The Birds

I’ve never seen the movie The Birds in its entirety. I saw part of it on television once when I was a kid, but really the only thing I remember is a scene where a couple of people hide from a pack of crazed birds under an overturned boat in the water. To be honest, I don’t remember where in the movie this happens, or even how the scene ends. I must have been too scared by it and turned it off.  Those birds were intensely angry, dangerous, and blood-thirsty, and I think it’s scarier because I don’t even remember what made them so. While I’ve heard that it’s a good movie, and I actually have grown to like scary movies, I absolutely refuse to watch the movie now. Maybe I’ll watch it when the summer is over, but right now the film is too close to real life for comfort.

You see, in the past few weeks, I’ve had a massive bird problem. It’s nothing like the scale of the bird problem in Hitchcock’s Birds, but I’m worried it might be getting there. Right outside my apartment there is a tree whose branches are absolutely covered with little red berries. In this tree live about a hundred birds of all kinds– robins, cardinals, weird little black ones… you name it. They’re lovely to wake up to in the morning and lovely to listen to during the day.

The only problem is that these birds are absolutely psychotic. No, I’m not joking. I did say psychotic. And I mean it. Psychotic. What’s wrong with a few birds, you ask? What could these little bundles of berry-eating, song-bringing joy possibly do wrong? Oh, I don’t know. How about we start by figuring out why they keep kamikaze-style bombarding themselves into my window?

I have absolutely no idea what is going on, but these little guys have been crashing into my windows for the past two weeks and it’s starting to freak me out. Six– SIX– crashed into my living room windows yesterday alone. According to the internet, there are a few possible explanations as to why that might be happening, the most popular of which is that they see a reflection of the sky in the window and think the building isn’t actually there. But as far as I can tell, the internet doesn’t have anything to explain the other weird things some of these birds who have been doing, including the two yesterday who tried to land on my open window (who would want to land on the sky??) and the two who sat on the ledge outside my window for about fifteen minutes staring straight at me. Oh, yeah, not to mention the two I’ve caught today alone trying to peck their way through my window screens.

A screen capture from the movie, and also eerily how I imagine my relationship with these birds progressing.

Thank God this tree is behind my building or I would be afraid to walk outside. I doubt that these birds are actually going to peck me to death a la the Hitchcock film, but I’m too cautious to not consider it as a possibility. And that makes me smart, right? Not crazy? Because the last thing I would want is my brain to be pecked out by terrifying feathered stealth fliers. And unless The Birds secretly holds the key to calming my avian friends, I am going nowhere near it until the summer is over, my lease is up, and I am safely out of this apartment. I don’t need any more images fueling my bird-induced nightmares.

UPDATE 6/6: Thanks to BJ for suggesting the movie in the first place!

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The Right Start to Summer

Hello, hello! I have been absent again for quite a while. Finals are done, friends have graduated, and I am officially a senior in college, hoping someone will find a way to stop time for a bit– I am not at all ready to leave this place, yet. But summer has started and it is going to be a challenging, rewarding, and hopefully relaxing few months.

I’m living at school this summer in an apartment and commuting to the city for work. I didn’t find out about my job until late so I couldn’t deal with housing until late, either, which means that I’m living in an apartment all by myself. It’s nice having so much space and I am definitely learning to be self-sufficient, but it’s gotten a bit lonely at points. I have lots of friends here over the summer, though, so I am not, by any means, alone.

Last night my friend Raymond came over for dinner and we made fajitas. Raymond says he can’t cook but did an excellent job of chopping everything (and an even more excellent job of doing the dishes… which was STELLAR). Before I talk about the food, though, I have to mention our cooking soundtrack: Onda Vaga. They’re an Argentine band that reminds me fully of summer and I would highly recommend getting their CDs, especially when it’s warm and happy out.

I was an idiot and forgot to take pictures of our fajitas (and the leftovers in my fridge don’t look nearly as pretty as my plate did), but the marinade on the chicken was delicious and I would most definitely use it again. You can find the basic recipe here, though I made some small changes. In the marinade, I used a bit more cumin than was called for and a lot more lime juice. The recipe also tells you to marinate the chicken already sliced, but I was worried that cooking it in slices would dry it out. Instead, I cut the breasts into thinner chunks– sort of like thin breast pieces (I  got about three out of each breast)– to cook in the pan, and sliced them afterwards.  We added some sauteed onions and peppers, homemade guacamole, and homemade pico de gallo to the mix and we were set. Yum!

We topped it all off with this lovely grapefruit, thyme, and gin soda (minus the gin because Raymond had to drive home afterwards). Shh, don’t tell anyone… but I cut a few corners and this beverage was super easy to pull together. Trader Joe’s has ruby red grapefruit juice without sugar added, so I used some of that instead of fresh grapefruit juice. I also am not too keen on juicing limes, so I used some of the bottled stuff from the supermarket. The thyme syrup is incredibly easy to make, though, and I am so happy that the recipe he provides for it makes much more than you need for this soda– I’m planning to use it in just about anything and everything. It is so tasty! The one thing I was disappointed about is that the club soda lost its carbonation almost immediately, but I also wasn’t storing it in an appropriate bottle and the drink was delicious un-carbonated, as well. Basically, I was so pleased with it that I am planning to make it all summer long! Maybe next time we’ll try it with the gin and report back.

I’m preparing now to head home for Memorial Day weekend. We’re supposed to have a doozy of a heatwave here at school this weekend, and nothing says Memorial Day like swimming in a nice, chilly pool. Have a wonderful holiday weekend, everyone! Catch you next week.

The Cult of TOMS

My week in a word: Overwhelming.

In the past week, I’ve caught up with a friend I haven’t talked to in about three years, I’ve learned about a lot of cool music, and I’ve gotten extra-psyched for my college’s spring weekend. I made it through said spring weekend even though it rained and was cold, and I am mega sore from playing on so many gigantic blow-up obstacle-course-like things. My computer screen has died and then miraculously (and probably temporarily) come back from the dead. I have been excited, spectacularly happy, and confused. And I’ve made it out alive.

So much excitement, though, means that I am having the worst trouble concentrating. As some of you know, one of the things I absolutely love to do when I can’t concentrate is shop online, so I’ve been doing that quite a bit in the past few days. I don’t actually buy everything I shop for– I am a college student, after all– but I think it’s fun to look around and see what companies have to offer. It’s more like online window shopping, really, and the things I like the most are the things I come back to.

I somehow happened upon the TOMS website sometime late last week, and even though I was in full-out procrastination mode I was pretty surprised that I was even entertaining the idea of buying a pair of them. For all of you who are not as up to date on women’s (and men’s) fashion, TOMS is a company that sells espadrille-like shoes. For every pair someone buys, the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need.

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally all for helping the needy. I think it’s great, and it’s cool that a company that does such a great-sounding thing has been able to acquire such a following. But that following is also kind of the reason I’ve stayed away from them. It sounds awfully hipster of me now that I think about it, but the main reason I’ve stayed off the TOMS bandwagon for such a long time is that it seems too much like a cult for my liking.

What I mean by that is that TOMS seems to have amassed a group that blindly follows its trends. When you go to other store websites– or shop in stores, or hear things about them, etc– people react to the products they’re buying. Browse almost any website and you’ll find scores of people who either love what they’ve bought or hate it now that they’ve finally gotten it and tried it on. They give the product a rating and then detail what they liked and didn’t like about it. I actually pay attention to these reviews when reading something; I find them really helpful. And you bet that if I order something that doesn’t fit right, or immediately falls apart with use, I’m going to return it as soon as possible and leave a review saying why I did.

TOMS is not like these other, normal stores. It seems like the people who review their recent TOMS purchases are always giddily satisfied with their purchase, even when something with the product has gone disastrously wrong. There are reviews all over the site of women purchasing shoes that have a major defect– or, at least, they present it as such– and yet they are still magnificently happy with the shoe and want to recommend it to the entire shoe-loving world.

For example, one reviewer complained about their shoe sprouting a random “gaping hole” in its side “about an inch wide.” She claims that it “wasn’t obtained due to roughness” and just appeared in her shoe. If the hole wasn’t caused by rough treatment, how would it have spouted if not for a manufacturing defect? And yet the reviewer still gave the product a four-star rating. Another reviewer on another set of shoes complained that after the first day of wearing her new wedges, the rubber sole started peeling off. Instead of contacting the company like I think any other consumer would do, the reviewer gave the shoe a four-star rating and held onto them, saying that she was “hoping a little super glue” would fix the problem.

I just don’t understand why TOMS is so different. At any other company, if the product someone orders either isn’t what they expected or is defective in some way, they return it. They don’t go to the website and give a four-star rating to something that could have (should have?) been better, something that would have been rated on a higher scale somewhere else.

I don’t know. Maybe TOMS customers will give good reviews to just about anything as long as they’re slapped with a TOMS label. Or maybe the shoes actually are so comfortable that even if they fall apart, they are better than any normal shoe. I couldn’t tell you yet, but I might be able to soon. Who knows if finals week will drive me to finally join the cult of TOMS?

I haven’t felt this alive

So it turns out that being at school makes me a blogging bum. I can load up on excuses, I can apologize and beg for your readership again, or I can just get right back to it.

Before I jump into things fully, I have to mention that the title of this blog post comes from a song by Kishi Bashi, an incredible musician who I discovered at a concert a few weeks ago. The title is a line from his song Manchester, which is one of my favorites:

This song speaks strongly to what I want to write about. I just found this invigorating post on how awesome it is to be in my 20-somethings and it’s inspired me to get back on the horse and write. I’ve been sick for almost the past week and I’ve felt just like a gigantic lump on the face of the earth. I’ve been snotty and I’ve been exhausted, but now I’m invigorated to actually go out and do something with myself.

When I got back to the US my fencing coach told me, “Pay attention to how you feel right now. Right now, just back from being abroad, you feel alive. I can tell. In a few months, you’ll be back asleep like the rest of your teammates.”

And as much as I hate to say it, it’s true. When I was in Buenos Aires I treated every day like a gem. My experience there was timed; I only had a certain number of days, and I planned to make the most of them. I carried that attitude back with me to school and for the first couple of months I approached life with the same vigor.

Now though, I realize that I’ve lost a lot of what made me feel alive. I don’t feel special anymore. I feel like I’m slogging through whatever life I’ve set out for myself and I certainly don’t feel like every day is a new adventure.

This blog post– the one about how awesome it is to be in my 20-somethings– made me feel a bit of that spark again. It’s springtime. I’m performing a solo tomorrow night, I’m going to be in an art show this weekend, and I’m in the process of starting up a storefront where all of you lovely people can buy prints of my photos. I get to define who I am, what I do, and who I want to be. I get to make myself and my life and my choices freaking awesome. So I’m getting back to it.

A Letter in Limbo

Somehow, two of my four classes (in different disciplines) have recently started discussing language. We’ve talked about things like, where did language come from? How do reading things in different languages change our perceptions of certain novels? How does language– and where it comes from– serve to connect or disconnect us from the natural world?

As I’m sure you can imagine they’ve all been intellectually stimulating, seriously rewarding, blah blah blah. So when I woke up this morning thinking about language, of all things, I felt like I was making great connections to these discussions! I could contribute to the worldwide linguistics discourse! I could write a blog post!! Until I realized that in my half-sleep I was just ranting about the letter Y.

Apparently Y isn't even a vowel? Seriously, WTF is it??

But seriously, Y? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great letter. I suppose. I’ve actually never really thought about it until this morning, which I guess means that I don’t hate it or anything. Maybe I’m just a normal human being. But this morning I woke up incensed and confused. Why does Y get to be both a consonant AND a vowel? Not even I gets to be both things and it stands on its own as a word! It represents the self, for chrissake! What more important vowel is there in the english language?

I was mildly comforted by the fact that being both a consonant and a vowel could lead to some serious identity problems. And then, in my half-awake state, I began to feel sorry for the letter Y.  What if, all these years, kindergarten teachers had been fostering discrimination by denying Y a place as either a vowel or a consonant? What if Y never reaches its potential, and all because it doesn’t know where it fits in??

Then I woke up fully and realized that I needed to start going to bed at normal-people times again. Language is fun, but analyzing the alphabet is obviously not my forte.

Crazy Sunday

I’ve been back at school since Wednesday and have turned into a bit of a hermit. Except for Thursday, when I sat outside on the green and read for about three hours, fencing and dinner have been the only times I’ve left my room during the day. It makes sense that a person should live in their room at college, but I actually live here. I work here and I eat meals here in addition to the normal sleeping. Does that make me crazy?

Even if you thought the answer to that question is no, I think I am definitely a little crazy right now. Last night marked the end of the fencing season and I ended up being awake pretty late. Plus, as you know, everyone lost an hour of sleep last night (LAME), so I’m feeling mildly delirious today.

This does not bode well for my work today. Right now I’m sitting at my desk– the usual– and writing a resume… sort of. Honestly my brain is just kind of hobbling along like some lame gazelle that’s gonna be devoured by lions if it doesn’t disguise itself as a tree, or something.

Er… I’m not sure where I was going with that. See?? My brain is just making stuff up!! And it’s kind of weird. I just tried to take a mini snack break with this wonderful seaweed salad my mom got for me but all I could think while I was eating it was “SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE WHAT AM I ACTUALLY EATING” and got kind of freaked out at the whole thing and ate a cookie instead.

Add to this the stress of resume writing and you get the complete picture of a lost, crazy, tired college student sitting at her desk in the half-light (damn you, daylight savings). Can I just say that resumes are probably the most stressful things to write? They’re these tiny little things that are supposed to show potential employers your soul. Well, sort of. Because even though a Word doc can’t say everything about you, it’s still the piece of paper that decides whether or not you get hired. It’s a scary thought, that the dry yet informative words I write (and don’t write) determine who I am as a member of the workforce.

Maybe I’ll ignore work for a while and take a nap. That sounds irresponsible and conveniently like something I can blame on my brain. Yeahhh.

Spring Break

After a week of hard work and a long Saturday of sickness-inhibited fencing, I’m finally home for spring break and an enjoying some needed time with my family.

All week I had grand ideas of the post I was going to write when I got home, but all of that kind of evaporated when I woke up on Friday morning with an awful cold. It was the kind of cold that kept me up coughing on Thursday night and using all the tissues the library had available on Friday. By Saturday morning, the morning of our conference championships, this cold morphed into an ailment that made my head want to explode. My nose ran all day, my brain was clouded, and I used an entire, huge box of Kleenex. I’m upset with how I performed but honestly the end of the day couldn’t have come fast enough.

Now I’m home and enjoying my relaxation. Today I read the majority of a book– The Dew Breaker, which I highly recommend– and hung out with my mom. This is a relaxing blog post, yes, but I’m okay with that. I hope you are all finding time to relax even with the busy schedules I’m sure you all have, and I’m wishing all other college students relaxing and re-energizing breaks.

Featured: Inspire, Create

I’m procrastinating, as usual, and wanted to pop in to call your attention to this lovely new art blog my good friend Clara just started. She’s a wonderful painter and photographer and you should all check out her work!

Below is something she painted for me for my 21st birthday (click it to go to the page on her website):

Isn’t it wonderful? She has more art up on her site and has been uploading something new daily. Go show her some love!

Sometimes I Want to Disappear

This post is dedicated to Houdini by Foster the People. It’s so freaking catchy and I can’t get it out of my head—you should all most definitely give it a listen.

Speaking of music reviews, I’ve become a poster on a friend’s blog called More Than Just Techno—it’s a collaborative effort that aims to expose people to different types of electronic music. I haven’t been any better about posting over there than I have been over here, but hopefully now I’ll be able to write regular posts for both of my projects. I’ve written one music review so far of a song called Gold Dust (Flux Pavilion Remix), which you can find here.

But okay, enough linking. Phew. It’s starting to look like Wikipedia up in here.

It’s been another week for me here at school and I am still not really adjusting well to the sheer amount of work that I have. I haven’t even really had to turn a lot of things in, which is mostly what is getting me down. This morning (if you can still call noon morning, er) I sat down and arranged my schedule, finally putting all my due dates on my Google calendar. – As an aside, I’m OBSESSED with Google calendar. It helps me stay organized and I love to be able to actually see what I have to do.—But anyway, in organizing this I learned a couple of things.

One is that spring break is in two weeks. TWO WEEKS??? SERIOUSLY?? WHERE HAS THE SEMESTER GONE??  I still feel like I just got here. Having spring break be so soon makes me feel guilty about still adjusting to life back here in the US—how is it at all acceptable for me to still be adjusting halfway through the semester?! If I’ve been back at school for almost two full months now and am still not fully back into the swing of things, will I ever really readjust to it? Is the way I’m experiencing college now the way I’m going to experience it until I graduate?? What if I never become a normal US student again??

I mean, freakout aside, for all intents and purposes I actually am a normal US student. But something about it still feels like it doesn’t fit completely anymore, which is what’s scaring me a little bit.

The second thing I learned is that in the two weeks immediately following spring break, I will probably not be sleeping; this somehow is when all my midterm papers and projects are due. I’ve done weeks like this in the past. Hell, I’ve survived weeks way worse than this stretch and come out still fighting. But given my recent (lack of) ability to get anything done, I think I am understandably worried about my ability to get through these two weeks while still maintaining some shred of sanity. I am worried about my ability to get work done like I have never been worried about it in my life. I know I’m going to get through it, and I know I’m going to be alright, but gosh it is going to be tough.

I’ve also turned into a pansy in terms of sleeping. I used to be able to not sleep, no problem, and now that I’ve had a taste of what it’s like for my brain to function normally I’m not willing to give it up. So now that it’s after 2.00 am, dear readers, I’m calling it a night. Goodnight, all! Until next time.  🙂

Still alive, I promise! + news + pho

So… yes. I kind of dropped off the face of the planet for a while. For everyone who thought my plane might have disappeared in a Lost-esque situation on the way back from Argentina, I’m sorry to disappoint.

I like to tell myself that I haven’t been posting because I’ve been readjusting to living in the US. Which is true! Or, at least, was— while I’m still adjusting the recent truth is that I was not at all prepared for all the free time I don’t have now that I’m back at college. Seriously. I run from place to place to place and have so much stuff to do all the time and yet am somehow managing to sleep, which is a real-life miracle.

That’s not to say that I didn’t do work while I was in Argentina. I actually did a lot of reading, and one of my classes was even more challenging than some of the classes at my top-notch US college. The difference, I think, is that while I have more work here in the US I also have more activities. In Buenos Aires I would finish my work and then have time to hang out with my family or go out and explore. Here, I finish fencing practice, finish a capella practice, and then still have all my homework to do. All my time is taken up either by homework or other commitments, and that, I think, is what’s killing me. Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love everything I’m doing. I know that it’s just that I’ve had a taste of what free time can be like and am missing it now that I don’t have any, but it’s seriously getting me down.

Something that’s keeping me happy, though, is the new boy! I know, right? Surprise! The serial monogamist strikes again. But really, this boy is wonderful. He’s from my study abroad program, and even though that means it’s long-distance (womp, womp) he’s only a few hours away by train. So far I’ve been wonderfully happy and expect to be so for a while.  🙂

In other news… I’m back to being a suburb gal. The biggest difference between suburb and city is that here, everything is so spread out. Not that Buenos Aires wasn’t– as the seventh largest city in the world I would call it anything BUT that. I guess the difference is that it’s easier to get around in a city. A half-hour bus ride wasn’t so bad because the bus stops were generally no more than three blocks away. I walked briskly to the stop, waited for a little bit, and then got to do some reading or people-watching during my trip. Here, however, the train station is a ten-minute walk away, and even though the commute is the same old half hour, for some reason it feels completely different. I did get into the city today, though, which was a wonderful experience. My friend Brian took me to a Vietnamese restaurant for my first-ever pho, and believe me when I say that if you haven’t already tried it, YOU MUST!!! Seriously. See how delicious it looks??

Now take that deliciousness and multiply it by like a thousand. The base is broth with rice noodles, scallions, and paper-thin slices of beef. The beef starts cooking in the broth as soon as you get it, which is pretty cool and means that you get to eat it at exactly the right level of cooked-ness. Plus the sauces you can eat with it… mmm, the sauces. I’m so glad I went with Brian because he sure knows what he’s talking about. We rounded off the day with a lovely bubble tea experience, and then on the way out of the city I ended up on the same train as my fencing coach. Ha!

All in all, it’s been a pretty awesome day. And now I’m back (for realsies)! Which means that everyone has reason to celebrate.  😉