Experiencing project fatigue

Last summer an idea that had been percolating for awhile crystallized into a fantastic (and somewhat fantasy) plan to turn an obscure play, Look About You, into a screenplay for a teen movie.  Which is strange because I’ve never really cared for teen movies, even when I was a teenager.  But the major plot device in the play is disguise and mistaken identity, and when more than one such character is involved, imagining it fulfilled by adults is difficult.  Unless they’re all spies, but I’m not really feeling it as a spy movie.  The play itself is a little dark, but I feel like the source of conflict is obscure for modern audiences.  Where a teen movie could be made lighter and use the mistaken identities to be uplifting by the end.

I recently read Snow, by Orhan Pamuk, about a poet who travels to a remote city and becomes entangled in the lives of many of its citizens, including his former classmate and love interest.  Reading about his instances of inspiration for writing poetry left me feeling as if I should push myself to write more.  Of course, I have been much more successful in identifying compelling topics for poems, and their titles, than I have been at writing the poems themselves.

I’ve moved right into the introduction for Lattimore’s The Iliad, and I was a little annoyed to see that it covers only a small portion of the Troy story.  I knew it didn’t cover everything, and most events are report after the fact, but The Iliad covers only a tiny piece about men and how easily their feelings get hurt.  And it made me think of Euripides’ Iphigenia at Tauris, which I have read, and Iphigenia at Aulis, which I haven’t.  But I want to.  I wonder why Iphigenia’s story gets lost in most renditions of the Troy story, including presumably, the recentish Hollywood film, Troy.  I haven’t seen it, but I assume I’ll be caught between snickering and rolling my eyes when I finally do.  And I should, soon.  I always sympathized with Clytemnestra.  She got a raw deal and Agamemnon got what was coming to him.  I wonder if Clytemnestra had been more motherly to Electra that Electra would have sympathized with her more.  Maybe Electra would have been glad to be sacrificed for her uncle’s sake.

Many worlds

Classes start in two days. I am neither fully prepared nor fully panicking. What I have been doing is thinking a lot about my last couple of weeks.

I drove up to Renton to have work done on my car earlier this month. Knowing that I had gotten little exercise recently, and knowing that I did not have many opportunities to eat Indian food, I planned to drop off my car at such an hour that I could walk two miles to an Indian restaurant to eat, and then walk back. The walk down consisted of hills. Hills always seem bigger when you have to walk up and down them. I knew that the walk would feel long when I was actually doing it, but goodness, I was ready to eat when I got there, and it was only 11:30. When I got there, it was completely empty. It felt strange to be the only one, and of course I wondered whether the place had a poor reputation. I thought, maybe the work crowd gets off at noon. Indian buffets are not bad lunches, though obviously the food is better if made to order. The man working seemed eager to have a customer and readily brought me water. He never came to see if I wanted anything else to drink though, which was a little annoying. I guess my expectations have been raised by eating at more ritzy places. The food was okay, but nothing special. All of the items were labeled, but few of the labels appeared to be over the dishes they described, which was annoying and lead me to take fish pakoras (seriously?). The chana masala was watery. The naan was okay. The whole time I was there, no one else arrived. It cast a depressing air over lunch, and also my view of Renton and the wider Seattle area.

There were Indian music videos (short films?). As an outsider, their style was incomprehensible to me, as was their intended audience. I mean, the intended audience does seem obvious, Indians, but what I should understand about that audience, their conventions, aspirations, and values, is less so. I paid in cash. I would have been embarrassed to hand over a credit card with my name on it. As I walked out, I noticed that, despite the decent amount of car traffic I saw, there didn’t seem to be a ton of shoppers. The lack of diners in the restaurant may have been more due to the place, not the restaurant. One of the first things that impressed me on my first trip to the Northwest was how scrappy the place and people seemed. Houses and land plots looked small. Businesses looked practical. No body seemed worried about things looking nice, so why worry about the broken sidewalk or trash by the road?

While I was at home over the holiday, it occurred to me that women are the only thing (and people) I see where it seems important to keep up appearances. That was a bit of a shock to me when I moved out here because I had assumed that West Coast women would be laid back and wouldn’t really care about having perfect make-up, clothes, or hair. How wrong I was! It’s pushed me to learn to apply make-up and be more conscious of how I dress. I think it’s women’s way of saying “fuck you” to the environment. You wanna be windy and rainy? Fine. I’m still wearing my shirt-dress, leggings, heels and MAC eyeshadow. I’m still carrying my Tori Burch bag. Of course, I’m trying to tamp down on my spending, so I don’t quite fall into that category, myself. I don’t need to. I don’t talk to strangers.

Almost there

Wow, it’s hard to believe I actually posted something in October. Things have changed a lot and not changed at all. There’s a lot I’d like to share, but don’t have time to type up. In fact, only my vanity has compelled me to type this, as I’d like to have a post a month and November is rapidly dwindling. Next weekend. It won’t all be better, but it’ll be a lot better.

The Orioles were swept by the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. A more infuriating line was never typed by me. To make it worse, the Royals lost to the Giants in the World Series. One of these years an American League team will win again.

I guess the Winter Meetings are next weekend. My favorite part of the offseason! Too bad I’ll be on a plane for most of it. Or catching up from being gone. The students will be studying entropy and free energy while I’m gone. On the one hand, I don’t find it terribly compelling and it’s just as well I don’t have to try lecturing on it. On the other, it’s a difficult, abstract concept, and one which probably is better learned from a person than a book. We’ll see how it goes.

I guess I’ll sleep when I’m dead

I had totally intended to write a post in September, detailing how much better this year is going than last. And while this year is certainly going much better in a lot of ways, as late September crept up I ran out of my prepared materials and suddenly had to work on making more as a stack of grading piled up. Oops. I have an overly ambitious plan for dealing with the grading, and there are other things, like creating a second research proposal and learning quantum, that I’ve decided just have to wait. No sense in worrying any longer; I’m already sleeping badly.

I’ve submitted two job applications so far, one three days before its Sept deadline! The other the day before it was due this week. I’ve got another that I want to submit, but it’s due on Friday so who knows. More ads have come out, so I definitely feel better.

Also of interest, the Orioles. They’re like, in the playoffs and stuff. After they won the division, I broke down and bought a shirt from mlb.com, and paid an outrageous $12 for two day shipping for a shirt that was going to take a week to get in stock. At least I had it in time for the start of the ALDS. I wore in again the Monday after they swept, and will wear it again on Friday, when the ALCS starts. Gosh, I hope I make it to Friday.

The Bay Area

Summer is nearly over, but it was a good one. I had about two weeks at home before leaving for the ACS meeting in San Francisco. What a great trip. I got to see a lot of hardcore metal chemistry and some chem ed talks, as well. After several years of hearing about them, I am finally going to use PhET simulations and have even already linked some to my Moodle site. I also have a lot of ideas for potential papers to read in my advanced class. I think this year I might do what we did in my Advanced Analytical class in grad school, where each student was assigned a paper to review and critique. That would cut down on students picking examples from the text book and not developing them to the extent I would have liked to see.

My tourist day in San Francisco was planned out as it was happening, which is unusual for me and had the potential to be as unsatisfying as my trip to New York prior to moving out West. That trip wasn’t unsatisfying, but days that weren’t carefully planned gave me a chance to fill the time with worries, which wasn’t healthy at all. Anyway, I started tourist day with a visit to the Ferry Building, where I had breakfast, bought some notecards, and proceeded to the farmers’ market out back. Look at all the berries and stone fruit! I bought white peaches and pluots so as to have some fruit to offset (maybe) the less healthy food I’d have that week. I took my wares to my hotel and hastily planned the rest of the day. That day started off by walking up to the flagship Banana Republic (it had to happen), and while I didn’t buy anything, it was pretty cool to see.

From there I did what any tourist would do on a Saturday. I walked up to Chinatown. And it’s a good thing, too, because I was freezing and knew I could buy scarves cheaply up there. In fact, that was the first thing I bought, coming away with a rich dark grey and a rich bright orange, both in paisley print. I toddled in and out of jewelry and souvenir shops, eventually buying a long strand of chunky, irregular pearls. I bought my first tea in a shop from which I also bought a cup of tea. This was a mistake on my part because the water was way too hot for the lychee oolong I got. The women there were very nice, though. One had asked me if I was a regular tea drinker, and responded that she could tell I was because I have very nice, smooth skin. I know she was trying to make a sale, but I was flattered, nonetheless. I bought a chrysanthemum tea.

Then I had lunch at a dim sum place. I am not sure it was a proper dim sum experience, and looking at reviews for it, Four Seas Restaurant, tells me that it’s not just me. I was there past the normal lunch hour, but there were still a decent number of people in the restaurant so I was surprised at how infrequently the dim sum circulated. I had turnip cakes, vegetable rolls, and sesame puffs. After the first woman with dim sum came around and brusquely asked me if I wanted any of it, I realized that if I didn’t grab from the next one, I might well starve. I was surprised that they didn’t name what they were carrying once they saw my puzzled look. I also came to realize that dim sum is probably best enjoyed with a group, so as to be able to try many things without having to eat all the food. Ha, I just wrote a review on TripAdvisor for it. My TripAdvisor tote bag will be in the mail in no time!

My day picked up quite well after that. I crossed the street to Eastern Bakery and had to restrain myself to buying only a little. I settled on two pieces of chocolate-covered mooncake to save for later. Then I went in search of more tea at Red Blossom, which was just a great tea-buying experience. I got to learn about and try a number of teas, some of which were too expensive for my budget. Most of the teas there fit that category, but I came away with a nice oolong and a white tea processed as a green tea.

From here, being late afternoon and having spent a decent amount already, I decided to wander aimlessly. This took me up some very steep hills once I spotted Coit Tower and decided to walk up to it. Some very steep hills. And after the hills, there were stairs. I didn’t come all that way for nothing, so I climbed them. At the top, one could get a hazy view of San Francisco’s most famous bridge. One could also go into Coit Tower, but I didn’t, so I’m not sure what’s in there. Walking down was an interesting experience, not least because I came out a different point than that by which I had ascended. On the way down I stopped at Vesuvio Cafe and had absinthe for the first time. I think I could get into drinking absinthe. Was a little surprised to see no food was served, but I guess if you’re Beatnik you live on cocaine. I also visited City Lights, which was very cool up until the point where I felt I was being overly scrutinized by the woman who rang up my purchase of The Master and Margarita. It was cool, but cut me a break lady if I’m not hipster enough for you.

That was the bulk of my day. I see I’ve written a lot, so I’ll save the stuff that’s happened since for another day.

Sweating it out

Tomorrow I fly back to the West Coast after three weeks east. I can’t say it was a very productive time in terms of working uninterruptedly, but it was a very nice time seeing friends and baseball and eating good food. Tomorrow I fly back with chili powder, cumin seed, ground cloves, ground cardamom, and cinnamon sticks. Possibly I’ll fly back with a garlic bulb and maybe even an onion.

I saw my grandmother and hopefully have been subjected to the last of humiliations while spending time with her. We went to eat at Ruby Tuesday (gosh) because the little Italian place was booked (it isn’t even that good). She suggested I get a sangria because they’re good, though she did warn me it would be watered down. It was fine, but very watered down. It was basically juice, which is hilarious because the woman won’t pay to drink juice with her meal if we go out for breakfast.

Panic is starting to rise for the pending job cycle. I haven’t seen a lot for inorganic chemists, but I’ve done almost no work on developing another research plan and now is the time I have to work on that. I am looking forward to having more time this year for independent research and, yes, pleasure reading. I also hope to devote a little time to learning French, since I hope to be rewarding myself with a trip to Paris next summer.

Wasting time

I’ve spent most of the last two weeks putting off important, if perhaps difficult or tedious, things I need to accomplish.  Mostly, I just want to go home.  What I have gotten done has been worth the while, though.  I made a modified aloo gobi and gained some valuable insight in cooking with cauliflower and potatoes (together) in the process.  I read The Three Musketeers in the course of about a week.  And I am slowly working my way through teaching myself quantum chemistry.  Slowly is maybe not the best choice of words.  In the couple of weeks I have been working on it, I’ve made a lot of progress.  I find, though, that I can’t plan to do too much in a single day.  It takes a long time for the ideas to click, or for me to trace the origins of a certain equation.  I mean, I took calculus in 2005 and haven’t looked at it since.

The Three Musketeers was a highly engaging novel, and with loads of intrigue waiting for me, I basically cancelled the rest of my life (thank goodness I had already made the aloo gobi!) to read it.  In looking back (after a week), I’m starting to ask what the focus of the novel was, or whether it could be said to have two fairly well defined foci.  It’s hard to write an 800 page adventure novel with a single focus (though an 800 page tragedy seems considerably easier).  As an American reader of largely English work, I also found the ending of the book to be unsatisfying, in as much as d’Artagnan’s resolution of his first quarrel was “okay, friends now”, which seemed a little unbelievable to me.  I also felt that the relationship of d’Artagnan and the cardinal was left disconcertingly ambiguous, though this may have been intentional.  I was also a little annoyed that he didn’t cry more over his lost love, but that’s the American in me.  We love tidy endings with happily-ever-afters, which so much of good literature does not provide.

Reading The Three Musketeers rekindled two desires for me.  First, I really want to visit France, particularly Paris.  Second, I miss reading good novels.  I have compiled a small collection of nonfiction for bedtime reading, and in doing so I have cut myself off from what made reading fun and engaging in the first place.  Fortunately, I’ll be going to the library tomorrow to pick up some books for traveling.