Thursday, June 28, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Now moving on. It was three and a half weeks ago that I wrote this and I think it is worth revisiting the topic. The main issue I want to address is: Have things changed? The honest answer is sort of. Despite Dean’s pleas of “please don’t worry about it until you get home!” I am feeling a little more sure of myself and a little less lost.
I think I’ve done a better job of fitting in than I was a few weeks ago. I’m more or less officially in the Friday lunch crowd. Seeing as though my income is nearly 100% disposable at this point I find great pleasure in the expensive restaurants we go to! I occasionally walk with the walking crowd in the afternoons. And I’ve finally exposed myself as the liberal cat-lover I am. (Side note: In academia pretty much all physicists are democrats. Not so in industry. Apparently things change when you hit the $100k/year mark. But I will not be swayed!) Most importantly, these days I see my role in this company more clearly.
Over the course of group meetings and conversations I’ve become acutely aware that there is a Ph.D. student scheduled to graduate at the same time as me and the group I’m in badly wants him to join. It is unlikely they would want us both to join the group and if they did, I would certainly be in this guy’s shadow. His dissertation is on the exact topic I’m working on now. It’s almost as if he was groomed to work for this group and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. When I learned of this, I was surprisingly relieved. That ruled out scenarios 1 and 3 on my list. And scenario 2 in which I speculated that finding a different job in the Minnesota branch of the company was unlikely may not even be correct. I have sat in on meetings with experimental groups who look like they are doing interesting stuff. Of course the groups working at the California branch are doing the most interesting work but that’s not surprising in the least. However California is absolutely not an option for us. Sorry, Cali friends but it’s just way too far from home. My biggest geographical constraint right now is we must be east of (or on) the Mississippi River.
So anyway, working for this company in this location may not be out of the question after all. I’ve had a very frank discussion about this with Dr. Hari, who thinks it would be a good idea to network with these other groups as long as it isn’t at the expense of my productivity. Since it is becoming more of an understanding that this is just a summer arrangement, I don’t anticipate anyone feeling used or deceived. (Dr. Hari, the king of puns, made it well known in this conversation that he doesn’t see me pursuing a career in modeling- not that I’m not pretty enough. Thanks.) Working here in an experimental role is definitely attractive right now.
Whether or not Dean and I want to move back here is totally up in the air and will be a very weighty decision. It is so easy to be seduced by Minnesota in the summer- the lakes, the endless daylight, the Twins. But we mustn’t forget the desolation and darkness that is winter. However, these past weeks have opened my eyes to the importance of being near family and loved ones. I never appreciated being able to just stop by my mom’s for a beer and the game, or vegging out with stepsis. I’ve arrived at the fact that I could be very happy 9-5 if I could have all those things. As you all know, it’s the climate we struggle with immensely. But who knows- landing a cushy corporate job even at the experimental level isn’t a trivial matter. There may be no decision at all.
The important thing today and tomorrow is that I’m content. Contentness makes the days go fast and makes me miss Deano just a tiny bit less.
Friday, June 22, 2007
It used to be that I let people walk all over me. Some may say that’s still true, but I’m trying to do better. The problem is that instead of just always having an assertive, confident attitude, I initially believe people’s opinions/criticisms/complaints of me. If I start to believe they are wrong and then they continue to opine/criticize/complain, it drives me to madness and then I explode at them. Not really a good way to function, but I come by it honestly and I'm trying to improve.
I bet you’re wondering what brought this on. If you aren’t and don’t really care, move along. If you aren't up for more adventures of crazy cat ladies, likewise move on. If you have nothing better to do, please proceed.
When I left Tampa and had to tell one of my crazy cat friends I was leaving, she took it upon herself to keep an eye on my dumpster kitties while I was gone. I didn’t ask her to because I find Dean to be more than capable of feeding a bunch of stray cats once a day. I knew that Dean wouldn't be able to do Spay Days, but I knew he'd alert me if there were sick kitties or a new batch of kittens. At that point I'd decide whether or not to involve one of my cat friends. Anyway, the aforementioned friend became quite upset one day when she was "keeping an eye" on my kitties, and found a sick kitten. First, Dean had told me there were new kittens. He's had enough experience to tell roughly how old they were, and when he told me they were about 10-12 weeks, I knew it would be difficult to find an organization to take them and socialize them. If I involved anyone they would likely ask Dean to foster them- something he's not willing to do without me there to guide him and I respect that. After weighing the circumstances in my head, I decided that I'd have to swallow my lumps, feed the extra cats and have them fixed as soon as possible. Granted if I were home things may have been different, but I can't pass up my intership to stay in Florida and feed feral cats. So cat friend rescued the kitten and brought him to the vet. He is now recovering nicely from conjuctivitis and a respiratory infection and all the time at the vet has socialized him enough that he can be someone's house kitty. Any takers?
Anway, so that was the first incident. I don't blame her for rescuing the sick kitten, but I was a little irked that she has been hanging around my kitties just because I'm not there. I was further irked when she asked me to help pay for said sick kitten. I'm not sure what the etiquette is on that.
The utter lunacy started when Dean was about to come up here for his visit. I had asked the friend if she could feed my colony while Dean was away because while runnergirl was feeding my housecats on a semi-daily basis, the colony required daily feeding. She said that she was too busy. Fine. So I asked another crazy cat friend (friend #2 in this saga) to do it. After she agreed, friend #1 had a change of heart and said she wanted to do it. I said I had already found someone. So she insisted on feeding evenings while friend #2 did mornings. I told her it really wasn't necessary, knowing she would likely do it anyway. Now, when I was still in Tampa I always fed in the evenings becuase it was convenient for me. So if friend #1 was ever in the neighborhood and stopped by, she likely always saw cat food back there. But I don't know for sure how often, if ever, she checked on my kitties. It has since become absolutely clear to me that she has been checking on them since I've been away because she doesn't trust Dean. And since Dean feeds in the mornings, which is more convenient for him, if she stops by in the evenings there is no food. And that has made her completely apeshit. I had a feeling she was feeding in the evenings, but didn't say anything about it. While I was a little irritated that she doesn't trust Dean and thinks she needs to supplement my colony's food I have also realized that she will do what she thinks is sufficient no matter my opinions and my instructions for Dean.
The situation was making me mildly tense but not unbearably so until last week. She sent me a frantic email about how busy she is and could Dean please help her out by feeding the kitties in the evenings as well. I'm not sure if it was the implication that Dean was so deficient that he should now become her assisstant or the fact that Dean didn't do anything any differently than I so she basically gave me a back door insult, but it was probably a combination of the two that caused me to deliberately type out one of the iciest emails I've ever written. I feel really badly for having to do it, but this needed to stop. The comments implying that Dean wasn't doing a good enough job, the asking for money for hurt cats, the obvious resentment for leaving my cats for three months- I just couldn't take it anymore.
The worst part about this whole situation is that it hurts everybody. It hurts her that I had to go ballistic on her and tell her to back the hell off. I love that she cares for the kitties, that there is someone on my side and someone I can go to for help. But it has been outweighed by the fact that that same someone is makeing me feel totally shitty about the job Dean and I are doing back there. How is it that I can pour time, money, and emotions into these cats but I feel like the scum of the Earth for having to put my foot down? I basically had to say, "no, I will not tell Dean to feed the cats more frequently because I don't think they need it." I feel like a total bitch. On the one hand I feel like I'm depriving my kitties but on the other, I feel like if I did what she said I'd have been manipulated and under her control. Isn't it enough that my wonderful husband goes back there and feeds them 3(!) pounds of cat food and gives them fresh water and takes attendence? I could do ask him to do more, but then what would come next?
To contrast this behavior, friend #2 sent me an email yesterday asking my permission for her to "renovate" my colony area. She took the day off of work to do improvements on her own colony and thought mine could use it too. I was touched and not insulted because she nicely asked if she could do this for me. She added that she was doing this solely because I was a "special person" to care for the kitties. I know there are better people out there- people willing to take on more, to do the things friend #2 does, but I let myself be flattered at a time when I desperately needed it. She also offered to do a Spay Day for me in August because she knew the kitten situation was stressing me out. The PetSMART fairy will be leaving her a generous gift.
I didn't hear from friend #1 again until tonight. I suspected that despite my tyrade she would still continue feeding my kitties at night. I honstly couldn't care less. I'm sorry if that makes me a bad cat caregiver, but I think I explained my reasons. She called and left a message about how wonderful it looked, how friend #2 did such a great job and since there were new bowls back there, could Dean please not "ruin it" by putting the cat food on the ground. This is another issue I have with her- her insistence that I use petfood bowls back there. My arguments are (1) if I use a cardboard or foil type bowls they get blown or pushed down into the woods and cause garbage to accumulate, thus annoying management (2) if I use nice ceramic bowls homeless people steal them and I'm out good money and (3) they are strays and are used to eating off the ground and in all sorts of conditions we don't want to consider. Anyway, the "Dean ruining it" comment was what started my monster rant. I'm so mad that I'm letting this get to me. I'm upset about the fact that rather than appreciating the time and money we put into this she has to be overly critical and well, a bitch about it.
That's the end of my rant. Please feel free to give me feedback if you are so inclined. I have always thought that if heaven exists, there ought to be a special place for people that care for feral cats because it is a thankless job. Now, I'm ammending that to: There ought to be a special place for those that listen to their crazy rants.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I’ve lived in two major cities in my life- Minneapolis and Tampa. I firmly believe in city living, and if I wanted less civilization I’d move way the hell out into the sticks and have a hobby farm or a cat refuge. Two months ago I would have said that of the two cities I’ve lived in, Tampa definitely has the strangest people. There’s nothing like driving down Nebraska Avenue after dark. You will see some stuff. However, yesterday during my normal commute on the bus from work to Dad’s house I had to give pause as to where to find the weirdest people. First there was this (I recommend actually listening to it for the full effect). I don’t know if the “urban chicken” phenomenon is indicative of a growing weirdness among Minneapolitans, or more of a willingness to jump on any bandwagon presented to them. Although I tend to lean towards the latter, I do recall a hot day right outside of Ybor City with Mom and Tom where we stopped at a rather frightening looking gas station and a rooster ran out and starting pecking at Tom’s shoe laces. That was clearly weirdness and the neighborhood didn’t appear as if a bandwagon had rode through for a good 50 years. But I am willing to bet that the people who keep urban chickens in Minneapolis are very different than the people who keep gas stations on the outskirts of Ybor City.
What really got me thinking about this topic yesterday was the drunk guy on the bus who decided his point would be better made by brandishing a knife. He wasn’t particularly threatening though he had made me a little uncomfortable from the moment he got on the bus with his friend (also drunk). This discomfort was not intense, more what you feel when your instincts perk up a little because something is out of the ordinary. The whole trip from 66th and Lyndale to when I finally bailed near Uptown he had been shouting loudly, clapping his hands and dancing. He wasn’t visibly upset and I have no idea why he pulled the knife out. Not that there needed to be a reason in his obviously unstable mind. The moment he brought it out, every passenger on the bus flinched and appeared uneasy. The hugely obese guy sitting in the sideways seats towards the front (I swear he’s on every bus in the whole city) leaned to the bus driver and alerted him to the situation. The bus driver waited until he was in a position to pull over. When the knife-waver felt the bus stop and go into park, he put the knife away. The bus driver approached him and asked if it was true he had a weapon. “Well, it isn’t a weapon,” said the drunk guy, “it’s a tool.” Pretty clever for being so impaired. The bus driver didn’t appear to want to start an argument with the guy so he told him if he wanted to finish his ride he had better keep “whatever it was” put away. And he did. But it didn’t shut him up and I was relieved when we finally arrived at my stop.
Needless to say after I told this story to Dad and Stepmom, I have the car for a few days.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Yesterday was the first Father’s Day I spent with my dad since I moved to Florida. This also means it was the first one I was around for since my dad got remarried and officially became a “dad” again. I have been meaning to write this post for a long time now, and it seems in light of Father’s Day that this is as good a time as any.
For those of you who may not know, my stepsister was adopted from China by my stepmother, who was unmarried at the time. So technically she’s my stepsister because my dad married her mom, but because she doesn’t have any other dad but mine (well, now ours), she’s really closer to being like a half-sister. And even though my dad and stepmom got married just a couple years ago, they had been together quite a while, making my dad the only one my stepsister has really ever had. My dad and my stepsister always had a good relationship, but when my dad and stepmom finally got married, the roles of “father” and “daughter” really solidified. I always feel a little weird, growing up as an only child and now at 27 having an 11 year-old sister. But my dad was really young the first time around and now this second time around, he’s got experience under his belt.
If I wanted to write about my stepsister, I’d tell you about how she’s thoughtful, bubbly, witty, affectionate, and sweet. But what I mostly wanted to write about was fathers and daughters. Normally, I’d generalize as “kids” but it should be noted that my dad has always been a man surrounded by strong women, and my stepsister is certainly no exception. And recently, after watching stepsis try to style Dad’s hair, I asked him if he’d ever wished he could have tried raising a boy, he assertively replied, “not for a second.”
Now that I’m a grown woman, I really just like to observe dad and stepsis. I love to watch him be a dad again, see him take the same approach that he did with me so many years ago. I see the same gentleness and patience and feel so happy that stepsis can grow up with the same dad I did. At the age of 11, I can see how much she knows this already. One really good thing about the age difference is that I never feel in direct competition with stepsis. My turn is done, and now it’s her turn. While my dad’s personality and outlook hasn’t changed much over the years, life has a way of changing everything around us. This often makes me reflect on the differences stepsis and I have had growing up. By this I mean our childhood homes, our extended families, our pets, the frequented restaurants, (not to mention our moms…). But Dad’s a constant. And I feel lucky to be able to watch my dad be a father through adult eyes, it makes me appreciate my own childhood with him so much more. Maybe in a few years when stepsis is closer to being grown, and there’s another batch of little ones running around, she’ll be able to know what I’m talking about.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Well, look at me. I’ve been in Minnesota for five weeks now, and already I assume everyone else in the world knows what fried cheese curds are. Apparently some people need an introductory course because if they actually knew what fried cheese curds were and what they tasted like, they would not be scoffing at them. I will now attempt to briefly describe a fried cheese curd and put them into context with Minnesota culture.
First of all, lefty_grrrl is right- cheese curds are curdled. But all cheese is. I don’t want to get into the details of making cheese because it is pretty gross but basically an enzyme is added to the liquid cheese mixture to make it curdle into little clumps or curds about the size and shape of peanuts in a shell. Think of a carton of cottage cheese on a much larger scale. Typically, after the curds are formed, they are strained out of the cheese mixture, and compressed into blocks and then packaged which is what most of you associate with cheese. Cheese curds are before that stage and because the farmers don’t have to do any more processing at that point, the curds can be cheaply sold to county and state fairs to be battered and deep-fried. They are mostly sold at fairs and events in the Midwest (rather than groceries stores all over the country) because their age is key to their taste and texture. The best curds are extremely fresh and even shipping ruins the essence of the curd. Hard-core Midwesterners like the taste so much that they prefer them raw since their flavor is so distinct from typical store-bought cheese.
Usually the cheese curds you get at events up here are cheddar curds- they would otherwise go on to live life as part of a block of cheddar cheese. But they don’t really taste like cheddar cheese because they are still too fresh to get that sharp, “aged” taste. So they’re actually very mild and taste sorta like a cross between mild cheddar and mozzarella. Only WAY better. Another key to a good fried cheese curd is preparation. They must always be battered (NOT breaded like so many mozzarella sticks) and surprisingly too much batter kills the taste. You want just a thin layer of batter on there before frying it so the grease can be absorbed and cook the cheese but not so the grease is overpowering the fresh flavor of the curd.
Here’s a good example I found:
And you’re right, minnesotablue and mr. schprock- they are loaded with fat and grease and sodium and all the word’s evils. But they are so rich and intense that I don’t think I know anyone who could eat the whole serving shown above. Dean (who deeply enjoys his dairy products and fried foods) wouldn’t even tackle a whole serving. I think I actually ate more than he did.
Fried cheese curds, as I mentioned, are a staple at county fairs, special events and the Minnesota State Fair, where they are usually sold out of a trailer that looks like this:
The State Fair is known for serving excellent dairy (there’s a building devoted to dairy products including statues carved from butter and a long line for the best milk shakes in the state) and for its fried food. Cheese curds are at the intersection of these temptations and a must for any fair goers. But the other fried food is awesome, they come out with new stuff every year. It used to be that when my mom and stepdad would go, they would email me a list of the new fried foods there, and I’d forward it to Randy who’d get a huge kick out of it. Past experiments have included fried candy bars, pickles, Twinkies and spaghetti and meatballs. If you want anything much more exotic than that, you’ll have to go to Wisconsin.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Dean was in town this past weekend. He left this morning, and just now I have been able to pull myself together and tell you all what a fun weekend we had. Wednesday night of last week, I went down to the in-laws to stay with them and so I could be around when we went and picked Dean up from the airport. He didn’t come in until very late, and despite my attempts to nap before we even left to go the airport, I was wound up all night and got very little sleep. Friday, after practically requiring a coffee IV drip, I went to work and gave my first presentation since starting. It was basically just a summary of what I have gotten done so far which turned out to be very well received. It gave me a little boost.
Friday night Dean and his family went to Dean’s brother’s HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION. Yes, we had some geriatric moments this weekend seeing Kent and all his friends graduate when they were supposed to still be playing little league. Darn. I had to work too late, so I beat them home and watched while the Twins get spanked by the Nats. Yes, I worded that correctly.
Saturday, I helped Sylvia around the house while she was trying to get Kent’s graduation party in order. After coming frighteningly close to going postal over some deviled eggs, Dean whisked me away for a date at the Twins game. Now, despite the fact that it was Joe Mauer Batting Title Bobblehead Night, we did not wait in line. We are both adults with good paying jobs whose time is worth more than sitting in line and cringing every time the people in back of us tell someone about how their niece’s best friend’s sister was little Joe’s babysitter, don’t cha know. That’s exactly what ebay is for, thank you. Around 2:30pm we drove to the Mall of America and jumped on the light rail to avoid downtown traffic and parking. That got us to the ‘Dome about a half an hour before gates opened. The lines for the bobblehead were so long that they all just wrapped around the stadium and nobody could tell which line was going where. For a fraction of a second we thought about getting in line on the off chance we weren’t too late. However, it was strolling hand in hand down the plaza that the unmistakable aroma of deep-fried concessions seduced our noses just like the nebulous finger-under-the-nose from the cartoons. We each got a corn dog and then split the heavenliest of all the fried foods: cheese curds. It was while I was chewing one of these perfect little nuggets, my mouth wide open to dissipate the heat from the fryer and grease running down my arm that I commented, “This is SO wrong.” My loving husband’s reply: “If cheese curds are wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Truer words have never been spoken.
After we annihilated the cheese curds, we grabbed beers and got in line just as the gates were to be opened. We figured it would be awhile before we actually made it to the door. It turned out we were only about 25 people away from getting in when they ran out of bobbleheads. We were a little bummed because if we were going to miss it, we wanted it to be by a lot. But as a consolation, we got two raffle tickets for the second chance bobbleheads, which would give me something to do between innings. We still didn’t regret our choice: they don’t sell deep fried cheese curds on ebay.
The game was fun, Johan had his stuff even though he got the loss due to our ridiculous looking offense. We sat in front of a nearly-albino family from Fargo whose lack of baseball knowledge was making Dean visibly uneasy. To keep from being too upset by the Twins’ dismal outing, I kept drinking beer and watching the second chance bobblehead raffle. It paid off too because I won one! Admittedly, the beer made it seem like winning a Joe Mauer bobblehead was the highlight of my life (we already have several), but in retrospect it gave the evening more of a surreal glow, collecting my prize with a noticeable beer buzz and a feeling the night would never have to end.
After the game we met up with a friend of Dean’s where I took it upon myself to switch from beer to mixed drinks, because hell, winning a bobblehead makes you impervious to hangovers, right?
The night got quite blurry when Dean had to pour me back into the light rail, amongst the other downtown party goers and late shift workers. He had sobered up well before he needed to take us home from the mall, but he still had sympathy-drunk pangs and stopped for Taco Bell. Unfortunately, going home drunk didn’t mean going back to our ghetto apartment and spilling cat food all over the floor because it is way past dinner. It meant going back to the in-laws' house the night before Kent’s graduation party. Dean’s charming, lovely, perfect wife woke up the household, including a much-bemused new graduate. I’m sure Sylvia hadn’t gotten to sleep much before that but I definitely woke her up with my flailing and insistence that yes, I most definitely ordered hard-shelled tacos; the employee must have had it out for me.
So I was moving a little slow on Sunday for the party but I didn’t let it stop me from enjoying the beautiful weather, the fantastic food and the company of family and friends. It was nice to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in awhile and meet new people I’d heard stories about for years. And when it ended seemingly just moments after it began, Dean’s parents and brother got to enjoy having him around for his last couple of days. But for me, going back to work on Monday was like pulling teeth. I was inconsolable all day despite the fact that Dean hadn’t even left yet. It was the anticipation of saying good bye for three more weeks that caused the waterworks to come on full blast. And even though we had a fun time last night, there was a thick “good bye” rain cloud looming over us the whole time. So today although the worst of the storm has passed, isolated showers have occurred and are bound to persist until I see him again on the fourth of July.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
So I was shocked the very first time that I worked up the courage to look at my blog at my new job. The background color wasn't at all the same on this crappy CRT monitor that it is on my lovely LCD screen on my laptop. Rather than the sort of khaki color I was used to, it looked more like urine the morning after a long night of drinking. U.G.L.Y. So I don't know what to do. I don't have a lot of time to post let alone mess around with changing my whole template. But I just have to know, what color is my background on your computer?
Sunday, June 03, 2007
- Baseball. Duh. As a corollary,
- Baseball Players’ Behinds. It doesn’t get much finer than watching practice in the sun and seeing all those specimens. Okay, enough with the dirty stuff.
- Books. Again, duh, but I couldn’t not put it on my list. Let me just clarify though that as much as I love reading, I love books themselves. I love brand spanking new books with intact spines. I love old musty library books. I can stare at my own books for an absurd amount of time, taking ones I haven’t read off of the shelves and rereading the backs in anticipation of getting to them someday. Here’s what I’m reading now. I highly recommend it, for those who aren’t squeamish.
- B, the magnetic induction vector. I can’t work in magnetism and not include the fundamental quantity that we measure!
- Babies. Not just human babies, pretty much baby anything. I think you all know how much I love my “babies” back home (here’s a picture of Wrigley as a baby!), and even my outside babies. Not to mention the human baby fever that has possessed me with a vengeance over the last months. But really I say baby anything because I could just sit and watch baby animals all. Day. Long.
- Bling. I’m not really known for being particularly girly or flashy but I love me some jewelry. I love looking at it online, or on other people. I was in heaven picking out my engagement ring and my wedding ring. You may not really think that being a physicist and loving jewelry is an obvious match, but any scientist can tell you about the miraculous properties of diamond. And I selected the stone in my engagement ring especially for its superior faceting and the way its angles reflect the maximum amount of light.
- Beaches.Still my favorite thing about Florida is living by so many great beaches. We don’t go nearly as much as we used to, but we still try and stay at a beach hotel every year for my birthday. The serenity of listening to the rhythmic lapping of the ocean, and being unable to discern the water from the sky are what it’s all about. Throw in a pina colada and an umbrella and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be at any given time.
- Barack. Love. Him. I read The Audacity of Hope after I got it for a Christmas present and let me just say I am firmly planted on the Obama bandwagon. ‘Nuff said.
- Baked Goods. I have an unbelievable sweet tooth and nothing satisfies it like home made cookies, cakes, brownies and bars. I had to squeeze in something food, and this encompasses so many of my favorite things.
- Being Dean’s wife. Lame? I don’t care. Any list of favorite things has to have him on it!
There you have it. If anyone else wants to partake in this fun, let me know and I’ll assign you a letter!