December 1 Quickly finished my last essay for my history seminar. Morning began with yet more conversation in French. Not too structured but it is good practice. Our final history lecture turned into an argument over the causes and motivations of terrorism. Not exceedingly productive, but nothing wrong with it either, I guess. For the history seminar, we devoted an awful lot of time to the Oslo peace process. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't more discussion of the week's readings, but that's just the way things are. One interesting question brought up was what does one do about religion in history? Do we treat it as just any other sociopolitical movements? Do we ascribe it special significance? How much can we use religion to explain events? Heigh-ho. Did depressingly little with the evening.
December 2 French review started this morning. Whew. Forgot how much stuff we'd covered. Had a flute lesson which would have gone much better had one Charles Griffes not been so addicted to weird keys and weird accidentals. But that's neither here nor there. Flute choir in the evening went pretty well, and I even managed to get some work done in the evening, as well as my dinner. Began (seriously) reading my book on Iran for history class.
December 3 Up in time to miss the final math lecture but make it to French. Was supposed to present the relevant bits from chapter 6 for the benefit of the class (review), but we more or less ran out of time. Oh well. So ends my last class of the quarter. Returned to the dorm to do odds and ends. Lunch was at the Oval today. We picked up edibles at olives, then found benches amidst hordes of elementary school kids playing on the grass. Looked like fun! Most of the afternoon was devoted to preparing for Monday's history test. Decided that getting work done was all but impossible at the dorm, so went home for the night. Always nice to visit...
December 4 Very very cold weather. It's currently colder in Half Moon Bay than Chicago. It wasn't actually much colder than usual, it's just the weather never warmed up much throughout the day. We had the fire going in the living room, and by placing the wireless hub on a dresser in the middle room, I had perfect wireless connectivity from the dining table. Warmth and high-speed internet, what more can one ask for? Well, there was also the news journal that I was supposed to be keeping on current events for my history class. I'm a little behind. So today was pretty much all catch up.
December 5 First order of business was to finish my news journal, started yesterday, which I did in time for breakfast. The essay I wrote on that journal unfortunately took a lot longer. I finally gave up around dinner time. Either it's good enough, or it ain't, but I don't have time to worry about that any more. Started studying for the in-class essay (we were given the questions in advance, which helped some). I want sleep.
December 6 Up very early to drive back to Stanford, dump my laptop in my room, and run off to an 8:30AM final exam. Which meant writing two essays on Middle Eastern history, one on the 1953 coup in Iran, another on the latter half of the 20th century in the Middle East and its formative events. Three hours of writing was enough to give me a headache and a hand cramp. Had a good lunch, and did some studying for tomorrow, although I also dropped by Borders with friends, picking up Tariq Ali's "Bush in Babylon." The picture on the cover is truly a classic.
December 7 Because of the French exam at noon, I should have been studying all morning, not sleeping and cracking bad jokes. Still, the studying happened, as did the test, which everybody finished in about half the alotted time. Dropped by the Math department to get my major declaration all squared away. It's a pretty informal process, but having known the head of the department for a while couldn't have hurt.
December 8 No tests today. I've a nice comfy corner in the library where I've been studying up on math. And believe me, there's plenty to study, especially when you didn't make it to the last chapter of the text. And if the question is, how many ways are there to compute an integral around a simple closed contour with positive orientation, the answer is 'lots.' Exactly how many I hope to know by the time tomorrow's test rolls around.
December 9 Felt none too good getting up for my 8:30AM exam. By the time I'd finished, though, the adrenaline was pumping and I'd never been more awake. Had a flute lesson immediately after, followed by a quick visit to my advisor to discuss next quarter's classes. Finish one just in time to start the next, I guess. Spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and updating these pages.
December 10 The first day of winter vacation wasn't nearly so relaxed as it should have been. A quick jaunt down to the library for reading material for the break. An uneventful lunch with the draw group (last one of the quarter) at the Tree House. Dropping by my old dorm to return a book to a friend. Packing up to go home in the evening. Going to the music library in search of a libretto for Handel's Messiah. Going to the other side of campus for dinner. (Trying to) sing along in the Messiah singalong, having purchased a full libretto for only $8. Eventually, picking up stuff from the dorm and returning home. A somewhat exhausting combination, all in all.
December 11 Slept like a baby and didn't get up until 10. After breakfast, install more RAM and an (old) new hard drive in my server. Spent much of the afternoon trying to upgrade it to Fedora 2 over the net. Seems to work still (knock on wood). Listened to the radio, worked on the machine, and tried to keep warm (a cold day in HMB).
December 12 Decided to try and give the HP e-PC another go, but first, finish off the firewall on my server. Visited my cousin at Stanford in the afternoon, for a walk at the Arastradero reserve. Looks like the rain did a lot of good, because the whole place could hardly have been greener. Or muddier. Had trouble staying on the trail at some points (and not sliding off). Stopped at Fry's on the way home to pick up a surprisingly pricy USB 10/100 ethernet adapter. Miraculously, tried it at home after dinner, and it "just worked." Upgraded the e-PC to Fedora 2 as well.
December 13 Hopefully the last of the computer set-up days. As of this evening, the e-PC is running as firewall/router. Had to upgrade to Fedora 3 to get both ethernet interfaces working, but oh well. It also works as an iTunes music server, courtesy of daapd and a little tweaking of mDNSResponder. Which means my Linux box serves music to Macs and PCs only. Kinda funny. Most importantly, the e-PC is a lot quieter than its predecessor, the HP Kayak. Quiet is good. Anybody have a spare laptop handy?
December 14 Okay, so yesterday wasn't the last. Tried to straighten out cabling, get ssh happy with key exchanges, and clean my desk off. Which meant a lot of todos that got (sorta done). Still don't have all firefox plugins working right though.
December 15 Got together with a friend from high school who I'd not seen in a number of months. Looks like the world isn't all that different though. Went by Palo Alto for Christmas shopping related activities. In the afternoon, got ahold of a number of folks I hadn't heard from in quite awhile on AIM. Must be my day for catching up. Looks like everybody is moving on in the world: fortunately some of them are coming home too. Still, I don't like the sound of change...
December 16 Saw one of my favorite teachers from high school for breakfast. It was nice to catch up, although once the conversation veered into politics, it was impossible to steer it back to more pleasant topics. Oh well. Drove up to the high school to see some of my other former teachers. Surprisingly, ran into a friend who'd gone up for the same purpose. Small world. Seems like the high school's changed a lot though, I barely know any of the kids, and most of the teachers I took classes with are gone. The world moving along, I guess. Sigh. On a whim, went book shopping again. Almost got Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States" but realized I still have a lot of reading to get through first. About 30 books to be precise.
December 17 A warm cosy day cuddled up with my books. Today was mainly devoted to Tariq Ali's "Bush in Babylon: The Recolonization of Iraq." The book was a rather light examination of Iraq's tortuous history, especially the recent bits, but it was well documented, and Ali's prose is decidedly not targeted solely at academics, a very welcome fact.
December 18 Another day of books. Dealt with some extensive but rather scholarly works on Syria: Philip Khoury's "Syria and the French Mandate" and Hanna Batatu's "Syria's Peasantry, the Descendants of its Lesser Rural Notables, and Their Politics." While ostensibly interested primarily in the Arab Revolt of 1925, I became more than a little sidetracked, finding the story of the Ba'ath and Assad of particular interest, not to mention the religious practices of the Yazidis, Alawis and Druze.
December 19 Not feeling especially great today. But got up, had breakfast, and headed off for the afternoon flute choir concert. The hurry in which all this was done fortunately did not make me lose my stuff, but I did arrive a bit early having gotten the time wrong. The church still had a service going on in it, so we waited a fair bit. Somewhat unusually, on account of our numbers (29 at last count), we did not change position in between pieces. I think we sounded pretty good. Fun, anyways. Visited the book store looking for interesting items, and something on Set Theory, neither of which I found. Evening was pretty quiet.
December 20 Quite a busy day. A friend of mine got back from school over the weekend, so we got together and wandered over to Fry's. Was torn on the question of whether to get a WIFI USB adapter. Hmm... Had lunch and came home briefly. We were due for a Quiz Kid reunion (it has been awhile), but unfortunately not too many folks showed up. And the guy who initially suggested the evening as a good time to meet didn't make it either (I'm not naming names, V...). Still, enjoyed the pizza, the company, and the tasteless jokes. Went over to a friend's house afterwards and watched the game "Evil Genius" in action. Definitely appears to be my sort of game. Almost makes me wish I had a PC. Finally, we went bowling in Pacifica. I did quite decently in the first game (won). Yay.
December 21 Spent entirely too much time today on the web, doing miscellaneous things. Did manage to reconfigure a few utilities, and maybe even convince MS Word to stop crashing every time it finishes spell-checking a document. Rearranged my room for the umpteenth time, making enough space in the process to fit all my non-textbooks on bookshelves. Otherwise, stayed warm, and listened to Les Miserables (the musical) far too many times.
December 22 Over to Stanford today for errands, and to visit my cousin. Woke up a bit latish, so had to rush to get over in time. The bookstore was open, though the rest of campus was not. They refused to buy back my math book, which was kinda strange, since they're using that precise book next quarter. Picked up a goodly number of books for 3 history courses I hope to take. Then visited my cousin for lunch. Ate at the Mediterranean restaurant on California street (getting a little tired of that sort of food). He needed to do some food shopping (what with campus eateries being closed and all), so we dropped by Trader Joe's. Traffic in Menlo Park was just unbelievable. Gotta love Christmas shoppers. Since nobody else was interested, I didn't pop by the Weird Stuff Warehouse as planned. Came home in a someone irritated frame of mind, and almost managed to run out of gas in the process. Traffic didn't help.
December 23 Off to New York. Haven't woken up so early in quite a while. All packed, so just had breakfast and rushed off with my dad to his office. Seem to have a bad case of indigestion. Did a little reading, before going to lunch (which did not agree with me). Met some more HP folks (haven't been there in quite a while). Left for the airport (SFO) around 2PM. Got there well before 3, and managed to check in my bag with curbside checkin. The line at security pretty much didn't exist. Plane left pretty much on time, and I began my reading. Went through Camus' "The Stranger" which I found more than a little enigmatic. Oh well. Fathima Mernissi's "Dreams of Trespass" was almost as engaging, and a lot more palatable, exploring the issues of power, gender and space in Morocco, with an autobiographical twist. Arrived at JFK not much the worse for the wear. Met my grandparents, who drove me up to their home. Road construction extended the trip to about half an hour longer than should have been necessary.
December 24 First day in New York. I didn't wake up until noon. Unfortunately, I was the first one up. We had a nice leisurely afternoon: breakfast, chores, I did some flute practicing (for the first time in almost a week). Our reverie was interrupted when my grandmother remembered she needed to get someone a Christmas present. So off we rushed. Unfortunately directions were a bit vague, and once we got to the store, we found most of New York was already there. I love crowded parking lots where it takes 5 minutes just to go 20 feet. From there we went grocery shopping. Tried to temper my grandmother's initial impulse to buy everything within sight, but we still left with more food than I want to eat in a week. As expected, dinner was large. My appetite still needs work though. Was disappointed that the wild salmon was less chewy than regular salmon. Isn't salmon supposed to be chewy? Oh, and Merry Christmas, Mr. Tweedly. You're welcome, I am sure.
December 25 Christmas day. No celebrations though (for reasonably straightforward reasons, which I'll let you guess). Planned for the week ahead, in terms of events. It'll be a busy one. Unfortunately, a lot of the relatives seem to have come down with one or another illness, so I probably won't get the opportunity to see them. Otherwise, all seems quiet.
December 26 I am very proud of myself for having not discussed the Arab-Israeli conflict today. My grandmother's friends came up from the city to visit. We had a kosher lunch, and as expected politics and the world at large were a large part of the conversation. I also received a very enlightening description of the distinctions between Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaism (which on of our guests wryly summed up as "accepts none, some, and all of the Bible's teachings, respectively").
December 27 Most of today's productive energies went into clearing newly fallen snow from the driveway and my attempts to further make sense of the Arabic alphabet. Now I know why I like Farsi. The sounds are just plain easier. At any rate, I also spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get Taktakshvili's Sonata in order and went down to the Bronx so my grandfather could visit a dermatologist. Lunch was at a shockingly cheap Thai restaurant which was surprisingly empty. 4PM lunches are apparently rare. In the evening, we watched the Jimmy Cagney comedy "One-Two-Three." Things are bound to get bad when the daughter of a Coca-Cola exec from the south falls in love with an East German communist. A little crude perhaps, but the balloons, the rallies with massive pictures of the great leader (Khrushchev), and the pervasive corruption make it a film well-worth seeing, especially today.
December 28 After attending to various odds and ends in the morning, we went for a look around the area. Wound up at the Lyndhurst estate, walking through the newly fallen snow. Beautiful scenery there, as well as on the Hudson which we stopped by. Also cold. Quite. Cold. Had a quick dinner before rushing down to the city for a theatrical production of Kafka's "The Trial." Half an hour before the play started the theater was already mostly full. By the time it did start, a number of folks were sitting in the aisles. It proved to be well worth it (and not just because there was a pretty girl sitting one row in front of us). Joseph K's predicament proved sufficiently absurd that despite its tragedy one person even laughed during the performance. Overall an amazing, and somewhat exhausting performance, even for the audience.
December 29 Did not get up until rather late. Relaxed for most of the morning, reading, playing flute, arguing unpersuasively with my Arabic textbook. For the evening, we drove down to the city and met some old friends and relatives at a Turkish restaurant. Had a rather pleasant dinner, though we almost missed our concert afterwards on account of difficulty settling the bills. The concert was at Symphony Space featuring Mr. Peter Schickele, musicologist at the University of Southern North Dakota. He arrived late, of course, in a wheelchair, launched onto the stage by a nurse (all part of the show). Good fun for all, especially the 'pidgin-German' folk songs that he performed after initial introductions.
December 30 In the interest of making the most of my last full in day in NY, had a haircut, visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, saw relatives, and went to a concert at Avery Fisher Hall. The haircut left me lighter and colder, while the Met gave an interesting portrayal of Chinese art from 200-700AD. Their horse sculptures in particularly look quite contemporary. I discovered just how painful parallel parking can be if it is done wrong. The concert, which we walked down to (20 blocks) was completely full. Not a single empty seat that I could see. The New York Philharmonic did Rachmaninov's "Isle of the Dead", Prokofiev's "Piano Concerto No. 3" and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." The last was particularly remarkable, since it was not the usual Ravel orchestration, but one by Gorchakov. I've never heard trombones and tubas so loud as in the opening of "Bydlo."
December 31 Flying is so much fun. Well, sometimes. Repacking's pretty easy when you didn't bring much. Left with my grandparents for the airport around 1:30, got there around 2:15. Amazingly little traffic, especially for New York City. Was somewhat nonplussed after realizing I didn't know which terminal to go to (American Arilines has 2). Got sent to the international terminal, which turned out to be correct, even though Dallas is still (I believe) inside the U.S. Flight was slightly delayed, so I had a nice chat with the women sitting in the aisle seat of the row. Surprised to discover our flight wasn't even full. Landed in Dallas around 8, having read most of "Chain Reaction" (by Thomas and Mary Edsall), an interesting work describing the factors contributing to the rise of conservatism in America. From Dallas to San Francisco read Fouad Ajami's "The Arab Predicament." While rather pessimistic for my tastes, it does give a good picture of post-1967 Arab societies and the problems they face(d). Landed at SFO around 10PM local time. True to form, it rained all the way home. Had dinner immediately after 2005's arrival. Slept very well.