Nina's Stillwater Calendar

Sunday, December 24

Inane Conversation

While driving down to my parents' house for Christmas Eve dinner, Scott commented on how many miles we've put on the car since we bought it. He wondered aloud about how many sets of tires we must have gone through in order to reach that many miles. Then, "we just don't notice because we only buy new tires when we need them." I had to listen through an entire monologue just for that deeply insightful nugget of wisdom.

Saturday, December 23

Ranch House Gingerbread

This is the second gingerbread we made today. We are about to go give it to David and Dana Waits seeing as how they have a ranch, and we, well, don't. Scott made the swing set and tether ball in the front yard and he thought of making cows out of marshmallows and he made the pond and feeder in back. Meanwhile, I had to make the dough, roll it out, cut it, bake did I get stuck with that job? By the way, there is a Christmas Tree inside the house you can glimpse in a few of the windows.

So we just took the house to the Waits and Dana gave it all the attention its proud parents felt it deserved! She walked around the table and looked at everything while we stood there so proud of ourselves for getting it all the way out to their house in one piece. We spent yesterday evening baking and assembling the two houses and then I spent most of today decorating them. It took a long time, but I really wanted to make gingerbread houses this year. I wanted to last year, but just didn't get to it. So I was determined to do it this year. The problem was that I didn't actually want to have any gingerbread houses. So I got to give them away too. So, an all around perfect weekend.


We are making gingerbread houses. We built the houses last night and are decorating today. We finished one, and here are the pictures. The windows are crushed and melted lifesavers (clear, red, and purple). There is a light inside so that it shines through like stained glass. We gave this gingerbread to Dee and Terry Misikan this afternoon.

Thursday, December 21

My Favorite Postal Worker

I put together a box today for that same cousin Jon and everyone else he lives with. At the post office I told the lady behind the counter what it was (sorry, can't put it here or my cousin Jon might read it) and she proceeded to stamp fragile all over the box. If it gets there looking like that envelope it won't be for lack of trying.

Wednesday, December 20

I Swear I Didn't Do It!

An envelope arrived from my cousin Jon today. It says "DO NOT OPEN TIL' XMAS!" Apparently, someone along the postal line didn't listen. A large corner is missing. I think everything is still inside, but really, how does an envelope get this mutilated?

Tuesday, December 19

Mexican Tea

January's tea will have a Mexican theme. So I am considering:
1. Agua de Jamaica, a sweet cold drink made from dried hibiscus ("Jamaica") flowers
2. Mexican hot chocolate, a bitter hot chocolate spiced with vanilla
3. Horchata, a rice and almond milk (no actual milk) with cinnamon and lime
4. Tepache, a spiced pineapple juice
5. Rompope, Mexican eggnog
6. Limeade

Aside from the hot chocolate, these are all cold drinks. And it is January, but the other hot drinks I considered are thick and not really tea-ish. So I definitely want to do the hot chocolate. Which means I need to pick 3 of the remaining 5. Any suggestions?

Grade Angst

Despite my math degree, I can (and do) calculate my grade before I take final exams. It helps me prioritize my studying. Since I know how bad my grades are, I then proceed to freak out about them. My office mate, Naomi, put up with this for awhile. But each time I freaked out, my grades turned out fine. In fact, pretty good. So I tried to control my grade angst this semester. She still got a little annoyed, but not too bad.

Scott is home sick coughing, hacking, sneezing, etc. So if anyone is bored and wants to bug somebody, call him. He doesn't have anything to do except sound like he's dying.

Friday, December 15

Scary Moments

My professor (a topologist) mentioned he had just finished grading our final exams (that we took this morning, see topologists are crazy). I quote "Didn't you hear me screaming?" Gee, what a way to put my mind to rest about my grade before break started. And this is the professor that keeps saying "Don't Panic." He even had it typed in the instructions on the final. Right there at the top: "Don't Panic." It's like saying don't turn around or don't think about the camera, just act natural.

Thursday, December 14

Mystic Math

I have found concrete evidence for my earlier assertion that topologists are like gypsies:

"This procedure is in accordance with the following semi-mystical principle which seems to help guide much present day mathematical research..."
-Massey, Algebraic Topology, 1967

I will continue to add evidence as I find it.

In case anyone is bored by my math musings, I have the following quote to put things in perspective:

"Equations are more important to me, because politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity."
-Einstein (though can anyone really be sure about all the quotes attributed to Einstein?)

Fuzzy Math

So about that exam I mentioned failing. I really did fail it. Well, I got a C, which in grad school is failing. I got a C on the mid-term too. With an A hw average, I figured I should get a B. Wrong. The instructor decided to make the A cut off somewhere south of a C. Grad school math instructors always seem to pull grades out of thin air. I never get it.

Tuesday, December 12


So I have been busy finding new and creative ways to avoid studying. Oh, and of course, as a result, I just failed a final exam :). I read a book, watched a movie I didn't even like (and I knew I didn't like within 15 minutes), hung out with my husband, etc. There is something about studying for the "unknown" that just takes all the fun out of it. I can work on a problem for hours. At 2am I might get a little crabby, but generally it's okay. But studying for an exam is just boring. No problems to solve, just guessing about problems to solve. But even so, avoiding the task isn't helping me to pass my courses. I insisted I wanted to actually improve, to DO something about my faults. But I lied. I DON'T want to do better (I typed that in the whiniest 'voice' I could muster). I like finding ways to avoid studying. Well, no I don't. It makes me feel guilty. But I don't want to study instead. I just want to stop feeling guilty about it. What do I do?

Thursday, December 7

The Point of the Blog

So I started a blog because I have no spine and I felt left out with my friends having blogs/MySpace/Facebook/whatever. But so far there hasn't been any point. I mean I ramble all day long. Why do it online too? So I am giving my blog an official purpose. I often notice myself doing something or thinking something I don't really like to see in myself. I think something like "I should stop that" and then forget all about my apparently shallow convictions until the next time I notice myself doing the same thing. So this blog is now going to be where I am brutally honest about when I screw up and what I (don't) do to fix it.

I was going to put up something I want to work on today. But I figure a purpose is enough for one day. Actual progress can wait. Besides I like some of my faults and want to revel in them awhile longer. :)

Wednesday, December 6

DHS & Chinese (update)

For a PhD in math I have to pass a language exam. I have to translate a math paper in some other language into English. Typically, the other language is French, German, or Russian because those are the most common languages for math papers to be written in (other than English). The graduate committee may decide to allow my language to be Chinese, even though not many math papers are written in Chinese. If they do, then studying Chinese would then be a required for my PhD and DHS would cover it for this year. I feel cheap doing this. I am apparently willing to ask my committee to twist the degree requirements slightly outside of their originally intended scope to make Chinese count. All for $977.

Tuesday, December 5

Hurt Feelings

Today in Chinese class, a student presented some WWII Chinese history. For about two months during WWII, the Japanese slaughtered ~2,000 Chinese noncombatants in the southern capital and committed other atrocities. The descriptions are too disturbing to repeat. It was called the "Rape of Nanjing". The presenter though, spent the first few minutes, not preparing us for the disturbing parts, but insisting that he wasn't lumping all Japanese into the "bad people" category. Basically, he apologized to the three Japanese students in the course.

Why did he feel a need to apologize? I don't need to hear an apology before I get the honest truth about My Lai or Abu Ghraib. Germans don't need apologies before hearing about the Holocaust. Afghans don't need apologies before discussing the Taliban. So why did the student apologize?

Is it because we actually do tend judge others by the very worst examples of their group? For example, I don't like the French, because I think they are self-important snobs. Germans are racist. Closer to home, the education department is for girls who just want husbands and business degrees are for people who couldn't cut it in engineering. And these crass generalizations are coming from the wife of someone working on a business degree! (Sorry sweetie, but that is what it is.)

I am not ready to give up on all my personal prejudices. For example, politicians are dishonest. Maybe not always true, but a good thing to believe if only to help you remember to keep an eye on them. But if people feel that can't discuss history in a mixed crowd without an apology, perhaps our prejudices have gone too far.

Monday, December 4

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day!

So I think I failed a topology exam today. And my diffE hw wasn't good. And I owe that $977 I mentioned earlier. Then I came home and my husband made me feel better about my life and now he is proposing a greasy yummy no good very bad pizza! My husband rocks!

Online home

If you have a website or a blog, post it here so I can post my friends' sites and blogs. Like Anil, do you still have a website for your photos? Anil takes great photos, you guys.

DHS & Chinese

I have a fellowship from the Department of Homeland Security. Don't get me wrong here. I love this fellowship and the DHS people are great. I am just a little annoyed. I am studying Chinese right now. China is a sensitive country. I know math people at DHS don't need to know a huge amount about the culture of the target countries. I mean, they do math. But I still think it is good for "people who think deep thoughts in their ivory tower" (to quote a national lab representative's description of DHS mathematicians) to have some knowledge of the culture. I have this theory, right or wrong, that it contributes to better solutions. But since FLL 1000: Chinese I doesn't count towards a PhD in Math, DHS won't cover it. Which is okay. The instructor said I can audit the course. I am annoyed that they waited until late November to tell me and now I owe tuition and fees for a five-hour course. That is $977! Right before Christmas! Ack!

Sunday, December 3


It is official: I am using this blog to not study. I have a topology exam tomorrow and DiffE hw due, and yet here I am typing away. For those of you who don't know, DiffE is math for engineers and so it is boring. Topologists, on the other hand, are like the gypsies of the math world. Everything is a little mystical and wild, including most of the topologists. So topology is a lot more fun.

Saturday, December 2

Snow Days!

We had two snow days at school this week. Never happened at OSU since I've been here. We played in the snow and ate hot soup! My mom gave Murphy the sweater she is wearing. Isn't it dapper?

Caving In

I am giving in to the inevitable and making a blog. I may lack the open frankness of my friend Jill, but I can give it a try anyway.