Thursday, September 25, 2008

A little camping trip

After the stress of starting classes I decided I needed to get away by myself. Camping would be just the cure. I found a spot and made my reservations. I needed to get away and just relax. The sound of the ocean waves soothed me to sleep. The weather couldn't be more perfect as it's sunny but not too hot. I will come home refreshed.

My first week as a grad student

I think I will like grad school, despite the voluminous reading lists. I'm not certain how it will pan out with my cohorts: I am trying to be friendly and seem interested. After all, these are the people I'm going to be spending the next 2 years with.

My first class on Monday was International Business. It was filled with a bunch of what seemed like undergrads: little tykes to me. I really like the professor, and it seemed like a straightforward course with mostly textbook reading and quizzes.

After attending my POLS class that evening I decided to drop the business class. There would just be too much reading. Plus, I need to give myself a chance to get used to grad school.
Unexpectedly the Monday night POLS 515 class turned out to last only 1 1/2 hours, what should have been 4 hours. It's now going to be 3 hours. Yeah!

Tuesday night's class was quite nice, too. It was POLS 510 with the program director. We had an icebreaker where we had to ask yes/no questions to figure out the identity placed on our backs. I guessed mine within 3-4 questions: I was Sarah Palin. This class will also have a lot of reading, discussion and writing.

I hope I'm ready.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not a freshman, but a cohort

Friday was the orientation to the Master in Public Policy graduate program at Cal Poly. Of the 18 people who are in my cohort (part of the new graduate vocabulary I will begin using), there were 12 who showed up to the 1/2 hour meeting plus "reception" afterwards.

There is quite a variety of interests by my fellow cohorts, and it looks like the males outnumber the females, too! I feel like the only one who has a clear direction, but that could also be because I am one of the few who have been graduated for more than a year. Many are recent bachelor's degree recipients. A few of us are locals (meaning from San Luis Obispo county and hold bachelor degrees from Cal Poly already), but most are from out of the area.

Our "reception" was a little funky at first because it was really just us and a few professors from the department. So, we had to mingle and force interest in each other since we were encouraged by the director to form social relationships with each other early on. I found one or two people interested in talking. Some just didn't seem like they cared to get to know anyone. I even met a man who worked with my dad at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. We shared some fun stories, and I even found out that he was the Easter Bunny at the PG&E Easter Egg Hunt when I was just a wee one. That'll be an interesting friendship.

Eventually after asking around I found out that some of the folks would be going out afterwards. Heck, I wanted to get a jump on the social development aspect of our program since I know I'm usually lacking in that department. Spike's was the place, the pub down on South Higuera Street. I'd actually never been there before but was game.

Turned out I was the first one there. I hate that. So I went to Ladies room to kill some time. In the end there were 9 of us, 6 being part of this year's cohort, and 2 from last year's cohort (aka 2nd years). The remaining individual, in case you thought my math had suddenly gone fuzzy, was the husband of a 2nd year cohort, so take that!

We ordered beers: some of us ordered food. I got a Stella and fish n chips. I don't really know my drinks. I tried asking if anyone had ever had wheat beer with orange (it was recommended by my Polo player). The guy from Berkeley who went to school at Monterey State then ended up in Massachusetts said that it wasn't that great as traditionally citrus was added to wheat beer because it had gone bad and the flavor was supposed to mask that off-putting rottenness. Whatever. He spent his time with the owner of a bike shop, not with us.

So, the night was not a late one. It was pretty pathetic to think that we left at about 9pm. I guess the younger crowd will be more interested in beer nights at the local watering holes as they made sure that they got the run down of the bars in downtown SLO. Yippee! Just what I'm looking forward to.

I think we are all chomping at the bit to get started. Monday's the big day! It will feel strange to be a student again. Although I do look forward to the part where I get to study and learn new ideas.

Polo anyone?

For the past month I have been enjoying a sort of new game called Polo (no connection to the one where you must mount a horse, or elephant, and swing a really long mallet).

This game of Polo involves a telephone, and occasional face to face contact. Currently, I leave messages and then wait to be called back. While other times the calls are initiated by the other player. I was slightly chastised int he past for making the other player do all the calling, so now I must make a call every so often to demonstrate that I can play fairly, too.

Ideally this game should involve some travel as well. Each side must take turns to visit the other's hometown. I am currently waiting for a return visit. Until then, phone calls must suffice to update each player on current status: well-being, education, work, etc. With tricky school and work schedules neither of us can do much traveling at the moment.

My most recent call was on Saturday. It was nice to hear a happy sound compared to the previous call full of meloncholy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Just another day

Have I ever mentioned that I love Pirate's Booty? It is one of those things that I got hooked on from Trader Joe's, although they no longer sell it under that name anymore. I am addicted to this white cheddar taste of the rice and corn puffs. Simply irresistable!

I've been away for awhile because I was traveling. Nothing fantastic like going to Cambodia or anything. I visited family. Before you begin groaning "ugh", I actually enjoy visiting these family members and spending time with them. Maybe it's because I am older now and can actually participate in the lively conversations as a near-equal.

Here's the run down:

August 30-September 3: Eureka.
We stayed at my uncle's house (my mom's youngest brother), along with my other uncle and his wife, and my cousin and her husband. All bedrooms were taken so I got the lovely sofabed in the living room with the parrot. Actually, it was a comfortable sofabed, so I'm not really complaining.

The highlight of the trip was our exciting tug ride out to meet a pulp ship and bring it into the harbor. I nearly lost my cookies on the 8-foot rolling swells on the way out to the ship. Thankfully the immense size of the ship calmed the seas and brought shade so this poor puppy could return to a natural glow and not a sweaty green. I did not fear the experience because I trusted my uncle's skills to navigate safely through the churning seas. It also didn't help that the cabin was packed with 10 people (my uncle, his 3 deckhands, the 2 pilots, and 4 passengers), and sealed to avoid water spraying inside. It was definitely a ride I won't forget soon.

September 3-4: Lake California, Cottonwood.
This is home to my mom's cousin (whom I usually refer to as an uncle since he's the same age as my uncle). We drove from 65-degree temperatures into 100+ temps over here. It was quite a contrast, and his house wasn't all that much cooler. We enjoyed our evening of catching up and even ventured into "town" for dinner since he wasn't feeling creative enough to plan dinner at the house. Now, usually he does all the cooking, but just couldn't get it together for us. Breakfast was at the same eatery the next morning. This place serves tons of food, and we all left there stuffed. I had a great BBQ chicken salad the night before. In the morning I went with an omelette with sausage, peppers, onions and potatoes. Yum!

September 4-5: Elk Grove, Sacramento.
Remaining in the heat we drove on to the sisters' house (formerly known as Aunt Betty's house). These are the sisters of the cousin just visited. They are part of the Kingdom family. It was a pleasure to visit with them. We even went on a little excursion to the Borders book store where I found some fantastic California postcards to use on Swap-Bot. They made their traditional cold dinner of sandwiches, potato salad and fruit. It's fun to build your own sandwiches every now and again. Again, I got the sofabed, but I really didn't mind. Breakfast was a quiche-like thing with more fruit. Then it was off to our final destination.

September 5-7: Madera.
It's still hot, but my aunt's house is much cooler. They have a new kitten who appeared in their garage soaking wet. The three cats that they already have are in the midst of a peeing war, so a new kitten can't help things. Never turn your back on their cats as you never know when they will pee in your shoes or bag. Our excursion upon arrival was Costco to pick up items for the weekend meals. We had BBQ chicken that first night which was really delicious. The next night would be roast as my cousins were coming over.

Riding in a car that my aunt is driving is a stressful experience. I don't think she's used to power steering or power brakes because you spend the entire time jerking back and forth within the lanes, or sliding forward in your seat after the breaks are slammed.

On Saturday, we were to meet my cousins at my grandmother's house to go through some of the furniture so we could decide what we'd be able to take. Everything had to be checked in case it was something my cousins wanted for themselves. If they didn't want it then we got the go ahead. The main purpose was to look at my grandmother's bedroom furniture to see what kind of moving truck we'd need to bring it back home. I was hoping we could take it that weekend but the cost of renting the trucks was way too high (like $300).

One cool thing is that I managed to get one of the baby blankets that my grandmother crocheted. My cousin had taken all the ones that were in my aunt's store when she got sick and intended on keeping them all for herself. I spoke up to kindly request at least one for myself and she handed over a yellow one. My cousin's wife is due with her first baby in December and he is chomping at the bit for the second baby.

By the time we arrived on the Central Coast on Sunday afternoon, the temperature had gone from an extreme of 108 through the central valley to Paso Robles, all the way down to 68 in Arroyo Grande. It's amazing what living next to the ocean can do to the temperature.

Now I have one more week before classes start. I've applied for a job and am in the hiring process (or so I think). It's nothing glamorous, but it is work.

I celebrated another birthday on September 12. Nothing exciting. I went to McLintock's in the Village with my mom. We saw a Herlihy and another old friend who also joined in on the birthday song for my ice cream sundae. The next day we went to see Burn After Reading. My friend, who I had been walking on the beach with, also joined us. It was great to catch up with her since the past month she's been working mad hours. We agreed to start walking weekend mornings again starting with Sunday.

Sunday also saw me going to the movies again with my mom. This time it was her pick, Righteous Kill. I felt the end was predictable half-way through the movie. We followed that with a drive out to Gopher Glen for some fresh apples. Oh, how I love this season!

Now I've got to go to San Luis for some errands and to complete my drug test for the potential new job.