July 2006 Archives

Theoretically Secret Recipes


Relatives! And, in particular, relatives who lived in Pittsburgh! I'm sure you recall Grandma's peanut butter balls. I was thinking of posting the recipe on this blog. But the thought occurred to me that this might have been a family secret sort of recipe. If grandma had intended for the recipe to stay within the family, obviously I won't post it. Any ideas?



I went back to The Village Scandal for the third time in as many weeks today. This time, however, I followed through on my frequent threats and actually bought a hat. It's a white straw fedora that I'd been admiring last week. I was between this and the same model in black, but decided that black straw just didn't make sense (straw hats are for summer, and if I'm to even pretend that it's a practical hat it ought not to be colored heat-absorbing black). So now I have a straw hat that I may or may not wear, but at least it's comfortable and cooling.


As usual, the first photo I took was the best. All the futzing I did with the angle and such didn't improve on the one I just clicked at arm's length.


Here's pokin' at you, kid.


Pulled down for sleeping. I tried this on the subway ride home and it's surprisingly uncomfortable. I got the idea from Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Indy put his fedora over his face to get sleep in the plane. It turns out that you end up resting it on your brow, which means your face gets pulled in weird ways, and meanwhile the brim in the back makes it hard to lean back. But this was just on the subway; it could be that it'd work better in a more relaxing seat.


Trying to read nonchalantly. My big concerns is whether I can pull the hat off without being self-conscious about it. I'd rather not look like a hipster doofus. If you saw this guy in a coffeeshop, would you think to yourself "Goofball?"


And the real reason I bought the straw hat, and why it had to be white. You can't play a banjo without a straw hat, and black would look too modern and sophisticated.

I Keep Getting Older, They Stay the Same Age

So I ended up going out tonight, which I think is a triumph in and of itself. And I went to a bar, a socializing venue! And I socialized. Not at the bar, though. But I checked everything off my goals list tonight: Going out and Socializing.

I started by going to the video store around the corner. Maybe I'll meet someone looking at a movie I like. I could comment on it, we could talk, and I'd build from there. Sadly, no. Nobody in the store except for a pair talking to one another in a serious tone that indicated something bad had happened to one of them. Not a great time for hitting-upon.

I headed out, crossed the street, and made my way to Casbah Rouge, a hookah bar. Too smokey. I decided to go to The Heights. I entered, sat down, ordered a beer, and surveyed the area. A lot of couples at tables. A lot of guys. No girls by themselves. Nuts. I decided to wait it out. Worked through my beer surprisingly fast. Nothing. I went up to the roof. Here it was more crowded, but it looked like everyone was in one big party, and they were all middle-aged. No dice. So I left and went back to Casbah Rouge. Went inside this time. A quite survey revealed nothing too interesting, but for a trio of girls at a table. I didn't like the idea of three-on-one odds, so I decided to leave.

Well, I had been to some bars, done some drinking. Maybe it's time to call it an evening. I decided I'd grab some noodles, rent Red Dwarf Series One, which I can't stop thinking about since I mentioned it in my last post, and call it an evening. I went to Ollie's. There was a youngish girl in line in front of me. Ordered pork dumplings, among other things. I placed my order and sat at the counter to wait. She sat next to me. I decided that this was my opportunity to socialize.

"So, you a student around here?"
"Sort of."
"Yeah, I'm in this program, Columbia/Barnard thing."
"Oh, interesting."
"Yeah, it's a summer school program."
"Oh. So where do you go to school, then?"
"Well, I'm from Chicago. I'm in High School, but next year I'll be a senior."
"Ah. I see."

The conversation continued until I got my food. We discussed, among other things, her courses (she took classes in Architecture and Art History), college applications (she envied the UC schools' joint application), and being in New York (she liked it). They called number four, I grabbed my curried noodles, and left. Picked up Red Dwarf on the way home, and now I'm here, blogging about my evening.

It could have been better. It didn't exceed my wildest expectations. But I did go out, I got a feel for going to bars, I got a tad more comfortable with that environment. And I talked to a total stranger and had a nice, if brief, conversation about the sort of pleasantries that you talk about when making chit-chat. All in all, I feel good about it. At least now I've gotten my foot out the door.

Making the Nose


Lately I've been reading The Shy Single, a book by Dr. Bonnie Jacobson, Ph.D. on dating for shy people.

For a while I've felt that I've been spending too much time home alone and not enough time going out and being sociable. But I've sort of always fallen back on the assumption that I just really don't like people and don't enjoy social interaction. So I've been vaguely dissatisfied with the way I've been handling life, but not sure that doing anything about it would make me any happier. Then I spent this last weekend with Dianna, of Snoqualmie fame, and it's somewhat altered my way of thinking about things. I quite enjoyed all the time I spent with her, even though nearly all of it was spent in conversation, which I normally find exhausting after an hour or two.

This makes me think I can enjoy socializing, and that I'd like to know more people and get out and do more things. And it also makes me think that, having been single for about a year and a half now, it's time to move on and start dating in earnest again.

Because I am a dork, my current situation reminds me of some dialogue from the British Science Fiction TV show Red Dwarf:

HOLLY: I was thinking it might help pass the time if I created a perfectly functioning replica of a woman, capable of independent decision-making and abstract thought and absolutely indistinguishable from the real thing.

LISTER: (Sitting up eagerly) Well why don't you, then?

HOLLY: Because I don't know how. I wouldn't even know how to make the nose.

Dating is something I'm eager and excited to try, but I don't even know how to make the nose. All of my experience, really, comes from the first few months of college, which was over five years ago now. I don't really know what to do or how to do it.

So, in line with my general modus operandi, I have turned to books in the hopes that they will provide the answer. And thus: The Shy Single. It's written by a Manhattan therapist who apparently specializes in group and individual therapy for shy people, with an emphasis on helping them with dating. Jacobson delineates three distinct elements of shyness, and focuses chapters no each: First, the fear of initiating contact with others, which leads the shy person to avoid socializing entirely. Second, fear in the midst of conversation that the shy person is making a fool of herself, leading her to either sit in silence listening to others talk or babble incessantly out of nervousness. Finally, there is the recrimination and self-criticism that follows social contact, which leads the shy person to over-analyze every element of her performance and reach the conclusion that everyone involved now hates her for what an ass she made of herself.

I'm not very far in the book, but so far it's been an eerily accurate description of my own feelings about informal social contact. Hopefully it will prove as astute in its advice as it is in its observations. It seems as though it mostly states the obvious (that the only way to get more comfortable with dating is to force yourself to do it) and provides advice on coping with anxiety, both in terms of internal mental techniques for getting through the ordeal and in terms of strategies for making the whole experience less stressful.

My plan is to put some of the book's initial advice into practice this weekend and actually go out in search of some sort of social contact. I'm not entirely sure that I know what I'm doing, but I suppose I have to go out and get some experience with this sort of thing if I'm to know how exactly to go about it.


This started out as a post about a book I'm reading, and is now turning into, not one, but TWO posts, one about the book, the other about an Amazon review of said book. Watch for them!


I'm currently hot and sweaty and tired and happy. I've discovered (or rather, re-discovered) something about myself: Walking around town and doing things makes me feel happy and fulfilled, even if I'm tired. Coming home and napping or screwing around on the internet for hours on end makes me miserable. I should remember this in the future.

"Wunderbar" is German for "Wonder Bar"

I am about to leave Lake Tahoe to fly back to New York City early tomorrow morning.  And what should I find as I briefly check the local news before shutting down the laptop?  <a href="http://ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=1&aid=60798">Somebody attacked a passenger on the subway with a pair of portable power saws</a>.  I should clarify: The attack did not just occur on the subway; the attack occured at the 110th Street/Cathedral Parkway station.  That would be the closest subway station to my home, the station where I board the train every morning to go to work and where I get off each evening on the way home.  Granted, the attack happened at 3:30 in the morning.  I seldom commute that early.  Still, it looks like the attacker just snagged some power saws from a nearby trackwork crew and went to town on an elderly postal employee as the stunned construction workers looked on.  It looks, in fact, as though nobody did a thing to stop him and he would have gotten away had he not gotten punchy a few hours later up on the street. 

I submit that this is not a welcoming news story to hear as you are about to return home. 

Notes from Tahoe

Three nights ago I dreamed I was a bicycle-riding pizza delivery boy in New York City.  It took me three days to deliver my first order.

Two nights ago I dreamed I was taking a law school test.  Pretty standard, though notably absent was the usual angst that comes with test-taking dreams.

Last night I dreamed I was at work, trying to eat a steak for lunch off of a paper plate.  I was trying to eat it with a plastic spoon. 

Not particularly interesting, and no real analysis.  Just that I've been remembering dreams unusually well since I came on vacation. 

Not getting much reading done, but I am getting a lot of music listening done, and that's what's been really interesting me of late.  I've been doing the Classical Music 101 regimen, and I'm sort of ambivalent about it. 

I'm not sure how much I'm getting out of it, instruction-wise.  To the author's credit, he very much de-emphasizes facts and figures and rational analysis of music.  The focus instead is on listening to music and absorbing it.  He'll throw out things to notice as you listen, with the idea being that if you have your attention drawn to a phenomenon or technique, then spend some time consciously looking for it, you'll gradually start noticing it on an unconscious level, thereby deepening your non-rational appreciation of a piece of music.

I like this approach in theory.  In practice, the instructions for listening to a given piece vary between "too vague to be useful" ("Listen to this piece and see if you can notice its eloquent quality") and too specific for me to handle at my level ("Listen to the first movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, followed by the first movement of Schubert's Ninth Symphony.  How are they similar, and different, in stylistic, instrumental, and emotional technique?  How do they compare in terms of energy, speed, and dynamics?")  My response, as a result, is either question-begging in the first case ("I thought the piece you told me to search for the eloquence in was eloquent") or betray a general lost feeling ("I think...  Beethoven had more trumpets...").  In either case, I'm not sure how well the Plotkin instructions are actually deepening my understanding of the music.

At the same time, I'm quite enjoying it.  Plotkin does provide a lot of neat information, and he brings a lot of enthusiasm to the subject.  It's a fun book to read.  Even if the method isn't quite working, it's an enjoyable program.  And I suppose, since it's supposed to be developing subconscious listening skills, even if I am developing it's not the sort of thig I'd notice. 

But this is sort of beside the point, because regardless of whether Plotkin's specific contributions are helping, just listening to the music has been a lot of fun.  To start, it's been introducing me to a lot of music I hadn't listened to before.  I'd never really listened to Schubert before, probably for no better reason than that I found his name boring.  But now I've listened to and enjoyed two of his symphonies, and am interested in exploring more of his works.  The other interesting thing has been the emphasis on sitting and listening to the whole piece, start to finish, without doing anything else.  Usually how I work is to put music on while doing something else.  In terms of getting a feel for the music, this works well for loud and bombastic pieces that draw my attention from whatever it is I'm doing, but leads me to ignore more subtle music.  This is a somewhat basic revelation, but you notice a lot more when you just sit and concentrate on the music.  This drives me crazy on some of the longer pieces, but it also means I'm enjoying softer pieces I haven't taken notice of before.

Other than that, I'm about 100 pages into <i>Accelerando</i> and it has yet to grip me.  Interesting enough as I'm reading it, but I've yet to get myself to read more than one chapter in a sitting.  I've been watching a lot of Gilmore Girls DVDs (the second season, I think).  I've forced some board games on my family and gotten semi-positive reactions from YINSH and Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation. I've been eating more and walking less, but that's pretty typical for Tahoe.  And I've been seeing lots of avians that you don't see in New York (Bluebirds, robins, woodpeckers, ducks, geese).  I saw Superman Returns and The Devil Wears Prada (Joint review for both: Eh.)

And that's about that.  Further bulletins as events warrant.

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