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