Here we are, 2011, and no damn flying cars…

And not really any different than last year.

We made it through another year. I took way too many vacations, and spent way too much money, and I’m certainly paying for it this year. We did, however, get through two major surgeries in our immediate family, a blind and partly deaf dog, a death, an estranged-family funeral, a meet-the-family “vacation” to Maine and New Hampshire, and came out intact.

Although, it kind of feels like we made it through by the skin of our teeth.

Q4 of 2010 was, shall we say, less than stellar. Oh, it started out fine, but ended with more stress than any of us wanted.

So, I’m going to skip that part and say, here’s to a good 2011. Thanks to Christmas and birthday spending, we’re on track to do more cooking than ever at home. I’ve been cleaning out the fridge to do just that, and we’re utilizing new tools like my giant cuisinart and my mixer.

We decided to stay a part of the CSA we’ve been members of the last two years, making it not so expensive by splitting it with neighbors. Hoping my seeds make it through another year so that the garden will be a big help this summer, as well.

I’ve got a goal to try a new recipe every week (on average). We got a variety of new cookbooks, and I hope that we’ll utilize every hint of a vegetable we have available this year. So far, I’m doing well in sticking to that. I made scalloped potatoes and ham (based on T’s aunt’s recipe) when we got back. For the neighborhood NYE party, I made a variation of my cheesy corn casserole that my mom had made for Christmas. I made ham salad for myself (and added sriracha – yum!). Then, I tried FabJ’s red quinoa. This week, I made bigos and tried a new recipe for Thai peanut sauce (over noodles, with chicken). T’s dad is sending a soup beans & ham recipe that his mom says is fantastic.

I’ve started (again) eating more whole grains, including cereal every day. I intend on making bread this week, after the soup beans & ham. Next week, I’ll be trying some Indian dishes with rice.

And, we’ve started adoption classes, with 5 more weeks (an tons of paperwork) to go. Oh, the scary things that creep into your head, in addition to the scary things they try to prep you for.

It’s going to be a fun year, folks. Welcome to 2011.

a little more motivation, a little more action

Well, imagine that. I start feeling a bit better, and lay off the “DM” meds, and I’m almost back to normal by Monday. Still fighting a bit of something, but I’m done with the antibiotics. I’m taking the allergy meds and the mucinex-clone.

I even started cleaning the stove. And cooked dinner last night. And got (most of) my emailing done.

There’s plenty left to do today, but I’m off the hook for the alumni meeting tonight. I need to redo my calendar and make sure I’ve got all my meetings down and tasks completed.

Also, I entered the neighborhood chili cookoff this weekend, and it went really well. I didn’t win, but votes were $1 and the couple next to me added an additional $20 votes to theirs and won 1st and 2nd place. All’s fair in charity donations, so I’m not too upset. I found out yesterday I did really well anyway.

That said, today, I registered for the local market’s fiery foods cookoff. The only thing I need to do is to add 3 ingredients from the market and show a receipt. The winning chili gets $100 gift certificate, and runner up gets $50! How cool is that? So, this will be my second public chili cookoff! Exciting! They only allow 15 entrants, and I’m the last one… and only about 100 folks judge. I was told to bring “a big crockpot full, however much that is” and not to worry about bringing too much, “it will get eaten.”

The bathroom is looking awesome. We’re trying to decide on a floor and wall color. That’ll happen tonight or tomorrow. Then, we get to pull out the existing linoleum, patch the subfloor, and lay new tile. Then, on the next dry day, we bring home the vanity and toilet, patch some grout in the shower, and we should be good to go within a week.

Oh, and I’m now friends with 5 cousins  and 2 aunts on Facebook. That’s kind of awesome.

More reflection, etc.

So everything’s been going more or less as expected.

As I did not copy my mom on aforementioned email, my uncle saw fit to call her and ask about it. She said “I figured I knew everything in it, so he didn’t need to copy me.” Both aunts emailed me back with nice emails (one with more questions), and two cousins emailed me back with “can’t wait to meet him” notes. And two more cousins friended me on Fb.

T decided to finish the upstairs bathroom with … shall we say … more work than we bargained for, but it’s going to be kind of fab. It’s pushing back the knee surgery, and the home study, but he’s moving forward. I ordered the light fixtures for both bathrooms to match the rest of the downstairs, and picked up 2 sconces as well. These can be put wherever, once the time comes. The new vanity will run about $350 incl faucets and parts, and I think the new toilet will be about $200. Then, towels, towel bars, and such to match. I also want to get some of those cupboard drawers for the cubby so we can better utilize that space.

Me? Well. It’s odd. Really odd. I have lost all motivation. All fire. All I want to do is sleep. I’ve had a cold for (maybe more than) a couple weeks, and I HOPE that is what is driving me down.  Gotta shake this thing, get back to work, and get cleaning out the basement. Every day I heap more and more onto my list and I still cant push through to even get the simplest thing done.

Today, doc appointment, and ditch the iPhone. Saving $60 or more per month. Yes, that much. Hopefully, a friend of mine can get his own fixed, and I can keep mine (or sell it for $250 on eBay, or trade it for an iPod touch), but if not, I agreed to sell it to him for the cost of my early termination fee.

Tonight, grocery store, and get back on my weight loss schedule, do laundry, and clean up the kitchen which has been taunting me daily. Package up the X-10 home automation crap to send to a friend of a friend in Kentucky, and start cleaning out my boxes of misc crap in the basement. It’s time to get movin.

New Year 2010

So, I sent a rather lengthy “this was 2009” email to family yesterday, and at the end introduced T to the rest of the family… the fact we’d been together 12 years, the two houses, the family holidays in northwest Ohio.

Today, I got email back from my aunt. It’s always easy to expect the worst, and to read into things, but I’m a pessimist, and it’s reinforced by my parents’ relationship with that side of the family. It’s always been distant and awkward… my dad is a loner and expects the worst, but my mom always makes the best she can of any situation, even if she knows it’s going to be painful.

My family are wordsmiths, that much is for certain. My cousins, my aunt and uncle, and my grandmother have written some of the most beautiful letters I have ever read. I don’t possess that gene, which would probably bother my grandmother. Every word my grandmother ever wrote or spoke was deliberately chosen, and it’s a skill I’ve seen evident in other parts of my family. It makes it difficult to know when someone is truly happy or excited, or when they’re just being polite. But man, are those letters a thing of beauty.

So, my aunt’s email reinforced two things. One, that my grandmother would’ve been happy for me, whether or not she showed it. This was my grandmother’s way. Again, her word choices would sometimes hide her true feelings… unnecessarily cold but the love was there.

The second thing was that she was happy for me. And T. And she let every cousin, aunt and uncle copied on the email know it. This was frankly unexpected, and only upon re-reading the note did it sink in. Hard sometimes to admit, and to accept, that things could actually be “good”. But, for now, I’m going to be an optimist, and hope that someday soon, T will get to meet the extended clan.

New Year Resolutions

I have a few goals for the next year. This year’s goals were to get into the grad program I picked, eat healthier, and lose some weight. I did eat healthier, I did try to get into the program (but failed), and I did lose the weight (which I gained back again, twice).

This time, eating healthier is still a goal. Cooking 5 nights/week, too. Losing the weight is absolutely a goal, but doing it right will be a key. Paying off my truck and paying down my debts are high on the list, and of course there are tasks around the house, like finishing the garage siding, the curtains, and testing the floor refinishing system on the hall closet.

Summer brings extra goals, like taking Nala to meet my extended family, buying a new car, and getting into aforementioned grad program. I’ll also be making decisions regarding changing my name, estate planning, and additional family benefits at work.

Once the extra family arrives, of course, I’ll have another full set of goals, which include cooking for the entire clan, and making sure we gather for family dinner nightly.

So there are my preliminary goals for the next year. I’d like to do more, of course, but if all those fall into place, I’ll be busy enough.

organic food, tasty (first attempt!)

I decided to join a farm share this year, and this past Saturday, I got my 2-person haul. Yes, it was less food than I expected, but easily veggies for meals for 2 people for a week.

What was in the share, you ask? Icicle Radishes, Hakurei Turnips, Broccoli Raab, Evergreen Hardy Scallions, Winter Savory & Mint & Thyme (bundled) and Napa Cabbage.

Last night, I put together a variation of this coleslaw, as follows:

1 large head of Napa cabbage, chopped by hand.
1 large icicle radish, quartered lengthwise and finely diced.
1 large leek, also quartered lengthwise and finely diced.
1 cup mayo
1/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon each: salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin

I have to say was good, but ultimately a bust. Why, you ask?

1) Substituted raisins for carrots, because I got my recipes confused.
2) The salt and pepper were overpowering.
3) It needed slightly less bite — the green onion I used and the radish had enough with the Napa Cabbage that the cayenne was too much.

In the future, I will try it with half-teaspoons of salt, pepper and cayenne, and using the carrots as originally intended.

Honestly, though, I could eat it all day, salty and spicy or not. It was good.

made it through another one

Holy cheeses, this quarter was rough. Never, ever, EVER schedule two studio classes while working full-time, and take two vacations during the quarter. Bad, bad idea.

But, I made it through… 4.0 GPA ruined, though, sadly. I feel like if I’d just worked a little harder at BotCon, I might’ve made it through. Instead, I ended up with a 3.89, cumulative. That’s two A’s and an A-minus. Yes, minus. Disappointing. It’s the little grade that couldn’t.

My application is still in academic review, but I should be able to start calling the department office tomorrow to check in. I’m scared. REALLY scared. I know they said the only reason I didn’t get in was because they weren’t sure if I could handle the courses, which didnt make sense given my >3.5 GPA in grad classes my senior year of undergrad, but I did what they asked and took some more grad classes in the program. And, in those 3 classes, I got a 3.89 GPA. So, based on that criteria, I should be in.

However, I also rewrote my resume a little, and also changed my letter of intent to reflect the fact that I am not seeking funding, I’ll be going part-time, and desire to complete a project thesis instead of a written one. This makes me nervous, because I changed two of the variables that are involved in admission.

But, we’ll see.

I’m already signed up for classes this summer. One meets 3x per week for 10 weeks, over lunch, and is not a project or studio class, just a lot of reading and reporting (software engineering). The other is a design seminar (supposedly much reading/reporting as well), but meets only 5 weeks, twice per week, and is taught by a professor whom I respect, but is also very intimidating. He’s also the grad admissions chair in the design department. Do poorly by him, and you will never get in. And, he’s in my desired discipline. *shudder*

whirlwind two weeks – need sleep

So, last week, I met with one professor and set up my research plan for my final project. It was enlightening and helpful, and encouraging. Then, I left on the 7th for 4 days at my alma mater for a conference that left me without sleep, and more work, not only from missing work, classes, and time at home, but from tasks that came up during the conference.

However, would I trade that yearly excursion for anything? Probably not. Meeting with other alumni about how to make the University better is always great, and spending time with current students, former classmates, and respected administrators makes the time worthwhile. Add some time reminiscing at the local watering holes, and you’ve got a weekend to remember.

I was glad to be able to talk to the current students, but honestly, I personally got the most out of an activity I didnt even know about until 2 days before: Media School Day. Alumni came back to talk to students about life after graduation, and I could see them making a real difference. And, I got to talk to former coworkers and classmates about their work (now) as professors and administrators, and tips for my own student life, dealing with professors that we’ve all had, and I am just dealing with now.

It’s always energizing to talk to current students and see the youth and energy we used to have, decades ago, now in them. In an unplanned event, the current general manager of my old radio station managed to get over a dozen alumni, over 20 students, and the faculty advisor together on a school night, to discuss the state of the station, and the future. It goes to show, when the stars align, great things can happen.

Once I got back, a week ago today, I was without sleep, and falling WAY behind on projects for class. No surprise there, but the sleep deprivation was killing my productivity, too, and I couldnt get back on track.

This past Monday,  I met with two of my professors about my research project (final for my innovation class), and about my proposed thesis/admission to the graduate program in engineering. This was scary, enlightening, and frustrating.

I feel like I have a much better chance of getting into the engineering program, but honestly, I’m not feeling like it’s a great fit. Yes, it’s studying what I need and want to study, but I found out I’ll have to sacrifice a written-thesis based Masters (which would lead right into a PhD) for a project-based Masters, which is a dead-end degree, because no professors in that program are doing research in my area. It really made me question whether this is the right decision, at least at first. However, my professor understood my plight, and wanted to encourage me to apply. Taking courses without a goal, at least in my case, was not an option, and he understood my need to get into a program to not throw away college credit.

When I mentioned the joint program in engineering and design, I was told that it really isn’t quite that, and that only three students have done it (one of whom, I know). It really is two separate degrees. And, it seems, not for me, but only because of the previously mentioned project-based Masters.

However, I am thinking of still applying to the Design program. My friends and classmates have all encouraged it, and I’ve started researching more details. I know the professors (or have some familiarity with them), and I know several people who have come through the program.

My classmate, who is graduating this quarter in the design program, has encouraged me to talk to the design chair, and to do both programs, but do the research for a written thesis in the design program and apply the research to a project thesis in the engineering program. It makes the most sense — best of both worlds.

I also realized there’s some overlap in the communications department, but it may be difficult to find someone doing the type of research to support a project like mine.

Anyway, I continued to get very little sleep this past week, and it’s been taking a toll on my concentration and productivity. Thursday night, my class was cancelled in order to fascilitate attendance of the Usability Professionals Association meeting downtown, to hear the design chair speak. Two of my professors are members, as am I, and it was a great meeting, and helped with my proposed thesis, to get me to break out of my self-imposed box, butI lost another two to three hours of sleep just thinking about my project.

I had been focusing on applying traditional web interfaces and newer search technologies to an existing group of problems. But then, thanks to the design chair’s presentation, I broke free of the constraints of that to try to address the real problem, which wasn’t utilizing existing tech to facilitate better usability, but building a comprehensive system to better organize and present the data to increase student efficiency, confidence, and independence.

I managed to sleep in a little this morning, but I could still use a nap. Unfortunately, I need to rewrite my letter of intent, buy a sketch pad and pencils, and start working up designs. Then, I need to dig out and photograph a bunch of action figures for my other class project.

Taking two classes this quarter made me a 3/4 time student. My professors called me crazy. I’m beginning to think they’re right. I can see the end of the quarter in sight, but it ain’t pretty.

Stress induced updating…

Well, I emailed four professors about my plans for research and grad school, and two have emailed me back. I call that a win, so far, albeit a scary win. One prof is my professor from last quarter, in my #1 most desired program. The other is my professor for whom I’ve begun the research plan in my class this quarter, in my #2 program. Ideally, I’d get into the joint program, but that involves schmoozing with yet another professor who intimidates the hell out of me (and, I just got permission from work to go hear speak next month.)

Also on the agenda for this week is finishing up the final draft of my research plan, which I’ll be presenting to all the professors, and as part of my hell class. I’ve never spent so much time on a single document, and it is killing me, the same way house projects kill me. I get caught up in ALL of the effects of EVERY thing on everything else, and paralyzed by overanalysis. I seem to not be able to find any middle ground.

Thirdly, this is a short work week, and I’m behind on a project that’s due Wednesday. I’m also not feeling well, and hoping that it’s just due to the allergies, stress, bad eating, and the nosebleeds I had this morning. Thursday, I head to my alma mater for an alumni leadership conference, and (as a surprise to me) a day filled with seminars at the communications school. Hopefully, I’ll get to talk to my friend Beth, who’s an interactive design prof there.

Lastly, a couple weeks ago, I found myself applying to be on the student senate. Elections started last Friday and end this Friday. So far, I have at least two votes, and I am up against two other candidates, both of whom said something to the effect of “GO TEAM!” in their statements. Those are the folks I always vote against, so I’m hoping in grad school, folks ignore the team hype, misspellings, and bad grammar, but I don’t hope it so much as to hope that I actually get elected.

Still brewing…

Still not much time for writing.

I’m still trying to muddle through this quarter, working full time and taking two graduate classes, one of which is eating my time faster than any previous course, aside from my database class, which ate it all up at the end of the quarter last summer.

For my final in this hungry, hungry class, I’m gathering research regarding how students, faculty, and staff interact with registration systems, advisors, and course catalogs. My goal this week was to come up with a research plan with concrete deliverables by the end of the quarter, realizing that I will be out of the office for 9 days this month, and missing two weeks of class. The final deliverable is due (“final exam”) June 5.

Discovering that both my professors know my friend Verena, and that Verena is teaching my field of study now, and that other acquaintances of mine have been down this road before (and are also teaching in the field) — and one of whom went down the exact path I’m planning to take, makes me feel really good about what I’m planning.

So, now I’m no longer worried so much about getting into the one program, but the other (joint) program is scary. Apparently, even with my studies not taking the traditional “design” route, I must also still deliver a portfolio.

All of my friends and acquaintances, and some of my fellow students, and my professors, have indicated that I need to make appointments to speak with three specific professors before I finish my application. Excuse me? When? Ah, the life of a grad student!

I have to say, I remember the days when I would email Kristy to hang out and she would say “not now! can’t! too busy!” and I would think, “What, it’s just class!” Now I know the rest of the story.

So, next week, I need to make appointments to see three professors, get my eyes checked, and … wait a minute. I don’t have time next week, since I’m going to an alumni conference. Frak! Well, I guess I’ll have to try to make time.