Friday, December 25, 2009

Chance of rain : 90%

I'm not sure what Merry Christmas means right now. We've gone and bastardized all of our traditions to hell, and just when we were going to have the picturesque white Christmas, it warms up 3 degrees, rains, and we are stuck with slushy gray Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Knock knock. Who's there? Plato.

Saturday night, it was roughly 11 pm, and I was making my way towards St. Michel for one last hurrah at the Canadian bar (yes, you read that right). I am sitting on a bench next to guy-with-10,000-lbs-of-luggage waiting for the 4 train, reading Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar...understanding philosophy through jokes because I went a little crazy at W.H. Smith yesterday (yes, Shakespeare and Co, I cheated on you).

The guy looks over at me, I can tell he's lurking. I make sure to keep my head down. Then he speaks, in English with an accent I can't quite place. But not French. "What is that book about?" Or something of the sort.

I tell him philosophy. With a French-ish tint to the word. Since it's the same word, I am hoping to convey to him that he can also address me in French. He continues in English, to my annoyance, to say something to the effect of, what, philosophy so late at night? At this point I've gathered that he's pretty fluent in English, and not French. And if such is the case, how is it that he can't read the stupid cover of the book?

"Jokes," I say, defending myself, "It's about jokes, too." Oh, he says, okay. I just couldn't read something so intellectual so late at night.

Well, I wanted to say, then we have no business talking. But I stuck with the "it's got jokes in it."

Then, he made an effort to advance the conversation. I, trying to read my "intellectual" book, did not so much appreciate.  "So, what do you think of the metro system?" Seriously? What do you think of the metro system? I told him that it got me where I needed to go. It wasn't as nice as the London system, but more extensive. He did one of those things where he didn't completely understand my point, and nodded in agreement while saying something completely contrary to what I had just said about London.

Trying to live by the categorical imperative, I didn't tell him he was an idiot. I smiled and made sure that I entered the train through a different door, and continued reading my philosophy jokes.

I then made my way to a Candadian bar, where I proceeded to have a conversation with some guy about football, which turned into why he hates the rive droit, and could never live anywhere except for Montparnasse. When Minnie arrived, I was somewhat relieved, because he was about 10 years too old for me to even think about it, but was also a little disappointed. I am finally to the point where I am comfortable having a conversation in French. And I was talking to a real, live French person about something unrelated to school.

Instead, Minnie, Jess and I had a grand old time with a couple of French Candadians that came to watch Montreal play the NY Islanders (hahahaha. Long Island is still funny). They stuck around for a few too many drinks, and I found myself at a café sharing an 8 euro bowl of ice cream with Jess at 5 am waiting for the metros to open.

I'm a little proud of myself for finally having the out-all-night night, the day before everyone leaves. On the other hand, I'm still tired.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And the band continues on...

I've showered at least. And, techinically, written something in English.

A small note on how my life is going right now

Things I would like to do right now:
- Sleep
- Shower
- Get through the rest of Confederacy of the Dunces and Anna Karenina
- Write something in English
- See my family
- Ride my bike

Things I would not like to do right now:
- Write 5 more pages of French
- Polish 45 pages worth of French
- Sit around Reid Hall
- Worry about a presentation that is "only" 15 minutes worth of on-the-spot French about some scientific things that I really only pretend to know about, going either before or after Minnie who actually knows about them
- Continue going to class tonight and for the rest of the week because the end of the semester is no reason to stop teaching
- Think about my grades this semester

On the bright side, the below freezing weather has at least brought the sun out to say hi for the first time since around mid-November.

On an even brighter side, I had the best experience in the metro this morning. I was sitting there, reading my book, acting normal(ish), and some rather lanky guy gets in at Rue Saint Maur (stop 4 of 10 before my correspondance) with a suitcase. He decides to stand in such a way that his ass is directly in my face. At first, I was surprised, then I decided that his ass wasn't so bad. That is, until he took his hand and (no, he's not really going to do that is he??) started picking. Yes, picking. Adjusting, if you will, though a little far back for that kind of adjustment. I was momentarily startled, and intrigued. My eyes wandered from ass-hand-man to scan the rest of the car. Thank God, some guy across the car from me had also seen it. We made eye contact, and both started laughing hysterically. I put my head back in my book, hoping that Ignatius P. Reilly could save me. But no, I couldn't stop laughing. When I got to 10 out of 10, I was still laughing. It wasn't until the awful stench of Parisian sewer hit me as I was walking from the 4 to the 3 that I finally wiped the smile off of my face.

This would have been a great story--but the fun didn't stop there. Towards the end of my morning journey, as I was walking near the Luxembourg Gardens towards the Institut Géographique at the Sorbonne, I passed a woman getting money out of the ATM. I started with the normal bottom-up size-up. cute black boots, interesting stripey tights/hose, and... and nothing. The skirt that should have been there simply wasn't. I know that leggings-as-pants have somehow made their way into mainstream acceptance, but these were decidedly more sheer than leggings. Definitely ho-siery. The kind that have been through a few wears, are a little more stretched in places that when you first bought them because you aren't a stick figure -kind of ho-siery. I continued upwards : leather jacket, beret worn in a French-French way, not off to the side all ghetto-like. I don't understand why this woman wasn't wearing any pants. Still don't.

Toutefois, I shrugged it off and continued walking. This is the city, after all.

Day complete.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Random thoughts that have come to me after a day of paper-writing, plus the Menorah Mobile!

I am obsessed with this drink that i have concocted. Lots of drip coffee, a little bit of cocoa powder, some milk, and a spoonful of sugar or honey (depending on my honey stores; low, at the moment).*

I am obsessed with it for several reasons, one being it allows me to mix up the coffee schedule a little bit. The second, though, being that I'm infatuated with how good it is. Not like "I just drank straight sugar" good, but a real quality beverage. It kind of reminds me of the Peet's mocha (reason #3 for obsession). Obviously, I use good coffee. I really lucked out with my famille d'accueil. My host dad keeps having to go to Latin America for business trips, and keeps bringing me back fantastic coffee. I love him. But the cocoa powder is what really impresses me. I bought it at Franprix, which is the crappy grocery store down the street. The New York equivalent is Morton Williams, the Ventucky one is probably that crappy little Vons on Telephone between Wells and Kimball. Anyway, it's no Whole Foods. But--then again, this is France. So the result of a splash of milk and two teaspoons of grocery store variety cocoa powder is absolute deliciousness.

Which brings me to my next point: Starbucks is terribly disappointing here. Now, maybe my standards have improved since I am in France. But I think the reality is simply that Starbucks is terribly disappointing here. For one thing, do they only put 1 shot in their talls everywhere? Because 1 shot of espresso + 10 oz. of scalding whole milk is actually kind of gross. If you get it with an extra shot it's better. But they still scald their milk. AND they don't put foam on it at all unless you ask for a capuccino. A latte should have at least a dollop. And I swear that their coffee is even more overroasted here than it is in the US. Once again, referencing above, I've lucked out on the coffee that I've been drinking at home lately, but still. I am fairly certain that the coffee isn't THAT bad at the Starbucks on 114th.

Anyway, I could be looking forward to Peet's more than I'm looking forward to Christmas. And I might have to swing by Abraço on my way back from JFK. Right...JFK. JFK to where? Still have yet to figure out where I am staying between Jan. 5th and Jan. 8th. Should do that.

In other news, it snowed here this morning. Leading to much screaming from the grandbabies as we were eating breakfast this morning, some playing outside in a skisuit from Sixtine, and me nearly freezing my toes off while running this afternoon. I forgot that the difference between 45 degrees and 35 degrees actually does matter.

The tree is finally bare (and you can kind of see that it's snowing...look in the lower left corner over by the trash).

* Note that despite being in France for months, picking up on the whole language thing, adopting the tendancy to capitlize only the first letter in titles, eating after 8 pm, and not ordering anything apart from what is explicitly written on the menu, I still CANNOT get rid of the Oxford comma. I GIVE A FUCK ABOUT AN OXFORD COMMA, Vampire Weekend, I do. It should be there.

OMG. As I was posting this the first time, the most exciting moment of my week passed by my window. A MENORAH MOBILE. With music blaring out of the speakers.  This is better than the second coming. I didn't get a great photo, as it was moving as I was trying desperately to find the camera icon on my iphone. For a better photo, see here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just in case you haven't seen this yet

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yes, I use omfg.

Omfg. Buche de Noel. Should be illegal. (photo: wikimedia commons)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

On cultural differences

I am a big hypocrite. I have made a language pledge. Je ne parle QUE français jusqu'à 18 décembre [correction appended. It's been a long day]. I will not speak english until dec. 18th. Of course, here I am, writing in English. Mais les mots qui viennent de la bouche seraient que français. But the words that come from my mouth will only be French. I am really making an effort to make my French as good as possible before I leave. But at the same time, I have figured out in my time here (well, over the last 4-5 years I guess), that if I don't write things down, I will explode. We are talking guts everwhere, heart over there on the other side of the street, person walking behind me covered in brans and bits of skull -kind of exploding.

Much like the type of exploding that Minnie and I have discussed might happen to Long Island some day (three hours is a long time to sit through a lecture about natural catastrophes without coming up with some funny notes with your neighbor about catastrophes that would make the world a better place). Only then, Long Island *surfers* would be come Connecticut surfers. Maybe, though, it would just sink after it exploded and become like the Great Barrier Reef. Just think of it: Long Island, the 8th natural wonder of the world. Fantastic. Home to the first scuba-diving mafia. Wow, I got really off track with this whole "exploding Long Island" thing. my mind has come up with some interesting things since I have been in France. It's the language thing. It's inspired creativity.

On Thanksgiving, I called Rob and Sam, and at some point in the conversation Rob asked me what about the culture that I would adopt. I was somewhat caught off-guard by this question, trying to think of the things about the French culture that are different from American culture (more specifically differences between Paris and New York). What I was thinking at that moment, and I still believe, is that Paris and New York are somewhat like fraternal twins. They don't look exactly alike, but occasionally without seeing each other in the morning they end up with the same outfit on. Much of the cultural differences here I cannot bring back to the United States. I mean, I could go around speaking French to everyone, but that would just be annoying and make me look even more pretentious than people already think I am. I can't stay home all day Sunday and have a bug party with my family because my family lives in California. The bread isn't good enough to walk around with a baguette in my hand (not to mention the whole gluten thing--I don't really eat bread here unless I get invited to a fondue party). And while I could adopt the idea that religious symbols shouldn't be worn in schools, I don't think that would get me very far. I could also start drinking only espresso, but that would just get expensive. Don't even get me started on the whole not-exercising thing. Everyone knows that just turns me into a (bigger) bitch.

It was only a day or two later that I realized that there will (hopefully) be one difference that I do bring back. I only wish that it was raw milk cheese, but that's still illegal in the US. RELAXATION. Not relaxation in the straightforward definition of it, because I've got enough stress going on in my life with family problems and 50 pages to write in French (yeah, I've already got 25 of them done, but still). But the idea that I don't have to have 1000 things going on in my life to feel fulfilled. I don't have to rush from one thing to the next, in an endless cycle of busy-ness like I'm am a little bumblebee. Obviously, the reason that I don't have a million things going on here in France is because of the situation : I am not here long enough to get involved in most things, I was a little slow on the uptake, I live 45 minutes away from where I got to school so lots of free time is taken by commuting, and I wanted to have ample time to travel. But at the same, it is a very French thing to relax a little bit more in life. I have tried to adopt that, and it's getting me far. N'inquiète pas. Don't worry about it. I love that phrase, along with pas de souci. No worries. Don't get your panties in a bunch.

I've already started adopting that ideal for next semester, by dropping out of the turkeyshoot race. Trying to be an editor at Spectator would stroke my ego, but not do much more on the positive side of my life. I know how to be an editor, I know how to manage things. What I don't know how to do is get through a semester feeling like I did more than scrape by. The big decision was between cycling and Spec. I knew that I couldn't do both after last semester ended up with me depressed and in therapy. So, I thought about it. Spec meant being proud of myself, working hard and late for little gain, other than my name on the masthead. Cycling means 9 weeks of laughter and my best friends, plenty of exercise,  and a complete break with my intellectual side. I don't know how that was ever a competition. Healthy and happy vs. unhealthy and miserable. I am really excited for spring 2010.

So, Rob, there you have it. I won't bring home the eating dinner at 9 pm or the love for fois gras or even the esteemed raw milk cheese. But I will bring the outlook on life. Pas de souci, pas de souci.

Monday, November 30, 2009

L'identité nationale

"Le débat de l'identité nationale" is all the rage right now in France. And by that, I mean the meta-discussion of whether France should even be having the debate over their national identity is all the rage in the French media right now. Perhaps the lede of the Times article on the subject said it best: 

PARIS — France, a nation endlessly fascinated with itself since at least as far back as the Gauls, is again engaged in a bizarre and deeply political debate over its identity.

There was a poll done this weekend which came up with some interesting results. More than 2/3's of the French population (in the range of 72%) think that this is a ploy by President Sarkozy and the UMP (the center-right party) to drum up support for next March's regional elections. This is important because out of the 22 régions in France, only two are controlled by the right (and one of them is Corsica--oh, Corse, you aren't really French). The rest are controlled by the left, notably the PS, Partie Socialiste.

However, 57% of the population, meaning at least 15% of the people that think this is a UMP ploy, STILL think having a national identity debate is a good idea. Oh, the French. The intricacies of their culture make me laugh. Until I start thinking about it, and realize how alike our cultures are. The roots of the national identity debate are a changing demographic and waves of immigration. If we were to have a similar debate be proposed in the United States, the results of such a poll might not look so different. Of course, because of different definitions of the words "equality" and "liberty," the poll results would probably look quite a bit different when broken down by race, class, state, gender. The French don't have those distinctions (legally speaking). They only have "les citoyens" and "les étrangers."

Which is fine. Although, as a result of that very black-and-white distinction, the national identity debate makes even less sense to me. But then again, I am not française. I am a white, female, Roman Catholic(ish), California/New York, city-dweller, liberal thinking American. So I just don't understand.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Oh, Sunday

It's raining, as it is apt to do in Paris these days. And I am inside, holed up, doing homework. And listening to 90's music.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Sometimes, I like to tell people that I am a farmer's daughter and I grew up on a farm in southern california. It's rather hilarious to judge their reactions. They don't know that I'm afraid of dirt. :) And this is Indiana, not anywhere near where I am from.

L'ode to rugby

ast night I found myself at Stade Jean Bouin to watch Stade Francais play Stade Toulon. There are many reasons that I have fallen in love iwth rugby since being here. But this photo really sums up the most important of the reasons:

Who wears short-shorts? Rugby players wear short-shorts. And pink, in the case of Stade Francais. Then they get really violent with absolutely no padding, and run around kicking the crap out of each other for an hour and a half. And people pay money to see it, and it's fantastic!

(Photo: Presse Sports, by way of Stade Francais website)

And then they do things like scrum. It's funny because on the way to the game last night in the metro, we were discussing the female equivalent of porn. We came up with ice cream. But obviously, the answer was right in front of us. Rugby. No other game in the world combines pink short-shorts with bleeding from the head and calls it a good time.

[Photo: Independent (U.K.)]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

en français et anglais

Finally some new material! In French! And in English!

Monday, November 23, 2009


I was reading this article that my sister published this morning when I got a really vivid image of childhood rushing back to me. I have a feeling that this could be the start of a lifelong thing, reading Nancy's articles, but I digress.

There is a line about never having a Spice Girls faze, and then it goes on to divulge that her first CD was the soundtrack from Dexter's Laboratory. I remember that. I remember that mostly because we went to get our first CD's together. My mother took us, we went to the mall. I picked out Spice World, and Shaunacy, Dexter. This was shortly after I came to the conclusion that a taste in music isn't something that just comes to you in order to make you cool/when you become cool/when you become a teenager. It's something that you have to work on and develop. It was a mind-blowing conclusion to come to as an 8-year-old. It would take work to be cool. I started that work with the Spice Girls.

I remember unwrapping my CD as soon as we get in the car. We were driving around the back of the mall, back by the trees and the garbage cans. Of course "the mall" at this point predates the construction of 2nd floor and gigantic parking apparatus. Back when it was called Ventura Mall, rather than "Pacific View." It also predates the period when I actually lived in Ventuckalicious. My knowledge of the town was fairly limited: there was that "other" skating rink where I started skating, the mall, St. Bonnie's where my cousin went for a while, and Pierpont Racquet Club/smelly beach. Oh, and the rope swing at Harbor Beach. Never forget the rope swing. I didn't know how these places were linked, though. I just got in the car, put my head in a book, and a chapter or two later we were there.

Anyway, we were driving through the back parking lot, and I remember my mom asking me (in a mom-like way, and before I knew that she knew the word fuck), why in the world I was opening it. This may have predated the Volvo and its CD player. I replied that I just wanted to look at it. And promised not to leave the trash in her car. I may have lived up to that promise. This was about time that I stop thinking of the pouches behind front car seats as personal trash cans. But no promises. I can't remember if Shaunacy followed my lead in unwrapping hers. The crinkling of the wrapper is always contagious. But it's possible that she followed instructions. She always had more patience than me.

After many painful minutes of trying not to leave residue on the case while trying to get off that annoying sticker off the top of the CD, I finally succeeded in taking my first CD into my grubby little paws. Of course, my hands have rarely ever been grubby, and I had seen my parents hold CD's enough to know how to do the two finger thing, with the pointer through the center piece and the thumb on the outside. And that's it. That was my first CD. Spice World by the Spice Girls.

Shortly afterward, I was hanging out with my grandma, and in some stroke of insanity she decided that we should rent a video. One of the two or three times in my twenty years with her that I saw her VCR in use. No idea how the two of us got the stupid thing to work. But I, of course, rented Spice World the movie. There are only two things that I remember of that movie. The first is wondering, an hour through, when the previews were going to be over and the movie with the real plot was going to start. The second was when the bus jumped the bridge. That was pretty cool. But that was pretty much the end of my Spice Girls faze. I had discovered 'NSYNC. And a cute little girl named Britney.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I decided that I'm no longer in such a place that I need to use my blog extensively as my therapist. Therefore, I no longer need to block my blog from being posted to the entire world on Facebook.

Yes, this is a logical fallacy as my blog is also open to the entire world. But there are only a handful of people that read it if I don't post it to facebook. I found that I would write things very personal, and as a result of Facebook people would add comments that were pedantic and only served to depress me more. Now that I'm posting things about France (and arguably more mentally stable), publishing my blog seems more efficace.

Notice I got lazier as time went on with this one.

In the spirit of non-existent Thanksgiving, and after reading Nancy's blog (which I feel I must at least try to live up to, malgré tout I will never be the rapper she is), I have decided to bring some optimism into my life. Not that I'm not optimistic, I am. I just feel that enumerating the list might just make me a little happier.

Of course, this "Paris is great for these reasons" list is shortly to be followed by "Paris is great, but...I still love New York for these reasons"

1. The architecture. Nothing can beat the sheer beauty of Paris. It's buildings are diverse in some ways, but uniformly beautiful. I try to spend as much time as possible walking with my head up (which can sometimes cause bumping-into-people problems). But it's so worth it.

2. The changing of the leaves. Not that this doesn't happen in my part of the world, but something about the beauty of the colored trees against the beauty of the buildings makes it striking. There is also a better blending of the nature with the landscape here. There are trees on the streets, rather than just in Central and Riverside parks, and I live in a house with a courtyard, which means I can really see the day to day change. I remember the evening when I looked outside and realized that the green vines growing against the living room wall had turned a vibrant pink.

3. French. I am going to miss French a lot. It's frustrating, and hard to understand, and I am far from fluent. But at the same time, it's a gorgeous language. More often than not when I get lost during a lecture, it's not because I can't understand, but rather that I've fallen into the beauty of the rhythm, just enjoying the sounds instead of comprendre them. And yes, sometimes I can't think of a word in English, so I just use the French. I also have a great appreciation for the opportunity that I have to speak French all the time. I am finally starting to notice my French getting better, so I want to use it all the time. I can't believe that in just a month I won't be able to use it every day.

4. Reid Hall. There is the small-school atmosphere that I don't have at Columbia. It reminds me a little of foothill, where I felt that I trusted some of the staff more than most of the students. There is just enough bureaucracy to remind you that you aren't the only person in the world, but also plenty of room to find an administrator's office to cry in when you find out that your world is breaking down and you have bedbugs in the same day (theoretically, of course).

5. Europe. I love the fact that I can plan 3 weeks ahead of time and be pretty much anywhere in western europe for generally less than 200 Euro (of course, add getting to and from the airport and staying places and museum fees and the bottom line starts creeping up, but still, cheaper than from New York).

6. Meeting new people. This is pretty much my favorite thing in the world. Anyone that knows me well knows that I'm a fantastic ice breaker (woot for high school leadership) and good at the first steps towards developing new friends. It's when it gets to that middle stage where I tend to drop the ball and not be the best communicator. Bu, luckily, when you are in places for a short amount of time, that is never necessary.

7. The appreciation that I have for my own culture. Maybe this is cliché (thanks to Hansie for this realization), but I really have discovered what it is about my own culture that I love. This was just one more (giant) step in the direction of self-discovery. But now I know so much about what's really important to me. See corresponding post for this.

8. My host family. They are just awesome. And so many people got crappy housing situations, so I just have to count my lucky stars (mes étoiles de chance). Especially because they have an American coffee maker and let me use it whenever I want. It might as well be my personal coffee maker save for the few times they have guests for a meal and make some for afterwards. Also, the grandbabies. They are basically what I see Riley and Logan being in about 3 years. And so adorable.

9. Raw milk. SOOOOO good. Raw milk cheese is the thing (my) dreams are made of.

Now, on to the American in me. Things that I am thankful to be going back to:

1. My BIKE! And the ability to ride it whenever I want. And all the things that go with exercising 6 days a week. And the GWB, and 9W, and River Road, and Piermont. Mon Dieu, you have no idea how many times in a row I would climb Tweed to be able to get back on my bike.

2. The cycling team. I miss them so much. Probably more than I miss my bike itself (maybe?). Liz and Rob and Sam should all have their own numbers here, but that's not very efficace, is it?

3. Living near campus. Taking the smelly and dirty metro 40 minutes each way each day really cramps my style, and my sleep schedule.

4. A kitchen. While I technically have one, my family is usually using it, and I feel awkward making things that aren't microwavable. I am pretty sure they think I am a cooking failure.

5. Sushi. M2M, where are you????

6. Coffeehouses. Café culture there is here, but coffeeHOUSE culture there is not. It's French. It's all about the conversation, not about the coffee. The Starbucks here can't even make a proper latte. I need an Abraço latte so bad it hurts. I need someone who knows how to make a heart in the foam.

7. The New Yorker and its relavence to me. Mon Dieu I miss living in Manhattan. Also, file under this heading, Time Out and NY Mag

8. People, people, people. God, I miss you people so much. I feel like the holidays are going to be difficult to get through. When did I get so emotional?

9. English Literature. Reading, writing, playing with words in my home language. It's harder to have fun with words that you don't know the meaning of intrinsically.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pumpkin Risotto

I have to do something to celebrate Halloween...

2 tbsp. Olive Oil
150 g Aborio Rice
150 g Pumpkin Purée
dash nutmeg
2 dashes cinnamon
dash garlic
sea salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add salt and add rice. Let cook in oil for 2-3 minutes. Add water just to cover rice, let simmer until water is nearly gone, add more water. As rice simmers, add spices and pumpkin. Continue to add water bit by bit until rice is cooked, stirring continually (about 2 cups of water, over 20-30 minutes).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Les livres

One of the strangest things that I have found about France is that it has driven me to once again become the voracious reader that I was in elementary and middle school. Perhaps this is because I have more time. In general, I am only taking four classes. And more specifically, I find myself on the metro for at least an hour daily to get to those classes, so therefore reading is a practical way to pass the time.

Reading is also something that I like to do when I am not stressed out. Here, I don't feel the constant pressure to get on my bike for 30 miles, do reporting, write an article, write an essay, and do the 100ish pages of academic reading (NOT the kind of reading that I'm talking about here) that needs to be done in order for me to continue existing at Columbia.

While this is all true, I think that I've also found myself reading more because it's comfortable. In a world where know relatively few people, and like even less of them, reading allows me an escape into whatever culture and experience in which the plot happens to be set. It's not that I don't like it here, I love it. It seems that every time I walk outside something happens to me worth talking about. I've been storing them up for when I decide to write the next Great American (expariate) Novel. Even so, it's still uncomfortable to be in a foreign country with few friends. So I delve into Anglo-literature.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my Stylistic class really lost. There was just something about the text that we were reading that I simply couldn't connect with. I understood the meanings of each sentence, after working with it for a while, but I still didn't get the point of the article. It was like I saw five different points, but I didn't see how they connected to become a star.

In the middle of class, my professor began circling to hand back essays from the week before. When he handed me mine, and leaned in to begin discussing, my mind just went blank. And then I felt myself trying to fight back tears. All I could see were the marks on my paper, and the grade. The worst part of being in France is the grading of my French. For some reason Columbia will not allow a person to take any language class for a pass/fail grade. Not matter if you have fulfilled the language requirement, if you have no interest in the major, if you are just trying to learn for your own cultural interest. It is impossible for me just to want to learn French. I have to excel at French. Ca m'enerve.

So, when it gets too much for me, I read.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Mannekin Pis, among other things

While much of Brussels is rather ugly, there are brief points of architectural glory. The residential parts of the city remind me a little of San Francisco. There are long, narrow, and individualistic houses (that all kind of go together), and plenty of pointiness to the roofs.

This is a globe made out of old shells, a really interesting commentary on global violence.

How can you not think that these little Belgian kids are cute? We noticed early in the day that there were a bunch of sout-looking kids running around, and then, in front of the pissing boy fountain (see below), a group of them asked us for a picture--for us to take a picture of them. We figured out that they were on a scavenger hunt (we think). Otherwise, we are just creeper-cougers.

The Mannekin Pis (Dutch for Pissing Boy). Well, obviously many replicas of the actual mannekin pis, but I like him better in color. See here for history, as I don't have time to go into it.

Every once in a while they dress up the Mannekin Pis, and then when they are done they put a copy in a small corner room of the city museum. Photos are prohibited.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Excerpts from my letters home

Hey, so I feel like you asked me how France was a long time ago and I never replied. It's been a little crazy here. Not so much crazy as just exhausting. I'm tired all the time, even though I don't really do much, and I think it's just being exposed to different culture and a different language all the time. And when people ask me how I am I don't really know how to reply. The first things that come to mind are the complaints: things that are different, things that I wish were better, but I tend to skip over all of the really awesome things that I am beginning to take for granted, like casually walking by architecture every day that is older than the United States, and feeling like I improve every day with my French, even as I am getting more frustrated by my lack of fluency. So...Paris is an emotional roller coaster. But I am doing my best to deal with it proactively. I write as much as possible (though a lot of times I skip writing to watch American television). But now I'm doing this journalism project in French, so I am being forced to write, to think about journalism and my writing, and to try to build a bridge between this weird new place the life that I know that I love...

Le week-end dernier, j’ai dormi beaucoup pour que je puisse me rattraper les heures de dormi perdu le week-end avant. Mais la dernière semaine, j’ai aussi commencé les cours actuels. Les premières trois semaines (après de l’orientation) étaient plein d’un cours intensif de la grammaire. C’était horrible, mais c’était la même chose tous les jours. Quand les cours actuels ont commencé, tout est devenu un peu plus difficile parce que maintenant mon horaire est différent chaque jour, j’ai les lectures, les devoirs plus compliqués, et l’anxiété de trouver un cours à l’université, ce qui est un procès fou et désorganisé. Nous pouvons choisir un cours d’une de trois universités différents dans le système universitaire de Paris, et toutes la trois commencent les semaines différentes. Et le cours que je pense que je voudrais m’inscrire ne commence pas jusqu’à qu’après le jour à fixer l’inscription de tous les cours pour Reid Hall/Columbia. C’est fou.

So, how's life? Life here is a little crazy. It's basically the complete opposite of life in New York. I live in a house, and we have TWO whole bathrooms (and a washing machine!), and school kind of sucks so I don't really pay too much attention to it. There are a lot of grammar nazi's running around. But the wine is good, and so is the cheese. I went to a wine tasting class the other night, and learned how to talk about wine in French, which is just about the most pretentious thing one could ever know how to do, so of course I will be doing it often.

How is your life? Any good classes this semester? Have you eaten anywhere interesting lately? I miss knowing the restaurant scene. I also miss variety. Salad, beef, and chocolate mousse/creme brulee is getting old. As are sandwiches for lunch. But I really can't complain...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bier, et plus

Ah! So many stories to tell. I can start with this one, but it really doesn't do justice to what really happened at Oktoberfest. It leaves out the grimier details--not that the trip itself was grimey. It leaves out things like the experience of sleeping on the floor of the hotel room because we had one king bed for 5 people (but only 88Euro a night!), or the incredible discomfort of sitting in one place for 6 hours straight, standing up on benches just to get away from the overweight 40-year-olds continuously blowing smoke in my face. It also leaves out the best detail: an unmentionable name that made staying out until 3 AM worth it, even though I knew I would be getting up at 8.

And other details to come, when I'm not late for a rendez-vous halfway across the city.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This one time, on the metro...

Communication is something that I have really been paying attention to lately. It's really interesting how much you can pick up from non-verbal cues. Tonight, while waiting for the subway, I noticed a young guy, early twenties, walk onto the platform with his grandparents. When the train came a minute or two later, I of course made sure to jump in the same car (fate can't happen without opportunity, bien sur).

Because of the other people in the car, grandpa was sitting in the back of the car, grandma was sitting in the middle, grandson was leaning on the wall next to grandma, and I had the perfect view smack in between all of them. Grandson was playing cool, arms crossed, looking more like security detail than anything else. Grandma was getting frisky, though. She kept saying something to grandson, and trying to get him to sit down on one of the empty seats around her. When that didn't work, she focused on grandpa. She patted the seat beside her, waved him over, and gave him what can only be described as a seductive look. Grandpa wasn't having any of it. She thought about it for a second, then decided to get a little more animated with her gestures. She tried again to elict a response out of grandson. He cracked a smile, and as she was laughing, she threw her head back and knocked her head against one of the poles behind her.

At this point, I could no longer pretend not to be watching. We made eye contact, and both started laughing as the train pulled into my station. Just as I was about to get up, she waved. I smiled and waved back as I exited. I feel like I made a new friend.

My life is average. Except it's SOOOOOO not.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I am not a huge fan of English right now; rather, I'm trying to force myself not to be, but this caught my eye this morning. I read it and it made me rather triste. I love Maureen Dowd for addressing it, as well as just being rather awesome and a bit bitchy in general. It's not something that we can afford to ignore. Part of me thinks that trying to pretend that it doesn't exist just gives it tacit approval to continue. And yet addressing it would be a politically unstable move.

I wonder if race is something that we can ever overcome. I think that it's human nature to fear change and differences. That is not to say that it is right to act on that fear, or that somehow that makes it okay. But just because it is wrong, and tout le monde knows/is taught that it is wrong, doesn't mean that it will go away. There are still people that steal, rape, murder. There always will be. It is not like smallpox, it can't be eradicated (can it?). At the same time, condoning it doesn't help the situation. We have made great strides since the 1960's. I guess I'm just a little depressed that some people could still have such thoughts.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Attempting to get back on the horse.

I went running today. A first since I've been here. The first cardio I've gotten for two weeks. And thank God, I was going out of my mind. The problem with exercise here is that 1) no one does it. Ce n'est pas vraiment francais..., and 2) when they do, they run within the confines of a park. This isn't a total surprise, since it's rare (and weird) to see people running down the streets of New York, too, but it becomes a problem for a person like me who doesn't live very near to a park, and lives up on a hill, to boot.

I tried to run once before, last week, but not only found the stadium I was told "tout le monde" runs in closed, but also had some knee pain, so I gave up and walked home. Today, I finally found the motivation to get up and try the nearest park to me, Parc des Buttes Chaumont. It's about a mile and over a hill, and because I've had a couple of Velib' mishaps trying to go places when I wasn't entirely sure of the route, I walked. I was a little nervous because the park's name describes it's terrain: Chaumont Heights/Hills. However, I didn't find it incredibly difficult. Perhaps simply because I was so happy to be getting my HR over 120 for the first time in ages (in my defense, I probably walk at least 3 miles a day, plus up and down metro stairs several times a day).

Because I didn't know where I was going, or how the neighborhood would change on the way there, I decided to leave the iPod at home and be a little more alert. Unfortunately, that also meant that I have no idea how far I went or even how long I ran. I'm guessing somewhere between 3 and 5 k, like 20-25 minutes, which was decent for my first try in weeks, with hills included.

I'm off to Reims tomorrow, so no exercising again (but plenty of champagne caves). Perhaps Sunday I'll try again.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ce n'est pas trop fort. Jamais.

Every time there is coffee in the coffeepot when I wake up in the morning (because my family hasn't left for work yet), and I reach for it, I am inevitably warned "sorry, our coffee is very strong." It happened to me the first morning with Beatrice, my host mother, and again this morning with Carlos (her partner). Both times I laugh. I say, "rien de cafe c'est trop fort." No coffee is too strong.

And so it goes with me in Paris. I have yet to find many cultural adjustments that don't suit me. Sure, the lack of exercise that people get around here is a little intimidating. But it's not unheard of to go for a run. It's possible, I will just have to try a few different things before I find what works for me. Plus, my genes are finally catching up with my. My knees were hurting yesterday when I was trying to run (love ya parents, how many knee surgeries do y'all have in total?).

And yesterday I got and activated my bank card, so I can now use the Velib', Paris's (almost) free bike service (definitely free as in free speech, not quite free as in free beer, unless you switch every 1/2 hour). There are stations everywhere, including one on the way to each of the two metro stops that are close to me. I won't be using it today though, in the pouring rain. What I will be doing today is gathering some of the things on my growing list of "things I need," including, but not limited to, an umbrella, a mirror for my room, a camera better than my iphone, a pair of boots, more scarves, possibly a coat, though not quite yet, and a swiffer (maybe). And a stain-remover pen.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Don't let me forget to write about these at some point.

I haven't forgotten. Just been busy. During orientation week, we had three different excursions, called "parcours" with a French professor. I was in the "vie politique" group, which went to the Pantheon, Cemetaire Pere Lachaise (saw all of the hommages to those that died in concentration camps, a different one for every camp, in the WWII section), Hotel de Ville (office of the Mayor of Paris), and the museum of the history of immigration, which most people didn't like but I found fascinating.

Below are two photos of the great hall at Hotel de Ville (which is normally closed to the public, as a working public building), the Pantheon, and a photo that I took of my street, which is very normal, residential, and Parisian.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Finally gone...

It's 7:22 am and I'm awake. Why is this? Probably because I'm using an extra (and not very nice) sheet set for a pillow, having packed all of mine and moved them into storage yesterday. My room is almost completely empty, save for a few things that I either need to take with me or have forgotten to pack.

I am a little depressed at the thought of leaving, but I think it partly has to do with the fact that the weather has been so bleak the past few days. It has just been spitting rain--not enough to stop you from doing things, but enough to make going outside somewhat unpleasant.

I've basically had three days straight of running errands. Have I complained yet how much I hate moving?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On the road

A little outdated. From Wednesday morning:

On the road again. We are currently in western Virginia, heading down interstate 81 towards Tennessee. This is most certainly Thomas Jefferson's America. Nothing but green pastures and corn fields, the type of place where people drive diesel trucks and go to church every Sunday. I'm surrounded by national battlefield parks and rolling hills concealing caverns.

I've been in the city so long that I feel like I barely know how to conduct myself in this situation any more. I find myself a lot less tolerant than I was on my last 2000 mile vacation through a handful of flyover states. I no longer understand why there is nothing open past 6 pm and why I can't find an iced Dunkin' coffee every 5 feet.

The first shock to my system came our first night. We set out for the D.C. area around 2 pm on Monday, putting us in the thick of city rush hour traffic by the time that we got there. After sitting in it for about 2 hours (I started throwing my water bottle around the car in frustration), we finally checked in, and found a restaurant to eat at, some 20 miles away. 45 minutes later, we come upon it to find it closed. With some quick GPS searching, we find another seafood place closeby. In a secluded little marina in the middle of nowhere we find something between a marina restaurant and a sports bar, with a menu to match. Walking outside to the deck, I was hit with a cloud of cigarette smoke. Virginia has not banned smoking in public buildings, apprently. And why would they when EVERYONE smokes?

The crowd was just a little trashy, and the only things not coated with butter on the menu were the house salad and the caesar salad. I have a feeling that I will be eating a lot of chicken caesar salad with the dressing on the side on this trip.

But I'm gradually easing into embracing the fat. Last night, in Winchester, Virginia, at a little place in the old town called Cook's Tavern, I had a really nice filet with blockberry sauce and barbecue baked beans. Disregarding the huge gobs of packaged cheddar cheese that came on my appetizer house salad, it was a really good meal. The sauce was a little spicy, a little fruity—kind of like a barbecue glaze. I was really impressed—and my steak was wonderfully rare. It could have been a little more tender, but that's just splitting hairs.

Both nights so far we have stayed at the Hampton Inn, in the grand tradition of mother. The beds are as nice as I rememeber, and always with cable and free wifi, but the continental breakfast has suffered a bit (economy?). Even so, life could get a lot worse.

As far as attractions go, we took the metro into DC yesterday to go to the Newseum. As a journalist, I have to say that I was slightly disappointed with the content. It was flashy, sure, and had some interesting exhibits, but it was definitely geared towards those without a great knowledge of the industry. The attention was definitely on the aesthetics rather than substance through most of the 6 floors of space. The two major exceptions to this were the Pulitzer Prize photography exhibit and the 9/11 corner. In those two places I was really challenged to think about what journalism is, and some of the major ethical and personal challenges that come with being a journalist.

There was a 10-15 minute loop video running about 9/11, a documentary of various journalists, mostly television and radio, that covered the story that day. It had particular significance for me, now thinking of myself as a New Yorker, to see the kind of destruction that wreaked havoc on a neighborhood that I now know and love, just 8 years ago. It became real for me, much more than it was real for me when it was happening when I was twelve years old and a continent away.

The Pulitzer's, too, were moving. There are so many photos of life just before death. To be that see those kinds of horrors, and then to relive it over and over every time you see your picture.

Anyway, we've just arrived in Staunton, VA, the site of President Woodrow Wilson's Presidential Library and Museum....

The museum was really a hit.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Road Tripping

John Brown has got to be my favorite crazy American historical figure. Emphasis on the crazy...Harper's Ferry was pretty cool today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Slept in until 9:30
Watched Greek over breakfast
Cleaned my chain and two cassettes while watching more Greek
Rode in the park without traffic
Talked to my mom on the phone for more than five seconds
Came home and watched Mad Men while having lunch
Am off to get my last timesheet squared away

It's the middle of August and it finally is summer vacation.

Shane Ferro
(805) 766-0480

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's all about performance...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Can't say that I'm upset that they lost...but it sure was fun

Il fait chaud.

I am inside the nightmare that is the French Consulate Visa Section. It's what you get when you mix French culture, American students, a handful of foreign nationals, and the New York population size. That is, a shitshow. The employees, for their part, were much more hospitable than I expected them to be. Everyone I spoke to was pleasant; though perhaps that was because I was one of the few people in there with my shit together.

Even so, my appointment was for 9:30. Not wanting to need to make another by arriving past 9:29, I arrived nearly 20 minutes early. I was promptly turned away.

--What time is your appointment miss? [puzzled look]
---9:30, sir.
--And what time is it now? [staring, condescendingly]
I bring out my phone. It shows 9:13.
---I have to come back then?
--Yes, miss.

There are a couple of things wrong with this. The first being that the visa section of the French consulate is at 10 74th St., between Madison and Fifth Ave. There is nothing within a five block radius of the place that is not another consulate, a private residence, or a doctor's office. The second problem, on my end, were the heels I was wearing. Not a good choice. Someone told me that I should dress up, it would make a good impression, just in case something was not perfect with my application. The problem with that logic was that wearing a suit dress and heels on the hottest day of the summer with 15 minutes to kill on the Upper East Side is basically the equivalent of torture. The closest place to sit (and calm my nerves) would be a coffee shop. The closest one of those would be on Lex., at 71st or 77th, a full 5 blocks away. With nothing else to do and dying for some air conditioning, I started walking. I had been walking about 7 minutes when I spotted the coffee cart on 76th and Lex. I made do with that and started walking back, not wanting to now be too late for my appointment.

It's funny how perspective can change so suddenly. As I was heading back, with the red glove blinking at me across Madison Avenue at 74th Street, I came upon a bench. Just a random bench on the northeast corner of 74th and Mad. And this morning, that bench was a piece of heaven for the 30 seconds I waited for the light to change in my favor. And waiting for the light put me in the perfect position to arrive just as the guard was opening the door for the 10 or so other people with similar appointment times. As I was the last one in, and we had to be checked in a 3x3 foot square before heading through the metal detector, there was no wall space left for me to squeeze into as I walked into the door, meaning I had to stand in the middle of the box of doom, also meaning that I got to walk through the metal detector first, meaning that once we were allowed to pass I was free to walk up the stairs and get in line first. That piece of ridiculous timing probably saved me a good half hour.

Once in line, I proceeded to wait. And wait. And one by one people were received for application check, photo, and fingerprinting. The waiting area was a bit scattered. There was the line for those to be received, but also room for those whose applications had been received to wait for another person to call them to receive the rest of their documents. That's where things really seemed to go south. No one had every document they asked for. Or they couldn't believe that they had to wait 2 weeks to come back for the stamp, or they couldn't quite speak English or French well enough. So after finally being scanned and fingerprinted and strip-searched (j/k about that one) and charged $70 for the privilege, I was told to go wait in the waiting area to be called for the remainder of my documents. I miraculously found a seat and prepared for another eon of waiting.

To my surprise, I was called up just five minutes later. Obviously noticing that the line was getting longer as more people filed in for their 10:30 appointments behind some of the 9:30's that still hadn't been helped, people were beginning to be called up three at a time. I got lumped in with a girl that I had previously seen waiting for at least a half hour, yet who didn't seem to notice when her name was finally called and never showed at the window, as well as with an Algerian girl who clearly didn't speak English, but did not seem too excited to speak French, either. She mostly stared in disbelief as the woman asked her for various documents that she did not have. My own process went rather smoothly--I had all of the required documents, and copies of them, and was handed a receipt that told me to come back in 10 days to finalize the process. I will most definitely be showing up at 8:59 in comfortable shoes and a breathable dress. Insanity.

Two hours later, the poor Algerian girl is probably still there.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Time crunch

I spent a significant portion of my weekend on this. Yankee game tonight. Visa application appointment tomorrow. Intro to IR final Thursday. Full week. Not full sentences. Later.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Remember the Schlieffen Plan?

And Schlieffen? Let's just take a moment to remember the good times...

In the same vein, this summer has been named the Manhattan Project. For more information on this development, (who, what, where, when, why), email me.

Hint: It arguably ends in tragedy.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dear summer schoolers and annoying high school students:

I am the anti-cell phone police in the 3rd floor computer lab in Lerner. Don't even think about it. I will give you dirty stares, and even tell you to get off in an aggressive whisper. Ironically, I'm also the one annoying people by continuing to use the keyboard that squeaks with every stroke of the space bar.

Have a nice day!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Everything in my life tied to the weather

I distinctly remember leaving my apartment this morning. I thought to myself as I was one flight down the stairs: "It's supposed to rain today, I should go back and get my umbrella." However, I was in a hurry to get out of the sweatbox, so I left without it. I am now sitting at Starbucks on 19th and Park, several blocks from any train that could get me towards home, watching the streets flood before my eyes. And, for the second week in a row, I am out without an umbrella in a downpour wearing my thin cloth shoes. Something tells me that I won't be track racing this evening.

This weather is something of a metaphor for my life. Cliche maybe, but it's a shitstorm that I'm stuck in without an umbrella, clear of any easy public transportation. Maybe I could take a cab in an emergency, but I'm not privledged or rich enough to really afford that.

Now that you've got that visual, I'm tired of discussing my problems. There are many strange business-looking people sitting to my left in Starbucks. They are dressed for meeting, but studying the map and snapping photos like tourists. And the guy that just walked past the window obviously was in too much of a hurry to use his umbrella after buying it that he forgot to take the rather large and obvious tag off of it. Hehe.

Sometimes, I wonder if it's appropriate to carry around a rather loud umbrella if it doesn't match your outfit? I think the girl that just walked by me with an olive green dress and a magenta umbrella proves that, no, it is by no means appropriate.

The thunder is rattling the windows. It's telling me to be less judgmental. It's voice sounds a lot like Alex Castillo when he tells me that I'm judgmental, but in a way that really just eggs me on. :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I will write at least 141 characters. Will power.

It's amazing how many times a day I can feel the need to fill 140 characters on Twitter about my life, and how little patience I have for sitting down to write a full blog post. What happened to the pages upon pages that I used to fill in my commonplace book? I guess part of it is being channeled into my therapy sessions, and the other part gets repressed when I get home at night having been out all day at work and school and the like.

I hate to think that life may well be getting in the way of my creative juices. Blasphemy. I must do something about this. Perhaps those precious days between my road trip and leaving for Paris I'll have some time to block out the world and revive my engines. Scary to think that I'll be able to fit it in only a few days. But I have to, right?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Eggless, butterless, gluten free, low fat, [but still fun] cake brownies

I just made THE best brownies (that a calorie conscious athlete could want). Actually, they are somewhere halfway between a chocolate cake and a brownie, but they are low in fat and delicious, with an interesting almost bouncy texture.

I got the idea from one of the guys on the MetLife cycling team that I hung out with in Massachusetts last weekend, Corey Masson. He made brownies at the Fitchburg race using greek yogurt and applesauce, which were much appreciated after racing for an hour AFTER kissing the pavement that day. I don't have his recipe, but I made some stuff up and took some from the little monster's vegan cookbook (obviously modifying it enough to be not vegan, though I guess soy yogurt might work if it was strained)...

1 1/2 cups flour (gluten free or otherwise)
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar (probably doesn't need all of this, next time I might try only 1 cup)
2 T. corn or tapioca starch
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2-1 t. coarse sea salt (because this is the best baking secret ever, Sam)
1 6 oz. cup greek yogurt (I used 2%)
1/4 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
1 cup milk (I used 2% again)

Mix the dry ingredients, make a well, add the wet ingredients, stir until mixed. Bake in a 9"x9" pan for 30-40 minutes.

Now back to reading about game theory.

Countdown to Paris: 7 weeks

I finally booked my airline tickets to Paris, even though it still hasn't quite sunk in that I'll be going there for a whole four months in just a few weeks. I think it might be a little bit like moving to New York. It didn't quite hit me until I was looking down on the Valley after taking off from Burbank. Even as I am in the air over the Atlantic the feeling will be fuzzy. Then orientation will be like a vacation, then school will hit and I'll be too busy to notice, and by the time it's time to leave I will finally realize that I live in Paris.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Eat carbs, just not Tasti

I was sitting in an exam room, the second one I'd been in in two days (ER yesterday for dehydration!), and the doctor was laughing at me. It's a little bit funny, because just a day or two before I had been thinking that I don't have enough humor in my life lately. But to go to the doctor with what you think is a serious problem and have him laugh it off--I was a bit taken aback. So I did what I do in any uncomfortable situation. I started laughing.

And so this was me dealing with (maybe?) the bane of my existence for the past year and a half or so: the fact that I'm gaining weight. And I don't know why. And I can't seem to stop it. I've baffled the nutritionist at Columbia. I've worried the people around me with my slight obsession/mild depression. And I go in to this guy and he laughs at me. He tells me that I'm fine, I'm healthy, and yes, it is possible that cycling could make me gain that much in muscle. And also, stay away from Tasti-D-Lite, they lie about their calories by a factor of 4 or 5 (he knows me so well already!).

Then, at the end, he gave me the kicker: if you want to lose weight, stop cycling. And there it is, the ultimate question. And it isn't even a question. Yes, my body type makes me feel inferior in a city where 2 is the new 4 and 4 is the new 14 (extra points if you know who said this), and shopping isn't quite as fun in SoHo as when I arrived in New York pre-cycling, but really all that is putting me down is my own vanity. And when he put it like that, I knew that it was time to drop it. I may dislike my muscular structure, but I also love love love racing. And I'm sure that I'll continue to struggle with this, but at least I know that I have an answer that lets me continue to do what I love without trying to starve myself or cut out all carbs, even during racing season (seriously, another doctor told me to do that).

And while decidedly not twiggy, I am still a New Yorker. Hi, my name is Shane, my therapist's name is ... Blogger.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's been raining for 2 weeks straight

Finally a breath of fresh-ish, sunny air. But have I spoken too soon?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Winning, again.

What kind of Laker fan leaves LA 10 hours before they win another championship??? I guess the kind that has work and business trips to take. It probably would have been more heartbreaking had they actually been playing in LA. Being as the game was in Orlando, I'll live.

So excited!!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Raining, pouring

When I look out the window and the rain is dripping down, sometimes it makes me feel like I am crying, or that I should be. But then I look at the latte that I just made for myself and it makes me happy again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The one where I don't have any emotions for four days, just races

It was a long week. Then it was an even longer weekend. I certainly recovered from my research mind-block. If there was such a thing as "over-racing" I think I might have done it. As there is not, I'm just tired and ready to slow down for the week and mentally prepare for next week.

My left calf is sore. Not the right one, just the left one. Either my right one is quite a bit stronger than my left one, or my cadence was slightly off-kilter at the track yesterday.

Thursday: Ride twenty miles out to a race, crit race for 20 miles or so, ride twenty miles back home.

Friday: Ride slow, attempt to freshen up the legs with 2 laps in the park.

Saturday: Wake up at 4:30 am. Race for 3 laps in the park. Practice my sprinting by getting 2nd in the prime, winning the race. Ride home. Eat something. Ride another 40ish miles. Lay on the couch the rest of the day, until Jake's with Ben.

Sunday: Wake up at a more normal time, ride the single speed to Columbia. Ride home. Take bike on Subway all the way to Flushing. Ride to track. Ride/race on track from noon to 3. Ride back to the subway. Collapse after getting home, fall asleep on the couch pre-7pm. Wake up just in time to watch Menchov eat it in Rome.

Monday: Wake up and wonder for a second why everything hurts. Remember. Look up track bikes on the internet. Ponder how to best present it to my parents that I need one. Remember that I should probably go to work soon.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Adult oatmeal

Perfect for dessert after a long twilight race/ride:

1/4 cup of raisins
1/4 cup red wine
1 packet oatmeal of your choice (I like cinnamon)
water and/or milk

Place raisins in a small container (tupperware, gladware, etc.). Fill with red wine. Let sit for 12-24 hours.

When ready to make oatmeal, boil water. Drain raisins, or simply spoon them out of the container with the wine (and drink the wine).

Add oatmeal and raisins to a bowl, cover with boiling water. Let sit for 2-3 minutes or until thick.


The one where Shane races with the boys

Last night's race report.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Almost allergen-free chocolate chip cookies

1/2 cup vegan margarine (Earth Balance)
1/3 cup natural salted peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 1/2 cups gluten free baking mix
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, mix together Earth Balance, peanut butter, and sugars until well blended.

While still holding the mixer, add egg.

Pour in the vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add baking mix, 1/2 cup at a time. Do not overmix.

Switch to a rubber spatula and mix in the chocolate chips.

Bake for 8-9 minutes.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The one where things go wrong in the morning

I'm all dressed up with nowhere to go. I got up early this morning, a feat since I was emersed in a book last night and couldn't turn the lights out until much later than the 11pm that I "went to bed." I had my good breakfast of peanut butter toast to prepare me for the intervals I was about to do. I had some coffee, kept the reading around the internet to a minimum, and donned a kit, sunscreen, and HR monitor.

Then I remembered that I needed to lube my chain, as it had been grumbling in the back for quite some time. After dropping a significant amount of lube on the chain and cogs while backpedaling, I started to shift. I shifted some more. Then my shifter broke. It started to make a weird, not quite the click of switching gears noise, and I realized that the chain was stuck in my 40-12. So I looked at the shifter, and the cable just came out. And now, twenty minutes later, I'm sitting here in my chamois writing in my blog, waiting for Mod Squad to open instead of riding my bike.

On the plus side, since Mod Squad doesn't open until 10, I probably should just work from home until after lunch, which means that I can just sit here on the couch doing my research rather than showering and getting dressed and dragging myself all the way down to 68th St. Alternatively, I could do fixed gear intervals, but that doesn't sound very fun, even in the park.

What exactly, may you ask, is it that I do? Well, I tell people that I do a lot of Googling. Which is true, to a certain extent. As a research assistant, my job is to gather as much information as possible, mostly through help from Google. But it's a little bit more complicated than that. I am researching free and open source software policy in Iceland for a project with the Software Freedom Law Center. So I am attempting to find very specific information that I'm not sure actually exists. I rely a lot on European Union and Nordic Council data.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I am going to Iceland in June. And I will be in the Arctic for the summer solstice. Yes!

Spring Quinoa

I made this for my vegan feast today. I like it because the ingredients have some depth, and it has a lot of protein for those meatless friends of mine. Quinoa has 9g of protein per serving--the most of any grain. It is also colorful: red, green, and yellow; and has enough flavor to stand up to a red wine.

Spring Quinoa

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red quinoa
1/2 cup white quinoa
2 cups water or broth
5-8 spears asparagus
1/2 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
4 artichoke hearts
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt, to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan.
2. Add garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add quinoa, sautee in oil for about 1 minute.
4. Add water and spices. Bring to a boil over high heat.
5. Bring heat down to medium and cook quinoa with pot covered until water has disappeared (about 15 minutes)
6. When water is almost gone, stir in cut asparagus, chickpeas, and artichoke hearts.
7. Serve warm.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dancing with myself

I am standing in my room, dancing around in an outfit that my mother probably wouldn't approve of, when it hits me--I think I am living out my dream. The semester ended for me last Wednesday. On Friday, I moved across Morningside Park (Harlem, the horror! j/k) to my new apartment with my friend Liz. Yesterday, I finally finished decorating. I've got a whole closet to myself (half of it devoted to my shoes), a full bed with no dip in the middle, every shelf in the place filled with books, and posters of my favorite works of art up on the walls. I am standing in front of the mirror, dressed like a total hipster in tattered jeans and a tank top that shows my bra straps (it's a cami today). Behind me I can see my board of theater tickets and extended line of restaurant cards. Then, of course, there is Peter up on the wall, staring me down like he's Elvis or something.

Anyway, enough with the narcissism. This stuff is all great, but it only serves to remind me of how little of the city that I have actually seen. I've been looking up dance to go see tonight all morning, and am rather miffed that the first day that I have in a VERY LONG TIME to go hang out in the city is a Monday, when the majority of the city is dark. Oh well, I guess that just means more time for me at MoMA and the Guggenheim.

Now I am watching the cat attempt to figure out how many pairs of boots that I have at the bottom of my closet. I hope cats can count above 10...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Nothing to Say. Nowhere to go. Except not.

Moving. Moving , moving, moving. Eh. I hate when I open my blog because I really want to write in it, then I figure out that I have nothing to say.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A little insane

I am reviewing for my CC final and realizing how much I love this class. Why am I not a philosophy major??

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Thinking about things other than my French exam

The New York Times' Op-Ed page is probably my favorite page in the paper. Except for the crossword, of course (but only on Mondays through Wednesdays. Thursday and Friday are just demoralizing). That's now turned into the opinion blogs, which occasionally have something worthwhile to say. I came accross a letter to a graduate this morning, by Timothy Egan, a former Times writer. I may not be graduating, but I sure appreciated the pick-me-up.

At times, your life will have moments, days, even weeks of despair. Trust me: there is no bout of blues that a rich Bolognese sauce, filling every cubic inch of kitchen air, cannot cure.

And that brings me to: Take risks. I don’t mean ski the double diamond runs, ask for a card in blackjack with 15 showing and the dealer holding a king, or hit a high note in a karaoke bar, while sober. That goes without saying.

Fear of failure can be a motivator or an inhibitor. The latter is crippling, and ultimately leads to a life of missed opportunities. That’s why Teddy Roosevelt’s most famous dictum, sadly wasted on the French during a speech at the Sorbonne, was praise for the person “who comes up short again and again,” praise for the man “who fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Ever since I got to Columbia I fell like I have been underperforming. Perhaps not underperforming, but it is certainly more difficult to go above and beyond when everyone is that person. I equate average-ness with failure. Certainly it's not failure outright, but I tend to judge myself by my own standards, rather than other people's, so when I don't meet my own expectations, I feel that I have failed.

This gives me hope, though. Hope that if I keep trying, setting my expectations much higher than I can ever hope to achieve, then someday I might find myself somewhere completely unexpected. I think the bigger failure is living a life full of regrets.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What? Media on the internet? What?

For a Mass Media paper that I am writing, I tried to recycle some information (not plagerize, but build upon) that I wrote last year, first semester, for my writing class. I don't know if I have gotten that much better at research, or if there has been that much shift in culture in 18 months, but it is completely outdated. This is slightly disturbing to me.

I now feel like life is kind of like a bike race (shocker). It's barrelling along, and if you aren't solidly in the draft, you're going to be off the back like a shot, your ass royally dropped and chasing for the next eternity. Kinda scary. But also kind of cool when you look to your side and see how GD fast you are going.

Yes, I used kinda and kind of in the same sentence. Blogs are for copy errors.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A new episode of Shane takes on too much in her life.

Banging my head against the wall. Should have a paper done by 3 p.m. tomorrow. Ah!! So not going to happen. I really wonder whether it is possible to be a good bike racer and a good student at the same time [this season/semester tells me no]. It's definitely impossible to do those two and be a good editor. I think my lesson this semester is that taking on so much just sets me up for disappointment across the board.

My biggest problem is that I don't know what I like yet, so I just continue to do all the things that I think I like. But then I just continue to produce mediocrity. What to do? I mean, obviously, picking would be a good start, but now's not quite the time to quit. Sometimes I just wish I could prove that I was good at something.

[Insert lecture about how stereotypically Columbia I am here] Maybe instead of complaining I should get on my bike and start proving that I am better than mediocre.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tweet my style.

Maureen Dowd wrote her column about Twitter this morning. It seems that everyone and their mother is talking about Twitter these days. Well, not my mother, but I always knew that my mother was cooler than most people's.

The question of Twitter is so trivial, that it in itself says something about my generation. It takes effort for me to read more than 140 characters at a time anymore. I can discuss how terrible Twitter is as much as I want, and that still won't stop be from using it. Can't stop, won't stop. What else would I possibly do at midnight walking home from the Spec office? Or on the way to class? That extra 3 blocks that living in Claremont adds to my commute time enough for me to be bored and need to share bits of nonsense.

The truth is, Twitter works because people are nosy. I love it because I get little bits and pieces of other people's lives. I get to see what weird classes they are taking. Lance Armstrong posts pictures of his training rides. I can feel like I am actually friends with people that I barely speak to. It breaks down the barriers of social interaction (much like this blog??). And yet it is not real. Reading what people post on their Twitter makes me no closer to them than I was before. The people (okay, person), that I interact with on it I also interact with by phone, by text message, via Facebook.

It's just another addiction that prevents me from doing work. But at the same time, I'll keep doing it. Because I gotta keep up with the Jones'.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An even keel?

Sickness. Awful. Saturday and Sunday I went to bed at 10 pm. Today I fell asleep after riding, about 45 minutes before my 6 pm class. Luckily, the power nap is good to me. I am feeling better.

Last night there was a complete downpour--but on the bright side, the downpour occured on a Monday, the one day that I don't care because I have no need to be on my bike. I am making some progress on my EU essay, and finally picked a topic for my Mass Media essay. Media, Internet, and the Law. Do I perhaps have a very successful lawyer friend who happens to be an expert on this subject? Yes, yes, I do. Score for me.

Also, I am at Spec for the second night in a row. Ew. BUT--that means that I don't have to be back here tomorrow! Which means...that I get out of class at 2:30 and have naught to do but be free! Well, actually, I have to ride for 2 hours then research, research, write, write, write. But the thought of being free does have a nice ring to it. I could even go do research somewhere cool and far away and not have to be back for an evening of being tied to class/Spec. I am too excited about this to actually be coherent.

I am also in the process of weaning myself off artificial sweeteners. No soda, no gum (no gum!). I decided that perhaps the reason I have so many mood swings is because of the chemicals in all of the artificial sweeteners that I consume. Plus, less soda/gum means that I can only satisfy my oral fixation (Freud alert!) with more water. Hydration = awesome.

The Tally:
Life: 4
Me: 4 (5 if you count 1 day of no Splenda, but I am withholding judgement for a week or two. It takes 21 times to kick a habit.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Exams are a-coming!

I have decided (remembered) that blogging keeps me sane. Somehow, I always forget that when things get busy, then I go way too long without writing, then, as I am about to pull my hair out, I find my keyboard and the cosmoshane url again. In order to keep myself writing, I am going to attempt to keep score of how much life is kicking my butt from now until May 13, the day of my last exam.

Until then, I have:
  • 3 research papers (for a total of 30-36 pages)
  • 1 French essay (1.5 pages)
  • 1 exam (hard)
  • 1 quiz (not so hard)
  • 5 finals (ugh.)
  • 7 (maybe 8) bike races over 3 weekends (yay! And hard.)
  • negative money (but who has time to spend money when doing all the things above?)
Currently, I have 4/10 pages written for the 1/3 papers that are due at the end of the semester. Perhaps this is a paltry amount considering I have been working on one all weekend, but the important part is that I've started. I know what I am writing about. I have several sources. The noose has been loosened just enough that I know I am still alive. AND, I've worked the term "principal-agent problem" into my paper. Score.

The verdict--
Shane: 1
Life: 0

Friday, April 17, 2009

The way Friday should be

When I woke up this morning, it was sunny outside and both the bathroom and the coffee maker were free. I knew it was going to be a good day.

Sometime between then and now, I found time to take my EU politics research outside to the steps to bask in the sun, I watched some Gilmore Girls, did some research on Iceland, made cold-brewed ice coffee, listened to my boss's stories about clerking with TM (Judge Marshall of the US Supreme Court, that is), and went to Whole Foods AND Tasti. Tasti even had good flavors today!

I also took the time to add some new gadgets to my blog: a poll which I will sporadically change to some question even more frivolous than the last, and the weather here in New York, so that those people that worry about those things can check up on how humid or freezing it is here.

In other news, check this out:

That's me there on the left demonstrating a beautiful scissor kick on a lovely day in New Haven last weekend. For a full rundown of what happened, check out the Columbia Cycling team blog.

If I wasn't in the middle of writing three different research papers (yes, at 9:40 at night on a Friday. I have no life beyond school and cycling, officially), I would take more time to elaborate on my new job and life in general.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why I'm going to miss home.

Things I've done today:
  • Driven
  • Ridden my (mom's) bike on the beach
  • Eaten Nature's Grill
  • Picked tangelos and eaten them still warm from the sun
  • Made guacamole because the avocados were just there and ripe
  • Coffee at Peet's with my whole family
  • Seen Riley and Troy
  • Hugged my mom
  • Been outside without a sweater on

If only I could do my intervals here every day

I might be faster. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Forms of transportation I have taken in the last week:

  • Singapore Airlines (international flight)
  • German taxi
  • German ICE train (business class, by mistake)
  • German local train
  • German subway
  • German above-ground metro rail
  • My bike
  • My mom's bike
  • Long Island Railroad
  • AirTrain
  • NYC Subway
  • NYC cab
  • Rental Van
  • Amtrak
  • JetBlue (domestic flight)
  • Ford Truck
  • PT Cruiser
  • Mini Cooper
  • My shoes (walking!!)
Seriously. In one week.

I still can't get this right, but I attempt to explain myself again.

My family is fucking insane, and I love them for it. Funerals are funny things. It is not an event that one particularly looks forward to, but at the same time, it brings family together and people generally end up having a good time (or at least getting trashed in some fashion or another).

I think that death is a time to be sad, to let some tears flow, but is also one of the best opportunities to celebrate life. I loved my grandmother more than could be coherently put into a statement, but I also understand that she led a full life and it was her time. Life is not eternal; nor should it be. Rather, we should focus on life as it comes, each and every day. Yesterday I truly appreciated the family that I have, each and every one of them for who they are. I am okay with what happened because I have no regrets. Like I told my dad in the car, all that time that was set aside for "coffee with Mo" was worth it. I shared with her my achievements and my dreams and my fears, and I can't imagine that I would have had a better relationship with her any other way. I have plenty of stories, plenty of ways to remember her.

Sure, I'll probably cry again. I'm tearing up a little just writing this out, but in the end I think they are tears of happiness because there is really not much to be upset about.