Saturday, August 30, 2008

a day in the life of Mini the Cat

Some of you might recall when Mini the Cat came to live with us (us = me and the two other cats). She has been here almost a year, so I figured it was time for an update on how this little ball of fluff spends her days.

First, though, I would like to note that this little cat is The Cat Who Makes All Cat-Haters Love Cats. Seriously. She's very special. Also, she is very small. She truly is all fur. She is also absolutely precious.

She is also rarely called by her given name, Mini. Instead, she is known in these parts as "Pants" because she sashays and is furry and it looks like she is wearing pantaloons.

Anyway, her days are spent thusly (click to embiggen):

A Day in the Life of Mini 1/5She spends most of her time hanging out with me on my table/desk. Like me, she loves Keen bags. But if I stand up or make any sort of move, she perks up: "What's that, human? You are up and walking toward...the bathroom, perhaps?"
A Day in the Life of Mini 1/5Mini loves the bathroom. It is her favorite place. She will race you to it. Here she has already run ahead of me and is waiting patiently for me to continue walking toward the bathroom.
A Day in the Life of Mini 3/5I've pissed her off a little bit because I am still standing in the hallway. But I wanted to get a picture that features her pantaloons.
A Day in the Life of Mini 4/5Once we get to the bathroom, this is what she does. She sticks her head under the faucet so that the water dribbles off her head and only then will she drink it. When she is finished drinking, she it typically soaking wet...well, her head is anyway. Apparently no one told her that cats are not big fans of water.
A Day in the Life of Mini 5/5
When she has had her fill,
she returns to the table/desk and takes a nap.
She naps and naps until she sees
the human walking toward the bathroom again...

Repeat all day.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

already behind? that was fast...

So the semester started on Monday and already I feel like I've lost a week. Several of my friends commented (and I wholeheartedly agreed) on Wednesday that the semester was three days old and we were already behind.

Holy crap.

Ok, not really, but that is how it felt.

As for me, I'm doing something typically-Julie with regards to my schedule/load. I am:
* teaching three classes: 2 sections of English 101 (see syllabus) and 1 section of English 402 (see syllabus).
* taking two seminars
* shadowing one prof in an upper-division undergrad class
* and then there's the whole job thing

I can answer any questions the new people have about how things work, etc, with the exception of "how many classes should I take" or "how much sleep do you get" and so on. I tell them that I am absolutely not the person to ask that particular type of question.

I admit—and I am still quite happy about it although it makes me shake my head in disbelief at myself—that I asked for three classes. Actually, I dropped a big hint in the office when I said (before the semester) that I would be happy to teach a 3/0 this year instead of a 2/1 because that would give me a semester plus a summer of unfettered exam studying (unfettered except for the typical fettering of two seminars in the spring and my job) for the fall. I knew we were in a little bit of a bind because of some last-minute hiring away (or quitting) of some people who were on the schedule, so I said "hey, you know..." and thus reminded anyone who would listen that I'm a bit of a freak.

I'm a lot more comfortable teaching my 402 than I am the 101, even though Toria and I spent all summer planning it out. It's not the content that I am worried about—it's the people. I haven't taught 18-year-olds for a year and a half; I've taught juniors and seniors since I've been here. Ok, truthfully I'm not even all that worried about it. It's just that some of them seem so very young in the classroom. I say "in the classroom" to differentiate them from "on paper" because I asked them to write a little in-class thing and some of them were funny and thoughtful. Actually, most of them were. But the in-class behavior of some is just...not what I'm used to. After everyone settles down from this first week I'll nip some of that in the bud, but still...I made a mental note to myself about a few things I didn't think I'd have to note.

But at least I know approximately 30% of their names after two class meetings. In my other class, not so much yet. I have a total of 77 students and I think that my brain will explode trying to remember everyone.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

One Local Summer wk 12: frittata

one local summerThis has been a busy week. The semester starts on Monday and this week has been all about orientation and welcoming activities for the new folks (they seem great so far!) as well as last-minute preparations for classes. Tomorrow my pals and I are going out for one last extravaganza (we're going to play BINGO all day. seriously.) so I knew that I had to get my OLS post up today.

I've been grazing on salads and fruit and what not all day, so I wasn't hungry for a multiple-item meal. I just made a frittata and ate a big slice of it. But it was a really, really good slice. The pre-sliced version appears below.

One Local Summer wk 12: frittata with corn, potato, onionMmmmm....eggy cheesy corn and potato goodness with an onion thrown in there for good measure. This is an adaptation of the Frittata with Corn, Scallion, and Potato recipe from Serious Eats. I swapped onion for scallion, yellow and red potatoes for a russet, and used Cougar Gold (duh!) instead of mozzarella. I also ended up with too much mixture for my skillet and ended up baking some of the mixture in a ramekin. I actually liked the baked version better, but perhaps it was just the ability to scoop out of the ramekin rather than eat a slice off a plate. Either way, it was super good.

- potatoes: Fanky Farm, Warden WA (w/in 100mi as the crow flies, and I dug 'em out of the ground)
- eggs: Troyer's in Potlatch, ID (25mi), via the Co-op (8mi)
- corn: unknown farm name/location, bought from them at the Moscow Farmers Market (8mi)
- onion: Affinity Farm, Moscow ID (8mi)
- garlic: Pokey Creek Organics in Santa, ID (60mi), purchased at the Moscow Farmers Market (8mi)
- cougar gold cheese: WSU Creamery, Pullman, WA (2mi)
- dill: Santa Creek Farm, St. Maries, ID (70mi) via the Co-op (8mi)

not local: oil, salt, pepper

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a question for early modernist readers of this here blog

(I think there are a few of you...)

One of my friends is going to her Very First Grown Up Conference in the fall: GEMCS. She is a second year MA student, is absolutely going to continue on to the next degree, and she is just beside herself with joy about being a Real Live Academic at a conference and everything.

So, my dear readers of the Early Modern variety, if any of you have been to a GEMCS conference or otherwise have any advice you'd like to offer a newbie in your field, PLEASE leave a comment or email me. Thanks!


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

step up to the plate

My two 101 classes are part of the Freshman Focus program, which means the 52 students in my two sections, plus the 52 students in (in this case) my pal Toria's sections all live together and take one other class together (World Civ II taught by a fellow who focuses on philosophical issues). Toria's undergrad degree was in philosophy, and I was almost a philosophy major (and thanks to Janet I got to grade philosophy of science discussions), so this grouping has really worked out well.

The three of us also firmly believe that we can expect more out of our students, and that if we push them most of them will step up (instead of fall off a cliff or something horrible like that). We're all about rising to the challenge.

That being said, we spent a good deal of time structuring our 101 (we are using the exact same syllabus and calendar) to include thought-provoking readings and movies that they can then write about in awesome ways. Since we're working with moral issues and what it means to be human, they're reading things like Daniel Dennett's "brain in a vat" piece ("Where Am I?") and watching The Matrix. Other movies on the list—we're showing eight and they only have to see four—are: Harold and Maude, Gattaca, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I ♥ Huckabees, Minority Report, The Prestige, and Wanted. Yes, the Angelina Jolie/James McAvoy assassin movie. There are at least eight moral issues we can talk about in that one, plus we just really, really, really liked it.

But the reading I'm particularly fond of came from a random Facebook status message. At the beginning of June, George Williams posted a status that said something like "Harriet McBryde Johnson has died." I didn't know who Harriet McBryde Johnson was, but knew that if George was mentioning her then she had to be important. I used teh google and found her New York Times article from 2003, Unspeakable Conversations". We're pairing it with a Peter Singer piece. I expect it will be painful, but I am also hoping for fruitful.

The course syllabus and readings are all online if anyone wants to take a look. The PDFs are password protected (highlight here: stephenson / north).


all so new and shiny

Today is day one of the department orientation for the incoming grad students. A few of us are really stoked about it, which is good because we are responsible for talking about "graduate school survival and success"—as the panel is so named. We (me, Tor, Laur, and Critter) got together yesterday to "plan" what we were going to say for an hour.

Each of us have our talking points, each of which are about dispelling myths. Our points take approximately very few minutes out of our allotted hour, at which time the panel will—as Tor put it—become a hot mess. But in a good way!

Hopefully we will show that it doesn't matter which program you're in (the panel is made up of an MA student in lit (early modern), an MA student in r/c (and digital media stuff), a PhD student in lit (19th c american and textual studies), and a PhD student in r/c (working with video games in all sorts of ways))—if you have something to contribute or something to ask or something to say that (god forbid) contradicts something else, just do it. No one will hate you or think you're stupid or brand you forever as an imbecile. Well, none of us will.

One of the major points we want new students to understand is that we do not support the rift between r/c and literature folks and that little boxes, although handy when introducing yourself quickly to someone, are ultimately limiting. We're not turning out a billion PhDs each year here, but we hope the ones that do go out in the world tend toward the sunshine and puppies/let's all work together side of things as opposed to the "my field is better than your field" pissing contests that are all too common.

Anyway, today should be fun.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

One Local Summer wk 11: savory cheesecake

one local summerI knew I had to make something special (read: with a picture) since last week was all about the non-photogenic leftovers, but it has been HOT HOT HOT for the last few days and turning on the oven sounded like a terrible idea. But I didn't think I could get away with saying I've had One Local Salad and plenty of local water every day. That's just not in the spirit of the challenge. However, it is true that I have had One Local Sald and plenty of local water every day.

One Local Summer wk 11: standard meat 'n' potatoes (and corn) Early in the week, when I wasn't sure if I would manage something special, I snapped a picture of a mundane—but typical and good—dinner of cube steak, potatoes, and corn. The steak is from Eaton Beef (Colton, WA - 10mi) and the corn is from a vendor at the farmer's market in Moscow (unknown farm) and the POTATOES, oh the potatoes...they're from our trip to the Fanky Farm in Warden, WA. Warden is just over 100mi in the car, but it is within 100mi as the crow flies (on this map, Warden is slightly east of Othello). I picked those potatoes out of the ground and they were awesome. There's nothing else in this meal except a little salt and pepper. I could eat this every day of the week.

But I didn't.

One Local Summer wk 11: honey rhubarb bettyI did, however, make up a Honey Rhubarb Betty—not for dinner, although I think I might have eaten some for dinner one day...good stuff!

- rhubarb: Santa Creek Farm, St. Maries, ID (70mi) via the Co-op (8mi)
- butter: Rosauers brand (Spokane-ish, Inland NW cows), purchased in Moscow (8mi)
- honey: Harvard Honey Bees, Princeton, ID (28mi), via the Co-op (8mi)
- bread: Moscow Co-op bread made with Shepherd's Grain flour (8mi)
- not local: 1/4 C of sugar (I cut it from 3/4 C), 1t nutmeg, dash salt

But the signature dish for the week is a recipe from 101 Cookbooks for Zucchini Ricotta Cheesecake. I love anything with ricotta in it, and a savory cheesecake sounded like a spectacular idea. Below are photos of the whole thing, plus a photo of just a slice of it. The slice didn't last very long...maybe 30 seconds before I gobbled it down. Mmm mmm good. Click through for larger images.
One Local Summer wk 11: zucchini ricotta cheesecake (whole)
whole cheesecake
One Local Summer wk 11: zucchini ricotta cheesecake (slice)
slice of cheesecake

- zucchini: Affinity Farm, Moscow ID (8mi)
- ricotta: made by me from Rosauers brand milk (Spokane-ish, Inland NW cows), purchased in Moscow (8mi)
- cougar gold cheese: WSU Creamery, Pullman, WA (2mi)
- onion: Fanky Farm, Warden WA (see above)
- garlic: Pokey Creek Organics in Santa, ID (60mi), purchased at the Moscow Farmers Market (8mi)
- dill: Santa Creek Farm, St. Maries, ID (70mi) via the Co-op (8mi)
- eggs: Troyer's in Potlatch, ID (25mi), via the Co-op (8mi)
- not local: salt, olive oil

I changed it up just a little bit to keep it local. I used all Cougar Gold instead of parm and goat cheese, swapped out onion for shallot, and I nixed the lemon. I don't think these changes hurt one bit.

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a Firefox 3 issue and why i moved to google reader

I installed Firefox 3 on its second day of general availability, and I have been pleased with its overall performance. Hooray jemalloc.

I was totally on board with some of the (touted) new features from the beginning, such as everything in the performance and standards sections of the release notes, the improved session restore support, and the changes within Password Manager, Add-Ons Manager, and Downloads Manager.

I am still not a fan of the Awesome Bar (for me, it is not so awesome), although the Hide Unvisited extension took care of some of my issues with it. But whatever—I can deal.

However, the one issue that I just couldn't deal with any longer was the way in which live bookmarks are loaded. Specifically, live bookmarks load extremely aggressively and hang the UI at startup if you have more than a few bookmarks in the list (all live bookmarks are updated at once). This is a known bug: Bug 329534 - Live bookmarks load way too aggressively (lock up/hang/freeze browser). There are many good comments and suggestions in the bug report, and conversation is ongoing. I am certain that at some point a solution/compromise will be found and this aggressive loading of live bookmarks will cease to be an issue.

In the meantime, I adjusted to the situation by removing all my live bookmarks. This is a pretty big deal for me since all my live bookmarks are in my Sage feed reader extension, which I love very much and have used for well over four years. Four years. That's a significant number if we counted in Internet time.

But I gave up Sage and switched to Google Reader. I've never been against Google Reader or anything...I just don't switch to things unless I need to. I'm a big believer in "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and Sage wasn't broken (actually, Sage still isn't broken—FF3 is). But now all my personal and edu mail is with GMail, I blog with Blogger, and my students use Google Docs. Good thing I like Google. They're still on the short list corporate entities I'd ever consider working for (you know, if this academic thing doesn't work out and the company I work for now decides to pack it in).

The short list, if anyone is interested, is Google (because yeah, I can just "choose" to work at Google), Pearson (they do pay me already, but not as an employee), and Sun Microsystems (I actually worked there before).


Friday, August 15, 2008

a good office is hard to find

A Good Office: recliner, fridge, microwaveI did not have a good office last year. It was small, had no window, and my officemate was...not someone I really wanted to be around. It was decorated in such a way that I was uncomfortable making any changes (such as adding my own stuff). I spent very little time in my office—like none, actually. Only when students made appointments with me did I ever go to my office.

But you see, I had grand visions of coming to grad school and moving my books into my office and doing schoolwork in the office and just generally being in an academic atmosphere and feeling happy about it. That didn't happen last year. I was sad.A Good Office: lots of books and stuff

However, this year, and for the next three, I have an awesome office. It's big, has a window that looks out over a particularly pretty part of campus, has good shelf space, and—best of all—comes with a great officemate. Oh yeah, and we have a recliner, a fridge, and a microwave. Party in Avery 381!

I've finally moved all my important stuff into my office. Besides books and papers in the appropriate places, I put up a clock, and some prints from Tiny Showcase. Also, some of Chris Clarke's photos are on the door. It's a very welcoming place, and it makes us both happy to be here (she had her share of not-so-hot office experiences last year).

A Good Office: action figure PoeAnd, like a good little scholar of 19th C American stuff, my action figure Poe (with detachable raven) sits on my shelf and watches over me.


yes, i drove all that way for lunch

A Whole Lot of Nothingness near Withrow, WAWhen Rhonda wrote a blog post in which she mentioned visiting friends in my fair state, I jumped at the chance to make a drive and have lunch. Actually, what I said was that the drive was "218 miles, which I consider 'not far'...let me know if you can carve out a coffee time or *gasp* even a lunch and I would be up there in a heartbeat." And she did! Make time for lunch, that is, and I did indeed drive on up there. This map shows all the driving I did on Sunday.

I learned a lot about Washington on my drive. I learned where a lot of fruit is grown, and I learned that Google Maps provides only one of several possible ways to drive between Pullman and Chelan. I drove a different way back to Pullman and it was essentially the same mileage/driving time. The sights were slightly different, but only slightly—there's a whole lot of nothingness on all sides no matter which way you go. Lake Chelan area As you can see on the map, I was driving all around what we call "The Blank." The Cascades are not part of the Blank. The Blank ends at the Cascades. Hooray for the Cascades.

But anyway, Rhonda is as lovely and funny and nice as her blog suggests, and her baby is just as adorable as she appears in pictures. It was break time from the fam, though, as Rhonda—without hesitation—got into a stranger's car (mine) and directed us to the town of Manson and the wonderful little restaurant/berry farm called Blueberry Hills. Rhonda had blintzes, I had waffles, and we sat there for three hours and blah blah blah'd about all sorts of stuff. Then I bought an insane amount of blueberries to take back with me, returned Rhonda to her family, and headed back through The Blank to my humble Pullman abode.

There's an xkcd comic about Google Map directions that funny (per usual) but especially funny because at one point in my journey I was driving on 8 miles of a gravel road in the middle of rangeland. Wasn't expecting that.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

One Local Summer wk 10: leftovers

one local summerThe sausage/veggies/pasta meal from last week was good for many meals this week. Also, I was happy to have a local salad (greens, carrots, cucumbers, eggs, cheese, dressing) every day, and on one day (a particularly trying day) I'm pretty sure all I ate was ice cream from Ferdinand's.

In other words, I don't have a "showcase" dish to share but I ate local pretty damn near every day this week. The weekends are when I make my special local meal for the challenge, and I was gone all day yesterday (a grand Bingo excursion) and will be out of the house for a chunk of time today (going to meet Rhonda for lunch), so my report of local leftovers and salads will have to do.

I did get a bunch of stuff at the farmer's market yesterday though, and look forward to cooking it up this week. My stash includes a quart of huckleberries—those things are like gold! I believe there are baked goods in my future...

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my friends are traveling around the world

My friends (and Trout's friends) Dawn and Adam have quit their jobs and are spending the next year traveling around the world. Their first stop was in Rarotonga and now they are in New Zealand. After that it's Australia for a month, then, the UK for two weeks, Europe in general for two months, Argentina for two months, and South America in general from February until who knows.

After every sentence I've written here, I've added "the bastards" under my breath. It's a good thing we really like these people otherwise their good fortune would really be too much to take. Ha.

Anyway, they've taken an EeePC along and have a travel blog that's pretty good and funny: An excerpt from a recent post is particularly lovely:
Stepping back from this touching scene makes me realize that it was not all that long ago when I finally started admitting to Adam that I do, in fact, on occasion, defecate, and that perhaps at this particular moment in time he may want to steer clear of the bathroom. I spent the first year of our courtship plotting our meetings around my bathroom schedule and sweating over the times when things got thrown out of whack. Now he was picking through my hair like a monkey. This is how things go when you live together which is what we are doing now. Living together. And it's not the cute kind of living together where we have a loft in The City furnished with kicky Ikea furniture located right down the street from that great independent book store and the coffee house that we go to every Thursday where they have amazing live jazz.
True dat. They're in a campervan with a leak!


Friday, August 8, 2008

small things are always cute. always.

I am sure that these photos adhere to several Rules of Cuteness, but I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine the matches. Personally, I think they all adhere to the meta-rule that "all small things are cute."

On Wednesday, we took a road trip into the Blank. The Blank is the name given to the large stretch of nothingness between Pullman and (in this case) Warden, WA. Seriously: check it out on the map. I described the drive like this: leave Pullman, go to Colfax, hang a left, drive for 100 miles in a straight line, turn right, then turn left after the cemetery and you will reach a house with a yard full of small things: chickens, turkeys, pigs, baby cow, a garden, and a passel of cute kids. I was right!

Here are some photos. Click images to embiggen—it's worth it for the cuteness.

Fanky Farm Visit 08/08 - kitten
I refrained from taking this kitten home with me, but it was difficult.
Fanky Farm Visit 08/08 -  baby cow
Baby Cow was awesome. He's like a Holstein dog.
Fanky Farm Visit 08/08 - french toast
This chicken is called "French Toast"—the chickens are named after things eggs make.
Fanky Farm Visit 08/08 - watermelon
Even watermelons are adorable when small.
Fanky Farm Visit 08/08 - baby cow
More cow(bell). Baby Cow took a shine to Karen.

There are a few more photos in my photoset, and bunch more in Jim's photoset.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

One Local Summer wk9: i guess i like zucchini after all

one local summerI mentioned to someone yesterday that this is no longer a challenge, really. As I've documented on this blog, I've settled into a groove: farmers market, Co-op, make a bunch of food, eat it all week long, repeat. While I could do much better (see: and that lovely family in Spokane), I'm pleased with the changes I've made. Probably next year I'll try my hand at canning things, and we're already talking about getting together a buying group for chickens. In other words, this summer has been a good start but still is just start.

I went to the market yesterday without much of a plan, but that will change next week. Everything is ready now: all the leafy greens, the root vegetables, the potatoes, the tomatoes, the fruit, etc. For instance, one farm (Tonnemaker Hill Farm of Royal City WA) had at least fifteen different varieties of peppers. I am not a huge fan of peppers (combine that with my relative dislike of warm tomato products and I'm just about the worst Italian ever) but I want to try some of theirs. I will do some research to see just what I might like before the market next week.

One Local Summer wk 9: summer sausage, onions, zucchini, tomatoes over homemade pastaThe featured local dish for this week is very simple, contains two things that in the past I have not particularly liked, contains one thing I never thought I'd get at the market, and turned out to be the best dish I've made so far this summer—and I've loved everything I've made so that's saying something.

At the market, Nikki Eaton of Eaton Beef said "Hey Julie, do you like summer sausage?" to which I said something like "Hell yes" and grabbed it out of her hands. I thawed it immediately and planned to use it in today's featured dish. I also picked up a few zucchini because I thought I'd make some zucchini bread. I got some Walla Walla onions and some tomatoes, and then realized that in my bag I had all the fixings for a tasty sauté—which is just what I made.

As I cooked up the aforementioned sausage, zucchini, onions, and tomatoes, my pasta was drying on the rack. Yep, I made fettuccine too, and dumped the sautéed stuff on top. Freaking delicious. Who knew? Probably all of you who like zucchini and cooked tomatoes already, I'm sure.

- flour: Shepherd's Grain (Columbia Plateau farmers, Spokane mill/distributor), via the Co-op (8mi)
- eggs: Troyer's in Potlatch, ID (25mi), via the Co-op (8mi)
- summer sausage: Eaton Beef, Colton WA (10mi)
- zucchini: Affinity Farm, Moscow ID (8mi)
- onion: Affinity Farm, Moscow ID (8mi)
- tomato: from another farmer whose name I can't remember but I got it from the Farmers Market, Moscow ID (8mi)
- cougar gold cheese: WSU Creamery, Pullman, WA (2mi)
- not local: olive oil, pepper
I put a little cougar gold on everything, it seems. It really isn't dinner without a little cougar gold.

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i'm going to post something later, but it will be about food

I would like a do-over for summer, or at least three extra weeks. I'd be cool with that. Tomorrow morning, though, I'll have submitted the final big thing I owed my editor on the writing project, and I will be free to blog again.

Well, not really "free" but "guilt-free". I will still have plenty of work-for-pay to do, and writing projects of my own, and some development projects, and oh, school starts in three weeks...

Meanwhile, I'll post my week 9 OLS entry later, and perhaps take a moment to acknowledge the lovely people who have left comments in the past week.