Life of Megan

Monday, February 28, 2005

Nextel, I shake my fist at you

My big complaint with Nextel has always been its bill turn-around time. They issue the statements mid-month, and they're actually due at the end of the month. This means that by the time you receive a statement in the mail, you have about 5 days before it's due. I think this policy was started to encourage people to have their bills paid automatically and to pay online.

I do pay online, and I haven't really had any trouble with it until today. I got my Nextel statement on Thursday. I figured it would be due around Tuesday, so I opened it Sunday evening (having been busy this weekend), and discovered that it was due that day. I tried to pay online, and the site is undergoing maintenance, so I can't. Frustrated and frantic about late fees and credit ratings, I rifled through the bill looking for a late fees policy and noticed that one won't be charged for another 15 days.

Why don't they just say the bill is due on March 15 like a normal company, rather than having this extra grace period? Will this affect my credit? What affects credit ratings in the first place? Why wasn't I taught these things along with the rest of account management when I was in second grade?


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Weekly wine update: Loire and Alsace

I loved Angers and the Loire Valley as a whole when I was in France. The cities were beautiful. The chateaux were gorgeous to view from afar and even more fun to tour. The food was delicious. My only problem with the region was its wines. Dr. Bednar took us on a really nice winery tour, and we got to go in depth in one winery, seeing the big casks and everything. There we were, drinking some of the "nicest" white wines in the world, and I would have preferred to add vodka to maple syrup or honey. The wine was just too sweet for me. My wine preferences have remained unchanged these past four years (though I am learning to like some whites), and today, I still found the nice Vouvray we tried cloyingly sweet. Euw.

I only got to see Alsace for two days, and I was there for the Strasbourg Christmas market. This was a nice experience, but the only wine I tried there was "vin chaud" or "gluehwin." That's essentially mulled wine. It's delicious, but more of a winter specialty than a regional thing (as far as I know). The wines we tried from Alsace were better than those of the Loire (and the Gewurztraminer wasn't bad), but they were still too sweet. :-(

Today's highlight was from the Loire, though. Chinon. A tasty red made from Cabernet Franc. Be warned if you're using me as a guide though. What I liked was exactly the opposite of most people.

Next week is Spain (mmm... Rioja) and Portugal (not sure how I'll deal with the sweetness).

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Snow words and language

To my credit, I never claimed the Inuit have *hundreds* of words for snow. I just said many. I've heard the urban legend, but I was mainly just assuming that they would be able to express, in a single word, that small, dry flakes are falling quickly and densely. And it seems that I'm right about that. I think a major problem with English is that we can't just create new words. I can't express in one word how the snow is falling unless I invent a word describing the phenomenon. Then I have to make my word really popular, so that it's included in a dictionary. That's a lot of work. A German or an Inuit can just string some words together into one word, and the other Germans or Inuits will know what he means. That's powerful. That also seems faster than needing conjunctions and the like to make the description sound half-decent.

Anyhow, I was trying to read up on Inuit words for snow, which has been challenging since I don't know anything about linguistics, and I came upon an article about how to count Yu'pik words for snow, which ended by listing snow-related lexemes. They seem to have several useful ones, so I think I'll be using those to refer to corresponding types of snow as soon as I figure out how I want to pronounce them. Right now, fine snow particles are falling. Kanevvluk.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Snow and updates

Jud and Mike content that when they see "the literature" cited, they think not of a place, but of a very large book containing all the knowledge about one subject in a searchable, easy to read format.

I am beginning to understand why the inuit have so many words for snow. I have observed more than five distinguishable varieties of falling snow and a number of varieties of fallen snow, and I think these types should have names so that long lists of adjectives are unnecessary. I read a lot of Hemmingway during my formative writing years, and, consequently, I like to use descriptive nouns and verbs rather than descriptive modifiers.

The following are types of falling snow I've observed. Flake size ranges from tiny (individual flakes) to large (clumpy).
  • Slow-falling snow
  • Floaty snow
  • Fast-falling snow
  • Pouring snow
Once the snow is on the ground, we have:
  • Powder
  • Packed powder
  • Granular (Crud)
  • Crust
  • Slush
I found a fascinating web site about snowflakes from CalTech. I think my research group could actually gain something from their work.

And now I'm going to be late to class, so I'll go ahead and post this. Later!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Foxy wine, news, and rambling

First, I am disappointed to announce that the numbered door inside the women's bathroom in Snee Hall (room 1021A) is locked. Today I detected a hint of bleach wafting under the doors, so I think it's safe to assume that it is, in fact, a supply closet. Maybe the room is numbered out of respect for geologists' (apparent) obsession with labelling and numbering things.

Now, on to wines class. Today we covered New York State, Oregon, and Washington wines. It was not a good tasting day for me. We had one nice Pinot Noir from Long Island and one decent Chardonnay from a local winery (Fox Run). I had basically given up on Chardonnay, but this one was interesting. It was the first wine I've tried that genuinely tasted buttery, and I think that was enough to amuse me. I'm not sure I'd want to buy it. The Riesling we tried seemed too sweet, even if it was a dry version. The professor attributed that to the temperature (the wine was a little too warm), but I have my doubts. We also got to sample a wine made from grapes native to North America. This is significant because almost all of the tasty wine grapes are of the species Vitis vinifera. Native American grapes are mostly Vitis labrusca. Our native wines are often described as "foxy", which is a flavor I've been eager (though wary) to experience. So today, we tried a wine made from Niagara grapes. It tasted like musky grape juice. Euw.

Jud and I have seemingly settled on having the wedding sometime in August 2006. I will not entertain any more comments about how far away that is! I have no idea how venue scheduling here is, but it is certain that if I want to get married in one of the Cornell chapels, I have to wait (as they require reservations a year in advance). This is my wedding, and I want to have time to make it perfect!!!

Okay, sorry. I have been a little frustrated with people about that issue today.

Now on to the rambling. . .

Why do scientists always refer to "the literature" as if it's a place? Here's an example from one of my textbooks: "In the literature one can also find dynamic Monte Carlo schemes." What is the literature, anyway? I'm sorry, sir. I'm looking for the literature. Can you help me find it? "Sure. You go straight for about two blocks, then take a left near the experts, and it'll be on your right." Ugh.

Monday, February 14, 2005


Judson proposed just after dinner on Valentine's Day!!! I'm too excited to say much else. More later (maybe).

Sunday, February 13, 2005

A gathering of thoughts

Jud and I had a really fun time touring some of the local wineries yesterday. We discovered a really tasty white varietal called Traminette, which is from a grape developed at Cornell to have spicy aromas reminiscent of Gewurtztraminer. It smelled spicy and of tropical fruits, and it didn't disappoint once it reached the mouth. We ultimately bought six bottles of wine from four different vineyards. Tasty.

Between two of the vineyards, we slowed down when a deer suddenly ran into the road. We missed that deer, but just as we thought we were safe, a second deer jumped over the bank, along with three of its friends. We glanced the second deer on his butt, destroying the headlight unit on the driver's side of Jud's car. The deer continued to run into the woods, so we don't know how badly he was injured. There was a tuft of fur in the hood of the car, but no blood. The light itself still works, so Jud's going to try to get that fixed soon.

Meanwhile, Runner's World online has an article about the syndrome that's been ruining my running, ITBS. You can follow this link to find out more about it. I hope that my syndrome isn't turning chronic. I hope to get back to normal quickly once I have good shoes. I am in that class of runners (representing 40% of the ITBS population) who developed the problem after more than five years of running. Euw. If I had had a choice in the matter, I would have stuck with the achilles or patellar tendinitis that hurt my running my first year on the cross-country team.

I also learned that my cousin Mark and his wife Molly are expecting their first child. They got married in June in the Bahamas.

My friends Jason and Amanda and their baby Elizabeth are getting settled in their first house. They have about 4 acres of land and a relatively large house just outside of Huntsville, AL, where Jason started work in December after finishing his graduate school work.

I have a ton of kinetics homework to finish over the weekend, so I'd better get to work. As my running hero, John Bingham, says, "Waddle on, friends."

Friday, February 11, 2005

The strangest bathroom

Today I went into the restroom across from my computational materials class in the geology building, Snee Hall, and I made an interesting discovery. The bathroom entrance (from the hall) did not have a room number. But inside the bathroom, I found a door, labeled with a room number (1021A) in the same manner as the classroom across the hall. Why would you ever want to give a room number to a door that leads out of a bathroom? I realize that it's probably just a supply closet, but why label it from inside the bathroom? There are several doors in the hall that don't have room numbers. I didn't try the door because I prefer to believe it leads to a classroom. What kind of classroom would have attached bathrooms? Does Cornell have a geology for pre-schoolers and kindergartners program? I wouldn't put it past them. Still, this incident has piqued my interest. Now, I must know where the door leads. I also need to convince a guy to check out the men's room. Will there be a door to room 1021B? One can only hope. . .

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Wine, etc.

Aside from giving up on tickets to see Jon Stewart on campus, I had a pretty good day. There was a lunch meeting for all the Ph.D. students in my field to discuss the results of the graduate school survey and to talk about an upcoming campus visit for prospective students (the first in many years), and I got to meet a lot of the other students in my department. It seems some of them meet regularly to do a variety of sports, so I'm pretty excited about that. I found out what was going on with the students who took me out to lunch when I visited school last year, and that was really nice. I'm hoping to do more stuff with them.

Then there was the wines class, which is always fun. Today we got to do wines of California, and because of some good connections with former students, we were able to taste some really good ones. My favorites were a Viognier (can't remember who made it right now) and a Pinot Noir from a winery in the Russian River Valley. I don't think I really like Chardonnay or Fume Blanc (modeled off the Pouilly Fume of France). We did try a pleasant generic wine made by the E. & J. Gallo. It's not for special occasions but would be nice for something cheap like pizza.

I might add more details later, but I'm getting tired, and I have to get some more work done for a presentation tomorrow. *sigh* Grad school is hard...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Continued adventure with ITBS

It's raining here today, and while you would think that would put my desire to run on the back burner, but you would be wrong. Running in the rain is fun. I was thinking about that while my feet were being plastered and carefully positioned this morning. We now have a mold of my feet in a "neutral position" which should be the basis for custom orthotics that should be ready in a few weeks. The hope is that these new, super-tough orthotics will be able to support my feet in the correct position on their own. That would be really nice because it would let me shift down to a regular stability shoe and would theoretically alleviate all my knee/ankle problems. In the meantime, I now get to incorporate mini-squats into my ITBS strengthening program. I get the feeling it will take quite some time to be fully recuperated. I do have a pool schedule now, so that's something...

Some poems

I am beginning to remember why I stopped writing poems. It's detrimental to sleep habits.

Anyhow, I started off looking for the poem I wrote about spiral notebooks, which I thought people might enjoy, and which I didn't mind posting online. Since then I've been editing. I've decided that I really don't mind posting a poem now and then. Copyright laws in the US protect original work the moment it is expressed in a tangible form, so I am protected, and it's not like I plan to publish some day.

Here is the notebook poem. It's not particularly good or interesting, but it's kind of amusing.

A Lefty's View of Spiral Notebooks
I'm tired of these barbed-wire fences,
These shiny, spiraling barriers.
I write and grumble
Line after line after line
Until the region between my knuckle and ulna,
A man-made mountain range,
Is clearly marked in purple every quarter-inch.

But I love their perforated edges.

Then for reasons I don't want to mention out of respect for friends, etc., I was working on this poem I wrote a while ago but never really liked. This is the current working version:

The Aging Circus
Crepe-paper face,
Why do you stare so blankly?
You can see the nurses, the IVs,
Maybe even smell death here.
Do you know where you are?

Do you hate the rows of books you once loved?
Treasure their memory?
What's the difference?

My favorite book reminds me of you.
Read and examined so many times,
The pages are tissues,
Bound by dust.

I'll miss you.

I like this version more than the original, but it's still missing something. Maybe personal experience. Anyhow, it gave me a line, which became a new poem. I hope it's not too cliched/boring.

The Aging Circus (2)
The visitors just keep coming
To this aging circus.
It's interactive.
Talk is reserved for trapeze artists.
Leave quietly during medical intermission.
You'll be the clown some day.

So that's it for now. Over and out.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


I understand and accept that I am allergic to trees, dust, grass, mold, flowers, cats, and carrots. I can cope with difficulties finding lotions, deodorants, and soaps that don't give me rashes. I can handle the rash that develops when I use bandaids. But now, I think my hypersensitive immune system has gone a step too far. I am apparently allergic to my new running watch. That's right: I reacted to something made of plastic and metal. I have been going watch-free for several days, and I am happy to report that the rash is going away, but what the heck am I going to do about this? I can only hope that the watch was somehow coated in dust or some kind of lotion I can't handle. Who knew it was possible to be allergic to a watch? What's the world coming to?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The life of a poem

In one last-ditch effort to find my lost works, I dug through mounds of dust at the bottom of my junk drawer for my friendly old zip disk, and there I found my poem.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The death of a poem

A few weeks ago, someone posted a poem on one of the Runner's World Forums, and it reminded me that I had once written a sonnet about running. I was at my parents' house then, so I looked through some of the poems I'd given my mom and didn't find it. I didn't have much hope, either; this was a poem I'd written for my Structures of Poetry class at Clemson my sophomore year, and while I was proud of that particular poem, I didn't really enjoy the class. Still, I thought I must have put a copy in my big poetry notebook, which contains more than sixty poems, some complete with revisions, notes, and comments from others, simply because I don't often throw away my work. Monday evening, I was sad to discover the poem wasn't there, and I have been sad ever since. I worked harder on this one poem than I had on almost any other, and all my roommates at the time, especially Becky, had helped with choosing natural rhymes and checking the rhythm. Technically, it was a perfect sonnet. Emotionally, I had finally produced something that expressed in words what running does for my spirit. It sounds a little cliched, but it was honestly more than a poem about a hard run; it was a poem about my God and my way of connecting to Him. Rarely have I ever been so open, so exposed, in writing or in my life in general. I haven't gone through all my old notebooks yet, but at this point, there's really not much hope. I think I probably threw it away, not because I disliked it, but because it wasn't well understood. Now, I've finally found a group of people who would appreciate it, and I have nothing to give them.

What do you do when you realize you've lost something you never knew you would miss?

And on top of all these emotions about one poem, I am feeling the loss of my poetry in general. In high school, and at Governor's School in particular, I had so much to say. I could find poetry in everything. Looking through my notebook, I was thrown back to high school. These were days when I was unsure of myself, about to change schools, cringing from shoulder pain whenever I swam, slowly developing a passion for running, and still able to be amused by the odd crook in a tree or a strange couple in a museum.

Times have changed, and now I am supposed to focus solely on my research. Professors even tell me I shouldn't run too much. But I think we need balance in our lives. I think I need poetry in mine. I plan to start writing again. I doubt that I'll post any of it, but I wanted to announce it publicly for greater accountability. I could once write a decent poem about a tree that looked like a tutu-wearing linebacker or about the ridges that form on my hand when I write in a spiral notebook. I can write one now about materials by design and the strange phase diagrams they produce.

Wine class update

Well, wines was fun today. I didn't have as good a seat as I wanted, but it worked out pretty well. I am five rows back (as expected) next to the left wall (as I was hoping against). But I can see well, and I have plenty of room to my left for all of my stuff.

Today we focused mainly on how wine is made and on how to identify the major components in wine by smell, appearance, texture, and taste. The highlight of the class for me was when I smelled one sample and thought "this doesn't really smell like anything." Then, I found out that I was smelling the sample just fine. The big learning experience was that wine can taste like vanilla. Interesting.

Next week we actually start taking our tour of the world of wines, and I can't wait. I just wish it was easier to balance a tray with samples and to take notes at the same time.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Hooray for left-handed desks!

One time in my life, being left-handed with a name at the end of the alphabet has paid off. Because I am left-handed, I was able to get an aisle seat in my wines class. Because my last name starts with 'T', I am in row 'E'. Alphabetically, which is how the seat assignments were made (excluding lefties and other special needs people), I would have been placed in seat Y27. If I had been the first lefty, I would have been stuck in the first row. The combination of these two factors has given me one of the best seats in the auditorium (or so I think now, before I've seen the actual seat). Hooray! It would only be better if I could have Jud sitting next to me.

In other news, I gave blood today, and they actually got my vein on the first try. This was also the case the only other time I've given blood since I've been in Ithaca. I never had a good donation experience in South Carolina (or even the one time I tried to give blood in Virginia). Most of the time, they would put the needle in, and then spend about five minutes moving it around. This was generally followed by giving up on that vein and changing arms. Ugh. Maybe the key is to be far from a "teaching" center.

In more unrelated news, we are supposed to get above freezing tomorrow!!! Hooray!

It's been an all-around banner day. ^^