Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Academic Blogs

I found this great blog a few weeks ago: Academic Coach is a blog by a career coach for people in academia (you guessed it). She gives out great tips for free on her blog, and also has many links to blogs of other academics.

One of the blogs that she links to is a Ph.D. student who goes by the pseudonym Badger. I haven't been following the story for very long, but Badger's husband just died a couple of days ago following a long battle with cancer. Add grad student financial troubles caused by incredibly expensive and underfunded health care into the mix. Also, an eleven year old son. What a crappy, crappy situation to be in. I can't remember exactly who told me this, but this person (I think it was a former student of mine) said, "Sometimes life just hands you a plate of shit, and you have to eat it with a smile on your face."


Sometimes I wonder what I would do if something happened to DH. The thought is frightening. I'd quit grad school and go home, probably. If something happened to DH, I wouldn't want to stay in my neck of the woods- I don't like it here, and I can only stand it because it's temporary. DH has a small inheritance in the bank, earmarked for our future house downpayment that I could use to take care of any death related expenses. I wonder if he has life insurance through school? I do, which is somewhat of a relief, because I know that if something unexpected happens to me, he wouldn't be saddled with a huge, enormous financial debt for funeral expenses, or whatever.

I try not to wonder too often, in case imagining manifests reality.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


My parents aren't in the path of Katrina, thankfully, but they are in an area where a number of people lost power due to the downgraded-status Katrina sweeping through the south. They didn't lose power. Yay! There was a nasty windstorm three years ago that knocked out power in 2/3 of the households in my hometown. Including my parents, who were in the last area to get power restored. They didn't have power for three weeks. Three!! In the blazing heat of summer, right after my mom had suffered from three ministrokes. Three!! (Praise G-d, she hasn't had anything else serious since this incident) My mom needed to spend most of her time in climate-controlled air, which my sister had, since she was in the 1/3 that didn't lose power.

So I was really relieved to hear that my parents didn't lose power. I do have an aunt and uncle in Baton Rouge, though, and we haven't heard from them. My uncle is sufficiently stubborn that I'm sure they didn't evacuate.

Poor New Orleans. It's such an amazing city. I love it so much- I'm sad to see that it's suffered so much damage. My best friend who died lived there. I hope his girlfriend's parents are okay. I put in an email to one of his other friends who doesn't live there anymore but is from the area and has a ton of friends still there to see if all her folks are okay, and maybe if Lisa's (the girlfriend) parents are okay too. Everyone she knows is fine, but she isn't sure about Lisa's parents. Hopefully they're okay too.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Closet Racism

So this morning, I was troubled that I might have alienated some friends of DH's by making an honest comment about my experiences.

I was talking about moving from my Southern hometown, which is practically the capital of White Flight, to Washington DC, which is quite possibly the most integrated city I've ever seen (Okay, maybe NYC is more integrated but I haven't spent a lot of time there). I made the comment that moving to such a diverse city was really great, and that it was a really new experience for me. And one of the things I said was that in DC, you can't judge a neighborhood by the color of the skin of the people in the grocery store. Oy. Everywhere else I've lived, including my Northeastern College City and the current West Coast Cities that DH and I have apartments in, is relatively segregated. I remember when I first went apartment shopping in the DC area, I tried to gauge the neighborhoods, in part, by the racial makeup of the neighborhood. Maybe not the most enlightened decision process, but it was the heuristic I was used to.

I discovered that I couldn't do it, and that in fact, that ended up being a good thing b/c DC is a much more interesting, vibrant place than anywhere else I've lived. Realizing that I was even trying to judge neighborhoods by that kind of qualification taught me a depressing lesson about myself, that despite the fact that I had several African-American friends that I knew through work, etc. I was still less tolerant than I would like, but I think I'm a better person now. Not perfect, but better.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

whew! Finally figured out how to delete the spam comment in the previous post. (not you, mightym!)

Dinner party went fine- tiramisu was a big hit, the rest of the food, only so so. Oh well. I think people had fun anyway.

Too hungry to post now... maybe more later.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Dinner party

We're having a dinner party tomorrow. It's just going to be us, and 2 other couples, which is about one more person than we think we can handle. I am cautiously optimistic. I normally have really bad parties. Think poor Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Well, maybe not QUITE that bad, but not terrific. Things will happen like only 2 out of 11 people who were invited actually show up... and no one else RSVPd. Throwing parties makes me think that no one likes me. It's not a good feeling.

However, these are DH's friends that we're inviting, so maybe he's better liked than I am. We know they're coming, anyway, so hurrah!

I need to learn how to throw cheap dinner parties. I've spent in the ballpark of about $60-$80 on food for this party. We're serving $30 worth of flank steak (DH and I are hoping we'll have leftovers!), I'm making tiramisu from Barefoot Contessa Family Style, which required going to my local Peet's Coffee and asking for 12 shots of espresso (we don't have a coffee maker since we're tea drinkers), and seeing the saucer eyes of the barista because she actually thought I was going to drink it all. As it turned out, I did not need NEARLY that much. I could have done with half. It also required buying a bottle of run. Then, halfway through assembling the dish, I had to go back to Trader Joe's to buy a second box of ladyfingers because I ran out. I couldn't have just done a box of Trader Joe's truffle brownies (which are really good, by the way!) and served it with the most excellent Double Rainbow vanilla ice cream we already have in our freezer, but no. I am making up for the fact that I kept wanting to order tiramisu when we ate at the tasty little Italian place when we were at my conference but kept being too full. No way to ensure that I'll eat a ton of tiramisu like making it. Ugh. Because you know I really need to eat food that has 16 ounces of mascarpone cheese in it. I should have just ordered the tiramisu at the restaurant a few weeks ago.

We're also serving, get this, smoked salmon, plus chips and Trader joe's onion dip for appetizers. We're having three side dishes in addition to appetizer, flank steak main course, and dessert, because DH thinks that the other two guys will be big eaters. DH is a big eater, and honestly, it's hard to top him, but he's right. Better to be prepared than to not have enough food.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

conferences and minibreaks

So my big, main conference for my field is over, and DH "surprised" me (I had guessed, honestly, but wasn't certain!) with an overnight stay at the hotel where we stayed the weekend we got engaged in honor of our first anniversary, which was about 2 months ago. We've been so busy that we hadn't had a chance to celebrate it yet. We stayed in the same suite- the "executive" suite, complete with a ginormous 2 person jacuzzi tub. Heaven! DH and I definitely want one of those when we get a house. Since he's an engineer and I'm the daughter of a contractor, we're smart enough to know how problematic this could be, since you have to calculate for the weight, have the space, etc. Someday, though.

We had dinner at a little French restaurant, which was really tasty. We were the youngest patrons there by at least 15 years (much more in most cases!), with the exception of 2 girls who were around 10-12 years old, brought in by their parents. Although the restaurant was pretty crowded and noisy, the food was really, really good. Creme brulee to die for!!! mmmm.

DH also surprised me with the tank top, panties, and pajama pants that I had been admiring last week at the Gap. Yay! They're pretty blue things with ecru lace edging. Really pretty! This is in addition to my anniversary present, which is 2 21 karat gold bracelets similar to what my sister got at her wedding from my aunt. (Yes, I'm jealous! I admit it!) The bracelets are being sent over from the home country b/c they're hard to find in the US.

Now onto the conference. It was pretty good. It was held in a touristy beachy destination, which is a lot less cool than it might sound if I told you where it was. We were pretty unimpressed, actually. We did go parasailing, though, which was extremely cool, except for the incredibly I-think-I'm-funny-but-really-I'm-obnoxious boat operators. Our guidebook said that they're the best ones (and they were good in the sense that nothing bad happened, and the actual parasailing was an enjoyable experience), but I kind of wish we had gone with a less obnoxious one. First, they made it abundantly clear that they expected tips- not just by the "Tips appreciated" lettering on the inside of the boat, but also the phrase "Tipping is not a city in China!" also done in sticky letters very prominently. Then there was the row of 20s, a 50, and even a 100 dollar bill stuck under a piece of rubber on the railing so you could see exactly what was an "acceptable" tip. We were the last ride of the day, so during the ride, I saw one of the guys counting a big wad of 1s that he apparently keeps hidden, so the 20s probably weren't the norm, or were for whole families that went out. I was moderately annoyed by the whole thing, since we were already paying about $50 a person to go. It's not like these people are waiters. I'm sure they get good wages, and it's not like they did anything special. They made sure that we got up and down safely. Gee, that's what we were paying them for! We did tip them, actually- we gave $10, which was about 10%. I probably would have felt better about tipping them if they weren't so damned obnoxious- saying things like how DH and I were "the whitest people ever" and how they made fun of me for wanting to keep my life jacket on the whole boat ride, even though they were trying to round them up way early so they could go home faster, since we were the last ride of the day.

Anyway. Onto the work part of the trip. I actually did go to a number of sessions, as well as a mini-conference for doctoral students. The mini-conference could have been more helpful, since this group (which is not strictly international in nature) is putting a heavy focus on bringing in a non-US perspective, which is fine, except the nature of these mini-conferences is, in large part, to give career advice and direction to the students. The non-US academic systems are VERY, VERY different than the US system, so often, the advice is totally useless to a US student. Oh well.

The other thing I realized was that I need to get my behind in gear in a big way if I want to be on the market next year. And I do want to be on the market. In a big way. Eek. I have a LOT of work to do.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Four years!

Yesterday was the 4th anniversary of my friend's death. The weird thing is that it did not even OCCUR to me that it was until about 11:15 last night, despite doing several things requiring me to do something involving the date, and despite posting on an internet board something about him (unrelated to his death). It wasn't until someone on the local news was talking about one of the 9/11 widows, and how it's been 4 years since it happened that I thought, "oh yeah... that's today, isn't it?"

For me, my friend's death and 9/11 are very closely linked in my head because they happened about a month apart, and at the time I was living in DC, working in a government agency just up the road from the Pentagon. I think I can safely say that I have never been so scared in my life (I remember that I wouldn't take the highway home- I took surface streets because who knew what would happen next?), and it was just unbelievable that so many people died. It was a trauma after a trauma that was still very fresh.

My husband is so awesome (this is related). I was in the bathroom last night brushing my teeth when I overheard the news, and then I came to bed, and he immediately knew something was wrong. He is really good at being perceptive. It's amazing. I was thinking last night how incredible he was after my friend died. I was a total mess. I was a total mess for about 2 years, but I was especially bad off during the first couple of months. That experience was what allayed any doubts that I had about him being a good person to marry. He had led a relatively charmed life, and I had real concerns about how he would handle hardship- would he run away or take it like a man? Thankfully, it was the latter. He's the best.

Monday, August 01, 2005

High Fashion T-shirt Party

So Hanni asked me to blog about the high fashion t-shirt party that DH and I went to last week. Here's the 411!

It was thrown by a magazine called Planet Magazine at some random small art gallery. I had agonized about what to wear beforehand, because it was a fashion party, so wouldn't people be dressed all trendily? I ended up wearing clothing from the Gap, which I had thought wouldn't be trendy enough, but as it turned out, were okay. Yes, other people were wearing trendier t-shirts, but I was wearing my just-finished Clapotis scarf (I was weaving in the ends during the car ride to the city), so I think it was all good. Crafting is the new hipster thing, don't you know?

Anyway, there was a fashion show, featuring t-shirts from lines from all over the country, including Skaen , Anzevino & Florence, and Headline Shirts. I really wanted to buy a Skaen shirt with bunnies on it, but they were sold out! Alas.

The quality of t-shirts varied from line to line- I think the Skaen ones were the best ones I saw (and they were priced that way, too!). Some of them just weren't that creative or funny. There was one t-shirt that was really tempting that said:

1. bottled water
2. tooth whitener
3. friends

Ha! Too funny. And, kinda true.