How to Be Elected Club Exec
In an interesting twist, two weeks ago I became an exec of UC HistSoc. I'm not quite sure how this happened: I was minding my own business one day when BOOM, I got an invite to the exec Facebook page. Yeah, that's how things apparently work these days. I went to the first exec meeting where I became co-marketing rep with Ruth Larsen, an MA student that shares the same room with Kara and I. I also was elected bank rep since I'll be at the school the longest (the rest of them are all MA students). Very strange and sudden. To be fair, Kara's a member of two exec boards and is a consultant for a third. We tried to have our first event last week, but we're still having to go through hoops to reactivate the club for 2015, so we're hoping this week will be different. Fingers crossed!
Selling From Down Under
In other news, my book, Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains, is selling relatively well for only having a single venue currently. In better news, there will be 12 copies available at the Bruce MacGregor talk on March 26th, which should really boost my publicity. I've already found a few small errors in it—nothing major, fortunately—but I'm still waiting for reviews to come in. I'm not even sure if people have received their copies yet.
Kara threw a book release party for me on St. Patty's Day, which was nice. We ended up staying really late with mostly other history MAs from our room and the adjacent one. But it was nice chatting about things that weren't only about our supervisors (though that certainly came up). Alcohol wasn't even needed because we were all drunk on the cake and rice krispy treats Kara made for us, as well as pizza, juice, and other tasty things.
Kara finally finished her baking class and we've returned to good old fashioned December diets. Perhaps we've been having too many carbohydrates, but fortunately I haven't gained any more weight this year. In fact, I've been pretty stable for the past three months, which is great considering it's the lowest weight I've been for years.
I have been having much better luck in making my own sourdough. After getting the San Francisco sourdough starter smuggled into the country, it took a few batches to get things tasting...sour. It still isn't there quite yet, but it is getting closer. Things like this take time. One thing that is awesome, though, is that I discovered a recipe that uses a bread machine to do all the work for me. The loaves don't come out as perty, but they taste just the same and the slices of bread are much bigger and more even. It still takes around 24 hours to get a loaf done, though, so patience is a virtue. My refried beans recipe is now consistently coming out tasting the same, too, so we look forward to that each week. Next week, when we have some friends from the US visiting us, we are going to try making our own tortillas again with the tortilla press. Hopefully they come out better than last time.
Ups & Downs
Hiking has not been a huge priority lately, partially because of the increasingly cold and wet whether and partially because we just don't have the time. That being said, we have wondered all over our local neighbourhood and discovered a few strange things. First, corner markets—dairies, they call them here—are everywhere. We have five dairies within a three block radius that we know of, not counting the BP petrol station market or the various other markets across from it. And all dairies sell the same thing: milk, butter, junk food, soda and energy drinks, cigarettes, and newspapers. They're like pint-sized 7-11s but they're everywhere! They're not even owned by a single company. It's very strange. They also sell dairy products for much cheaper than the stores (at least 10% less if not more).
Second, there are literally no houses beside the Avon River. It is freaky. When the earthquake hit, all the homes along the river sank and were declared too dangerous to live in. Over past four years, each and every one has been levelled so that many of the lots don't even look like they've been recently lived in except for the barrier plants. It's freaky! The couple of lots that do have homes still on them are literally falling to pieces. The earthquake definitely did a lot of damage to this area, but Avonside especially got it bad.
After a less-than-inspiring meeting with my supervisor and a more inspiring meeting with another random lecturer from a completely different department, I finally decided to reboot my thesis entirely. Same topic, but the chapters have been utterly reorganised and now I have a ton more of them, which is not exactly a good or a bad thing, it's just a new nuisance to contend with. My supervisor has been strict, though polite, but there is definitely tension building there. I've decided to deal with it by largely ignoring him unless I can't avoid it. Many people have recommended I take this approach, which works just fine for me. Others have also been helpful in fleshing out the character and nature of my supervisor so that I can anticipate his actions and opinions better. Hopefully things will resolve themselves in the future, but I also kind of hope another medievalist appears that I can switch to. Personality clashes really aren't my thing.
The Kiwi Way
Generally speaking, Americans like to keep control over their cats and dogs. There are reasons for this, and not all of them are entirely logical. Take cats, for example, they like to do their own thing and don't like to be restricted. Therefore, New Zealanders let them do their thing—outside, inside, whatever. There's not really any such thing as an indoor cat here. Dogs, on the other hand, have to be more restricted because they're, well, dumber. That being said, when people take their dogs for a walk, there's a very good chance those dogs will be running free. Dogs here just seem to be more loyal in general; they don't run away when unleashed and they don't even stray to far from their owners. They obey commands and return when called. I don't know if it is just how dogs are raised here or if it's an inherent trust relationship that develops with a dog. In any case, it's very different from the US. To get back to the cat issue, because cats are indoor/outdoor creatures, people don't really understand people like Kara and I, who imprison our cat because he's naughty. When people are over, we have to be on our guard to make sure the cat stays in. And we don't like letting people, even our landlords, in when we're gone because we fear that they will forget to close the door. It's a strange reality but one we have to live with because we chose to have an indoor cat. Indoor cats are a fairly normal concept in the US, but here, it is extremely unusual and people don't seem to get it.