clevermynnie: (see us waving)
Having spent the last week in the Bay Area, I am now in transit passing through Phoenix, which means I actually have time to write!

I had wondered if it was going to be weird returning to the Bay Area for the first time in 4 years, mainly because of the bizarro past-life vibe that Los Alamos still gives me. But actually, it was just lovely to be in San Francisco again. This is a great time of year to be there, what with the greenery and the clear air and the temperate weather and the way that everything goes into bloom. I had a nice dinner with [livejournal.com profile] mr_ron and his girlfriend, spent the weekend in Napa with [livejournal.com profile] chih and everyone, got to have banh mi with Jessica and meet her boyfriend, and saw my undergraduate mentor and catch up. It was really enjoyable, with jaunts to Berkeley and through Chinatown and up Coit Tower. I loved being back in Berkeley; it was comforting and great, not quite like home, but like an old friend you're really fond of. And it was fun taking around some of the people I work with in Ireland, and eating more than my share of Mexican food and sushi (and, intriguingly, the sushirrito).

I do notice variations, though, in the rapport that I have with various old friends. When you've had a lot of life events pass there's a sort of disconnect that starts happening, and I could feel that with some of the people I saw, where we're all in very different places now and it's noticeable even if it's still good to get together. Though in some ways maybe that's nicer than going back to someplace you're still disentangling yourself from (Philly, I'm looking at you) and navigating that whole experience. A lot of things have happened since I lived in the Bay Area and saw many of these people, but mostly life has gone in a positive direction and that's comforting.

I didn't have time to see everyone in the area that I would have liked, since I was in SF for work and had a pretty packed schedule. Nor did I get to revisit every old haunt! But what's most important is that I had Cheeseboard Pizza... and in a weird turn of events, meet the son of the woman who wrote the Cheeseboard cookbook. Would I consider moving back to the Bay Area? I certainly would, though not for awhile yet.

And now I am going to San Antonio to see Jeanine and her family, run my trail 50k, and hopefully track down some sopapillas. Hopefully good news to follow.
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
I am in the airport, and had to leave so early to get here, and am shifting so many time zones over, that it seemed to make sense to just not sleep until I am on a plane. At least, several hours ago that made sense.

I'm going to San Francisco to give a talk at a conference, and that is exciting. I did a practice talk for my boss which went pretty well, and while there are some nerves because this is the first time I've presented research from this group, it's a nice feeling that overall I know how to put together a good research talk. Also, obviously I know some people in the Bay Area still, and will be doing what visiting I have time for, so that is good. I haven't been back in four years, and loved the Bay Area but who knows how it will feel now.

After that I'm going to San Antonio to visit friends and run a race, and after that I should really have a vacation where I do nothing at all. Just sit under a tree and fall asleep, that would be great.

My uncle Ted, who was terminally ill a month ago when I visited, has now passed on. It's sad, and my uncle was great and I will miss him. It makes me miss family, but also family is complicated.
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
I've just gotten back into Philly, as part of a trip to Lancaster for my sister-in-law's bat mitzvah next weekend. Coming in to drizzle and the drive up Grays Ferry and Washington to our friends' place was kind of a reminder of the less savory parts of town, but then we went out for a super late brunch with the friends who hosted our joint defense party a year and a half ago and it was pretty great. I am super excited to see everyone here, having not really done a trip back to a city where I used to live in about 5 years or so. There are so many people to see! But on the other hand, the last year or so that we spent here was really rough for me. I have both really positive and really negative associations with this place.

We'll be spending less than half our time in Philly proper, though; we'll be in Lancaster for a few days and up in Hackettstown for a day or so. I'm mostly just trying to stay relaxed, though, and enjoy myself. It's nice to be back, if a bit weird.

staycation

Dec. 22nd, 2012 09:19 pm
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
For the first time in basically ever, we are not going anywhere for Christmas! Meaning that this last week was largely a week of holiday parties with no travel planning or last minute errands, and now quite a bit of time stretches out in front of me with no particular priorities. It feels luxurious!

I think the prospect of not seeing friends and family abroad for Christmas is partly helped by the fact that we have a fair bit of travel lined up for early next year. And I'm really excited by the prospect of a Christmas Day sea swim, assuming we can get somewhere festive and fun which is a bit complicated but probably doable. We're meeting some people for Christmas dinner as well which should be great, and I am insisting that Ben and I do stockings for our first Christmas morning chez nous. As for the rest of the vacation, I'm thinking sports, piano, reading, and maybe even some writing... and probably a fair bit of gaming and movies. This time last year, I was excited to be in Ireland, but still settling in, unemployed, piano-less, and getting back into running. Whereas now... now I can bask.

paperwork

Dec. 3rd, 2012 10:26 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
I've been doing all the paperwork to extend my contract to the end of my fellowship, which is mostly a boring series of chores but also kind of inexplicably exciting. I will be here for another year and a half, hooray!

Today I went to the immigration office, sat around reading the New Yorker for ages, and finally was reprimanded for not having enough space in my passport for new immigration stamps. That's pretty cheeky, Ireland, taking up FIVE PAGES of my passport with your enormous stamps and then complaining that you can't put yet another full page stamp in. I was planning to get a new passport anyway (costs about the same as getting more pages sewn in and you can request extra pages from the get-go), but it takes long enough that my immigration card would have expired, and so after explaining this they gave me my new card and stamped on one of the blank pages in the back. And charged me the newly doubled fee, but whatever, I don't have to go back until 2014.

And putting together the passport renewal stuff makes me realize how much has changed! When I got this passport seven years ago, which was my first, I was super excited about getting into grad schools and taking my first trip abroad! Since then I didn't get into grad school, worked super hard and did, went abroad for the first time, moved in with Ben, married Ben, was miserable in grad school, finished grad school, moved abroad, and somewhere in there became a scientist. And now live the sort of lifestyle where I need an extra large passport. AWESOME.

on being

Nov. 22nd, 2012 12:11 pm
clevermynnie: (smile)
At work, it still surprises me to find that I am gaining responsibility, that I can give grad students physics advice or that I have enough expertise to get a bunch of expensive equipment up and running. Or to be greeted as 'Dr. J.' And Ben has actually been asked to be the external examiner on a thesis defense. I guess it still feels a bit weird not to be in school, especially for me since I am still surrounded by students. But even grad students are starting to look surprisingly young to me!

And of course, I don't have today off, but we are having some people over later for a Thanksgiving-y dinner! I already made cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and sourdough rolls, and Ben will go home a bit early to cook more. We actually got more chairs and a table extension for this, and are planning to deep-fry a turkey outside (which I won't eat but am interested to see). Last year the fall holidays were a little depressing because we were so recently arrived and didn't know much of anyone, plus I was unemployed, but it's really nice to feel so much more settled now. And to have so many things (travel, seeing friends, work fun, writing, gaming, running, music) to look forward to in the coming months!

For gratitude, I recommend reading this piece on enjoying everyday moments; I hope everyone is having a good Thanksgiving, or alternately a good Thursday.

too long

Nov. 4th, 2012 10:23 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
A conversation that took place this weekend:

Ben: When is Thanksgiving, anyway?
me, jokingly: Thursday!
Ben: Yeah, but what date? And wait, isn't Thanksgiving on a Wednesday?
me: *silent shock*

We have only been outside the US for a year and Ben has forgotten what day of the week Thanksgiving falls on.
clevermynnie: (and then?)
When I moved here, my knowledge of Ireland consisted primarily of the following: a few family stories, familiarity with the writing of James Joyce, and the sense of depression that came after slogging through The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism. I knew a little about modern Ireland from a postdoc I worked with in grad school who was Irish, but once I got here I realized how little that was. Even though Ireland is not hugely culturally different from the US, there is so much context that I don't know and find myself picking up. Contrast this with moving to Philadelphia, which was thousands of miles from where I grew up but nonetheless central in history classes and such. So this post is about some bits I knew next to nothing about before coming here.

competing narratives, partition, religion, place names, language )

So, this is one of those really obvious things, but I am finding learning the history and culture of a country other than my own very interesting, both for its own sake and as a lens on the country where I grew up. We have now been in Ireland for a year (!) and we’re still just scratching the surface.
clevermynnie: (and then?)
When I moved here, my knowledge of Ireland consisted primarily of the following: a few family stories, familiarity with the writing of James Joyce, and the sense of depression that came after slogging through The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism. I knew a little about modern Ireland from a postdoc I worked with in grad school who was Irish, but once I got here I realized how little that was. Even though Ireland is not hugely culturally different from the US, there is so much context that I don't know and find myself picking up. Contrast this with moving to Philadelphia, which was thousands of miles from where I grew up but nonetheless central in history classes and such. So this post is about some bits I knew next to nothing about before coming here.

competing narratives, partition, religion, place names, language )

So, this is one of those really obvious things, but I am finding learning the history and culture of a country other than my own very interesting, both for its own sake and as a lens on the country where I grew up. We have now been in Ireland for a year (!) and we’re still just scratching the surface.

dublin!

Mar. 13th, 2012 03:24 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
I have now been living in Dublin for six months!

I like it a lot. It's a small city, a lot smaller than Philadelphia or the Bay Area, but very dense with cool cultural things, and easy to get out of and get into some really beautiful areas. Going out to eat is a bit expensive here, but there are lots of places to buy stuff to cook with, and I've pretty much got an idea of where to buy each separate thing I might need. Running here is amazing, as I have said many times, and I love our home neighborhood and our work neighborhood, and the relative ease of commuting on bus or train. And I really like the climate so far; the summer won't be balmy but I think it'll be a relief after those Philadelphia summers. Plus it has been great getting to easily travel to so many interesting places! Very much scratching an itch for me.

The only real drawback has been the initial isolation that always comes from moving somewhere new. I'm really glad the internet provides so many ways to keep in touch, but I miss hanging out with a lot of people, and frankly, many of the people I care about are terrible correspondents. Plus the time zone thing is inconvenient for talking with people. I wish my friends and family were more in the same places, even just the same state, but then again if they were, I'm not sure we would have come here; it's a lot less tempting to stay where you are when your loved ones are scattered anyway.

But, now that the summer is coming, people are starting to make plans to come visit us! Which I am so excited about! We have friends from Philadelphia coming in early June and late July, and it'll be a good opportunity to see some of the cool things here that we haven't gotten to yet. Living here is a lot of fun!
clevermynnie: (and then?)
One of the things I have been enjoying about living in Ireland is the sense of connecting with my familial roots. My mom's family were Irish, my dad's family English, and I definitely feel like physically, I belong.

But there's more to belonging than genetic similarity! Which was driven home just now, as I asked for garbanzos in a cafe and got the response: 'Garbanzos! Aren't they chickpeas here? I haven't called them garbanzos since I left Peru.' Followed by commiserating over the dearth of spicy food here.

I think that when I move somewhere new, I try lots of things specific to the new place, but I also keep this bubble of habits and likes that are from previous places and people. I do get exposed to new things that I come to enjoy, like in Philly I learned to like cheesesteaks, pho, electronic music, running, beer, and raiding. But I also carried on liking swimming, Mexican food, piano, and other classics from my childhood. I wonder what new tastes Ireland will give me.

grammared

Feb. 16th, 2012 04:51 pm
clevermynnie: (and then?)
There are a lot of ways in which Ireland is not that foreign to me. For all the subtle changes and differences, it's a country where most people look like me, my name isn't considered overly strange, the food is recognizable, and they speak the language I grew up speaking. But actually, that last bit is kind of a trick, and not just in the vocabulary (our flat has a new rubbish bin!).

See, I consider myself to be a pretty good writer. I like writing, I do it regularly, it's been important to me for a long time. And I can spend quite a lot of time editing if I so choose, making tiny tweaks and adjustments to improve the clarity or the flow of words. It's less that I finish editing pieces and more that I give up on editing them any further. But it is so satisfying to read something where the structure and phrasing are finely tuned, allowing the content and the ideas therein to really shine. I love that feeling and I strive for it.

So imagine the trouble I am having as I realize that many of the grammatical rules I have internalized, that contribute to my sense of whether a string of words flows or not, are region-specific. This came up very soon after moving here, as I was writing that fellowship application I did, and it's come up again recently with the grant proposal I am helping my boss with. For example, when I see a singular noun with a plural verb it is like driving over a pothole, but if the singular noun represents a group it's apparently normal to use a plural verb here. 'The government are raising taxes', 'the team have discovered new physics'. It also seems uncommon here to use the Oxford comma, and comma usage over all is lower than feels right to me. But what's lacking in commas is made up for with convoluted phrasing! Of course, it only feels convoluted to me; to someone else I'm sure my phrasing is rude and blunt.

Even though I've read lots of Irish (and British) writing that read smoothly to me, I wonder how the best-polished versions of my writing read to others here. Do my words sound clear or is there too much weird American grammar going on? I hope it doesn't affect funding chances for the documents I've submitted, especially since I would have a hard time changing my writing style at this point in my life.

accents

Jan. 14th, 2012 05:50 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
I recently had a dream that I was talking to Ben, and I said something that caused him to respond, "Wait, what? That's not how that's pronounced!" And I realized that I had said something with a non-American accent, and repeated the word several times trying to remember how I used to say it. I think that means I should write another post about things that are different here. (My accent, so far, is not one of those things.)

One of the awesome things about being here, which I am still making the most of, is how many beautiful places there are to run. In the last couple of weeks, I did a few runs along the Clontarf waterfront by our house, a few runs up to St Anne's Park and back, a run out to Bull Island and through the dunes there, a run up to Howth and back along the coast, and also took light rail to Howth and to Bray to do cliffside runs. All of these spots are just so gorgeous, and it makes me so happy to be out there. And from what I hear, Dublin is not the prettiest part of Ireland! I'm very excited to go down to Wicklow in March, for the Wicklow half-marathon and for sight-seeing, and hopefully the driving for that will go ok so that we can plan more driving trips around Ireland.

I figured it would make sense to wait on planning trips around here until spring comes, but honestly the winter here has been not nearly as bad as I had expected. We heard so many bad things about winter in Ireland (I even found a website that implied that if you spend a winter in Ireland, you'll see why your forebears left), but it's never too cold, we still see the sun a lot, and it really isn't rainy or windy very much. There are exceptions, like the runs I did during a wind warning and the occasional frost or shower, but if this is the worst time of year for weather, then it's a pretty nice place.

I do wish there were fewer door-to-door solicitors, though. There are a lot of people trying to sell something, raise money for a charity, or get you to switch utility companies... one of the utility people was especially persistent the other day, kept insisting that we already used them and they needed to see our bills when that wasn't the case. Not fun when we are expecting packages so I am inclined to answer the door... I guess I just need to get better at saying no and closing the door in people's faces.

Because most stores around here are kind of small, trying to set up a well-supplied kitchen has turned into this running list of things we haven't found yet. The other day I finally found maple syrup and pine nuts, and today I found ground allspice which was frankly a lot more exciting than it should have been. I've had a hard time finding tofu, and I think I'm just going to have to accept that the only place that reliably stocks it is the Asian market near Ben's work. (Weird story: the Chinese takeout place near our house has no tofu on the menu at all. Seriously?) I was worried that Mexican ingredients would be even harder to find, but fortunately I discovered an online shop run by a Mexican person who immigrated here, which has a pretty reasonable selection of dried chiles, masa flour, stuff like that. I'm still on the lookout for pizza-grade mozzarella, though... all I can find is the really nice fresh stuff, which is too wet to use on a pizza (though delicious for salads). Of course, the reason I want to get mozzarella for our kitchen is that pizza here is bizarrely expensive. Why? I really couldn't say.

Now I'm hungry. List of differences concluded!

changes

Nov. 1st, 2011 09:46 pm
clevermynnie: (and then?)
When I first moved here and was communicating with my friends and family back in the US, people kept asking me what was different here, what things were like. I didn't really feel equipped to answer that after such a short time. But now, this is the longest time that I have ever been outside the US (five weeks being the previous record). And while many things here are not so dissimilar from places I've lived before, some are.

compare and contrast )

water

Sep. 17th, 2011 09:36 pm
clevermynnie: (and then?)
I think we're taking the further place I mentioned last time, especially after seeing the even further but even nicer places we could get. It's a balance of commute distance and niceness. So here are some pictures, from downtown Dublin, and Clontarf, and Howth which is the most gorgeous place that we will totally visit even if we don't live there.

samuel beckett bridge sunrise

Read more... )
clevermynnie: (smile)
We're now in Dublin!

It's very exciting and feels a bit surreal. On Saturday, we packed up our stuff in Lancaster, then got driven to Philadelphia, picked up a few things, repacked our boxes because the bottoms had gotten wet due to flooding, and then headed to the airport to take a redeye here. We're staying in a three-bedroom house that Ben's company has, along with other employees who needed temporary housing. So we unpacked our stuff into a small-ish bedroom, got some groceries, and have been trying to get less jetlagged. The house has a great living and dining room, looking out on a park. And today I went for a run and got to the sea pretty quickly, which makes me think maybe we should look for a permanent residence somewhere else I can easily run to the sea. We'll have to see what's available in our price range, though.

Just before I left, I was talking with my mom about my great grandparents who were from County Galway. I ought to visit there; I bet I could make a long list of weekend trips to take from here. We borrowed some tourist guides to Ireland from my in-laws that will be a big help.

Wow. I wrote my first livejournal entry ten years ago, and now I have a Ph.D. and live in Ireland.

going

Sep. 1st, 2011 05:55 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
The part of our move which happens in Philadelphia is basically over. On Monday, we rented a U-Haul and drove some of our furniture and miscellany to my in-laws' in Lancaster, to store in their attic. (Apartments in Ireland are generally furnished so even if it were worth moving our bed or table, they wouldn't be needed there.) We sold some of our other furniture on craigslist over the weekend, and gave some away on freecycle. On Tuesday, movers came to pack up the stuff that is going on a boat to meet us in a month or two in Dublin. Yesterday, we packed up what remained, threw out a lot of junk, donated some stuff to Goodwill and set aside some things to give to people. We left our house the way we found it: clean, echoey, a little run down. It really felt like leaving home; we lived there for five years, and it was our first place together. I moved a lot in Berkeley, so I felt strong ties to Berkeley but less so to specific apartments, but here that was our house, in our neighborhood. Near the tavern and the cupcake shop! Now it's our old house, and we won't have a new home for awhile.

We've also had the opportunity to visit our cats with the friends who are taking care of them, and the cats seem better than when we first dropped them off. They were more personable and normal, and less freaked out, and they are apparently eating more. So I think the scary transition is over for them, which is good. I think they'll be happy for the next few months while we wait for their quarantine to finish, and then an animal shipping service will bring them to us in Ireland.

My defense talk is pretty much done, and I had a practice talk today which went okay. My slides weren't quite ready but I got good comments and found more things to optimize. The moving and everything was a big distraction in terms of preparation, but I've given parts of this talk a lot already, and I did just write the thesis, so I do feel mostly ready at this point. But I'm getting nervous. The defense is tomorrow at 11:30 AM.

We may not be leaving this weekend as was originally planned, due to a delay with Ben's green card. So it's looking likely that we'll head up to Lancaster on Saturday and relax with family until it's time to go, which would probably be early next week. Now that we're out of our house, I have to admit I'm anxious to be gone.
clevermynnie: (and then?)
The hurricane was not a big deal, some rain and then some wind. Our stuff is mostly broken down for the rental truck tomorrow, and some of our furniture is sold, and the rest has takers on Freecycle. By all accounts this is going really well.

And on Friday and Saturday, three of my guildies showed up here to visit before I left, which was incredibly nice especially given the incoming hurricane. We walked around and talked and had a nice time, seeing the Philly sights for the last time, and it made me really sad about moving to a different time zone. Then today, in the winds, we dropped off our cats with the friend who is caring for them while their quarantine time finishes. That was hard, even though it's the best thing for the cats.

While I relish the opportunities we are getting, and the chance to prune our stuff and get a little more streamlined, I always find moving really hard.

knee

Aug. 15th, 2011 08:57 pm
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
My thesis is due in two days, Ben's defense is in two days, I leave for a family trip in three days, we have to pack up all our stuff in the next two weeks, I am on the verge of seeing everyone here for the last time... this is what it feels like inside my head.

clevermynnie: (Default)
Some stories last many centuries,
others only a moment.
All alter over that lifetime like beach-glass,
grow distant and more beautiful with salt.

Yet even today, to look at a tree
and ask the story Who are you? is to be transformed.

There is a stage in us where each being, each thing, is a mirror.

Then the bees of self pour from the hive-door,
ravenous to enter the sweetness of flowering nettles and thistle.

Next comes the ringing a stone or violin or empty bucket
gives off—
the immeasurable’s continuous singing,
before it goes back into story and feeling.

In Borneo, there are palm trees that walk on their high roots.
Slowly, with effort, they lift one leg then another.

I would like to join that stilted transmigration,
to feel my own skin vertical as theirs:
an ant-road, a highway for beetles.

I would like not minding, whatever travels my heart.
To follow it all the way into leaf-form, bark-furl, root-touch,
and then keep walking, unimaginably further.

--Jane Hirshfield

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