Friday, April 29, 2011

New glasses

I got a new pair of glasses. What do you think? I acquired this, my second set of vintage frames, at a flea market in Seattle. Then they sat around for almost a year before I sent them off to get some lenses put in. Everyone knows I'm a missionary for Internet eyeglasses, right? This pair cost me $15 for the frame and $30 for the lenses. (Of course, if you're willing to buy new frames, you can get frame plus lenses, at many places, for about $20).

I'm off this weekend in Pittsburgh, visiting M (otherwise known as the lady in the red hat who married us). In packing, I've encountered yet another travel problem: what kind of outfit can get you from 85F to 40F? (That's 29C to 4C for my international readers.) Instead of glasses that automatically get dark when you go outside into the sunlight, I need lightweight trousers that grow a layer of insulation when I step off the plane.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Minor catastrophes

I have recently had the opportunity to do comparative grossness analysis. I can conclusively state that I find fleas to be more disgusting than sewage. You never know where fleas are going to appear next - on your pillow? on your dinner plate? - but you know exactly where sewage is (all over the bathroom floor and filling the tub) and what to do about it (call the landlord, stat).

It is awfully nice to have Andrew around. I forgot that being in a partnership means not only lovey-dovey stuff but also having a person to share the load when minor catastrophes occur. Just as we got the fleas under control (in physicist terms, I'd say we're in a steady-state situation), our drains backed up again. Hence the sewage filling the bathroom. This is the second time this has happened in the past year, and it's because a large banyan tree (you know, those enormous, strangling fig trees) found the drain pipe and discovered a rich food source. Its roots clog the pipe and so it will have to come down. The resulting situation was yucky but the landlord got a plumber in quickly with a temporary fix, so we have running (and draining) water again.

I really do love old houses, and I'm glad we live in a house that's been around since the 1920's. Our house is full of character (i.e. rooms that aren't quite square and ceilings that aren't quite level), and I enjoy that. But I also enjoy having a landlord who deals with all the mishaps associated with an old house.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Food for a celebration!

Tomorrow my marriage goes from part-time to full-time again, because Andrew is moving to Miami. What would you do in preparation of such a momentous occasion? I cook. After all, my husband has been eating pasta with jarred tomato sauce and tofu for the past year; he deserves a good meal.

I decided to make something I'd never made before - lasagna with homemade noodles. Lasagna is already so much work, with the cooking of the tomato sauce, the making of the bechamel sauce, and the assembling of the lasagna, that I can never summon the energy. But this time I decided to buy myself a bit of time by using ricotta instead of bechamel. Plus, I have this new toy that makes noodle creation much easier, three pasta attachments for the Kitchen Aid mixer. I can't make noodles much faster than I could with my hand-cranked pasta maker, but it does take much less physical effort.
I had some of the lasagna tonight. I was surprised that using homemade noodles didn't radically change the lasagna, because homemade fettuccine is orders of magnitude better than dry fettuccine. But by making the noodles myself, I was able to make the much thinner than store bought, allowing for more delicate layers. The lasagna pictured, although only about an inch and a half thick, is six layers.

As an aside, when I tell people that my husband will be moving in this week, most of them have been very excited for me. At my dance class (Did I mention I've started taking a dance class?), the reception was rather subdued, and we moved on to other topics. Later one women mentioned that her husband works on a ship (and so is away from home for months at a time) and the other has a husband who runs a business in India. He just returned for a visit after being a way for two years. No wonder they weren't impressed by my paltry one-year separation.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The kindness of others

I stopped to get gas on my way to church. After filling up, I tried to start the car, but there was no power whatsoever. This is a reoccurring problem with our car. Every few months, enough corrosion builds up on the battery terminals so that the connections are broken. Andrew keeps tools in the car to deal with this, so I called him and he started to talk me through the process. As soon as I put up the hood, though, three gas station employees came over to help. One guy brought the baking soda and water, one guy cleaned the battery, and one guy taught me Spanish for dimples: "camanance." I was on my way ten minutes later and all my grumpiness about my capricious car was gone.

Later in the day I decided to go the beach. In summer, Miami's weather can be pretty variable, so I checked the weather report before I left. When I get there, though, I enjoyed fifteen minutes of sun before the showers started. (I was thus reminded that 10% chance of rain means that one out of ten times you'll be unlucky.) I tried to wait out the rain in the car, but after an hour I gave up. I headed home to deal with my laundry (which I dry on a laundry rack outside), where I expected to do a lot of rewashing. However, I once again benefited from the kindness of others. One of my neighbors had tucked my laundry rack under the awning, and the clothes were almost dry.

This could have been a rotten day, but instead I'm feeling pretty good about people in general.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday lunch

One thing I appreciate about my vegetable buying club is that it tries to group veggies by cuisine. Sometimes we'll get mushrooms and Chinese cabbage and Japanese sweet potatoes, and then it's easy to see we'll be eating Asian that week. This week we got carrots and celery and parsley, which felt very French to me. I had leftover cooked lentils in the fridge, which led to this terrific lunch: warm lentil salad with fried eggs. I'll definitely be making this again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Unintended knowledge

The vacuuming and chemical applications continue unabated. The cat has been banished to the bathroom for the week so that the attacks of the fleas on the furniture and the fleas on the cat can take place on separate fronts.

In the meantime, I am grateful for any distractions, so let me pose a question to all of you. A coworker recently remarked that my extensive knowledge of all things motorcycle related seemed incongruent with the rest of my interests. It's true, and I think it is an accident due to my upbringing. If you were hauled to years of motorcycle races and treated to decades of discussions of motorcycle purchases, trades, and repairs; and if you too had relatives who requested motorcycle cameras, motorcycle underwear (yes, it exists), and motorcycle armored jackets, you too would know a lot about motorcycles. I did my best to avoid learning: I spent many weekends reading in a tent or pop-up camper, while my mother, father, and brother all competed in trials motorcycle races.

So my question to you is: what subject do you have knowledge about, simply due to the family you born into, or the people that were born into yours?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Highs and lows

Andrew passed. His committee asked him loads of questions, but requested only minor corrections. So it seems extremely likely that he'll be able to move down at the end of the month as planned.

I'm so glad that I was there, and I almost equally happy to be home after a week away. Unfortunately, I walked into a situation common to Southern Florida: a house crawling with fleas. I won't go into details, but visible bugs and visible blood is not a good combination. It's been a long day of pesticides, flea baths, and endless cleaning. The cat and I are both pretty worn out, and success is not yet guaranteed.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I changed my mind.

I've decided that, actually, I'd really like to see Andrew's defense. And I have a sneaking suspicion that in spite of his protestations, he'd like to have me there. So I bought a ticket this afternoon,and I'm flying out of Orlando straight from my conference. I'll be there for about 36 hours, and it's so worth it.

Sunday, April 03, 2011


I'm only one day into my latest conference and I can tell that I'm just burned out a little. I like travel in moderation, but my current schedule is too much for me: six conferences in six months, plus three other trips. Conferences are only nominally about formally presenting research; they are also about getting informal feedback on your research, telling people about your new wild and crazy ideas, and hearing about what everyone else is doing. I'm thinking about ways to scale back my expectations for this event, because I have upcoming conferences that I think will be more important.

If I wanted to complain about my crazy travel schedule to my husband, though, I'm not sure I'd get a lot of sympathy. Once he's done with his dissertation defense and moving to Miami, he's embarking on extensive tour of America. It combines his graduation, a trip with his parents to Ohio and Toronto, then a family reunion. All in all, he'll travel 4500 miles (that's 7200 kilometers) in three weeks, divided between a rental car and a motorcycle.

This is what the route looks like:

Größere Kartenansicht

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Summer is here

I am loathe to admit it, but I think summer has arrived in Miami. I know that those of you still in the grips of cold wet rain, or even snow, can not sympathize with my sinking feelings, but they're still there. Somehow, I think I had associated hurricane season (June-November) with summer, and so I had expected the dry season to last for another month. But all the signs are present: I've had the air conditioner on every night, and the almost daily downpours have begun.

Today, I'm headed to Orlando for a conference. It's not going to be any cooler there, but since we'll probably never emerge from the climate-controlled conference center, it probably doesn't matter much. I expect this conference to be low-key; I don't have many responsibilities, and it's a new conference for me (science teachers instead of physicists or physics teachers) so my goal is simply to better understand the kind of research that's done in this field.

In other news, Andrew defends on Thursday. I can't be there, but my parents are driving from Ohio to attend, so he'll have ample family support. I'm sure it will all go well, but keep your fingers crossed for him.