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Things I’ve Learned, Chicago Edition

Dad and I at Giordano's downtown. I ate the leftovers for a week.
It’s been a while since I’ve written here. Adjusting to a new pace of life is weird and hard. I find myself working late just because if I come home, I don’t know what to do with myself. (My dishes, floors, and bathroom should be much cleaner than they are as a corollary to this.) It’s been an amazing learning experience so far, both technically as an introduction to actually working in my field, and anecdotally as an introduction to life outside academia. The number of times I’ve thought, “Oh, this is what *normal* people do?” is rather astounding.

So here, in no particular order, are a few of the things that I’ve picked up over the course of the last two months:

– People in Chicago talk about “the fire” (the Great Chicago FIre of 1871) as if it happened a decade ago

– The Ferris wheel was invented here, and the first one had cars that held 70 people (each!)

– In the Midwest, an elevator full of men will awkwardly stand waiting for a lady to exit, even if she is in the back

– California did not prepare me very well for well-mannered people

– My sense of direction has not really improved any, even after a year of nomading about the country

– How to eat with chopsticks, and that it is impossible to do so politely and gracefully

– What celery salt is

– How to nod and smile when your aunt tells you your apartment would be perfect for throwing a brunch for friends

– What 18 degrees feels like

– Wearing a scarf is tricky

– If I were a Muppet, I would be Animal, but if I were a character in Star Trek, I would be Bones

– I still know more words to Raffi songs than any grown person should

– I have never seen a bear combing his hair down by the bay

– Some part of me still believes that someday I’ll grow up to be President

– Sleep is actually kind of amazing and I regret neglecting it for so long

– Someday I want to save up for a video game system so I can make up for not misspending my youth playing Super Mario Bros.

– How grateful I am for my amazing supportive family

– Do nothing simply because it is the usual approach

– Asking for help is always hard, but it’s worth doing

– If you tend to typo certain words, try to avoid writing code with variables that include those words

– WordPress is an OCD person’s nightmare

– Everyone worth knowing is surprising, quirky, and/or odd in some way, even if it’s buried deep beneath the surface

– You should only drink with people who meet the above criterion

– Walk-in closets in 500 sq. ft. apartments are extremely silly

– Having shutters on my kitchen doors makes me feel like I’m stuck in the Dick Van Dyke Show

– I need to learn to make Bohemian food (especially kolaches)

– The way to men’s hearts really is through their stomachs

– Men on the whole kind of suck, so I’m really super lucky to be on a team with four awesome ones

– I know so much less than I thought I did

– Admitting how little you know is very, very good for your humility

– I have no idea how I’ll ever learn everything I want to know

– All anyone really needs out of life is a huge box of Legos and a deep dish pizza

Published in My Life in Boystown Ponderings

2 Comments

  1. Goosey

    Goosey

    – I can teach you how to eat gracefully with chopsticks. :D Come visit.

    -Heather? Having friends who do things like have brunch? LOL

    -How to wear a scarf: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LYAEz777AU

    -I’ve never seen a whale with a polka dot tail down by the bay.

    -I would vote for you.

    -YAY SLEEP

    – a) Do nothing (simply because you don’t usually do anything) B) Don’t do anything just because it’s what you are used to doing, or C) Do everything in a complicated manner, because you usually do things in a complicated manner?

    -All other responses = LOL!

    <3 u :)

  2. Sam

    Sam

    Don’t judge chopsticks by Western standards for politeness; there’s plenty of etiquette standards of their own. For example (this applies to Japanese, at least; I’m less familiar with the rules in other chopstick-using cultures), you shouldn’t hold the chopsticks in your hand while you drink. Put them down. And don’t balance them on your bowl or leave them on the table; use a chopstick rest. (These are often folded from the wrapper for disposable chopsticks if one isn’t available.)
    Picking your bowl up is entirely acceptable, so hold your rice bowl close to your mouth and shovel. Horrifying by Western standards, but it’s much less messy than the alternative.

    Use of chopsticks was drummed into me by my father, who related the following story:
    He and some other directors from his electronics business were on a business trip to Japan to finish negotiating an important deal with a Japanese country. On the plane on the way over, one of the cabin crew offered to teach them to use chopsticks. Most accepted, but the boss refused.
    In Japan, at dinner with the directors of the company they’re negotiating with, the boss is asked to serve the food. With chopsticks. Which he has no idea how to use.

    There was also an amazing little Japanese restaurant in Oxford we used to go to all the time, so I got a lot of practice in there.

    Knowing the limits of your own knowledge is the most important step in expanding it. If you’re anything like as terminally inquisitive as I am, you never will learn everything you want to. Turns out there’s a LOT OF STUFF in the world. (A small subset of readers may find the dual meaning of the previous sentence hilarious.) But the moment you start thinking you know a lot, you lose the drive to learn more.
    I am reminded of Plato’s Apology, in which Pythia (the Oracle of Delphi, for those not up on their Greek mythology) states that Socrates is the wisest human, and it’s implied from Socrates’ attempts to find someone wiser than himself that this is because he’s aware of the limitations of his knowledge. (This is also the source of the famous, but inaccurately quoted, saying “I know only that I know nothing.”)

    Chopsticks and Greek philosophers in one post. Gotta be a good one.

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