Thursday, December 20, 2012

Off to Ohio

Tomorrow we're leaving for Ohio to spend Christmas with my family. We did the calculations and determined that it would be cheaper to drive and bring the animals this year, because boarding two pets is quite pricey.  So we'll be packing the cat, dog, and two humans in the car tomorrow morning. With 20 hours of driving (which we'll spread out over two days), we'll be there.

Ada, the Miami dog, is now the proud owner of handmade purple coat that will help her survive the Midwest winter.(Since we don't have a sewing machine, Andrew and I did an awful lot of hand sewing this week).

This trip also prompted us to make a decision that I've been putting off for quite a while. As we've tried to live more frugally, I became aware that our Mini was not a frugal choice, as much as I loved it, and that's pretty much due to it's poor gas mileage. (You can't get great mileage when you're a sports car with a turbo-charged engine, after all).

So, when we take our trip, we'll be travelling in a new (to us) fuel-efficient car. It also happens to have more space and is beloved by Andrew, so it wasn't a total loss to give up my Mini.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Party time

We hosted our annual Christmas party last weekend. Every year, when I plan the guest list, I am grateful that we live in Miami. Since our apartment is tiny, having more than four people in the living room means that everyone is bumping into one another. But because winter is the pleasant season in Miami, we just open up the door and extend the party outside. Unfortunately, this December has been exceedingly warm. It was in the humid, high 70's (24C), which mean that it was rather warm for all the people who wore suits. 

I forgot to take any pictures of the food, but one of the biggest successes was the homemade French onion dip, which continually surprises people who think Lipton instant soup is the only way to make the recipe. I also received compliments on an appetizer of toothpick-skewered Brie chunks and grape tomatoes, served with a oil-pesto dip. The entire preparation took maybe 10 minutes, which seems sort of criminally easy for how much people liked them. The coconut oatmeal cookies, on the other hand, will never be made again; if I don't get at least two compliments on a recipe, it has failed the test.

Three of my closest friends from choir came, and they all wore their finest dressy outfits.

 Phi the cat is the black spot on the black tux. I think she spent most of the party on our friend's lap.
In addition, the dog was magnificently behaved. We've never had a real party since we adopted the dog, but she just collected a few friendly head-pats and then laid down on the floor for the rest of the evening. I am so grateful for all those training classes that Andrew did with the dog. They sure paid off.

Friday, December 07, 2012


To me, one of the best things about working at a university is the almost unfettered access to books. If my university library doesn't have it, they can borrow it from a huge network of other libraries, which includes both university and public libraries. Consider the two books the library just had delivered for me: "The Take-Charge Career Guide for Scientists" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hinduism."

The first book is part of my continuing effort to educate myself about what work you can do with a physics degree outside of academia. I like academia very much and I like to think that I have a fairly good understanding of how it works (at least for a relative newcomer to academia). But about 40% of students with an undergraduate or graduate degree in physics immediately go to work in industry. (Thanks, American Institute of Physics, for all your useful statistics) Most professors simply don't have experience with work outside of academia or national labs. (And in physics, we call everything beyond those two things "industry".) So professors don't know what advice to give students about employment, and they often don't even know what kinds of jobs people can do. Whenever I get a chance to go to a talk or read a book about this, I take it, and I hope I'm accumulating useful knowledge that I can pass on.

The second book is because of the Indian classical dance I've been learning for the past few years (Bharata Natyam). The people that I meet in class are all Hindu, and the dance itself is part of Hinduism. I know a lot about Christianity and can fake my way through discussions about Judaism and Islam, but I'm simply lost when it comes to Hinduism. Of course, when I went to the university library it had dozens of books on the religion, but it was all so academic or historical or philosophical that I was lost. I wanted a book at the level that, if it were written for Christianity, would say, "Christians hang often wreaths on their doors or walls during the weeks before Christmas". Basically, I want to know how it's lived day-to-day, so I can understand my friends' conversations, but I also want to know the deeper meaning of some of the things I am learning. And it looks like those embarrassingly-named Idiot's Guides are going to be just what I need.