Tuesday, December 18, 2007

things without all remedy should be without regard

Today I entered grades. It's always difficult, both technologically and emotionally.

But this also means that *break officially begins* for me!

Last week was filled with holiday parties (department "winter wonderland," grad student debauchery), last minute meetings (orals, MLA), and tests (giving and taking). My French exam was ridiculous: the last question, which seemed to be a comment on the entire exam, was the following:

The word 'ainsi' at the beginning of paragraph x best translates as which of the following:

A. Therefore
B. Consequently
C. Along the same lines
D. Subsequently

I kid you not. This is for a one quarter French course that assumes no prior knowledge, and that has the goal of getting us to the point of a "basic understanding" of the language in 10 weeks. The language requirement seems to be a holdover from the days when academics knew multiple languages, and before the invention of things like, well, machine translation. Be that as it may, I do like having an overview of the language, and a *very rough* idea of what Becky Sharp is saying in Vanity Fair when she makes fun of someone in French. How is this the second edition of Vanity Fair that I've gone through that neglects to offer footnotes of the French? It's a critical edition and will alert me to any subtle changes between the early versions of the novel, but no translations.

Anyway. Saturday morning Meredith took me to the airport, and I was back in Oregon by lunchtime. Mum, Mer, & I went to Target (rare for them), a shopping complex, & out to coffee to meet up with Mer's gentleman friend.

Sunday I did a ton of grading, baked some cookies (to add to the two prior batches we made that day: Swedish tea cakes, cranberry orange cookies, and lemon sage blackberry jam thumbprints), and tried buffalo. For the past two days, I've been helping Mer take care of the Whitman alpacas (*so many baby alpacas!*). Yesterday was a grading extravaganza (I graded 3 final exams, 8 papers, calculated all the final grades). Today I baked cinnamon rolls (a craving I had had going on for about the last month). In other words, trying to balance hunching over papers with physical work. The impulse toward manual labor.

For now, time to sleep.

Tomorrow, Andrew arrives!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

2 am in Oregon

It's 2 am in mid December and the g*dd*mned rooster is DOODLING. AT 2 AM.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

I Sing the Body Electric

I'm having my second weekend back at Stanford. I love waking up on Saturday mornings with *nothing in particular to do* (which usually means that there are many things I could be doing, but nothing that stands out as being, you know, an *emergency*). This morning I had my tea & cinnamon sugar toast & blueberries & apple w/ pb and sat down to read the blogs & finally make a Christmas list & now, update my own blog (despite the fact that the tea is long gone).

The last weekend at home after Thanksgiving was eventful, with Merrie & I going to a Shaky Hands concert in Portland. Next time, we're going on a sisters-only trip, though. Monday was Mum's birthday -- we celebrated with apple & cranberry pie with a candle. Tuesday morning we got up insanely early (3:30 am) for my flight -- and I did indeed make it to my 11 am class. I had my sections on Othello, which I think went well, despite my tendency to just go off on a subject that interests me (must...fill...up...silences!)

Last weekend was particularly quiet. I went to the farmers' market on Sunday, got some very lovely pomegranate juice, many root vegetables, and persimmons. The week was good -- I called off sections, as we didn't have any new reading this week, and the students already had a review scheduled for lecture on Thursday. I read Tess of the D'Urbervilles (let me save you the trouble: it doesn't end well for Tess). I actually stayed up late Wednesday night to finish it, knowing that I'd then need to sleep through my 9 am French class. Luckily, Jill says I didn't miss much. But I really needed to know how Hardy was going to depress me this time around. Anyways, what I also did this week was socialize: Tuesday was our CA holiday party (where I somehow again got roped into doing the yankee gift exchange, despite my bad memories of last year's confrontations over the hello kitty popcorn popper) & Weds. was our studio cheesecake night. Turns out, if you order 12 cheesecakes instead of 7, you can indeed satisfy everyone.

Yesterday was an intriguing day. I had meetings with students, and then escaped to lunch with Steve & the first years. Then I came home to some chores. Excitement over an impromptu celebratory dinner party: Jill & Sarah came over for apple w/ potato parsnip souffle & wine. Then I was off to meet up with Meredith & Natalie for our trip into SF for the opera. We hit ridiculous weekend traffic (apparently 280 was just as bad though), and listened to Sufjan Stevens to relax. We got stuck in multiple jams around the opera house, and finally found a lot that could valet park the car so we could hurry over. But: turns out there was a *fire alarm* at the opera, so everyone was outside, and Irena found us, so we were reunited & able to get our tickets! Saved by the fire alarm.

The show itself was great -- The Rake's Progress. Visually fascinating (which is good, because I haven't much of an ear for music).

Back on campus, Meredith noticed that all the lights were out... blackout. We parked, and the first thing we noticed were the stars, as the street lamps were out; I saw a shooting star. People were walking around outside, with and without flashlights, wondering what was going on. Only the hall lights were on, probably via emergency generators. Inside, I used my cell phone to find my booklight, to find candles & matches, and eventually to find my emergency flashlight (which makes me wonder how useful my emergency kit is when I *can't find it in the dark*). Anyways, so I called Andrew while lighting candles & drinking wine leftover from my dinner. Took a shower with the flashlight playing torch lamp. Turns out, there's not much you can do in the dark at 1:30 am, so I ended up reading a couple of pages by bad light and went to sleep.

At some point during the night I noticed that my oven clock was flashing, and stopped worrying about the food in my fridge.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Because getting engaged deserves its own post and visual



Us, "basking," as Andrew puts it.

News

I'm been bad with updating, but to a purpose.

On Nov. 9th, I led my section (on Macbeth) and then quickly biked home for my luggage and headed to SFO for a direct flight to Boston for Andrew's brother's wedding. Andrew & I both arrived at the same time -- and then realized that we were in different terminals of Logan. Luckily, Andrew did eventually find me. It was *cold.* Luckily, Andrew also had brought my coat from Wisconsin. We took a cab to Jon & Jen's -- I hadn't seen them in probably a year and a half, so it was exciting to catch up & meet their cat (Simon).

Saturday, the craziness began: Jon had to drop Jen off at the hotel (with the dress, which took up the entire back seat apparently!), Andrew needed to pick up his tux, everyone was arriving (Andrew's dad & Anne arrived right in front of us at the hotel), rehearsal & dinner were scheduled for the afternoon, etc... The hotel was beautiful -- I decided that it was very French Rococo inspired: huge gilded mirrors, patterned moldings, marble-like sink, heavy curtains, framed prints over the beds invoking Paris, pale green on the walls & furniture, rounded, curved dressers... And the French-brand toiletries (which I actively collected, and because of which I refused to banish housekeeping in the hopes of acquiring more). We *did* enjoy the bathrobes and having chocolates left on the beds in the evening.

Anyways, back to Saturday: we hung out with Andrew's dad & Anne as we waited for our room to be ready... went for coffee & donuts... I waited for Andrew as he went off to the rehearsal... and then we took a very wayward cab to the North end for the rehearsal dinner. Live music, huge amounts of food (served at intervals), and everyone taking pictures. I ate prodigious amounts of antipasto, spinach lasagna, and cannoli. Back at the hotel, we ended up drinking champagne & visiting the hotel bar. Andrew & I were ready to sleep (finally) when the fire alarm went off -- so we trooped out with everyone, made a loop outside the building, and were herded back in. So why, exactly, did we have to go out at all?!

Sunday morning we met up with Julia & Korisha for brunch in Cambridge (reunion!), which was a welcome escape -- finally saw Korisha's apartment, and again realized how much I miss hardwood floors & unique buildings. Andrew continued to worry about his wedding reading & toast. Then we were off to Jon & Jen's apartment to drop off gifts and feed Simon -- then back to the hotel to prepare for the wedding. Andrew had to leave first, so I ended up going with some of Jon & Jen's friends (and unfortunately I ruined the perfect number for one cab). The wedding was in "the castle," and it was *beautiful.* A perfect old Boston mansion -- the ceremony was in the front room, with the wedding party on the grand staircase. A simple, personal, ceremony. Then the doors to our right were opened for drinks, and every permutation of relatives and friends were photographed for the next 45 mins-hour in front of the fireplace. I ended up visiting with others as Andrew was in many of the photos, but we reunited for dinner (which was in the rooms to the left), and for dancing afterwards. The music was *amazing.* I'm still hoping to get the soundtrack to their wedding -- "Like a Prayer," Fleetwood Mac's "Everywhere," "When the Doves Cry," some techno & hip hop.

After waiting for a cab, we finally made it back to the hotel -- one last get together with Jon & Jen & their friends, and then we had the evening to ourselves.

The next morning we had brunch with Andrew's family and dropped off the tuxes, and then made our way toward the Pioneer Valley. Very grey day -- but still a nice drive. We checked into our hotel (the Lord Jeffrey), and found that we had an absolutely charming suite with views of the Amherst square. Then we were off to Fresh Side for lunch, which had relocated to a larger place, and now actually takes your order as you sit. Some new additions to the menu (which we tried), but (thankfully) the same place we love. We then decided to head out toward Mount Holyoke, which also has some changes -- the new green dorm building is going up! After finding a safe place to park (Gorse), we walked below the Delles and around Lower Lake to the benches facing 1837. Andrew suggested that we sit down for a bit. Despite the fact that it was f-ing freezing, I agreed. We sat for a moment, Andrew said something about our having met four years ago, we kissed, and Andrew said he "had something for me." At which point I was suspicious, but thought we should continue on -- and then he was suddenly on one knee, I said "yes" (as Andrew likes to note, *before* seeing the ring), and we were hugging, and I was still in shock and asking *how* he had kept this such a secret, and demanding the full backstory. Which I got, as we continued walking around the lake, taking pictures over the bridge, and then headed toward the Village Commons (where we first met for coffee) to walk around the stores & the library. It was getting dark, and now the little things (like Jon's friend saying that I should get used to drinking champagne, and Andrew saying we should get a bottle ourselves) made sense, and we headed to Noho for dinner. Got there, I wasn't hungry, and I thought, well, we forgot to go to Big Y, so let's continue our drive, and we bought my favorite cookies ever from the Big Y bakery, and something for Andrew's cough (which seems to have flared up with the anxiety over getting everything perfect), and fruit to hit my five a day. We began the search for champagne in Puritanical MA: not Big Y, not Trader Joe's, but Whole Foods. And then back to downtown Noho for Osaka -- which was good as always -- seaweed salad & sushi & tempura & udon noodles (Andrew sees something in the last that I don't). Then I had a kiddie size burnt sugar & butter ice cream at Herrell's (no visit would be complete without --), and we headed back to Amherst for an evening of celebrating and relaxing. (We watched tv on the sofa of the additional room in the suite just to use the space, and then moved to the tv in the other room. It rained at some point. I ate cookies.)

The next morning we packed up, breakfasted at Rao's (still the best coffee), and looked for a jeweler to resize the ring. (The trade-off for a complete surprise: it was too big for my ring finger.) Then decided that I'd have it done in Oregon. Took a walking tour of the Amherst campus, revisited the library. Got our "bagged lunch" from Fresh Side. Drove on the backroads to our old picnicking site, enjoyed the view (warm, sunny day), and continued into Boston, where we met with Jon & Jen (all secrets out now), and then had to go to the airport (sad).

Back in California, I had many things to do on Wednesday to prep for Thursday... planning section, organizing a film screening with pizza that night, reading response papers, etc. And news to break! Thursday I celebrated with Jill by going to the 750 for a neighborhood event. Friday I had one more section (very small with everyone skipping out early for our long Thanksgiving break), and then I had to get ready to fly to Oregon (busy busy).

Saturday I took a walk in the rain, visited Grammy, went to the jeweler's for resizing, helped a bit with dinner (venison roast), and played Scrabble with Mum.

Sunday we visited Merrie in Corvallis despite the unrelenting rain -- went to Interzone (reminded me of Mother Fool's in Madison), Fred Meyer's, and American Dream for pizza. Met the beautiful creature that is Shitaya, the husky (and belongs to Mer's roommate). Then I drove home with Mum, as I did want to see the snow that Tim said was falling in Mt. Hood. On the way home, I had a craving for a peanut butter cup blizzard, but Mum and I were thwarted at every opportunity, and I ended up resorting to a "flurry." NOT THE SAME THING, let me tell you.

Monday I read a good chunk of The Woman in White... I tried out Mum's cross country skis (which was hilarious -- I ended up squatting down because then at least when I fell, I didn't have far to go), we made tacos...

Tuesday: Mer got home, finally! I finished my book. Caught up, listened to music, watched SVU...

Weds: Mer & I went to town to get my ring (still a bit big, but went for a ring guard, and we'll see if I can't grow into it, because having anything smaller than a 3.75 seems *kind of ridiculous*), and a peanut butter cup blizzard (which she mentioned of her own accord). While at DQ, we were also offered samples of this pumpkin ice cream cake... complete with hard frozen candy corn. Then it was back home for lunch & a hike up on an old logging trail in the iced over snow. Dinner -- meatloaf that I've missed for so long! Made with elk.

Thursday: Thanksgiving! I did some reading. Mer & I went for a long walk along the ditch. Ate appetizers. Then made our game plan for dinner: I did the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and kale w/ cranberries. Mer did the biscuits. Mom handled the turkey and gravy. The oven's lower element caught on fire and died right before we were doing the biscuits -- so we just barely got those baked. A wild success, overall. And with us on clean up, we were soon free to drink wine & play hearts. Tons of time in the evening when you eat before 5 pm, so we had a moonlit walk in the snowy fields, a second helping of dessert, and plenty sitting on the couch and watching tv.

And now I'm *FINALLY CAUGHT UP.*

Sunday, November 04, 2007

"so shines a good deed in a naughty world"

I am finally -- finally! -- done with grading midterms.

I hope I never again have to read an in class essay on the gender play in Twelfth Night.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's Halloween

And I need to settle down to a day of reading Hamlet & preparing for my section tomorrow.

But first... I give you... my sister on Halloween:

Fred Meyer has moved its remaining Halloween Candy stores to the front discount section. Replacing the several aisles of All Hallow's Eve decor and treats? Christmas. Yep. This the day before Halloween. Think how Thanksgiving must feel! Oh, you got skipped!

The problem with population

The UN has issued a final warning on the dire problem poised by overpopulation. This is an issue that seems particularly important to U.S. politics (in my opinion), as conservatives *still* don't seem to get the problem of how we impact the earth with our choices, and why "growth rates" in the economy (more people = more buying!) aren't an endlessly good thing. Instead of continually adding population and profits, can't we just hit a sustainable equilibrium? And population is *especially* on my mind after Huckabee's truly heinous comment that by banning abortion, we could "solve the illegal immigration problem." [As a side note: he's wrong on both counts. 1st, empirically, women forced to give birth before they would otherwise choose to will in most cases simply *not* have the later children they planned on having. Or those with the means to do so will have an abortion somewhere else, rather than in the U.S. 2ndly, at a moral level, is he seriously arguing that we should subject more women to unwanted pregnancies/labors/children in order to solve an economic problem?? seriously?!]

So, anyways, I'll let the International Herald Tribune explain:

The human population is living far beyond its means and inflicting damage on the environment that could pass points of no return, according to a major report issued Thursday by the United Nations.

Climate change, the rate of extinction of species and the challenge of feeding a growing population are among the threats putting humanity at risk, the UN Environment Program said in its fourth Global Environmental Outlook since 1997.

"The human population is now so large that the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available at current consumption patterns," Achim Steiner, the executive director of the program, said in a telephone interview. Efficient use of resources and reducing waste now are "among the greatest challenges at the beginning of 21st century," he said.

The program described its report, which is prepared by 388 experts and scientists, as the broadest and deepest of those that the UN issues on the environment and called it "the final wake-up call to the international community."

Over the past two decades the world population has increased by almost 34 percent to 6.7 billion from 5 billion; similarly, the financial wealth of the planet has soared by about a third. But the land available to each person on earth had shrunk by 2005 to 2.02 hectares, or 5 acres, from 7.91 hectares in 1900 and was projected to drop to 1.63 hectares for each person by 2050, the report said.


As someone who loves open spaces and country, this seriously frightens me. Some of my happiest (most nostalgic) memories of growing up in Oregon are of running around in the woods and never thinking about who might own that land.

The result of that population growth combined with unsustainable consumption has resulted in an increasingly stressed planet where natural disasters and environmental degradation endanger millions of humans, as well as plant and animal species, the report said.


Sorry to keep interrupting, IHT, but this just reminded me of our (minor) earthquake this evening. My first earthquake! (Or at least, the first I was conscious for.)


Persistent problems identified by the report include a rapid rise of so-called dead zones, where marine life no longer can be supported because of depletion of oxygen caused by pollutants like fertilizers. Also included is the resurgence of diseases linked with environmental degradation.


Would the lakes around Madison qualify? They're too toxic to *wade* in, for heaven's sake.


He said West European governments had taken effective measures to reduce air pollutants, and he praised efforts in parts of Brazil to roll back deforestation in the Amazon. He said an international treaty to tackle the hole in the earth's ozone layer had led to the phasing-out of release of 95 percent of ozone-damaging chemicals.


Good news! And I'm sure the U.S. has done something notable. Western Europe...Brazil... oh. Well, I guess we were among the signers of the international treaty? (Can't we be leaders in anything but war?)

Steiner said more intelligent management of scarce resources including fishing grounds, land and water was needed to sustain a still larger global population, which he said was expected to stabilize at between 8 billion and 10 billion people.


Jesus Christ. We have to grow to another 2-4 billion before the madness stops? Can't we go replacement rate before *that*?!

"Life would be easier if we didn't have the kind of population growth rates that we have at the moment," Steiner said. "But to force people to stop having children would be a simplistic answer. The more realistic, ethical and practical issue is to accelerate human well-being and make more rational use of the resources we have on this planet."


Hey, hey! I have an idea. What if we like, supported family planning programs? And helped communities grow sustainably, and lower child mortality rates (through sanitation, clean water, medicine, etc.), so that people would choose to have fewer children? And what if we made it *easier* to use/obtain contraception, rather than shaming people out of using it, or making it *more* difficult to get? (And what if we started right here in the U.S., by having rational approaches to sexual health education instead of telling ourselves fantasy stories about abstinence programs that don't work? And making sure that women could afford and obtain the birth control that works for them? And that they have ready access to Plan B if accidents happen?)


Steiner said environmental tipping points, at which degradation can lead to abrupt, accelerating or potentially irreversible changes, would increasingly occur in locations like particular rivers or forests, where populations would lack the ability to repair damage because the gravity of a problem would be far beyond their physical or economic means.


Looking ahead, Steiner said parts of Africa could reach environmental tipping points if changing rainfall patterns stemming from climate change turned semi-arid zones into arid zones, and made agriculture that sustained millions of people much harder.

Steiner said other tipping points triggered by climate change could occur in areas like India and China if Himalayan glaciers shrank so much that they no longer supplied adequate amounts of water to populations in those countries.


Or is it another case of NIMBY? As long as it's not in my backyard, who cares?

He also warned of a global collapse of all species being fished by 2050, if fishing around the world continued at its present pace.


The report said 250 percent more fish are being caught than the oceans can produce in a sustainable manner, and that the number of fish stocks classed as collapsed had roughly doubled to 30 percent globally over the past 20 years.


Reports like these make me wonder how our country could seriously elect another president who thinks our biggest problem is terrorism, and that environmental issues are something to be ignored by the industry-cronies who somehow become the head of the EPA.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Summery week

As my young Shakespeareans have their midterm this week (which means I have neither response papers to read, nor sections to plan), I've had more independent time. I relaxed with Steve & Sarah on Friday, made a huge batch of chili & cornbread, went dress-hunting on Saturday, then into the city with friends for a house-warmer-ing party, biked to the farmers' market on Sunday, and (of course) did some reading.

Yesterday I unraveled the mystery of this loan disclosure statement I got in the mail. I called the loan company, which told me that the National Student Clearinghouse hadn't sent them my enrollment information. So I called this NSC, asking why this was -- and learned that our registrar had reported me as not enrolled full time. Which was news to me -- here I am, studying for orals, TA-ing a Shakespeare course, taking reading French, and auditing a course. So I called the registrar, which *cleverly* doesn't actually have an incoming phone number, just lots and lots of recorded messages about how you can order transcripts, listen to the office's hours, use the website, or send an email. *Really* helpful for me, as you can imagine. So I opened the form I'd gotten way back at the beginning of the year, wondering if I'd missed some sort of official third year enrollment business. And called Judy. And yes, I * was* supposed to sign up for research credits. Mystery solved, problem begun. I think I've now done what I can, and with any luck, won't have fees to pay...

But today was still a good day. It was in the 80's, summery, beautiful. And when I woke up this morning and checked my email, I found out that my 9 am class was canceled, so I could read in bed, lounge, and leisurely make my way onto campus for the 11 am course. Had lunch with Stephen, turned in my credit petition form, read out on the terrace, and had class... And now I get to read Mary Barton & watch SVU. Ahh!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What "pro-life" looks like on the ground

This is a heartbreaking article (The Guardian) on the situation in Nicaragua, which now has a complete blanket ban on all abortions. You know, the ones without exceptions for rape, incest, health, or the mother's life. And that blather from anti-choicers about pregnancy being so "safe," and there never being a risk to women's lives? Still not true.



María de Jesús González was a practical woman. A very poor single mother, the 28-year-old's home was a shack on a mountain near the town of Ocotal in Nicaragua. She made the best of it. The shack was spotless, the children scrubbed. She earned money by washing clothes in the river and making and selling tortillas.

That nowast quite enough to feed her four young children and her elderly mother, so every few months González caught a bus to Managua, the capital, and slaved for a week washing and ironing clothes. The pay was three times better, about £2.60 a day, and by staying with two aunts she cut her costs. She would return to her hamlet with a little nest-egg in her purse. She bought herself one treat - a pair of red shoes - but she would leave them with her family in Managua, as they were no good on the mountain trails she had to go up to get home.

During a visit to Managua in February she felt unwell and visited a hospital. The news was devastating. She was pregnant - and it was ectopic, meaning the foetus was growing outside the womb and not viable. The longer González remained pregnant, the greater the risk of rupture, haemorrhaging and death.

What González did next was - when you understand what life in Nicaragua is like these days - utterly rational. She walked out of the hospital, past the obstetrics and gynaecological ward, past the clinics and pharmacies lining the avenues, packed her bag, kissed her aunts goodbye, and caught a bus back to her village. She summoned two neighbouring women - traditional healers - and requested that they terminate the pregnancy in her shack. Without anaesthetic or proper instruments it was more akin to mutilation than surgery, but González insisted. The haemhorraging was intense, and the agony can only be imagined. It was in vain. Maria died. "We heard there was a lot of blood, a lot of pain," says Esperanza Zeledon, 52, one of the Managua aunts.

González was not stupid and did not want to die. She knew her chance of surviving the butchery was small. But being a practical woman, she recognised it was her only chance, and took it. The story of why it was her only chance is an unfolding drama of religion, politics and power that has made Nicaragua a crucible in the global battle over abortion rights. This central American country has become the third country in the world, after Chile and El Salvador, to criminalise all abortions. It is a blanket ban. There are no exceptions for rape, incest, or life- or health-threatening pregnancies.


Which isn't all that far away from the bills that some fanatical right wing politicians have drafted here in the States.

González was told at the hospital that any doctor who terminated her pregnancy would face two to three years in jail and she, for consenting, would face one to two years. "Nicaraguan doctors are now afraid of going to trial or jail and losing their licence," says Leonel Arguello, president of the Nicaraguan Society of General Medicine. "Many are thinking that instead of taking the risk, it is better to let a woman die."


Better to let a woman die -- because when you're pro-life, that "pro" stops as soon as you're born.

For the Nicaraguan rich, a problematic pregnancy need not be a death sentence. You can fly to Miami or bribe a discreet private clinic in Managua. But in this wretchedly poor country most young women do not have money. Their choice is to go through with a pregnancy that may kill them, or attempt a DIY termination that may kill them.


Always good to remember -- if we go state by state with abortion laws, in the case of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, then well-off women won't see much of a difference in their access to abortion. It will simply make it even more difficult for poor women. And if right wingers continue to attack Planned Parenthood, those poor women won't even have reliable access to affordable contraception. (By the by, how did PP get labeled as an "abortion factory" by the right? Have they seen what for-profit corporations look like? (Haliburton, Black Water?) And word to the wise: there's a helluva lot more money in carrying pregnancies to term (regular OB/GYN visits, lactation/delivery classes, delivery costs, etc.) than in terminating them.)

As a result of the blanket ban enacted last November at least 82 women have died, according to advocacy groups. "This new law intentionally denies women access to health services essential to saving their lives, and is thus inconsistent with Nicaragua's obligations under international human rights law," says Human Rights Watch.


The anti-abortion camp, in contrast, is euphoric. The new law, it says, is a beacon in the fight to protect the unborn. It is time to celebrate. "Now it is all penalised. And Catholics agree that is should be this way," says Roberto González, 50, a Franciscan priest in Managua. "The population sees the church as behind the law - behind the pressure that succeeded in getting the government to change the law."


Also good to remember: this ideology is *not* in touch with reality. Euphoric in the face of women bleeding to death, going into shock from septic pregnancies, or giving birth at 11 years old? And this is the Catholic church behind the law -- the folks that have elected Jesus as their hero. I'm sure Jesus would also be "euphoric." Or something.

Nicaragua provides no answer to the debate about when, between conception and birth, life begins. But in the case of González it is clear when it ended: at 28 years.



Women's rights organisations say their 82 documented deaths are the tip of the iceberg. The Pan-American Health Organisation estimates one woman per day suffers from an ectopic pregnancy, and that every two days a woman suffers a miscarriage from a molar pregnancy. That adds up to hundreds of obstetric emergencies per year.

Human Rights Watch, in a recent report titled Over Their Dead Bodies, cited one woman who urgently needed medical help, but was left untreated at a public hospital for two days because the foetus was still alive and so a therapeutic abortion would be illegal. Eventually she expelled the foetus on her own. "By then she was already in septic shock and died five days later," said the doctor.


Anti-choicers in the states will deny that this is the sort of result that they want to see. But this is exactly what would happen if we had laws in place that don't have health exceptions. Women will be left untreated due to technicalities, as doctors are afraid of legal charges. Doctors will refuse service to avoid walking a thin line between legality and illegality:

Doctors say they have been put in an impossible position. "We face extremely grave ethical conflicts, all because of politics," says Carla Serrato, a gynaecologist from Nicaragua's state-run Alemán Nicaragüense Hospital. Ligia Altamirano Gómez, an obstetrician, says they fear being overruled by the law. "We are pushed toward illegality."


In an attempt to clarify matters, the health ministry issued protocols last December that said doctors should respond to most obstetric emergencies, including ectopic pregnancies and post-abortion care. To terminate an ectopic pregnancy is legal, it turns out, because since the foetus is not in the womb the procedure would not be an abortion. But such is the climate of fear and confusion that the protocols are widely ignored and misunderstood. The doctors who turned González away from the hospital in Managua thought it was illegal, as did medical staff the Guardian interviewed in Ocotal, González's home town.


Those "clarifications" certainly didn't help María de Jesús González.

Ortega, who did not respond to interview requests for this article, has stayed pious in power. Last month he whipped Sandinista assembly deputies into voting with rightwing parties 66-3 to uphold the ban. Many former officials are disgusted with a leader and party they no longer recognise. "It's cynical and it's sad, especially when you consider our high rate of sexual violence and very young mothers," says Moisés Arana, a former mayor of Bluefields. "Here there is a lot of religiosity but only a little Christianity."


Christianity that also doesn't extend to children:

At the other end of the country, in Bluefields, Inspector Martylee Ingram has the same, almost apologetic tone. She is discussing the harrowing case of an 11-year-old girl, Vera, who has been raped and is now 27 weeks pregnant. Asked if Vera should have the baby, she hesitates. The law says yes and her job is to enforce the law. The inspector shakes her head. "But me, as a woman and policewoman, I'd say no. I feel like she shouldn't have it. It's a baby having a baby. She might not survive."


The world has gone *mad.*

Feministe has great commentary on the article -- as Jill notes:

Pro-lifers love cute little babies. Until they’re born.

In the meantime, they continue to oppose tried-and-true methods of decreasing the abortion rate and they promote policies that make abortion more common. They also agitate for outlawing abortion, which only makes it more dangerous — it doesn’t impact the abortion rate at all.

In the ideal “pro-life” world, laws across the globe would look exactly like Nicaragua’s, contraception would be unavailable, and sexual health education wouldn’t go beyond, “Keep your knees together til you’re married.” And there is absolutely no question that a lot of women would die.

But I suppose our lives aren’t all that important in the whole “pro-life” scheme of things. And if we’re collateral damage in the Culture Wars, well, we shouldn’t have gotten so uppity as to think we had that silly right to life in the first place.


And all this on the heels of the Guttmacher Institute's latest study, indicating that abortion rates remain the same regardless of laws. What does change, of course, is how many women die:

A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women seeking it.

Moreover, the researchers found that abortion was safe in countries where it was legal, but dangerous in countries where it was outlawed and performed clandestinely. Globally, abortion accounts for 13 percent of women’s deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, and there are 31 abortions for every 100 live births, the study said.

The results of the study, a collaboration between scientists from the World Health Organization in Geneva and the Guttmacher Institute in New York, a reproductive rights group, are being published Friday in the journal Lancet.


The only transition that actually saves lives, then, is when a country goes from anti-choice to pro-choice:

Some countries, like South Africa, have undergone substantial transitions in abortion laws in that time. The procedure was made legal in South Africa in 1996, leading to a 90 percent decrease in mortality among women who had abortions, some studies have found.

Abortion is illegal in most of Africa, though. It is the second-leading cause of death among women admitted to hospitals in Ethiopia, its Health Ministry has said. It is the cause of 13 percent of maternal deaths at hospitals in Nigeria, recent studies have found.


So can pro-choicers now have the label "pro-life"?

Colbert writes for Dowd

This is *hilarious.* I hope Dowd lets Stephen write more often.

Surprised to see my byline here, aren’t you? I would be too, if I read The New York Times. But I don’t. So I’ll just have to take your word that this was published. Frankly, I prefer emoticons to the written word, and if you disagree :(

I’d like to thank Maureen Dowd for permitting/begging me to write her column today. As I type this, she’s watching from an overstuffed divan, petting her prize Abyssinian and sipping a Dirty Cosmotinijito. Which reminds me: Before I get started, I have to take care of one other bit of business:

Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn’t have to think about. It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.

There. Now I’ve written Frank Rich’s column too.
...

Well, suddenly an option is looming on the horizon. And I don’t mean Al Gore (though he’s a world-class loomer). First of all, I don’t think Nobel Prizes should go to people I was seated next to at the Emmys. Second, winning the Nobel Prize does not automatically qualify you to be commander in chief. I think George Bush has proved definitively that to be president, you don’t need to care about science, literature or peace.

...

Look at the moral guidance I offer. On faith: “After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up.” On gender: “The sooner we accept the basic differences between men and women, the sooner we can stop arguing about it and start having sex.” On race: “While skin and race are often synonymous, skin cleansing is good, race cleansing is bad.” On the elderly: “They look like lizards.”

Our nation is at a Fork in the Road. Some say we should go Left; some say go Right. I say, “Doesn’t this thing have a reverse gear?” Let’s back this country up to a time before there were forks in the road — or even roads. Or forks, for that matter. I want to return to a simpler America where we ate our meat off the end of a sharpened stick.

...

Nevertheless, I am not ready to announce yet — even though it’s clear that the voters are desperate for a white, male, middle-aged, Jesus-trumpeting alternative.

What do I offer? Hope for the common man. Because I am not the Anointed or the Inevitable. I am just an Average Joe like you — if you have a TV show.

Shakespeare's basset hound?

I'm convinced that this passage from A Midsummer Night's Dream is describing basset hounds, whether Shakespeare knew it or not:

Theseus:
My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind:
So flewed, so sanded, and their heads are hung
With ears that sweep away the morning dew;
Crook-kneed, and dewlapped like Thessalian bulls;
Slow in pursuit, but matched in mouth like bells,
Each under each. A cry more tuneable
Was never holloed to nor cheered with horn
In Crete, in Sparta, nor in Thessaly.

The third year

I'm still figuring out what I'm doing this year. I have a strange combination of complete freedom (composing my orals list, reading through it on my own schedule) and competing time commitments (TA-ing, auditing a class, taking French, participating in a reading group). Some days are crazy. Thursdays, for example: 9 am French, 11 am Shakespeare, 2 pm office hours, 4:15 TA-ing section. And then going home to read 15 student response papers. About once a week, I have the urge to bake something. Last week it was yellow cake & chocolate buttercream frosting from scratch. Today it was naan with dinner. It was definitely my own take on it -- partly because I used about half whole wheat flour, partly because I wasn't sure how to actually bake it. I experimented with baking both at high heat in the oven, and in my skillet. Hard to go wrong though. I enjoying making breads -- kneading bread is strangely satisfying (and doughy, warm, fresh bread is the best).





Saturday, October 06, 2007

Another reason to love Krugman

And another reason to love "close reading," or paying attention to the words coming out of their mouths...


But Ronald Reagan thought the issue of hunger in the world’s richest nation was nothing but a big joke. Here’s what Reagan said in his famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” which made him a national political figure: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”

Today’s leading conservatives are Reagan’s heirs. If you’re poor, if you don’t have health insurance, if you’re sick — well, they don’t think it’s a serious issue. In fact, they think it’s funny.

On Wednesday, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded S-chip, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage.

In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh.

Most conservatives are more careful than Mr. Kristol. They try to preserve the appearance that they really do care about those less fortunate than themselves. But the truth is that they aren’t bothered by the fact that almost nine million children in America lack health insurance. They don’t think it’s a problem.

“I mean, people have access to health care in America,” said Mr. Bush in July. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”


Another oldie but goodie: when Jon Stewart recognized that Bush's problem is that he not only sees emergency rooms as the answer to being uninsured, but also is so stuck in his own bubble of privilege that he thinks "poor people *have* family doctors."

And on the day of the veto, Mr. Bush dismissed the whole issue of uninsured children as a media myth. Referring to Medicaid spending — which fails to reach many children — he declared that “when they say, well, poor children aren’t being covered in America, if that’s what you’re hearing on your TV screens, I’m telling you there’s $35.5 billion worth of reasons not to believe that.”

...

Of course, minimizing and mocking the suffering of others is a natural strategy for political figures who advocate lower taxes on the rich and less help for the poor and unlucky. But I believe that the lack of empathy shown by Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Kristol, and, yes, Mr. Bush is genuine, not feigned.

Mark Crispin Miller, the author of “The Bush Dyslexicon,” once made a striking observation: all of the famous Bush malapropisms — “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family,” and so on — have involved occasions when Mr. Bush was trying to sound caring and compassionate.

By contrast, Mr. Bush is articulate and even grammatical when he talks about punishing people; that’s when he’s speaking from the heart. The only animation Mr. Bush showed during the flooding of New Orleans was when he declared “zero tolerance of people breaking the law,” even those breaking into abandoned stores in search of the food and water they weren’t getting from his administration.

What’s happening, presumably, is that modern movement conservatism attracts a certain personality type. If you identify with the downtrodden, even a little, you don’t belong. If you think ridicule is an appropriate response to other peoples’ woes, you fit right in.

And Republican disillusionment with Mr. Bush does not appear to signal any change in that regard. On the contrary, the leading candidates for the Republican nomination have gone out of their way to condemn “socialism,” which is G.O.P.-speak for any attempt to help the less fortunate.

So once again, if you’re poor or you’re sick or you don’t have health insurance, remember this: these people think your problems are funny.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I heart Jon Stewart



I love it -- "this has already been written -- it's called The Prince."

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Quote of the day

Beach cautioned that people shouldn't panic about the dangers of the brain-eating bug.


I think, if you really don't want people to panic about the *brain eating bugs,* you should find a euphemism for *brain-eating bugs.*

But seriously, only 6 (6!) people have died of it this year, and that's considered a "spike." I'm assuming that I have a better chance of being killed by a wayward para glider.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Global Gag Rule

I got this email from NARAL:

Legislation repealing Bush's global gag rule has been added to the FY '08 Foreign Operations spending bill. Your support right now could help pass the important bill and reinstate healthcare to millions of women


I remember first hearing about the global gag rule, but it was probably in those early days of the Bush presidency (in between his vacations and not paying attention to 9/11 warning memos) when I was a tender high school senior trying to get out of Oregon. And from what I've read since, I could say that it has something to do with family planning and not mentioning/ providing abortion overseas, and that it probably made no sense to me (being pro-women making their own choices). Since I don't know much about the policy, I especially wanted to link to this over at Pandagon. I love Amanda. She cuts through all the bullsh*t.


There are a number of things wrong with this argument, which is why I think more blogging would be helpful, just to get the truth out there.

1. C’mon! If it was true that we should ban every government program every nutjob has a moral issue with, we’d have no government programs. Plus, reasonable people have much more reasonable moral issues with things like war, and we’re not banning that any time soon. Why should be pander to crazies when reasonable people don’t even have a say in moral funding issues?

2. Withholding or opposing abortion is the immoral stance, taken out of a hostility to women’s health and women’s rights. Anti-choicers shouldn’t have the moral high ground, because they are wicked, petty assholes who want to increase the amount of suffering in the world to satisfy their misogyny. To be a truly moral person, you can’t exclude half the human race from your consideration.

3. The global gag rule isn’t just about abortion. That’s basically, in any realistic sense, a lie. It’s about withholding medical care and contraception. Even without it, the U.S. simply doesn’t fund abortions (though I think they should). It’s a backdoor way to deprive women worldwide of contraception and basic health care, since the people who provide those things pretty much by definition are good-hearted non-misogynists, and thus mostly believe as the logical and good-hearted generally do that abortion is a moral good.* The global gag rule is about giving the U.S. power to root through clinics worldwide looking for evidence of appalling levels of human feeling towards women and depriving them of funding if they find that someone’s committed the thought crime of believing that women should have full rights and options.

The last is the killer point: The global gag rule is about depriving peope of contraception, STD prevention, well baby care, after-abortion care, post-partum care, prenatal care, and gynecological care, all by pretending it’s about abortion... NARAL sent me a list of ways the global gag rule has been used to deprive people of basic health care.

* In Nepal, the government threw a 13-year-old rape victim in jail for having an illegal abortion. The Family Planning Association of Nepal used her case and others to advocate for the release of women in jail for having abortions. For this, they were deemed thought criminals in violation of the global gag rule and funding was terminated.
* In Kenya, funding is lean and mean, so having entirely separate facilities for abortion is pretty much impossible. Under the global gag rule, though, you can’t even have abortions under your roof, even if not a U.S. dollar goes for them. This rule has meant that the Family Planning Association of Kenya has cut its staff in half and closed down 3 clinics, one that had a huge well baby program and post-partum care. Depriving babies of medical care is another sign that pro-lifers don’t actually love babies. They just hate women.
* Planned Parenthood of Zambia was deprived of enough funding under this that they shut down 3 of 9 rural clinics, depriving all the people in that area of one of their few, in any, sources for affordable condoms.
* The Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia can’t refer women to abortion services or perform abortions, since abortion is illegal in Ethiopia. Still, they have lost half a million dollars that went pretty much strictly to providing condoms and contraceptives, because they have participated in educating the government in how illegal abortions contribute significantly to their high maternal mortality rate.


I hope this bill passes. I don't think the world really needs someone like Bush trying to push his brand of "morality" on those seeking basic reproductive services. Considering the world population and current AIDs rates, who the hell is against education and condoms, anyways?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Back in the USA

It's a rainy day in the valley, and they come so rarely, that I'm marking the occasion by taking a nap, reading, and marking things off my to do list. One of which was, update the blog.

I was home in Oregon for two days to recover from being abroad. I divvied out massive amounts of chocolate for the family, visited with everyone, and went on a hike up Chinidere Mt. with Mom. It was a lovely hike -- and luckily we ran into a friendly park ranger who could direct us on the right trails. From the summit (which is covered in small flat rocks) we could see all the surrounding mountains (from Jefferson to Rainier), which revived again my appreciation of our local scenes. And we found the seal of the Menlo Park Geological Survey up there -- strange. I ate many a wild blueberry/huckleberry. Waded a bit back at the lake. At home, I walked the ditch. Picked blackberries. Climbed the little hill above Aubert's bridge. Ate venison roast. Ate out of the garden.

















Mom and I spent a day (unintentionally) in Portland, at the Olive Garden for lunch, along the scenic highway for views and coffee, to Ikea for wandering and dinner (chocolate cake...). I missed Merrie's arrival from Namibia by, literally, minutes. My flight took off at 7:25, hers landed at 7:26. I don't want to talk about it. Delta can go to the devil.

I had an *interesting* trip back from SFO. I got in the Super Shuttle, and noticed a couple of dachshunds up on the front seat floor. The driver assured us that he'd gone to a leash free park earlier, so they were good to go. And then I listened to him talk for *twenty minutes* about the whole food diet he feeds the damn dogs. I felt like mentioning that many Americans, and their children, can't afford grain-fed meat from Whole Foods for themselves, let alone for their pets. He punctuated every sentence with "you know?" "Dogs can tell the difference between grain fed, you know?" "Dogs need vitamin D, you know?" Etc. etc. When he let me off in Escondido Village, he told me that I should eat vegetables with vitamin K, some fat, butter, olive oil. And that he was telling me this because I'm a student. I thanked him, was thankful to be in my quiet studio. Only in California.

The next morning I had CA training. Then I had to repack for our weekend beach retreat at Pajaro Dunes. Which was awesome -- the training gets so much better when we escape the Stanford-enforced training (fire lady, party rules, etc.) and spend more time with the CA program, planning events. Our neighborhood committee is perfect. During free time, I walked with Dinah along the beach... and we discovered that we were both reading Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone, and were within 50 pages of each other. It was incredibly creepy. We read on the beach a while, then retreated to the main beach house's turret room. Then I hung out in my own house for a bit. Dinner, then a bonfire on the beach (yay for getting to stick around for tons of s'mores and beer and wine this year). Then I slept in the living room of this basically beach front house, listening to the ocean. We had a beautiful view from the living room windows, from which I saw two dolphins the first morning, rolling down the coastline. On the way home, we got a tad bit lost and took the scenic route. Stopped at a random gas station for Mexican food, and I had some of their fresh squeezed carrot juice. Again, only in California.








Finally went grocery shopping. Always makes me feel like I'm back home.

Monday & Tuesday I helped with practice exams for the (newly!) second years. Spent Monday evening with my committee, going to Costco, stuffing welcome bags for our residents, and eating tons of lasagna.

Weds. I brought sunflowers to the TA lounge for the quals survivors. Celebrated with Meredith at 11 am. Went for lunch & shopping with M. & Whitney. Went to the grad student bbq with the studio crew. So windy! Then back home to greet Sarah, hang out with her, Jill, and Sara over tea and peanut butter cups.

Thurs. we had a dept. memorial service, followed (strangely) by my neighborhood's Psycho movie night.

Friday was errand day on campus, followed by a lovely lunch at Brioche with Sarah & Jill. Then BevMo shopping for the Garden Party on Sunday.

Then unexpected evening plans (the best kind) with Meredith -- we saw LCD Soundsystem & Arcade Fire at the Shoreline Amp., then hung out till midnight at In & Out.

But here's the thing about concerts, that I re-realize at *every* concert. If they lowered the volume a tad (I'm not arguing for anything revolutionary, just take it down a couple notches), we might actually be able to hear the different instruments, distinguish between different elements, decipher the lyrics, and, in general, hear something more complex than Noise. Or at *least* venues should offer ear plugs to those of us who haven't ruined our hearing yet to the extent of needing the volume up that high. At least. At one point during LCD Soundsystem, I swear I could feel my cheeks vibrate with the base.

Enjoyed it, nonetheless.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Nurture wins again

I've always hated it when people, pretending to be relying upon "evolutionary science," start hypothesizing that the "differences" they've supposedly noticed (or made up, looked for, etc.) between men and women are innate. Hunters and gatherers (or gatherers and hunters, if you're into feminist revisions) seem to be the reason for *everything*, from how women and men carry books, to spatial/mathematical reasoning, to dating trends. Whenever I hear someone start with "caveman days" stories, I translate it into "I like to tell myself this story about human history for entirely personal and arbitrary reasons." It's nice to see my own take reinforced by a study... I just stumbled across this article (via Feministe) at Group News from Economist.com:

Writing in Psychological Science, a team led by Ian Spence of the University of Toronto describes a test performed on people's ability to spot unusual objects that appear in their field of vision. Success at spatial tasks like this often differs between the sexes (men are better at remembering and locating general landmarks; women are better at remembering and locating food), so the researchers were not surprised to discover a discrepancy between the two. The test asked people to identify an “odd man out” object in a briefly displayed field of two dozen otherwise identical objects. Men had a 68% success rate. Women had a 55% success rate.

Had they left it at that, Dr Spence and his colleagues might have concluded that they had uncovered yet another evolved difference between the sexes, come up with a “Just So” story to explain it in terms of division of labour on the African savannah, and moved on. However, they did not leave it at that. Instead, they asked some of their volunteers to spend ten hours playing an action-packed, shoot-'em-up video game, called “Medal of Honour: Pacific Assault”. As a control, other volunteers were asked to play a decidedly non-action-packed puzzle game, called “Ballance”, for a similar time. Both sets were then asked to do the odd-man-out test again.

Among the Ballancers, there was no change in the ability to pick out the unusual. Among those who had played “Medal of Honour”, both sexes improved their performances.

That is not surprising, given the different natures of the games. However, the improvement in the women was greater than the improvement in the men—so much so that there was no longer a significant difference between the two. Moreover, that absence of difference was long-lived. When the volunteers were tested again after five months, both the improvement and the lack of difference between the sexes remained. Though it is too early to be sure, it looks likely that the change in spatial acuity—and the abolition of any sex difference in that acuity—induced by playing “Medal of Honour” is permanent.


Guess I should take up playing Doom again.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Switzerland, week 2

The second week...

After my first update, I had a dramatic night -- my host madame (who is 77 years old) had a fall, dropping left over plum tart and water all over the floor. Luckily she wasn't hurt badly -- I had a panicked moment in which I realized I didn't actually know the Swiss equivalent to calling 911. So from Monday onwards, I was sure to be more helpful with carrying things to and from the kitchen, and with walking the dog.

Tuesday, after class, I had lunch on my own lakeside -- and then met up with Leslie for an extended walk in the other direction (toward Clarens). We tried to make our way up to this beautiful castle like building, but it didn't seem to be open to the public. Instead, we sat and talked by the lake until my "curfew." For a particularly lackluster dinner of pasta with leftover mushroom sauce, tomatoes, and the everlasting pudding.

Weds. I hurried out after class to get on the Rochers de Naye mountain top train. Which was (of course) beautiful... the train wasn't crowded on the way up, and we climbed above the lake, the hills, through tunnels, past pastures...Ate my lunch of bread, cheese, tomato, and chocolate on the train. We went up past where Leslie and I had walked, so past Caux it was all new territory. Very cold at the top though! And I was wearing shorts and sandals! I explored the top of the hill -- I had a 180 degree view of snowy peaked mountains, with hills and lakes in the foreground. I took a brief walk through the alpine garden, visited the "marmot paradise," soaked in the view (and the bit of sun between fantastic airy clouds), and then hopped on the next train down.



At the peak.



Marmot at lunch.

Back in Montreux, I serendipitously ran into Leslie -- we headed into the mall, and she helped me make the very time consuming decision to buy a blue scarf.

Dinner -- cheese and tomatoes heated (strange?), potatoes, and plums for dessert.

Thursday Leslie and I had our usual lunch on the dock, after I made another incredibly time consuming decision to buy shoes (they were only 20 francs). Then we took the bus to Vevey -- which had a far cuter, quainter downtown than Montreux. We went to the lake, got pictures of the fork sculpture in the water, and then headed into the Alimentarium museum. Best museum ever. Displays on seasonal, cultural foods... food trends from the past to present... the old Nestle boardroom... an interactive area with chocolate and cookie samples... kitchen cooking lesson on making baklava... ate mine out on the picnic table (we made a mess).

Dinner -- risotto and salad, followed by the strangest dessert... it looked like a bowl of spaghetti with whipped cream on top. In actuality, it was a layer of meringue, followed by a layer of what seemed to be cinnamony dough shaped into noodles, and topped with whipped cream. It wasn't particularly tempting. Especially after my baklava and the chocolate samples.

Friday: Final day of school! Thank God. Although it was the most fun activity we'd done so far... "mystery interview guest" game. Leslie and I had our final lakeside lunch... I had my last walk to the chateau... then I bought a ton of chocolate to give to family upon my return... just in time for dinner (fish bake, salad, potatoes, almond cream bread).

Saturday: Chamonix adventure day! I got on the 9:05 to Martigny and then took the Mont Blanc Express. Fantastic ride up... villages, deep gorges, waterfalls, mountains, snow capped ranges. And a crazy Scottish fellow going by the name of Twig livened up the journey -- he was tipsy, and just opening his next bottle of wine. Headed to Annecy to (and I quote) "score some heroin." I had to turn him down on going with and catching dinner together. In Chamonix I wandered through the town, got advice at the tourist office, walked to the Pierre de Ruskin for my picnic lunch, and then took the Petite Balcon Sud trail for views of the mountain. I enjoyed just taking whatever paths looked interesting, turning back when I felt like it, watching the para gliders...



The view from Ruskin's rock.



The prospect from further up the trail.


Then I proceeded to get lost in the process of buying dinner, returning to the train station, and using up my euros. Made it in plenty of time to the train though, which was just as fantastic on the return trip (and quieter). I watched the sunset on the lake back in Montreux, ate some Movepick ice cream...

Sunday: Final day! I had a pastry on the train (after being so delighted to understand the lady at the bakery: c'est tres dificil choisir), and caught the 7:45 train to Interlaken... it was the Goldenpass tour through Gstaad and Zeissimen (sp?), and it was a lovely morning ride up the hillside past Montreux, vineyards, forests, a misty lake (hazy with the sun coming up), and cows. Interlaken reminded me of the Columbia River Gorge. Also: very cold and cloudy. I hopped on the next train toward Bern, on which I met this delightful couple from Atlanta, who gave me some tips. In Bern I visited the tourism office, went to the fine arts museum (yay for a free, clean bathroom, and a cafe). Then I walked through the old town to the bear pit, had my picnic lunch, and turned back... visited an internet cafe, and still had plenty of time to make the next train back to Montreux in time for dinner. Had my last walk by the lake after packing... and was so looking forward to returning home! I had had enough adventures for two weeks.

The return trip meant about 26 hours of travel... the train to Geneva, the flight to London, the 9.5 hour flight to Seattle (watched Becoming Jane, The Hoax, bits of Walk the Line again, most of Waitress...), the series of lines that is customs, the flight to PDX (yay for making an earlier flight! and free wine (again)! and the sunset over Mt. Rainier, St. Helens, Adams, and Hood!), the trip home with Mom and Tim. One thing I'll say for international flights: despite being stuck in the middle seat (damn you, British Airways, and your bizarre seating policies), the in flight entertainment was pretty good, and the food, not bad at all. Cherry tomato and asparagus risotto, and some *good* strawberry cheesecake.

Unfortunately, I think I'm paying for all the traveling with a small cold.

And I *so appreciate* everything that I missed while I was gone. Like my shower. And choosing what to eat. And being able to talk in English and understand signs. And find water fountains. And use cash without worrying about ATM fees.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Things I've noticed

- Every toilet has a different flushing mechanism. Whether you press a lever on the upper side, lift a rod out of the top, or push a button mounted on the wall above. And the train bathrooms kick it up a notch: do you push a button mounted over the sink, press a button on the floor with your foot, or use a lever?

- The juice & bread I've bought *actually tell you how long it's safe to eat after opening.* Let's get with that program.

- Chocolate is a meal in and of itself.

- Payphones do not exist as I know them. Swisscom rules all, and will require your credit card.

Bonjour, from Montreux

It's a day of recuperating after a busy weekend, so I thought I'd update after my first week in Switzerland.

My flights over were tolerable -- from PDX to Chicago, where I had to switch into the international terminal (which felt like another world in and of itself). I pestered the British Airways attendant at the gate with tons of questions (he was entertained by it) -- what would happen at customs, would I make my flight connection in London despite our delay, could I have a window seat, etc. My seat, unfortunately, was toward the back of the plane, and in the aisle. But on the bright side, my seat mate was a cool young woman from I think Italy, and she had all sorts of advice about how to get a window seat (apparently, check in online, or get there really early). And we were tres excited when no one sat in the middle seat! And both being small people, we had plenty of space to move around in during the overnight flight. I did get some sleep, but I can't say it was very comfortable. As the attendant had promised, there was plenty of food onboard. Some sort of cheese pasta for me (the veg. option), with a microscopic iceberg salad (why bother?), bread, chocolate cheesecake, etc. Also, thankfully, a light breakfast... because I had to book it once we reached London. As soon as we hit the gate, I followed some guy who definitely knew how to make his way through a crowd, all the way up to the front. There seemed to be some disagreement between the attendants as to whether or not I'd make my flight -- I decided that with 40 mins - an hour, I could do it. I had to quickly get down a never ending hallway, reenter through security, and then make my way to the departure terminal. Heathrow is like a mall. Anyways, I made it, and then we were freaking *bussed* to the plane. Short flight into Geneva, and definitely prettier than the parts of England we flew over earlier -- rolling green hills, farmland, etc. Arrivals moving walkway had a series of stills from Gone With the Wind, of Rhett Butler kissing the widowed Scarlet O'Hara (you know, the you should be kissed well, and often, scene). Then to baggage claim, where I knew I wouldn't be seeing my bags -- if I had to run to make my connection, you know that my bag is still in London. Thank God I packed extra clothes in my backpack. So I wandered around in the stores outside the airport, to get essential items that were in my checked luggage (soap, deoderant), and just in time caught the train through Lausanne to Montreux. Got some tea in Lausanne with my newly changed Swiss francs, and then got off in Clarens... where my host Madame literally lives like a two minute walk away from. We quickly realized that we have no languages in common--- she was frustrated. And in my tired, jet lagged, sleep and food deprived state, we ended up checking at the train station about my luggage, meeting with her upstairs neighbor who knows a touch of English, etc., before *finally* I could eat. Oh, and the First Step World program conveniently forgot to mention that I said I was a vegetarian (I didn't get into the more complicated ins and outs of my food processes -- easier to use the label), so my madame gave me a pork sausage, some sort of mushy mustard-potato mixture, and dry bread. I was having second thoughts at that point. I could taste that sausage the rest of the night, which I choked down some of just to avoid trouble. Oh, and THEN I didn't get sleep -- I couldn't sleep more than a couple of hours, despite being exhausted.

Luckily, the first day went well. We got the food thing straightened out. During class, I met Leslie, who's also from the bay area. And during our first exercise, I mentioned that I like to hike, so we immediately started planning trips!

My first lunch in Montreux was a sad affair. I couldn't figure out where to go, and I refused to enter the McDonald's (speaking of which, they're *everywhere*, even in the car-less town of Zermatt, at the Matterhorn). So I ended up with trail mix and dried apples from the pharmacie. I walked around quite a bit, and was thankful for the pasta and salad for dinner. Another sleepless night.

The second day was awesome -- Leslie and I got lunch after class at the mall, and then changed into hiking clothes at her host d'acceuil's place. We hiked up this old staircase and trail into the hills of Glion and Caux, passing gorgeous hotels and schools and churches along the way. So exhausted afterwards! Dinner: yummy artichoke bake with potatoes, and a strawberry cream tart for dessert.

Third day: Rainy! After a sleepy class, I hung around using the internet with Leslie. To the mall: ate in the 'boat' restaurant... salad, bread, hot chocolate... yum. Clouds were rolling over the lake, making it seem like we were moving at sea. We explored the pharmacy, trying to read labels... Then I had a walk home in the rain. Pizza, salad, pudding for dinner. Oh, and I finally finished Persuasion. Speaking of which, I think I liked Mansfield Park better...

Thursday: More rain! School, C. distracted everyone from the lesson. After: market and lunch on the dock with Leslie and Christine. Then back to school with Leslie to plan our weekend adventures. After, we took a walk thru downtown Montreux and past Clarens. Dinner good: quiche and tomato salad and caramel pudding.

Friday: After school, another lunch on the dock. Passed through street vendors, visited the train station for my Swiss Flexi Pass, and then we took a *long* walk to the Chateau de Chillon (13th century, made famous by Lord Byron), which was gorgeous. I wandered through the prison, the beautiful lakeside rooms with window seats, the courtyards... Then we continued on to the tiny village of Villanueve (little cobblestone streets, with adorable buildings all matching with wooden shutters). Then the long walk home. Fish sticks, salad, potatoes, and some sort of cream-wafer cake for dinner.



I love me some castles.

Saturday: Up before 7 am, walked to the train station in Montreux. Leslie and I took the train to Domodossola, and then switched into a scenic panoramic car for the ride to the Italian lake district (Locarno). Beautiful! Stone houses with slate roofs. Valleys, sheer cliffs, tiny villages, churches, rivers. Once we arrived, we had a light lunch at the lakeside cfe... salad, fries, amazing macchiatos. We wandered around the lake, through some sort of cycling meet and a busy beach. Luckily we stumbled upon a quieter spot, where I went swimming in Lake Maggiore (swans, the hills around, perfect).

Back in Domodossola, we saw deer in a field (closest: two does and a buck), & we had gelato while waiting for the train. I slept most of the way home.



Swimmin' with the swans.

Sunday: Up at 7 again to catch the same train with Leslie. This time we transfered at Visp for the scenic Zermatt train. Lovely ride up through the mountains, with waterfalls and gorges. Zermatt was fascinating -- they don't allow cars, so there were little electric buses and horse-drawn carriages in the narrow streets. We wandered through, and came upon a trail... the map we got was tres insupportable, so we just headed up the trail. We walked past more little stone houses, cows with huge bells around their necks, a hilltop restaurant, and then onto a less frequented trail up through the hills, letting us out into a better area for viewing the Matterhorn. So many pictures. We stopped on a rock in the sun for a chocolate-eating and mountain-viewing break. We tried to identify all the highest peaks, and think we located Mt. Rosa. The way back downhill was much quicker! We stopped at a cafe with a view of the Matterhorn for beer, me for goulash and a salad, Leslie for apple streudel (yum!). And I couldn't resist the dark chocolate mousse from the bakery on the way to the train station. Only here once, may as well! On the train home, we seemed in the middle of a party... a group of kids came on with wine glasses and promptly uncorked what must have been the latest in a very long series of bottles. Leslie and I moved soon after.



The Matterhorn.

Beautiful trip home though -- we caught the tail end of the sunset over the lake... blue hills, clouds lit up pinkish.

And that brings us up to today! I'm in a different class now, where I'm learning much more. Lunch on the dock again, and catching up on emails, planning with Leslie what we should do this week, etc. Some rest after a very busy weekend!

Oh, and with lunch I had chocolate milk: the brand? Heidi's.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Camping




Near Zumwalt Meadows, where we paused our hike for a picnic lunch


Last week Andrew & I went on our summer vacation together to King's Canyon & Sequoia National Parks. It was amazing. Four nights, lots of hikes, lots of deer (bucks with antlers), and one bear sighting.

The drive out was quite long, through Gilroy, Los Banos, and Fresno. We stopped at a beautiful reservoir before entering the truly desolate wastelands that are Los Banos and Fresno. We might be biased -- it was like entering an oven when we stopped in Fresno for last minute items and Jamba Juice.

As we got nearer the Sierras, the land entered more dry hills, and we passed things like this:



Then we climbed up into the Sierras, and suddenly it was lush, cool forest. We had to drive quite a ways before getting to our campsite, which was a short walk up a hill. Everything had to be in bear boxes at all times, which really complicates your life. It's as if you had to enter a locked fridge not only for milk, but also for tea, toothpaste, and soap. The first night we settled in, took an evening walk, and ate tofu dogs, vegetarian baked beans, corn, and zucchini. Stuffed. And of course, the evening campfire with s'mores.

Tuesday, our first full day: Started with a trip to Lodgepole village, from which we went on a hike to Tokopah Falls (which was down to a trickle), ate lunch, drove to King's Canyon & waded in Hume Lake, walked through the giant Sequoias (including the widest, General Grant), and returned home for dinner. The fire didn't go well, which put me in a bad mood -- missing my stove and shower.

Wednesday was dedicated to Cedar Grove in King's Canyon. We got an early start for the 1.5 hour drive (complete with tea and coffee) and hiked from Roaring River Falls to Zumwalt Meadow (4+ miles). Saw a deer, and then, when Andrew was a bit behind me, I spotted a bear walking about 150 feet away from me. I gestured to Andrew to hurry over, and he caught a quick glimpse. We *needed* to see a bear after all the hassle of using the bear boxes.

The river and meadow were beautiful, and we made trail-side tuna fish sandwiches before making the meadow loop. No more bears on the way back to the car. We then drove to Cedar Grove village, drank water/tea and shared a double chocolate haagan dazs ice cream bar while sitting on the porch. We'd been wanting to get in the water, so we explored some areas along King's River. Finally, we stumbled upon a deserted spot with a deep little pool. I decided to swim in my underwear and top, and then convinced Andrew he needed to go swimming, too. Lovely little spot.

Then we were ready for a shower... so we returned to the village, and then made our way home up the canyon (with plenty of stops to enjoy the views). Luckily we had an easy dinner -- a pre-made jambalaya mix that we just had to heat over the fire and put over avocado. With more of the ever-plentiful zucchini on the side.

Thursday was our last full day, and we decided we were in the mood to take a longer hike. We again went toward Lodgepole, and did the Lakes Trail to Heather Lake. It was 4.1 miles one way -- and mostly uphill. The trail meandered through forest, up to stark cliffs overlooking the Tokopah Falls area from the Watchtower, and ended in an alpine lake setting. A number of European couples/ families were hiking the same path, but we had the lake to ourselves for awhile. More trail side sandwiches, and then I gradually forced myself into the water (it wasn't so much a problem of the lake being cold, as the weather not being all that hot). It was the perfect setting, from the rocks into a drop off in the lake -- I didn't have to deal with any mysterious muddy lake bottoms (which kind of freak me out). Andrew napped in the shade, while I swam about and then sunned off. Then we explored a new way out from our rocky lake-overhang, as the way in required walking and balancing on a log over a muddy marsh.




The way back down was still long, but we made much better time as we were going downhill for so much of it. And we ran into a marmot, which didn't hurt anything.

After all that, we wanted another shower... and then we went home, changed for dinner, and after quite a bit of driving around looking for food (and at the lights from towns down below the Sierras, and the stars up above), we ended up at the beautiful lodge: where we were able to have spicy sweet potato soup, Asian salad, and seared mahi mahi. Ahh, it's nice not to cook over a wood fire!

Friday morning we packed up camp, took one last hike to the Buena Vista bluff (awesome 360 views of the area), and started our descent. We stopped for a tour of the Sierra Cat Haven, where we saw about 10-15 different species of cats, many endangered. Reminded me of what Mer's doing this summer, and it was cool to get some more perspective on it.

Then we had to get to Fresno. Returned the crappy knife/ saw I'd bought there that definitely *did not* cut kindling. Had the ever-faithful Subway veggie delite for lunch, and jamba juice for dessert. Well, and a cookie.

Then it was back through Los Banos & Gilroy... where we stopped at the bizarre Casa de Fruta, and realized we were very lucky *not* to be going the opposite direction. We breezed past the outgoing traffic, saw one very confused coyote on a hill overlooking the highway, and made it back to Palo Alto in time to pick up food at the market & make dinner (after unloading all the crap from the car, putting it away, and showering). Lemon basil rice mix w/ tomato & eggplant saute.

It was kind of nice to have my own clean shower & kitchen back, but very sad to see our camping extravaganza over, and the summer together that much closer to over.

But we made the most of the last weekend -- returning the rental car on Saturday, biking to the farmer's market, doing about ten loads of laundry in the afternoon... Made a more elaborate dinner of falafel, salad, and a yogurt dill dressing. And then in the evening, Andrew's retro date: Dial M for Murder at the old Stanford Theater, and dessert (ice cream & a chocolate malt shake) at the Creamery. Yum!

Sunday we had a day in the city, as we hadn't gone there since Andrew's Dad visited us. Wandered around in Golden Gate Park (Shakespeare's Garden, which I loved; the "lake" that's really a moat around a little island/ hill; the botanical gardens; the rose garden), ate lunch at the Museum cafe (quinoa salad with figs, but I had a bite of Andrew's grassfed sustainable burger) and returned for chocolate cake after wandering, and walked through the Haight (around the McDonald's is a scary place), where I found one CD, but not a single pair of jeans.

On the way home, stopped for coffee, last minute items from TJ's... made pasta, garlic bread, and a pepper/spinach saute for dinner. Followed by our version of homemade s'mores (marshmallows over the range, chocolate fondou) and watching the rest of our Degrassi DVD.

Monday was mostly dedicated to packing and last minute errands... with a trip up to the top of Hoover Tower (where you can see everything: the bay and the city, the campus, the foothills...), and dinner out (yummy burritos).

And Tuesday we got up at 3:30 am to go to SFO together... Andrew off to Wisconsin, and I to Oregon. I slept the whole time. Went blackberrying in Washington with Mum... settling in at home... making two batches of jam... a walk along the ditch... a much needed nap... dinner on the porch, with the mountain and the sunset... talking till it was dark.

And somehow I'm going abroad on Saturday.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Back from the wilderness

Andrew & I just got back from four nights camping in King's Canyon/ Sequoia... amazing. But I'll update that in a separate post... I'm still trying to remember what we did *before* we left.

Our final weekend cat-sitting made up for some of the kitty troubles. Saturday we spent at Google, reading and then exploring in the hills. We ran into some burrowing owls (I'll have to post pictures later), and then wandered down to this little lake. For dinner, we went to this awesome vegetarian Chinese restaurant that Andrew found: yum! All vegetarian, every dish. Which means you can actually get General Tso's chicken. And brown rice. Sunday we walked to the Mt. View farmer's market, worked at Google, and then headed with picnic dinners to see the SF Shakespeare festival's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Incredible. Intriguing costumes (the fairies wore red tutus, blond wigs, and black umbrellas), cool interludes with a large lit yoga ball (like the moon), and a simple set that cleverly repositioned the head/foot of a bed (as if all the stage were in a bed, or as if the posts were fences, etc.) Oh, *and* good music -- from Mad World to Ludicris's Go to Sleep to Mozart.

Andrew's final week at Google was kind of sad -- I kept fairly busy here with sitting in on a quals meeting and eating out with S. & F. & M. at the museum cafe and walking the dish at like 7:30 in the morning.

This past weekend saw us at Target every day, as we kept stocking up for camping, or returning something, or forgetting something. We did manage to take a short hike in the Portola Redwoods on Saturday, and to visit the beach on Sunday. Found campfire wood (which didn't burn well) on the way to Half Moon Bay... ate at another awesome restaurant, using local/ organic/ sustainable food (yay for organic chicken enchiladas). And trekked down to the beach at sunset, where we waded and walked till we were the last ones there.

Monday we went off camping... but that must wait till another post.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Is it bad...



...that I feel like I need this?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Not going to the movies

I saw an ad for "Becoming Jane" last week, and for a moment, I thought, yes! a movie *about* Austen.

But it sounds like it all went terribly wrong. Instead of the independent, witty, and innovative writer Austen, we apparently get Jane, who has to be informed/shaped by her love interest in order to write with the big dogs. It looks like someone read a couple of her novels, thought they were love romances and not social satires, and then followed every stereotype about women's genius/creativity. Maybe they read Mansfield Park and took Fanny's character in deadly earnest, without realizing that she's also kind of an insufferable goody-goody. Or maybe they didn't get that Mr. Darcy becomes so attractive to Elizabeth only after she's seen his estate (huge!) how he treats the servants (not too bad!). Or maybe they found the marriages in Sense and Sensibility high romance. Whatever they did, they seem to have misread Austen. And her biography. Her juvenilia was well on its way to her mature novels, without the help of any imagined love interest. She started in 1787 -- at the age of 12. She had written the epistolary novel that would become Sense and Sensibility by the age of 20. Why the film makers felt they needed to downplay her self-education and development is beyond me.

As Amanda at Pandagon put it:

And, like Violet says, the huge reach of movies makes this whole made-up biography of Austen even more troubling, since it will mean that huge percentages, probably the majority, of film-goers will see this and not do the research to find out what bullshit it is. Think about that for a minute—I can see a lot of parents encouraging teenage girls to see this movie because Austen is such a fabulous role model, a woman who cherished her own talents and seems to have avoided marriage in part because it was a very real danger to intellectual independence at the time, even if you had a relatively progressive husband. And instead your daughter gets the message that a) life isn’t complete without a man and b) a woman’s creativity and taste can no more exist without a man to have really created it on some level, even if said woman was one of the great geniuses of literature who basically taught the next two centuries of writers how to tell stories.


Between her love interest telling Austen how to write (and giving her Tom Jones, which Pandagon commentators noted she had read much earlier on her own) and the film's portrayal of Austen copying down conversations taking place around her to be placed in her novels, the film makers seem to suggest Austen hadn't an idea of her own.

It's interesting that this film has been compared to Shakespeare in Love, which Stoppard worked on... as this film seems neither witty nor able to take a creative approach to Austen's life. Instead we get Jane Austen inserted into a stock Hollywood romance. But then again, maybe we were supposed to gather all this from the title "Becoming Jane." No one who takes literature seriously refers to female authors by their first names, while still using the last names of male authors (I saw someone in Pandagon's comments compare it to "Becoming Mark" for Mark Twain: you simply wouldn't).

Couldn't they have gotten D.A. Miller on board with this film, and made something in the tradition of Shakespeare in Love? Now for *that* I would go to the movies.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Weekends & cat sitting

Somehow, even when I'm in the midst of a relaxing summer, I don't update any more often than when I'm in the throes of the quarter system.

This past weekend was... eventful. It had its ups and downs.

Saturday morning we met up with the person we're cat sitting for, went over the routine, and had lunch together. Andrew had reading to do, but in the evening we ended up going to a nearby drive-in movie theater. Which was so *incredibly* unlike the Wisconsin Delles drive-in. It was terribly crowded, with six different out-door screens, incredibly sketchy (read: drugs, patrolling cops), and incredibly dirty (flooded women's bathroom, dirty concessions area serving remarkably few snacks). It reinforced my conviction that overpopulation is a problem, particularly in the Bay area. On the upside: Many, many cool old cars ('50's and earlier), one of which was playing oldies before the shows started. Andrew & I agreed that the new Adam Sandler film was surprisingly funny (I was initially worried it was going to become overly reliant on homophobic jokes), and better than Evan Almighty (although this might also have been a function of our watching Evan Almighty VERY late at night). The latter seemed to lose its humor at some point, since the premise (Noah in our modern day) IS the absurd joke. It was fun to spot Biblical references. Both wrapped up in tidy easy take-home morals.

Sunday we got a late start to the beach... got stuck in traffic (due in large part to both a Garlic Fest and an Antique Market), had lunch at a cute mainly vegetarian restaurant, explored rocky beaches, walked along the very fine sand at Carmel, and discovered where the wealthiest 10% have vacation homes and shop (where, if you wear beach combing clothes, you WILL be scrutinized up and down by the young woman working at Anthropologie). Then we shared a decadent piece of chocolate cake and prepared for the ride home.

Cat sitting, we've discovered, would be easier if said cats were not on medication. The friendly, tiger-striped Harpo has two doses daily -- I initially mixed it in his food, but he wouldn't finish it. So now I hunt him down, corner his butt so he can't wriggle away (he's like a fish), gently raise his head, and coax his mouth open/ position the dropper. The irony of all this? He *likes* how his medicine tastes. One time I actually got him to lap it directly out of the dropper. So you can imagine how much fun it is to feed 1/4 a prozac pill every other day to the cat that hates us (he's hissed at us coming in, TWICE; he's a one-person cat). I've tried every combination: burying the pill in wet food, pulverizing the pill and mixing with wet food, inserting in a cat treat and covering with wet/dry food... NOTHING WORKS! I tried chasing him down, which takes FOREVER, results in my getting mad, and him getting *further* freaked... only to be unsuccessful at using the pill popper. And then I feel bad for lunging after him. Finally, with Andrew's help, I got him immobilized, tilted his head back, coaxed open his mouth, and massaged his throat after Andrew popped the pill. Jesus, it would be easier if you could explain to the cat what you''re doing.

Oh, the *other* highlight of cat sitting. Harpo (who is the speaker for the two) has decided that breakfast must be served at 5:40 in the morning. Which, for the record, is *long* before the sun is up. He meows at our door (we shut it after realized he *will* crawl all over us) until one of us responds. Every morning it sounds as though we have a baby. "Are you going to feed him?" "I'm tired." "I did it yesterday." "Maybe I should." "I'll do it." And we discuss the evening before whose "turn" it is (though I decided I'd do it again today, as Andrew had a sore throat last night and gets only 6 hours of sleep as it is). Then they seem to want a tad more around 6:30 am. And then they're angels until about 5 pm. It's inexplicable.

Luckily for Harpo, he is both hilarious (as in, chasing own tail) and adorable (always wants his face scratched, cute stripes).

This week has flown by... Monday I explored Steven's Creek Trail (which in so convenient for getting to the train and Google), and then we made dinner at Stanford. Tuesday I hurriedly walked to the train station (still missed the train I wanted), quickly walked to my apt. and changed, biked onto campus, and found that the quals meeting I was rushing to wouldn't start for another 15 minutes. Thank goodness Steve got the time wrong when he emailed me. I wish people would regularly do this for me, because it's so nice to realize you're early when you worried that you were late. Anyways, I *loved* sitting in, as I missed out on most of my cohort's meetings last summer, and I hadn't seen everyone in one place for ages. We grabbed lunch, and then talked from noon till after 3.

Strange to spend time in my apartment while "living" somewhere else. I visited Henrietta for the final time before Meredith's return. And then headed back "home" only to discover that someone (ie, one of the cats) had vomited all over the carpet. Yuck. Luckily it seems to have been a fluke. (Not an actual, living fluke, but a one-time-only fluke.)

Wednesday I got quite a bit of reading done... finished The Red and the Black, a bit more Williams, and started Ivanhoe. I walked to Google in the evening to meet up with Andrew for dinner at the "Five" cafe (five ingredients or less in each dish). Lovely. Squash w/ pepper, pecan-crusted cod, beets, and fig salad w/ balsamic dressing for dinner, creamy chocolate cake for dessert.

Yesterday I mainly hung out around the apartment, with one quick walk along the trail for a little exercise. Andrew brought me dinner: more figs!

Today I visited Google for the final time: I walked the trail and met up with Andrew for lunch. We went to the cafe nearest the trail, which Andrew had never gone to before. Salmon & halibut cakes, salad with heirloom tomato dressing, barley salad with pecans, fruit salad, pineapple upside down cheesecake, and eggless custard w/ thyme and topped with raspberry syrup and flowers. Somehow I really need to work at Google.

On the walk back, I saw one of the white herons in the stream, & another hummingbird. After all that walking in the sun, it's nice to sit in doors and read...