Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Things I Secretly Miss About New York

Even though I politely declined, there is nothing like getting propositioned at the urinals at Therapy to boost your ego.

Ryan Does Rufus Does Judy

So, funny story - my mom felt really bad about missing my birthday and ordered a bunch of stuff from my Amazon list as a birthday present cum apology, and had a stack of CDs and books waiting when I got home in early December. And on the top of the pile was Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall, which I've been wanting for approximately forever. I immediately listened to it and gushed about how it was the best album ever and how madly in love I am with Rufus Wainwright and how it was going to be my soundtrack at the lakes, where I cloistered myself in a room with a very, very old-school CD player. (Incidentally, Rufus Wainwright covering Judy Garland is - like wine and waffles for dinner - something that my grandparents and I totally enjoyed together. It's another reason I think I'm ready to retire.)

And at some point, my mom gingerly said, "you know, I don't think that was one of the CDs I ordered," and I was like, "I'm going to pretend like you remembered what you bought me for my birthday and focus on the fact that this is the best album ever."

And then it turns out that Doug ordered it from the sidebar on my blog, and it was not, in fact, my mother. Oops.

So, two things:
1) Thanks, Doug, because I have listened to this album approximately ten thousand times, and it is AWESOME.
2) Doug knows me better than my own mother.

Monday, 29 December 2008


Mom: "I love movies like that, where you leave and you just want to learn more because you don't know what's fact and what's fiction."
Ryan: "Was there a man named Adolf Hitler?"
Dad: "We may never know."
Mom: "I'm never going to a movie with you two again."

The Oscar Goes To...

So it was not a huge year for the economy, democracy, peace, the environment, or human rights, but at least it wasn't a total bust. It's been a helluva year for disasters.

I'm Pretty Sure Most of December Did Not Happen

Before I left, I was like "oh noes, three weeks in Fargo is so much time in Fargo and this is why you should not book airfare while reading anything by William Least Heat Moon." That is one percent true. Tomorrow is my last day in Fargo, and it kind of feels like I did absolutely none of the things I meant to do while I was back. If I'm going to look on the bright side, I saw a bunch of people when I met up with Brady and Megan and a smattering of people from Shanley at the HoDo for the past two consecutive nights. (At the bar yesterday, I ran into a girl who I sort of had a crush on in junior high, who is totally chill and finishing her PhD in math and just as great as I remembered. What can I say, my twelve year old self had excellent taste.) If I'm going to be critical, I wrote precisely zero words of my thesis. Oops.

I guess I did read about a dozen books and finished that article that's been on my desk since April (yay!), but now I've got about twenty-four hours before I have to frantically throw all of my stuff into a suitcase, which somehow caught me by surprise despite the fact that Marcel and I scheduled this trip in like mid-July. I'm hoping that this will be the opposite of Fargo, and that all sorts of crazy awesome stuff will fall into my lap if I just avoid making any plans whatsoever and just nomadically wander across the East Coast running into people for ten days. It's only sort of sad that my plans for the trip basically revolve around being in Boston early enough to get oatmeal with cherries and walnuts at Hi-Rise. And that I've given this more thought than finding a place to sleep in New York.

(I've given up on learning to cook anything except breakfast foods, so I'm secretly hoping to convince Holly to tell me how they make it so I can add it to my repertoire for those subzero mornings when the college decides to arbitrarily shut off my heat. And since I've only got like ten days before I get back to Oxford (yay!!), this is actually sort of urgent.)

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Beep Beep

Ryan: "I'm a genius! I make the best waffles ever!"
Dad: "And you're humble, too."
Ryan: "I'm the total package!"

This may say something about the qualities I look for in a partner.

Friday, 26 December 2008

The Nightmare Before Christmas

I had to sleep on the couch at the lakes, and this means two things:

1) My spine will not be comfortably realigned until at least late January, and 2) I had the trippiest dream EVER. I don't remember the master narrative that tied all of these together, but I do remember being arrested for cocaine possession, getting into a fight with one of my ex-boyfriends, and running into my childhood neighbors, Cathy and Eugene, in a hotel as they were planning to leave for Mexico to star in a film set aboard a cruise ship. I know this because in the dream, I IMDB'd them in my suite after bumping into Eugene in the elevator. I'm not sure who encouraged me to be a drug mule, but I remember feeling bad about throwing away perfectly good cocaine and being arrested because of my thriftiness. I'm pretty sure it wasn't Eugene. It may have been Lee. At least, that would explain why I was so pissed off, although that might also have been because I think in the dream I found out that he was married to someone else when we were dating.

The moral of the story is that I should probably not drink coffee right before bed.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas, Dirty Girl Scout

We're off to the lakes tomorrow for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and that means two days of dial-up internet and shady cell phone reception and generalized wailing and gnashing of teeth. But! I finally submitted a paper on sexuality in international law that I've been working on for over a year and sent that off to a journal this afternoon, and I forgot what a pleasant person I can be when I haven't been agonizing over a paper for about eight months. (I've seen pregnancies that are shorter than this.)

But then we had our family's Christmas, which was kind of adorkable. We grilled chicken (for David and I) and porkchops (for the rest of the family) and camped out around the living room for a family dinner, then made coffee and unwrapped presents before diving into the madness of our extended family Christmases tomorrow and Thursday. My brother gave me this gorgeous watch that I kind of fell in love with at first sight, and my parents gave me slippers, a box painted with leftist slogans by this feminist artist in Chicago, and a semi-professional camera. (They know me too well.) I actually went through with the goat buying plan, which is maybe good because I tried to wrap the stuff I brought back from the Philippines and I've definitely gotten worse at wrapping since I was about twelve years old. It was pretty cute. And Kelly and Mike brought their significant others, and more importantly, their significant others brought gingerbread and it was crazy good.

Anyway, in our traditional family Christmas spirit, we all sort of sighed with contentment, and then David drove off to hang out with friends and my mom and I went to meet Brady for martinis. (I wanted something seasonal, so I ordered a Dirty Girl Scout with hazelnuts and mint. I was hoping it would taste like a Thin Mint, but it actually just tasted like minty booze. I would buy so many more Girl Scout cookies if they could patent this.)

And I got rid of the leftovers! I finally finished the last of the frozen stew, everyone divided up the rest of the mashed sweet potatoes, and I grabbed the other half of the grapefruit for a snack. I avoided the tofu because it turns out that it didn't agree with my sister and she spent most of yesterday night vomiting up the ginger marinated batch we made together. I was fine, so I refuse to take the blame for food poisoning her and have instead decided to blame my parents for not introducing her to soy products earlier in life. Meh, expanding your horizons hurts sometimes.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Amateur Night

My parents, David, and Mike all took off for dinner, leaving Kelly and me to our own devices. I had a bunch of leftover ingredients in the fridge, so we made ginger tofu and mashed sweet potatoes for dinner. The tofu was sweet and sour, but not in the striking a balance way so much as the garlic and grapefruit way. (We didn't have oranges, so I zested a grapefruit. I will never make that mistake again.) Luckily, the mashed sweet potatoes were amazing. And regardless, cooking with my little sister is a blast.
If nothing else, we get points for presentation?

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Great (Plains) Escape

Maybe I was just cracked out from judging rounds 5 and 6 - and having to evaluate cyborg feminism, a critique of proliferation discourse, and the merits of seeding algae - but I thought that being stuck in Minneapolis actually wasn't that bad. I wasn't on the schedule for round 7, so I crossed the skyway from the tournament to our hotel and went downstairs to the hotel gym, which would not be newsworthy except that it was my first opportunity to run since I suspended my gym membership on December 1st. (The only tragedy was that I dropped my iPod during a sprint, and it sort of fired across the room and died. Luckily, nobody else did.) I also finished Kenji Yoshino's Covering when I was on the elliptical, which is so, so good. It may be the first time that I've ever read a book and simultaneously had a crush on the author and wanted to be him when I grow up. Psychoanalyze that.

And then I went upstairs to shower and found a voicemail from my brother, who (surprise!) was flying from New York to Fargo and was told that he'd be stuck in Minneapolis overnight. After a lot of interfamily conferencing, my dad suggested that we rent a car and drive back together since the storm had died down since the afternoon, but that was impossible, so David somehow convinced my dad to drive down and pick him up instead. (I refused, partly because I wanted to hang out with people that night, partly because I felt obligated to help Melissa get the team back to Shanley, and partially on principle.)

I didn't have to judge the double octos, which officially freed me from judging the rest of the elim rounds, so I met up with David at our hotel and caught up after not seeing each other since April. Then Melissa stopped by, and then all the kids arrived, and then Megan called and we decided to walk down to Panera to meet Megan and her roommates.

Funnily, Panera is NOWHERE NEAR our hotel in the labyrinth that is the downtown skyway system, which somehow led us through the convention center, two parking garages, and the Hilton, where we had to shove through a mob of people waiting for the Minnesota Vikings to arrive for the night. We finally just gave up and walked outside, where it was cold enough that they probably should have cancelled Holidazzle like they did tonight. Luckily, we totally watched the parade on Friday, and watched everyone prepping for it inside the Hyatt on Saturday. It was almost as fun as when Melissa and I went to the National Cowboy Museum in Norman, Oklahoma, or when we toured the USS Constitution in Boston. You could take Melissa to jury duty and she'd make it awesome. At the parade, we saw a terrifying wagon train of children dressed as animals that looked almost exactly like the scene where Danny DeVito kidnaps of all the children in Gotham City in Batman Returns, which became even funnier when the tiny cow and tiny giraffe started beating the shit out of each other in the middle of the parade. We almost hijacked the Twinkle Bus because we thought it would handle the blizzard better than our minivan, but decided that a bus covered in blinking lights and snowflake spinners might be a little too conspicuous for a stolen vehicle.

We eventually made it to Panera, and had approximately thirty minutes to catch up with Megan before the restaurant closed and everyone parted ways. David and I ran across the street to meet my dad, and then my aunt drove over from her place in Minneapolis and we caught up before David and my dad had to zip back to Fargo. Jean and I decided to stay and order another round, and eventually ended up closing down the restaurant. Yay! (This is what happens when your aunt is cooler than you are.)

Shanley requires that coaches take the kids to church on Sundays, so Melissa did that in the morning. I'm pretty sure that doesn't apply to judges that are chaperoning on the side, so I found a Caribou and got coffee and read updates on the recount before meeting everyone back at the hotel, loading up the van, and driving back to Fargo. I thought staying an extra night was actually kind of nice, but this might be because I didn't have to grip the steering wheel with white knuckles for five hours, tensing up every time we passed one of the two dozen cars that had slid into the ditch or hit the median. My job was to switch out the CDs and to skip any songs that might be considered inappropriate, and to occasionally pass Swedish Fish and Chex Mix to the kids in the back. Whatevs, I did it well.

Saturday, 20 December 2008


Ha, it's blizzarding all the way from Minneapolis to Fargo and we're stranded in the Twin Cities until at least tomorrow morning. Being held hostage by nature on a regular basis is one of the things I emphatically do not miss at Oxford. (That said, there are worse things than being stranded in downtown Minneapolis. I'm hijacking this wireless to set up mojitos with my aunt tonight.)

Friday, 19 December 2008

Recipe For Disaster

Wake up at 5am after getting five hours of sleep. Roadtrip to Minneapolis. Judge four debate rounds decided by the feasibility of binding consultation with Japan, solar powered satellites, Dostoyevsky, threat construction, weighing nuclear winter and mass suicide against the ontological effects of racism, the definition of the phrase "US federal government," Nietzsche, and the future of high-speed electric rail. Go out for dinner with your friend and her five students at the Somali place on Nicollet that is now Indonesian, but opt for the Indian place next door instead.

At the crack of dawn, repeat.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

In Which I Literally Colonize My Tastes on My Family

My stew was kind of a bust (it was delicious and I had leftovers for lunch, but nobody else has been willing to eat it), but I just made vegan peanut butter pancakes for dinner and they were an unqualified success. It's about the easiest recipe ever - I doubled the ingredients, added a tablespoon of vanilla, and used chunky peanut butter, and they turned out really well. And that's saying a lot, because I have a penchant for lighting pans on fire and almost food poisoning myself. My mom and Kelly were sports about it, but I waited to tell my dad that they were vegan until after he'd already eaten his pancake. I didn't want to wreck it.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Mentors, 2.0

You know what's great? Chatting with your influential coaches and teachers from high school and realizing that they're working on helping to implement the Millennium Development Goals, or that they've thought extensively about the ways that Foucault and Habermas theorized grassroots mobilization. I'm kind of retroactively mad at my seventeen year old self for wasting all my time with these people talking about counterplans and verb conjugations.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Liveblogging Dinner

6:44pm: I just spent $14 on vegetables for this vegan stew that I arbitrarily decided that I needed to make tonight. (Plus tofu and sweet potatoes, because you can never have too much tofu or sweet potatoes.) I miss Sainsbury's Basic.
6:46pm: My parents started drinking wine since the last time I was home. I don't think they'll miss a bottle.
6:49pm: Dear Scooby, I am so, so sorry I just dropped that piece of onion on the floor. Please do not call the ASPCA.
6:55pm: Liz Phair, you are pretty terrible as a vegan stew soundtrack. You're up, Kimya Dawson!
6:59pm: Are turnips supposed to be encased in wax? Will I survive this dinner? Stay tuned!
7:04pm: I'm so glad my parents got on the wine bandwagon.
7:08pm: I'm either the slowest person ever or this requires a freakish amount of dicing.
7:11pm: My turnips are also waxed. Now I'm embarrassed because maybe this is a thing.
7:17pm: I just reread the recipe for this stew, and everyone's like "it's bland, add all this random stuff." I just put peanut butter in my stew. This is going to be a $14 disaster.
7:18pm: Lucy just peed on the floor and I stepped in it. I wish she had eaten the onion instead of Scooby.
7:23pm: The riesling helps. (So did a lot of soap.)
7:25pm: I just put cinnamon and ginger in this stew. I'm going to get arrested by the food police. Also, I'm getting hungry, and I still have at least 30 minutes of cooking time left. I should have made peanut butter and jelly.
7:40pm: Does anyone remember what movie features the phrase "culinary abortion"?
7:44pm: I just tasted it, and a) adding crushed red pepper to the thai curry sauce I'm stewing it in was a mistake, and it burns, and b) it also burns when you're so startled at its spiciness that you spill it down the front of your shirt and jeans. The total cost of this dinner is now $14 and my fertility.

Whoa, this is actually not that bad. I'm going to take my stew and watch old episodes of Daria now.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Ducking the Shoe

I said this earlier, but I hope "ducking the shoe" becomes slang in the same way that "Katherine Harris crazy" did. I'm not plugged in enough to keep up with actual slang, so peripherally popular political slang is about all I've got.

Like Brother, Like Sister

"I think I might be OCD. Or CDO. I like it better that way because it's alphabetical, the way it should be."
- Kelly, at dinner tonight

Friday, 12 December 2008

Tundra: 1, Ryan: 0

Well, it looks like my retreat is being cut short and I'm driving back in the morning to beat the blizzard that's sweeping western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota tomorrow night. I didn't really write anything, but I did read all of The Trouble With Normal, No Future, Global Sex, and Filipino Social Organization, so that's an accomplishment. (I also introduced my grandpa to couscous and helped my grandma decorate the Christmas tree for the first time in about eighteen years, which are accomplishments of a different kind. Like, they're awesomer.)

I was just about to type that it'll be nice to have wifi again, but then my grandpa walked into the office and plunked down a glass of Bailey's. So scratch that, I have zero desire to cut this short.

Adventures in Retirement

My grandparents had to go into Detroit Lakes to run errands yesterday, so I rode along to pick up groceries, prescriptions, and sunflower seeds for a pair of cardinals that are toughing out the winter in the tree outside the kitchen window. We also made a detour to the thrift store, where I picked up a copy of Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat for my thesis, a hardcover copy of the Phantom Tollbooth for old times' sake, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and Nadine Gordimer's July's People and the House Gun, which I've been meaning to read. Everything together cost $3.50, and I was really, really tempted to whip out the $20 in my wallet and buy up all three copies of one of Rush Limbaugh's books, one of Ann Coulter's older books, the lone copy of the Broken Hearth, and a bunch of stuff by William F. Buckley just to keep them from falling into the hands of swing voters. (It wouldn't have been wasteful; my grandparents mostly heat the cabin with a wood-burning fireplace.) Instead, I took my grandparents for coffee and cookies at the diner down the street.

The moral of the story is that yesterday, I realized that I'm basically ready to retire. I think I have like forty productive years left, though.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Why I Love My (Extended) Family

I'm staying with my grandparents for a few days to work on my thesis. Not only does my grandpa keep two full thermoses of decaf and regular coffee in the kitchen at all times, but yesterday, we had boxed red wine and waffles for dinner, and then talked about UFOs and the Bible and whether Condoleeza Rice is evil or tragic.

I think this explains a lot.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Why I Love My Family

"It's not just that you faked an email from me. It's that now everyone thinks I don't know how to spell 'migraine.'"

- Mom, chewing out my younger brother at the breakfast table this morning

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Back in the 701

- My mom is on a health food kick, which means that we have a fridge full of mangoes and soy milk. For someone who subsists entirely on the same grocery list of muesli, soup, and bulk vegetables for eight weeks at a time, this is amazing. I just ate so much Life with soy milk that I'm in pain and it feels awesome.
- We have a new labradoodle named Lucy, and I feel like I should dislike her because a) she's a designer dog, b) she replaced Elliott, my dog who I've had since the fourth grade, and c) I hate change. But I have to admit that she's kind of pretty fucking cute.
- I got my driver's license renewed. I don't look like a serial killer on my license anymore, but instead I look like I spent a night in a Holiday Inn in Queens without a razor, shaving cream, my contacts, or hair product. I figure that if I ever get pulled over for anything serious, I'll probably look about that terrible anyway.
- My sister somehow grew up over the past year. She's almost as tall as me, and it appears that she's better at algebra than I am.
- I just spent an hour dorking out in my library (by which I mean my closet, which contains zero clothes) over all the books I have to read over the next twenty days because they won't fit in my suitcases. Who's up for binge-reading Habermas? Nobody? Fine.
- I'm already out of things to do in Fargo without Brady, Natalia, Megan, David, or anyone else around. I think I'm going to hole up at my grandparent's cabin in rural Minnesota tomorrow afternoon and stay until Kelly's concert on Sunday, and will hopefully get a ton of work done in the absence of cell service and broadband internet. Just me, grandma, grandpa, and Habermas. It's like a postmodern Nativity!

Monday, 8 December 2008

This Episode Brought to You By British Airways, JFK, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Space-Time Continuum

The upside to bombastic end-of-term parties with friends and watching both seasons of Pushing Daisies and being all cute by cooking banana pancakes from scratch for dinner while listening to Jack Johnson's Banana Pancakes on a loop is that all of these things are categorically wonderful. The downside is sleep debt, especially when it catches up with you the morning of a transatlantic flight. I kind of overslept my alarm by two hours this morning. (It wouldn't have been so bad, but I had to write my letter of intent to request a funding extention for a doctorate and that's not something you want to do under extreme duress. In retrospect, I don't remember writing an address on the outside of the envelope before putting it in the mail. That worries me a little.)

So I raced to Heathrow and made my flight, which was pretty uneventful (with the possible exception of finally watching Mamma Mia, which is the oddest, trippiest film I've seen all year - and not really in a good way, but in a disturbing, what-was-everyone-involved-with-this-possibly-thinking kind of way. Coming from me, that's a very strong statement.) But then we arrived at JFK and sat. And sat. And sat. And I had already sort of figured that ninety minutes wasn't that much time to get through immigration and customs, take the train from Terminal 7 to Terminal 4, recheck my bags and get my boarding pass, go through security, and catch my flight to Minneapolis, but forty-five minutes definitely wasn't enough. You might remember that this happened at JFK last year, and I made a deal with the ticket agent and promised to sprint through the airport and I awesomely made my flight. This year, the ticket agent shook his head really sadly and sent me back to Terminal 7 with a boarding pass for tomorrow morning in my fist.

I'd have liked to stay in Oxford for another week or so, but if I'm going to leave, I'd much rather actually make it back to Fargo than be stuck in an airport Holiday Inn in Queens. I was exhausted and kind of cranky, but the two staffers at the British Airways counter were so friendly that I consciously decided to flash a megawatt smile and not take them down with me. (When I got there, one of them was like, "this'll just take a minute if you want to go outside and smoke or anything," and then the other chastised her for encouraging me to smoke. And it somehow ended with me promising not to start smoking because she was the kind of person you couldn't argue with.) They looked at my boarding pass and were like, "Fargo! New York is a long way from Minnesota," and I was like, ...that is both true and false? and then they talked about other cities they knew in Minnesota, and mentioned the Mall of America and Mary Tyler Moore and I almost asked if they wanted to have a sleepover at the hotel we were booking.

And I don't know if it was because I told them to have a nice night or what, but as I was leaving, Pamela was like, "hold up, Ryan, you get dinner!" and I got a dinner voucher for my hotel. And it was $38.

So after standing out in the freezing cold with my bags and catching a shuttle, I ended up at the Holiday Inn, which is like a mini-vacation to the early 1980s. I do get free wifi, though, so I abused that for a bit before racking up a $36 dinner bill courtesy of British Airways. (It sounds more impressive than it was, since my Cajun salmon salad was $17 and the sorbet that I convinced them to put in a styrofoam cup so I could eat it in bed while watching Lifetime was $9. Everything about this scenario is amazing, except the shuttle that I have to take at 5:30 for my flight to Minneapolis at 8. Ick.)

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Ryan, Out!

"We all have ways of coping. I use sex and awesomeness."
- Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock

This week has been insanely busy - not so much in actual commitments, but in terms of pulling books from the library, writing up chapters and papers, and scheduling last-minute cups of coffee with people that I probably should have taken care of in, oh, the first seven weeks of the term. But it's suddenly done, which means that I'm just obsessing about all the books I can't carry back to the US and trying to find a vegetarian entree recipe that is both a) impressive and b) very difficult to fuck up for a potluck on Sunday. (Accidentally food poisoning somebody's entire house is not the best way to make a good impression, apparently.)

Also, I guess I'm flying back to Fargo in like T minus 48 hours? I'm in denial and trying to convince myself that this is not actually true, which is why I'll probably start packing at midnight on Sunday. (I plan to yell "Ryan, out!" as many times as possible until then.)

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Best Day Ever, Worst Day Ever

Within five minutes of each other, I got two text messages:

- The Nouvelle Vague show on December 7th is postponed indefinitely.
- I don't have chlamydia.

I'm going to go ahead and say I come out ahead on this one.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Where Are They Now?

Just before I left for Oxford, I had dinner with Susan Rice, two scholars from her year from North and South Dakota (represent!), and a couple of the other scholars from my year. A little over a year later, she was just picked as Obama's ambassador to the United Nations, and I'm up in my freezing turret wrapped in two sweaters with my hair sticking up on one side of my head, running on four hours of sleep, six cups of coffee, and a looping Liz Phair playlist while trying to finish this chapter on transnational social movements. As much as I'm a catastrophe right now, I guess it's not every day that I scan the headlines in the New York Times after an all-nighter and see a story that's like, see? if you kick ass and take names, you can be like Susan Rice when you grow up.

(Or you can be like John Bolton and throw staplers at people and still be UN ambassador, I guess, but I'm trying to channel this productively. And I don't own a stapler.)