Sunday, June 29, 2008

the c-city tour

Hi. It's been a while. The last few days have been occupied primarily by running amok, and before that I was doing some traveling. The major stops on my journey, incidentally, all begin with the letter C.

I arrived in Chicago on Friday the 20th. Claire picked me up from the airport (where they have installed, on both sides of the escalator rails, new tv screens letting you know that Mayor Daley welcomes you to Chicago, as if there weren't enough signs already), and then we went to Costco. By coincidence, it has become something of a tradition to go directly from the airport to Costco whenever I fly somewhere to see Claire (April in Chicago, preceded by last December in Phoenix). Claire and I spent the weekend packing up her stuff and moving it into a storage closet downtown. We got to see lots of the more "savory" parts of town as we ran errands to drop off things at Goodwill and Comcast. Claire took me out to dinner for my birfday, and then we got to deep-clean her apartment. The last time we did that was at G-5, when we topped off the all-night cleaning marathon with a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. Yum. In Chicago we took a break from cleaning with tacos from Pepe's. The guy who took my order asked me if I had Mexican relatives. Sure, isn't it obvious?

On Tuesday the 24th we left Chicago and drove to Cleveland. That meant several hours along the Indiana and Ohio toll roads through the flat and lovely midwest farmlands. The Indiana toll road runs east-west near the northern border with Michigan. At one point I mistakenly told Claire that we could stop for gas and food at the Middlebury exit (near Shipshewana, which is really fun to say, try it. I annoyed Claire by reading it aloud every time I saw it on a sign). We found a gas station, but other than that there was pretty much nothing there. We looked. We drove down the road into Michigan (near Mottville) for a few minutes looking for somewhere to eat, and we found no such place. However, on the corner where we turned around there was a hand-painted campaign sign staked in the ground. Unfortunately I wasn't ready with my camera, but I did take a good mental image so that I could draw up this representation:

Just imagine a sheriff with a name like that! I wouldn't mess with him.

Anyway we got back on the toll road and eventually made it to Cleveland. Claire's brother and sister-in-law and cute cute nephew live there. It was a quick visit, but a nice one. We ate lots of yummy pizza at Dewey's (not to be confused with this other Dewey's) and we saw a really great tv show on the kids' channel. No kidding. It's funny. Watch it.

The next day we flew to BWI, just a few minutes away from our final destination of Columbia, my tree-covered curved-street hometown. We came here for my sister's wedding, which my mother decided to plan and cater almost single-handedly. The days leading up to the big one (yesterday) were rather chaotic and stressful, but it all worked out and everything was beautiful and delicious, accordingly. But boy was it hot outside. Oh, the humidity! when it's summer on the east coast.

From our base in Columbia we'll spend the next week exploring the area, visiting my favorite museums on the mall, checking out the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and maybe catching some fireworks on Friday. Cheers for now, and may you be well wherever you are, from Cincinatti to Casa Grande, from Colorado Springs to Córdoba.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

another year older...

Yesterday was the summer solstice. It also happened to be my birthday. You know how when you were little you used to try and convince yourself that suddenly on your birthday you really felt a whole year older than even on the day before? And even after you began to doubt that it worked that way, it still took several more years to accept it. Well, I guess I haven't entirely gotten over it, since I find myself now comparing where I am now not to where I was the day before my birthday (though in a literal sense the two are 1200 miles apart), but rather to where I was a year ago (which again is a difference of several thousand miles, but that's not the point). It's hard to say how far I've come, so to speak, leaving the geographical sense for now. In the last year I finished my master's degree, something that I honestly thought several months ago might not be possible, at least if I didn't care enough to write a thesis (and for a while I didn't). Anyway it is an accomplishment, and one which, depending on my mood and therefore the light that I look at it in, usually seems to me important and makes me feel good about myself. On the other hand, exactly a year ago I had a very clear picture of where I was going and what I was going to do with my life and with whom I was going to share it. When I was in Peru a year ago I told everyone who asked that I was going to get married in the next year or two and that I was going to get a PhD and become a university professor. Since then all of those plans have come crashing down, and now, because I had spent so much time and energy building them up, not only am I totally lost in the rubble, I don't even know what I want to build in their place. Sometimes I feel like I don't want to bother to build anything, since it will probably just fall down before I get to the top floor anyway. Heck, I haven't even cleared away the rubble from the last collapse. I like to think that I am ready for whatever life throws at me next (though I wouldn't go so far as to use the word 'prepared'). I just wish that it would finish warming up and throw it at me already. Because my own powers of reason and my emotions, partly because they're always arguing with each other, are not getting me anywhere except in little spirals.

Monday, June 16, 2008

if you've run out of books to read... can check out "Unamunian Microcosms: Four Short Stories in a New Translation into English," now accessible through the world wide web. The abstract, other general information, and a link to the full pdf can be found here. It has bookmarks, so if you want you can skip the parts that you don't feel like reading. A tip: if you open it with Adobe Acrobat (as opposed to Preview, for instance), it should automatically show facing pages, which will make things easier when you get to the side-by-side translations.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

cranberries and pistachios in their second feature presentation in less than a month

So I thought that we might like some snacks for the drive down to San Diego for Anna-Lisa's wedding, and knowing how much Vanessa loves cookies, I decided to make a variation on the chocolate raisin & almond cookies recipe from this book. The variation, of course, was based principally on the inventory of ingredients that I already had on hand. The experiment turned out nicely, if I do say so myself. If the recipe interests you (and even if it doesn't), here 'tis:
white chocolate-cranberry-pistachio cookies

1/2 cup butter, plus extra for greasing
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup pistachios, shelled and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in egg, water, and vanilla extract.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Add egg mixture, rolled oats, cranberries, white chocolate chips, and pistachios. Mix thoroughly.

Shape dough into small balls, place on cookie sheet, and flatten slightly. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

and then sometimes miracles happen

When I wrote that last post at nine a.m. Friday, I had been up all night applying for jobs. (Hey, it's not my fault that I got a headache bad enough for excedrin when it was already nearly midnight, and that Anna-Lisa was here (yay!) and she totally kept us up until 3:30 anyway. Okay so maybe it was the other way around...) Not five hours after posting my little sob story, I got a phone call from a number that I did not recognize. Normally, I don't bother to answer. If I don't know them, they probably don't know me, and odds are it's a recorded message in Spanish telling me that I won something that I never wanted anyway. Since I have lately been sharing my phone number with strangers in my desperate attempts to get a job, I decided to make an exception, just in case. And wouldn't you know it, the person calling was somebody who (1) had actually read my resume and (2) was impressed by it enough to call and tell me so. They're going to call back next week for a phone interview, since the place is just a bit far for a quick commute from Provo. I mean like a few states away. And western states are big. So, keep your fingers crossed for me, unless they're busy knitting or eating or typing or something. In the meantime, I guess I'll keep working on backup plans.

[Update, 9 June: it happened again, only this time it was an email instead of a phonecall. I wonder why things seem to be pointing toward my moving to Texas, of all places??]

Friday, June 6, 2008

freedom hangs like heaven over everyone

I have known for several months now that I need to get out of this place. Not that it is an inherently bad place. Provo has been good to me for several years, and never have I regretted the decision to come here to go to school (even though I would have actually made money just by studying at the U of Maryland). I just don't belong here anymore. Now that I have finished with school (for a while, at least) nothing remains to keep me here. Nothing, indeed, besides a low cost of living and a guaranteed place to live with a contract through mid-August. And the fact that I have no idea where I ought to go, coupled with and primarily resulting from the absolute absence of any promising job leads. (Applications to date: 23, and counting.)

I just don't know how this all is supposed to work (or even whether it is supposed to?) So far I have password-protected accounts with ten online application systems and/or recruiting networks. sends me daily emails with recommended job listings, I search regularly, and I have fourteen craigslist sites bookmarked which I check daily for promising listings. Not to mention at least a dozen publishers' websites listing job openings, plus a handful of other sites like the job board and the usajobs database. And then there are the dozens of miscellaneous postings and informational sites/articles that my mom emails me daily (I didn't even have to set up a new account for that service!) It all just seems so tedious, and even with all this I am sure that I am still missing so much. I mean I figure I must be, since what I am doing has as yet garnered no results.

I know that I should (and possibly could) be more patient about things. But I really want to go get a life. It's not here, that's for sure. So clearly I need to go out and find it. It would just be nice to have some direction, that's all. Some encouragement from the people who read (skim? glance at the title of? receive results of an automated computerized extraction of keywords from?) my resume would be nice for a start.

I'm caught in limbo between school and the real world, if that's what you want to call it. I personally am not so sure that it is real at all, since I have not gotten there yet. I'll get back to you with a more educated judgment of its reality or irreality once (if) I get in. For the moment, I'm stuck, stagnating. And I hate it.

[This post's title, in case you were wondering, is not original. It comes from a song by Iron and Wine.]