Friday, February 27, 2009

I feel his pain

There is something very similar between PhD students and bestselling novelists working on the next volume of their bestselling series.

Douglas Adams once said, "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

There are two things that can stop me in my tracks as far as working is concerned: writer's block and life.

Writer's block is sent by the devil and is my very own proof that there is a malevolent force in the universe. The benign force lives in my shower. So much for omnipresence.

Life is a giant conspiracy created just to try to tempt me to live it rather than waste it sitting here slaving over articles that do not prove what they say they will prove and then get used as proof in other articles thus setting up a situation in which all of the proof rests on hot air. Which is known to be stable only in a closed academic environment.

I have four doors to paint today. I need to move my bedroom to the back room so we can prime and paint the window, but we can't do that until the radiators are painted and last night my husband accidently put too much paint on one so it wrinkled and now we have to sand and do it again. We have to be out by Monday morning so that the floors in the rest of the apartment can be done. I can't move any furniture into the rooms that have had the floors done, because the radiators need to be painted. But the furniture needs to be moved or the rest of the floors cannot be done.

You know those plastic square games where the picture is all jumbled up and you need to rearrange the pieces by sliding them up/down and side/side, but you can only move one at a time, so you have to plan all of your moves well in advance? I HATE that game. I'm living that game.

On a happy note, I met the folks at JobCenter again.... and it went very well. Had the husband there, which was a good thing since her English wasn't so hot, but she was very nice and emphasized the things I could do rather than the things that I can't. She also apologized for all the stupid hoops I had to jump through. And unlike a lot of people, like the immigration lawyer who filed our paperwork, she never said that I didn't have to worry because I was an American WASP. I get that I am more likely to be "accepted" by the Danish system because I'm white, educated, with a Danish maiden name... but it bothers me. And it bothers me when people point it out as if it was acceptable for immigration to behave this way.

I then made my visit to the Sprogcenter (language school) for my interview and figured out that while my Danish is by no means stellar, I don't need to start again from day one. But I need the review. So the very friendly lady there figures it will be best to drop me in the middle of a Danish one class. So I'm waiting on that. I bit the bullet and signed up for a morning class. Why? So that I am forced to get up and get a move on rather than rolling out of bed, taking my sweet ass time, going to afternoon class and then finding myself out of time to do anything else. Until Denmark realizes the brilliance of midnight banking and grocery shopping, I am going to have to be a day person. (Note: I've never found a land that believes in midnight banking, any ideas?)

One day I'm going to wake up and my dissertation will be done and I won't have anything to paint and I'm going to have a nervous breakdown. It's on my To-Do List.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

American Cooking in Denmark

Success! I made a carrot cake from my Jamie Oliver cookbook! This is not exactly the recipe, because I made lime frosting (swap out orange for two limes in the frosting recipe), but it's otherwise the same. Note: I confess. While this IS a picture of the carrot cake in question, it is not MY carrot cake, nor MY photo. Bless you Flickr, Bless you Google.

However, I think I should have stuck to the recipe from BBC Good Foods, because it was a LOT easier looking and probably wouldn't have given me such a headache.

Examples:
1) Jamie says beat egg whites until stiff and fold into cake batter.
BBC says mix eggs with oil and add to batter.
Note: I am notoriously lazy when it comes to holding a beater into egg whites. I am also VERY heavy handed when it comes to "folding" said egg whites into batter. That being said, I find it ridiculously easy to separate eggs. My mother always panicked when it came to this. She even had one of those little egg separators that could do it for you (if you could just crack and pour the egg into the little cup without bursting the yolk). I can use the shell or my hands, if I have a shell that busts up the wrong way.

2) Jamie says use self-rising flour.
BBC says use regular flour.
Note: I have NO idea what self-rising flour is in Danish, so I make my own. The recipe is something like 7/8 of a cup plus two tsp of baking powder plus some salt. I just kinda winged it since I needed 1 1/2 cups of flour and I really couldn't be bothered figuring out what 7/8 + (7/8 divided by 2) = X.

3) Jamie says use one cup of ground almonds.
BBC says nothing about almonds.
Note: are ground almonds the same as marzipan or whut? Why, in a country that is OBSESSED with marzipan and making your own food, can I not find ground almonds? I can get chopped almonds. What did I do? Oh, I took my left over almonds from Christmas and beat them a lot with a rolling pin and then because I only had 1/3 of a cup of smashed almonds, I added 2/3 regular flour.

Really, how on EARTH did this recipe come out okay?

In fact, while I did have all of the ingredients for BBC carrot cake, I had to go out and hunt for mascarpone cheese and limes and the never found ground almonds. I also discovered that cream cheese only comes in 200g tins. All recipes for frosting ask for 250g. This is like the hot dog conspiracy: six dogs in a package, eight hot dog buns in a package = you end up buying more dogs and buns as you try to make sure you don't throw away any extra food. I, uh, used extra mascarpone cheese.

By the way, mascarpone - cream cheese frosting is the BOMB! It kicks serious ass. Screw all other frostings, even so-called "butter cream" because this is stuff is AMAZING!

Right, so THEN because I do not have a 9x9 pan, I do some google-math (ask google: how many liters in a 9x9x2 pan) and discovered that I did have a bread pan that could hold ALMOST the same amount. I figured, eh, close enough. It's an odd bread pan, it's made of oven-safe rubber. Which means it's floppy. So it's easier to get the bread out, you see. I was rather thrilled with it when I got it and here was a great chance to use it! (Note: pan may be excellent for bread, which once cooked is fairly stiff, but not so much for cake that stays fairly moist and thus, er, cracks when you try to roll it out of the pan. Just in case you were wondering.) I had to do the lining thing again. I am NOT excited by this part of baking. I mean, what the heck? What happened to butter and flour a pan? Can I do that next time instead of the paper madness? Because lining a rubber pan with paper is INSANE! Thankfully, because of the veg shortening, the paper stuck to the sides of the pan. Which is, I guess, why you have to butter the pan first. But it still seems really very odd to me. And then removing paper from the cake is a bit difficult because you have to roll a warm sticky cake around on your kitchen counter. This is not good for the cake. Or your counter.

Anyway! Having used the wrong type of flour and substituting flour and bashed almonds for ground almonds and my pitiful attempts to fold mostly stiff egg whites (I got bored waiting for the eggs to get properly stiff) into the batter and using a pan that is not quite right and using an oven that is quite wonky - I still ended up with a smashing success of a carrot cake.

Note: The most commonly heard refrain from the test kitchen at the Archaeogoddess Culinary Institute for American Cooking in Denmark: "Oh, f*uck it."

By the by, somewhere there were some expats wondering about refried beans. It was a while ago and darned if I can remember where and when and whom. But today I found the following on my favorite cooking web-site (an all around great web-site, I might add), The Pioneer Woman: a recipe for refried beans, scroll down to February 24th, since she hasn't gotten a special link to it yet. Also, because I am a complete and utter fan of cornbread I also want to share this recipe. I use a slightly different recipe since I do not have a skillet that can go in the oven nor a microwave nor... okay, so I don't use this recipe for cornbread at all, but I am going to give the beans part of this recipe a whirl and make my own cornbread to go with and then if I have left overs I may just make me some refried beans. I don't know yet what to do with that, but maybe I'll put together some pico de gallo and some guacamole and some taco salad and have myself a nice old time pretending that I'm somewhere warm and Spanish.

Provided that I can find a large enough bunch of cilantro (coriander, to some of y'all) to make a PROPER salsa. I am slowly weaning my husband off of the horrific red bottled stuff they call salsa around these parts. I mean, it tastes like they took ketchup, added some boiled green peppers and over salted and sugared it. I only use it for cooking the few recipes that ask specifically for bottled salsa (casseroles and soups). It's horrible horrible stuff.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lost in translation: a comedy of errors

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures

Disclosure: This photo may be photoshopped... there is great debate regarding it's veracity. But it doesn't matter all that much because it fits my post for today. Yes, *themed* post! And *yay* photo! (So little to look at on my blog! So many words, not enough pictures!!)

Ahem. Anywho...

I use on-line translators. Especially babelfish. I find that it's faster for me to type a sentence into babelfish than it is for me to look up the words I'm not sure about in my dictionary. I am just not that good at the fiddly page turning and the alphabet. (Yes, let's not talk about that shall we?) I highly recommend on-line translations provided that you have a pretty darn good knowledge of the language already and can read MOST of what you are translating without assistance. German translations are often downright hilarious and I've been collecting my favorites for a while now. I plan on someday turning it into poetry, of a sort. There is just something so delightfully Jabberwocky about it. "Siebenbürgen" literally translated means "seven mountains" but really means "Transylvania" and completely overloads babelfish so I get "filter deficiency guarantee." Dude, I don't even *know* what that means.

Also, "Probleme besonderer Art werfen schliesslich die sog." Turns into "Problems of special kind throw finally sucked." Really ought to be "Problems of specially cast forms will be drawn in conclusion." Er, yes, that is an awkward translation - sometimes German just doesn't translate well. As long as I know what it *means*, I just roll with it.

Anyway, I thought French would be slightly different. I don't know why, but maybe it's because I can read French with greater accuracy. But some of the things that the translator throws up are just down right hilarious. "Motif" becomes "motive" even though it is obvious that motif = motif. So my plates have a lot of fish motives. I love it. What do you suppose motivates fish? Worms? I'm pretty sure it's NOT silver plate. "Scène" becomes "place" although it seems pretty obvious to me that scène means scene in this context. So I have a lot of "places of fish motives."

Then there is the truly bizarre. At the end of a very long sentence that was describing places of fish motives (heh) in nature death (still-life) on a mosaic floor in Africa, suddenly, this appeared: "there is no mosaic." Whut? I felt like I was in some sort of Matrix-blooper reel. Delving into my dictionary I figured it out. "Pas" can be part of a negation, you know ne...pas, but it can also mean "threshold." "Pas mosaic" does not mean "there is no mosaic" but "threshold mosaic." Heh.

But funny translations and incorrect English is not limited to babelfish. (Yes, I already know about engrish.com and failblog, they kill me.) My husband, whose English is normally stellar, can sometimes throw out the most hilarious things when he gets tired. Yesterday, it seems, we were both "sleep depraved." And then a few nights ago (must be that sleep depravity), while we were discussing how funny it was that we know exactly when we first met and how at that time we had no idea that we'd be married five years later, he says "yes, I didn't know at that time that you would be the wife of my life." You know, versus all those other wives he had that didn't last. We were rolling around with laughter.

Yeah, you say, but you shouldn't make fun, I bet your Danish isn't so hot!

Uh, duh, no kidding. My personal best was when, while on excavation with a bunch of very messy Danes, I made some signs - VERY LARGE SIGNS - to post around the kitchen areas. I wanted to write, "your mother doesn't live here" (i.e. clean up after yourself) and wrote "Din mor ikke bor here!" This caused great hilarity among the Danes. It's "din mor bor ikke here" in case you were wondering. You probably weren't, but feel I must educate you. Also, "your mother doesn't live here" is not a particularly Danish saying, or so I was told. I've since seen it in kitchens, with the "ikke" in the right place, so obviously I'm not singlehandedly bringing English idioms to Denmark.

My husband has picked up quite a few Americanisms that he quite likes and uses with abandon. He really likes "it doesn't ring a bell." I don't know why, but that seems to be his favorite. So much so that he often forgets and says it to Danes in DANISH. "Der ikke ringe klokken" or something. There is always this long pause while the person he just said it to tries to figure out what bells have to do with whatever it was that they were talking about.

To finish off this post - which is shockingly thematic, way to go AG! - I must tell you a story that brings us back, full circle, to the photo at the beginning. One of the Americans on the excavation in Israel is from Chicago and thus has a distinct accent. One day, while sitting on the porch of our dig house, he was sipping his drink and then suddenly exclaimed: "Ugh, this juice! I *hate* pulp in my juice!" One of the other archaeologists, who is from Poland, whipped his head around and said "WHAT?! You hate the Pope and the Jews?!" It's been two years and we are STILL laughing about it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

It keeps you on your toes

This is the reason for Danish weather. There can't be any other use for it, because lord knows it's been less than useful these past few years. But the last 24 hours reminded me, yet again, that New England weather has got NOTHING on Danish weather.

Except of course, NE weather SUCKS more.

The last 24 hours went something like this - I'm doing my thing at my desk and when I got up and walked past the window about fourish, there was a complete white-out blizzard raging. Okay, I exaggerate with the blizzard, but I really couldn't see much other than white and grey through my window. So I crank up the heat, watch the snow a bit, and go back to my thing. Then when I get up to turn on the oven (yeah frozen pizza!) I see that it's no longer snowing, it's pouring rain. Okay, turn down the heat. My husband comes home and tells me that while it's raining down here by the river, it's still snowing just up the hill. These aren't San Francisco hills, mind you. I have once ridden my bike up that hill. Once. Never again, I swear it. Not worth the infarction. Anyway I get up today and there is sun. It's so bloody warm I don't turn on the heat. I open windows. I contemplate shaving my legs (yeeeaaah, at least I thought about it). I wonder where I put my sandals (this is because in New England, when the weather turns this way, everyone pulls out their sandals and run around like psychotic rabbits leaping over the piles of snow that will hang out until April). Now, just about 24 hours after I first noticed snow, it is very overcast with a stiff wind. Heat gets turned up.

This is the joy of Danish weather. It becomes increasingly schizophrenic as winter and spring fight it out. It would all go much better if winter would just happen in December-February, but it seems that fall is a big bully and takes up all of September-January, leaving winter to fight with spring about the meaning of February and March. I think this is also the reason we don't always have summer. Summer is the poor middle child of Danish weather. It gets forced out. Spring, no matter whether or not she's won the March fight, will sometimes pout all the way through August. Summer may get a week in during August, but that's probably it. Fall then bullies his way back onto the schedule and we switch rain coat for not-to-heavy wool coat.

In other news, we have still not yet painted the rest of the trim. There is a good reason for this: exhaustion, but also there was an incident on Thursday that laid me out for two days. I'll tell that story when my ego isn't so bruised.

I am contemplating watching the Oscars. Last night this led to us wondering if we'd actually gone and watched any movies in 2008 - but I know we went and saw Indiana Jones and I think we went and saw something at the Ebeltoft Film School, but I can't remember what it was. So mostly it would be to watch for the dresses, the speeches, and Hugh Jackman.

But then my dear spouse comes and tells me that we'll be painting trim tonight - we must! Ah, he's been driving his taxi for a very long time and has only had a few hours sleep. Yes, I am *SO* looking forward to tonight's paint extravaganza.

Oh, and for the last few days we've been having half of the floors in the apartment done. The floorman, while I admire his pre-industrialism attitude towards work, was supposed to come right after new years. He didn't call, he didn't come. We were going to get someone else to come, except that we couldn't afford anyone else. The floorman then called and explained that he'd hurt his back and that's why he didn't come. Lame excuse. I've thrown out my back and it's never stopped me from making a phone call. Whatever asshat.

But he's still the cheapest and he does fine work... when he works... so we have to take him. Grumble grumble. Thankfully he normally doesn't appear until some time around 10 am (instead of 7:30 you horrible window painting baboons!) and leaves around 3. Now, if he was a bit more of a... I don't know... professional... he could have knocked out these rooms in a hurry, but he never did come over on Friday (no excuse, just never came) and so now he's worked some hours over the weekend... but anyway the apartment smells of wood, there is sawdust in the darnedest places and an overwhelming stench of polyurethane or something is wafting up the hallway from the back bedrooms. The floorman has been in a fit (such as it is) to finish those rooms by today so we can "move into them," he keeps saying. He told us we could "move in" over the weekend, but then he sort of kind of not at all put in enough work during the week for this to happen. But that's not really important, because we aren't "moving into" those rooms. Husband keeps telling floorman this, and saying that it needs to be done faster so we can rent out this apartment, but floorman is not the brightest crayon in the box and it hasn't sunk in.

Also, we have to move out when he does the hallway and kitchen, because we can't walk on the floors when they're sticky and thus, can't reach the bathroom. But what day this will be is completely up in the air. Floorman keeps saying "yeah, it won't be a problem." Uh, not for you, bozo, but we live here.

So I might find myself suddenly shifted to another location. I don't particularly care, the other option was that we live in the back rooms and use the back stairs to go to the bathroom in the public 2 kroner toilet for TWO DAYS, if the floorman is as efficient as he says he will be (read: it will take 4 days if not more). I have a frustrating (to me) bladder, the farther I am from the toilet, the more often I have to pee. And if I have to go out into cold weather, the amount of times I will REALLY REALLY have to pee will multiply exponentially. I can work next to a toilet all day, drink lots of coffee and never have to go - because the toilet is right there and it's so convenient. The public toilet, on the other hand, costing 2 kroner to get in, a good three minute walk away, crossing two streets to get to it, is an invitation to disaster. There'd also be no shower and no water to drink, because we couldn't get into the kitchen either. So we'd have to buy water and go out to eat... but we couldn't bathe first.

Yeah, no. I do that on digs and as long as everyone is in the same boat it's NO PROBLEM but here? Oh, hell no. Nope. Nada. Can't make me. Grounds for divorce. Justifiable homicide.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What HAVE I been doing for four years??

It's a dissertation post. If you don't want to hear about my dissertation, I don't blame you. I don't want to hear about it either.

Right, so I've been dissertating for 4 years. Well, writing for only 3 since I did spend one year researching trying to find a subject and then learn enough about the subject to see if there is anything that can be said about the subject that hasn't already been said and then searching through this really random journal that proposes to be filled with a list of everything that graduate students are working on (although I am not really sure how that works... but I was told to do it and one thing you learn quickly is that you can't convince your advisor of anything). This means I have several article ideas and a rather large file on Roman Britain and on Roman hoards. Alas, Roman Britain is being worked on by Brits and Roman hoards is too large of a subject. Richard Hobbs did a very good dissertation and publication of hoards from 200-700 that was published in 2006, so BOY am I glad I didn't start working on that.

Anyway, I started writing in... well, my abstract dates to February 2005 and it's freakin' hilarious because it SO is not what I'm doing. Reading it I can see why my advisor keeps trying to make me write about myth and allegory. But I was in a rush to get something turned into the graduate school because my department was going through... lets call them "growing pains" and there was the worry that some graduate students would get lost in the mishmash. It took another two years for that to happen, but it did eventually happen. I am graduate student road-kill. So it looks as if I started doing some preliminary writing in the fall of 05 but most of my docs date to 2006. It's now 2009 and what have I got to show for myself?

By chapter -
Introduction: 5 pages, 2 footnotes
History of Research: 9 pages, 13 footnotes
Theory: 14 pages, 59 footnotes
Prolegomena: 24 pages, 94 footnotes
BC silver: 8 pages, 22 footnotes
Social setting 1st c: 5 pages, 17 footnotes
1st c silver: 29 pages, 56 footnotes
Social setting 2-3rd c:7 pages, 13 footnotes
2-3c silver:16 pages, 23 footnotes (this is the chapter I'm working on, it'll get longer)
Social setting 4th c: 8 pages, 7 footnotes
4th c silver: 56 pages, 158 footnotes (yup, it's a doozy - this is the chapter I threatened to turn into a master's thesis, now you see why)
Conclusion: yeah, I gotta rewrite that, probably from scratch...
Catalogue: 56 pages, bibliographic references in text, not footnotes
Bibliographic sources: 332 listed, probably more, I'll have to go through every single file to make sure they're all there.

Not including possible appendices (I really don't see the point of adding them, but it depends on how my advisor feels about it)... Total pages: 237
Total footnotes: 464

This also doesn't include any images. I haven't put any into the text yet as this would make the documents VERY unwieldy.

So there you go. You now know what I've been doing with myself and what all I've done.

To do:
Finish 2-3rd c. silver - talk about fish and death imagery, decide on whether or not to include Wettingen treasure (looking at the engravings, I'm thinking there's not really so much of what I'd call "figural decoration" on the plates...) but I need to make sure, whip up a nice bit on the Historia Augusta and the evidence we can glean from it (insert Jon Stewart "America: the book" as a footnote).
Write conclusion.

I think I'm down to reading my last four articles. One french, two german, one english.

Normal people would say, oh, you'll be done in a week. I'm not normal people and I do not want to raise anyone's hopes. Especially since there are TWO german articles to read. I have to take two days off to paint trim and I am not going to be able to do much in the way of dissertating when I'm responsible for taping floors, making dinner, painting trim and moving furniture around the apartment. My dear husband however has reached the end of his rope and can't do any more on his own.

Bad writing

So here's a meme for you. From Life With a Little One and More because I've obviously got too much time on my hands and therefore assume you do to!

Write a very bad opening line to a fictional novel. It's actually harder than it looks, because it's got to be BAD. Really really BAD. I read some of the entries on the blog from the original official contest and actually did want to read some of those novels. Which is sad. I'm pathetic. Or so starved for new books I'd read anything. (Actually I've always read anything I can get my hands on, yes, I have read the ingredients on the sides of gum packages while standing in the supermarket check out. This is how I know that gum has been known to cause some types of cancer in some laboratory animals, the image of dozens of rats chewing gum has somehow never left me - yes, I know they don't have the rats chew gum... look now you've distracted me!)

For the record, I'm trying to use literature as the carrot to finishing my dissertation. I'm forcing myself to only read books I already have read until this is all over. That way I can put the book down and go back to French. (Note: did several hours yesterday, the author has finished describing all of the silver vessels and now has moved on to still-life. I think he's going to next cover mosaic and will only present his evidence for the relationship between fish and death in the last few sentences. I hate him.)

Right, here's my entry -

Waves of pity for all of God's creatures crashed over Sally as she sent Fishy's small, partially decomposed yellow carcass on its last lonely swim, down the slightly stained toilet dotted with old stale urine, and out towards the cold, deep, wine-dark sea, or so she supposed as she depressed the lever.
-- from "The Death and Life of Fishy the Goldfish"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No excuses

Sometimes I am just lazy. L-A-Z-Y. Today is one of those days. I just really do not feel like translating French to English even though the article is actually getting exciting.

By exciting I mean that having spent several pages describing fish imagery on several silver plates using increasingly long sentences, he may actually be getting to the part where he links fish and death in second-third century Roman iconography.

I know, how can I HANDLE the excitement?

No, really, I do want to find out what happens and how it's all going to play out. Does he make assumptions that I find untenable? Is he going to send me off on a wild footnote goose chase that leads in ever constricting circles until I find the source of all our hopes and dreams in a German article from 1865 that was obviously written in a haze of Jägermeister?

Here's another good question: will I be so impressed with myself for pulling "untenable" out of my ass that I decide that this was the peak in my creativity for the day and spend the rest of the day watching TV?

The problem is I just don't want to put the effort into finding out the answers to any of these questions. Including the TV one.

Part of the problem may be that last night, after drinking half a bottle of wine, I flew through more French in three hours than I have in three days and it's a far better translation than it has any right to be. This then reinforces the horrible truth:

I need to become a functional alcoholic in order to finish this dissertation.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A near accident of epic kitchen proportions narrowly averted by shear dumb luck

(Bloody internets just let me down, forcing me to wipe my internet memory and now I have to remember all my freakin' passwords - gah! And reset all my websites to English. Lort!)

Anyway, yesterday was rather impressive in that I made dinner for the first time in a few weeks and this one included dessert! I have been Jonesin' for brownies for a while and managed to not get my act together in time for Valentines Day. That's alright, the Dane isn't aware of the wonder of brownies, so what he doesn't know he loves he can't miss.

But last night, ho oh! last night I decided that I would deny myself no longer! I WOULD have brownies. I WOULD. I actually had all the ingredients in the house. Except for buttermilk, but I've long ago decided that I'm not going to buy buttermilk because recipes always call for less buttermilk than comes in a carton (even if I buy a LEETLE carton) and I can "make it" myself by adding lemon juice to regular milk. This works great and if you pay NO attention to the weirdness of the milk after lemon juice addition, you'll do just fine in the Archaeogoddess Kitchen of Magic.

So it's all going swimmingly. I have dinner ready to be cooked and I'm prepping dessert so that there will be a flawless transition from dinner to dessert. But somewhere along the way I forgot the wisdom of Jamie Oliver. Jamie, patron saint of the cooking Archaeogoddess, points out that while you can play around with salad dressings to your hearts content, you should probably learn to bake before doing something mad with your desserts. He also stresses that you should REALLY READ your instructions CAREFULLY. I may have to start repeating this before bed.

I completely neglected to notice that I was supposed to put my brownies in a 13x9x2 pan. I figured, brownies go in a brownie pan. A brownie pan, is in my mind because it always has been when I made box mix brownies, a 9x9x2 pan. Which I do not have. I DO HAVE a 13x9x2 pan but in the heat of the moment, I'd put my chicken dish into it. (This turned out to be a serious error in judgement as I do have another pan that would have been BETTER for the chicken and saved me a great deal of heart ache, but my god when I do something wrong I like to do it wrong with STYLE!) I, remembering geometry, figure that although I do not have a 9x9x2 (remember, this is what I THOUGHT I needed) pan I do have a spring-form cake pan.

Note to self: stop pretending that you have math skills.

Once the batter is prepared (and I do follow those instructions very carefully and use my handy mixer to great effect) I pour it into the pan. Now here's another thing. The instructions say to line the pan with foil or if I use the Jamie Oliver recipe, with wax paper, and then butter that. Well, I'm using a spring-form pan, screw the lining! I'll be able to get my brownies out of the pan EASILY! I'm just going to butter. But HEY I have this vegetable fat that is never going to get used - it's like shortening... I should use that! So I smears it around and pour the mix in and voila! It seemed a bit high in the pan, but hey.

There was a lot of "hey"-ing going on in the kitchen. Sometimes it means I'm a genius. Sometimes, not so much.

I then move the pan to a suitable location so that I can saute some veg without getting hot oil on the batter. On goes the stove. Oops, forgot to turn on the oven so the chicken can cook. La la la.

And that's when the nightmare began.

Little did I know, but my spring-form pan, having behaved BEAUTIFULLY for years had rusted and deformed. Brownie began leaking rather quickly from the seems.

AH! AHHHHHHHHH!

Things began flying out of my cupboard under the counter as I searched frantically for alternative dishes. My pyrex pie pan and a VERY solid ceramic oven dish best used for quiche were all that I had. Shortening was grabbed and vigorously rubbed all over the place, eventually ending up all over the counter and on the handles of various spoons that I was trying to use to saute veg (which I was still trying to do at the same time as trying to save the brownies, it was a mad few minutes, spoons kept slipping out of my hands, go figure) and then ended up all over the stove as I realized I had to turn the veg OFF. Eventually brownie mix was split between the two dishes with only some loss that managed to be smeared all over the counter, turning up at odd times to vex me over the past 12 hours.

Right. Back to dinner. My timing was completely off, I had started and then aborted sautéing veg while my chicken baked in the satan-spawn oven. I had plenty of time before I needed to worry about starting to sauté again.

This begs the question: if I know my oven sucks, why do I continue to use it?

Anyway, you would also think, that having just managed to save the brownies from certain doom, I'd leave well enough alone! No, not me. I am a clinical idiot. If you say, "don't poke that" I'll poke it and ask, while poking it, "why not?" Clinical idiocy. So I'm looking at the brownies and the recipe. The recipe says that you should sprinkle marshmallows and peanuts over the top after they come out of the oven and then you drizzle chocolate sauce on top of that to make REALLY FANTASTIC brownies. I was not planning on making REALLY FANTASTIC brownies, I hadn't purchased the stuff needed to make chocolate sauce. But now I had 20 minutes to kill... And it hit me, like a stroke of genius - why wait for the brownies to come OUT to put the nuts and marshmallows on? Haven't I had brownies that had nuts and marshmallows INSIDE? I don't have peanuts, but I do have walnuts (which I prefer) and HUGE marshmallows left over from Christmas when I couldn't find little normal marshmallows to save my life. So I hack up the nuts and the marshmallows (by the way, cutting marshmallows - not easy) and sprinkle them over the brownies with the idea that they'll sink into the mix while I'm waiting to put them in the oven.

Notable thing about marshmallows. Something that I BET you've noticed if you've ever put them in hot chocolate. The little f*ckers float! The nuts... also showing a serious lack of sinkage. I poke 'em with a fork and still they remain on top. I don't really think about what this might mean as dinner is now moving along and I figure, eh, it'll work out.

Time comes for me to put the brownies in the oven and I discover that two circular dishes will not fit in a square oven no matter what you do. Again with the serious lack of math skills! Okay, cooking one at a time. Jamie says to cook brownies for 25 minutes the other cookbook says 40, I figure start at 25 and keep checking. If nothing else, I know my oven is satanic and evil.

Brownie pan #1 takes well over an hour. Brownie pan #2 takes exactly one hour.

Do you know what happens if you put marshmallows in the oven for AN HOUR?? They didn't catch fire, thank god, but they did melt into an oozy mess that then turned black and carbonized in a super sugary crust. I could have cried.

I would have cried, too, except that last night I volunteered to help paint trim which involves oil paint and turpentine and I was so high on fumes by the time the first brownies were ready to be taken out of the oven I just kept giggling. If I wasn't a clinical idiot before, I certainly am now.

We're very lucky the marshmallows didn't ignite, the house was a powder keg of paint fumes.

So today I approached my brownies with a heavy heart. What had I done? Not only had I really messed up but I had made a crazy amount of brownies, using up all of my walnuts!

I made myself a small slice. Hm, looks a lot more like dense chocolate cake than brownie. Took a taste. Hey, that's not bad at all! It's surprisingly good! Even with the crunchy sugary crust! It's not particularly brownie-like, more cakish than brownieish... but rather tasty!

YES! YES YES YES!

The hard part is not eating all of it in one sitting. The sugar rush mixed with chocolate and nuts is intoxicating.

Or that's the oil paint talking.

Oh, and in the middle of the night I woke up and realized: marshmallows can be found in FUDGE, not brownies. Idiot.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Snow snow snow snow...

Ah, snow! I thought you might pass us by this year! Silly me, I ought to know better, it always snows in Denmark in February! Like last year when I was safely back in my cozy dorm in New England and missed out on all the fun. I think it was growing up in California, in the low foothills where snow is rare, that instilled me this childish delight in snow. I love to watch it fall. I love to watch it build up on objects transforming them into mysterious shapes. I love to catch it on my tongue... which is harder than it looks, really, I kid you not. Or maybe I'm just tongue deficient.

Anyway, I'm all kinds of happy to be warm and snug in my home wearing a soft and comfy sweater. All I'm missing is a roaring fire (no fireplace here), a cup of hot chocolate (I don't know what that powder stuff is in my cupboard but it is NOT hot chocolate), and a cat.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Other names for "domestic"

A good friend of mine emailed the following list to me. And I just about spit coffee everywhere! So, I do feel I ought to share this list of names that one may use instead of say house wife...

Domicile Goddess
House Diva
Abode Warrior ( mostly for cleaning not cooking)
Bringer of hot food and sparkly home
Domus Frau
Lucious and lovely lady of light and joy
familial harmonizer
conjugal facilitator ( maybe not that one it sounds like a pimp)
Domestic Dominatrix ( hard to be broken when you have the whip, it
should also appeal to your Indiana Jones side)
hearth keeper ( appealing to your Roman side)
Maker of the bread, Kneader of the dough ( to appeal to your northern
European medieval side)

I'm really leading towards domestic dominatrix. X-D

Friday, February 13, 2009

Seriously?

I didn't really want to complain AGAIN about life in Denmark - but I'm going through the integration process (read: assimilation process) and it is not pretty.

I'd really like to compare how things are here with how things work in the states, but as a citizen I don't have to go through US immigration. I know of someone who did... I'll email his wife later and ask.

Anyway, Danish Integration services were invented/put together/hatched like devil spawn in order to give Danes the illusion that dirty foreigners would quickly and efficiently be absorbed into the great white north that is Denmark and also to give jobs to a lot of Danes with liberal arts educations.

There is nothing you can say to convince me otherwise. I have Danish friends who agree with me.

"Integration services" has to be the most un-service oriented of all the so-called services in Denmark. Forget what you think "service" means. Think of it like having your car serviced. After dealing with Integration, my body feels drained, sandblasted, rotated and pumped full of air.

It's not just that the letter is in Danish. I mean, I'm a new immigrant for crying out loud, how on earth am I supposed to read this? (Okay, so because I've been here so damn long I can read a lot more Danish then you'd think, but it's the PRINCIPLE!) I then get a letter from JobCenter, which I *thought* had something to do with jobs. No, I think it has something to do with the biblical Job. As in, you need the patience of Job to go through integration. In the letter, again in Danish, it tells me I have to meet with a person for an hour and a half, but not to worry, as this meeting can be conducted in English.

What do they do when newly arrived immigrants don't speak or read any Danish - like asylum seekers? I'd like to think that there is a different, kinder, system for them and I'm just stuck in the "you married a Dane, you idiot" group. I know they have it worse, however. I've seen the camps.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm being punished for taking a pure Dane out of the inbred gene-pool. How are they going to maintain Danish purity if Danish men and women keep marrying dirty foreigners??

Anyway, I went to the JobCenter as instructed only to find out that my meeting had been cancelled. The overly cheery woman (you know you've been in Denmark to long when you instinctively distrust happy smiling Danes) said they tried "every means" to contact me. As my husband dryly pointed out, well, we do live right around the corner, they could have walked over and knocked on the door, so not EVERY means. I never did get the letter they SWORE they sent. Asshats.

This perky bouncy woman proceeded to tell us that well, it wasn't really necessary to meet with anyone because really the most important thing to do is sign up for Danish classes. Okay. Yes. Fine. But I am trying to get a job and I want to be able to work my class schedule around my job and this IS the JobCenter....

Oh, don't worry about that! She says. You'll get a job in no time and you can tell the language school about it when you go in for an interview.

Um. Okay. Yes. Fine. About that job?

Oh, they don't do that here, there's only one guy who does that and he's really busy and it's no problem to get a job in Denmark and at this point I see her lips moving and all I'm hearing is blah blah blah Danish blah blah blah Danish blah blah blah bunnies blah blah blah cupcakes blah blah blah rainbows emanating from my ass blah blah blah.

Of course she's not worried! She has a job! And she *knows* that no one is poor in Denmark! Everyone says so! Certainly no one is constantly facing foreclosure on their home because in Denmark, these things don't happen! Everyone can get a job, even a person with no skills and no Danish because in Denmark, people fart happiness!

Though I was one floor above the language school, she decided to sign me up for Danish class. So helpful. Thanks. I tried to tell her that I've done this before, but she just sort of kept talking and talking and talking. I don't think she trusted me to go and do it myself. I am after all a dirty foreigner come here for the free health care and welfare that I'm not qualified to get because I'm still breathing.

So today I got my letter from the language school. IN DANISH! Seriously? Are you kidding me?

I'm reminded of a billboard I saw once: "Want to Learn to Read? Call 1-800 (something something)"

Dude, if I can read the sign, I obviously don't need your help and if I need to learn Danish, how on GOD'S GREEN EARTH am I supposed to be able to read the letter???

The up side is that my husband, the Dane, is more pissed off about this than I am, so I'm feeling loved and supported by a six foot tall enraged Viking. The down side is that he's really gunning for me to get a job back in the states so he can emigrate.

One immigration at a time!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

An Interview with the Archaeogoddess

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me!
No problem, what is it you wish to ask?
Well, we've been wondering what you are up to, now that you've taken this foreign service officer test.
Oh, well I've been working on my dissertation. Now that I've broken through the writer's block I have been able to finish two chapters, rework three other chapters that didn't work into three chapters that DID work, and move into the home stretch.
Congratulations! What is the home stretch?
Ah, well, discovering that a chapter I *thought* was done was actually not at all done. But after that I then have to write a conclusion. I feel another writers block coming on... it's name is "conclusion."
Well, you'll get to it when you get to it I suppose. Tell me, what are you going to do after it's done?
I have no idea. I'd rather you not ask me that. I feel all kinds of panic when people ask me that.
Okay, if you insist...
I do.
Right, so moving on... I notice you complain a lot about life in Denmark? Do you really not like it here?
No, don't be silly. I do like it here. There are a lot of great things about Denmark. But I'd be lying to myself and others if I didn't admit that there were things that drove me crazy. If I lived in the States, I'd complain about things there too. No place is perfect.
Speaking of Denmark, recently you started looking at other expat blogs and exploring the expat world, but you've been living on and off in Denmark for five years now. Why the sudden interest?
Well, until I got residency, I didn't feel like an expat. I felt like a tourist or a transient visitor. You know, where the odd or difficult things that you face when you are on vacation abroad aren't that important because you'll be going "home" soon. But suddenly Denmark is "home" and there is nowhere else for me to go. Getting my residency suddenly made the experience much more real. I didn't even feel homesick until I got my residency letter. The sudden crushing homesickness that came upon me that day really tempered my excitement. I was desperate to find other people who might have felt the same thing.
Wow, that sounds really sad. How are you feeling now?
Plenty better. I've made some blogsphere friends which makes me feel more connected with my own experience, which sounds weird, but is the truth. And I've discovered that other expats are not a bunch of foreigners sitting around drinking heavily and wishing they were somewhere else, but a group of people who are working hard to fit in and adjust without loosing their identity.
Speaking of identity, who are you?
I am an archaeologist, a wife, a student, a cook, an expat, a foreigner, a woman, a frustrated foodie, a nerd, a feminist (in that I believe it is the right of every woman to decide what she wants to do with her life and if that means stay home and take care of the kids, then go ahead and do that), a liberal (although I am not sure what THAT means anymore, but I think it has something to do with universal health care), a bloger, a domestic goddess, a voter, an avid reader of anything in print, a human being.
That's quite a list.
Yeah, and I think that the older I get, the more labels I will have.
What labels would you like to see added in the next year?
That's a sneaky way of asking what I want to do after I finish my dissertation, isn't it?
You got me. But it's a bit more abstract, don't you think?
Yeah. Okay, I'd like to add: graduate, Doctor (not the medical kind so don't ask me about your weird rash), cat owner, [insert title of job here], and maybe even mother... but there's no rush for that last one.
I noticed that you have "domestic goddess" listed in your labels. How do you feel about that one... you seemed to flinch a bit at "domestic."
Yeah, I really don't like the term domestic. I'm not sure why. I think a bit of PTSD from that former marriage of mine. He used the term "domesticated" as if I was some sort of wild horse that had to be broken. I rebel against that image. It makes coming to terms with my domestic goddess skills rather difficult. I think that's why I like to add the term "goddess" to the domestic. I feel less like an indentured servant and a failure to my sex when I add goddess.
"Failure to your sex"? What the heck is that about?
My anger at the modern feminist movement that seems to push women to be everything all at once without the support of, heaven forfend, a man. Doesn't everyone need support of some kind? Is it so wrong to have support of someone who, through no fault of his own, is male? I feel this almost-guilt for getting married, wanting a child, cooking and cleaning, and not being completely career driven. I'd really like feminism to mean "the right of every woman to decide FOR HERSELF what she wants and the right of every woman to achieve that goal." Like I said above, that should include staying home with the kids, as long as that is what the woman wanted, or deciding to bypass children and go full-on career. Feminism should be like free speech, we need to support people in their rights even if we don't always agree with everything they're saying. I'm also supportive of men's rights, like the right to have time off after a new child enters your life. Equal rights. Freedom of choice. That's what I'm all about.
You are a woman with some strong opinions. You also work a lot in the Middle East, any opinions about Israel/Palestine?
Yes, but none of them are printable in polite society. In the US I am too pro-Palestine, in Denmark I am too pro-Israel. Does that help?
Not really. But let's move on. What do you think is your greatest accomplishment?
Uh, that one came out of left field! I feel that my greatest accomplishment will be if I finish this dissertation... but to date? Geez. Um. I think learning to cook from scratch. I could make Hamburger Helper and Campbell's Condensed Soups, but I pretty much failed at just about everything else. And learning to cook from scratch was something I had to do on my own. No one was there to tell me what to do and how to do it.
Is there any question that you would like to be asked?
My mind is still rolling around from that last question. Really, where did that question come from? Um, I'm out of questions for the moment, but maybe someone else has question ideas.
Right, well thank you for your time!
Sure, no problem. I really didn't want to spend that last hour reading Italian anyway.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Test Results

UPDATE: The test I took was the US Foreign Service Officer Test. Only 20% of those who take it pass it. I don't know how many people took the test this time, but I know that every test taking facility around the world (as well as in the US) was full.

The test results will not be sent for 8-10 weeks.

But I am fairly confident that I did not pass. "Oh," you say, "I'm sure you passed! You are so smart! And you manage to accomplish everything you put your mind to!"

And I say, that last sentence of yours is just bad grammar. Hah! I kill me!

Anyway, very kind of you to say so, but while I may be able to kick your ass in Trivial Pursuit, it doesn't mean that the general "job knowledge" section was made up of TP questions.

I can't tell you what questions were on the test, not only because it's not allowed, but because I can't really remember any of them. Which makes it difficult to look them up to see if I answered correctly. But there was a general feeling of, "oh, good lord, how am I supposed to know THAT!?" and "Erm, I think it could be this." And last night I awoke with a feeling that one of the questions should have been answered with C and not A. Not that I could remember the exact wording of either the question or any of the answers, I just think one of them was C, not A. Drat.

But many people have to take the test multiple times, so I'll be in good company when I try again. I know I rocked the English and Essay sections (despite the piss poor grammar used in this blog, I can recognize that it's bad and if you give me a choice of four options, I can chose the correct one). They felt right and I rocked the English study test portion earlier. The biographic questionnaire was probably the hardest (but wait, didn't you just say you bombed the general knowledge section? yes, but when you either know or don't know the answers, you can do your best and move on) because you have to really think about who you are, how you behave, and how others may think of you.

There is also the short answer bits that are very very SHORT. I have spent the last 4 years working on being more verbose with my written word (see, look how well I've progressed in THAT aspect) and now I have to be short and concise? Should have taken this test 5 years ago. When I was still getting complaints about the brevity of my sentences.

So how will I study for the next time I take the test? Watch more National Geography channel and less History. Continue reading the newspapers (which I'm going to do anyway because I like to be more informed about current events than my journalist husband). Take more personality tests (so that I get used to answering questions about myself) and think of short SHORT short answer examples for each of the questions. And ask my husband to tell me more of what he thinks I'm like. (Which will probably include things like "butt-head" for being more up on current events.)

I'm more "obscura camera" than "camera obscura."

It's snowing!! Not a lot, mind you, but still, big white puffy flakes come drifting down onto the balcony and I feel somehow... satisfied with Danish weather.

Moreover, the sun keeps bursting out from time to time to completely blind me and highlight the snowy bits. It's like that scene in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective when he illustrates the soundproof door. Door opens and you hear "Aaaaaaaaaaaah," door closes and silence. The sun comes out and Denmark sings "Aaaaaaaaaah," and then suddenly falls silent... until... right after you turn your light back on.... "Aaaaaaaaah!"

I really wish I was a camera person. I mean, I could probably go get the camera and wander outside and take some pictures. But while I can take great pictures of architectural elements close up, in good light, when I'm thinking about it, I am not good with the sweeping vistas. I'm also just not the kind of person who takes pictures. I will wander around holding a camera, looking at all kinds of wonderful things, and not take a single shot.

While we were in Copenhagen I also wished I was a camera person, because the architecture of Copenhagen is one of the most overlooked aspects of the city, I think. Much is made of Tivoli and certain famous buildings, like the round tower, but I find the best architecture is hidden on little streets, just out of sight. You turn the corner and BAM there is another example of this strange brick-built neo-gothic like structure. I don't have the correct names for the different styles and I certainly cannot date the buildings, but I like them. Almost all of Denmark is build of brick (no wonder Legos come from here) - but back in the days of yore, they used the brick to make little details, patterns, extra bits with no particular function other than decoration. I think it's utterly fantastic and I enjoy being driven through Copenhagen so that I can look UP at the buildings. (Obviously I can't look if I'm driving and if I'm walking, I really need to watch my step, klutz that I am, so I don't get to look up much either.)

Århus has completely different architecture. More timber frame and what I call "Georgian" although it can't be Georgian because that's only in Britain, where they had several King Georges. Less neo-gothic. Although, for all I know, the buildings in Copenhagen ARE original gothic.

Next time I go to Copenhagen, could someone PLEASE remind me to take a camera?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Good golly

We made it back from Copenhagen last night at 7. Not particularly late, but I was exhausted. I fell into bed and woke up today at 10 am. Fifteen hours of sleep!!

Whew!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Oh my ears and whiskers...

No, I'm not late for anything, but that is the refrain bouncing around inside my head. I have the most outrageous headache. If I had whiskers, they'd be hurtin'.

I take this as a sign that my head is full.

Anyway, despite the pounding (I'm starting to wonder if my left cerebrum is about to invade the right and what I feel are the war drums) I had an epiphany in the shower this morning.

Showers always lead to epiphanies. I would love to stay in the shower until the solutions for every problem I have presented themselves, but I worry that I'd never get out of the shower. The writers block that has prevented me from making any real progress in my dissertation lasted for DAYS. Talk about prune hands! I had the FSO test to study for, which thankfully led to a good excuse from not working on the THING for longer than an hour or so from time to time, but I still felt like I was running head first into a large plate glass window every time I even thought about IT. (Test is tomorrow... no, I am done studying, I'll only freak out if I try to pack anything else in my head. Rest and headache removal are the goals of today.)

So the problem remained. One section of one chapter was just NOT working. I approached the whole dissertation as a series of questions: the who, what, where, when, why, and how. The theory chapter deals specifically with the why, why something happened in a particular way and the rest of the dissertation is supposed to illustrate HOW. Question: Answer. Easy. Then there is the chapter I've been revising that includes the basic whats, wheres, whens and some of the hows, that the reader needs to have in order to get the major HOWS being shown in the rest of the work. But this one section would just not fit. I moved sentences around, wrote a bit of this and a bit of that. Moved it around. Deleted. I had sentences hanging out in a holding patter and paragraphs waiting to leave the gate. I think the section was a lot like Heathrow earlier this week.

And it hit me as I was in the shower, I was asking the wrong question. I was asking how silver functioned in society. Which I'd already answered in the theory chapter and was the basis for building my argument. And here I was asking it again. What the hell? So it's not the answer that is at fault, it is the question... what was I really trying to ask? After drying off and dressing myself, I rushed to the computer. (Water still in ears and no coffee, that's how crazy I've become!) Read what I'd written and realized I was trying to talk about how silver was displayed. In fact, by simply changing the word "function" to "display" in several sentences, suddenly the whole thing started to slide together. Paragraphs and sentences that would not align began to form coherent thought (unlike many of my blog posts).

By golly I think I've solved it!!

I may have also solved this headache thing... while I've been writing, I keep wandering into the kitchen and filching salami from the package. I have also developed this MAD hankering for brie. Salami and brie are very fatty and salty. I am obviously experiencing a lack in salt and fat (this is what happens when your last meal was muesli and yogurt, way too healthy), because every slice of salami I eat, the better my head feels.

At least that is the excuse I'm going to give my husband when he comes home to find me stuffing my face with salami wrapped brie slices, a bowl of popcorn and a coke.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Speaking of connectivity...

If you call me, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS FUZZY leave a FREAKIN' message after the FRAKKIN' beep!

Last night we were wrested from our sleep by the phone ringing... at 1:15 AM. Since only Americans will call at that time, either because they are confused about the time difference or because it's an emergency, I leapt out of bed and ran down the hall only to miss the call. Four rings is just not enough to make it out of bed and down the hall, through three closed doors, in the dark, to answer the phone. But this is why we have an answering machine. So that even if I bounce off walls, trying to hit non-existent light switches, fall over empty space, get turned around and grab the printer rather than the phone, and miss your call - I can call you back if it's important!

No, we don't have caller id on the land line. It wouldn't really matter, I'd still be running for the phone in the middle of the night. But, yes, I would then know who to yell at the next day.

So, groggy and completely discombobulated, we debated whether or not it was worth it to try calling everyone we knew who might be trying to reach us in case it was important. These are the things that happen to us when we're tired, we worry and then over think. We checked TWICE to see if a message had been left. Nope. I then checked my cell phone. Not that anyone uses it. *I* don't even use it most of the time. I routinely forget to turn it on or charge it. I only keep it around on the off chance that one day I have an assistant and I need to throw something at her head.

Anyway, we then checked the husband's phone, which is on silent at night because, hey we're sleeping here, and discovered three missed calls. No messages. The phone number was Danish, but not one we recognized.

Were we the victims of drunk dialers or did someone really want to get in touch with us?

Now we were very worried and confused. Or maybe more confused then worried. But very very tired. Eventually we decided that if was a REAL emergency, they would call back. I don't know about the Danish Boy but I had a few sleepless hours as I awaited the next call.

The next call came at 10:15 when I was in the bathroom.

CAN YOU BELIEVE THE LUCK!?!

And no, they didn't leave a message.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Connectivity

It suddenly occurred to me that while I am very contacted to the outside world in certain ways.... Facebook and this blog for one, I have no way to contact or be contacted by others that isn't in some way fraught with annoyances. I had two email addresses, one for my academic pursuits, which has such a tiny amount of space available I've had problems sending chapters of my dissertation to my advisor and on top of it has one of the world's worst spam blockers (keeps me from hearing from the people I want to hear from and yet still lets me know that for just $9.99 I too can make her weep with ecstasy), and the other is a very old account that I can't give to anyone without a ten minute explanation of an inside joke that only four people on this planet may get. I'm one of those people, by the way, so I spend a lot of time explaining.

What I need is a nice, inoffensive, completely reasonable email address that is accessible to everyone and is not going to embarrass me or, worse, no longer be effective once I graduate. (Which will be soon. I hope.) I think I've got it and I think I've posted it in such a way that I will not get attacked with spam. *Spam spam spam spam...* We'll see how it goes and if I manage not to forget my address or my password...

If you have an old email address, one that you have used right up until yesterday and it worked... it will keep working and I will keep using it to contact you, until I tell you otherwise.

:-)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Eat this!

In the midst of the things that I am reading is "Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands" by Morrison and Conaway. Apart from being a very useful book for businesspersons and diplomats, it is also all kinds of fun (if you are the kind of person who likes to hang out in the travel section of bookstores and read travel guides... which I am).

Proper eating decorum is mentioned under most of the entries, which is important because nothing shows how barbaric you are as your eating habits. I know this from personal experience. I am constantly getting pointed looks and remarks regarding how I handle a fork and knife. I try to fit in as best I can at a dinning table. I do not eat with my left hand in Muslim countries (which is considered the height of barbarity and amazingly difficult for me since I'm left handed) and in Denmark...

Well, here is the entry for utensil use in Denmark: "Danes hold their fork in their left hand, while their knife remains in the right."

That's it. You have no other options of how to eat here. The only time you put down your utensils is when you take a drink. Because I'm left handed and raised in a different culture, I have had to re-learn to eat and it is darned difficult. For me, it makes the most sense to have my fork in my right hand. But this is WRONG. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. And don't think it doesn't get pointed out to me. Frequently. I'm thinking I should tattoo "I'm left handed, PEOPLE! DEAL!" on my forehead. It's hard enough for me to eat with my right hand, asking me to arm it with a knife and attack food on my plate while seated next to people NOT wearing kevlar is reckless endangerment.

So now you may be wondering, as I did, what does this book say about how you properly dine in the US? And so I quote:
"The fork is usually held in the right hand (by right-handed people, in any case), and it is used for eating (or sometimes cutting) relatively soft food. If something substantial needs to be cut, the fork switches from the right to the left hand, and a knife is used in the right hand to cut a bite-sized portion. Then the knife is put down, and the fork switches back to the right hand to continue dining."

Ja, b*tches! I ain't no barbarian! I knows how to eats proper like!

Try to explain this to Danes is to try to tell the wind to change direction.
AG: In the US, it's considered rude and sometimes even threatening to continue to hold your knife throughout the meal.
Dane: Yes, but you have guns.

Whut?

Sometimes living in Denmark is to akin to living in a world of non sequiturs.

I'd like the world to know right now, that we think you all eat like a bunch of raving violent lunatics. We are much to nice to say anything to you about it. But we are laughing at you all the same.