Old Daily Shows--April 2002

Find the archive of past entries at archive.htm. Today's entry is at daily.htm.

Tuesday April 2, 2002 Goodbye, Uncle Ralph

My uncle Ralph died on Saturday night, of a heart attack, at the home he shared with my aunt Clara in Palmyra, VA. I wrote that it had happened in my entry of that day, and I haven't written since. Tonight, I'm going to try to talk a little more about him.

Ralph Faulkner was a farmer, then a Methodist minister. I think he was a sailor in the Navy before those; at least, I remember long blue-green tattoos spiraling up his thick, powerful arms. I was even more needle-phobic in those days than I am now, and so I would shiver a little bit at the thought of getting those tattoos. He told me not to get tattooed, when I asked him about them once, saying that they don't come off.

He was born out in the hills, before our legal society had fully infiltrated the backcountry, and so he had no birth certificate or record of any kind, which presented rather a problem when he applied for a passport. You need a birth certificate, you see. He couldn't simply present himself and say "Hey! I was born. Check it out." So, after much difficulty, they found one of the little old ladies in that town who was willing to swear that she had seen Ralph born and was who he claimed to be, and this apparently satisfied the passport office.

I remember thinking, when I was younger and the world was a smaller place, that Faulkner, the writer of whose works I've read none, must have been rather cool because he was related to my uncle. Now, of course, he's not related to my uncle, but you know, they had the same name, which meant that they were related and lived in the same house and all. Unless they were Relatives, in which case they lived somewhere else and were Visited on vacations.

When Ralph and Clara lived in Oneida, NY, we visited them, and a tree in the front yard ate my favorite diamond kite. It was still there the next time we visited, I think. Strange to think of visiting them there--I was young enough that I only remember snippets. The church, behind and down from their house. The tree that ate my kite. Being impotently enraged about the kite and flinging my new Clarke C whistle, which had been in my hand, whirling through the air to stick and bend in the mud of the new-fallen rain. That whistle lives with me here at school some 15 years later, and still bears the stain of the mud. Looking at their refrigerator, and the windows of their house. Hiding under a bed when my parents caught me for stealing the first (and, I think, last) thing I've ever stolen--a square piece of pyrite, about 1 cm by .5 cm, from Seven Rays book store--and made me tell them about it. Feeling more ashamed than it seemed possible to feel because of that. Going back to the store and paying for the rock. Dealing with it. Learning. I remember the thruway tickets that you had to buy to get to their house, and always wanting to look at them in the dim headlights of the car behind us to find the right exit--Onondaga County, I believe.

He never intended to be a minister--didn't even believe in God. I've heard this story a number of times, most recently from my mother who emailed her account to me, and since she tells it better than I could, I'm going to insert her story (hope it's okay, mom!):

"You know that Clara had the job travelling around the country to represent the Corning cookware products at bridal fairs and things like that. This one time she was flying back to the Corning-Elmira airport in winter, and Ralph was waiting at the airport for her. The weather was really really bad, and an announcement was made that Clara's plane had circled the airport but couldn't land, so it had gone on to try to land elsewhere. Later an announcement was made that it hadn't been able to land at the second airport, either, and was going on to somewhere else.

"(Eventually Clara and the others arrived at C-E airport by bus -- come to think of it, you've lived this sort of story yourself, haven't you?)

"Anyway, Ralph was really scared, and he began to try to bargain with God. He had never been a religious person. But he allegedly started out with "Well, God, if she gets home safely, I'll believe in you." Time wore on, and the plane didn't land, and Ralph upped the ante: "Well, God, if she gets home safely, I'll go to church." By the time that bus arrived with Aunt Clara on it, the promise was "Well, God, if she gets home safely, I'll become a minister."

"At the time, Ralph had just a high school education and had been a farmer for something like 24 years. I remember hearing about his promise (I was just a kid then) and I know I thought it was just one of the funniest things I'd ever heard. Yeah, right! Sure, he'll do that! Well, the next semester, he enrolled in a course or two at Corning Community College. Got straight A's. So the semester after that, he moved the family off the farm and enrolled fulltime at CCC. I think he graduated 3rd in his class. He got accepted at Elmira College, and I think he may have been 6th in his class there. On to Wesley Theological Seminary in Virginia, where they spent 3 years. One of the first things Ralph did after graduating from the seminary was to come up to Paul Smiths and concelebrate (with your Grandpa George) my wedding to your dad. I think he was actively serving in parishes for 15 years after that. He helped a lot of people, both as a part of his job as a minister, and just as a person."

It makes me proud to know that Ralph is part of my family. I heard him celebrate mass a couple of times, though I don't remember either, but I always loved listening to him talk. He had a certain ease about him that was very comforting, something good counselors seem to possess naturally.

My uncle Ralph died during Easter vigil. I find that I am less torn by this than I could have been had it been someone else--we all think that Ralph would have liked dying on Easter eve, though we don't know, and he died quietly in his sleep. I wonder, to myself, what it must be like to wake up next to the person you've lived beside for most of you life and find that... you... and suddenly I can't find words, because it's a terrifying thought.

No, but Ralph had a good life, and had lived it fully, and died at home. There is a completion here, on the large scale. What's hard is the small stuff--goodbyes that were never said in person, things like that. I just wish I'd gotten to say goodbye.

And I will. There will be a memorial service this summer, and I've been asked to pipe for it--my second funeral, and the second for a family member. Until then, Ralph, we loved you, and always will. Go well.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Wednesday April 3, 2002

Trying to think of what to write for today has already kept me staring at my screen like an idiot for 20 minutes longer than I intended, so I'm just going to punt.

I have an exam tomorrow, and I feel nauseated and tired. Grar. People are sad, and it feels like February.

Paradoxically, I spend most of my time feeling really quite happy. It's just that the bad moments are horrid. Aah, well. I investigated some room choices for next year.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Friday April 5, 2002 Dinner with Nori

Tired now, frustrated by course selection for next semester, but had very good dinner with Elizabeth and Nori chez Barn, with BarnRoss and Becca along for the ride. Yummy samosas and dal and chai and chutney. Yum.

Much wrestling with Perl tonight left me frustrated by the HTTP and LWP libraries. Perhaps someone, somewhere, will have a clue.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Sunday April 7, 2002 Noirmoutier

It's been a day of failing to get things done, alas, but I don't really feel too bad about it except in the face of the massive crunch to come. Somehow, it'll all get done, I guess. I think I may have to bail out on the bagpipes portion of the dance on Saturday, though--Reel of the Royal Scots is just not a fun tune, and it feels nonmusical to me, and I can't play it at speed yet. Aargh.

I'm singing part of the solo on Title of the Song, one of the MoCo jamboree pieces, and that's kind of cool. Hope it'll go well, and that people will enjoy.

I got my first report of people actually using my recipes today, and it made me very happy. Palm Sunday Potatoes, an excellent innovation, if I do say so myself.

And now, to bed. Tomorrow, my education observation, library shift, karate class, MedRen midterm part II, hall photograph, compilers homework... perhaps some work on the silly quilt square, if I can find the time. Oh, right, and typing out the recipe for the yummy Greek chicken pitza. And piano practice, and, and, and...

The end of the year is creeping forward with rather too much speed for my taste, and I don't have enough time for things I like to do. I often do them anyway, and then feel guilty about it. Yesterday, rather than going to Sharples for quick lunch, Elizabeth and I made wonderful, fantastic latkes (or were they potato pancakes? there's much debate on the latke/pp issue. i remain unconvinced as to whether the lexicon affects ingredient lists. anyway.) They were really amazing--normally you get one or two really fantastic pancakes, and the rest is good, no question, but not knock-your-socks-off-and-roll-them-into-balls yummy. Our entire batch was that good this time around. We were both impressed.

So, when I'm in my room during the late afternoon, I make a point of looking up from whatever I'm doing and watching the rainbows dance around my room, projected from the teardrop lead crystal prism my mom sent me in the fall, that hangs from my plant holder. It rotates very slowly on its thread (red for feng shui, since it's in that part of the bagua) and casts many rainbows and points of light around the room, too many to count. I watch them, and I watch the sunlight on my white walls, and I remember southwestern France, and how the houses looked down by the sea, and how, if I forget that I'm on the third floor of a 1920s era college dormitory that houses more than 100 people, I can be back on the shores of L'Ile de Noirmoutier, looking out across the Atlantic thousands of miles to home.

I like this about my room. And I just spent a while looking at the official Noirmoutier site, and I looked at the pictures of the port de l'Herbaudière, and remembered walking along the piers there, both during the day and during the night. Watching mussel and oyster fishers, picking through the flats, and talking with Christophe about the fireworks displays they have on the island, and how one year there was rather a disaster with them. Smelling fish in the market of that deep-water port town, going hiking over dunes and rocks and down to the sea, past a children's playground, jumping a fence and watching fiddler crabs, French ones, playing in the sand just this side of the only ocean I've ever seen. I remember eating the first truly simple crèpe I'd had--a butter and sugar one from a crèperie that the Clergeon family has patronized for decades. The owner knew them, and came to talk with us, and I remember it very clearly--and I don't remember it being in French, because that was a time when the language flowed easily enough that, for conversational purposes, it didn't particularly matter. I don't remember awkwardness in France, just having lots of conversations with lots of different people.

In the photographs of the port, I can see the house where I stayed, four years ago to within a week. In the morning, the sun would rise on the whitewashed buildings, and great snails, wearing shells sometimes inches in diameter, would race each other up the walls, climbing to the sky. Chouchou, the dog, would always bark loudly to let everyone know that I was up and awake. I learned about herbes de Provence there, in the weekend we spent on the island. Then back north to Berd'huis, and such a wonderful trip.

As I write, I'm listening to an American CD of an Irish band playing a Spanish tune, and reading in French about an island I visited after flying on a plane from Canada, and somehow the world seems a little closer than it sometimes does.

I remember... so much. And so little, and not enough, and more than I'll ever need, and it's so beautiful. I've always liked the sea, though. Places at the edges of things are important. Looking off a mountain and seeing that you're the closest to the stars you can get within some number of miles, looking down a stretch of river and just rolling with it, standing with your feet off the land in a Scottish loch and looking across toward an old ruined castle, or standing on a high stone pier looking out across thousands of miles of wind, water, skies, tides, and stars, and remembering home. They're all rather the same, aren't they.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Monday April 8, 2002 Exam stupidity

Right now, I feel like I've punched myself in the gut, hard.

I'd been having a good evening--got my take-home midterm done, finished some code, got the compilers homework done early, etc., etc.

And then I remembered that on the takehome midterm, we weren't allowed to use any notes at all. I've been taking CS tests where you're allowed a single page of notes for so long that, in the mental fog that comes from not sleeping right, I forgot that this wasn't a CS test and that I didn't get to have such a sheet. Nothing about the test was secret--we knew the questions before doing it, and the only restriction was that we were not to write longer than 1 hour. God, I'm a moron.

And so, I have emailed the prof declaring my mistake and asking guidance. The midterm isn't due until tomorrow afternoon, so I could conceivably redo it tomorrow morning. But I hate this feeling of having cheated when I haven't. It really does feel like being punched in the stomach, or like walking forward and seeing a thousand-foot drop open up before you. I'm sure it will be okay, because I haven't actually done anything wrong--the only wrong thing would have been to turn it in without alerting the prof, and I've already told him--but I still can't quite bring myself to write about any of the things I was planning on doing tonight.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Tuesday April 9, 2002 No problem

So, it turned out to be no big deal. Emailing Michael was the right choice to have made--he said to turn it in anyway, and he'll grade it bearing in mind that I had my sheet of notes. So that's cool.

Other than that... Watson meeting tonight. Scary scary.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Wednesday April 10, 2002 Day of Silence

A bee stang my foot today. It hurt. A whole bunch. Ow!

Yes, I know it's 'stung'. But I like 'stang'. It's like the various other linguistic indulgences in which I engage from time to time. Yay fun.

This was another day of not getting much done, despite working on it. But I got my foot stung by a bee, so that's something, right?

Oh, yes, today was the national Day of Silence. I stayed silent between noon and 4:30-ish, and yet still managed to participate in class discussion, through a combination of gesticulation and writing stuff down that other people then said for me. Many thanks go to Elisabeth and Katherine for being my voice, and SarahK and various others for talking to me and caring about my foot. Yay. It was sort of a silly thing, I guess, to be silent today, but it felt like it had some amount of meaning for me. So that's cool.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Sunday April 14, 2002 Latkes for us

Family Weekend has come and gone, leaving in its wake joy at having seen parents, grandparents, and Elizabeth's mother, a new book for me to read, and a vague sense of sadness. I am continually saddened by the fact that we're all so busy demonstrating for our parents all the cool things we do here that we're too busy to actually see those parents. I didn't get enough time to see my people this weekend.

On the other hand, I played a music workshop, played a social dance, gave a concert, did five hours of music rehearsal and two more of dance, did dance demonstrations, learned to use vi, made the traditional weekend latkes with Eliz, packed some stuff to send home, and probably did some other stuff, too. Still, though, it would have been nice to spend some more time just catching up.

It always seems that no matter how much work I do, there's always a lot more. This is particularly true on weekends like this one, when there's almost no time available for work.
Latkes for Us


  • 3 large potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • bread crumbs
  • garlic powder
  • basil
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • fat for frying - we use vegetable oil

This is the best name I could come up with late on a Sunday night for the potato pancakes that Eliz and I have been making. They've sort of grown into a tradition of ours, the original recipe taken from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything since neither of us had our recipes here and we both suddenly craved latkes. Since then, we've made and eaten these by ourselves almost every weekend, as a ritual of sorts. We dance in the kitchen, we sing, we have a good time. If you're going to do this like we do, don't bother getting out more than one plate for serving, as the pancakes go too quickly to warrant separate plates. Do, however, note that two forks are a luxury worth your consideration and indulgence. We've changed our recipe a bunch of times, and it's not a formal thing. We have a good time, and that's what makes them taste good.

You'll notice in that paragraph that I refer to them both as potato pancakes and latkes. Latkes are a traditional Ukrainian dish, often served by Jews. The dictionary tells me the name is Yiddish, from Ukrainian and Old Russian, thence from Greek eladia, "little oily things", from Greek for olive oil. They're defined as potato and egg with a little flour. Potato pancakes usually include other things, like spices, garlic, onion, cheese, etc. However, it's enough of a pain to keep them straight that we just refer to them as latkes or potato pancakes as the mood strikes. They're good whichever way you call them. I think I call them latkes more than Eliz does, mainly because potato pancakes identify so strongly as the ones my mother makes from the Corning Cookbook. These are different, and therefore end up as latkes more often.

So, enough sentimental rambling about love and on to some sentimental rambling about food. You're going to need to grate the potatoes for this one. I use a Moulinex that my parents gave me (Moulis are wonderful rotary graters), but you can use a normal finger-sanding grater or, in a pinch, a knife and a well-developed sense of patience for the grating. Whatever works--just make sure the potato strings are thin, so they'll cook quickly.

Wash your potatoes carefully, but do not peel them. Peeling wastes energy, and when you're a tired college student, you might just as well punch yourself in the face. So wash them, grate them, and let them sit for a while. You'll note that they start to turn a wee bit brown, and they begin to exude moisture--perspire is the industry term, I think. Anyway, that's great if you're a deodorant company looking to expand into the potato market, but it's a pretty bad thing when you throw that nice watery mess into hot oil. What to do? Think with your hands, Tarzan. Squeeze handfuls (handsful?) of the potatoes over your sink or press them through a strainer, and then put them on a separate plate when you're done. You'd be surprised how much water comes out of a potato.

To the pressed potatoes, add your chopped onion and your smashed and minced garlic. After that's mixed in, add the eggs, some bread crumbs, and appropriate amounts of the various spices. For me, this involves lots of them. Your mileage may vary. One thing I've noticed, though, is that these really suffer if they haven't got enough salt--I use about a teaspoon. Mix that all up.

You've been heating your pan, right? Turn it up, and get some oil heating in it. When it's hot enough, spoon out the mixture into pancake-sized blobs in the oil. Pat them down with your turner spatula thingy. Watch the potatoes turn first white, then brown, then upside-down as you flip them over. Fry on both sides until they're a bit browned and crispy, and then put them on your single plate. Put the next batch in the frying pan immediately. I'm serious about this one--don't even think about touching those pancakes before there are more on the way. You'll kick yourself later if you disobey.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Monday April 15, 2002 Hurt again

It's hot and I am tired, and karate was frustrating tonight not least because I got hurt. Again.

However, I learned to use mutt today, and did some more vim work. Yay. Finished revising my education paper, and sent in my SCCS sysadmin app. Go me.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Wednesday April 17, 2002 Frustration

Only at Swarthmore do you find graffiti on bathroom stalls that read things like this: "from place to place; itinerant; Aristotelian." That's one from the Tarble basement bathroom just next to the SCCS Media Lounge from which I'm writing. Sure, there are less creative and more scatological examples around, but there are also the bathroom stalls in Cornell Science Library, which feature tractorfeed printer paper taped to the walls for the explicit use of students wishing to write whilst otherwise occupied. Frequent bathroom raids occur so that people of the other sex can read what's written on the walls of a given bathroom. What a strange place this campus is...

I was really frustrated today during education class by my seeming inability to get the attention of the teacher and ask a question of our guest, Linda Darling-Hammond. She's a school reform person who wrote one of our class readings for the week, and I had some things to ask.

Intermittently throughout the semester, we've had whole-class discussions on hand-raising doctrine, and have basically decided to let it ride, and have other class members look out for people who've had their hands raised for a long time without being called on. Normally it works reasonably well, but today, I spent an hour and a half with my hand in the air, and never got noticed. It was intriguing to find that I made a greater contribution to class last week, with my enforced silence, than I did this week. Last week, people read questions for me out of my notebook; today, nothing. It was just frustrating.

Maybe I'm getting old. I look around my education class and think of how many people I've grown used to talking with, how many of them I'll never have another class with. I look at my friends who are seniors and wonder what they're feeling, wonder what I'll be feeling a year from now. Will I look back at this entry then and laugh, or smile, or cry? Who knows?

Last night, I read back to the entry from about a year and ten days ago, when I tripped while chasing the car of a friend of mine and scraped up my face, chest, arms, and hands. All of the wounds healed, but my right hand still bears scars just below the knuckles of my index and middle fingers, discolored and differently-textured lumpy indentations of scar tissue that remind me of that day. Strange to think of how much has changed since then. I'm writing this entry in an editor (vim) that terrified me then, on a new computer in a lab that didn't exist. How different have I become? Would I recognize the self of today if I could have looked at it then?

It's bloody hot today--my window thermometer, shaded by the chimney outside my room from the sun, read 89 degrees Fahrenheit at 10 this morning, and it's gotten rather hotter since then. Maypole rehearsal (extraneous, probably) is happening in 15 minutes, and then another long choir rehearsal.

I'm feeling sort of sad about how much of my life is taken up by rehearsal at the moment, sort of the way Honigbar wrote about feeling yesterday. I don't feel like I'm getting much of anything from all the time I spend rehearsing these days. On the other hand, I played well in my piano lesson today, so maybe I'm completely full of shit in my ramblings.

People are making me sad lately, too. I shouldn't write too much about that, because it's not productive and some of them read this and it seems spiteful, but dammit, it hurts to be the last one to know things, and sometimes it sucks to be given other people's secrets and then told not to reveal them to anyone. I guess I'm just feeling disconnected and sad and things around here aren't helping with that.

On the other hand, Elisabeth (Oppenheimer, thus the s rather than z, which would denote Elizabeth [McDonald|Holman]) told me today that she liked my recipe for latkes, and that we should perhaps make some together someday. For some reason, it's irrationally gratifying to know that someone reads and enjoys my recipes--it's like sharing the food, only different, and lets you put a lasting personal stamp on the experience of cooking. Aída Gabilondo writes something that comes to mind about this, but I can't quite remember it; I'll check it in her book when I get home at 10:30.

I've been feeling very detached from a lot of the activities that are important to me lately. I described to David yesterday, with whom I chat far too infrequently for anyone's good, how it seems sometimes like a happy life for me would be to cook food with Elizabeth, play music with Susie, and teach myself random computer things, and do nothing else. Not possible, but strange to feel like wanting it. Maybe I've got cabin fever or something. And then it's strange, because I enjoy something else for a while, and then something comes and bothers me again. I don't like feeling like my good mood is so easily disrupted, and I hope the fact of that changes, and soon.

And it's off to maypole I go, to dance around a symbolic phallus with a cloth ribbon in my hand, evoking religious practices that might trouble my priest at home, and try to remember why it is that I do all these things.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Wednesday April 17, 2002, part two Gabilondo

Aída Gabilondo writes, in her introduction to Mexican Family Cooking, "They say you must plant a tree, write a book, or leave something else of yourself behind you when you depart this world." That's really rather a nice way of looking at things, don't you think?

For some reason, I'm awake at 3:30 am, with no apparent need for sleep. I don't get it. Aaah, well. I'll pay for this tomorrow, I just know it. For now, I'm going to stop playing with vim and just go to bed in the hopes that the weather (93 degrees today) will leave me alone long enough to let me sleep. Cheers.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Thursday April 18, 2002 Worried

I miss not spending so much time worrying about my people.

I did a bunch of things today, but somehow it all comes down to that.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Friday April 19, 2002 Writing helps

Today, I spent a long time writing about the things that have been bugging me, and though it's not done by a long shot, the exercise was a helpful one. I love Elizabeth so much--it was sort of her idea, or prompting, or something. Strange that writing words can be so helpful.

I've been deleting and foldering lots more old emails--more than 700 more out of my inbox today. I'll get it done sometime, I hope, and then my move to mutt will be a greater reality. So many things that I need to learn to do--save attachments, folder things properly (though I don't want to deal with procmail yet), etc., etc. It's good, though.

I made thoroughly mediocre aglio e olio sauce for the rotelle that Eliz and I had for dinner... sigh. Burned the garlic and added too much salt, and that was pretty much that.

It was a little cooler today, though. That's a very very good thing. Tomorrow compilers.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Saturday April 20, 2002 Not sleeping

I'm tired as I write this at just-shy-of-3-am, but I am, as so often happens lately, not sleepy in the slightest. My room is hotter than it should be for reasons that escape my understanding... There's nothing in here generating heat; it's dark out, ergo no convection, and yet as soon as I close the door, it becomes far hotter than the hallway or the night outside.

I just won a copy of "Learning Perl" on eBay, continuing my trend of acquiring dorky computer books that I love. Spent a long time today deleting email, setting up mutt, learning to use mutt, etc. Fun, and not so much like work as I ought to be doing, but sometimes mental health is more important. I worked a bit on choosing rooms for next semester, as well, in preparation for tomorrow's housing lottery. I'm not working for naught, though--at the beginning of this week, my inbox had 4500 email messages in it, and right now it's got 1218.

I'm a bit bummed about the housing lottery, actually, because while I will be at the lottery in a hot gym listening to people read room numbers on the PA system, I will not be at International House in Philly listening to Kate Rusby and John McCusker and various other cool people whom Susie says I should know because they're my age. I wish I could go. Kate sang (sings?) with The Poozies, an all-female Celtic group that's just amazing, and John plays with the Battlefield Band, about which I needn't say much... I remember meeting John at the hotel in Glasgow where the stars of the Scottish firmament assembled after the evening's Celtic Connections concerts. I wouldn't have known him, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, with a big grin and a spiky mohawk atop his head. Susie knew him, though, and Cecily and Natalie.

Strange to think of beginning to know so many people. My CD drawer includes a section of CDs by people I know, and a subset of them people with whom I've played. That section is getting larger. Someday, maybe, it'll have a CD with my name on it. What will it be like? Where will we all be then? Goodness, it's late.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Sunday April 21, 2002 Six months

I'm living in ML 217 next year, in the room Ursula Whitcher currently inhabits. I'm pleased, because it's a biggish room with two closets and is predominantly square, which is good for Feng Shui, and it's just down the hall from Eileen's new room and is on what looks to be a cool hall in general, with Joy and KT and Susan and various others. So that'll be quite neat.

Six months ago today, Elizabeth and I started dating. We feel that this is quite cool, and though you may not care in the slightest, we hope you won't begrudge us a bit of time to watch the lightning crashing outside my window and listen to the thunder and remember some of the stories that accrue over half a year. The lightning was amazing--multiple flashes were common, bright enough to light up the room.

I have just emailed the ITS people about the internet problem in ML. I should _not_ be experiencing 35 second latency on a connection between ML and Tarble basement.

It's another of those nights when I'm really tired but am not sleepy at all. I wonder what gives with that.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Monday April 22, 2002 Late

For some reason, it's 4 in the morning again, and I'm still awake. I'm not sure what's causing this, but it's beginning to unnerve me rather a lot. Not sleeping is bad news. I'm surviving thus far, though.

Inbox has 307 messages left in it. Tomorrow night is my sysadmin interview.

There is housing happiness, and there is housing sadness, but my room is cool, I think. And I've been chatting with some people I haven't seen enough recently, and that's always good. I feel like I'm asking people intelligent questions about mutt and vim, though that may be a self-indulgent illusion. At any rate, I'm having fun and feel like I'm learning a lot.

Here's to tomorrow not being horrid.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Tuesday April 23, 2002 Interview

http://www.jimmcneill.com/dance.html . Say no more.

Down to 120 messages in my inbox. Had my sysadmin interview tonight, which was fun and good. Threw a Frisbee around, talked shop for a while, generally had a nice time. Went and practiced Bach, at which I am bad. Sleep now. Oh, yeah, it's 3:30 again. Ben's quoting me on this, so I figure I'll keep the time updated.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Wednesday April 24, 2002 New flute

Sitting in front of me on my desk is a very heavy wooden box, made of some reddish-brown wood if not stained, with brass hinges and closures and little felt feet. Carrying it around, people seemed to think it had something magical or ceremonial in it--Adena thought it would hold some sort of interesting sacrificial knife, and indeed, it could have that feel to it.

Flipping open the clasps, I open the lid of this box and find that the interior of it is all done in red plush velour, soft and shiny. There are raised lumps beneath the velour in places, whose purpose seems to be providing support for what goes inside. Lodged in the righthand corner of the fabric-lined box is a small square container, red on the bottom with a white lid, containing a white greasy substance.

But when I open the box, I don't see the box anymore, nor its beautiful lining nor the container of cork grease just described.

I see the reflection of my overhead light in polished, hallmarked sterling silver bands and keys, and in the different lustre of highly polished hard African blackwood. Five pieces that look like three are found herein; each stamped with the name Ormiston. One piece carries a more detailed marking: inscribed in the shape of a circle the words "G. ORMISTON" and "SCOTLAND", and in the center, "470".

A George Ormiston six-key Scottish flute sits in front of me, and is mine if I choose to buy it--here to be played and tested and examined and chosen. It's so pretty, and the sound is wonderful. It's got some real volume to it, which is a welcome change over my present flute. I'm not allowed to play this one much yet--got to give it time to adjust to being played--but the comparison is a striking one. Next to the Ormiston, my nameless German flute sounds anemic and out of tune, which it sort of is.

This one tunes to A=440 Hz with the slide 1" out, and I can tune it to A=Bb if I want to. The keys are slightly differently placed, but are much easier to work and seem well designed. The sound is clear and beautiful. And suddenly my day is so brilliant.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Friday April 26, 2002 Coding

Exhausted now after some 15 hours of writing code today, and frustrated beyond belief by stupid Perl and its ability to do almost what I want, but not quite, and to behave in bizarre non-documented ways. Gr.

And for some reason, ML third's internet connection is really slow, and while the ITS seems to have lots of time for exercising formal complaints against students, they don't have any at all for answering (or even acknowledging) my request for information about why we have had such a sudden and pronounced slowdown. Gr.

Tomorrow = choir concert. Yay, or something. I wish I didn't have to spend the entire bloody day coding.

Please size your w
indow so this bar is the same width as the white table
Saturday April 27, 2002 Coding works!

So the perl script works, finally. In the People: box to the right, you may notice that a couple of names have a '+' next to them. This is the output of my script, which annotates those members of the link list that have updated their webjournals (or anything else, really) since some arbitrary point--whenever the script was last run. This turns out to be a surprisingly difficult problem, due to poor implementation of HTTP standards. Servers are supposed to return a standard set of headers when asked, which makes finding modification times really easy, but they don't really do it. I won't go into the details of the script here, but suffice it to say that I learned a bunch about Perl and modules and stuff from writing the updater.

So it's now running as a cronjob, set to update everything once a day and mark those people who've updated in the last 24 hours. I think it's even non-broken at this point. Yay perl!

Tomorrow I will get up at 7, and Elizabeth and I will take trains to NYC: me for a pair of recital rehearsals; she for a visit with Daniel, a highschool friend who now attends Yale. It'll be nice, I think.

Tonight was the choir concert, in which we performed Brahms's Deutsches Requiem. Midway through one of the movements, I decided that I was going to dedicate my performance of it to my Uncle Ralph. So, wherever you are, this one was for you. We miss you down here.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Sunday April 28, 2002 A sysadmin in NYC

Today, I am a sysadmin, according to the email I received from the president of the SCCS and the web page thereof. Coolness. I'm so excited! Though I missed the first meeting--I was in a car on the way back from NYC--I think it'll be a lot of fun, and really good. So that's massively cool.

So, I was in NYC today, and while it's not my city, it's a city with which I am beginning to grow friendly. Elizabeth and I took SEPTA from Swarthmore to 30th Street, stopped for excellent breakfast on Asiago bagels from ABP (Au Bon Pain, for the francophones among us), and continued on to Trenton and New York-Penn Station. We got in at a bit before noon, and split up--she to visit a friend from high school, me to my rehearsal at Barnard College and later at the Juilliard School.

I sat and watched people as I waited in subway cars. There was a little old man in one of them, wearing all black except for his brightly colored Royal Stewart tartan scarf, who sat very silently until it was time to get off the train. He then muttered quietly at the door for not opening fast enough, and when it did open, he sort of stumbled off into the realm of people I'll never see again. He looked like he could have been nice, though.

Waiting for a train, I watched a subway rat wandering around under the tracks, looking for stray "food"-items people drop. It was small and very, very quick, with a long tail perfect for helping it to balance on things. I don't know what it thought of me, but I liked it.

I felt silly when, riding the 1 line north past 59th Street station, I was unable to keep Simon & Garfunkel out of my head, and it was all I could do to keep from singing to the people in the train.

Long rehearsals ensued--six hours of them--in which I was not entirely a dumbass, to my surprise and joy. I've played in Barnard and Juilliard now, and they're both nice. So many things to say, about roads left untaken and stuff like that, but it's not all that important to write them, I guess. I'm glad I didn't apply to Juilliard.

After rehearsal, Susie and Elizabeth and I trekked uptown to Zabar's, only to find that it was closed, and headed back to the car, stopping inside Fairways to get yummy dinner. We dined in the car on baguette and brie and hummus and kalamata olive and orange juice and carrot and digestive biscuit. It was so good.

It's been a good day. Now I just have to get some sleep before my observation tomorrow.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table
Tuesday April 30, 2002 Frazzled

Rabi was wearing wings today. I approved mightily.

Things continue to be sort of up-and-down here, with everyone overtired and most of us having rather frazzled nerves. Alas, it seems to go with the season, which is rainy at the moment but still rather pretty. I've always liked it when it's misty out, when the overhead electric lines hum faintly as you walk underneath them. That happens in mist here; snow in December often does it at home.

Everything here has turned green, particularly in that dusky darkening time just before night, when the green hunkers down and spreads itself over the world. The trees like it--they remember what it's like to be masters of their domain, and they own the space more than they ever do in the winter

I got angry with a friend of mine tonight, and wished I hadn't. Sorry about that, folks.

Please size your window so this bar is the same width as the white table