january, 2003

Sat Jan 4 16:05:44 CST 2003

I keep getting up so late these days that I only have a few hours of daylight. Getting on a regular sleep schedule in the next three days is almost pointless, as I'm getting on a plane travelling seven time zones east on the seventh ... however, it's all psychological; all habit. I like having daylight hours; having breakfast, lunch, and dinner ... as it is, I've been having lunch, tea, dinner, and dessert. Which is just as good, and perhaps even better, as this way, I get to eat more cookies (no cookies for breakfast -- it's not out of some maternal no-cookies-before-food instinct, but it just doesn't feel right). But it does mean I end up staying up till two, three, or four, reading and geeking --

much geeking. After three days of working at it, my new computer is up. Keeping with whatever theme I (that is, Martin) began by naming my mikan now-dead hard drive orange (this theme will continue; stay tuned!), I'm going with the Japanese word for tangerine: mikan, also the name of the little Windoze app that used to play little anthropomorphic oranges all over my screen. It being orange, I was quite taken with it. Haven't found something similar under Linux (well, xroach, but that's disgusting) -- and plus, I've grown more and more away from the GUI aesthetic in the almost two years since I've been running Linux. Not so much that I don't like the visual interface (can see more at once; better size of text; and I'm not totally devoid of aesthetics!), but I don't want extra things on my screen. So, mikan is now my computer, and not just a component.

Linux mikan 2.4.18-bf2.4 #1 Son Apr 14 09:53:28 CEST 2002 i686 unknown

It took long enough to get it working! I've installed debian before, but not from scratch, and I'd certainly never partitioned a hard drive or anything. But it was high time that I make my computer my own, and not just something Martin had set up for me. So, I did. To full functionality, with the possible exception of gpg, printing, and sound (which I haven't had a chance to test yet -- no printer/speakers with me here in WI). And I'm proud of me.

In other news, much continues the same: tea, cookies, reading, as mentioned above. Anna was here for New Year's, and we caught up with a bunch of my old high-school crowd downtown. Revelry, the like. Now it's the year I've been long slated to graduate ... I dig it. But I've got to get psyched for a hard semester ... not before two weeks and Switzerland, though!

Thu Jan 9 13:12:55 CET 2003

There's not much food in this apartment, which is at this point my fault -- we went shopping last night, around the corner to the huge department-cum-grocery store, and I was supposed to have picked up what I wanted/needed to cook. I was circumspect, and ended up with more staples than had been in the tiny kitchen, but not enough with which to actually make anything. After five or ten minutes of staring, wide-eyed and exhausted with travelling, at the newly-stocked cupboards and refrigerator, I declared myself inept and still jetlagged, and so he made his usual -- pasta and salad. Tried to drink the bottle of Heuriger wine I'd brought back from a grape-picking expedition in Vienna a couple years ago ... either it had turned, or I just don't like it, but we didn't get that far.

So it follows that there's nothing much for lunch right now. I'm eating a raspberry yogurt (himbeer - framboise - lampone, says the trilingual container), but despite its small size and non-complete-lunchedness, it's quite possibly the best yogurt I've ever had. Score one more for Europe ... two, counting the multiple languages.

Tho only point against Switzerland so far is the grey weather -- it's total bewolkt out there, really cloudy and no sun. Snow fluttering around. And my extremely brief encounters with the local language so far leave me back in a state of paralysis, like I was when I got into Vienna, encountering a strange dialect of a language I'd then just learned; which now has been out of use for a year or so. Martin says even he, the native German, has a hard time understanding the Swiss (though I'm going to hazard a guess that he fares a little better than I have been). It's so crazy and irrational, this linguistic -- and therefore psychological -- paralysis, but it's happened to me before ... I want to say it would happen to a lesser degree in cities where I spoke the language, and that's likely true ... however, here, it's all but absolute. All I would need would be a few weeks, or a month or two on the outside, before I'd be comfortable ... but it would take that long. I'm trying not to let it take over my perception of this place, but it's hard to not feel as if everyone around you belongs to an élite club ... I can do German! It's jst the new city in combination with the dialect ... why oh why was I born American? Damn.

So, I'm eating Himbeer-Joghurt mit Rahm, and boiling a pot of tea. Watching the trains go by outside his window. Internetless (firewall problems, I'm guessing; and I don't want to hack into random machines trying to divine the source of a problem I likely can't fix), but I have books aplenty (theeeesis! argh), and I'll go shopping again later for more food, reading more interesting German-French-Italian titles of foods, and marvelling more at unique (better, in most cases) packaging. (Milk in carboard boxes with tear-off spouts I'd all but forgotten about; butter in 100g bars encased in paper; &c.) Meanwhile, I'm glad to be here.

Tue Jan 14 09:20:47 CET 2003

Dale (the Brit, Martin's "English English tutor") told last night of a friend whose travelogues read like restaurant reviews. Led by his stomach, he sampled every variety of fish and chips he could get, and narrated the tour from a gustatory standpoint. Not such a bad way to structure a visit. In some way, I'm very conscious of the food here. As I write this, I'm eating Knusper Schoko, müsli with chocolate chunks. I've always steered away from breakfast cereal that made your milk turn brown, but when it's Vollmilch, Swiss müsli, and alpine chocolate, who am I to say no?

I have also been consuming with abandon all the gruyère and havarti I can get my hands on.

Three bottles wine last night, between five of us total (I stopped early). (Small gathering for dinner and then a movie on a projector from the lab, plugged into a laptop.) Spanakopita that followed the recipe, but was made with "cut-leaf" (i.e., lacerated and liquefied) spinach, and instead of phyllo dough, I found croissant dough in Migros, the supermarket down Hofwiesenstraße from the apartment. Martin didn't know exactly what I meant, and I didn't know how to interpret what he was describing was in the package ... but it turned out amazingly well. Not the Greek original, per se, but a Swiss (? certainly Austrian, with the fortifying thick pastry dough and spinach) equivalent. Salad; brownies.

Two days ago, Sunday, Martin made me some form of Käsebrot -- bread with butter, tilsiter (Swiss cheese), and marmelade (not marmelade; raspberry jam), before I bundled up into about five layers and was driven to Flumserberg: a mountain in the Swiss Alps an hour or so away from Zürich.

And I snowboarded. Pictures are forthcoming, as soon as I can interface my camera with M's kernel here. And only half of them are me wiping out! It was a beautiful days -- the only sun I've seen so far, and it was shining on the alps, bright blue sky, bright white snow, and only about -10 C. We drove up in the mid-morning, bought more snowpants for M (I wore his old ones, over a pair of jeans, as they're quite large -- the Swiss do not fuck around with winter gear, I'm seeing!) and socks for me (the best socks I'll ever wear -- fitted, knee-high, and überthermal ... I've since been wearing them around the apartment just because they feel so good). Martin put me on a small incline to teach me how to balance on the front edge, back edge, steer with my shoulders, move my weight ... more time on my ass than anywhere there. Pasta for lunch in a restaurant where I still can't understand Schweizer Deutsch; and we hit the actual slopes. Martin was impressed that I didn't once fall off the T-bar lift, though he was holding me ... and I can almost turn and carve. Really not bad for a first day, I think, and I think M thinks, too. I would need another day minimum, if not two, to really get the hang of it (and that's not talking about getting good, mind you), but I was too physically and mentally exhausted to even consider going on Monday. I think I wish I had, in retrospect, but there was no way I could subject myself to that kind of learning two days in a row... vielleicht bin ich echt eine schwache Bohne. Some day when one or both of us can afford it, we'll just go stay at a resort and do a full week of snowboarding. I will certainly learn that way!

So now I've got two days left here, and they must be thesisful, or at least reading-full, as I'm alone here in his apartment during the day with no money and I think even no key. I have books to read, music to listen to, food to eat ... and soon I'm going back to Swat. Oh, one more semester. I like it, I know and I've said, but being here makes me want to be in the real world, be in Zürich ... my own apartment; my own kitchen; my own job ... all the accouterments of a life. And I mean a stationary life, not schlepping from state to state and continent to continent. But I have one more semester, and so it goes -- at least for the next four and a half months.

I can do this. Thesis-ho!

Thu Jan 16 09:34:?? CET 2003

Flughafen Frankfurt am Main

I've barely slept, but that's not because of not being accustomed to the waterbed (jetzt bin ich es sehr gewöhnt!), but rather going to sleep after midnight, after the latest James Bond (I haven't seen the earlier ones, and this one sucked), buying me a Dürrenmatt (Die Physiker), and coming home through a darkened Zürich on Straßenbahnen with bells you can step on and make ring -- and then getting up less than four hours later to fold laundry, cry, pack, and leave.

But this time, only three or so hours since I left Switzerland and Martin (for who knows how long -- a conference in Tokyo -- and my thesis -- might make spring break difficult), I feel good. Happy, rather than ängstig, to be going where I'm going, and a comfort with the process of transition. --Which is why I'm writing this now, in the airport, not even waiting till I have a computer back -- this state of mind in these circumstances is quite foreign to me, and I want it to stay. This comfort starts with my German -- not great production-wise, but not in a state of paralysis, either -- and quite fluent comprehension (of Hoch Deutsch, that is!) -- enough to, without preparation, buy a postcard, write it auf Deutsch, and sip at a cappuccino in a pleasantly European-smoky airport café/bar here in Frankfurt. Travelling light helps, but the good coffee and good mindset help yet more.

--And it extends to wherever I'm going, physically, and meta-. I got enough background reading done on my thesis to feel like I have a place to start; this semester will be full but fun (as Swat always is); and I'm feeling so calm about Zürich and one certain inhabitant thereof. I've set up search profiles with online job nets. I've got a German CV. And he's not going anywhere. We learn a little more about each other each time 'round, edging closer to a meta-/physical equilibrium. Es gefällt mir gut.

Side note: I must chop my hair off before I go snowboarding again. Or sailing (for the first time). Or even dance, maybe ... hm, one P.E. credit left -- maybe I should chop it now and stop trailing 2-foot-long hairs around the Wohnung ...

Back to the Dürrenmatt. Which I'm understanding.

Mon Jan 20 20:47:54 EST 2003

I cut my hair! finally. Claire and I were driving to Genuardi's this afternoon (to ogle cheeses and teas and assorted gourmet brownies), and I said, maybe I should just do it now. If I were to go to dance tonight (I didn't), I couldn't dance with my hair like this. It was a pain in yoga this morning. And you could see Claire rubbing her fingers together wickedly as she drove on and offered to cut it for me -- finally, her hair would be longer than mine! For the first time since freshman year, since which we've had this ongoing battle. Mine just happens to grow twice as fast as any mortal's ought, that's all.

before ... ... during ... ... after

So, we cut it. After an appetizer of sushi (starving but we didn't want to go to Sharples, and I wanted my hair off), I soaked my head (she'd been waiting all night to say that!), and chopped in layers. I bounced around the room with the removed weight. Now dry, it's swishing around my ears and shoulders, and I like it a lot. Still long -- more feminine, Gabe (H.) says -- but short enough to wear down. Exactly what I wanted.

Back at Swarthmore, I'm ready to begin my work. Classes have started. Three of them (architecture, theory, and the senior conference) are just going to be one big senior CS major party. I'm really excited about my thesis. Now if only my computer would stop crashing! (I think it's the motherboard ... not the HD and not the memory, what else can it be?!) Last semester, here I come.

Thu Jan 23 23:30:05 EST 2003

fire in sharples

There was a blaze in the fireplace in Sharples today at lunch, taller than I was at 11:30 when Ginnie and I got out of class and tromped through the blistering cold down to the dining hall. We ski-logded it, sitting on the hearth with our backs to the heat -- toasted, but better than cold.

Beethoven Seven in orchestra tonight. reminiscent of many things ... well, one specific person, really. I love that second movement.

Thu Jan 30 17:31:29 EST 2003

my new swatch

This summer, I walked through the Penn Bookstore almost every day on the way (to and) home from work. Not only was it directly along my route, but it also cut a diagonal off a whole block, and -- most importantly -- was ridiculously air-conditioned, something desperately needed during the sweltering days when all Eve and Jenny and I could do was lie around the apartment half-naked dreaming of fresh fruit and ice-pops that turned our tongues purple, green, and orange.

Because of the heat, the bookstore had a section right in the middle aisle (of course the most direct path through the store) of books on smoothies. (I was reminded of this today in Senior Conference, talking about "smoothing algorithms" [for n-gram models], when Mark asked, smoothie algorithms? Mmm ...) I must have read half of them. I became inspired and made many smoothies (fewer than I should have -- they took work, and the blender in these Penn girls' apartment had clearly never seen anything thicker than mixed drinks -- and certainly not the hummus I once subjected it to), the base recipe for which I largely forget, but which went something like this:

  • Use a banana, unless you hate them -- the flavor goes well with almost any other fruit you're going to put it, and -- more importantly -- does wonders for the texture.
  • Yogurt is your next staple -- vanilla for smoothies, though if you have plain on hand because you were eating müsli or granola with it, just add sugar. Maybe a cup of yogurt?
  • More fruit. Buy out the fresh strawberry section.
  • Orange juice. A kind of weird ingredient, especially if you were envisioning a more homogeneous smoothie, but again, it holds flavors together well, and combines well. A half cup?

I can't remember the exact proportions -- which were important -- but a little experimentation in warmer weather should yield something excellent. And I mean above-freezing weather -- I just bought myself a hat, which I've been meaning to do for a while, at one of those sales outside of the bookstore. Wool, of course, so I'm allergic to it -- but how could I not?

  • I'm freezing;
  • it's
    • orange and brown; and
    • reversible!

So between that plus my new Swatch that just came yesterday -- sleek, Swiss, and it tells time! -- and my haircut, I'm feeling quite stylish. Or at least accessorized.

Also this summer, also on my path to and from work (mostly to for this one) I ate many doughnuts. Dunkin' ones, to be specific -- double chocolate ones -- chocolate, with a chocolate glaze. Good on their own; amazing with a cup of darjeeling. I've been craving them recently -- and there are several within a five-minutes' drive ... but Claire and I have found the scone recipe to end all scone recipes, and they suppress most of that urge. Flaky and crumbly like the huge flakes of snow that were falling yesterday; the perfect scone. And we learned what currants were.

all this ©nori heikkinen, January 2003

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