Thursday, October 13, 2005

missing paper

I am missing a peice of paper I need for my 9:00 a.m. class tomorrow morning.

In truth I would have forgotten about it except that a student in my evening class, which finished at 6:50, said something that reminded me of it. This piece of paper was given to me just a few days ago. And it is now hidden amongst the thousands and thousands of pieces of paper in my office.

I am very glad that there is no particular place I need to be, other than here hunting for a piece of paper amongst many. I can lisen to the BBC, and maybe get rid of some paper, and file some more. The hundreds of quizzes from yesterday don't need to be graded tonight. I do need to write a new one one for my 10:00 to 11:50 class for tomorrow, but it will be short...

When the BBC hour stops at 8:00 p.m. I have some new CD's to listen to. (Thank you Emma)

At one time, Professors used to have secretaries.

I could really use one.

Late Night Questions

This is my tenth year teaching at my University. I have tenure, the cost of living is low, the mission of the university is important to me.

Next year, I will have lived longer here than I have lived in any one place in my life. I who was born and raised in the San Francisco bay area, who has lived in Oregon, Chicago, Seattle, New York City for ten years, will have live d in this depressed rust belt Ohio town longer.

The other day as I was walking through our quite lovely campus, filled with trees and little hills, some thing, some scent, produced an intense memory of the smell of the ocean. I walked on, but for a moment my mind placed me on the coast, surf crashing, wind blowing, skies gray and changeable. Gulls cried piercingly in a memory so strong I could see them cutting sideways through the wind.

I am hundreds of miles form any ocean, thousands from the mighty Pacific.

Because of my heavy teaching load I can’t do the level of research I used to. I feel like I under serve my research students and my classroom students as well, yet I can see that I work much harder at it than many of my peers. Yet, my efforts are met with fear and loathing by many students whose primary evaluation of a professor is on how easy they are, and how little work they have to do.

Ohio asks us to do more with less. We try, but of course, we do less well.

Am I in the right place? Is this the best I can do? How can I do better? Can I just relax and enjoy what I have? Can I be the Scientist I’d like to be? Can I be the scientist I used to be? What about my hobbies dropped for lack of time? Art, writing, music... is there no room for them in my life?

It is late. I have hundreds of quizzes to grade. No time for a midlife crisis. In truth, most of the time I DO manage to relax and enjoy what I have.

Perhaps I just need a fast car and some nights on the town.

Tonight, halfway through October in this northern clime, two moonflowers light up my trellis under a cool cloudy sky. That perhaps is enough for now.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hot Peppers

Hungarian hot wax peppers are peculiar things. They grow yellow and waxy looking. Like many peppers they turn red if you leave them on the plant long enough.

I like them best red. Then they are sweet and bursting with ripe pepper flavor.

They are listed as a mildly hot pepper. I think they would be better categorized as variable.

I have several picked recently. They are a lovely saturated red.

Early this afternoon I sauteed an onion and some Poblano peppers, dark and blackish green. I chopped the tip off a red wax, tasted it. Sweet, rich, a hint of fire. I deseeded and chopped the rest of it and added to the sautee, threw in eggs and milk, scrambled, then added a bit of sharp cheddar and cilantro. It was heavenly.

It was so good in fact that I chopped another small onion, another Poblano, and another red wax deseeded and sauteed as before and added an egg etc.

Except that the second time the rising aroma made me cough. My nose started to run, I grabbed a tissue, wiped, and then my nose was burning. I touched a fingertip to my tongue.


It was still heavenly to eat if a bit sizzling on the lips and tongue. I kept a glass of milk handy and enjoyed it, but 9 hours later the heat has worked through my skin and my fingers burn.

Always surprising the Hungarian wax. Hot, mild, medium, and no way to tell which, except to taste.

Not checking thoroughly in advance can lead to long slow burns later.

If you are expecting the burn you can cut on a plastic cutting board and wear latex gloves, protect yourself. That trick was taught to me by a Hispanic roomate from El Paso many years ago.

The burn itself is caused by a substance called capsacin made by the peppers as a kind of defense. Capsacin binds to mammalian nerve cells, opening tiny channels in the membrane that normally open in response to heat and pain. It is harmless. It just FEELS like it burns. Birds have slightly different channels, so are immune, and happily spread the seeds about.

I like hot and spicy food. The burn adds to the pleasure somehow. I like roller coasters too. The animal self fooled into thinking there is danger. The mind knows better.

Knowledge can changes fear into fun. In other cases it turns fun into fear. Having good information is important. Often it is very important indeed. With knowledge, one can be prepared.