Monday, October 31, 2005

Ahh it’s been too long…

So about two weeks ago, on a Sunday, I had my great adventure: kayaking at Monterey Bay. I’d seen the advertisements through my weekly student housing newsletters, and since someone backed out, there was an open space for me. We grouped up according to who could drive, so the four of us (CS, philosophy, education, and myself – the only time you get an interdisciplinary group is when you go on trips through housing) banded together and rowed together. Beautiful day for it – we ended up staying in the wildlife refuge (Elk Slough, I think), rather than going on the open ocean, since the waves were too strong. But in the slough, it was calm and sunny. Seemed like it took forever to outfit us, instruct us, and then, finally, get into the water. It was amazing… seals, sea otters, and rows and rows of pelicans. The seals seemed curious about us, and would watch us, but the sea otters seemed to take offense when we got too close, and would stop playing. And pelicans do crazy things with their beaks – we kept watching them turn their bottom beak “flap” inside out (or something that LOOKED that way, rather startling). On the way home, I dozed again… I’d been out late at Jill’s (her German party) the night before.

Let’s see… so I remember that Thurs., going to Lupe & Elda Maria’s for The Motorcycle Diaries… biking to the farmer’s market on Sunday w/ Marissa… baking pumpkin muffins… baking acorn squash & the seeds (smelled & tasted like autumn)… making my own version of hummus… Finishing Cloud Atlas… Reading In Memoriam…

In more recent memory…

Last Friday, in celebrating Halloween, I dressed up as a very feminine version of the Cheshire cat. A group of us met up at Justin’s…Jill & I were the only ones who dressed up… Then briefly visited the party/ dance – some funny costumes. Got to bed very late… Saturday was a day of work, biking to Mollie Stone’s, etc. Sunday morning Jill & I biked over to the farmer’s market… we tried persimmons, decided they taste kind of cinnamony, bought acorn squashes, tomatoes, apples… The farmer’s market is the best part of my week, it seems… I get VERY excited about all the inexpensive, organic (or at least pesticide free), & fresh produce. This week we’re trying out these little rounded yellow squash – on the advice of other market-goers. And I gave in to the temptation to buy raspberries. In further food related news, I made sushi tonight… rolled mango, avocado, tofu, & zucchini. Kind of a “what I’ve got around the apt.” style sushi.

Anyway, so yesterday was also a day to buy plane tickets for a visit home before Christmas… laundry… reading in the lib… lots of reading… And today, in pursuing a possible presentation topic, I visited two new libraries on campus. Amazing collections. I ended up in this tiny corner of the Education library, which houses old editions of classics for children, language study guides, anthologies, etc… Some beautiful editions. And I ventured into the depths of the Art & Architecture library. Hard to tell from the first floor, but the basements are packed. Lovely smell of books. Glad to finally be finding these places – I’ve missed having that assurance of being able to find what I need.

OK, because SNL was, in selected parts, hilarious, here are some quotes:

Tina Fey on Weekend Update, 10/29/05: "Yesterday...Libby was indicted...for more on this story, ask Scooter, apparently that mo fo will tell you anything!"

Tina Fey on W.U., 10/29/05: "A new poll shows that 66% of Americans think President Bush is doing a poor job of handling the war in Iraq, and the remaining 34% think that Adam and Eve rode dinosuars to church."

Rachel Dratch playing Harriet Miers, addressing the issue of being/ thinking she was unqualified: "But then I thought, you know what... a man wouldn't second guess himself like this. I mean, Donald Rumsfeld never says "Hey, I can't be Secretary of Defense, I never even served in the army!" Right? Porter Goss doesn't say, "Hey, I can't run the CIA, I don't even have any intelligence experience." And Mike Brown didn't say, "I can't run FEMA, I'm the Head of the Arabian Horse Assocation, for Pete's Sake!" I mean, we're all unqualified, why am I the only one who has to admit it?"


In further political news, I'm hoping for a good fight against Samuel Alito's nomination. Bush says Alito has "a deep understanding of the proper role of judges in our society. He understands that judges are to interpret the laws, not to impose their preferences or priorities on the people." That's funny, because in the early 90's, he was in favor of requiring women seeking abortions to inform their husbands (Planned Parenthood vs. Casey). It's not going to be a big secret that the man is not exactly pro-choice. And the last person I want sitting on the Supreme Court, is ANOTHER white man who thinks he knows better than everyone else when life begins & at what point a fetus's "potential life" is more important than the very REAL life of a woman. And if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and abortion is illegal in at least certain parts of the United States, it doesn't mean women won't still have abortions. It's just that the middle, upper middle, and upper class women will travel somewhere else to have one, whereas the poor and working class women will either resort to a "back alley" abortion or go through with the pregnancy. Which will be one more child on the welfare & medicaid lists, which, no surprise here, some Republicans in Congress are currently trying to cut even further (so that we can pour more money into fighting a war that most people in this country disagree with).

Something I'll never be able to figure out: the federal gov., following I believe the evangelical Republicans' qualms, refuses to put any tax money into counseling women about abortion options, or helping low income women obtain abortions. But those qualms are clearly not raised when it comes to entering wars on scanty -- misleading -- even, dare we say it, concocted -- evidence. So basically, tax dollars will continue to support sending young Americans off to a quagmire of a war in which they can kill other very much alive persons. It's a curious thing. If only the radical Republicans had been so worried about innocent lives being lost, back when the administration was trying to convince us to enter a war with Iraq. If half this flurry of activity and research -- this indignation against Miers in large part because she wasn't conservative enough -- had been used to research the charge of weapons of mass destruction & a link with Al Qaeda... well, maybe we wouldn't be at war right now.

-- Rant over (for now) --

Friday, October 14, 2005

For the sake of my reading... this is going to be a brief overview... because this is now the only way that I remember what I do on a day to day basis (otherwise, it really does all blur together).

Last, last Mon: First reading group meeting, where we learned the dreadful news that we might actually have to buy our own books. Update: we have to buy all but one. Boo.

Tues: I turned in my first bit of written work as a grad student -- a response for Memoria (all about Plato... yep, riveting stuff).

Weds: In the evening, I attempted to make sushi. This actually kind of worked, although the rolls weren't very tight, so I had difficulty keeping things together. At one point I was actually hand-fanning the rice as it cooled, with my little decorative paper fan (I followed Joyce Chen's instructions very closely).

Thurs: Enjoyable class, but I had come down with an odd like 3 day "cold" that consisted of a runny (and alternatively congested) nose. Isn't it strange that the nose cycles are the inverse of what you would want? It's runny during the day when you don't want to blow into a tissue in front of people, and then at night when you're not in public, it's too congested to do anything about. Urgh.

Fri: After class, at our Mantis journal meeting, we had a Yiddish composer speak about his projects in creating music for modern Yiddish poetry. Supposedly I was doing work in the afternoon, as I was out all night at the party welcoming first years & re-acquainting w/ 2nd & upper years. Crazy -- I don't know how everyone fit into Joe's apartment... we were packed, and the noise of everyone talking was incredible. Wondered if the neighbors would complain, as we didn't leave till 2 am. I kept the alcohol consumption to a minimum, after my over-the-top screwdriver the previous weekend!

Sat: As might be imagined, I slept till around noon. Then I got to work on finding a bike on Craig's List. I love CL -- I found a bike for $80, w/ bookrack (necessity), and within 4 hours of making my initial call, the seller dropped it off for me. Perfect!

Sunday: With newly acquired bike, met up with Jill for a bike ride to the Menlo Park farmer's market. Easier typed than done. The mythical bike path was no where to be found, and we got lost when we ventured off the campus map's limited representation of surrounding streets. But once I spotted Peet's, I knew we were in the general vicinity (from a random comment made on a website about going to the farmer's market). Great euphoria & sense of accomplishment when we saw the white tents. Be still my heart: local, organic pomegranates. Messy as all hell to eat, as I found out when I burst some seeds at the sink the other day & got red droplets all over a cream colored tank top. Anyway, we had such fun going through the stands... almost everything organic or no sprays... all the farmers into talking about the produce (we got a lesson on rare apple varieties from a 22 year old who claimed to have 20 years of selling experience --black twig, favorite). And, adding convenience to our lives, the farmer's market is in the Trader Joe's parking lot. So I spent under 35$ on over a week's worth of produce, and lots of nice TJ staples (like risotto & polenta... I'm expanding my carbohydrate repertoire. I now have 4 kinds of rice, about 4 or 5 types of pasta, couscous, quinoa, and the above mentioned risotto & polenta). Oh and my new thing: crumbled feta. You can put feta on ANYTHING.

Anyway, afterwards we went to the Hillel House for brunch and jazz... talked to non-English grad students (novel idea), and left in time to do some more reading.

Now this past week has sped by...

Mon: Endless, endless search for the stupid campus bike shop. Misguided directions did NOT help (who can't tell right from left? No, OTHER left). Finally got there, bought a u-lock and bike helmet, got the hell out. Took a zippy trip to Mollie Stone's for essentials (read: Ben and Jerry's that was on sale). Got back, rushed to the talk on taste (about Denise Gigante's new book, which, from what I've heard of it, is amazing). Ducked out early to get to the Review Club meeting -- stomach was growling. Strange to listen to talk about the idea of control over the body (taste, sex) while your stomach is growling. Esp. when you get to talking about essential and nonessential cannibalism. Commiserated with others on this point -- the talk did after all coincide with the dinner hour. Great fun to be with all the English grad students -- talked with Sarah -- planned lunch date.

Tues: Biked to Sarah's for lunch -- Jill had already arrived. Talked about how Sarah catalyzed this huge change in my food habits, which led to my make-up revolution, which influenced my switch to natural household products/ cleaners... Best part of the day, definitely! I then had to register my bike w/ Stanford... the exciting point was getting free bike lights! Yay, I'm visible at night! However, nearly got hit by a car on the way home from Memoria -- don't know if they even stopped at the all-way stop, but I was already halfway across the road, and they clearly were not paying attention. Was immensely disappointed that they didn't stop or yell an apology, or something. When you almost run a bicyclist over on what is, after all, a very bike-laden route, I expect some sort of acknowledgement of wrongdoing! Not the way the world works, I'm told. Anyway, got home, talked to Mom on phone (she sympathized -- whereas Andrew was very blunt: "Well, you've got to watch out. But I'm glad you didn't get killed." Thanks, honey. He didn't seem to grasp the extent of the other party's guilt).

Weds: Got excited about TA-ing in Pedagogy, as we got to hear from undergrads on their experiences. In the evening went on a studio sponsored dinner trip to the Olive Garden. Unfortunately, we didn't split the bill very fairly (at least, not fair in the eyes of those of us who ordered vegetarian dinners which were significantly cheaper than others). But, it was cool to get to know the neighbors. And I discovered I think Tues night, that Lauren, who's in two of my classes, lives next door! Crazy. We agreed as we walked to class together today (arrived late, as I was biking at her walking pace, eek) that we'd never know we live next to anyone.

Thurs: Awesome Intro to Grad class -- Prof. L was there, and I got to talk a little bit about my feminist slant on Burke's rhetoric -- hysteria, Humpty Dumpty, "Adam's fall," and "uterine beginnings." To his credit, Prof. L told us, he did end up switching HIS terministic screen (from "man" to "human"). Didn't know that when I was up in arms while reading... Anyway, we had lunch together, which is always fun, and then I had a brief meeting and reading...

Fri: Hmm. What DID I do today? Class this morning was wonderful, except for the arriving like 2 minutes late part (hate that -- esp. since I was up early and left in time, if only I'd decided to ride my bike... but it was more fun getting to know Lauren a bit more on the walk over). Hmm... great speaker at the Mantis meeting, all about translation. Was tempted to learn Italian and start translating obscure novels. Had an amazing eggplant/ dried tomato/ ricotta cheese sandwich. Met with Prof. R -- about presentation, and life so far here. Very helpful. Visited library, biked home in skirt (glad for a woman's bike -- the lowered bar does make it easier). Now... back to reading. I'm just getting into Cloud Atlas, which has improved considerably now that we're off the Chattham Islands.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Eek before I forget my first week as a graduate student…!

Last Sat.: Jess came over and we hung out, watched some SNL w/ Will Ferrell, & had a regular sleepover! It was cool to just kick back before the craziness started. Sunday the Studio was having a BBQ, so Jessika came over for lunch, and we actually met up with a number of people she knows. I met M.— from the housing office, her friend I think Pete, who seems like a total younger brother (I don’t even have a brother, and I know that’s what he seems like!), and Payula (not sure how to spell her name).

After, I had to completely change, because I smelled like the smoke off the grill… Around dinner time I headed over to the grove by the English dept. for our “Garden Party.” Not to be confused with the Mansfield story of the same name… Ahh I wish I had pictures from everything. I was able to re-meet everyone I met while I was visiting last spring, and get to know some older students as well. I was standing over by a table of food, when Jill & Sarah found me… which was exciting because Sarah was my host last spring, and I think she’s wonderful and brilliant – and I just enjoy listening to whatever she’s talking about. After the party broke up, I retreated to my room for Desperate Housewives, and (possibly) the last good night of sleep for the year…

Monday started off slowly, as the first class I wanted to check out wasn’t till 3:15: Bender’s Enlightenment & Public Sphere course. Everyone went, but I think a number of us decided against taking it because, frankly, the reading load looked out of control. And I’m simply NOT an 18th century person. In the evening, I ended up going to Justin’s w/ James & Jill (all the J’s!)… we had aspirations of watching a really… unique movie, but ended up just talking (along with the roommates). The time kind of flew by, because suddenly we realized that it was nearly 1 am… oops.

Luckily, I also didn’t have class till 3:15 on Tues. I met up with my advisor in the afternoon, which was pretty uneventful because I didn’t have much to ask about, just a general sense of uncertainty. The Memoria class was awesome, and I knew right away that I would stay in it.

Weds: We all had Pedagogy w/ Leher…and then I ended up sitting on a bench in the grove, reading. I walked home with Elda and Lupe, showed them my room, made dinner, and then headed off for the library. It was funny, because I actually was walking right behind Elda & Lupe, but didn’t realize it for a while due to the iPod… Anyway, I was relatively productive at the lib., and then headed home for sleep.

Thurs: First Intro to Grad Studies course… which is awesome, because Jones is a wonderful prof, and it’s just us 9 first year English students. We ended up making coffee, but I was really… up and running. We kind of did the icebreaker of introducing ourselves and saying something “surprising about Stanford” (mine: fall is just not happening). After a very successful class, we all headed over to the Thai place for lunch. I had some lunch stuff w/ me, so I just grabbed a Thai iced tea… odd moment: a bird peed on us, twice! Elda & Jill were hardest hit, but I definitely felt spray… ick. We thought after the first dumping, that we’d be safe, since the bird was probably done. But, we were wrong.

After, I hung out in the Bender room for a while, reading… beautiful view up there, of the foothills and the palm tree tops. Then a brief stay in the TA lounge… It was still incredibly hot out… And, of course, The OC!! The ending song (Alphaville’s Forever Young, as heard in Napoleon Dynamite) was incredibly sad… so I decided to buy it on iTunes (so easy).

Friday: I had one class, the Visual Culture in 19th Century Britain. It sounded really cool, and then we went to Special Collections… I LOVE special collections. Not only did I get to handle a 1st ed. of Rossetti’s Goblin Market (w/ drawings by Dante Rossetti), I also was able to hold and read Katherine Mansfield’s edition of Oscar Wilde’s maxims (including “Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attraction of others”), which was interesting because I remember reading that she attempted to formulate her own Wildean maxims in her journal. So crazy to hold something she read and carried with her… I felt like I had something of a fetish for the material book… rather like the idea of relics, I suppose…

In the evening, most of us met up at Lupe & Elda’s for a pre-party to the grad school community party. Elda poured me a massive screwdriver, so I was pretty done for the night… it was fun socializing though, and talking about things unrelated to the classroom… we waited in line for like half an hour, finally got in, got smooshed in the crowd, I had some water, and then we were herded out, where we talked for at least 40 minutes on the sidewalk. Cindy of the Comp Lit program gave me some plastic cups, since they repossessed mine (even though it was empty and had never contained alcohol). Finally got home… eek 2 am… and slept.

Sat. I headed to the lib. fairly early and met up with Jess for a study session. I visited the TA lounge again… and after seeing where Jess lived, we concluded that neither of us had food… so we went out! To this amazing Indian restaurant, where I ordered my usual chicken tikka masala (the most perfect food of this world), and tried to identify chutneys. We realized that we really don’t know what sauce is what – just that we’ll eat whatever is set before us! As we were putting leftovers into those Styrofoam containers, Jess was holding hers over the candle, and something smelled funny, and the guy at the table over said “what your box!”, and we realized that the whole top had basically melted. Horrible smell, but sooo funny. As Jess says, never a dull moment =)

Back home, I did some more reading, watched SNL, and finally got my laundry done! And Andrew & I have got our webcams working, which make being apart slightly less sad… because at least we can see each other.

This morning I woke up at a decent hour… went to the free Studio 1 brunch (and met up w/ Marissa at her door, strangely, as she was going out for laundry as I was walking by for brunch, so we went together)… walked to the Union for money…talked to Mom while waiting to hear about shopping plans… and luckily got a ride w/ Justin and Jill to Mollie Stone’s (a cute natural foods store). It took me for what seemed like forever to pick up some stuff, mainly produce, as that was what I was missing… Next week I’m going to get up early and walk to the Menlo Park farmer’s market, one way or another!! I need a bike though, at some point, I’m realizing…

Anyway, I got a bit of work done, and then made my usual skillet cornbread for our potluck. Which was soooo fun! We had a huge amount of food, and just gorged ourselves, and talked… and James timed our “silences” – every 7 minutes, till he told us, and we started altering our patterns a bit. Talked about the food dyed cupcakes, TV’s more complicated plots, chickens, cricket, etc.

Ahh... and I came home, and realized, I'm quite happy so far =) Our "cohort love 1" was great, classes are interesting (and challenging), and, well, the climate is a welcome change from MA... (although I miss the beautiful fall, and I'm sure I'll miss the nice pre-April snow).

Now… D.H.’s and more reading…