Monday, June 27, 2011

A word about me

I'm not a competitive person. At all. If I talk about myself it's just me trying to relate to other people, to avoid feeling alienated. I don't "one-up" people. I don't think I'm smarter, prettier, funnier, more talented, or in any way better than other people. And in the cases where that might be categorically true, I don't care: they have other skills that are superior to mine, it all balances out, etc. My point? I can't stand being accused of think I am, or trying to be better than another person. I repeat, if I say "I've done that, too" or "I also..." etc, what I'm saying - and what I assume other people mean, when they are saying similar things to me, is "Hey, you're awesome, and have just made me happy by reminding me of a great experience I once had!" or "Hey, that was an awesome idea, I'm inspired!" Not sure how or why this became an issue - perhaps it's the pseudo-celebrity culture that abounds on the internet, or perhaps it's human nature. I don't follow that culture, though, and a long, long, long time ago I learned that competitiveness and snobbery serves no purpose.

 If you want to be the best, work hard and accept opportunities as they come. You don't have to cut other people down to get there.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Steady progress.

Six down, 44 more to go. About damn time. I feel like we're moving at a pretty good pace, but I know the south + Utah and Idaho are going to give us some problems. Hopefully prohibition will be the next to go, as it's an ineffective policy for dealing with drugs. Plus, I'm sorry, I don't care how many drugs someone has on them or is taking or is selling - unless they're actively murdering people (like many cartels do, but which most "dealers" don't), I do not think it is appropriate to waste resources convicting and imprisoning them, especially for more time than most rapists do in prison.

Also, I genuinely believe that people who have sex with children should be killed. Genuinely.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Seattle: The first week.

 Okay, so this is actually a tree on campus in Ellensburg, but that's not important. What is important is that the blossoms are two different colors, and that is pretty.
This is Michael wearing his favorite shirt and looking somewhat-unnervingly like G.
This is Michael sitting at the desk of our new room.
Our room to the left of our entryway. I've spent way too much time today watching Unsolved Mysteries. 
Our closet, to the right.
Me, wearing pink, needing a shower.
Campus department mailbox.
Back of said mailbox.
Details of the faces. Creepy much?
The chateau inside which I study Russian.
One of Michael's buildings.
Another department mailbox, this one slightly less creepy.
Well that's just cute.
Too bad the inside of this building is about as ugly as the outside is beautiful. Also, it smells like rain upstairs, so I suspect it has a bad leak somewhere.
One of the libraries on campus.
The view on our walk to Safeway.

Seattle is a spectacular place to live. I've only been here a week and I already wish that I had enough money to live here permanently. It is stunningly beautiful.

Unfortunately, we live on Fraternity "Row" - Pretty much every house in the area surrounding our block is a fraternity/sorority, and that means it is loud, littered, and tacky. Monday night my housemates had a party that was going on when we got home from class at 1 and continued until 2 a.m. The bathroom door was locked, so I had to pee in an empty milk carton. Michael got up several times throughout the night to check the status of the bathroom for me, but to no avail. We got up at about 7, he removed the doorknob, unlocked it, and screwed it back on while I went pee (again). I couldn't wash my hands afterword, though, as someone had puked in the sink. You know what the sink looks like after you peel potatoes? That's what our bathroom sink looked like. Our idiot housemate, Lily, had vomited up her potato skins and not bothered to clean it up. I had a good conversation with our housemates later that afternoon, but to no avail. The vomit-sink stood, and Michael and I continued to wash our hands and brush our teeth using the tap in the bathtub. It was finally cleaned out yesterday, but I suspect it was done so by our upstairs housemate (who was not partying).

Classes are almost unbearably difficult. I only know about 50% of the words, and I understand almost none of what is said. It is an oral-intensive class, and most students clearly took conversational Russian (which I did not). I am able to keep up thanks to my understanding of grammar, and my ability to learn quickly. My reading comprehension isn't very good. Even in English, on standardized tests, etc, my reading comprehension scores are usually in the 80-90% range (in other words, acceptable, but not stellar). I have spent 6+ hours every day doing homework and trying to read ahead enough so that in class I won't be completely lost.

Today, despite spending over ten hours yesterday working on Russian, I was completely lost. We did an assignment that had not been on our calendar for Week 1, and I could not read it. It was a recipe for borsch, which we had to read aloud and about which we had to subsequently answer questions. After that, we were asked what our favorite dish was - and required to write (and read aloud) a recipe for it. Uh..... I have zero vocabulary for this subject. The only words I know about food are: to eat (and it's conjugations), to drink (''), milk, bread, cheese, sausage, and chocolate. I thought fast, and came up with a plan: I would select my "favorite dish" based on the ingredients listed in the recipe we had just read. BRILLIANT! Cheesy-broccoli soup it was!

Shortly after that crucible I was faced with another. We were divided into teams, then told to fill out a diagram of a table setting, completely with drawings and Russian names for the items. Again, I have zero vocabulary for it, and the 45-seconds she gave us to study the in-book diagram was obviously not enough to learn more than two or three of the easiest items (which were, of course, promptly added to the diagram by one of my classmates, who is fluent in the language....). Since it was a group assignment, it didn't matter that I didn't know any of the words. But it was a psychological blow, from which I didn't recover. I spent the next hour anxiously trying to keep up with the grammar lesson, and even though I somehow managed to select the correct answers for our final in-class assignment, I was so defeated by the end of class that all I wanted to do was cry. HOWEVER, after Michael gave me a big hug and his banana (that's what she said. But seriously, that's not what I meant, he really did give me a banana), I managed to calm down enough to push on. My homework only took me about 3 hours today, if that, and we had plenty of time to make another trip to Safeway. I bought four subs, some chips, a soda, and some little treats. I'm feeling much better, but it is going to be a long, long summer.

I'm sure it will get better. Despite being lost today, I feel like I'm slowly catching up with the other students (and considering I'm not the only one who didn't know any words for food, and that one girl from STANFORD doesn't know how to conjugate verbs properly, I suppose I shouldn't worry so badly), and since the grade I receive here won't count on my official transcript, I can take some pressure off of myself - all I have to do is PASS, I don't have to excel. Plus, tomorrow Michael wants to eat at Chipotle again, so when we're coming home from that I'll stop in at the Haagen-Dazs and get myself an ice cream cone. It'll probably be raining and cold, but I don't care. We walked by it two days ago and it was the tastiest smell my nose has ever encountered. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ellensburg - Issaquah - Seattle

 Michael, Sean, Lindsey and I left Ellensburg around 6 in the evening on Friday evening, and got to Sean's parents' in Issaquah around 7:30. Sean's stepdad works for Microsoft, and their house is the biggest, nicest house I've ever seen, located in a neighborhood of similarly enormous, nice houses. To tell you the kind of person Sean is, though (and the kind of friends I have), we spent the night in this House of All Houses in Sean's room after watching the most recent Christmas Special of Top Gear (in which the trio drive convertibles [Jeremy had a Mazda, James had a BMW and Richard had a Fiat] to Bethlehem via Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan to bring gifts to the Baby Jezuz, who was actually a tiny infant Stig, and during which James May was quite hideously injured when the tow rope he was holding clotheslined him into the rocky desert on the border of Jordan - he split his head and had to be driven to the hospital) - all four of us splitting the bunkbeds. It was awesome.

I felt/feel a bit like I was/am on another planet, as it has been a very long time since I was in a proper suburb. There are things to do and places to go, and eat, and see. We have a huge room in a massive duplex - five bedrooms per residence. Our room, second bedroom on the second floor, is furnished with a ginormous flatscreen tv, a desk, a small book case, an ottoman, two massive windows, and a very comfortable queen-sized mattress set (thanks to my friend Andrew, from whose sister we are subletting). In the walk-in closet are two large shelves, a big window, and a mini fridge, into which I intend to put six packs of be-...soda. Unfortunately we are on Fraternity Row, so the streets are littered and noisy, and our housemates are typical alcoholic partiers (it smells so strongly of booze and leftover booze containers  - can you call it "rotting" alcohol if it's already a fermented beverage?? - downstairs that I hold my breath whenever we leave/enter the house). Currently they are having a party, so they're blasting their garbage music (from the feel of the vibrations coming through the floor - it's too loud to actually hear what it is - it's hip hop). Michael's a lucky s.o.b. who sleeps through everything, so, naturally, he's asleep. I'm watching Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back and writing this.

UW campus is fantastic. Literally, as in a fantasy. There are little bridges everywhere, and some of the entrances to the buildings are balcony-like. Campus  is MASSIVE, the buildings are MASSIVE and ornate and old, the trees are MASSIVE and old. Each department has mailboxes decorated bizarrely. I took pictures of three, and will try to get a shot of each. The trees are so so so big and some of them are strange, one of them looked like an ent, it totally had a face on it. And of course, due to the arborous nature of campus, visibility is minimal, and it is easy to become disoriented. I felt a bit like I was navigating a game map: there are multiple paths, roads, sidewalks, trails, and driveways which wind themselves into and around the buildings on campus, but since all manner of vegetation obscurs the view, it's literally a crap shoot trying to find your way around. You can only see about ten yards in front of you at any given time. Some areas are spread out, literally just carved into the forest. Other sections of campus feel like movie sets because the buildings are HUGE but the roads are so small and currently depopulated. Plus the campus is so hilly, it's just fantastically bizarre. I am really looking forward to class on Monday, and to exploring the campus more. And it IS a beautiful campus, so even being dilerious with hunger, we enjoyed getting lost while trying to find our buildings. 

After managing to locate all three, we headed toward the University District. It was almost eerily quiet. It wasn't desolate with tumbling tumbleweeds tumbling along or anything, but there were fewer people out and about than there would have been in Ellensburg. Since it's summertime, a weekend, and summer term hasn't yet started, it makes sense that there would be fewer people here. Still, it was strange to be walking around an urban area without transients bumbling around or crazies laughing shoutingly at park benches, or overdressed business people striding down the sidewalks on cell phones or hipster college kids slouching around plugged into their iStarbucks. Michael and I walked around a bit before having dinner at Wing Central. I was slightly annoyed (I moved two hundred miles away to a huge city so that I'd have access to great restaurants, and we ended up eating at a chain restaurant that has a franchise across the street from my apartment in Ellensburg//Michael had been going ON AND ON about this place called Chipotle - a crappy, overpriced "Mexican Grill" which is like the bastard lovechild of Subway and Taco Bell - and we made sure to eat there last night, yet we didn't eat at any of the Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, etc. restaurants that I've been dying to go to) but after two strawberry lemonades, some waffle fries dipped in honey mustard, and a massive pulled bbq pork sandwich, I didn't care. 

Tomorrow we'll have to get up and get ourselves to Safeway, the bookstore, and possibly a non-chain restaurant, preferably one which serves unidentifiable pieces of meat nestled on a bed of noodles, vegetables, and drowned in a slightly spicy garlic sauce. I've developed a taste for foods with a mild piqaunt aftertaste. I'm also desperate to find buttery, salty soft pretzels and hot, chewy churros. Hopefully our U-Pass transit-and-discount UW student ID cards will help bring this dream to fruition. 

For now I'm going to go drink some water out of the sink (I didn't bring any dishes, assuming that I wouldn't need them), then try to fall asleep with Star Wars on in the hope that it will mask the incredible (not good) noise coming from downstairs. 

This is V, signing off. 

Posttt Scripttt I left the cable for my camera at Mom's, so I won't be putting photos onto Facebook/into the dropbox until I get that mailed to me. But use your imagination, it's awesome. :)

My cousin Danny took a picture of this when he was out shopping in Provo. Ha.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lazy Sunday

I survived! I successfully completed my first year of grad school. The last week was pleasurable, but since all of my finals were lumped together on Thursday and Friday I got a little crazy with the procrastination function on my brain. Rather than work on my 15 page historiography paper Friday afternoon, I played Pokemon on Michael's Game Boy Color. (Nerd.) I'm not sure how well I did on my finals or papers, but it's over now, there's nothing I can do about them, so no worries, right? I should find out tomorrow or Tuesday what my final grades were (hopefully they're no worse than they were last quarter, so that I don't lose my TA position).

Speaking of TA positions, my friend Phil has one as well, and we will both be starting in the Fall. We're going to probably request to share an office. We have a lot of classes together, share the same nerdy humor, and both get frustrated by idiots. The office will probably be in a state of perpetual laid-backness, complete with misuse of department equipment (like Peggle Deluxe on the computers) and an array of unhealthy foods on the bookshelves. WIN!

Great news! I have found subletters for July and August, so that I'm not paying rent on two apartments while I'm in Seattle. And, as Michael has been telling me for several weeks, there was nothing to worry about as regards financial aid: my award was more than sufficient to cover the costs I will incur over the summer, and should allow me to make it until my next paycheck in October. In fact, I got enough money that I should be able to get new glasses, something I should have done a year ago. Whoops!
This is me in my same pair of glasses back in Fall of 2009. They were several months old at the time....

Bad news! My attempts to avoid skin cancer/old-man skin on my chest failed! I bought some super-awesome Nutrogena sunscreen, since I'm always out in the sun nowadays and didn't want to fry my skin. Sunscreens burn me (like, they sting perpetually until I wash/sweat them off), so I figured Nutrogena would be a win. I slathered it on, and it was positively brilliant. It made my skin soft, smooth, and absolutely not greasy. Unfortunately, it made me break out. Badly.

FYI, I am not naked, I simply pulled the straps of my top down. My classmates apparently thought I was naked. I posited to one friend: "So from now on, if I post a totally normal picture of myself with a cute shirt, but you can't see my legs, will you assume I'm not wearing pants?" Eejits.

I broke out all over my chest, arms, shoulders, neck, and face. It's almost cleared up now, but you can be sure I will NOT be using it again - at least not on my chest/face. This is not to bash Nutrogena, either - I've used their products in the past, and they are phenomenal, and I actually highly recommend this product (UltraSheer Sunblock). Just not for people with sensitive skin. 

This week I will be: 
- Turning in my library keys
+ Packing for Seattle
+ Studying the last chapter in my Russian book so that I'm not behind when classes start
+ Helping Sean and Lindsey move into my apartment
+ Winning Pokemon.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

June Too Soon, AKA Not Soon Enough

April and May have been a healthy mix of the robust and the magnificent. I've spent a lot of money on clothes and chocolate muffins (I live for pleasure alone). School has continued to challenge me, and my final quarter of work at Brooks went swimmingly. On the down side, I've been a bit unmotivated about school and am worried about juggling summer classes. Oh, and I also had a nasty infection, but don't worry, it has been cleared up now thanks to an injection of liquid fire into my right buttock.

The above was taken on the second floor of Wendell Hill Hall on campus here at Central. More specifically, it was taken on the landing in the stairwell of the second floor of Wendell. After becoming acquainted with the concept of an "area of refuge" (thanks, Wikipedia), I still find this utterly amusing. Perhaps it has something to do with The Newsies ("Wait til I get you back to the r'fUUUUUUUGE!"), or perhaps it has to do with the idea of a wheelchair-bound individual being safe in a stairwell. I know there's no place I'd rather be.

Here's another gem, sent in by my brother. G is currently living in Hangzhou, and decided it would be a fun idea to run a marathon. Up the Great Wall of China. Without breakfast. Presumably this was taken during the first leg - before everyone started crawling. G will be running another marathon in November, this time in Queensland, Australia (I've never been so jealous in my entire life). It's the Solar Eclipse Marathon, so check back in here in the fall to see pictures of him running in welding goggles!

For now, Michael and I are going to hop to the shop for a chocolate muffin. On a semi unrelated note, I've decided it might be a good idea to start selling soft pretzels out of my apartment. There's no place to get them around here, and everyone likes them. It costs under $5 to make dough, which produces about 12 large soft pretzels, which I can sell for $2.50 each. I'm thinking this is a good idea. :)

I'll write again when finals are over and I have a better idea of how and when I'll be getting to Seattle. I can't wait to see our new place!