Boats Against the Current


The title of this blog comes from the closing sentence of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

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Life Updates and a Recipe: Persistence

Since I grew up eating large quantities of Indian food and I was recently given a fancy food processor, I decided to attempt a butter paneer dish that I found on the interwebs. 

Unfortunately, my attempt (although edible and remarkably tasty) wasn’t particularly successful. I purchased a can of crushed, rather than whole, tomatoes by mistake and I couldn’t seem to find fenugreek, jalapeno, or real paneer (I substituted a “grilling cheese” from Cyprus to surprising success) at my local grocery stores. As I stared thoughtfully at what appeared to be pasta sauce and came to grips with my failure, I gave up the idea of blending anything, and poured the entire mistake over some hastily boiled noodles.

Try, try again. Which reminds me…

I had a few networking meetings last week. The better of the two resulted in a potential internship that I applied for with E’s help while I was in NYC. Unfortunately, I was treated to a rejection “sent from my iPhone” that read: “The position was filled last Friday. Thanks for your interest.” 

I can already tell that the job search will be great fun.


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 (3-inch) knob ginger, chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably “fire roasted”
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons crushed fenugreek leaves, toasted (optional)
  • 1 bunch spinach blanched, drained, and chopped (or 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained)
  • 1 pound paneer, diced into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves


  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, then stir in onions, ginger, and jalapeno. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften and just begin to take on color, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Add canned tomatoes, cinnamon, and honey. Press on tomatoes with a wooden spoon to break them apart and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened with only a little liquid poking through the tomatoes and onions, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer sauce to blender (or use an immersion blender) and carefully 
  4. puree on high speed until very smooth, about 1 minute. Wipe saucepan clean and pour sauce through a fine mesh strainer back into pot. Add salt and cream to taste, and fenugreek if using.
  5. Stir spinach into sauce, then fold in paneer, taking care not to break up the cubes of cheese. Let spinach and paneer warm through for 5 minutes. Stir in half of cilantro, sprinkle with remaining cilantro, and serve.

Summer Reading: Status Report

I’ve been a bit negligent with my summer reading list lately. Between my active vacations, increased work hours, the roommate transition, and replaying Mass Effect, I haven’t had much time to pick up my beloved books.

Still, I’ve made progress.

  1. The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy — Let’s start with the worst one. After reading 50% of this book while on vacation and dozing in and out of consciousness, I’ve decided to throw in the proverbial towel. Dundy’s writing is lovely and some scenes in Dud Avocado are genuinely funny, but the negative elements of this lame attempt at a coming-of-age story more than outweigh its possible strengths. Sally Mae Gorce, the novel’s main character, is the root of the problem. While it’s possible that she develops in some way by the end of the novel, her seemingly endless litany of #whitegirlproblems is too much for me to bear. Think of her as some kind of less sympathetic and infinitely more irritating Holly Golightly and you get the idea. Dud indeed.
  2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll — The last time that I read this at least half of Carroll’s genius soared high above my head. When I was little, I certainly didn’t pick up Carroll’s lengthy commentary on crime, punishment, guilt, innocence, sanity and identity. Rereading this book, with the benefit of age and education, was a distinct pleasure and it has stoked my smoldering academic fires. 
  3. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh — At the end of last summer I read and thoroughly enjoyed Brideshead Revisited and Vile Bodies, so I had high expectations when I picked up Scoop. I was not disappointed. In my humble opinion, Waugh sits comfortably next to Wilde in his command of droll satire. Scoop's absurd description of the golden age of journalism and the twilight of imperialism made it one of the funniest novel's that I have read in recent memory.
  4. The Awful German Language by Mark Twain — I really wish I had discovered this when I was actually trying to learn German. It would have made me feel better. 

Here’s a picture of food from my vacation because food is great.

The Master’s Degree: Post Pain

Where were you before MAGIC?

Before MAGIC, I attended Sonoma State University where I graduated summa cum laude with my bachelor of arts in history. My thesis, on the socioeconomic stratification of the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin, drew much of its support from the Harvard Interview Project on the Soviet Socialist System. I benefited from the tireless direction of Drs. Stephen Bittner and Steve Estes who introduced me to historiographic analysis and document based research. Sonoma State, though small, provided me with the kind of direct attention that I would not have received at a larger institution.

How did your experience in MAGIC shape your research and writing?

Attending a smaller public university for my undergraduate degree had its advantages, but I entered the MAGIC program at an intellectual disadvantage. MAGIC challenged me to communicate more effectively and academically and it encouraged me to pursue more ambitious research projects.

How did it change your academic interests more generally?

Although I had often considered changing my area of interest during my three years as an undergraduate, the uniquely broad focus of the MAGIC program provided me with the freedom to explore new intellectual avenues. In the course of the last two years, I left behind Russian history to explore the history of the gay rights movement both in the United States and abroad. That is not to say, however, that I am content with this mantle either. While a MAGIC student, I studied utopianism in England, homosexuality in Czarist Russia and Weimar Germany, memory and memorialization of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, and the African American civil rights movement in the United States.

What was the most intriguing, significant or quirky thing you learned in the process of your research and writing?

In regards to my writing, I have often jokingly explained that my lexicon has expanded to include ‘common’ graduate school terms and phrases (e.g. vis-à-vis, ‘conceptual frameworks’, and ‘Foucauldian’). More seriously, I stumbled across a lesser known Russian novel in my first semester that brought together two of my favorite subjects while eloquently emphasizing the importance of GLBT rights and history.

Where to next?

I wish I could answer this question with greater certainty, but I’m afraid that I am not sure what the future holds. For now, I hope to find a job that will take advantage of the skills that I have as an historian to help the general public in a positive way. Perhaps, some day, I will return to academia for a PhD. 

Daily Thoughts/Comments

  1. If you’re elected by over 90% of the vote, it’s probably not a legitimate election.
  2. "Petco" just autocorrected to "Percocet". I wonder what that says about me.
  3. A friend of mine is bidding on betta fish in Thailand.