Life and Souffles

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There are certain questions that one finds oneself asking from time to time. What is my purpose in life? Why am I here? What am I meant to be accomplishing right now? What must I do in order to bake a really great soufflé? I don’t have answers to any of these questions, but one of them seems a little easier to solve than the others, and so that’s the one that I have turned my attention to today.

I found this image on google, but it's pretty similar to what my soufflé looked like. Except mine was a little paler and I used a glass dish.

I found this image on google, but it’s pretty similar to what my soufflé looked like. Except mine was a little paler and I used a glass dish.

For the record, I would like to say that I am pretty pleased with my latest soufflé. For one thing, I didn’t use a recipe, but it turned out anyway, which is an indication that I know what I’m doing, more or less. This cannot be said for every aspect of my life, so it’s nice that I can say it about soufflés. Also, it was a very pretty soufflé. It’s too bad that my camera batteries are dead, and that I was therefore unable to preserve the beauty of my soufflé for posterity and the internet.  It tasted fine, too.

One of the appeals of the endeavor to make an awesome soufflé is that it’s supposedly pretty difficult. Soufflés have a reputation for being prone to failure, which is mainly because they have a very high air content and do tend to collapse. The process of making a soufflé is also somewhat more complicated than that of making things like most cookies or cakes. Also, the main ingredient of soufflés is thoroughly beaten egg whites, and egg-white-beating is an acquired skill. But learning how to make good soufflés is an easier objective than, for example, finishing college, so I think it’s a feasible goal.

OswinAnother appeal of soufflé-making is, of course, that soufflés feature relatively prominently in Asylum of the Daleks, the Doctor Who episode from September 1, 2012. In this episode, The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are sent down to a planet that the daleks use as an asylum, hence the episode title.  A human named Oswin Oswald has also been residing on that planet for the past year, ever since her starliner crashed. (There’s more to her story than that, but it doesn’t come out until later in the episode, and I’m not doing spoilers right now) This is where the soufflés come into the tale. During the year that Oswin has been trapped someplace “not nice”, surrounded by daleks, she has been passing the time by making soufflés.

Oswin isn’t the greatest soufflé-maker; the soufflé that she makes at the beginning of the episode is a failure. (And for some reason, she throws away the soufflé pan along with the soufflé, an action which has always puzzled me) But that’s not the important thing; the important thing is that Oswin is the type of person who, when space-shipwrecked on a hostile planet full of daleks, responds by practicing her soufflé-baking skills.

I particularly like Oswin as a character, and have frequently attempted to find ways to equate myself with her. In fact, for a while I used her likeness as my facebook profile picture, and her face is my current tumblr avatar. Right now, I especially relate to Oswin in that particular episode. Spending a few months in limbo between college and grad school isn’t exactly the same as spending a year trapped in a crashed starliner surrounded by daleks, but it seems to me that there is a pretty clear allegorical connection. So, since Oswin’s awesomeness manifests itself in such occasions through the practice of soufflé-making, the application in my own life is fairly apparent.


In the image above, we see various levels of egg-beating, ranging from “cheater” to “expert”. I come in at level three with the non-electric hand-mixer, although I’m working on achieving whisk proficiency.



Obligatory First-Day-of-School Blog Post

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JanuaryMy college has this thing called January term. Actually, that’s not what it’s officially called, but I can never remember its real name because they change it practically every year. It always works more or less the same way, though: In between fall term and spring term, there’s a four-week-long term where students take one class that follows a more intensive schedule than a regular college class. Still, I’ve always found that I have an awful lot more free time in January than at any point in a real semester. Despite that, I’m not really a big fan of January term. Coming back from Christmas break is already disorienting, and I don’t like the fact that my schedule is going to completely change again in just a month. This just makes it harder to get back into the swing of things now. But that’s the inevitable downside of being compulsively organized about my time.

In September and February, I enjoy the beginning of a new term. There’s a much greater degree of optimism and academic enthusiasm than later in the semester, when the homework load has gotten heavier and everyone’s getting tired. Besides, I’m so fond of list-making that I enjoy the process of writing out a new schedule and re-determining what things are important enough to me that I must try to find some free time to spend on them. That’s not the way it works in the beginning of January, though. Right now, I’m just trying to remember what matters to me and what kinds of things I like to do. For the last three weeks or so, my life has revolved completely around Christmas. I’ve listened to Christmas music, eaten Christmas foods, blogged about Christmas, and deliberately ignored anything that I knew wouldn’t matter until after Christmas. And, of course, I’ve been sleeping up late, spending too much time online, and joining in games and Doctor-Who-watching with my siblings. Before that, I was busy with finals and with rehearsals for The Nutcracker, and there hadn’t really been any such thing as free time since early-to-mid November. That was such a long time ago that I can’t really remember the specific details of how life worked back then. All I know is that it felt very weird yesterday to be in my dorm room by four in the afternoon and not to have someplace to go that evening. I had quite a lot of things to get done and ended up being relatively busy, but it was very strange to spend a quiet evening in my room when I’d long since forgotten that there was any such thing as a quiet evening.

This January, I’m taking a class about relativity and space and time and stuff, ‘cause I’m just kind of a nerd like that. Also, this way, in the future I’ll be somewhat more justified in making up convoluted explanations for things by talking about the space-time continuum. The only problem is that my ideas about the space-time continuum aren’t necessarily scientifically accurate and probably only work in my own science-fiction framework. They just happen to be cooler than the actual rules of physics. At some point, I’m going to write at least one blog post about my idea of time gravity, even though I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing in real life.

Yesterday was the first day of January term,  and we spent most of the class period talking about stuff like Galileo and Newton. I did take high school physics when I was seventeen, so it was pretty much review. That’s good because I’m still not completely better from the nasty cold I had over New Year’s, so my brain wasn’t very focused. The part of the class that I got the most out of was the part about inertia. Of course, I already knew what inertia is; I’ve often heard it defined as “the tendency of an object at rest to stay at rest and of an object in motion to stay in motion”, and also as a word that my father thinks sounds like it should be a girl’s name. For the sake of this class, though, we defined it as “the property that resists change.” That’s just a concise version of the typical definition, but I like it better because the word “change” is ambiguous enough to open up a variety of semi-metaphorical uses of the word “inertia”. For example, I like to use the phrase “academic inertia” to refer to the phenomenon in which it is actually easier to force yourself to do overwhelming amounts of schoolwork when you have way too much homework to do than to force yourself to spend a couple hours on homework when you’ve just come back from a break and have forgotten how hard homework can be. But now I’ve decided that I can also blame inertia for the fact that I dislike having my schedule change.

Maybe my father’s right; maybe Inertia would make a good name, and maybe I should change my middle name to Inertia, since I don’t like change. Either that, or Oswin. I would really like to change my middle name to Oswin.

This is Oswin. Oswin is very, very cool.

This is Oswin. Oswin is very, very cool.