Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Waiting Redux

If my life were a film, this scene would be shot in slow motion, with a sudden silence in the soundtrack.

::opens email inbox::


Northwestern University Application Decision Available

::gut drops::


Oh wait. That's the one I already received.


The waiting continues.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Serves me right for writing that last post.

Rejection #1 of 2012.



Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Ultimate Alternative Career

As the impatience to hear the outcome of my graduate applications builds, I'm happy to announce that I have discovered the perfect alternative career should my academic aspirations fail to materialize.

How, you may ask, did I achieve this gargantuan feat?

I began by cataloging my demonstrable skills and passions:

  • Researching obscure and esoteric facts.
  • Correcting others' errors.
  • Assisting with organization and planning.
  • Debating unimportant details and rules.
  • Taking instructions.
  • Remembering details about people, past conversations, and hypothetical plans.
  • Reading aloud.
  • Being introverted, and just listening until directly addressed.
  • Acting as a sounding board for others' ideas.
  • Figuring out what people want/need to hear in a given situation.
  • Misinterpreting nonverbal cues.
  • Providing snarky retorts to non sequitur comments.
  • Falling down at inopportune moments.

Before long, the only possible conclusion became clear.

I'm sure you know what I mean.

It's obvious, right?

If I don't get into grad school, there is only one thing left to do.





I shall become Siri.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Campaign Jokes

"The pundits have asked, 'Is this all some joke?' [...] If they are calling being allowed to form a Super PAC, and collecting unlimited and untraceable amounts of money from individuals, unions, and corporations, and spend that money on political ads and for personal enrichment, and then surrender that Super PAC to one of my closest friends while I explore a run for office...If that is a joke, then they are saying our entire campaign finance system is a joke. And I don't know about you, but I have been paid to be offended by that. [...] If corporations are people, people with a constitutional right to influence our elections, then I promise you that government of those people, by those people, and for those people, shall not perish from the earth."
--Stephen Colbert (rally, South Carolina)

Saturday, January 21, 2012


weltschmerz • \VELT-shmairts\ • noun, often capitalized
1 : mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state 2 : a mood of sentimental sadness.
This was yesterday's "word of the day" from Merriam-Webster. Besides being appropriate to the evening, it might be my new favorite word.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Proof Is in the Music

I absolutely, positively have not started thinking about my applications. I mean it.

So maybe I lied.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blackout Notes

I wonder, sometimes, if the only people practically capable of effecting change are those willing to replace complexity with simplicity as a means to an end. Witness yesterday's Internet blackout by prominent sites such as Wikipedia and Reddit to protest the above bills. In consequence, representatives' websites were crashing, NPR was describing alternative ways to access Wikipedia content using Google's caching system, and (I can imagine) students all over the U.S. were praying that their research papers would not be due today. The solidarity was impressive.

And yet.

Disclaimer: I've only skimmed the two bills in question, and I would need to read more closely with a better knowledge of legal terminology to fully understand what is at stake. To my untrained eyes, however, while the language of the bills is ambiguous and in places troubling, it is by no means the simple "censor the Internet" message that has produced such enormous response. That slogan is far more compelling and accessible to the general public. It prompts action. It calls up negative associations. It creates buzz.

And yet.

I have a difficult time watching political debates for the same reason. On one hand, I'm stirred by the appeal to more jobs, lower taxes, and greater freedom. I want to argue back in short witty phrases and biting remarks against the candidates with whom I disagree or whose rhetoric seems to me to be especially short-sighted. I can play that game too.

And yet.

When we set aside the competition, the "winners-and-losers" denomination, the rhetoric itself is ambiguous, vague, and has little in common with the complexity that marks individuals' day-to-day lives. That conversation, which is missing from the public political arena, doesn't fit in thirty seconds of air time. It doesn't spur immediate response. It doesn't win elections. It doesn't stop the passage of a bill.

And yet.

Winning elections is our nation's way of choosing new leaders. Speaking out against restrictive laws and censorship creates the very space that allows me to muse about these things. Sometimes immediacy has to be a priority.

And yet, at what cost?

Call it a signature move of my generation, but I don't have a confident answer. If nothing else, this gave me something to ponder while I waited for Wikipedia to return.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

While You Eat

I am a read-while-you-eat kind of girl. I cook infrequently, and it's a rare meal when I don't have a book open on the table. Tonight, 117 pages away from finishing Wandering Stars, I planned to celebrate a Saturday off of work by enjoying a sit-down meal and finally finishing my book.

My style of cooking might be called "variations on a theme" because I shop in bulk to take advantage of lower prices-per-unit. This week, the theme was pork chops, and I had borrowed a friend's recipe to try something new.

After half an hour, I sat down to a main course of breaded pork chops topped with caramelized onions and melted smoked Gouda cheese, with garden-canned green beans on the side, and a glass of red wine. An instrumental album by Acoustic Eidolon was playing in the background.

I opened my book, took a bite of food, and then closed it again.

Wandering Stars remained closed for the duration of the meal.

At that moment (movie's merits aside), I couldn't help thinking of a line from Kate & Leopold: "But perhaps one day...you'll understand that life is not solely composed of tasks, but tastes."

Tonight, still savoring my glass of wine, I could get behind that sentiment.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In Honor of Garlic

Sometimes on a gray day, you need to pile on the flavor to liven up your dinner.

Garlic-Apricot Pork Chop Singles


1 boneless pork chop, medium-cut
garlic powder
2 dried leaves of basil, crushed
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp oil
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp apricot preserves


In a shallow dish, season the flour with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and basil. Coat the pork chop in the flour mixture, thoroughly covering all sides.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan on medium heat. Mince the fresh garlic. When the oil is hot (just beginning to pop), toss the garlic into the oil and stir fry it until lightly browned (less than a minute). Use a fork to remove the garlic. Set aside in a small bowl.

Place the floured pork chop in the hot oil and cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Slice in half to see if the meat is fully cooked in the center. There should still be some liquid around the meat.

Reduce heat to low and stir the apricot preserves and the browned garlic into the pan. Spoon sauce over the meat and continue cooking, turning periodically, until thoroughly glazed and a caramel-colored brown.

Serve with cooked carrots, steamed broccoli or spinach (which I forgot to buy), and whole wheat toast. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Return of SMIOS

Being January, it seemed about time for a re-post: The Phases of Anticipation; or, How to Avoid Snowman SMIOS. So far, I'm right on schedule.

(Please ignore the flagrant typo in the title of the original post.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Chat with Sidney

Today, for a brief interlude between longer books, I'm continuing an annual tradition of spending some time with the winners of the Sidney Awards, named for philosopher Sidney Hook.

This year, my selections are pretty diverse:
  • Dr. Don: The Life of a Small-Town Druggist, by Peter Hessler in The New Yorker
    • 9/10 - a whimsical, gently told narrative, character-driven and subtly shaped.
  • A Beauty, by Robert Boyers in AGNI Online
    • 5/10 - a bit esoteric and abstract for my taste, but the style is appropriate, given the topic.
  • The Order of Things: What College Rankings Really Tell Us, by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker
    • 6/10 - statistically based, but not to an extreme. The parallel anecdotes are extensive, almost to the point of distraction.
  • The Accidental Universe: Science's Crisis of Faith, by Alan P. Lightman in Harper's Magazine
    • 6/10 - interesting content, but the casual narrative style seems to clash with the more formal statistical explanations at points.
  • The Bitch Is Back, by Sandra Tsing Loh in The Atlantic
    • 6/10 - witty and (I suspect) insightful. I'll have to re-read it in 20 years to be sure.
  • The Epidemic of Mental Illness, Why?, by Marcia Angell in The New York Review of Books
    • 7/10 - weaves together approachable background information with a convincing presentation of the implications. I would pick up any of these three books.
    • Part II of Angell's review is called The Illusions of Psychiatry.
  • The Movie Set that Ate Itself, by Michael Idov in GQ
    • 8/10 - fascinating and slightly unnerving. I would be curious to see the film if it's ever completed and released internationally.

My top pick? At least in this universe, I'll have to go with Dr. Don.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Telling Stories

I wish this story were different. I wish it were more civilized. I wish it showed me in a better light, if not happier, then at least more active, less hesitant, less distracted by trivia. I wish it had more shape. I wish it were about love, or about sudden realizations important to one’s life, or even about sunsets, birds, rainstorms, or snow.

Maybe it is about those things, in a way; but in the meantime there is so much else getting in the way, so much whispering, so much speculation about others, so much gossip that cannot be verified, so many unsaid words, so much creeping about and secrecy. And there is so much time to be endured, time heavy as fried food or thick fog; and then all at once these red events, like explosions, on streets otherwise decorous and matronly and somnambulant.

I’m sorry there is so much pain in this story. I’m sorry it’s in fragments, like a body caught in crossfire or pulled apart by force. But there is nothing I can do to change it.

I’ve tried to put some of the good things in as well. Flowers, for instance, because where would we be without them?

Nevertheless it hurts me to tell it over, over again. Once was enough: wasn’t once enough for me at the time? But I keep on going with this sad and hungry and sordid, this limping and mutilated story, because after all I want you to hear it, as I will hear yours too if I ever get the chance, if I meet you or if you escape, in the future or in heaven or in prison or underground, some other place. What they have in common is that they’re not here. By telling you anything at all I’m at least believing in you, I believe you’re there, I believe you into being. Because I’m telling you this story I will your existence. I tell, therefore you are.

So I will go on. So I will myself to go on.
--The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
So many beautiful passages in this book.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Look Back at 2011...

10...typically causes one to crash into 2012 with unfavorable results.

[and other bits of wisdom I've garnered in the past year]

9...A cough should not last a month; however, repeating the refrain, "I'll get it checked out tomorrow" for 29 days is likely to produce this outcome.

8...Remembering to take a picture of the odometer at 99,999 miles may decrease, rather than increase, the odds of remembering to photograph the odometer at 100,000 miles.

7...Typos happen. They happen even on the first page of a many-times-proofread thesis. They often wait to reveal themselves until the document in question has been published and bound.

6...The Coffee-Drinker's Catch-22: until you've had your morning coffee, it is practically impossible to drink coffee without spilling it down your shirt or splashing it on your computer.

5...Pre-coffee tea drinking does not bypass the Coffee-Drinker's Catch-22. Even if it's caffeinated.

4...Don't mess with the warty pumpkins. They will destroy you, one jot of self-worth at a time.

3...Whether in writing or in life, transitions are a beast.

2...The plague of "lasts" is unavoidable. For that reason...

1...Whether you have two years or only 300 words, make it good.

Goodbye, 2011!
Hello, 2012!!
Happy New Year!!!