Thursday, April 28, 2011

One of Those Things You're Not Supposed to Talk About


Just kidding. I meant, money. I have a few things to say on the subject. One being that I am this month going to attempt a major budgeting project because I've been thinking about travel again lately (read: London via Mrs. Dalloway and Paris via the Bourne films that R and I have been watching) and of course, to travel one must have some amount of miniature wealth.

And to save money I'm thinking of pulling a 30-for-30 in the month of May, solo, without the entire fashion blogging community attempting the same. I just need to force myself not to shop or even think of shopping for a month, and to remind myself that I do actually love my clothes. Really. I do.

Furthermore, I have an interview at Loft tomorrow. If you aren't familiar with Loft and their clothes, check out their website. I popped into the store last week before studying at Barnes and Nobles in Coralville and the staff was so friendly that I felt like I just had to pick up an application. I'd say that it might be about 30% Lauren-fashion (I mean, let's face it; since 85% of my clothes are thrifted/vintage, it's hard for any store that sells new clothes to carry my style); a 50% discount would certainly help me out in the blazer and trouser department come fall (read: teaching season). Anyhow, my goal is to work part-time this summer while I take French and put together an amazing seminar paper on Adrienne Rich and the ethics of memory.

I want to put away a good chunk of money into my savings account each month in anticipation of next summer--or more likely the one after--and the possibility of spending a month in Europe. A very cheap month.

Outfit Log: This is Making-Plans-and-Lists Lauren

shoes: Urban Outfitters
tights: Sock Dreams
dress: thrifted
cardigan: Urban Outfitters
belt: thrifted

That first photo you see there is my "No way did I think it was this cold outside today, as it's nearly MAY" picture. Get real, weather. I want spring.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rainy Day Feminism

So, it's been raining for something like 16 hours straight. I drove R to work so that he didn't have to walk for 30-40 minutes through the mist and fog--not to mention the sludge that is every unpaved area of Iowa City at the moment. I got up at 5:45 and made him scrambled eggs and packed his lunch of leftover spicy spaghetti and meatballs (and surprise ginger snaps via my mother's Easter package). How domestic, you might say. You're right, I might reply.

This is something that I have noticed about myself. Despite the fact that I identify as a feminist--my favorite authors are Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir, for heaven's sake!--I have a strange proclivity towards the domestic. I like to pull on a vintage apron and bake banana bread. I like to pack R's lunch and leave a little Post-It note on the container that holds his cookies. I like to put away the groceries. In the words of Joni Mitchell: "I want to knit you a sweater, I want to write you a love letter, I want to make you feel better." I might be toting a book about "the political grammar of feminist theory," but I still pause my reading to ask R what kind of dessert he would like when I take a break to bake this weekend.

What strikes me as having been unfair to women in the past was the fact that they were expected (forced?) to cook and clean and be of assistance to the men in their families. They did not have the option to pursue academic (or other) careers. Today I feel that we will sometimes judge our peers who opt to be housewives, or stay-at-home mothers, as if it is a cop-out of some kind. But what is wonderful is that these women choose to do this. Is is their choice.

My problem seems to be that I am in the process of choosing both. Here I am pursuing the highest bookworm degree possible, and as I am working on a paper about affect in Virginia Woolf I am thinking every now and then of what I should pick up at the grocery store for not only myself but R, too (who will berate me for shopping for him without his consent/money/company). I'm fantasizing about the possibility of baking chicken enchiladas next week with homemade salsa verde. I am part intellectual Lauren and part my Mexican grandma, who didn't even finish high school but got married instead. It's not so much a problem that I am torn between these two extremes so much as it is, well, challenging. It's term-paper season for crying out loud! I should be eating fast food and snacking on chips, not baking pie or cooking a well-balanced two-course meal. But I want to do both, and I am trying to do both, and I wonder if this just proves that I tend to challenge myself and that maybe I am a stronger woman than I thought?

Outfit Log: A Day Buried in Schoolwork

vest: thrifted
shirt: H&M
skirt: thrifted
boots: old old Xmas gift
necklace: via my mum

Bicycle courtesy of R. Mine has been living outside of Java House through the rain and freak-snow for a couple of weeks now. I should go pick it up, actually...

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Life and Good Morning, Midnight

On the shelf above my desk, I have begun to place Post-It notes with quotes from my favorite novels on them. The Post-It note that started this project is a yellow one with the following quote from Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys:

"Everything tender and melancholy — as life is sometimes, just for one moment….And when we get to Paris; when – we – get – to – Paris…."

And today I feel this. It is not Paris specifically that I presently ache for, however. I long for the end of the semester, and find myself almost constantly thinking "once the semester is over..." and "when I've finished my term papers..." in a way very similar to that of Sasha in this passage. For those of you who have read this [amazing] novel, you might remember the 4-5 page section where "when-we-get-to-Paris" is on repeat, interspersed between the narration, in an almost mechanical--like a train--manner. The promise of Paris for Sasha while on her honeymoon is not entirely dissimilar to the promise of summer vacation for me. I only hope that my summer does not end in the same disappointment as not only Sasha's time in Paris, but also her marriage at large.

R brought over season five of Top Chef a couple of nights ago (apparently NetFlix doesn't have the first four seasons?) and we have been watching an episode or two each day ever since. I am reminded of how much I enjoy cooking and baking, and how I strove this time last year to try to make a new dessert each week. I made things like sweet potato pound cake and pear crumble and chocolate-raspberry brownies and deposited them in the English faculty office hallway with a note. (The pound cake, by the by, was a HUGE hit). When we watch Top Chef I have a habit of turning to R and saying wistfully, "Over the summer I am going to cook Indian food." Or, pie. Or, cobbler. Or, lamb chops. Or, stuffed poblano peppers. And it's true. This summer I want to cook and bake; I want to try new things; I want to be [at least somewhat] ambitious.

I want to make this:Chicken with Cashew Cream and Mushrooms

And god only knows how many other recipes! I'll compile a list soon. I can even post it here. Expect more "When-I-get-to-the-end-of-the-semester" posts soon.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Morning Date

This morning, R biked to a class at the community college and called me after it was over. He had the (amazing) idea for us to meet at DeLuxe, the bakery in the neighborhood parallel to mine that we've always meant to go to. So my Saturday began with a short stroll through a beautiful, historic-looking neighborhood and an hour's worth of reading Sentimentalism and enjoying conversation over coffee and raspberry scones.

What a delicious scone! I hope to repeat this date again--especially when it is warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine!
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Doctor Who and How I Plan to Survive The Next Two Weeks

I have what we might call a very vivid and active imagination. When I go running, I like to pretend that I'm either running from Daleks or training for Torchwood or off to save The Doctor. I used to pretend that my homework was actually homework for Muggle Studies and that I was a Hogwarts student. For the next couple of weeks when I am working on term papers and presentations, I am going to try to pretend that the following scenario is in place:

The Doctor is off on a mission of some kind. He has left me behind because he knows he will need me to come and help him out before the mission is through; he needs me, essentially, to wait for him to call me. He will call me, by the way, by sending a message through a piece of jewelry. It will act like a Portkey. In the meantime, the TARDIS has deposited me at a university as a graduate student in English, because before I started my career as a time traveler, that is what I had intended to do with my life. It is very important that I maintain this guise, and thus I must work extra hard to produce convincingly academic work!

You may laugh, but I need some kind of imagined scenario to get me through the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately, my imagination can't be of much help when it comes to the fact that I would really appreciate someone cleaning my apartment and cooking for me and doing my laundry. And while I'm dreaming I'd like a new apartment, a basset hound, and to wake up tomorrow 15 pounds thinner.
Working Leftover Magic and The Decemberists

Several days ago, pressed for time before I had to leave for my Decemberists concert, and not particularly keen on making a trip to the grocery store, Robert performed what I can only refer to as “magic.” Using meatballs of ground turkey, onion, and ginger that were leftover from a previous dinner, he suggested we chop some cilantro and heat up tortillas and create a new taco. And so we did.

Robert’s Leftovers-as-Tacos
6 ground turkey-onion-ginger meatballs, chopped
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 quarter of an onion, chopped
6 tortillas, either corn or flour

Now, you all may know—or at least have guessed—that The Decemberists are one of my favorite bands. Literary almost to the point of pretension, they also have a song that includes a lyric that once upon a time summed up my life: “I am a writer, a writer of fictions. I am the heart that you call home, and I’ve written pages upon pages trying to rid you from my bones.” You may recognize part of this lyric from the bumper sticker that I made for my car out of Waterloo Records decals. And if you knew me in high school, you know how obsessed I was with writing in my little composition books incessantly: poetry, fanfiction, stories. Etc.

I have seen The Decemberists now four times. The first time was in Austin, in 2005. The second time was in Dallas in 2006. The third time was in Memphis in 2007. And I saw them for the fourth time this past Monday, 2011, here in Iowa City.

(dress: thrifted; belt: JCrew; tights: Sock Dreams; shoes: vintage; necklace: via Mum)

It was a good show, for the most part. I thought that Colin Meloy spent a little too much time trying to be funny. I was over the banter. I wanted to hear music. The setlist was completely different than I expected: they totally ignored The Crane Wife, arguably their most mainstream and accessible album, and played a song from Five Songs, their first EP ever, and selections from Her Majesty. I was disappointed not to hear The Engine Driver—it was my first Decemberists concert without it! Ah.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I am not in panic mode, but I think that maybe I should be.

Within the next eight days I have four apartment showings, a 12-page rough draft of a paper I haven’t started to write—that’s due Monday—two discussions to lead on books and essays I haven’t yet read—one on Tuesday, one on next Thursday—and a paper topic to devise. Shouldn’t I be worried about these things? Aren’t you worried for me?

The rough draft: it’s for my Sentimentalism class. My topic, very broadly described, is a call to Modernists to reconsider the relevance of affect studies to their discipline, which I will frame by discussing the use of affect in Mrs. Dalloway and its ethical implications. It will probably involve somehow a discussion of the way that the senses are manipulated and portrayed in the novel. I’m hoping that I can tackle some close-readings ASAP to get a better idea of what I mean by, well, any of this.

Discussion one: Tuesday, with Zach, for the Art, Ethics, Justice seminar on the subject of a book on one woman’s life-work of performance art. It is a Big, 300+ page book. I have read 15 pages. We meet with our professor on Friday morning to discuss our plan of attack.

Discussion Two: Thursday next, with Jess, for Sentimentalism, on feminism and sentiment; I don’t know what I’m supposed to read yet, haven’t even checked. We must meet with Naomi on Tuesday or so.

Paper topic: Good God, my American lit class! I can’t think of a topic to save my life. The plotlessness of everyday life and how it does or does not translate successfully into literature? Someone narrow that for me, okay?

Coming Soon: The Decemberists concert, some outfits, and term paper topics

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Notes on this Fucking Iowa Weather

A week ago, spring was on its way! R and I walked leisurely through the Northside neighborhoods, in search of "for rent" signs for me. We saw blossoms on the trees!

In the days that followed, we sat outside in the sunshine on benches on the pedestrian mall; R read from Benjamin Hale's new novel while I read articles on my tiny laptop on the ethics of affect in Mrs. Dalloway for an annotated bibliography, and a jazz band played swing music for a festival of swing dancers. R even got sunburned.

Then yesterday morning I woke up and walked into the kitchen to start some hot water for tea--I have a cold, by the way--and was greeted by the following sight from my kitchen window:

Yes, dear reader, that would be snow. I didn't believe it. I opened my front door to make sure:

Yup. It was snowing. In mid-April.

I mean, what can I possibly say? 24 hours later, and I'm not sure that it even happened.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My American lit and Mass Culture Class: A Description in Faces

No, it really is like that. I am not even kidding.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Hardest Part of Graduate School

It's not the workload; it's not the dense book chapters of high theory that I have to read. It's not the strict budgeting that I must perform or the very sudden and very scary enforced financial self-reliance. It's not the midwestern weather. It's not even the ridiculous price of avocados. The hardest part of graduate school is believing that I actually belong here. The most difficult thing is believing that I didn't just somehow sneak in, a desperate attempt on the department's part for some half-hearted diversity, the token hispanic in my year.

This kind of self-doubt is rather self-perpetuating. And I'm sure it affects the way that I present myself in my classes; when I speak, I raise my hand slowly as if afraid of danger and then make a statement that sounds more like a question, my voice inflected, my tone apologetic.

I am amazed--always have been, here or anywhere--at people who are self-assured, who have confidence. No matter how many times that I tell myself that I am curvy and that "real women have curves," I feel fat and berate myself cruelly for every snack, every beer, every meal in a restaurant. Regardless of the enthusiasm that I remind myself is going to make me a great teacher, I feel like I deserve to be some receptionist at a vet clinic in order to make room in this PhD program for someone who can speak articulately about Hegel or Marx and who didn't get accepted just because they weren't a minority.

I blog about this now because I was supposed to go to the gym last night but didn't because I was so distraught over something that happened in class and R convinced me over the phone that I deserved a hot bath and to read something for me and not for class. And so I'm also not going to the gym this morning because I didn't do any work last night.

Go figure.


Yesterday's outfit:

shirt: vintage, thrifted
cardigan: JCrew
skirt: American Apparel
belt: thrifted
tights: Sock Dreams
boots: Christmas present
earrings: Coldwater Creek

p.s. thanks to my dear friend Zach for snapping this shot outside Teaspoons for me =)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

It Begins: Apartment Hunting

In which Robert takes over as fashion photographer, replacing the self-timer and making me giggle:

Shirt: vintage, thrifted
Skirt: thrifted
Tights: Sock Dreams
Shoes: Urban Outfitters
Belt: thrifted

I finally emailed my landlords and asked for a few weeks to look for another, more ideally located apartment, before re-signing their lease. I was mortified to do this, as they appeared at my door one evening as I was boiling chicken and cooking with Robert, and out of a stressed out sort-of paranoia of some kind I nodded exuberantly when they asked if I was planning on staying on next year. However, a moment's pause after their departure was enough for me to remember that:

a) I hate my location, nextdoor to and behind rowdy drunk undergrads and off of a gravel road full of potholes that kick dust up onto my car when it is dry outside
b) I hate having to go to the laundromat
c) I hate how tiny my two closets are
d) I hate the fact that I have neither counter-space nor room for a cart in my kitchen
e) I would be better off living somewhere where I do not have to pay the heat, because I am from Texas and get cold easily and thus spend a fortune on my gas bill all winter long

So yesterday R and I went to look at an apartment on the West side of the river (FYI TX or AR friends, I live right now on the East side, my classes are all on the East side, and all of the coffeehouses and bookstores are on the East side) that has pricey rent but a washing machine and dryer in the basement, heat covered, as well as the charm of an old, old building with large windows, and a bright blue door. I liked it. I didn't love it. It's too expensive to not love it. And so the search continues...

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Return of the T-Shirt

Yesterday I woke up and thought, "Gee--it sure has been a while since I've worn a t-shirt." And dear reader, let me tell you, I used to wear t-shirts all the freaking time. They were pretty much my uniform: t-shirt, and either a hippie skirt or bell bottoms. And later, skinny pants from H&M or a pocket skirt.I decided that the time
had come to reincorporate!

shirt: Decemberists concert
cardigan: JCrew
skirt: Megan Neilson
tights: Sock Dreams
shoes: Christmas present, ages ago
belt: thrifted
Sunday Afternoon at the Dog Park

I am a dog person--and honestly that's an understatement. It is widely known, perhaps, that one of my life goals is to own a basset hound named Porthos, who I shall refer to as "Portly Porthos". Those who have spent time with me are likely aware that whenever I spot a dog I cry out "DOG!"; some of you might have even unwittingly slammed on your brakes in alarm in response. And if I see a basset hound--ohmygoodness. The enthusiasm is immeasurable.

So when Robert suggested that we take his father's dog, Max, out for a walk on a trail surrounding the dog park in Coralville, he did not even receive a verbal response from me. Just one very bright-eyed grin; if I myself had had a tail, it would have been wagging enthusiastically.

It's true that we were both fairly overdressed for the occasion. Robert in his slacks and wool argyle sweater (over a collared shirt, no less), myself in tights, Oxfords, a long ankle-length skirt, and a cardigan over a sleeveless buttoned top.

But that was part of the fun. We walked Max (pictured above; he's the one on the left) across an awesome pedestrian bridge that reminded me intensely of Little Rock's own Big Dam Bridge and passed cyclists, and walkers in shorts and t-shirts and tennis shoes. We got thrown a few looks, but I'm going to assume that it was just because we made such a strangely well-dressed and adorable couple, holding hands and walking a very large and fluffy sheltie.

We didn't actually go into the dog park, because Max doesn't really get along with dogs that are his size or larger. However, we did stop on a grassy hill and watch the dogs at play while Max drank from his water cup and took a break. I saw a beagle--I think--and was appropriately thrilled. I'm sure I had the absolute goofiest grin anyone ever did see plastered on my face. We took a nice turn through a neighborhood up an almost dirt-road hill from the dog park and discussed aspects of each house that we each respectively either did or did not like. When Max next desired a break, I took the opportunity to bound enthusiastically onto the playground in the middle of the community.

Robert had explained to me with his Planner Knowledge (which in case you were not aware, is something like a super power of sorts)what type of community this was, but I have since forgotten the technical term. But it had its own playground and gazebo, and the houses had driveways in the back rather than the front, to encourage a sense of community with people talking to each other from their porches and the street.

He managed to take some pretty great photos of my playground escapade. I have no idea how he did it, but I'm a fan of the color accent of my mustard top.

After a while we began to get hungry and Max exhausted, so we deposited him at the car with the windows down and his water container in the back seat, and got dinner at a nearby restaurant in whose parking lot we had been utilizing on the other side of the pedestrian bridge. Thunderstorms rolled in just as we were leaving, concluding what had been a sunny Sunday afternoon that seemed and still seems to me to have been the perfect entrance for Spring.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

on the subject of my school library, and, a to-do list

This is a terrible place to spend time. I'm sitting at a tiny wooden desk with a divider in the middle, industrial grey-brown metal bookshelves to my left, ugly white-painted crinkly brick wall to my right; the wall is interrupted by a large square window which looks out onto the roof. I'm eating a turkey-swiss-cucumber-sandwich with an apple and folk are eyeing me disdainfully. Perhaps in a sunnier atmosphere, people would have sunnier dispositions?

Screw them. I'm going to enjoy my pistachio cookies from Trader Joe's now.

It drives me crazy to think about how beautiful the library at Ohio State was. When I went to visit about this time last year, I toured the facility and was incredibly impressed; this, I thought, is what a library is supposed to look like! It was re-built very recently, naturally. The top floor is walled almost entirely of windows, with squishy armchairs and small tables scattered about--an English grad student's dream. Imagine my dismay when I visited Iowa a week afterward and walked into the dreary grey-brown interior, poorly lit and oppressive. I didn't even make it up from the first floor; I just had to escape.

The utter despair that this library inspires generally rules it out as an option for camping out to work on term papers. However, the truth is that here in Iowa City, there aren't all that many go-to places for this purpose. My favorite coffeehouse closes at 7pm; my second favorite has shoddy Internet and vastly overpriced coffee; my third favorite has no Internet access at all. I'm very particular about the space that I occupy when working. I'm beginning to wonder if the best spot might be my own apartment, intensely cleaned and better organized. I need to fix my printer and purchase a coffeemaker. I despise these logistical issues, because I have such a difficult time venturing back and forth between the logistical and the purely academic; in other words, it is hard for me to segue-way from picking up a new USB cord for my printer, dropping my laptop off to be fixed, into reading an article on the use of narrative with regards to history.

I need to:
-harass the Benefits office about my mysterious lack of health insurance
-get a new USB cord for my printer
-drop my big computer off at ITS to get the hard drive backed up/fixed
-drop my little laptop off and get the keyboard fixed
-vacuum the living room
-Swiffer the kitchen floor
-clear off the armchair/futon
-organize my desk
-put away winter clothes, summer clothes
-take clothes and donations to Second Act/Salvation Army
-take recycling
-take books to Haunted Bookshop
-either sign my lease or make my excuse about still looking
-buy new shampoo and conditioner at Walgreen's

and, of course, do my schoolwork!

Friday, April 01, 2011

This Summer I Want to Make My Own Tortillas

Last night for dinner, Robert and I made the last of the chorizo and red potatoes and assembled breakfast tacos.

Now, if you know me, you know that The Breakfast Taco and I go way back. If my mother ever were to inquire as to what my father and I wanted for breakfast, the answer was always breakfast tacos. Always. I distinctly remember making breakfast tacos at our cabin in Eureka Springs two summers ago; we cooked multiple meals, but that it the only one that I can remember. And I remember bowls of breakfast potatoes and of crumbled bacon on our kitchen table; I remember my father and I both passing up the bowl of yellow scrambled eggs. Only my mother and my dog, Sadie Beagle, wanted anything to do with the eggs.

Yes, that's right; I did not eat eggs in my breakfast tacos. In case you didn't know, dear reader, eggs are kind of a big deal--in fact, kind of the main part--of a breakfast taco. I mean, it's what makes the taco a breakfast item, yeah? My dad and I always complained about the Austin establishments (Rudy's BBQ for instance, and Flipnotics) that had breakfast tacos available for take-away on weekday mornings, but pre-mixed the filling so that eggs were inevitably involved. I grew up having to usually get my breakfast tacos at a sit-down restaurant, with the exception of some VERY noteworthy places on the upper east side in high school (read: KEN'S TACOS--or Alonso's, which I heard recently is no longer in existence, sadly). My taco of choice was bacon, potato, and cheese.

I was reluctant to try chorizo on my breakfast tacos from Ken's, despite the fact that I was sure it would be delicious because Pez, my debate coach, ate one almost every morning. But Pez had once said "Ah... heart attack in a flour tortilla" as he ate his breakfast in front of me, and what can I say? It kinda stuck.

Two and a half years ago, however, I went to Barcelona for a weekend with Alex. And I felt adventurous and daring. So I tried chorizo.

Oh my god. Dear reader, if you have never tried chorizo--try it. Do it for me. Do it for yourself.

But, I digress. My main point was that I did not eat eggs in breakfast tacos. I just didn't do it. That is--until a few weeks ago. Robert had made scrambled eggs one morning and I tried a few bites, doused in salsa. Then I tried a bite sans salsa. And then on another morning I had an entire serving of scrambled egg--seasoned with chili powder--all to myself. And I bravely suggested that on my birthday we make breakfast tacos with egg in them.

So, the tacos that we had last night (and then this morning) were leftovers from my birthday. I want everyone to know that the chorizo was actually cheaper and had less calories than the bacon OR the sausage. I don't know what that says about its authenticity, but hey--I'm in Iowa. I'm not gonna be too picky.

Last night before we made our delicious "extremely early breakfast" as R called it, we went to a spoken word performance that was being held in honor of Cesar Chavez's birthday. Both of the performance poets were of hispanic heritage and the majority of their poems reflected this both in subject manner and in language. The performance was quite politically charged, and some of the poems I could tell were meant to be touching--and were, really. But I was stuck on one poem that was about a woman's grandmother who taught her how to make tamales and spoke to her in Spanish when she was growing up.

You might be aware that I, too, have a Mexican grandmother who speaks to me in Spanish. And if you didn't know that, I do know that you probably know that I don't speak Spanish. It's the great irony of my heritage; my grandmother raised her children to assimilate into the World of the Successful White Man, and did not speak Spanish in her household. When my mother asked her to speak in Spanish to me when I was a child so that I might pick it up as a skill, my grandmother refused. And now that she is in her late 80s and has Alzheimer's, she remembers little English and tries to speak to myself and my father, when we visit her in the nursing home, in Spanish. And we cannot understand her.

So I spent a great deal of the poetry slam reflecting on my complete lack of a history. I am hispanic, but I know no Spanish, and I have no idea where in Mexico my family is from. When I asked my grandmother about making tamales several years ago, she scoffed at the notion that anyone would actually want to know how to make them because they are so time-consuming and tedious. She would not share her knowledge, her stories.

In my Ethics class we have been discussing the ethics of history and memory and nostalgia, and one thing that I read in an essay by Adrienne Rich stands out to me; she writes that those without histories cannot go forward without some sort of knowledge of where they have been, and thus those without histories ought to create their own. I'm struggling with this notion at present, but what I do know is this: this summer, I am going to make my own tortillas, and I might spend a day making tamales so I can learn for myself of whether or not they are worth the tedium.