Friday, July 27, 2012

A Permanent (Vegetarian) Resident

I'm headed out to Philadelphia for a week of conferencing. I very much appreciate the work community I have, and it feels like I'm visiting a big group of old friends who like to talk about thinking and learning and physics as much as I do. However, conferences also mean giving talks, and that is my least favorite part of my job. I don't like giving talks, running workshops, or leading meetings, and those are all things that I will grit by teeth and do, because it really is an important part of being an academic.

But enough complaining - let me tell you about the good parts of my life. Andrew received his new green card, which makes him a permanent Permanent Resident, instead of a conditional Permanent Resident. I think that means that the government has decided we have a real marriage, which, in our case, is almost (but not quite) as important as Andrew and I knowing that we have a real marriage.

To celebrate, I make "bacon" (recipe here). I will flat out admit that it's not at all like real bacon. If you were forced to give up the pleasures of pig-eating, you would find this a poor substitute. But if you have willingly given up meat, then it's terrific to have a smoky, crunchy, chewy, salty, oily, umami-filled treat like this. I was inspired to make this by a friend in Seattle, who told me that she no longer eats fake meats because they're not made with real food. I thought, "She's right, but I bet I could make some veggie bacon from recognizable ingredients." This recipe serves two purposes: I save money (because fake meat is expensive), and I get to eat real food (basically beans, rice, and flavorings).

Andrew used it to make a bacon and egg sandwich. He tells me that this is classic truckers' food in England, traditionally topped with ketchup, and he has fond memories of eating them during his time driving a delivery truck.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Staying connected

We were without Internet all last week. The problem started after the termite treatments, so at first we thought that the chemicals had destroyed the modem, or that the tent had dislodged the lines going into our house. Andrew spent hours on the phone with tech support, and we had two visits from cable guys. In the end, they decided that the DSL line from the street to the house needed to be replaced. Why? Well, the line had never been designed to carry data. And it was corroded. And a squirrel chewed through it. I guess that shouldn't have been as hard to diagnose as it was.


We've been trying to budget more carefully, and that means we eat out less. I console myself with the fact that I can make almost any food we would buy, as long as I'm willing to put the effort into a project. So although Indian cuisine has defeated me in the past, I decided to try again.

Yesterday we spent a long day at the storage place, sorting through much of the stuff that we'd kind of like to keep but have no space to keep. It was three hours of hot, tedious work, and I thought we deserved a treat at the end. (Andrew especially deserved it, as he'd been doing all the lifting.) So I made samosas and peach chutney and they were perfect, especially served with whiskey.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I'm now back home from Seattle. I survived my very first red-eye flight, which was made much more enjoyable by the fact that my husband picked me up from the airport at 7am, deposited me at home, and then left me to sleep until 1pm. 

I spent last week catching up - at work, where preparations for the big annual conference are under way, and at home, where my husband had pretty much eaten all the food in the freezer and fridge. Andrew will apparently do almost anything to avoid grocery shopping, including subsisting on PBJs and canned spaghetti sauce (thus creating a vegetarian diet lacking both fruits and vegetables). By the end of last weekend I had restocked us with beans, chili, spaghetti sauce, yogurt, and seitan (more on that last one another day, as I'm still perfecting the recipe).

That was all the recovery time I got, though, because then it was time to pack up again. To tell the story in pictures, our house normally looks like this (dog provided to better illustrate scale):
but was tented like this:

so that they could fill it with deadly gases

and kill all the termites living there.

I am grateful that this turned out to be a minimally-disruptive experience. Our landlord booked us into a hotel that accepts pets and that had a small kitchen. Instead of us, he experienced all the disruption when the tenting people arrived and exclaimed, "But your tenants didn't remove their food?! It can't stay!" He had to move my upright freezer into his house, clear out all the food from the cabinets and refrigerator, and then stash it in a neighbor's spare fridge. 

Tonight we get to go back home, put away all the hastily-collected food, and enjoy pest-free living in style.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Founding father

Seattle's supposed to be beautiful in the summer, but I think I arrived before summer really began. During most of my stay the sky has looked like this:

 That picture comes from my weekend ferry ride to Bainbridge Island, which was entertaining and beautiful and so rainy and wet that I didn't take any other pictures. (But check out that giant Ferris wheel - it's the newest addition to the Seattle skyline!)

We've had some beautiful days, though. On the Fourth of July, some of the scholars got together (after working all day in a windowless office) and had a picnic. We walked across the Fremont Bridge.
 We went to visit the Fremont Troll, who lives under a different bridge.
 And then we had a picnic at Gas Works Park, so named because the remains of  a coal gasification plant are still in the park. We picniced with thousands of other people, plus a disturbing, disembodied Statue of Liberty head.

Someone had recently told us that Boston has a great Fourth of July tradition, where they read aloud the Declaration of Independence from the exact location where it has been read aloud since the first July 4th, in 1776. My two colleagues and I wanted to do something similar. Because we are all physics education researchers, we carefully considered which book could be considered a founding documents in our field. Thus, while enjoying the view, we read aloud from Arnold Arons' "Teaching Introductory Physics". Our reading only included the first two pages of this 700 page tome, but I think we captured the spirit of the thing.
Luckily, Seattle is full of people doing far stranger things, and no one directed a second glance our way.