Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tri-lingual Fun

For complicated reasons, I am currently learning a bit of Korean. The teacher is very good. The students are also an interesting bunch. A funny thing happened the other day in class. It might one of those you had to be there things, but I laughed SO hard.

The teacher was doing some rapid-fire vocabulary drill with flashcards. Her flashcards are in English, and students have to produce the Korean.

Teacher: (holds up a flashcard that says "dictionary" and calls on one of the students, one who also happens to know Japanese)
Student: 사전
Teacher: Korean dictionary.
Student: 한국말 사전
Teacher: Japanese dictionary.
Student: じしょ
Me: (bursts out laughing)
Other students: Huh?

That one's for you, dad. ^_^

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Little Story (anonymous guest post)

(The following is a little story about yours truly as a very little girl, told me by someone who knew me sort of ... peripherally, as I was growing up. I should add that I have no memory of this incident, but at the same time, it rings very true. I won't say it is to my credit in any way, but I thought that it might amuse.--Z)

Once upon a time, not long ago and not far away, there lived a pleasant little girl on a pleasant little farm on a pleasant little hill.

She ran out in the fields and she played with the chickens, and in the mornings when the long yellow bus labored up her little hill, she hopped in at the appointed time and rode down the hill to school.

She was a smart little girl; everyone could see it. Whatever she set her mind to, she could do. Any task her teachers gave her was dispatched without much effort, so they sent her to the class for people like that on the far side of the playground.

The smart little girl was perhaps a bit distracted on the day that she was told what she should do. She should research a little project and provide an oral report, not much more than just a sentence or two. The subject she was given, something about a Martin Luther, was perhaps not at the center of her interest. Or perhaps she felt rebellious and refused to do her homework. I'm pretty sure we will never know.

The intelligence of children is not the wisdom of the innocent. These ideas live on separate planes.

On the day of the assignment, she began to have second thoughts, as the other students gave their talks about their subjects. It had not occurred to her that public humiliation lay in store for the unmotivated as far as speaking assignments were concerned. And she became more than a little nervous.

What could one say about Martin Luther King, given that one had researched not a whit? No problem - she was smart - surely there were a few morsels of fact that could be gleaned from that name. Or at least a sentence? Right?

Well, finally her turn came; she stood up and cleared her throat. And she began:

"Martin Luther King ... was a _very_ good King. He ruled his country well and wisely..."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shedd Aquarium

I had only been to the aquarium in Chicago once, and it was four years ago. Pocket of Bolts tried to go about a week ago, but the line was so long and the day so hot that he and our visitors decided not to go after all. We still have so many other friends coming this summer that finally we decided it would be good to get a membership. Then we wouldn't have to wait in line and we'd also be able to get our guests in free.

So I went today with my visiting friend Baka Sensei (yeah, I know what baka means in Japanese; he's not really baka, it's just a silly nickname they gave him in Japan), and got a membership. I really only have to go once or twice more this year to make it pay for itself. And now that it's walking distance, why not?

I think my iphone takes pretty neat pictures here: lets a lot of light in, and no flash to reflect off the glass. The creatures in the above photo are lungfish, which have both lungs and gills. The spotted one has been in the Shedd Aquarium since 1933. That means he's nearly 80 years old!! I could hardly believe it. How many people he must have seen.

We were looking at the big central reef tank and a diver came out to do some feeding. Immediately the big floppy rays started dive-bombing him. They looked like big straw hats. I was trying to imagine what it must feel like to have the strong fishy flaps flap all over your head.

The diver is still in the picture directly above. He is just being swarmed by so many things you can hardly see him. Meanwhile, a big ray is flapping gracefully toward me. They are really cool and wonderful.

Another thing I was very impressed by was the nautilus.

They were in a nighttime tank downstairs. But, I had no idea they were so full of ... stuff. And they moved surprisingly fast. I guess somehow I thought they were like snails, but they were not like snails. They were like... I don't know, little flying saucers or something.

Anyway, it looks like it's going to be a hot summer, and the aquarium is a cool and soothing place to visit. So, there's definitely going to be more of that coming up...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Pocket of Bolts, Strongman

Okay, almost no one reads this blog who doesn't read facebook, except perhaps for my parents. But, parents, this one is not to be missed. Also, it just makes me exceedingly happy. I have watched it about 10 times already.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Mama in Chicago

Mama came to visit me in Chicago. I rode the train to O'Hare to go meet her. But, O'Hare is big, and she got in a little earlier than expected. We both had cell phones, but still it took us a while to identify a unique place we could both find our way to.

The above picture is us on the train back downtown. Mama had some blueberries from Oregon. She had packed a lot in her lunch, and had some leftover. I ate them all up while we rode the train. Some people say we look alike. Some people say we don't.

We are only 24 years apart in age, which seems like a smaller gap with every passing year!

The first thing we did, the next day, was a midday excursion to the Field Museum.

Mom liked the elephants. I like them too. We saw the Mammoths and Mastedons exhibit, and the thing I liked best was their molars.

Just one big molar on each side. They lived about as long as we do (now), and ground through all three sets of molars. It's strange how we usually have our third molars surgically removed. It's too bad we can't save them for when we're old and our teeth start falling out, making room for them.

That night we went to Tapas Valencia for dinner. It was very crowded, so we sat on one of the front tables by the bar. Not quite as comfortable as the dine room, but we had our own little alcove. We got too much food, but it was really good: gazpacho, scallops with couscous, sliced duck breast, lamb on wild mushrooms, shrimp with garlic and lemon, stuffed portabello, sliced ham with a salsa-like relish, paella, sangria...

The next day we were having a potluck in the evening. We got some lettuce and cherries at the farmer's market, then the rest of the supplies at the grocery. We cleaned and cooked in the morning, then Pocket of Bolts and I watched the US get crushed by Ghana in soccer. Mom took a funny series of pictures of us. This is the last one, when the defeat is starting to seem inevitable.

At least the party cheered us up some. It was a good party!

On Sunday, we went to Ikea, always a treat! Mom and Dad were buying us a house-warming gift, and we were pretty keen on getting a new dining room table. Our old one is very nice, but just doesn't fit our place very well stylistically. Here's the new one. It will look better when we get the detritus from the old table out of the way, but this is a first look. We also got the chairs. They are surprisingly comfortable, and we thought they looked really cool. The effect in general is to make our dining area look much bigger and brighter.

(If I look a bit gloomy in the above picture, it has nothing to do with the table... just a hard day at work on Monday!)

As you can imagine, getting the table and all the chairs, plus other purchases, into the back of the rented Honda Element was quite the challenge. Here's me holding up many pounds of glass and metal while things get slid under it.

The other thing we got at Ikea, long overdue, was some storage solutions for our lousy master bedroom closet. We were thinking about replacing the whole thing, but I convinced Pocket of Bolts that we should first try a less radical solution. I wish I had before-after pictures to show what a hideous mess it was initially... But in any case, so far our new (and quite cheap) solution is working very well. Pocket of Bolts gets the bins on top, which only he can reach, and I get the bins on the bottom, because I am lower to the ground.

We had dinner with our neighbors in the building, but both Pocket of Bolts and mom were feeling a little under the weather. Also, our neighbor talks like crazy!! It's strange, the feeling that someone is really not all that interested in anything you have to say, just mostly in talking at you. I felt unusually frustrated with it. Often, it's kind of relaxing (so little expected of you, you can just kind of sit back and listen). But there's a certain emptiness in such unidirectional communication. It makes you feel like you might as well be watching TV or something.

Monday I went to work all day. I felt bad about it, but it was the end of the fiscal year, and there was a bunch of stuff I had to take care of. Mama is so self-sufficient, though--she got herself to Millennium Park to look at the Bean, and then went on the Chicago Architecture Foundation boat tour. She seemed to have had a good time--a better time than I had stuck in my office, for sure!

I stopped and got steaks on the way home. Mom went to a yoga class one of my other friends had invited her to. If she lived here, she would make friends a lot more quickly than I have! I have so many opportunities to make friends--just not even a fraction of her level of social energy.

Tuesday we went to the Art Institute. It was lovely as always. Pocket of Bolts and I are *both* members now, so I got mom in free and we also had coffee in the Member Lounge when we got tired. We looked at the Chinese collection, which is like an old friend to me now, and then at the impressionists and other modern-ish stuff. Here's a picture of mama with Ganesh:

I also particularly liked the "Beggar with Oysters (Philosopher)." I must have seen it before, but it made much more of an impression on me since I've been wanting so much to eat oysters lately!

Tuesday night we saw a very lovely movie at the Siskel, The Secret of Kells. It was hand-animated and so beautiful. It made our eyes all starry, so that everything we saw afterward looked especially wonderful.

On the way to dinner, we happened to encounter the Chagall mosaic. Mom liked it a lot.

Pocket of Bolts doesn't like Chagall, but consented to have a photo taken in front of it anyway, ha ha.

We had dinner at a venerable old restaurant called Italian Village. Maybe objectively a little cheesey, but on that particular night really quite charming. The food was very tasty too, fried calamari, salad, canneloni with cream sauce, shrimp on angelhair pasta, and chicken stuffed with prosciutto. For dessert, a cannolo, a tiramiso, and some spumoni (for me, because I was way too full for anything solid!). Here's what the restaurant looked like, just a cell phone picture, but you kind of get the idea.

Wednesday, mama's last full day in Chicago, we dropped by school so I could show her my office, then went off the Willis Tower (Sears Tower). I had never been on the glass ledges before. I was not at all scared, really more like thrilled.

Mama looking out over the city.

Later we went to the zoo. A thing we saw that I had never seen before was the pygmy hippo! Usually it just looks like a tank full of fish! The pygmy hippo was very cute but it did something extremely rude in the water shortly after these pictures were taken. The crowd scattered, shrieking.

The giraffe was stretching its neck up as high as it could get and still not reaching the lowest branches. Not an accident, I assume, since all the ones it could reach had already been eaten. Still, it looked neat.

After the hectic zoo experience, we spent a little time relaxing in the conservatory. I love going to the zoo, but it always makes me deeply tired. I think it's the vast number of moving parts all moving in one's visual field. The plants were very still and nice.

Last picture, of mom chilling with the Bard.

It was really fun having her visit, not least because it motivated me to go out and see a bunch of stuff I would not ordinarily have seen. But now I am extra tired!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010


We flew to my grad school town on Thursday. This picture was taken on the plane.

This is what the flight attendant saw, and yet still she asked me, "Do you have any trash you want to get rid of sir?" And no, she wasn't talking about Pocket of Bolts, because when I looked up she got flustered and said, "I mean, ma'am." I think it's hopeless.

We picked up a rental car (which had awesome satellite radio!) and drove down to just outside of grad school town where we had Pricelined a very basic motel room. It was clean and cute, though. Dinner at Ruby Tuesday's, where I had steak and lobster because, why not?

And then I spent some time very reluctantly working on my "dissertation spiel." Everyone says that defenses start with the defender talking for a bit, so I had to be ready. I decided against trying to memorize. I have to go either all extemporaneous or talk from notes. And under that much stress, I figure they'd rather have to forgive me for using notes than for floundering around and getting tongue-tied.

We woke up early and went to breakfast at what used to be our favorite diner back when we lived there. Here's me looking pretty stressed out and fragile!

Better with sunglasses, I think!

Just post-defense, when I'd been told that I would pass. Off to the left, the champagne is being poured. Everyone is moving and I am still. Pocket of Bolts didn't quite feel comfortable to use the flash!

The defense was fine, I should add. The 'questions' were mostly of the form, "When you turn this into a book, you might consider adding a section about..." There was also some really interesting discussion. I did not feel under-prepared, though I didn't prepare much! I felt nervous and tense but in an alert way.

Also, many of my younger classmates were there. Here is a reunion-type class-photo. We have one beloved picture of us all together in this professor's class, and whenever any of us are together we try to retake some form of that picture. This is the closest we have had to a full reunion as yet, I think, and one person is still missing (currently in Taiwan), hence the black and white headshot.

Afterwards, my adviser and another member of the committee took me and Pocket of Bolts out to a very fancy lunch, at a restaurant neither PoB nor I had ever been able to afford eating at when we actually lived there. They were really kind to me. It felt like a rite of passage thing, like a switch had been made between treating me like a grad student and treating me like a junior colleague. There was much discussion about the book project, next career moves, and so forth. Very old boyish in a way, but not a gendered way--if that makes any sense!

Then, there was a lot of paperwork to take care of. Pocket of Bolts was an amazing husband dashing hither and thither to produce massive quantities of cash, blank CDs, and brute strength. (The four bound volumes had to be hand-carried over to the archive...!)

Then there was a bar, and post-bar drinking, and this marvelous picture was taken somewhere in there. This is the grad student lounge in Pocket of Bolts' department where he and I hung out for the first time, when he had just started his dissertation and mine was barely a twinkle in my eye. But in this picture, we are both "Doctors"! (Only one of us is drunk, though.)

Zapaper: You and my dissertation have been in my life for exactly the same length of time.
PoB: But I'm still here and the dissertation is gone. I WIN!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A New Five Year Plan

Almost exactly five years ago, I defended my dissertation prospectus. This morning, I sent the completed document to the bindery. Defense is in two weeks.

And now it seems like it's time for a new five year plan. The last five years were... pretty interesting, but--yeah. Time for something new.

It's amazing what mixed feelings I have, but most of them are positive. (I already discovered the first of the typos, but I am trying to put that out of my mind.) Now I can read novels, and work on other projects, and write long helpful e-mails to people who are barely acquaintances, and generally breathe a bit.

Above/left are some peonies that Pocket of Bolts got for me. I painted them to relieve my mixed feelings.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sleep Talk

One of us was asleep during this conversation. See if you can figure out which one.

Pocket of Bolts: ...And the oil spill.
Zapaper: What?
POB: That’s what we’ve been talking about the entire time.
Z: But we haven’t talked about that all day.
POB: But it’s all about the Gulf. The oil spill in the Gulf.
Z: The Gulf of Mexico.
POB: Of course the Gulf of Mexico. What are you some kind of racist?
Z: Just making sure you were clear.
POB: I’m clear about tacos and burritos and--...If only someone would figure out what drinks they were serving at the conference and then everyone could just put them in a blender.
Z: What conference?
POB: It’s just a general rule for conferences.
Z: What is?
POB: Everyone says, this paper would be so much more interesting if we weren’t drunk.
Z: No one EVER says that at conferences.
POB: Ssshhhh.
Z: What happens after the conference?
POB: The giraffe goes home.
Z: Where does he go home to?
POB: Bluh bluh Park.
Z: Wicker Park?
POB: No-—Lincoln Park. He’s not a hipster giraffe with big sunglasses and short skirts.
Z: Clearly not. Was the giraffe at the conference?
POB: Let me tell you about the conference.
Z: Please do.
POB: There was an explosion of creative energy, and someone put it in their paper. Bluh bluh bluh bluh.

(For fun I have included a photo I took of a non-hipster giraffe that lives in Lincoln Park.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Long Time No Blog

Sorry to have dropped out of sight. It's been a hell of a semester. I just submitted final grades today. As in, just now. I procrastinated it all day.

Pocket of Bolts: Z, why are you procrastinating putting in your final grades? You finished calculating them all this morning, didn't you?
Zapaper: Yeah.
PoB: Then why don't you just put them in?
Z: ...
PoB: You know, even after you put them in, you can still change them until five o'clock tomorrow.
Z: ...I can?
PoB: I thought that might be what you were worried about.
Z: ...Maybe.

Of course, I had to deal with my very first crying student today. If *only* I would make an exception, he wouldn't get kicked out of school! I held firm but it was very hard to do. Pocket of Bolts says, "Any given student like that thinks they have special extraordinary circumstances. But actually, they *all* have extraordinary circumstances in their lives. Most of them deal with it. Some of them fail. No doubt if you made special exceptions for all the ones that failed, they could almost all avoid failing. But it wouldn't be fair to anyone." I know this is right, and I was annoyed to be made to feel so guilty for ruining someone's life. (I mean, of course he ruined his own life... and only some small part of it too...) But that doesn't mean I didn't feel guilty.

Another amusing thing that happened today was that a water main flooded. I arrived at campus to be greeted with an interesting new lake where there used to be a sidewalk.

I will try to post more.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Last Storm?

We all knew there was going to be one more big nasty snow, and yesterday it arrived. The fact that it happened on a weekend when I had to be working anyway somehow made it better. I mean, if it were beautiful sunny weather and I had to be inside working, that would be actually more depressing.

Of course I trudged into my office. All my books are there.

I wore the "thinking cap." It's an old tradition. It's actually an enormous, Pocket of Bolts sized hat that someone made for him a long time ago. I wore it while I was studying for my generals, and periodically since then. It's just kind of comforting.

Driving snow and icy trees outside one of the classroom buildings. I was on my way to the library, tracking down references for those last pesky footnotes.

Pocket of Bolts and I have decided that since this is my spring break, it's important to both work hard and try to do something a little bit fun each day. So, after I put in more or less a full day's work, we went out to see a movie. We went to Brew and View, the crazy Chicago theater where they sell beer as well as popcorn. It's in a really old building, and actual theater I think. I took some pictures with my iPhone, and although they came out dark, they're kind of interesting.

We saw Sherlock Holmes. The sound in Brew and View was impressively bad, so some of the dialogue--especially given the medley of partially artificial British-type accents--was lost on us. But, clearly the main point of the movie was the action, which came through just fine.

Dragon Kite

Pocket of Bolts got a dragon kite for his birthday, so on Friday evening we decided to go out and fly it. We'd had several days of spring weather, temperatures in the 60s and sunshine. But there was a cold front coming in, meaning a good strong wind. We rode an articulated bus down to Northerly Island. Articulated buses are so interesting.

Here is Pocket of Bolts assembling the kite, although it kind of looks like he's trying to slay the dragon.

Here is the dragon in flight. There are also two little birds up in the corner. All these pictures are taken with my iPhone, which means the resolution isn't all that great. On the other hand, with all the running around and grabbing strings and such, it was much more convenient than having to lug the big camera around.

The dragon kite swoops down over the city of Chicago. Pocket of Bolts flying it is the small black shape in the middle.

Close up of me and the dragon kite. It was getting dark, which is why it looks grainy.

The road home. By the time night fell, it was getting really cold. Since we were dressed more for spring than for winter, we got quite chilled! But we made it okay in the end.