Saturday, February 28, 2009

Why My Friends Are Cool

Really, I should probably title this entry "Why My Friends Are TOTAL NERDS."
The most hilarious e-mail exchange has been going on this week. Actually, truth be told, I don't know if this will be funny to anyone but me and the select group of friends who have been writing the e-mails. But because the e-mails flying back and forth have been one of the highlights of my week, I decided to copy and paste them here.
Earlier this week Nicole sent out an e-mail inviting all the grad students in our department to go out on Friday night. I'm in a tiny department (there are only about a dozen of us working on campus and taking classes right now) so whenever one of us plans a social activity we usually just e-mail all the other PhD students and invite them. Typically only about half of us end up on any given outing, but over the past two years we've developed a tradition of at least trying to go out in a big group once a month or so.
This time, rather than just writing an e-mail saying, "Hey, I'm going to City A on Friday night, who wants to come with me?" Nicole modeled her e-mail on the call for conference papers that our inboxes are bombarded with on a daily basis. Here is the original "call":

Dear Graduate student and recent graduates,
Here's another call for partiers. The event will take place Friday night at 9 pm in [local nightlife neighborhood]. The theme is "How Much Can You Drink While Still Being Able to Eat a Piece of Pizza the Size of Your Torso Without Being Sick on the Subway?" I will be accepting responses until Friday morning. Late registration will have to call me at [phone number], and there will be a fee of a drink. :)
I highly encourage you all to attend this event. It behooves all of us to attend as many party nights as we can, while still keeping our rigorous academic standards.
I hope to see you all there,
P.S.-Apologies for cross-posting.

When I got the e-mail, I laughed and then responded with a simple, "I'll meet up with you after my belly dancing class."* But it turns out I'm lame, because everyone else composed responses like this:

Hello all,
M. and I are in if the plan is still on.
M. will be presenting on The Need for Alcohol in A Post 9/11 Satirical Liminal Culture and I will be presenting on The Aesthetics of the Body Shot.


Although prior educative engagements prevent me from attending during convocation, I nevertheless feel obliged to be in attendance at the latter session,where I will be presenting my work The Aesthetics of Kissing on Multiple Planes. My primary research partner may well join me in this venture, provided his extradisciplinary obligations do not require concurrent attention.


Dear all,
I thank you all for your good wishes during my most recent brush with the monkey pox. But since my temperature is down and my dander is up, I am happy to announce that I will be attending tomorrow night's conference, where I will be presenting an experiential exploration of Caillois' notion of ilinx, i.e. self-induced vertigo as play. The title of my workshop is "'The Voluptuous Panic': Destroying Stability of Perception With my Drink and my Two-Step." Methodologies employed will include suspension of social constrictions, nose-painting, rhythmic locomotion, and--if things get out of hand--spinning. Refreshments are compulsory. I am eager to share my work with colleagues and look forward to your input.

I'm pretty sure this e-mail exchange is a proof that seven to eight years of higher education is, in fact, TOO MUCH EDUCATION. The more I think about it, the more I'm certain that there is a very select number of people that will find this funny. But you know, I'm glad that I know those people. I could have ended up in an extremely competitive department, or a department where everyone just ignores each other except in seminars. Ending up here was very lucky, for myriad reasons, and the friends I have made in the past year and a half are definitely one of them.

*I took a belly dancing class last night. It was a free workshop offered on campus. A friend invited me, but she's pregnant and last week she was put on exercise restriction by her doctor so she ended up not being able to go after all. I figured since I was already registered and it was a free dance class I might as well go even if I had to go alone, and I'm so glad I did. It was so much fun! Now that I know this free workshop program exists, I think I'll be looking for more to try in the future (they're actually teaching dances from Bollywood movies next month, which sounds awesome, but the workshop is already full. Boo!)

Friday, February 20, 2009

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Titles

This morning when Penn's alarm went off the DJ on the morning show he listens to was blabbing about the Oscars this weekend. While Penn was showering I was lounging in bed half-asleep listening to the DJ talking about Heath Ledger and Kate Winslet and I thought to myself, "Wow, I am really, really unenthusiastic about this year's crop of movies." I've felt like that for awhile now, actually. This decade just hasn't been particularly great for movies. Or, at any rate, the movies being lauded by the Academy just haven't really done it for me. I'm looking at the list of Best Picture winners from 2000 on right now and, eh:
  • The Gladiator: Seriously? I don't even remember that this won, but do you know how many times I've wanted to re-watch this movie since I saw it the first time? Zero. It was fine, but very lackluster in the grand scheme of things.
  • A Beautiful Mind: Good. Just good. Another one that I'm glad I saw but have no burning desire to watch again and again.
  • Chicago: I actually did like this movie a lot in 2002, enough that I bought it (and I rarely like movies enough to buy them; I own a grand total of 20 DVDs). I think it's one of the best done movie musicals. But it hasn't held up for me really.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Ugh, no. Given, this is just not my preferred genre,
  • Million Dollar Baby: I was not impressed. In this film's defense, though, I didn't see it until about a year after it had come out, and by that time so. many. damn. people. had told me "Oh, see Million Dollar Baby, you HAVE to see it, it's AMAZING." It was overhyped beyond belief. I was not amazed.
  • Crash: Talk about over-hyped. I am still completely astonished that this movie won Best Picture. This movie beats you over the head with its message. I hate that in a film or a play. I don't care if it's a good message and one that I agree with, I don't need blatant didacticism in my entertainment. In my mind it just shows a lack of finesse on the part of the director.
  • The Departed: Okay, this one I actually really like. I saw it for the first time last year and have watched it probably 3 times since then, somehow, and I've enjoyed it every time. But in the grand scheme of things it's just another mafia movie, lacking a bit in creativity.
  • No Country for Old Men: I feel pretty much the same way about this movie as I do about The Departed. A really good example of a particular genre of movie.
Maybe I'm just getting jaded as I get older. I feel like there's not much new happening in movies these days, which means it's up the actors to make the same old things particularly interesting, and a lot of times that just doesn't happen.
So this morning I was thinking about this year's crop of critically acclaimed movies, and I just feel ambivalent about almost all of them. I originally thought I wasn't going to get the chance to see most of this year's nominees before the Oscars, but Penn and I recently rediscovered our appreciation for websites that let us illegally stream movies, and last weekend we watched an inordinate amount of them. Although not all of them were movies that actually came out this year. Friday night we watched Choke (which I thought was enjoyable but not as good as Fight Club, and the older I get the less Palahniuk's tendency to do things just for shock value appeals to me...I still like his stories, just not as much as I did ten years ago). On Valentine's Day we stayed in and I made a pasta bake that I was quite proud of--it involved making my own meat sauce from scratch, even!--and drank a bottle of wine and ate strawberries and chocolate pudding (also homemade by yours truly!) and then we watched Religulous and Blood Diamond. I know. It was Valentine's Day and we watched the two least-romantic movies you can possibly think of: a documentary about religious faith (or lack thereof) and a movie about the people that are exploited to provide us Westerners with our diamond engagement rings. Ha. Both were interesting, though, and I liked Blood Diamond way more than I was expecting too, even though we only watched half of it before going to bed and as we were lying in bed talking I predicted to Penn exactly how the movie was going to end and I was 100% correct. On Sunday night Penn forced me to watch Super Size Me because he's on a mission to convince me that McDonald's is the devil. But all he managed to do was convince me not to eat McDonald's all day every day, and I've never done that anyway. My mantra is "everything in moderation," and I feel like this movie proved that the 500 calories in a burger and small fries aren't exactly good for me but if I indulge only once a month or so it's not going to kill me. Then we watched Doubt, and on Monday night we watched The Reader.
So it turns out I've now seen quite a few of the Oscar nominated movies for this year, and I doubt that you really care, but here are some of my opinions:
  • Even though I like everything else Clint Eastwood has directed, the previews for The Changeling didn't make me want to see it. Although I think Angelina Jolie has the potential to do good work, so I may put this one on my list to watch eventually.
  • I wasn't really interested in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button either, and I keep hearing about how dull it is, so even though it seems to have gotten tons of nominations, I'm not going to watch it unless someone can convince me it's worth sitting through.
  • Penn and I shelled out the money to watch The Dark Knight on the big screen, one of only a handful of movies I actually saw in a theater this year (I used to love going to movies, but now since it's eight freakin' dollars for a matinee here, I have to feel pretty confident that the movie is going to be worth it before I'll pay the money). I liked it a lot, although, again, it's not a genre I fully appreciate and I thought it was an hour longer than it needed to be. And Heath Ledger? He was very good as The Joker, and I'm guessing he'll win posthumously in his category, but I'm not fully convinced that that role was as difficult to play as people seem to think it was. It's not like I have a ton of acting or directing experience, but from my relatively limited experience I actually feel like a lot of times the total batshit crazy roles are the easiest to play. Exhausting, yes, especially if you decided to get all Method with it, which is what it sounds like Ledger did, but...I don't know. We don't give enough credit for subtle performances, which, in my opinion, are much harder to pull off (see my rant about Crash, above).
  • Doubt was good. I love Philip Seymour Hoffman in everything, and in this movie I think he did a fantastic job of creating a character that really did leave you with, well, doubts. The women were good, too, but overall I felt like the movie was lacking something. The more I think about it, the more I think this probably functioned much more powerfully as the play that it was originally, because I think it needs the sense of intimacy that would exist in a small live theater performance but was missing with Penn and I just watching it on a laptop on the couch.
  • I like period pieces and wanted to see The Duchess but never got around to it. I'll put that on my list with The Changeling, I guess.
  • I can't convince Penn that Frost/Nixon would be interesting, so I guess if I'm going to watch that one it's going to have to be on my own. Actually, I probably won't be able to convince him to watch The Duchess, either.
  • In the animated category, Cas and Jay and I watched Kung Fu Panda when I was visiting them this summer, and it was actually really cute. When I tried to watch Wall-E with my sister over Christmas break, we both fell asleep on the couch.
  • Milk is on my to-see list, as is Rachel Getting Married (both of which Penn also probably isn't overly enthusiastic about watching with me...maybe that's what I'll do when he's on the ski trip with his guy friends next weekend, just lounge around with movies)
  • The Reader was okay, but I thought the pace was too slow. I hope Kate Winslet wins her category, though. She's consistently good. She's one of the few actresses whose movies I will watch solely because she's in them. So even though I don't think this is her best work ever and I'm sort of tired of people getting Oscars partially because a makeup artist ages them or uglies them up well, she's an actress who deserves a Best Actress Academy Award.
  • I think I'd rather read Revolutionary Road than see the movie.
  • Slumdog Millionaire is another one that I actually watched in the movie theater. I enjoyed it very much and it made me feel good and I appreciate its insight into India, which is not something we get to see a lot of in movies here in the states, but, like all the movies I've seen this year, am I rushing to the store to own it when it comes out on DVD so I can watch it again and again? Probably not.
  • Should I see The Wrestler or not? It sounds like another movie that is Not My Genre, but people whose opinions I respect have said it was great.
So yeah, that's what I think. Overall, some things that I'm glad I saw, but nothing that I feel like raving about and watching dozens of times. Basically, I don't care. There really is nothing new under the sun, it seems, and if I'm going to pay $10.50, I want to be blown away by novelty and technique. Better luck next year, Hollywood.

And now I'm off to pack. Penn and I are going to New York for the weekend to hang out with my friend Jen and her boyfriend. They're both travel nurses and they just moved to Boston* for the next few months so we thought New York would be a fun place that we could both get to fairly easily so we can catch up. Jen and I were good friends in college but it has been two years since we last saw each other in person and neither of us have met the other's boyfriend, so this is basically going to be a really extended double date. I hope it's fun!

*What is the deal with Boston? It seems to have a magnetic pull on everyone I know. Even though I grew up and went to college in a state 2,000 miles from there, sometimes it feels like everyone I know has moved to Boston. I have more friends in Boston now than I do in my hometown! And Penn has talked about wanting to move near there one of these days when we're both done with our obligations here. Is everyone in the country just really fascinated by Boston, or do I just happen to attract Boston People? I mean, I like what I've experienced of Boston, it's just kind of weird that so many people I know keep ending up there.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Oh, I Forgot!

Do you ever read Overhead in New York? It's one of the many, many websites I regularly waste time on. I forget how I discovered it initially, but for a few years now I've been skimming through it a few times a week for a laugh.
Six months ago when Penn and I were in New York on vacation, we had an experience that I thought would make for a good Overheard blurb. So I sent it in and then promptly forgot all about it until a few days ago when I clicked over to the website and there was the quote I sent in back in August!
Here's the link:

If you want another fantastic time waster, go here:
Sometimes it's sort of depressing, so if you're currently going through a heartbreaking period you might not want to venture over there. Then again, it could be encouraging to know you're not the only one mourning a lost relationship. It's nice to know that we've all done some crazy things for love. Also, sometimes they're funny. Either way it's interesting.

Alright, that's it. Two entries in one day today!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You Might Need Two Days to Read This

Wow, I didn't realize it had been almost two weeks since I last wrote here. This semester is kicking my butt a bit more than I thought it would. I have one class that requires a really intense synthesize-all-of-these-articles-and-outline-the-key-ideas 5 page paper every week, and I'm finding that I'm using an entire day of work each week just to do the reading and writing for that class (seriously, it's taking 6-8 hours, an ENTIRE working day). I also decided to heavily front load my semester so that I get my required class presentations out of the way before spring break, and while I think that was the right decision the prep on those takes a lot of time, too. Throw into the mix a major independent study project a couple of friends and I are doing which requires us to meet 10 hours per week right now and the fact that I'm teaching my advisor's undergrad class for the next two weeks while he's galavanting around in Denmark or somewhere and, yeah. That's all the not-so-fun stuff that is keeping me busy.

Fortunately, there are a ton of good things, both big and small, that have happened in the past two weeks. So I will now give you Things That Have Happened Lately:

First, the most exciting thing that has happened this month: Penn bought me a bicycle for Valentine's Day!!! On Monday night I was puttering around cleaning the apartment when he mentioned he was going out for an hour. When I asked what he was up to, he wouldn't tell me (actually, what he told me was, "I'm going to visit my other girlfriend"). When he came back I said, "So, where were you really?" and he said, "Close your eyes and come outside and I'll show you." So I closed my eyes and he led me out into the stairwell, and when I opened my eyes I was looking at a bike! At first I was really confused. He has been talking about getting himself a bike ever since he moved here so that he can use it to ride to work (currently he walks fifteen minutes to his office), so I thought it was his bike. I said, "Oh, you got your bike! That's great!" and he said, "No, it's your bike! Happy Valentine's Day!" And then I noticed that the bike was black with pink lettering and my macho man doesn't do pink, so I suppose I should have known right away that it was for me. It's a Specialized Rockhopper, which means it's technically a mountain bike, which is pretty cool.
I'm so excited about having a bike. I haven't ridden a bike regularly since I was about 12, but when Penn mentioned that he wanted to get one to ride to work, I started thinking that I would like to have one, too. I've been taking the subway to campus once or twice a week since I moved to my new place in October, but part of the reason I don't do that every time I go to work is that the station is a mile from my condo, so it's a 15-20 minute walk each way, and the subway ride itself is almost an hour long (I have to go into the city center, change to a different line, and then go back out to the suburbs) so it makes for a really long commuting process. The thing is, I actually really like riding the subway to work. First of all, it just makes me feel virtuous that I'm doing my teeny tiny part to help the environment by not using my car. Second, I don't have to deal with traffic (which occasionally turns the 25 minute drive to campus into an hour-long one). Third, I do some of my best reading on the subway because most of the ride is underground and there's nothing interesting to look at and I don't have the option of distracting myself with the internet. So yeah, it's a much longer commute than the 25 minutes it usually takes me by car, but it's so much more relaxing than driving. So since I already like taking the subway anyway, I figure I'll take it twice as much now that I can use my bike to get to the station in five minutes instead of twenty. Of course, I can't actually start riding as part of my commute until I get a couple of good bike locks and a backpack to carry my stuff, but soon I plan to join the ranks of the bike commuters.
I have a bit of a learning curve in front of me. I have to get comfortable on a bike again, both physically and mentally. I went out for my first ride yesterday. There's a great park less than a mile from our condo that has 40+ miles of trails, so I rode over there and did a 6.5 mile loop back home. I had so much fun, zooming along and checking out new scenery. I had no idea how freakin' hilly my neighborhood is until I got on the bike, though! I walk the dog around here all the time and streets that don't even feel like an incline when I'm walking had me puffing and panting and (at one particularly pathetic moment) getting off the bike and walking it uphill. So I learned that I really need to work on my stamina and on getting into the habit of using the momentum of downhill stretches to give me a boost on uphill sections. I figured I rode at about 10 mph, which I think was decent for a first ride. My butt is a bit sore today, but I was anticipating that and everything I've read says I just need to keep biking and work through it, so that's the plan.
So physically it's about breaking in my seat and building up my stamina. I can do that. Mentally, I have a bit more of a block to work through because it turns out I'm sort of anxious about riding anywhere near traffic. I actually wanted to ride further yesterday, but I stopped where I did because the path was going to cross a busy intersection and I thought, "Nah, I don't want to deal with cars." Obviously, this is something I'm going to have to get over if I want to use the bike to go anywhere other than the one park by my house. And I do. I have all these lofty ideas about biking not just to the subway but to restaurants or to run errands. I really can't think of anything I could need to do that's not within biking distance, and I love the idea of becoming more and more car-free. I HATE driving. Seriously, all capital letters, HATE it. Plus once Penn gets his own bike there are all sorts of fun places around town we could ride together. The idea of being a serious cyclist is really appealing to me. But if I'm going to do that, I need to learn to cross intersections. So, yeah. I tried to read one of those bike traffic safety guides online but it only served to freak me out by showing me approximately a dozen ways I could be hit by a car that I'd never have thought of on my own. Current bikers, please give me some confidence. I'm content to just be a recreational park and trail rider, I guess, but I'd really like to take more advantage of my new mode of transportation.
So, yes, I love the bike! Talk about a Valentine's Day gift that beats the heck out of chocolate and flowers! (Which, incidentally, I would have been perfectly happy with. I told him to just get me a chocolate bar or some sexy underwear, which was why the bike was such a huge surprise.)

Anyway, that's my big exciting news. Other than that, here are some little things of note:
  • After slacking off a bit on exercise and tracking my calories in November and December, in January I went back to tracking my eating on and really working out (as opposed to walking the Meatball at his pace for thirty minutes and counting that as my workout...which is fine sometimes, but not for ALL of my monthly workouts). They say people generally put on weight when they get into relationships, and that was true for me. I was maintaining my weight well until Penn and I moved in together, but then I started eating too much like him. We were doing things like cooking an entire box of pasta for dinner (That's 8 servings! And Penn was eating twice as much as me, but still!), or eating an entire bag of Tostitos over the course of a Football Sunday, or drinking two or three beers just with Saturday night dinner. Then I went home for Christmas and ate and drank non-stop with my family, and by the end of the holiday binge I was feeling gross. I judge my body by whether or not my clothes still fit, and, okay, things were not dire. I hadn't even gone up a full size. But some of my smaller clothes were starting to feel a bit snug. And my mom gave me a bra for Christmas (what, your mother doesn't buy you Christmas gifts at Victoria's Secret?) in my usual cup size and when I tried it on, well, my cups runneth over, so to speak. I tried to blame it on the fit of the bra, but I knew that it was actually just proof that I had put on a few pounds. So when I got home from vacation I went to work. Skiing for five days straight was a good kick-start, and then I spent all of January doing a lot of Exercise TV routines (the 30 Day Shred program is awesome) and a lot more strength training and I've been eating healthier. Now I'm back to honestly tracking my food, and I've realized that I just can't eat like my boyfriend does and expect to stay slim. Fortunately, he's really understanding and although he occasionally says, "Are you sure you don't want another delicious beer?" he doesn't make fun of the fact that I immediately portion our pasta into eight separate servings now or count out my portion of chips. After all, when I met him and he fell in love with me, I "sold him" a certain package and that package includes being thin. I feel like I owe it to him to maintain my physical shape as much as possible throughout our life together (just like I feel he owes it to me to maintain the fit body he has now, baring any health complications, of course. I realize this is sort of a controversial attitude and maybe I'll elaborate on it sometime in an entry that isn't already 200 pages long). Tracking what I put in my mouth seems a little obsessive, I know, but I promise I have a very healthy attitude about food and my body. If anything, I'm more vain and prideful about my body than I probably should be (even when I'm a bit heavier than usual). I have a very good friend whose life has been an ongoing struggle with disordered eating, so I know a lot about unhealthy eating habits and I'm very careful about making sure I never stray into that territory. (For one thing, I don't even own a scale). But this is how I think about it: I am not a dieter. I never will be. I like a wide variety of food, I think eating is one of life's great pleasures, and I don't believe in depriving myself of anything I want. So what works for me is portion control, and tracking what I eat helps me do that. If I know I'm going to drink four beers when we're out on a Saturday night, I'll enter that into my food tracker in the morning and then plan accordingly, eating one less tablespoon of peanut butter at lunch or drinking only half a Coke at lunch. I always give myself what I want, I just do it in the proper portions. It really is that easy. I try to be mindful of portion sizes and of eating a more protein-heavy dinner if I had a particularly carb-heavy lunch just to balance things out, but ultimately I eat what I want and I don't beat myself up if I eat "too much" on a given day. In fact, some days I don't track at all. But overall it puts me on the right track, and I feel so much better physically now than I did in December. Incidentally, the bra my mom bought me for Christmas? I own 30+ bras so after being worn a few times that one ended up at the back of the drawer until last week, when I went, "Oh, I haven't worn this one in a long time." I put it on and, what do you know, it fits! No more spillover fat!
  • I heard from a contact that I need for my dissertation. Of course, we haven't actually managed to set up a meeting yet, but at least the ball is sort of rolling.
  • I'm going to Russia a month from tomorrow! I got my tentative itinerary yesterday, and there is more free time for vodka drinking than I thought. Hooray!
  • I can't stop playing X-box. Or, rather, I can't stop wanting to play the X-box. I do manage to drag myself away from it and do my schoolwork, but that doesn't mean I'm not staring at it longingly the whole time. Rolling things up in Katamari is so much fun, and Penn introduced me to another game that I call The Car Smashing Game, although I think it might actually be called Burnout. Whatever it's called, you get points not for winning the race but for crashing into as many cars as possible in the process, and, let me tell you, that is satisfying!
  • I successfully managed to get Penn addicted to The Sopranos. We started watching the first season when we were in Maine, and now we'll sometimes watch four hours straight at night. In a month we've made it all the way through season four. We're at a standstill now, though, because I don't own the fifth season yet and my budget this month is tight and doesn't really have much wiggle room for buying DVDs. I fluttered my eyelashes at Penn and told him he could buy it for us, and he said, "No, that's okay, I'll wait until you can buy it, that way the whole series belongs to you." I was like, "Why does that matter?" After all, we're together now. I asked him if he is envisioning a future in which we have an acrimonious break up and in the process of dividing up all our possessions we engage in a ten minute argument about who gets to keep the Sopranos DVDs. He assured me that no, he isn't at all worried about whose stuff is actually whose, he just wants me to have the satisfaction of completing a DVD set on my own. Goof. So, yeah, I may be breaking down and buying the fifth season sooner rather than later, because we're on a roll and I really want him to see the rest of the series. Of course, I don't know what we're going to watch at night when we're done with the series. How can anything top The Sopranos?
  • Watching The Sopranos every night was leading to some bizarre dreams. I never really remembered them, but I was waking up every morning thinking about Paulie or wondering if there's any significance in the fact that all of Tony's mistresses are brunette when Carmela is blonde. It turns out that I'm kind of a crazy sleeper, which I never realized until I started sleeping with someone every single night. Penn says I sleep with my hands in loose fists all night long and that a lot of times when he's holding me at night I punch him in the chest! Not hard, thank goodness, but who knew I was a sleep puncher? And when I'm not punching, I'm apparently a tickler. He said a lot of times he wakes up because I'm flicking my fingers over his chest. And I very rarely remember my dreams in the morning, but Penn says he has to wake me up at least once or twice a week because I'm whimpering and thrashing around like I'm having a nightmare (I never even remember him waking me up when this happens). On the other hand, I obviously have some good dreams, too, because one night a couple of weeks ago I woke both of us up because I was laughing in my sleep! We had just fallen asleep when I let out a single resounding, "Ha!" and woke both of us up. It was so funny. I couldn't fall back to sleep for about ten minutes after that because I kept laughing thinking about laughing. Good thing Penn is such a patient guy and holds me all night anyway even though I'm a punching, laughing crazy person.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Taking a Break from Rolling Things Up

It's the last Football Sunday of the season. Oh no! I was a little concerned about how I was going to keep my boyfriend distracted on Sundays from now on so that I can actually read and write my papers, but fortunately his new X-box arrived in the mail a couple of days ago and he now spends an hour every day yelling into a headset as he and his friends from back home play Halo, so I guess I didn't have to be concerned about that after all. Penn isn't much of a video game guy. In fact, prior to this week I don't think I'd seen him play a single game the whole time we've been dating. But some of his friends finally convinced him to buy an X-Box, and I have to admit that the X-box is sort of appealing, if only because it lets him keep in touch with friends. I think that's nice. That, and I can now play Katamari! I've been wanting to play this game for years, literally (although it wasn't a priority, obviously), so I was thrilled when a couple of Penn's friends lent it to us. I've already spent about an hour today rolling around and picking things up. This bodes well for my academic career.

[I interrupt myself to ask WHY do we care that Barack Obama is watching the Super Bowl? Why, why, why are they doing a pre-game interview with the president?! I'm just waiting for the anti-Obama backlash that is sure to start a few months from now. There's no way he can sustain this sort of celebrity/popularity/whatever it is. I mean, he seems like a nice guy, but geez. I heard on the radio this morning that he's having a bipartisan Super Bowl party at the White House. Oh hooray. Since when do we care what sort of social events are happening at the White House? I can't help liking the guy because he's just so darn charismatic when he gives interviews or speeches, but I just worry that we're being overloaded and the backlash is going to be really intense. We'll see, I guess.]

The first week of classes went well. The biggest thing that happened this week is that I paid for my visa to go to Russia. I'm going to Russia in less than two months! I'm going for a class. We study Russian stuff for the entire semester and as part of the class we take a really fancy field trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg over spring break. The best part is that the segment of the class when we're in Russia is purely "to experience Russian culture" and see some of the places we've been discussing all semester, so we're being encouraged to just have fun and take it all in. I don't even need to take a computer with me on the trip; there's absolutely no research component while we're in Russia. How cool is that?! Plus the trip is insanely cheap because I can use all of the yearly travel money my department gives me, plus an international student travel initiative is paying for half of it, PLUS the ruble is kindly falling in comparison to the dollar, which I hope continues to happen until March. Needless to say, I'm getting very, very excited. I just wish Penn could come with me. Then again, he went to Europe without me last summer, so I guess now we're even. :-)

The rest of my classes seem like they're going to be interesting and not a miserable amount of work, but none of them involve field trips to Russia so I won't be talking about them today. Instead, I'm going to go make some sauce for my jambalaya burgers (I made super burgers for the Super Bowl!) and pour another beer. Happy commercial watching!