Friday, December 30, 2005

The Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo BWV1001-1006

My dad gave me this album for Christmas - Gidon Kremer performing six of Bach's unaccompanied sonatas and partitas. I'm listening to it for the first time right now. It's incredible. Thanks Pops.

So I really want to have a polka party out at Blob's Park, as I mentioned earlier. I also want to have a Mozart party. His 250th birthday is coming up on January 27th.

Don't mess with a Minnesotan's dairy products

Sometimes it's fun to count up the empty alcohol bottles the morning after a party and to marvel at the quantity and variety consumed. What's even more fun is to tally the milk and meat products required for three days of hard-core Christmas cooking and baking. My mom and I determined that between Friday the 23rd and Sunday the 25th, our family consumed:

3½ pounds of butter
4 cups of half-and-half cream
8 cups of whipping cream
2 quarts of egg nog
an insignificant amount of skim milk
2 dozen eggs
a 20-pound turkey
1 pound of ground beef
1 pound of ground pork
1 pound of breakfast sausage

Go team! I can't let my immediate family take all the credit, though. We had 14 relatives over for dinner on Christmas, which nearly quadrupled our collective digestive capacity. And a little bit of Christmas Eve's rice pudding was still left over on Tuesday; we couldn't finish all of the leftovers. I guess we'll just have to try again next year.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

At 7pm last night I said good-bye to Minnesota for another 6 months. Good-bye to a city full of Scandinavians; to pronouncing "root" more like "rut" than like "rude"; to a 10-minute run bringing you to the short of Lake Superior rather than Rock Creek; to a kitchen where the coffee pot is never empty; to great public radio; to a thousand other things that make Duluth my home.

Some highlights from my last few days at home...
The Red Flannel Petticoats winter dinner dance was on Tuesday night. The RFP is a club my parents belong to, and the winter event is the only one open to members' adult children. It's black tie, which meant my sister and our friend Caroline and I got to spend lots of time primping: a stop by Caroline's house to discuss outfits, a trip to Target (tah-jay) to accessorize, and last-minute fussing with hair, make-up and shoes. I think the three of us looked stunning, and my dad was dashing in his tuxedo. I'll post a photo as soon as my parents upload the holiday pictures.

The party was one of those that was so fun, you can't help but reminisce fondly about it the next morning over breakfast. Dinner was nice (we shared a dinner table with a really fun couple), but the best part of the night was the dancing. There was a 16-piece band. Caroline is a great swing partner - we tore up the dance floor! I can't remember the last time I got to polka (which reminds me... I need to organize a trip to Blob's Park sometime soon). I never realized (or maybe I just forgot) what a great lead my dad is. Watching the older couples tango and foxtrot was wonderfully touching. I can only think of one thing that would have made the night better - if Scott had been there. My parents and sister all asked me (independently of each other) whether Scott's a good dancer. I answered in the affirmative, so my mother offered to fly him out to Duluth for next year's dance. We stayed until just before midnight and were among the last to leave. We probably could have won the party, but my dad had to work in the morning.

On Wednesday night, my brother had his Eagle Court, the ceremony where he achieved the highest Boy Scout rank. Fred finished his project and wrapped up his requirements last spring, before he turned 18, but waited to have the ceremony so that Margaret and I could be home for it. I'm glad he did. I'm so proud of him. Well done, Brother.

I think the neatest part about the night was the fact that my Uncle John drove up from St. Paul for it. That's a 2½ hour trip for an hour-long event. But both he and my dad are Eagle Scouts, and he said he couldn't imagine missing it. It meant a lot to my dad and brother to have him there.

It's always hard to leave Minnesota, especially on a day with an inch of beautiful fresh snow. But I have the satisfaction of having taken full advantage of my vacation there.

The flight home was hastle-free. I finished The Kite Runner (highly recommended) and saw the big dipper right outside my window. Beautiful. Paul and Liz were kind enough to pick me up from the airport - it's so nice to be welcomed back into your city by friends.

Now for a few hours of work, some prepping for our New Year's Eve party, a trip to the airport to pick up Scott, and then the party!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What I've been up to...

It's hard to post from home, because there's so much that I want to write about that I can't figure out where to start. I tried to write a list of highlights... but even that got ridiculously long. So I'm going to just dive in here.

This morning I went running down on the Lakewalk - my first run in weeks! It's about 30ºF outside - not so good for skiing or skating, but great for running. The sky was pale grey, and the lake was calm enough that it mirrored the sky perfectly - you couldn't tell where one ended and the other began. There was a big thousand-footer anchored out there, waiting to go under the lift bridge into the harbor.

My dad and I walked the same route yesterday, after he got home from work. We checked out the canal, which is all full of ice - big plates of black and white ice. It's a little hypnotic to watch them undulating on the waves, clicking together and sometimes squeaking when one rides up on another.

Sunday, Christmas, was wonderful. We didn't stray from our Christmas morning routine: Coffee and stocking presents right off the bat, a breakfast that includes my uncle's homemade almond coffeecake, and then the under-the-tree presents. Then we leapt into action, and by the time the relatives arrived at 12:30 we were showered and dressed and had most of Christmas dinner ready to hit the table. (Our effiency was due in large part to all the cooking my mom, grandma, sister and I did on Friday and Saturday mornings.) The turkey took longer than expected, which just meant that we all had more time to sit around drinking wine and telling stories. There were 19 people in the house at this point, all from my mom's side of the family, so conditions were ripe for tales from the Slick kids' childhoods. They grew up on a farm in northern (like Canadian border northern) Minnesota. The best stories are the ones about building fires in Grandma's windowboxes, or about parachuting kittens from the barn loft using my great-grandma's bloomers... even though we've all heard them dozens of times. But we learned some new stories this year! Like the time my Uncle Brent took cousin Kristi and Uncle Brian on a joy ride that inadvertently turned into a cow-herding adventure when they rounded a haybale and came face to face with a bull.

We squeezed 15 adults and teens around the dining room table. (The 4 kids had to sit at the little table in the living room.) It was cozy, mostly in a good way. Towards the end of the meal, we took turns telling about our most memorable event of 2005. My sister talked about living with me. It was really sweet, and the feeling is mutual, and it makes me more excited than ever to have her move back in come January.

For dessert, we served the buche de noël that I made. It turned out pretty well this year! I'll post a photo when I get a chance. Everyone left around six to head back to the Cities, leaving the Sproats to a relaxing evening drinking tea and reading our new Christmas literature. I started The Kite Runner.

That's enough blogging for now. I miss DC, but I'm very happy here.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Sweet home Minnesota

It's so good to be home.
Driving over the crest of the hill late last night, seeing the entire city and the bridges and the lake all spread out in front of us, all lit up, ears popping from the pressure change as we descended down into the city.
Going to a lefse-making party, catching up with friends and their parents, eating lefse hot off the griddle.
Sitting around the kitchen table with my family, drinking coffee and eating cinnamon twists that my grandma made, petting whichever cat has chosen your lap, asking each other for help on crossword clues.

The roads are icy today, so the plan is to stay home and bake instead of going out to run errands. Fine by me!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Let me make one thing perfectly clear

Yes, I'm terribly excited about going home. (I'll be on the plane less than 24 hours from now!) But that doesn't mean I'm not going to miss DC and all of my friends here!

Driving home from Ultimate last night was just a little bit melancholy. I had a wonderful time... and I won't be back at pickup for a full 2 weeks. I'll miss playing, but I'll miss the people way more.

Good thing I like my family as much as I do.

One more list...

Here are some fun videos to watch.
  1. What happens when you put an octopus in the shark tank? From Nature, that PBS show.
  2. Grocery Store Wars by Free Range Studios
  3. Lord of the Waffles by Armand!
  4. Past Perfect also by Armand!

Things to keep me occupied today

Today is my last day at work before vacation... and I have a feeling it's going to be the longest day ever. So I thought I'd post some games I'm planning on playing to pass the time.
  1. Here's a totally addictive game about vertices and edges. Aaron just introduced it to me this morning.
  2. Sudoku! I'm not as addicted to it now as I was when it first came out this fall, but it's still a great game. I'll probably print out a few to have on hand during my flight home.
  3. Crossword puzzles from the Washington Post. God bless crossword puzzles. I should print out a few of these for the flight as well.

Happy Solstice!

From today's Writer's Almanac
In the northern hemisphere, today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It's officially the first day of winter and one of the oldest known holidays in human history. Anthropologists believe that solstice celebrations go back at least 30,000 years, before humans even began farming on a large scale. The stone circles of Stonehenge were arranged to receive the first rays of midwinter sun.

Ancient peoples believed that because daylight was waning, it might go away forever, so they lit huge bonfires to tempt the sun to come back. The tradition of decorating our houses and our trees with lights at this time of year is passed down from those ancient bonfires.

In Ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated with the festival of Saturnalia, during which all business transactions and even war were suspended, and slaves were waited upon by their masters.
So far, my solstice has been marked by a beautiful, cold ride to work. A clear sky is such a nice shade of blue before the sun rises. I'm excited that the days will start getting longer again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Halfway through Tuesday, halfway through my work week!

This pink background feels a little more festive, right? A little more appropriate for the holiday season? Good.

I spent some time this morning browsing through the Wellesley alumnae network, looking for women in DC with cool jobs. So far I found a biostatistician (here at Walter Reed!), two event coordinators at museums (National Gallery and National Museum of Women in the Arts), and a copy editor at the American Society for Microbiology (wink wink).

They're celebrating Chanukah here today, so I smell latkes and just saw a flock of little boys in navy pants, white button-down shirts and yarmulkes - pretty cute.

Last night...
  1. Totally successful grocery store run. Olives and anchovies and a red handkerchief to replace the napkin I've been using. It needs to be washed once or twice to soften it up though.
  2. Dinner with Scott - we made olive, anchovy, feta pizza. They were fancy anchovies - each fillet came rolled up around a caper. Yum.
  3. Marit got in around 11:00. She's a friend from Duluth who has a Georgetown med school interview today!
  4. We didn't get to bed until midnight - my second late night in a row - so I'm really sleepy today. Succumbed to coffee at work, something I try to avoid, especially before lunch. Crossing my fingers that I'll be awake for Gunston pickup tonight!

48 hours from now, I'll be at Reagan National Airport, set to fly home.

More Nutcracker Stuff...

The Link above brings to you the American Rights at Work site, where you can send an e-mail supporting the dancers.

Mr. Nephew is blogging about the Washington Ballet dancers. Here's a link to his analysis of the events surrounding the cancelation of this year's Nutcracker.


Everyone deserves a job that's challenging
Although they may not ever get it right
- The Auto Body Experience, from their Forgotten Lots album.

I still don't know what I want to do, but there must be some interesting, challenging work out there for me... somewhere...
It's just a matter of finding it.
And convincing someone that I'd be good at it, of course.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Yoga... TDP... Pickup... Burlesque... Fire!

Minnesota is at the forefront of my mind this morning. My dad e-mailed me a bunch of snow pictures from around the house - beautiful. The one on the left here is the view from our patio. My sister is heading home today after spending the fall in Nova Scotia. I imagine she's pretty sad to be leaving Ian, but I'm jealous that she'll be in Duluth tonight. I get to go home on Thursday. Barring bad weather, I'll see my dad at the baggage claim at 4:30 pm CST. By 7:30, I'll be home in Duluth with the fam.

The weekend was nice. Pretty low-key. De-stressed after work on Friday at the gym, and then at yoga with Scott, and then at the Chi-Cha Lounge.

Saturday morning, he and I went to Mocha Hut for breakfast. Wonderful. Yoga after that, and then lunch at a Mexican bakery/carry-out place on Columbia Rd. It was warm enough to eat outside! Snowy Duluth is wonderful, but balmy DC is pretty nice too. I had a relaxing afternoon making and wrapping Christmas presents and then went downtown for an excellent meal with Team Dinner Party, the SO's and two Amy's. Fantastic. Such good company. We retired to Aaron's house, exchanged gifts and played Tabboo. (We had to keep stopping the game timer because we were laughing so much.) Thanks, everyone, for making it such a great evening.

Scott and I made molasses-banana-oatmeal pancakes on Sunday morning, and then I went to church where we got to sing "Joy to the World" - one of my favorites. It almost always makes me choke up a little bit. It's so... joyful. Reminds me of my favorite Bible verse: This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalms 118:24). Went from church down to the polo fields for 4 hours of pickup. The geese are migrating over DC these days, so the fields are messy with goose poop... but it was warm and dry out, and I had a pretty good time playing. Stopped by Hecht's on the way home for some Christmas shopping. A funny/awkward event for two reasons. First, I was dirty from Ultimate and lugging around my messenger bag, helmet and muddy cleats. I felt a little offensive - a ball of sweat and mud in the midst of the glitzy cosmetics displays. Second, there was no way to fit my bulky shopping bag into my already full messenger bag, so I clipped it on with a carabiner and trundled up 11th Street. I felt like Santa Claus with a huge bag of gifts hanging over my shoulder.

Got home around 5, fed and cleaned myself, then met Scott and Kenneth and Kristen at Lobsterboy's burlesque show. There were a few underwhelming acts, but for the most part it was great. I got to see a flame swallower, a sword swallower, and a balloon swallower. There were some pretty funny naughty Christmas carols, and Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey put on a few acts. I ended the evening at Armand's Solstice party, which involved burning festively-wrapped cardboard boxes on the grill in the backyard - a nice complement to his summer solstice Firewheel party.

Didn't get to sleep until midnight, which made it pretty hard to wake up this morning. My neck is less sore than it's been all weekend, but my right shoulder feels like I totally overworked it... which I didn't. I threw maybe five hammers on Sunday. Maybe it's the result of too many chaturangas at yoga? I suppose I should have stretched some after I finished playing yesterday!

An update on The Nutcracker...
We're not going.
They've canceled all of the remaining performances.

Friday, December 16, 2005

A quick Friday afternoon update

Only 20 minutes until my day here is done. Good thing. It's been an icky day.

Last night was great though! Scott's office party involved lots of great dancing. The DJ played a fun mix of music, and there were all sorts of people out on the dance floor. It reminded me of the best kind of wedding dance.

I got to bed sometime after 11 and woke up at 4 because I couldn't stop coughing. Grrr. Took some medicine and got a little more sleep before the 5:30 alarm.

Nice bike to work (documented below) presently negated by the Nutcracker bomb compounded with stress in my office.

I'd rather not write about a sucky day at work though. Always look on the bright side of life, right?
  1. Soon it will be the weekend. I'll go work out some aggression at the gym, meet Scott at a yoga class, celebrate Sibley's birthday, and hopefully crash on the early side.
  2. There's still a chance we'll be able to exchange our Nutcracker tickets and go see it next Wednesday.
  3. I got another great e-mail from Fredachi this morning. He's teaching kids to jump of roofs into the snow. A week from now I'll be home in MN!
  4. I did some online shopping and am pretty excited about the gifts I get to give.

All Toes Point To the Picket Line

For the second night in a row, the Washington Ballet has canceled its "Nutcracker" performance because of labor strife. It announced last evening that it would scrap tonight's show -- just as its dancers, dressed in coats and boots instead of costumes, were throwing up a picket line on the slick sidewalk outside the show's venue, the Warner Theatre.

A morning to savor

Such a nice ride to work this morning! Clear, warm blue sky, a rising ivory buttery nearly full moon. Warm. And now, looking out my window, I can see the first very orange rays of the rising sun spreading over the hill outside my window. Dark green shadows. Beautiful.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

St. Luke's hospital is in the news!

Usually the Duluth News Tribune gives St. Lukes terrible press, so this is a surprisingly good article. (My dad works at St. Lukes, by the way.)
St. Luke's in Duluth may be the first health system in Minnesota to embrace a trend that has hospitals rethinking menus with an eye on ecologically sound practices.

Branovan said St. Luke's quietly began its organic buying program about 18 months ago with the aim of expanding it slowly. "It started with the idea that we, as a hospital, need to take responsibility for the quality of the products we serve to our population," Branovan said.

Walter Reed should take note. Our dining facility (d-fac, if you want to use the Wally World lingo) is pretty greasy. Hard to find healthy things to eat there. It's extemely cheap, though. And the salad bar almost always has baby spinach.

Here's my favorite section from the St. Luke's article:

Branovan, who trained at the California Culinary Academy and spent 10 years working as a chef in West Coast restaurants (where tater tot-hot dish wasn't held in high regard), said he tried to yank the church-basement classic from the St. Luke's menu when he came to town five years ago.

The change caused a mini-insurrection, and Branovan quickly saw the error of his ways.

"We can make some changes and do the right thing with organics, but you can't take away tater-tot hot dish," Branovan said.

It's snowing out!

I went running last night for the first time in a few weeks! Rob and Shamik and I signed up for this Christmas Light Run. We started at Union Station and ran about 4 miles through downtown, past a bunch of nice Christmas lights. There were maybe 75 of us, all singing Christmas carols the entire time. Pretty fun. I got home before 9 and was in bed before 10.

Good thing the run was last night instead of tonight, though, and good thing I'm going to Scott's office party instead of pickup tonight. The forecast for the evening looks nasty - 35°F and raining. My bike to work was nice and clean and dry, but it's going to be messy by the time I head home. Maybe a day for the bus, if I can find the patience to wait for it.

On the subject of biking, I've discovered that a handkerchief is a wonderful thing. Right now I'm actually using a cloth napkin - it's a little bulkier than a proper handkerchief, so I really have to stuff it into my pocket, but it does the trick so much better than wads of Kleenex, toilet paper, or paper towels.

On the subject of Scott's office party, I'm so excited! Partly because I haven't seen him in a while, and partly because there's going to be dancing, and partly because he has lots of cool, interesting international coworkers. OK, mostly because I haven't seen him in a while.

On the subject of gray things, last night I dreamt that I bought a copy of Gray's Anatomy. And today's Post has an article about embracing grey. Wonkette made fun of it, but I really like the sentiments expressed. The view out my window is pretty monochromatic right now: white snow and sky, dark trees and sidewalks.
Gray is good.
If we could just learn to live this fundamental truth, think how quickly these long, gray wintry weeks would pass. In the morning, you'd throw open the curtains, cast a connoisseur's eye out on a slate-gray sky with touches of woolen hues over an ashen base, and say to yourself: By God, another beautiful gray day! You wouldn't pine for the cheap poetry of a rosy-fingered dawn. You'd be happy that today, just like yesterday and the day before, the morning began like someone turning up a rheostat from pitch black to a colorless color that smothers light in a peculiar, hard-to-define, can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it, uniquely today gray way.
Carpe diem.

Tonight's 'Nutcracker' Canceled In Dispute

Ballet dancers:
"They're not toasters," she said. "It's not like you break 'em and you buy a new one."
I feel bad for the dancers... so I hope they resolve all the issues, and I really really hope they perform tomorrow night.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My favorite topics: Ultimate and Minnesota

Everyone told me that turf fields are really fast, but for some reason I didn't notice it until last night - my third time at those fields. It was so fun to have fast legs and sharp defense! It was fun to have a body and fun to play Ultimate with that body. Maybe I was just more energetic than usual.

The tough part about weeknight Ultimate is that it pushes back my bedtime. I get home a little after 10, but I'm hungry and thirsty and all keyed up. Last night I got to sleep a little before midnight. Five and a half hours of sleep isn't bad... but I'm going to feel it later this week. I didn't get much sleep the previous night either, because the mice that live in my walls woke me up at 4 am. It's really amazing how much noise those little buggers can produce! So far, none of them have died in my bed though. That happened to Josie.

Anyways, about weeknight winter Ultimate. It's cold, and late, but it's totally worth it. I love playing, especially with this particular group of people.

Bonus material! Here's an e-mail I got from Fred this morning:
Do you remember those days waking up to not the buzz of the alarm, or cranked out morning show personalities but dad firing up the snowblower and making a path of escape for the cars? yeah it's one of those days.

Do you remember the times, eyes open but your mind far from fully operational thinking about the day of school ahead of you? Then groggily descending to the kitchen where mom would give the report that all the Duluth schools are closed? Yeah it's one of those days.
I'm excited to go home.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Minnesota is the healthiest state!

The United Health Foundation ranked Minnesota #1 this year and last year.

Minnesota is among the top ten states on ten of the 18 measures. Strengths include a low rate of uninsured population at 8.9 percent, a low rate of cardiovascular deaths at 248.2 deaths per 100,000 population, a low premature death rate with 5,728 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population and a low infant mortality rate at 4.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Challenges include limited access to adequate prenatal care with 75.8 percent of pregnant women receiving adequate prenatal care and a high prevalence of smoking at 20.7 percent of the population.

Significant Changes:
In the past year, the percentage of children in poverty decreased from 9.7 percent to 9.0 percent of persons under age 18.
Since 1990, the infant mortality rate declined from 8.9 to 4.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Since 1990, the percentage of children in poverty decreased from 21.2 percent to 9.0 percent of persons under age 18.
Since 1990, the prevalence of smoking declined from 28.7 percent to 20.7 percent of the population.

At Last! Ginger Altoids!

I stopped at the Rite Aid on 13th and U last night after pilates to pick up some cough medicine.

Lo and behold, they had ginger altoids.

Up until now, I've only ever seen them in a deli in NYC and at the Target in Duluth. Every time I go to the grocery store, I scan the candy selection by the cash register, just in case someone decided to stock them. But I'm always disappointed. Little did I know that Rite Aid is The Place to meet all of your altoid needs. That's right, ALL of your altoid needs. They have black licorice altoids as well. I had never seen them before, so I bought a tin of those as well. And they're good.

Other good things - pilates felt great. And I read a neat New Yorker article about feral pigs. And Scott made me a CD, so I have new music to listen to today!

Margo, I dreamt that you and I were walking by the American Indian Museum and you told me that you and Ian were engaged.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Nutcracker excitement!

Did I mention Scott's taking me to The Nutcracker this Friday?

I just read the review of the Minnesota Ballet's Nutcracker. I miss it so much.

Two links

Two links - one aggravating, and then one to lighten the mood.

The aggravating one, an article from the Boston Globe about the Pentagon and Wellesley. Wellesley College advised Pentagon on victim office It includes:
"Wellesley is doubly bad because it is completely feminist."

For all of you Edward Gorey fans out there, there's a little quiz you can take. Here's my result...

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?

You will sink in a mire. You like to think you're normal, but deep down you really just want to strip off your clothes and roll around in chicken fat.
Take this quiz!

Libby and Scott's First Quail Egg Ever

Really hard to say good-bye to the weekend this morning.

The recap:

I met up with some of my former AIDS Marathon training-mates at Gordon Biersch on Friday evening and had a great time reminiscing about the race. It was 6 weeks ago, but I still have really vivid memories from that day. One woman has run 3 marathons so far and predicted that a year from now, we'll be itching to go back and do another... She might be right.

Ended the night at Scott's house where he and his housemates were watching A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I was exhausted and dozed off a few times, but really enjoyed the parts of it that I saw!

Saturday morning was wonderfully lazy. Scott and I finally got moving around 2, had lunch at Astor (yum!) and then split up so that we could buy Christmas gifts for each other and run errands and stuff. I spent a little time at Caribou writing Christmas cards, and I bought a swag for the apartment. I've been pretty congested lately, so I can only assume that it makes the place smell good.

Saturday night some of our friends were hosting a "Prom". Everyone got dressed up in (silly) formal wear. Scott bought me a corsage (white roses) and took me out to dinner - sushi! I ate my first quail egg ever, and my first sea urchin. So strange. The Prom was great. Fun guests, good music, lots of dancing. Cotton candy and spiked punch, crotchety chaperones, a king and queen, a disco ball, posed photos in front of a backdrop... the hosts went all out.

Sunday morning was almost as lazy as Saturday. Great pancakes, with bananas and walnuts and lemon juice. Pickup was alright - sort of a messy game, but it's always nice to run around outside with friends. I think I have plantar fasciitis in my right foot though. Grrr. Dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl afterwards with Paul, Aaron, Liz and Christi. Very satisfying. Spent the evening cleaning myself, my clothes and my apartment, wishing my father a happy birthday, writing more Christmas cards and working a crossword puzzle.

I really wanted to have another lazy morning this morning. Alas.

Totally looking forward to a week of yoga, pickup, Scott's office party, and THE NUTCRACKER.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Army Retirement Ceremony

I just got back from a retirement ceremony and luncheon for MSG (Master Sergeant) W. He's a great guy, and I'm a little sad to see him leave. He's been in the army since he was 17. Now he's returning to civilian life for the first time in 22 years. It was strange to see him in a suit instead of BDUs.

When I first started working here, all the ceremonies I attended (promotions, presentations, retirements, etc.) felt a little silly somehow... contrived. Each promotion was just like the last one. It didn't feel meaningful or personal at all. It felt empty.

But I think part of what a ceremony special and important is its uniformity. The fact that your ceremony is the same as the last guy's doesn't mean that someone just pulled out the appropriate protocol and read through it. It means that your ceremony will be performed according to the highest army standards. Everyone involved will put time and energy into all of the necessary details. It will be rehearsed and polished. Taking the time to ensure a perfect ritual is a way to show respect and gratitude for the person of honor. Being the recipient of such a ritual is meaningful.

Today's ceremony went well. After the official party processed in, SSG B. sang the national anthem. It was a little too pop-y for my taste, but at least he has a nice voice. LTC R. gave an introduction. She focused a lot on MSG W.'s famly, acknowledging their support and their sacrifice. Next was the flag presentation. It started in the arms of a private and got passed up in rank (private first class, specialist, sergeant, staff sergeant, sergeant first class) until it finally got to the master sergeant. Visually beautiful - all those crisp movements, the perfectly assembled dress uniforms. More remarks, highlighting MSG W.'s character and career. Then MSG W. spoke: thanked his family for their support and sacrifice, told us how much they mean to him, talked about what it means to be leaving the army after 22 years. One more song, "To Dream the Impossible Dream", which seemed really cheesy to me, and then the reception line.

Going to these things makes me think about what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America and to be patriotic. It renews my respect for those serving our country, people for whom patriotism is very concrete. It's a good feeling to have when you're disgusted with Bush.

A humorous commute, I thought

A very slippery ride to work this morning. I had to walk my bike for the first block, because there were several inches of snow and my tires were going side-to-side just as easily as forwards. I felt like I was at sea! Once I got to 13th, it was much better. Not great, but better. Adequate control. The most noticeable affect of the snow was all the sidespray I got from cars passing me. If I had been cold, it would have been a miserable commute. But my polarfleece pants held me in good stead, so being splattered with slush just felt like slapstick humor in some movie. I hope someone got to witness it - I thought it was pretty funny.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Warm night, cold morning

I had a dental appointment yesterday afternoon down in Dupont, my first cleaning in about 2 years, I think. It was good! I like my new dentist a lot. Afterwards I met S. at Starbucks and tried to forget that the latte was staining my squeaky clean teeth. We discussed the potential of me joining him in Guatemala for a week in February. (!!!) From there, I went to yoga. It was a hard class, with a few poses I can't do yet, but it was fun to try. And it definitely felt good to get my muscles nice and loose in a warm, candlelit studio. I got home before 9, made dinner (eggplant!), talked to the parents, showered, and went to sleep between a pair of freshly laundered flannel sheets. Between Starbucks, yoga and those sheets, it was a darn cozy night!

This morning, however, has been quite the opposite. My fingers went numb on the bike to work. Usually I can depend on a shower to warm me up, but there wasn't any hot water at the gym. I got to office and made tea - it helped a little bit - but the hallway outside our office is freezing cold, and that means our office is chilly too. Brrr. Grrr.

Goals for today:
Start learning Visual Basic
Research Guatemalan tourist destinations
Play Ultimate!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Midweek Mucus

Not a whole lot to report. I could have (and wanted to) play Ultimate last night. But instead, I decided to focus my energy on letting the old immune system do its thing. I don't feel very sick, but congestion is no fun. Scott and I went to yoga*, which felt good, and then to the Caverns where I thoroughly enjoyed my Gueze. We only stayed about an hour though - long enough to check in with Vince and Tim, short enough to ensure an early bedtime.

Anticipation is a good thing:
  1. I get to leave work early today for a dental appointment!
  2. Ultimate on Thursday!
  3. Happy hours on Friday!
  4. A Prom on Saturday!
  5. Ultimate on Sunday!
  6. Scott's taking me to see The Nutcracker!!!
  7. I'll be home in Minnesota in 15 days!

* The yoga teacher played soemthing from Iron and Wine's new album. I liked it. Anyone know anything about the album? Is it worth getting?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In case you were wondering how to clean your uniform boots...

From my Wally World inbox, re. the recommended method for the cleaning of the Tan Flesh Out Hot Weather Combat Boots:

Please keep this link on your favorites so that you may be able to have access to it when soldiers inquire as to the recommended cleaning process for these boots.

  1. Wear with: 1 pair of socks, cushion sole, acrylic, polyester olefin or nylon/lycra blend or other depending on safety/uniform requirements; 1 pair of insole inserts if desired.
  2. Sizes. These boots are supplied in whole and half sizes 2 through 16 and widths N (B), R (D), W (EE), and XW (EEEE). In some instances, it may be necessary to select a slightly larger size than normally worn in order to allow for normal swelling of the feet and the use of insole inserts or cushioned socks.
  3. Pull on boot seating heel firmly into place, then lace. Boots should fit snugly but not tightly. There should be at least a 3/4-inch minimum additional length at toe.
  4. Trousers should be bloused over the outside and below the comfort collar of the boot.
  5. Break-in: DO NOT soak boots in water or bake in an oven to break-in. Boots should be worn in gradually at first with ever-increasing walking or marching distances while remaining comfortable. If blistering occurs, check to make sure that boots are fitted properly and that you are wearing recommended socks.
  6. Your Combat Boots are made of water resistant materials. Boots may become damp or wet due to excessive perspiration or water coming over the top of the boot or in through the drainage eyelets. If boots become wet, empty excess water, change socks, and continue to wear while changing socks regularly. Boots will dry much faster when worn than if left to stand and dry. DO NOT expose boots to excessive heat to dry, including hair dryers, heating vents, stoves etc.
  7. Your Combat Boot is designed for maximum performance in a field environment. Do not apply polish to your Combat Boots.
  8. Your Combat Boots are designed to be easy to care for. The nylon quarter side panels of your boots are as strong as leather and will last if cared for properly. To clean your Combat Boots, brush with stiff nylon bristle brush to clean and then use warm water. Do not use soap to clean your boots. If additional, more stringent cleaning is necessary, only water-soluble cleaning products should be used as oil- or alcohol-based cleaning products may damage your boots.
  9. Your Combat Boots come with a replaceable rubber outsole. Do not wear sole past rubber outsole into the softer midsole material or permanent damage to your boots will occur. The midsole is the soft cushioned material between the rubber lug outsole and the boot upper.
  10. (Must include information on how/where the boots can get resoled or who to contact to receive information on resoling.)

Also, here's an innovation in grilled cheese technology!

It did snow!

There's snow on the ground! Right now, I love it. I'm at my desk, drinking tea, looking out at the clean white ground, frosted branches, and blue sky.

Last night, it was a little more difficult to appreciate. The roads were wet but not icy, so that part was just like biking in the rain. The hard part was the snow flying in my eyes. I rode as slowly and deliberately as possible (which meant I was pretty chilly), and every once in a while, when I stopped for a traffic light, I noticed how pretty the snow looked falling through the streetlights.

I finally got home and got a flat tire just as I was pulling into the alley. The garage door was broken... again. Sigh. Brought my bike inside, got some laundry going, managed to get to City Bikes right before they closed. Amazing how fast they can install a new tube. Picked up chili ingredients at Safeway, stopped back at my house where I had forgotten my helmet, headed north to Delafield. The snow was still blinding and I still had to ride very deliberately. I arrived exhausted - felt like I had been driving in bad traffic for hours. But that was the end of all the bad stuff. Scott immediately started taking care of me. Let me take a hot shower while he did chili prep. Suddenly, I was clean and warm and dry and in a bright kitchen filled with good cooking smells. I chatted with his housemates and drank beer while he worked and the chili simmered. A lovely night.
So even if I didn't enjoy the winter wonderland from my bike, the whole experience primed me to fully appreciate a cozy dinner on a cold winter night.

If you like dead baby jokes, you'll probably like this bunny suicide site.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Life is good

Monday. It might snow today!

I had a great weekend and am looking forward to a great week... but I got into the office this morning and opened up an e-mail from my mom with photos photos attached (including some of Puff and Shackleton), and I'm more impatient than ever to go home for Christmas. And it's good to see that a family tradition is still going. Some people put reindeer or sleighs in their front yards. Not the Sproats!

A run-down of the weekend...
Friday. Went to a reception for St. Stephen's (the school in Rome where I taught math) trustees, alums, parents, etc. I didn't know anyone there except Phil (the headmaster), his wife Judy, and Michael (medieval history teacher and director of external affairs). I was the youngest one by far, but I had a pretty good time mingling with people because it meant reminiscing about the school and about Rome - lots of good memories. A '81 alum and I discussed bus routes - the 75, the #3 tram... funny that they hadn't changed in 20+ years. It was just fun saying the place names again. Viale Aventino, Trastevere, Nazionale. It was also really good to catch up with Michael and to hear how everyone is doing over there.

Saturday was nice and lazy. Scott and I had a lovely breakfast at Ben's Chili Bowl, visited the holiday market downtown (I bought a gift but was generally underwhelmed), took a nap at my house, and then baked an apple pie at his house. There was a big party at his house (Streamsage, which was founded by Delafield residents, was just sold to Comcast), so I hung out there and had dinner before heading down to an Ultimate party - the end of the season party for Wonderbred, Jeremy and Jerry's team. They won the C league spirit award this year!!! Great to see everyone.

On Sunday, I got to play in a tournament. Bliss.
It was supposed to be raining/sleeting/snowing, but it turned out to be partly sunny all day long. The fields were pretty wet, but it wasn't hard to stay warm - such a blessing in a December tournament. My team, "Washed Up," included a lot of crafty veterans, and we won our first two games pretty easily (13-0 and 13-2). We lost to the GW team but made them fight for it and had a nice comeback in the 2nd half. Our game against BRDM was the most fun by far. It makes such a big difference to play a spirited team, and if those spirited players happen to be some of your best friends... so much the better! We went out for Chinese afterwards - delicious fresh homemade noodles and dumplings. I don't know the name of the restaurant, but it's on 6th and H, and there are ducks hanging in the front window, all around the guy making the noodles. Shower, nap, and then off to a celebration of Jesseca's DC-versary. Her mom, a wine expert, was in town, so she organized a wine tasting. Pinot grigios and pinot noirs. Very cool.

Such a satisfying day. Such a satisfying weekend, really. As always, I feel fortunate to have Scott and to have so many good friends and to have had the opportunity to play a wonderful sport on such a nice day.

Look at all of those toes!