it's just the rush of freedom, sweet freedom. Only not really...

I wound up being "that guy" this morning when I decided to take a strategic day off library translating in order to finish my application and spruce up the apartment for when the owners return with their guests on Wednesday. Turns out that they were hoping I could judge a skit-reading this morning... something I'd been prepared to do the week before my trip, but since I had no way of knowing ahead of time no one's really to blame, right?

My intention is to sleep in "my" bed tonight, back in the dorm. I haven't stayed there in almost 2 weeks. I've been wearing the same combination of clothes since then, though that might just be a function of my only packing 3 long-sleeve shirts in my entire suitcase. Do some life maintenance. Tomorrow... crap, tomorrow's Tuesday. I guess that means that I should be doing some work tonight too. Berkeley's deadline is up this Friday. I just re-examined the application and realize that I need to produce some sort of statement of purpose fission. That should be... no fun. Hahaha.

Ok, back to life!