january, 2002


My mother is knitting an afghan, which she's been working on off and on for some time now. Having all kinds of free time on her hands that used to be spent with the evil LCMS Concordia enables her to finish this project much sooner, and once again I hear the familiar "knit one, purl one; knit two, purl one ..." mumbling from the cream corduroy loveseat where we vie for sitting spots in the daylight.

Conversely, or weirdly similarly, I am using my jobless free time (three unemployed Eleanors in the house has to be harder on my sister than two employed ones, the usual situation here [1]) to learn Perl, something which has been on my to-do list since early summer, but despite my oodles of time in Austria, I did not have oodles of Linux boxes just sitting around for my poking-at.

My mother the knitter, however, does not understand the mechanics behind basic computer programming. While the lofty philosophy behind programming is to model human concepts, they first have to be broken down into miniscule chunks. Apples can be yellow, green, or red, but for the purposes of a string-comparing hash table exercise I wrote, they're only ever red:

orange:~/perl> fruitcolors
what is the color of a apple? blue
nope, you're wrong. try again: yellow
nope, you're wrong. try again: green
nope, you're wrong. try again: red
good job!
what is the color of a banana? brown
nope, you're wrong. try again: yellow
good job!
what is the color of a blueberry? blue
good job!
what is the color of a grape? red
nope, you're wrong. try again: green
nope, you're wrong. try again: purple
good job!
what is the color of a lime? lime
nope, you're wrong. try again: green
good job!
what is the color of a orange? orange
good job!

Learning Perl in the O'Reilly series, by R. Schwartz and T. Christiansen, is exactly what I wanted -- especially for $7.98, even if the binding is kind of falling apart (that's what god made superglue for), as opposed to the usual five times that it usually retails at. Going through this much more UNIX-like language, with syntax similar to the C I learned two years ago (and in which class I was first introduced to UNIX, contrary to all those who labelled me a wannabe German computer-guru -- yes, I converted at his impetus, but it was not a new idea by then) but with expressions from shell scripting, I'm fast becoming reďntrigued with CS. I even dreamed in perl last night!: as I sneezed myself awake every two minutes with house-specific allergies, I realized dimly that I must be trying to edit the wrong file, or wrong subroutine, and so my sinuses violently catapulted me through somnolence and in-, from routine to file, as I was all the while valiantly sorting though !#/usr/bin/perl headings ... (of course, I'm sure it didn't help that I'd stayed up till 2:30 or so lost in iterations and loops, incrementing a hash value at the wrong key, and completely missing the forest for the trees in a simple exercise.) Can I go to grad school in computer science with a music and linguistics degree?? --Aaron pointed out that the closely-related linguistics is nontrivial in this case, especially syntax and also the logic-heavy semantics, and that while I haven't taken almost any classes, that might be circumventable. Hm.

New Year's Eve promised to be very dull, unless I got off my ass and did something about it. I sent out an email announcing a party chez moi to a hugely eclectic group of Madison kids; Ari and I then went to the grocery store and bought chocolate, cheese, and liquor (where I failed again to get carded. This is getting obnoxious). We cooked half the day, Mom getting into her usual pre-party frenzy, cleaning and spilling bite-size quiches in the oven; but Sachertorte, fresh bread (almost made me cry with last spring's redolence), a last-minute pecan pie, and even salvaged champignon-Lorraines resulted -- which, with brie-muenster-colby crackers, vodka tonics, and the ten to fifteen people who showed up, was actually cool. Even though most were purportedly party-hopping, enough were still around at midnight to call it a party -- at which point we looked at the clock, realized we'd missed it, and counted down ourselves to some arbitrary champagning-in of the new year. At some point around three a.m., Mom declared, "I'm too drunk to knit." I was certainly too drunk to perl.

[1] We three equinomial first girls in the maternal line are less of a handful than usual, I imagine, but then again, my heteronomic sister is more of a teenager than in previous years when we've all congregated, so that may make up for our diminished eleanorness -- and even make it worse. Subtract two, add five, and you still have a factor of 3 of annoyance.

I suppose the chronology of Tolstoy and Kundera is really in that order. But that said, I'm glad I'm reading them in the opposite. I'm glad I had the latter's metaphors to cling on to and reďnterpret through last spring, into the summer and fall, but now Unbearable's basis is clearly visible in 19th-century Russia.

Crazy, these recurrent themes. Crazy, how we codify them. Anna and Karenin's (and I mean her husband, not Sabina's dog) almost blind betrothal, to say nothing of Kitty and Levin's chalk-scrawled confessions, are indeed far divorced from Franz's dalliances or Teresa's mother's conception of the body, but the bowler hat is there in both, and the idea of love -- how it transforms ("Dolly was struck by that temporary beauty which only comes to women in moments of love, and which she now found in Anna's face" [1]); how it invades dreams [2,3]. Kundera composing his novel "novelistically," showing how Tolstoy did the same thing, "composing his [novel] according to the laws of beauty" [4]. Glad I've finally found the time to read this one through.

Yesterday, a break from delivering telephone books, or writing perl scripts to tell me how much money I needed to earn doing same, when I accompanied my mother to take Grandma down to O'Hare. A boring drive down but I slept through it, and my reward for lugging suitcases through lines was the huge, labyrinthine-road-surrounded IKEA. Didn't get much (4 kleine Kerzenhalter) but reminded myself of my nesting instinct, and my preference for wooden hangers. Will have to go out to the one near Swat. The Swedish apple cake wasn't perhaps as good as it should have been, but the chocolate piece was, and the latte -- my first non-homemade coffee since Vienna -- wasn't terrible. Wasn't a melange, but wasn't what I usually associate with American coffee.

To bed, and to Anna K., and to my dreams. Just give me time.

[1] Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, trans. Maude, rev. Gibian. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1995. p. 555
[2] Teresa's nightly plaguing in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
[3] still. nightly. i have to shake them off before i can think straight, and alone.
[4] The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera, p. 52

Swat starts again in a week, and, as I wrote Ester today, there are many things I'd like to get done before I go back that I haven't. These mostly involve reading (Gödelescherbach is still not finished!! rar; hopefully soon ...; Neuromancer; Gravity's Rainbow), running (have done it a total of once since August), and viola practice (picked it up again today, and began learning Dvorák 9 for a reading on February 7th, and Beethoven III (Eroica!) for a concert in a month -- good to be playing!).

However, there's also a sizeable list of things I have accomplished, be they tangible or just in my head. During winter break they're pretty much tantamount, except in monetary value, which we're going to disregard for the moment, as delivering telephone books has earned me closer to the black, but not quite. I've been reading debian-user, which has been ridiculously instructive, and also ridiculously inspiring. Installed spamassassin, along with a billion dependent updated and new packages, which caused a small domino chain of problems, which have since been fixed, prompting other cool upgrades and fixes. The perl i've been learning all along has helped this process, and I've written several useful scripts now (! imagine!), reading the mailboxes I have defined and telling me how much mail I have in each of them; downloading mail with a frequency directly related to how long I've been idle (well, still working on the second part of that one); other cool ideas. Shell scripting as well is proving to be less opaque than I thought it might be. I'm much less intimidated by the problems that pop up in a system, or rather, much less intimidated by taking steps that will certainly cause problems like this. I haven't done as much as I'd like to have over break in this realm, certainly, but I have had time to take huge steps that wouldn't have been possible in a computerless Viennese environment, or a sparetimeless Swattese environment. Hopefully I can finish this Perl book before I go back, and then continue the trend of reading the list fully and making my own computer happier and happier even at Swarthmore. Had to deal briefly with Windoze today when on Mom's computer, to watch the meaning of swarthmore video with a plugin I don't feel like dealing with in Linux, and it is horrid! I can't see how I happily ran it from 3.1 to 98! I love being able to make my computer do what I want it to do, when I want it to do it. Beautiful.

In a similar realm of control, I've been cooking, though certainly spending less time in the kitchen than I do at the computer. cranberry mushroom soup I've put up recipes online, the ones post-cookbook; I've been making up for lost cooking time in Austria by experimenting with ravioli; yesterday Mom and I went out to a large corporate bookstore, inherently negative except for its huge selection and the fact that I ran into Nora Moses there, whom I only seem to see on such occasions. She looks well; I'm glad for her. We bought The Voluptuous Vegan, a really exciting-looking book by Myra Kornfeld. I've been kind of at a loss edamame ravioli to think how to cook for Rebecca and her diet, living with her, as I am, in a short six or seven days. This book, while admittedly containing a good number of recipes with ridiculously occult ingredients like agar-agar, shoyu, galangal, kudzu (I could go on; all I do is flip to a random recipe and there's a new word on the page) -- all with an index, though -- should be cool because it's not what my perception of vegan cooking has been -- i.e., vegetarian (at which I rock, and with which I have grown completely comfortable) without the dairy and animal products. Making a chocolate cake without the eggs and butter may be impossible from an existing recipe, but starting with a vegan recipe, it makes it look much more real. Mom and I are talking food finances, and while she cautions me not to spend all my time in the spring in the kitchen for (I promise, Mom!), I want a ravioli press ...

coffee ritual on orange
placemats We drink coffee after dinner nightly. Alexis gets up, having about as much sense of digestion as I do of enunciation, as I garbled a barb to that effect tonight, and Mom grinds French roast and brings out the cookies for the two of us -- down one demitasse since Grandma left. We're on our second batch of Laurel's lemon-ginger cookies, and who knows how manyth bag of coffee. Who thought I'd ever drink it, especially after 9 PM?

Laurel and Amelia came and visited for a day and half recently, road-tripping in a Caravan with Minnesota plates around the Midwest, and stopping by Madison. Good to see the girls, and not so unique, in ways. Laurel called on a payphone from Chicago, asking for directions, and it was so natural to hear her voice on the telephone that I didn't think twice until about three seconds into the conversation, when my brain grasped that I hadn't seen her in about nine months. Once in, we watched Charlie's Angels and finished off one of the spare bottles of champagne in our fridge (left over, actually, not from this new year's, like the two other spares, but the year before), all to the great amusement of my sister.

Laurel's dad had a request of us. He had "a client" in Madison, he told her, and "could she please go visit it?" The client turns out to be Odessa Piper, owner and proprietor of L'Étoile, only the fanciest restaurant in Madison, whom he supplies with prosciutto. We toured the kitchens, each contemplated going to the CIA (-ulinary -nstitute of -merica, not -entral -ntelligence -gency) after Swarthmore, and then came back later for dessert. We ordered three, and the kitchen gave us two more gratis! all of which were exquisite. Oh my:

  1. Fantôme chèvre coeur à la crème with grapefruit and caramel cage
  2. Champagne and grapefruit sorbets with opal basil infusion (also had pomegranate seeds!)
  3. Souffléd meyer lemon crêpe with lemon glaze and pistachios
  4. Chocolate vesuvius with eau de vie soaked plum center, plum sauce and vanilla crème anglaise
  5. Hazelnut phyllo with almonds and espresso crème anglaise

-- listed in order of how excellent they were, which was all 'very'. I really didn't know desserts could be made like that.

Since then, I have been sleeping perhaps more than I ought, certainly according to my mother, whose philosophy is that everyone ought to wake up and do things in the morning. I like that philosophy, and will certainly implement it when I get back to school in a week, but for the meantime I love lounging in bed -- I've abandoned my masquerade of sheets and blankets, and surrendered to the wonderful subtly-striped pillowcover Daunendecke puffiness, skin between different purples, morning light in on the book i'm (still) reading, and I like half-sleeping, half-reading, half soaking up light in those morning hours.

purple daunendecke bed in sunlight

The hall looking down from my room is, as advertised, a light lavender, whose imperfect ceiling is illuminated by three paper globes over light fixtures. A stray guitar lounges by juggling balls, a shelf of books, one cufflink, and a cello minus a bridge (Joel-O called Dane Anderson tonight about that). Ladysmith Black Mambazo comes from Rebecca's newly-rougified next-door room, wherein the walls don't seem to close in as might be expected, but are rather vibrantly unobnoxious. The bathroom splits the girls to the North and boys to the South, but it is forgiven all segregation by exoneration via its glorious water-pressure! Such a showerhead to compare only with the one in the Münchner heated-floor bathroom. From this vantage point the dining room isn't visible, around the bend in the right-curving violet hallway, but it is a light peach, lit by two star-shaped lanterns which in turn throw small star shadows through perforations in their sides onto the light-orange walls. The kitchen to its left is stocked and functional, with a faucet that doesn't drip if you turn it off the right way, and complete with all my cooking implements, demitasse cups, and plates that made it safely from the Lodge, through the summer, and into my current roommates' hands.

The kitchen was replenished this afternoon with a Genuardi's run (which should hopefully hold us for a while). Despite its glorious restocking, however, I opted to let Alyssa scan me in at Sharples for dinner, for the sole purpose of participating in the annual junior squealing match, when confused and re-ciphered freshmen watch as everyone returning from abroad meets not only each other but also everyone they know who had stayed behind, and screeches as they run across the rooms to hug each other and exclaim. Last night it was hypothesized that the juniors actually coördinate this, standing in opposite corners of the dining hall and then converging on one another, shrieking as loud as possible as they drop trays and make as large displays of affection as possible. As I actually saw a good two-thirds of the people about whom I would squeal at seeing last night at Laurel's annual dinner party, it was certainly not orchestrated, and there was no tray-dropping, but I did see many people who haven't crossed my path in the last day or so that I've been on campus (or at least hovering around it).

This tradition of Laurel's is actually a legitimate one, dating from the first Saturday before classes of our freshman year. The two of us walked to Genuardi's and, too laden to walk home, stole a cart (« Descartes ») to transport the provisions back to Wharton AB basement's kitchen. There, five or six or ten people, including Roban and Mike Smith, as I remember, participated in something wholly unremarkable, but enough to start something annual. The next year, I was still at home when twenty-seven people converged in my room in Lodge Two Basement. I have no idea what they ate -- but given the general trend that year I'm sure it was excellent, chaotic, and three hours late -- but I rest assured that it all took place on that four-color floor, all twenty-seven partygoers' worth of festivities.

This year I was back again, having arrived that afternoon. Allison and I drove from Madison, through Oberlin, and to Swarthmore in what was likely record time, even given the weather we hit. Staying at Joel-O's place in Ohio, we were told that a snowstorm was supposed to hit the east coast in the early afternoon. To avoid it, we got up at 4:30 a.m., and made it to Swarthmore by 2:00, even given the last twenty miles of moderately bad snow and awful (local) roads (the highways were very decent the whole way). Exhausted, Allison slept while I moved my stuff in. There was moderate chagrin when I realized that my room was not yet empty, but this is being rectified in decent time and with good humor, so it hasn't been a huge problem. We eventually got to the dinner party -- in ML Breakfast Room, in which I had last been in under very different circumstances -- an hour late or so, as Ross was finishing his glorious bűche de noël (I made the meringue mushrooms). There the squealing scene took place in microcosm, or at least the hugging scene. Great Northern Bean Soup (it's actually in the cookbook; never made it -- damn good!) and a plastic cup of white wine accompanied chatter, and Ben (Galynker) trying to make me guess what the Russian Easter Overture is, saying I should know because I put it on a "Best of Classical" mix for Alyssa (which I should have). People slowly dispersed, I retrieved boxes from Gabe's attic with Claire, and then went back to and stayed in ML for a while, ending up chilling with Laurel, Amelia, Claire, Alyssa, Roban, and Paul. Felt like a very first-year, Willets-first-south crowd, and while we've all been doing ridiculously different things this past semester (Costa Rica; here; Rome; Japan; here; Jordan; respectively -- and me in Vienna), and though we're geographically diverse in terms even of living arrangements this semester, it felt very wheel-like to come back to them. Full-circle-like. Comfortable. (The merlot got finished.)

This morning and afternoon brought the rest of the boxes Allison and I ever had in storage to their respective locations, as well as stocking the Barn kitchen. Sharples dinner; unpacking and throwing around of furniture here. Camaraderie; a peach dining room; star lanterns.

As I walk around campus, everything is so familiar that it's not even remarkable that I haven't been here for nine months. But there's certainly a shade of what I was doing, who I was, and with whom I was the last time I was in all (bar none) of these places. There is certainly a conspicuously absent face. So I called him, and watched the Mondrian and Miró on Joel-O's walls and the different yellows on the buttons of the keyboard while nothing much was said, but voice timbre exchanged. I could sigh but I feel like at this point it's just self-indulgent and a given. New semester, new lotta things. I'm glad to be starting them here.

As we did with Gorgias, Ross and I read Plato's significantly longer Meno dialogue last night in tandem, switching off Socrates as our voices got too tired with the late hour to carry through the old dude's single-handed twisting of every theory presented. Unfortunately, I'm not at that class right now -- Introduction to Philosophy (Knowledge & Value) with the inculpable Schuldenfrei -- having discovered that (a) he will under no circumstances allow auditors; (b) while I appear to be doing fine with three 8:30s a week, five might do me in; and (c) it is not in fact the Social Sciences PDC I thought, but a goddamn Humanities.

I ran into Jenny along some campus path at some point early this week, who was having major crises, both of size and and of nature. She has been a Bio major, I think, but no longer feels like that's valid, and is feeling restless and the need to switch. She came over for dinner that night, Tuesday, after her Grapevine meeting, and perhaps spurred into motion some dangling yet latent idea in my brain. People had been asking me what CS classes I was taking this semester, and I had been telling them, none! but I want to take this and that and ...

The junior ambiguity, the major crises, communicated themselves quite succinctly, and I started wondering if I couldn't major in CS. Well, no. That much was quite definite. But, with Seanius the quasi-resident CS major at the dinner table, and with Laurel (a.k.a. She Who Keeps The Course Catalog Requirements In Her Head) also present, and intermittent checking of the semester's timetable and Jenny's sophomore Plan Of Study, I figured out that a minor in CS was wholly possible.

Music major.
Linguistics minor.
Computer science minor.
No honors or any of that bullshit.
If I can actually do this, which seems more than likely, I will have a component of my degree from each of the divisions. That's slightly ridiculous, I grant you, but so is the diversity of my academic interests.

Various involved figures of authority have since been spoken to. Charles Keleman of the CS department hemmed and hawed a little, which was legitimate, since he doesn't know me at all, and as far as he could tell, I was an eager junior who came into his office fifteen minutes before the earliest class of the day, his 8:30 CS22 ("Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs"), declaring that she'd taken the lowest- and highest-numbered courses in his department (21 and 129), and now wanted to minor. He has since put into action my request for a minor (which is contingent on two more courses, but no worries), and I'm excited about this.

Keleman advised me to do the classes left for the minor -- 22, 35, 25, and 46 -- in that order, and not ass-backwards, as I'd been planning. I've therefore had to abandon my ideas of Structure of Chinese at Haverford this semester, as, only minoring in Linguistics, I won't need the non-Indo-European language class, and don't any more have room for it. I petitioned Stephen Maurer, prof of Math 9 (Discrete Math) for entrance into his over-enrolled class, and, unrelatedtly, successfully gleaned a signature from Kemal at African last night, so that now I have a full green sheet of signatures to let me into my classes for the semester:

Math 9Discrete Math
CS 22Structure and Interp. of Computer Programs
Music 15Harmony and Counterpoint V*
Music 20Medieval and Renaissance Music

(which is not including the half-credits of German Conversation -- for which I last night watched Der Blaue Engel, in which both the German and English were equally unintelligible), Orchestra, music lessons, and African dance).

So the ball is in motion. Mom wasn't initially too happy, sending me three vituperative emails in a row Friday night, but as I had PYO the next morning, I put off their response until the next afternoon. When I called, she had been fighting with her "baby beastie" (lovely laptop, whose only fault is it runs Windoze) all afternoon, trying to perform a few tasks it apparently just didn't want to do. After I talked her through the solution in under five minutes, she said, "maybe I should let you minor in the damn thing, after all."

The only drawbacks from this plan are that I don't get to write a linguistics thesis -- which I have since realized I wouldn't have had all the tools I would have wanted to write, as I was hoping to combine so many CS-y and math-y elements, that its deferment to grad school or someplace else is entirely appropriate and not a great tragedy -- and that I have to drop Philosophy. I just can't take five classes, especially if it would mean five days a week of 8:30s.

The first week of waking up that early, however, I have done admirably. After getting up at 4:30 a.m. in Oberlin two Saturdays ago to beat the snow into Philly, the latest I woke up for the next week was 9:00, and that was just the Sundays. Shopping two 8:30s, and PYO in the city at 9 on Saturday, has necessitated a different sleeping pattern than I ever thought myself capable of at Swat. I'm right now not in Philosophy, as I absolutely can't take it, but still, note the time stamp on this journal, and note that I am indeed up, functional, and loving this sun through my (three!) (large!) windows.

Two of my three large windows have ugly dark-turquoise curtains on them right now, which Ross has professed to want if I don't (which I certainly don't). The plan for the windows right now involves the rolling bamboo shades, with large white muslin curtains over them. This room is slowly being transformed into someplace very livable, and even beautiful. When I got into my new room a week and a half ago, the ceiling was peeling down in large chunks, and the walls were a nasty, very-agčd and dirty white. This has since been completely rectified -- the ceiling and the bits of the walls that needed it have been spackled, the ceiling painted a warm white "vanilla," and the walls a rather bright lavender, "sayonara." It's a little lighter than I was going for, hoping for a darker hue with more blue in it, and also just darker shade with more black in it, but this will be lovely. Finished Sunday afternoon, thanks to my roommates, who each chipped in an hour or more, and to two magnanimous CS dorks -- Gabe drove me to Home Depot to procure paint rollers and rollerheads (to replace the one I managed to glue onto its roller), and Fanjul came over, having been invited for dinner, and somehow got shanghaied into sanding my ceiling and helping me paint it. And then into making vegan applesauce muffins. Good to see the boy! It's been too long with many of my better friends.

So, while I'm not completely moved in, I am certainly much farther along towards that goal than I have been for the past week. I need a free afternoon, perhaps Wednesday, except that with African and our quintet's newly-scheduled coachings with (Marcan)Ton{i|y}(o) Barone, that's not free anymore. Hmph.

The Quintett (two t's as in the German, do you remember?) met Sunday night to read through the first movement of the Schumann, which we're going to do this semester. We've retained Lisa Huang and Oliver (who played a fabulous Dvorák cello concerto audition the other day! -- as I ran over to Lang in a t-shirt and bare feet, in this ridiculous January thaw that is as much thawlike as a deep freeze is a light frost -- congratulations, Oliver, on winning it for Fall 2002!), and are now playing with Rachel Kane and Camilla, the Italian transfer violinist. I think this guts what was left of the official swat Fetter Quartet ... oops. ;) I couldn't remember how high I wanted my piano bench, and spent the rehearsal playing with the knobs on either side of it.

It's very good, in many ways, to be back here, playing with my Quintet, playing Beethoven III and other exciting things with PYO, minoring in CS, beautifying my room. But at the same time, I'm not half as bushy-tailed about it as this freshman Jason in Philosophy which I just dropped (or rather, in which I never ultimately enrolled) seems to be -- his eyes light up and widen every time someone makes an intelligent point, and it's clear that this collegiate setting of smart kids is manna for his very soul. Yo, my Seele likes it too, but this time round I'm feeling very chill about the whole thing. Eager, yes; excited, yes; happy, yes; -- and not jaded -- but without the overeagerness, overexcitedness, that made me bite off more that I could chew in previous semesters. I very much like where I am, and what I've got going on, even though not quite everything and its mother is going my way. Perhaps even if I can't go to class, I'll just try to keep reading those Plato dialogues with Ross.

* Harmony and Counterpoint Five will have nothing to do with Harmony or Counterpoint, as we appear to be diving right into the Second Viennese School where I left it in Wien, analyzing some twelve-tone Webern, and going through Babbit and Bartók (the string quartets! the string quartets!!), to perhaps Ligeti. The prof seems cool; there is no forced ear training; I like this class.

all this ©nori heikkinen, January 2002

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