Sunday, September 21, 2014

The kitchen and the cosmos

Austin and I have been watching Cosmos lately and it is amazing. I love having Neil DeGrasse Tyson explain the universe to me. I love that he is both an accomplished scientist and a powerful communicator. (And it makes me want to be an astrophysicist.) I love the blend of science and poetry and imagination and wonder (he says things like "we are made of star-stuff.") I love that he is matter-of-fact about evolution – he makes no apologies for science. After a long day, it's nice to kick back, listen to Neil, and remember how small I am and how amazing the universe really is. 

We have had a fruit fly problem lately, probably since we've left some of our fruits and veggies from the CSA out on the counter. Austin set an apple cider vinegar trap in a wine glass and caught a bunch – there is photographic evidence that I will not share here – but now they're back and bigger than before, and the traps are not working. Our theory is that the hedonist fruit flies drowned and the fruit flies who aren't tempted by vinegar survived and reproduced, and now the mecha fruit flies are running the show. We have created dozens of tiny monsters. So we do not need Neil DeGrasse Tyson to prove to us that evolution is for real.

(Update: Austin's new theory is that the surviving fruit flies are actually gnats, and we have a second insect infestation on our hands. So we can add that to our list of reasons to be glad we are leaving we will move to where the gnats can't find us!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The search

In high school, applying for colleges was The Most Stressful experience that I, and many of us, could imagine. And getting my college acceptance letters touched off my first Crisis of Indecision. It was the first big decision I'd made in my life. I remember sitting in my college counselor's office getting melodramatic about how this was going to shape the course of the rest of my life – who I married, who my lifelong college buddies would be, my career, and absolutely everything else. It was the first time I could see paths branching off and knew I could choose only one. 

Looking back now, that whole crisis seems way overblown. Especially because at the end I was choosing between Middlebury and Dartmouth. For sure, those are very different animal (house)s (Quidditch vs. Greek life) but, let's be real, they are both highly-ranked liberal arts colleges in neighboring New England states. 

And in a way, that wasn't a real decision. There was no question in my mind that I was going to college then. I never really considered a gap year – the thought probably crossed my mind, but the power of going through the same experiences at the same time as my peers was too strong. So it was like ordering something off a menu instead of choosing a restaurant.

Oh man, I so wish that looking for jobs and apartments was anything like the college application process. Where you search around, find ones you like, apply to a smattering by a common deadline, and as long as you throw in a few safeties you're sure to get something, if not your first choice. With jobs and apartments, there are no guarantees and there are time pressures, too. Sometimes you have to jump on something before you've had the chance to consider all the options, because the options disappear after a couple days on Craigslist or the job is looking for a yes ASAP. 

And, of course, on top of that there are what feel limitless options for paths in life. There's going to grad school or not, and getting married or not and to who, or staying in the same job or career vs. exploring a new one or four, and going abroad or choosing from any number of awesome cities in the US. (Not that those are necessarily on the table right now.) Making choices about a new apartment + thinking about all the other big choices adulthood entails = more than a little overwhelming.

At the very least, applying to grad schools will be like applying to college. So check back with me then to see if I still think it's so fun and easy. :)

Monday, September 15, 2014


I have been thinking a lot about balance lately. I think it is one of my "themes."  

I think about how it's been the great gift of my early twenties, discovering this balance that I never really achieved in college, despite the catchy phrase in the admissions booklet -- "It's All in the Balance." 

But I've also been thinking about how sometimes you have to get a little imbalanced in the pursuit of bigger goals, like spending the night in bed with a huge deck of flashcards. 

So I loved Elise's post on Twitter last week.

Such a great reminder that we can't do all the things all the time. As I commented, I love that Fitbit shows you your weekly stats. Even though I don't hit 10,000 every day, I've always made it to 70,000 by the end of the week. I love the reminder that balance is more achievable over the course of a week, or a month, or a lifetime, than every single day.

It makes me think that our goal shouldn't be to fit in working and gardening and exercising and cooking and happy hour every single day. Sometimes making progress on studying for the GRE means that you log barely 3,000 steps on the Fitbit. And working towards one big thing (like scrambling to find a new apartment) can mean letting go of some of the little stuff (like cooking at home every night). It's okay to throw yourself into something for a while when you have to and then come up for air when you can.

Because, yep, it all balances out in the end.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New Orleans (aka the Davis Decennial)

The last weekend of August, Austin's family traveled to New Orleans and was nice enough to bring me along. It was a great weekend - HOT and humid but I actually kind of love that summery weather. 
We did mostly typical touristy stuff (my favorite kind of stuff). We stayed at a hotel right off Bourbon Street, so we ended walking up and down it, by day and by night. We ate Cajun classics, amazing po-boys and alligator gumbo at Parkway Bakery and Tavern, barbecued shrimp at Pascal's Manale on my parents' recommendation, gelato on Magazine Street, oysters at Peche, and beignets at both Cafe du Monde and Cafe Beignet.
We drank very sweet drinks on Bourbon Street, chicory coffee, Sazeracs, gin fizzes, Bloody Marys, and a number of other excellent cocktails. Bourbon Street was somehow trashier than I expected. (I don't know what I was expecting.) We didn't spend too much time there, but I dragged Austin out for one final Hurricane on Sunday night. And I'm sure I'll be back for a bachelorette party sooner or later...

We took the trolley to the World War II museum (which had an awesome hangar where you could stand eye-to-eye with WWII airplanes and, best of all, a working victory garden). We took the ferry to Algiers Point (the name was more exciting than the location) for what was most of our first official encounter with the Big Muddy. We wandered Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District - I LOVE old cemeteries, and this one did not disappoint. I spotted the New Orleans branch of my network of Catholic high schools. We saw live music (some pretentious, some awesome) on Frenchman Street. We sampled hot sauces. I played with my new camera and took my new Fitbit for walks around the French Quarter and down to the French market.

I was wandering around Bourbon St one night (see above RE Fitbit) and followed the sounds of live music to a neighboring street, where I stumbled on a wedding procession, the bride and groom and wedding guests circling the block with their jazz band. It reminded me that I'd gotten just a tiny taste of a fascinating culture. The more I travel, the more I realize that I am just scratching the surface of everywhere I visit. 

Resolved: to keep traveling, of course. And to pull out the Big Camera for more pictures of people and not just pictures of buildings.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Deep wine-fueled thoughts

The other night, we watched the movie SOMM, which follows four sommeliers preparing for the Master Sommelier exam. It's an intensive process, the culmination of years of working in the industry and intense months of refining your palate and studying thousands of flashcards on arcane details of wine knowledge. It takes long hours and becomes an obsession, one that pulls you away from your family and friends.

It was fun hearing their insanely detailed descriptions for wine (fresh can of tennis balls? decaying meat?) and nail-bitingly suspenseful as they heard their results. But what stuck with me most was the passion and perseverance that the process requires. One of them stayed up till all hours of the night studying for weeks ahead of time – which, though I am no fan of the all-nighter, was oddly inspiring.

Nothing I do currently requires that kind of intense commitment and perseverance. To be sure, I work hard and will occasionally stay late at the office. But right now, I'm happy to have found a balance – of working and playing and cooking and gardening and exercising and reading. But one day I'll throw myself into something imbalanced – the pursuit of one really valuable thing at the expense of other really great things – and the movie made me newly excited for that.

Because I am not planning on becoming a master sommelier, I imagine that will be grad school, or maybe some especially all-consuming job assignment. And, with Tunisian election season coming up, that day may be coming sooner than I think. From what I understand, the election missions are going to be a throw-yourself-into-it-and-make-it-happen type deal.

Also, sometimes I venture down the road of thinking that the only worthwhile activities are those that contribute to Saving The World, so it seems somewhat trivial, self-indulgent even, to dedicate your life's work to knowing vineyards and vintages.

But the movie made me think about how it doesn't matter so much what you're passionate about, what matters is the passion. The old "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Cliche, for sure, but nevertheless – a good reminder to start with what I'm passionate about and work from there, instead of trying to figure out what I "should" be doing.