Monday, December 14, 2009

Rain, Rain Go Away

Apparently the rainy season is upon us in New Orleans. However, I live close to the levee, so it shouldn't flood there, right? I am, after all, a whole foot above sea level. Not the case. I left for a party on Saturday night and got four blocks from my house when I got stuck in flood waters. I had to pull my car up onto the neutral ground (translation: median) and call for help. Luckily one of my friends came and saved me in her boyfriend's truck and took me to the party.

It's raining again right now, and I can see that there's water up to the bottom rim of my tire. At least now I know not to go driving in this business. Here's crossing my fingers I can drive to work tomorrow!

Friday, December 11, 2009


Oh man.
I am really officially a graduate student. I know this for two reasons.
1. I had a dream wherein a professor came to visit me and chastized me for being a shame to the department and that I had better not do anything else to associate myself with the department and make their reputation even worse.
2. I took the hardest exam ever. We're all convinced that we actually failed, despite studying for a million bajillion hours, and memorizing the heights of practically every obelisk erected in Egypt before the 20th dynasty.

This was our photo ID. It makes so little sense...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

SNOW DAY/Damn, I live in the Midwest Now

So, I thought I was through with Snow Days when I went to Yale and classes stopped for almost nothing, even a couple inches of snow. But, I woke up this morning with the image to the left outside my window, and blizzard warnings. Consequently, the Chancellor cancelled all UW Madison classes. Yay!

So, I'm psyched, no classes, I can maybe catch up on reading, maybe even research related stuff? Hehe, sure. And it looks all nice and wintry, BUT, we're gonna have to shovel all that white crap...damn.

They don't make snow days like they used to back home in Memphis, when you could just stay at home play in the snow, and then it melts or more likely freezes over during night. No shoveling, no worries...

On a completely unrelated note, I totally had a dream about being with you guys somewhere (not Vegas, but maybe Vegas on New Years/Memorial Day/Flag Day/Columbus Day/Boxing Day/i dunno one year...if we plan far in advance?). Anyway I remember most prominently Alex, who was being inappropriate. I called him on it saying we only have a few more years until that sort of stuff is frowned upon. And then, listening to what I was saying, I promptly began being inappropriate myself. Ah, the brevity of youth.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I just assigned an alumni interview. I'm kind of excited, but also nervous - it's a lot of pressure!

Did y'all sign up to do alumni interviews in your area?

Season's Greetings

People wait for it the whole year. No one believes it will actually happen. But when the winter arrives and it finally starts falling from the sky, everything comes to a standstill. Kids go out and play in it. Complete chaos takes over on the roads, because no one knows how to drive in it. And the view from my office window is completely transformed into a wonderland...

...of water. Yes, it's raining in San Diego. It only happens about five days a year, but when it rains it POURS. Not to mention the wind that makes the whole building shake...a storm that would do any native Northeasterner proud.

But ignore everything I just said. To echo Monica, it really is warm and sunny ALL the time in SoCal--so come visit!

In other news, it's finals week, which means I should be studying right now instead of typing this. Oh well. There are certain aspects of Yale's academic calendar that you can't quite fully appreciate (such as shopping period and reading week) until you have to register for courses a month before they even start, and are studying for finals before your classes have even ended. Grrr. At least there's the consolation of being out of finals a week earlier! :-)

Over the next month I will be hitting up (at various times) San Fran, NJ, NYC (and maybe CT?), and Florida. Maybe I will see some of you (particularly if anyone's near NYC the week before Christmas...'09 does NYC?) In any event happy holidays, and stay warm!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


So far, I find myself glancing at my MOB calendar more than usual this month...

This is mostly just to say: wtf, it's December! Also, I'd like to point out that Los Angeles is still:
a) warm
b) sunny
so you should all come visit.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Turkey day, etc

I brought AJ home with me for Thanksgiving, and he was such a trooper! He had to deal with my whole clan-- four nights of family, meeting people, and answering questions (like, how did you get that name? and are you treating her right? You know, all the fun stuff...)

It was pretty great. We had a good week-- saw lots of family, some of Chicago (including the Bean, of course!) and ate a lot. Aside from AJ's being allergic to my house, it was great fun.
I got all sad, because I realized how much I miss both my biological family and my college surrogate family-- you! I know that I didn't appreciate my family much when I was at Yale, because I didn't need to. I had friends as close as family, whom I could rely upon for pretty much everything. And here, it's not quite the same. Grad school is decidedly less fun than college. But having you folks spread out over the whole country/world does make me appreciate my family. At least they're all in the same city, and I can visit them all at the same time!
Yesterday, Rita talked me into driving down to DC to meet her, Ben and Marcus for dinner. Dinner was lovely (my first fender bender was less lovely-- nothing to worry about, though). I got this fantastic picture of Ben and Rita on the ride back: stay classy, kids!

Oh! And, since I got a camera for my birthday, the photoblog is back online. Check it out

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My First Field Trip

So the New Orleans Hornets had a promotion on Friday night - for every adult ticket purchased you could get a child's ticket for free. The school decided to take advantage of this opportunity to take our babies to the game! About half of the students we took (the best behaved ones) got to stand courtside to watch the team warm-up, and two second grade students got to be the ball boy/girl for warm-up. We had about 50 students there in all, and they had a blast. They got tattoos, balloon swords, pizza, coke, cotton candy, and popcorn and got to cheer and dance and watch some b-ball (too bad the Hornets aren't as good as the Saints, though). All in all it was a really positive night that everyone enjoyed a lot.

After the game I got to take two of my students home, which was quite an adventure. They had an interesting discussion in the backseat on the merits of staying on green on our behavior board and how they just don't understand why some kids choose not to follow directions the first time. I told them I don't understand either.

It was also very interesting to see where my babies live. One of them lives out in the eastern part of New Orleans, near the 9th ward. Her section of town is about four feet below sea level and has made very little progress since Katrina. Nearly all of the houses are abandoned and still have the X's on the door from when they were searched for bodies after the storm. The other kid lives in the Iberville Projects, located very near my school. I knew the projects were not safe, especially at night, but I had to get this kid home. So, I put on my big girl boots and hoped that no one would attack a five year old kid and a teacher wearing her school's t-shirt. I made it through the projects to my kid's door where the grandmother promptly told me I was crazy. She said it was way too dangerous for anyone, much less a young white girl, to walk through there at night. She walked me back to my car, saying that people know not to mess with her and her family and that she was going to strut back home like a proud peacock. I gave her a hug when I safely made it back to my car and thanked my lucky stars nothing happened to me. This is one of the most dangerous places in New Orleans, and I made it out alive! I now have major street cred and a better understanding of where my kids come from. It was an intense night from start to finish.

Btdubs, I would still love donations for my classroom to be named the Yale classroom! I know a couple of y'all have already donated and thank you thank you thank you! You're helping to create the Yale class of 2026 and develop college-bound students for leadership and life long learning. If you too want to help develop college-bound scholars starting in kindergarten, please visit and click on the donate button on the left. Then, be sure to tell me that you donated so that I can a) thank you and b) tell the office manager to allocate the money to my room. Thank you for the support!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Back in the South

Hi everyone! Hope y'all are doing well. Just wanted to report on the awesome football and music trip that I took last weekend riding shotgun to Rita. As y'all know, I love my summer camp in Mississippi and was there at the beginning of the summer. Well, my friends said they wanted me to come visit them at an Ole Miss game this fall, so without much convincing, I booked a flight a few weeks ago, and headed down for the game versus Arkansas on October 24th. I flew into Memphis, where I got to see the ducks at the Peabody hotel and Beale Street (just want y'all to know that it looks like a lame imitation of Bourbon Street), then Rita picked me up and we drove to Oxford, where Ole Miss is. We stayed with my friend and wandered around the gorgeous downtown square, and spent a while at the famous Square Books, an awesome bookstore. (However, I did not need to buy a book as I had brought Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, which I am still reading.) We went to bed early, since we knew we had a big day on Saturday.

Let's just say that Rita was in a dress and I was wearing a sportcoat at 9:30 in the morning - and we were both drinking Bloody Maries. Then we went over to the Grove, which is where the tailgating for the games takes place. It's a huge tree-shaded quad filled with tents overflowing with people eating good food and enjoying good drinks. As Rita aptly said, "I've never seen so many well-dressed white people in one place before in my life." I think I agree. So we spent time with my friends there, chatting, people watching, and soaking up a tailgating experience a little more elaborate than ever happens at Yale. Plenty of pretty girls to look at, but not all of them are great conversationalists, or well read, either. Unsurprising, but still unfortunate. Rita had a great time telling my camp friends and some folks I didn't know about my streaking activities and general nekkidnes. They were bemused, but not really shocked, I think. Then we headed into the game for an 11:30 kickoff, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching good football live in person. Rita and I were both intrigued by the halftime show put on by the Ole Miss band. There was no script and there appeared to be a large number of straight lines and complicated movements while playing. Very odd. And the band seemed to play maybe six songs during the game. I think we should sell Junta arrangements on the cheap to non-scatter bands, 'cuz Lord knows Ole Miss needed to be playing a greater variety of music. After the game, which Ole Miss won, we went back to the Grove for more food and drink.

Then, after dinner, we drove an hour and change (to the sounds of an awesome CD of blues rock music) to meet the one and only Dave DeAngelis in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in the heart of the Delta. It's a pretty rugged town where Dave and his band of fellow Delta TFAers practice on Saturdays. We met him and his friends at an epic hole in the wall called Red's Juke Joint. You have to see it to believe it. I don't think there's anything '09 has collectively seen that can compare, but I guess I can try by saying that it makes Rudy's look like the Ritz. Really. So at Red's the bar consists of a beat up old fridge behind the counter, from which you can get a 24 oz. Bud or Bud Light in a can for something like $3. And with a $5 cover, you are treated to seriously legit finger pickin blues. Rita and I were both blown away. So that was awesome. Afterwards Rita and I spent the night at the huge mansion in which Dave's Clarksdale friends live, which a big TFA supporter in town rents to them crazy cheap because he lives in his hunting lodge. No joke. So imagine six 24 year old young men living in an ornate 4,500 square foot house with a few Keystone cans and Nerf bullets in the grand hall. Rather surreal place to sleep after a long 18 hour day. And I was just a passenger to all of the driving Rita did on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (Thanks again, Rita!). My only jobs during the trip were to clean up nice and drink, both of which I did with aplomb. And then on Sunday morning, we drove back to Memphis, where Rita dropped me off at the airport.

So that was the trip I took back down South with Rita as my Mississippian fellow-traveler. It was really awesome, and also an interesting cultural endeavor for us. I had never done anything quite so over-the-top Deep South, and I had never been to the Delta, either. The ghosts of the Old South are still there in Mississippi, and that's definitely not always a good thing (Case in point: hearing current Ole Miss students shout "The South will rise again!" at the end of a school song. I mean, where do you go from there? At least there weren't too many rebel flags.) But seeing the bulletholes in the main Ole Miss administration building dating from the siege which happened when James Meredith integrated the school in 1962 is compelling. They didn't fill the holes in. Still there. Undoubtedly I'm forgetting some good stories, but I'm sure Rita will post them or tell them soon enough. I look forward to seeing all of y'all at the Game in two and a half weeks! Take care everybody!
PS Big kid life is still treating me well in DC. Work is good, and Steve and I remain a happy domestic couple.

Monday, November 2, 2009

being a grownup, kinda

This weekend, AJ and I took a little trip out to "wild and wonderful" West Virginia. We visited Harper's Ferry, which is currently celebrating the 150th anniversary of John Brown's raid. This is us standing in front of the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah, which was really pretty, all decked out in fall foliage and hilly prettiness.
We had a great time, but felt pretty off the generational average-- the youngest folks were infants and toddlers, and the oldest were grandparents. But the next oldest set (aside from us) was that 28-35 set of couples, of which we are decidedly not a part. It reminded me how young we still are, really.... sometimes I feel old, and then real life pokes me and reminds me that is really quite absurd.

Anyway, I'm really missing you all, and can't wait for The Game! I can't be there until late evening on Friday, but better late than never!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's been a while

Hi guys!

It's been a while since I posted. Apparently I've been busy with work. I miss you all, and having you all around, and automatically seeing/talking to y'all every weekend at football games!

I actually was back in New Haven this weekend (it was a YPU Alumni Reunion) and it was great, but also totally weird. I don't know if other people who have been back for a weekend feel the same way, but it's kinda like it's frozen in time -- it feels exactly as if I were still there, and I'm still more familiar with campus and New Haven than I am with DC, yet, I don't know anyone and I don't really belong. But, y'all will be happy to know that New Haven hasn't changed -- still rainy and damp all the time, but still really beautiful.

Anyways, I hope everyone else is doing well.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Funny Story

This past weekend we had "Sports Day" which is a schoolwide competition for track and field events at our school. Since there are over 2,000 students, only a limited number of students gets to actually compete. Everyone else, surprise surprise, gets to write essays! Whichever class writes the most and best essays wins. Almost all the essays were about Sports Day and the athletes.

Now we all know that students like to copy... here's one essay we got: "The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later."

Is it sad that this is the highlight of my day?

P.S. Halloweeeeeeeeeen!

Cute kid stories

We've got a kid-friendly movie up on our lab website about what it's like to have an MRI. The movie tells kids that we play the statue game when they come in, so that they stay really, really still. We had an adorable 5 year-old come in on Friday, and she came in chattering about how excited she was to be a statue, just like grandma (I didn't ask...).

When she was practicing in our mock scanner, I complimented her on how good she was at being a statue. Then I tried to guess what kind of statue she was.

"Are you a soldier statue?"
"Are you the Statue of Liberty?"
"Are you a pony statue?"
"I guess you could be a grandma statue. Nah, that's silly... Are you a grandma statue?"

No? I thought that's what she said she was going to be!

"Okay, I give up. What kind of statue are you?"
"Baby Jesus!"

And we preceded to compliment her on what a great baby Jesus she was throughout her scan.

Her 3 year-old brother was adorable too. He saw our giraffe and asked if he could wide it. We said no, just a hug, but he climbed on anyway.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'm in DC!

Hi everyone! I have a week off from school this week, so I'm spending it wandering around the East Coast visiting people. I went to Yale for band alumni weekend this weekend, and it was glorious! Beautiful weather on Saturday, and the team beat Dartmouth (thank god), and the band looked and sounded great. Also, T-Duff says hi.

Anyway, I just wanted to let everyone know that I am now at the Waller-Lao Residence in Washington DC. There are two items of interest in this apartment:

1) A 50-lb bag of rice
2) A shelf full of liquor

Guess what belongs to whom. I'm not telling you. You have to guess.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My parents' weekend, much further north.

If y'all didn't know already, I joined the U of R Wind Symphony (aka band) and Symphony Orchestra (self-explanatory). Each had a concert this weekend for Meliora Weekend (aka parents' weekend), which I why I missed out on band alumni weekend.

The Symphony Orchestra concert went especially well - we played Firebird Suite, and we sounded pretty damn good from where I was sitting in the very back row. My bosses and co-worker came, which was super sweet of them, and my boss even tagged a blurry iPhone photo of us with me and the caption, "I think that's where you were...?"

I didn't have parents to bring to our parents' weekend concert, but I had PIs!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Waited Twenty Minutes To See Obama Drive By And All I Got Was To Be Twenty Minutes Late To Work

So, President Obama came to visit the NIH last week. Of course, we didn't get any notification until the night before when an e-mail was sent out saying that there was going to be increased security, road closures, and that we should all make sure to display our ID badges, due to a 'special visitor.' Of course, I didn't get to see him speak as the auditorium was filled with people who had gotten super-secret special tickets beforehand (and a few lucky people that got in line ass-early for first-come lotto tickets), which kinda sucked because it was such a pain to get inside the very building I work in. Apparently, he choppered into the Navy Medical Center across the street and drove in via motorcade and it was a bit amusing seeing so many grown individuals lining the street jumping and cheering like teenage girls at a Backstreet Boys concert (or whoever the equivalent is nowadays - the Jonas Brothers? Miley Fuckin' Cyrus?).

Also, today the new director of the NIH, Francis Collins (Yalie! And head of the Human Genome Project), was awarded the National Medal of Science at the White House. Fun fact: he rides a Harley to work. He also plays guitar and jammed with Joe Perry (of Aerosmith) in a free concert at the Capitol last week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Today I...

...failed a german exam
...had to go to class
...failed at class
...talked to the police who were not helpful
...went to go look at an apartment my car towed
...thought it was stolen when the towing place denied having it, then figured it out and had to bum a ride to the impound lot which is in a terrible neighborhood even for baltimore where I had to be escorted to my car in an impound lot so i could get my wallet (in the car) so complete strangers could drive me to the sketchiest gas station i've even been in so i could get $260 out of the skeeziest atm ever where a young black man came up to me and said "you picked a hell of a neighborhood to come use a bank machine, lady" and then go get my car and figure out where the fuck i was (somewhere on baltimore's west side which is indeed as bad as it sounds like it might be),  all of which triggered a total relapse of self doubt, angst, hating this fucking shit hole of a city, frustration, etc.
...oh yes and i still haven't done any fucking work

sorry. just venting.
i miss the safety of new haven, and the safety net of having you all around.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Being Ms. Cooper

What is being Ms. Cooper like, you ask? Well let me share a few stories from the past week, just to give you an idea.

1) The other day, kid number one walked by kid number two, and just licked him on the head. No idea why.

2) I got to hear my principal give the boys in my class a bathroom lesson, in which he compared peeing to a video game and encouraged them all to "go to the next level." He then had them all take aim and make peeing noises. This all was prompted because some kid keeps peeing in a corner, and all of them pee on the seat. It's quite gross.

3) Speaking of gross pee, one kid peed herself like three times on Friday (I think she's scared of the pee-covered bathroom), and she didn't have a change of clothes and I couldn't get a hold of her parents. Not a good situation.

4) During writing time, one kid wrote that he loved recess and illustrated his story with my co-teacher watching the happy kids play and me watching the kids who didn't bring their homework cry. Sadly, this is a pretty accurate representation of kindergarten recess.

5) On a more positive note, our lowest kid who came in only able to scribble on the page this week wrote the number six and colored within the lines! These small victories are what make it all worthwhile.

6) Some of my kids absolutely love me. When asked to draw and write about their families, one girl drew a picture of me. She told me that she was going to draw her family around me.

7) This week in our morning meeting we danced to the hokey-pokey. None of them know which is their right or left hand, but they're putting them in there anyway (and looking incredibly adorable while doing so).

I love my job. It's a bit like Yale in that I'm working between 11 and 12 hours a day, do nothing outside of schoolwork, and is very challenging but rewarding. I have to admit that this post isn't just to update y'all on my new life; I also have a favor to ask of each and every one of you.

My school, Success Preparatory Academy, is a brand spanking new charter school in New Orleans, and we're looking to have universities sponsor each classroom. If you've ever visited Amistad Academy in New Haven, they have much the same system. Rather than being Ms. Cooper's and Ms. Oliver's kindergarten class, my class would instead be the Yale class. Before this can happen, however, I have to raise enough money to buy t-shirts for every child, along with other paraphernalia, roughly in the range of $500. This is where you come in.

I realize that this is very spammy of me, but it would do a lot to help us on our mission of creating college-bound students for leadership and lifelong learning if you could contribute to my school, no matter the amount.

If you're interested in donating, visit, and click on the Donate button on the left. Also let me know if you choose to donate so that the school knows to channel that money to my classroom.

This is of course tax-deductible, and you will receive updates from my cute little kids if you choose to contribute!

Ok, spam done. Almost...donate plzthxbai!!!1

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Birthday adventures

I made the drive down to Yale last weekend to see Henry for my birthday. I left work early on Friday and took Monday off (I'd worked Labor Day in exchange). I managed to nab a room at the Courtyard at Yale for $50/night on Priceline, way better than their advertised rate of $150/night (yes, staying in Henry's dorm would've been free, but that would've been pretty awkward for his roommate). It was weird being back on campus - I felt like I didn't belong there (because I don't anymore), and I didn't like it. Yale had always felt like home before.

I had brunch in new Calhoun and got to see some of the young'uns (Dan baked me a bazillion of the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had), and Dr. J. took me and my friend Mark (Calhoun '09) on a tour of the renovated basement and Master's house. Dr. J's son must've grown a foot over the summer! I remember when that kid was knee high to a grasshopper and didn't say a word. Way back when we were freshmen. Sigh.

Other birthday weekend adventures included finding an AWESOME hole-in-the-wall Mexican food place, running out to Costco so I could buy more calcium chews (very important, ladies!), peach and pear picking at Bishop's Orchards, and a lovely birthday dinner at La Taberna in Bridgeport with a $25 off "gift certificate" from

All in all, I think it was my favorite birthday so far. Not that last year wasn't great - first football game as DM, followed by drinking and Toad's-ing with y'all was epic. But this year, I never felt like throwing up, and last year, I wanted to throw up lots, from first football game nerves and from y'all buying me too many drinks.

I miss you all! And I vote we all go to Mexican Taqueria Market #2 on the Sunday after The Game, if y'all will still be in town.

Oh, and PS: when I arrived on Friday night, as I was pulling up to the back gate of Pierson, a bunch of the men's hockey team walked past, all dressed up in suits. I miss them too.

Friday, September 25, 2009

my life these days

1) I got a haircut on Tuesday afternoon. It is pretty short, and so kind of sticks up all over. When I arrived at school on Wednesday morning, this is what one of my first-graders had to say: "Miss Alway! You got shaved!"

2) I am starting to adapt Delta dialect, most particularly "fittin' to." This is Delta-speak for "fixing to," i.e. "Jaquirrious if you don't get a move on you're fittin' to miss that bus."

3) I am possibly starting a fifth and sixth grade band? This is exciting and also terrifying. We really need one; right now the high school band is pretty small and pretty bad because there's no feeder program at all. My kids are ALL super excited. And they ALL want to play drums.

4) I also joined the Greenwood community band! It consists mostly of the extremely elderly, plus a few high school students and me and Will (another TFA teacher, the choir director at the high school. He went to UConn and played trumpet in the marching band!) We play lots and lots of marches, but I like it.

5) I am also taking guitar lessons. My teacher is old, crotchety, mustached, and chain-smokes throughout each lesson. It's awesome.

6) It has been raining for about ten days straight now, and as a result the local mosquito population is greatly increased and has been FEASTING on my blood. Kids: "Miss Alway, you got red bumps all over your arms!" Me: "I KNOW."

7) I miss you all! And I can't wait for the Game.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Things I have learned

Hey friends,
Most of you probably already know that I had an unscheduled visitor in the wee hours of Monday morning. It was very not fun. Not only did I wake up to find a strange guy in my room taking (and getting away with!) tons of my stuff, but he also invaded my private space and peace of mind and fledgling acceptance of Baltimore. It also meant a veritable parade of police and such, and now insurance and the DMV (again!) and and and...
Fortunately, no one was hurt, and I did have renters insurance.
Anyway, if you don't yet-- I have some tips.
1) Get renter's insurance. Seriously. It's not expensive, and if you were to wake up in the middle of the night with a strange man in your room/house/apartment, stealing lots of your stuff, you'll be very glad you have it.

2) back up your files. I didn't lose much, luckily. Also, backing up your files doesn't do you any good if thieves take the backup too. So store your external elsewhere. Or let me refer you to dropbox (which is a handy dandy internet backup service! If I reccomend you, then we both get more space! It's awesome.)

3) save receipts for big purchases. Computers, camera, phones, etc. They come in handy when you have to prove you own things that were stolen from you. Or take photos. You can also add specific things to your insurance policy-- like your computer, or other especially valuable things.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Speaking of the Swine...

I may have it. Let's just say I have some form of the flu. Damn kindergarteners and their snotty noses. Also damn working in a charter school with no subs. It makes you feel so much more guilty when you have to miss school.

In other (late) news, I visited Rita last weekend for Labor Day! I love getting holidays off! We had an exciting weekend of stripping wallpaper, replastering her walls, and painting her kitchen a beautiful sunny yellow. Even though Rita did make me refinish her kitchen, it was a great weekend and was so nice to relax with a real friend who actually knows me. One downer of the weekend - I got my first speeding ticket on the way home. Mississippi Goddamn.


Yay!! No school on Monday!

Swine flu has sadly (?) come to Xiuning, so our school has shut down classes for seven days. Yay seven-day vacation, but let's all hope the student that got swine flu lives!

Some of us are thinking of going to visit Chris and his crew at Changsha, but we probably won't (sorry Chris) because who knows what we have right now, it's a 12-hour bus ride, and we still have stuff to do here. We're writing a newspaper!! Yay!

Ok miss you all. Stay safe, as crazy things seem to be happening at Yale. Byezors.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

From sea to shining sea

4,056.6 miles of road, 1,969 photos, and 13 days of bonding time with dear old Mom and Dad after leaving the Atlantic Seaboard, I am back on the Left Coast (and this time with a car!)

I won’t bore you with all the gory details of my trip, but at the end of it all the U.S. of A. actually seems a lot smaller. Paradoxical, maybe, that a land that takes 13 days (at least with all our detours) to cross by car would seem smaller than a country you can cross in 5-6 hours by plane. But before this trip, the middle of the U.S. always seemed like a mysterious, impossibly large expanse. I’d get on a plane on one coast, and get plopped down on the other, without seeing anything in between except for the very little you can make out from a plane window. I might as well have been traveling through a wormhole between two different universes. But now that I can draw a line (or more like a zig zag) across the country along which I’ve experienced the landscape, culture, people, etc., the country seems more manageable and more familiar. I’ve connected the two universes, without having to resort to post-Newtonian physics!

I learned a few things along the way. Things like places of incredible natural beauty are often in close proximity to places of shameless and absurd (and amusing) human development. And that 99% of the time, a sign welcoming you to an Indian reservation is shortly followed by a much larger and glitzy sign for a casino. And that it is actually possible to get heat stroke even long after the sun has gone down (I found this out after attempting to walk two blocks at a street fair in Palm Springs, where it was well over 100 degrees at 8:00 in the evening, and nearly passing out).

And I gained some favorite new places that I will have to get back to some day. Here are some of them, if you ever happen to be looking for awesome places to stop/vacation/etc.:
-Harpers Ferry, WV – quaint and only slightly touristy village in very scenic setting, preserved more or less as it was in the Civil War era. Close to Baltimore and D.C., and a great spot methinks for a romantic getaway (wink, wink)
-Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg, TN – The most visited national park is fittingly right next to an extremely touristy, kitschy, Southern country vacation town—think Myrtle Beach in the mountains.
-Graceland and Beale St. in Memphis – Well, at least some of you have been here. The King’s wonderfully decorated abode and airplanes must not be missed, nor the music and street performers on Beale St. (and the Johnny Cash impersonator who, according to my dad, sings better than Johnny Cash).
-Sweet tea – OK, not a place, but my beverage of choice from Virginia to Arkansas. It made me so sad when we got to Texas and they didn’t serve it anymore:-(
-The many cafes, motels, and other business along historic Route 66 that have shamelessly huge signs advertising their associations with the highway and the whole road trip theme. My favorite place perhaps was the Roadkill CafĂ©, with a miniature recreation of an Old West town and their slogan: “If You Kill It, We Grill It”.
-Arroyo Seco – A tiny village near Taos, NM, that we discovered more or less by accident, that has more hippies and brightly colored things on display than I’ve seen anywhere east of the Sierra Nevada. And they have a hostel called the Abominable Snowmansion. Amazing.
-Mesa Verde National Park – Out in the middle of nowhere Colorado, but with amazing cliff dwellings that you can hike and climb into. Those of you who took Scully’s class, I’m pretty sure a couple of those buildings we memorized were here.
-Grand Canyon – No explanation necessary, I think.
-Las Vegas – The mother and father of all shamelessness and human excess, conveniently located within a few hours of the Grand Canyon and other sublimely beautiful national parks.

That’s all—now I can relax, because all I have to do is buy furniture/kitchenware, get officially orientated even after already working here for 2 months, meet other new grad students, audition for symphony orchestra in one week (I haven’t played any of the audition materials yet), take classes that last only 10 weeks before you take finals on them (thank you very much, quarter system), take 3 quarters worth of those classes, then take massive uber-final on all 12 of those classes. But one thing at a time.

Peace and <3 and happy alumni-dom to all,

Friday, September 11, 2009


So I know I had a lot of time to do kick-ass stuff this summer, but GOOD LORD I am ready for the next step. This is what I do with my time:

-clean my room
-facebook/putz around on the internet, mostly on (thanks, Rita!)
-hide from the smoke (though not as much anymore, yay)

Basically my life for the past month has been a kind of haze of not doing anything substantial. It is okay, though, right? Since I have the rest of my life to do things? I just feel super lazy because almost everyone I know has a job/started school/leaves the house before noon every day.

Also I just spent about an hour on looking at what's going on at Yale. Misogynistic emails, missing people, and a rooftop terrace at Toads! It is as interesting as ever and of course people started talking about recruited athletes again. So I guess nothing has changed too drastically...

In exciting news: I move into my apartment/dorm Tuesday! And I heard from my roommate yesterday (finally)! And then class doesn't start till the 24th. The quarter system is weeeird. And this afternoon, I'm going shopping for wedding dresses with my friend who got engaged like a month ago. WE ARE OLD.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

to all of you working stiffs

And for that matter, all of you grad students too.

Think your job is rough? Boss getting on your nerves? Or maybe all the grad/law school work is getting to you? Well, the next time you're feeling frustrated with work, ask yourself this:

Did anyone throw up at your workplace today? Did they just up and expell partially-digested sloppy joes* all over the floor, right in the middle of your lesson on eighth notes? WELL? DID THEY?

That's what I thought.

*I know that is gross. Sorry.

You remember...

...that story about the naked dude that Ken found passed out in his bed and refused to leave...while butt-ass naked?

On an unrelated note, Ken (and Erica) came to visit last weekend while Erica apartment hunted in D.C. and they stayed in my bedroom while I was away in Philly.

Also, Ned seriously called Ken 'Steve' no less than two times without realizing what he was doing.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Wire

So, I started to do one of the things I promised myself I wouldn't do: watch The Wire.
I wasn't going to watch, because I didn't want it to color my perceptions of Baltimore before I even got here. Like New Haven, Baltimore has a reputation. More so than New Haven, Baltimore's seems deserved. It's something of a standing joke, apparently, that New Haven talks a good game (of having a seedy reputation) but it's really a walk in the park compared to Baltimore. So far, my observations line up with that theory. There is a ton of theft, lots of muggings, car thefts, everything. It seems like a solid 60-75% of students have been the victim of a crime while they've been here. Like Yale, JHU takes security seriously, and we have a huge security force of mostly former BPD officers, as well as a hired security company and the BPD. It's pretty intense; my landlady keeps talking about how the slumlords who live two blocks away bring in riff-raff to the area (and she's not kidding or exaggerating). Almost every night, you see BPD helicopters. I thought they were news or traffic helicopters, or maybe taking people to the hospital. Turns out they use searchlights and go street by street looking for the bad guys.
Anyway, maybe watching The Wire still isn't a good idea. I think it's making me jumpy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I don't know whether to be proud or embarrassed

My gym just wrapped up a summer fitness auction promotion. Basically, for the past month or so, you could rack up gym dollars by doing gym-related things, like going to the gym and group fitness classes, or by buying gym-related products, like personal training sessions, tanning, massages, memberships, etc. Being a practical marketing promotion, you got a lot more "money" from buying stuff than from working out.

The big auction is tomorrow night, so they released the money totals today. Guess who came in third place, just $4 behind second place? And without buying a single gym-related product?

Yup. Me! I have so much free time, thanks to lack of take home work and other extracurriculars to keep me busy, that I'm hitting up TurboKick, Ab Lab, Pilates, and Cardio Kickbox several times a week. It's kind of sad that I have nothing better to do, but my guns are near what they were at my DM-ing peak, and if I stretch and flex and kinda squint, I almost have abs!

I was gonna skip tomorrow's auction, but now I'm going because I feel like I stand a chance to win a prize. There's a casino night beforehand. Should I sit on my winnings in hopes of winning a small prize, or should I try to multiply/risk my winnings on the blackjack tables and go for the grand prize trip to Vegas?

Monday, August 24, 2009


Hello World, from Hong Kong!

3 things:

1. We are in Hong Kong for just a couple more days, and then we all split to our respective schools. Chris is going to Changsha, spicy-food central! Annie is going to Xiuning, rural rural rural (and poor).

2. There are apparently shops that sell bread in the shape of different types of butts.

3. Last night we ate pigeon heads.

For realsies...
Chris and I both teach middle schoolers (American high school freshmen), and last week, we taught a practice lesson together. Let's just say... it was a learning experience. Things didn't exactly go the way we planned. We asked our "students" (aka our fellow Fellows) to act like 14-year-old, beginning English speakers. As a result, we had to work with unexpected discipline issues or timely questions. For example, when we asked the "students" to read their sentences aloud, a girl raised her hand and asked, "uh-lowed, like permission?" So we had to stop our lesson to explain the difference between aloud and allowed--an important distinction, but multiplied by 20... not so good for productivity.

We received pretty good feedback for our intentions and what we did accomplish. We showed "Lifted," the Pixar short (which preceded Wall-e) about two aliens trying to abduct a farmer. Our lesson was about the effectiveness of non-verbal communication. I talked a little about sign language, and Chris talked about Paul Eckman's finding of the six universal emotions (Psych 110 flashback!). Our last activity was supposed to be basically scenes from a hat, and the students had to act out the scenes without dialogue. It would have been fun, but we ran out of time! C'est la vie.

We send our love! Expect posts about our new lives after we get settled into the next two years!

Chris and Annie

Friday, August 21, 2009

Homeward bound...and pics of me as a surfer dude!

Well, sort of. Still no action shots of me catching a sick open-face wave, then cruising down the barrel while flippin' under the lip like there's no tomorrow as it breaks right on my tail. That would be gnarly, dude. But I did get my (really cute and chill and I-totally-developed-a-crush-on-her-in-the-hour-she-was-there*) substitute surfing instructor to snap some glamor shots of me with the board.

*Note to the teachers: unless you're teaching surfing, it's probably not best to show up to class in a bikini. Your students will love you, but not necessarily for the right reasons...

Also note the length of the surfboard...they call it a LONGboard for a reason.
Hope that (temporarily) satisfies the requests for surfer pics, and I'll keep working on the sick nasty stunt surfer photos:-)

In other news, I'm flying back to the East Coast on Saturday! I spend one week at home, then begins the two-week epic road trip from NJ to Cali. (OK, maybe not as EPIC with all caps as Carly and Monica's, but still far more epic than any road trip I've done.) And I just booked plane tickets for The Game! I won't be getting to the Have until after midnight that Friday night though, so you all better plan on merrily carousing well into the night...

Much '09 <3 all around,

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Annie and I are Yiqi

"Yiqi" means together.

It is fun times.

We also taught together today. It was special. I'll tell more after a night of sleep and an Annie by my side.

Also, we move to my schools in less than a week. Psyched!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'm Pretty Sure...

...that Ned and I live a block from a gay black biker bar. It's hard to tell since it's in a crappy building with boarded up windows and a unassuming black door with a very faded "Open after 4pm, ID required" once printed on it. I mean, who would put a gay black biker bar sandwiched between an auto repair garage and a black dance club called "Lux Lounge?"

I guess there's really only one way to find out (*finger on nose*).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


My students do not know my name, and I am not doing much better. Top contenders of the last few days:
"Miss Always" (OK, fair)
"Miss Hallway" (never heard that before)
"Hey music teacher lady!" (hey now.)
"Mr. Alway" (my personal favorite)

Meanwhile, I have 450 names to learn and I'm not making much progress. 450 is a lot of kids! I think I pretty much win the "oooh I have soooo many students" game, all the time. The sheer number of sweet (ish) innocent (ish) little (ish) children is complicated by the fact that they have extremely unusual names, Mississippi accents, and squeaky little voices. Also sometimes they lisp. And they mumble. Is it any wonder, then, that I can't tell Quadarrius from Quintarrius?

Still, though, life is good. I have been, variously:
  • amazed that at least 60% of my fifth and sixth graders could identify a recording as B.B. King (who was born right down the road in Indianola, you see)
  • appalled that no one in a fourth grade class could recognize the national anthem
  • quite pleased when those same fourth graders COULD in fact recognize it today, retaining the knowledge that I taught them last week
  • surprised that, when I put on the recording I was going to use to work with my fifth graders on clapping a steady beat, they spontaneously began clapping on beats 2 and 4, with no prompting from me. Seeing my surprised look: "Oh, Miss, we be clappin' like that in church!" Aaaaah. Awesome!
Also, today was an especially good day because I did not have to mop up urine (which I did yesterday, with my foot and some paper towels, whilst continuing to explain what a composer was AND comforting the crying source of said urine, all at the same time. Let no one say that teachers don't have to multitask). My life is silly.

220 miles later


I am out of the woods!

I walked 220 miles in 22 days and completed the John Muir Trail by being the tallest person in the contiguous 48 states (climbing Mt Whitney)!

More later! But hi!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Two photos

Last weekend, I drove to Boston and back to visit Henry. That's over 12 hours of driving without incident. When I got back to Rochester on Sunday night, I drove to the grocery store to pick up food for tomorrow's lunch, and then this happened, two blocks from home.

A building on the street corner had collapsed, and the city put up a barricade to close off the street, and the city did not put up any signs or lights or barrels or anything reflective so that the barricade could be seen in the dark. And I drove through it.

The bartender at the bar that I crashed in front of told me that I was the third person to hit the barricade that night, and the firefighters who showed up after the bartender called 911 assured me that the barricade shouldn't have been left up the way it was.

But the cop who showed up told me that he wasn't going to ticket me for damaging city property and that it would be better for my insurance premiums if he didn't have to file an accident report for my "inattentive" driving. He made me mad and frustrated, and I cried, which made me feel stupid and helpless and weak and not as grown-up as I'd like to think I am.

In the end, I was fine, though my car got a bit scratched up, and I had to replace the driver's side mirror, but it wasn't a very fun end to my otherwise lovely weekend. And it made me feel lonely. I could've really used a hug that night.


Henry came up to visit this weekend. We went to his aunt's husband's ex-wife's family reunion in Victor, NY, which is about half an hour away from here. Surprisingly not too awkward, considering that Henry was barely related to the people there, and I was related to no one.

While we were there, Henry's aunt's husband, grandfather to two adorable twin girls, snapped the above photo of Henry staring at my boobs (you may have to click on the photo to see the larger version to get the full effect). I can't tell if his aunt was trying to be funny when she emailed it to us because she thought we'd like it or if she didn't notice and really just thought we'd like it.

I bet my dad would really like it...

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Since I just pulled OOHNINE as my first set of letters in a game of Scrabble (in that order), I thought that tonight would be an appropriate time to make my first post to this blog. Actually, unless you consider Facebook a blog, I really haven't posted to a blog before.

Anyway, I recently came back from a month-long trip to Israel (2.5 wk), London (1 wk), and Boston (3 days) with Amy. I met tons of her relatives and we took some pretty cool trips in our tiny rental car (look up Hyundai Getz--I'm surprised I even fit in it), including to the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. We also went up to the Galilee and Golan Heights with one of Amy's grandma's cousins, who is a former Israeli military bigshot and knows pretty much everyone in the North. Fun stuff. Other highlights included an outdoor, free, concert for Tel Aviv's centennial featuring La Scala from Milan and a shelter for 700 cats and a few dogs.

London was also excellent and included a 5-foot-tall green rabbit holding a trash can whose ears lit up when you throw something in, as well as the Great British Beer Festival, featuring over 450 ales, mostly from Great Britain. In Boston we did some shopping for furniture and lamps and stuff for my new apartment in Back Bay, went on the Swan Boats, took a Duck Tour, and generally hung out as well.

I'm starting work the day after Labor Day, which is coming up fast, and I'm very excited. I may post some pictures of the apartment once I'm moved in and it's pretty much set up, but I'm currently in Chicago until 9/1. Anyone who's in town and wants to see a movie or a baseball game or something, let me know!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Feeling Good..

So, I just got to my new home in Madison, and despite a 3 hour delay cause some b*tch of storm decided to roll through Cinncinati, I'm feeling really good. As I walked around the house, I can tell I'm in the right place. Star Wars collection, all Matrices, all Lord of the Rings, Guitar Hero, and Rockband, plus an electric piano. I was really nervous at first, cause you never really know what you're gonna get from housmates. But if any of these things is an indication. It's gonna be awesome. Pictures to come once I settle in my room.

Friday, August 7, 2009

File under: extremely obvious

OK, here is the thing about little kids: they are SO. DAMN. CUTE. I mean, I'm probably just saying that because I've only been a teacher for two days, but seriously. Yesterday, when they were all dressed up for the first day of school, in their uniforms (khaki pants and red, white, or navy polos), with their new school haircuts and the little girls with their little beads and bows in their hair, to match their uniforms--seriously, they just melt my heart.

Possibly the best part of yesterday was trying to take roll in a kindergarten class (I don't teach until Monday, so I was just floating around helping wherever I could):

"Sweetie, what's your name?"
"Well Jamarcus, what's your last name?"
"Don't have one."
(eventually we figured out his last name was Jay; this was deduced from the fact that it was shaved into the side of his head.)

Kids are great. Now I just hope I can teach them some music!

The Man in the Stovepipe Hat

This post is not about moving to Philadelphia.

This post is not about pre-graduate school anxiety, nor frustration at the cost of things in the real world.

It is not about hopes, dreams, credit cards, ponies, new activities, rainbows, small children, or even witty prose [we have Andrew for that].

It is a post, in fact, about Abraham Lincoln.

I don't know what made me pick up my old book from when I took Civil War, that "selected writings and speeches" collection--essentially Abraham Lincoln's Greatest Hits. Maybe my dad mentioned a great Lincoln book that he was reading at the time (he's read lots of them), and I recommended this one to him as a great portrait of our 16th president. But then I saw all my neon Post-It Notes, peeking defiantly out from between the pages, and the near-constant underlining of a scratchy blue pen on EVERY PAGE, shouting out that this was no ordinary textbook. I enjoyed it. And so, as I prepare for my move (next week!), I've decided to read it again.

I guess it's appropriate that I should be reading the work of one of our country's greatest patriots as I head off to a city so steeped in history. Civil War (the class) really drove home how possessed Lincoln was of a unique and powerful vision. Despite the historical displacement of over a hundred and fifty years, his writings, in many ways, retain their relevance. It's really amazing. And it makes me wonder why, with such eloquent and insightful guidelines for political discourse available, with such a conceptual model of well-applied canniness in government... I don't know. Perhaps more men and women involved in politics should study history in addition to law and the modern political process, and at that, history beyond the immediate fifty- to one-hundred year timeframe, beyond that which can be integrated into slash-and-burn politics. It seems short-sighted to me to do otherwise.

There's one particular passage that stands out in my mind (on page 58, those of you who still have this book), excerpted from Lincoln's speech about the Dred Scott decision. It reads as follows:

"I think the authors of that noble instrument [the Declaration] intended to include all men, but they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects... They defined with tolerable distinctness, in what respects they did consider all men created equal--equal in 'certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' This they said, and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth, that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet, that they were bout to confer it immediately upon them. In fact they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere."

Ah, the American ideal, and so well put. To subscribe to this ideal, to believe in it and to strive for it even while falling short because we are human and fallible... it is a beautiful thing. And I can't wait to be in a city where the legacy of history and ideal breathes through the essence of the place. Not perfect, not by far... but trying.

Get ready, Philly... here I come.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

First day of school!

...well, sort of. First day of school for the kiddos, but not for Ms. Alway. See, "activities" (i.e. music, art, and PE) won't start until the schedules for the regular classroom teachers are all set--so while the kidlets will be in school tomorrow, I won't start teaching until Monday. So tomorrow, I'm going to put on my best grown-up jacket (in a most-likely-vain attempt to look older than 22), and go to school in order to...something. Everyone I've asked has been most unclear on exactly what I'm supposed to do tomorrow. Or where I'm supposed to be. Or what students I will have, at what time, starting Monday.

I am excited to start teaching, though! Even more excited because today my principal told me that she has a good lead on getting me a trailer where I can have my very own classroom. Did I tell you guys about that? This year they're combining two elementary schools into one, so on account of the crowding there's no room for a music room. That's right, Ms. Alway is the traveling music cart lady, going from class to class! For now, at least. I never thought I would be SO VERY EXCITED about the prospect of a hand-me-down trailer.

Anyway, organizational issues and homelessness aside, life is pretty good. More settled than it was (I have a house! With pictures of your smiling faces on the walls!), but still sort of chaotic. I think things will settle down soon, though. And oh! I miss you guys a lot!

(also: good luck tomorrow, Coop!!!)

Holy Shit

First day of school for 3rd graders is tomorrow. My kindergarten babies don't come until the 17th, but this will be my first real test as a teacher. Wish me luck!

Welcome to Baltimore

So, I'm in Baltimore, getting settled. I've hit a number of key milestones already:
~got my JHU ID
~checked out my first library book
~entered (but did not use) the gym
~took an undergrad tour, which made me miss the good 'ol days
~seen a game at Camden Yards
~had a Yuengling
but most Baltimore of all...
~got groped by a random dude on my way home from the library. Oh boy! (I'm fine-- he didn't try anything more involved than a little grab, but grossed out and really irritated.)

Other than that, everything is as expected. My German class is going well, even if it's hard to make myself do homework right now. Campus is pretty, and starting to make more sense now. My room is coming along nicely, though is not fully furnished just yet. My photo of us on the ice at the Whale is sitting right on my dresser, making me miss having friends (and especially y'all!) but that will come in good time.

Two Short Stories, etc.

1: Last week, I printed out some tax papers and promptly lost them within about 2 minutes. NO IDEA where they could have gone, panicked. Mom decided to work her magic- "Go upstairs, I'll find them." I agree, thinking to myself that I will be a bad mom someday, because do not have magic powers.

Turns out, I printed out the papers and made a sandwich. The tax forms were neatly laid on the tuna fish shelf of the kitchen cabinet. Take out tuna, insert W2s. Perfectly reasonable.

It's pathological.

2: Lots of rain recently, as you know if you're anywhere on the East Coast. Result- water in basement! Result of that- water in all of my boxes that I hadn't unpacked yet! Result- water on most of my nice and winter clothes! Many are salvageable but a bunch somehow got bad rust stains. So after trying every home remedy in the world today (Vinegar and salt paste) and every stain removal product in our house, I have concluded that a lot of my favorite clothes are dead. So I need a lot of new clothes. Which is especially sad because I don't get my student loans until September 1st, and am too broke for significant back to school shopping until then. But orientation starts the 25th. SIGH. I am justifying this complaining post with the previous story, which I hope will entertain you enough to forgive this story.

Etc.: I'm (almost certainly) going camping in the Smokey Mountains this weekend! With my sis. And then next weekend, I move to New Haven. Like, whoa. And I saw lots of Ned, Rachel, and Steve in DC this week, as well as some 06ers! Fun. Also, my sister got kittens. Two. Kittens are the best things in the world.

Monday, August 3, 2009

"to Beijing to Hong Kong"...


Also, intensive language programs tend to really fuck with your abilities to use your native language. This could be an issue, considering I'm teaching said language...alternatively, it could make things much, much more fun...teeheehee...



Dear Reader,

Intensive language programs are a lot of work. I would recommend only doing them after you graduate, when your diploma is on the wall and the grade really doesn't matter. This is a good thing where I am concerned. Very, very good.

T-minus 10 days until I move to Beijing to Hong Kong for about 10 days of teacher training and Yale-China orientation. Then, I move Yali Middle School, my home for the next two years, and assume my place at the head of Mr. Young's classroom :-)


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Things I've learned about my new home

Here's a list of what I've learned about SD and Cali in my short time here...the good, the bad, and the ugly. Just kidding, there's really no ugly, and not that much that's bad either, although (warning) I do have a couple of long-winded rants coming up. But mostly, things are pretty awesome here.

1) San Diego is a massive city, even if it doesn't quite measure up population-wise to NYC, LA, etc. From end-to-end, i.e. from where I live near the northern city limit to the southern city limit (which is at the Mexican border) it is over 35 miles. I don't even think NYC is 35 miles end-to-end. But unlike most Northeastern cities, it isn't continuous skyscrapers and rowhouses from one side to the other. Many parts of the city feel quite suburban (including where I live). Basically SD is not so much one big city as a loose combination of countless neighborhoods, separated by steep hills, canyons, freeways and bodies of water, and each with its own very distinct feel. Some are very suburban, some are very cosmopolitan, some are completely dominated by "beach culture", and some are all of the above. It makes exploring very interesting!

2) But on the flipside, it's a pain to get around...or at least a pain to get around if you don't have a car out here, which I don't have yet (though I will in September!) Getting to downtown from where I live, for instance, would be a 15 minute drive on the freeway, but it takes over an hour by bus. Yeah, so basically public transportation here is as bad or worse than in New Haven. Several weeks ago I bought a new bike though, which has made things somewhat easier (it's actually quicker to bike most places than take the bus). Consequently, I've been biking a lot...I just set a new record today by biking 55 miles! the end of this summer I'm going to be almost as ripped as our Governator! least I can dream.

3) On that theme, just about everyone here looks perfect. Or at least 90% of the people between the ages of 18 and 30. Heck, even the 70-year old guys I see running on the beach have perfect abs and biceps. That can be awesome and terrifying at the same time...I've never been too self-conscious about my appearance, but being here makes me a lot more so. I'm not sure that's good for me psychologically, but I have established a pretty regular work-out routine for the first time in my life, so at least it may be good for me health-wise.

4) In the vein of confirming stereotypes, at least 50% of the girls in Southern California talk EXACTLY like Elle Woods. Pre-law school. I always thought that was a caricature of people in the when I watched The Real Housewives of New Jersey and they found the most type-A, gossipy, overprotective women in the entire state to be on the show. But in this case, it's true. Case in point: the conversation I overheard today between two such young women in a cafe. After going on for about ten minutes about how nasty some mutual acquaintance's complexion was, and how gross she was without make-up, they changed the subject and said something like this:
Girl 1: "So my sister just signed a lease for an apartment."
Girl 2: "Oh my god. With who?"
Girl 1: "With Gil [her sister's new boyfriend] and his friend."
Girl 2: "Gil? His name is Gil? OH MY GOD. I can't believe his name is Gil. How could she live with him...I could never live with someone like that...I mean, what am I gonna call him for the rest of his life. Seriously...Gil?"

Not to say all SoCal girls talk like that...only the ones who talk the loudest...and therefore most of the conversations I overhear. Except for the grad students in my program, with whom my interactions always consist of high-minded discourse. Always.

5) The weather in San Diego isn't always perfect. Some days the sun isn't out all day, and it actually gets kind of overcast, which gets people around here pretty depressed. One night it actually rained! It was a pretty light rain that lasted all of like 15 minutes, but native SDans called it a downpour. Also, we do have heat waves (when it gets up to 80 along the coast) and cold spells (when it gets below 70 along the coast). What'll I do when January comes, and the highs are only, like, 65??? Better bring out the winter parka!

6) Drivers here are (generally) really polite. Like, pathologically so. This can actually get annoying for a native Northeasterner--as a pedestrian and cyclist, I have had drivers stop suddenly right in the middle of my path, and wave for me to go ahead of them, even though it would just be easier if they went first and got the hell out of my way. Oh well, things could be worse...

7) (Warning: RANT) One of my dearest true loves is good, quality, homemade ice cream from a cute, independent, mom-n-pop ice cream shop. NOT fro-yo, and NOT gelato, though there's a time and a place for both of those...I'm talking about real buttery, creamy, fatty authentic ice cream. In New Jersey (Princeton especially, and to a lesser extent the Jersey Shore) there are an abundance of places that provide this goodness, and though these places don't seem as abundant in Connecticut, Ashley's helped fill this void in my life the last 4 years. But now I figured that, moving to a place near the beach where the climate was warm year-round, I would be moving to an ice cream lovers' paradise.

Not entirely so. You see, the general health-consciousness of Southern Californians has led to an explosion of frozen yogurt places, that will allow SoCal peoplez trying to maintain perfect figures to enjoy sweet cold treats without the guilt of consuming all that fat. I will admit these places have an allure of their own: though the flavor selection is usually pretty limited, a wide array of toppings is provided to add flavor to your sweet treats. And prices for fro-yo are generally a dollar or two cheaper than for the same amount of ice cream.

So all that would be well and good, except that these fro-yo places (which are mostly chain stores) seem to have almost entirely wiped out independent ice cream stores. And no matter how many toppings you put on it or how creamy you make it, FRO-YO IS NOT ICE CREAM. No amount of toppings or hot fudge or caramel sauce can replace the rich taste that comes from having painstakingly prepared an ice cream flavor with the ingredients that added the flavor already in it. Vanilla fro-yo with Oreos on top is NOT cookies-'n-cream ice cream. It may have been plenty good enough in Commons, but when I actually have to pay for my sweet treats, I expect a little more. Along the route of my bike ride today I found on Yelp (if you haven't discovered it already, by the way, is your friend for finding tasty cheap eateries in your new neighborhoods) an independent ice cream place, cutely named Surfside Creamery, which seemed like it would be able to provide just what I desired. Except I arrived there, only to find that there was no trace of had been recently replaced guessed it...A BIG CHAIN FRO-YO PLACE. This is David and Goliath I tell you...and the Davids are losing. Oh, how brutal capitalism can be, when combined with healthy-eating obsessions!

(Note to all the fro-yo and gelato lovers out there: I don't actually hate fro-yo, and I actually have had some here that is quite good. And gelato is often amazingly tasty, and can be as appealing to me as the best ice cream, especially when there are well-made exotic flavors. But there is something to the simplicity and richness of ice cream that can not be replaced.)

8) On the plus side of eating in SoCal: the Mexican food is pretty damn good. And double-double animal style + animal style fries and a chocolate milkshake = best fast-food creation ever. :-)

9) Surfing really is THAT big a deal here. I've been going to the beach on the east coast my entire life, and surfers always seemed like a very small subset of beachgoers that were extremely hardcore, and just a little crazy. I didn't really know anyone who surfed growing up, and while you'd occasionally see surfing competitions on the beach, I thought of surfers as the people who were chasing 20-foot waves when hurricanes were making landfall, when everyone else was sane enough to be out of the water. But out here, just about everyone surfs. People teach their little kids to surf, and (like the little kids on the slopes at Ski Trip) those little kids can really make me look bad! The beach itself is divided into "swim" and "surf" zones, where at least half of the beach is specifically designated for surfers. Good thing I'm learning now (or at least trying)...better late than never!

10) Dear State of California, Please keep the paychecks coming. I know you're broke and all, though I don't know how that's possible when you would charge me $400 to register a vehicle in your state. Or when you deduct about 15% of my paycheck for taxes. Aren't taxes supposed to be the lowest for people who make barely enough to keep them above the poverty line? Maybe it's because direct democracy doesn't always work? Now don't get me wrong...I'm a big, big believer in democracy. It just occurs to me that certain things aren't best decided by ballot initiatives. Like who can marry whom, for example. Or how to balance a budget.
It occurred to me that maybe when you ask people whether they want to pay taxes on it or not, they might not want to, even if down the line those taxes could help provide much needed social services to their fellow state residents, even themselves. And if you enact a law effectively making it almost impossible to increase taxes, even when the state is broke, really screwy things could happen. Like shutting down state parks, or eliminating social services for those who most need it, or cutting LOTS of money from the best public university system in the country.

Now, where I'm from, we do things differently, you see. Oh sure, New Jersey politics isn't perfect, you see. Oh, what's that you say? Two mayors in towns right next to where my parents live arrested? Rabbis involved with black-market kidney trading? Yeah, it happens. I mean, everyone pretty much knows NJ government is corrupt, has been corrupt for a very long time, and probably will be corrupt for a very long time. And I'd rather have an honest government any day than a government practically run by the mob. But, one thing they do seem to know in New Jersey is how to do math. And even with all the money going into politicians' and contractors' bank accounts, there still usually seems to be enough for the rest of us. I guess all I'm saying is...I need you to keep paying me for the foreseeable future. I might even be willing to give up 20% of my paycheck rather than 15% to ensure that happens.

(End quasi-political rant)

11) To end on a positive note: Californians are REALLY environmentally- and resource-conscious. San Diego isn't particularly liberal by California standards...sure there's a few long-haired hippies around, but there's also a large military presence here (the Top Gun fighter pilot school used to be 3 miles from where I live, at least it was when the movie was filmed). Yet the one respect in which nearly everyone seems to be years ahead of East Coast people is reducing, reusing, recycling, etc. Every supermarket has cheap, often pretty-looking reusable bags, and has signs reminding shoppers to bring them when they shop. Reducing your water use is highly encouraged...of course that could also be due to the fact that we live next to a desert. Fuel efficient cars are everywhere, spurred on by the toughest emissions standards in the country (and by the fact that gas here is generally at least 30 cents a gallon more expensive than the rest of the country). In any event, the rest of the U.S. of A. could learn something from the tree-huggers out here.

OK...must go to bed, since I'm really really tired. I'd like to post pictures of me surfing, but I realized that will be really difficult because: 1) I've only caught a wave like 2 or 3 times ever, and that only for a couple seconds, and 2) Because when I do catch a wave, everyone else taking lessons is also in the water, and it seems somehow wrong/risky to entrust a strange bystander with my camera. But I'll get that photo eventually!

West Coast Affection to all. <3

Saturday, August 1, 2009

new home

I am...
~in Baltimore
~sleeping on an air mattress
~bootlegging wireless
~really  tired of moving stuff
~really tired of the amazing humidity

<3 to all

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

XKCD has done it again

One of the favorite parts of my job so far has been picking out toys to give to our (future) kid participants as prizes. Including deciding if I should get the Lego pirate or the Lego helicopter (I got 3 of each). And instead of Batman, I went with Hannah Montana and Transformers.

Speaking of my job, the lab is nearly ready to go! After a week of working out of my PIs' apartment and another week in the newly renovated and full of windows lab with no furniture, all of our furniture was set up on Monday, so the lab is really beginning to look like a lab rather than a random assortment of half unpacked boxes and mismatched stolen/borrowed chairs.

My PIs were not stingy with their start-up funds. The lab is outfitted with 3 Mac Pros, 5 iMacs (there are only 4 of us for now), and a bunch of Mac minis with giant LCD screens for running participants. And our desk chairs are awesomely ergonomic, even if they're not as awesome as the Aeron chair one of the PIs got for his office. Yes, got some chair envy going on, but, as he joked, you need at least 20 publications for an Aeron, so I got a ways to go.

Oh, and we have a giant plush giraffe:

While picking out toys and office supplies was fun, the best part is yet to come. Our first protocol (one of the first I've ever written) has finally been approved for expedited ethics review! That means that we'll be able to run participants soon! At least, as soon as we find them. I would ask if any of y'all know any young'uns in the Rochester area willing to be research participants, but I didn't write recruiting via the YPMB Oh Nine blog into the protocol, so it's probably not allowed.

There's a thing at the Rochester public library tonight that I can't decide if I want to go to. It would mean skipping dinner (because I don't want to skip kickboxing) and showing up late. By then, the free crepes might be gone! The main draw is the subway tours. Why tour a subway, you ask? Because it's an abandoned subway!

Back when Rochester was teh shit and Kodak and Xerox were doing well, the city built a subway system. Unfortunately, Kodak's late arrival to the digital camera age eventually led them to lay off half their workforce, and Xerox wasn't doing too hot either (as my roommate put it, pdf killed Xerox), and the city's population hemorrhaged away. By the time the subway was finished, there weren't enough people left to justify actually running it, so they sealed it up and never used it.

Kind of sad, how a whole city can just die like that. There are parts of Rochester that look like the shabbiest chunks of New Haven, and then there are skyscrapers and architectural works that rival NYC or Austin or any other big city. I think it's a good Rosa-sized city.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Greetings from Washington, D.C.!

Hi y'all! Hope everyone has been having a great summer so far. Things are going really well with me. As you know, I've had the pleasure of entertaining Carly, Monica, and Rebecca and her parents at my house, although I did not see any of them there. But my mom and sister say they are all lovely, which is of course true. My June was spent at my beloved summer camp, Strong River, in Pinola, Mississippi (aka totally the middle of nowhere). I had great cabins of boys aged ten to thirteen, and spent my mornings blueberry picking and working at the high ropes course, and my afternoons on the river, plus eating lots of good Southern cooking to top it off. I could write about it all night, but I'll move on.
I came up here to D.C. on July 8th, and moved into the sweet apartment Steve picked out for us. Our apartment is slowly starting to look like home, but I'm still waiting for some furniture, so it's a little sparse right now. I started work with IBM on July 13th with a week of orientation with my fellow new hires, who are smart and interesting and nice young people, which is really good. For the past week and a half I've been doing some proposal work and waiting for my security clearance to go through, which it did today. So I'll probably be getting to work for real starting next Monday on a project with the TSA. I'm pretty excited about that, and being a big kid in general.
DC has been outstanding so far. I've seen a lot of friends from school, like Homer and Carly, and friends from outside of the band. One of those friends is from camp, and I got to have lunch last week with the her and her dad, who just happens to be Obama's new Secretary of the Navy, in his private dining hall, which was one of the coolest things I've done in a real long time. I did feel that it was a slightly hilarious scene, though, because she's only seventeen and a rising high school senior. So despite now wanting to date her, and having not canoodled with her ever, it kind of felt like I was meeting one of the parents in that important first meeting. But Ray Mabus is a really cool guy, so I just laughed on the inside.
Seems from the posts like most of y'all are doing well. I miss you all, and think about fun times with the YPMB a lot. I look forward to keeping y'all in the loop about my life and seeing everyone at The Game come November. Take care!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

hey guys? i'm scared.

Dear '09,
I miss you all a lot. You know how, when you miss someone, you start to see them subconsciouly in the faces of strangers? Even ones that don't really look anything like the people in question? Well, I saw Alex crossing the street, Carly on the train, etc etc.
This isn't helping the fact that I've got a tremendous amount of anxiety about moving, settling into Baltimore, and going back to school. I'm really not at all sure that I want to go to school at all, or that I want a job in academia... It's kind of crushing me right now. :-(
I wondered if y'all had any thoughts for me-- what career path (aside from academic) did/do you see me in?
On a happier note, I got to see some dead folk this weekend (Hudson and Hergenhan), which was nice. And I also now own a car-- a not-thrilling but perfectly practical 2004 Chevy Malibu.
<3 to all!

PS-- sorry for being a buzzkill.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Are we there yet?

First, my apologies for being relatively MIA thus far this summer; this whole planning-for-my-new-life thing while still working in lab takes quite a lot of time! That said, I am definitely starting to get antsy. I move to Philadelphia in a little over a month--my program starts after Labor Day, so I want to make sure I have time to familiarize myself with the city before it starts--and I feel both incredibly prepared and totally unready. Sure, I've done all the things that Penn asked me to do--I filled out my payroll forms, I sent in my W-4, et cetera--but every time I look at the pile of things I took home from school that I need to sort through before the end of August, I shudder. What to bring? What to leave? And of what I leave home, how much can I actually afford to replace on my grad school stipend? The next year will be a Budgeting Adventure.

One way or another, the ball is rolling, and I am anxious to get the next stage of my life started. Sitting around in lab, tying up some loose ends from my senior project... that's all well and good. But get me to the City of Brotherly Love!

I mean, come on, there are hot pretzels. And Cheese Steaks!

...and science, too, I guess.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

what I did with my summer vacation

Basically: went to Mississippi, went to Texas, learned how to be a teacher (ish), went back to Mississippi to find a house/etc, went to Washington, tomorrow leaving to drive back to Mississippi. Phew!

So you know (or you may not) how everyone says TFA institute is so horrible and OH MY GOD THE WORST FIVE WEEKS OF MY LIFE? really wasn't. I mean, it was hard work, sure, but somehow I managed to get through it, and it really wasn't half bad. Even though I did have to get up at 5 every morning. I took some classes, and I taught some classes, and I learned a LOT (lesson 1: you might think 6th graders could share markers without throwing them at each other; you would be wrong). I also convinced my class, who then spread the rumor throughout the entire school, that I was 51 years old and looked so good on account of all the plastic surgery. (Lesson 2: 6th graders are gullible as hell).

At the end of institute, I was chatting with my adviser and he asked me if I felt ready to teach for real now. Putting aside the question of exactly how well teaching 6th grade social studies will prepare me to teach K-6 general music (jury's still out on that one), I came up with the following analogy:
This summer, it's like I was learning to swim. I was wearing little water wings, and there were a bunch of people around me, holding me hand and making sure I didn't drown. The water was about two feet deep. No problem. And now they're THROWING ME OFF THE DEEP END INTO SHARK-INFESTED WATER.
I'm exaggerating a little. The sharks aren't that bad (how much trouble can five-year-olds cause, really?) (famous last words!) and I'll still have people holding my hand. But still.

Anyway, so I then went back to the Delta for a few days where I had a whirlwind of findaroommatefindahousemeettheschoolsuperintendantbuyfurnituremoveinopenabankaccount HOLY CRAP being a grownup entails a lot of stuff! It was crazy, but after two and a half days I am now moved into a two-bedroom townhouse in Greenwood, Mississippi with one roommate and (as of now) very very little furniture.

I did buy a bed, though, which was the highlight of last week. Partly because it meant I no longer had to sleep on a pile of blankets on the floor, but mostly because it was delivered by two muscle-bound young men (Chris: no. Good grief), both wearing grimy baseball caps, identical t-shirts with Confederate flags, BOTH NAMED CODY. Amazing.

And so now I'm back at home for a couple of days, and tomorrow, my parents and I leave to drive back to the Delta!

School starts August 3rd. Yippee!

Monday, July 20, 2009

gainful employment

I got a job!!!!

I know I posted it on facebook, but since I like you guys better than most of the ppl I'm facebook friends w/, I wanted to share w/ you all.

I'll be working at the Department of Homeland Security, putting together the Secretary's daily briefing book. I start in a few weeks, and I'm super excited.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chapter One of Life as a Real Person

Scratch the whole teaching 3rd grade and Spanish thing. I will now be teaching kindergarten, which as we all know means one thing - naptime! Whew, this is like my third assignment change since Wednesday. I guess this is what they meant when people told me teachers need to be flexible.


Friday officially marked my one week anniversary in New Orleans. I've settled into my new sweet apartment (after my air conditioner not working for the first day and a half; I did get to sleep in Ned's bed for a night, though!). My school's professional development started on Wednesday, and I've got to say that I am so impressed with the people I'll be working with. My two principals are incredibly cool, and so focused on closing the achievement gap and making our school be a shining beacon in the dark of the New Orleans public school system. I've also found out what I'll be teaching! Ms. Cooper will be helping out with 3rd grade language arts and teaching Spanish! This is a little different from what I was originally hired to do, but I think it will work out for the best, and I'm pretty damn excited about it. I'm still a bit nervous about the whole teaching thing, but I've got a great support team, and I've already recruited a veteran teacher to be my mentor.

Hmm...I'm starting to realize this post is a bit boring. I guess I should also mention that one of my principals bought two other teachers and me a round on Bourbon Street as he was out bar hopping with four other gay principals. This amused me greatly. Meh, anyway, time to go attempt to cook dinner.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

updates vaguely more relevant to my life next year

I am a little bitter that this posts things at the time when you start typing, instead of when you hit "publish"- because I definitely didn't write most of the last post at 7:20.   Monica did, in fact, beat me to publishing her post.

Just wanted to add that before we left, I got an apartment for next year!  So you'll all have somewhere to crash for the game.  It's in the 9th square, just on the other side of the tall buildings on the Green. 116 Court St, to be precise. The place is furnished and comes with a flat screen TV, desks, a stocked kitchen, and sweet views of the Green!  And it was a sweet price.  I'm on the 11th floor, which is also awesome, and explains the sweet views.

I'll be living with a girl named Yeney, pronounced ja-Nay.  She's also an incoming 1L, right out of undergrad, from Duke/Miami/Cuba, in reverse chronological order.  She seems quite nice, though very quiet- I'm a little worried that she'll be a "constantly stressed out at law school" person, but that's probably fine.   She seems way more worried about school next year than I am, and I'm reasonably studious... I'm very aware that I'll be doing a ton of work, but the fact that YLS is just plain pass/fail first year means that I'm much more excited than anxious.  That said, I'm excited about her, and we're looking forward to learning how to cook together.  

Steve has already claimed my bed for the Game.  Just FYI.  Sigh.

Ok, have a great night!  And I'm going to post one further picture from our trip:

Hooray!  I don't know why my font just turned blue.  Oh well.  We thought you guys would want some representation at Graceland.  Elvis lives.  Rock on.

All look same

Today at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, a very accomplished and world-renowned French hornist approached me. I was flattered that he would pick me out to introduce himself to me. He asked me how I was as he walked toward me. I started to reply "Good, how are you?" when he began to move in a little too close, so as to give me a hug. I instinctively backed away, and he definitely looked puzzled. He awkwardly asked, "Should I not hug you?" with the most quizzical look ever. I paused for a moment, thinking he would realize his mistake, when for a good 20 seconds he did not. So I said, "I'm sorry I don't think I am who you think I am." It took him a few seconds to figure out the situation. He profusely apologized, saying, "Oh dear! I'm so sorry! I thought you were Sarita!" Sarita, while is Asian and actually looks a little like me, is in fact 10 years older than me, taller by at least a foot, a professor at Yale, and from Australia. The French hornist told me it had been a while since his glasses had been updated and this was a clear sign he needed to get a new pair.

Thank you world.

I miss you all!
ps. i gotta figure out a way to do a digital Mickey!

(soon to be) on the road again

ROAD TRIPPPPPPPPP was awesome. I am planning a more extensive post later - maybe co-written with Carly? Hmm. But it was sweet. We saw 4 bears! and 20 (ish) states! and lots of 09! Alex in Pho-town, Rosa in Austin, Rita in Houston, Greg in Memphis... it was lovely.

Here is a picture:It's at the Marfa Prada, in West Texas. It was my favorite roadside attraction by farrrrr. It's a Prada store but it doesn't actually sell stuff. I love it.

Here is another picture:

It's a bison and it's not using the camera's zoom. We were just minding our own business when he trotted our way (I locked the doors, fyi, obviously) and started rubbing himself on these wooden posts. Conclusions: all animals just want to be rubbed, and bison are adorable.

Here is yet another picture:Here we are in front of the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park. It was like a different planet but definitely one of the cooler hikes we did. Look at those things! Wtf!

But alas, the great American road trip is over. Well, this leg, at least. In the (sad, sad) days since Carly left me for the East coast, I've been planning my hike of the John Muir Trail! It's been pretty good, so far - some small fighting with dad but it's no big thang. I'm mostly just getting psyched for the trip! It's my dad, my sister, Robin and me - we've all hiked together before so we know it'll work in that respect. Now I just have to keep telling myself that yes, of course I can walk 220 miles with a 40-50 lb backpack on! Of course!!

So yeah, now the people at my local outdoor store recognize me. I got an, "Oh hey, it's you again!" when I bought bug spray today. It's not so bad to be recognized there, I guess.

ps I feel old - no more facebook OR oci. ahhhh.