October 25, 2012

Cooking for One

Living on my own again, here are some observations I've made.  

October 23, 2012

Census of Marine Life

The other night I went to a lecture on the Census of Marine Life at the Carnegie Institution of Science with my friend Gabe.  Gabe is originally also from Lexington (went to high school with Ben, and his mom was one of my professors in college).  He's finishing up a science writing program at Johns Hopkins.  The lecture was definitely geared 'for the masses,' and each of the slides represented probably 1-5 hrs of more in-depth lectures that I'd had at MIIS or in Monterey somewhere, but I love the topic and never tire of hearing it again.  Gabe wrote this article afterward.  Thought you'd enjoy.

October 18, 2012

Blog post for NSGIC

Hey y'all, I've been busy here in D.C., getting settled in and figuring out what exactly I do at my job.  So far, so good!  I have lots of interesting meetings and lectures, webinars and tutorials to attend and complete, so it's good that I'm coming from school-mode.  Lots of learning!  I was charged with writing a summary of one of the meetings I went to last week.  Here's the post.  Just a little insight into my new life on-the-job...

October 7, 2012

Cluck Old Hen

I'll catch you up to how moving in went in a little while, but here I am in Washington D.C., and I have finally caught up on my sleep after 4 crazy weeks of interviewing, finishing projects at Seafood Watch, going to a conference in Florida, driving cross country, and moving everything in and organizing it mostly by myself.   That means that instead of getting home from work and collapsing, I actually have a bit of energy to explore!   First opportunity to do so, I went to the Glen Echo Contradance.  I saw my friend Gabe there, another Lexington native, who now lives in Baltimore.  The dance was awesome--  ~300 dancers, great live music (Stringway) and caller, and lots of friendly folk.  I'm back East!  One of my favorite contras was a dance choreographed by Cary Ravitz (also a Lexington native), and the music was a medley of Cluck Old Hen and something else.  I got lost in the tune.

Last night I was at a house party with a bluegrass band, the Kingstreet Players, and when I asked if they knew the song, they said, "That's an OLD song."  But they forgot to play it.  I looked it up today in itunes and couldn't find it at first (because I was looking for 'Cuckold Hen')...but I found several versions on youtube.  Here are my faves.  Hope you enjoy.

Check out just the first 30 seconds or so of this one.  The fiddler is rad, and it sets up the tune for you.

Here is Alison Krauss and friends playing their version.  Bonus:  a 12 yr old mandolin player kills it.

In case you want to learn how to play it on your own banjo, I like her simple rendition.  And she even plays it slowly for you.

I hope you like it as much as I do.  It's got the same lilting quality (and chords?) as Shady Grove, one of my first-ever favorite songs.

September 3, 2012

So what's going on with you two, anyway?

I'm moving cross country.  I feel like I am breaking up my family.  I don't know if I'm even going to be able to live with my cats or not.  Ben and I don't know what our collective future holds.  Will we stay together and opt for 2 more years of long-distance relationship?  We've done that for 4 years already (when I was in vet school), and though it sucked, we made it work pretty well.  Will this separation be the straw that breaks the camel's back?  We have had a very tough year.

In truth, we've had a very tough 12.8 years together.  Less than a year into our relationship, Ben had his first open-heart surgery and I moved to Tanzania.  I have always moved ahead with my life, traveling to Sicily and Japan and Nicaragua and Guatemala without him.  I never wanted to leave him behind, but that's how he always felt.  Marriage was something that neither of us wanted to consider when we first met, and it has remained a touchy subject.  I am not someone who dreams of a wedding day, but I felt like Ben would be choice for life-partner if it came up.  I have proposed to him a couple times, to which he always answers, "I don't know."  That didn't really bother me until this past year.  I felt like I'd rather be in a relationship with Ben than be married.  This past year or so it has hurt my feelings that he didn't want to marry me.  Today, amidst the stress and turmoil of our house turning upside down while I try to extract our things from "ours" into "yours" and "mine" in anticipation of the move, Ben said, "I'm sorry that our relationship never took that next step.  I'm sorry that we never committed to a life together."  I asked why he was sorry.  "Because I think it has caused a lot of stress in our relationship."  I asked if he wanted to commit, and he said, "No, I just don't feel that way about us."  I asked if he thought we should just break up with the move.  He said he wanted to see what it felt like to be apart.

We have been having a really wonderful time together, so supportive and fun, this past month or two.  Giving up 13 yrs of loving history feels wrong.  Giving up my best friend and favorite person feels wrong.  Moving away feels wrong in terms of separating our lives. Again.  I said I'd never do it again.  And yet, here I am, doing just that.  So does that mean we're supposed to?  Things are not perfect between us, but at the end of the day we deeply care for one another, and I think that long-term relationships are made up of the daily decision to be together, despite problems, not a marriage license.

Several of our friends know some of our private issues, but I really try to keep it private (or at least not public via the internet) because this is not just my story to tell, it's ours, meaning that half of it is Ben's.  And I try to respect his privacy.  However, I have missed having an outlet for all this pent up stress.  Writing/blogging very often serves as a release valve for me.  I was inspired to just put this out there today when I read my friend's blog about her experiences in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.  She's there for 2 years, and has had some pretty extreme ups and downs, and even though she's a pretty private woman, she shares the best AND the worst with her readers, and I remember how cathartic and real that can feel. Just to acknowledge when things aren't all rosy.  People appreciate the realness of your openness.

The following quote sums up how I feel about my move to DC as well as my relationship with Ben.  And I'm sure it applies to so many other situations.  In the end, I committed myself to finding a good position for myself, and so this opportunity arose.  In the end, Ben has not expressed that he's as committed to Us as I am willing to be, and so I am moving 3000 miles away, even though we love one another and don't particularly like the idea of not being together.  Again.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:  that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.  Begin it now." --Goethe

September 1, 2012

Best Pep Talk

Excerpt from an email to one of my friends tonight:

"Gah! I can't believe I'm already moving!  Fuck! Exciting! Scary! What the hell am I doing!  This'll be good!  Am I crazy for doing this?!"

Her text response:

"Life is happening, grab it by the tits, throw on some tassels, and shimmy the fuck out of it."

[so, yeah, I was offered the position in DC, and accepted it.]

August 22, 2012

Job Hunt Roller Coaster

Job hunting is a roller coaster, man.

Last week, I was invited to interview for a Science Analyst (Aquaculture) position at Seafood Watch where I currently work on a part-time-until-September-consultancy basis.  I was elated, because I also had an interview in DC for NOAA's Digital Coast Fellowship with NACo/NSGIC (National Association of Counties/ National States Geographic Information Council).  Two great interviews in one week, on opposite sides of the country!  I felt pretty stoked about landing them.

The SFW interview went pretty well, but as soon as I came down off the high of interviewing, I was kicking myself for failing to prepare cheat notes for myself regarding all the things I thought I had in the bag because a) I work at SFW, and b) I've been studying sustainable aquaculture for 2 years. All the majorly obvious details slipped my brain when it counted most.  Effing brain.  It was no where near as bad as exams in vet school, though the fact that I was being judged by scientists definitely put me (momentarily) back in the board room at Tufts where I was being interviewed to see whether they'd let me continue my schooling or not.  Fuuuuuuu.....

The DC interview went better, thankfully, I didn't have the same niggling feeling afterward, I just had a really strong feeling that I did well.  AND, I'm so glad I went!  I felt like it would be a better fit for me--it's a dynamic position and the folks I'd be working with seem super genuinely eager to help me launch my career.  We'll see.  But they did ask if I'd take the position if they offered it to me, and they asked when I could start.  I'm hoping that bodes well.  Otherwise, it's a mean trick to play on hopefuls.

Today, I learned that they hired someone else for the SFW position, with the feedback that the other guy was more on top of details.  Expected.  At first, that was fine--I had given up on that position being my numero uno--but as the day went on, and I was still working at my desk at SFW, I had this overwhelming sense that I had disappointed myself and them.  Not a great feeling.  Very 'wah wah'.  Blaahhh...

So I'm hoping I hear from the DC fellowship people soon.  Fingers crossed.  And in the meantime, the very real possibility that I might not get that position either looms. Already thinking about what Fulbright I might want to apply for...

July 28, 2012

Whales and Fog

I forgot (how could I!?) to mention that before I spent 2 weeks up in Oakland, we were lucky enough to have a visit from our friends Anne-Claire and John.  They lived in Pacific Grove (next town over from Monterey) and AC went to MIIS with me.  They are our favorite people to watch the Bachelor/Bachelorette with...but they're also really great people (check out John's blog for some great travelogues from this summer when they hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain/France and last summer when they revisited Niger where they met in Peace Corps several years ago).  They stayed with us, and in the morning we walked around Point Lobos in the gorgeous fog, and then went whale watching, during which we saw a blue whale (!) and several humpback whales.  The blue whale was just incredible.  A small bit of its back surfaces, and then you see the length of its back (100 ft or more!) just a few feet at a time.  Its blow is not particularly larger than that of a humpback whale, so when the length of it is at least twice the size of the humpback, you assume that the animal must have a serpentine  shape, not that of a whale.  If I had never seen a picture of a blue whale before, I would have assumed that the animal looked like this:

(because this is all you see for a long time, and you can tell that the back is slithering forward)

not like this:

Here is a short gif...maybe you can imagine the foreverness of it...


Anway.  Enjoy our photos.

Friends walking through Point Lobos forest.  Not the greatest photo of us.  

Lovely day to paint the landscape

I love the ocean colors and the sage/desertish colors side by side.


Serious fog only brightens the sage brush color

And whales we saw!!

Brown Albatross

Humpback tail

Humpbacks surrounding us, and very close.

Anne-Claire almost forgets about her sea sickness with the spouting of the whales.

Design your own pendant!

I had an idea:  why not let others choose their images?

I offer custom orders, and get quite a few takers for that--but what if I offered something in between a fully Alyssum-Curated pendant and a You-Tell-Me pendant?  And, thus, I chose these 4 sets of 12 options:  1) Italian birthstone/zodiac, 2) Eccentric, 3) Vintage circus, and 4)Vintage bellydance.  They are all the same aspect ratio, so they fit together.  If you're interested in having me put one together for you, let me know!

Step 1. Tell me what month you want (from the ITALIAN BIRTHSTONES/ZODIAC options).

Step 2: Tell me which other image you want me to pair it with.


B) Is it in the top or bottom row? Which number from the left? Include a brief discription.

Step 3: Email me this information at alyssum.pohl[at]gmail.com, and I will send you a paypal invoice for $40 (pendant + silver chain).

To see my other work, click here for my Verdance shop.

Italian Birthstones/Zodiac
Across the top: Jan (garnet; constance and fidelity), Feb (amethyst; peace of heart and humility), March (aquamarine; good luck and courage), April (sapphire; guarantee of innocence and repentance), May (emerald; love,happiness, hope), June (pearl?: long life and wisdom).
Across the bottom: July (ruby; forgetfulness of sorrow), Aug (black sapphire; marital happiness), Sept (moonstone; safe from folly), Oct (beryl; happiness and peace), Nov (topaz; friendship and loyalty), Dec (turquoise; unalterable happiness).


Vintage Circus

Vintage Bellydance

July 27, 2012

What I did on my Summer Vacation

See, the name of this post is funny because I'm done with school, so it's not really a summer vacation.

Still, I went to house sit for my friend Mira up in Oakland for ~10 days and it felt like a vacation even though I brought some work for Seafood Watch with me.  What else did I do besides work, you ask? Well firstly, I saw Cyprus, Mira, Dakota, Pthalo, Joe, and Appleine in their packing frenzy, and sent them off to Sweets Mill. Then....
Mira & Dakota almost ready to leave for Sweets Mill!

1. Helped my buddy Superkate set up for the Amanda Palmer show at Public Works on Friday the 13th.

Reviews of the show here and here.  I'm honestly not a fan, though I can appreciate her point of view, and dedication to her art if not her 'talent'.  I had an amazing time though, because a) (first and foremost) I got to hang out with Superkate,  b) I enjoyed the opening acts, c) I enjoyed meeting and goofing off with the band members Chad, Michael & Jherick (sp?), d) great people-watching venue.

I also had a conversation with Neil Gaiman, Amanda's husband, about dancing.  There was a couple dancing the tango upstairs and he was watching them intently.  I thought, "he must either be a dancer or long to be one."  I asked him about it, and he assured me that he was a terrible dancer, but that he sort of wished that he was good at it.  Superkate invited me to dance on stage during the encore with the opening acts, and afterward, Neil--who'd been watching from upstairs--grabbed me into a hug with a wide grin and said, "Now you are a dancer.  Thank you for going up there and sharing, you are completely in your body.  You are alive inside your body.  Beautiful to watch. Wonderful."  So that was a lovely compliment.  I thanked him for living through his words, ha ha.

2.  My friend Safari (Stephanie) was in town from NH for a conservation biology convention, so I got to spend some quality time with her.  She's one of my few friends that appreciates the same things I do on almost every level:  travel, conservation, tribal bellydance, intelligent conversations.  She is super duper rad and I'm so happy to know her.  We met over 10 years ago on a study abroad program in Tanzania.  I'm Amana to her.
Amana na Safari
Hiking in the Berkeley hills
3. I played a lot with my new friend Dusty.  We enjoyed snacks, made costumes, and chit-chatted about life.  She's a professional bellydance costumer, and her life history could not be more different than my own.  And yet it lead her to where she is right now which is why I love her.  Sorry that's pretty vague, but I feel like her story is her own to tell.  She gots wisdom and a pure heart.  Plus she's fun and super creative.  Those are excellent qualities.  Yay for new friends!
I spent 6 hrs making these epaulettes.
Fabric shopping!

4.  Had brunch with BrieAnn.  I think we eat amazing breakfasts together.  This seems to be a trend.  I love this trend.  

5.  I worked on more than 30 new pendants.

6.  I went on errands to procure things that are difficult to find anywhere but a Large City.  Things that you can buy online, but they may not be perfect, and seeing them in person first is the key.  Things like special jumprings for my pendants, special polycarbonate material that I'm playing with for lighter-weight pendants, and special dye for polyester.  Also some plants.
Here's the process of my dyeing attempt. I'm pleased with the outcome.
Trying out 3 (of 4) colors. 
Top to bottom: brown, black+blue,  brown+blue, blue.  I went for brown+blue to get that greyish color.


Just a few dye spots.  Don't you love the scallops!?

Pieces of my costume coming together....
7. Hung out with Dorothy (from vet school) and her sister Marge (also a vet).  Good to hang out with some smart ladies who love kitties (they have 5 cats and a kitten at their place).  We balanced nerdy discussion with watching the Bachelorette finale together, complete with romantic potluck meal.

8.  Puttered around in Mira's house by myself with nothing else to do.  God, what a wonderful feeling.  I needed the break.  By the end, I missed Ben, the kitties, Monterey.  It was like pressing the reset button on so many aspects of my life.  I feel more confident and contented with my life there than I have in a while.  It's a wonderful life, how lucky of me to get to live it!  And how lucky to have the bay area and so many friends easily accessible!