The Reason for the Squash Season

This post will not be a litany of things that should not be pumpkin spice flavored. I have nothing against pumpkin spice flavoring; I recently saw pumpkin spice Life cereal (my favorite) and I kind of want to try it. My question, though, is why pumpkins? There are so many varieties of squash ranging from the interestingly non-seasonal zucchini to the I’ve-never-eaten acorn. Is it the size? Like, were they of such propitious proportions for the pilgrims that partaking of a single squash amply satisfied all? This was my first hypothesis, thin though it is, before I set about doing some reading.

(As an aside, it doesn’t really matter how thin your first hypothesis is. The point is to continue to the reading stage, in pumpkins as in life.)

I admit that reading Wikipedia does not really constitute actual research, but a casual perusal of the Wikipedia page for pumpkin immediately elucidates a few important facts. Firstly, what most English speakers call pumpkins are of a few different cultivars that generally hold to the round-orange description; Australians and Kiwis apparently use the term more broadly for all winter squash.¬†Also, the pumpkin is distinctly an American (in the continental sense) fruit–yes, fruitūüė¶ –though it is now grown on every continent except Antarctica. The oldest evidence of pumpkins, indeed, is from Mexico.

Now, as far as the whole holiday angle, there are a few things. I vaguely recall reading this many years ago, but I’ve now gotten my Wikipedia refresher: carving vegetables in autumn is like a long tradition in the British Isles. Why? I really have no idea and I’m not certain I have any particular desire to know. Typically, the vegetables in question were turnips and rutabagas (aka swedes, but that’s another issue that I’ve talked about before). When migrants from those islands arrived on this side of the Atlantic, they were just like, hey these pumpkins are super plentiful and much larger, let’s carve them instead. And for a long time, the association was very much the harvest season in general and became particularly connected to Halloween gradually through the years. The whole pumpkin spice thing I think really is down to Starbucks but that’s neither here nor there.

In conclusion (of this very brief overview without much actual research to back it up), the pumpkin was a handy means for early settlers in the English American colonies to continue a harvest tradition of carving plants. The connection to Thanksgiving (which I guess is sort of coincidental?) strengthened the association and, somehow, also Halloween something something. And then Starbucks and here we are. Not sure that that explanation would satisfy anyone’s genuine curiosity, but it’s plenty for mine.

Also, since I’ve been a trifle remiss in my cat duties of late, here is a brief update on the cats.

Aren’t they just lovely?

Not much else to report from here, things are going about as one might expect. Nothing too exciting. But there are worse things. I’m rewatching¬†The Shawshank Redemption with some people, what a good movie. It’s real real, if you know what I mean. 10/10 can recommend. Anyway, until next week I hope you do something with pumpkins or maybe other squash because let’s spread the love, yeah?

Can Robots be Orphans?

Okay, you may know that most of like junior year of high school I thought I was going to major in linguistics. Specifically, historical and comparative linguistics (like, I sort of really had things planned out). Obviously, that didn’t pan out. But I remain generally fascinated by language and I love learning little quirks and things (and I’m still trying to become at least proficient in a second language, but that’s another story).

Anyway, near the beginning of first semester Russian, we learned the verb —Ä–į–Ī–ĺ—ā–į—ā—Ć (raBOtat’) which means to work. My professor told us that it comes from the same Slavic root as a similar Czech word meaning forced labor that was¬†used by¬†the ńĆapek brothers, particularly but possibly not originally by Karel, in the play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). They invented the word robot. So that’s pretty cool.

Additionally, the proto-Indo-European (the term to describe the theoretical language spoken by basically everyone from Ireland to India before languages diverged) basis for robota/—Ä–į–Ī–ĺ—ā–į is also the root, meaning to change from one state to another, for orphan. You can read more about it here. Thus the question posed at the beginning: can robots be orphans? Probably not, at least in the strictest sense, because of the whole they’re not alive and so don’t have parents thing. But I guess if their makers abandoned them, they’d be sad about it too. And who’s to say whether or not they dream of electric sheep.

All this has basically been to say: I have a job! It’s just a part-time seasonal position in retail, but money’s money so I’m not complaining. My job could 100% be performed by a robot, and I feel like it might be¬†in some parts of the world, but I don’t mind the work and I’m finished about the time most other people’s jobs are beginning so I still feel like I ¬†have a lot of free time. I may be job shadowing or something in the mid-future, we’ll see. Just trying to keep occupied to have things to say if ever I get an interview for a job in my actual field.

So that’s the news of the week, I started last Friday and, you know, it’s been a big thrill. Not much else has been going on in my life, ¬†but I’m kind of okay with that. I’d love to be getting a move on, but while I’m here I’ll echo what I said when I arrived in Ireland: bloom where you’re planted. Other things are things (coughtheelectioncough) and they’re not terribly uplifting and they certainly don’t tend to inspire great confidence. I just watched¬†V for Vendetta for the first time on Tuesday and wow. Firstly, I really liked it. Secondly, how terrifyingly topical. Wow, I tell you what, wow. Fascism is the worst.

The¬†Wikipedia¬†page on R.U.R., after describing the plot which involves a hostile robot takeover and the extinction of humanity, says that the play is “dark, but not without hope.” That is a direct quote. I haven’t read/seen the play, but if the extinction of humanity can be portrayed as dark, but not without hope, maybe there’s something to be said for humans¬†after all. Maybe, just maybe, we’re a little better off than sad orphan robots (if it’s possible for them to exist).

Maybe hope is for the dark times anyway.



Living where I have lived, I am very much accustomed to rain. I watch the rain sometimes, observe it truly. When I’m alone and quiet, it sends shivers of awe and comfort down my arms and across my back. Sitting here at my desk, I want to crawl out of the window and dissolve. I ache to feel the rain. Not to stand in it, but to be¬†of¬†it. To be gloom and understand that it is in fact life. To be grey and know that it is the heart of color. To be chill and damp and yet fiery and alive. To move through the world, to caress it, as the rain does–sometimes with¬†fury, sometimes with the greatest gentleness. I imagine myself falling from ineffable heights, a small voice in a vast chorus, plunging through the air to land with delicate but insistent force. I can feel myself soaking into the earth, giving of myself to the trees, and somehow, miraculously, returning to those same dizzying heights to begin the journey afresh.

I enjoy reading with all the lights out, all the more when there is¬†a faint drizzle outside. During the day, the sky provides ample illumination and I suppose it saves some meager amount of energy. Something magical happens to books when read in slowly gathering dark, as though the visual passage of time also makes other unseen things visible. The overcast sky casts a gentle darkness as much as gentle light, creating the lengthening but diffuse shadows of afternoon approaching evening. In this, the living nature of the grey is most apparent: that it gestures and beckons, encouraging a rising certainty that dreams are echoes of the real world, only wanting a little belief to make them substantial. Something about the half-light, or more accurately quarter-light by this time, kindles my heart to a fever pitch, stoking a desire of no particular aim other than expressing an achingly intense longing for more. More from my life, more of this mysterious grey, more of the stunningly immortal thrill of the raindrop’s descent.

When I finally give in and tug on the chain of my banker’s lamp, its greenish glow seems to indicate that the source of its light is¬†more spiritual than electrical. Contrary to trope, though, its illumination is not a light of hope or truth; it simply sees and in the seeing knows. Unfortunately, the darkness outside seems to know too, so I’m left trying to reach backward toward the grey in hopes that it will teach me. Once grey, I’m nearly certain, then I’ll know too and I’ll leave this nebulous Almost behind. Somehow, the grey will illuminate more than a clear blue ever could. But for now, the grey is gone, the sun has set, the rain has been reduced to a dull murmur on the roof, and I’m sitting here in my little pool of light hoping for another grey and rainy day tomorrow. I’m gripped by the fear that wanting more is selfish and insatiable. I see my face reflected in the window but turn away without making eye contact.

Words Matter

This week, I happened upon a piece of writing that I very much admired and, unless you are closely related to me, you likely would never have the chance to read. In view of our present times,¬†I’ve decided to reproduce it here for all of you.

The article in question is the Valedictory address that my grandmother wrote upon graduating Pocatello High School (Pocatello, Idaho) in 1947 as Valedictorian, aged 17. The speech, entitled The Journey Lies Ahead, is appropriate not only for high school graduates but for all of us, and not only for then but for today.

Born at the beginning of the Great¬†Depression and graduating so close to the end of World War II, my grandmother and others her age have a unique perspective on history and current times–one that, perhaps, is less heard than it ought, drowned out by the sizable clamor of the Baby Boomers. Dated 21 May, 1947, I think this speech can¬†nonetheless speak to us today and, for once, allow the Silent Generation to be heard.

With hope in our hearts, with our diplomas clutched proudly in our hands, with our parents, teachers, and friends smiling fondly at us, we realize that now we must show an adult readiness to meet the challenge of the future.

That readiness is not a quality which we are expected to develop at the mere wave of a wand. It is a characteristic that has been encouraged in each of us since the say we entered grade school. It is in accord with a plan–a definite plan of education. We’re sure you feel that if nothing else has been accomplished in us but the development of worthwhile characters, the expenditure of time and effort has been more that justified, for most of the other admirable qualities are rooted in character. But character and knowledge go hand in hand, and this same plan of education has also made provisions for our acquiring the knowledge that will help to ensure our making wise decisions as to how to meet the great challenge that confronts us, the class of ’47 and every other graduating class in this great land of ours. What, then, is this challenge?

It is one which we must not, which we dare not refuse–that we help to build a better world in which all men may live. Never before in the history of this country has anyone been faced with more serious problems or with greater opportunities than are we at the present time. We are the leaders and we hope the intelligent and well-prepared followers in the world of tomorrow. This world about which I speak does not lie in the distant future, but just around the corner. The qualities needed in people who will live in that world have been encouraged in us. Our leaders must come from those who have developed a strong character, high humane ideals, and a passion for truth. They will guide us in a world which is not altogether an inspiring one, but it is, rather, a challenge for people to live in closer harmony and brotherly love.

We are challenged not only to find answers to our own problems and perform our part to meet the nation’s needs, but also to get along with groups and individuals whose customs and ancestry, accents and grammar, attitudes and religion are foreign to those with which we were brought up.

Our school years have exerted a tremendous influence in showing us how to combat social problems and have taught us to respect other races and nations. They have promoted group cooperation and have provided us with a broader vision of our responsibility toward making our world one world. We have been taught that peace cannot be built on the quicksands of hate, and that only when we have dug down to the rock of brotherly love and affection can all nations live in unity.

Our American future is inescapably linked with the future of all mankind. The United Nations cannot achieve the purpose for which it has been created without our full cooperation. In the making of a lasting peace, we face a momentous task–that of replacing international hatred with love, and prejudice with understanding. We must stretch forth our hands to aid and serve our less fortunate brothers. We must work through world government to bring freedom to all peoples and to build in them confidence in our United Nations.

In high school we have tried our hand at running a unit of government–our own institution. Soon we shall be called upon to help run the government of the world. It is to this task that we, the men and women of tomorrow, must dedicate our efforts. We must work to attain specific and concrete objectives in the fields of international security, economic reconstruction, and social advancement.

Several members of this graduating class are returned veterans of World War II. These youths, whose regular education was interrupted by the war, desired to return to school under the G.I. Bill of Rights so that they would be better fitted for the jobs which they have chosen. These boys helped to save our country, and to preserve its ideals, and they have been an inspiration to the rest of us. Let us work together so that the America they saved will become and remain a satisfaction to herself and a glorious beacon to which the world may turn for inspiration and guidance.

Some of these veterans and many other members of the class of ’47 will enter colleges or other schools of learning. Others of us will go directly into some kind of work. In the next few years, we shall be making important decisions which will in many cases decide our entire futures. But whether we get jobs on farms, in factories, or in stores, or enter one of the professions, we all must meet the challenge–that we help create a better world.

Tonight, as the doors of Poky High close behind us, we shall carry with us many happy memories of our high school years. As the valedictorian of the class of ’47 I wish to thank our teachers, parents, and friends who have made these years mean so much. I know that they have a place in the heart of every graduating senior. Now as we begin our journey, we must say goodbye. It is not the gale but rather the set of the sail that bring home the ship. Our years spent in school have set the sail. We hope we may bring the ship safely to harbor.

So there you have it. Some encouraging words, perhaps, to help us steer the ship aright. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

And now, the season finale of this month’s soundtracks with my favorite mix¬†from September.

  1. Sadie Hawkins – Reliant K
  2. Leave a Light On – Marble Sounds
  3. Ghosts – Crywolf
  4. Half Light – Banners
  5. The Best of Times – Styx
  6. Because I Love You – Montaigne
  7. More than You’ll Ever Know – Nathan Sykes
  8. Death of a Bachelor – Panic! At The Disco
  9. Lost it All – Jill Andrews
  10. Brand New – Ben Rector

When the Rest is Dust

Happy first day of autumn! The weather here has been sunny, which is nice, but also sort of disorienting. I’m ready to get back to sweater weather but the meteorological forces of the Puget Sound don’t seem quite inclined to give up summer yet. I don’t want to say I’m tired of the sun (because that’s definitely not the case) but I don’t think I’d complain if we got back to cold and rainy real soon. Anyway, whatever your weather is (I guess it’s spring for some of my readers), I hope you’re enjoying it.

Last Friday saw some actual¬†doings to vary the otherwise generally placid habits I’ve developed since being home. A friend¬†was kind enough to accompany me to a so-called Chocolate Garage Sale and we treated ourselves to some discount chocolate from a fun local company clearing stock for the holiday season. We then went to see another friend in a community theater production of¬†Little Shop of Horrors which was a lovely conclusion to the day.

I also got together with some friends for baking-based fun in the form of muffins (banana-nut) and upsidedown quince tart. Somehow, baking things with me became a thing that some of my friends believe will result in good times. Which, I mean, the times are always good. The baked goods aren’t always… But it’s the fun that matters, right? I’m going with yes. And in the cases this week, the baked goods were both delicious and pretty simple, so we’re in the clear. I had never had quince before, but I wholly approve. They’re sort of halfway between apples and pears and they’re inedible raw. When cooked, they ‘blush’ and turn red, which is kind of fun. You should give them a try.


Isn’t she precious, enjoying her little pool of sunshine?

In other news, there’s not much other news.

Some among you may recall a post from a few months ago regarding the state of no-news. That post mostly talked about the importance of keeping up with yourself in addition to keeping up with world news. Today, I have a slightly different angle on no-newsiness.

I have decided that I have, in fact, a great deal of news. It’s just baby news. It’s still incubating. It’s all tremendously exciting: I’m moving to a new town, I’m getting a great job, I’m making cool new friends, things are working out pretty well. Or, if not pretty well, they’re at least moving ahead. I know that I have all these thrills (and more) to look forward to, as well as the darker times and the difficulties these developments may well imply. They’re just coming attractions still chugging down the track toward me.

Here’s hoping they arrive sooner rather than later. But who can say? All that I know is that they’re on their way and, one way or another, they’re going to change everything. This is big news, people.

I think I’m finding this a more pleasant way to deal with the great void of nothingness in front of me. Instead of endlessly musing on all the unknowns and the unfortunate and continued silence from potential employers, I’m focusing on the someday. I don’t have all the details, our connection’s a bit staticy, but important¬†somethings are on their way. For now, I think, that needs to be enough. The Do-Things-With-Your-Life wagon is a-comin’ down the street and I know it’s got something for me. Whenever it arrives, at least.

Anyway, there’s that. I’ll leave you with the penultimate playlist of the month. This week has rather a lot of variety, but I think all the selections are worth a listen and several of them I’ve been playing a little obsessively. I hope you at least give it a once-through.

  1. Plain Sight – Kita Alexandra
  2. I Think We’re Alone Now – Tommy James and the Shondells
  3. Out of Mind – Magic Man
  4. Love is Blind –¬†L√•psley
  5. Run to You – Pentatonix
  6. Life Itself – Glass Animals
  7. Two Birds – Regina Spektor
  8. Paper Hearts – Tori Kelly
  9. Penny Lane – The Beatles
  10. Love and Us – Sam Tsui

C’mon Gang

I was a little apprehensive¬†about my first post-Ireland entry here, but it seems to have been well received. Or well enough, leastways. I know I keep saying that I’d keep this blog up regardless, but it’s nice to know that people enjoy what I write. So thanks for sticking with me.


Finally managed to get another picture of him

I’m still having to remind myself, sometimes, how soft and wonderful and amazing cats are. I haven’t quite gotten used to being around cats all the time once more. Loving it.

The weather this week took a surprising turn for the gorgeous so I’ve been spending as much time outside as possible. Obviously, this involves a great deal of reading in the sun. I’ve just finished Jane Austen’s¬†Emma, what a delightful read. I had watched the BBC miniseries on Netflix and determined to read it–along with a few other similar era adaptations. I also read the wonderful Doctor Thorne after watching the series on Amazon, it is so good, I highly recommend it. It’s directed, I believe, by the same guy who did Downton Abbey, it’s his favorite book.¬†¬†Then I have some lighter fantasy (and a biography of Ludwig II of Bavaria) before tackling the very intimidating¬†Demons by Dostoyevsky.

I think I have intimated to you before my love of books and of reading. This biography should be interesting, as I think the last biography I read was Hellen Keller in like third grade. Clearly it’s not my genre of choice, but Ludwig II is an interesting enough character, I think, to make it very much worth while. The book itself is called¬†The Swan King and I have pretty high expectations. I’ll keep you updated. And I love being able to breeze through really good fantasy and struggle through high-literature classics. Variety is the spice of life and, as I once read, the jury is no longer out on classics; whether or not you like them, they are quality books.

I expect that Demons will keep me occupied for some time so you’ll probably get periodic asides on it rather like when I read¬†The Count of Monte Cristo.¬†Look forward to thoseūüėČ Though they will likely be even more unintelligible than the previous, if my experience with Dostoyevsky is anything to go by. I’m sure I’ll sound quite insane. I am, but that’s beside the point. He’s even more crazy, so don’t blame me for his madness above and beyond my own.

Anyway, not much else to report this week other than the stunning weather. ¬†Time goes on, as it is wont to do, and I’m still here. We’ll see where I am next week, though I’m in doubt of any substantive change. Who knows.

Here’s the week’s playlist, hope you like it. And, to be clear, the last song made it onto this list while I wasn’t writing my dissertation, though I suppose it’s equally relevant in terms of job hunting. But also I just like the song, okay?

For your listening pleasure:

  1. Bugs Don’t Buzz – Majical Cloudz
  2. Hero/Heroine – Boys Like Girls
  3. That Old Gang of Mine – Perry Como
  4. Please Don’t Go – Joel Adams
  5. Gold – Gabriel Rios
  6. Clay – HANA
  7. Fred Astaire – San Cisco
  8. Dear No One – Tori Kelly
  9. A Little’s Enough – Angels & Airwaves
  10. All We Do – Oh Wonder

I am Seeking Battersea

Well, I’m home.

I had a lovely day in Vancouver, B.C. because I flew there instead of directly to SeaTac. My parents and I had a fabulous dinner at Legendary Noodle, a restaurant of some renown that I first enjoyed in 2010. I particularly recommend their chrysanthemum tea. Also, while we’re talking about Canada, I would totally move to St. John’s. I had a layover there and it’s gorgeous. So if someone could get me a job and a visa, yes please, I’d do it in an instant.

And then it was Labor Day weekend which involved lots of food and seeing some people. It was nice, but I misjudged the weather a touch–it was definitely sweater weather. What are you gonna do. But at least there are cats. In person.


Looks at her eyes! The other one wouldn’t sit still for a picture.

Anyway, a while ago I read an interesting¬†post¬†on G. K. Chesterton’s views on travel. He is known for once saying,

The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.

The post goes on to discuss, with great art and insight, Chesterton’s other, perhaps paradoxical, views on travel but this initial quote has stuck with me as someone who has just returned home to a foreign country.

I mean, Ireland is not radically different from the US and, in truth, I was gone not quite eight¬†months from Christmas break. I often characterized it (as well as my time in England) as similar enough to be comfortable but different enough to be surprising. But still, some things have struck me as strange. And I’ll try not to be one of those people who gets back from a trip and it’s all they can talk about even when it’s clearly been exhausted as a topic of conversation among your friends. But I probably will be anyway, sorry in advance.

Little things have caught me a bit off-guard, both positively and negatively. For example, I got some food at the St. John’s airport and had to pay more than the labeled price because tax hadn’t been included. Oh, VAT how I miss you. On the other hand, not using adapters to plug things in is so liberating. I got back into driving pretty well, not having had the unfortunate experience of driving at all while in Ireland. On the other hand, though, I miss being able to walk everywhere.

Being home certainly has its benefits but it’s also a struggle. I want to find things to do with my time (besides applying to jobs) but I also am still thinking of this as a temporary time so I don’t want to get too involved. Of course, who knows how ‘temporary’ this will actually be.

Terry Pratchett, a prolific fantasy author, struck real close to home when he said,

Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.

And here I am, back at the beginning, waiting for Vizzini. It would be very hackneyed to say that neither I nor Gig Harbor are the same, but it’s true nonetheless.

For much of college, I had a great dread of moving home after graduation. It just seemed like such a defeat. And here I am, not currently with any prospects other than the fact that there are more jobs to apply to. On some level, I do feel sort of defeated. I went away to get a degree, then got decided to go even farther for a second one, and here I am, back where I’ve started, and most of my friends still in the Harbor are high schoolers. But at the same time, I’m feeling alright.

At this point in my life, no experience is really going to be wasted. So if I end up at Safeway for a while (though I think I’d rather move to Gillette, WY before it got to that point), it’s not going to be a disaster. Though I’ve yet to lose a love, it’s a teensy bit like¬†this¬†poem by Elizabeth Bishop. Though it may look sort of like I’ve lost a bunch of things, I haven’t had any true disasters. I can and will manage. And I look forward to whatever may come, knowing that even coming home can be like going on a journey.

Lastly, here’s this week’s playlist. Enjoy.

  1. Tourists – Olympia
  2. Animals – Coast Modern
  3. Everything’s A Ceiling – Death Cab for Cutie
  4. Domino Dancing – Pet Shop Boys
  5. Edge of Town – Middle Kids
  6. Different – James TW
  7. The Wilhelm Scream – James Blake
  8. Ghost of a King – The Grey Havens
  9. We Move Like the Ocean – Bad Suns
  10. In the Shadows РForeign Air