back again
*sigh* what a long time since i posted in my poor newborn little blog. well, i certainly have been busy, so it's not like i'm just being lazy. (well, there's always some of that, but not as much as has often been the case in my life.) the semester is wrapping up, i have final papers and exams and summer internship/employment and thesis preparation to deal with (not to mention current job and complicated website volunteer stuff), and i just can't justify taking much time to do other things. like laundry or housecleaning or cooking. at least i'm not procrastinating by focusing on those, i guess.

it's so funny. i have all these powerful memories of being an undergrad and continually struggling against the minimum page length... i was an english major who wasn't good at managing time (for much of my college career, anyway), and who was always doing silly things like all-night paper-writing sessions in desperation with the clock ticking away and too much caffeine, etc. being consumed. my papers would generally be stream-of-consciousness discussion of ideas that usually didn't get too much time to percolate... and there was never a next day to edit, revise, and reflect. there wasn't a whole lot of pre-planning about how the paper would take shape... i just sat down and thrashed it out, and whatever came out was my submission. it kind of felt like a lottery: would my lucky number come up today? would i get the auspicious combination of good topic, accessible text, enough sleep, and a professor/ta who liked my writing style?

i recently reviewed my undergraduate body of work (i saved pretty much every paper, at least in my major... i really wish i had a copy of the history paper on japanese bluestockings i got an a on, for example), which bears this out. i cringed to read copious, thoughtful comments on how i said too much about what wasn't interesting and stopped short of what would have been, how my prose was horribly wordy and awkward (true), how i didn't even seem to have a thesis statement some of the time. what is really funy is that i clearly remembered that everything was to be written single-spaced (i was shocked that we only have to do double-spaced for everything in my program), but no, every last one was double-spaced. i couldn't believe it.

admittedly, i did improve over time, learning from my mistakes, and my graduate english papers (the semester immediately following finishing undergrad) still made me proud. but the cumulative effect was quite depressing at first, before i went back and noticed the compliments. especially to realize that everything said was judicious and true. and that i wasn't really taught very well in high school. english was always my best subject, and i was often teacher's pet with my eagerness and natural aptitude for all things verbal. i have two key memories from my english instruction before college:

being praised in front of the class in 8th grade for constructing a (technically) grammatically correct sentence that was two-thirds of a page long (she even put it up on the overhead projector for everyone to see)


being taught that an essay should start out very broadly and focus in on a point (picture an upside-down triangle... that's what they taught us).

however, my attempts to incorporate these two stylistic approaches in my college papers met with general disdain at uc berkeley, where you are expected to actually write correctly, and well. everyone hated my trying to start off broadly; get to the point, they all said. at least they gradually taught me to do it right.

but that minimum page length was always my nemesis, and i am quite surprised to see now my creative use of huge fonts, my enormous margins, my stopping when i could have said so much more. because now i have the opposite problem, and i struggle to squeeze my ideas into the professor's required brevity. perhaps it is that i know so much more about what i'm doing now (both the subject and how to complete assignments), and my topics are so much less nebulous than literary criticism is... i used to think that there was nothing i liked better than analyzing a good literary text, but probably social science writing is winning out now, because it's so much easier to see when you're actually getting the point.

ok, speaking of which, back to the salt mines. more when i come back up for air...

decisions, decisions
hmm, sorry. i've been awfully busy with school and work and games. the semester is heating up with just over a month left to go and i need to try to use my time more efficiently from now on. but excitingly, i think i have decided what i'm going to write my thesis on!!! (a thesis is optional in my program — you can take two research courses instead — and most people choose not to write one, so the faculty are very encouraging of us to take the task on.) i am going to meet with the professor i hope will be my thesis advisor (the one who constantly discusses his recent bush admin post, but is very personable, smart, nice, and probably easy to work with) today to get it approved, etc. it will be, very likely, about the history of prison reform movements in the u.s., and theoretical applications. i had a couple of other interesting ideas (an analysis of philanthropy depictions in the work of dickens or an equivalent american author, or a cross-cultural study of african philanthropic traditions) but each is probably unworkable for various reasons. anyway, it's a tremendously exciting and stimulating thing in my life right now; hopefully my enthusiasm will continue appropriately.

we got a couple of inches of snow the other day, with a somewhat anticlimactic, mostly spent storm arriving after it tore the fuck out of the great plains. it's already all gone, not being nearly cold enough to sustain it. i'm a little disappointed, although i'm not supposed to say things like that. most people here hate snow, it being largely an inconvenience, but it's still novel winter wonderland to me. i love walking through pristine areas, like the square block of city park i cut across diagonally on the way to school/work, in the morning with fresh snow all around me... everything is soft and white, with this peaceful sort of glow from light reflecting diffusely, perfectly smooth (except where people/animals have walked, or shoveled) and quiet. i even appreciate the thick, muddy, icy accumulations by the side of the road, which remind me a bit of swirling sandy sea foam. of course, it's hard to walk outside when it's down below twenty degrees, as your exposed (or improperly insulated) skin actually starts to freeze, which both hurts and feels weird. but it wasn't even that cold wednesday morning, certainly not enough for my diligent three layers. just as i start to get it right, it's beginning to turn back toward astonishingly hot and humid again.

video hadn't been working on my computer. my new computer with the fancy windows xp and the flatscreen monitor (that is too wobbly), but that also has slowly been deteriorating in disconcerting ways as i repeatedly shock it awake accidentally with all this damn static electricity. seriously, i don't even get to push the on button when that happens despite my best efforts; the spark leaps across to the button as my stealthy finger creeps toward it and it magically turns on. perhaps a chrome case was not the best idea... but i've never lived in a cold, dry place with carpeting before, so i didn't know it would be such a big deal.

the first time it happened, i got a strange old-school blue error screen with scrolling text, which seemed to indicate that my printer software had been damaged. no big deal; i could always transfer files across to my old computer (i could see its files from the new one and transfer both ways, though mysteriously couldn't see the new from the windows me trooper) and print from there. but thereafter it seemed to get worse and worse, as the unthinkable and unconscionable kept happening. i stopped being able to see any video at all on my new machine... quicktime crashed obnoxiously every time, and shockwave and flash just weren't there, even after repeated reinstalls. and then, inconveniently, i lost access to the home network. occasionally, the win xp bootup screen gets all pixelated and warhol'ed, repeating in a tiled pattern. i know there are other things that will come to me right after i post this... it's like a bizarre syndrome that one perversely revels in even as it tears them apart.

but today, i came back to my computer after a brief absence, and the screen was black without just cause. i found it unresponsive, although still fully on, and did a hard restart. the error message that came up said to reinstall my display driver... and so i did, and it worked perfectly to fix the video problem! at least, quicktime is now working like a dream, and i'm optimistic about the other programs. i'm not normally that good at fixing or figuring out things about my computers (although i can become quite skilled with applications), so this is a minor yet highly gratifying victory.

things have been very busy, even though it's spring break (if anything, they're busier because of it). last weekend was a solid three days of structured activities at one point or another. first, we had ben's art show opening on friday that we made ridiculously too much food for to feed the three attendees (as one of many appetizers, i made deviled eggs with little shrimp minced in them, which is even better than it sounds). on saturday we went to a church fundraiser buffet dinner (ben's parents had bought us expensive tickets to it) featuring delicious corned beef and cabbage, three kinds of stew, potatoes, etc. etc. (irish, of course). and on sunday, the opera, which was excellent. (luckily, they had actually cast basilio by the day of the show. i really want to fix so many things about that website.) and then this week, i've had tons of updates for the website i volunteer relentlessly for, and my usual shifts at work, and have been trying to catch up some on schoolwork. and of course i've made some time to play civ.

sometimes i get sort of a stubborn block about things. like, for example, the paper i wrote last semester about the nonprofit i used to work for that i still haven't sent to the staff i interviewed (as i promised, offered, to do), or the way i passively abstained all winter break from doing the research about how to get from san jose to san francisco by public transit that i'd promised to send to my vacationing (and very sweet) coworker. and, for the past week, writing in my blog. as i get older, i am (sometimes) getting better about forcing myself out of those moods. although really i think i'm just here because i don't want to study or go to sleep at a decent hour. ten years later and nothing much has really changed.

taking you to school
all alone here, somewhat unexpectedly, after getting a ride home from law class; this is probably the first time (or at least that i can remember) ben has just dropped me off at my apartment instead of coming in for a while. but he has lots of work to do for his post-layoff outplacement class tomorrow, and my place is a mess anyway (and i have a headache), so it's probably just as well anyway. i sure do love being around him, though... still completely twitterpated, more than two years after we first hooked up. *sigh*

spring break is all of a sudden here next week, which is good because i'll get a nice break to study (i think the office will still be open, disappointingly), but bad because the semester is flying by. i'm keeping up in my law and anthro classes (which require surprisingly little work), but haven't made much effort to keep up with the thousands of pages to read for the human and financial resources of nonprofits class, let alone the other little assignments he requires which are terribly time-consuming and time-sensitive. i'm so, so glad i didn't sign up for both of the classes with that prof that i could have, because it'd probably kill me.

to my great relief, i have finally heard back from the guys at the opera where i'm doing my internship this summer; i had a great (and shockingly easy) interview and it was a done deal immediately, but after that i wasn't getting any responses for a while to things i need to know pretty soon. but i can bring ben to either production of the marriage of figaro this weekend, and they promised to pay attention to the research project i proposed (which i've already gotten approved by my prof, so if i need to change it, it needs to happen now) and get back to me next week. i wouldn't think it would be a big deal, but i feel self-conscious because i have proposed to study a somewhat unsuccessful fundraising campaign of theirs, and i'm afraid that perhaps they would prefer to have me look at something more positive. i don't know. especially since they don't even know me... maybe it sounds too critical? i did ask them to send me their ideas long before i settled upon this topic, though, so they had a chance to change it (and still could). i also hope to start working in their office part-time asap, so i can start gathering data for my paper, so it all needs to be decided soon so i don't get too nervous.

tomorrow i'm writing a short (no more than three double-spaced pages) essay on the basque concept of "first neighbors," for anthro class in the evening. i love these little papers, each one another tiny research project on some way that people in other (non-dominant) cultures help each other. i'm an essay-writing machine by this point, since we write one each week. if only i could turn them all into chapters for my final paper on ghanaian market women's produce associations, but i can't (although i was trying for a while). spring break, though, it's all about the market women (in between all the relaxing and hot sex).

day is done, gone the sun...
well, campus day is over. i am very tired, in part because i got maybe five hours of sleep last night (although i don't regret it one bit), and the rest because i did manual labor and campus tours for over nine hours today (including, of course, the half-hour walk to campus at 8:00 am). i only had to do two (45-minute) tours. the first was not especially good (i was somewhat awkward in my spiel, being rusty and also confused by the completely reversed route, which is embarrassing), but the second was pretty smooth and somewhat fun. i don't really mind doing them, although they're always rather stressful and not at all easy to do when you're not well rested. i really enjoyed the social interaction as well (this event was a bit of a reunion, as a few former coworkers with internships this semester came back to help; it's in our contracts to work at it). there was discussion about how harmful the epidemic of porn addiction among american men is (says the beautiful girl, my coworker who is absurdly perfect-looking and 19, the majority of men are addicted to it), and some interesting political debate with amicable centrist coworkers in which i was able to make good points.

there is something strangely appealing about customer service work for me. i'd probably be happy doing it for a while, although i love what i regularly do more (usually). anyway, it's fun to help people and make them happy; i even enjoy answering the phones (i did so during my lunch break to get an extra half hour on the clock). i also have always tended to do this socially (if i'm not in a random misanthropic mood); i spent quite some time after lunch letting my new coworker tell me all about her struggle with lupus and fibromyalgia, which she clearly wanted and needed to talk about, mostly because i knew how good it feels to get an outlet like that. after all, i have had a chronic disease for ten years now (although it's been in such good remission for so long that it's hard to remember exactly how much flare-ups suck), and i had quite a lot to vent at conversation partners for a while.

best of all, it started to snow a little bit today (in between the bits of light rain). i love snow, yay!!! it's just my luck to arrive, fall in love with snow (which i had never seen more than a few times in my life before), and then have it be the warmest winter on record. damn you, global warming, now it's personal! i even like the cold... as long as it's at least in the twenties, because below that it's painful. this is an odd thing, since i was always the biggest baby about the room temperature being below 70 and completely intolerant of cold. in fact, i literally got back spasms from the cold my first winter in berkeley, after leaving my hometown in san diego county; berkeley is certainly not that cold, but i was just completely unacclimated and slow to adjust. here, on the contrary, i seem to be thriving. perhaps it is because i am in the prime of life and at my strongest (being 29; also approaching my sexual peak, as i've always heard), who knows. although, i am certainly looking forward to spring... all except the huge step backward into daylight saving time we get for the first time this year, that is. (don't even get me started on that.)

storming the castle
here it is, my one day of respite in between working much more than i'm supposed to each week (i've been covering on fridays for my coworker who's doing a medical study and undergoing endoscopies for $1,000, and sunday is our big campus day event, when we'll have to be there from 8:30 am until at least 5:00 or 5:30). probably i should be studying, since i'm not doing much of that lately, but instead i think we will have a leisurely day of fun. maybe we will go to a museum?

last night, i finally got to see harold and kumar go to white castle, which i had wanted to do for some time. lucky for me that ben has directivo (i don't even have cable or watch much of anything most weeks). the description on tivo for the movie was something like, "after smoking marijuana, two friends wander new jersey to satisfy their hunger for hamburgers." ben was hysterically amused by this, because, as he said, this was exactly the whole of the plot, and so it was. i enjoyed it quite a lot, as much because i love movies about drugs as because i had heard so much when it came out about its nonstereotypical (for perhaps the first time?) depiction of asian american guys in an american film, and this was nice to see. afterward, ben insisted that it would be criminal if we didn't go to white castle to satisfy my hunger for hamburgers, so very reluctantly i agreed.

you see, i have been to white castle once before. bear in mind that i have made discrete trips to the midwest at least ten, if not more, times in the past five years, and have now been living deep inside for over seven months, and have only been once. this is because i thought it was really nasty when i tried it that one time. however, we reasoned that i had (probably; we're not sure of the date) had the flu then, and we had also been in the painful throes of imminent separation, and so maybe that had colored my impression of the potential wonderfulness. and after all, harold and kumar had been so into white castle that they consumed nearly $50 worth of it. so we went to the location within blocks of my apartment, and brought our "slyders"TM home. (the sack meal special retails for $4.20. no joke. i bet this film was the best thing that ever happened to white castle, and they know it.)

and you know what? it was still gross... all mushy, and the "jalapeño cheeseburger" i tried had almost no spiciness. i do like the sauteed onions they put on them all, but all other aspects of the sandwiches were subpar, even for fast food. (i will concede that the "onion chips" were ok, as fried chip things go.) i still appreciate the east coast mystique that the chain will always hold for me, but i don't think i actually need to eat there.

damn my ignorance of web programming... i was trying to create a secret other blog, and i thought i was making everything the same, but it's not working properly, and of course i can't ask my usual helper to fix it for me, because it's a secret. oh well, i guess i may as well give up for now, because there's no use in fussing with it for hours for nothing when i should be doing other things.

i have decided that i would like to volunteer as an escort at a planned parenthood somewhere in the city (where they say this service is needed due to virulent protesting), if i can manage to take public transportation there. (i've become terribly "spoiled" after living for a while in a dense city with narrow geographic borders and a rather good bus/light rail system; here it is exactly the opposite, with sprawl for miles and laughable bus service, and i'm quite lucky i have friends with cars.) apparently indiana is one of those states contemplating legislation banning abortion, and where there is much public sentiment angrily against it, and i feel a strong need to help fight back in some small way. i'm going to send in my volunteer application today and see what they tell me. (oh, actually it looks like i can take a bus there; luckily i live right near the "city circle," which is the hub for most of the bus routes.)

so i will stop there for today, since i have a whole lot of things to do. if only i could promise myself i would actually do them.

(oh, and hi to my commenter! it was very nice to meet you that one time with wobbly.)