Wednesday, March 31, 2010

18. Visit the Vermont Veterans Militia Museum

My sister Katrinka is one of my heroes. There are lots of reasons for that, starting with the fact that she has the most integrity of anyone I've ever known, and has been a huge influence on me in that regard. She also has one of the most interesting jobs I can imagine. She's a museum content developer, which means that she does the research, writes the texts, decides the themes, and selects the images of many of the exhibits you see when you go to a museum. Unlike us academics, who take years to become experts, I've watched my sister go from zero to sixty in a matter of weeks on all kinds of fascinating subjects. Because of her I know lots of random facts about, among other topics, Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science Church, jelly fish (did you know they are the indestructible cockroaches of the oceans?), African mud cloth, William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, and my personal favorite, Thor Heyerdahl, the modern day explorer who sailed from South America to Polynesia in 1947 in a little raft made out of balsa wood. And of course, because of her, I love museums; all kinds, on all subjects. And, being a Navy brat with a father who loves military history, I'm fascinated by war and military museums (even though my parents, both former Naval officers, can't figure out how they produced such a peacenik daughter). So when I saw the Vermont Veterans Militia Museum on my friend and colleague Kristin's list, I immediately invited myself along. (Kristin has her own list of 52, some of which --like the Penguin Plunge and ice climbing -- coincides with things on mine and some of which --like dog sledding, kickboxing and this museum -- is stuff I wish I had thought of, and so have now decided to blatantly copy.)

Being a small museum, visiting hours are rather limited, and it's only open from 10 to 3 Tuesday through Thursday. So we decided to visit on a Wednesday afternoon, and weren't terribly shocked that we had the whole place to ourselves. It's really pretty interesting. Vermont soldiers have played a role in wars starting with the American Revolution, and there were exhibits from the Revolution to Iraq. Because there was a focus on the role of Vermonters, it was interesting to imagine how Vermont has impacted, and been impacted by, these wars. I was surprised to learn, for instance, that fully 10% of Vermont's population served in the Civil War. The flag with stars that I included here is from the town of Bridgewater, VT, and represents what was apparently a common practice here during World War I, where each town hung a flag commemorating the servicemen who were away (in blue) and those who were killed (in gold).

I think Kristin and I were both most fascinated by the Snow Snake, a sort of cross between a jeep, a tank and a snowmobile that was used in World War II to transport soldiers who fought on wooden skis and snow shoes. I included two pictures, one of Kristin and I standing in front of the Snow Snake, and another giving a better view of it from the side. Outside of the museum there are also numerous tanks and helicopters, and Kristin and I got up close (and got our feet tangled up in the ties that anchor them to the ground) as we peered inside. Our favorite outside vehicle was the little observation and taxi helicopter used in Vietnam (the explanatory text called it a "OH-6 Cayuse", though that didn't help me out much).

I'm a huge fan of travel, and am getting pretty psyched for a summer full of it -- to the Dominican Republic, the western United States, the Middle East, and Europe in that order. But it's also pretty fun to see what's in your own backyard, and be reminded that the world is full of new things only a few minutes away, too.

52 Ways to Say I Love You Albanian, with a huge shout-out to Pat, the father of my brother in law, Brian. Pat and his wife Kathy have had lots of great ideas for the list of 52, and one day Pat compiled the two longer phrases below in a whole bunch of languages, and sent it to me. Thanks, Pat!

Hello c'kemi
Goodbye mirupafshim
I love you Te dua
May I have two beers please? Mund te kete dy birra, asseblief.

Coming Attractions

Easter Sunday souffle lesson. This Sunday I'm having dinner at the home of my friends Brett and Zan (as in Alexander). But before I do, Zan has very kindly offered to increase my New Things cooking repertoire by teaching me how to make chocolate souffle. Doesn't that sound sophisticated in a Julia Child kind of way? I definitely think so.

Bike maintenance. Back in the dead of winter when he was teaching me to skate ski, Nigel told me he has also taught many bike maintenance classes, so of course I immediately put him on the spot and asked if he'd show me how to get my bike in running order when the warm weather came. This weekend is supposed to be in the 70s, so Nigel told me he'd give me a lesson either Saturday afternoon or during the day on Monday when we don't have class -- it all depends on his own training schedule and when he's going to do his 70 mile ride this weekend!

Ice skating. Still lots of work to do on my skating goals, though I'm happy to report that yesterday I started working on my very first jump (a waltz jump which is just a little half jump, but still). Still going Mondays at 8:30 am and Wednesdays at 11:30 and, when possible, Friday at 11:30 or Sunday at 1. And I'm always happy to skate with other people, so if you want to join in once or often, just let me know.

Eat a Vermonster. What could possibly be a better team-builder than a group exercise in gluttony? On Wednesday, April 21, the Saint Mike's team headed to the Dominican Republic -- Ashley, Carolyn, David, Eireanne, Erin, Joy-Anne, Katelynn, Korinne, Mark, and I -- will meet up at Ben and Jerry's after my ballet class gets out at 6:30 to jointly demolish a Vermonster. If anyone reading this wants in on the fun and indigestion (like maybe, for instance, a bunch of people planning a similar trip to India or Guyana), you can always get your own group together and get your own Vermonster to keep us company!

Monday, March 29, 2010

17. Participate in a contra dance

I don't know whether it's a Vermont thing, but lots of people I know contra dance. For anyone who isn't quite sure what that is, the best way I can describe it is as square dancing in two lines instead of squares of eight people. In fact, the two types of dancing are sometimes combined, with sets of both in the same evening, as they were the night we gave it a try. My colleague Will is a nationally-known artist, and though I didn't find out till last weekend, also known, and in high demand, across the country as a square dance caller. When there's a local opportunity to do either one he often posts to the rest of us, and so last Friday a bunch of us -- faculty, students and alumni -- answered the call. Will's the one wearing the vest in the picture standing next to my friend and colleague Crystal. By day Crystal teaches philosophy, and in the off-hours, she joins me in my New Things related to dance. Every Wednesday evening since mid-January we can be found at the Flynn Center in our ballet slippers working on our battements and rond de jambes (Crystal with much greater success than me).

One of the cool things about the evening is that it was very beginner-friendly. People who knew what they were doing were more than happy to partner with us newcomers, and we walked through all the steps of a dance before we actually all did it to music. Of course that didn't keep me from stepping on the toes of my friend and former student Derek while square dancing, and worse, completely messing up two whole rows of people in my first contra dance when I forgot to do my part of the "wave" (and if you want to know what that is, you'll just have to try it out for yourself sometime). I included some photos of some of my other friends who danced that night. There's one of Jerry, who teaches Journalism and Mass Communication and co-leads student trips to Tanzania with me, swinging Valerie, a wildly popular Education professor, and another of my student, friend and fellow AIDS activist, Madison (in the pink shirt) promenading, in addition to one of me swinging with a high school friend of Madison's. So there it is: free, friendly, and fun. Everyone should check it out sometime, and don't say "but I don't dance". Neither do I, but it's still a good time.

52 Ways to Say I Love You Setswana (spoken in Botswana), with many thanks to Heather B.who studied abroad there last year.

Hello: Dumela (Do-mel-a)
Good bye: Go Siame (Go Sia-may)
I love you: Ke a go rata (kay a go rata)
May I have two beers, please?: Ke Kopa biri tse pedi, tsweets tswe (kay kopa biri tsay pedi tsweets tsway)

Coming Attractions

As noted in my previous post on downhill skiing, Wednesday, March 31 is a museum field trip in the afternoon with my friend Kristin J. to the Camp Johnson Veterans Museum, and all this week and the following ones are multiple opportunities for lots of ice skating on Mondays (8:30 am), Wednesdays, (11:30 am) and possibly Fridays (11:30 am). I'll be going during my lunch hours at school for the Wednesday and Friday skates, so if someone wants to go over from campus with me, just let me know!

Dan and Nigel don't know it yet (though they will if they read this post), but I am about to hit them up on their offers to teach me bicycle maintenance, because it is clearly time to break out the bike this weekend, and my tires are feeling kind of flat. If I can talk one of them into giving me a lesson later this week or weekend, I'll post it on the Museum post.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

16. Go downhill skiing

I started this week feeling pretty good about the winter sports I've tried since the beginning of 2010. Since early January I've: gone ice climbing; done two winter hikes up Camel's Hump (one with snow shoes, one with hiking boots and crampons); gone snowshoeing through Nebraska Notch; ice skated (at Rockefeller Center and in Burlington); gone both classic cross country skiing and skate skiing (twice); and tried snow boarding. In fact, I did every winter sport on my list except downhill skiing, an observation I made to my friend and former student Drisk when we met up for a long-delayed beer at the Vermont Pub and Brewery on Wednesday night. And that's all I needed to say. One of the many things I love about Drisk is that he's got a very can-do attitude, whether it's figuring out how to get lots of fellow students excited about being political or getting his former teacher on skis before the week is over. The next day I was at the Alpine Shop where Drisk works getting fitted with rental skis, and on Friday afternoon I was back on a chair lift for the first time in almost twenty years.

It didn't feel like late March at all. The temperature was in the twenties, and the snow was a little icy, but still plenty deep for skiing, and the sky was a brilliant clear blue without a cloud in sight. Like so many of my student/alumni teachers, Drisk is a master of his sport, and it was almost as much fun to watch him ski backwards on the first two runs (he was watching out for me) and take jumps on the others as it was to be on skis myself. I was pleasantly surprised that the little bit I had known from before came back really quickly -- in fact the biggest things that I thought were different were the equipment (much simpler now than 20 years ago) and the fact that the sport itself is way more fun than I remember it.

My only complaint about the entire experience is that it's put me in a new quandary. In a previous post I had noted that I'm quite certain I'm going to keep going (and actually have) with a number of the things on my list. I want rock climbing and ice skating to be regular parts of my life, and of the winter sports I had tried, the two I was definitely going to stay with are skate skiing and snow boarding. But now I just don't know. It might have to be downhill skiing instead of snow boarding. Way easier, and oh, so much fun! It's a good problem to have. Sometimes too much of a good thing is still a good thing.

52 Ways to Say I Love You
Josh comes through again. The guy has taught me snow shoeing and rock climbing, made sure I didn't chicken out of the Penguin Plunge as part of the SMC team, and gave me the Danish translation for my 52 language phrases. He spent our recent spring break volunteering with migrant workers in Immokalee, Florida on a school MOVE-sponsored service trip, and while he was there, got me yet another translation -- Creole -- from a Haitian family he was chatting with. As far as I'm concerned, students like Josh are the reason that we SMC professors have the best job in the world.

hello komoye
thank you mercie beaukou (Josh got this one instead of good by)
I love you Meulu remen (-m)
May I have two beers, please? Eske ou ka ban muleu de bierre s'il vouz plait?

Coming Attractions

Wednesday, March 31 at 2 pm. Camp Johnson Veterans Museum -- Kristin and I will be doing our field trip this week and see what our own backyard has to teach us.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday, March 29 (8:30 am), March 31 and April 2 (both 11:30 am). Ice skating, and lots of it! This is one of my more ambitious goals, and is going to take some ice time to get where I'm trying to go. Let me know if anyone wants to go, or find another time to skate at Leddy, Cairns, or the Waterbury rink next week, or in the weeks that follow.

Monday, March 22, 2010

15. Cook an Indian meal

When I was a little kid I really loved McDonald's Fillet-o-Fish Sandwiches, Chef Boy Ardee Ravioli and Twinkies. As an adult I think they're all kind of gross. On the flip side, I could not tolerate any degree of spice in my food, but now have come to understand that Indian and Thai food are wonderful contributions to human existence. I guess that's the upside of being a grown-up which, together with being able to drink all the Diet Pepsi I want and go to bed whenever I feel like it, helps balance out stupid grown-up things like income taxes, dealing with lawyers and retirement accounts, and finding a plumber to replace the water heater. Now that I know that I love Indian food, my problem is that I don't know how to cook it. So, I decided it needed to go on the list, as something to learn this year. And during our spring break last week, my colleague and close friend Tara and her daughter Katya donated an afternoon to help me get started.

The key to cooking Indian food, I have discovered, is the spices. The first thing Tara did is get out a couple of tins containing littler tins with all kinds of fun spices. The one pictured above (one of several) contains tumeric, cumin seeds, black mustard, split white lentils (urad dahl), fennel seeds, fennugreek seeds and cayenne pepper. She also introduced me to curry leaves, straight off the potted tree in her living room, and to a smelly spice with the crazy name of aeosefetida, that packs such a punch that it is stored in a tin in its own sealed bag away from the others when not in use.

We cooked three dishes, a basic dahl (lentil stew), mor keerai (greens (spinach) cooked with coconut), and a cabbage kari (dry vegetable saute). The most fun part is that all three started with frying the spices, which in the case of the seeds, means cooking them in oil under a screen till they pop like tiny pop corns -- as Tara is showing me how to do in one of the photos. After the spices are fried and the kitchen starts to smell wonderful, you add the other ingredients and let things simmer. It's amazing how just a few ingredients can come together to make quite a complex flavor in the dish. As I said, I'm pretty sure it's all in the spices. Obviously, my one afternoon of learning only scratched the surface of what I still have to learn. But I went home with containers of three delicious southern Indian dishes, and promises of more lessons, on top of the offer from my student Claire to teach me what she's learned this year in her preparation for the school's service trip to Kolkata. Clearly, more cooking (and eating) will follow, so drop a line if you want to be part of a later round!

52 Ways to Say I Love You Tamil. I didn't have the capacity to write it in the appropriate characters, so I asked Tara to transliterate into the English alphabet and here's what she came up with.

Hello Namaskaram

Good by Parkallam (literally, I will see you) or Poyvittu varen (I will go and come)

I love you. Naan unnai nesikkiran.

May I have two beers, please? Enakku rendu beer venum.

Coming Attractions

Try contra dancing. I've been saying I'd try this one since I started my list and this Friday, March 26 it's time to put my money where my mouth is. There's been a series of Contra dances at the Elly Long building on the North Campus at Saint Mike's all year, and this is the last one. I'm going to do it, and so are Crystal, Valerie, Anne-Marie, Karri (who actually knows how it's done), and possibly Kristin N. It's free and there's a dessert pot luck as well (I'm bringing molasses crinkles, of course), so obviously, EVERYONE needs to go. Anyone who wants to join us, drop a post or email, please.

Visit the Camp Johnson Veterans' Museum.Stole this one straight off my friend and colleague Kristin J's list. She's also got a list of 52, and though we have a fair amount of overlap, she's got a bunch of awesome things that never occurred to me. Like instead of kicking around dealing with lawyers and water heaters over her spring break, she went to Big Sur and communed with elephant seals and learned how to throw clay pots -- pretty cool if you ask me. She's the one that spotted the museum sitting tantalizingly close to our campus, and it's rather limited windows of opportunity for visiting (10-3 Tuesday through Thursday). So, Kristin and I are doing a field trip on Wednesday, March 31 at 2 pm.

Learn to jump and spin on ice skates. Although I'm very behind on this one, I've been going to town on it in the last week and a half. I am trying to skate at least two practice sessions, and have at least one lesson, per week to get back up to speed. Monday mornings (8:30 - 9:30)is the Leddy Park Rink and Wednesday (and hopefully most Friday) lunch hours are at the Cairns Arena. Who wants to join me on this one?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

13. Try snowboarding and 14. Do a winter sport at night

Winter is winding down in a hurry. I saw quite a few people in shorts and t-shirts downtown today -- though of course that doesn't mean anything since I live in Burlington, Vermont, where people break out tank tops and flip-flops the moment the mercury goes over 32 degrees. But still, I think the days left for me to try winter sports are numbered (for winter 2010, anyway), and so I was thrilled at the opportunity to hit two things on my list at the same time. Thanks to yet another friend and SMC alum, Dave, tonight I was able to try snowboarding AND do a winter sport at night at Bolton Valley. I had been forewarned by many friends that snowboarding is hard, and that I should be prepared to fall a lot, so I think I was ready to be disappointed with what will probably be my last run at an outdoor winter sport for the season. Instead, I had a blast, and will definitely keep going with this one, though I might wait till next winter. I was lucky because lots of great circumstances came together. It was a wonderfully mild evening, which made the snow very forgiving, and being outside really enjoyable. Dave was an awesome teacher, and we had the whole area where he was teaching me to ourselves. And I think the timing of trying this one, coming after my new-bee experiences in a whole variety of other sports, made my expectations pretty humble.
On the drive home I was thinking about the fact that I'm 11 weeks into 2010 and 14 New Things into this endeavor. The experience of learning new things has taught me a lot beyond the specific items on the list, and two were particularly reinforced by trying snowboarding tonight. Neither are particularly original, but both are, I think, worth repeating. The lessons are these:
Keep an open mind. My sister Katrinka sometimes reminds me of a question from her favorite former college professor -- do we know what we like, or do we like what we know? The experience of trying new things has made me realize that there is a whole world of experiences that I've never had, and things I've never tried, and the biggest reason why is that I didn't get to them when I was a kid or teenager. Of the things I've tried so far, the three I'm very sure I will keep going with are rock climbing, skate skiing and snowboarding -- none of which I ever would have predicted I'd even try, let alone enjoy, only a few months ago. And that brings me to my second realization.
There's nothing to be afraid of. A funny thing about purposely being a beginner at many things is that it lets you see other beginners. This in turn reveals that kids are much, much better beginners than adults are. That's because they know there's nothing to be afraid of, a lesson that gets forgotten by adults like me, who start manufacturing all kinds of fears -- of failure, of looking like we don't know what we're doing (a particular flaw of academics, I think), of being seen in front of students or others making a mistake, of having to ask for help. Fourteen new things and countless mistakes and missteps later, I'm glad I tried them all, and to my knowledge, have suffered no serious damage in the estimation of my teachers -- including my students and former students. A very liberating realization, that one.
52 Ways to Say I Love You
With many thanks to Alexsis, who is studying abroad in Istanbul right now (and who is maintaining a fabulous blog on the experience at
hello merhaba
good by hoscakal
May I have two beers please? Iki tane bira alabilimiyim luften?
I love you. Is seni seviyorum.
Coming Attractions
Ice skating. I'm kicking myself for not ice skating much this winter, but during this week of my spring break I've started to make amends and have gone three times since Sunday. One of the best (and sometimes worst) things about being an academic is that it's not a 9-to-5 schedule. On Monday and Wednesday I don't leave work until 7 and 10 pm respectively, but the flip side is that I have open space on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Starting next week I'm going to go ice skating at least twice a week to try to move toward my jumping and spinning new thing goals. Mondays will be 8:30 - 9:30 at Leddy Park (in the New North End) and Wednesday will be 11:30 - 12:30 at the Cairns Rink (in South Burlington) -- anyone who wants to do some skating with me on either day (and Friday morning is an option, too), let me know please.
Learn to cook Indian food. Tomorrow, March 19, I'm headed to my friend Tara's to get my first Indian cooking lesson. The lesson plan includes dahl, kari and khichidi -- can't wait!
Knit a pair of mittens. This one is actually a call for help. My sister Katrinka got me started when I was in Tacoma at Christmas, and I finished one there. This week I decided that I should give the other one a try and am almost done with the cuff. But then I have some tough stuff like the thumb, so if there is anyone reading this close by who's a pro at mitten-knitting, please shoot me a message.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Serendipity 4. Go skate skiing with an Olympic trials veteran

So, I mentioned in a previous post that I was planning to take a break from the list this weekend unless some fabulous unforeseen opportunity materialized. Of course I should have known it would. This weekend I got to go skate skiing with Nigel, and that's saying a lot. Because Nigel is a nationally-ranked athlete in the biathlon.

Before December of 2009 I knew Nigel as the guy in my U.S. Health Policy class who kept the rest of us on our toes by knowing more than anyone (including the teacher) about the ins and outs of the health care debate on Capitol Hill. When I got a request from Nigel for an extension on his final paper, I knew it wasn't for lack of interest or procrastination on his part. Rather, it was for possibly the most fun reason I've ever heard for asking for an extension -- he had qualified for try-outs for the U.S. Olympic team in the biathlon in Minnesota. How cool is that?

As it turned out, the weather in Minnesota made for problems -- both in the tryouts and in getting the paper in. The hotel the athletes were staying at didn't have Internet access, and so I'd get occasional messages sent from Nigel's phone, which is how I learned that the races were conducted in weather that ranged from a high of ten degrees above zero to a low of ten below. Unfortunately, Nigel didn't qualify for the Olympic team but he did email a stellar paper, when he was finally able to go to his coach's house and use his Internet connection, though I don't know how much of a consolation that was.

When I started the list of 52 New Things, Nigel said he'd be happy to give me some tips on any cross country skiing I might try, but our schedules didn't mesh well, so Dan wound up stepping up to give me my first lessons in both classic and skate cross country skiing (Dan was also working this last Sunday when Nigel and I went skiing so I asked if he'd pose for the picture I posted here, so I could have a visual record of both my cross country teachers). When Nigel said he'd have time to go skiing on Sunday, I thought getting to do my second time out ever on skate skis with a nationally-ranked athlete in the sport was a not-too-shabby score for the Serendipity List. So, I spent most of Sunday afternoon at Bolton Valley skate skiing with Nigel. He very kindly let me set the pace and pretended that it was the most natural thing in the world to be going at a fraction of his usual pace. He even refrained from taking a picture of me during an epic fall, though he had my camera in his hands at that moment.

In addition to hopefully improving at least a little, I learned a couple of valuable things. The first is another of those open secrets that I am probably the last Vermonter to know -- that the ideal time to do winter sports is actually when the weather starts to get warm in March. Though it may turn the Burlington area into a muddy mess, there's still plenty of snow in the mountains, and it's (almost) warm and wonderfully sunny being out and about in that snow. Bolton couldn't have been better. I also discovered that an optimum way to do a new thing that I think I like is to combine it with an old thing that I know I do. In this case that meant mixing skate skiing and talking politics for two and half hours straight with a student whose knowledge of the workings of Congress is just short of encyclopedic. We compared notes on our favorite and least-favorite members of Congress and decried American political culture (and in between I got to hear some cool stories about national and international cross country competitions). For a political scientist trying to become a winter sports enthusiast, it was just about as good as it gets. Overall, an awesome afternoon, and yet another unexpected perk of writing a list of 52 New Things!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

List Update: New and Improved (or at Least Longer)

One of the many fun things about last weekend's trip to Bar Harbor is that the drive up gave Leah, Siham and me all a chance to update and add to our lists. I posted my original list as a work-in-progress back in late December, and thought now was a good time to post the update. The original list had 49 possible New Things. Now the list is over the 52 mark at 59 (and that doesn't include the Serendipity List of cool "bonus" things that I've done because of the original list). But I don't expect that all of the things here will work out, and know now from experience that other new possibilities will pop up. Still, I think a rough idea is nice to have, so here the list as it stands, as of early March.

I am excited to report that I've discovered colored fonts, so like a small child, must use them immediately. Things I've already done are in green (my favorite color), ones in progress are red, and ones still to be done are boring blue. My earlier list grouped things by category. This one keeps roughly the same categories, but begins with a new category with two elements --the things I've already done, and the ones that I've begun but not completed.

Been There, Done That (or at Least It's in the Works)

1. Create a blog. This was the first thing I did. Funny how easy it turned out to be, once my friend Julia walked me through it.
2. Go to Nepal. Thanks to my gracious friends Cliff and Nicole, I had an amazing trip to Kathmandu for the New Year. What an incredible way to start off the year, and my travel plans. There's a picture above from Pashipatinath, site of a sacred river and temple complex where many go to die and be cremated.
3. Rock climbing. This and ice climbing were the things that intimidated me most on my whole list. But I luckily got to try this one out in Nepal, and it's hard to be (too) intimidated when you're being coached by a four-year old (as I was in the picture here of Jai and I on my first-ever climb). I thought it was great, and it's probably the activity I'm most excited to keep learning. Another of the pictures I've posted is from practicing on the climbing wall here at Saint Mike's, and I have to especially thank my student teachers, Josh, Amanda and Randall.
4. Ice climbing. Went with the Wilderness Program on January 16, and so happy I tried it, even though I don't think I'll make it a regular thing because it's just too cold!
5. Snow shoe hiking. Took my first snow shoe hike with Connor S. under Josh's leadership up Nebraska Notch and did a repeat a few weeks later with Ryan, Brigit and Alex up Camel's Hump (see #10 below). Who knew I'd like it so much?
6. Make fresh mozzarella cheese. Mark provided quite the tutorial for Valerie, Dan H. and I. We also learned the importance of labeling our reagents (or ingredients depending on whether it's a scientist or a cook who's lecturing you) if you don't want to put in salt when you mean to use citric acid.
7. Cross country skiing. Dan S. gave me a lesson in February, and I felt pretty stupid for having lived all these winters in Vermont without ever going. Better late than never, though!
8. Penguin plunge. When I told the student group that I’m going to the Dominican Republic with about the 52 New Things, they were all over it with suggestions. One was to participate in the annual jump into Lake Champlain (that is, through the hole that is made in the ICE) in February to benefit Special Olympics. Trip leader Erin and I did it, together with some other friends and turned out to be a lot of fun. I might even do it again next year.
9. Ice skating at Rockefeller Center in New York City. This was great. I went to New York City with Dan H., Alex, Michelle and Emily, stayed with my wonderful friend T. Richard, and my high school friend Angela flew in from Idaho to join me! Ironically, though none of them actually did the ice skating part with me -- my friends Aaron and Carolyn did that, and then Dan and I took the train home (yet another first). Fabulous weekend.
10. (1-4) Hike Camel's Hump in all four seasons. So excited about this one. It wasn't on my original list but I've already done the winter hike (twice actually, once with crampons with Conor D. and once with snow shoes with Ryan, Brigit and Alex). I think I'm going to try to do the spring one as a farewell hike with graduating seniors. Siham and Leah want to be part of Dan H.'s suggestion that the summer one be a moonlight/dawn hike that goes up in the evening and comes back down at dawn to catch both the sunrise and the sunset. Doesn't that sound cool? And of course, who would miss Camel's Hump, and all its glorious colors in the fall?
11. Try skate skiing. Once again, Dan. S. stepped up and taught me, and a group of SMC students who signed up through the Wilderness Program. In my opinion, harder than classic cross country (at least for a beginner) but also more fun.
12. Watch a sun rise in Bar Harbor, Maine. This was actually stolen from Siham’s list. She pointed out that, from October to March, this is the earliest place to see the sun rise on the East Coast. Leah and I invite ourselves along and we spent the last weekend in February having Cadillac Mountain all to ourselves. Needless to say, it was a tremendous excursion, and I just had to include a picture from the trip.
13. A few words (in 52 languages). My friend Matthew had the brilliant idea of learning how to say “May I have two beers, please” and “I love you” in a different language for every week of the year. I added "hello" and "good by" and so far have done 13 languages: Amharic, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Kiswahili, Korean, Lugandan, Mandarin Chinese, Nepali, and Portuguese.
14. Dance. My friend Crystal was the ultimate good sport, and is taking beginning ballet with me at the Flynn Center, our local performing arts space. We started in January and it's a 14 week class, but no danger that I'll be quitting my day job -- just as I suspected, no particular aptitude has been released with the donning of my ballet slippers.
15. Learn to use my digital camera. Don’t know why photography intimidates me so much, but it does. My friends John (who has his own awe-inspiring photography blog at, Alexander and Cailey have offered to help on this one, and I'm going to take them up on it. In the meantime, I've been taking highly amateurish photos for my blog postings with reckless abandon.
16. Knit a pair of mittens. I don’t feel the need to make a sweater or anything that ambitious, but mittens are different. My sister Katrinka, a world-class knitter, showed me how when I was visiting her and Brian and my niece Tigist at Christmas. Unfortunately, I only did one mitten and need to find a knitting coach here to help me do the other one.
17. Go to a college hockey game. For years Siham and I said we’d go together and never did. My friend Paul and I went to the last hockey game of the home season last week, and plan to go to some other college sporting events that I’ve never attended as well. Siham and I are still going to hit an early-season hockey game in December 2010, too.

New Countries

18. Dominican Republic. I’ll be participating in a school sponsored international service trip with a crew of fabulous Saint Mike’s students and led by our outstanding fearless leader, Erin, from May 18 – 28.
19. Jordan. At least two weeks in June. This trip is part professional development, part personal interest and part opportunism. I’m developing a class on the Millennium Development Goals for Fall 2010 and using Jordan as a case study, and I’m starting to expand my water scarcity research to the Middle East for obvious reasons, and one of my students, Connor is applying for our College's Provost Research grant to do some of the fieldwork in-country with me (that’s the professional part); several friends have told me that Jordan is a totally cool place and especially that everyone must see Petra (that’s the personal interest part); and two of my all-time favorite people (both of whom know Arabic), Siham and Jamila, have agreed to go with me (that’s the total opportunism part).
20. Lebanon. If you’re going to go to Jordan, doesn’t it make sense to see Lebanon on the same trip? What a silly question. The correct answer is obviously yes.
21. Syria. A maybe, but Jamila is advocating for it, and I think it sounds exciting…
22. Spain. A European country I’ve never been to, but could incorporate as a stopover with Siham in Madrid on the way to Jordan.
23. Denmark. My Journalism colleague Jerry and I recently learned that we'll be presenting a paper at an international conference at Cambridge University on interdisciplinary work in the social sciences, and I want to expand the trip on the front or back end (or both) to go to some other new European destinations. Denmark is the clear front runner, but there are some other possibilities that might get added, including other Scandinavian countries and/or the Netherlands.

Tackling the Fear Factor

24. Bike maintenance. My friend Dan H., who has already been a part of a bunch of other things on the list, has agreed to teach me how to fix a flat and general bike maintenance. Unfortunately, he just broke his leg, so we'll be waiting a bit on this one.
25. Snow boarding. Dave, Derek and Cailey have all offered to give me lessons, and have warned me that it involves falling a lot and winding up with a very sore butt. During the upcoming March spring break, I'll be making one or more of them make good on their promises (and warnings).
26. Car maintenance. There are a couple specific things I really need to know how to do listed in the category below, but I might just go for broke and sign up for a beginner car maintenance class.
27. Downhill skiing. Technically, this is not a new thing, since I skied a little in high school and college. But it’s been almost 20 years, and I’ve never done it in Vermont, so I’m counting it. Dan, Cailey and Drisk have all offered a refresher lesson, and Siham, Leah and Jess are coming up during March spring break to take part in the fun.
28. Drawing or painting class. Gary suggested this to me last summer and claimed he saw a look of panic on my face. That means this is the year to try it, probably this summer or fall.

29. Basic stuff with tools. I don’t know anything about home maintenance or repair. Not anything. Still not sure what my plan of attack will be, but I think I need to do it, so it's staying on the list.
30. Power point. I need to learn a bit beyond the basics that currently allow me to make the world’s most boring presentations. I think I am intimidated by all things design-related, but I definitely want to give it a shot, and my youngest sister Donna has offered to help.
31. Surfing. Leah took a look at an earlier version of the list and said she could provide the location, boards and instructors if we wanted to give it a try, so of course I added it. We'll be trying this one during the summer at a beach near her home. It can’t be any harder than snowboarding. Right?

Things I Want to Know How to Do or Make

32. Jump start the car. My sister Donna pointed out that it’s a bit ridiculous that I’ve made it this far in life without this basic skill. Siham offered to show me.
33. Change a flat tire. Like jump starting the car, I’ve somehow managed to skate through life without knowing up to now, but I think it’s time to learn.
34. Cook an Indian meal. Wouldn’t it be neat to be able to make some of the things I love to order at Indian restaurants? My friend Tara offered to give me lessons, and I'll be taking her up on it starting during my spring break in March.
35. Bake croissants. My friend Dean, a professional baker, is willing to guide me through this one at his home kitchen/bakery. I recently discovered that it's a multiple-day process, so scheduling will be trickier than I first thought, but he's still willing to do it, so we will.
36. Learn to do a one-footed spin and a single jump on ice skates. I know some fundamentals like backwards and forwards crossovers and 3-turns, but I think it would be fun to be able to do a trick or two. Julia has offered to provide some tutoring the next time she visits, probably in March.
37. Sea kayaking. I’ve tried kayaking once or twice on Lake Champlain, but want to try it out on the ocean. My friend and former student Kate, who I actually met when she taught me how to fall out of a kayak, says she’ll take me out to try it this summer, probably off the coast of Maine.
38. Brew beer. Dan and Derek were volunteered by another of our friends, Ted, to show me how it’s done. My colleague, John O. has also volunteered to show me, so I'll definitely be learning.
39. Star gazing. In addition to being willing to show me how to brew beer, I asked John, who teaches astrophysics and gives talks on questions like how old the universe is (how's that for a mind-stretcher?) to give an evening lesson looking up at the sky. He kindly agreed, though we'll wait to till it's warmer and clearer out.
40. Glass blowing. One of my favorite places to go in the world is Tacoma, Washington. It's the home of my sister Katrinka, brother-in-law Brian and phenomenal niece Tigist. Pat and Kathy, Brian's father and stepmom, live there as well, and all five of them have been big supporters of the 52 New Things. Next time I visit, Katrinka and I are going to do a special new thing -- sign up for an afternoon of glass blowing instruction -- in celebration of the fact that Tacoma is also home to the world-famous glass artist Dale Chihuly.
41. Learn to play an instrument. Although most of the serious relationships in my life have been with musicians, I am musically completely illiterate. While we were snowshoeing Connor S. suggested that I add learning some basics with a musical instrument, and that seems a very wise idea. Hopefully this summer or fall.

Never Put Off Till Tomorrow…

42. Go to Quebec City. Leah, Siham and I added this one to our list last weekend in Bar Harbor. Leah and I have always wanted to go, and Siham has wanted to return ever since she visited and stayed at the B&B that Edith Piaf used to use when she was in town. So, we'll be heading there this fall.
43. 24 hours in the city that never sleeps. Another really fun idea that came out of the Bar Harbor trip. I've already been to New York City once for the 52 New Things, to go ice skating at Rockefeller Center. But Siham, Leah and I are planning to go back (and of course, everyone's invited) for a 24 hour no-sleep visit. The itinerary is still in formation, but so far it includes a visit to the Statue of Liberty and an early-morning breakfast at an all-night diner. We might take the train there and back, so we can sleep the eight hours coming and going.
44. Contra dancing. A bunch of friends have been suggesting it for forever. I’m going to take my friends David and Kristin N. up on their offers to go with me.
45. Bird watching. I’ve always been curious about this, and my friend Kimberly is willing to let me tag along with her.
46. Do a hike in New Hampshire. As a Vermonter, it’s not exactly an insurmountable distance to travel, but I’ve never done it. My friends Leah and Kate B. have offered to do the hike with me.
47. A moonlight snowshoe or excursion on cross country skis. I think this sounds so cool, but I missed the ones the Wilderness Program does them every year. Luckily, I have enough friends who are past and current student wilderness pros that I am highly confident I can do some arm-twisting during my spring break to make this one happen.
48. Go camping in Vermont. In all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never gone camping in this state. My friend Melissa organized a highly-acclaimed group camping trip last year, and suggested I could join it this summer.
49. Visit the Rokeby Museum. For years I’ve driven by it on Route 7. My friend Valerie was the one who mentioned that I could put it on the list.
50. Do nothing. I thought this was an inspired idea from my student and fellow AIDS activist Madison. She suggested having a day of doing nothing but sitting, reflecting and listening. I want to try it.
51. Eat a Vermontster. Probably the most famous Vermont pig-out opportunity is the Vermonster, a ginormous 20 scoop ice cream sundae at Ben and Jerry’s. My Dominican Republic group suggested this one, but very kindly also offered to help me eat it, so we will have a gluttonous festival of dairy consumption together before embarking on our trip.
52. Martial arts class. I've always thought it would be fun to take a martial arts course, but never gotten around to it. This year I will, and Kristin J. might be up for it with me.

Assuming I Can Swing It and/or Don't Lose my Nerve

53. Visit Alaska. It’s the only state I haven’t been to. Kathy suggested adding Manitoba along the way to see the polar bears and I love that idea, so it's now part of the plan.
54. Do a meet-up in Latin America. Five of the coolest of my college’s recent alums – Derek, Dan, Drisk, Ted and Zack – are planning a Motorcycle Diaries – style trip from the bottom to the top of Latin America. Only they’re doing it the hard way, with bicycles instead of motorcycles. Assuming they can pull it off, I’m going to fly down in the fall and meet up with them for a visit to either Argentina or Chile.
55. Try falconry. This was my friend Kimberly’s suggestion, and we’ll do it together if we can find a place not too far away.
56. Fencing. Ditto on the fencing possibility, which I think will be a lot easier to locate.
57. Visit other new countries. In addition to the new countries list above, I'm always up to add to it. If other opportunities come up, or people have suggestions of new countries to see (or new places in countries I've already seen), I'm all ears. Please suggest away!
58. Take a flying lesson. This was a brilliant suggestion from my friend Henry. I love flying, especially in small planes. I know it’s bad for the planet (and also expensive), but if I can manage a lesson just once, I think this would be so very worth doing.
59. Get a tattoo. I've never wanted a tattoo because I never had anything that seemed so unique to me that I thought I'd be willing to wear it continuously. But I'm flirting with the idea of ending the year with my final new thing being a permanent reminder of all the other new things -- a small "52" etched somewhere on my being (shoulder, ankle or arm, most likely). Interestingly, most of my under-25 friends think it's a great idea, and Julia even offered to get tattoos together. Most of my contemporaries have raised polite questions of the "are you sure?" variety. We'll see (and if you have a compelling argument one way or the other on this weighty question, I'd love to hear it).

So, that's the list as it stands right now -- and I am sure it will continue to evolve as the year unfolds. But one of the best things that has happened as a consequence of doing 52 new things has been all the fabulous opportunities it has given me to learn from, and spend quality time with, new and old friends. I've discovered people I thought I knew have all kinds of hidden talents and expertise. It's also been a wonderful, (and humbling) experience to reverse roles with many of my past and present students who have taught me everything from rock climbing to ordering beer in Lugandan. Please take a look at the list and see if there are things you'd like to do or add -- or teach. If there are, post a comment or shoot me an email. I hope that everyone's year is filled with many new things!

Monday, March 1, 2010

12. See a Bar Harbor sunrise

Seven hours drive each way, too much snow to reach the summit of Cadillac Mountain, and too much fog to see the sunrise that we came to view. But as far as Siham, Leah and I are concerned, our road trip to Bar Harbor could not have been better. Siham and Leah, both close friends and Saint Michaels' alums, are the co-originators of the New Things List idea. Siham had the great idea of catching a sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Bar Harbor because between October and March it is reportedly the earliest place on the East Coast to see a sunrise. When we saw this item on Siham's list, Leah and I immediately added it to ours and invited ourselves along.

The plan was for us to meet on Friday night in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with Leah and Siham coming from the Boston area and me from Vermont. But work and weather (at least threats of it) conspired against us, and instead we left at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning. Seven hours later we arrived in Bar Harbor and discovered that the warnings we had heard that Bar Harbor rolls up the sidewalk in the off-season were not even slightly exaggerated. We started ricocheting from closed hotel to closed hotel, when we accidentally went down a one-way side street. Happily we then passed a bed and breakfast, the Canterbury Cottage, boldly displaying a sign that it was open all year round. When one of the innkeepers, Rob, greeted us at the porch with a heartfelt "You made it" (though none of us had ever spoken, emailed or otherwise communicated in any way), we knew we had found our home for the next 24 hours.

Sunday morning at 5 am we climbed again into Leah's parents' truck, and headed to the blocked-off road up Cadillac Mountain. After parking in front of the barrier we set off in the dark on the snowed-over road up the mountain, which we had been told should take about an hour. Over two hours later, the sun had risen, we had trudged in and out of mists and fogs, patches of deep snow and crusted over ice, and when the mists thinned, we had seen some truly spectacular views. But we had not hit the summit, the snow had reached our knees, and the footprints we had been following had stopped as well.

At that point we made an executive decision, for we had another task to complete, and in our cold, hungry state (and knowing that a lovely breakfast awaited us at the Canterbury Cottage if only we could get back by 9 am), it was feeling more and more urgent. Back on Halloween weekend when we thought up the 52 New Things idea, it was the result of a conversation about just how bad 2009 had been, and how 2010 was absolutely, positively going to be better. During the drive to Bar Harbor, we had another thought: what better way to say good by to the abysmal year that had passed than to burn it -- at the earliest sunrise on the East Coast from the top of a mountain? So, the executive decision was this: if you're not sure how much further it is to the top of a mountain, but you've gone pretty far and the snow is too deep to intelligently go any further, a clearing is as good as a peak. Being environmentally conscious, we wrote the highlights of our terrible year on a tiny scrap of paper (actually the back of a grocery receipt, how's that for reuse?), and set it ablaze (not that it was a very dramatic blaze, contained as it was on a few square inches of paper). Very satisfied that 2010 was now free to be full of many good things, we started back down the mountain and made it back to our B & B. We were just in time to get in on roasted grapes (if you're wondering if that's a typo, it's not. Roasted grapes are my new favorite thing, and if you've never tried them, do yourself a favor and go get some. Right now. I'm serious, they're that good.) and blueberry waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream on top.

Unfortunately, we knew it was going to be seven hours drive back to our respective homes and so, happy as we were to be in Bar Harbor, after stuffing ourselves at breakfast we went up to our room to pack up. As you can see from the photo, Leah and Siham did try to stage a little rebellion and hide in the bed rather than leave, but eventually they gave up and we sadly left our hosts, Rob and Martha and their very fun dogs, a Schnoodle who's name I've forgotten and a female Labradoodle named Melvin who desperately wanted to do our hike with us. In addition to the shot of Siham and Leah's attempt to delay our departure, I've included photos of Siham and I starting the hike in the dark; Leah and Siham finishing their lists before burning; me looking a bit anxious while the list was burning(I was worrying about whether we were going to make it back in time for the roasted grapes); and Siham standing in front of one of the spectacular views we caught on our hike. As far as we were concerned, it didn't matter that we didn't summit a peak or that the clouds covered up the sun rise. We went to an incredibly cool place, had a mountain entirely to ourselves, said good-by to a horrible year, and did an awesome winter hike -- all before breakfast. Everyone should plug Bar Harbor into their plans sometime. It's great, especially when you have it all to yourself.

52 Ways to Say I Love You Dutch, with thanks to Annemieke for the translation and pronunciation tips!

hello hallo (hahlloh);
good by tot ziens ('seens'),
May I have two beers please? Mag (with the gg) ik twee (tway) biertjes alstublieft (u, like french 'uuu'/ 'ie' is english 'ee'); and last but not least:
I love you Ik hou van je/ ik heb je lief.

Coming Attractions

Unless I get some unexpected idea or invitation, I think I'm actually not going to do anything new this weekend. I might do some work on my ice skating goals and/or do a repeat of one of the new sport things I've tried (anyone want to try the climbing wall at Petra with me?).

BUT I think the period from March 14 - 21 is going to be a Festival of New Things. It's my spring break, and there are lots of things in the works. Siham, Leah and Jess are coming up for a downhill ski day one of the two weekends, Dave is tentatively on tap to do a snowboarding lesson one of the two Sundays, Dan, Dan Derek and I are hopefully going to go ice skating, Julia is coming up for a few days and some jump and spin ice skating lessons, Tara is going to give me some Indian cooking, and though they don't know it yet, some combination of these people, and Allison, who offered a long time ago, are going to do a night hike or snow shoe with me one night of that period. So, if you want to get in on the last chance to do some cool new winter things before mud season is here for good, shoot me an email, and be part of the plans.

During the drive from Portsmouth to Bar Harbor, Siham, Leah and I did some substantial overhauls of our lists and have some very cool additional New Things in the works. I'm planning to post my new, improved New Things list in a post later this week, so I hope everyone will take a look and see if there are things they want to participate in during the coming weeks and months.