Friday, January 29, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday Part XXXII

1. The singer of the "If you want to be happy for the rest of your life" song from March for Life e-mailed me a recording of it. If you'd like to hear it, he's given me permission to pass it on, so just ask!

2. Icky: At a Subway this week, the menu listed an Italian sub, with Salami, Bologna, and Ham. The fine print, underneath, read "All meats are turkey based." Turkey is supposed to be a "good" meat, but when you start making it into things it clearly is not . . . something is not right.

3. To have plantar's warts removed: dermatologist or podiatrist? I'm leaning towards the former, as my most memorable past experience with the latter involved hysterical crying through the entire appointment. I was 17.

4. Also, this is sad. I was at the grocery store yesterday, and blindly navigated my cart to the wart removal section. Then I spent 15 minutes searching for the bread aisle. Dr. Scholl's is going to miss my business if I get these things to go away.

5. I'm unexpectedly taking the day off of work today. I woke up with such a stiff neck this morning, and I can't move my head without a lot of pain. I had a fun weekend planned, and have friends visiting from out of town. This had better be temporary.

6. Is anyone familiar with I signed up for it this week, and I've been using it faithfully to record my trips to and from work by foot or by Metro, but I dunno . . . it seems a little too good to be true, I guess. All I have to do is tell them I rode the Metro, and I can get free stuff?

7. Ow. Ow. Ow. My neck is killing me. I always thought a stiff neck was just, you know, stiff. That doesn't sound painful. But it is highly misleading.

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How to Eat Well as a Grad Student

Or rather: How do I eat well as a grad student?

Because I have NO IDEA. Yesterday, I googled "how to eat well in grad school" and got lots of sites that told me how important it was to be sure to eat well while you're in grad school! But none of them gave any advice at all. I don't know how I got through a year and a half without ending up either super-skinny or hugely overweight. Lots of grad school programs, like mine, pretend that they are a good fit for people who work, even people who work full-time. They are not. It is physically possible to get from a full day's work to an evening class, but it is not physically possible to do so while being able to eat a healthy, home-cooked meal, nor, for most of us, is it financially possible to do so while being able to eat a healthy, restaurant-bought meal. It boils down to two options: skip dinner, or eat dinner out of the vending machine.

I don't work full-time, not quite, which in theory should make this problem easier. Less time at work = more time for cooking, right? Oh, but also: less time at work = less money! Right. I don't know why I've been particularly frustrated by this problem this week, but I have.

Four days out of the week, this is what my schedule looks like:

7:30: Breakfast at home, make sandwich
8-4:30: Work (eat sandwich at noon)
--3:00: Start to get really hungry.
5-10: Ether class or the gym. Class is over by 8, on gym nights I head home by 9:30.
Between 8:30 and 11: Arrive home. Tired. Hungry. Some days, I haven't eaten in almost 12 hours.

Now, I have 2/3 of my meals figured out. Eggs for breakfast, PB&J sandwiches for lunch. Cheap, healthy, and portable = grad student-friendly. But I am entirely at a loss about what I can ever eat for dinner. On class nights it's not too bad. I can suck it up, and eat when I get home at 8 or 9. Not horrible. I'm hungry, but I'll live. On gym nights, since my gym class doesn't start until 7:30, I could eat between work and the gym. But given my current income, it's financially irresponsible to expect to be able to eat out 3 nights a week, and I have yet to figure out how to prepare all three of the days meals before I leave home in the morning. So lately, I've ended up skipping the gym to go home and eat more often than not, and on days when I do manage to work out, I'm cranky and hungry throughout. Then I get home, eat a full meal (you should have seen the astonished looks I got last night when my (temporary) roommates saw how spaghetti I could pile on a single plate), and go immediately to bed, it invariably being almost midnight. Sleeping on a full stomach is supposedly not good for you, either, but what choice do I have?

Those of you who have somehow survived this stage of your lives: What did you eat for dinner?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Observations on March for Life 2010

  • I think my favorite person there was the guy on a box outside the Sculpture Garden singing "If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pro-choice woman your wife. From my personal point of view, get a pro-life girl to marry you!" It's been stuck in my head for days.

  • I was a little uncomfortable with the strong religious overtones. I agree completely that all the religious assertions were true, but I have 2 concerns. First, as much as I may agree that, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" is true, it's not the base of good policy in this country. What we need to be able to create pro-life laws in America are good, secular arguments against abortion. Second, I know there are pro-life people out there who are not religious. I doubt they'd feel welcome at the March, or be able to participate without feeling like they were endorsing something they disagreed with.

  • It seemed much more crowded this year than last year, but I'm not sure whether that's because the March route was shorter; people were congregating to march at the same place as the rally, rather than several blocks away, so everyone was all crammed together.

  • I wasn't sure whether to find the huge number of high school aged marchers heartening or not. Teenagers have a pretty strong tendency to a) do what their friends are doing, and b) want to go on field trips. I wouldn't be surprised if a large number of them hadn't really given too much thought to the issue of abortion at all. However, even if that's the case, I doubt that March for Life would turn them off of the pro-life cause; it's more likely to make them default to pro-life views, which is a good thing.

  • I wish people - and this applies to everyone, not just March for Lifers - would throw their trash in the garbage! There was way too much litter on the ground when I walked down the Mall at 5pm. I wasn't sure, though, whether the "Choose Life" and "Stop Abortion" signs on the ground would turn people off of the movement ("Look at these disrespectful pro-lifers!") or serve as a continued expression of our message even once we'd left.

  • Having teenagers carry signs that say "Women do regret abortion" and "Men regret lost fatherhood" struck me as a little . . . disingenuous. I doubt that many of those girls and boys were actually regretting abortions. While I know it's true that women do regret abortion, I don't think that presuming to speak for others is an effective way to get your message apart. At the very least, I think that you end up lacking authority in the eyes of others and losing your audience.

  • What sort of signs should young people be holding? Ones that testify to our missing peers and to having survived legalized abortion. The one sign I saw that brought me closer to tears than any other was the one held by a teenager that said, "17 years ago, January X 1993, my mom chose adoption instead of abortion."

  • With all of the tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people there, I had the good fortune to run into the group from my home parish. I was shocked to find that my 8th grade CCD teacher still recognized me!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Good, Secular Arguments: Why I Don't "Trust Women"

Much like pro-lifers, pro-choicers spent January 22 blogging. The theme of this year's "Blog for Choice Day" was "Trust Women," which was the mantra of the late Dr. Tiller.

I do, of course, trust women, as much as I trust men (and probably more than I trust boys and girls!). But the issue is irrelevant to the abortion debate. As a rule, we trust people to make the best choices for their lives and their futures. Within certain parameters.

We trust people to make the decision about the best way to support their families. But we don't make theft legal! Because theft is wrong, it's bad for society, it has victims who need to be protected. Yes, we are marginally restricting the amount of decisions we trust providers to make. We don't trust them to decide whether or not to rob a bank, because to allow people to make that choice would hurt others.

We trust people to make decisions about who they want to have sex with. But we don't make rape legal! Rape is wrong, it's bad for society, it has victims who need to be protected. Outlawing rape marginally restricts the rights of men to choose who they have sex with, but it results in a better-protected right of women to make that decision. We don't trust men to make the choice whether or not to rape someone, because to allow people to choose to do so would leave victims in its wake.

Once you've established that the potential cost of misestimating the beginning of life is too great to assume that it's anywhere but at conception, it's clear that abortion hurts people. Yes, to outlaw abortion would restrict the "rights" of pregnant women. But we've established that we can marginally restrict what we trust certain people to do in order to protect the rights of potential victims. We can't trust women to decide whether or not to have an abortion, because to allow someone to choose to do so would hurt the primary victim of an abortion, the child.

We don't subjugate the rights of potential victims to a misplaced desire to trust someone in power to make the right decision for himself, without regard to whether that decision is right for others.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Pro-Life Deluge Begins

They're showing up. I saw my first pilgrim-protesters this morning, a group of teenagers and a couple of nuns on a street corner in Chinatown. I overheard my first reference between two people their office building for a smoke. ("March for Life?" one asked, and then I'd passed. No context.) Personally, today I plan to review the rules for political activity for federal employees. (I think they'll say I have to take my nametag off when I walk down to the Mall on my lunch break.)

I keep thinking back to something I heard last year when I did the same. As I walked toward the Mall, on sidewalks crowded with hundreds, thousands, of other pro-lifers, I heard an older man say to his wife, " . . . I mean, I'm against it, but I don't think you should dwell on it. Focusing on things like that is just living in the past." It was clearly abortion he was against, and clearly pro-lifers who were living in the past.

Over the past year, I've wondered, periodically, whether I should have said something to him. What would I have said, if I were of the talking-to-strangers type?

"Living in the past? It's not the past for the 3,500 women who will have an abortion today. It's not the past for the 3,500 children who won't have a future. And I have to ask, sir, since you said you were against it, why are you against it? Do you think it's the unjustified murder of innocents? Don't you agree, sir, that that's something of immense magnitude, something certainly worth 'dwelling on'?"

I've always been a bit wary of the March for Life. I wrote about this last year. What's the point, really? It seems like it makes pro-lifers feel good - as it did to me last year - but that's it. It doesn't change the way Congress votes. It doesn't change the way the White House makes policy. It doesn't change hearts or minds -- at least not when those of us who attend are too shy to talk to other people, even the people who might be sympathetic!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Brussel Sprouts and Pancetta

A long, long, time ago . . . I can still remember how that music used to make me smile . . .

Wait, wrong post.

A long, long, time ago, I came across this recipe for Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta and Almonds at Sweet Paul. I don't remember how I came across it, as I'd never visited that blog before, and I don't like brussel sprouts. At least, I thought I didn't like brussel sprouts. I certainly didn't like them flavorless and boiled into submission, the way I remember them as a child. (My mother is an amazing cook, but I'm beginning to realize there were a handful of green vegetables that she boiled when she should have roasted, baked, or sauteed them.)

That picture up at top, though, just looked incredible. It looked like something I would actually want to eat. So I saved the link and forgot about it for a good long time.

Lately, amongst my circle of acquaintances, there's been an e-mail meme (did I just use that word right? I mean chain letter, more or less) going around asking people to send 1 recipe to the person at number 1 on the list, add your name to the bottom, send to your friends, etc. So I clicked the "recipes" label in my gmail and discovered that I've only ever saved 2 recipes in gmail. I hadn't tried either of them, but the brussel sprouts caught my attention again (unfortunately, I have a distant memory of the person whose name is at number 1 on the list being a vegetarian, so this pancetta-full recipe is probably not what I will send her).

I stopped by the grocery store and picked up the ingredients:
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Pancetta
  • Sliced Almonds

Also necessary are
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
The original recipe gave amounts in "grams," and I don't speak grams. I just used as much as I wanted to. I might have skimped on the pancetta. I'd add a little more next time.

When I got home (and by home, of course, I still do not mean my home), I preheated the oven to 380*. I cleaned the brussel sprouts and sliced them in half (but forgot to remove the tough ends, which you shouldn't forget to do). I hadn't been able to find pancetta in any form except sliced, so I just cut some slices up into smaller pieces, but I imagine that if you were able to find a chunk of pancetta - or whatever other form it is pancetta can come int - it would be an improvement. After that, just add the brussel sprouts and pancetta to a baking dish with olive oil, salt, pepper, and some almonds. Mix together well. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to evenly spread the pancetta around. It's done, according to the original recipe, when the brussel sprouts are al dente and the pancetta is golden. My pancetta never got golden, and I don't know whether that is because it was in a different form or because I undercooked it. If I undercooked it, this recipe is very good even when undercooked!

Many thanks to Sweet Paul!

Friday, January 8, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday Part XXXI

1. Right after I wrote my last 7 Quick Takes post a few weeks ago, I started my next one, listing a few topics for Quick Takes that I wanted to briefly expound upon for the next week in which I got around to posting. After a couple ideas, I listed as a topic the surprising ease with which I had reacquired the habit of considering everything that happens as blog fodder. When I went back a re-read the draft after a couple of weeks, I realized that certain skills don't come back as easily. Specifically, the skill of considering whether all possible blog fodder is actually worthy blog fodder. My glasses fogging up when I walk into a building in the cold weather? Really? I thought I should write a whole Quick Take about that, and actually show it to other people?
2. For Christmas this year, I got not 1, but *2* flannel nightgowns, from different sources (Mom and Rhett). I love them. They're pretty and floral and warm and I find it so freeing to be able to sleep in a dress!
3. Rhett got me the nightgown because I had pointed it out as pretty when we were in a store, and mentioned how I'd had a hard time finding regular nightgowns, not sexy lingerie. My sister Suellen's take: "Poor Rhett. He sees you walk over to the pajamas, and there you are, standingright next to the lingerie, but nope, you're looking at the old lady flannel pajamas instead!" Luckily, he likes me, old lady fashions and all!
4. Speaking of old-fashioned, Rhett bought me an apron a few months ago, from the gift shop of the Little House on the Prairie musical, and I hadn't had much opportunity to wear it. Baking pies before Christmas, I had it on, and my mom snapped a picture with her phone. She didn't have his number, so I gave it to her and she sent him the picture, captioned "Baking pies like on the prairie!" But he never got it. She had transposed two of the digits in his phone number. Somewhere out there in the airwaves, or on some stranger's phone, is a picture of me in a blue flower-print apron, baking pies like on the prairie.
5. And when I say "like on the prairie," I mean "like on the prairie." Since my parents went all-natural, I wasn't allowed to use a store-bought pie crust (preservatives! corn syrup!hydrogenated oils! Oh, the humanity!) I had to make the darn thing from scratch, and it wasn't easy. I don't think pastries are my forte.
6. I'm writing on Wednesday, before I rush off to get to my apartment to clean up the chaos. I'm doubtful I'll have time to write much more in the next couple days, so I won't have 7 developed Quick Takes.
7. Wish me luck!

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

I crochet?

It's been a long time since I've posted about my crocheting, mostly because it's been a long time since I've done any crocheting. I tried to bike rather than take public transit most of this past semester, which cut down on a lot of my crocheting opportunities, not to mention that my current apartment is only the very briefest of Metro rides from work when I do take that route. On top of that, I've been driving whenever I make the trip back home to NY, which eliminates what used to be a very fruitful 5-hour bus ride several times each semester. Plus I was just plain old busy. I've only made 2 very simple projects this semester: a baby blanket and a scarf (and I'm just now realizing I forgot to take any pictures of the scarf).

I made this blanket for my cousin's baby, who was born in the fall. For the first time perhaps ever, the blanket was ready before the baby was, and that was because it was so easy. I hate joining squares, and that's the part that always makes the blankets take so long, but I've always found "join as you go" patterns a bit complicated for the kind of mindless, "keeping my hands busy while my mind is elsewhere" crocheting that I often do. I opted for the absolute simplest design I could conceive of, the "big giant granny square" design. I really do like the way it came out, though, and since they whip up so quickly, I may try to make some more, now that I'm thinking about it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Small Blessings

As I rather self-deprecatingly remarked in number 6 here, I made the decidedly unclassy, but decidedly affordable, decision to sleep on an air mattress rather than a real bed this year, because mattresses and bed frames are expensive and difficult to move after each year. I've never been so thankful for my thrift.

Yesterday, the pipes in the apartment above our froze and burst, and our apartment was flooded. I'm 400 miles away dropping my sister off at an airport, so there's nothing I can do right now except wait for updates from my roommates, who spent last night in a hotel and are spending today meeting with contractors and trying to vacuum the water out of the carpet.

But my roommate just called me to ask whether all of my linens are dryer-safe, and I learned that of all our beds, mine was the only one that got hit with any water. Mine, the plastic one. It can be dried off with a towel, it won't have to be thrown away, and if, for some reason, it does have to be thrown away, it'll fit in a regular trash can and can be replaced for $100 or less.

This is what we call a "silver lining."