:: eye of the storm ::

About Me

A 27-year-old PA student who wants to visit all seven continents, write a book, work at a pediatric clinic in Africa, and basically meet as many of the world's challenges as possible.

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current mood:
current mood

Life List

(already accomplished)

Become a PA

Visit all 7 continents

Take a SwimTrek trip

Bike through Western Europe

Raft the Grand Canyon

Improve my Spanish proficiency

Go on safari in Africa

Trace my roots at Ellis Island

Vacation in Hawaii

Work on a hospital ship in a Third World country

Celebrate New Year's in Times Square

Visit all 50 states (29 to go: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY)

See the ruins at Pompeii

Swim in Capri's Blue Grotto

Tour Mt. Vesuvius

Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain

Tour the Colosseum

Visit the D-Day beaches

See the Mona Lisa

Visit the palace at Versailles

See the Acropolis and Parthenon

See the Egyptian pyramids

Hike the Inca Trail

Walk El Camino Santiago

Take an Alaskan cruise

View the Taj Mahal at sunrise

Hike Table Mountain in South Africa

Climb through the Amazon canopy

Walk at least part of the Great Wall of China

Get laser hair removal

Learn to surf, ski, and snowboard

Learn to drive a stick-shift

Learn to play the piano

Go on a tropical cruise

Ride horseback on the beach

Ride in a hot air balloon

Get tickets to the Olympics

Go to adult Space Camp

Witness a shuttle launch from up close

Build a full-sized snowman

Sew a quilt out of my old race T-shirts

Update and continue my Life Scrapbook

Become the oldest person to ever do the River Run

Live to be a happy, healthy 100 years old - at least!

(unlikely dreams)

woensdag 30 november 2005

Here is the first of what I'm sure will be many auctions of Pirates of the Caribbean II premiere tickets.

I'm considering bidding, since the premiere's not on that many peoples' radars yet - the location hasn't even been announced - and the competition may not be as stiff as it will be in the coming months... plus, at least this is for a good cause and not through a scalper. But I'm also not going to go broke over a pair of tickets. Someone will buy the second one off me, sure - whether it's a friend or a fellow eBayer - but I'm still not paying much more than the current bid ($1,025). (But it's still less than the Manhattan swim! LOL!) Which is why I'm not bidding yet, because this Eton31 dude looks pretty desperate... I'll lull him into a false sense of security over the next few days.

As for the swims, I've been thinking about it, and I think I really want to do Tampa after all. I won't get that chance again, since it's an April swim and this is the last school year I'll be spending in Florida (*sniff*). Also, I'll be moving to grad school in (hopefully) either DC or Connecticut, both of which are a heck of a lot closer to Manhattan, so I can do Manhattan during grad school. The other plus is that if I don't do Manhattan this year, I can not only do Tampa, but also Key West again. (The timing was too close otherwise.) A lot of Masters teammates from J-ville got inspired through my swim last year and want to go do it as a relay this year, so having buddies there will make it even more fun. And if I decide I still really want a cold(er)-water swim that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, I can do the 8-mile Boston Light (race fee $100, boat fee $250). I almost did it last year, but ended up skipping it because my shoulders took a good six weeks to heal after Key West. (Hopefully, my spring weight training class can offer me some ideas as to how to prevent such problems.)

Anyway, the point is, I think I may let Manhattan slide for a while. After all, I have another year and a half to do cold-water Channel training, and I promised Laura I'd spend a good two months in England prior to my swim date so I could train in Dover Harbor every day with the group she's got over there, as the water gradually warms up. That's going to be awesome. I'm getting excited already and it's still 18 months away!...

Okay, so it's 99% official now - the summer swims will be Tampa Bay (24mi), Key West (12.5mi), and (maybe) the Boston Light (8mi). Manhattan and its fancy price tag will wait until I'm actually up in that neck of the woods and have huge piles of money being showered upon me by prestigious graduate institutions. :) (Okay, I'm dreaming, but still - it'd be nice.)

So now I can use that $1250 on the POTC premiere tickets, LOL! Looks like I came full circle. Bring it on...

Only kidding. But I can use it on my long-put-off Eurail trip through France, Italy, and Greece. Yippee - summer 2006 is going to rock! :)

Ack! The Tampa Bay Marathon Swim and Manhattan Island Marathon Swim information is finally online, but the fees are astronomical! Tampa Bay is $675, and Manhattan Island is TWELVE HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS. The prices include the powered escort boats, which I suppose is why they're so high, but still, YIKES. I really want to do both swims, but I might have to rethink this.

At first glance, Manhattan seems, overwhelmingly, to be the obvious race to drop. $1250 entry fee, plus a plane ticket, hotel and transportation fees, arranging a four-hour qualifying swim... it's a lot of trouble. Plus, there's a 9h30m time cutoff, which averages out to a 3mph swim, which is really very fast - that would mean holding a pace of 20-minute 1500m swims for the entire day. I'm assuming, therefore, that there must be a certain amount of current in the swimmers' favor, and I've emailed to see exactly how much of a factor that will be (especially seeing as the 2004 swimmers had times of 7h16m, 7h30m, etc.). But the water temperature on race day in Manhattan is usually around 65 degrees, which is close to that of the Channel (they even require a four-hour qualifying swim in cold water), so I really wanted to do it; it's as close as I can get in America to what the Channel would be like. Not to mention the prestige factor - they only allow 25 solo competitors per year.

Tampa, on the other hand, would be much easier. A four-hour drive, one night in a hotel, no mention of plane tickets or qualifying swims - it's definitely doable. The difference is (a) there is essentially no current, meaning the times will be more like 9-12 hours, and (b) the water temperature will be around 75 degrees - just a little colder than the average pool - so it won't have much effect in the way of Channel preparations.

So I don't know. I just don't know.

I have, essentially, completely wasted my free Wednesday. After going to bed at 2:30 (following a long hallway conversation with the K20 boyz), I woke up at 9:45, had some cereal, put on a sweatshirt, puttered around online for a little while, and then decided that what I really wanted to do was just lie down on my bed where the sun was coming in the window. Which I did. And promptly fell asleep.

Three hours later, it was 14:45 and I was (a) finally fully awake and (b) starving. Have I mentioned that one of the biggest downfalls of this place is that you can only eat when the Powers That Be deign to open the dining hall? That being, an hour and 15 minutes in the morning, two hours around midday, and an hour and a half in the evenings, starting at 17:30. It's 16:10, and I'm counting the minutes.

Since I seem determined to torture myself by talking about food... I had another of those wonderful Albert Heijn salads for dinner last night (supplemented by a container of cucumbers/baby tomatoes/onions/olives/feta cheese). And I was so hungry after swimming that I couldn't wait until I got home, and so just started eating it (with the oh-so-thoughtfully provided plastic spork) while standing in the freezing bus terminal. Not exactly ideal fare for a night as cold as last night was, but it tasted good.

In the 21 days I have left here, I intend to eat, at least one more time:

(a) a broodje kroket (defies explaination), with mustard
(b) a broodje Mario (hot Italian sandwich) from the green-striped tent on the Oudegracht
(c) one of those amazing pizza slices from Bakkerij Bart's (yes, now I'm salivating), and
(d) of course, a patatje met (French fries with mayonnaise), probably also with pindasaus (peanut sauce) and chopped onions.

I'm sure I'll think of more as the days roll by, but that's all I've got for now.

To take a break from my culinary-directed thoughts: the exercise-induced asthma had another flare-up in Waddinxveen last night. It's weird because I haven't noticed it for a long time now - not even during the 45-minute treadmill sessions - which makes me wonder if it could be hormone-related. I also wonder if it could have to do with some combination of factors at that individual pool, such as the bathtub-like water temperature, the roughness of the water (since everyone is swimming fast and they don't use proper lane lines), which makes unimpeded breathing no easy feat anyway, and, perhaps, even the chlorine content of the pool. Technically, I guess that shouldn't vary all that much between pools, but I almost never have problems at the Krommerijn, and it makes sense that since the Waddinxveen pool is used for little kids' swim lessons, that it might have a higher chlorine content. On the other hand, the Krommerijn is also much cooler and much smoother (since 90% of the swimmers are old people doing head-up breaststroke).

Anyway, I'm still trying to work out the pattern, but the point is, I usually only need the inhaler in Waddinxveen - nowhere else - and one puff on it prior to the workout is usually enough to stave off any problems I might otherwise have. Yesterday, though, we were doing really fast stroke sets, and since I was sharing a lane with three ridiculously fast grown men, it was challenging to keep up as it was (read: the intended 20 seconds of rest became, for me, more like 8). Usually I only notice the throat tightness (and subsequent desire to cough) on the breaks in between sets, but the longer I ignored it, the worse it got and the more I started to notice it affecting me during the actual swimming as well. So I finally gave in and hauled myself out, trotted into the locker room, and did two more puffs, but by the time I got back out, the workout was nearly over, so I ended up swimming only 3500 meters. Grrr. I wish this thing had a more predictable pattern. For the record, we're midway through Week 3 on the hormonal calendar - as if the Internet needed to know that - so we'll see if that yields any revelations.

The high note of yesterday: for the first time, I swam 100 straight meters of butterfly without stopping, as part of a 400 IM (after which we did a few 75s fly as well). It was very slow and most likely not that pretty, but the fact that I was able to do it made me proud, since butterfly has been a major challenge to me ever since I started swimming. I've raced the 200 IM before (so 50m fly), but more than 50m never really comes up in practice, so I'd never even really tried it before. So, hooray for Jess. I almost never race anything but sprint freestyle, but I do have to swim the 100 IM in Delft next weekend (not really a true event, but fun nonetheless), starting with 25m fly, but that should be a piece of cake.

Cake. You see? I'm back to food. *stomach growls*

Sigh. 45 more minutes.

dinsdag 29 november 2005

"Garage Sale" list, updated again:

American-European converter (large)
American-European converter (small)
Enrico Benetti backpack
red Speedo backpack Thanks, Eddy!
bedding set
textbook: Spanish 200 Thanks, nameless Malaysian girl!
textbook: Linguistics 300
textbook: Creative Writing Thanks, Hedwig!
Celine Dion body wash
American International Traveler Apology T-Shirt Thanks, Eddy!
large scrapbook (still in plastic) Thanks, Julia!
black Geisha jacket
New Balance sneakers (used) Thanks, Trung!
Teva flipflops (used)
other miscellaneous small items

Aside: Dia and I watched 40 Days and 40 Nights the other day, during which she got all excited because, apparently, I have Shannyn Sossamon's nose. Go figure.

Aside II: Hedwig just lent me her scale, and I weighed my carryon bag (10kg) and my checked bag (20kg). That seems a little too good to be true, that I nailed the weight on the first try - not to mention, more stuff still has to fit in there. But it's encouraging, anyway.

UPDATE: Apparently the scale was correct after all! With a lot of squishing, I got the carryon to 11kg and the big suitcase to 19kg. This is good; the problem is that I still have clothes to put in the suitcase, namely 3 pairs of pants and about 3 shirts. My new strategy may be to simply wear as many clothes as I possibly can on the day of travel, namely: a tight T-shirt, a tight long-sleeved shirt, a loose T-shirt, a sweatshirt, a zip-up jacket, and my big jacket. Six layers, then. I don't think I can really pull off more than one pair of pants at once, but maybe I can tie another sweatshirt around my waist or something. All of this is only until I hit the ground in London; there, I will have to collect my suitcase and recheck it, during which period I plan to slightly repack - to the extent that I check both my swim bag and my suitcase, but that the swim bag is no longer bursting at the seams, and that I am wearing a normal amount of clothing.

Sound good? I thought so. Of course, EasyJet may surprise me and answer my e-mail in the affirmative, that I have permission to exceed the weight limit... in which case this would all be unnecessary... but I guarantee you, were I not working on all this packing stuff now, the 'form letter' negative answer would have been in my mailbox today. But they said it could take up to 20 days, so cross your fingers.

maandag 28 november 2005

I've just been informed via EasyJet's website that checked baggage may not exceed 20kg; every kg over the limit incurs a 7.50-euro surcharge. Meaning my 32kg bag (=70 pounds, the normal international limit) would get me a hefty fine of about $110. Virgin Atlantic, on the other hand, which is my connecting airline, allows two checked bags, each up to 32 kg. Grrr. I've e-mailed EasyJet explaining the exchange student situation and the restriction discrepancy, and sometimes these small airlines can make exceptions - especially since there will be a lot of passengers with no checked bags at all - so we'll see. Otherwise I'm going to have to do some major switching around and put all the light, bulky stuff (swim gear, etc.) into my suitcase and all the heavy stuff (books, etc.) into my swim bag. Because, strangely enough, your carry-on baggage has no weight restriction, as long as you can lift it into the overhead bin by yourself. So that will be my safety net. But I need to get ahold of a scale, to weigh these suckers. No Publix baggage scales on this side of the ocean... *sniff*.

zondag 27 november 2005

Stuff to Sell, Updated:

Enrico Benetti backpack
American-European converter (large)
American-European converter (small)
red Speedo backpack
bedding set
textbook: Spanish 200 Thanks, Malaysian girl!
textbook: Linguistics 300
textbook: Creative Writing Thanks, Hedwig!
Celine Dion body wash
American International Traveler Apology T-Shirt (Shady, let me know!)
large scrapbook (still in plastic)
New Balance sneakers (used)
Teva flipflops (used)
other miscellaneous small items

Things I Have Accomplished Lately:

Turned in rough draft of thesis

Bought my Secret Santa (Sinterklaas) gift

Started Creative Writing short story

Made another hard drive backup

Wrangled my 25-euro key deposit back from the landlord

Saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (and was disappointed)

Saw Boys Don't Cry (and was even more disappointed)

Bought posters for my new room in Gainesville

Made a 'Dia & Jess' playlist in iTunes

Downloaded a ton of movies

Deleted a ton of movies

Started to like the Sony S580

Bought photo albums for E3,50 apiece

Swam 6000 meters this morning

Watched Edward Scissorhands this afternoon

Repacked my crammed-full suitcase

Things Which Must Still Be Accomplished:

The completion of aforementioned short story

The finding of an idea for my linguistics paper

The purchase of toilet paper

The viewing (well, listening) of tonight's Jaguars-Cardinals game

The writing of Sinterklaas poems for Dia, my Secret Santa person, and a few others

The selling of all aforementioned items

The watching of aforementioned downloaded movies

Et cetera.

zaterdag 26 november 2005

Things I'm selling:

Enrico Benetti backpack
American-European converter (large)
American-European converter (small)
red Speedo backpack
bedding set
textbook: Spanish 200
textbook: Linguistics 300
textbook: Creative Writing
Celine Dion body wash
American International Traveler Apology T-Shirt
other misc small items

UCers who read this site: please let me know if you need any of the above!

27 Nov (24) - swim 6k, Jags @ Cardinals
28 Nov (23) - swim 5k, basketball game 22:00
29 Nov (22) - swim 4k in Waddinxveen
30 Nov (21) - swim 2k with 't Zinkstuk, end of poetry contest
01 Dec (20) - run 5k
02 Dec (19) - swim 4k
03 Dec (18) - no exercise; start packing
04 Dec (17) - swim 6k, Jags @ Browns
05 Dec (16) - swim 5k
06 Dec (15) - no exercise; Sinterklaas party!
07 Dec (14) - swim 2k with 't Zinkstuk
08 Dec (13) - run 5k
09 Dec (12) - no exercise
10 Dec (11) - swim meet in Delft (100 free, 100 IM, 200 free relay)
11 Dec (10) - swim 6k, ***Jags vs. Colts***!!!
12 Dec (09) - swim 5k, linguistics final paper due, bball 21:05
13 Dec (08) - swim 4k in Waddinxveen (last time)
14 Dec (07) - swim 2k with 't Zinkstuk (last time)
15 Dec (06) - run 5k, linguistics final exam
16 Dec (05) - swim 4k
17 Dec (04) - no exercise, do laundry (last time)
18 Dec (03) - swim 6k, Jags vs. 49ers
19 Dec (02) - swim 5k (last time at Krommerijn)
20 Dec (01) - last day of class, end-of-semester party
21 Dec (00) - go home! :)

donderdag 24 november 2005

You're never going to believe this - I can barely believe it myself - but I am currently writing the CONCLUSION TO MY THESIS!!!

Well, I finally had my linguistics presentation today, and it went great! I couldn't have asked for more. I wasn't even nervous, probably because I had so much good stuff to present. For those who don't know, I had to do a half-hour presentation on Williams' Syndrome, a mental disorder where the IQ is low but the language skills are still exceptionally good. I fought for that presentation because we suspect that my mom's cousin Laura has the disorder, and I thought that by learning more about it, maybe I could come to a more definitive yes or no.

So I had the usual PowerPoint presentation, with a lot of facts about Williams plus a couple of pictures of children with the disorder, and then I also gave a lot of examples, like a 15-year-old WS patient's description of an elephant, a WS child's lexicon of animals compared to that of a Down's Syndrome child, and (the one that made everyone laugh) a WS boy who didn't utter a single word until he was three, then burst out with a frustrated, "Jesus Christ, this doesn't work!" (in reference to a fan).

Then I played the phone conversation that Dad taped with Laura and, while it played, scrolled through a Word transcript that I'd typed up, so people would be able to understand it more easily. Then I showed a slide with a sample of her handwriting (a letter she sent us), showing the contrast between her command of speech (which the teacher described as, "Really, this could be a conversation between me and my 'normal' mother!") and the (typical) poor fine motor control of WS patients. Everyone was really interested in her spelling, such as her writing 'when' for 'went', but Sergey (the teacher) thought - as I did - that was perfectly logical, "because that's what she knows, the phonology." And everybody stayed 'mentally awake' the whole time, as far as I could tell, which was great, since we've definitely had a couple of 'put-you-to-sleep' presentations (*cough*Bart*cough*).

Anyway, after class, Sergey had no criticism whatsoever - he called it "extremely good" and "really excellent" and said I'd done everything he could have thought of for me to do. According to him, it would have been an A based on the content, but since I "showed so much personal creativity" and went above and beyond what was required, I got an A+. (That distinction is negligible in the States, but it's significant here.) He even asked for me to put the .mp3 file and transcript on Workspace (the website UCU uses for assignment hand-in and such) so that he could use them in the future. And when I asked him, he also said that he obviously wasn't trained to make a diagnosis, but based on what he saw, he felt she did indeed have Williams. So getting that 'second opinion' was nice, too.

So, bottom line: Woohoo!!! :)

maandag 21 november 2005

Creative Writing screenplay exercise. Done.

Linguistics PowerPoint presentation. Essentially done - just needs tweaking.

Linguistics experiment final paper. Um, don't even have a topic.

Thesis: Introduction. Done.
Thesis: Middle English. Done.
Thesis: Early Modern English. Done.
Thesis: Modern English. Almost done.
Thesis: Modern Dutch. A work in progress.
Thesis: Afrikaans. At least I have the data.
Thesis: Conclusion. Not even close.

P.S. In two sittings, I ate an entire plastic-wrapped tube of tiny chocolate-chip cookies today. Bad Jess. I blame the 6k run this morning. But at least I got some work done.

Oh, man... to add to the list of things I miss, I now have the worst craving for Moe's.

I am revising my two-day Arrival Itinerary.

21 Dec: arrive in Orlando at 16:55, hug Mom, and descend upon the first roadside Cracker Barrel. Go home, hug Dad and Catie, take a bath, go to bed.

22 Dec: drive my car, get a haircut, see Elizabethtown with Catie, go to Moe's, read some books.

By that time, I should be sufficiently re-Americanized and ready to start missing NL again... haha!

30 more days.

P.S. Channel-swimmer e-mail-buddy Laura might come hang out with me during my 3-hour Gatwick layover... how cool would that be?

P.P.S. In case we need another reason that DC++ rocks... I just downloaded the ENTIRE SOUNDTRACKS of Cruel Intentions, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Chocolat in one click. Gotta love it.

zondag 20 november 2005

So. Apparently I'm special.

I have no idea how I got nominated for this, but it looks awesome. I'm considering the nursing program in South Africa. Visits to AIDS clinics and orphanages, chances to go on safari and climb Table Mountain, study of traditional healing - it would be an amazing experience (and would look great on a resume). The problem is, of course, that it costs an arm and a leg. I've e-mailed them to ask what the deadlines are, because in the event that I get an acceptance letter from Georgetown or Yale which says, "You don't have to pay one red cent!", then I'd consider this. But if I have to pay for my own education - no effing way.

*crosses fingers that at least ONE of the Ph.D programs says yes*

zaterdag 19 november 2005

It has recently come to my attention that I'm receiving quite a few compliments about this blog this week, and yet have posted very little in the way of actual CONTENT. So let's see if I can't remedy that.

To start with, I'm in Lotte's room. Which is wonderful, very colorful and cozy. Everyone complains about how small the Kromhout rooms are, but this is still almost twice as big as my room at La Mancha. Her housemates, who were gone yesterday, are back today, but that doesn't bother me. (One of them is Mauritz, whom I know slightly, so that makes it easier.) I can't figure out how to shut the window completely, which means it's pretty cold, but hey, it's good Channel training, right? Anyway, I decided to try to fix the video issues she's having with her dinosaur-age iMac desktop as a thank-you. She was complaining about not being able to play movies. The problem, specifically, I discovered, is with .avi files (the format of almost all downloadable movies). She's running OS 9 and not OS X (which 99% of the Mac population now has), and so it turns out all the possible codecs or programs which could handle .avis are either (a) not compatible with Macs at all, or (b) only compatible with OS X. So I couldn't fix the problem, and bought her a bar of chocolate instead. LOL. But it was worth the experience - I didn't know computers that old were still around. I mean, the thing has a 5 GB hard drive and was manufactured in 1995! Not to mention, it's a Mac. Yuck. I was ver-ry glad to switch back over to my PC laptop, haha! I suggested Lotte think about asking Sinterklaas for a new computer, and suggested Averatec or Acer laptops, since (a) they're apparently pretty cheap, and (b) Nathan has an Averatec and it's the coolest little thing I've ever seen (well, except for the Sonys).

Changing the subject... Ruxandra wants to buy my bike, for 50 euro. This is very good news because she's going to pay by way of a bank transfer, so I'll be able to pay for train tickets and such by pinpas again. That will go into effect tomorrow morning. I could have waited longer, but by then she might find someone else who was offering a bike right away or for less money, and I've only got a month left anyway, so I'm just going to sell it now. I bought a long (45-strip) strippenkaart the first day I got here and have used only half of it, so I can start taking the bus more often (which is nicer anyway, in this weather), and I don't need to bike to the pool or the grocery store anyway; they're very close by. The only time I really need it is to go to the station or to shop in the centrum. (Or to go to Olympos for basketball, but I can ride on the back of someone else's bike for that - it's only once a week.) Anyway, so that makes me happy.

Trung and I got into a miniature food fight at dinner tonight, culminating in my chasing him at full speed across the dining hall while the whole room fell silent to watch. See, someone had asked what Shakira looked like, so Trung started in on me, since I was next to him (and had been teasing him all meal long), "Like Jess... but with longer hair... and taller... and skinnier..." he grinned at me and continued, "... and a better body..." The whole table went "Ooohh!" and Ruxandra shoved her dessert at me and said, "Take my whipped cream!" And off we went. But don't worry, neither of us suffered any permanent stains. :)

In other news, Monique, my new roommate, wants to run the River Run with me in March, yay! She also wants to go skydiving with me on my birthday, double yay! Doing that via the UF skydiving club costs about $150 (hours of classes, photos, a video, etc. all included), which is actually pretty cheap, but it's hard to find people who (a) are not afraid of heights, and (b) have $150 to spare on a jump out of a plane. But I'm hoping to scrape up a couple more before January 30th.

Speaking of athletic friends, I've been e-mailing with Laura again, a Channel swimmer who spends every summer in Dover. Apparently there's a group of women who do relays every year. We've become friends via e-mail - she's a professional translator and is currently learning Arabic, among others, so we have a lot to talk about. Anyway, she's got her 'network' busy looking for training partners around Jacksonville for me, so hopefully that'll turn up something. Otherwise I may just have to stuff a few HLJ swimmers into wetsuits and make them come do cold-water training with me. We'll see.

I finally saw From Hell yesterday, the Jack the Ripper movie that Donald Rumbelow told us about during our walking tour in London. It was indeed, as he said, "about 98 percent fiction," but still not too bad. I'm currently re-watching Titanic, although I should be working on my linguistics presentation, so that'll be next.

Catie and I just agreed over MSN that our official "too-old eye-candy" candidates will be Johnny Depp (me) and Mel Gibson (her). Her "perfect-age eye-candy" will then be Hal, of course, and mine will temporarily be Orlando Bloom (we're freeing him up by pawning Kirsten Dunst, his Elizabethtown co-star, off on our cousin Nathaniel, who loves her) until someone else comes along. We also agreed that it's a good thing we don't have the same taste in men, or we might end up like one of those trashy novels where the sisters are fighting over the hunk. Yes, this is a random paragraph, but whatever.

Does anyone have any book suggestions for 9-year-old boys or 12-year-old girls? I bought small chocolate letter Ms for my cousins Megan and Michael, and I was thinking of giving them each a book along with the chocolate. For Michael I'm pretty sure I want to give him The BFG, by Roald Dahl, but Megan is a bit more difficult. She doesn't like 'typical' books, about characters' everyday lives; she likes historical-type books. I was considering The Devil's Arithmetic, but I want to reread it first, because it might be a bit too young for her. But then again, I think Anne Frank and Me is probably a bit too old for her. Anybody else got any historical-type suggestions?

Things I want to do:

Take a BATH (not a shower),
Drive my car,
Eat REAL macaroni and cheese, and
Get my hair cut. (The 'mullet phase' is now in full swing.)

vrijdag 18 november 2005

5 movies to see when I'm home:

1.) Brokeback Mountain
2.) Elizabethtown
3.) The Libertine
4.) Walk the Line
5.) The da Vinci Code

4 assignments to do this week:

1.) linguistics presentation
2.) creative writing piece
3.) linguistics final paper
4.) as always, the thesis

3 things to look forward to:

1.) Harry Potter IV on Thursday
2.) poetry contest results on the 30th
3.) going home in 33 days

2 things to do tonight:

1.) start Marijt's book
2.) sleep in Lotte's room

1 thing I don't see a lot:

1.) it hailed yesterday, and the day before.

donderdag 17 november 2005

Yikes! Thanks to Hedwig for the tip... Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are apparently going to co-star in a movie in which they play a gay couple. (I think that page changes every few days, so read it before it's gone.) This is probably old news in the States, but I'm just hearing about it here. The Europeans (quite rightly) don't understand what all the hype is about - nor do I, really - but I'm verrrrry curious to see what the American audience will have to say about that.

As for the triple-room situation: it's not so nice. I like Sali (Dia's bf) just fine; I just don't like:

(a) not being able to get dressed in my own room
(b) having six days' worth of a third (strange) person in the room ALL THE TIME (because he obviously doesn't have classes)
(c) constantly feeling like I shouldn't turn around from my computer because who knows what I might see
(d) the fact that the room stinks and that Sali seems to have some aversion to leaving the door open, and
(e) constantly feeling like I should leave and give them some privacy. But then the counter-feelings come roaring up - "But it's MY room too, damn it!" - and then the counter-counter-feelings - "But Jess, you've been on the other end of similar situations before; don't you remember what it was like?"

Sigh. Luckily, Lotte has saved the day by loaning me her (single) room for the weekend - this will go into effect tomorrow. Lotte, if you read this, heel erg bedankt!!!

Off to dinner now...

woensdag 16 november 2005

It's going to be an interesting week.

A.) Dia's boyfriend has just arrived and is going to be living with us until Monday. I have made it abundantly clear that a hair elastic placed around the doorknob will be 'the signal' and that it must be religiously utilized. We'll see how it works.

B.) One week from today is the theater release of Harry Potter IV in the Netherlands, and, thanks to Shady & Co., I already have a ticket. Shady, you rule.

C.) One week from tomorrow, however, is my linguistics presentation. At 8:45 in the morning, meaning it must be completed LONG before we waltz out the door to the Wednesday night movie. I've done some preliminary research, but I definitely don't have enough to talk about for half an hour, and what I do have is (mostly) not even remotely linguistic in nature, but just general medical background on Williams. Better get started.

D.) The Jags play the Titans on Sunday. The Titans are sucking this season - they're something like 2 and 6 - but that used to be a HUGE rivalry and you can bet the Jags will remember. Eat 'em up, boys.

E.) My high school best friend Elise is getting PRK on Tuesday! So she's going to join my seeing-without-lenses club! Woohoo!

F.) Marijt lent me another book, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which is supposed to be great. New reading material! Yippee! Marijt, you rule too.

Guess that's all the cool stuff for the moment.

Exactly 5 weeks till I go home.

maandag 14 november 2005

I promised to think about it, so I did. I'm sure there are ten million more I didn't think of, but here we go:

10. Titanic. Yeah, yeah, shut up, I know. But despite all the hype, media-overdoneness, and cliches (ugh, I can't write that accented E without funny symbols), it was and is a really good movie. Very historically accurate and very believable. I had never even heard of Kate Winslet until I saw this movie, and she's one of my favorite actresses now.

9. Save the Last Dance. I suppose this can be classified as a 'chick flick', but still... I can't help but like it.

8. Silence of the Lambs. Wow. Just... wow. I don't like the ending - I think it's sort of unclear and anticlimactic - but the story itself is great, very tense and very cleverly done. And it's right that Hannibal Lecter go free. I don't think we're supposed to think like that, but I would have been disappointed if he had just stayed locked up the whole time.

7. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I just think this movie is so original and funny! We quote it all the time at my house... like the famous 'Put some Windex on it,' if someone has a bruise or something.

6. Top Gun. Despite Tom Cruise's idiotic comments of late, this movie still ranks in my top ten. Elise introduced me to it during senior year. I was skeptical at first, but not for long. I hate the love scene, and I hate that Anthony Edwards dies, but it's still a great story. (And 'Highway to the Danger Zone' is a great song!)

5. A Knight's Tale. I really like the Chaucer thread ('I should write some of this story down...') and the way they mix Middle Ages scenery and characters with modern music and traditions, i.e. singing 'We Will Rock You' before the joust.

4. Chocolat. I explained the plot of this one yesterday. And look how far up the list it moved - all the way to number 4. It's strange, because I never thought this was really my type of movie - no ships sinking or planes crashing or knights jousting or spaceships burning, just sort of normal day-to-day life - but maybe that's exactly why I like it.

3. Armageddon. Again, shut up. I know the rest of the world thinks this movie is really old and cheesy, but I still just love it. I have a sort of fascination with space which never quite died after going to Space Camp as a kid, and this plays off of that. (If you look hard at that Life List in the left-hand column, 'Go into space' is listed there somewhere.)

2. Bend It Like Beckham. I dare you to show me a female athlete anywhere who doesn't like this movie. Wonderful, just wonderful.

1. Pirates of the Caribbean. Yep, the Pirates steal the number-one spot. Three of my very favorite actors in the world are in this movie - Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley - not to mention it has one of those great complicated plots where you understand a little bit more of it each time you watch the movie. I've loved this ride at Disney World forever, and now it's got its own film - and two more coming. I can't wait for the sequels!

Honorable mentions: ET, Love Actually, The Green Mile, The Patriot, Love and Basketball, and Jerry Maguire.

Since I seem to be on a movie roll today...

Top 5 favorite actors, in order: (1) Johnny Depp, (2) Orlando Bloom, (3) Leonardo DiCaprio, (4) Heath Ledger, (5) Dustin Hoffman. (Runners-up: Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, and Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise would have been higher up, but not after all that Scientology crap he pulled.)

Top 5 favorite actresses, in order: (1) Keira Knightley, (2) Kate Winslet, (3) Drew Barrymore, (4) Julia Roberts, (5) Julia Stiles. (Runners-up: Christina Ricci and Thora Birch.)

P.S. The Jaguars not only won (by 27 points) yesterday, but they broke 30 points, which a certain journalist has been nagging them about forever, so... congratulations! A 6-3 record, and heading into a 3-game stretch (on the road) against teams that are currently 2-7, 2-6, and 3-5, respectively. Let's see some more playing like last night. Woohoo!

zondag 13 november 2005

It's a quarter after six, and I'm waiting for 19:00 and the Jaguars game. I've already got the pregame show on and it seems like one announcer is for us and one's against us. We're 5-3 and playing the Ravens, who are 2-6, so I think we've got a good chance, but then again, the Texans were ranked horribly too and we almost gave that one away last week. So we'll see. Both of the announcers seem to agree that we've got a decent shot at a wild card spot in the playoffs, though, so that's something.

Dia and I watched Chocolat the other night and wow... that's moved up to one of my top ten movies. (Not sure what the others would be... I'll get back to you on that.) It's about a mother and daughter (Vianne and Anouk) who wander from village to village, finally alighting in a little town in France, where everybody knows everybody else's business and the church is the law. So these two non-churchgoing, nonconforming strangers open a chocolaterie there... during Lent, which nobody thinks will survive even a month. The mean, nasty mayor, who's also the head of the church, does everything he can to keep his citizens out of the shop, but it turns out Vianne has a knack for not only guessing everyone's 'favorite' chocolates, but for helping with their problems. So business thrives after all, and Vianne and her shop become a sort of therapy for several of the townspeople. Then the River Rats - like 'boating gypsies' - come to town, and while the mayor again does his best to turn the whole town against them, Vianne breaks yet another taboo and falls in love with one of them. (Let me tell you, I have never seen Johnny Depp look quite that good! *drool* Mmm.) Of course there's a lot of drama along the way - family dramas reconciling, people dying, hearts breaking - but the end is happy. (Even if the animal that was supposed to be a kangaroo was actually a wallaby. But whatever.)

In other news: I'm up to 20 pages, 1.5-line spaced, on the thesis. (I never double-space stuff until I'm completely done, because I find that it makes it harder to read.) I'm getting frustrated because there is SO MUCH STUFF that I'm noticing! I could so easily turn this into a 100-page dissertation, and maybe I will, in a few years. But for the moment, for UC purposes, it needs to be around 20-25 pages, and I have to figure out which things I can leave out without making it obvious that I'm leaving lots of things out. Or I could take the other road and just write the whole 40-page (UF length) thesis now instead of expanding it once I get home... but I don't know if the committee here at UC would like that. Grrr.

But did you know that Shakespeare's Henry IV is incredibly Middle English-like? And that the word 'ago' appears approximately ten times in ALL of Shakespeare's works together, whereas the other two English postpositions ('away' and 'hence') are fairly frequent? Very odd.

Okay, it's 18:45... time to collect my milk, chocolate, and Glamour (for the commercials) and get this show on the road. *chants* "LET's go JAG-uars!"

zaterdag 12 november 2005

Good grief. Not even a full minute after I published my last post, I head voices outside my window. I assumed it was just people walking by, between the building and the bushes - as happens sometimes - but then the voices continued. So I looked up, and nearly passed out when I saw no less than FIVE disembodied faces peering in at me out of the darkness. Bart, Brina, and three others. Any clue what they wanted? I should have guessed... a native English speaker. This time it was to (a) confirm that the phrase 'a compromising position' could be used (which of course it can), and (b) to explain what it was (and all other possible uses of the word 'compromise' as a verb).

Um. Er. Well. Could YOU do it?

It's a good thing I don't write dictionaries. Since my window doesn't open, I was hanging out Dia's window for a good five minutes talking about this, while she was trying to have a quiet Internet chat with her boyfriend. Apparently I was disturbing her; my best example to the 'wandering troubadours' was, "Well, Dia is compromising her integrity at the moment; she just pinched my ass!"

It's beginning to come to my attention more and more that a lot of people have very different ideas about health than I do.

It's sort of like religion. We all think that our beliefs are the one and only correct way to think, but really, it's just about finding what works best for us as individuals. My family, for instance, has always been a little more 'up' on health than others I know - all four of us take multivitamins, drink orange juice and Danactive yogurt, get flu shots each winter, try to get enough sleep every night, and do our best to keep away from people who are sick. (Case in point: Julia came to class on Tuesday, rolled her chair over to me, and said, "I have strep throat." Reflexively, I rolled my chair back and said, "Whoa, stay away from me.")

Other people don't seem to worry half as much about this as my family does. Yet I think we're on the better path by paying attention to it. Mom leads the charge. She's always been interested in health-related things - the 'right' foods to eat, the best practices to keep from getting sick, etc. I don't know if this interest was pre-existing or was cultivated later, like when she met my dad (who doesn't get sick often, but when he does, hoo boy, he's down for the count) or when my sister was diagnosed with asthma as a toddler. We always had to be careful about illness, because if one of us got sick, chances were that she would too, and then her asthma would kick in and make it ten times worse. (Plus, the more obvious reason: who wants to me sick if there's a way to avoid it?)

This has been debated at the dinner table a couple of times, usually with the same group of people. And I'm starting to realize that I'm the odd man out. Dia (Hungarian) and Marijt and Hebe (Dutch), among others, all scoff the flu shot, consider the yogurt unnecessary, and stubbornly maintain that you get sick from being cold and wet. Again, it's like religion: I know I should just let them believe what they want, but, oddly, it almost offends me to hear things like that. I don't know how else to put it into words.

First, the flu shot. Any American reading this knows exactly what I mean when I say that it's a way of life. We all get it. You don't even have to go to the doctor for it anymore; you can just pay $15 on your way into the supermarket and they'll jab you and get it over with. And then you go on with your life, without having to worry about getting the flu that winter. It's normal for us. I have not had the flu even once in my entire life, except for winter 2003-4, when I was here...

...because here, they only give it to the risk groups, like the very young/old or the immuno-suppressed. Apparently it's a way of saving money - only give it to those who need it. I suppose I can see the logic, but the way I see it, and the way most Americans (I think) see it, is: if there's a way to prevent getting sick, why in the world shouldn't we all use it? A particular bone of contention here seems to be asthmatics. Hebe argues - correctly - that asthma does not fall under the category of 'immuno-suppressed'. That's technically true, but the fact is, for lots of people, having asthma causes serious respiratory complications when they get sick, even with a cold. There is no way anyone can argue with that. How many times did my little sister catch some disease I brought home from elementary school? How often did I see her with a mask strapped over her face, wheezing, tethered to her noisily humming Nebulizer, inhaling the medicinal mist? Too often.

Basically, Europeans as a whole don't seem to believe that the flu shot actually works. Hebe says (again, quite rightly) that the doctors just have to take a 'guess' at what strains of the flu will manifest themselves during the coming year and then make a vaccine based on that guess. Which explains why a small minority of people who get the shot do still get sick. But no one can deny that the vast majority do NOT get sick. So either the doctors are really good at guessing, or there's some overlap between virus strains which means the vaccine is effective against a wider variety than are actually physically included in the shot. Theorizing aside, the point is, the shot works. Do with that information what you will, Internet. I plan to remain healthy.

Next in line, we have DanActive. (Here it's known as Actimel.) That's a sort of runny, drinkable yogurt which comes in tiny little bottles and offers a money-back guarantee if it doesn't boost your immune system within two weeks. Of course, Mom was the first one of us to discover it. We were all skeptical at first, especially since it wasn't exactly an example of fine dining, but we've become converts. I started drinking it in March - that's nine months ago - and in those nine months, I have had one cold - just one. And it should be noted that that cold was (a) acquired after several weeks of not drinking any yogurt at all, due to the cost, and (b) of approximately three days' duration with very light symptoms. My roommate Dia, who does not drink the yogurt, got sick before I did, had worse symptoms than I did, and recovered after I did. She's in the process of getting sick again right now; this will be her third or fourth cold in the past three months. I might have an emptier bank account than she does - that yogurt isn't cheap - but I'm healthy.

Again, Europeans don't seem to want to believe that this stuff works. Dia openly laughed at me about it for weeks. Americans wouldn't laugh about something like that. They might be a bit skeptical, but they wouldn't discount the idea, and they might even try it themselves. People here are like, "Yogurt? Helping you not to get sick? Yeah. Sure."

Finally, there's the whole 'cold and wet' myth. People here (and not just the Dutch, but all the Europeans) keep saying things like, "Don't walk around in flip-flops in this cold weather, Jess; you'll get sick," or "No, I can't go out in the rain without a jacket; I'll get sick." I think this is a lot of hooey and the Internet agrees with me. Wikipedia, largely acknowledged as The College Student's God of Information, says, "Colds are somewhat more common in winter since during that time of the year people spend more time indoors in close proximity to others, and ventilation is less efficient, increasing the infection risk," and remarks, "Among laymen, the common assumption that cold or wet clothes or feet cause the common cold persists to this day."

In case anyone needs further proof, the University of Arkansas' Medical Myths page says these two things:

"Myth: Cold, wet weather causes colds and flu.

Reality: Colds are really upper respiratory infections and can result from more than 200 different viruses. These include the rhinoviruses, the group most often associated with the common cold, which primarily affects the nose and throat. According to Robert Bradsher, M.D., director of UAMS' division of infectious diseases, cold weather usually makes people stay indoors, which might increase the person-to-person transmission of respiratory viruses. 'These viruses, including influenza, are very infectious and are transmitted from one person to the next by touching something that has had the respiratory virus on it and then touching your eye or nose or mouth. Some believe that the lower humidity during the winter allows these viruses to persist longer in the environment. Washing your hands or using an alcohol-based hand washing solution is a good way to avoid getting a cold.'"

"Myth: You can get the flu by getting a flu shot.

Reality: The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the influenza vaccine, available by shot or by nasal spray, each fall before the flu season starts. 'The vaccines work by exposing your immune system to the flu virus. Your body will build up antibodies to the virus to protect you from getting the flu. The flu shot contains dead viruses while the nasal-spray vaccine contains live but weakened viruses,' says Dr. Charles Smith, medical director for UAMS Medical Center. In other words, says Dr. Smith, you cannot get the flu from a flu shot or the nasal-spray vaccine. Some people who get the vaccine will still get the flu, but they will usually get a milder case than people who aren't vaccinated, adds Dr. Smith. The vaccine is especially recommended for people who are more likely to get really sick from flu-related complications."

Sigh. I'm not going to say I told them so, but... I did. Call me petty, call me immature, call me small-minded, call me whatever you want, but I can't stand other people insisting they're right when I know for certain they're not.

Anyway, minor as it seems, this is one of the reasons I'll be happy to go home. There, people think like I do about medical things. No one laughs at me for my yogurt, everyone takes vitamins, everyone gets the flu shot, and no one says 'Don't go out there, you'll catch your death of cold!' except old novels and the occasional grandmother.

donderdag 10 november 2005

- I just noticed that the exchange rate is down to $1.17 = 1 euro! That's a good ten cents cheaper than it has been. How come you guys couldn't get around to that when I made that massive bank transfer in August, huh?

- I went running today - Thursday, remember, is now my running day instead of my second Waddinxveen day - and there was already a noticeable difference from last week; I felt a lot better. I'm going to do the River Run this March so it's good that I get back into the running habit now.

- On the computer front: I'm switching back to Internet Explorer, because Firefox's temperamental mood swings are pissing me off. I'll probably go back to it a few versions down the road.

- Also: my shutdown problems seem to be solved now that Windows has downloaded some updates, but now iTunes has gotten the idea in its little electronic head that when I click its X, I don't really mean for it to close... because really, why on earth would anyone want to close iTunes? No, I can't possibly mean it, therefore the program takes it upon itself to open right back up again after I close it. And again. And again. Grr.

- As valiantly as I struggled, I think I'm falling in love with those tiny TXs... sigh...

- Double-spaced, the thesis is up to 22 pages and counting.

- I have decided that I love radiators. It's so nice to have this warm thing to curl up against after a middle-of-the-night bathroom run (out in the freezing cold hallway). My walls at home are stone, and therefore cold, which is why I love having flannel sheets: flannel is not cold like normal sheets are. Here, all I have is a duvet, and it's not flannel, but the radiator more than makes up for it.

- The dining hall's winter menu is still earning its aforementioned big thumbs-up. Meatballs, hutspot, tomato-cucumber-feta-olive salad, and vla tonight. Yummy.

- In less than 5 hours, it will be 40 days till I go home.

- Time for chocolate now.

woensdag 9 november 2005

Everything that must be done:

Creative Writing short story. It's going to be about a girl who eats in her sleep. Believe it or not, that's a real disorder. It happens, for instance, when people go on crash diets - they starve themselves during the day, so the body takes the food it needs at night... and then they wake up in the morning with crumbs on their faces or surrounded by pizza crusts or something. I got the idea that day I lost my clock and we thought I'd been sleepwalking, so I went and looked for it in the fridge. Dia came up with the sleepwalking part and I added the eating-disorder twist. Anyway, this shouldn't be too hard to write, but it's taking a back seat for now because the following three things are more important:

Linguistics presentation. I have to present Williams' Syndrome, which is a form of mental retardation characterized by very good linguistic and social skills. We suspect that my second cousin Laura has this disorder, although she's never been formally diagnosed, so I'm trying to get my dad to somehow make a recording of her voice that I can use in my presentation. I wish I had a picture of her, but we don't; we hardly ever see her, and when we do, there's not usually a camera in the vicinity. Anyway, I obviously can't focus the whole presentation around her, but I think having a real subject would add a dimension to my presentation that no one else had. Also, it's supposed to last around 30 minutes, and that is a LONG TIME, so having this extra material would help too. I don't think finding material is going to be a problem, nor is making the presentation (gotta love PowerPoint), but I'm a bit worried about dragging it out over 30 minutes.

Linguistics paper. I have to propose a linguistic experiment which has something to do with language acquisition, and write a research plan. I don't have to actually carry out the experiment, but I have to invent results and all that sort of thing. If it were just a normal paper, it would be easy, but since it's an experiment, that adds a whole new dimension. I don't like doing things like this. It's not helped by the fact that I can't come up with an idea. Anyone? Experiment ideas which relate to language acquisition? Help?

Thesis. The biggie. I'm on page 11 (single-spaced), and it's going pretty well, but it's choppy. I have a lot of information on Middle English and Modern English, but not so much on Early Modern. Then I have a lot on Modern Dutch, and barely anything on Afrikaans. It's not evenly balanced. Also, there are a lot of sections where I have to add, in capitals, LOOK FOR EXAMPLES OF BLAH-BLAH-BLAH or FIND OUT IF BLAH IS POSSIBLE, and then just move on with the writing. So almost none of the sections are truly finished, because they need more research. But I really do work better when I don't plan everything out ahead of time, but just write and work it out as I go. I get bored with plain research and note-taking. I also end up wasting time reading about totally random things which are interesting to me but often have nothing to do with the thesis. By actually having the writing process going, and having a specific goal that I'm working towards or theory that I'm trying to prove, I can be much more efficient in my research. Not everyone can work this way, but it's the best format for me. Plunge right in.

Aside: I'm trying to start selling some of the stuff I'm not going to take home, so if any of you Dutchies know someone who wants (among other things) a bike, bedding, an Enrico Benetti backpack, a Spanish 290 or Creative Writing textbook, a red Speedo bag, or (awesome) Celine Dion body wash, drop me a line, OK?

maandag 7 november 2005

I just wrote seven (single-spaced) pages of my thesis in one sitting, and as I was writing a note to my advisor, it gave me a flashback to sixth grade, when my language arts teacher wanted to take off points on some of our assignments because they weren't double-spaced. In the end, we were given a second chance, and so I went home that night and painstakingly inserted a second space in between every word. I don't remember what ended up happening, nor do I remember when I first realized that double-spacing had to do with lines and not, in fact, with actual space-bar-type spaces, but I do remember sitting in front of the computer clicking the Space bar a million times, wondering why in the world the teacher would care about such a thing.

Anyway, the point of this entry should really be that I just wrote seven pages of my thesis, yippee! Fragmented, yes, but written. At this rate, it might end up being an actual thesis by December 21st instead of just 15 pages, or whatever it's supposed to be. That would rock.

And this, combined with Sergey's syntax lessons of the past few classes, is making me realize something else: that my real interest area in linguistics is actually language change. I was fascinated almost every minute in Dr. McLaughlin's class last semester, because it was sociolinguistics, focusing on language contact, trends, and changes. I almost never speak up in class, just because I don't have anything to say, but in that class I talked a lot. I just never made the connection as to why. And today in class, when we segued off into historical linguistics and language change for a second, I perked up and jumped into the discussion. Weird how you can not realize such basic things about yourself. I thought I liked syntax, but really, what I like is syntax as it fits into that global idea. That's why I'm having so much fun with this thesis - it's about how the word order of a language has changed over time. It's great.

So I definitely made the right choice for the thesis. My only worry now is that I might get accepted into the Syntax Ph.D program at Yale and then discover it's totally wrong for me because I don't care anything about traces, XY-paradigms, and all that stuff. On the other hand, they didn't have Sociolinguistics, and none of the other programs they did have appealed to me as much. (Though I could have chosen Linguistics-Undecided, and probably should have.) I'm sure I could probably switch programs if I did get accepted and I decided I wanted to switch; however, Georgetown does have a Sociolinguistics Ph.D, and I somehow had the good sense (or luck) to apply specifically to it. So cross your fingers for Georgetown, everyone.

I was going to write a long rant about Tom and what a terrible sore loser he is, but I'm sort of drained now. The long and the short of it is that (except for him) we all played very well individually tonight, but were missing a couple of key players and were up against the #1 ranked team (who was also substituting a couple of players from a different team, one of whom was so tall he barely had to jump in order to dunk - not kidding). Tom is one of those guys who, when things are going badly, decides he'll control the entire game, so he starts launching wild shots, ball-hogging when he should pass, and telling the rest of us what to do, and tonight was no exception. The point is, we lost, by a lot, and Tom got angry and started yelling at all of us that we'd played terribly, worse than ever before. He had had a terrible game, but the fact is, Frans was a beast, Adam had an amazing first night with us when it came to defense and steals, and all three of us girls actually got chances to shoot (although I was the only one who made any). We managed to score 40 points on this amazing team. If we had been up against any other team in the division, we would have won. So we all felt like we did a good job in spite of the loss - Marijn actually said she felt like she played better than she ever had - thus, Tom yelling at us (and specifically saying, "You played bad!" to every person but Frans) was the last thing we wanted to hear. Finally I just said, "Just because YOU played bad, Tom, doesn't mean we all did." Everyone else hid smiles, but that just made him madder, of course. A couple of other people added their angry two cents ("We did our best!" and "We don't need to hear this right now!" and "You're just mad 'cause we lost!"), and then we walked out en masse, leaving him to find his own way home. The theme of the bike discussion was, "Can we kick him off the team?" We won't, of course, but how annoying!

Bedtime now.

Okay, um, Jaguars - what was that? You play the Texans, who are 1-6 and widely considered to be the worst team in the league... and you play like high schoolers and let them shut you out through the whole first half - I mean, Leftwich was getting booed as he left the field. And then... who lit fires under you in the locker room??? Three touchdowns in a row, bang bang bang, and Leftwich, to quote jaguars.com, "has never played better than he did in the second half of Sunday's win." Ahem... where was all that game in the FIRST half?

Anyway, we won, but, as per usual with this team, it was a nail-biter to the end. What's nice, though, is that we have a quarterback who seems to visibly thrive on pressure. When time is tight or things are going badly, that's when he consistently turns around and makes things happen. In high school, he broke a leg on the field - his teammates had to pick him up and carry him to the line of scrimmage every time - and yet he kept playing (and yes, they won the game). Ridiculous amounts of determination, that boy.

But anyway, not much is new around here. Swam 5k this morning, had a delicious waffle for lunch (yay for the dining hall's winter menu!), and now I'm back in front of the computer. I spent a lot of yesterday fixing the problems that that Compaq tech guy created (he was having me do things with my registry, and iTunes and Microsoft Word both developed problems as a result). I made a backup before doing anything, of course, so reinstating that fixed iTunes, and then I had to download a couple of files via LimeWire in order to reinstall/fix parts of Word, but it works fine now. I also discovered DC++ yesterday, which, for all those who haven't yet discovered it, is the best file sharing program around. The rule is, you must share a certain amount of files (usually 10 GB) in order to be allowed into certain hubs. So then, once you're in, there's an enormous range of stuff to choose from. It's a bit quirkier than LimeWire when it comes to movies, but it downloads songs in quite literally three seconds, and there's truly NO spyware or adware, since it's not a true P2P program. It rocks. I downloaded A Christmas Story and am waiting for Friday to come so Dia will have time to watch it with me. :)

Oh, but about those Sony TXs: I was doing some 'hard drive math' and I realized that 60 GB is actually more doable than I thought. I'd prefer at least 80, yeah, but see, the only things that are really taking up space are my pictures (1.5 gigs), music (15 gigs), and movies (18 gigs). And once I get home and can copy the rest of those DVDs I wanted, I can delete at least 10 gigs' worth of movies, which will free up a lot of space. Also, once the new laptop materializes, whatever it ends up being, I'm only going to install eight things on it outside of the usual, basic stuff ('basics' being all of Microsoft Office, all of Norton Utilities, WinZip, Flash, Adobe Acrobat, and Windows Media Player). No more of this hmm-that-might-be-useful, install-it-to-see-what-it-does, uninstall-it-ten-minutes-later thing. I want to keep everything as simple as possible to avoid any future computers ending up like this one. So those eight things are iTunes, MSN, Skype, Photoshop, AdAware, Spybot, DC++, and dbPowerAMP (awesome file conversion tool). I'm considering Firefox too, but its quirks are starting to annoy me (i.e. it doesn't like to load my Internet banking site), so I'll decide about that when the time comes. Anyway, all that will free up space under Program Files too.

Okay, sorry, enough computer rambling. Firefox wants to update now, so I'll end this entry and go do something useful, like work on my thesis. I'm quickly losing interest in the whole look-around-for-data thing, so I think today is the day to start the actual writing.

zondag 6 november 2005

So yesterday was mostly wasted, since I spent it fighting with my computer over something which, as it turns out, I don't seem to be able to fix. See, I got a package yesterday from Mom and Dad (which was a great surprise, to actually have something in my mailbox!). It included: a credit card offer, a flyer for a master's degree in computational linguistics at the U of Washington, a note from Mom, three Reeses Sticks left over from Halloween, a clipping of the wedding announcement of one of my high school friends, and... six DVDs.

I know what you're thinking: 'score', right? That's what I thought too. They're copies of movies which I already have (downloaded) on my computer and which I want to delete. We have the real copies at home, so Dad burned them for me. (Thank you!)

However... the DVDs don't play. Worse, they vary in the manner in which they do not play, leading me to yesterday's mistaken belief that there must have simply been some driver or decoder that I had to download and then everything would be okay. I spent a good couple of hours looking for one, to no avail. Then, researching my particular drive (the QSI SBW-241), I discovered that I'm not the only one having issues with this drive; there are forum posts all over the Internet from people who hate it, mostly due to the fact that it tends to be temperamental about burning CDs. Once I read that, I remembered that I had those problems too, back before the advent of the iPod, when I still used CDs. The general consensus seems to be that the drive is just a piece of crap. (The QSI website confirms this with their horrible website and nonexistent grasp of English.)

Unsatisfied, I emailed the Compaq helpdesk, sparking a wave of correspondence with someone named Michael who, I am certain, did not speak English as a first language. My initial complaint was, "I have a Compaq Presario X1000 with the original QSI SBW-241 drive. I'm trying to play back DVD-Rs and they won't play in either Media Player or WinDVD. Is there something I can download?" Yet we still played email tag for four hours, him telling me, 'download this' and 'test that' and 'try this'. Finally, I specifically said, "All three of the tests were 'passed', which makes sense, since normal DVDs and CDs play fine. But this is the first time I've tried anything with DVD-Rs and they just do not work. It seems to be a specific error with that type of disc, as if this drive simply doesn't support them. Do you have any other ideas?"

His next e-mail? In broken techie-English, "DVD-ROMs don't play back DVD+/-R/RW media. That's why you're having problems."

As my sister would say, *facepalm*.

I did e-mail him back, saying (nicely) that I wish he could have told me that from the outset and that, if that's the case, I didn't understand why (a) my computer recognizes that there are discs in the drive and, in Windows Explorer, even knows their names, and (b) some of the DVDs do in fact play, albeit only the trailers and menus. One of them, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, will even play the movie, but the drive makes ominous grinding sounds the whole time and it hangs up after a few minutes. In my head, that doesn't add up with "drive doesn't support this media" - shouldn't it just not do anything at all, and not even recognize that there's a disc in the drive? - but try telling that to Compaq tech support. Sigh.

Anyway, this just reinforces my 'will-Sony-please-hurry-up' wish, and their TX series is starting to look better and better. My only real problems with them (aside from the fact that they don't come in pretty colors like the FJs, haha) are (a) that the hard drive is only 60 GB (which is what I currently have and which is within 2 gigs of being full), and (b) that the processor is only 1.2 Ghz. My current computer is 1.4 and I consider it way too slow.

Anyway, no other brand even comes close to the size, weight, style, etc. that I want (plus I have a Sony camera), thus the waiting, but still: come on, people!

But yeah, this post was supposed to be about my wasted day. Yeah, so, my whole day got spent on DVD issues and tech support idiots, and I got no work done whatsoever (well, maybe a little). Today is off to a good start in the sense that I did indeed drag myself out of bed to the pool and swim 6km; however, I now have to do some serious thesis work. If I make significant progress, I'll be able to listen to the Jaguars game tonight.

(Oh, who am I kidding. I'll be listening to that game no matter what.)

vrijdag 4 november 2005

I'm still digging the new layout. The only thing I don't like is that something about it does not like unusual symbols, such as the copyright symbol, the 'i' with two dots over it, or any quotation marks which were first created in Word and then pasted into Blogger. Weird, because it's the same font I used before. But I suppose I can work with that. I just can't use the word 'naïve' anymore. (See? See?!)

Anyway, today was decent - Dia and I watched A Knight's Tale, I was one of only three people to get As on the Spanish test, there were French fries at dinner, and after the performance of my creative writing dialogue, the (male) classmate who did it with me turned to me and sighed, "You're such a good writer!" *glow*

Anyhow, since I seem to be infinitely more productive when I make task lists (11 of the 12 tasks on the last one got done!), here is one for the weekend.

- do laundry
- revise creative writing dialogue

- work on thesis
- work on creative writing short story
- read more of my Jack the Ripper book
- go on a long bike ride
- buy dessert, milk, and OJ at the AH

- swim 5k
- work on thesis
- listen to Jaguars game

They're all so short, I should be able to do them... right? Somewhere in there, I also need to return Marijt's books and slap an angry note on Jac's door telling him to buy some goddamn toilet paper already... but I don't think those things are really list-worthy.

Off to puzzle over next semester's rent application now.

donderdag 3 november 2005

Now that's more like it!

Let me know what you think about the new layout. MUCH more my style than that awful green thing; I just needed something that would work well in Firefox as well as IE, thus the switch.

As for how much of my 'today list' I got done... most of it. I didn't do the creative writing story, but that's not due for a very long time anyway. I did run, I did clean the bathrooms, and I did work on my thesis, even if it was mostly just reorganizing old information - at least I got my head back into it.

Things I did today which were not on the list:

- Got caught sneaking an extra kroket out of the dining hall. ("Hide it better next time!" the cashier yelled in Dutch at my retreating back.)

- Found this article, which everyone MUST read.

- Talked to my sister and helped her get set up on Blogger.

- Made a really cool discovery about Early Modern English (Shakespearian-time) verbs, the details of which I won't bore you with.

- Most obviously: redesigned my entire site.

woensdag 2 november 2005

((Gilmore Girls spoiler note: Marijt & Co. - don't read this if you want to be surprised next season!))

P.P.S. I am keeping up with the current Gilmore Girls season in America by downloading the episodes as they air, and I am crushed at the latest installment! (Rory's 21st birthday.) They better not stretch this will-they-or-won't-they-make-up plot out through the whole season, or I might just start to cry. They HAVE to make up! Lorelai and Rory are just not MEANT to be fighting. Oh yeah, and Rory has to go back to Yale! If I'm lucky enough to get into Yale, there'll be no getting me out of it, let me tell you. At least not till I'm good and ready.

...I swear GG is better than a soap opera.

Maybe posting this for the world to see will shame me into actually DOING some of it. This is what my tomorrow looks like:

8:00 Get up, eat breakfast
8:45 Linguistics class
11:00 go running
12:00 clean toilets and shower
12:20 shower in clean shower :)
12:45 eat lunch
13:30 work on thesis
15:30 work on creative writing short story
17:30 print all of this week's finished assignments
18:00 dinner
18:45 make a hard drive backup
19:30 free time! :)

Normally, I would be in Waddinxveen tomorrow, but my decision to only swim there on Tuesdays is not only financially better because I don't have to buy a train ticket or dinner (damn UCU dining hall opening times), but, this week at least, also really helps me out as far as assignments and work time go. I got two assignments done today, but I HAVE to do thesis work tomorrow - haven't done anything since I got back from London - and I still have to read linguistics before I go to bed tonight.

P.S. My bruises are all sorts of interesting colors - red, blue, purple, and black. A veritable canvas, that's me.

dinsdag 1 november 2005

I'm not sure what the problem was today, but I suddenly turned into SuperKlutz. First, walking down the stairs with Eddy after Spanish, one of my worn-down flip-flops lost its traction and boom! down I went, smack on my bottom. And then boom, boom, boom again as I skidded down a few more steps, like the world's bumpiest slide. I thought I was going all the way down, and the cluster of gasping girls at the bottom of the stairs apparently thought so too, but somehow I stopped. Bruised tailbone and a couple of scrapes, but otherwise okay.

Then, not even a half hour later, I was biking to the station to catch the train to Waddinxveen and had my historic First Wipe-Out of 2005. In fact, I think it's the first fall since that time during freshman year when my Wal-Mart bike's pedals locked up and I went over my handlebars in front of the psychology building and landed in front of a car. (First time I've ever been grateful for the 20-mph speed limit.) Anyway, this time it was my own fault, but still. There was a big cluster of just-released-from-school high schoolers in front of me, biking about as slow as humanly possible, and since there were no cars coming, I decided to go ride in the street for a minute in order to pass them. So I did, and I passed them, and then I wanted to get back onto the bike path. There were two 'on-ramps' within my line of sight, and I made a rather late decision to take the first one (keep in mind I was biking quite fast, not wanting any cars to come behind me), so when I careened back up onto the path, a combination of speed and none-too-good hand brakes meant I wasn't able to cut the turn as sharply as I needed to. Meaning I could not avoid the bicycle parked neatly in the rack outside a store, and boom! down I went for the second time that day. Entangled with not only my own bike, but the one I crashed into. And, of course, as I was picking myself up, the high schoolers rode merrily - and slowly - on by. Sigh.

Anyway, there's no permanent damage, but I have a massive bruise on my left thigh, some small ones on my right thigh (it looks like I got poked by some sticking-out things, like brake handles or something), minor scrapes on both knees, and a moderate scrape on my left forearm, plus a sore tailbone from the stair incident. Wonderful, the walking wounded.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Further notes:

1.) I finished the whole 4000m in Waddinxveen today! I've had several 3900s and 3950s (then the water polo teams started jumping in and I had to get out), but this is the first time I've actually finished all 4000. We started two minutes early, which may have been the reason, or maybe the Albuterol puff (since we're starting to suspect I have exercise-induced asthma) had something to do with it too.

2.) On the same note, I'm going to have to start swimming in Waddinxveen only on Tuesdays - I unfortunately don't have E14 per week to spend on trains. But it's okay, because I can run or something on Thursdays instead of swim, since I want to do the River Run in March (annual 15k run in Jacksonville, sponsored by Gate, a really famous event and really widely participated in).

3.) We didn't get our Spanish tests back, but based on the class review and the stuff the teacher was saying, I'm just about the only one who did a significant portion of it correctly. People can't master the construct of imperfect subjunctive plus conditional for some reason. I learned that way back in Nitza's class, so today's review was a piece of cake for me. The grammar has never been my problem (with the possible exception of distinguishing between preterite and imperfect in a few dubious situations) - it's vocabulary and speaking practice that I need. We have an oral at the end of the semester which is worth 30% of our grade. Yikes.

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