Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Trip to Michigan

Hello everyone! Yesterday I returned from the shortest trip I ever took that required five* plane rides. I visited East Lansing, Michigan for a grad school interview at Michigan State University. Here is the story of that trip:

On Monday afternoon I got off the plane at the Lansing airport. The Lansing airport is tiny and has a little bit of a "Twin Peaks-y" vibe to it, and I have to like that about a place. Shortly after I got my bag, I was whisked away by a grad student to my interview. The fact that I didn't know that I was having an interview meant that I didn't have time to prepare (thank goodness I was wearing a suit jacket with my jeans and fuzzy boots), but also I didn't have time to be super nervous. I was probably a bit more honest in my interview than I expected to be, but I don't think it was an utter disaster of tactlessness.

The next day, I was taken to see some of the things the Anthropology department has to offer. I saw their forensic lab and their (very impressive) skeletal collection. Overall, this was a very educational trip. Before visiting MSU, I had a very generic Pro/Con list about the program, and now, I'm able to flesh the list out on both sides, which will be very important should I have decisions to make in the future.** I'm trying to not think too much about these decisions until I have to make them, as to preserve my sanity and to not waste a perfectly good Pro/Con list.

(For those curious, here is one tiny glimpse of my Pro/Con list:  Pro--The cost of living in East Lansing is amazing. Con--there are no streetlights and I will probably get hit by cars.)

While in East Lansing, I got to experience quite a bit of the local cuisine, which, as you can imagine, is college-town-diverse. Here are three mini restaurant reviews for you!

  • Bell's Greek Pizza (1135 East Grand River Avenue; East Lansing):  Delicious and super cheap. Like $1.50/slice cheap. Food is so much cheaper here than in Boston. This is a fun place where they serve you pizza at the counter and then you go sit down and eat it. I was at post-airplane and post-interview levels of starving, so I ate three slices:  mushroom, tomato-basil, and bacon. The bacon slice was a little soggy on the bottom, which was disappointing, but the other two slices were great. The crust is thick and fluffy and a little buttery, but not greasy, which is just the way I like it.*** Bell's is open until 4:00 a.m., which I imagine appeals to a certain demographic (not mine). 
  • Sansu Sushi and Cocktails (4750 Hagadorn Road; East Lansing):  I went here with one of the Anthropology grad students to talk about the program informally. And informal it was! This is a "take your shoes off" kind of place, in the sense that it's authentically Japanese, that is. I got a Teriyaki Chicken Bento box, something I've never tried before. And again, the person accustomed to buying food in Boston says, so much freaking food for eleven dollars! There was chicken, rice, California rolls, seaweed salad, various and sundry things Tempura, and soup and more salad. All very delicious, and it almost felt healthful (even though I was so stuffed afterwards). 
  • Thai Princess (1754 Central Park Drive; Okemos):  My friend and I went here for dinner on my last night in Michigan. This is a very college-student-friendly Thai place, but it is very pink. So pink. Like the Victoria's Secret of Thai places pink. Maybe it was for the impending Valentine's Day, but also probably because it has "Princess" in the name. I ordered the Sesame Chicken, which is a change from my normal noodle order whenever I eat Thai food. It was very well seasoned and came with lots of yummy steamed vegetables. I was sad that the side of rice was just regular white rice and not Jasmine or something more flavorful. Just as well, I guess, as I didn't need more carbs that day. The lady who cleared our table was really nice, and she had a good eye for fashion (i.e. she knew that my coat was from Lands End). 

One neat thing is that I have now officially visited every place I have applied for Grad School, which hasn't happened before. Both Provo and Boston were kind of leaps. Good leaps, but leaps nonetheless. I'll keep you all posted when it comes to decision time.

(Also, I failed at bringing a camera. I was like "East Lansing, what do I need to photograph in East Lansing?" There was a display case in the DO school that had a femur in it. The femur was painted gold with the words "Golden Femur" on it. Everyone who knows my superhero alter-ego, Bone Girl, knows that Bone Girl's weapon of choice is the Golden Femur of Justice! The only proof I have is the picture I took with my crappy phone camera that has no way of leaving my crappy phone.)

*Yes, five. Boston to Detroit to Lansing to Detroit to DC to Boston. I normally like to humor the flight attendants and pay attention to the safety briefing, but by the last time, I was like, "girl, I know how to buckle my seatbelt."
**Please bless that I have decisions to make in the future. And bless that those decisions are not "should I live in a box in Somerville or move back in with my parents?".
***Boston pizza tends to be a little too crunchy and burnt-tasting (yes, Upper Crust, I'm talking about you) for my taste.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Quick Blurb

Apparently James Watson* (speaking primarily of science, I guess) says that if something has a 30% chance of working out, and if that something has the potential to be really great, one should just go for it, full-speed ahead.

I don't know what to think about this,** especially as I'm quite under the influence of Florence and the Machine right now.

*Of Watson and Crick. As in the DNA guys. Jeff Goldblum played him in the movie. Apparently he's also a horrible, horrible man.
**Lies. I know exactly what to think about this.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Restaurant Review: The Rusty Hammer

I guess this is going to be some sort of hybrid-Trip Review/Restaurant Review. On Monday I went with some of my favorite friends on a road trip to Northern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. First, we went to Plum Island which is a place full of sand dunes* and bird-watching. We saw a snowy owl and some type of hawk. The rest of the birds were presumably south for the winter.

We then drove northward to New Hampshire, which, from what I can gather, is a state full of thrift stores, tattoo parlors, fireworks emporia, and classy establishments such as Casket Royale (I don't remember the slogan for this place, but I believe when I need to be interred, I'll be taking my business elsewhere). I kid, of course. New Hampshire is lovely.

In the evening, when we had reached our destination/turn-around point in Portsmouth, we sought out a place to obtain food. And so, The Rusty Hammer entered into our lives. This place advertised an award-winning burger (or "wimpy," as they're called at The Hammer†), so we went in.

We all ordered burgers of various varieties. Mine had pepper-jack cheese on it. The burger was well above average, but probably not the best I'd ever eaten (hey, UBurger!). I had onion rings on the side, which were very tasty. My friends who ordered the sweet potato and waffle fries were quite happy with their choices, as well. Prices were very, very reasonable for this type of place.

Hands down, the best thing about this restaurant was the service. It is my second greatest regret that I did not learn the name of our waitress that night. I mean, we were there at 5pm on a Monday night, so maybe service is less wonderful when it's crowded, but still, our waitress was spectacular. She was probably in her mid-to-late forties and had a magical New England accent. She was very attentive and provided excellent positive reinforcement with our menu choices. Here is one particular interaction between this waitress and my friend Dave that might have been the favorite of the evening:
Dave: "Can I get bacon and guacamole on my burger?"
Flo‡: "You sure can, you crazy devil!"

These are the kind of moments you never thought happened in real life. Great waitress. Really spectacular. The only complaint I have about The Rusty Hammer was that the bathroom was freakishly cold. Like as cold as it was outside.

After dinner, we walked around the town square and went into this specialty food store called The Stonewall Kitchen. They had all sorts of jams and jellies and syrups and cute little kitchen gadgets. The men actually bought things while the other girl and I tried all of the samples. My biggest regret of the night is not buying the Blueberry-Pomegranate jam. It was spectacular. So good. I realize the error in my rationale that $3.50 was too much to pay for a tiny little jar of jam. If I ever go back there, I will rectify this.

At any rate, this trip was fantastic, despite the fact that it kicked off a week of every Taylor Swift song ever written being stuck in my head... but that's another story altogether.

The Rusty Hammer is located at 49 Pleasant Street in Portsmouth, NH.

[UPDATE:  I found my receipt. Our waitress's name was Susan!]

*Whenever I think of sand dunes I think of Sarah, Plain and Tall when Sarah talks about the dunes in Maine and then the family makes her a dune out of hay in the barn. We couldn't go near the dunes on Plum Island, and it was 30 degrees outside, so I did not slide down any dunes. I'm adding that to my "to-do" list, though.
†Shortening the name of a thing always means that one is an expert in familiarity with that thing.
‡I don't know if Flo was her real name, but whenever I encounter a spunky lady from New England, I assume she should be called Flo.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hundredth Post (!)

This isn't going to be as exciting as I had hoped.

Ever since I saw that my blog posts were numbering in the nineties, I thought and thought about what sort of thing I would write for post one-hundred. Would it be a clip-show-style journey through my past blog posts? Would it be a poem? Could it ever be something as popular as my mistletoe math post? As short and sweet and snappy as 90/10 (the two numbers do add to 100, after all)?

I then thought of lots of other ordinary things that I wanted to write but also wanted to wait until after the 100th post, as quite ordinary they were indeed.

[WARNING: This is going to be one of those times in which a valuable life lesson is learned in the context of a relatively workaday event.]

If I planned my life the same way I plan this blog, I'd probably do a lot of this:

(If my artistic genius is not clear enough for you, this is me chucking all of the things I have to do on the other side of a wall that represents a major life event or something. Also, this is not the only stick-figure-Alex on one side of a wall cartoon I've made in the past few days)

We can't postpone our lives because [Insert Milestone Here] hasn't happened yet, and I can't postpone writing about all the other cool things going on because this post might not be as awesome as the 100th episode of "Buffy."

This is what I know: sometimes we have to work on our birthdays; there's no reason why the 74th anniversary issue can't be as great as the 75th anniversary issue*; a round number or a perfect square doesn't magically make something special; sometimes writing the 100th post is just the thing you have to do before writing the 101st post.

This sounds a lot more "closing voiceover of hour-long TV serial drama**" than I mean it to sound (as a matter of fact, I'm running through the playlist in my brain right now trying to think of the perfect song/artist to underscore this moment), but I'm actually quite content and also quite excited to start my next hundred posts. As always, keep reading.

*Ten points to anyone who can get this reference.
**"Grey's Anatomy", "Sex and the City", "Doogie Howser" (was that an hour long?), etc...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Boring Life-Update Post

...or "BLUP," I guess?

Most of my posts on this blog are about a specific thing, because I find those things to be more interesting than the things that are going on in my life. However, I know there's a whole fleet of people back home (what up, Beaver Valley Ward Relief Society!) who read this and probably want updates, and I guess I do have some things going on, so here they are:
  • I have a grad-school interview at Michigan State University for their PhD program in Anthropology in less than two weeks. This was the most last-minute I've ever bought a plane ticket before; and I was very stressed about it until I wrapped my brain around the idea that it was a good thing. East Lansing, here I come (at least for two days, anyway)!
  • I gave a lecture at the BU Academy All-School Meeting last week. The title was "Forensic Anthropological Age Estimation Using the Pubic Symphysis: Traditional Methods and New Technologies." It was basically the part of my thesis that I'm presenting at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting with some extra background about what pubic symphyseal aging methods are all about, adjusted to appeal to high school students. They actually liked it and asked a lot of really good questions. I think I can get used to the whole lecturing thing.
  • I am currently only working two jobs now, as the course I TA'd for was just a Fall Semester course. I'm still on-call at the preschool, and they might need me on the occasional Wednesday, but I do like having a day-off, especially since I have to put together my presentation for the AAFS meeting.
  • Boston is cold! This is my third winter here, and I keep forgetting how awful it is. I think New England winters are like childbirth in that respect, though I have no first-hand experience with the latter. I haven't yet frozen off my bottom, and thankfully there's been no snow, either (though I've just jinxed the heck out of myself and the whole of Massachusetts by saying that).
  • I had a dinner-date last night and ate Indian food for the very first time. I know what you're thinking: "but Alex, you're twenty-six years old! and an anthropologist! and 'Temple of Doom' is your favorite Indiana Jones Movie! How have you never eaten Indian food before?" For some reason, it always terrified me. I was always afraid that it would be burn-your-face-off spicy or somehow else unpleasant, but I should have known better. I mean, how can one go wrong with saucy things over rice?*
  • I have a cold. Again. You know how normal people are healthy for most of the year and maybe spend about one month per year being sick? I feel like I probably get about one or two healthy months per year. Fortunately, all of my health insurance paperwork is finally done being processed and I am now allowed to enroll in some sort of cheap health plan.
So that's my first few weeks of January in a nutshell. In unrelated news, this is my 99th blog post, which means that the next post I write will be my 100th blog post**. That means it has to be something spectacular. Stay tuned.

*The one downside: my coat and everything I wore last night now smell like Indian food, and I feel like that smell has spread to every permeable surface in my room (including my hair a little bit). It's probably more in my head than anything else. I guess it's nothing that a load of laundry and a little Febreeze can't fix, right?
**Bring on the trumpets. (Okay, I'll admit, that one I stole.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

The "Year of Alex"

My New Year's Resolution is to have this year not suck. Scratch that. My New Year's Resolution is to have this year be awesome. This year is going to be the "Year of Alex" (just for me; I don't expect the other 7 billion people on Earth to adhere to this calendar). These are the things I am going to do in my year:
  1. Get a passport and leave the country. I finally found my birth certificate and once I can wrangle together the $100, I am marching my butt to the post office and getting a passport. Then I am going to go to Canada, because it's the closest place to me that is in not-America. (In related news, anyone want to go to Canada this spring?)
  2. Learn to drive. Third time's the charm, right? (The night before I decided I would do this, I had a nightmare about learning how to parallel park... and some other stuff happened too, but I don't want to talk about it.)
  3. Get into a PhD program. This is happening. This has to happen. If it doesn't happen, I may just give up on academia. I'm really praying that I get in somewhere and that, that "somewhere" is in Boston.
  4. Stop being ridiculous and getting in my own way. I don't think this one needs any explanation. I am ridiculous and I get in my own way. This needs to stop.
  5. Stop using "I don't need to" as a reason to not do things.
I think I can do all of these things, but I think it's best that you all follow up when you see me.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Prize

Now that I've announced a winner to my blog giveaway, I should announce the prize. I made this before I knew who was going to win, so don't worry, this isn't one of those "I'm secretly in love with Patrick and I'm going to make him a mix tape that subtly and poetically reveals my true feelings" kinds of things (if it were, there would be different songs on it).

The "But You Are Made of Bones" Starter Mix
(Track Listing with Explanations!)
  1. "Skeleton Song" (Kate Nash) - This song inspired the title of my blog, so obviously it's the first track!
  2. "Organ Donor" (Jeremy Messersmith) - The music video for this song has dancing skeletons, and there's reference to embalming, and it's just a really cool song.
  3. "Sway" (Bic Runga) - One of my "Top 25 Most Played." I really like the lyrics. If I were going to make an "I'm secretly in love with you" mix, this song would probably be on it.
  4. "Fade Into You" (Mazzy Star) - This song is on my list of "Slow Songs that Don't Suck." It's also very relaxing to listen to, it's like the musical equivalent of being in a hammock (maybe, I've never been in a hammock).
  5. "The Story" (Sara Ramirez) - Sara Ramirez is a powerhouse of vocal awesomeness. I actually like this version much more than the Brandi Carlisle original because of the faster tempo.
  6. "Crazier Than You" (Krysta Rodriguez and Wesley Taylor - "The Addams Family" OBC Recording) - This one might be a little Patrick-centric as I want us to sing this duet one day if by some miracle we're both not sick.
  7. "Blackout" ("In the Heights" OBC Recording) - I like the musical theatre, and I like those songs where the entire cast is singing different things all at the same time.
  8. "Burning Love" (Elvis Presley) - There were days when I'd be in my kitchen baking and listening to this song and dancing around. It was fun.
  9. "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy" (Queen) - I couldn't figure out which Queen song I wanted to put on here, and I decided on this one because probably not very well-known and it's also quite quirky.
  10. "Promise Me This" (Pancho's Lament) - Not enough people know this song. It's beautiful and it reminds me of my "Late-Nineties Serial Drama" phase.
  11. "Grace Kelly" (Mika) - Try not to lip synch this one in your bedroom mirror.
  12. "Wuthering Heights" (Puppini Sisters) - A fun cover of the song with perhaps the most terrifying music video that ever happened.
  13. "Lady" (Regina Spektor) - I also couldn't figure out which Regina Spektor song to put on this mix. I picked "Lady" because it has such a haunting, somber tone to it, but it also has a little bittersweetness at the end.
  14. "A Snowflake Fell (And It Fell Like a Kiss)" (Glasvegas) - It's wintertime, and this is a wintertime song, and it's so pretty!
  15. "Song for a Winter's Night" (Sarah McLachlan) - Sarah is my idol, and this song just has so much beauty and emotion in it.
  16. "Tomorrow" (Jeremy Messersmith) - I might have broken a rule by repeating an artist on here, but I don't think a lot of people are aware of Jeremy Messersmith. Also, this is just a really good "last track on the mix" song.
I figured that sixteen tracks is a decent amount of music (it's just under an hour), even though there were a bunch of other great songs* that I wanted to put on here. At any rate, this is the mix that the winner of my blog contest (and anyone else who entered who tells me that they want one) will receive. It is my fervent hope that I can get the message of non-awful music out there and one day we will overpower the "Top 40**" culture.

*Like most things by Kate Nash--check out "Pumpkin Soup," "We Get On," "Merry Happy" or "Kiss That Grrrl" for more upbeat songs, or "The Nicest Thing" for something a little more "I secretly love you and am real sad about it."
**times 10^-1. Because these stations only play four songs.

Monday, January 2, 2012

And the Winner Is...

A big thank you to all of you who entered my blog giveaway contest. My apologies for the delay in posting, but it took me a while to not only pick a winner, but also find the best way to announce the winner. Following the example of many commenters, I felt it only appropriate to declare a winner in poetry. And when I say "poetry," I mean Poe-etry.

On this night in January, reading my blog's commentary
To finally declare an ending to this blog and Facebook war
Watching all my friends competing, my favor for their words entreating
Their hope, that by the rest defeating, a custom-made CD to score.
The winner, whom I must decide, this awesome mix CD will score.
Now to pick one--what a chore!

An entry that I must adore: a lim'rick from my dear friend Laura
Whose drive and competing aura are two things I can't ignore.
Certainly she is no loser, but the question: will I choose her?
Would my music just confuse her? she knows Kate Nash, but little more.
She knows the Kate Nash song she gave me, but she's aware of little more--
The Beatles, Dylan, not much more.*

Dave, so coy, rewards my blogging with empty threats of late-night snogging
Methinks his memory needs jogging, as this has never worked before
Certainly, this Mr. Healey knows I don't do "touchy-feely"
As such, his second entry really brings a little something more.
His Middle-Eastern couplets (or "ghazal") my favor they implore--
Yes, my favor they implore.

Patrick really thinks he's won it, bringing out a lovely sonnet
Such Shakespearean verse can truly make my jaw drop to the floor
With his smooth iambic phrasing, certainly the bar he's raising
While the others he's not praising, he's boosting the esprit de corps
(Yeah, that's right, I used some French, et je suis fabuleux, toujours!)
Does Patrick win? I'm still not sure.

On this night in January, thumbing through my dictionary
For some of this vocabulary falls above my verbal score**
"Amphibrach" and "xanthocroic" sound, I will admit, heroic
But I must try to stay a stoic, with objectivity in store
I cannot let my thoughts be swayed by words I've never used before;
I have not used them heretofore.

With a flattering acrostic that is anything but caustic
Matt tells me I'm kind and nimble-minded and that I allure
Tyler does not try to woo me, but he might just see right through me
His sarcastic words eschew the ardent praise from those before
These two roommates, though contrasting, have an interesting rapport
Are they the winners? Still not sure...

Erik's Japanese translation earns a well-deserved ovation
It also is a nice vacation from the poetry galore
Camaraderie in force, is found in most of these discourses
Matt, with charity, endorses Erik's post, if he's passed o'er.
Sportsmanship is sort of a nice change from all the blood and gore,
(Although too much can be a bore!)

Would I be a dreadful sinner saying "everyone's a winner"?
I should just get on with it; I don't know what I'm waiting for.
Patience here is quickly waning, but all these posts are entertaining!
This judging process is so draining--I know it won't be long before
I throw my hands up and exclaim that I can't do this anymore!
I'm done with poems, evermore!

That poem accomplished nothing. Basically, I'm the most indecisive person ever. Here's a breakdown of my awards:

Best Poem: Patrick's Sonnet
Most Original: Erik's Japanese Translation
Best Attempt to Win Through Flattery: Matt's Acrostic
Best Concession: Carly
Comment That Made Me Laugh the Loudest: (A tie!) Laura, "Also Patrick, you suck..." and Tyler's rant.
Best Comment That Assumes I'm Some Sort of Hussy Who Can Be Bought with Kisses: Dave

I guess I have to pick just one, and I think that winner is...


Congratulations, pal. You won it with a sonnet.

(But seriously, I have a million blank CDs, so I might just make one for everyone anyway.)

*This is in no way a dig on Laura's taste in music, though it is limited in scope. It's just kind of funny that one of my favorite artists on the mix is an artist to whom she introduced me!
**on the GRE, which was actually pretty awesome, but I needed something to rhyme, and so I'll pretend that I rocked the GRE less than I actually did.