Sunday, February 27, 2005

And tonight I'm making mussels for dinner.

Chris and I finally signed up with these folks:

Rich has been getting deliveries from them for a while now, and it's always seemed like a good idea. Great quality produce, organic, regularly delivered, seasonal and local offerings that change every week. That kind of approach to produce suits my style of cooking anyhow -- I like to keep myself stocked with staples and then take whatever's around and find a way of using it all together. We're thinking this will be a good way of getting us to try stuff we wouldn't necesarily seek out ourselves, and it's easy enough to make exemptions/substitutions on a permanent or weekly basis if we decide there's something we'd rather not have. And the price is pretty reasonable, too. Our first delivery features apples, avocado, bananas, green beans, carrots, cucumber, lacinato kale, kumquats, romaine, yellow onions, D'anjou pears, Yukon gold potatoes, minneolas, and cherry tomatoes, and it'll get here this week. Many (though not all) of these things were grown around here. I'm excited!

Friday, February 25, 2005

Ten things

d posted on his page his response to the meme that's been going around lately. I found his list more interesting than lists like that usually are, and it started me thinking about what my own list might look like.

Ten Things I've Done That You Haven't

1. Observed sexual innuendo in technical linguistics terms.
(1a. Used technical linguistics terms to make sexual innuendo.)
2. Had an NFL head coach and his wife over for dessert.
3. Learned to read Tahitian.
4. Played Balderdash with a physicist who was taught to tango by Richard Feynman.
5. Raced in 21 half-marathons.
6. Eaten four bagels in a row.
7. Managed a fantasy football league.
8. Memorized all the two- and three-letter words allowable in Scrabble.
9. Been taken out for lunch by my state representative.
10. Recited Jabberwocky in a bar to get my table a round of free drinks.

(4) is kind of a cheapie, I admit.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

What's in a name?

Can someone tell me why Paula Abdul can't seem to bend her elbows when she claps? Thanks.

Several people have asked me recently whether I'll be changing my name after I get married. The truth is that it never occurred to me that I'd change my name. It turns out that it never occurred to my dad that I wouldn't be. It's funny, because I grew up not really liking my name, first or middle or last. Over the years I've become attached to all three. I've had friends who have gone both ways on this: some changed, some didn't. A few didn't change at first but decided to later. It ends up surprising me more when people do change their names than when they don't, even though it shouldn't. I don't like that a woman's decision to keep her name is so often viewed as a progressive, feminist statement. Although I'm fine with making progressive, feminist statements, I don't think this is one. It's more just that after 30 years of being me, I don't really want to be anyone else.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I'll take your Z and trade you five Es.

I am a Scrabble dork.

This is not news.

I am a Scrabble dork who hasn't been playing much Scrabble lately. I've let my NSA membership expire. I need to buy a good clock. I should probably get protiles. I'm feeling rusty. There's a Seattle tournament in May that I'm thinking I should play in, but I can't get past the fact that I don't like the tournament vibe. The problem with Scrabble club is the people at Scrabble club.

On the other hand, I don't really like the casual kitchen table game vibe either. The problem with the casual kitchen table game is the casual. It's not okay to be an obsessive freak. Which is what I am. Or have the potential to be. I'm an underachiever.

It's too bad Mario and I didn't have time to play when he was here for Puzzlehunt this weekend. How many totally dorky activities can you cram into a 72 hour period? I didn't even get to help with the Scrabble-oriented puzzle during the hunt.

Help me, people. Help me regain my addiction. Lately I've been substituting shopping for pink clothing for Scrabble. Something is wrong with the world.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Danke Sch-wayne!

So this weekend was the big puzzlehunt. The theme was Las Vegas. I think I'm going to have "Danke Schoen" in my head for months. There was one puzzle entitled "Wayne Newton" that used as an input step a sound file featuring several of the puzzle organizers impersonating famous people parodying "Danke Schoen." I must have listened to that sound file 25 times. Cruel and unusual punishment.

We did pretty well, finishing 13th out of about 60 teams. Which is pretty good when you consider that the top 5-6 teams are superhuman puzzlers who spend all year creating puzzle resources (useful spreadsheets, programs to do solving gruntwork, and so forth). The organizing team this year did a pretty good job, especially considering that it was their first time running a hunt. Overall last year's puzzles (my only basis of comparison) were significantly harder and required a greater breadth of background and solving approaches, but this year's team made the structure of the hunt much clearer (e.g. the way puzzle solutions composed into metapuzzles, whose solutions composed into metametapuzzles). The sponsoring team is the winning team from the preceding year, and the team that won this year is the team that founded the hunt -- they seem to sponsor about every other hunt, which means that when they're not sponsoring, they're winning. The work that is required to sponsor one of these hunts must be staggering. Fortunately, our team is not likely ever to have to worry about that. On the other hand, we narrowly edged out Hoop, Karthik, and Martyn's teams, so we cling to bragging rights among the just-better-than-mediocre.

Bring on puzzle safari!

Friday, February 18, 2005

Riveting sports analysis of 90210 v. The OC

Just sent to me by tvdetective, proving herself worthy of her title:

No, seriously. Go read it. Scroll down about halfway down the page. Send it to your grandma.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Two inches tall, a mile wide.

Things I have learned today:

1. When I get eight and a half hours of sleep, I feel like a champion.

2. I'm pretty excited about Puzzlehunt. I didn't really learn this today, but I had it reinforced today. I went and looked again at some of last year's puzzles. I had forgotten how hard they are. Also how I was unable to think of anything else for several months following the hunt. I think I'm feeling especially psyched because I had lunch with Rahul (among other people) today. His enthusiasm is contageous. I learned that Karthik is on a rival team, so I plan for lots of trash talk email during the hunt.

3. Wedding cake makers can make clay figure likenesses of the bride and groom to put atop the cake. No, seriously. Two inch tall scupltures! In wedding dress and tuxedo!

I keep surprising myself with how much I'm enjoying work these days, which is good because for the moment I'm here pretty much constantly. I feel as though I'm learning a ton. I don't think I've learned this much this fast since my third year of grad school, which is the year I had enough depth/specialization to count as something like an expert but was still taking classes in other things. Some of what I'm learning is linguistic; more of it is not. I still haven't started my technical blog, but I think I'll get going on that sometime in the next month or so. I have a steadily growing list of topics.

Q: if you were going to study someone for nine years in a dedicated fashion, who would it be?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

SQL superstar!

I think I accidentally signed up for a database project today at work, but at least now I have some sense of how to proceed. It turns out that I think I'm going to be learning to use SQL better than I can now, which is basically not at all. Learning is good.

I'm getting pretty excited about Puzzlehunt. Everyone at work that I'm telling about it thinks it sounds pretty dorky, even though most of them are trying hard to be polite and not say that outright. These people are, by and large, dorkier than I am. Or they used to be. I can feel my social butterfly stock plummeting, but on the other hand my nerd street cred has never been higher. You take what you can get.

I think we've already covered nerds/dorks/geeks.

On to other topics: tomorrow morning Chris and I have an appointment here:

about a wedding cake. So you have just a few more hours to toss out your suggestions. This place doesn't falsely advertise either. Check out the gallery; the cakes really are amazing.

Speaking of which, Hilary and I are in The Amazing Race withdrawal. Good thing the new season starts in, oh, two weeks. It just occurred to me that "amazing race" might have been meant to rhyme with "amazing grace." Well, so what I mean is that it does rhyme, but I wonder if some marketing person or other was aware of that rhyme and chose amazing on purpose over all other superlative adjectives everywhere. Speaking of dorky and in a strangely fundamentalist Judeo-Christian fabric of society kind of way.

No? I'm delerious. I need sleep.

Monday, February 14, 2005

What's a little probability and statistics among friends?

Yesterday Chris and I spent a long time compiling a guest list for our wedding. We were slightly alarmed at the nearly 250 people we came up with. The only thing more terrifying than the total number is the manner in which we dealt with it: we went through the whole list and assigned probabilities to all our potential guests: 1 for almost certainly attending; 0 for almost certainly not; and 0.5 for possibly and/or will only fill one of the two slots allotted (i.e. people unlikely to bring dates). It was totally dorky and totally amazing, because taking probability into account, our guest list was cut in half. It turns out that we don't think our extended relatives love us very much, but we have higher hopes for our friends.

Speaking of dorky! This coming weekend is Puzzlehunt, this weekend-long team puzzle-solving event at Microsoft that happens quasi-annually. I'm very excited. Now if only we could find a way to codify puzzle-dorkiness in a wedding cake.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Chronicle for the easily amused.

Seriously: I met a guy at a party last night named Kirk. Kirk Lind. AND HE LIVES IN KIRKLAND!! I know it's true because Nicole checked his driver's license while he was hitting on us. If I were named Kirk Lind and I lived in Kirkland, I'm not sure I could ever move away. This fact made me jump up and down and spill a drink all over myself in delight.

Kirk Lind! And he lives in Kirkland!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Musical interlude

Last night we went to see Blonde Redhead and Interpol, neither of whom I'd seen live before. I felt a bit schitzophrenic about the Blonde Redhead set. They've listened to one too many Radiohead albums, in all the ways that that's good and bad. I'd heard a few tracks before on KEXP and liked what I'd heard, and I liked most of the songs they played last night too, but I wasn't always such a fan of the interstitial bits between songs. Sometimes it really came together, and sometimes it was aggressively experimental in a way that just didn't work.

Interpol's performance was in every way the opposite of the Modest Mouse show I saw a few months ago -- Interpol hardly talked to the audience much at all, and they were musically really together. I enjoyed their set a lot, even though I still don't like the Paramount as a venue for music like that. I think I'm only going back there for non-music or for bands I'm really dying to see.

I'm looking forward to getting Ivy's new album when it comes out in a couple of weeks. I remember first hearing this band when I was 17 wandering around Newbury Comics in Harvard Square -- I was there to buy something else, and they were playing Realistic, and the song that suckered me in was "Don't Believe a Word" -- and I was immediately hooked and bought the album in addition to whatever other schlock I was picking up at the time. And they've remained one of my favorite bands ever since. The bits I've heard of the new album have me all excited to get it as soon as I can.

Yesterday I was looking through the music calendar on threeimaginarygirls for good upcoming shows that are going to work with my schedule:

Tues 2/22 Bettie Serveert/Slender Means/Viva Voce, Crocodile
Sat 2/26 Mates Of State/Aqueduct/Smoosh, Chop Suey {7pm}
Sat 3/5 The Pale/Math & Physics Club {album release}/Racetrack, Chop Suey {6pm}
Thu 3/10 Tegan and Sara/The Dirty Bops, Crocodile {8pm}*
Sat 3/12 Kings Of Convenience, Neumo’s {8pm}
Fri 3/18 The Decemberists/Okkervil River, Showbox
Fri 3/25 Low/Pedro The Lion, Neumo’s

There are several other good shows that I already know I'm not going to be able to go to. It's slightly alarming how many of these shows are early shows... and how happy that makes me. It either means I'm getting very old or reverting back to some strange childhood state. Either way, we'll see how many of these shows I'm able to make it to, and whether I can drag anyone along for any of them.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Academic decathalon

Yesterday I exchanged email with a former-student-turned-blogger of mine. She was one of my favorites and so it was nice to hear what she was up to -- it turns out that she's now in grad school herself, which, in combination with this talk I'm giving back at Penn in April and my reflections on my job, started me thinking about academia, and how I feel to have left it.

The short answer: Damn good.

The longer answer: There's a lot to like about academia. You get to work on whatever you want, whenever you want, more or less however you want. Funding is an issue, but get yourself into a reasonable tenure-track position in a field like linguistics and the flexibility is unparalleled. You're surrounded by smart people. You travel, or not. You get to work on a topic just because it's interesting to you. You can and do become the world expert in something.

And then it occurs to you: you're the world expert in the thing you're the world expert in because no one else gives a shit about it.

So you write a pretty good dissertation, and if you're lucky and/or particularly well-connected, 50 or 100 or saints be praised 200 people read it in the year or two after it's finished, and you're sitting there with your Ph.D. feeling pretty good about your intellectual chops, and your parents are very proud of you although they're wishing you were earning just a little more money. It only matters a little that most of your grad school friends are going through or have gone through for some time some weird phase that looks and smells a lot like clinical depression, complete with weird ego/mood swings and psuedo-intellectual existential crises of being every other week. Alternating periods of aggressively social and antisocial behavior.

So now, a few years later, it's totally perplexing/exciting/disorienting/energizing to find myself in a place where I'm working on challenging and interesting problems whose solutions will actually be used by real people. Lots of real people -- millions of them. I'm still working with smart people and I only have somewhat less lifestyle flexibility. I don't get to totally dictate my work agenda the way I basically did in the latter stages of graduate school, but neither is it the case that I have no control over it. I still get to take ideas and run with them. In the way that I want. I don't get to teach, which I really do miss. But all in all for me it's been a definite trade up.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A. Jacobs Jacobs

One of my computers got hit with a Messenger virus today. Or rather: I through my ineptitude allowed my computer to be hit with a Messenger virus today. Blah. I'm currently on a functional machine pouting and nursing my wounds. Mostly pouting and feeling bad.

In brighter news: I've started reading The Know-It-All, the A.J. Jacobs book about reading the encycplopedia. Jay made a good choice in giving me this book, even though I fear that the J. in A.J. Jacobs actually stands for Jacobs, making the author's name A. Jacobs Jacobs, which is just kind of silly. Be that as it may, this is a pretty fun little book, and I'm looking forward to getting further into it.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The saddest break-up story ever told.

Tonight after work I think I'm going to head to Super Jock 'N Jill (, one of my favorite running stores here in Seattle, to buy long overdue new running shoes. I'm usually very diligent about updating before my shoes fall to crap, but I've let the current pair slide a little too long and I haven't made the time to go get new ones. Partly because I'm sad that Brooks "updated" the Burn, the model I've been running in for the last several pairs and ordering backstores of online, and now I'm going to need to get a totally new shoe. For these purposes, a model update counts as a totally new shoe. And I'm on my seventh pair of this make of the Burn and I'm kind of attached and not eager to switch.

But tonight, enough is enough. We're breaking up. I'm ready for new shoes.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

If it looks like a dynasty, smells like a dynasty, and it's not a soap opera...

... then it's the New England Patriots. For me that was a pretty satsifying game, and definitely one of the best in terms of the match-up in recent memory. Sorry to my friends in Philly.

On to the important things: I'm voting for the bloody cat commercial. Anyone else?

Of football and wedding dresses

I'm trying to decide whether I'd rather have the Eagles lose in a blow-out or have their hearts broken in the final seconds of an exciting and close game. It's a tough call. Go Patriots! Or rather: go non-Eagles!

I feel the way I feel at the end of every football season. How does everyone else spend their Sundays? It always takes me a month or two to remember. I've been thinking about my fantasy league for next year. I think I'm going to shell out a little cash and set up a non-yahoo league that gives us better live stats and smoother administration. I've heard good things about the ESPN leagues, so I might check those out.

In the meantime, we're going to the Super Bowl party that we cajoled Brett and Jess into having. Next I'm going to tell them that they want to buy me a car and see what happens.

I bought a wedding dress yesterday! I only spent ten times what I would have spent had I gotten the back-up option online! And I noticed last night when I was looking at the receipt that they didn't give me the discount that they were supposed to! I'm very excited nevertheless. I love the dress. Chris isn't going to see it until we actually get married -- that's one of the weird wedding rituals that I actually like -- so I won't post too many details here. But the dress is very me, and I'm really happy with it. And the process of finding something was faster and way less painful than I expected. It helped that Vilde, Simone, Katherine, and Kara came along with me. We didn't bring a digital camera because we were pretty sure they wouldn't let us take pictures, but now that I've purchased it I should go back and take a picture to show people who don't live here.

Next orders of business: photographer, cake, music, flowers...

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Next biopic: Flava Flav

I was feeling kind of burned out tonight in a variety of ways, so I'm glad that I spent the night hanging out with Mike and Heather and seeing The Aviator. I didn't think I'd be saying this but Leonardo was really damn good. You know who was even better, though? Cate as Kate. And not just because I love both of them. Howard Hughes was a pretty interesting guy, so I'm surprised it's taken so long for someone to make this movie.

And so I make my way through the movie backlog that's been accumulating for the last several weeks. Next on my list are Million Dollar Baby and Hotel Rwanda. Yep, I'm into the chipper pick-me-ups these days. There's always Being Julia.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Everybody's working for the weekend.

No one has sent me pictures of cats yet, but heathalouise promised to just today. This bodes well. Someone has to kick things off, after all.

I'm working lots of hours this week. It's good, actually -- I'm getting a lot accomplished, and for the time being I'm feeling pretty energized by it. I do better when I can get into stuff. I'm nearly ready for a real weekend, however... and I think that's a few weeks away. (Watching the Super Bowl is a full-time, serious occupation, right?) I meant to take time out of my day today and go buy new running shoes while stores were still open, but it hasn't happened. Why is it that I'd rather shop for new running shoes than for a wedding dress this weekend? Damn those bastards at Brooks for discontinuing the model of the Burn I like. And why am I fantasizing about organizing a contingent to run some short race on the morning of our wedding? (Evidence: not girly girl.)

No, seriously.

I like the dorky wedding cake suggestions, although I don't think anyone's topped mine yet.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Throw-down dorkstyle.

Just got back from my dinner with Edie, the old friend from Tuxedo Park. Hard to believe it's taken us a year to make this happen. It turns out we have a lot in common these days. It sounds like I may have another friend to do races and hikes with, which would be a good thing. It's funny how we were able to pick up after not having seen each other since, oh, middle school. Maybe it's because we never hung out a lot in middle school but seem to have a lot in common now. And, it turns out, we did in middle school too: we had crushes on all the same boys.

For dinner we tried this Via Tribunali place, and it was pretty good. Not the best pizza of its type I've had -- not even the best in Seattle --but not bad. It's no Otto. (Jake, if you're reading this? Otto is amazing. And I'm not just saying this because it's a Mario Batali kind of week, either.)

I think I found bridesmaid dresses today, and maybe even a dress for me, or at least a pretty good back-up choice depending what else I see this weekend. Which would be good, as I'm having a few other wedding conundrums. This dress is both significantly less expensive than I'd budgeted for and simpler, too, so I feel as though I can/must splurge on some really nice jewelry to accessorize with if I get it. And I know just the jewelry, too.

Maybe I can get us a wedding cake shaped like a TRS-80. Go ahead, I dare you: think of something dorkier than that.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Mushrooms! Pepperoni! Cheese! More Cheese! Always more cheese!

I finally went out and bought the album by The Arcade Fire and I recommend it. I recommend it a lot. I also got the new Aqueduct, which turns out to be only about 70% the new Aqueduct and 30% stuff they've released before. I'm thinking that I need to put together some Seattle/Pacific Northwest sampler music care packages for some of my non-Seattle friends. I've picked up a number of good things that I'm pretty sure you're not hearing. (For that matter I'm feeling out of touch with who's playing in Philly and to some extent New York these days... so feel free to reciprocate!)

Tomorrow I'm having dinner with someone I went to middle school with and haven't seen since. We're finally pulling this together after a year or so of aimless emailing with mediocre intentions. I'm excited both to see her and to try Via Tribunali, which is where we're going for dinner. I expect to have a really good time, but even if by some strange circumstances I don't, I'm pretty sure there'll at least be good pizza. And let's face it: good pizza goes a long way.

I'm thinking of putting in some dedicated study on what makes the perfect pizza. Thin crust? Deep dish? Greasy cheese? Toppings? Toppings on top? Toppings between layers of cheese? New York? L.A.? Chicago? Neopolitan? Sicilian? I appreciate pizza across the whole range, but a craving for, say, deep dish feels like a very particular thing to me. Separate from my habitual generic pizza cravings, which are almost always for the NYC-area pizza that I grew up with. Like the difference between craving German chocolate cake and craving straight up chocolate.

Pizza aficionados, step up!