Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Welcome to Michigan, try not to freeze

From Dose of Reality:

Over the last few months I’ve met and spoken with many potential Michigan medical students.  They invariably have questions about how the coursework is structured in the medical school, whether I’m nervous about returning to the wards after many years in PhD-land, and what it’s like to live in Ann Arbor (as compared with a big city).  Only rarely do applicants ask about the winters…

My undergraduate thesis adviser once said something along the lines of “The people who settled Michigan were the ones who thought the fall was really pretty, and then ate the others during the winter.”  (I’m pretty sure my recollection of this quote has gotten more gruesome over the years, and that he likely said something more like “…and survived the winter” but I think my memory of the quote is closer to the sentiment of the original statement…  He did not like the winter.)  Though I didn’t used to dislike the winter much (except during the 1-2 weeks we have every year of –15F to –20F temperatures), I’ve become more frustrated with the weather as it gets weirder.  We’ve had less and less consistent weather during the time I’ve lived in Michigan (a veritable lifetime) and although I couldn't verify that it's getting colder, this year certainly seemed to. 

As I was reading the New York Times the other day, I found an opinion piece discussing how global warming is making the winters colder.  It involves a brief explanation of how snowfall in Siberia affects temperatures and snowfall in the Northeastern United States, and although the author loses points for citing himself, he makes some really great points.  I was particularly excited to see interesting conclusions being drawn from a computational model that suggested new hypotheses to be tested with data.  Unfortunately, given the current state of anything that might be described as decisive action on climate change, I am not optimistic.  This suggests to me that the weather here is just going to get stranger and stranger, and that we’ll have more weeks of sub-zero temperatures alternating with weeks of balmy 40-degree days.  Dear applicants, please join us at our amazing medical school, but hold on to your hats…  and coats…  and mittens…  and boots…  and light fall jackets just in case.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A year of ideas…

In preparation for the new year, a little reflection is (almost) always a good idea. In the case of the NYTimes Magazine, it definitely is. Their 10th Annual Year in Ideas is a great combination of inspiring, entertaining, and thought-provoking ideas. A few exciting ones include the youth condom, the long-life-span smartphone, and turbine-free wind power.

Read them all here!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A lovely visit

My apartment has mostly been converted into a pre-holiday sweatshop, but I have been enjoying myself nonetheless. At the very least, working hard on crafting all day provides a lovely change of focus. (And I will note that tomorrow I’m kind of hoping I have some time to work on my model results. This sort of anticipation and excitement about academic work has not been noted since the last break…) My eyesight-killing, shoulder-tightening labor, combined with the fact that many people are already out of town for the break, has meant that my social life is a bit limited. There is one visitor, however, for whom the crazy crafting is not substantial deterrent. In fact, I might even go to so far as to say she welcomes it. That visitor is… you guessed it… Ash!!!!!

She and Walter knit while I… also knit… and took pictures of them knitting… You see how this could potentially limit my social interactions…

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter of Detroit, Part IV

Eastern Market and Supino Pizzeria

On Saturday, in spite of the cold, Alicia and I headed down to Eastern Market, the gigantic farmers’ market in Detroit. Calling it a farmers’ market doesn’t even really do it justice, as within the many stalls there are various artisans (soap-makers, chocolate-crafters, wreath-sellers) as well, and in the blocks surrounding the actual market, you can see the suppliers of seafood, meat, and equipment for all of the restaurants in the area. Also the suppliers of nuts:

We walked through all of the market, feeling sad for those vendors with the misfortune to be standing outside. Though the indoor sheds were by no means hot, they felt downright toasty compared to the cutting wind outside. I bought some apples and lemons, which were grown in Michigan and somewhere else respectively. Because the market supplies not only individual shoppers, but restaurants and other businesses, they have a much larger variety of produce than most farmers’s markets. Apparently restaurants need citrus even when the rest of us can only get cold storage apples…

After perusing the market for a bit, we followed Ruti’s (incredibly strong) recommendation that we hit Supino Pizzeria for lunch. It proved just as delicious as she’d promised! It’s a small place, so if you plan to go, you can call ahead and order so that you don’t have to wait. Tables are limited, but we only waited a few moments before someone finished and we were able to snag one. Another successful excursion in the winter of Detroit…

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Freezing Winter!

Walter wishes you all a warm and delightful life just like his:

Note: Walter has been unwilling to leave the house for more than a few moments since the temperature dipped below 20F. We should all learn something from this.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finals: Work vs. Knitting

The title here really says it all…  Although I really only have one final exam this semester (and it is today!), I have other big end-of-semester deadlines (for example, a complete dissertation draft).  As always happens, I have also added to my list of holiday knitting at what is relatively at the last minute (considering that I started in May).  These two things have resulted in another battle in that time-honored struggle: work vs. knitting.  Luckily, thanks to a really awesome suggestion from a friend, I have been reading The Monday Motivator and am working on scheduling in my to-do list so that I make sure to do the things that are actually important to me (rather than the things that seem most urgent/doable at any given moment).  I’ve been creating the hourly schedules that used to indicate tragic finals stress levels, but now reflect that no one else is scheduling my time, so I might as well do it, and have met with some success.  My conclusions from the first week include:

  • E-mail is a massive time suck and should be scheduled (and limited)
  • Stata takes longer than you think, no matter how long you think it will take
  • Thinking about what kind of crafting I want to do during a given week makes me feel productive and awesome, even if I do not follow the craft schedule (!)

All told, the scheduling is going well, and I am feeling that in the eternal fight between work and knitting, I, in fact, am winning.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Winter of Detroit, Part III

Detroit Urban Craft Fair and The People Mover

We headed down to the Fillmore Detroit last weekend to check out the Detroit Urban Craft Fair, and afterward I convinced Alicia that we should ride around the People Mover once, as it is only $0.50 to ride around the entire loop.

The Craft Fair was really quite good. They filled the lobby, the main floor, and the stage of the theater with booths for (mostly) local crafters and artists. I was impressed with the range of goods, though it was, I think, pretty typical of a good craft show: jewelry, textiles (dishcloths, knit and crochet items, pillows, potholders, etc), ceramics, and soaps, among other things. In addition, there were a few somewhat surprising booths filled with glass mosaics, little robot sculptures made from old flash bulbs and other electrical oddities, and dog collars. I must also note that there were some hand dyers there with yarn, and that I was good and did not purchase all of it… I found some great gifts, and would highly recommend your local craft show for stocking stuffers as well as bigger items that friends and family members don’t yet know that they need.

After we headed out into the bitter, bitter wind, I grabbed my camera and we headed up to the People Mover station. I think the last time I rode it all the way around was in elementary school when we got off at every station to learn about the art featured there. It's worth making the trip just to see the murals and other art pieces! Here is a pictorial tour of a round around the People Mover starting at Grand Circus Park Station.

Alicia with the uncannily realistic-looking statue at Grand Circus Park.

Looking down Woodward toward Comerica Park and the Fillmore Detroit.

Riding the people mover!

General Motors International Headquarters, The Renaissance Center

The river, looking particularly wintery and cold.

The bridge to Windsor.

Part of the mural at the Michigan Ave. Station.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Winter of Detroit, Part II

The Moth StorySLAM

I have been listening to The Moth Podcast for a while now. Each episode features stories from their various live events told, as their trailers for both the podcast and the radio show states, live without notes. Some of the stories are great, some are just okay, but when I heard on the podcast that they were now holding live events in Detroit, I made a mental note to check it out. I then promptly forgot.

Early last week, Alicia sent me a link and suggested that we check out the Moth StorySLAM held the first Thursday of every month at Cliff Bell’s, not far from Comerica Park, the Detroit Opera House, and the Fox Theater. We decided to leave Ann Arbor around 5:00pm in an attempt to get a table. The event was scheduled to start at 7:30pm, and the staff at the bar told Alicia that the tables fill up between 6:00-6:30pm (though there is standing room as well). Despite arriving shortly after 6:00pm, we did not get a table. We did, however, get the best standing seat in the house (in my opinion). Our view was slightly obstructed by a giant wooden column in the center of the room, but we were right near the servers’ station and not only did not have to move for every waiter (because we were positioned just out of their path), but were able to order beer and french fries from the waitress (who typed “LADIES” in the slot on the receipt where the table number is usually filled in).

A little blurry, but the BlackBerry wasn't really meant for indoor evening photos...

The stories were great. The theme was winter, and most of the stories stuck closely to it. My personal favorite was the last one, which featured girl concussed in a sledding accident that resulted in her saying all kinds of hilarious things to her date (who she had only just met). The winner was also quite good, with a no-fail combination of a little boy’s snow suit filled with pee and nuns (in a Catholic school).

Winter of Detroit continues…