Jul. 3rd, 2012 06:41 pm
clevermynnie: (and then?)
There are huge fires burning in Colorado right now, the Flagstaff fire near Boulder and the Waldo Canyon fire which has already destroyed some homes in Colorado Springs. I know a lot of people in Colorado, because a lot of people from my hometown went up to Colorado for college and stayed, so this means my facebook feed is anxiety and fire updates and hoping for a minimal loss of homes and life. It's a familiar state of things, after the Las Conchas fire which meant that my hometown was under evacuation when I tried to visit my parents there last year, the fires that threatened San Diego a few years back causing many of my friends and in-laws there to evacuate, and of course the Cerro Grande fire which burned down part of my hometown when I was in high school.

It feels like every summer, either there is relief that enough rain came that year, or widespread fires in the southwestern states. And more often we get the latter than the former. It's part of the ecosystem, what those trees and those plants have evolved to survive, but decades of total suppression have raised the density of trees so high, and the bark beetle infestation has left so much dead wood, that the way things stand now is much worse than it would have been if the forests had gone on doing their natural thing. (Of course, fire suppression was adopted to save lives, homes, and the forest, but unfortunately our understanding of that forest was not complete.) The forest service is starting to do more brush clearing and controlled burns, but it feels like too little, too late. I remember going with my class to help gather up brush for a controlled burn... but controlled burns are risky, if the weather turns or the winds kick up then they become uncontrolled very quickly, which is how Cerro Grande started. There can be benefits, like the resurgence of the Kirtland's warbler which was in part due to a controlled burn that became a significant fire, because it turns out the warbler prefers to live in younger trees so that fire created a huge new habitat. But, there is always a cost. And in the southwest, the recovery is so slow. The Cerro Grande fire wiped out the forests on the closest mountains visible from my house, and after 11 years the brush had recovered and small trees were growing. But Las Conchas reset that clock, and to have trees the size that they used to be would take decades.

So when I read articles about whether the burning of the southwest is inevitable, I wonder. Is it, at this point? As we move out of an unusually wet period in the southwest, which with other factors has contributed to a population boom, is the region just a tinderbox? I hope not, for the sake of my friends and family who are still there, and for the sake of my childhood home.

Things here are so different. A month ago, I was hiking up in Howth and came across a patch where the gorse along a cliffside appeared to have burned. I was frankly surprised that anything is able to burn here, where it rains a little almost every day. But I checked online and there was a small gorse fire just before I went hiking, which was quickly caught and put out. This last weekend I went up there for a run, and found the whole burned area covered with big ferns! The gorse doesn't grow quite that fast but it's apparently highly flammable and has seed pods that are opened by fire, and recovers within months. I wish I could send some rain and speedy recovery to the southwest.

gorse fire ferns
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
Photos from Petroglyph National Monument, outside Albuquerque, taken on a hike with my dad. This is what a lot of New Mexico looks like outside the mountains.


Read more... )
clevermynnie: (Default)
If you aren't from Los Alamos you probably haven't been closely following the fire news like I have been... so here is a pretty decent comprehensive article for your curiosity. Most of the nuclear fears were vastly overblown by a lot of the media, but the fire itself is pretty scary, now the largest in New Mexico history (twice as large as the Cerro Grande fire that happened 11 years ago).

It smells smoky here in Santa Fe, but it's good to be seeing my family. And I am actually making thesis progress on this trip! Which feels very good, despite the whole situation being very surreal.


Jun. 30th, 2011 12:30 am
clevermynnie: (Default)
Places from my childhood are burning, but not the town yet. Early satellite photo:

Miscellaneous fire photos from the news:

clevermynnie: (Default)
The last few days have been a whirlwind. On Friday we got up at 4am to make it to Los Angeles before noon for a wedding rehearsal. Friday afternoon and evening, lots of socializing with old friends and many people I had heard about but never met. Saturday, wedding day at UCLA, miscellaneous socializing and seeing Ben look amazing in a tuxedo and lots of dancing, beautiful wedding and well wishes all around. Sunday, long brunch with people Ben knew in high school who I didn't know, long drive to San Diego, fun hanging out but punctuated by a call from my mom that there's a fire and they are getting their evacuation stuff together just in case. Panic, echoes of Cerro Grande (the fire that burned part of the town when I was in high school). Trying to keep my mind off things. Monday, more socializing and errands, swimming at the beach, dinner with Ben's family, news that a mandatory evacuation is in place. Today I flew to Albuquerque, staying with my dad at my cousin's house. Looking out of the plane to the north, smoke everywhere but no plume. The town seems to be not burning so far, but many of the beautiful places nearby that didn't burn eleven years ago are likely to burn now.

Yesterday, knowing that my hometown was tinder dry and might soon be on fire, me floating in the ocean watching the waves, sense of deep surrealness about my life. Hard not to make comparisons with what life was like then, when this was the only place that was home. Now, married, in-laws by the ocean, grad school nearly over, moving abroad. It feels unreal but my old life of isolation is what I'm actually removed from.

Hopefully everyone will stay safe.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
Recently, the tenth anniversary of my high school graduation passed, which means among other things that there is a ten year reunion for my graduating class taking place pretty soon, in Los Alamos. I have always felt very ambivalent about the idea of a reunion, in part because of facebook and livejournal and email and cheap phone calls. Many of the people who I really liked in high school, I am still in touch with and talk to or otherwise interact with regularly. For the people I found interesting but wasn't so close to, my curiosity about where they are and what they are doing has been largely satisfied by facebook. And of course there were lots of people who I didn't like or found boring, and they are all on facebook too going on their merry way. There is a reunion facebook group, which for some reason I joined, and as this event is drawing closer and closer, people are posting there more and for whatever reason the most vocal people are not people that I particularly wanted to hear from. So for awhile I watched the posts in that group with distaste but also curiosity, until I eventually realized that all I was doing was remembering the stupid parts of high school.

There are, of course, people I really liked in high school who are nearly impossible to get in touch with. Three people come to mind who I was very close to but they don't respond to email, it's hard to get them on the phone, that sort of thing. But of course, they won't be at the reunion anyway.

When I have talked with Ben about this, he expresses regret at not being able to attend his own ten year high school reunion. And he pointed out that as much as I complain every time I go back to New Mexico about feeling pushed into the box of who I used to be, maybe these other people feel that way too and I should take the time to get to know who they are now. Perhaps they have grown into more deep and interesting people, at the very least they must have grown some as I have. And it is probably unfair to assume things about the inner lives of other people who you haven't seen in ten years.

I imagine that part of my reticence, though, is that while in general I err on the side of being too paranoid about what other people are saying about me, in high school that was not paranoia. There are things people said about me in high school that I'm glad I didn't know until after the fact. I enjoyed high school, but largely because I was insulated from a lot of things by good friends, and those are largely the people I don't need any help keeping in touch with. So the social scene overall is not one I would want to revisit as much as the one, say, in Berkeley, or here.

In any case, the timing of the reunion did not really work out for me. Ben and I have to go to Los Angeles this weekend for a wedding, and after that I am going to Los Alamos but I couldn't have stayed through to the reunion events, so I'll be there the weekend before. Right after I get back to Philadelphia I start my summer teaching, which I already have to miss part of due to a workshop in August. I won't be in Los Alamos for long anyway, so my time will mostly be with my parents and working on my thesis.

What's funny is that yesterday, as I was in the gym thinking about writing an entry like this and what it would say, the John Mayer song "No Such Thing" came on. Which is an angsty post-high-school song if ever there was one.


Feb. 13th, 2011 05:16 pm
clevermynnie: (smile)
I had been meaning to make this recipe for Apple Pie with Green Chile that I came across a couple months back, and this weekend finally got around to it. The pie is SO GOOD; it has cheddar cheese in the crust, and the filling is still sweet but the green chile goes really well in it. I would even reduce the sugar, next time. YUM.

recipe )
clevermynnie: (Default)
I took some other photos in New Mexico, of the outdoors and cats and nostalgic things from my childhood. And two very old pictures of me. Here are those photos!

sunrise on snow

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clevermynnie: (Default)
When we were in Los Alamos, we made a stained glass window with my mom and stepdad, to give to Ben's mom as a Christmas present. The process consisted of choosing a pattern, making a window design from that pattern, choosing glass, cutting out glass pieces, lining each piece with copper foil, tacking the pieces together with solder, connecting everything with solder, adding more solder to look nice, soldering on a metal frame, staining and cutting a wood frame, attaching the wood frame, and attaching hangers. It was a lot of work but pretty interesting, and I took pictures!

the process )

making a stained glass window 7
clevermynnie: (smile)
We got into New Mexico on the 23rd, spent Christmas Eve with my dad and my uncle and Christmas day with my mom and my stepdad, and things are going alright. I saw some friends I haven't seen in a long time, and we are working on a very cool project that will be our Christmas present for Ben's mom. We don't have a car so we're a little bit stuck, but I've done some really nice trail runs from my mom's.

There was a bit of snow on the ground when we arrived but it melted really quickly, and in general it's a dry winter here which means things like skiing and sledding are out. Which is a little ironic, because Philadelphia has had blizzard conditions and a foot of snow since we left. But, I couldn't have done trail running here if there had been much snow built up at all, and I am glad that I've been able to do that. I got some very nice running gifts for Christmas, such as warm running tights (which brings my total number of pairs of running tights to two) and a Garmin, which is a GPS watch with a heart rate monitor of the sort that I borrowed from Melanie at my last marathon. It has a great data interface, but it's also very nice for being able to run routes without looking up mileage first. So yesterday I ran down into Bayo Canyon, first up along the sides, below the top of the mesa on a small ridge, then down a slope of rocks and dust to the canyon floor and out past the end of Otowi Mesa to where I could see Main Hill Road. And then back up, which was more challenging. I don't feel the elevation much but man do I feel it going up a steep hill. I got to a point where I could see my house, so I called Ben and had him come outside to take a picture of me on top of a mesa as it rose out of the canyon floor. Also, pretty much the best thing to have at home after a few-hour run is Christmas dinner leftovers.

Oh, and I got a very thoughtful running-related gift. I am shifting towards more trail runs in general, at marathon distance or longer, but one of the first things I wanted to do when I realized I could run marathons long term was to work toward 50 states. It's actually a very easy goal to work on right now, living as I do near many tiny states, and I have 5 so far: Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Indiana, West Virginia, and Maryland. So I was very pleased to get, from my friend Jeanine, a hand-drawn map of the US, with the states all hand-shaded in different colors, with spaces to write all my marathon times eventually and the first five results recorded, with times and dates. It is such a great gift! I will definitely be putting it up at our house, to be inspired by.

And actually, sometime before New Year's I need to sign up for my spring races, a trail marathon in Delaware and a trail 50k in New Jersey.


Dec. 19th, 2009 09:49 pm
clevermynnie: ((open your eyes))
Today has been gorgeous; there is a huge snowstorm over the northeast right now which is hitting the mid-Atlantic states the hardest, so Philly has seen a foot and a half of snow fall today. That's the official line, anyways, although in some spots like my backyard it's getting blown in deeper. Our little barbeque, which I guess we should have taken in already, is almost buried (meaning over two feet of snow there). I went in to work today and loved walking through the snow, although at that point it was less than a foot deep. I took some pictures, but I will probably take more tomorrow with the additional snowfall. I love this, it really feels like winter and like Christmas.

I am a little sad about not going to New Mexico this year. I mean, we went there in July instead, and I loved being there in the summer and getting to hike and be outside, but this'll be the first time that I don't go at all in the winter. It feels weird to have to ship gifts to my parents instead of stowing them in my luggage, to know I won't get to sit around talking to them, relax reading, eat big piles of delicious food. I'm looking forward to going to southern California for a week, a lot, and I guess in some ways it'll be more relaxing than Los Alamos is just because I always end up feeling weird there, like I no longer belong and need to get out. And it helps that I have been eating a lot of green chile lately, the frozen stuff we brought back in the summer, and that I've seen several of my Los Alamos friends recently. But still.

And yes, work on Saturday. I have been working a lot recently, because my experimental setup was down for renovation for so long and I built up this list of experiments to run and now I am trying to get them all in before we leave on Thursday. I have been trying to use time the best I can, always having something running. There was an unpleasant period this week where I needed to alternate 2-hour data-taking sessions with 8-hour device treatments, so I went in at 7 AM, then at 5 PM, then at 3 AM, then at 1 PM. Then I took a break and slept a lot. I'm feeling very paper-oriented recently, as in, I want to publish some papers and graduate someday please. It's not that I'm not enjoying graduate school: if anything, I've finally gotten into a groove, where I am competent at all the skills I need, I can help other people without hobbling my own work, I have friends and people that I like around me, I feel comfortable talking to my advisor and working with her, and I can make meaningful progress on interesting scientific questions. That is really awesome. But now, I want to achieve and move forward. I guess this is what the second half of grad school feels like.

los alamos

Jul. 24th, 2009 11:51 pm
clevermynnie: (Default)
We spent the first bit of our time in Los Alamos at my mom's, reading, learning to sandblast, using a wood chipper, eating unbelievable food. She made us watermelon salsa and sour cherry salsa which were both great. And I played guitar on her old guitar, which I used to pick at as a kid. She played for me some too, some Townes Van Zandt, Doc Watson, Elizabeth Cotton. It was very fun. And her guitar has nylon upper strings, whereas mine are steel, but hers were much easier on the fingers. We used the sandblaster to make these engraved hearts for Jeanine and Andrew and their families, with their daughter's name and birthday as well as a double vajra, something Jeanine taught me about. We also saw friends, ate out at tasty places, and had a nice time. We went over to my dad's halfway through, but spent most of our time there on a camping trip to southern Colorado.

And I took pictures of my time in town!

rio grande, originally uploaded by clevermynnie.

Read more... )
clevermynnie: (Default)
It's good to be in New Mexico when you are running at altitude, feeling amazing, breathing the warm dry air, and smelling the butterscotch Ponderosa Pines in the canyons. I love the mountains. I think I need them.
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
My photo posting from my winter road trip was delayed a bit by the computer troubles I was having. But I have a new power supply and a new OS installation, and my computer is generally stable again, so here are some of the pictures I took while I was in New Mexico.

snow, ducks, mesas, a fountain )

new mexico sky, originally uploaded by clevermynnie.

southern new mexico, originally uploaded by clevermynnie.

clevermynnie: (I see beauty)
I had my informal piano recital yesterday, with some of my friends from Los Alamos and my parents. It went pretty well; I was worried that I wasn't ready to play the pieces for people, with my stage fright and all, but I did pretty well given my level of preparation. My two main goals were to work around my stage fright, which I did, and to have the motivation to finish a few pieces so I can move forward in my playing. This was my program:

Debussy - Arabesque No. 1
Chopin - Waltz for piano in E minor
Debussy - Snow is Dancing
Mozart - Sonata k.something, Allegro
Debussy - Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum

To be fair, the Debussy was all repertoire stuff that I've played before, and the other two pieces were stuff I've learned recently. But I think it came off pretty nice. I also made these tangerine almond cakes for everyone, from a Gail Gand cookbook that my mom had. We picked those to make because she had a ton of leftover almond paste from making my wedding cake. :)

I also learned form for squats and deadlift yesterday, from three people who were all more experienced with non-machine weightlifting than I am. (One of them described the teaching process as "too many chiefs, not enough Indians".) It was interesting and useful, and I'll be shifting my weightlifting more towards that when I get back to Philadelphia.

Last night during my recital, it started to snow a lot. Overnight there were 6" or so of snow accumulated, and Ben and I are driving to San Diego today. Ha. We'll probably go south to Las Cruces and then west, so hopefully we'll only have snow issues between here and Albuquerque. It's not snowing right now but it's very windy and I can see the snow blowing off our house into the canyon.

I think what I am most looking forward to about the drive is the massive amount of leftover turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce that my mom is letting us take in the car. Yum.
clevermynnie: (I see beauty)
Still in Los Alamos. Focusing on the positive.

My mother's cats (which is to say, the cats I grew up with) are so sweet, though so geriatric at this point. Their meows sound so old and crochety! Maybe I am only noticing this now because now we have young cats in Philadelphia. The cats here are still very sweet though, if somewhat needy.

We're making a bunch of food to have Christmas dinner today, which is nice. My mom makes wonderful Christmas dinners, traditional but exquisite because she is such an excellent cook. It makes it hard for me to have other people's turkey/stuffing/etc. dinners, because my mom's are so good and make me so happy. But I digress. Christmas at my house is very different from Christmas at Ben's house, where we will be for actual Christmas. At my house, I always spent Christmas Eve with one parent, Christmas Day with the other, which is effectively two Christmases. And both were family affairs, just me and my parent and sometimes step-parents, having a nice dinner, exchanging gifts, hanging out. Very low-key. Ben has Christmas at his mom's, with a bevy of siblings, a massive immediate and extended family present, and any friends or whoever happens to be around. It sounds hectic, and will be my first Christmas not in Los Alamos since my family moved here in 1989. How weird.

It occurs to me that I maybe should be making trips back to Los Alamos in the summer, rather than the dead of winter, when I could go hiking or backpacking or just be outside more. I went for a four-mile run this morning, but was very chilly. Neither Ben nor I really wants to do the four-parent-tour again next year, because it's quite a lot of visiting. We'll sort something out, though.

I have an informal piano recital tomorrow, to (a) motivate me to finish pieces, (b) get me to be better at playing for people, and (c) share my piano playing more with people who don't hear it much, like my parents and friends from here. Of course, this means I am very nervous about it. I should go practice.
clevermynnie: (Default)
I've been in New Mexico for about a day now.  The drive here was... well, long, and plagued by some mechanical issues.  We drove to West Lafayette, Indiana and slept the first night at Jeanine and Andrew's place, then made it to Amarillo, Texas before crashing for a few hours in a hotel room, and then arrived here around noon yesterday.  Delicious tacos and the Chinese buffet of my childhood have already been had, as well as a bit of my own cooking.  I went for a run this morning and the altitude was murder on my lungs, while my legs barely woke up, but that's more or less as I expected.  I am entering the now-familiar world of Christmas visits, where much food is pushed on me, my schedule can barely accomodate all the people I'm supposed to see, and I have time for reading and whatever, but only at bizarre intervals.

Pretty much all of our drive it was cloudy, sometimes raining, sometimes snowing, but always cloudy.  But driving out of Amarillo we could see a thin gold band just above the horizon, below the clouds.  As we continued west it grew and grew, and just around when we crossed the border into New Mexico the clouds broke up, and it was brilliant sunshine on the snow on the high desert.  Perfect.
clevermynnie: (Default)
I have a couple photos of the fused glass plate my mom helped me make. Here it is, still in the kiln fusing. The colors are a little off because of the heat. We opened the kiln to flash vent it, which cools it without giving it time to vitrify, i.e. form a crystal lattice.

plate in kiln, originally uploaded by clevermynnie.

After that we slumped it, which is to say reheated it in a curved mold so that it's a sort of dish. You can see the shape here:

dish, originally uploaded by clevermynnie.

And if you want to see pictures of my cats, you can click here )
clevermynnie: (i carry your heart)
I am still a little bit bowled over, and there are things I have been thinking that I forgot to say yesterday.

Firstly, I was floored that Ben actually got some friends and family to be there when he proposed, because one of the silly things I'd told him was that it would be cool to be proposed to in front of friends or parents or something, but I didn't expect him to really do that. And it happening in New Mexico was perfect. Every time I come back here I have mixed feelings; on the one hand, I grew up here, and I miss lots of things about it, but on the other hand, I don't want to move back, to the town or the state, and it grates on me after awhile. I didn't want to get married here, if we did get married. And the reason is that New Mexico feels like the past, and a wedding is about the future. But on the other hand, I have deep roots here. Having our engagement happen here gives me enough connection to here, though, that I feel totally fine getting married somewhere else.

At Starbucks afterwards, either Jeanine or Ben came up with the idea of getting married in Mammoth Lakes, where Ben's dad has a big house. That really appeals to me, because it has beautiful mountains and scenery, but is in California and is convenient for lots of people. And though Ben's family doesn't live there any more, they moved away pretty recently and have connections, so it wouldn't be so horrible planning everything from afar. I know it is easiest to have your wedding in the same place you are planning things from, but Philadelphia and the East Coast don't mean a lot to me, and I'd rather not do it there.

Because Ben told my parents and some of my closest friends before he told me that he wanted to get married, I have had somewhat fewer people to call about it. But I had to tell my bridesmaids (yes, I kind of already knew who it would be) and my dad has been calling relatives all day, both to wish them a Merry Christmas and to tell them about it. I will get to see all my relatives! At the same time! That's exciting; my family is terrible about keeping in touch. And I will have another round of telling people when I visit Berkeley in January and go up to LBL, which will be fun. And again when I get back to Philadelphia. I'm not sure whether or not to announce it to my WoW guild, ha. Maybe.

It makes me really happy that this happened right before Christmas. I am just overflowing with joy this year. We cooked a big dinner with my dad today, with a pork roast, Moroccan sweet potatoes, stuffing, jalapeno corn chowder, salad, biscuits, and apricot cream. And we drove out to my mom's street to look at the farolitos, under a nearly full moon.

Life is amazing! I love you all!


Dec. 23rd, 2007 10:46 pm
clevermynnie: (i carry your heart)

ring, originally uploaded by clevermynnie.

Ben asked me to marry him, and I said yes.

Read more... )


clevermynnie: (Default)

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