One thing that's frustrating: feeling unable to defend your friends.

I don't mind so much if I get picked on or yelled at or... well, whatever. I do mind when the same gets leveled at people I've come to care for, even if they don't ever hear about it or get affected by it or anything (one hopes). It's even more frustrating when I can't step in front to counter or block it or take it upon myself without making things worse.

On a happier note, sometimes a conversation is worth driving 11 hours to get to.

I spent most of this past weekend with Andy P and his family and friends in Appleton, WI. This usually isn't a 6-hour drive, but construction on I-294 turned it into such. My sandals came off when I walked through his door, and I spent most of my time at the Pethans' house blissfully barefoot - racing across pine needles to play disc golf with Andy and his friend Mark, squashing crabapples under our feet.

Andy and his friends in Wisconsin start companies for fun. (They're still working on the 'profit' part.) Their current endeavour is a web design consultancy; earlier in the summer there was an attempt to break into the soft-serve machine business that involved epic overnight adventure to Iowa at the same time the state was being flooded. We went to an eclectic Italian restaurant for dinner and Andy, in his customary gently enthusiastic manner, called me out on a number of things I'd been avoiding most of the summer; I'll try to write these up more in a separate post.

Later that evening we had some grasshoppers (vanilla ice cream + minty stuff + hazelnutty stuff) and talked until our impending need for unconsciousness outweighed our desire to continue conversations about Uganda and the design of engineering textbooks and low-power computing and life.

The next day I went to Madison to see Erica, a friend from IMSA who is now a grad student in linguistics with an adorable pet rat named Boo. We got some Ethiopian food, rummaged through old cargo pants (me), neckties (her), pageboy hats (me), and Hawaiian shirts (both of us) at a used clothes store (I didn't get anything, but it remains one of of the few enjoyable clothes-shopping experiences I've had so far), and walked through the construction downtown while slurping ridiculously rich, thick, dark chocolate ice cream - so dark it looked nearly pitch black.

Erica and Andy are two (of many) people who remind me of the kind of person I want to be when I'm with them. I should surround myself with people who help me do that.

On the way back I listened to a classical-style solo piano reinterpretation of "Penny Lane" on repeat and think I might be able to start transcribing bits of it down when I next have lots of time at the piano.

Went dancing with Andrew last night and asked people I didn't know to dance - first time I've done that. I'm still not that great a dancer (I can't turn my brain off enough to be a good follow; I tend to try to anticipate everything instead of allowing my body to react to it) but it... feels good, for the rare and fleeting moments I let go and manage to do something right.