On the road to Oregon

I’m on my way to Portland via car and there’s a wee bit of ice on the ground. Which is to say an epic amount. Brother Bob and I have stopped at a motel in Salem.
On my first two days back in the states, I started my day by biking on the wrong side of the street. The first day, for a few blocks until I was confused by oncoming traffic. But returning to the customs of one’s birth are never confusing for long (except when they are (i love tautologies)) and I look forward to many days of biking to wrong way in England.

Today was my first time driving a car since last July and only the second time in the last year. But I’ve got several hours under my belt from today. Brother Bob is from Los Angeles and has no experience on ice. It’s truly an alarming situation when I am considered the more winterized driver.

This area hasn’t had a significant snow storm for the last 50 years and therefore: no plows. No salt. No sand. Just bare packed ice. The blizzard was days ago and as far as I can tell, there has been no effort to clear the roads. Oregon is some sort of asinine libertarian paradise, which means the state has no resources to deal with anything. And to enhance our freedom, it’s our own personal liberty whether to use snow chains or not. For x’s sake, I want a nanny state to tell me about how to most safely use the roads. If chains are required, a bloody sign of some sort would be nice. And I swear, nobody can drive here even under the best of circumstances, so a layer of bare, packed (un salted, un-sanded, un-gritted) ice on the freeway is not helping matters.
So despite being less than 50 miles from my destination, I am spending the night in a naff hotel in the naff town of Salem. Because it’s the capital of this low-tax utopia, it is probably worse off than any other town in the state, but it’s also the southern end of the ice. So hopefully, in the morning, I’ll be able to slowly roll to a place that has heard of the idea of snow plows.
The airport here has been closed. The Amtrak stopped. Greyhound, put to sleep. This actually the only way I could have come to see my family. And despite all the many wrong pronouns, I’m sure it will all be worth it.

I don’t want to be whiny, but

. . . but since I cut my zoloft dose in half a few days ago, I’m starting to experience negative emotions like a normal person. Er, yeah, only minor headaches from withdrawl, so that’s good. And in other health-related news – (I used to think that getting sent to hell would mean spending an eternity at a dinner party where the person next to you described all the minutiae of their health concerns in great detail. I hope my blog isn’t too much like that.) I went to SF yesterday to learn to give myself my own needle sticks. I was thinking maybe I could just look it up on wikipedia and try it that way. I mean, how hard can it be? Yeah. so the nurse showed me how to do it, but I didn’t do it myself at all. Actually, I was kind of freaking out when she jabbed me with the needle. She seems to think it will take me a few months before I’ll be able to do it. Alas and woe. Not only is it a pain to get in to the clinic, but I’m paying out of pocket for getting somebody to prick me.

In case you’re wondering how to give yourself an injection into a muscle . . . first wash your hands. Then swab off the top of the bottle containing the injectables. Draw some air into the needle. Stab the bottle with the needle. Push the air out into the bottle. Draw back (a lot) to suck the sesame oil into the needle. Stare at the needle as the oil slowly trickles in. Push up on the needle until the black plunger is even with the 1 ml line (or with whatever line you need). Flick at the needle to get out big air bubbles (these aren’t such a big deal when you’re trying not to hit a vein). Take the needle out of the bottle. Fine the “belly” of the target muscle. If you’re covered with freckles and moles, you can use these for navigation. Clean the spot with rubbing alcohol. Relax the muscle. No, really. Try exhaling. Relax it. Really. They tell me this is possible. Hold the needle perpendicular to the skin to be stabbed. Relax, damn it. Jab yourself. Stay relaxed (ha ha ha). Slowly push extremely thick oil out and into your muscle. When you push the plunger all the way down, the needle will suddenly (and somewhat painfully) retract. Put on a bandaid.
Yeah, so as soon as the needle stabbed me, I clenched up like a mofo. This is undesirable because it means that I won’t absorb as much and because it really smarts today. The needle starts tearing up my poor muscle when it’s all clenched. Ouch. Once every two weeks isn’t all that often. This isn’t overly traumatic or time consuming. Using the jell would probably be more hassle. But, alas, this is annoying.
Anyway, I went out for lunch today with an old friend. And when he asked “what’s new?” I took a deep breath and said, “not much, how about you?”
October 11th is National Coming out Day. Once, in the 90’s, I played a concert with the LGBT marching band on that day and the conductor gave a rousing speech about how everybody should come out. It was such a big deal in the 90’s! You don’t even know. But at some point, I just sort of, well, stopped. I haven’t come out in ages. I mean, it’s one of the advantages of being visibly queer. I can mention my girlfriend once and folks look at my wardrobe and then we all rely on common sense. So I’m not in the habit of coming out.
I got my haircut last night and I worked up the courage to tell my hair dresser and she squealed her delighted support. (I love San Francisco.) And then, I was at a bar after wussing out on my injection and I told a guy I know and he said, “really? That’s awesome!” (again, I love San Francisco.) And, I mean, it’s a big deal, but it’s cool and stuff. Like, I dunno, coming out always seemed so serious, like some sort of civic duty. I guess I could say to folks, “hey, I got a new girlfriend! She’s awesome!” and that might be coming out. And that’s more what this is like. So I get all worked up and don’t want to come out because it’s intimidating, when it should be more like having an awesome new girlfriend. But, alas, I’m still intimidated.
I called my brother today and asked if him if he was keeping up with this blog. Yep, he is. (Hi Paul.) On the one hand, it’s kind of impersonal, but on the other hand, it’s a really awkward conversation. Traditionally, people send letters, but that seems to dramatic. This is the 21st century. I think most folks might tend more towards being surprised than shocked. Writing a letter makes it seem more shocking and scandalous than merely surprising. Anyway, my brother was really cool, which is what I hoped for.
And I called my dad today and . . . we debated whether or not waterboarding is torture. And then my head exploded. I’m going to tell my dad in person. (My brother said, “doesn’t he read your blog too?” Um, I don’t think so?) Then I can hear his theory on the difference between the left and the right in America. He seems to be very pleased with the theory and wants to disclose it in person. It has something to do with evolutionary theory.
I still have no mail form my letting agent. I’m starting to suspect that I won’t be able to get on my booked flight back to England, since I still don’t have everything I need to apply for a visa and it’s less than a week form xmas.
It’s been raining like crazy and apparently, my building had construction defects related to the water proofing. So we just started getting those fixed, like, the day I got back here. This is not the best timing to be peeling the skin off the building, since it’s actually raining a lot. Predictably, it started leaking a couple of days ago. Today, the leak was fixed. And then it started raining again and now there’s more leaking. The water has punched a hole in the ceiling, which is dripping in earnest. And the plasterboard of the wall is getting all messed up.
Oh, yeah and when I tried to install Mac OS X 10.5, it said I had a bad master boot record and refused to mount my hard drive and then some files disappeared when I rebooted in 10.4 and I fear my hard drive might be dying again.
And xmas shopping? Barely started.
So yeah, my home, which I own, is leaking. I have to come out to my dad. And all of my friends who don’t read this blog. (BTW, if you’re reading this, you should feel empowered to tell people. I mean, I should probably tell my dad myself and also my godmother, but friends and acquaintances can gossip to their heart’s delight – just as if I had an awesome new girlfriend.) The conversation with my brother went really well, but was still stressful just to have it. I have to be able to stab myself in the leg while keeping it relaxed and have pain from failing to be relaxed last night. My immigration status is still in disarray. My computer’s broke (maybe), and I don’t know what to get you for xmas. And I wanted to whine a bit about these things: *whine* ok, thanks.
Um, on a more positive note, I had my second shot. There was a blog several months ago called “The Man Project” where the writer gave herself a dose of T and chronicled what the two weeks were like. My experience was very similar to hers. After two weeks, your body is still treating it like a one time fluke. The first sign of non-flukiness is zits. I started getting them in earnest on Sunday or Monday. (I know I said my voice was lower. One of my friends says the lower pitch is in my normal range for when I’m relaxed. So it’s only a sign of happiness, which is nice of it’s own right.) I’m all, like, happy to have zits. I bet the novelty of that won’t last overly long! Ha ha ha ha!

Severe Weather

Oh my gods, the wind is intense today. When I was home for xmas, I went biking in a major storm in CA. But what the Bay Area calls a major storm, The Hague calls “Tuesday.” The milder the climate, the wimpier the bicyclists. In Sweden, people go out in freezing rain on cobblestones. Although, practice helps with that. I can barely ride with a passenger on the back (normal here), let alone while holding an umbrella, in the wind (also normal here – yikes).

When I start feeling whiny about the wind, I remind myself that without the wind, there would be no Holland. A long time ago, somebody got the crazy idea to drain the sea and turn it into farm land. They went out in boats and just dumped sand bags overboard until they built up something of a levee. Then they put windmills up and pumped out the inland side. No windmills, no Netherlands. No wind, no windmills. Also, it’s a great source of alternative energy. So, it’s quite windy a lot of the time, but I try not to complain since they results have been good me.
Today, though, is kind of spectacular. While I was walking the dog this morning, roof tiles were blowing off the top of a nearby building. On the way to school, I felt like Mary Poppins. whee! The way back, the wind was against me and thus not so fun. Some of the other students reported that the trains were noticeably swaying in the wind and that when the storm peaked, the trains would probably stop running. On the way home, I was stopped at a red light and the wind overpowered my breaks. I’ve nearly been blown off my bike before, but never has it started rolling on it’s own. I got blown in front of a stopped car. I ended up sitting on the hood of it and pushing my bike out of the wind-tunnel-like area. The driver looked alarmed, but I was kind of amused. Anyway, the tall buildings around there were intensifying the gusts. Apparently, Xena got hailed on while out for her afternoon walk. Nicole says that the flag pole in the center is broken and may fall(!).
The peak of the storm was supposed to be right now, but I think it came and went with the hail. In other (possibly related) news, there was a weird smell around here this morning which the record shop owner said was gas. She closed her shop, saying the whole block might explode. Why was the gas company doing nothing??!! Uh, yeah. So I told Nicole to leave and went to school. The smell is gone now, so I guess it’s all ok.



AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Hurricane-force winds and rain lashed northern Europe on Thursday, disrupting air, rail and sea travel for thousands, toppling trees and construction cranes, and killing 11 people, including a 2-year-old boy crushed by a collapsed wall in London.
. . .
The Dutch traffic ministry urged motorists to avoid travel unless absolutely necessary, and several key routes were closed due to damage or floods. Those who ventured out on bicycles were knocked over by the winds — or in some cases, pushed backward.
. . .
A ship came loose from its moorings near Rotterdam and smashed an oil pipeline. The stench of oil reached The Hague, 20 miles away, Dutch media said.

Well, it wasn’t just me being blown around on the bike, although most of the bicyclists near me were doing much better than I was. Also, this explains why the energy company didn’t send any trucks or repair folks around. When I was in Connecticut, there was a hurricane centered to the south of the state. I could see the arms of the hurricane spiral spinning quickly overhead. There was intense wind and rain. It was less intense than today’s storm. Maybe this has something to do with the network outage at school. Amazingly, though, all the power is on (afaik).
Finally, global warming is scary.

Let it snow!

So it snowed last week some time. I think I posted about this. It was very exciting when it happened, but then it started turning to slush and was a lot less endearing. I was told that the best time to make a snowperson is when it’s kind of warm, but I had a bit too much stuff to do. then thursday, it rained and all the now went away, for which i was glad.

Had a final concert wed night (which a lot more people would have attended had there been any pre-concert publicity), then a presentation on La Koro sutro on thursday evening. the three most important things about that piece are just intonation, limitted pitch material in the gamelan and other instruments, modality and drones. I guess that’s four things. alas. I was concerned that i would get off track and start talking about musical instruments in the time of Joan of Arc, but I did not. It worked out well in that I ran out of time just as I ran out of things to say. Aaron said it was a good presentation. then friday, I emailed in my joan of arc paper. There was a massive campus-wide toner shortage. So I gave up trying to find a printer.
Spent most of yesterday sleeping, but also went to the African Drumming and Dance concert, in which Aaron was playing, as he was the drum TA. It was a groovy concert. Woke up today in the afternoon (*yawn*) and snow was coming down like crazy. While slush is a bummer, snow is really pretty. So I went out and shoveled some of the driveway. then went out later and got a saucer sled and went sledding with Aaron and his gf Zoe. We came in when it started to sleet. Little sharp chuncks of ice fall from the sky when it sleets. but a saucer sled makes excellent head protection. Made my first snow angel. There’s a hill (called Foss Hill) that overlooks the school baseball field. It’s a prime sledding spot.
An internet search reveals that there is a musical instrument museum at Yale. Of course, they won’t have any 15th century clairons, but I want to go see it. Angela is still in town. Aaron is leaving tonight after Dan St. Clair’s concert. Dan was the CA for the course I TAed. (CAs are undergrad TAs, fwiw) He’s doing installations. They’re super cool. He’s doing grad-level work and consequently, has the respect of the grad composers. I dunno when Dan is leaving. Most everyone is gone already and those that aren’t are leaving very soon.
No more pencils, etc. Maybe I’ll get a chance to make a snow person.

Still snowing

Went out last night and played with dog for a long time. Then wandered around with some undergrads and went and got some simulation of a soy hot chocolate at the town café. Tried throwing snowballs, but the snow was too dry. Also, apparently too dry for a snowperson. someone suggested snow angels, but it seemed cold. I missed both concerts I was going to go to.

Today, snow continues to fall. I dunno how much this stuff weighs, so I brushed it off the roof of my car. I might have to get Aaron at the train station tomorrow, so I’m hoping I can get somebody who has experience driving in snow to come with me, so s/he can warn me if I’m about to do something stupid.
I want to try to make a snowperson, but I’m supposed to do reasearch. The east coasters all seem to want to pat me on the head and send me on my way when I act amazed/confused. Except for the undergrads, since many undergrads are perpetually amazed/confused. I wish Christi were here.