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Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I had a pretty good birthday yesterday. Months ago, when I first realized that I would be here for my birthday, I resigned myself to the fact that it would be pretty underwhelming since we'd still all be in orientation and just getting to know one another. But birthdays came up last week sometime, and a few of my classmates remembered and passed the word around -- most people in my class wished me happy birthday at some point during the day, which was nice, if a little silly after a while.

Also, about 8 of us went out to Brewer's Art in honor of my birthday, where they bought me a couple drinks. When we got home, my housemate John and his girlfriend had bought some pizza and a birthday cake. Anyway, I was very impressed that anyone would want to do anything for my birthday considering that we all met a little more than a week ago.

Incidentally, it's Nina's birthday today (she's another first-year), and she's also turning 25, meaning she was born the day after me.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

'Lil Romeo says to stay in school

I went for a bike ride today (there are so many more hills here!), and saw an empty bag of 'Lil Romeo Rap Snacks laying on the sidewalk. New to me, but apparently they're "BAR-B-Quing With My Honey" flavor potato chips. And don't forget to stay in school. Awesome. Check the website -- they also come in Master P flavor!

In other news, Grizzly Man is quite something. Poignant, but not necessarily because he got eaten by a bear.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Nine of us did a service project today, mulching, raking and cleaning out junk at a large Outward Bound facility in Gwynn's Falls, a big park in west Baltimore. Doing some physical work was kinda nice. Here we are examing the largest slug I've ever seen:

Only Sarah (leaning over), Caroline (hand over mouth) and Diane (hand in pocket) are actually in my program -- the other two are other Outward Bound volunteers.

I later provided some token help to Annie and Ira in their move from Mount Vernon to their new place in Bolton Hill. We then got a beer and Ethiopian food, in that order.

Friday, August 26, 2005

This one's optimistic

Last night I saw two guys doing karaoke to Optimistic by Radiohead. They did the quasi-falsetto parts and everything. It wasn't I Will Survive, but it was pretty great. That was at The 13th Floor, which is a cool space on the, um, 13th floor of a grand old hotel north of downtown. The building is the tallest in that part of town, and it's on a bit of a hill, so the view of downtown and the rest of the city is impressive. Alysssa, a second-year at IPS, had convinced a few of us from IPS to go see a band that a couple of her friends from college are in. Surprisingly, it was actually pretty good -- intelligent rapping over jazz-inflected music. When combined with my enormous $3 glass of (crappy) wine, a nice evening. (I must admit that I've been doing a lot more drinking than normal this past week...)

A few of us went to see the Orioles play the A's this evening. The baseball was boring, but of course the point (yet again) was mostly to spend some time hanging out with our new classmates. I ate a "New York Style" hot dog that was completely submerged under piles of overbearing relish and sauerkraut.

My bike riding yesterday went smoothly enough. As a rule, the pavement is a lot worse here than in Minneapolis, which is weird considering how much harsher the weather is in MN. I tooled around to a couple neat neighborhood hardware stores in search of ant traps (they're in our kitchen) and those Command adhesive strips for putting up posters (no luck). I also picked up a couple tasty doughnuts at the decidedly old-school New System Bakery in Hampden. (This makes for exciting reading, I realize.)

No definitive word on a Research Assistant position yet, but I spoke with the assistant director of the program and she told me not to worry because she'd talked about it previously with this professor who's on vacation for a couple weeks right now.
Hopefully I'll get rolling with that soon.

It's been a good first week -- all signs are that I'm going to enjoy myself here. We'll see what I have to say once actual classes start.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


So the program has been underway since Monday. Some highlights:

It turns out that the "team building" Monday was something called "life mapping," which is just drawing a wordy diagram of major things in your life thus far. Seems dumb at first, but we then had to give 5-minute presentations to the group, and it was cool to hear everyone summarize their life and what had brought them here to this program.

We've only done about half of them so far. A lot of people have been working with various nonprofits, etc. A few have been working in Washington for Congress or other parts of the government. The oldest woman in our program has three kids, has taught high school in lots of unhospitable places, and was most recently working for the National Council of La Raza (yet she looks young and I didn't realize she was older until she told us, which is amazing). There's one woman from Japan and another from Peru. Most people graduated from college two to four years ago, with a few straight from school. There are 29 of us in total -- 6 men and 23 women. Yeah, yeah, I know. (But a surprisingly large number are married.)

Unexpected: James McBean, an accomplished fencer who was captain of our archrival team in high school, The Hopkins School, is in my class. I didn't realize this until he gave his presentation and talked about fencing. He went on to be a rival of my Olympic-caliber co-captain in their college years. He didn't remember me because I was a pretty mediocre fencer (my presumption, not his statement), but he was telling me that Matt really should be training for the 2008 Olympics because he'll still be young enough.

The math pre-test was rather frightening, with algebraic fractions inside square roots and that ugly sort of thing. But fortunately most of my classmates had also let a lot of that knowledge seep out of their ears since high school, so we're going over it all in "math camp" this week and next. This is boring but probably necessary. There's also a series of writing seminar classes, and individual sessions on a few other topics. The most immediate benefit of all this is that we're spending a lot of time together as a class getting to know each other. I've already recruited a couple people who want to go to rock shows. (LCD Soundsystem is coming in November, and there are a lot of shows in DC, but that's equivalent to going to Minneapolis from Carleton.)

The campus is nice -- brick walkways, stately buildings, greenery, etc. Since all the buildings are similar in style and the campus is larger than Carleton, I'm having more trouble getting oriented that I thought I might. Just got my student ID today, so I can get into everything now.

Tomorrow is a day off from "camp," so I'll be using it to do some urgent errands and take a bike ride for the first time since getting here, which is a little intimidating due to the more aggressive traffic and the potential to end up in a bad area. But it'll be good to bike, and I know it'll be less intimidating once I'm doing it. I'll probably take some pictures to post, too.

Monday, August 22, 2005


I'm in Baltimore.

This is a bit overwhelming, of course. First impressions:

House: Good, on the whole. It's not quite as well-maintained as I had hoped -- for instance, I've got a leaky/rotting window -- but it's got character, and I don't mean that solely as a euphemism. My room is a tad bigger that I had pictured. The common spaces downstairs are fairly nice, and we have a lot of furniture, courtesy of my housemates, all of whom moved their stuff in before I arrived. I will post some pictures soon.

Neighborhood/City: I can't get over how different this is from Minneapolis. Baltimore feels old for its age. It's denser, and the variations from neighborhood to neighborhood are dramatic and rapid. For example, two blocks east of here, it's considered a not-so-good neighborhood.

Housemates: They're pretty friendly. Jason and Sarah are the two other first-years, and they both live on the second floor along with me. Jason worked for Senator Lautenberg (of NJ) for a few years since graduating, and Sarah worked for a division of NY city government that investigates complaints against police. Jason likes to drink a lot and has a bar set up in our dining room, but I think it'll be okay.

I've only met April, who's in her second year, very briefly, but she's also friendly. John, who I met on my couple trips to Baltimore prior to this, has been away for the week. I think everyone's going to be back tonight.

I've been busy unpacking since arriving on Thursday (and fiddling with the ethernet, which hadn't been working), but I've also had the chance to get out and about a bit, which is making me a bit more comfortable with the city. Last evening I met up with Annie and Ira from Carleton. We went to a festival in Little Italy that I had heard about, and it was amusingly tiny, but there was good food and a couple entertaining things to watch, like elderly couples dancing colorfully to a band and a hotly contested bocce tournament. (So hotly contested, in fact, that a ten-minute argument broke out just before we left over a disputed call.) Afterwards, we sat at Donna's, a coffee bar, for a little while. I really enjoy their company, so I'm glad they're here.

Momentarily, Sarah, Jason and I are going to head off to our first day of Institute for Policy Studies (henceforth IPS) activities. We're starting off with two full weeks of orientation and refresher courses, which I hear from the second years is rather boring, but a good chance to get to know your classmates. Today there aren't even any classes, just a group breakfast, a "math pre-test," tour, and "team-building" (trust falls, perhaps?).

Anyway, this'll be the first time I meet most of my classmates, so it's at least exciting for that reason.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The road to Baltimore

We got off later than planned from Minneapolis yesterday -- a little before 2pm. (But lateness is expected in my family, so I don't think we did too bad.) We stayed in Portage, Indiana last night, and are now in Somerset, PA. A mostly uneventful drive thus far.

In the men's room of a restaurant off the Ohio turnpike, the plastic thingy that sits in the bottom of the urinal featured a picture of Osama bin Laden and read:

Stop Terrorism

Osama Bin Laden

Operation Enduring Freedom

Opponents of terrorism will be pleased to know that Osama got it right in the eye.

Tomorrow, Baltimore -- including seeing my house for the first time and meeting three out of four roommates for the first time.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


My parents are in town for a few days to help me move to Baltimore.

At my mother's insistence, we went to the Mall of America today. Not my favorite place, but they agreed to go via the bus/light rail, so that made it not so bad. They liked the train, which was gratifying. And they didn't get too freaked out about the guy sipping from a 40 in a paper bag in the seat in front of us on the 21 bus.

There was a Hummer parked inside the MoA that had been decked out as a Verizon Wireless promotional vehicle, with video screens and such. To accompany the footage of Jessica Simpson and other shiny happy people using their cell phones, it was blaring..."The Rat," by the Walkmen. Weird.

I saw this article in the NY Times about New Yorkers moving to Philly. Interesting enough, but this tangential tidbit is crying out for further explanation:

"Some 'can't give up their Brooklyn phone numbers,' said Heather Murphy Monteith, a dancer who runs a disco for toddlers."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bouncing baby blog

Moving away from most of my friends seems like as good a reason as any to start a blog. We'll see if I end up liking this or not -- I think I will, though.