:: 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 29 maart 2006

Chapel Hill's Spanish department is apparently considering me for a TAship; they're trying to set up a phone interview to make sure I "have the necessary proficiency level to teach". Problem is, (a) my credentials on paper look a whole lot spiffier than my true skills, since I haven't had any hard-core Spanish since freshman year and have forgotten a lot, and (b) I don't really want to teach Spanish. On the other hand, I'm truly, genuinely, honestly eager for the opportunity to teach Dutch, while the Germanic department hasn't made a peep to me. Amazingly, they do offer Dutch; I saw it on the website, so that's half the battle, and I've sent three e-mails to three different people - including the professor who apparently teaches the course(s) - so we'll see what they say. I can't imagine they get too many people wanting that position - in contrast to Spanish, which I doubt has any shortage of takers - so that might work in my favor. I didn't completely close the door on the Spanish, but I did send the woman an e-mail back saying (a) that my proficiency is not what it used to be, (b) that I'd prefer to be an assistant to a full professor rather than teach on my own, and (c) that I doubted I could 'beat out' any applicants who continued their Spanish through all four years of college, but (d) that I was still more than happy to talk to her and here was my number, yadda yadda yadda. So we'll see what happens. TAships, among other things, chop out-of-state tuition rates down to in-state levels, so that would be a great perk.

Continuing in the Chapel Hill vein, Mom and I are going to visit it on Monday. We're driving up on Sunday afternoon, staying with my aunt, visiting the campus Monday, driving back to my aunt's, and then coming home on Tuesday. That means tonight is my last night of swimming for an entire WEEK at what is pretty much the worst possible time for me to miss training (since (a) we have a meet three days after I get back, and (b) my Tampa Bay taper starts on the 15th and I need to train as much/hard as possible before then), but on the other hand, my shoulders are kind of messed up from the pec deck (machine in the weight room) and this might be a good opportunity for me to let them fully heal.

In other news from the World of Jess:

(1) my lifeguarding recertification starts tomorrow,
(2) I'm doing my Spanish presentation on the Netherlands,
(3) Brown hasn't given me a decision yet, which I find odd, and
(4) the frozen yogurt addiction has been kicked - my new drug of choice is Cheez-Its.

dinsdag 28 maart 2006

Things On My Mind Right Now, When I Really Should Be Sleeping:

1.) I got into Chapel Hill. This is good. This is excellent. But now I have to shove around a few of the precious free days I still have in April to try to go visit the campus before my three-week deadline ticks away and I have to commit to going SOMEWHERE.

2.) I still do not have a theme for my Spanish presentation, and it is a week from Thursday. Even worse, I am supposed to turn in my idea tomorrow. Ugh. I hate it when teachers say, "do it on anything you want," and then proceed to give you all sorts of guidelines as to what is 'entertaining' (read: worthy of a high grade) and what is not, as viewed through the eyes of a verbose, slightly hyperactive Spaniard.

3.) We have a swim meet at the University of Georgia on the 7th and 8th, which may very well be my last competition with this team, and I might not get to go because my French exam doesn't end until 12:30pm, events start at 5:30pm, and the drive is 6 hours. Hopefully my teacher can hook me up. Based on my grades so far, it's highly unlikely I'm going to screw up now.

4.) 3 weeks and 4 days until the Tampa swim, and I felt my shoulder again during practice today. Am I not done with that yet??? Also, I have to buy a million things before then, including PowerGel packs, zinc oxide, seasickness medication, and Maxim powder if I can find it.

5.) Tomorrow afternoon, I am going to have more homework than I know what to do with, mostly Latin translations.

6.) My frozen yogurt addiction is becoming dangerous and must end. Now.

donderdag 23 maart 2006

Let me tell you, my senioritis has kicked in full swing since the break. I thought I left that feeling back in high school, but apparently not. I have a Wolof exam in less than two hours, and I'm sitting here writing a blog post. I'm just not feelin' it. I have yet to receive less than an A on any test this semester (although, granted, this one could very well be the first), and so the whole studying thing is just not giving me the usual sense of urgency.

Anyway, so there have been some interesting developments over the past few days. The first is that I got rejected from Georgetown - meaning all the Ph.D programs except Brown have rejected me, and I'm sure that one's coming. And yet, surprisingly, I'm not really disappointed. I'm actually a little relieved. (I mean, two master's programs have accepted me, and I've got a good feeling about the third one, so it's not as if I won't be able to go to grad school at all.) Relieved? you say. But you wanted that program so much! Yes, I did. But after e-mailing with a professor of mine, as well as that ex-NSA employee who lectures here, I came to some conclusions. The first is just conscious realization of something I already half knew - which is that linguistic Ph.D programs are about theory, theory, and more theory. I like the theoretical side of linguistics just fine, when I get it in passing during a semester-long class - but I don't love it, and that also isn't where my personal talents lie. I'm good at learning languages - decoding patterns, memorizing vocabulary, working on accent, and putting it all together - and that sort of thing generally gets very little play in a Ph.D program. Sure, I could probably be decent at the theory side of linguistics if I wanted to be - just buckle down and do it, like with AP calculus or IB history in high school - but the fact remains that that isn't where my natural interests lie, and so a Ph.D program is probably not the best fit for me. The natural course of things is that we are usually most interested in the things we are good at, and vice versa. All my life, I have been (successfully) encouraged to shoot for the highest point I could - the Gifted program, the International Baccalaureate program, the National Merit scholarship - you name it. So I automatically started applying for Ph.Ds, because that was 'the best' program there was. I didn't really stop to consider whether or not, this time, the supposed 'best' was actually what I wanted.

The second conclusion, coming from the ex-NSAer, is that I should go ahead and do the master's in linguistics as planned, but take a less-commonly-taught language alongside it. He says that NSA is getting deluged with applications for the program I'm hoping to do, their Language Enhancement Program, that it can take 6-9 months or longer for them to review your application, and that the candidates they're tending to take first generally have a little experience in one of the government-required languages already. The girl he got into the program two years ago had a master's in linguistics and a year of Arabic. So I've been researching possible languages to take - what's offered at each of my three candidate schools compared to what NSA wants - and I've reached the conclusion that Pittsburgh is pretty much out of the running. They only have four less-commonly-taught languages - Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian - none of which I'm particularly interested in. Chapel Hill, on the other hand, offers pretty much everything you can think of, including Persian (which some of you may know as Farsi... it's spoken in Afghanistan and Iran), which is an Indo-European language (meaning it shares some basic behaviors with the languages I already know), but it uses the Arabic alphabet (with a few additions) and is of rapidly rising government importance. I'd really like to take that. So now I'm crossing my fingers for a UNC acceptance. (They've got a good chance of paying me, too, in the form of a TAship.) But if I don't get in and it comes down to Pitt or UF, I'll probably end up staying here, in which case I could take Arabic. The linguistics director at UNC said he should be able to let me know early next week, so cross your fingers for me.

Other high points of the week so far: I've registered for my lifeguard recertification, my Utrecht credits are finally in (at least I think they are, based on a fragment of an e-mail conversation between The Powers That Be yesterday), and Sony has improved and updated their line of TX laptops. Exciting stuff, that.

Just a quick athletic update: so far this week I have swum a distance practice, a brutal IM practice, and a sprint practice, biked three hours and lifted weights twice. I'm physically tired, yes, but nothing is sore, and that makes me extremely, extremely happy. We did more than 500 yards of butterfly on Tuesday night, and normally that would have sent my shoulder into a tailspin. But it's fine. The weightlifting is really doing something. I might actually make it though Tampa Bay (30 more days) with only minimal pain. I'm feeling hopeful, anyway.

Okay, so it's now 8:16, one minute after the time at which I would have been climbing out of bed had I not woken up a full 45 minutes ahead of schedule for some reason, so I'm going to go have some breakfast and do a little cursory studying. Busy day today - exam, meeting, get-together with the Dutch club, and, of course, swimming. So... later!

woensdag 15 maart 2006

Let the record show: I love, love, love my podiatrist, Dr, Adler. I've been going to him for 9 years, ever since I was 13 (though far less frequently in the past few years), and he's been wonderful every time. I saw him again this past Monday, and wasn't disappointed.

I almost canceled the appointment when my foot started feeling so good - why should I go in there if it's getting better, especially if I know he'll just yell at me for doing the River Run? - but it took me two and a half weeks to get a space, and this foot has certainly pulled trickery like that before ('I'm getting better, oh, no, wait, only kidding, now it hurts again'), so I kept it, and I'm glad I did.

You know, I like the UF health care center. I do. I think they're a very worthy institution, and they've given me a lot of help for things like bronchitis, flu shots, and birth control pills. But they do not know jack squat about my foot. After about two weeks of pain, I went to see my UF doctor, telling her my history and adding, "This feels like the same kind of pain as before, when I had a bone deformity similar to a bone spur on the back of my heel bone, but the pain's in a different place this time. I have 'good weeks' and 'bad weeks' with this foot all the time, yes, but this is different; the pain hasn't been this bad, or of this quality, in nine years." The conversation went something like this:

"Okay, well, I would just suggest taking ibuprofen--"
"I've been doing that for two weeks."
"--and icing it--"
"Yes, already doing that."
"--and avoiding impact activities--"
"Again, way ahead of you."
"--and maybe getting some gel inserts for your shoes--"
"I've been wearing $400 custom orthotics since I was 13."

And so on and so forth. She halfheartedly suggested X-rays, which I agreed to; then she slapped the films up onto the light for ten seconds and said, essentially, "Yeah, nothing wrong with the bones; must be a soft-tissue thing."

Two weeks later - a week before my podiatrist appointment - I got a sheepish voicemail message from the UF doctor which said, "Um, well, we had radiology look at the films, and you actually do have a little bone spur down there. So, uh, come in and see me if you're not feeling better."

(Relating this story in Dr. Adler's office, he interrupted me after the words "little bone spur" and said, "No, you have a very big bone spur down there! For your age, it's very large." Lots of people have calcaneal spurs which cause no problems at all, which I knew already, so even though it wasn't the bone spur which was directly causing my pain, I felt vindicated. Damn UF doctors and their airy, wait-and-see approach. I am not a hypochondriac, and I'm not afraid of a little pain. I don't go to the doctor unless I feel that something is really wrong. Therefore, I don't want to be treated casually and dismissed after two minutes. Learn to read an X-ray, please.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, so I went to see Dr. Adler on Monday morning. First, I got the usual rap from the nurse: blood pressure reading, quick history, quick assessment of the current symptoms. "Girl, he's gonna be so happy to see you!" the nurse said. (Everyone likes me in that office; I suspect it's partly because I'm the youngest patient I've ever seen there by about forty years.)

And he was happy - while sitting in the exam room waiting for the doctor to come in, I could hear the nurse giving him a quick overview outside the door, ("... thirteen years old... been doing well for a long time...") and his enthusiastic response of "Excellent!" Without further ado, the door was flung open and I looked into the familiar smiling face that I hadn't seen in so long.

"Jessica!" He shook my hand, asked about school and my family, and looked genuinely thrilled to be there with me. We chatted for a few minutes, and then he started checking me over, pressing various places on my foot and checking for pain. I hadn't seen any doctor outside the health care center for the past few years, and I was struck by the differences. In short, Dr. Adler gave off an overwhelming impression of competence. He listened carefully to everything I said, looked at the ways in which my shoes were worn down, tested the fit of my orthotics against my bare feet, asked all the right questions ("Does it hurt worse when you get up in the morning?"), and described everything using medical terminology ("pronate", etc.). I was so unused to being treated as though I had a functioning brain that I actually found myself with a lump in my throat at one point. What a relief! Somebody gets it!

His opinion was something reasonably simple, but something which - embarrassingly enough - had never entered my mind for a moment. My custom-made orthotics were worn down. They are made of hard plastic, thoroughly inflexible, designed seven years ago from plaster casts of my feet, and I had never even considered the possibility that they could wear down. However, once Dr. Adler explained how exactly the orthotics worked and what they were designed to correct in my case, using his hands to demonstrate, it all made perfect sense. That's the reason that the pain keeps moving. That's the reason I can't roll forward, heel to toe, in a normal gait. That's the reason I've been walking on the outside edge of my foot, unable to change that pattern even though I recognized it. That's the reason my pinky toe got squished during the River Run. Everything suddenly made sense.

So they made new casts of my feet (the process of which actually feels nice, like some sort of spa treatment), and a new pair of (*gulp* $400) orthotics will show up on my doorstep around the end of the month. At which point all my problems should, in theory, be solved.

It made me want to cry, really. That he took me seriously, that he looked at physical evidence other than just my word, that he reached a conclusion I hadn't considered, that he explained everything in detail, that he talked to me as though I had a brain, that he, dare I say it, figured out the problem - it was unbelievable. I smiled uncontrollably for the rest of the morning. If there is a better doctor somewhere out there, I haven't met him (or her) yet.

Okay, yes, I know, enough gushing about my podiatrist. But if you had any idea about my sense of relief and gratitude on Monday morning... you'd write long, gushing blog entries too.

In other news, I finally (in typical Jess fashion, weeks behind the rest of the world) saw Brokeback Mountain, and I enjoyed it. It wasn't quite as good as I'd built it up to be in my head, but it was a very good movie and provided a lot of food for thought. Mom noticed some symbolism, too, like the fact that every single place in the movie was ugly and run-down (Ennis' trailers, Jack's parents' house, etc.) except for Brokeback Mountain itself, which was stunningly beautiful, and the only place the two men ever saw each other. Stuff like that. Bottom line: it was sad, but I enjoyed it enough that if I find it cheap on DVD someday, I'll buy it.

Today Mom and I took my grandmother (in the early to mid stages of Alzheimer's) to her weekly hair appointment, and then out to wander around the mall. Mom takes her out every Wednesday, both for a change of scenery and to give my grandfather a break. Today was a good day; she hardly repeated herself at all, and she had a little more 'spark', a little more of a sense of awareness than I've seen in her lately. We had lunch at Chik-Fil-A and shopped (mostly for me) at American Eagle, Old Navy, and Dillards. In case anyone cares, I also finally got a professional bra fitting and discovered my true size, which was simultaneously awesome and shocking (because how the heck did I get DDDs out of my A cup mother?). Listen to Oprah, ladies: if it's not fitting you quite right, try going a band size down and a cup size up.

After we dropped Grandma back off at home, Mom and I drove out to the outlet mall and that's where we really went nuts: at Banana Republic. I bought a black T-shirt from them in 2002 on a quick rest stop on the way down to Disney (I was roasting in the long sleeves I'd been wearing and grabbed the first tee off the rack without even trying it on), and it turned out to be my favorite shirt ever. I've worn it so much that it's not really even black anymore. We'd been talking about driving out to the outlet mall to try to find a couple more of those shirts, since they don't have them at the Banana Republics at the Jacksonville malls, so we went today. And, well, walked out with four pairs of pants and six shirts. LOL! Everything was dirt cheap - T-shirts for $7, cords for $20 - and Mom also insisted on buying me a pair of dress pants and a couple of button-down shirts, which, truth be told, I really did need. I dress like a slob most of the time because I bike everywhere, and who wants tire splashes on their dress pants and sweat on their button-downs? But if I get roped into teaching classes in grad school, I won't be doing it in tank tops and short shorts.

Anyhow, it's been a successful week. Not particularly lucrative - work still hasn't called, and I'm starting to doubt that they ever will - but successful nonetheless. I've gotten a chance to relax (I can nap whenever I want, Mom and Dad cook for me sometimes, we went to Carrabba's tonight (and saw Jaguars player Moe Williams there!), I swam with my Jacksonville Masters team last night (and did well), and we all watched As Good As It Gets last night, which I loved) and with the exception of my right calf (strained) and my right heel (duh), the rest of my body is fully recovered from the River Run. Yes, progress is being made. I needed this break.

On tap for the rest of the week: go to the Bookmine and Goodwill, do my online French work, and possibly work a day or two.

I'll leave you with one last disturbing thought about our administration (because I can't go a day without pushing my political agenda, now can I?) A friend of my mom's, who is very active in the Democratic party, has been telling her some pretty disturbing stuff he's found out about 9/11 - how the White House may have known about it all along, that they were practicing for it, etc. He wrote an passionate letter (via e-mail) to the editor of his local paper, exposing these theories... and it never got printed. Upon contacting the paper, he discovered that it had never been received. And upon checking his Sent Mail folder... he discovered that it had disappeared. Everything else was still there - all the sent mail before and after the message to the paper - but the political e-mail was gone, as though it had never existed. This, in my mind, lends a lot more credibility to my mom's and my suspicions about the monitoring of our e-mail and online activities. (Nothing quite that weird has happened to us - yet - but other things have.)

Anyhow, if this post disappears, I'll know why. As some TV comedian or other said the other night: "This administration could hide an elephant in a jewelry shop."

zaterdag 11 maart 2006

Well, the 2006 Gate River Run has been and gone, and miraculously, I not only ran it (my foot had been cooperating all week), but I met both my goals: to finish the race, and to crack two hours. My time was - are you ready for this? - 1:59:41. Don't ever tell me I don't know how to pace myself. LOL!

Truthfully, that two-hour goal was what kept me going. I screwed up my right pinky toe pretty badly - apparently my fourth toe overlaps it a little, meaning I was basically 'stepping on' the pinky the whole way; it's quite literally one big blister now - and it was pretty painful, but I was doing mental math the entire way. Okay, I can still do it. Okay, if I reach mile marker 7 within the next 20 minutes I'll be on pace to do it. Okay, 11 minutes to go one more mile, let's go! I might have slacked off and walked most of the last half if my goal had only been to finish, but since the two-hour mark was still in sight, I kept trying. Which means it was a good example of goal setting. Hooray for me!

Anyway, I'm really sore now - I didn't know I even had muscles where that race found them - but I'm very glad I did it. It was a great experience. The River Run is one of Jacksonville's most famous events, drawing Olympians (there were eight in the field today) and recreational runners alike, so people were lining the streets throughout the entire course - out in front of their houses blasting boom boxes and spraying us with hoses, out in front of the stadium waving signs and cheering, giving us 'high fives' along the sides of the road, even sitting on top of the Hart Bridge! That encouragement went a long way with me. And the runners were a friendly bunch; everyone was talking and joking along the way, even with people they didn't know. I saw college students, old men with knee braces, couples, guys in Hawaiian skirts, overweight women packed into spandex, skinny middle-school boys, someone dressed up as SpongeBob, power walkers, and even - which really impressed me - one tiny nine-year-old blond girl named Sky, who ran the entire race in between her parents.

Monique stayed with me for the first two and a half miles or so, and then, when I wanted to walk for a minute, she kept going. She finished eight minutes ahead of me (and would have done even better if she hadn't had to make a prolonged stop at a Port-O-Let along the way... LOL!) She was 301st in our age group and I was 357th. Out of 10,198 runners, I placed 7,756th (LOL!). My 5k time was 36:22, my 10k time was 1:17:48, and my 15k time was, as I said, 1:59:41. (My time from the 'true start', when the cannon fired, was 31 seconds slower, 2:00:12, but your true 15k time is only the time it takes you to run between the actual starting line and the finish line. There are so many people that it takes time for everyone to get going. I was near the front of the crush and it still took me 31 seconds to get across the actual starting line.) Aside from my toe, and some residual heel pain, I felt pretty good through most of the race. I did an Albuterol puff at the start and breathed perfectly throughout the whole thing until the last 0.3 miles; I had some trouble after coming down the other side of the (steep) Hart Bridge, but the race was almost over by that point.

The takeaway: sore thighs, a medal, unslakable thirst, a blistered toe, a laminated number (3806), a few pictures and newspaper articles for the scrapbook, some great memories, a healthy dose of pride, and a new respect for myself. I had never run anything longer than a 5k in my life before this, and because of my foot I hadn't run at all for 4-6 weeks prior to this race, so the fact that I was able to finish and meet my goal, feeling as good as I did throughout 95% of the course, was pretty amazing to me.

I'm looking forward to next year.

donderdag 9 maart 2006

Good news! Faith Hill and Tim McGraw are bashing the government for their 'embarrassing' response to Katrina. Hopefully this will take some of the heat off the Dixie Chicks - all the Jacksonville country stations have boycotted them ever since they made those anti-Bush comments, but now two more major artists are joining them. Hooray!

(Hello to all the government officials who have nothing better to do than monitor the website of a liberal college student (and the e-mails and telephone calls of her liberal mother). If you haven't figured out yet that we're not 'dangers to society' - just two of the 66% of Americans who hate our president - then I pity your inferior intellect.)

Anyway, the school week is all but finished, the swim week is finished as of an hour ago (a fact for which my tired arms are very grateful), and I'm working on packing for spring break in Jacksonville - one bag of dirty laundry plus stuff I'll need over the course of the week, one bag of stuff that can go home and stay home, and one bag of stuff that can go home and stay in the bag until August, and grad school, roll around. Plus the ever-present swim bag and laptop bag. I'm making progress, albeit slowly.

Tomorrow is Latin exam number two, and it's not going to be easy. I pulled a 95 on the first one with minimal studying, but we've added two more declensions and conjugations since then, plus a lot more vocab. Hopefully I can repeat that performance if I buckle down and start studying now. I took a (nightmare-ridden) nap this afternoon, so that may give me a little extra firepower towards actually working instead of playing on the Internet like I usually end up doing.

However, tomorrow is also the last day of school until the 20th, woohoo! I plan to spend the break (a) doing the River Run, (b) sleeping, (c) working for Runways, (d) swimming with the HLJ team, (e) going to the beach, (f) searching for a low European airfare for May, and (g) enjoying showers that stay hot longer than 8 minutes. No huge plans, but that's a good thing. I'm due for some rest.

dinsdag 7 maart 2006

Well, the 'patient', a.k.a. the Compaq, is now up and running again, after a weekend of intensive therapy (thanks, Dad). We ended up taking out the entire on-the-verge-of-death hard drive and replacing it with one of Dad's 80-gig (formerly) external drives, but that didn't actually work as simplistically as that sentence makes it sound. It took the whole weekend to work out all the kinks, and then another 18 hours for my files to copy back onto the new drive. But it's working now, and I am ever so grateful. It's also nice and fast and uncluttered, since there are next to no external programs on it - just iTunes, Photoshop, dbPowerAMP, and the Gmail Notifier. I don't think I'm even going to put full-blown MSN Messenger back on - the simplified Windows Messenger works perfectly fine for my purposes.

That all being said, I have started my online laptop shopping in earnest. Again, nothing will be purchased until May at the earliest (and probably more like August, since I'll be in Maine for seven weeks this summer), but it's enjoyable to look around and see what's out there. My criteria were (a) must be tiny and light, (b) must have kick-ass battery life, (c) must be faster than my current computer (1.4 Ghz, 512 RAM), (d) must have a DVD burner, and (e) must have a nice dose of that 'ooh' factor.

Here are the finalists. (Apologies to all those who aren't 'computer people' and would like me to just shut up about my laptop already.)

Top Contender #1: the Sony TX. It's the lightest and smallest of the bunch (2.8 pounds, 10.7" x 7.7" x 1.1"), with crazy battery life (7.5 hours!), cool external media controls, and every connectivity option out there. Plus, it's a Sony, meaning it would sync up effortlessly with my (Sony) digital camera. It also earned an Editor's Choice over at CNet. Cons: the processor is (a) slow and (b) not a Core Duo, the hard drive is small, and the specific model I wanted has just been recalled, leading me (and Dad) to believe that there must have been something seriously wrong with it. I'm waiting to see what the next Sony release will be.

Top Contender #2: the Sony SZ. It's the second-lightest one (3.7 pounds), and has a Core Duo processor (meaning it's fast), as well as lots of RAM, a huge hard drive, and even a built-in camera. The battery life isn't as great as the TX, but is still pretty good, around 5-6 hours. Cons: size-wise, it's 12.5" x 9.3" x 0.9", which is still almost as big as my current laptop. Granted, weight is more important than size, but I really wanted something smaller than this.

Has a shot: the Dell Inspiron 710m. Probably the maximum of what I would accept, size-wise - 11.7" x 8.5" x 1.5" - but it's well-known that you can't beat Dell for quality. There's a reason all the university computers (and so many of the student laptops that I see in the union) are Dell. This one doesn't have Core Duo - yet - but several of their models do, so that leads me to believe that it may be coming. And the processor is way fast even without it. Cons: it's a little heavier than the top two, at 4.1 lbs, and you have to buy the high-capacity battery to make its life equal the Sony SZ.

Out of the Woodwork: the Fujitsu Lifebook P7000. I unexpectedly stumbled across this model last week. It's very small (10.3" x 7.8" x 1.3") and light (3.2 lbs), and since the battery is 6-cell instead of 4-cell, the life is amazing - they claim you can get up to 11 hours! Cons: exactly the same as the Sony TX - the processor is slow and the hard drive is small. Also, this thing is expensive. And it's a Fujitsu. Not the most well-liked brand. And I don't trust that. Generally, when it comes to laptops, following the crowd is not such a bad thing.

Outside Chance: the Apple 12" Powerbook. Can you believe it? I'm looking at a Mac! But it caught my eye in the union today, so I thought I'd check it out online. It's the second-smallest of the lineup (10.9" x 8.6" x 1.2"), and it's certainly very sexy. The specs are good, though not eye-catchingly spectacular, and the hard drive is 5400rpm, which is fairly rare for ultra-portable laptops. Like the Sony TX, CNet gave it an Editor's Choice. Cons: it's the heaviest of the bunch, at 4.6 lbs, and the battery life sucks - Apple claims five hours, but CNet reviewers say they're lying and that it's closer to 3. Also, the DVD burner is only single-layer, and the processor isn't Core Duo (yet). Not to mention, it's a Mac. You know how America Online is like "dumbed-down internet" for people who can't handle the real thing? Well, Macs feel (to me) like dumbed-down computers, for people who can't handle Windows. But everyone I've talked to who owns one claims they'll never go back. So I don't know. I'll consider it, but I don't think it's likely that I'll switch if these are the best specs Apple can offer me. We'll see what happens in the next few months.

At any rate, if anyone has anything to offer in the way of PCs versus Macs, or one brand versus another, I'm grateful for any help I can get.

Other News of the Week: I got a 98 on my French test, the Wolof midterm is postponed until after break (woohoo!), my Utrecht transfer credit is about 90% worked out, and my foot, inexplicably, is feeling better. Don't count me out of that River Run just yet.

vrijdag 3 maart 2006

The patient is a three-year-old machine, presenting with symptoms consistent with imminent hard drive failure. Complaints include black screens, error codes, and persistent startup displays of the message 'SMART hard drive detects imminent drive failure.' Patient is still able to function normally during most daily activities; however, the downward spiral is unfortunately believed to be inevitable.

The patient's chart contains a DNR; no heroic or expensive measures are to be taken to prolong his life. However, it is hoped that the patient's current quality of life can be maintained for as long as possible, preferably until at least May, such as to delay the time that his faster, younger, smaller, and better-looking replacement must join the family. (The DNR order is not due to any true sadness or sentimentality on the part of the mother, but simply to allow the chosen adoptee to be as fast, young, small, and good-looking as possible.)

The patient has been able to muster enough strength to leave a memoir: his numerous gigabytes of memories and activities have been dutifully recorded by his big brother External Eighty-Gig. His successor will take on all the old memories, but will learn from his predecessor's mistakes and streamline his non-essential downloaded program repertoire to include only Firefox, iTunes, Photoshop, Limewire, Google Desktop, Skype, and dbPowerAMP.

The patient is still clinging to life, but while his keyboard is still active and responsive: adieu, O dear Compac Presario X1000. You have served me reasonably well for three long years, and on both sides of the ocean, too. Even if you were a bit overweight and slow on the uptake, and even if you lost my trust forever when you crashed with all my data in September 2003, you nonetheless taught me many important lessons. One should not download random unnecessary programs (no matter how cool they look), one should drain one's laptop battery regularly and not leave AC power on all the time, and one should not overload one's hard drive with downloaded movies when one can just buy the DVDs instead. I will always remember you as my introduction to computing portability. Farewell.

And now, on to bigger and better things.

donderdag 2 maart 2006

I'm still on the hunt for a good fare to Europe. I'm pretty flexible as to the airport - I could fly into Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, or even London - but all these dirt-cheap spring break fares mean I'm having a hard time finding something from May 9th through 25th, or thereabouts. If I'd gone over break, I could have taken Virgin Atlantic, a luxury airline, for less than $500, even with all the taxes. But the cheapest I've found for May is $640 on Delta. I was going to try to pull this whole trip off on $1000, but now I'm not sure if I can. It isn't really that the FARES have gone up - it's that the TAXES have gone up. They're in the $200s on every single booking I've tried. One more thing to thank Bushco for, I guess, what with the cost of fuel and all the extra security taxes. Oh, well, I'll let all the spring break hubbub die down a little and then try again.

In other news, my foot is finally starting to feel better. I didn't take any painkillers today and it's still MUCH better. Bearing weight hurts less - I don't have to walk on the outside edge of my foot anymore - and I have almost my full range of ankle motion back. If I took ibuprofen and tied my shoes really tight, I could probably do the sprint triathlon this Sunday, but I'm not going to - even with the tempting promise of free massages afterwards - because I don't want to push it. I'm still hoping I might be able to do the River Run. It would suck to have to bring Monique home to J-ville and carry out all the plans we made, except me NOT run while she does. So my fingers are still crossed. I'm not planning to run the whole thing - there will be significant amounts of walking mixed in - and I have absolutely nothing else on the horizon that involves running at all (except maybe to catch European planes... LOL), so I really do want to do this.

As to the rest of my health, my throat feels better - still hurts, but that swollen feeling is gone - and my congestion has been better since swim practice tonight. (Of course, the pool now contains gallons of the former contents of my sinuses, but nobody has to know that.) My voice isn't back completely yet, but at least it's somewhat more 'dependable' than it has been for the past two days. I was biking on the sidewalk on Tuesday (because there's too much crap in the bike lane) and opened my mouth to say, "Passing on your right," to this old lady... but nothing audible came out! So I hastily scooted off the sidewalk and into the grass to avoid hitting her, and almost careened into a ditch. Oops. ("You should have let me know!" she chided. "Well, I tried...")

woensdag 1 maart 2006

This day sucked because:

I still have no voice,
I still have a cold,
My foot still hurts a lot, and
The pool was closed.

But today was also good, because:

All three of my classes were fun,
Lean Cuisine came out with yummy new paninis,
I met a cool (guy) friend of Monique's, and
I got accepted to the masters program at U of Pittsburgh. :)

I guess the good stuff outweighs the bad.

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