Old Daily Shows--November 2001

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

Thursday November 29, 2001 Silver fog

Today the world was covered in silvery-grey fog, right out of a classic novel, and Swarthmore looked like nothing so much as an Ansel Adams print. I love the diffusion fog brings, the way it exaggerates aerial perspective, and the way it removes the background from things.

I stared up at Clothier tower on the way home from rehearsal at midnight-fifteen, and we went and sang a round beneath it. Goodness!

Susie gave me monster vitamin pills, which should aid my healthiness. I invented lots of cool jazz chords in my Susie lesson tonight, which is excellently good.

And one of the few great things about Lang concert hall is that you're high up amid the trees of the Crum Woods, and when there is fog, nothing in the world looks like the view from our classrooms. It's brilliant. I felt like it should snow all day today, because that's what it looks like, but I have to keep reminding myself that it doesn't snow in Philadelphia, not when it's 59 degrees out at 3 in the morning. The wonderful hushing sound of snow falling (you can hear it, you know) doesn't really happen here, either--but perhaps when I'm home, I'll get some. It is devoutly to be wished.

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Wednesday November 28, 2001 Chat with Jesse

I need to make more time to hang out with Jesse. It's always fun. We chatted for a while in my room tonight, and it was just good.

Karate was fun tonight, and I've been made the coordinator for the white belts taking the test on December 8th. This means I get to help people and answer questions, but it also means that if they don't pass their tests, I don't pass mine. It's an honor. And class was fun, and good, and we got to do applications drills.

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Monday November 26, 2001 Exuberance

Today, I received a package from my mother, a wonderful package that made me smile when I saw it, and elicited a grin of sheer joy when I opened it.

I'd known what was inside, of course, but to carefully open the cardboard box, slowly to get the effect, and smell--spices! Resupply from the homelands! In my little cardboard box were bags of spices, all labelled in my mother's hand, bought at our wonderful wonderful food co-op in Potsdam. It's not at all like the Swarthmore "Coop". Fantastic! And fresh spices, to boot.

I have no parsley, so there will be no singing, but I have more basil and oregano, and fresh supplies of dill weed, rosemary, thyme, and sage. And so, all throughout the day, I've been opening the little package, and smelling it, and being happy. Transported! In the throes of olfactory ecstasy!

Today, I was in Cornell checking my email (that's the science library, folks), and I found the robotics section! I've been looking for the robotics section all year! I found it! And so I looked at the books, chose one at random, and checked it out. I sat in Sharples for a while before lunch, and I read the robotics book. And it made sense to me. I was excited by it. I want to read more. I brought the book home because I needed, somehow, to feel that CS is a right choice for me.

And it is, I think. However much I may dislike Scheme and algorithms, they are paths toward what I really want to do, which is play with robots and minds and make them think and walk and dance and sing. Have you ever thought about the way you walked? Try it today. While you're out walking, maybe you step a little further this time, to avoid a downed tree branch, or maybe you walk a bit slower to avoid colliding with (where you think there is) a person, or something. Think about the beautiful synthesis of sensing and reasoning that allows you to do something as simple as turning the pages of a book.

There are little bits of wonder tucked in there. At least, I think so.

And then, in karate class, Sensei Jim let me teach a little bit. Simple things, to a girl who was having trouble with them and needed individual attention. So Malik and I traded off re-teaching the basics of how to step and turn, and I sometimes forget how recently I learned this stuff, because it just feels natural and comfortable. So I taught a sophomore at my elite liberal arts college how to walk today. Sanchin stepping and mawatte--the basics of just about everything.

And despite the inevitable frustrations, I felt incredibly energized by the experience. I stayed after class to work on sinawali, which is a style of Filipino stick fighting. Jim and Malik and I played with our sticks for a while, he taught us a new technique, Malik and I practiced, and then I walked home, swinging my escrima and practicing. And I felt really good. The techniques of karate are starting to work for me--the stretches don't hurt quite so much, sometimes, and I'm more comfortable. I did standing rolls on the floor of the ML lounge tonight, without hurting myself at all. This is news.

So yes, this was a good day.

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Sunday November 25, 2001 No Bartky!

I'd forgotten how much I dislike feminist political theory. Or rather, it had slipped my mind a little bit. Sandra Bartky, I respect you, but your ideas are rapidly losing merit.

Want to talk about how stereotyping people is bad? Fine. Just don't stereotype me while doing it. If you would like to point out specific ways in which I am your oppressor, I would gladly listen. But no, it's only my masculine oppressiveness that registers on your scale. Oh well.

In other news, I now have a karate gear bag, cup, mouthguard, wooden tanto, pair of escrima, and copy of Uechiryu Karate-do. I'm knitting again, yay. I'm still on drugs. I need to understand algorithms and scheme better than I understand them presently. I need to sleep.

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Thursday November 22, 2001 Giving bread and thanks

I made bread for close to nine hours today. It was unbelievable. I made 16 baguettes by myself, most of them filled or altered in some interesting fashion. I love the days that leave me time for baking.

And so, I got up early, started a batch of bread rising, and biked to Genuardi's, where I bought yeast and vegetables and peppers and all manner of good things. I smiled at lots of people. Some of them smiled back.

And, god, dinner. My baguettes, some of which were sacrificed as ingredients for French onion soup (Arcadia's doing). The soup. Turkey, with stuffing (Amelia's doing). Various vegetables. Vegan stir fry (Qian's doing. Mmm, stir fried vegans). Mashed potatoes (Amelia and Tiffany's). Three kinds of wonderful pie (Elizabeth's). Vegan chocolate mousse with mandarin oranges. And we made it all. We fed something between 25 and 30 people today. It was brilliant.

And afterwards, we were filled with sloth, and other people cleaned up. This is why I love cooking for other students. They like to thank me by doing the dishes. It's this wonderful reciprocal arrangement.

So, to all, a happy Thanksgiving. Hope yours was good, as mine has been. Make some bread tomorrow, if you have time--I taught a bunch of people a little bit about the fine art of homemade bread, and I hope they'll try it themselves. Make some bread. Go hiking. Go into Philly.

I called my parents, too. It was really nice to talk to them. I miss you guys. I miss the rest of you, too. But it's good. And real food is happening over break!

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Wednesday November 21, 2001 Bread tomorrow

One month today, and we're all on break now.

Off in the morning to bike to Genuardi's to buy yeast for the mass quantities of bread tomorrow morning. And then cooking most of the day, yay, and wahoo! Since we're now feeding 27 people, I may revise my bread godliness downward and make a quicker, easier recipe so as not to run out of time.

But yay! And the health center gave me drugs which, while not yet helping, may soon fix me right up. And it's break. And people complimented me on my soup-making skillz.

Oh, and I saw Starship Troopers, which is an abominably horrid film and is rather nothing like the book.

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Tuesday November 20, 2001 Soup To Cure All Ills

Today, instead of going to seminar (which was cancelled), I made soup. Soup to cure all ills, or at least beat some of them into remission. It even worked for a while.

To make Soup To Cure All Ills, combine the following ingredients in a culinarily appropriate fashion:

  • 8 potatoes, washed but not peeled
  • 4 onions
  • 7 cloves garlic
  • 3 vegetarian vegetable bouillon cubes
  • some olive oil
  • 1 can green chiles from New Mexico, courtesy of Joy
  • basil, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, salt
  • a bunch of couscous
  • a bunch of water and heat

Cook it up and then eat it. It wanted more peppers, but it was good good good. Many people came by my room as I was cooking. Meika insisted on staying and helping to stir, even though she couldn't stay for the eating. Joy ate with me, and Laurel came and bonded a bit, which was nifty because I don't really know her. And I felt much much better during the soup time. Now my body hurts again, but I have a doctor appointment at ungodlyearly o'clock tomorrow morning, and hopefully they will give me drugs which will make me mood-swingy but better. Let us pray.

A few goodbyes, to the friends going away on break, and a particular one to my great-uncle Harry, who died last night. So think kindly on him, and those whom others have lost, et lux æterna luceat eis.

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Monday November 19, 2001 Body go thunk

i would say "I'm flat on my back with sickness", but i don't have time to be flat on my back, so it's not true. i feel that i'm losing this particular battle, though. it's like my body's just shutting down, and systems are failing. both ears, my balance, my back, my stomach, my head, my lungs... what next, i wonder.

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Friday November 16, 2001 Zen bread-baking

I wrote a letter to Student Council yesterday asking that Swarthmore Uechi Association be placed on the agenda for their next Charter Committee meeting. I spent two or three minutes writing it, and sent it off, with copies to the relevant karate people.

And I got responses back from my people, all positive, and one so much so that it almost makes me blush--one opined that it was one of the best-written letters he'd ever seen, and that if I ever wanted a letter of recommendation for anything, he would be glad to offer one based on studying beside me in the dojo.

And today I made herb and onion bread, and it was deeply, deeply cool. Yay for cooking, and taking the time to cook. I love bread. I've become a bit of a bread prophet, it seems--extolling its virtues, and those of its craft, to people who'll listen. It really is a sort of Zen experience.

Or, at least, Zen as I conceive of it. As I told Kate, the secret to making good bread is in the first step--take warm water and add your yeast to it.

That's really all there is. Ask your yeast to make beautiful bread for you. Let it sit quietly for a while, and then smell the mixture. When you learn to love that smell, when it speaks to you in some way, when your heart melts from the small wonder of yeast, that's when you're on your way to being a baker. Love your bread, be glad to share yourself with it.

When you make bread properly, when your bread-making has gong fu and you care about it and marvel at it and rejoice, the Something in the bread knows about it, and is pleased. And the results are worth the effort.

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Wednesday November 14, 2001 Me == Cover Boy

Handed in the paper, worked like mad to be ready for my piano lesson, only to remember after hours of practice that it was cancelled for this week.

Henny Penny afternoon practice in Lang--I was sitting and playing piano when one of the frosted glass covers for the house lights just fell off and crashed to the floor, spraying glass over a large area. These covers have a radius the length of my arm, and it probably fell 30-40-ish feet. Oy. I felt that the sky was falling.

But then I went outside with Dee, an old friend I've lost track of, currently the editor-in-chief of the Phoenix here at Swarthmore. They needed someone with a cloak for the cover picture of this week's Phoenix, and she thought of me. So I got to be photographed in a wide variety of poses, and eventually they chose one of me leaping through the amphitheatre. I have achieved fame, fortune, and a cover shot.

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Tuesday November 13, 2001 Up late again

Ugh. Some days just shouldn't happen.

And being sick royally bites. But my arrangement is going passably well in Mixed Company, I just wrote a six-page philosophy paper in three hours (it's now 4:14 am, and the sun is still down, thank God), and Liz Wright has just asked me to be on the cover of the Phoenix wearing my cloak for their feature article on SWIL. So yay, photo shoot tomorrow.

I took three naps today, and I think it's the only way I've managed. Too many days recently when I've been awake for more than 21 hours. But soon it will be break. And besides, life is good, and someone gave me a sunflower today!

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Monday November 12, 2001 Aches and pains

There are two kinds of achiness: first, there's the "I've used my muscles" kind of ache, the one you get from exercise. Second, there's the "I feel nauseated up and down my back" kind of ache, the one you get from being sick.

I am currently enjoying a shaken-not-stirred cocktail of these plus algorithms problem set and philosophy paper. It is most... flavorful.

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Sunday November 11, 2001 Tunes from memory

I feel like I got very little done today, but it's Sunday. I played for a Community Dance in Merion today, for which I got paid, which is a decidedly excellent thing. It's really nice to be at a level of proficiency where I can walk into a gig, and be comfortable when we decide to rather completely change the program to reflect the group that showed up. We played tunesets from memory, and it was good.

My arrangement is coming along. My philosophy paper is not. Alas.

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Saturday November 10, 2001 Meet the Family

Today was the Swarthmore Martial Arts Community Koshukai, which I helped run. Yay, SMACK. It was cool--not everyone showed up, but we had strong contigents from uechi ryu karate-do and aikikai aikido. A few Bryn Mawr penjak silat practitioners, Mr. Barus who does budokan, and that was it. We worked a lot of different techniques, from different styles, and it was groovy. My ukemi felt better than it has in recent past. And I found myself able to explain things to people who weren't getting them, and to do it such that they understood reasonably quickly. It's a good feeling.

And then Elizabeth's family came--parents and younger sister. We all went to Target (where I bought shampoo but forgot to buy deodorant) and then to this nifty wood-fired pizza place in Media. Yummy. I had a pizza with prosciutto, red onions, mozzarella, plum tomatoes, and something else on it. Yummy!

And somehow, I think I managed to come off as a non-idiot. Which is always a plus when you're meeting The Family. Katie (Eliz's sister) is staying in ML for the next day and a half, just to see what it's like, and that's cool. She's nifty. I pulled strings and made red light/green light and wink happen this evening, which was most groovy. And then, a late-night mango.

And I'm just too glad for my own good. I spent almost seven hours today at hard exercise, and I feel great. I'm happy and, for the moment at least, healthy. Yay!

And so I continue. I helped a friend fix his glasses today. I will light candles for another friend, who recently had a heart attack, and for the friends whose trauma I've not yet heard about, and another for those who, like me, have had positive things show up. Here's to friends.

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Friday November 9, 2001 Piled Higher and Deeper

I was good at karate tonight, and got to spar for the first time since Tae Kwon Do years ago.

It's Friday, and the Piled Higher and Deeper comic strip has stolen my mind.

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Thursday November 8, 2001 CS colloquium

Tonight I went to a panel on computer science graduate school. It was, alas, not very informative, as I missed much of it due to a previous engagement.

However, I got to listen to one very bitter CS professor from Bryn Mawr who graduated from UPenn and basically wanted to talk about how men had screwed her over and graduate school was unfair and UPenn didn't care about its students and blah. And I was just sort of sitting there wondering (she was in the audience, and kept asking questions of the panelists and then talking before they finished) why she felt her axe was in need of grinding in the middle of our presentation.

It was a sort of grumpy day, a lot of the time, but I feel sort of oddly peaceful now. Strange. But good.

And my plot for world domination and robotics may be moving forward.

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Wednesday November 7, 2001 Bad incense allergy

Diwali, the festival of lights, is this week. They lit up Sharples for it last night--candles everywhere, candles outside in little paper bags.

It was beautiful, and deadly. In with the candles, they were burning a lot of incense.

Now, I'm torn. I don't want to be an anti-fun person, but the fact was that being in Sharples yesterday basically screwed up my head until I went to sleep-- couldn't think straight all night, and breathing was difficult.

And so... what do I do about it?

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Tuesday November 6, 2001 Stars!

I started teaching my arrangement to Mixed Company tonight, with seemingly positive results.

There were stars, and they were beautiful and only slightly ruined by the omnipresence of the Philadelphia Purple Haze (Hendrix is better). I walked back from practice with Joy and DaveM, and looked up, and there they were, looking out for me. Necessary peace after a day of frenetic work for algorithms seminar, about which I'd rather not talk.

I have random bruises from karate, and I'm deeply amused. I think I need to wear more cargo pants. These thoughts are only slightly related. I'll let you muse on that.

Oh! My flute is being fixed, yay, so I can probably go pick it up tomorrow.

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Sunday/Monday November 4/5, 2001 Discourse on sparkling

Ever walk through the world and see things shimmer a little bit in the periphery of your vision? I walked to campus, and the weather had just turned a wee bit decent--it grew colder and got to being a bit chilly. And things sparkled.

Now, things sparkling aren't necessarily a new thing. The other day in uechi ryu, I did a rolling technique incorrectly and came up seeing stars. I'd always wondered what it felt like, and now I know. It's interesting--not the spinning circle of dancing asterisks that you see in Warner Brothers cartoons, no whirling dervishes in white, at least not for me. For me, the experience was more like some of the scenes in the Matrix, or some of the screensavers under Windows that have an image transform of your background image--so it just looks like something is crawling around underneath your desktop and stretching it. Seeing stars involved parts of my view shattering into slivers and rotating around in a plane in front of me--they were very clearly transforms of the image behind, though, rather than opacities of themselves. It was not an experience I'll go looking to repeat, but it was interesting and, in a slightly frightening sense, rather cool.

And then there's the feeling I sometimes get on stage, that I've spent far too much time discussing, of having the room sparkle when things are going well. Get into a really good jig set, and the room starts to pulse, to throb, to beat in time with that inexorable pulse that's seated in your hara. You can catch people's eyes while you're playing, and something electric passes through the air between you for a second--ever seen a Jacob's ladder demonstration? Sort of like that, only not so much a coruscating transmission as a flash of something else. Hard to describe. Every once in a while, I'll be singing something on stage, be it with Mixed Company or something else, and something clicks and the audience is mine. And I'm theirs, and it's sometimes like being a conduit for something large and hidden, and while you're there, you can do no wrong.

In a lot of ways, I live for those moments.

And there are also more mundane kinds of sparkle, like the rainbows you see in the spray from the sprinklers that are still going here. It's November and we've had weather in the high seventies, and my head asks "Why?" while my body screams "NO!". There's the sparkle in the eyes of my friends at the Brahms concert we attended last night. Julie performed the folk songs I discussed in my program notes, and she did them credit. They were beautiful.

It seems today was a day for healing the world. Ross came by and talked to me, and it was really good. And now that I've spoken with him about it, I feel like I can say a little bit here about what's been going on.

I'm dating Elizabeth. This makes me happy, really happy. It will, of course, probably diminish somewhat, but for right now it's just good. And she's gotten me hooked on E.E. Cummings, which shocked and amused me. My previous experience with him had been with plato told, which we butchered in junior year English in Potsdam. Something like six weeks on a poem 33 lines long, with the end result that I wanted to throw things at anyone who used the word 'nipponized' around me, and had developed my enduring disdain for people who habitually refer to the author as 'e.e. cummings' rather than E.E. Cummings, his proper name.

And that was tangential and silly, because the point is that she's got me reading him and liking it. This is good, because I sort of felt that one of the things lacking in my college experience was an appreciation for poetry. Ami and Elizabeth (they're roommates) seem to have made it their mission to poetrize me, and it's going well. I'm acquiring culture at last. It's so good!

I made soup yesterday. Slept in rather late, as in past lunchtime, and so I decided to make home fries--I'd gone to the store a few days earlier and provisioned my pantry. (You'll note that I've now switched time systems. I made soup on Sunday. Up until this paragraph I'd been pretending that I wrote this yesterday (Sunday) while in fact writing it today (Monday). I got tired of the charade. From henceforth, this is written on Monday.

So, I was making homefries (ooh, I changed spacing. weird) in my room with the happy cooker thing, and I talked to Ross and Dave Mister while I was chopping potatoes and onions and garlic. Started cooking them, determined that they smelled like soup rather than homefries, so I altered the plan a bit and made them into soup. A bit weak, perhaps, but it had decent flavor and was made in my room. And even today, I walk into my room and smell the remaining aroma of sautéeing onions and garlic and am pleased.

There's just something about soup. People were walking around the halls looking for the good smell, and some came to eat some of my soup. I was glad to share it with them. Soup is something that should happen more often, and next time I'll make it vegetarian so Kat can have some--sorry!

After the Brahms concert, Susie and I went back to ML, where we shared some tea and a few tunes in the breakfast room. There's definitely something to this traditional music.

Candles sparkle too, and clean dishware, and bright eyes, and newly-burned CDs, and bits of glitter.

Mom sent me a Zen chime, and some crystals. They sparkle too. It seems like the whole world is sparkling right now. Maybe it knows that winter will come soon, at least up north, and is excited by the prospect of crisp snow, grey skies (never gray--somehow the words are not at all the same) and wind that makes you appreciate the warmth of your house. Among my fondest memories of home are those idealized ones of the house with candles or lights in the windows, which are uncurtained and spilling light out into the cold, snowy, dark outdoors. Guy Gavriel Kay talks about basking in the reflected glow and civility of such places, and I think he's right.

And it all sparkles.

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Saturday November 3, 2001 Uechi seminar

Today was the uechi ryu seminar that I helped run, and it was great! Four hard hours of uechi ryu with Sensei Sumpter. We saw the Jim and Ernie Show, so named because Sensei (Ernest) Sumpter loves to demonstrate techniques on Sensei Jim Herndon. Whee!

And I learned so many things, like the fact that you can kick people while chambering your kicks, so you get this nifty bidirectional double-tap effect. It's way cool! And I got individual critique on my sanchin performance, and learned most of kanshiwa kata. Nifty. And I started noticing crossovers in the movements, between kata and hojo undo, and stuff. I love it!

And then I cleaned my room a lot. It's somewhat better than it had been. Yay for cleaned and organized space!

And yay for cleaned and organized friendships.

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Friday November 2, 2001 Walking barefoot

I've rediscovered the art of walking barefoot.

I'm trying to toughen up my feet for karate, and so I've been walking places without my shoes on. It's a very interesting sensation, at times. The comparison that came to mind this afternoon, tramping across the grass of Mertz field, is that it's like the difference between driving automatic and driving stick.

Automatic cars put a layer of abstraction between you and the road--they let you glide atop it. When you've got no shoes on, you feel every curve in the road, every pothole, each twig, each change in grade. It's a much more visceral experience than walking with shoes.

Mixed Company concert was tonight. Mostly good. Susie came. Other people came, including the UPenn Counterparts and Haverford Oxford Blues. It was nice. I sang soloes on Name, Scottish Spring, and Finnish Drinking Song. Fun stuff.

And no, you're not allowed to hit me for using the term visceral up there. I was walking in sanchin some of the time, when you keep your abdominal muscles tensed, and thus visceral is appropriate.

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