Saturday, October 29, 2005

Reading About Persian Literature

That's what I'm doing tonight, the Saturday before Halloween. Yes, that blows. I've been feeling more and more negative lately about grad school, Tucson, my department, my classes, and I'm missing my friends & life in DC. Sure, it wasn't all roses in DC, but Tucson is kind of a gross city --- dry, brown, flat, dusty, weird mix of people, and thousands of strip malls only accessible by automobile. Yuck. I don't like this city. I've tried to give it a chance, but it's just not growing on me. The only thing enjoyable is the weather, and I am trying to take advantage of that every day with my swimming. It definitely beats cold Seattle rain! (although I had so much fun there with my girlfriends that I could overlook it to a point...) Anyway, my classes are pretty good overall, but I'm just getting a bit burnt out, especially with two intense Arabic classes. I really like two of my other three classes, but the third one is not so good --- it's a mandatory requirement for Near Eastern master's students, and it's a collaboration of all the professors in the department that give us an overview of the type of topics covered in our field. In theory, this is good, but some of the reading we've had to do is utterly painful (ie: Israeli women's issues). And then we have to write five-page response papers on these readings. I'm getting totally freaked out about having to write THREE final papers that all need to be finished in rough draft form by the end of November, and I haven't even started on any of them. But I'm so caught up in these little weekly assignments that I don't know how I'll find time to get it all done. Yes, I'm starting to panic a bit. That is why I'm home on Saturday night instead of enjoying myself at a Halloween party or relaxing in a jacuzzi or something.

I did have fun last night hanging out with a girl who my friend Mack used to babysit. This "girl" is 23 now and works as an on-site teacher for the traveling national Broadway production of "Annie," which is in Tucson right now. The highlight of my evening was meeting the cast, which included 80s druggie deadbeat sitcom star, Mackenzie Phillips (think "One Day at a Time" with Schneider and Valerie Bertenelli), who plays Rooster's girlfriend in the ongoing "Annie" production. My young friends here at school (Shauna & Lindsey) had never heard of her! I guess "One Day at a Time" didn't make an impact on Generation Y. Anyway, I have photos to post (tomorrow), but Mackenzie Phillips looks pretty haggard with bad skin and a deep smoker's voice (not to mention the fact that I think she's OD'ed a few times in her past). What an interesting evening it was.

More later... I know I've been negligent writing in this, but I'm just a bit overwhelmed with my life at the moment. Oh, by the way, last weekend I rented "Me and You and Everyone We Know," which I'd been dying to see, and they finally had it at the video store. If you're not into indie films or electronic music, you'll surely hate it (mom), but if you're interested in a really creative film project that looks at loneliness and isolation in modern day society and daily life, you should definitely rent it. I watched it twice I liked it so much. The characters are really interesting. I found a link for the streaming soundtrack that you can listen to... it's right here: Shauna just came over and said it sounded like a video game so it's really not for everyone, but it's a must for electronica advocates!

OK --- my study break is over... back to Persian literature.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Third -- Swimmers at the Rec Center

One great thing about swimming is that you can check out the scene underwater. While this isn't always pretty (ahem, I had to swim next to a man shaped like a potato, who was wearing a Speedo yesterday), it can be very amusing. I have noticed a few regulars that go to the pool during the times I am also there. I decided to share my views of them with you:

Number One: The Woman Fetus

When my friend, J. Mack, was pregnant with her daughter, Kate, she used to bring in the ultrasound photos to work. We could never really figure out where the baby was or why it looked so alien-like. Our favorite ultrasound was toward the end of Jennifer's pregnancy, when fetal Kate's photo made her look as though she was wearing dark little goggles in the womb. We had a good laugh over that ultrasound picture (sidenote: Kate is adorable now as an 8 month old). However, when I was swimming last week, there was a girl in the lane next to me who looked just like Kate's goggle ultrasound photo -- really, an uncanny resemblance! I'm sure she was probably attractive out of the water, but she just reminded me so much of that ultrasound photo.

Number Two: The Weirdo

This guy swam laps next to me yesterday. I think he was Indian, but he had on a very thick swim cap (made of cotton/spandex or something?) and these mask-like goggles. He would swim underwater the entire time, just skimming along the bottom of the pool with big frog strokes. Then he would come up at the end of the lane and stare at people.

Number Three: Wooden Leg Swimmer

This lady was fairly fast, but she had these dangling wood-like legs that she never bent and that hung down behind her body. It looked so strange. I don't think she was handicapped --- she just had a very odd stroke.

Second -- Ouch! My leg!

I was washing dishes this morning when my very heavy glass cutting board got off balance in the dish drying rack and came cascading down toward my kitchen's tile floor. In a moment of panic and heroism, I instinctively shot my right leg out toward the falling glass to break its fall. Well, I certainly did break its fall (with full force) and my leg is really paying the price now. It gouged the skin off the area above my ankle and has created a massive swollen bruise. It hurts like a mother even to put weight on my foot now. The only good thing is that that glass cutting board didn't break. My leg is a true hero after all...

First --- My Apartment's Exterior

Hello again --- I have lots of photos to post today so I'll start out with my apartment's exterior just so you can all stop imagining in your minds where I live --- it's not quite the ghetto, but it's not Beverly Hills either:

Here is the view of "the courtyard" from my front window.

My apartment has the big window on the left. It's literally the size of the little box you see there. It doesn't extend past where the lightbulb on the left is. In a word, TINY. That cement thing in the middle of the sidewalk is supposed to be an outdoor grill, but no one uses it. I'm thinking I should get some plants to put in front of my window so I have less exposure to the neighbors. Luckily, I have some curtains up that block out everyone's view of me and my place. Zipper bird sits in these trees every fricking morning.

Here's an up close view of my lovely little abode. The door that you can see plainly belongs to my neighbor. My front door comes off the little passageway -- you can barely see it.

Here is my antique stove, circa 1950. I have to light a match to make the gas work. Scary.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Back from the dead

This is a quick post to reaffirm my existence (barely). My brain feels like marshmallow, and I am exhausted. I have one more Arabic text to memorize tonight, and I am ready for bed (it's almost 11pm now, and I have to know the text by 8am tomorrow... blaahh). At least my big tests are finished. That was total study hell...

Just wanted to post a fun picture of my favorite person in Tucson --- my neighbor, Persian aficianado, swim partner, Cold Stone Creamery cohort, and tennis coach, Shauna (who is absolutely going to kill me for posting this post-pool photo in the U of A locker rooms... but really, Shauna, it's a cute picture of you! You look very sporty...)

I'm dead meat for posting this.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Check back later this week

I'm totally stressed out this week with two massive tests and two papers. I promise I'll be back later in the week. I'm just trying to survive right now. Ugggh. School sucks.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Zipper bird & construction sounds

Every morning for the past week, I have been awakened at the unreasonable hour of 6am by my new best friend, the zipper bird. He appears to be perched somewhere right outside my large picture window, tormenting me without pause. His call sounds something like a slide whistle, which is how I have dubbed him the zipper bird, and he goes on and on and on and on with about a 2-second pause between songs for at least a half-hour. I hate him. This morning, I contemplated waking up and yelling out my window, but this would be acknowledgement of the fact that I am awake at 6am on a Saturday. I have also contemplated going outside and flailing a rock at the tree where the zipper bird sits, but this would also force me to admit that I am awake at 6am. I am afraid such protestation might really wake me up and leave me without hope of going back to sleep again. So instead, I lie seething in my futon bed, trying to hold my ears or bury my head under my pillow. I almost got my earplugs this morning, and then the little bastard flew away. (BTW, I have no idea if the bird in this photo is the bird I hear or not, but it is what I imagine him to look like...)

In addition, they are building a new house next to my apartment building. Are you all aware of that "beep beep beep" sound that emanates from small machinery moving in reverse? Yes, well I am highly familiar with it, especially around 6:30am, which is precisely the time when zipper bird exits and beeping machinery enters. Grrrr...

So today, I get to do homework all day. Oh, the exciting Saturday of a grad student. Shauna and I were going to have drinks at a "mature" and "non-college-like" bar in the Foothills last night, but we were just too pooped to bother. So instead we made popcorn and curled up on my couch to watch an English comedian named Eddie Izzard give a stand-up routine via DVD. I don't really like stand-up comedy, but even I admit that he was very clever and pretty amusing.

This morning, I lounged around watching "Sex & the City" and then completed a writing examination that I had to do in order to be considered for possible future employment. I'm a little stressed b/c I almost ran out of time (they only give you 75-minutes) and so didn't get to read over my assessment for typos or weird sentences. Crap!

As a sidenote, I got my hair colored last night, and I am now officially auburn. She gave me a chocolate toned base color with auburn streaks. It's really pretty and good for autumn. I still think I look better with blonder rather than redder hair, but the change is good. Hell, anything is better than that paper bag brown color that I have naturally.

I'll try to get a photo of the color and post it next time... till then, ta-ta!

Now playing: "A Town Called Malice" by the Jam

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Allergies and Tests

What a lovely combination. First and foremost, my allergies are killing me. Really. Who would have thought I was allergic to the desert? I was actually looking forward to a break from allergies out here, but they are almost the worst they've ever been! I woke up this morning unable to breathe out of my nose, and I will bet that I used at least 75 Kleenex today. I now have only a semblance of skin around my nostrils as most of it has peeled away, leaving me looking like W.C Fields. Fabulous...

The good news is that I made an doctor's appointment next week to get medication. The health clinic didn't have any times that would work for me until next Tuesday, but Shauna is giving me allergy meds till then, and I'm willing to take just about anything at this point to rid myself of the snuffling, sneezing, eyes burning, coughing insanity that I'm suffering right now!

On another positive note, I have three tests in the next few days! A big Arabic 101 exam tomorrow morning at the bright and shiny hour of 0815; an Egyptian Arabic exam on Monday that will completely suck; and a major history mid-term on Thursday. Oh, and I have two Arabic recitations due tomorrow and Monday, in which we have to memorize paragraphs and recite them on audio and video for our teacher to watch and grade our pronunciation. It sucks completely, especially if you're not a natural at memorization. Like me.

I had a tennis lesson tonight that was really fun --- people haven't been showing up so tonight we only had three people in my group, which gave me a lot of extra practice time. We learned volleys and practiced serves tonight (my serve is rotten, but I'm slowly improving).

Oh yes, I also ordered coffee from this awesome coffee shop in NYC called Porto Rico Imports, and it arrived today (two whole pounds of strudel cake and pumpkin spice coffee) so I'm pretty psyched. It was actually cheaper to order it from them than to buy it from Safeway, if you can believe that.

OK, I'm done rambling. Onto Arabic flashcards and text recitations. I am starting to feel like a Pakistani boy in a madrassa...

PS - Now Playing: Karma Police by Radiohead

Monday, October 10, 2005

Skipping Swimming to Do Homework

Is that sad or what? Especially since I have done nothing this evening that is related to homework... like writing this.

Therefore, this is going to be short so I don't kick myself for not swimming (although it's getting CHILLY here in the evenings which makes outdoor swimming less fun!). I am not sure if I'll have time to go tomorrow either because I'm going to a 9am meeting on study abroad programs, then hitting class at 11am, and then doing henna tattoos at a student fair from 12:30-2. Then I have class from 3:30-5 and tennis lessons from 5:30-6:30. Oh, and more homework later that evening! Insanity. Can I have my old easy life back? I had no idea how much easier it was just to work every day... who would have thought?

Nothing else going on. My levelor blinds broke today -- probably because they are at least 20 years old. I am hoping my landlord replaces them with something a bit more modern. However, I must remind myself that I am living in a studio rental apartment in Tucson and not a loft condo in Manhattan. Therefore, I am prepping myself for hideous replacement levelor blinds a la 1985 again.

OK, homework, homework, homework! Must go...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

My new baby in Tucson

Look at my baby in Tucson!

This is Niamh (pronounced Neve... apparently the "mh" is really a "v" in Ireland). She belongs to Shauna, who lives across the hall from me. She is the coolest cat ever... even though I'm totally allergic, I still play around with her. She lets you do anything to her. She wasn't even fighting this blanket over her head...

Now Playing: Hanging on a Star by Nick Drake

Saturday, October 08, 2005

So much for Phoenix!

I didn't go to Phoenix today. After waiting for an hour and 15 minutes for Lindsey and the three Indian guys, I got fed up and decided that leaving for Phoenix at 11:15 was simply ridiculous. It's a two-hour drive, and the thought of getting there at 1:30, going to IKEA with six people, having lunch, and then hitting Scottsdale (which is mostly what I wanted to see) would simply not allow for enough time to make the drive worth it. So I called Lindsey and bailed (as did Shauna). I think I was a bit too brisk on the phone, but I was annoyed after waiting more than hour to hit the road, knowing the day trip was getting shorter and shorter by the minute. I also should have heeded my own inner warning earlier on that getting six people coordinated for an event the night before while drinking cocktails is never a good idea. I'm also a little anal retentive about things like this and find that I don't work well in group situations b/c I always get irritated at people who are late. Plus it's hard to find consensus with more than four people -- where to eat, where to shop, how long to spend somewhere, etc. Somebody is always waiting around for the others. And it's usually me. Or I feel guilty that someone is waiting for me while I take longer to shop or eat, etc.

Note to self: Avoid group trips. You only work well with one or two other people.

So instead, Shauna and I hit Tucson Mall together. What fun! We are great shopping partners --- she is very patient, doesn't take forever to make decisions, and likes to go to all of the same stores as me. Perfect! We hit all the major stores, bought shirts, jeans, bras, and I even got Shauna to try a Mexican respado, which is a fruit ice drink that is sooo delicious. And the world's pickiest eater actually liked it! We finished up the day at Guero Canelo, which won the "Tucson's Best" awards for Best Taco Stand in Tucson. It's a trailer along the edge of a major road in town, equipped with generator power and a tarp-covered gravel patio, but wooowww, it's tasty. There is a reason they won the best taco stand award... It is GOOD! We both got tortas de pollo (grilled chicken sandwiches with tomato and avocado). Yummm...

Later, I got a haircut with my fabulous hair dresser, Janelle (love her!), who razor cuts my hair to keep it from getting choppy. She is so cool and fun. Then I hit Trader Joe's for Clif Bars (my morning meals), spinach, and chocolate covered raisins. I wanted to buy peanut oil so I can make these Chinese peanut noodles that I love, but I couldn't find it anywhere in Tucson. However, a lady at Trader Joe's told me to try this little Asian food store at this little crossroads in town, and I found it there. I met this Korean woman who works there, and she helped me pick out the right noodles and spices. She lived in NYC for 20 years and told me that she was still trying to get used to Tucson and that she really missed NYC. I can sympathize!

Well, must go b/c Shauna and I are watching a Persian movie tonight...

Big Slacker

Yes, that's me. I only have a couple of minutes to get a few thoughts down, but here's what I've been doing lately:

1. I'm going to Phoenix today with Shauna, Lindsey, and the Indian engineers. We're hitting Scottsdale, shopping at IKEA, and Shauna's chosen an Iranian restaurant where we're going to eat. (She's a little obsessed with all things Persian!)

2. Went to a terrible sports bar last night called "Risky Business," which should have been warning enough that the place was not so good. Lots of TV sets with sports games (which you all know I love so much), tables full of burly, testosterone-laden men, and a number of haggard old broads with mustachio'ed male sidekicks.

3. Contrary to alternative reporting, I was not offered a job with a government agency. However, I did interview with some reps on campus, turned in all of my requisite paperwork, and yesterday received a FedEx package from them with instructions on taking a writing test to prove my analytical prowess. After I take the online test, I'll find out if I am "chosen" within a few weeks. BTW, it's not for an undercover position --- it's for an analytical job. So I can tell you all where I work! Additional note: if I'm selected they will pay for my next year of grad school, plus I will make a regular government salary. Am I being lured in with $$? Maybe...

4. Went for a beer on Thursday night with the Indians and my lady cohorts at Frog-n-Firkin, which is a good little British pub down on University Avenue. I had a crapload of homework but decided "what the hell?" and decided to free myself from "Al-Kitaab" hell for one evening. I did the homework in class that morning and barely got it done in time by the end of the class to turn it in... whewww. Maybe I should do that more often?

5. Still swimming every day... my psychological release! However, last night I was again the victim of two hairballs in my lap lane, as well as an old band-aid at the bottom of the lane! Yuck! Usually the pool is spotless, but I must be getting in unlucky areas of the pool. The cool thing last night is that the synchronized swimming team was practicing so I could hear the music underwater while I swam. However, their music was this sort of scary "Halloween" type of song with a Jaws sounding ending. I was imagining myself in a horror film the whole time. Hmmmm. Also, the other day, I tried to emulate some of their underwater spins (where only their legs stick up) but Shauna and Lindsey said I looked more like a giant squid ungracefully falling over myself.

Time to go! Phoenix... here we come!

Now Playing: "Tiny Decision" by the Aluminum Group

Monday, October 03, 2005

All things come in threes?

Right now --- I am listening to: Turn It On by Ladytron (great band!)

Today... blah. I woke up ready to take an Arabic quiz that started at 0815. I walked out to my bike at 0810 and discovered that I had a flat tire. Totally, un-rideably flat. Shit! So I literally ran (in a skirt) all the way to class (about 7 blocks) in the heat. I was sweating, out of breath, and on the verge of a side cramp by the time I made it there, not to mention exhausted from hauling a huge back-pack with blisters on my heels from my non-running shoes. What a way to start my day.

So that means that I have had 1) a flat tire on my car two weeks ago, 2) a flat tire on my bicycle today, oh, and 3) a burned-out headlight on my car, which cost me $46 dollars to get fixed today. The car tires ran me $187, and the bike tire was $11. This is approximately $245 worth of bad luck. I really hope that bad things end in three. Especially since I no longer have an income.

I did go swimming today, which was lovely as usual. Although I think I spotted a very large floating hairball at one end of my lap lane. Last week I found a $1 bill in my lane so I guess the hairball evens out that winning.

Also, while I was swimming, I was thinking a lot. I had the strangest thought that brought me back to Doogie Howser. I started thinking that he was really the original blogger. Didn't he end his show every week with a little computer entry about his thoughts on things?

I continue to feel much older than my colleagues here. Today, I mentioned Nadia Comanici, and I was greeted with a blank stare by Lindsey (it's not her fault she was born the year that Mary Lou Retton matched Nadia's Olympic performance). Sigh...

Speaking of old, check out this photo:

My friend Jen -- who I have known since 1993 -- called me today while I was grocery shopping, and she reminded me of my "old" college days. Here I am exactly 12 years ago, partying like a crazy woman with my former KKG sorority sisters -- Sarah, Erin, Aimee, Shannon, Laura, Kai, and Danielle. My god, I even remember all of their names! I think these days were easier than grad school... am I drinking Busch beer? Eeks.