I Survived the First Semester! Or, I’ve Been Really Busy


When I applied to a Ph.D. program on an impulse last summer, I knew my life would be busy, but I didn’t realize just how busy. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I thought, sure, I can go to school full time while working full time. It hasn’t been the easiest thing I ever decided to do, and I have many more semesters to go. But having now submitted my last paper for the first semester (YAY), I can look back and reflect on just how crazy the last few months have been.

Before–the cockeyed optimist, ready to study!
Insane Asylum Entrance
This way madness lies…
after 1
Got my last paper in. Semester one done. Can I brush my hair now?

One of my first moves was to get a big dry-erase calendar to organize my life. I hung it, planned out the semester, and then pretty much ignored it until today, when I am wiping it clean for next semester.

calendar 2
I’ll pay more attention next semester.

As would be expected in any doctoral program, books are involved. Lots of books. Some I really enjoyed. Some I struggled with. And I faced the reality that I have to pick and choose what to read; I can’t read it all. Or I’m going to have to take a speed-reading class.

Read this book!
On Complexity
Foster cat Mouse and I struggled with this one.

My dictionary stays open to the “h” pages–I can’t remember the definitions of heuristic and hermeneutics to save my life.

I did have to change some things in my daily routine. My obsession with making the bed every morning is a thing of the past, I hate to say (sorry, Mom). As much as I like to do laundry, the laundry room is now the least visited room in the house.

unmade bed
I blame it on the cats.
I justify infrequent laundry by saying it’s because of the drought in California.
My mending and sewing pile gathers dust on top of the sewing machine.
I have become the queen of unfinished craft projects.

We might not ever eat homemade meals if not for the Purple Carrot. Similar to Blue Apron or Hello Fresh!, it’s a service that ships the ingredients and recipes for 3 meals a week. Purple Carrot happens to be vegan, and has the caché of having Mark Bittman on the team.

Purple Carrot logo

purple carrot 2
Quick, easy, tasty and healthy vegan recipes. A life saver!

Of course, we do end up eating on tv trays in front of television most of the time. But that’s not new.

tv trays


eating at desk
Eating at my desk is also not unheard of these days.
Clif bar
Yes, a Clif Bar with coffee is a balanced breakfast, really.

Have I mentioned coffee? There’s a lot of coffee in my life. Funny thing. it’s mostly decaf, but still gotta have it!

I have managed to have some fun down time. Maybe that’s why I scramble to get my papers in on time, but my idea of fun down time is going out on marches and protests, and I think of those as a part of my humane education program. As my friend and fellow future Ph.D. Suzy Fisher says, don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.

Never Be Silent

Elephant March
Marching for Elephants with one of my favorite activists, Sara Muñiz.
Gene Baur
Farm Sanctuary Founder Gene Baur speaks at UC Berkeley.
Walk for Farm Animals
Walk for Farm Animals in San Francisco with my buddies Cláudia Santos and Heather Meyer.
I also spent a beautiful day at Preetirang Sanctuary thanks to Cláudia.
Brave the Cage
I Braved the Cage with Suzy Fisher. Animal Place was at UC Berkeley to demonstrate what the lives of hens in battery cages are like.
Fur Free Friday. The awesome Kitty Jones is behind me, holding the Animals Are Not Ours to Wear sign.

A trip to Chicago was one of the highlights of autumn for me. I got to live my Ferris Bueller moment at the Art Institute of Chicago and attend a wonderful concert by the National Brass Ensemble, thanks to the generosity of world’s best boyfriend and amazing brass player Robert Ward.

There’s always room for food in my life, maybe too much so sometimes, and cooking classes are a great way to spend the spare time I don’t have.

JL Fields
Fun holiday cooking class at the PETA Foundation offices with JL Fields.
Thanksgiving cook
Thanksgiving chef in pajamas and apron, with bed hair.

I bake for the monthly bake sales held to benefit animal sanctuaries by the Berkeley Organization for the Advocacy of Animals at UC Berkeley.

I continued to volunteer for East Bay SPCA. It’s because of my experience there with the animals that I am on this path, so I can’t give that up! And I’ve added fostering onto the list of things I do. Our guest bathroom has been turned into a foster cat habitat.

Mouse 2
Foster kitty Mouse and her babies. She did most of the work. All now adopted into loving homes!
kittens studying
The kittens were not particularly appreciative of the finer points of research methodology.
Honeysuckle preferred television to studying.
Kianna, not loving the cone, after surgery to remove her paralyzed tail (probably hit by a car).

During all of this, work was chaotic too! The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive moved into a new building. Moving is never easy unless you have truckloads of money to pay someone else to do it while you go on vacation.

I had a wonderful time volunteering at the Western Museums Association 2015 Annual Meeting in San Jose.

And just when I got settled into a new office and a new neighborhood, I found a wonderful opportunity to work at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis. Let the commuting begin! Only it didn’t begin so well. My car should be done at the MINI service center soon.

Shrem build
The Manetti Shrem Museum, under construction, planned to open in Fall 2016.

Ask me how I’m doing:

I’d like to say life is like this, but…
thumbs up
A fellow Saybrook student posted this on Facebook; all of us in the program understand!

One day it will all be worth it: I will be one of the new Doctors of Philosophy getting to wear the coveted sash.

Saybrook graduates, August 2015. I want that sash!

I couldn’t be doing any of this without the love and support of aforementioned Robert Ward. Thank you!

vegan kiss

And for any possible naysayers out there (thankfully that would not be any of my friends or family), I will leave you with the wise words of Harold. Please excuse his language.



Bueller, Bueller, Bueller…Chicago, part 2, the Art Institute

Warning: this is going to be a long post! But it will mostly be photos. If a picture paints a thousand words and you are at an art museum…

Founded in 1879 as both a museum and a school for the fine arts, the Art Institite of Chicago’s permanent home was built in 1893 at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street as a joint effort with the City of Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exhibition. The collection of the Art Institute of Chicago encompasses more than 5,000 years of human expression from cultures around the world and contains more than 260,000 works of art. The museum holds works of art ranging from early Japanese prints to modern American art. It is principally known for one of the United States’ finest collection of paintings produced in Western culture. It is the second largest museum in the United States, after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The AIC in 1893.
The AIC in 1893.

AIC map

The AIC in 2015.
The AIC in 2015.

That building still serves as the entryway, flanked by the bronze lions sculpted by Edward Kemeys. commissioned as a gift from Mrs. Henry Field (Florence Lathrop Field).  While their official designations are the North Lion and the South Lion, Kemeys referred to them as On the Prowl (North) and Stands in Attitude of Defiance (South). Since all I knew about Chicago before this visit was from the John Hughes movies of the 1980s, I, of course, first saw them in the iconic AIC visit scenes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

On the Prowl (North)
On the Prowl (North)
In an Attitude of Defiance (South)
In an Attitude of Defiance (South)


Ferris, Sloane,and Cameron approach the AIC
Ferris, Sloane,and Cameron approach the AIC

Despite my mission of taking a Ferris photo in front of the impressionist painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Suerat, I did allow myself to enjoy an exhibit on Chicago architectural history outside of the Impressionist Galleries.

overview overview 2 flw adler sullivan flw detail label

And then my Ferris Bueller moment, finally!

Ferris clip 1
Cameron with the Seurat
my moment
Me with the Seurat

I am not the only one who bases museum visits on pop cultural references; the museum has a handout on how to do the Ferris Bueller tour of the museum!

tour 1 tour 2

My second mission was to visit the Thorne miniature rooms, which I know from the beautiful book that was a gift from Robert Ward after he visited the miniature rooms and knew it was a collection that I would love. From the AIC website: “The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications.”

The rooms are very difficult to get good pictures of as they are behind glazing (understably; I would be able to resist touching!). An overview of the gallery:

overview 2 panel 1 panel 2

Here are just a few of my favorites; I apologize for the poor quality of the images.

English bedchamber
English bedchamber
A selfie in front of an English linrary
A selfie in front of an English library
French Modern (1930s)
French Modern (1930s)
New Mexico kitchen
New Mexico kitchen
California Living circa 1935-1940
California Living circa 1935-1940
California Modern circa 1940
California Modern circa 1940

Traversing the museum, you go through the art and cultures of the world.

China, Equestrienne, Tang Dynasty, 8th century
China, Equestrienne, Tang Dynasty, 8th century
India, Shiva as Lord of the Dance, circa 1000
India, Shiva as Lord of the Dance, circa 1000
India, Twenty-Armed Dancing God Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles, 11th century
India, Twenty-Armed Dancing God Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles, 11th century
Japan, Shukongojin, 12th-14th centuries
Japan, Shukongojin, 12th-14th centuries
Byzantine, northern Syria, Mosaic fragment with leopard, 450-500
Byzantine, northern Syria, Mosaic fragment with leopard, 450-500

rome 2 rome 2 panel

Some of the “Greatest Hits” at the AIC:

The American Windows, Marc Chagall, dedicated 1977
The American Windows, Marc Chagall, dedicated 1977
American Gothic, Grant Wood, 1930
American Gothic, Grant Wood, 1930
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942

I was particularly drawn to a selection of works by one of my favorite painters, Georgia O’Keeffe, in the Paul and Gabriella Rosenbaum Gallery, a gallery dedicated to Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz.  O’Keeffe studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago beginning in 1905.

Yellow Hickory Leaves with Daisy, 1928
Yellow Hickory Leaves with Daisy, 1928
Red Hills with Flowers, 1937
Red Hills with Flowers, 1937
Red and Pink Rocks and Teeth, 1938
Red and Pink Rocks and Teeth, 1938
Cow's Skull with Calico Roses, 1931
Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses, 1931
Blue and Green Music, 1921
Blue and Green Music, 1921
Black Cross, New Mexico,1929
Black Cross, New Mexico, 1929

And now, for a few things that I call Weird and Creepy for lack of a better description.

Statue of a Young Satyr Wearing a Theater Mask of Silenos, Roman, 1st century AD
Statue of a Young Satyr Wearing a Theater Mask of Silenos, Roman, 1st century AD

architectural creepy kid

Ivan Albright, Picture of Dorian Gray, 1943-1944 (painted for the 1945 movie adaptation)
Ivan Albright, Picture of Dorian Gray, 1943-1944 (painted for the 1945 movie adaptation)
Ivan Albright, Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida, 1929-1930
Ivan Albright, Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida, 1929-1930

And the final category, which I call Things I Like.

Auguste Préault, Le Silence, 1842-1843
Auguste Préault, Le Silence, 1842-1843
Jean-Auguste Barre, Mary of Burgundy, circa 1840
Jean-Auguste Barre, Mary of Burgundy, circa 1840

I was thinking Mary of Burgundy seemed like a kick-ass kind of gal, but then I read on the label that this sculpture depicts her in the moment before her tragic and fatal fall.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Interrupted Reading, circe 1870
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Interrupted Reading, circa 1870
John Bradley Storrs, Ceres, 1928
John Bradley Storrs, Ceres, 1928
Turkey, linen cover, 17th century
Turkey, linen cover, 17th century
Eastern Iran or Afghanistan, Incense burner in the form of a lion, 11th century
Eastern Iran or Afghanistan, Incense burner in the form of a lion, 11th century
Charles Ray, Silver, 2015
Charles Ray, Silver, 2015

And, of course, we exit through the gift shop! Yes, money was spent.

shop 1 shop 2

That concludes our whirlwind tour of the Art Institute of Chicago. Still to come: The Chicago Cultural Center, the Palmer House, and more!

Chicago, My Kind of Town, Part 1–Millennium Park

I finally made my first trip to Chicago (to the actual city, not to change planes at O’Hare Airport) weekend before last, and had a wonderful time! The amazing Robert Ward arranged for my air travel so I could meet him there and attend his performance with the National Brass Ensemble at the Chicago Symphony Center on September 20, 2015. More on that in a later post!

map CSC symphony-center-56 the concert performers

We stayed at the very lovely Palmer House Hotel (more on that in a later post, too). The ubiquitous selfie:

selfie Palmer

Since Bob was in rehearsals all day Saturday and Sunday morning, I went solo adventuring to Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Cultural Center. This part focuses on Millennium Park; there are several more Chicago posts to come!

My friend Debra sent the enigmatic message SEE THE BEAN. I had no idea what this meant; code for something sinister? But my other friend Google quickly got me sorted out on that, and I headed off to Millennium Park, just a short walk from the hotel and on my way to the Art Institute of Chicago. The park comprises 24 acres that cover the former rail yard and parking lot of the Illinois Central Railroad, and was established as a joint public/private partnership to celebrate the passage of the second millennium. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, attractions include the music pavilion (Pritzker Pavilion) designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, the Crown Fountain designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, and Cloud Gate (aka The Bean), by artist Anish Kapoor. This sculpture, in the AT&T plaze area of the park, is made up of 168 welded stainless plates, highly polished with no visible seams. Given that it measures 33 x 66 x 42 feet and is extremely reflective, it is hard to miss!

Maps of Millennium Park:

Map 1 map Millennium Park Map

Pritzker Pavilion:

pritzker 1

Cloud Gate (The Bean):

bean 2 bean 1

The Crown Fountain, whose walls show an interchanging gallery of 1000 LED portraits of Chicago residents:

plensa 4 plensa 5

Also on display in the park are additional sculputes by Plensa on loan from the artist and Richard Gray Gallery; the exhibition is entitled 1004 Portraits, referring to the 1,000 of the Crown Fountain now complemented by an additional 4: the 39-foot tall resin and marble dust sculpture Look into My Dreams, Awilda that graces the entrance to the park:

plensa 6

And the 3 cast iron sculptures Paula, Laura, and Ines that are each 20 feet tall and to the east of the Crown Fountain:

Plensa 1 Plensa 2 plensa 3

There are also other displays through the park, such as this photographic display of the history of the park:

park history display park history display label

And as one would expect, there are the more traditional park features and views:

fountain view

I could have spent the whole day taking in the beauty of the park; it is remarkably well-kept, with beautiful lawns and flower beds. Coming from the drought-plagued dry, brown hills of California, it was indeed a sight for sore eyes. There seems to be a lot of Chicago civic pride in their jewel of a city park, right in the Loop and easily accessible to everyone. But the Art Institute of Chicago was beckoning!

Next up: Ferris Bueller Had it Right (the Art Institute of Chicago)