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Ghana and Burning Man

Apr. 12th, 2010 | 11:28 am

This summer is going to change my life. It's a momentous feeling.

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Montreal: differences from Chicago

Mar. 18th, 2010 | 11:20 pm

Montreal is different from Chicago in a thousand tiny ways. Montreal is in Quebec, which is a province in Canada. Provinces are to Canada roughly like states are to the United States. Quebec is a french-speaking province. Montreal is a French-speaking city. It's amazing how many tiny pieces of a language you learn- even in the tourist area of town- if you're surrounded by signage and casual conversation in it for a week. 

"A louer" means for rent. Bonjour means hello. Merci means thank you. Merci beaucoup means thank you very much. Coffee means coffee, and espresso means espresso (thank gods). You don't need to ask where the restroom is; that's what signs with stick figures in dresses are for.

There are cafes on every street in Montreal. Few of them are Starbucks, but there are chains. One of the larger ones is called Second Cup. Others have names in French, which I have difficulty remembering. All cafes have free wifi for customers, although it's always passworded. The password doesn't change often, and it's probably something like "summer" or "strawberry." 

The hostel I stayed in (La Jazz) had passworded wifi. Hostels are interesting places- usually they have a front desk, and a bed costs you $25 a night. The price includes the use of their wifi, bathroom and shower, laundry machines, a locker with a key, and kitchen (which may have free breakfast and coffee in it). Your bed will be in a room of bunk beds- four or eight or so beds to a room. You can never completely trust that anything you leave on your bunk won't vanish, but most people who stay at hostels are college-age, college-broke, and traveling, just like you.  

Montreal is covered in artistic graffiti. About half of it is paintings of nature, anime character, trains, or indigenous-looking art. There are also unintelligible scrawls of people's names, but even these are often well-rendered. There doesn't appear to be any attempt to remove the paint from buildings. Anywhere that you go in the city, if you spin 360* and keep an eye open, you will see graffiti art. 

Everyone in Montreal is a biker. There are separate bike lanes on many major roads, with concrete dividers to keep the cars out. There are massive bike racks everywhere near large public buildings, and there are several bike racks on any downtown street. 

The public transportation system in Montreal is huge and fast. The trains are entirely subways, sometimes as far as 6 or 7 stories underground, and they are more than twice as wide as the usual Chicago subway platform. Trains come every five minutes or so during busy times of day, although less frequently past midnight. However, the buses are packed; people stand in lines of 40 or 50 at the bus stop and file on until the bus driver says the bus is full; the leftovers have to wait for the next one. On the trains, the seats are grouped in four groups of three around the entrance/exit of the train; there are three doors per train instead of two like there are in Chicago. The seat nearest the door on the right hand side is a handicapped seat. it is common to see people give up their seats to older women or those carrying burdens or injured. There are also cars on the roads, but they tend to be small cars- “smartcars,” or VW Bugs. The roads are much smoother and better maintained than Chicago's. 

The drinking age in Canada is 18. Beer and mixed drinks have similar prices as they do in the US; tipping is the same, too. People are generally politer, though.  Les 3 Brasseures brewery&bar chain, which has decor a lot like Potbelly's except with giant beer-brewing vats that you can see from the front window or tour on the second floor.

The money in Montreal comes in the same units as American money (i.e. pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters- although they have different names), although the paper money is blue with a shiny strip on one end, and one- and two-dollar coins are in common usage. When I was there, the Loonie (the name for a one-dollar coin) and the American dollar were nearly in parity (The Loonie was only 2 cents under the dollar) so American and Canadian money were taken with an assumption of the same value. Coffee and espresso cost the same as in Chicago. Shoes cost about the same, and there are several Payless and Foot Locker stores in the downtown area. McDonalds costs the same, and also sells poutine (french fries with cheese curds and gravy). 

Street and freeway signs were small and difficult to spot at first. The curbs on the sidewalk were of cut granite everywhere in the city. Parking cost $12 for 24 hours at the main library, which is much less than normal in downtown Chicago. parking hours on the streets of the city were strictly enforced by ticketing; tickets for parking where you're not supposed to are about $80. 

Crossing the USA-Canada border is easy if you have an American passport; they ask you whether you have enough money for your stay (so you won't be stranded), and what you plan to do, and where you plan to stay, and where you're from, and who owns the car that you're in. On the way back to the States, they ask you if you had a good time.

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Mar. 16th, 2010 | 10:27 am

Eat. Caffeinate. Hopefully the world will start going right. Class this mornign was interminable- professor Oerlini nattering on in piles of cliche generalities.

Spring break was excellent. Toronto, Montreal, Niagra Falls. Also a lot of driving.

Adam went to Seattle. Yay!

As i wrote my paper last night, I felt like I was working through a deep mental haze... it got easier as I went along. i guess booting up the brain takes a while.

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Blue City

Feb. 24th, 2010 | 01:03 pm

I just got back from Blue City (the nearest bike shop) for the second time in two days. I got Adam's rear derailleur replaced for $21 including tax, which is damn good. Also it lets me bike in 6th gear instead of 2nd which is much better.

My bike is in to have the chain replaced and a general tune-up (including alignment, brakes, etc.) for about 50 labor and 30 for parts- less if the back gears work with the new chain (despite having a snaggly tooth) and don't need replacing. This is wonderful- but it does mean that I get to walk back to Blue City tomorrow afternoon.

My interview with UBC went well (I think) and I should know in early March. I haven't heard back from City Year since my interview with them, which is freaking me out. I sent a follow-up email- in fact, two. If I haven't heard back by Friday, I'll probably call them... I just checked my mail. They said no. 

I took my midterm in Politics of Africa this morning. It could have gone better. At least I know what to study now. I made flashcards on what the professor thought were the least important parts of the books. Lovely.

I've been hanging out with Kim a lot, partially because there are always leftovers at the Kappa house and I can also use their flashcard supplies. I did buy six packs of flashcards from the IIT bookstore, though- and I've used up three of them in the last week.

My CS455 test is tomorrow. This is the only class between me and graduation, and it's hard- even by the standards of people who are good at this stuff and majored in it. I have no idea why it's required for my degree; it's completely unrelated to everything else that's part of a normal PTC major. It's very low-level programming- bits and bytes and binary and networks and cables.

I had coffee (chai, actually) with Professor Hood yesterday, and we talked about iPhone apps and CS495 and teaching styles and scientific studies of women in computing and people she knows in Vancouver. It was excellent.

It was snowing this morning- only a little, not enough to really worry about even when biking. I've been getting plenty of sleep but I'm cranky from having blisters from walking. I don't usually walk with a backpack on- or at all if I can help it, for that matter.

There are a lot of people on campus with broken feet, twisted ankles, etc. I think it might be because of the ice...

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This morning

Feb. 5th, 2010 | 12:20 pm

Stuff I did:
Ate breakfast
Talked to the internet, including chatting & following new ppl on twitter (a tech journalist in Dublin, and the band I watched last night, and a couple others), and doing some useful TN stuff
Read a lot of Phaedo
Did #1 and a little of #3 on the cs455 hw 1 (shaddup. this shit is not like anything else I've ever done, and it takes longer than stuff I'm good at.)
Said hi to City Year on the phone interview

Stuff that's uncool today:
Gotta write more for the City Year app
Can't work on the cs495 app

Gonna do:
The rest of the Phaedo
The rest of the cs455 hw 1 (and maybe some of hw 2)
Read Tolkien for class
Middle east reading + writeup
maaaaaybe some reading for my Politics of Africa class but strangely I'm not in the mood and it's not due until monday anyway
get lunch on campus (OM NOM NOM, campus food is incredibly good lately... or maybe I'm just hungry)

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I am so sleepy.

Jan. 18th, 2010 | 01:36 am

Just bought two psych books from Amazon, used, for a total of $35. They're very interesting.

I'm very sleep deprived.

Today: woke up at 1, went to b&n w/ Kim, then jj, then jewel. Pastel drinks in bottles. (I did semi-intelligent shopping, for once!)

Then CDA meeting. Then TN meeting. (I have a task list form that one.)

Then to Lance's. He fixed the kitchen sink drain (7e sells draino!), and I polished my boots and played around with putting leather softner and cleaner products on my leather jacket.

Kim and cooking pasta and rolls. Unplugging the kitchen sink using a plunger.

Drinking peach champagne, talking about everything, Kim watcing j-rock and k-pop music videos on youtube on Lance's phone. Me looking at grad school applications and falling asleep sitting up.

Tomorrow: b&n again (long story, store regulations re: returns issue), then lunch w Lance up north near where he works. Then Unique! (hopefully!)

Grad school is... grad school. I'm not sure what can be said there.


Thank you for the extension. I wish I could also thank the students who asked for the extension.

I wish that I could say that I've been working diligently on graduate school applications for the last several weeks. Instead I've been being confused about what I want in life, and applying to service programs like the Peace Corps and City Year. The more I thought about graduate school, the more I realized that, although I enjoy putting information into my brain, it's not useful or pleasant in any meaningful way to anyone except myself. in some ways this was precipitated by several articles I read in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a popular online and print daily/weekly publication aimed at staff and faculty of american universities

But, embarrassingly, ever since I visited UBC, I've kept the much-folded campus map with the circled Sing Tao building with me; it's hung on the wall in my apartment. I've visited about a dozen colleges in the last few months, and the Sing Tao building is the only place that has a feeling of belonging and intellectual adventure to it. Journalism is a better way of looking into the world than mindless gossip or bureaucratic fact-finding committees. I've especially been following the coverage of Haiti with some interest, since I have several friends who have spent time in the country for various projects.

In short, I don't know whether I should continue my application to UBC this year. At the moment, I'm occupied with the lashback against my interview with my school's student Finance Board, and with the visual redesign of TechNews (IIT's student newspaper), and with my next assignment, which is an explanation/criticism article about the academic retention program at IIT and its various successes, failings, and humiliating approaches to the (budgetary and prestige) problem of student retention. My application is complete but unsent, except for two recommendations which are currently incomplete and in the possession of various of my professors. (The third is done and sealed.)

I would like to come to UBC. But I'm sure that there are many high-powered applicants in the running, not to mention several (including myself) who for whatever reason couldn't or didn't make the original application deadline- always a bad sign.

If you have a moment, please send me some context or advice for my to apply/not apply decision.

Linda Goldstein

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A lot of text.

Jan. 4th, 2010 | 02:48 pm

This is for me, not for you. I'm tired of not writing. So I just made words- not interesting, or funny, but words. It's a process, okay? First I blather, then I make witty scifi. (I hope.)

Right now, I'm sitting around in MTCC, reading page 92 of this blog by an emergency medical technician, and wondering what I want to do with my life, if anything. http://erstories.net (There are 105 pages. I read them all. They're pretty long, and iIt's longer than a novel, in toto. I used what I learned on both essays of the GRE.)

Last night I was reading some articles from the Chronicle (of Higher Education) about flaws in the grad school system.

I could get a job and work for a while. I could try to travel, try to make sense of things. But I have a feeling that things won't make sense, at least not completely, at least not for a while. Some people have jobs that they like, that they believe are useful. Maybe I could spend my time volunteering at a homeless shelter or something.

I'm more and more convinced that most of the economy is just a way to keep people busy, sane, resentful and complaining, a way to shift the wealth around and provide intellectual and physical exercise.

My wisdom teeth are healing mostly okay. I did get a cavity- luckily a small one- that I'm hoping to get taken care of before school starts (but that's seeming less and less possible.)

The past:

So, I spent a couple days in New Jersey with my boyfriend and his family. We went walking through a Rutgers park and saw cool giant green chairs, a lot of trees, some winter gardens. We went to the Princeton campus art museum (which is free) and looked at paintings. Their photography room had two photos that stood out to me: a picture of a housing development in Dubai where there were thin fingers of land just wide enough for two houses back-to-back, and the streets were tropical blue water... and a photo of a baobab tree that had grown into a very large specimen from a seed dropped by a crow onto the top of a tiny temple. They both had little stories next to them. We also saw a painting of what Iona joked was the first Pastafarian- it was a man who could have been a pirate eating spaghetti. There were, sadly, no meatballs.

In NJ, Goudy and I went up to Denville and at Mara's Cafe, which has extraordinary quiche, and also a gelato bar. We also stopped at a toy store where I found what I'd been looking for- paint that you can use on snow. I didn't buy any, but I have the card of the woman who sells it...

I almost met up with Wendy, but things didn't work out schedule-wise on my end. However, I did get extraordinarily good coffee. ring all this time, I was still healing from the removal of my wisdom teeth, so eating was occasionally slow and awkward.

I flew to Chicago (my plane was delayed in various interesting ways on both ends of the flight, and I ended up hiking through the Detroit airport at high speed to get between two very distant terminals) and arrived. Richard picked me up and we ate at Archview while discussing current gossip- which of our friends were getting which other friends in legal trouble and why, mostly. I find it odd that such conversation can occupy most of a dinner.

I spent that evening showering and sleeping. For some reason I was very tired. Most of the next day went down that same road also. That night was Sanborn's New Years Eve party, which I was initially unenthusiastic about. In toto, the evening was a good one; the first hour or so was awkward because I'm not a very social person, and the last hour or so was awkward because two of the people there were still finding closure for their ex-relationship. In between, the boys drank a lot, made pizza, smoked, and gossiped- although there's a different word for it when guys do it, I think. I had a clove (my first since before finals) and had a glass or two of the local offerings, as well as some champagne at midnight as we watched the ball drop in NY on the telly.

The next morning actually started a bit after noon. I and Lance and Matt went downtown (in the very cold cold) to scope out the place where I was taking the GRE the next morning (in the even more cold cold.) It was a large building downtown... we walked another block and found an open eatery (possibly the only open non-McDonalds downtown) called Quidoba, and ate their burritos.

We wanted to go to Intelly to get coffee, bt they and Lavazza (another good coffee shop) and Argo (another good coffee shop) were all closed; by this time we were feeling the cold, so we went into Borders because they have a decent coffee shop up on the second floor. 2-3 hours later, we left- I bought only one book, Lance bought 3ish (including one that I really want to borrow), Matt got 3. Back to Bridgeport it was. We made a cooperative dinner of pierogi (Lance brought), bacon (Lance's, I cooked it), and garlic bread (Matt made from scratch) in Matt's kitchen. Jacques had a pizza delivered and disappeared again. We played a cool board game called Red Roof Inn http://slugfestgames.com/ and drank a bottle of white wine I'd picked up a while ago.

I looked at the GRE book some more but I knew all the words, so I closed it again and tried to go to sleep. I slept very very poorly- woke up at least every hour. Got up at 6:30 am and went to the testing center. Got there about 7:30, registered, walked in. Taking the GRE isn't the hard part. Walking to it through the freezing cold was. I was VERY glad that we'd scoped the route the previous day. If we hadn't, I don't think I would have made it there. It was too goddamn cold to get lost, and too many shops were closed- there was no place warm to step in for a minute. The test wasn't that bad, except for the moment when I unplugged the computer with my foot at about 10am (so, about 2 hr into the test). Fortunately, it had autosaved all of my work. All the words were easy, except for a few that I'd never seen before. I wish I remembered them; I'd like to look them up. The math was easy. it was hard to care about the test; I've been thinking about why or why not people go to grad school, and reading Chronicle articles about it too... I just feel like since everything is pointless, I should do something that I enjoy. But what do I enjoy? Um. Ok, how about something that can make money, so I can use money to get books, which I enjoy...

There's a flaw in this thought process.

Anyway, it told me my scores, and they're ingrained in my brain, and no I'm not telling you- or anyone- for as long as I can. It wasn't terrible but it also wasn't good. It would have helped if I'd cared. Or if the test had been later in the day. I sent my scores to all the colleges that I was supposed to send them to- and also to Humboldt, because I think I would genuinely like to go there... funny. Only two colleges out of the umpteen that I'm applying to I think would actually make me happy- and they're the two that I'm least likely to go to, even if I get in everywhere. (It's far better to be warm and fed and thinking too hard than to be cold and hungry and dying of some treatable disease- so know that I know this, and take my whining with some salt.)

After the GRE, I came back to Bridgeport. My phone was very low on charge. Roman called me, and He, I, Dmitry, and lLance went to go load Christmas trees for the February Burn (it's a Burning Man thing). It turns out that one of the Christmas tree buying places had a deal where after the 25th you can just come and take them for free, since it saves the owner on disposal costs. Over the course of 2-3 hr in 3 degree Farenheit weather we loaded about 75 trees onto Scott Potter's flatnbed trailer and tied them down. I got to jump on trees!

Dmitry brought hot spiced wine, which was pretty interesting and very warm, if not what I usually call delicious. When we spilled some, it froze into slush. Afterward, we hung out at Scott's house (he was 50ish, I think, and had a large and luxurious place in the suburbs) and played pool on his pool table, ate nuts and Fritos (yum!), looked at his photo albums of Burning Man, drank his liquor (except for Roman, who was driving), and Dmitry was interrogated about the art of St. Petersburg by some lady friend of Scott who came over and bitched about her college-age kids, then left. It was good times.

We drove back to Chicago and went to the Chicago Diner, a vegetarian restaurant that actually closes at 10pm or so. We waited for a while in a small red room that was part of their entranceway, then were seated and ordered... it was delicious! I had a seitan (seitan is a vegetarian pseudo-meat that's actually pretty realistic, if a little crumbly) burger with sweet potato fries (which were AMAZING) and Lance got (on the second try) hot chai with a shot of whiskey. it was an extraordinarily good combination which I plan to repeat once I can go buy the ingredients (I have neither chai mix nor whiskey on hand, sadly. Ditto for milk, bread, meat, and many other things I'd like to eat. It's too goddamned cold to go grocery shopping; I can live on juice and canned soup for a couple days until m'K and her dad get here and we can do a grocery run.)

We went back to Roman and Dmitry's place, where we tried plum wine and almond liqueur in Dmitry's tiny fancy new glasses from Brown Elephant. :) We slept over because it was lateish, and the walk to the train station (or even to the car) would have been incredibly, unpleasantly cold. It was approaching 0 degrees Farenheit. Roman did research on how best to accomplish the move to SanFran (ship car? road trip? U-Haul? fly?) In the morning all four of us went to Mellie's(?), a fancy breakfast place (the kitchen closes at 3:30pm) that serves the best everything that I've ever had. Their coffee was excellent. Again we had to wait to be seated, but the bar two doors down has a deal with Mellie's where you get free coffee and can sit inside and watch tv (and potentially order their booze, although we didn't) while you wait for your beeper to go off. We ate and enjoyed their food and coffee... their omelets are top-notch. Ditto for crepes. Very gourmet, with sharply defined flavors and very fresh ingredients. I still think that Nana's is just as good, although admittedly they don't have whipped honey butter.

Roman drove us to the loop and parked in his usual spot near work (he had some work to do before Monday) and he and Dmitry went to go do that stuff; Lance and I hopped onto the red line to get back to Bridgeport. I went back to my apartment and spent a couple hours cleaning up the massive mess in my room from when I was looking for clothes to wear to Sanborn's New Years Eve party. Everything is mostly sorted now... I also cleared the post-finals mess off the coffee table and did a couple dishes that I'd left out. Amanda made brownies! I ate one and it was delicious!

yadda yadda yadda and here's right now, where I'm sitting in MTCC and wondering what to do with myself. (Grad school applications, duh.) I don't want to go out and do things (haircut, pay CPL fine, buy groceries), and I don't have to, so I think it's time for more soup. Returned IIT library book, picked up packages from the post office (I'm not sure how to get them back to my apartment- probably I'll just come back with an empty backpack and transfer the contents... right now it's tucked away in the locked TechNews office. Having keys is nice.

And that's that. I've been wearing contacts for a few days, which is much more pleasant than glasses. My wisdom teeth are healing pretty well, except for the cavity and the irritation in one of the sockets. School is coming up fast. Textbooks are handled for now; I ordered the important one (CS455), and the others haven't been assigned yet.

And I'm not sure that getting my drivers license or starting that language thing will actually happen. However, it's reasonably certain that I'll be going to the gym more often than last semester. http://www.illinoistechathletics.com/f/General_Hours.php

There are a couple people who I haven;t seen since finals (at least) that I'm going kind of crazy without, but the human ability to cope is nigh-infinite. I've spent more time biking than I've needed to, trying to make sense of things. The cold is a nuisance.

Maybe I should spend the next couple years volunteering at homeless shelters or something. I would be more useful to society than if I just went to grad school. (I could do both, yeah. But it's hard to do other things during the semester.)


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wisdom teeth out shortly.

Dec. 21st, 2009 | 02:30 pm

Adults (usually) have the habit of behaving in a reserved manner firmly embedded in their system. If I were 2, or even 12, I would be throwing a terrified temper tantrum right now. Since I'm 21, I brushed my teeth, put my boots on, and am whimpering on the internet. If I keep going this way, when I'm 50 or so (if I live that long) I'll be a granite sculpture that occasionally takes naps.

"It's not usually as bad as you were expecting," I'm told. Thank you, Doctor. I'm not scared of the procedure so much as of the anesthesia, for the same reason that I mostly stay sober enough to regulate my speech nowadays. I'll get tipsy and babble about science fiction, but the last time I got falling-down drunk, I was well-behaved and polite but discovered things about myself that I didn't want to know. Like, seriously, crocodiles? What the hell. Let's move on.

Applying to graduate school is, I suspect, about as bad as applying to university was. All relevant experience has faded in the last 4 years. I didn't expect to go to graduate school; or at least I didn't plan on it, or take it into account. I'm trying to assemble a creative writing portfolio from various class pieces over the last year. This is... awkward. I would rather write something new, but I- in my decidedly non-infinite wisdom- decided to wait until after finals to start the application process. Which leaves me short on time.

I probably won't post details of my grad school application process here. I don't post details of any variety here any more- not because of who reads it, but because I've stopped posting details anywhere. I used to be fine with having all or most of my thinking process in public; now I'm not. The thinking process hasn't changed significantly, but my analysis of it has.

If that made no sense, you're in good company.

Where do I hope to be in twenty years? That question has more validity than I used to believe it had.

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Dec. 19th, 2009 | 03:46 pm

My hobbies: fabric-painting jeans, urban gardening, photography, reading/writing scifi

My dreams: Become a famous scifi writer. Or something.

My goals: get into good grad schools; go to one of them. Get a good job so I can respect myself.

My fears: that my wisdom teeth will, in some medically explainable way, explode and kill me.

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is a paid account useful?

Dec. 9th, 2009 | 02:56 pm

I just paid $5 to get a LJ Paid Account for 2 months, to see if it's worth it.

So, those of you who have one... what can I do with this that's cool?

(Yes, I've rtfm i.e. FAQ, but obviously it doesn't cover everything or the purposes for doing the aforementioned everythings.)

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