30 September 2008

Of course I can!

I am so excited that winter is drawing near. No, not because of the skiing (though it might be nice to try this year). I'm excited because canning season is almost done. I am SO DONE with canning.

Last year we got into canning. We preserved some tomatoes, some apricots, and a bunch of pickles. I kind of felt compelled to do it, wanting to provide sustenance for my family in those long winter months ahead (ignoring the modern conveniences of grocery stores and international shipping of produce). This year I just went crazy. I figured last year we did well, this year why not can more? And why not try some new things? That, my friends, is where I made my mistake.

Want some advice when it comes to canning? Here goes:

1) Warnings about hot pepper preparation are to be heeded. Otherwise your hands will feel like they're on fire for at least a full day, if not longer. Pain is amplified if you run your hands under hot water, scratch your nose, or bite your fingernails.

2) If everyone you talk to seems surprised that you'd want to can corn rather than freeze it, ask yourself why that might be. It's probably because canning is a lot more work, and the end product doesn't taste that great. PLUS canned corn in the store, even organic, is really pretty cheap.

3) Ditto on the green beans. Do you know how long it takes to pick, wash, chop, pack, and process green beans? For.bloody.ever. Don't do it.

4) Learned last year: if your family isn't all that excited about some bit of produce (say, plums) that is in abundance and free, don't go all out canning it. They won't be any more excited once it's been processed and sat in the basement all winter. Anybody want some canned plums?

Now, for personal edification, here is the list of our canning results this year. I haven't counted up how many jars we have yet, but the shelves in the basement are filling.
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Pureed tomatoes
  • Tomato juice
  • Salsa
  • Pickles (dill)
  • Relish
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • Peach juice
  • Applesauce
Ah, winter. I'll be able enjoy my weekends, not worrying about getting up early to go to the farmer's market. No stressing about the boxes of produce in the kitchen that will all turn to mush if I don't process them *NOW*. And I'll have yummy, fresh-tasting tomato sauces in those cold winter months. Hmm, maybe it was worth it...

28 September 2008


Why is it cool to be anti-intellectual?

Recently I saw a guy (student, I'm assuming) skateboarding across (our University) campus. His shirt? Black with one word across the front in bright green: "STUPID". Why wear that? And especially when you're in college, presumably to get a degree and make you more qualified for jobs. Why?! Is it cool? Is that going to make him friends? I wonder what his parents, who are probably paying for his college education, think of that shirt. Does he even think about it beyond "hey, that shirt says stupid. Heh. Cool."? I don't know. I wish I had asked.

Second anti-intellectual occurrence I've encountered: grading a written report in which the student had to read and evaluate a scientific article. This particular student readily admitted that he did not understand the article at all. That's fine and dandy...most people don't understand most scientific writing. Unless it's in your field, it's gobbledygook. However, this student's suggestion for better understanding the article was not that he learn more, or try to figure out what the big words meant. His solution: make scientists write for everyone, not for themselves and for "people who already know too much." Direct quote. So, Mr. Undergrad, do you think that those cancer researchers who wrote this article, and those cancer researchers who are reading this article to learn what works and what doesn't, all know too much? Maybe they should just stop now, go home, and play some Wii. I mean, they already know way more than anyone you see regularly on TV. Should they just stop now?

And forget about learning for the sake of learning. By far the majority of students I encounter are merely interested in getting the grades to get the GPA to get into the professional school of their choice. They don't want to learn it if it won't be on the test. Heaven forbid they know things just because.

*sigh* I guess I'm feeling pessimistic. I see presidential candidates not wanting to seem too intellectual, for fear of alienating their base. I see college students trying not to stand out as anything above average. Where does this get us as a nation? Particularly when more and more of our science and engineering jobs are going overseas. Where? To India and China, where intellectualism is praised. It's so frustrating to see intellectual merits discounted, and being "just a regular guy" (like GWB or Gov. Palin) praised. It's ridiculous.

[/end sour grapes from a frustrated intellectual.]

26 September 2008

Presidential Debate tonight!

Just a reminder to tune in for the first Presidential Debate tonight. They're covering Foreign Policy this time around. I'll be at the Watch Party in the TSC Juniper Lounge (USU campus) tonight... after I roll around on the floor with a sword on my head for a while (it's for bellydance practice, honest). Come join us, or tune in at home.

Remember, when playing the Debate Drinking Game, drink responsibly (in other words - quit after about 15 minutes when following any of the above rules, or you'll need to get your stomach pumped. And that's just not patriotic.)

Alas, poor garden...

...I knew it well. Remember our garden? Yeah, the big project with the neighbors we were all excited about. That one. Want to see the latest? Warning: it's sad. Thanks, neighbor, for posting the photos.

22 September 2008

Parental equality in academia?

I've been thinking a lot about balancing work and family, and the role society plays in our decisions therein.

People spout their views about Sarah Palin's qualifications for VP, mentioning her five kids. But when we consider Barack Obama's qualifications for President, no one mentions his young children. Why? Well, because they'll have their mother to take care of them. Sarah Palin's husband Todd will be there for their kids, but that isn't the same in the public eyes. Why not? Why should it be any different for a woman than for a man?

As a parent and a grad student, I see the range of people juggling family and school. Hell, even a lot of the undergrads here are trying to balance academia with their spouse and sometimes children. It gets hard when, as a parent, one needs additional flexibility or considerations beyond those required by single or non-parent students. It feels unfair to demand special treatment. I don't like special treatment at all. But at the same time, the only way to normalize parenthood and strive toward equal treatment for all is to demand that flexibility, that accommodation. Bitch PhD has a really great article here about normalizing the balance of family and academia (yes, academics have lives!)

I came to this topic from personal experience. A few weeks back, at the start of the semester, we had a big lab meeting with all of the HumPhys TAs. We had to figure out who was teaching when, and arrange the schedule so each lab section had a TA and an Undergrad Aide (UA) covering it. The UAs signed up for times first, as their schedules are much more booked. There was negotiation for different timeslots, and juggling of coverage. One of the few female UAs this semester made a point to mention that she would really like a night section "because of my kids". Now, I know that at least a few of the male UAs are married, and some have kids. But none of them mentioned the kids, or spouse, or dog, or anything as a reason for needing their schedule a certain way. She's the only one who did. And I bristled. I bristled at her playing the "mommy card," requesting special accomodation because she's a mom.

When it came my turn to sign up for labs, I said nothing about needing to juggle my schedule with J's, needing to arrange care for Doodle. Nothing. Why? Because I felt it would be unfair to play that card when the guys don't. Maybe they feel they can't, maybe their personal relationships are such that they are primarily in school and their partners are primary care-providers for the offspring. I don't know. I didn't ask. But to feel like it's unfair to ask for accommodation due to non-academic obligations (such as family) seems wrong somehow. I feel like I should be able to mention Doodle in passing without fear of being dismissed as "well, she's not going to be doing much toward her thesis since she has a little one" or "well, I guess she's not really serious about academia if she has to go take care of her kid." Why must family and academia be mutually exclusive? I don't think they should be.

I don't think academia is alone in this. That's just where my experience lies. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do about this. I need to think about it some more.

19 September 2008

Celebrity snake

Shirazi and J made the front page of the Utah Statesman, our school paper, this week. We brought Shirazi to Aggie Family Day for some community outreach (and to add a wow factor to the Biology Dept table). She was very popular.

16 September 2008

Bellydance coming up!

Our big fall show is coming up in just a few weeks. Here are the details:

What: Shazadi Soirée featuring Virginia (shown above)
When: Friday, Oct. 3rd, 7:30pm
Where: Sherwood Hills resort, in Sardine Canyon
Cost: $12 in advance, $15 at the door. I have tickets for sale.

Come see a quality show featuring Shimmering Sands Bellydance students, amazing dancers from UT, and the wonderful Virginia!

(An additional belly heads-up: SATURDAY, Sep 27th there will be bellydancing at the Indian Oven in Logan at 7:30pm. There will now be bellydancing on the last Saturday of each month at the Indian Oven on Main. So if you get a hankerin' for Indian food and watching sexy ladies dance, head on over!)

Edit: Saturday, not Friday. And no, dear followers, I won't be dancing there this month. I'll let you know when I will be.

15 September 2008


Tim Wise has written a wonderful article titled "This is Your Nation on White Privilege". Have a look. Think about it. Do you have privilege?

Are you registered?

To vote, that is. Here in UT the deadline to register to vote is October 5th. After that you can still register, but you have to go to the County Clerk's office to do so. Which is a pain in the butt. If you're in Logan and need to register to vote, let me know. J and I have voter reg forms and will gladly hook you up with a registration. Going to be gone on Voting Day (Nov.4th)? No problem. We can get you an absentee ballot registration.

Prepare to do your civic duty - Register To Vote!

See? Even the pin-up girl wants you to vote.

I R Mush

Just finished grading essay questions on 294 Human Physiology exams. Trying to distinguish whether "aritiriol filibration" is an attempt at the actual answer, "atrial fibrillation" or something arterial in nature (and therefore not at all the right answer) will turn ones brain to mush. Guaranteed.

I think I need a drink. Scratch that. I deserve a drink. AND chocolate.

12 September 2008

...or not.

Change of plans. Life is too chaotic right now for a whirlwind trip to Yellowstone. We could pull it off, but it'd be one of those weekends that you need a weekend to recuperate from, which we're not really in the mood for. So we'll have another weekend on the homefront, canning and cleaning and playing and working and such.

We'll make it to Yellowstone. Just not this weekend.

(Special thanks to Daktari for the awesome Y'stone recommendations. Those will definitely come in handy whenever we do go.)

10 September 2008

Yellowstone recommendations?

We're heading to Yellowstone this weekend. J and I have never been there. We'll be there for two days. What must we see while we're there? Where's your favorite place in Yellowstone?

08 September 2008

Post-hoc wisdom

When the recipe for canning salsa advises you to "wear gloves when chopping jalapeño peppers to avoid burning," DO IT.

That is all.

04 September 2008

English is complex

Conversation with Doodle yesterday while looking at photos.

Doodle: (points at photo of neighbor boy) "Awa."
Me: "Yep, that's A."
Doodle: (points at Mama in photo) "Mama."
(points at Papa in photo) "Papa."
Me: "That's right. Who's that baby?" (pointing to Doodle in photo)
Doodle: (points to herself) "You."
Me: "Doodle, when it's a picture of Doodle you say 'Me'."
Doodle: (points at self) "Me."

English gets complicated sometimes.

03 September 2008

Nicest buns around!

If I ever go to Saskatchewan, I have to go to the town of Watrous. And while I'm there, I MUST get a shirt from this place. A logo like that, plus "we have the nicest buns around!" plus my last name?! I must find an excuse to go there. Anyone up for a road trip to Saskatchewan?

02 September 2008

Commence swappage

Today we start The Great Kid Swap. Don't worry, we're not trading in Doodle for another model. We've worked a deal with the Awesome Neighbors to swap childcare. So starting today we're taking shifts on watching the other family's kid so us parents can accomplish stuff. Y'know, important stuff... like blogging. No really, I'm working on my thesis. I'm just excited about extra time to work and wanted to share. Thanks, Neighbors!