I suck at keeping up with this thing. Therefore, I provide here a mostly-complete update before I have to once again retreat for the evil that is school. I spent a good deal of late July and early August simply taking time for myself. I made a to-do list, and I used it. I cleaned up my office (most of the way). I handled some obnoxious financial badness, and also took some positive steps to clean up our finances without requiring disaster conditions as impetus. I took wedding photos for a friend of my mother, did loads of Spanish, and prepared for the upcoming school franticness - I always know it's coming, and I'm never ready. Then, last week, I flew out east. I flew from Omaha to Chicago to Boston on Monday, and landed early Tuesday morning. (As in, a few minutes after midnight.) I was slated to be delayed on my first flight enough to make me late for the second, so United booked me on a couple American flights, then proceeded to try to dick me out of the miles. (I still have to mail them the boarding passes to get credit for the flights.) Well-kept Boston secret: the shuttle from the airport to the train station stops running long about midnight. P.S. so does the train. My original transport with Kara from plane-landing-place to bed-sleeping-place fell through, so the plan was to take the shuttle to the train (subway, I suppose: do not call it either of these things when you are there, for it is the T, and if you call it something other than this, you will get funny looks) and the <strike>train</strike> T to the MIT campus to chill until Live Entertainment became available (i.e., the person I was visiting made it back to town). So I hopped on the wrong shuttle, and I wound up at the Chelsea Employee Station. Yes, it seemed a touch odd that everyone on my shuttle seemed to be an airport employee, but I chalked it up to hopping on around midnight - shift change time, yeah? Anyway, the very nice shuttle driver - Alberto - chatted with me for awhile (my favorite bit was discussing the many ways Spanish has to tell a woman you love her) and took me back to the airport to wait for the 4:30am shuttle to the 5:00am T. The only food open was a Very Suspect Dunkin' Donuts With No Shortage of Ghetto But a Definite Shortage of Croissants; I bought a twisty glazed donut, then a few hours later, an everything bagel with cream cheese. (It is strange how different "everything" tastes, out that-a-way.) And copious amounts of coffee, of course. I read the rest of American Gods (which I started on the plane), finishing just in time to catch my shuttle. (Reading American Gods and other Gaiman-foo on the trip has made me itchy to write. I have story ideas. This always happens when I fly.) Shuttle to the T station, blue line to the green line to the red line to Kendall/MIT station. I got off there around six in the morning, then proceeded to wander aimlessly, no thanks to a couple of helpful folks who, when queried, told me that MIT was "all over [there]". I struggled until normal-ish business hours to find a restroom, eventually finding one at the Coop. And a wireless internet connection, courtesy MIT! I took an amusing video to highlight my toilet frustrations, then dorked around online for awhile until stuff started opening. After a couple hours, I grabbed a map and navigated my way on over to 14N to check out the Science Writing graduate program. The lady in the Science Writing department - Shannon Larkin, I believe (and I think she'll forgive me if I'm wrong, as she's aware of how sleep deprived I was when I met her) - was extremely genial and very thorough in describing the program. She didn't seem put off by my tangential train of thought, which might reflect well on her, the department, MIT, or some combination. She was effusive and competent and just nice to talk with. That's so underrated - all of it! As a result of my talk with her, I'm pondering the brutal stabbing of the voice in my head that says, "But I'm tired of school!" and possibly an application to the program. I had lunch at a nifty little (Greek?) place up near Central square, Brookline Lunch. They have an excellent idea for what should be in an omelette, which is to say, everything. Then I hopped back on the T (thanks to my handy week pass) and dashed up to Harvard. Harvard left me completely cold. Everything that felt like home at MIT felt like an overstuffed and still uncomfortable chair at Harvard. Which is not to say that it's a horrible school, or ugly, or even unpleasant - I'm sure people get a fantastic education there, the campus is pretty, and so on. I suppose it was just that: Harvard seemed so conventionally pretty, so uniform, that I was struck by the overwhelming sameness of everything I saw. I like surprises and disconcerting nooks and pockets of space for my many moods, and MIT seemed to play well to that (even if my predominate mood during my visit was tired). So pretty well immediately after arriving at Harvard, I took to the streets and the T tunnels on my tired feet and went back to MIT. I found a couch up in the Writing department, figured out what was up with Kara, and promptly attempted troubled naps. It should probably be noted that I packed light, carry-on only style, to avoid carting around five-piece Samsonite hell during all of this. I had my purse and my laptop backpack, which contained reading material, toiletries (all of the dry variety), clothing, and the laptop. It was really all I needed. So the wandering was not loaded down, but the sleep was hampered by my rampant paranoia; though I was tucked away in a very quiet corner, I was committing some sort of cardinal sin by Traveling With Many Valuable Possessions. Sleeping curled around a backpack is fitful. A few hours and some obnoxious traffic hassles later (5pm-ish, at this point), Kara rolled along my way, and we headed to her place. Recollections get fuzzy, here, but I believe there was showering and Red Bones for dinner, then we struck out on an ill-advised and ultimately failed attempt to find a drag show. Sometime around 11:00pm, I decided that the feet just could not take it anymore, and after nearly 36 hours of nearly-awake, I had to call it quits. Back to the T station, back to her place, and we retired to el bed-o. Wednesday (which, if you're keeping track, was both my second and third day there, sort of), we woke up late, had Indian food that apparently didn't agree with me (but tasted good!), then set off to LUSH for requisite stocking-up-on-bath-foo. We grabbed some henna for our hair while we were there, bought a couple books off a street seller, then pondered going on a duck tour. Given a combination of weather, cost, and lateness, we opted to check out The Garment District instead. It was kind of a bust - little to nothing in the XL+ range, so nothin' doing for me - but looking at obnoxious hats was fun; it was determined I should wear pimp hats, and Kara should wear top hats, particularly ones with Hideous Numbers of Sequins. We then walked home, primped briefly, and drove to the wrong Melting Pot for the gift certificate I had for a Fondue Experience. They honored the certificate, and we had the promised Experience, though I believe I will go ingredient shopping and have the same Experience at home for about a quarter of the cost (perhaps with less capital E). Particularly if I am eating with a vegetarian-or-something-like-it again; there wasn't a veggie in the main course that couldn't have been suitably sauce'd up for five bucks. We went home and henna'd Kara's hair - we were going to both do it, but I think I erred on the thick side with the henna and we ran out almost before we were done with hers alone. Alas. But she smelled yummy and herbal for days after, which was more pleasant Experience (at about a fifth the cost of the Fondue sort, and just as gooey). Then there was more sleeping. I was apparently catching a cold, but I wouldn't be certain about that for a day or so. Thursday, we milled about, showered, packed up, and headed north to Portland to pick up Will. There was much rejoicing and hugging, and then driving in the direction of his new place. We were greeted by the arrival of his bed, and also baby kittens nesting just outside his door, because apparently someone shorted him on his damned cute quota, or wanted to see me convulse and revert to the vocabulary of my babyhood. We proceeded to shop for all manner of home stuffs for him, as his moving strategy apparently involved throwing away anything that appeared to have possible uses in a new apartment. (Tongue firmly in cheek.) Friday was a good deal more of that, plus poking at the Chamber of Commerce for Answers About The Community. This all culminated in sangria-making and some hardcore chillaxing at Casa William. Saturday, we went to Scarborough Downs for lunch and pony-watching. My chaotic influence must have been working overtime, as one of the horses broke free and tried to jet out the service entrance. After lunch and a credit card kerfuffle, we picked up a rental car. We took Kara back down to Cambridge so she could prep for further traveling fun, then proceeded to get hopelessly lost in the death spiral that is driving in the Boston Metropolitan Area. Sam, to the rescue! He helped us avoid driving past Harvard for a fifth time, and to find the evil sign for the right turn we'd repeatedly failed to make - the sign which, against all logic, is located on the far left of a large intersection, through a thicket of trees and several lanes of traffic. I liked Boston. And then I drove in Boston. We fell into bed in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Sunday was a day for relaxing in the most complete way possible. Except that part where there was life stuff that needed sorting, still. We took a little evening drive up to a suburb of Portland to check out a car - one that seemed like a killer deal, but wound up not being it because the seller seemed bent on not allowing a prospective buyer to do diligence, obnoxiously. We looked at another car Monday morning, which wound up being the winner instead. And then we bought me a new bag for my return trip, as my laptop backpack was staying with Will, along with the laptop and such, which he bought. The return trip was a minor nightmare. We packed after we bought the new bag, then drove down to Boston in the rental and dropped it off at Logan, as agreed, then found my gate with plenty of time, so I chatted with Will about the laptop a bit - showed him the essential programs, set up a user account and all that. (This is not the nightmare part, of course.) Then it was onto the flight. For whatever reason, it would only let me check in through my first stop, at New York's LaGuardia International Airport. When I landed, therefore, I had no boarding pass for my next flight. I exited the secure area, hopped on a bus to the other terminal (brilliance) since my second flight (to Chicago) was on United itself, rather than a United affiliate (US Airways). When I got there, I couldn't check in at the carry-on only kiosk - it told me it couldn't process the itinerary change. Itinerary change? I thought. What itinerary change? Turns out my New York -> Chicago flight was delayed by a couple hours - enough to kill my Chicago -> Omaha connecting flight. So, rather than getting me to Chicago and then dealing with it, they stuck me at the end of a long line of similarly delayed folks so as to delay me the maximum amount possible. When I got to the counter, I explained my situation. "Can you get me home by 8:30am? I start a new job." "No," the nice lady told me. And I must have looked sufficiently crestfallen, for that got changed to a, "Well... let me see." She wound up putting me on a flight that was scheduled to be leaving an hour and a half earlier, but was actually leaving ten minutes later than the scheduled time for my originally scheduled flight, which made silly forty minute connection at O'Hare a ridiculous thirty minute connection. A ten-minute-late takeoff made it a stone-stupid twenty minute connection. And so when I landed at terminal C at O'Hare, nineteen minutes before the scheduled takeoff of my final flight (gate F12), three terminals away from said flight and at an hour that the shuttle to the other terminal was no longer running, I hoofed it. I shoved off my plane, I ran down moving walkways and stupid halls that stupidly lacked them, up the up-escalators in defiance of gravity, around corners and passengers. I ignored my burning fucking lungs for my fifteen minute sprint-jog-powerwalk-sprint-jog-powerwalk, only to arrive at the gate and find the door closed. "I'm sorry," the lady behind the counter there was saying to a similarly beleaguered couple. "We have to close the doors ten minutes before takeoff." We had seven minutes left. In the only good news from the entire debacle, the flight crew was negotiated with, we were escorted out onto the plane, and I did, in fact, make it home shortly after midnight, Tuesday morning. I hadn't eaten in about twelve hours, and the Boston -> Chicago leg of my trip had introduced me to the joy of sitting adjacent Boys Gone Wild, a screaming child and his non-English-speaking mother, a woman with the plague, a deaf woman who was apparently surly about said impairment and anyone who noticed it, and a chatty businessman brandishing college Spanish skills with bravado. Taco Bueno soothed my hunger and the immediate sleep once I was fed soothed my surliness. And I made it to my internship on time. So there. </Travelogue> Still vaguely sick with this cold. My internship started this week. Next week: UNO classes, eight credits. Teaching at UNO, two credits. The week after: Metro classes, three credits. I'll be busy, but it's actually a decently happy busy. Ciao, kittens. I'm off to bed.
Recently in Angst Category
Check out the video of John Cage's 4'33" over at the Unclutterer, then come back. No, really, I'll wait. I would sincerely like to say that I am as capable of laughing as any other human being on the planet, and that I'm more appreciative of new forms of music than your average bear. But this isn't funny. And it's not music. If you want four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence, say so. And also? Don't invite an entire orchestra to come "play" it for you once you've custom-printed three-page scores for each member, containing only movement numbers and the word "tacet" (it is silent). You don't need a paintbrush if your favorite color is transparent, and you can do silence without calling up the philharmonic. Knowing as I do what magnificent sounds those instruments and their players are capable of, it very nearly causes me physical pain to see them assembled and abused in this way. Please have enough respect for the assembled talent and instrumentation to play some music. You know. They kind you can hear?
As a follow-up to my mini-rant about the DUI exception to the Constitution, it looks like the courts think there's a general "drug exception" to it, too (via Reason Hit & Run):
As I feared, the Court seems to be opening up a "drug exception" to the First Amendment, albeit limited (so far) to students in school. It's true that high school students do not have the same free speech rights as adults, but the Court has held that they do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." They have a right, for instance, to wear anti-war armbands. In that case, the Court held that student speech may be suppressed only if it will "materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school." A "mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint" or "an urgent wish to avoid the controversy which might result from the expression" is not enough to justify censorship. But fear of drugs apparently is.An American citizen is an American citizen is an American citizen. High school kids should not be denied rights simply because they're forced to be in a classroom all day, and further, talking about a subject, however controversial, is a right that should not be infringed upon.
...from the politically-correct everyone-is-right-unless they're successful and particularly if they're the United States bullshit. Check out this page from my online workbook for my Spanish class (click thumbnail to see larger version): What's it say? Glad you asked. It asks to identify the country's citizens who could make the following claims. (Possible answers in parenthesis after the questions, correct answers bolded.)
- We have earned the World Cup in soccer. (Americans, Japanese, Brazilians)
- We have lost much of our territory and a big part of our primitive culture. (English, Russians, Native Americans)
- We have crossed the border to the north to work in the United States (of America). (Mexicans, Canadians, Russians)
- We have discovered faraway lands, like the New World. (Aztecs, Spanish, Africans)
- We have created forms of government, like democracy. (Italians, Greeks, Germans)
- We have invented various explosives, like fireworks. (Chinese, Portuguese, French)
- We have dropped an atomic bomb on another place. (Japanese, Russians, Americans)
- We have been part of an empire. (Costa Ricans, Romans, Guatemalans)
- Native America
If you're looking for something to be pissed off about, look no further: The DUI Exception to the Constitution (DUI BLOG). I'm not an apologist for people who drive while legitimately intoxicated and impaired. My uncle died in a car accident involving astronomical blood alcohol levels, and several of my family members have had their licenses revoked and even gone to jail for drunk driving, with levels of intoxication that should justify removing them from operating heavy (and dangerous!) machinery (like cars) in public places (like roads). But I don't care what your crime is - Miranda rights are not optional. Access to legal counsel should not be optional. Probable cause is there for a reason. The right to a jury trial should be damned near sacrosanct. I don't drive drunk. I do sometimes go out and close a bar with friends, and limit myself to a drink or two early in the night so I can be well sure it's out of my system by the end. Based on the time of night I'm driving, I don't find it unlikely that I'll eventually be pulled over and checked. And I won't be cooperating with this legal farce; I won't submit to providing evidence that is both faulty and beyond question, I will demand to be informed of my rights, and I will demand presence of legal counsel. I'll do that not because I'll be drunk, but because I give a shit about our Constitution.
Three o'clock rolled around today and found me in my office at school. This morning saw me head to band practice at 8:00 a.m., only to sit through the entire practice without playing. I'd missed Tuesday's practice and hence the music handout, and they gave my music to the bass clarinetist who sits next to me, but he missed today's practice, so I was out of luck. The plan after band was to head back to the office and do some hardcore studying for my 2:30 p.m. geography test. Instead, based on my on-campus-ness and thus proximity to the university library, I decided to work on something that required the library. My paper for Technical Writing, which is turning into quite the massive tome on gifted education, is just such a something. So I spent from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Ebsco (a collection of databases for searching out academic articles) and cross-referencing with the UNO library to see what I could actually get my hands on. I wound up with about thirty journal articles and books altogether, with call numbers and all. I followed this up with a trip to the library. It took me about an hour to comb through the library, find my books, determine which journal articles were actually worth photocopying, and so on. I nabbed lunch, headed back to my office, ate, and power-studied for geography for an hour. The test was easy - took all of thirty minutes. Which brings me back to my office at 3:00 p.m., when I receive a call from my tutoring student. "I don't really have anything new to go over this week," she tells me. "And I did really well on my last test." This matched my expectations, as last week she was all over her thermodynamics equations like they were hot boys and she was two years older. So I called my buddy Glen about a ride. No va, you see, 'cause he's got strep throat. I was left with the proposition of sitting in my office until Sam could come fetch me around 7:00 p.m. Whine, whine, whine. So I get this bright idea: I'll take the bus. Yeah! It'll be like an adventure. I'll write about it on my blog - do a review of the Omaha MAT system. It'll be sweet. So I go to their website and look up a route and schedule. Because of some convoluted construction at my pickup point, I call and ask where I should be waiting such that I actually do get picked up. By the time I have this idea and all of the information, it's 4:40 p.m., so I pack up and head for the shuttle. The shuttle takes me to Crossroads Mall. I go where the nice lady told me to. It's 4:50 p.m., which means I have twenty-five minutes to wait - I just missed the previous bus. No big deal. I wait. 5:15 p.m. rolls around, though, and there is no number eight eastbound. Mind you, I'm standing here on the sidewalk; there's no enclosure, no bench, and it had rained earlier, so sitting on the ground was a no-no unless I didn't want to wear these pants again tomorrow. Five buses swing past me. It's not until 5:45 p.m. that I actually see a number eight. I lift a hand so the driver can tell I'm waiting, adjust the 60-pound backpack on my back, pick up my bassoon case, and step to the curb. The driver blows right by me. I am very much at that moment saying, "What the fuck?" in my head. The driver apparently snaps to the realization that I had business with her about 100 feet past me. She pulls to a stop, and I run after her with all of the aforementioned luggage. She opens the door. "This is eastbound, right?" I ask. "...not yet, no. I'm just on my way this way. If you want to catch the eastbound, you need to be on the other side of the mall." I look at her dumbly as she says this. "Uh. Ok -" I say, coming to my senses, "- how long will it be before you're eastbound?" Crossroads, I reasoned, is the tail end of this route. It only made sense that she'd be eastbound in short order. "Oh -" she says, and starts counting by fives. "...ah, thirty-five minutes? I go on break here." I am crushed. "Nevermind, then," I say. I really don't want to sit on the bus for that long. In that time, I could very nearly walk home. It's only two miles, after all. She drives off, and I (crushed as I am) start crying. (Did I mention that I'm a wee bit hormonal at the moment? Between monster cramps and the emotional rollercoaster I hit, you should really consider investing in cookies before you approach me.) I pull my phone out of my pocket, as Sam had told me he could leave as early as 5:30 p.m. to come get me. (I had wanted to avoid this - his school schedule requires him to adhere pretty closely to his work schedule to make forty hours.) I tearfully ask him to come get me, explain where I am, and wait. So, I was going to do a rider experience report, and here it is. I never got to ride your stinky buses, Omaha Metro Area Transit. You gave me the wrong fucking directions when I called, and shat on an otherwise decently productive day. I should have listened to my instincts and avoided you at all costs in the first place. No love, Erica
I currently have the best job I've ever had in my life, as a teaching assistant in the physics department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Twice a week, I give a lecture on basic Newtonian physics (classical mechanics, mostly, plus a smattering of thermodynamics) that runs somewhere between 25 and 40 minutes. Following that, I assist anywhere between one and two dozen students through experiments using the material from my lecture. Each student turns in a writeup on the lab experiment a week later, which I then grade and hand back a week after that. I love my job. I really do! I love teaching, I love helping students, and I love physics at the level I teach. The money's not bad at all, either. But I've also been in a lot of jobs that weren't so great. I spent years in corporate America, where being five minutes later could mean a thirty minute lecture, or not making someone ultimately happy could mean your ass. That sort of experience fosters a sort of unhealthy paranoia and fear that can seriously eat you up. I very highly doubt that corporate life will ever be a direction I pursue again. As an instructive example, a little more than two weeks ago, I overslept my Saturday morning class. I was supposed to be there at 8 o'clock in the morning. At 8:25 a.m., I got a phone call. Me, bleary: ...hello? Student: Uh, where are you? Everybody left. Me, coming to: ...oh, crap! Student: What should I do? It's just me and one other kid here. Me: Uh. Ok, just - you and one other student? Alright. Go home, we'll make up the material next week. I hung up the phone and proceeded to FREAK OUT HARDCORE, as those who were online (or in the address book in my phone and under suspicion of having some sort of applicable wisdom) can tell you. I immediately emailed my boss, and proceeded to bite my nails waiting for repercussions that never came. I never heard back from him about it. Fast-forward to today. I'm talking with the department secretary about an email I sent her. "I haven't gotten anything from you," she tells me. My freakout starts all over again. What if, I hypothesize (as scientists are so good at), my boss never received my email explaining and apologizing for my absence and seeking guidance? If I go and talk to him and he didn't receive it, I look irresponsible and avoidant. If I don't go talk to him and he didn't receive it, he could find out about the debacle from someone else - ever more irresponsible and avoidant. So I go talk to him, stomach in knots. "Boss," I say, inserting his actual name instead of the word, "I'm wondering if you got an email from me about two and a half weeks ago?" He tells me he had, and he respon-- oh, wait, did he respond? He talked to the department head in case there were any students who complained or asked about it. The thrust of the advice - to teach the material even if there wasn't time for the experiment - was exactly how I'd been handling it. "I know how hard it is to wake up and realize you overslept," he said. "I'm not going to beat you up over it. I did appreciate hearing about it right away, though." I thanked him, and went on my way. ...and promptly started crying on the way back to my office. I really hadn't understood just how much stress I was carrying around simply not knowing everything was ok with this job-that-I-love. Neurotic to my last. (P.S. For those who may go :( at this entry, please note that I feel much better now.)
I'm having trouble with my gmail account - 'Lockdown in Sector 4' message - so if you're trying to get in touch with me, try tesla_uncoiled at that other popular free webmail service that starts with a 'y' dot com. Yes, I'm a nerd.
It's a podcast. It's a long podcast. It was actually fun to put together. If you're really not interested in Somalia - stick around past 2:35. The stuff about Somalia is good information, but sort of tangential. Listen to Somalia, College and Snobs [m4a format; iTunes recommended]. Depending on what y'all think of this one, I may or may not do podcasts in the future. Leave comments! (And if you're reading this on LJ, as always, I only see comments on the actual site.)
Dear Apple, I love my iPod. I didn't realize how much I'd missed it. ...okay, maybe I did. The larger screen is love. Color? Even better. The software for viewing contacts and calendars is much improved. Request: please have a discussion with the person who decided it would be ok to make the middle button completely flat. I am now not only missing a piece of tactile feedback concerning where my finger is on the device, but it is difficult for me to press the button without jogging the touch-wheel. I have moderate-length nails which cause me no difficulty when I type, nor with the multitude of tiny buttons on the other electronics I own. They shouldn't cause problems with the iPod, either. xoxo
~~~Dear Apple, I would very much like to have the iMac I ordered. I understand that you are v. busy and that this product is very popular, however, I would like to note that telling me that my product is going to ship late - and up to two weeks late, at that - the day after it was supposed to ship... well, let's just say I've made that sort of mistake before, and it didn't work out well. Don't worry - I still love you. <3
~~~Dear Casio, Manual appears to be missing from box. Received something manual-like, but only four of the pages are in English; remainder appears to be repeated text in several other languages. Will admit interface is fairly easy to pick up, but you know how methodical physics is making me. Where are the equations? ^_^ P.S. Camera so pretty! Very thin! Must be staying away from the twinkies. Appears to have adopted my wardrobe.
~~~Dear UNO, Some of your computer lab rules appear to be unenforceable; others, not in line with your practices. For an example of the former, see the "offending, intimidating or harassing others is not allowed" rule. There are several people sitting within earshot who could potentially be offending me if I got offended by things like obnoxious laughs, clothing with religiously significant symbols, or the fact that anyone is actually looking for pictures of Lil Jon in a fashion that is not intended to be ironi-- wait, that does offend me. The guy next to me is seriously built, and would intimidate anyone except (perhaps) my sister. I would recommend retooling the language on your signs to be more meaningful. For the latter, look no further than your rule against attaching peripherals, when you have pulled USB extension cables through the holes on the desk explicitly for the purpose of making the attachment of peripherals easier. Perhaps these rules predate the addition of said cables. In this case, I recommend what is called a "revision". That's where you change content that is no longer correct. Helpfully yours, Erica