Old Daily Shows--January 2002

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

Wednesday January 2, 2002 Chocolates, recipes, and piano tuning

Have you ever really gotten to know some chocolate? Have you touched its inner soul, felt its hows and whys and little idiosyncrasies?

I have. Making chocolate truffles is an experience, let me tell you. One, in my case, fraught with innovation, peril, excitement, and frequent personal references to Miracle Max and Valerie from The Princess Bride. First, I had to figure out how to form the centers. The recipe kindly says "form into 1 inch balls". Well, that's helpful. Ever try to form chilled butter compound into a ball? It splinters. "Warm it up", you say. No, no, no. Then it sticks to your hands. This is really fabulous if what you're looking for is an emollient, but when you want firm balls of chocolate filling, it just doesn't cut it. Ah, well. We finally hit on the idea of using the pastry press. Bam! (shudder) That worked beautifully. I tempered my chocolate coating beautifully, tested it, and it worked well.

Of course, the problem with dipping the chocolate centers as the recipe says is that it doesn't work.

The centers are too soft. "Chill them", you say. Nope. Temperature shock makes the coating lose temper. In the end, I used a different method. Stuck the centers out on the back porch so they'd chill, and when they came in, I got my mother to help me with the palm-rolling method.

And this is why I know what it feels like to have chocolate running over and between my hands, oozing through the interstices between my fingers, and hardening on my knuckles. You pour a spoonful of molten chocolate into a palm, and then roll the centers in it with your other hand. Beautiful, simple, and imperfect, but it worked. She did the spooning and the passing of centers, and I rolled. And now I have a trayful of first-batch chocolates. Cool.

Can you tell that I watched Chocolat recently? And really, when you're tempering chocolate, it looks rather like the vats of chocolate that Vianne stirs in the movie.

Todd Alessi came to tune our piano today, which was cool, because he taught me basic piano tuning. Also sold me enough tools that I can work on tuning the pianos at school, since it becomes increasingly apparent that the administration has little interest in hiring someone to do so. A tuning hammer, set of mutes, and a felt temperament strip. Eventually I'll get another tuning fork or a chromatic tuner, and I'll be all set.

A couple of recipes for your amusement.

Cheese and chile soup


  • a few tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can mild green chiles
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 potatoes, washed and diced
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 Tsp. cumin seed
  • 1/2 Tsp. sage
  • black pepper
  • 3 bouillon cubes, of your chosen flavor
  • 1 can or 1/2 bag frozen corn
  • 6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup milk or cream
  • 1 Tsp. chopped pickled jalapenos

Heat your pan, etc., per my normal laborious instructions. Start sauteeing the onions and garlic. While you do that, puree (no, it's late, and I'm not going to type out the escape codes for accents, so you can just deal with my self-indulgent-not-quite-French) the chiles and the tomatoes together. Dice your potatoes, after washing them and peeling if that's your thing. Add the flour to the saute mixture and cook it for a bit, then add the pureed vegetables and the potatoes. Toss in the cumin seeds and sage, along with about a cup of water, and cook it for a few minutes.

Put in a lot of water, the pepper, and the corn. Cover, and turn your heat to medium high. Stir, and cook until the potatoes are soft. Chop your cheddar into small bits during this time. Don't eat too many of the small bits, silly. I have this problem.

Anyway, just before serving, turn off the heat, dump in the cheese, and stir. Pour in the milk, and toss in your jalapenos. Stir some more, for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese melts. Eat. Yum. I want more now.



  • 1 block kefalotiri, kasseri, or feta cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 1 loaf of yummy bread
  • fire

Heat your pan, oil it, yes, I'm not very original, everything I cook involves these steps, jeez, if I were going to make lemonade or ice cream it'd probably involve olive oil, a pan, and careful heating. Start warming your bread in the oven, too.

Cut your lemon in half. Squeeze half into a bowl. Slice your cheese in something like 1/4" or 1/2" slices. Dredge each slice in lemon juice, then in breadcrumbs, and sautee. You want the slices to become slightly browned and a little crispy. When you're getting close, put the brandy in a saucepan and heat it to just below boiling.

Take the cheese out of the pan, put it in a flameproof serving dish, and take care to mind your eyebrows for the next bit. Pour the hot brandy around it, and say in an appropriately stentorian voice, "Opa!". Say it like Opie's father, you know, "OHp-pa!", and as you do so, apply the fire to the brandy.

Now, if you know me at all, you'll know that this is a truly great dish, because it combines two of my favorite subjects: fire/pyrotechnics, and food. Do not serve this food in a room with a low ceiling, and please don't stand over it when you light it, as the flames are sometimes 3-5 feet high. Once they've gone out, squeeze the other lemon half over the cheese. Spread it onto hastily-ripped hunks of the bread. This dish rarely lasts 4 minutes.

And there we go.

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Thursday January 3, 2002 Music and moods

I sometimes forget how easily influenced I am by music.

Just now, I didn't feel like writing anything here, and I was rather depressed about Elizabeth leaving to go skiing with her Dad (have fun, sweetie! safe trip and all that, because even though I've said it once on the phone and once by email, I still sort of keep saying it, or something), and the room was all dark and sad, and I just felt really pathetic and lonely and worthless. I was on the point of just packing it in and going to sleep like that, after a non-inspiring IM conversation.

Then I wondered what had changed my mood from its earlier jovial self. Sure enough, playing on the headphones is the rather depressing first movement of Brahms's first symphony, sitting there as the soundtrack to my thoughts and making them sad. I replaced it with the second symphony, and suddenly the room went back to normal lighting, and I felt better. Not entirely okay, mind, but a lot better. So, I guess I'm a musician, or something.

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Friday January 4, 2002 Helping

I went and talked with my old friend Bryan this afternoon, and helped his family decide on a new computer. And it was weird--I felt good at it. I felt like I helped them make a decision that, as they said, was really hard without the information.

And it felt effortless. A small thing, perhaps, but it was satisfying.

Went and practiced bagpipes at 10:15 pm in the quiet Episcopal church. I brought my mother along, and she sat in a pew and stitched basting on the jacket she's making while I tuned and played and marched and was frustrated. Bagpipes are quite the contrary instruments. But we'll get them there.

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Saturday January 5, 2002 Harry Potter

I saw Harry Potter today! It was quite yummy. Hagrid kicks ass, as he should, and other characters seemed well cast as well.

Today I Was Reading An Amazon.Com Book List Written By Someone Who Liked To Capitalize Every Word In Her Sentences. As An Honor To Her Efforts, I Have Decided To Write An Entire Paragraph Like This, Capitalizing Every Word After Her Fashion. I Find That It Greatly Increases The Meaning Of The Words To Capitalize Them All Like This, And That, As Mr. White Says In The Elements Of Style, Every Word Tells, And It Tells More Like This.

Right then, enough of that. I'm bummed. My flute has three new cracks in it, despite the scrupulous care I've taken of it. Grr. I want an instrument, not an expensive piece of historic kindling.

But in spite of that, it's been a good day. Dad discovered a cool new recipe for a tortellini bake in one of the cookbooks, and we had it for dinner. Yum!

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Monday January 7, 2002 New and old

So, as you can probably tell, I've been working on a layout update. It's not done yet, but there are some things I wanted to check on other systems. So, here's my request for you: if anything on this looks weird (or good), please email me.

It's so strange to look for ways to represent oneself in type, and moreover, user-rendered type. What typeface looks like the way I see my words, and is available on a bunch of computers. In the end, after a lot of dickering about, I went back to good 'ol Book Antiqua, my standby. Compliance with the stupidly-chosen web-safe palette is gone, at least until people start complaining about its absence. I wanted colors that weren't among the Elite 216.

So I updated a lot of old stuff, and played with new things, wrote and discarded a lot of cascading style sheets, and generally was not much use to humanity tonight. Ah well. I'm listening to Simon & Garfunkel, though, and that's got to count for something. Feng shui teaches that things don't have to be visible to have power--a colored piece of cloth that's hidden behind a photograph on the wall is just as potent as one that adorns the frame--and I wonder if the same is true of music, if the world is, perhaps, improved somehow because I'm listening to Song For The Asking here in snowy upstate New York.

Where it's cold, reportedly 5 degrees below zero, and I love it.

My flute is off to parts south, limping down on UPS airplanes to the flute doctor in Philadelphia, who will (we hope) fix it up, make it happy, feed it chicken soup, epoxy, and ebony dust, and turn it into a playable instrument by Friday afternoon. It's in Syracuse right now, perhaps sitting on a counter, maybe being loaded onto a truck or into a new airplane. I'll think good thoughts at it, for twisted baby though it may be, it's mine, and I want it to be happy and musical. Here's to you, flute. Be well.

As you can guess, it's getting late, and I am getting punchy.

The award for most random (recent) search request that found the DS goes to this one. Apparently "toughen up my feet" and "Tae Kwon Do" just shout "Hollis" to some people.

Okay, what the heck. I just looked farther down in the referrers list, and someone else found me today using "groin karate women". I am being stalked by a random martial arts fiend. Or maybe not so random, given some of the other requests. Ah well, at least now I have a hunch.

Like a clever two-year-old, I just dumped my bowl of popcorn all over myself, my chair, and the floor. A little Pompeii of popcorn kernels describes the floor. Unlike the two-year-old, I did it by accident, and was momentarily quite put out by the experience. I wanted that popcorn, darnit!

In retrospect, nope. Hasn't diminished a bit.

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Tuesday January 8, 2002 Reminiscing

I had no idea on the 16th of July in 2000 what an effect that particular Chris Layer concert would have on my life.

And on Sunday I'm flying to Scotland with the pianist I met at that concert, to study bagpipes with someone whose name I first heard from the lead drummer of my bagpipe band, long before I'd met Chris or anyone else.

Funny how life is like that.

Today's a good day for remembering things, thinking back about them, sitting with them for a little while. So light a candle tonight, for whatever reason. Think about friends you haven't seen in a while, people who're sick and need comfort, times you sat and laughed like you haven't done in years...

And think about the recipe I might write out for you tomorrow. Do people actually like it if I write down recipes? Let me know.

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Wednesday January 9, 2002 Recipes and musings

I'm listening to Simon & Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence, the expanded version, and though it's a great album, the song on which my mind keeps coming to rest is one of the tracks that wasn't on the original release, "Blues Run The Game". It's strange, because the lyrics don't describe my life much, although interpreting lyrics has never been my strong point. It's written in that quiet, contemplative mode of songwriting that is, for many of us, an S&G trademark. And so it sticks in my head, my own personal Ohrwurm for as long as I listen.

My flute has been delivered to Vintage Instruments, which I hope means it is on its way to being happily fixed up, and it will return to me fresh, not filled with that sort of halting, drugged walk that seems to follow things just returned from the operating room. If the universe is kind, it will return to me playing in A=440 Hz, with a powerful low D, the chunk in its footjoint filled, the cracks in barrel and headjoint filled, and filled with joy at having been cared for. We'll hope.

Pasta alla fiaccheraia


  • olive oil
  • 1 cup minced cooked ham
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seed
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin seed
  • 2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, or use fresh
  • 1 bouillon cube, dissolved in 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

So, the name for this is stolen from Spaghetti alla fiaccheraia, on page 178 of Giuliano Buglialli's Fine Art of Italian Cooking. I thought of what I wanted to do, and I wanted to make sure it wasn't entirely from left field, so I went stalking, and found that it's an actual style of sauce. Of course, it ought to be made with pancetta or prosciutto, but I had ham, so I used ham. Anyway, the name means "in the coachmen's style", and the book has a lovely little tale about how coachmen are apparently the rogueish ruffians of Italy.

Heat pan. Heat a bit of olive oil in it. Or use canola oil. Hell, use rendered fat from a transplanted expatriate yak that, until recently, lived a peaceful life in a rural village in Appalachia. Point is, heat up some cooking medium in your nice hot pan. Eventually I'm going to get tired of beating this point into the ground, but not yet.

Toss the minced ham into it. Yes, I was doing this to use up some of the nice ham we had. Yes, you can do it without it. Saute the nice ham, but don't burn it. Once it's browned, toss in your onions, garlic, and carrots. Cook for a while, until the onions start getting all translucent and yummy.

Pour in the wine, and stir it. Put in the chile and the seeds. Cook it for a while, until you get bored. If you have a really long attention span, this probably isn't the recipe for you. Once it's looking all happy, pour in the tomatoes and your bouillon (or you can be all cool and have actual stock or demi-glace in your sauce).

Cook it. Let it boil a bit, and keep it hot for 15-20 minutes, or however long you feel like waiting. Make sure it's nice and warm, and it won't be too picky. Toss in the oregano and Parmesan, and stir. Serve over the nice pasta you've been making.

Note: do not make the mistake I made and trust the pasta manufacturer to know how to cook its own pasta. You'd think that the boiling point of water would be a relatively standard thing, and that cooking time would make sense, but no. I cooked their penne a minute less than the shortest time recommended, and rather than al dente I got al nonagenarionne. Caveat eator.

It strikes me with a sense of unreality that I'm leaving for Scotland this weekend, and I'm still nervous about it. Wish me luck, O people! Still, I will record lots of music, and see people. I'm still debating bringing my camera. Should I? It's a lot of space, you know. We shall see about that, as well.

I got a letter in the mail today. It made me happy, and I'm not going to tell you more about it than that, but I wanted to say that it made me happy.

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Thursday January 10, 2002 Errands and leaving

"Mouses, why are you walking? Don't you know that you'll get wet?" and other strange and cracked lyrics from Seelyhoo, who are just that cool and a half.

Even if they're on crack.

Today I drove all over the north country running errands for Reachout, and saw my dad at work in the courthouse over in Canton. It's a nice building, and it always surprises me how much the space seems to exude confidence. If you walk through different buildings, you'll get a feel for them--what energy they put out, and this one says "I'm here, and I know what I'm doing." Or at least, that's how it seemed to me today. After seeing him, I went down to the basement, where the Department of Motor Vehicles lives, and I renewed my license. Apparently I'm not blind yet, as I can still tell the difference between a monkey and a President at 30 feet, and I got to have a new picture taken. This one's also not so ideal, but at least somewhat better than the last. A new picture to show to friends, relatives, and random store employees for the next eight years.

My mother's really awesome, though--she made these little case liners for the MiniDisc gear, and it's just that cool. I can't describe, but come visit and I will show.

And really, I really don't like goodbyes. I hate having to say them, because there's always so much that's left to be said. So I'll just say it in my head, and hope they hear.

I read a book about sleep tonight. Why, you ask, am I awake typing, rather than sleeping? Got me.

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Friday January 11, 2002 Hiccups whilst bagpiping

I discovered today that it's virtually impossible to play the bagpipes when you've got hiccups. I tried for about 40 minutes tonight, and then gave up in frustration. See, the thing about hiccups is that they don't just mess up your airstream--they also make you convulse. So it knocks the drones off your shoulder every time you get a hiccup. Quite annoying. I gave it up.

Before that, I went to Shye's for the last game day before I leave Potsdam. We played TriBond and Guesstures while I was there; both were great fun. I'll miss these people.

Frankly, I'm going to miss everyone here, and that becomes more clear with each passing day. I didn't get enough done, of course, but it was really nice to be at home.

As you may have guessed, I'm leaving tomorrow, and the Daily Show is therefore taking a hiatus, most likely until Sunday the 20th or Monday the 21st of January.

Tomorrow, we'll drive to Swarthmore, and meet up with Susie. That's five degrees latitude south. Sunday, we drive to Baltimore (about a quarter degree south and a degree east), and hop a plane to Reykjavik. That's 25 degrees north and 54 east. Then to Glasgow, Scotland, on another plane, that'll take us 9 degrees south and 18 east. It'll be a long day.

Once in Scotland, we're headed to Plockton and the Kyle of Lochalsh, a good 4 hours drive from Glasgow, and something like two degrees north again. We'll stay with Dougie Pincock, studying and playing and hanging out, and then south to Edinburgh to stay with James Gray and Dan Houghton. It should be good.

Ideally, I'll be keeping journals on tape, and will transcribe them eventually. At any rate, I'll be back soon enough.

I wish you all the best, and hope you'll find good things to do with your time until then. For the Swatties: have a great last week of break! For the rest: have a great time, doing whatever. Cheers, everyone.

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Sunday January 13, 2002 Baltimore airport

This is typed on 23 January 2002, transcribed from recording on MiniDisc. Words on from the MiniDisc are in italics; any other comments go in normal font.

So here I am in Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Sunday the 13th, and for some reason it seemed important to memorialize the fact that it really sort of bothers me that there are men with rifles wandering around the airport and, moreover, the men with rifles wandering around the airport are watching ... TV. Not just any TV, they're watching Da Game! As were most of the other twelve people in the airport. It's bad times for the airlines these days. They're watching fuball; they're protecting us from dangerous aliens by watching Da Game. And, yeah... Somehow this seems excessive.

Yeah. They made me take off my boots to go through checkin, which was pretty exciting, really. They, apparently, made everyone do it, not just me, even though I had steel toes in mine. It's quite exciting. And you're only allowed one carry-on these days, which is just terribly exciting. Ah, well. So we're sitting here in the airport--Susie and me--Susie's playing accordion. We had a much better airport dinner than many people did, because we brought our own. But, that's pretty much it for now.

Further amusing things? We practiced a traditional dance from South Uist there in the terminal, which engendered a vast quantity of strange looks for the twelve other people in the airport. Oh, right. Because of the new restrictions, you're not allowed to bring knives of any composition past security checkthroughs, right? So no plastic knives to spread your mustard. Fine; we brought spoons. Get this. Behind the security point, in one of the restaurants, you can get plastic knives. Sigh.

In other news, our flight was delayed half an hour by a man who stood just in front of me whilst he delayed the flight. The reason for munging up the schedule for the whole airport? He felt that he deserved to sit in Business Class rather than Economy Class, since he'd paid more for his ticket than the rest of the people in Economy Class. We felt like explaining to him that when you book a ticket two hours before a flight, as he had done, sometimes the cost-to-value ratio is not so high as you might like. Alas.

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Monday January 21, 2002 Back from Scotland

Three months today.

As you have, no doubt, surmised, I have returned safely from Scotland and am now ensconced in the world of Swarthmore. Most people are back now, moving in, unpacking, repacking, puttering, studying, and beginning to crank up the motors for another semester of high drive. Even now, the stress on everyone builds. Bwaah!

I've got lots of notes on Scotland, but typing them out will have to wait for a day with more free time. Suffice it to say for now that it's a beautiful country, the people are friendly, the food is not so mediocre as it's reputed to be, and the music... is the reason I went, and I was not disappointed.

I popped bubble wrap this evening, which is always a good thing. Two copies of Tigana arrived in the mail; one of them remains with me. Yay!

Three months...

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Wednesday January 23, 2002 Schönberg bites me

So, I've started posting my journals from Scotland. I'll put them up on this page as I type them out, starting with the entry just before this one.

Arnold Schoenberg is full of something, and it ain't wisdom. His whole theory of twelve-tone music seems sort of like "I'm smarter than the rest of the people; my music sounds like crap but isn't, really honestly it isn't, see, look how cool it is that I've created a mathematical construct without caring what it sounds like, ain't I cool, ho ho, by the way, historians are stupid."

My review is not favorable.

Had my first education class today, and first choir rehearsal of the semester. Brahms Requiem. Fun!

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Thursday January 24, 2002 Tango!

Whoa. I can play tangoes on my flute.

I am still tired. Alas. Sleep cometh. Perhaps I will go to Delaware tomorrow for martial arts club supplies. Perhaps not. I hate running auditions.

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Sunday January 27, 2002 Dance and pepper sauce

And so, tomorrow I will cross over the last significant date for a while, become legally a major, and turn 21. I will be able to fight and die for my country, buy alcohol, vote, drive, give blood, get married, and do all sorts of other things that various parts of our society feel it's important to legislate based on age. Pretty exciting, no?

Actually, it's quite cool. Susie gave me presents today, as she won't see me tomorrow, and they're awesome! First, a CD of Silly Wizard, live in Massachusetts, at a concert she attended, and second, a bottle of Mo Hotta Mo Betta Red Savina Habanero Hot Sauce. I saw a bottle of it in Glasgow at a store just down the street from the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and almost bought it... cheap, too, at a bit less than two pounds... but didn't have room in the suitcases for a fragile bottle of liquid that'll set on fire any fabric items it touches. This stuff is good. I tried a dab of it, and it made me cough. Awesome! It's definitely going in soup.

And also, yum.


I played for Mostly Waltz today, which was fun and gave me money. And, for the first time at one of these things, people came up to me afterwards and raved about my playing. I was a little bit embarrassed, actually--how do you respond when people just sit there and compliment you? "Say thank you?" says Elizabeth, and that's what I did, actually. But still, it felt a bit odd. I've never really had people who played my instruments compliment my playing, either, so that was quite cool. Maybe it was that I sang to them...

Mmm, I'm still raving about that pepper sauce.

Yesterday we had a dance party, which was quite nifty, and before that, I semi-spontaneously made pizza, which was yummy and is now gone. I made two pizzas; one and a half of them were consumed by various MLizens last night; the remaining six pieces fed three friends, plus me, this afternoon. Yummy pizza, with four cheeses (mozzarella, cheddar, swiss, and provolone), black olives, and caramelized onions. And the best part is that all the toppings except the sauce were pirated from Sharples. Mmmm.

Hot sauce.

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Monday January 28, 2002 Twenty-one

Today, I am 21. A strange feeling.

A whole new vista of social opportunities opens before me, as demonstrated by someone I know today. She walked up to me, and said, without pause, "Happy birthday--will you buy me some liquor?". Quite serious, too. I said no, probably not. Disappointment registered.

It's strange--people at Swarthmore seem to consider attaining the age of majority to be sort of like a commodity held in public trust. It's something that enables you to facilitate the alcohol consumption of those who can't legally drink, and thus they expect you to help out once you're on the other side. Like it's hard to find alcohol on this campus.

Maybe I'm unnecessarily bitter about it, but it just really rubbed me the wrong way.

On the other hand, it's been a good day, mostly. George made fun of me at the music library, but that's to be expected. Elizabeth gave me a Paul Simon album (Rhythm of the Saints) and a pair of dry-erase markers; Dave gave me a cartoon; my parents sent me cookies, maps, and chilpotle peppers; my grandparents wrote to me... various other random gifts. Nice.

I was sitting and waiting around this afternoon, and so I wrote a letter back to my grandparents. I'd been sitting there thinking "Man, I wish I wrote letters to them more often," in response to a card they sent, and then I thought, "well, that's dumb," and started writing. Felt good.

I received a birthday present from my karate class, too--21 punches in the stomach while in sanchin stance. They weren't particularly hard, but it was good. Felt good to be able to take it without much discomfort, too.

I tried the pepper sauce today, on a piece of bread I was eating with the candlelit pasta Elizabeth made. My god. It's fiery stuff, that sauce. Clears them sinuses right on out.

I distributed cookies to friends this afternoon, wandering about the dorm saying "Happy birthday! Eat a cookie." Good deal.

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Tuesday January 29, 2002 Mmm, fire drill

A late night gets a little bit later through the graceful provision of a fire drill, courtesy of Public Safety, at 3:45 am. We were mostly of good cheer about it.

Some of us had not yet gone to bed, and were thus nicely awake.

Spent a lot of time talking to Joy tonight, which was helpful and good. Had a Mixed Company planning meeting, which was mostly productive.

Read most of chapter 13, plan on reading the rest when I go to bed. Women Who Run With The Wolves, silly, not the part of the US Code.

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Wednesday January 30, 2002 A list

This is largely a placeholder entry.

Things to write about in the future:

  • Discussing martial arts with my music advisor
  • Being offered two jobs by my music advisor
  • Having a 21st birthday party
  • Having six (!) male strippers at my 21st birthday party
  • Knowing all six of them
  • Cutting cake with a butterfly knife
  • Good conversations
  • Other good conversations
  • Being the Devil's Advocate in education class
  • Okay, not really strippers, they just took their shirts off
  • Okay, and they did a kickline, too

Never let it be said that life chez Swarthmore isn't interesting.

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