Requiem – Anna Akhmatova

No, not under the vault of another sky, not under the shelter of other wings. I was with my people then, there where my people were doomed to be.

Instead of a preface:

During the years of the Yezhov terror, I spent seventeen months standing outside the prison in Leningrad, waiting for news. One day someone ‘picked me out’. Then a woman with blue lips from the cold, who was standing behind me, and of course had never heard of my name, came out of the numbness which affected us all. She whispered in my ear (for we all whispered there): “Can anyone ever describe this?”

I said, “I can”.

Then something resembling a smile slid across what had previously been just a face…

Lessons Learned 2009-10-25

Time to review the week!

1) Pasta dough needs to be much drier than bread dough

It took me two batches, but I’ve finally realized my most critical mistake in attempting to make fresh pasta. I used to cook bread dough a lot and when you process that, it should be a little sticky to the touch. But it’s very very important that when you knead pasta dough, that it ends up being very dry. You can’t fix it with more flour if you let it rest when it’s gooey, I wasted a lot of resources trying to save it.

2) Save your .edu e-mail address, get Windows 7 through Digital River

A few days into my experience, I would highly recommend Windows 7 because it’s faster, smoother, and operates better than any previous Microsoft OS. If you’ve ever had an Apple, it feels very much like that; a little more wobbly, but a similar experience. But you should be upgrading with a .edu e-mail address because it only costs $30. If you have two computers like me, you can also take advantage of a loophole and get home premium for one computer and professional for the other. This is your one chance to get a good program and not fear the consequences of Microsoft catching you with pirated software. Also, do a “custom install” to clean out your computer, just be sure to save all your personal data on the desktop or the program files folder.

3) Use your wedding to upgrade your kitchenware

It was probably the best wedding decision we made to ask the Chicago group for plates and the Karpen lab for a big gift card. You will not have a better chance to force yourself out of the student lifestyle and drag yourself into middle class yuppie-hood.

Goals from the week:
1) Succeeded in exercising every day and ran 12 miles. Running summary:
Run week 2009-10-25
2) Succeeded with 600 questions, 79% correct
3) Learned to use chef’s knife, did not succeed with pasta
4) Watched less TV, but did not do arts time
Verdict: Quite good. Proud of the effort.

Lessons Learned 2009-10-17

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve done this. Well, only two weeks but it feels like a lifetime ago. I almost don’t remember how….oh yes, now I remember!

1) Don’t go to Hawaii for the food

By far the most disappointing aspect of Hawaii was the food. To put it shortly, it was awful. Not “this makes me want to throw up” awful, but “are you seriously charging $30 for this overcooked fish” awful. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and you don’t love bread and cheese or fish or steak, you are taking for granted one of the best areas in the country for food. The cheese they pawned off as great in Hawaii would be sold in Berkeley for a punch in the face. Nobody in Hawaii apparently knows how to cook fish properly. The only good things were the sweets – smoothies, jam, and anything with macadamia nuts in it.

2) White people love Hawaii

On the plane and at the hotel, Aki and I were the only non-white people visiting Hawaii. A couple members of the staff looked a bit confused about our stay too. Aki’s theory is that Asians can’t appreciate the simple joy of reading on the beach; they don’t see the point. Asians prefer to sample the local activities and run around seeing stuff, rather than lounging around. I’m not sure I agree with her theory, but the proof is in the pudding. Not only was everyone at the hotel white, they all loved sitting around the pool or on the beach reading. I was the only person who swam for exercise and we were the only ones who used the tennis courts. Unfortunately for stereotypes, all of the white Americans were also fat. All of the skinny white people we saw were Europeans.

3) Hawaiians are not very smart

The combination of being a small town and a tropical paradise means life in Hawaii moves very slowly, and consequently the people were pretty stupid, probably the dumbest we’ve seen on our vacations (although Phoenix would give them a run). They were also the nicest and the most obedient. Nobody from Hawaii speeds on the road, which is pretty painful since all the roads are also two lanes and speed limits hover around 25-30 mph in most places. So it’s a great tourist location for a week, but if you’re at all intelligent, you would never want to live here. You’d have to bombard your brain with marijuana to slow yourself down to local speed.

4) I’ve become soft

As a newlywed, Aki and I talked a lot on the honeymoon about future plans and such, and the conclusion of it was that I realized that I’ve grown very soft, in all aspects. From my mind to my fitness to my discipline, I need to forge myself into a stronger and tougher individual and become accustomed to a harsher lifestyle. The grain of steel is still inside, but the outside is not sharp. It’s something to work on for the rest of the year.

The thing I love most about Aki can be told in an anecdote. When discussing my struggles with tests, in particular the fact that the CFA exam and my black belt test are on the same day and I might do one half-heartedly for “experience”, Aki gave me a pat on the arm and asked “Well, why don’t you just pass? Why not just work your ass off and just do it? Pass both of them!”

5) Never open your mouth until you know what the shot is

At the start of the honeymoon, I panicked a little bit about my finances because I paid a lot of unexpected expenses right around the wedding. I worried that my account was going to go negative, so I prematurely shot my mouth off (well, my cell phone). I ended up having to eat a lot of crow and worst of all, I panicked for nothing. My account was fine and my finances were a lot healthier than I thought. It was hard to pull myself together with all the latent stress, and I fouled it up pretty badly by being impatient about things.

Ode on a Grecian Urn – John Keats

2nd and 5th verses sum up life nicely:

Vermeer Girl with Pearl Earring 1665-1666 detail

Thou still unravished bride of quietness!
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flow’ry tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal -yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoyed,
For ever panting and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayst,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” -that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Lessons Learned 2009-10-4

I took a rest day today so there’s no need for a post about it. Let’s go over the week!

1) It’s never too late to start over

This applies to exercise, business, and porn; in life, really. It’s never too late to start from scratch and decide you really want to change. Lasting change takes time and effort, obviously, but don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut and then exacerbate it by being depressed that it’s too late to pull yourself out. It’s most difficult once you get into porn, believe me, but you can still say no and pull out.

2) Stock and demi-glaze

Two essentials of any kitchen and so easy to make. For stock, just dump a bunch of bones with vegetables and water, and reduce (simmer) until it tastes almost like soup. You can make a ton and freeze it in pots, thawing it when you need it for soup or sauces.

For demi-glaze, mix a little red wine in with a small pot of stock, then toss is shallots, thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorn. Reduce this until it coats the back of a spoon, then pour it into an ice tray and keep it in the freezer. When you’re making fancy sauces, pop out a cube and thaw it in a pan with some butter.

3) Wait to have kids

Sandy had some interesting research that couples who have kids show a consistent and inexorable decrease in life satisfaction. It is worse the shorter a marriage is before children. Staring over the brink, I can tell you why. The prospect of children isn’t just terrifying, it represents the end of “my” life and the beginning of a life of parenthood. With kids, my goals and aspirations don’t matter any more because I have to make sure my kids take all the improvement. Which sucks, if I’m honest. And a big part of marriage is sex. You get all the free sex you want, which is also stymied by children.

You know what sucks the most? The fact that I’m married very early on in comparison to my direct peers and don’t know anyone else who even remotely shares my feelings. I hate you all.

Goals from the week:
1) Only got about halfway there, but hit the percentages
2) Got the exercise but not the running
3) Nailed them all. Wedding planning has been perfect so far.
Verdict: Fell pretty short. Wish I could do better, but I’m okay with this if the wedding goes well.

Quote of the Day 2009-10-5

“It can seldom be right to sacrifice a present benefit for a doubtful advantage in the future. It is not wise to look too far ahead; our powers of prediction are slight, our command over results infinitesimal. It is therefore the happiness of our contemporaries that is our main concern; we should be very chary of sacrificing a large number of people for the sake of a contingent end, however advantageous it may appear.”

-John Maynard Keynes