Nina's Stillwater Calendar

Monday, December 31

Happy New Year

The New Year is almost here. My New Year's resolution is to regularly write witty stories in my blog. Of course, when I put it like that it sounds like homework, only with more frequent deadlines. So when I go to write I'll be feeling guilty for procrastinating and too boring to do a good job so I'll procrastinate some more until the guilt is overwhelming and then I'll write a lousy post that isn't even funny and spend the next week feeling embarrassed that anyone ever saw it. I know because this is how I do my homework. So, to start off the year right...

We don't have TV and I don't listen to much radio (typed as Prairie Home Companion streams out of my speakers) so my primary only exposure to current political shenanigans comes from watching Daily Show online. Since the writer's strike began, I have plunged into a political blackout. I'm not really complaining, but primaries are coming up sometime soon so I thought I'd go look up some shenanigans. Did you know Mitt Romney's great-grandfather had five wives? Yeah? Well my great-grandmother had five husbands and her mom had four. It's true. Can Mitt Romney's great-grandfathers top that? Didn't think so. :P

Friday, December 21

My Mom Rocks (Again)

Tonight my Mom and Dad picked us up and we drove to Woolaroc to visit the museum and see the Christmas lights. We exchanged Christmas presents last week because my parents are going out of town for Christmas, but my Mom had an encore present to give me tonight. She called and emailed my friends and acquaintances and got people to say lots of nice things about me. Then she printed each story or compliment out and wrapped it around an Andes mint with a bow and put them all in a jar for me. No seriously. My mom really did that. Isn't she wonderful? Of course, then she threatened to give me a singing snowman. It's nice to know she's still my Mom.

Post-Semester Manic Depressive

The end of every semester follows exactly the same arc. I spend about 5 manic days cleaning and cooking and organizing. Followed by 3 vegetative days watching TV, surfing the Net, and eating chocolate chip cookies. I am on day 3 of TV. I don't actually have television so I've had to find alternatives. I could go rent a movie but that involves getting in the car and driving somewhere which I don't do during my post-semester vegetative stage. So I signed up for a free trial of Netflix which comes with 17 hours of online watching. I watched the first season of 30 Rock yesterday on Netflix. The second season isn't on DVD yet, so today I'm watching it on NBC's website. So I don't even have to move from the couch to the chair when I switch from watching TV to surfing. As an extra bonus, someone brought me tins full of chocolate covered cherries and pretzels, frosted sugar cookies, and orange-flavored gummies. So I've had a little more variety than the usual chocolate-chip cookies. I keep thinking sitting all day watching TV and eating chocolate ought to start making me feel bad. But somehow the post-semester vegetative funk never bothers me. It's the only time I can do this totally guilt free. I love it. I would write some more, but I have 5 episodes of 30 Rock left. I am just too busy to stay and chat.

Tuesday, December 18

Lesson of the Day courtesy of Astronomy

From an article detailing recent discoveries made by astronomers:

Tyson said there are two main lessons to be learned from what the telescopes have found:

"This is a reminder that you are not alone in the universe. You are not isolated. You are not an island."

And "avoid black holes when you can."

Sunday, December 16

Kids

A week ago I was chatting with a possible new neighbor (assuming that we ever actually move) and he expressed his family's (read: his kids') delight that two dogs might soon be residing next door. As he said, "There the best kind of dogs. They play with your kids and then you send them home." I responded, "That's funny. That's exactly how I feel about kids." I love playing with kids and I love handing them back to their parents. Which is why I love church. During Sacrament, I play with Emmaline and Bryan Jennings who are 1 and 5. During Sunday school I get Tacoma McAllister, who is still a baby. Then I only have to spend 45 minutes during Relief Society pretending to pay attention to a lesson. Today Tacoma was tired so she started fussing. She start crying and then change her mind and then think about it for awhile until she decided she really was in a bad mood and then go back to crying. I took her out in the hallway to walk until she calmed down. She kept crying and crying until suddenly, during a pause to take a breath, her head fell forward. She was out. I handed her back to her mother and she spent Relief Society snoring quietly in her car seat.

Friday, December 14

The Heavens Open Again, Maybe

I just finished my last final and as I walked out into the cool crisp air the same heavy fog that has been hovering over Oklahoma since last week was still there, but it looked a lot prettier than it did before the final. No drizzle or ice marred my moment. And snow is promised for tonight. Before finals, snow means difficulty traveling and extra stress. After finals, it means I get to snuggle up at home with cocoa and not do anything remotely useful. I love snow!

Wednesday, December 12

Seen while shopping online

Suggested Retail Price55.00
Our Price54.99

Monday, December 10

Someone Else is Having a Miserable Day

The plant is called a corkscrew rush, seen here in a less challenging environment. It likes to sit in water and the barrel holds a small pond and fountain. So normally, it is a reasonably happy plant. I am guessing this is not what the corkscrew rush means when it requests plenty of water. While it may be having a miserable day, I think the results are beautiful. Why is it that I always delight in others' misery and pain?

A Miserable Day

Today is Monday of Final's Week at Oklahoma State University. Just imagine for a moment that you are taking an 8am history exam. After nearly 2 hrs of struggling to remember how the political policies of Prussia affected WWI, you turn in the exam booklet completely demoralized. And the moment that should be the highlight of your day, walking out of the exam into the fresh crisp outdoor air, has betrayed you. You walk out to sidewalks covered in ice and slip on fall flat on your back while your papers scatter over the ground. As you lay there on the cold ground with a suddenly sopping wet back end, the heavens open and down comes, not God's mercy, but the drizzling monotony of freezing rain. Now, how do you feel about your life at this moment? So perhaps this wasn't the story of my morning. After all, I don't have any history classes. But walking through that drizzly rain while slipping and praying I wouldn't wind up flat on my back, I had some empathy for whoever's story it was.

Friday, December 7

Mitt Romney: Mormon for President

Republicans finally get an intelligent, articulate, personable, successful, and good-looking person with a beautiful and close-knit family to run for their presidential nomination. And all they can talk about is the fact that he's Mormon. There are news articles detailing the political contributions from Utah. There are news articles detailing bits of obscure Mormon doctrine, that I, as a practicing Mormon, had never even heard of. There are news articles on underwear. Reading these obscure bits in the news is boring enough for me, a believer. Why would anyone else care? Has the writers' strike really cut that deeply into American entertainment options?

The gist of all these news articles is 1) Mormons are weird; and 2) Conservative Republicans won't vote for Mormon-style weird. For the first point, no journalist pulling up obscure bits of doctrine that nobody really cares much about can possibly grasp how truly weird Mormons are. We sit through 3 hours of (often boring) church services every Sunday. We don't drink coffee even during finals week. We donate 10% of our money to the church instead of going on a Spring Break ski trip like every normal college student. Many of us drop everything for two years to go to rural Brazil, learn Portuguese, and teach people about Christ. And, as anyone who has ever chosen to be baptized as a Mormon and then changed their mind already knows, we show up smiling on the doorsteps of people we don't even know wanting to see how they're doing. Journalists sitting at their desks googling "Mormon" have no idea what weird is.

For the second part, well, they may be right. There may be people who won't vote for Obama because he's black or Clinton because she's a woman, but at least they know saying so is completely beyond the pale. In the Republican primary however, any religion question is apparently fair game. From the debates we've learned who believes in creationism and who believes the Bible. (yawn.) There's a news story about Mitt Romney's taste for Vanilla Coke and whether good Mormons can drink Coke. (I don't personally think so. I stick to Dr. Pepper.) There was even a reporter's question about his sex life. (If there is one thing I am pretty sure I don't ever want to know about my President again, it's the details of his or her sex life.) Then there's Mike Huckabee calling himself a "Christian leader" and claiming that real evangelicals have to vote for him. Which seems to be working.

So, while a Democrat like me won't be voting in the Republican primary, I feel a little torn about the outcome. As a Mormon, I'd like to think that this country has gotten past the sort of religious bigotry that would keep Mitt Romney from getting the Republican nomination just because he's a Mormon. (Sort of the same way I'd like to think that evangelicals have developed enough to tact to stop trying to "save" Mormons by telling them they are going to Hell.) On the other hand, I happen to think many conservatives really are religious bigots (and haven't developed much tact either) and I'd like for them to reaffirm my personal prejudices by voting that way. So the Republican primaries are bound to make me happy either way. Too bad that probably won't be the case in the general election.

Thursday, December 6

Favorite Quotes of the Semester from Lecture

That's life in a Banach space.

I have to define what I mean by "is". One of our presidents is famous for saying something like that. Anyway...

Go to bed with Hungerford. Get romantic with Lang.

The last quote is my favorite. By the way, Hungerford and Lang are textbooks (name is the author's). Hungerford is generally regarded as a better textbook for a student learning the material for the first time. But once you've learned the material, you'll never pick up Hungerford again. Lang, on the other hand, will be with you forever.

Tuesday, December 4

(Failing to) Measure Up

I mentioned my anti-Ken Jennings leanings (remember that guy who kept winning Jeopardy?) once before and my subesequent conversion. I was worried when I started reading his blog that the good posts were a fluke and pretty soon I'd be subjected to boring trivial facts. Perhaps he'd even do one fact for each letter in order like some chick did in her speech at my high school graduation. Right down to Y and Z. I nearly cried. But a month later and Ken Jennings' blog is consistently funny and informative. And he's rich. He's got me totally beat. Which is okay. My self-esteem can survive being less cool than some trivia nerd. Really, it can. What I'm struggling with now is measuring up to a chimp. According to recent studies, a 5-yr-old chimp can consistently beat college students at a computerized memory game. By consistently, I mean the chimp solved it 80% of the time compared to 40% for the college students. After they practiced. Following this brutal beating to my self-image, I have to go present a tricky proof this afternoon in front of three of my professors. My self-esteem is sure to be a twitchy puddle by 4:30.

Monday, December 3

Mother, the Martyr

My mom was talking to a friend today and recommended she read my blog if she wanted a laugh (Aw, how sweet, a compliment. I hope.) and offered to send her friend a link to it. Her friend accepted the offer so my mom went to the computer, wrote off a short little email including the link, and sent it off to her friend. Actually, I made that last part up. She called me, told me about her conversation and asked me to send the link. Because that is so much easier. For her.

This reminds me rather strongly of the time my mom wanted to buy something online and called me: "I'm worried about my credit card number getting stolen, but it's a really good deal. Can I use your credit card instead and just pay you back?" Or the time she wanted to get rid of boxes of stuff like my Dad's elementary school report cards that she had saved for 20 years and insisted I take them home with me: "I saved this stuff for 20 years. It's your turn now." Or the time she gave me a 3' tall singing animatronic Grinch doll for Christmas and then pouted about all the time and effort she put into getting it for me when I didn't want it.

Disclaimer: None of the above statements are intended to imply that my mother is anything less than wonderful. Because she is wonderful. As I am sure she will be sure to remind me as soon as she reads this post. (Hi, Mom!)

Sunday, December 2

I am an idiot

The women's group at church held a retreat last Friday night. By "retreat", I mean a slumber party where a bunch of women enjoyed soaking their feet with salt scrub and painting their toenails, staying up playing games and laughing, and sleeping in late. All of which is well and good, but I am getting to the idiotic part. One of the women at the retreat I've known for five years, ever since she moved to Stillwater. We were visiting teaching companions for awhile, but I didn't really like her very much. She wasn't awful, but I whenever I was around her I felt like I wasn't measuring up. And I thought she was a little boring. So for the next five years my interactions with her consisted of "Hi." and "How are you?" For Five Years. And somehow, in all that time, it never occurred to me that I might see people differently at 26 than I did at 21. Or that she had just gotten married and moved when I met her and maybe she was just getting comfortable here. Or that I am sometimes a self-centered brat and perhaps I shouldn't judge people badly just because they happen to notice. I never really thought about any of that. Until Friday night when I learned she's interesting, and thoughtful, and very funny. And incidentally, she's planning to move soon. So, to sum it up, I have been ignoring an interesting and funny woman at church every Sunday for five years just because I decided when I was 21 that I didn't really like her all that much. Yeah, I am an idiot.

Friday, November 30

Getting a Loan

We applied for a loan today. Last week I solicited a small mountain of Good Faith Estimates, which are a lending organization's guess at how much they are going to charge you at closing to get your mortgage money. They varied wildly between 2 and 5 thousand dollars. Except that when you read a little closer, the lower estimates were leaving off important items like insurance premiums that have to be paid. Which gave me no faith whatsoever in their estimate overall. We found two estimates we were generally happy with and I called to make an appointment to apply for a loan. I got an appointment and was faxed a list of documents and a loan application. The mortgage officer double-booked the appointment and actually asked if we could come back later. Absolutely not. So we got a last-minute appointment with another mortgage officer at the bank. Since we went with this bank on a friend's advice and we were now chatting with the woman he had worked with, this was actually cool. So it was time to get down to the loan app.

The faxed app had a list of documents to bring. Including divorce decrees, recent IRA statements, school transcript, etc. I thought it seemed a little excessive. It turns out it was. That list is for FHA loans, not conventional ones. For a conventional loan, all you need is a paystub and some W-2's. Humph. My thorough reading of "the list" did earn me one small point. When the mortgage officer asked for a copy of the contract I replied "That's not on the list." She replied that they really needed to fix the list. After calculating the resell value of my cars on Kelly Blue Book and totalling Scott's 401k only to find out it didn't matter, I completely agreed.

Tuesday, November 27

Roof Advice

We are getting a new roof on our new house so I could really use some advice. Here is our new house:














Here is a house with the green roof/butter paint color scheme I think I want. I think it looks a little less yellow in person than it does on the cell phone. But anyway:














And here is a house with the specific shingle brand/color we'd like to use:













So whaddya think? Anyone have any opinions to share?

Sunday, November 25

Mount Pack-more

We are going to need a lot of boxes so we started collecting them now. But there is no space in our house for a bunch of empty boxes and our stuff. So we started filling the boxes with our stuff. And filling. And filling. And filling. It's now taller than that fridge in the picture and twice as deep. And filled with stuff I didn't even remember I had until last week when I started packing items that had long ago been stuffed into the dark recesses of my house. Anyone else have items they are sure they owned once upon a time but have lost into the abyss of one's home?

By the way, if anyone out there has boxes...

Thursday, November 22

I really am that mean

Some people think all my talk about how mean I am to my husband is pure swagger. It's not. This evening after Thanksgiving dinner we were cleaning and packing (yes, it turns out we are moving) when I found a small squishy bean-filled cloth ball. Scott claimed it was a stress ball and demonstrated by squishing it in his fist. I suppose nervous tics help him deal with stress. I have other methods. I asked him to hand it to me so I could try. He handed it over and I promptly threw it at his solar plexus. In case anyone was wondering, stress balls are wonderful stress relievers. At least for the one doing the throwing. Scott, on the other hand, is still whining about the sore red spot on his belly.

Friday, November 16

Happy Birthday Oklahoma!

Here's a picture of tonight's fireworks, to celebrate 100 years of Oklahoma statehood!

Thursday, November 15

Overheard in math bldg hallway after an exam

Girl on cellphone: "Oh Britney! They tricked me. The problem they told us would definitely be on the exam. They changed the numbers. Now I don't know if I got it right. And I spent all that time copying it down so I could cheat. Assholes."

Wednesday, November 14

The world comes to an end and then life goes on

I presented in topology yesterday. I use the term 'presented' loosely here. Maybe something more like 'mangled and destroyed a simple bit hyperbolic geometry'. I went home in shame and spent the evening vaccilating between a desire to cry and hide under my bed for the rest of the semester or quit grad school and head to Mexico. I still have to present again next week though (unless I go to Mexico, that is) so I went and asked a professor for help. I thought of asking him for help before, but I am not enrolled under him so I didn't want to bug him. So I crashed and burned instead. This time I went for help. And the sun came out and the birds started singing and I think I get how to solve my problem and get ready for next week's presentation. Lesson learned. I hope.

Tuesday, November 13

Teenage Marriage, Part V: The Belly Glance

I've had enough talk of moving and I never finished my reminiscences on getting married as a teenager so let's get back to my teenage wedding. And no teenage wedding would be complete without endless speculation about whether the bride is knocked up. No one can just ask because that is rude (Although, come to think of it, people asked lots of other questions I would have thought off-limits as well. Well, that's for another post.). Some ask about the bride's health or whether the couple has any plans for a family. But most just stare at the bride's belly. The more determined ones try to get a good look from various angles. I suppose I should have been grateful that people were staring at my belly instead of a little further up, but I wasn't. At least I know a little further up is supposed to have a jiggly layer of fat.

I didn't mind the roundabout questioning and belly glances at first. But that was only because I am pretty dense and didn't realize what was going on. Finally, after a rather odd round of questions about my health and family plans, a friend told me what people were really asking. I felt torn. On the one hand, I was insulted that people thought I would marry a guy just because I was knocked up. On the other hand, here was a golden opportunity to play a prank on dozens of people without any expense on my part.

When Scott and I went to Target to register for wedding gifts, I grabbed the scanner they use for gift registries and made a beeline for the maternity clothes. I wasn't engaged to a fool. Scott saw my face, looked where I was headed, followed my thought process, and grabbed me before I could scan anything. Then he kept a tight hold on my arm until we were safely outside of the Target parking lot. My mother offered to take me back to Target when Scott wasn't around so I could scan some maternity stuff. But I was engaged and 'in love' and 'didn't want to go behind his back', etc. Of course, now I am more mature and I don't play pranks like this anymore. I have learned my lesson. Now I make sure Scott doesn't find out what I'm up to until it's too late.

Sunday, November 11

Moving IV: They love me! They really love me!

People often ask me what projects we are working on next. This week I had no answer because I had no information. I told everyone we were thinking about selling our home ("After all that work?!?") and moving ("Where?", accompanied by a very suspicious look until we assure them we aren't leaving town). Once we explain why we are moving, the reaction changes to a disappointed sounding "Oh, well, I guess. But still...new siding..." followed by an excited "There's a house for sale on my street!" Sometimes during remodeling my house looks like a dump (the collection of broken floor sanders on the porch, the bright orange dumpster out front, the lumber scrap pile under the carport, ...) but lots of people who know me and some of my many faults have suggested I move to their neighborhood anyway. I think I get to take that as a compliment.

Saturday, November 10

Moving III: Not an Appropriate Time for Humor

We sent proposed terms of sale off to a potential buyer for our home. This particular sale required me to read and actually understand the sections of the tax code relevant to donating real property to a charitable organization. As I was listing the terms of sale I desperately wanted to add the following line after the price, but even I realized it was just not the right moment for a joke:

- Buyer is responsible for all counseling and treatment necessary as a result of trauma induced by reading of IRS tax code.

Friday, November 9

Moving II

I fear I have given the wrong impression to my readers. The earlier post about moving wasn't a reasoned explanation about why we are considering it. It was only a description of how the thought of moving made me feel. For the other, well this blog isn't about explaining my life so much as pointing out its absurdities. Otherwise I might have to consider why I am not nice to my husband (I'm secretly a sociopath), why he doesn't seem to mind (He's secretly a robot sent back in time by the poor sap I would have married to save mankind, or at least himself, from a secret sociopath), why I have unrelated college degrees and refuse to settle on a thesis topic (dread of someday graduating and getting a real job), why I shave my head in the spring and dye it pink in the summer, and why I let the dogs sleep on the furniture even though I hate pet hair on the sofa.

Tuesday, November 6

Moving

We may be selling our house in a few months. Not sure yet, but maybe. This is providing some level of stress. Possibly even more stress than if we were sure we were actually selling it since I don't know what we are doing. Selling and moving has its upsides. I always like variety. And our street is getting busier and construction is going to start so someplace quiet would be nice. And a little more room would be nice. And a little closer to campus would be nice. But then I look at my brand-new beautiful siding (that I still owe money on) and my brand-new beautiful French doors and my copper tile ceiling I can lay on the living room floor and appreciate like a piece of art and my not-so-brand-new-but-still-beautiful bathroom with the huge soaking tub that I imported from Europe and the reproduction gooseneck faucet that I found online and then I want to cry about leaving it all. So I suppose torn sums it up. Today, at a meeting to discuss selling, I tried to be cool and pragmatic about it all. Which was easy to do in a meeting room nowhere near my lovely bedroom with the romantic wall sconces I found on clearance. At some point though, I had to go home.

Crying over Math

This semester has felt comparatively easy. Maybe it's because I took Algebraic Geometry last semester so now I have much lower standards. I couldn't follow the lectures and the homework frequently left me in tears. The professor even said he learned the most in courses that gave him nervous breakdown. I haven't cried over my homework yet this semester. Though I have cursed and stomped and blown raspberries at it. But I think it is mostly because I have procrastinated working on my reading course so it has felt more like 6 credit hours than the 9 it ought to feel like. Procrastinating has made for a great semester, but the day of reckoning is approaching. I have one week left to make actual progress. Let the tears and crying begin.

Sunday, November 4

Some Halloween Photos

Well here is Mina Harker in all her black and blood gory. With a few cows, a witch, a masquerade ball dancer without her mask, a priest, Pikachu, a pirate, and, of course, Dracula.

Thursday, November 1

Sexism & Feminism

You also want to consider, is she the right woman to be the first woman president?
- Wellesley student quoted in New York Times

So are you ready for some whiney complaints about the sexist men out there? Tough. In case you hadn't noticed, the quote at issue is from a student at a women-only university. This post is actually about sexist people, including women. Like me. Once after I claimed to be sexist, I was immediately corrected: "Don't you mean feminist?" No. Feminists advocate equal rights for women. Sexists believe their sex is actually superior. I am most definitely sexist. So the question this Wellesley student asks comes pretty naturally. Follow the logic: Women are better than men. Therefore, the first woman president should be better than all previous male presidents. That means being the greatest U.S. president ever. I don't think Sen. Hilary Clinton would be the greatest president ever. Therefore, she is not the right woman to be the first woman president. Which actually makes me an anti-feminist:

Feminism will have succeeded when a mediocre woman has the same opportunities as a mediocre man.
- I have no idea where this is from. Maybe Megan repeated this to me?

Basically, I am willing to deny equal rights to women by holding all but an amazing few back, totally violating all the goals of feminism, just so I can live in world where all the female role-models in public life are the epitome of successful womanhood. Meanwhile, I am by default supporting the promotion of mediocre men (e.g. All major candidates in the last two presidential elections) over more highly qualified, but not perfect, women. And I'm not alone. For example, I've got a Wellesley student with me. And many other people who expect professional women to be 1) incompetent feather-weights who charmed their way through grad school, 2) backbiting maneaters, or 3) hardworking, dedicated, feminine, brilliant, in a word, perfect. A man can alternately be incompetent, selfish, brilliant and just plain average. A woman is expected to find a category and stick with it.

In the end, my sexism classes me in with the same jerks who pigeonhole women and refuse to let them reach their full potential. Yeah, I'm really wrong. It's not the first time I've learned that particular lesson. I won't stop being sexist, but I can start believing in equal rights and opportunities. As long as I don't have to start treating my husband as an equal that is.

Monday, October 29

The More Things Change...

In 2000 I got married, moved to a new town and started college. That's a lot of action in one summer. There's family drama and moving about and embarking on a fresh start. Seven years later I live in the same town, 2 mi from my first apartment. I attend the same school and I am married to the same man working at the same job. What happened to the action? It's somehow odd to look at constancy of the basic facts of my life: family make-up, employment, education, residency. It annoys me. I know I've grown and changed but when I meet someone I haven't seen for awhile and they ask "What's new?" I can't say "My inner self." or something. So I say "Oh nothing." or "Same old thing." which sounds pretty lame after seven years.

This is my blog, not the real world, so I get to ruminate on what really has changed. I have two dogs that I didn't have seven years ago. I have a few college degrees. I have a car that starts whenever I turn the key. I have...I have lots of things that I didn't have before. But I could lose most of them any moment so they aren't really mine. What really is mine now, that wasn't before? And I come to the real problem. When I am asked "What's new?" on the street or in the hallway I can say "Oh nothing." and go on my way smugly knowledgeable that I have grown and changed. But when I ask this question on my blog, where I am free to answer it anyway I choose, I realize that I don't actually know the answer. One more thing that hasn't changed.

Saturday, October 27

Seen on the blade of a Halloween "Ninja Sword"

Japanese characters saying "Your milk and your mom and you're honest."
- Reported by Toshi, another grad student

Thursday, October 25

Guilty by Association

I like to class things together. This is perfectly reasonable. I can't go read every blog out there in the 'sphere. So I rely on the recommendations of other bloggers out there with a proven track record of good taste. This classification system is riddled with false negatives however. Some example classes:

1. Every Batman movie since 1990 (Batman Forever, Batman Return, Batman & Robin) was really awful. Therefore any new Batman movie will be awful.
2. My high school roommate stays up late giggling annoyingly at a children's book. Therefore, the book must be annoying too.
3. This guy I lived with in Maryland for a summer a few years ago watched competitions. This is okay when its basketball. When those games are over and we're left watching competitive bass fishing and bowling, I get bored. He loved watching Ken Jennings win at Jeopardy. Therefore, Ken Jennings is boring.

The false negatives:

1. Batman Begins was a good movie. And Christian Bale is hot.
2. That book was Harry Potter. A really good book.
3. Ken Jennings is actually hilarious. He even has his own blog where he posts puzzles. If you are looking to waste a few minutes (and if you aren't, why are you here?), go check it out.

Wednesday, October 24

16 Very Stupid Oklahoma Lawmakers

A Baptist group in Oklahoma distributed Bibles to each lawmaker as a State Centennial gift. A Mulsim group did the same with Qurans. Sixteen very stupid Oklahoma lawmakers kept the Bibles and returned the Qurans because "Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology." (Note: What about men? I guess we're cool with killing men?) Considering the level of support Oklahomans have shown for current activities of the U.S. military in Iraq, I'd say that statement is debatable. And what about the 30,000-50,000 Oklahoma Muslims these lawmakers are supposed to be representing? "We never hear those 30,000 to 50,000 Muslims oppose the practice of violence on innocent people." Because it is the responsibility of Oklahoma Muslims to stop al-Qaeda. Just like it is the responsibility of Japanese Christians to oppose religiously based neo-Nazis in Spokane. Makes sense. To them anyway. But moving back to that Bible. Why was it appropriate to accept the Bible? "I don't think I've ever read a part of [the Bible] that condones the killing of women and children in furtherance of God's word." Oh no. I just got it. Our Oklahoma lawmakers are illiterate.

Tuesday, October 23

Nerd Romance

Scott and I walked to the lake near our house this evening near sunset. It sounds romantic, doesn't it? A loving couple strolling by the lake, watching the sunset...Wait. There's a problem. We weren't watching the sunset. We both had our phones out and were surfing the web while walking along beside the lake. So I guess it was romantic. In a twisted, nerdy sort of way. But there is a perfectly good explanation which I hope will lift me out of nerdy mire I have entered by first surfing the web during a sunset stroll and then blogging about it afterwards. So here goes. I was trying to view a campus map on my phone earlier today as part of a treasure hunt. This particular treasure hunt posts simple clues that you take online to get the complete clue. So a mobile internet connection is pretty handy during all of this. So that makes a phone with Internet cool, right? Anyway, one of the online clues was a map which my phone shrunk down so it would fit on my phone screen. No good. I need it big so I can read it. So, while we were walking, Scott showed me how to make the map show up big. Also, part of today's clues required me to get onto Facebook. So I now have a Facebook profile and picture and friends and groups and everything. And while I was at it, I made a MySpace profile too. It doesn't say much, but it's there. And I even have friends. At least on Facebook. So that is cool too, right? ...Right?

California Fires

My grandmother, aunt and two cousins live in Chula Vista, CA. They haven't had to evacuate yet, but they are packing. They mentioned lots of locations when describing where the fire is relative to them, none of which I understood. So I looked up a map. These maps are really very cool. If you have Google Earth there are even cooler maps (with time lapse animations, etc.) you can download, but for those of us without admin rights on our school-issued 'puter, these'll have to do:

Map of fire and evac center locations

Sat photo of fire and smoke

Some favorite pictures of the fires from Flickr:

Sun seen through fire smoke.


Fire seen from San Diego


Sunday, October 21

Post Overcompensation

I started this blog to help me practice writing and stay in touch with friends. I had like 4 readers, all of whom know what a total dork I am and are friends with me anyway. It made posting a risk-free situation. Now I am learning that I have readers (Hey KC!) who don't know me, or don't know me very well , or don't know me well anymore. Posting is no longer risk-free. Sound paranoid? Maybe. But we all want to put our best foot forward and impress new people right? Since I didn't have anything cool to write about yesterday, I wrote one not-so-impressive post. It wasn't all that funny or insightful or anything, but I wanted to post something since I realized someone reads this blog. Then I compensated for the not-so-impressive post by posting something cool. Unfortunately, it was someone else's cool stuff. Other people's house decs and other people's photos (Scott's photos, in fact). I didn't actually produce anything cool. I think I am overcompensating here. If people were lurking around here before, why worry about driving them off by looking like a dork now? If they're gonna run away, they've already done it. Anyone left must not mind too much. Summary: Sorry for drowning you all in posts the last few days. I promise to behave better in the future. I hope you enjoy them anyway.

Saturday, October 20

South Dakota

As promised, photos of South Dakota. Specifically, Mount Rushmore and the Badlands. You can click on the photos to see a larger version. I didn't go to the Badlands, since I was in DC, but the guys went. And they weren't really all that excited. And Mount Rushmore sounded cool, but in a "I wanna be able to say I've been there" kinda way. As it turns out, South Dakota is just cooler than we realized. I thought Mount Rushmore was awesome to see and the guys kept telling me the Badlands were even better. So enjoy a look:




Homecoming

There's no doubt the Cowboys won tonight. The scoreboard says so.
-Radio announcer on the outcome of the Homecoming game

The Homecoming game turned into a nail biter. The Kansas State Wildcats scored a touchdown and 2-pt conversion to bring them ahead by 1 pt with a 1:10 left in the game. Then OSU ran down the field and got a field goal which put them 2 pts ahead with 0:02 left in the game. Kansas State was out of timeouts and the clock ran down before they could pull off a field goal of their own. (Note: I don't watch football. I don't actually know what a 2-pt conversion is. Scott told me what was going on.)

Walkaround also rocked. I thought four of the decs were pretty cool. Here are a few photos.

From the Price is Right dec:


From the Rock n Roll dec, where my mom saw a long, thin, brown cylinder that was tapered at one end and lying in front of a tie-dyed panel and wondered why there was a roll of carpet:



From the Charlie Brown dec, a classic comic:



From the Everday dec, my favorite for design:

Trust in Marriage

We have some cash leftover from the Fall Break road trip that Scott was planning to put back into our credit union account. Since I was planning to be right by the campus branch yesterday, I offered to take the money by for him. He declined the offer, "I don't mind doing it.". I insisted, "I'll be in the Student Union anyway, it's no trouble." He declined again. It turns out he doesn't trust me to get the cash from the house to credit union. He's afraid the money will wind up a crumpled wad of cash at the bottom of my backpack where it will rot for the next year until I clean my bag. Or maybe it will wind up going through the wash in my jeans pocket. Or it'll get stuck in a pile of "I'll get to that next week" paperwork where it will remain until the pile gets too unwieldy to contemplate and I throw the whole thing out. His worry isn't without foundation. Random bills have not infrequently been found at all those locations. So it appears we have a legitimate trust issue in our marriage. In the grand scale of marriage issues I don't think it's a big deal. I mentioned before that I am going as Wilhelmina Harker for Halloween. I left out that Scott is going as Dracula. Now what kind of marriage issues does that imply?

Friday, October 19

Homecoming (Presented by Freshmen Peons)

It's America's Greatest Homecoming and it's in full force. There are orange lights around Theta Pond. The library fountain is dyed orange. The street is painted. The houses on Greek Row are even now receiving the finishing touches before the crowds start coming. In front of each house is a massive steel structure covered in pomped chicken wire depicting some conception of the theme "An Orange State of Mind". Soon the stereos and dance areas, the food vendors and traffic blockades will be out and the carnival known as "Walkaround" will start. Tomorrow morning more pomped chicken wire, this time on floats, will parade down Main Street. I think there's even a football game sometime tomorrow. You get the picture, it's a party. And while enjoying the party, we don't want to forget the people that made it happen. There are a lot of Greek freshmen out there who stayed up many nights the past few weeks building house decs by sticking little bits of colored tissue paper through holes in chicken wire and welding together those steel structures. And many Greek freshmen put together the Harvest Carnival games earlier this week and then spent the entire evening with a bunch of kids who had just eaten too much sugar. And many of those same Greek freshmen are going to spend tonight finishing floats for tomorrow's parade. Yes, there are a lot of Greek freshmen out there failing their courses. But who am I to care? Let's start the party!

Thursday, October 18

Birthday Week

Birthday Week has officially begun. This is the week that my brothers and I were born, though in different years. When we were children this week brought a birthday party complete with costumes and a ghost shaped cake with flaming eyes. It also signaled the start of the holidays. We knew that right after our birthdays came Halloween then Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's. What's more, this week is the start of the best harvest has to offer: pumpkins, pomegranates, pecans...It's no wonder that fall is my favorite time of year. This week still brings birthday gifts: my mom gave me a box of teas for my office, my mother-in-law gave me earrings, and my husband found a game I've been wanting that was out of production. And it still heralds the beginning of the holiday season. In fact, as an OSU student I get to add one more holiday to the list: Homecoming. Around here, it's a pretty major holiday with a carnival, parade, street painting, house decorations, lights, the works. As an added bonus, the colors conveniently coordinate with Halloween. And this week still brings a bounty of pumpkins, pomegranates, and pecans. Despite all the similarities, Birthday Week feels different than it used to. When my brothers died, they left a bittersweet taste on my favorite week. I still love autumn. And I still love kicking off the holiday season. Just not in the carefree way I once did. Today is Zac's birthday. One week from today is Robbie's. So I'll celebrate my birthday one day in the middle like I always have with cake and music and fun and games. But I'll celebrate my brothers' birthdays all week in a quieter way. And somehow, despite the pain of remembering them, I love Birthday Week even more today than I did as a child.

Dreams & Growing Up

Jill asked everyone to write about their dreams. I started thinking of that time I was fighting sword-wielding rebels...oh wait. She's talking about what we dream about doing when we grow up. I have many dreams of things I'd like to do someday. In fact, I listed them here pretty recently. It's growing up that's the sticking point. I've been resisting it for years. There is a popular belief that people get PhD's to gain additional education and expertise in their chosen field. Actually, it's a sort of Neverland where 20- and 30- somethings go to escape growing up and getting jobs. Grad student discussions that begin "someday when I graduate" are always comfortingly vague with no set dates. All this is very natural for someone who has never planned to grow up. When I was engaged someone told me I should wait until I grow up to get married. I asked if they had met my mother. If I'm anything like her, and I am a lot like her, if I wait until I grow up I'll never get married. So I'm sorry I have no grown-up dreams to share with you Jill. If you ever want to hear about other kinds of dreams, I still have the sword-wielding rebels to tell you about.

Wednesday, October 17

Layout Changes

I am working on updating this blog's look so over the next day or too it'll be tweaked and rearranged on a pretty continual basis. Feel free to leave input on the new design. Hope you like it!

Tuesday, October 16

Halloween Costumes

Every year I wait until the last minute to get a Halloween costume and every year I wind up perusing the contents of the costume aisle at the party store:

- Naughty Red Riding Hood: She's a little girl!!! Not sexy.
- Vixen Pirate Wench: Captain, maybe. Wench? No.
- Corrupt Cop: I'm guessing she takes bribes, but who wants some drunk guy's idea of a bribe?
- Dirty Martini: Olives over breasts with pimientos over nipples. I couldn't show my face the next day.
- Deviant Housewife: I thought Halloween was where women dressed up as something different than they really are...
- Sexy Asian Schoolgirl: Dress up as a sexy Asian schoolgirl if you must. Just do it in the privacy of your own home.
- 1st Place MILF: How do you explain the acronym on the sash to your kids?

In case you wondered, I didn't make any of those up. And lest you think I cherry-picked the worst, Playboy has its own line of Halloween costumes. It gets worse. Anyway, for those of us looking for costumes that cover the entire butt cheek (and really, how many of us have butt cheeks we ought to be showing off?), the party store provides "Pumpkin" and "Ghost". Which leaves those of us who want to cover our butt cheeks with a cool costume out of luck. So this year I started thinking about Halloween two full weeks in advance. Now I can go online and look at costumes. I am going as Wilhelmina. That is actually my name, but I am going as Wilhelmina Harker from Brahm Stoker's Dracula. Seems like an obvious choice for a woman named Wilhelmina, but I've never dressed up as her. So I am hunting for an appropriate period gown. How do you other women out there handle Halloween costumes?

Snobbery

I was sitting in the Denver airport waiting with the other, I don't know, maybe 10 passengers for my flight to South Dakota and enjoying a pomegranate when a man who was sitting idly nearby began to question me on my fruit selection. For those who have never before eaten a pomegranate (and this guy hadn't), you individually pick out each fruit coated seed and eat it. If you notice the picture, you will see why this takes some patience. I explained the process. Then this man, who was planning to sit in the airport doing nothing for the next thirty minutes anyway, pompously declared that he simply didn't have the time to eat a pomegranate. I was unimpressed by his busy and important life but he kept talking to me and I kept responding and I eventually found myself in a conversation with someone who is too busy to eat a pomegranate. And what does such a busy and important person do? He buys and sells real estate. That's it. He doesn't improve them, he doesn't add value. He buys and he sells. Not only that, but he is remarkably proud of what he does, perhaps even cocky. One of those "How to make a million dollars in one year and get on this commercial with no skills, no money, and no apparent taste in clothing" commercials kept popping into my head while he was talking. All this I could have overlooked. Except that when he asked what I did and I told him I was a PhD student in math, he responded "Well, I think pocketing $20,000 on real estate deal sounds like more fun." I suppose I'd take $20,000 over my next Algebra homework too. But he was summing up my entire planned career and all my effort in grad school as somehow less interesting than a real estate deal. I was a insulted and it occurred to me that I am a snob. Why should my sense of self-worth require that everyone I meet have to find me impressive? Really, I thought, I need to grow up.

I attempted to ameliorate the situation by reflecting that at least this guy was a bigger snob than me. Obviously, this just made the situation worse. I capped off the downhill spiral by comparing myself to Benjamin Franklin who said:

In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

p.s. Jill, thanks for the new word. And I haven't forgotten to put up pictures of South Dakota. I just don't have them ready yet.

Pictures of Spain

My friend Megan went to Spain last summer and finally got around to posting some pictures. If you are interested in statues and parks, take a look:

http://northernbelle-net.blogspot.com/2007/10/madrid-old-meets-new.html

Saturday, October 13

Words

I adore words. All of them. Even the dirty ones. I like to know their roots and pedigrees, their connotations and pronunciations. And I like to show them off by using them in front of people who don't know them. Not really, but my husband sometimes thinks so when I throw out words like recalcitrant during dinner conversation and then make him look it up instead of just telling him what it means. I am always in search of new words. Some new ones I learned this semester are daedal and panjandrum. Yeah, I bet you didn't know daedal was a word. Even worse, it's pronounced "deed'l". I put new words I learn on my office door with their usage and definition. Sort of a cross between a reminder on the bathroom mirror and public service announcement for the international grad students. At least, I thought of it as a way to share new English words with my friends until I thought about what would happen if Zhenyi, a Chinese grad student, correctly used panjandrum in a sentence. Every American in earshot would roll their eyes at Chinese girl who can't speak English. If they were nice Americans they would at least try to figure out what English word she was trying to say. No red-blooded American would say "Panjandrum. I don't know that word. What does it mean?" So now I stick to words that sound like real English.

Anyway, why the obsession with words? Words are important. Just look at Turkey and the U.S. Senate. Everyone agrees a lot of Armenians were killed. All they are fighting over is the word genocide (from the Latin genus meaning race or kind and cide meaning cut or kill, in case you had a burning desire to know). And word disputes don't just occur at the international level. For example, when Scott gets mad he gets all petulant so I'll notice and then the conversation goes something like this:

Me: Baby, are you mad at me?
Scott: No.
Me: Are you angry?
Scott: No.
Me: Are you upset?
Scott: No.
Me: Oka-ay. Fine.
(pause)
Scott: I'm frustrated.

I began to consider combing through a dictionary and creating a checklist: Angry? Chaffed? Affronted? Resentful? Indignant? Irate? Vexed? Fortunately, Scott began answering the meaning of the question instead of insisting on particular words, thus narrowly averting the deaths of many trees. There are hundreds of words that mean some shade of upset.

People also get picky about their acronyms. I attended the Oklahoma School of S&M for my last two years of high school. You read that right. S&M baby. As in Science & Math. Obviously, the administration of the school didn't want anyone calling it "the Oklahoma School of S&M". They preferred OSSM, read "awesome". Like any 16-yr-old would actually refer to their high school as "awesome". Sometimes the drive for a good acronym leads to somewhat ridiculous results. Like the USA PATRIOT Act. It stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act". How would you like to have been in on the meeting where they came up with that acronym? "Okay, now what about O? What words start with O? Anyone? What about obtuse?"

Since I love words, it seems fated that I should have married someone who uses them so creatively. Scott thinks phonetically and so conversations become a continuous game of "sounds like":

Let's get a quirky keyboard.
It's my consultation prize.
They were forging the river.

For anyone who cares, such a mistake is called a malapropism, which is from the Latin mal, meaning bad or ill-suited, and apropos, meaning appropriate for the task. Scott also has some unique pronunciations. My personal favorite is robotics. Seven years of marriage and I still giggle every time he says "robuttocks". If you didn't laugh when you read that, try saying it out loud. Better yet, try pronouncing it that way in front of other people. Bet somebody snickers.

In an attempt to spread a love of words, I am closing this post by sharing my current favorite word: coruscate which refers to light glinting of a surface (e.g. water, metal) or twinkling. Now doesn't light glinting off water seem a little prettier just by having such a pretty word to describe it?

A Jew and a Muslim walk onto a stage...

No seriously. That wasn't the joke. That's what happened. Tonight we went to a stand-up comedy show tonight that featured a Muslim and a Jew (a Rabbi in fact). The Rabbi was funny, but his stories all revolved around kids and teenagers (e.g. Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac when he was 12 because when he was 13 it wouldn't have been a sacrifice.) and other stuff that I just don't have as much experience with. The Muslim comedian on the other hand was roll on the floor funny. A Canadian TV station did a story on their show complete with part of their show. So take a look: http://www.cbc.ca/sunday/2007/09/091607_4.html. If you are interested in more of the same, there is a comedy tour "Allah Made Me Funny" that you should check out.

Wednesday, October 10

Driving (or Not)

I've blogged DC. Well, a bit of duPont Circle at least. Time for something new. Sunday night I left DC and headed to South Dakota to meet Scott, Chris, and Brad. Which was so much nicer. There were pine trees and quaking aspen trees and Black Hills and wildlife and art. Previously the only thought I had ever given to South Dakota was "It's south of North Dakota." Clearly, I still have a lot to learn about the world.

After all the fun we had to drive home and I don't like to drive. Which is why I cultivate a reputation as a very poor driver even though I think I'm actually a pretty safe driver. I used to ride a motorcycle so I have a strong appreciation for the value of defensive driving: Never assume another driver is going to do the reasonable, rational thing. I know I am ccasionally 'that driver' that everyone curses. And I take certain roadsigns (e.g. No U-Turn, Speed Limit 60, Stop) as suggestions. And I have a little trouble with distances in parking lots and have inflicted a few dings or broken taillights. But I've never had an accident and I've never done any serious damage to any car (i.e. damage it cost me money to repair). But when I describe this history, I don't put into persepective and emphasize my good driving record. Instead, it goes more like this:

I've only hit one car in the last year.
I'm doing better with stop signs. I noticed that one last week.
It's not like I pulled that U-Turn on the toll road during rush hour.

In each case I manage to point out something dangerous I've done while pretending I am trying to defend mayself against bad driving allegations and look ditzy at the same time. I always try to giggle a bit during the conversation too. I mean, giggling about running into parked cars can only help my cause. Making my job even easier, Scott always leads into these for me with partial lists of my driving exploits that I can elaborate on as much as necessary. I am still not sure if he is doing it because he knows I don't want to drive or because he loves the novelty being better than me at something. Either way, I wasn't asked to drive once during the 13 hours from South Dakota to Oklahoma. (Scott: Did you notice I managed to thank you and get in a dig at the same time? I just thought you'd appreciate the artistry.)

Monday, October 8

One last quote from the DHS Conference:

So do they actually carry gear and fight fires and stuff?
- Another student discussing the role of women in a Colorado fire department

Sunday, October 7

Food Safety

Saturday morning we sat through a gauntlet of panels discussing the role of DHS "Centers of Excellence", which are collections of research groups at various universities tasked with doing research on a particular security issue. In one particular case, food safety. It turns out that the government has found documentation indicating that certain terrorists groups are considering how to poison or disrupt the US food supply. We watched a FOX News story that discussed this threat. And what video did they play while they discussed the food supply? Masked men, presumably al-Qaeda, shooting and blowing things up. It doesn't really connect, but it looks scary, so they ran with it. Considering the topic, I don't think scare tactics were really necessary. It turns out there are lots of easy ways to poison people using food and tracing the contamination is really difficult. As the speaker said "Urine, blood, and water are really cool to work with. Try lettuce." I have a renewed dedication to developing my food storage.

duPont Circle

After settling into the hotel Friday night I went out for dinner on duPont Circle with some friends from my summer internship. On the way we walked past lots of shops and ducked in to a few to take a look. There was the art gallery with paintings of irises and some metal sculptures vaguely resembling distraught naked men. Then there was "The Pleasure Palace" with various plastic objects not-so-vaguely resembling not-so-distraught parts of naked men. There were also stores we didn't duck into. For example, there was the leather store I was interested in checking out since I'm looking for a leather jacket. That is, I was interested until I noticed that the pictures in the storefront all featured muscular male torsos positioned close together and wearing absolutely no leather. Finally it dawned on me that this was not the sort of leather store where one bought a jacket.

Eventually we wandered over to a casual French restaurant where I tried Escargot for the first time. I would comment on the flavor of snail, but it was drenched in herb garlic butter and I really have no idea how snail tastes. In religion class last week we learned we shouldn't take killing animals for meat for granted, that we should always be sure to use as much of the animal as possible. The French, who eat all sorts of bodyparts I get squeamish just thinking about, were presented as an example. Eating the snail swimming in strongly flavored garlic butter, it occurred to me that perhaps the French get squeamish too and compensate by overpowering any possible flavor the odd bodyparts might contribute.

Saturday, October 6

Airline Turf War

Warning: I'll be blogging on my phone the next few days. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling will suffer accordingly.

I got to the airport yesterday on time and ready to depart for Reagan Intl Airport in DC. Unfortunately, so did a lot of other people. Seven people too many. And Northwest Airlines had one incompetent woman start trying to redirect customers to other flights about 20 minutes before scheduled take-off. So I was losing confidence in my Memphis connection. Across the hallway, United was offering a nonstop flight to Dulles. I asked for a transfer. The Northwest counter called United and made the switch then sent me across the hall to the United counter which said they needed a reservation number and sent me across the hall to the Northwest counter which said "huh?" and sent me back to the United counter which repeated the request and sent me back to the Northwest counter which had mislocated my original boarding pass and finally found it and sent me back to the United counter which then asked for a ticket for the United flight and sent me back (pause here to take a breath and rehydrate) to the Northwest counter which said United was responsible for printing the ticket and sent me back to the United counter which disagreed and sent me back to the Northwest counter where the woman who had been screwing me over...I mean helping me...had been replaced by someone who knew what they were doing and I was seated on the plane to Dulles a full eight minutes before departure.

Of course, the woman who couldn't even transfer me across the hall couldn't be relied upon to tranfer my luggage. But it was still bound for DC so no big deal right? As I soon learned, there is a phone version of the across the hall pingpong game I just played.

I filled out a lost luggage claim at Dulles around 5 pm and then didn't worry much about it until I got back to the hotel about midnight and called United to check on progress. Let's pause to get hydrated before we start this time. Okay, ready? United said that my bag was at Reagan Airport at the Northwest counter and then faxed Northwest to request they send the bag over to United at Dulles. I did ask why the bag had to go to Dulles instead of getting on the delivery van at Reagan and the woman at United explained in her very best patronizing voice, the kind I use when dealing with whiney 2 yr olds, that she simply couldn't do it that way. Anyway, we were faxing something to Northwest. Northwest decided it wasn't their responsibility to take the bag over and so didn't do anything. United had already faxed them so they didn't do anything. So no one did anything for seven hours that night until I woke up and called to check on the status of my bag. The guy at United who answered my call worked an airline miracle (while oddly enough using exactly the same patronizing voice as the woman I had spoken with the night before). He called the United counter at Reagan and had someone walk from the United counter to the Northwest counter and got my bag and stuck it on the delivery van which delivered my bag in a mere 45 minutes during DC morning traffic. Which was miraculous all by itself.

All of this might have been frustrating instead of amusing, except that I didn't have to lug a piece of luggage behind me last night on the DC subway and I got to go down to breakfast this morning ultra casual and I got to skip out of the welcoming remarks because I was busy pressing my shirt and getting dressed.

Monday, October 1

Women and "You should've known I was angry."

On the drive home from wakeboarding last Thursday, Brad did an incredibly funny impression of a woman pouting for five days over something petty and then getting mad at her significant other for not figuring it out:

Man: Honey, here's the cucumber you asked for.
Woman: Thanks.
...five days later....
Man: Honey, you've seemed upset the last few days. Is something wrong?
Woman: You know perfectly well what's wrong. Last Saturday you brought home an American cucumber when I asked for an English cucumber. And you didn't even apologize. You just handed it to me and went to watch TV!

And as Brad pointed out, nothing is funny without a kernel of truth. While he was doing the impression, I was thinking of all the times I've done the exact same thing. Only I never waited five days to blow up, five hours was more like my limit. Brad's solution: Women should tell men when they're upset so that men can handle the problem before it escalates. It sounds like a great solution:

Man: Honey, here's the cucumber you asked for.
Woman: I asked for an English cucumber.
Man: Oh. I didn't realize there was a difference. I'm sorry. Do you have time for me to run back to the store?

But it never seems to work like that:

Man: Honey, here's the cucumber you asked for.
Woman: I asked for an English cucumber.
Man: What's the big deal? It's just a cucumber. Can't you use this one?
Woman: If I could use that one I wouldn't have asked for something else, would I? And the big deal is the two hours I have spent fixing a special dinner tonight that is now wasted because I don't have an English cucumber to finish it with.

Or:

Man: Honey, here's the cucumber you asked for.
Woman: I asked for an English cucumber.
Man: How was I supposed to know there was a difference?
Woman: I assumed you were smart enough to realize I wouldn't bother specifying "English" cucumber unless there was a reason. My bad.

The problem with Brad's solution is that men just don't like to admit they're wrong. And sometimes the problem isn't as small as a wrong cucumber:

Man: Honey, I hit your new car backing out of the driveway. Don't worry. I'll take it to the bodyshop later today.

Or:

Woman: Have you seen my purple sweater?
Man: Oh, I threw that in the wash and apparently it was dry-clean only. I had to throw it away.

What woman wants to ask for an apology for something her man already knows he screwed up on and apparently just hasn't cared enough to apologize for? Begging for an apology feels like nagging since you are bringing it up again and when you get the apology it feels insincere anyway:

Woman: Have you seen my purple sweater?
Man: Oh, I threw that in the wash and apparently it was dry-clean only. I had to throw it away.
Woman: And you didn't think to mention this to me?
Man: It just happened two days ago and we've been really busy and I just forgot. Sorry.

So in theory perhaps Brad's solution is great. It's just that the men mess it all up.

Friday, September 28

Being Self-Centered

Like some 2-yr-old who keeps watching the same movie, my first question for Brad after wakeboarding last Saturday was "When can we go again?" And like the parent who doesn't really want to watch Pokemon again but gives in eventually anyway, Brad took me wakeboarding again on Thursday. I know cajoling someone into wakeboarding almost sounds like a favor, but Brad has been wakeboarding longer than I've been shaving and he has taught hundreds of people to get up on a board. So I suppose some of the novelty has worn off. I knew when I emailed him and called him to ask if we were going, when we were going, how we were going, that he really didn't want to go. But I still didn't say "If you don't want to go, it's alright." So maybe I am self-centered, but I thought I was making progress by noticing I was walking all over someone and even feeling a slight twinge of guilt about it. In fact, I felt quite good about myself until I got home that night.

Scott was already in bed so I turned off the light and crawled under the covers. Then Scott thanked me for turning off the light. And not just "Thanks." He had several sentences of thanks describing how much he appreciated me turning off the light. I was surprised since it was just a light and I only turned it off. It turns out I often crawl into bed, after Scott is already laying down, and leave the light on so that he has to get up to turn it off. By often I mean three times in the past week. And I've never noticed. Apparently I haven't made as much progress as I'd hoped.

Monday, September 24

Why don't I mind staying up late with Algebra?

I was working the Algebra homework with Melissa last Tuesday night when I waxed perfectionistic and said something I already regret. She was feeling tired and wanted to quit and go home. This is a perfectly understandable reaction to working seemingly intractable Algebra problems at 11pm. And I popped up with something along the lines of "I don't mind staying up late because I am such an anti-social studyholic that I do homework for the pure joy of it and I don't even care about the grade." Which isn't true. I know it isn't true because I go to Real Analysis three days a week and spend the entire 50 minutes day-dreaming. And then I pout about doing the homework. But then do it anyway for the sole purpose of getting a passing grade. So I am clearly not into the "pure joy of math" thing. The part about not minding the late hours was true though. So what did I really mean?

"I don't mind staying up late because I actually like this topic and I am fickle and self-centered enough to think I should only have to study things that look interesting."

"I don't mind staying up late because I have gotten good grades so far and the professor thinks I understand what he is talking about and if I don't do well on this homework the professor will realize I don't get it."

"I don't mind staying up late because it gives me an excuse to sleep in tomorrow morning instead of getting up and exercising or otherwise making myself useful."

"I don't mind staying up late because sometime last year the rational voice in my head that used to tell me that 2 am is much too late for math homework suffocated and died."

Sunday, September 23

"Wanna Experience" List

Well, I moved Wakeboarding from my "Wanna Experience" list to my "Wanna Learn More" list. In the past year I've checked items such as Bake a Gingerbread House and Kayaking off that same list. And next weekend I get to check Geocaching off. So I thought it was time to review my "Wanna Experience" list and see what else I might check off someday soon:

"Wanna Experience"
1. Go to China
2. Make jerky
3. Hike the Narrows in southern Utah
4. Wakesurf (just added!)
5. Backpacking
6. Build a tree house (Don't worry if it doesn't make sense. I don't know why either.)
7. Visit Havasu Falls in Arizona
8. Jump off something tall
9. Eat at a French restaurant

Unfortunately, this list competes with some of my other lists for resources:

"Have to Do"
1. Dishes
2. Laundry
3. Grocery Shopping
4. Homework
5. Vacuum

"Wanna Learn"
1. Fight
2. Play the fiddle
3. Garden
4. Fly something (glider, small plane, helicopter, anything)
5. Chinese (working on this one)

"Wanna Do More"
1. Paint Minis
2. Play DnD, Wii, GuildWars
3. Wakeboard (new addition)
4. Remodel
5. Cook
6. Kayak
7. Afternoon Tea

"Really Important"
1. Visit my nephew and cousin in California
2. Learn math
3. Be nice to my husband
4. Be spiritual
5. Exercise and be healthy
6. Sleep

And if I only have so much money and time, which do I do? Do I keep doing things I love and get better at them, or try new things and only get a taste for any of it. Of course the answer is somewhere in between, but where?

At an internship interview I was asked what I liked to do. I started listing them: painting, rollerblading, cooking, remodeling, etc. The interviewer was stunned. I was the first person he interviewed that had responded with a list of things they liked to do. The others all had organizations they were in (e.g. Student Council) or impressive things they had accomplished (e.g. Ending World Hunger). So, not to be outdone, here is one last list:

"Impressive Things I've Done"
1. Didn't scream and run for help when I saw a spider that one time.
2. Married Scott and loved him anyway.
3. Went without a shower for 6 months. Hey! Watch that dirty mind of yours. I don't mean I didn't take a shower. I mean I didn't have a working shower in my house.
4. Let my little brother watch the same awful Pauly Shore movie (Biodome) three times on one Saturday.

Wakeboarding

Yesterday a friend took me wakeboarding for my first time. When he invited me, I was under the impression there would be the four of us and a few other people. The few other people turned out to be eight other people. So 12 people who barely knew each other were crammed onto a boat for 6 hours. For those who didn't know, once upon a time (sophomore year, actually) I was thin. Not a toned sun-goddess, but still pretty thin. That was about the last time I felt entirely comfortable stripping down to a swimsuit and hanging out in cramped quarters with a bunch of strangers for 6 hours. So I kept a t-shirt and board shorts on over my swimsuit for awhile. But it was hot (91F) and the water around the boat was much cooler so eventually I shed the shirt and jumped in. But the shorts interfered with my movements so eventually I shed those too. And eventually I was having way too much fun swimming and wakeboarding and watching Brad wakesurf to care about showing off my pudgy belly or flabby arms in a swimsuit. Instead, I just had a really good time. I even managed to complete the first three steps in beginning wakeboarding:

1. Squatting up on the board.
2. Standing up on the board.
3. Face planting in the water.

Brad offered to let me wakesurf but I was too scared to try it the same day I tried wakeboarding. And then I kicked myself later. So someday I hope to have a similar starting list for wakesurfing, but not today.

While I lived near the Columbia for the summer I learned people had developed many ways to follow a boat on a board. And there were enough fanatics out there that companies made boats specially designed for dragging people on boards. Which led to more ways to for people to follow a boat on a board. Here are a few I've learned about:

Wakeboarding - Sticking your feet in booties attached to a board and then holding a rope while a boat drags you along.
Wakeskating - Wakeboarding, but no booties, just high grip material on the board.
Wakesurfing - Follow the boat by surfing in the wake with no booties and no rope.
Kneeboarding - Just like it sounds.

Thursday, September 20

Posting (in)Consistency

You may have noticed that most of my posts this semester seem to occur on Sunday, Monday and Thursday. That's because my schedule this semester is as follows:

Sunday: Procrastinate all homework by goofing off, cleaning the house, going to church, whatever.
Monday: Feel somewhat guilty about procrastinating and mollify myself by 'accomplishing' little tasks, like writing in my blog.
Tuesday: Stay up until 1am finishing the Algebra homework that I should have started earlier.
Wednesday: Spend the day recuperating in an Algebra-induced haze.
Thursday: Celebrate recuperation by procrastinating homework and writing on blog. Followed by staying up until 1am finishing the Analysis homework.
Friday: Spend the day recuperating in an Analysis-induced haze. Followed by escaping the sad reality of my life by playing DnD.
Saturday: Prepare to procrastinate in comfort on Sunday by going grocery shopping. Followed by staying up until 1am having fun.

To Scott and Chris: Just in case you didn't think I cared, that link to the definition of mollify is for you two.

Monday, September 17

Teenage Marriage, Part IV: Feelings

This isn't really related to being teenagers when we got married. It is more related to the fact that I'm not particularly nice, especially to my husband. And I found a little comic that sums it all up which I just had to post, so I am stretching the series topic a bit to encompass this gem: http://xkcd.com/44/.

I suppose I could change and become sweet and loving. I know Scott wishes I would occasionally. He even asked once. We were on the subway in DC. He was feeling cocky about the fact that I completely failed to notice something very obvious and observed that he can see and hear better than I can. I countered with "Yeah, that's true. But I smell and taste better." He thought this was a little low and asked me to start being sweeter. So I did...for about 20 minutes. I relented when he begged for mercy. I really didn't lay it on very thick. He just can't handle sweet.

Sunday, September 16

Teenage Marriage, Part III: Gusto

I titled this little series "Teenage Marriage", but what do I know about teenage marriage? I mean I got married as a teenager, but how is that different from getting married at some other age? A 30-year-old probably gets a better honeymoon, a side effect of owning more than $34 in small bills and a 20-yr-old Oldsmobile on her wedding day. But her 30-yr-old husband will promptly start acting like a man and she will have stories much like mine. So what makes a teenage marriage special?

I am going to guess the answer is 'gusto'. I'm not putting down all those loving, happy marriages that started off with maturity and resources and the ability to legally purchase alcohol. But there is a certain enthusiasm that comes with being young and stupid that we lose as the years go by. Of course this enthusiasm can lead to overrun credit cards, ill-advised pregnancies, and other assorted precursors to a bitter divorce. It doesn't have to end that way. It can also end in a bitter middle-aged marriage, kept together because of kids and habit, suffused with resentment over lost opportunities. This is why teenage marriages aren't typically encouraged.

Obviously, I am laboring under the impression that my marriage is an exception to the aforementioned pitfalls and that the gusto in my teenage marriage was a good thing. At their best, maybe teenage marriages can provide a cushion of support that allows both partners to pursue all of the opportunities available to young adults. Having a permanent back-up is nice at all ages. When I head out of town for conferences or internships, someone is home taking care of my house and dogs. When Scott is working all night, someone brings him dinner and a pillow. We'd go to internships and work all night if we were single too, but it is easier and more fun to do it with a back-up person available. But teenagers are particularly prone to needing a back-up:

Umm, sweetie? I missed the bus...again.

Did you know that particular cleaner could melt plastic?

Well, I didn't
realize I left the cell phone in the pocket when I threw them in the wash!

I can't do this problem. I am way too stupid. Why did anyone let me into school anyway? I am going to fail. I should quit now.

And marriage (at its best, at least) gives teenagers a built in back-up that loves them even when they leave their shoes on the floor and wash their new cell-phones and start crying over an algebra problem.

Thursday, September 13

Will "Old Friend" please stand up?

Time for a short digression from the adventures of teenage marriage. I learned a lot of lessons when I lost my brothers and, as a result, two of my best friends. I don't have that many friends and the ones I do have I lose track of 20 minutes after they or I move away. I just don't put effort into it and then I feel guilty about it. So it is something I very much want to change. An "old friend" commented on my blog this morning. There are only a few people that old friend could be and at least two of them I have tried to contact in the past year and haven't been able to find. So will old friend please please please email me? My username is ninadawn and I use gmail.

Monday, September 10

Teenage Marriage, Part II: Housekeeping

I was at my parents house and I took off my shoes and left them sitting in the middle of the living room. My dad tripped over them on his way in to the room and yelled at me. Really not so different from the hundreds of other times I had done the same thing over the years, only now I was married and had my own apartment so my dad altered his speech a bit with this rhetorical question: "You don't do this at your house do you?" I think he was trying to make the point that I take good care of my apartment so I should take good care of his house too. Obviously, Scott and I just stared at him somewhat confused. Why wouldn't I do that in my apartment? Who's going to stop me? Well, no one ever stopped me. But who's even going to yell at me for it?

Teenagers aren't well-known for their housekeeping prowess and when two of them are free to junk up an entire apartment as much as they can stand, scary things happen. And I had a history of junking things up. Scott and I went to a residential high school where my room was known as "the pit" for reasons that are best left to the imagination while Scott's was the model room. Seriously, the admins literally used his room as a tour stop for potential donors and such. At the time I hoped he would relax a bit. Incidentally, I got my wish. And now wonder why I ever wished it. But back to junking up apartments, we really did try to keep it habitable. Which led to its own sorts of adventures:

Scott is really wonderful about doing things around the house when I ask him. So when I was cleaning our tiny first apartment and asked him to please shake out the kitchen rug, he obliged by promptly picking it up and shaking it out. In the kitchen.

Speaking of kitchen chores, in my house, the husband always does the dishes. After all, I made dinner. But one afternoon I decided to do the dishes myself, to be extra nice. I had never run a dishwasher before, but I'd seen him do it and how hard could it be? I loaded it up, grabbed the dishsoap I always use for washing dishes, started the dishwasher, and walked away feeling very proud of myself for doing a bit of housekeeping. And I kept feeling very proud of myself until I walked back into the kitchen for a drink and stepped into the cloud of soap bubbles covering the kitchen floor. That never happened when Scott used the dishwasher! I must have used too much dishsoap. So I grabbed some towels, cleaned the floor, put away the dishes and generally hid all evidence of my little adventure. After all, what new wife wants her husband to realize she can't run a dishwasher? Two days later, I knew Scott would be out for a few hours so I tried again. And walked right into another sud cloud. What could I be doing wrong? Load dishes, add soap, start machine. What can I be messing up? I waited another two days until we had enough dishes for another load, then I loitered around in the kitchen after dinner waiting for Scott to run the dishwasher so I could see how it was done. He pulled a bucket of white powder out from under the sink. It was dishwasher detergent. Who knew? I mean, isn't one dishsoap good enough? How was I supposed to know a dishwasher required its own special soap? And being the stealthy spy-type I naturally am, I immediately exclaimed, right in front of my husband, "Oh, it has its own soap!" Whereupon he demanded an explanation. And a very embarrassed wife explained to her husband why the floor looked so sparklingly clean earlier that week.

Sunday, September 9

Teenage Marriage, Part I

Like many couples, we have a wedding picture up on our wall. What do people think when they look at these photos? Maybe it is good things:

I had no idea how lucky I was.

That was the happiest day of my life.

Or maybe not:

He sure was thinner back then. Except his hair. That was thicker.

I hated that suit. Why'd she make me wear it. I should've realized how pushy she'd be then.

That was the happiest day of my life. They've all been downhill since.

If they had a teenage wedding like I did, they are probably thinking something like:

I married that boy?!? What was a I thinking? Weren't there any men left?

Specifically I wonder how I could have I married a guy that looks like those silly little freshman boys at the university. How did I not notice I was marrying a kid? And what does he think when he looks at me? I looked even younger than the perfectly legal 18 years I really was. Se we each married someone with no money, no maturity, and no idea what they were doing. I know that probably sounds like a recipe for divorce, or at the very least, somewhat irresponsible. But getting married while so young and stupid inexperienced has led us to many adventures we would have been too boring responsible to undertake otherwise. Those adventures will be the topic of the next few posts.

Tuesday, September 4

To Daddy

My Dad called me today to ask why it was that there are photos or trips Scott and I took this summer, but none of any trips we took this summer. I would like to point out that I am doing this blog in reverse chronological order when it comes to the summer. Which is why I haven't gotten to it. But my dad is more important than a well-ordered blog, so here is a photo from the Grand Tetons:



Now, since I was sweet enough to put up a photo, do I get something special this year for Christmas?

Wednesday, August 29

Monogamy

Other guys never cross our minds, we never wonder what it might be like. How could it be any better than it is with you?
- Terri Clark, Girls Lie Too

How many husbands have I had? You mean apart from my own?
- Zsa Zsa Gabor

So many men...so little time.
- Mae West

I read an article (by a man, of course) that asserted women are naturally inclined to monogamy. The author didn't defend this statement, he just threw it out there as though it were obvious and could be used without debate to prove a larger point. If by naturally inclined to monogamy he means women naturally want their men to be faithful and more particularly women want exclusive rights to a man's resources (money, time, affection) then he's probably right. I don't really want my husband spending money and affection on some other woman; there'd be less for me. But I think the author meant that women are naturally inclined towards being monogamous themselves. Perhaps the author has a woman and a hot poolboy at home and is trying to delude himself into a feeling of safety. But that's just a guess. Either way, I'm pretty sure he is wrong. Any women out there who never go looking can feel free to contradict me. But just because I am married and just because I love my husband doesn't mean that I don't want to grab that new Bond guy's "perfectly formed ass". Well, and the rest of him too (If you've seen Casino Royale, you know what I am talking about). And there are lots of other hot guys that I'd like to do. I don't do them. And that's because I choose not to do what feels perfectly natural, not because I am following some womanly instinct to 'stand by my man' and ignore sex appeal as it walks by in a tight pair of jeans.

I wouldn't bring the article up, but this isn't the first time I've read such a claim. Women are less likely to cheat than men and apparently some men take that as evidence that women are really so enamored them as individuals that we don't consider alternatives. I think it is evidence that a woman tends to think with her head and consider the likely consequences of jumping into bed with every hottie she can get her hands on while a man tends to think with his...well, you get the idea.

Sunday, August 26

Anal Retentive Organization

Anyone out there who has every shared a room or office with me knows I am a slob. Which used to be fine. When I was a teenager I could walk into a cluttered room and be completely unconcerned about it. My idea of sorting laundry was three piles on the floor: clean, dirty, and somewhere in-between. My class notes were typically a mess, but I could find what I needed. No worries. But during the last six or seven years I have managed to maintain my slobability while becoming uptight and twitchy about it. I still operate like a slob: leaving things all over the place, dropping clothes on the floor only to roll out of bed the next morning and put them back on, letting the paper trash bin next to my desk overflow instead of taking out the trash. But now I walk into a messy room or sit down at a messy desk and I start stressing about it. I can't study and I can't relax.

My solution to this problem has been anal retentive levels of organizational minutiae. If absolutely everything has a designated place and if non-designated places are completely off-limits to any object whatsoever, then everything stays organized. It winds up being painfully obvious when something is not put away and I always know precisely what to do with any such item. It would probably be easier to learn to relax and accept my slobby ways. After all, I accept so many other faults in myself with barely a twinge of guilt. But instead I am determined to become a neat and organized person.

All of this organizing would probably work just fine if I didn't have a husband living with me. He uses things and moves things and buys things and generally hampers my organization efforts. I tried telling him what goes where, but who is going to remember that green and gray towels go on the dressing table shelf while other towels go in a different room and facial moisturizer goes on the second shelf while body lotion goes on the third. So I started labeling everything (drawers, bins, shelves) with the types of items that may be placed there so that he could follow the rules. Now each shelf in the bathroom has little plastic dividers with labels like "Outdoor Skin Care: bug repellent, sunscreen" or "Foot Care". The whole system works pretty well. I got home after three months and most stuff was where it belonged.

The glaring exception was the refrigerator. Our fridge broke a few months ago (Don't ever buy Amana) which was upsetting because we lost all our food. But since it was under warranty we called to get it fixed (Don't ever buy Amana) and weren't too worried. Like I said, that was a few months ago. The fridge still isn't fixed (Don't EVER buy Amana). Scott eventually bought a new fridge (not an Amana) and filled it bachelor style. Meaning ketchup, milk, some shredded cheese, eggs, and soy sauce were distributed pretty randomly throughout the fridge. When I got home I stared into the fridge for a bit before grabbing some yellow post-it notes and a pen. This is a big fridge. We already had an upright freezer so he bought an all-refrigerator. If I lost a container of yogurt in this fridge it could be years before I found it again. I needed to organize. So I wrote labels on yellow post-it notes and stuck them all over the fridge: "Salad Dressing", "Syrup and sweet sauces", "PB&J", "Drinks", "Ingredients: Don't Eat!", "Snacks", "Bread", etc. Two weeks later and the labels are still there. I've tried to find less tacky looking labels. Yellow post-its really aren't subtle. But nothing else sticks. And I'd prefer tacky-looking yellow post-its to a yogurt container getting misplaced among the pickle jars.