Old Daily Shows--November 2002

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

Saturday November 2, 2002 Moving on

This evening, rather than going to the Mixed Company concert, Elizabeth and I went to dinner.

Fellini Cafe Trattoria of Ye Olde Sproule Shoppinge Malle was our destination, and though we had a small table surrounded by people on all sides, we had a great time. We dressed up a bit and drove to the mall in Sasha's car, lent for the occasion, and we felt grown up and nifty. I have penne in a sauce of four different cheeses, and she had tortellini in a tomato sauce. We shared and were cute. Later, we had some tiramisu, thinking that sometimes outrageous desserts are warranted.

On October 21st, a bit more than a year ago, Eliz and I started dating, and it's gotten better and better. We're so good for each other, and we've mostly stopped worrying about whether it's simply juvenile inexperience that makes us so happy. If we're happy, that's good. We're great! I should write a lot more about this, but it doesn't translate well to paper--just comes out as "She's great! I love her, bunches and bunches!" repeated lots of different ways. Still, I do love her, and she is great.

And then there's the other thing I didn't write about when it happened, near the beginning of the semester. I dropped out of Mixed Company. Three years, and it was time to let go. That's why I wasn't on stage tonight; why, in fact, I wasn't even in Swarthmore. Senior year seems to be in part about figuring out who you are, what you need to be, and moving on. I read this in many blogs, and it seems another common thread joins us. Maybe I'll move back to MoCo, but for now, I'm an emeritus member of the group. It's getting easier every day, too.

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Sunday November 3, 2002 Soup!


This evening, I wanted soup, and so Eliz and I made one. Improvised, as I love to do, but it came out really well. Eventually I will write it down and put it on the recipes page. For now, I'll tell you a little about it.

It starts with simple things: a pair of onions, and a head of garlic. This is a soup for times when your body's beginning to tire, when you need something to perk yourself back up. A head of garlic is what you want. Put in a jalapeno, as well. Throw in some red wine to slow down the cooking.

Meanwhile, cook some kielbasa in another pot, boiling it per the instructions. Take it out and slice it, reserving the water, to which you should add a couple of bouillon cubes and a bunch of hot sauce.

Back in the other pot, put in basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, cumin, fennel, and a bay leaf, the kielbasa and its water, a couple of potatoes (not peeled, of course, but cubed), some rice, and some canned tomatoes. Boil it until the potatoes are tender. Near the end, stir in some milk to make it creamy.

Ladle it into bowls, top with shredded Cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, and garnish with tortilla chips stuck in at the edges of the bowl. Yum!

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Tuesday November 5, 2002 New camera

My new camera is here, and I'm having fun! Yay!

Way too much work to do, of course, but that's usual. I didn't actually play all that much today; alas.

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Wednesday November 6, 2002 Friede auf Erden

Friede auf Erden in choir, peace on earth, glory to God the most high, Vivaldi Gloria, singing songs good and not-so-good, but all of it music...

... after which I went to my sysadmin meeting to find our server dying. We worked to revive it, and spent a long time doing so. Afterward, we debated the new server we've been planning to buy, and decided that we need to move the timing up a lot.

And on the way back to my room after the meeting, having gotten no work done tonight because of the server thing, I looked up at the night sky, and saw... sky. The purple haze that covers Philadelphia was absent tonight, and the stars I remembered were there, instead. Orion's belt was near as I walked past the omni-present construction, and I wished the over-bright streetlights could be turned down, that I might see the stars better.

As I walked, though, I felt some of that calm descend, and for a little while, I felt unfettered and free, my quiet steps moving me effortlessly through starlight.

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Thursday November 7, 2002 Leavetaking

Tomorrow morning will see me on my way to Boston, for a pair of concerts and a whole lot of music. Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill tomorrow night; Scantily Plaid on Saturday... In between will be pub sessions, lessons, tune-searchings, and an awful lot of work. It'll be good, though, I think.

Maybe, once I'm back, I'll be good for getting work done; something that's been strikingly missing from my makeup lately. Maybe I've just been stressed about the Watson thing, which is now fully submitted. Let's hope!

Anyway, I'll be back Sunday sometime, and with luck, I'll have fun stories to tell!

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Monday November 11, 2002 Back again

I've returned from Boston, where I heard the best fiddle and guitar duet I've ever... heard. Can't think of a way out of that thorny construction with the cold I've got. Anyhoo... My first Martin and Dennis concert, and I made some new friends. Hung out with a bunch of people, including the performers, at a cafe next to the Somerville theatre, and made friends with a neat Irish guitarist and flute player, who're giving me the names of people in the Philly session scene. Cool!

Went to Walden the next day, and then to the Scantily Plaid concert, and then to the after-party, where I hung out and played flute in the session. Home at 3 am, awake by 8:15, and a bagpipe lesson with Brian Yates before returning to Swarthmore by way of Rein's Deli in Connecticut.

Would that I were healthy. Eliz pointed out that I've got senioritis, and maybe it's true.

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Tuesday November 12, 2002 Tired

So very tired.

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Sunday November 17, 2002 Philly musings

Rising early this morning not to a crisp autumn sunrise but to a dreary fall of rain, I hopped a SEPTA train with Elizabeth, bound for the Philadelphia Museum of Art and its Degas, Korean art, and Mondrian. For my art history class, I was required to analyze Degas's "After the Bath"; a study in redness. Before, though, I took Elizabeth through the Asian art exhibition, to the Yi Am ink drawing of a puppy playing with a pheasant feather, and the Japanese tea house the museum brought to Philadelphia.

Afterwards, I went and tried to understand Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Piet Mondrian, with relatively little success. It was weird, though, when I was studying the Degas. People would come hover near me, trying to read what I was writing, and then they would turn to see whatever it was that I was looking at. And then, almost every time, they would go and stand in front of the Degas, blocking my view of it. It was almost comical after a while.

Back along the Ben Franklin parkway, passing the Rodin Museum and stopping by the (unfortunately closed on Sunday) Book Corner of the Philly Free Museum, east on Race Street past City Hall into the teeming streets of Chinatown, where we found warm seats, good wonton soup, hot tea, and excellent Chinese food at the restaurant that has become my personal Chinatown obsession, Ho Sai Gai. We remarked that there were no people with interesting hairstyles in the restaurant today; the last time, there was a guy with a spike mohawk about 19" tall, wearing a studded leather jacket that said "FUCK RACISM". None of that today... just two tired and damp Swatties who were very glad for a good meal in relative peace and quiet.

Weekends seem to be about reconnecting to food for a lot of us. So many more people are cooking for themselves this year, and I wonder whether this indicates a general trend in studentdom, a decline in the quality of dining hall food, or some more elusive reason. Friday night, Eliz and I made fresh capelletti, and linguine with the leftover dough. She made a policeman pie, a recipe she learned from my family.

Last night was a potato dish she improvised, spiced and almost-mashed, and a potato frittata that I made in my cast iron frying pan. Pictures are available on request. This evening, skipping Sharples dinner because we'd eaten good Chinese food too recently, we had the leftover capelletti with butter melted over them and pecorino romano grated over the top. I learned to make chai, and plan to indulge when time permits me to acquire the relevant spices; most likely over Thanksgiving break.

A week of wrestling with my DVD drive seems to indicate that it is, in some important way, broken inside, a veteran of too many Celtic CDs that now refuses to play anything, ever. Drive tray works properly, the BIOS recognizes the drive, but something inside just isn't wired the same anymore, I guess. Reste en paix, drive.

November's just a sort of weird time of year, I think.

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Tuesday November 19, 2002 Degas and days

I can't help feeling that this paper is bullshit.

It's not that I didn't do my research. It's not that I didn't carefully consider my argument. It's not even that I didn't outline the paper, and that it therefore has no logical structure. No, it's not any of these, because they're not true. My problem (issue, in Swatspeak) is a deeper one:

I invented words in this paper.

Or maybe I didn't invent them. Most likely I didn't. Still, they were words that didn't register as real words in my own internal lexicon, words like sexualizing (causing gendered sexuality to be ascribed to someone--note that gendered also falls into this questionable-word category), objectifying, etc. I used theory words in this paper, written for my art history class.

I feel as though this must represent some sort of culminating Swarthmore experience, for which I ought to receive due credit--I wrote a theory paper.

I've learned some things about my own thinking style through my time here. I still procrastinate a great deal, but I've learned that not all the time I spend wasting time is procrastination, if that makes sense. Susie says that I sit quietly, watching everything, taking it all in, and that it jumbles around inside me and comes out from my center, integrated and whole. This is what allows me to write good five-page papers in less than an hour. I feel as though I'm not doing any work, but I'm thinking about things in the back of my mind, and it's a relief to find that sometimes, I really do have something insightful to say. It's been the one true boon of my time here, the thing that has made life possible. I remember my freshman year, when a professor's refusal to give me an extension (she felt that one paper due and two finals within 24 hours wasn't too much) made me write my final linguistics paper, 13 pages, in two and a quarter hours flat. I don't remember whether I got an A or a B on it, not that it matters, really.... It's a lucky skill to have.

My problem comes with writing things that can't reasonably be written at one sitting. Maybe I'll need to take a top-down approach with papers of 40-50 pages, writing my comments first in one sitting, like we do with code. Who knows. For now, I can churn out these five-pagers without too much agony, for all the whining I do about it. Now if only I could learn to skim readings....

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Sunday November 24, 2002 Domesticus

It's 2:30 am, and I can't sleep. Too many thoughts racing around my brain, too many ideas banging into each other. My hands are fragrant with the leftover dust of spices I ground and measured for homemade chai; breaking the cinnamon sticks by hand imbued my hands with oils that don't seem to come out. Even now, touching my face leaves a faint burning sensation from the cinnamon.

Earlier today, Elizabeth and I walked to Target and Genuardi's, where I engaged in sheer domestic silliness. A wastebasket for my bathroom, which has lacked one until now... a pasta claw, called a "Spaghetti Server" in the castrated linguistic usage of advertising specialists, for fishing our beautiful creations out of their boiling hot baths... A pastry wheel, zig-zags in steel with a wooden handle, for making farfalle and ravioli... a new cutting board, smaller than my other and thus better suited to being whipped out for cutting apples or cheese or whatnot.

And on to Genuardi's for all sorts of random things, including butter, which is surprisingly expensive. And back to my room after many meetings and errands, where I did (some of) my work, the part that's due tomorrow, and then mixed up chai spices. I'd had orange peel sliced and drying on my radiator for the last two days, and so it went into the mix and was replaced by freshly sliced ginger, which also must dry. I used up almost all of the spices that went into my chai mix; I hope it'll be worth the use.

Funny that I brought no photographs of my home to college, but I brought so many more meaningful snapshots of life at home. I brought a quilt that my mother had made, a book of recipes from my dad, a copy of George Downing's Massage Book, a cookbook I bought in Nogent-le-Rotrou, recommended by my French host family, one of my father's Bibles. A copy of Madhur Jaffrey's Invitation to Indian Cooking, and one of Edward Espe Brown's Tassajara Bread Book.

And my spice box. Spice boxes, now, but originally just the one, a Rubbermaid box that holds several quarts, filled with bags of spices from our Co-op at home. Cheap and fresh, and I've not found their equal anywhere in this city of brotherly chain stores. My shoes could fit inside this spice box, if only the spices weren't there...

... but they are, and these are the things that have been my talismans of home. Later I discovered photographs, but at first, the need to reconnect with my family was assuaged by pulling out my spice box, opening the lid, and breathing deep of that thick, powerful smell. They say that scent has the strongest power to compel the memory, and part of me has always known and agreed. My spice box never fails to make me happy, even when the packets begin to run dry and the winds of change threaten to steal even the empty bags. Is coriander the spice of life? Why choose only one?

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Monday November 25, 2002 Another day

Tonight, after a lecture by Bjarne Stroustrup, designer of the C++ programming language, I have not really gotten any work done. Oh, sure, the paper that I intended to write last night (due Wednesday) is a bit closer to completion....

And I'm abruptly conscious that I'm a few weeks away from never having class with some of these people again, ever. In college, as in high school, a lot of social interaction is determined by where you live and what you study. People always drop off the map and become friends you wave toward during meals, folks with whom you occasionally check in, but they get lost in the cracks all too often, and both you and they know it.

But I made chai for the first time tonight, and though I was missing a bunch of spices (who'd have thought, me, missing spices) it was really good. A more complex blend of flavors than the commercial ones, and though it was not smooth, I liked it. I will, of course, tinker with the mix.

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Tuesday November 26, 2002 Late

For reasons not entirely obvious to me, I'm up at 4 am. My paper was done a long time ago (6 pages, about how God's personality shifts through Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers), and I found Eliz working on her lab... she looked like she needed some help.

And my worth as an educational theorist probably doesn't rank all that high, but my ability to make homemade chai at 2:40 in the morning probably kicks my status rather upward.

And it was good, sweet enough and with some real body to it this time, and so easy the second time around. Very different from Kohlberg chai, and also from Trader Joe's chai mix. Not fast, but not so terribly time-consuming, and really good. Easy enough with my new strainer ($3 at Target, I think) which doesn't quite filter out all the little bits of coriander and such, so the last few sips can be a bit textured, but it's a real food.

Something to which I look forward in the next few days, during which I'm probably going to make somewhere between 10 and 30 baguettes...

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Wednesday November 27, 2002 Footlights

When I walked into the concert hall at 6:30 this evening, all the lights were extinguished except for the little chaser lights that illuminate the steps. Some kind person had left the sliding panels that cover Lang's wall of windows open, and so I looked out over the Crum woods and into the sky above Philadelphia. The weather has turned a bit colder, and the lack of cloud cover made the evening darker still. As I walked down the steps in the darkness, I saw stars through those windows... some in the sky, others merely reflections of the lights that marked my path.

I've always loved practicing in empty concert halls, and for whatever reason, near-darkness makes it better. One of our Steinway concert grand pianos filled the stage, and as I carefully removed its quilted cover and propped open its lid, I felt an easing of stresses. I sat in that darkened room and played for hours this evening. Later, Susie arrived, and we played Scottish music, but at first, it was just me, the hall, and the night sky.

One of my fond memories of middle childhood is that of sitting in Grandpa and Peggy's hot tub on New Year's Eve one year. Their home is on a lake in a part of New York even more rural than my own, and the stars are all you see at night. Their hot tub is in a greenhouse with sloping glass walls, and so I sat in the tub and looked up at the sky. Later, it snowed, and I watched the snowflakes crashing against the windows in a winter storm that could not touch me. I loved it.

I have, I think, always loved concert halls and performance spaces. I remember with a bit of an ache walking back onto stage after my last performance in high school, long after the audience members and other performers had all gone home. I spent so many hours in that room, between rehearsals for any number of concert ensembles, solo auditions, theatre rehearsals, musicals, plays, assemblies, elections, and countless other things. It was, I think, my real home in that high school, the place that felt the most like my own space.

Only it wasn't anymore. I walked out beyond the proscenium, and I turned slowly around, looking and taking in the space. I said goodbye, aloud. I sat quietly, and after a while, I stood up and left, taking my energy with me. It belongs to others now, and that's as it should be.

As I sat in Lang tonight, playing Bach in the dark, I was reminded of how soon this one, too, will become the domain of others. Already my hold on the concert hall has been loosened, as another new generation of students discovers it. Sometimes, though, I can still have it to myself. I've always liked concert halls....

Maybe, with some luck, I'll get to meet a few more halls someday.

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Saturday November 30, 2002 Thanks

So many things that make me glad, or grateful, or just happy. Here are a few.

Making bread on Thanksgiving day. We fed 40 people. I made 16 baguettes and two focaccias, and they were yummy. Eliz made pies, and lots of people made other things. It was great. I love making bread in large batches.

Starship Troopers, a horrible movie that it's fun to show to friends. Thanks, too, to them for watching with me.

White pizza from Pietro's Coal-Fired Pizzeria with Eliz in Philly today. It had prosciutto and garlic and tomatoes and mozzarella and basil and nothing else, and it was fantabulous.

Fresh farfalle that Eliz and I made tonight, with homemade Alfredo sauce and cannoli we brought back from the Italian market. So good. So good.

The lights above Rittenhouse Square, which we first saw about a year ago. We walked under them together this evening, holding hands and looking up. They're electric lights in glass globes of varying sizes and colors, and hang in the trees in a park that dates from the 1600s. Beautiful. Kitsch, perhaps, but who cares? They made me happier than Warhol does.

Eliz being 20 tomorrow. Happy birthday, sweetie!

As I said, lots of things. The fact that we've had fire alarms at 5 am each of the last two nights doesn't make the list of things that please me. I'm going to bed in the hope that there won't be one tonight.

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