Old Daily Shows--January 2003

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

Sunday January 5, 2003 Where am I?

I feel disoriented tonight. I'm not sure of my bearings, I feel at loose ends, and I'm sure there's something I really ought to be working on right now. But I can't quite bring myself to touch it, yet.

You see, I'm finally done with the semester, as of this evening. Fifteen days of working like this at home, more than half my time here. I wanted not to do this, tried to avoid it... but the recriminations for that are old and tired, like I feel sometimes, and there's not much point to complaining about it. Picking things up when others drop the ball is really a lot of what life's about, don't you think?

Maybe it matters more that I was kind and gentle and forgiving, matters more than the semester of work I didn't get to finish to my standards. Maybe it does. Maybe refusing to be cruel about this has put something good into the world, something that will last and spread. I hope so.

Elizabeth came to visit, and it was lovely, though I spent so much time working it feels a bit like she wasn't here. We all went to Canada with one set of grandparents for New Year's Eve, and then to Chateaugay to visit my other set of grandparents, and then back here. People say they think the two of us are good for each other, and I hope they're right. I think so.

Pretty little glass bottles all in a row, to be filled with the homemade chai mix of which I must make some more. I made the homemade mustard whose recipe I've adapted from one I got from Kyla's mom, and that went into a plastic tub. The sandwich I packed this morning for Elizabeth to eat on the road went into a Ziploc-clone plastic bag, and I've been drinking water all day from my favorite yellow plastic mug. The wonderful soup my wonderful father made to celebrate the end of the project came to me in a Corelle-ware bowl, the ones I grew up with, that have the little blue scallopy patterns. Later, ice cream with homemade chocolate sauce came in a smaller version of the same bowl--is it ceramic, or is it Pyrex borosilicate glass?

So many containers, and yet the time spills out anyway.

My mother reminded me a while ago that Kyla took work home during winter break her senior year, and I suppose it's not terribly unusual. It still leaves a very strange--what's the term I want--lack of continuity, even when it unnaturally preserves continuity.

When I write the date, it has my graduation year at the end of it. Strange, that is. Earlier in the school year, I was terrified by the thought of graduating already. Right now, the fear has faded to background noise, and I've fallen into a mindset of half-doubting that it will actually occur. This is not a comment on my academic standing, mind you--it's different. It's just that graduation moves inexorably closer, and beyond it lies the Beyond: questions and problems and careers and other things, all of them large and somewhat intractable. Seems weird that something so momentous (and I'm kicking myself for using that word--I sound like a college president, for crying out loud) could actually happen.

On a level more local but no less profound, I spent a while today watching the red squirrel who comes to eat seeds under our bird feeder. He's the most chipmunk-like of the various squirrels around, and so I feel a certain affinity for him. The birds, messy eaters all, spew lots of seeds down onto the ground, many of them untouched. He can often be seen nosing through the grass, pausing to eat a seed, and then continuing on the search.

Today, with a blanket of new snow fallen in the night, I watched as he pushed his face down through the snow to find seeds, each time with an unerring sense of aim. His sense of smell must be incredibly sharp, to find seeds easily underneath snow that's as tall as he is. He was really good at it, and seemed pleased to find that seeds were still available. Later in the day, he had disappeared, but I still smiled in thinking of him, as I do now.

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Sunday January 12, 2003 Loose ends

A bookshelf is taking shape in my room!

My dad and I spent a good portion of today measuring and cutting redwood that my father's had in the basement since closing his law office, making it into something new. Redwood bookshelves held law books back then; soon they will hold textbooks and other things, and some of my books will come off the floor! It's been nice to work with tools a bit, too--no thoughts about B-spline curves or how to model the surfaces of the boards, nothing computerized at all, just working with the wood and the real world.

My mother's been making a padded slipcover for my flute case, to protect it from dents and dings, and also to provide a bit more insulation. My parents are both so wonderfully creative, each in their own ways. Dad made a wonderful Thai chicken satay (sate? I suspect Western orthography's just going to take it in the neck on this one) for dinner, and we spent a while finishing Syberia, the computer game my mother gave him for Christmas. Just nice.

And Swarthmore's internet connection died in the middle of writing that, so I'll just post the backup version and go about my business. Cheers!

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Monday January 13, 2003 Neurotic boy

Sometimes I swear I'm going out of my mind. I'm a pretty normal guy most of the time: I sleep, eat, work occasionally, read books from time to time, waste hours staring at nothing, talk occasionally to my girlfriend on the phone. I am normal, well-adjusted, happy, and reasonably healthy.

Well, sometimes, anyway. It's been so long since I've actually written anything personal in here that I've almost forgotten how. The audience paralyzes me, a little... I know that I'll see people tomorrow who've read this tonight, and it will color the interaction. Well, tough. Future employers who might read this, don't worry. Everyone writes these. Some people just hide it.

Tonight, I was having a normal night, and I decided that I would go and bake cookies, in protest of passing time. See, it keeps passing, and there are times when that's just unacceptable. I thought that baking something nice would be an effective protest in the universe's ears. I've been promising myself for months that I'm going to try making puff pastry (pate feuillete, a word originally from Feuillet, who brought the pastry to French cuisine, that has now come to mean any flaky, leafy thing, and can also be a verb to leaf through a book) from scratch, and there's never any time.

So I'm trying to find recipes for something that looks good and reasonably quick for which I have the ingredients, but I get bogged down in trying to find a lower-fat chocolate cookie concoction. I realize that this is rather like going to Manhattan to find a nice rolling plain to sow with wheat, but whatever. Unfortunately, the various low-fat options required things I didn't have, or were excessively messy. I rejected biscotti because I would have had to touch the dough to make it, and I hate touching dough. I looked at brownie recipes...

Wait. "I hate touching dough"? What the hell? I love touching dough! It's one of my favorite things about making bread, actually--the moment when you can touch a dough and feel it, warm and elastic, against your fingertip or the back of your hand. What is this not wanting to touch the dough?

I determined that I was too neurotic and indecisive to actually make anything, and so I stopped trying. Decided that I'd make cream puffs, but realized that they take as much butter as puff pastry, and if I'm going to make one, I want to make the one I haven't tried. So nothing, then.

And a while later, I was doing all right, when I found out that I have a dental appointment tomorrow. As an aside, what's the correct form of that? "Dental appointment" sounds wrong, because I'm not meeting a dental and the appointment's type is not dental. "Dentist appointment" sounds weird, like I'm meeting the followers of Dent. "Dentist's appointment" and "dentists appointment" are either horribly sibilant or hideously ungrammatical. And so I'm left without a pleasing term for the experience. Ah well. "ante meridiem rendezvous for molar manipulation and cuspid cleaning"? Anyway.

As it happens, this is a sore spot, and for those who aren't interested in my dental weirdness, just skip on ahead. I used to be a dental poster child. Perfect teeth, fabulous enamel, great alignment. Nothing could touch me. Then something changed, and I've started getting cavities. Each time I go, I ask if there's something I should be doing to change, some aspect of my home care (yay lingo) that I need to change. Nope. As far as they're concerned, I'm doing everything right. I brush at least twice a day, usually floss, drink a lot of water, and use the special dentist-kind toothpaste that has sufficient quantities of fluoride to render entire villages immune to carious decay.

But lately, whenever I floss, my gums have been bleeding, and my teeth have been hurting. This often happens when my sinuses are acting up, god knows why, but they haven't been too bad lately, and yet my gums still flow.

Somewhere, deep down, I suspect that this can be traced to the fact that I'm not the most relaxed person ever. I fake it reasonably well sometimes, but even on "vacation" I end up wound tightly enough to drive large clocks. I'm guessing that this has something to do with the gums.

And lately, my ability to deal gracefully with sudden changes has gone through the floor. I'd completely forgotten about the appointment, even though I scheduled it myself half a year ago. But it just threw me off, and suddenly everything else came crashing back through the barriers I'd put up.

And the rest is all the norm: what will I do with my life? What about with my last semester at Swarthmore? I tell myself several times a day that I don't need to decide everything by June, that my life will have room for lots of changes I haven't made yet. And yet I remain strangely unconvinced, deep down where it counts. Maybe I'm just afraid.

Yeah, I think that's it.

Thank goodness for loving parents and girlfriends who will love you in spite of how unloveable you feel. And though Apple's tech support will continue to suck, and I will continue to dislike string quartets, maybe it'll be a little better in the morning.

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Wednesday January 15, 2003 Bagpiping

Today I went and played bagpipes at a school not far from here, in an assembly for 4th, 5th, 6th, and 10th graders. I'm not sure how they chose which groups were involved, but it was fun.

I was chatting up the fourth graders before we got started, and it suddenly seemed incomprehensible that I've been in school twelve years longer than they have. I had a good conversation with them, though.

And then we made fresh tortellini with pesto inside, back at home. Yum!

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Friday January 17, 2003 Once more, dear friends

What music does one choose for packing? A year and change ago, I made a mix of MP3s which I named Packing Music, and I listened to it all through my all-night packing extravaganza. Elizabeth makes fun of me all the time because of my listening habits: I've got a huge collection of music, and yet it's absolutely normal to find the same CD in my player for weeks at a time, and to hear it every time you walk past my room. This was true even before I got a CD-changing behemoth of a stereo. I just like music, that's all, and when there's music I like, I don't tend to get tired of it.

Last night, I made pain au chocolat for the first time, and they were truly beyond words. I did them from scratch, the long way, with a starter, and the results repaid every effort. You should have a look at one of the pictures I took of them. They were good, warm and soft with gooey chocolate in the middle, the texture just right, and the flavor the one I remember from France.

We'd walk along the cobblestone roads leading up to whatever trape touristique we happened to visiting, or along a side street during the times we were allowed to roam freely, and there was always a small competition to find the boulangers and patissiers where we might find that morning's first pain au chocolat, still hot from the oven. If they'd cooled off, the shopkeepers would always gladly heat them for you. Extra points were awarded for finding cheap but good pastries. The going rate was 6 francs each, but I had an uncanny knack for finding boulangeries that offered freshly baked breads for 3 or 4 francs. We ate a lot of them, in France.

That was almost five years ago, the first time.

I'm still in the melodramatic funk of confused anxiety about That Which Follows This, as you've no doubt guessed. It seems that many of my contemporains are feeling the same way, but I always give them a bit more credit, because they seem to deserve it. Rabi is nervous, but in the beautifully poetic way she has, so--though no less real--it sounds more appealing. Amelia talks about it, but then goes back to worrying about the larger issues than what we personally face in a few months. Me? I'm not as good as all that. I know it's silly, I know it's normal, but I'm still scared a lot of the time.

I know that lots of people have gone through this before, and I know that I will get through it myself, but the fact remains that I haven't done it yet. October Project, a band to which Kyla introduced me Years and Years Ago, said it best: "Everything I tell you has been spoken, and everything I say was said before... but everything I feel is for the first time."

And so it comes back around to the music again. My packing music for this, my last trip to college, has been Joni Mitchell's "Hits", given to me by Elizabeth last year. Both Sides, Now is playing... "I've looked at life from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow it's life's illusions I recall...." Lots of good music here, and I enjoy thinking that I'm listening to my own music, that's my girl's music, that was our parents' music, and it's still just good.

Packing, like looking for a job or finding love or reading a score or anything else, really, seems to be about deciding what really matters to you. Do I bring my Linear Algebra textbook on the chance (it happened this year) that I'll need to remember something and won't have it from the top of my head? Do I bring Larousse Gastronomique, even though it's huge and will use a lot of my bookshelf, simply because it has great pictures and recipes and makes me happy? I've brought my art supplies back and forth each trip for the last four years, and most times I never even get a chance to open the ArtBin. But it makes me happy to have them, helps keep me tranquil (ha!), so I keep bringing them, because I am an Eagle Scout, and a packrat to boot, and so being prepared implies being ready to live in creative splendor, wherever I am, for several weeks even if the supply lines should break down.

What's important? Wish I knew.

And then I'm listening on repeat, again, and the song comes on. I was going to arrange this for Mixed Company, back when I was singing with them, as my going-away song, for when I graduated. I was going to be an eight-semester senior, and it was going to be my goodbye.

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like "when you're older" must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return; we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town
And they tell him "take your time, it won't be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down.

And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return; we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by, and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams, and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return; we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
-- Circle Game, Joni Mitchell, copyright Siquomb Publishing Company

And bittersweet though my farewell has been, it's probably for the best. I'll never sing that song at Jamboree, won't wave goodbye to my last crowd, won't grin and give the pitches to my group, won't try to calm everyone down just before we go on stage. I couldn't do it. Even typing the lyrics of that song makes me start to tear up, and trying to sing along is nearly impossible, because my voice just stops working. I still try, though.

It hits close to home, right now, and the pun is there if unintended. If memory serves, Hesse's Siddhartha includes a parable about creatures who dwell along a river--those who cling to the banks fear the current, and spend their lives finding ways to avoid being caught by it, building stronger and stronger handholds to grasp. Those who let go are caught by the river, carried gently, and call out to those still on the banks, trying to help them past the fear into the act of release that makes life truly possible.

Joni put it best: "I really don't know life at all."

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Sunday January 19, 2003 Here again

Thus far, Swarthmore and the environs have treated me really very well. I've finally gotten a fair bit of my things put away, and have reacquired sufficient floor space to make my room look more habitable. Niamh Parsons sings on my stereo, here at two in the morning when all else is quiet and the morning light has yet to arrive. Everyone else is asleep, where I will soon join them, but I have been communing with space, and sleep seemed less important.

This morning, I went to Philly with Susie, Elizabeth, and my parents. We drove down through southern Philadelphia, and Eliz and I both remarked that it felt strange to be in a car where we'd so often simply walked. It was my parents' first trip to Fante's and the Italian Market, and they seemed to like it. My mother bought me ramekins, so that I can make creme brulee while here at school. We headed uptown to the Reading Terminal Market, open on this Sunday because of a car show, only to find that most of its shops were closed.

At Susie's suggestion, we headed to Ho Sai Gai, the favorite restaurant in Chinatown. After a wonderful meal, we ducked into Asia Supermarket to acquire chopsticks for Reachout back home, and walked around looking for Metropolitan Bakery (we later found it; oh well). We didn't find it, but we went to Sophie's Yarns instead, and that was fun.

Home again, home again, jig jig jig jig jig reel hornpipe? Susie and I changed into concert black so my dad could photograph us--we need publicity photos for this summer's concerts. The bagpipes sounded unusually good in ML's breakfast room, and nobody stopped by to complain.

Wonderful dinner at Susie's, excellent tunes there, and it was back here, to unpack, unwind, and entrench. And so, another semester begins, my last here. I felt earlier tonight that I was digging in, getting ready for the siege, but now that I've imposed some order on my space, I feel much more free. I am relaxed and happy, and will see my parents tomorrow morning before I go to class and they drive north. The world is a good place.

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Monday January 27, 2003 A birthday

I was born almost twenty-two years ago. By the time you read this, it will have been longer than that. Wow.

I spent a long time talking with my mother this evening about her experience of my birth, and it was really neat. Later a group of friends came by just after the stroke of midnight and sang me a Happy Birthday. I laughed and laughed when Jason reprised his striptease act from last year's festivities, although this year he sported no blue paint.

It's been a good day, and so I will go to bed.

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Tuesday January 28, 2003 Birthday

It's been a good birthday. My parents gave me a book--How The Scots Invented the Modern World--which promises to be interesting, and Elizabeth gave me a William Bounds pepper mill. It's neat because it crushes the pepper, rather than grinding it. Awesome, and it works incredibly well.

Susie made brownies for me, and we had a birthday party at Folkdance, and then Elizabeth made cakes (including a tartan sponge cake, with varied colors of frosting in a tartan pattern) for a birthday party at ML. I knew about it, and helped advertise. It was fun. I helped with the cakes a little, too. I like my people.

I found myself deeply troubled by the things our president chose to say during the State of the Union address last night. I have issues with the idea that war is the solution to our problems, whatever they may be, and I feel that calling North Korea an axis of evil (technically an axis of evil men, but really, where's the true difference) is a bad idea, and really, where does he get off? Politics makes me so depressed.

But I met a nice cat yesterday, and I saw him again today, which made me happy. And people are really cool. And it's way past time for bed.

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