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.

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: (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.
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

Read more... )
clevermynnie: (wealthy young woman-about-town)
I have very broad taste in music. This is partly a result of loving it so much, partly the wide variety of genres that my parents exposed me to, partly a habit of voraciously consuming the musical tastes of others, from anyone who will share their tunes with me. But if you go back to high school, almost the only music I listened to was alternative rock )
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
I love, love, looove music. I love playing it, and wish I had more time to take up another couple of instruments, but I also love listening to it and having something on all the time: when I'm walking to school, cooking, reading. At this point I have really broad tastes, largely from asking other people what they think is good and then giving it a chance (or in some cases, convincing them to give me a copy of their mp3 collection to explore). I would love the radio, if it wasn't so often repetitive. But in a lot of ways, my musical tastes cleave to those of my parents, because in spite of music lessons, they were really the ones that taught me to listen. Here are four of the pieces that I remember them introducing me to.

Copland - Rodeo/Appalachian Spring: My mom had a CD of these which she loved to play on weekend mornings, and the sound of them is perfect for living in the west. I liked the way the pieces sounded before I could name why I liked anything, and when I hear them it's easy to picture my living room, the big window looking out on the canyon and mesas behind our house, sunshine and a morning paper. When I was in high school, in the orchestra, we had one concert where we combined with part of the marching band and played Hoe-Down, and it was really amazing. I'm sure we sounded awful, but it was a really enjoyable experience.

Dave Brubeck - Take Five: My dad loves Dave Brubeck, to the point that I almost felt guilty about telling my dad how I got to see Dave Brubeck in concert. He doesn't have any musical background, unlike my mom, but he loves listening to music and singing, and I remember him trying to explain to me why a 5/4 time signature was so revolutionary, and counting out the measures so I would hear it. I also remember later my mom telling me you could dance a mambo to Take Five, which I disagreed with, and we found that she had a version of Take Five with a similar melody, but a couple of beats inserted to make a more regular tempo.

Beethoven - Fifth Symphony: Yeah yeah, everyone knows the beginning, but have you listened to this the whole way through? It's a really amazing symphony, one of my favorites. When I was little, I loved the third movement of it, because I loved things that were minor and haunting; as such, I didn't like the gradual build into the triumph and majesty of the fourth movement, which is in a major key. That is, I didn't like it until one of my parents (I no longer remember which) listened with me and talked about how at the time, you didn't permanently change keys in a piece like that, and you never ever switched between a minor and major key. You could do it for a short stretch but not permanently, but Beethoven did it permanently anyways, and it was revelatory. I listened to that passage a million times, the transition, and I remember putting it in a sixth grade project that had a bunch of hyperlinked pages.

The Beatles - Abbey Road: Sometime during eighth grade, for whatever reason, I became a huge Beatles freak. My stepdad had all their albums, and I listened to them obsessively, and read Beatles histories, and became able to sing along to pretty much every song (save the ones on the Yellow Submarine album, which I never had). But before that, when I was little, my parents had the White Album and Abbey Road. I liked some of the songs on the White Album (I still have a stuffed animal named Rocky Raccoon, which I've had longer than I remember), but what we really listened to a lot was Abbey Road. I don't know why, and I also don't know why I remember some songs from when I was really young, but not others. And I'm sure I would have still loved the album had I come across it later, but now it's linked to what I remember as being happy times.

Rodeo and Abbey Road especially are linked for me with Saturday morning sunshine and time with my family. My parents helped me love this music so long ago that I can say it like that, "my parents", because they weren't divorced yet. And even though I've had big fights with both of them, and am happy to be living on my own, it makes me happy when I'm making sourdough bread and I hear the jubilant opening of Buckaroo Holiday, and think of my family when I was little.
clevermynnie: (Default)
I went with Joao and Gersende to LBL this morning, intending to chat with the people I used to know there. I sort of figured that most people would have like fifteen minutes for me and then need to get to work, but I didn't count on the procrastination that can be induced by the return of an exile! I thought I would probably leave before lunch, but instead I stayed until 7 pm catching up with various people. I talked to Bill, Steve, Sherri, Armin, Masaaki, Michael, Kyle, and Natalie, and of course Joao and Gersende, though I'm staying with them so I see a lot of them. I was really touched how many people heard I was coming and wanted to see me and talk to me about graduate school and also what they've been doing.

For dinner, some of us went out to Joshuya's, which remains some of the best sushi I've ever eaten. Yum to the ten. We need to figure out if one of those restaurants by Rittenhouse Square is any good.

The last project I did before I left LBL was the edge effects study for LBL CCDs, which I finished a week before leaving and ended up with great data for. I didn't have time to write a paper before leaving, but I wanted one and so I told Natalie I'd write a draft and e-mail it to her and we could work on it remotely. I wrote a couple pages of a draft, but it was summer and I was having fabulous trip after fabulous trip, and basically I just dropped the ball and never did it. But I told her that today, and she was like "oh yeah, I forgot about that", and I talked to Steve about it too and we're on! One of my extracurricular things this semester is to get that damn paper out!

Speaking of which, I am officially published! It was in the December IEEE Transaction on Nuclear Science, and Natalie and I looked it up to make sure it was there and then shared an official handshake. This seems like a good note to end on.
clevermynnie: (Default)
Snow! Lots of snow! Hooray!

My flight home last night almost continued on to Phoenix without stopping in Albuquerque, because of the ice and then the fog, but we did manage to land eventually. Then I got to drive slowly back on icy roads with my dad, but the weather cleared up some while we were driving. This morning it continues to snow, big fat dense flakes.

The last few years I was living here, New Mexico was in the grip of a very bad drought, so the winters were cold but dry, and the skiing in town was pathetic. But it's improved since then, and recent yeras have had pretty good snows, although whenever I visit there seems to be little snow. So it is indescribably nice to come home to snow; it reminds me of being very young and enchanted with everything. :)
clevermynnie: (I see beauty)
Dear Berkeley,

I will miss:

*Cheeseboard
*LBL
*Zachary's
*Gregoire's
*the view from the Campanile
*the view from the end of Building 50
*walking through Stephens Hall
*the BART
*games with Ron, Jonathan, and Modi
*the BFC
*Loups-Garous
*Gelateria Naia
*the CCD lab
*my officemates
*looking up to Natalie
*my moved on school friends
*San Francisco, everything
*the many great hikes
*the Bay, which makes the city beautiful
*all the different cultures
*cheap sushi
*flagrant liberalism
*trees and beautiful suburbs
*all the beautiful campus buildings
*the professors that I liked
*the Gourmet Ghetto
*Monterey Market
*all of my apartments

Berkeley is where I really became my own person. I did some stupid things and you can always see in retrospect ways that you could have used your time better, but when it comes down to it, I've done so many fulfilling things here. I haven't always been happy, but I've been mostly happy, and I've become stronger and more capable than I could have imagined myself five years ago, when I moved here from Los Alamos. In my experiences in Los Alamos I see my home, my soul, my roots, but in my time in Berkeley I see myself becoming who I wanted to be, by my own volition. I built myself and my success here, and I feel a great sense of self-made-ness looking back. Part of my reluctance to move on is that I'm worried I won't love Philadelphia as much as I love it here, or that I won't love Penn as much as I love UCB, or that I won't find as cool friends as I have here, or that I won't succeed as much as I managed to here, despite some missteps. My chief regret in my time here would be that I worried so much about my future and my failures, and from the perspective I have now, that looks like a ridiculous waste of time. I'm proud that I had such a blast here, though, even this last year when I was working off an imagined debt.

Thank you, Berkeley, for never letting me stop having fun. I'll be back.
clevermynnie: (i carry your heart)
I was trying to find parking by Joao and Gersende's place, having sold them my couch and helped move it over there, and I saw a spot on Dwight right next to the Griffiths common room in Unit 2. I remembered hanging out there: watching some movies and playing on the piano with Chih and Jenn, the first good friends I had at Berkeley. And then I remembered that Ben and I first kissed there, an embarrassingly short period of time after we met. Life moves on so fast, doesn't it?
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
My mom picked up all of my gran'dad's old photos when she went out to the memorial service, and has been slowly scanning them in and touching them up, vital for photos that are anywhere between twenty and sixty years old. You can see so much in them, from my grandparents' army wedding to their first little house, how happy they were in those early years for the first few children. For my oldest uncle as a baby, their smiles are huge and charming, and for the next few children they continue to look young and happy. But at five children, their faces fill out, and the children get olders and angrier, and by the time they can't fit all the kids into one photo, a lot of the happiness has faded. You can see bits of history, like how the oldest and youngest daughters were the only ones who got new clothes, so there are photos of my mom and my three aunts, with the three oldest girls wearing somewhat frumpy brown fifties-style clothes, and my youngest aunt in white taffeta in the front. Around when my mom finished high school, my grandparents divorced, and even after that, my gran'dad remarried and spent twenty years with the woman he died married to. I also saw my parents' wedding album, my mom and my Aunt Mary doing a double wedding, both looking beautiful and happy, all the family together. Mary's husband ended up dying of cancer, and my parents were married for a time, happily, but have been divorced for over ten years now. It's amazing the changes you can fit in a lifetime, amazing the way that things can change so much in the world and in your personal life. It makes one wonder how much you can rely on anything, even the things that matter the most to you.

But then there's the opposite of that, eatting with Sam and Steph and Scott, some of my closest friends from high school who are all applying to graduate school now too. We had pumpkin soup, pasta with sun-dried tomato and artichoke hearts and garlic and capers, fresh French bread, wine, and cookies. It was a great feeling of fellowship, and even though we've all been through a lot, we're still very much the same people we were when we saw each other more.

Happy everything to you guys. Always remember that I love you all very much, and I'm happy to help when I can. Thank you for your patience and support in the hard times I've had this year. Take care of yourselves. :P
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
I've done it all before; the late flight in, the pitch black two-hour drive. This time, there was a full moon. That's new. The highway isn't under construction for once. The other drivers are sparse. We get into town and pass the bank, whose display flashes between 1:32 and 76 degrees. "Dad," I say, "did you know it rarely gets this hot in Berkeley in the middle of the day?"Read more... )

steph

Jun. 30th, 2005 06:05 pm
clevermynnie: (wealthy young woman-about-town)
The last person who visited me from New Mexico in my flurry of entertaining was Steph. She came out Monday night, left Friday afternoon for a friend's wedding in Santa Rosa, reappeared for a few hours Sunday, and then went back home. She just finished her undergrad, like me, and she's taking a year off and working at the lab, probably before applying to some sort of graduate/professional school.

Some background... Steph and I have been friends for a long time, close friends. We got really close in 7th and 8th grade, spent a ridiculous amount of time together, and had various kinds of crazy antics. We passed notes in class until our geometry teacher separated us, and then after that we flashed signs to each other. We ran out of a hot bath at her house in the middle of the night and rolled in the snow. We wrote each other letters in classes we didn't share, long, winding, grammatically unsound piles of fun that I still have a bunch of, addressed to George and Ringo (our Beatles pseudonyms). In 9th grade, we crushed on the same guy. We were on the swim team together, in a lot of classes together, and always really close. During senior year of high school, we drifted apart a little... we were both changing a lot, and for both of us some things about senior year were really hard, and hard to share with each other. We went off to college, still got together over summers and winter breaks, and sometimes I'd see her in San Diego when I went to SoCal to visit Ben. I guess we haven't seen each other regularly since high school, although we correspond. What always strikes me when I see Steph or talk to her, though, is how easy it is to get along with her and open up to her. Partly history, I guess, and partly the fact that for a time, it felt like we were two halves of the same person, and that feeling is still there when it's just the two of us sometimes. Even though we've changed a lot since then, into two distinctly different people.

Her arrival was kind of a mess, because her plane was late, so she barely caught the last AirBART shuttle, then accidentally ended up in Daly City (which would've been okay if she could've caught another train back, but it was the last train of the night). Ron very kindly agreed to drive me to Daly City at 1 AM to pick up Steph, for which I am extremely grateful. The other time Steph came to Berkeley, the crappiness of the AC Transit system caused me to be super-late picking her up from the Amtrak station, which is in a very shady part of Berkeley. I got there and she was gone, and I ran around looking for her and wishing we both had cell phones, until eventually my roommates came and got me, and told me Steph had walked to a nearby gas station to call me and wait for me to come get her. This wasn't quite as bad.

Tuesday, after I came back from my quantum lecture, we walked around Berkeley. We went on campus, went up to the top of the Campanile (which I'd never done before), walked down Telegraph, looked at body jewelry, and eventually ended up at Cheeseboard for dinner. On Wednesday, we walked down to the Scharffen Berger factory in West Berkely for the factory tour. The Scharffen Berger tour is a lot of fun; I highly recommend it. First they sit you in a room and tell you about the company, how it was founded, where they get their beans from, how they make chocolate. They pass around unroasted beans, roasted beans, nibs, milk chocolate (40% cocoa), semisweet (62% cocoa), and bittersweet (70% cocoa). The milk chocolate was the best I've ever tasted, creamy and flavorful, and the semisweet was great too, but the bittersweet was just amazing. I love good dark chocolate. Then they walk you through the factory, which is extremely cool to see. It's a working factory, so everything's on a very big scale. I can see why they give the tours for free; when you leave, you want desperately to buy a lot of chocolate. The whole building smells like chocolate, strongly, because they roast and crush the beans there. Just writing this and remembering the smell has given me a serious chocolate craving.

On the way back we stopped at this pet shop, which resulted in Steph and I holding seven-week-old bunnies, amazingly soft and cute, and seriously considering buying them. The bunnies were that cute... I don't want a bunny much, nor have I ever. Cats have so much more intelligence and personality. But the charm of the bunnies was overwhelming. They had the little twitchy noses and floppy ears, and we agreed that after buying the bunnies, we'd name them something disgustingly cute, like Mr. Hugglekins or Wiggles. It's amazing we made it out of the store at all.

We had dinner at Tako Sushi with Ben, and sat and talked about various things. Most of the best parts of her visit were like that. On Thursday afternoon, after lunch at India Palace, we went into San Francisco. Walked up the main part of Chinatown, had milk tea, bought a lot of fudge from Z. Cioccolato (chocolate, double chocolate, white chocolate macadamia, cafe latte, pumpkin, and reese's peanut butter cup fudge), headed over to Coit Tower. The view from Coit Tower is beautiful, though somewhat overpriced. It was cool to be in these various high places now that I can actually point out a fair number of landmarks. We were walking to Ghirardelli Square when we passed a place that claimed to have the best truffles in San Francisco, so we got some. The lemon truffle I had was truly outstanding. We split a sundae at Ghirardelli Square, which had too little of their fantastic hot fudge, and then sat out overlooking the marina and eating fudge. There was really a lot of fudge. By now, it was nearing dusk, and I was becoming actually somewhat sick of chocolate. We walked to the BART and went home, and had a really early bedtime.

On Friday we went up to LBL for the car show and a live band (in which my officemate Sherri plays the congas), and also to see Joao before he left for Geneva and Lisbon. We looked at the view, definitely my favorite Bay Area view, and then delivered Steph to her friend Fred, who drove her to Santa Rosa for the wedding.

She was back for a few hours Sunday with Ben and I, helping us make a tasty brined chicken and some stuffing. I think that the two big results of me seeing so many good high school friends in Berkeley is that I appreciate much more how happy I am here, and how at home I feel, but I also really want to go to graduate school near some of these people. I love them and miss them. Everyone I care about should be within an hour's drive of me.

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