Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cerinthus Sets Out on an Adventure

I hope that by the end of his journey I can sub-title this entry "There and Back Again." He left here today, sadly, and he leaves for Greece and then Florence on the 29th. I already miss his smiling face and his sweet disposition. Soon he will be more than 6000 miles away and I can only hope that he sends me letters, photographs, and emails. My mom bought me a set of $1 stamps, the required postage to Florence, so that I can send letters back.

My great grandfather ran away to join the army after he was engaged to my great grandmother. They wrote letters back and forth, in which they communicated and kept their relationship alive. In the letters, they discussed life and politics. My mother's family managed to find some of the letters. Especially amusing are the letters during the campaign for the woman's right to vote. My great-grandmother was marching, while her soon-to-be husband was trying to persuade her that women should not be granted such a right. Cerinthus and I disagree, to be sure, but I cannot imagine that we would last long if he tried to persuade me I was not owed some political right.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Summer Flu and Indian Food

On Thursday I came down with the flu. Every morning I wake up feeling better, and every morning, an hour later, I feel like I've been run over by a train and spend the rest of the day trying to recover. My fever shot up today and i had to warn my boss I might not be able to make it to work tomorrow. It's terrible. I've spent all day-- my worst day so far-- in bed watching bad movies.

I feel truly terrible. Cerinthus is here for the last time before he goes to Europe for six months and I'm languishing in ill health while hes watches bad movies and plays computer games. What unfortunate timing.

One of the wonderful things that Cerinthus has done to take care of me was to order take out from our favorite Indian Place, Clay Oven. I got the extra spicy Chicken Tikka Masala, which helped my sinuses to drain and made me feel much better than I would have without it. It was wonderful. Garlic naan dipped in sauce that burns off the roof of one's mouth. It was perfect. I was alive again for about half an hour and then back to being a wraith.

Beside the inane movies that we have been watching, we have also been watching Sherlock with my parents. Sherlock is a new British series that does a modern updating of Sherlock Holmes. I am no particular fan of Sherlock Holmes on principle. The first episode of this show was awesome. Holmes is an obsessive high-functioning sociopath. He is unempathetic, erudite, charming, and brilliant-- but he's totally cold. Dr. John Watson is warm,  charming, and is a soldier at heart who cannot stay away from a thrill or danger. He breathes warmth and levity into the buddy duo that is the lifeblood of the show. I do, generally, have a (particularly unfortunate) penchant for the sociopathic genius, but in this case it's the duo that is bewitchingly charming. I guess it shows my own personal growth. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the characters between the first and second episodes. However, the third episode might be a little brighter.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Getting Paid to Read for Fun

I've been getting pretty behind on my reading, as is obvious from the dearth of books crossed off my reading list. This lack of progress comes from a combination of a number of factors. I have been busy preparing for teaching my own class at work. Cerinthus is here, which has impeded my progress. However, I would not give up having him here, especially since I will not be able to see him for another six months. Currently, I seem to have contracted a cold, which has been making me pretty lethargic and unable to think clearly enough to read some of the texts on my list.

Although I was sick yesterday, I had to proctor an exam. To begin with, I had to grade essays. The essays were of better quality than I was expecting. Some of the kids I'm teaching have the promise of being very intelligent and doing very well. I hope that I can help to guide them there. The rest of the time while I'm proctoring the exam, I am free to do as I please, provided that I make sure no one is cheating and that I call the time properly and read the script.

How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space
My most recent reading.

During this last session, I read How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space by Janna Levin. The book is a wonderful fusion between the personal life of a mathematician/cosmologist, the history of math, and lessons in cosmology and mathematical topology. Although the topics in the math are complex, they are explained clearly and deftly, as well as peppered with personal details that keep the reader engaged and never overwhelmed by the complex concepts. I highly recommend this to everyone with any interest in math or science.

In the book, Janna Levin comes across as an sweet, passionate, obsessive, quirky individual with sharp sense of humor and an easy, approachable writing style. She speaks of the loneliness that comes from working in mathematics-- at least the theoretical mathematics of academia. This worries me. Although I am a classicist now, theoretical math and physics was always my first love, my first passion. Some days I have dreams of going back there. Her book makes it seem as though the work is lonely but rewarding, but a living nightmare for the spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends/partners of the mathematician. Is classics going to be like this too? Am I going to ruin the life of Cerinthus and drive his career into the ground because I want to pursue a life in academia? I hope not.

Pizza for Wimps and Newfound Fame

My bread has not been turning out well. I'm not sure whether it is the fact that I'm no longer in a climate conducive to bread or that I am no longer dependent on my bread in order to finish my thesis, but it has not been working. Even when the bread was working, I was never particularly good at making pizza dough. Tonight I cheated. I made pizza with my mom but we bought a pre-made whole-wheat dough from Trader Joe's. The pizza was great. I used my pizza stone which I've never used with pre-made dough and I was shocked at how well the dough cooked and cooked with the proper timing as the cheese, so right at the point where the cheese had melted sufficiently, the dough was soft and fluffy on the inside and clumsy on the outside. I also had fresh basil from the garden.

The other odd thing that has happened recently is new-found fame. I have been a member of for two years now. I have lost 50lbs and gone from being a size 14/16 to a size 2/3/4. My life has changed a lot. Recently, I wrote a blogpost about walking which was one of my primary weight loss tools. Chris Downie, the founder of commented on my piece and the next thing I knew, I had been catapulted into the spotlight because my blog-post was emailed out to everyone on the site. Suddenly, people were commenting on my page, emailing me for advice, and finding me all sorts of ways. It was really gratifying. The best part was that a number of people commented on how much they liked my writing. It reminded me that, although I am teaching part time right now, in my real life I want to be an academic and a researcher and will publish books that people will actually read (even if that readership is limited to the classical/philological community).

Speaking of sparkpeople, one of the books I've read this summer was Chris Downie's book. I thought that it was a quick read and extremely enjoyable. He began his site as a way to connect and inspire people. I felt that I was fulfilling that dream when so many people were inspired by what I had written about my walks around the neighborhood. It was fabulous.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bread in Dry Climates, the GRE, Home Grown Food, etc

Bread in Dry Climates
I moved back to the desert whence I came.  It has been hot and dry all summer. All my bread thus far has been totally inedible-- yeasty and dense on the inside. The first few loaves also never browned on the outside. I assumed that this meant that the enzymes were not adequately shredding the starches into their individual sugars, so I increased the rising time. This produced beautiful crusts, but the bread is still yeasty and inedible on the inside (see two loaves below):

I have used both old and new recipes, both dry active starter and the wild yeast I've been cultivating for a year (and I have tested both). Nothing changes. For the last month and a half, I've pretty much given up on bread.
The Dreaded GRE
I was not always a good standardized test taker. When I was in fifth grade I could not fill in a bubble sheet. That's how they found out I have a learning disability-- severe visual processing issues. However, I learned coping mechanisms and in high school I scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT, which is how I earned myself a job teaching SAT prep. However, the GRE is a whole different ball game. Although I do spend a lot of time on the computer, I don't think there is any way I can manage to take a 4 hour exam on a computer screen. I've been studying from a GRE book and I'm doing rather well (although I've only looked at the verbal section so far), but these questions are on paper. I also would love to get dispensation to teach GRE-- which means that I need to score in the 90th percentile or above on the GRE. That means 640 or above on verbal (piece of cake), 5.5 on writing (doable), and a whopping 780 on math (oh dear). Wish me luck!

Home Grown Food and the Benefits of Being a Yuckie
A house-guest from Croatia recently left a copy of the UK version of Cosmopolitan. I am not a magazine reader at all-- I read my mom's Health if it's around, but I just do not particularly like the magazine format. However, I thought it might be interesting to discover the perspectives of the popular beat of the UK, or at least as much as possible from a magazine.

One of the features of the magazine was entitled something along the lines of "The Rise of the Yuckie" and it described a theoretically new group of people who were twenty-somethings with or without jobs who lived with their parents. The article essentially painted them as a generation without the motivation to find a way for themselves who were leeching off of their relatives. As someone who, for the moment, lives at home, I was rather offended. I have a job, but it's a teaching job and it's only part time. I have a lot of debt from four years of college which I have been working off for the last three years. I don't feel like I'm leeching-- I help out around the house and in the garden, I'm coaching my mom through losing weight (since I managed to lose about 50lbs in the past two years), I do about 60% or more of the cooking, I constructed and do my best to maintain a website for my father, I have bought cooking supplies, and I'm planning on paying for insurance and gas out of my salary when I get my license. So I felt pretty disgruntled about being lumped in with this group.

There is one benefit to being a yuckie-- as apparently my "kind" is so distastefully called-- and that is home grown food. Even if I could afford my own place, which I certainly cannot on my salary, I would never be able to afford a place with a garden. At home, however, we have a lovely garden and my mom and I have made a project out of growing herbs and vegetables for cooking.

Our cucumber plant and its first product, which quickly became part of in a salad.
Lovely sweet peppers for salads, vegetable stir-fries, pasta, and fried rice.
Tomatoes for, well, hopefully someday tomato sauce, but obviously not yet!
Sage for lovely sage sauces. I will post recipes soon.
Corn, because, well, we just could not resist. Also, not pictured: basil, green onions, and cilantro. However, the basil and the cilantro seem to hate the heat as much as I do.

Cerinthus is coming into town for my birthday before he goes for his semester in Italy. I'm totally jealous of his trip. He is going on a Greek Odyssey, where he reads texts and goes around Greece to see important sites. Then, he spends a semester in Florence. I have wanted to go to Florence ever since my first time reading A Room with a View by E.M. Forrester, which is one of my favorite books of all time. Sigh. Maybe I'll win the lottery and then I can join him there...