Thursday, August 28, 2008

News Items

I don't know if I mentioned it, but both hermit crabs (Pokey and Intrepid) have been moulting almost the whole time since I got them. When they moult, they bury themselves in sand and don't come out at all for a month or so. I have been worrying that they were dead, and have been a bit neglectful of my misting duties too. Yesterday, I thought to myself, I should really mist the tank. While I was doing that, I picked up the coconut house that Pocket of Bolts made for Intrepid and... he was in it! He was very grouchy to be disturbed at noontime, when he's no doubt sound asleep, but I put some food in his dish and put him on it as instructed. He moved off it very quickly, and was soon hiding again. I worry about him being so uninterested in food. Maybe he doesn't like the food I bought. But anyway, at least he's alive! Although this morning when I looked for him he was extremely well hidden, maybe buried back down in the sand again? Anyway, I couldn't find him, so I hope he's all right.

The other bit of news is that last night I decided to go to the yoga class at our next door gym. Pocket of Bolts was going out drinking with one of his buddies, and I thought it might be a good chance to try out this yoga thing everyone seems so enthusiastic about. Of course I had tried the rather sedate yoga class my parents take, but that was more or less like an hour of sleepy stretching as far as I was concerned. This yoga class, however, was more like a workout! There was much twisting up of my body and doing of strange things. I felt like a pretzel! But all the weight-lifting I've been doing recently has helped a lot I think, because although my muscles definitely protested, I was able to do most of the things. Afterwards I felt very loose and relaxed and pleased. Pocket of Bolts was pleased too; not sure why, but he likes the idea of having a yoga-doing wife, and has been encouraging me to go. I was shy about it, but once I finally got brave enough to try it I liked it a lot.

Monday, August 25, 2008

And the Weekend's Over

Saturday night was the last installment of our social marathon. We were invited to a party at the house of another of my office-mates, Y. No other office-mates showed up though; it was mostly her friends there. That meant a lot of meeting new people--which doesn't actually bother me. For all these office-mate events, the stakes are low as far as I'm concerned. I do my best to meet and talk to people, but don't feel especially bad if I fail.

Actually the circumstances on Saturday were very favorable for meeting and talking. Y has a tiny little apartment to the north of us, and she was serving a late dinner of curry and a Japanese sort of potato salad. It was tasty. We sat on the floor and ate it. More people kept trickling in. The apartment was an oven. The elevator was broken and it was on the fourth floor, so there was much trooping up and down for smoking. (I dodn't smoke, but since everyone went down, I did too.) The conversation turned toward bizarre injuries and physical anomalies. One woman was born with an extra rib and had had to have it surgically removed because it was pinching a nerve. Another had accidentally ripped open his palette with a pencil. Those were the two most memorable. How can you not become friendly and amused when you're talking about this sort of thing?

The evening ended with a watermelon bashing, kind of like a Japanese pinata. We carried the watermelon out to a strip of grass near an underpass and took turns bashing it with a stick, blindfolded while everyone else gave directions. It took a long time to really smash open the watermelon, in part due to the inadequacy of the stick. But that meant everyone had a turn.

When the thing was open, we ate it with our hands. Then Pocket of Bolts and some of the other guys started using parts of the rind like a board you'd break in karate. When you punch a watermelon rind, juice and watermelon go everywhere!!! We were all covered in it. There was much laughing. You have to picture this being around midnight. We decided to head home after that (way past our bedtimes) but it was a really fun time all in all.

Yesterday I didn't do anything except play games and do a small chunk of writing. I am asymptotically approaching the end of this chapter but can't seem to go the last little step.

Today classes start for PoB. He left very early, as he teaches at 9 AM. I had breakfast but am getting off to a later start, heading down to U of C to use the library and possibly have coffee with one of the grad students there. It will be fun to talk shop again after all this time. I've discovered that it's better to miss the rush hour traffic when going down there though. I may not be able to avoid it coming back but at least I can avoid it going down there.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Social Marathon Continues

Dinner for six chez Zapaper:

Hummus and tapenade
Rye crackers and pita triangles
Watermelon wedges
Salade nicoise (minus fish)
Stuffed peaches

Pocket of Bolts did most of the cooking, I should say right off. I had sole responsibility for the dessert, which turned out okay but would have been much much better with ice-cream. I'll have to remember that. The salade nicoise, which we hadn't made before, turned out really pleasant and interesting, much hardier than the green or Greek salad we usually serve, and more interesting at least to me.

It was one of those dinner parties where you get behind and then pray that the guests arrive fashionably late. Instead, they arrived 10 minutes early, leaving PoB and I taking turns dashing around to change out of filthy sweat-soaked clothes while the other cut up pitas and poured drinks. The floors were supposed to get mopped but didn't. The spanakopita could have been baked in advance (so the oven wouldn't have to be heating up the house) but wasn't. It was a hotter day than we'd thought it would be, and we have AC only in our bedroom. But within those constraints, the party was moderately successful.

We got to use our new wedding dishes. PoB did most of the talking and I did most of the bustling around (I like it that way). That makes it a little hard though for me to evaluate whether they had a good time. Anyway, it was PoB's colleagues and whether or not they had a good time, I feel that our duties were discharged. Everyone left a little on the early side, but it was quite hot in the place and I would have been inclined to too...

This was Thursday. Yesterday I got to meet another blogger, Repressed Librarian. ComeBackNikki made the arrangements (yay CBN!), and it was a really fun time for me. I realize how little time I spend with other women. I mean, of course it's related to how little time I spend with other people generally, but hanging out with women is quite different from hanging out with guy friends--the kinds of things you do and talk about--even with people who, in some sense, I just met, it felt really relaxing and good. Although I was slightly haunted by the worry that I was repeating things they already knew from my blog. Probably I did, but they were patient.

Another newsworthy event was that I ate a cupcake. It was an Almond Joy cupcake, and I already forgot the name of the bakery, but getting to eat a cupcake was bliss. I worked out yesterday, but did not even try to count points. PoB and I are both slipping a little in this regard...

Last night, because we just haven't been having enough excitement lately (ha ha) we went to a movie night hosted by one of my former office-mates. We came in time for half of Muppets' Treasure Island and watched all of Team America: World Police (made by the creators of South Park). Both absurd and funny, with a good measure of offensive thrown in. Unfortunately, the host had a case of food-poisoning which made it all a little surreal. We were drinking beer and eating pizza, while he was nibbling toast and periodically disappearing into the bathroom for extended periods of time. The thing about a movie night is that the show can go on with you or without you, so it was fine. Still, he wasn't quite his usual jolly self!

Today we have been very extremely lazy. It's incredibly hot and muggy and I have simply camped out in the bedroom with the AC on. PoB tried to hold out in the living room but gave up after a while. We're going to a party later tonight, the last item on the social calendar until next weekend, but we apparently don't have energy for anything else until then!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Concentrated Socializing

I have been lame about blogging. Also for that matter about cleaning--presumably having used up all my enthusiasm on the blog post, I promptly lost enthusiasm for doing it in real life. That's okay, today's the day for a whole-house cleaning. Because... this is marathon socializing weekend. Starting yesterday.

Yesterday, my friend from high school, R*, was in Chi-town with his wife T and it was his birthday. They usually live in Berlin, but they travel a lot. It was a rare treat to see them here! Actually, they used to live in Chicago, so they know more about the city than I do. A group of us went to the Chicago Pizza and Grinder Company, a place I have never been before. Tasty Mediterranean bread and salad, followed by a funny inverted bowl pizza, also tasty. Also, most of the people in the group I had never met before, friends of R*'s from various times and places who happened to be here or who live here. Somehow it was all the more jolly for me because of that though. R*'s enthusiasm for people, pizza, and life in general removed any anxiety I may have had.

After eating way too much, I ended up walking for a long time with the slowly diminishing group--nearly two hours! There was so much to say and chatter about. It reminded me very much of an earlier period in my life. Also made me wish we lived closer to R* and T; they are such fun people, a barrel of laughs. Pocket of Bolts and I are going to R* and T's wedding (marriage celebration technically since they're already legally married) in a week or so. That's in the Bay area, a mini-vacation in the last little bit the summer.

Today, though, the project is having two pairs of PoB's colleagues over to our house for dinner. It pretty much strains our capacity for entertaining, but at least we have an adequate supply of matching dishes. So today it's mostly house-cleaning and cooking, with a bit of work thrown in, in the early hours.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cleaning Rotation

Our household chores have naturally fallen into a fairly comfortable division wherein Pocket of Bolts takes out of the garbage, does the laundry, does (maybe slightly more than) half the dishes and cooking. Meanwhile, I clean the bathroom and sweep and mop floors. This has been a stable division between us ever since we started living together. PoB does his jobs whenever they need doing. I try to do my jobs once a week, but sometimes I fail to and usually I don't do every single room, especially since our apartment now is the biggest we've lived in.

A few weeks ago, when our place was pretty dirty and guests were coming, I tried to clean the whole apartment. By clean I mean just: tidy, dust, and do floors (and of course clean toilet, tub, sink, and mirrors in the bathroom; counters and stove-top in the kitchen). Mind you the place was pretty filthy, and I am a perfectionist cleaner when I get started. But HOURS later, I was exhausted and still hadn't finished two of the rooms. We both enjoy living in a tidier environment, but my marathon cleaning day made me realize I had been putting off or failing to do my jobs because the task seemed so huge. Doing a proper job is obviously not the work of single day.

So a little over a week ago I decided to change my strategy. The house has seven rooms (counting the long hall and the big hall closet) and the week has seven days. So I decided I would do a small dose of cleaning each day. So far this has been working really well! It's a good thing to do when I feel like procrastinating, and I count it into my nutritional economy as light exercise so it even allows me to eat more. (Always a plus!) The house has been cleaner, so much so that it was difficult to restart the cycle yesterday--it just didn't seem dirty enough! Cleaning is more rewarding when the area you're cleaning is really dirty, since it feels like it makes more of a difference. But on the other hand, it's much easier if the area is NOT dirty because less scrubbing is required.

Another advantage is that doing the cleaning in small bits allows me to concentrate on things I would ordinarily pass over--reorganizing the shelves, washing and scrubbing inside the garbage can, mopping the spot underneath the arm-chair, etc. My mom always says that cleaning is a meditation. If so, my mantra has usually been, "It's not about achieving perfection, but about preventing accumulation." Recently, though, it feels like perfection might also be almost within my grasp.

Aren't I becoming quite the housewife?! (Just kidding, Pocket of Bolts. I am still working on my dissertation, honest.) Actually, though, speaking of being a wife... after more than a month of procrastination and wavering, I finally took the first step in changing my name to Mrs. Pocket of Bolts. Namely, I filled out a form and took it with my passport and marriage certificate to the Social Security Administration. It was a quick and easy procedure after the hour or so of waiting. I had to sign with my new name...! I have practiced on three or four different occasions, but it's still a shocking feeling. Oh well, for now I'll just think of it as being like a spy. Signing "someone else's" name is, like, part of my tradecraft.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Our New Gym

[A guest post from Pocket of Bolts, at the request of Zapaper]

We've joined a new gym. I don't know how ZP feels about it, but I like it: nice place, good workout program, etc. But... well, it's a... how do I put this? A yuppie gym.

So I was leaving the locker room today, after having groomed myself in the "Fully-appointed executive locker rooms, with complimentary towels, grooming aids and accessories", and paused to note the enormous flat-screen plasma TV in the waiting room between the men and women's locker room. Tuned to CNN, it was reporting that Russia had invaded Georgia. Nuclear armed superpower, invading possibly also nuclear armed breakaway former Soviet republic? Pardon the technical terms, but: my nuts tightened up. And as I contemplate what will happen--the President is issuing statements, etc--a woman walks out of the locker room, sighs loudly, and shouts "Hello? It's the Olympics? Why aren't the Olympics on?", and angrily changes the channel.

That's our new gym. I occasionally regret not joining the insane bodybuilder gym around the corner, but I suppose that they don't actually have flatscreen TVs, so I wouldn't have known. Right?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Last Friday I had my first-ever blogger meet-up, with ComeBackNikki from 10Eleven. We had great Ethiopian food and somehow ended up talking for four hours! That was really fun. Among other things, I learned a lot about the teaching scene at various places. Wow! Does everyone work 300 times harder than I do, or just most people? I felt I had a very soft life.

While I am updating about recent events, I should mention that when my college friend and Pocket of Bolts' grad school friends were in town last week (Tuesday), we finally managed to go on the architecture boat tour! I highly recommend it, even if you're not an architecture fan. The boat goes fast enough that you actually only get a bite-sized snippet of information about each building. You get an overall sense of architecture along the river and in the city generally, but no boring long diatribes or anything. And now I feel like most of the buildings on the tour are at least acquaintances if not actually friends. Even though it was like 90+ degrees, the guy talking was so interesting we didn't even notice we were hot. As soon as we got off the boat, though, we had to retreat to an air-conditioned bar.

After that, we did the obligatory amble through Millennium to see the Bean. That is such a fun structure to play with, photographically! Here's the whole group of us.

Afterwards, we ended up all taking naps on benches under the trees. It's interesting how having friends in town makes one feel so happy--connections are strengthened when distance might threaten to erode them--and at the same time so exhausted. Our daily routine is a fragile and really under-appreciated thing. Getting up at a certain time, cooking and eating our relatively humble and inexpensive meals, doing our work and our work-outs, going to bed at our usual time... all of these things got disrupted, and as happy as we were to see our friends, we were also happy to get back to normal. Given that we're all academics, I suppose it's possible they felt the same!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Storm Tonight

There is a fantastic thunderstorm in Chicago tonight, and in particular MY part of Chicago. Even in the tiny bit of sky enclosed by our courtyard we saw very many bright and well-defined lightnings. Rain is coming down in sheets, and the sky looks almost white with the constant lightnings above the clouds.

We had been planning an after-dinner constitutional to bookstore, but that turned out to be highly impractical. We turned back when pelted by the first drops of rain and opted for a workout instead--the new gym being so close and all. All the satellite TV stations were out for a while, but everything else was in good working order, including the delicious steam room.

I burned enough calories that I got to have frozen yogurt with sprinkles for dessert, and we sat and watched the lightnings, listened to the river-flow sound of the rain. It's been a really nice evening in fact!

Sketch Diary

The past little while has been quite hectic. I'll try to write more about it later, but I don't have much time now either. I had meant to have the sketch diary be a regular Monday thing, but then I couldn't manage to do a post last Monday. You might also notice the lack of any drawings between 7/25 and 8/2--we had a house-guest, and then were recovering from that. Anyway, I'll maybe post these every Monday or every other Monday depending on how things go.

This is from a lovely bouquet that Pocket of Bolts got for me. It's a hard discipline to draw flowers without color because the color seems so much like THE point in drawing them!! But it's probably good practice.

This is copied from a great picture book that I have, called The Arrival, by Shaun Tan. It's a great fantastical book about the immigrant experience, which has no words at all (the caption is just made up by me) and is very much about communication without language. Also features a lot of wonderful weird creatures.

These are growing in our backyard on very tall stalks, in a variety of colors. They seem like some kind of hibiscus, but I can't tell exactly. VERY hard to draw without colors.

Copied from a National Geographic article on the mass extinction of amphibians. I can't say how sad the extinction of amphibians makes me. Also, drawing frog fingers/toes makes me realize how very unlike our fingers and toes they are, and in general how really alien frogs are in their structure. But that's awesome.

Copied from a picture of a fourth century Chinese tile. The silly cartoonishness is in the original too, so it wasn't just me!