Why I need a muffin pan

I made corn muffins to eat with my lentil chili (shut up, Evan!). I bought paper muffin cups, but the apartment didn’t come with a muffin pan. I figured that I could put the paper cups into a baking dish, and bake the muffins that way.

The muffins baked, but the paper cups didn’t hold their shape. Result: delicious but flat muffins.


If I want to make muffins again, I need a muffin pan.


My belongings have arrived.

The “unaccompanied air baggage” or UAB was finally delivered this week. There was some drama about getting the freight company to unpack my effects and take away the packing material. I had to open a can of whoopass, but it all worked out.

I now have my books and clothes. That’s pretty much all that I had in my UAB. Some people shipped kitchen stuff, but since my household is still in Michigan, and the apartment here has a fully-equipped kitchen, I don’t need any kitchen things. Well, except for a muffin pan. I need a muffin pan. I will post a picture to illustrate my need for a muffin pan.

Public speaking makes me nervous. Why?

It should go without saying that Foreign Service Officers have to do a lot of speaking. We have been told that we now have public lives, personal lives, but no private lives. At any moment, we may be called upon to represent U.S. policies. This week we had two exercises to help us prepare.

The first exercise was the prepared speech. With the help of a professional coach, who is excellent, we prepared and delivered a five-minute speech. The speech was delivered in front of a group of our peers, and was video recorded. Afterward, we had peer feedback, feedback from the coach, and we were given a DVD of our speech.

I don’t know why, but I get nervous when I have to speak in a formal setting in front of my peers. I have no nervousness at all when I teach, when I give conference presentations, or when I give Q&A sessions. But when I have to deliver a prepared speech, I get nervous. Why?

I have been reflecting a lot about this lately. I have been doing some serious introspection. I like to use humor to defuse tension and try to make everyone feel more at ease. But a lot of professional context actually have unsuccessful human relationships. Humor can actually prevent people from interacting and making connections with each other. I wonder if I use humor as a defense mechanism, or a way to hide part of myself, or even a way to keep people at a distance.

When I have to give a speech, I have no way to hide.

Some self-help psychologists or life coaches say that people often sabotage themselves, often right when they are about to complete something or reach a goal. Psychologists say that it’s because people are actually afraid of failing. If they trying their hardest and fail, it can be devastating. So, what people sometimes do is quit at the last minute, so even though they never achieve their goal, they never succeed, they can still console themselves by telling themselves that they didn’t fail.

Lately I have been wondering if I hide behind humor. Do I keep people at arm’s length through humor? If I habitually use humor as a shield, then when I am in a position where I can’t, such as when I have to give a speech, I’m really exposing myself in a way that I usually don’t have to. Is that why I get so nervous when I have to give a speech? Do I feel more vulnerable in that circumstance than I usually do in my daily interactions?

Lots to think about.

Look before you leap, especially after hours

One of the people in my cohort who is a local hire arranged an outing to a jazz club this past Friday night. She said we could all meet up there and listen to some live jazz.

I love any live music, and live jazz is the best kind of jazz, so I went.

The club is well-known in the city, and has a good reputation as being unpretentious and no-frills. It’s all about the music.

The group that was performing was terrific. They were tight, skilled, and their style was both engaging and innovative.

The conversation was good, too. I met another Foreign Service Officer who has been in the service for several years, and she lived in the city that I am hoping to get posted to. As we were talking, I realized that I had actually read her blog over a year ago. They say that the service is small, and you meet the same people over and over again. This experience was evidence of that.

The club is not close to any of the metro lines. I had to take a cab for about a mile from the closest station. So before it got too late, I decided to head home.

I took at cab back to Union Station, and got to the metro stop. After about 10:30 pm, the trains run less frequently. In addition, over the last few weeks, they have been doing maintenance work on the tracks on the weekends, so the trains run about every 20 minutes. If you miss a train, you have to wait that long for the next one.

Well, I got on the first train without any drama, but I had to change from the Red line to the Orange line. Of course, that meant that I had to wait for the next train, and I was unlucky enough to have to wait almost the full 20 minutes for my train.

As soon as I got on my train, I realized that I had gotten on the wrong train, going in a direction perpendicular to the direction that I needed to go. I was on a Blue line train instead of Orange. Yikes! I got off at the next station so that I could go back and get on the Orange line.

A twenty minute wait for the Blue train back to the junction station. Then another twenty minute wait at the junction station for my Orange line train. Did I mention that the temperature was in the low 20s? Although most stations are underground, the cold air still comes in. By this time, it was after 1:00 am. I had left the club at 11:30 pm.

After I finally reached my stop, I faced a 15 minute walk from the station back to my apartment. The shuttle bus service that the apartment runs stops at 10:30 pm. I walked in double-time, and made it back in 11 minutes. I finally got to bed about 2:00 am. Since I had gotten up at 5:00 that morning, that meant that I had a 21-hour day.

I had suspected, but I know this now for sure: I am too old for a 21-hour day.

Lesson learned: after listening to jazz and drinking whiskey, be very careful not to get on the wrong train. If you aren’t careful, you will be punished with a 21-hour day.

They fundamentally don’t understand snow removal here

The city seems to have recovered from the catastrophic four inches of snow that we got at the beginning of the week.

Although the roads got plowed, and the sidewalks are somewhat cleared of snow, there are some lingering hazards that we have to look out for. Here is an example:


To someone who is very familiar with winter, this is obviously very dangerous. Someone could easily slip on this and get seriously injured. Maybe the locals just don’t get enough snow and cold weather to realize that stairs need to be cleared of snow?


This picture was taken right outside my front door. I’m glad that I know my building allows dogs. Otherwise, I might think that I’m living in a frat house.