rose & thorn

Yep, I’m doing that cheesy bible study thing where you give a high and a low, but everything is a metaphor.

My thorn for the day: I just wish someone would give me a thesis project and tell me to finish it by next spring. Please? Can someone do that? I don’t want to come up with my own project… that just involves so much work…

My rose for the day: No class till 5:30, and I live in a beautiful city…

An actual view from my perch at one of the main libraries on campus. Come ON, this is not real life!

An actual view from my perch at one of the main libraries on campus (on Sunday, not currently). Come ON, this is not real life!

A crooked view of the capitol, surrounded by the Saturday farmers market

A crooked view of the capitol, surrounded by the Saturday farmers market

Beautiful zinnias at a flower stall at Saturday's farmer's market

Beautiful zinnias at a flower stall at Saturday’s farmer’s market

And the capitol by night

And the capitol by night

been talkin’ ’bout the way things change…

…and my family lives in a different state.

Got to see The Head and the Heart in concert on King St. downtown last night… for free!

And it was amazing.

Other happenings include just getting into a daily and weekly rhythm.

Saturdays are some of the best days as they include a trip to the Farmers Market, which is an absolute wonderland. Today, I bought red cabbage, green onions, kale, carrots, and a few donuts (a guilty pleasure and a reward for committing to eating kale during the week ahead, maybe?).

Tuesdays and Thursdays are my busiest days… 6 total hours of class and 4 1/2 hours of those all in a row, from 1 till 5:15 PM. That last 4PM class is rough. But it is glorious to start the weekend at 5:15 on Thursday! Mondays and Wednesdays are usually reading and homework days, and sometimes (sometimes) I try to work out or get some exercise in on those days. Fridays… I normally kind of veg.

I’ve started going to spiritual direction with one of the priests at the catholic center here, and he’s had me going to Holy Hour every morning, which has been really amazing for my productivity.

And I’m still in constant pursuit of the best libraries to do homework. I’ve found some nice cafés, but I can’t afford to study in them all the time if I want to keep shopping at the farmers’ market 😉  Luckily, the main library (right across the way from St. Paul’s) doesn’t seem as oppressive and life-sucking as the PCL at UT. And there is a library in Science Hall, which is where over half of my classes are. Close proximity during cold weather will probably mean that I’ll end up studying at those places more often than not!

I should probably commit to doing a picture post soon, because this campus and this city are beautiful!

But for now… sayonara. I’m off to chop some kale.

graduate school musings from baby grad students

Well, we’ve had our first cold snap of the year!


Thanks for mocking me,

But now that the weather has calibrated itself out to a very pleasant, sunny and crisp approximation of “autumn,” I guess I’m free to talk about something else.

Two years ago, I was an senior in college. And two years doesn’t seem like a very long time, but there is some sort of monumental shift that happens at the beginning of graduate school that makes a grad student fundamentally and totally different from the scores of undergrads surrounding him on campus.

(And I’m not just talking about the various opportunities to get free beer. Seriously, if you want free beer, grad school is where it’s at.)

So here are some of the things that I and my fellow new grad students have come up with that separate us from the undergrads we used to be:

-When walking down Greek row to get to campus, we don’t care at all how cute we look.

-When attending a predominantly-undergrad lecture, we don’t care at all how cute we look.

-You can’t find an appropriate response when an undergrad asks “What’s your major?”

-You know that the only appropriate way to start a conversation with a new acquaintance is not “What do you study?” or “What year are you,” but rather “So… what are you doing…?” because there is no guarantee that they are actually a student. [The best variation of this I’ve heard was from the director of my program, who reportedly had a student ask him, “What’s your deal?”]

-You don’t have much money, but at least you’re probably not in staggering debt.

-You don’t have class on Fridays and it’s the best thing ever!

-Your undergrad illusions are shattered when you find out that your TAs didn’t really know much more than you did.

-While at a party, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that, upon hearing that you have never read The Lord of the Rings, your friend will go to retrieve his boxed set and lend them to you, and then you have to carry around a boxed set of books all night while also knowing that you probably will never have time to read them.

-Everyone leaves the party before or around midnight.

-“We’re graduate students… we’re all a little bit crazy!”

Two weeks down, who knows how many to go?

confessions of an occasional coffee drinker

Almost two years ago, I was delighted to report that I had made it through college without having become addicted to coffee. It was a point of pride for me that I didn’t partake in that human ritual of ingesting caffeine in order to make it through the day.

And now, I’m sitting in a coffee shop enjoying a delicious* iced coffee (incidentally, the cheapest item on the menu). What happened there?

 *I don’t actually think it’s “delicious” but I’ll happily drink it and often welcome the extra pick-me-up… the bitter flavor reminds me a bit of strong tea, which I will probably always prefer.

I think part of it was necessity. In Germany, I didn’t always get the full night of satisfying sleep I would wish for, due in part to the church bells that rang outside my window every morning at 7 AM and in part to the early summer sunrises up there on the 51st latitude. Sometimes I needed a little something to jolt me awake before attending a 90-minute lecture given in my second language. So I would stop at a bakery first for a cup of frothy, caffeinated milk. (Lattes, latte macchiatos, or cappuccinos are my drinks of choice because I’m still a beginner.)

Atmosphere also contributed. I never considered myself a coffee-shop studier in college, as I always preferred to get my work done at the library. (At UT, I did have my pick of some of the world’s most beautiful libraries, between the festive Architecture Library and the majestic Life Sciences Library, not to mention the utilitarian-if-not-pretty PCL.) So, I never ventured into the hipster-y world of coffee shops that many of my friends loved. But Germany is home to the best bakeries in the world, so especially in the gray days of winter I loved going to a cozy Bäckerei to study, and ordering a pastry and a cup of coffee (okay, a latte macchiato) to tide me over. It felt very studious and comfy, which is a good combination for an independent researcher, it turns out.

But it was the ritual that got me. Germany is known for having some pretty bad coffee, relatively, but one thing they’ve really got down is ritual. They love their breakfast, they love their “Abendbrot” (of course they never have anything warm for dinner… that I do not love), and they love their afternoon coffee and cake. On a normal day I’ll probably choose tea over coffee, but now that I have stacks on stacks of reading to get done (and 0° windchill coming in the winter), the appeal of a hot, caffeinated beverage at a certain point of the day is very inviting.

For now, I’m still sticking to an iced form of caffeine, but I am loving the cozy coffee shop vibe as I do my first round of grad school readings and start researching potential thesis topics! [Does anyone know anything about water leasing or water rights cooperation between agriculture and industry? Holler at me.] I suppose I have my year in Germany to thank for making me into an occasional coffee drinker… but when it comes to my nightly beverage of choice, I’ll still take a tea!

And you can take solace in the fact that my coffee is "done right." (Also in the fact that hopefully no one noticed that I was over here taking pictures of myself.)

And you can take solace in the fact that my coffee is “done right.” (Also in the fact that hopefully no one noticed that I was over here taking pictures of myself.)



[edited because I used the word “gorgeous” 42 times and it was getting embarrassing]

Today I finished my first week of graduate school! And now I have a 3-day weekend. The really awesome part is that I have 3-day weekends all semester. Totally makes up for being in class from (basically) 9:30-5:15 on Tuesday and Thursday.

Since today was one of those looong days, I don’t have much patience for writing at the moment, but I have been thinking about things I could possibly write about in the coming weeks, such as:

  • thoughts on moving to a new place and finding community (but I feel like I’ve kind of already done that?? meh)
  • my life as a hippie
  • why I love walkable cities!!
  • how to cook on a grad student budget when you know too much about food production and probably not enough about cooking
  • how Sperry’s from high school make your feet smell really bad when you wear them for the first time in forever

so let me know which of those sounds the least torturous for you as a reader. Be careful what you wish for because I may write all of them, but I may write none of them. 😉

To tide you over, here are some spare thoughts.

The Catholic student center here has a candlelight mass every Wednesday night and it’s gorgeous. Like one of the most gorgeous masses I’ve been to.

I’m glad I’m not an engineering student for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that there is an on-campus dairy store with homemade ice cream right near the engineering campus and… see the above about my grad school budget slash not wanting to gain 20 pounds.

Some classmates and I had a pickling party last weekend and now I have 3 delicious-looking jars of pickles/peppers/onions and one huge jar of pickled jalapeños!! [well, the jars don’t look delicious, but the contents do.]

This is old news but two weeks ago I bought a beautiful red and yellow, refurbished bike that’s older than I am and has an awesome yellow rack above the rear tire. I’m super excited about it. (actually, now I’m feeling like I wrote about this before. Sorry for the repetitiveness if I did. Clearly I am at the top of my GAME)

Basically, I’m doing well and loving it so far. Classes will probably pick up soon but I’ll try to get working on some of the post ideas I’ve been thinking about 😉 I know you’re dying to read them…