Just enough

You wouldn't think you could turn to New Era for an example of a beautiful poem. Or maybe I wouldn't. But at any rate, below was a contest winner back in 1991. It feels right and true to me, in addition to also being simply lovely. Kudos, Mary Lynn Bahr, kudos.

The Comforter

They say the fire falls swiftly,
Breaking adamant hearts, neatly
Dividing joints and marrow
For sterile reassembly.
Pure, molten personality
Will cool into new symmetry
As crimson years bleach into snow
And melt out of memory.

I kneel and cringe, expecting
Ecstasy and quickening,
Ambush by wrestling angels,
Annunciation that compels
Belief. Tonight only snow
Falls, half an inch, just enough.

Pancakes with syrup traps

I could never really believe The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It wasn't the presence of fauns or the magical furniture that transported kids to a world where it was always winter but never Christmas. It wasn't even the talking Lion and the silly story of him dying and coming back to life (as if anybody could believe something like that). But, I was willing to accept those things. Suspend my disbelief and all that. What I could not look past was the Turkish delight.

Edmund sells the entire world out for the treat. However, in real life, Turkish delight resembles nothing as much as it does squishy, solidified perfume. Nobody (and I mean nobody, even British children on wartime rations) would do what he did if Turkish delight were on offer. Other sweets, sure. But waffles? I would sell my own foot for waffles. Seriously. I love them. That's what the White Queen should have lured him with.

Which is what this story is leading up to. My mother the other day threatened that we should change our Christmas breakfast tradition. "Have something new this year," she suggested. See, from well before when I was born, my family has had what we call strata every year on Christmas morning. It's a breakfast casserole with eggs, cheese, bread and cream of mushroom soup. So many happy memories are tied up in strata: being too distracted by presents that I had just opened to eat any of it, learning that mushrooms are not gross, having everybody around on Christmas morning, all eating the same thing year after year . So, even if I were not the most change-adverse person I know, I'd be appalled that this tradition is under attack. This, people, is the true war on Christmas.

However, my mother followed my whinging question, "what do you mean 'something new'?" with the phrase, "maybe waffles." Oh my goodness. My culinary weakness. My achilles intestine, if you will. The suggestion, though probably false and most certainly not likely to happen, created a real inner crisis for me. Is it better to keep with traditions of tasty food or buck them for the holy grail of breakfast breads? I'm sure the contortions of my soul were evident on my face. Which is why my protesting, "Naw, I think we should stick with strata" probably didn't sound too convincing.

So, family, if you come over on Christmas morning and find that waffles are on the menu, I'm sorry. My hand was forced. The flesh is weak. I was tempted beyond that which I was able to bear. And, if you're too upset to eat yours, I'm sure I can find them a happy home.

Squirt me twice, shame on me.

After my very cheap, but nice and shiny water bottle from Walmart broke on the second week of my using it, I decided to upgrade a smidge. I shouldn't have been too shocked that three dollars does not ensure that your water bottle straw will actually be functional. But I was. I hate it when I turn out to be cheap rather than thrifty.

However, I was delighted when I found this guy at Target for under ten bucks (paying more than ten dollars for shaped plastic designed to hold water strikes me as borderline insane). He's so pretty. It's like drinking from a giant sapphire! He's not quite as big as I would have liked, but he still gets the job mostly done. And, considering the fact that I am never more than probably 100 yards from a drinking fountain, I will probably survive with his low capacity. Though I did have a moment of panic during the BlizZion panic about being stranded in my car all night by the side of the road with only this scant bottle to ensure I staved off dehydration. [Yeah, I know there would have been ample snow around me and that snow is somehow water and probably potable AND that dying of dehydration over the course of one night is unlikely, but still!]

So, I'm pleased with him for the most part. Except. Three times now I've flipped the little nozzle to take and drink and water has come gushing forth from the straw. Not a little water, a LOT. All three times, I've been sitting down, holding the bottle over my lap. Which means, it's looked like I was a candidate for the medicine whose suggest that your over-active bladder is getting in the way of your pursuits like attending live baseball.* Which you know, you can't really say, "my water bottle just exploded all over me!!!!" when someone looks at you askance and then notices that the very water bottle is still in your hand, decidedly un-exploded.

I'm sure somebody sciencey could explain how these times were always after the bottle had been sitting for a while during extreme temperature changes (like overnight in my car). And that water somehow gets sucked up the straw by "physics", that darkest of the dark arts. And somebody more rational would learn, after the first time, that you should always unscrew the when first using the bottle for the day. But me? I'll stick with this: a blogpost where I complain about a problem and/or laugh at myself for how astounding dumb I can be sometimes. I mean, who can't work a water bottle, for heaven's sake?

*Herpes medication=kayaking; bladder issues medication=watching baseball. What does that mean?

No, this is an epic fail.

So, Katy Perry, while you probably live a pretty wild and crazy life, I’m guessing nothing you did “last Friday night” actually counts as an “epic fail”. Likewise for those of us who lack the money and fame to really fail spectacularly. As such, below are some situations for which the term “epic fail” is actually appropriate. Most others, turns out, are more just “quotidian fail”. Please advise.

  • A guy in a secret valley promises you eternal life if you stay awake for seven nights. But, you fall asleep right then and end up snoozing away the entire week.

  • There’s a gal you’ve been sweet on for ages. But she’s still not over her last lover. Then, one day, she agrees to marry you if you can best the other applicants for her hand at an archery contest. Not only do you fail to string the bow, you also get hacked to pieces when the lover you assumed dead mysteriously shows up right then.

  • Despite proving your fidelity to your husband by walking unscathed through fire, people talk. Who knows what you really got up to on that island? Your hubby, wanting to set a good example, gives you the boot. So, you’re forced to raise his two sons in the forest dwelling of a scribe. After they’re grown, they get to go back and live with their dad, but you do not.

  • There’s a monster that terrorizing your kingdom. You manage to kill it, but in doing so get mortally wounded yourself.

  • You fall madly in love with a visitor to the land you rule. However, he’s got other things on his mind and, despite seeming to be really into you, ends up splitting right after you go all the way. The fact that he eventually founds a city that will utterly destroy your kingdom is just more salt to this wound.

  • For some reason, you want to marry this girl who can throw a boulder further than you dreamed possible. Your best friend manages to make himself invisible and help you convince this lady to marry you. But, your wedding night take a turn for the unromantic when she ties you up and leaves you alone until dawn.

  • You think the best way to get back at your father-in-law for humiliating you is to beat your wife (his daughter) and leave her for dead. Since this is sort of not cool, he challenges you to a duel. And you lose.

Like a rabbit, but more quavering and jumpy

I don't do scary. Not even a little bit. I fundamentally do not understand the appeal of going to one of those commercial haunted house things (I have never been. I will never go. End of story.). Or intentionally viewing a horror film. I'm far too nervous about my everyday life to add additional fuel to the fire of my fears (pyre of my paranoias? conflagration of my concerns?). Some people don't believe me. They assume I'm just sort of nervous, that these things don't affect me that much. Or that I'm like most people who say they don't like horror films but they watch them anyways, squealing and panicking and then letting it go the next day. For me, the uneasy feelings don't dissipate with a new dawn. Or ever, for that matter. In case you might not believe me, here are three examples to show just how little I can handle the frightening.

1. Last fall, in my hell class, we spent a day talking about the horror genre. Not watching any movies, mind, just talking about them. Even this circle of remove wasn't enough to insulate me. The class ended and I realized my jaw hurt really badly. Turns out, I had been so uptight I was clenching my jaw the entire fifty minutes. All just because we were only talking about scary things.

2. I can't ride Indiana Jones at Disneyland. It makes me too nervous. Even the approach, through those purposefully darkened faux caves sends my heart rate soaring. This last September, my nephew wanted to go on the ride when I took him off just the two of us. So I did it, all the while trying to keep my breaths very calm and digging my fingernails into my palms. Then, the only way I can stand the actual ride is to close my eyes the whole time. And I do mean the whole time. I tried opening them once and instantly regretted it. Should I point out that my nephew is six? And that it's probably just about his favorite ride? That's right, I can't handle something that doesn't even make a six year-old flinch. Relatedly, I'm pretty sure hell for me would be having my eyes forced open while riding the Halloween version of Space Mountain. Not over and over again, just a few times, really.

3. I am addicted to Bejeweled Blitz. Like, a lot. Well, the last week or so they themed it up for Halloween. I could handle this for the most part. Except, the usual clinking sound when you start a new game was replaced with one of those throaty, evil laughs so commonly used by ghouls and other nasties in old timey horror works. Without fail, every time I'd click to start a new session (which is really quite often), I'd feel my insides tighten up. And it would usually take a good ten games before the slick feeling went away. All from one creepy laugh. A creepy laugh that was a surprise in neither timing nor quality.

Yeah, see? I really am that timid. Pretty sure if I ever have to face anything really terrifying I will die of fright. After, of course, wetting myself and crying a lot. Let's hope that my worst nightmares stay safely far, far away.

Over and over and over and over

You know how you find yourself senselessly using the same word over and over again? For instance, you could go a really long time without hearing or even seeing the word comport. Then, one day, you wake up and use it four times (aloud--the silent times are countless) in just a few hours? All of a sudden, the word seems so apropos. And even when it's strictly not, you use it in hopes that nobody will call you out on it. (See, for instance, the time I referred to re-frosting a cake to "palimpsesting" it). But then, you start realizing how often you're using it and feel foolish.

This happens all the time to me. Surely, I'm not the only one (c'mon, a guy's neuroses out and tell me it happens to you, too.) Of course, when it does, I then start using a series of less and less common synonyms for the word. So, if you start hearing me say "appropriate", "in keeping", "harmonize", "cohere", and "befit" in the next little while, just remember, it's only because I can't help myself. And hey, at least my addictions come without too many side effects, right?

Death, despite being proud, inspires a good verse

Because I'm deeply strange, I sometimes collect things that I think would make excellent eulogy components. Like, stuff to quote on the occasion of the death of a loved one. I suspect this has something to do with the little Puritan preacher living inside my brain. You know, the guy who sees Jesus everywhere and wants to make everything a sermon. That guy. For instance, Hayden's Those Winter Sundays? Tragic magic.

So, I'm adding a new one to my list. I came across it in a compilation of Kay Ryan's work. Check it out:


A life should leave
deep tracks:
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;
where she used to
stand before the sink,
a worn-out place;
beneath her hand
the china knobs
rubbed down to
white pastilles;
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
almost erased.
Her things should
keep her marks.
The passage
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
however small —
should be left scarred
by the grand and
damaging parade.
Things shouldn't
be so hard.

Be prepared (with ties)

This Priesthood session of conference marked the 15th year I've been attending them. I haven't missed a single one of those sessions. Even when I was living in Edmonton and getting to the chapel it was broadcast to meant taking a light rail and then two buses and leaving home an hour and a half beforehand and then skipping out during the final song so I wouldn't have to wait an extra hour for the bus.

But, I almost didn't go last Saturday. I didn't get a very good night's sleep on Friday. I went to work on Saturday and felt hazy and fuzzy and generally in no state to pay attention for two hours while sitting on a hard chair. Also, I have so much homework all the time, it seems. So, y'know, seriously solid reasons, is what I'm saying.

I did end up attending, though (and glad of it, too). I went because my sister called me to let me know my brother-in-law was at a loose end, what with his family being away. She wondered if I wanted to head out there and go with him. And, for a bonus, we'd get to go to dinner afterwards! She hesitated, though. The phone call took place just after five, meaning I'd have less than a hour to make it across the valley.

"You'll probably need to go home and change..." she started, as we were figuring out the arithmetic of getting me there. Then, she realized who she was talking to and said, "wait. No you won't."

See, one of the many benefits of wearing an oxford everyday and keeping a tie about my neck or the spare one in my car. Not only do I look super trig all the time, I'm constantly prepared for any church function! I'm not sure this is what the Boy Scouts were trying to teach me, but, hey, it served me well here.

If only I drove something less bland and sensible!

The lot I park in almost every day perplexes me. It is a fairly sizeable lot, divided among spots for faculty passes, student passes and economy passes. For the most part, the areas make sense: faculty are closest to the buildings, then the student passes, then the economy passes.* However, at one place, along the sidewalk, there is a row of faculty stalls, then a row of student spots then another row of faculty ones. It's like a sandwich. And for no reason that I can ascertain. Those faculty spots that are farther away from most buildings are not closer to any other buildings. Unless you count the buildings across the nothing-to-sneeze-at-road, which at any rate has a parking lot of its own right next to it. These faculty places are just there, being under-utilized and mocking me whenever I happen to get to campus after 8.30 and discover that I've missed the window of finding a parking place. Show up at 9.00 and you're suddenly debating whether you can, in fact, fit between those two Hummers that only left about three-fifths of an actual space in the one remaining spot.

But, the real issue is this: I am a bit, (ok, ok a lot) flighty sometimes. I make a lot of really simple, truly maddening, and thoroughly avoidable dumb decisions every day. Often without realizing it until much later. So, twice now in the semester, I've been walking towards my car only to see it parked in a faculty spot. Not only parked but there all by himself, standing out like a Hawaiian shirt in sacrament meeting. My heart speeds up. I start cursing myself out. I hope against hope that the lot was not scoured and maybe, just maybe I won't have a ticket.** I keep walking...and realize it's not my car. Well, it's my car (same make, model, and color) but not my actual car, the one I drove to school that day. My car has been both times safely in the student zone.

Now that it's happened twice, I'm hoping I'm savvy to it. But, probably not. Apart from making dumb missteps, I frequently make the same ones time and time again. Because, I mean, really, what's the point of ever learning anything useful, right?

*These economy spots, though, are scant, which surely leads purchasers to wonder about the wisdom of trying to save some money.

**I'm not fully unfounded in my fear of tickets for failure to understand parking regulations. Since coming back to the U last fall, I have gotten one warning and two tickets because I am incapable, apparently, of figuring them out.

For a limited time, your subscription also includes a 50% chance of type 2 diabetes!!

I am not the kind of person who buys groceries on amazon. However, I am the kind of person who can successfully, on my own, consume one of those largest (four pounds or so, right?) bags of peanut m&ms in less than a fortnight. Without even breaking a sweat, so to speak. That I have not yet ballooned to 300 lbs can probably be positively correlated with the effort required to actually acquire the candy. Because, frankly, dragging my sweet tooth everyone in the industrial-size wheelbarrow it requires is exhausting.

Thus, the idea of subscribing to get a supply of candy seems like total magic to me. For instance, you can subscribe to get a monthly bag of Haribo Gummi Bears. Of course, in my case, I'd probably need more than one bag. In the words my brother stole from my mouth, "Five pounds is awfully small." Though, really, I'd prefer if I could get my candy weekly.

Also? They are claiming that white gummis are flavored like pineapple. I'm pretty sure that's a lie. And lastly: Haribo's slogan rhymes the world over. Isn't that adorable?

Tie-saster or not?

One of the potential costs of putting together a bag of clothes to take to the gym the night before is that you don't have that final glance in the mirror before entering the public sphere. I mean, maybe (read, probably) most folks are better at visualizing what a final ensemble will look like. However, I can barely pair a tie and a shirt, let alone make sure the pants and shoes all coordinate. I usually need the last check over to make sure I don't look like I've just escaped some sort of group home.

So, sometimes tie-shirt combos seems like a brilliant idea at midnight, in the haze of inattention and near-food-coma from late night Taco Bell. And then the next day, I get ready to tie my tie, see myself in a mirror and think, "huh, that's an odd decision." Of course, at that point, I'm already late for work and don't really have many options other than just acting like I meant it all along. [That's what most bold fashion is, right? The stance that what you've got rocks, regardless of reality.]

All this leads up to this: gingham and snails. I'm not sure that it works. I'm also not sure that it doesn't work. So, I present it for you. Thoughts?

*Also, taking this picture made me realize my tie has been on upside down ALL day. I am mortified right now.

a poem for Wednesday

At some point, I'll get around to reading the Poetic Edda. Then, I can share some neat story that ties together Odin and poetry (he's the god of the poets) and the fact that Wednesday is named after him. Or maybe I could tell you about my conversation with my brother in which he argued the second half of the "Poetry is Necessary" bumper sticker must have been missing. According to him, the neccesity of poetry is somewhat questionable.

But. Instead of doing all that, I'm just going to share a poem from Anne Carson on this Odin's Day. I think it's beautiful. And it's almost true. Or is it true? I can't quite decide.

My Religion

My religion makes no sense
and does not help me
therefore I pursue it.

When we see
how simple it would have been
we will thrash ourselves.

I had a vision
of all the people in the world
who are searching for God

massed in a room
on one side
of a partition

that looks
from the other side
(God’s side)

but we are blind.
Our gestures are blind.

Our blind gestures continue
for some time until finally
from somewhere

on the other side of the partition there we are
looking back at them.
It is far too late.

We see how brokenly
how warily
how ill

our blind gestures
what God really wanted

(some simple thing).
The thought of it
(this simple thing)

is like a creature
let loose in a room
and battering

to get out.
It batters my soul
with its rifle butt.

Part of growing up

Growing up sometimes means some really unpleasant things. It means paying taxes to register your vehicle. It means working full-time. It means big decisions. It means responsibilities. It means grappling with the exceptionally frustration experience of, to steal a phrase, finding someone interesting who's interested. It can really be a whole string of yuckiness.

But, it also means that you can eat McDonalds whenever you want and you can buy yourself Super Mario Galaxy 2 at the drop of a hat. These don't necessarily make up for the rest, but they sure don't hurt, either.

I bid 9 no trump

A couple of weeks ago, my friends and I learned how to play bridge. It may come as no surprise that my secret identity, that of a middle-aged woman, loves the game. However, I just learned that my shaky understanding of scoring had a major hole in it. If one team wins a game, BOTH teams start over at zero with new under the line points. (don't worry, that's not to make sense to you unless you score bridge). Also, it's pretty ridiculous, this scoring thing. I mean, seriously: look at my crib sheet.

And, as best as I can tell, that's the simplest way to present it. But, even still, it's so delicious.

by any other name

I have a very common first name. Pedestrian, even. No really, it's been in the top ten in the US since WWII. Since I grew up around a bunch of other people with this name (among other reasons), I go by a shortened form of my name. A shortened form that is not really all that common this side of the Atlantic. To make matters more confusing, it is a homophone and its spelling is not readily apparent.

Here's what this is leading up to though: giving my name as restaurants. Whenever I have to put my name on a wait list, I hesitate. For much longer than is normal. Should I give the host(ess) my nick name, even though it usually throws them off and/or launches me into a conversation I'm sick of having? Oh and requires me to spell it and/or suffer a look of “what the...?” Do I give them my given name? If so, do I go with the full version that only my little brother uses or the typical American short form that I was called until I was about 18? In this pause, of course, I start feeling all silly and awkward, because, really, how hard is it to COME UP WITH YOUR OWN NAME?!?!

Of course, I could also use an alias. But, I know I would make a terrible spy, as I've tried the alias thing only to have forgotten the name I gave. It's not so pleasant having someone come up to you and saying, “Excuse me, aren't you the name we've been calling for three minutes?” And that really nails the coffin. Oh, I'm too dumb to even know my own name and then I can't recognize it.

My last name would be an option, but I have this annoying tic of always giving my last name, spelling it, and then giving it again. It comes from my father. Well, obviously my last name comes from my father. But I mean this style of providing it. Specifically from hearing him provide his name over the phone. I guess Philip Larkin is not lying, after all.

So, here's what I'm getting at. If ever I go to dinner with you: take charge. give your name. I've got other neuroses to focus on, thank you very much.

Alea Otterson III

You know, I spend a lot of my time feeling like I really am a snappily-dressed sea otter trapped in a human's body. So, my sister's gift of the print above for me? It's totally perfect. I now need to find an appropriate frame, which will be quite a task. Do you see how trig he is? I'm sure he'd be offended if I skimped on his housing.

Also, the artist, Ryan Berkley, writes really clever descriptions of his works. Check them out here.

Time is not my friend

I am a notoriously late person. My friend’s are so acquainted with this tendency of mine that I no longer need to even text them “I’m going to be late”. Instead, I send off the message “You’ll never guess what I’m about to say…” at the time we’re actually supposed to meet. It’s not a habit I’m particularly fond of, but then again, I’m not really being all that proactive about fixing it.

One thing people claim you can do to improve your punctuality is set your clocks ahead. Of course, this is silly. Because if you know how far ahead they are, you just do the arithmetic and it doesn’t solve anything. But, I do set my clocks ahead. Trick is, no two are set the same time ahead, so I’m not in sync. My watches (yes, watches. I like to accessorize, ok?) are some variation between three and ten minutes fast. Actually, this one does help a smidge, as I’m never sure which watch is on the ten-minute end and which is a smaller gap.

My car clock runs 17 minutes ahead of schedule. Which, for someone like me, can be taxing on math skills. “Let’s see….it says 6.42, but it’s 17 minutes fast so that makes it…” Sums and differences are not something I’m particularly speedy (or adept) at. To make matters worse, this clock also sometimes runs faster (up to 20) or slower (down to 13). I’m not making this us. That clock is a shifty character.

One of my alarm clocks (because, yes, I also need multiple ones of them to urge me up in the am) is set two hours earlier. The reason here, though, is simple. If you have to wake up before 6, it’s sometimes nice to fool yourself into thinking you’ve set your alarm for 7.48, not 5.48, right? (Speaking of weird time things…I never set an alarm for an increment of five minutes. It stresses me out).

Also, though, I’m around clocks that run on time all day long. My cell phone, for instance, automatically updates its time. Or I’m a computer. Or I’m in an office or class setting with prominent clocks. So, I can’t get very far away from the correct time. So, all these efforts to trick myself are wasted.

But, really, what’s this post about? Two things. First, I am a deeply neurotic person. Second, I’ll always be late. But my apologies for the same are always very timely. In fact, let me apologize now: I’m sorry for keeping you waiting. It'll happen again, but I don't mean anything by it.

Dear Lady Gaga

I know, I know, you're a lie and you kill everyday to make it true. But does this killing actually go on in crematoria? Because, your new video for Alejandro is trying really hard to invoke the Nazis. Ok, sure, whatever. The problem, though, is it's also trying to invoke the end of the world and the very 17th century idea of religious ecstasy. So, you're doing a lot of things. Check.

But, it's not quite Nazis, is it? Just like it's not quite steam punk. Or not quite post-apocalyptic. Or not quite Evita on steroids. Or not quite Counter Reformation with a huge dollop of sex. Truth be told, I feel mostly like the video is just that: not quite.

Also, for a song that is, ostensibly about the complicated relationship everyone feels towards intimacy of the physical stripe, your metaphors of that intimacy could be less...blunt? I mean, isn't the simulated sex that goes nowhere and where you're the dominatrix a bit...obvious?

Don't get me wrong. I like your stuff. And it's interesting. And moderately entertaining to watch. But, I think you ought to be careful. You're almost to the point of de trop. And de trop for Gaga fans is saying a lot.



Yes, I know

I often feel like God is very present in my life without being there in a really helpful sense. You know, the same old complaints: unanswered prayers, complicated answers, timing issues, prayers answered in ways we don't like, life that seems tobe heading towards total bliss and ends up falling apart. That sort of thing. Today seemed like a particularly strong day for that.

And then, this evening, He sent me a thunderstorm. I don't mean he sent it specifically for me. But I got to experience it. It was the most amazing display of lightning I've ever seen. But, it wasn't the cloudburst of destruction that brilliance like this can come with. In fact, it was just barely sprinkling. And the thunder was far enough away that it was just a distant rumble. Low and solemn and peaceful.

I can't really do justice to what it looks, sounded and felt like. But, in part, it felt like God picked up and squeezed. Hard. I was in awe. I was comforted. And, as usual, I was reminded that hey, maybe somebody up there is watching out for me.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury

If you ever want to feel like you obviously live a pretty boring life, you should be involved in a jury selection for a DUI case. I was yesterday, and I learned that I’m actually in a bit of the minority for 1. never having been cited with driving under the influence, 2. not knowing anybody particularly close to me who has, 3. nor knowing anyone who’s been injured by a drunk driver, 4. not discussing in grisly detail the work of my law enforcement relatives (ok, so I don’t even have any law enforcement relatives, so I couldn’t even get to the discussion part) and, 5. (oddly for Utah, I think) belonging to a religion that prohibits the consumption of alcohol.

But, boring, apparently, can also lead you to being selected as a juror. Well, boring and dressing respectably. I really should have gone with my gut instinct to bring the stack of Watchtowers and wear the shirt with a giant “Jehovah-God is Watching!” As a result, though, of chinos and a tie, I was selected to determine whether or not someone else did something illegal. I guess I could have been like the one woman who admitted that she thinks anyone who drinks EVER shouldn’t have a license. But, really, either that’s a crazy reach for being excused or she sort of freaks me out. Though, she freaks me out less than the woman who believed one is guilty until proven innocent. Because, y'know, that's a good sytem, right, South America?

This system of administering justice is totally ludicrous, right? A bunch of strangers are summoned. A small set of them (26) show up. Then, four are selected and they get to make a decision that has pretty serious implications for someone else. It’s weird.

The trial itself was sort of meh. Though, I wish I could have pulled aside the defense attorney and told him, “Look, dude, your whole ‘the defendant is being painted evil just like Severus Snape’ is not as convincing nor as clever as you clearly think it is. Also, did you seriously just call dui investigations “a witch hunt”?” In his closing statement, he also placed a lot of emphasis on the fact that there was no Intoxilyzer test. Of course, that was dumb, because why draw attention to the sketchiest fact of our client’s investigation? And, also, the legal limit of alcohol doesn’t matter if your client was intoxicated beyond the ability to control the vehicle.

To be honest, I'm not sure this woman really had a chance. I know, I know, she was presumed innocent, but her actions were super sketch, as was her testimony. But, I did manage to help get her off the hook for failure to yield to pedestrians. Which I'm sure she feels just great about.

Daily Spoils

Things I returned home with today which were not in my possession at the start of the day:

  • A new, Mormon-themed board game
  • A copy of D'Aulaires Norse myths (one of my goals for the summer is to become passingly familiar with Asgard and its inhabitants)
  • A library copy of the soundtrack for the musical Billy Eliot. It's not my story, but it's a good one, regardless
  • An id badge for my new job
  • A clean bill of criminality
  • A clearer sense of how to tackle Games Mormons Play, a paper in progress
  • Plans for getting sushi in a little bit

Apparently, I have successful days. Sometimes.

Curling up

It is not odd that, upon placing the last period on my last paper of the semester, I decided to do something totally frivolous. I've earned, in my estimation, a bit of fun. What is odd, though, is that my choice of fun is to curl up with a book that has been described, variously, as "beautiful, shocking, and sad", "heart-breaking", "harrowing" and as having prose that "amplifies the isolation..that each character seems to inhabit".

I am so ridiculously excited for this. Here's hoping it lives up to those reviews.

His heart was merry with wine

Dear alea,

Remember how for the past three weeks, you've been hemming and hawing about your final paper for Ugaritic? The one in which you were supposed to categorize and discuss the use of "heart" in the Hebrew Bible? Of course, you do. It's cast a pall over practically everything. Sifting through the more than 700 verses containing the term seemed overwhelming. You couldn't focus on it for more than about half an hour without wanting to run away and hide.

Well, turns out, you shouldn't have taken so long to get started. Because, there is a possibility that you were having so much fun writing last night that it got to be 1 am before you knew what happened. You had to forcibly remove your computer so you could get some sleep. Seriously, you're absurd. This topic is awesome. And you get to say things like "well soused" and "heart foreskin". You should have seen that coming.

Please advise.


inner vessels

When I have a house, or rather any space that I can decorate, I'm going to hang up somewhere two small-ish frames. I'm picturing something like 8 inches square. Inside each will be a quote. One will be "Νίψον ανομήμα, μη μόναν όψιν", a Greek palindrome which means "wash your sin and not only your face". It's found on a fountain outside Hagia Sophia, which I desperately want to visit. The other will be from the Bible. It's in Joel 2.13

"קרע לבבכם ואל-בגדיכם" ("rend your hearts and not your clothing").

Also, I kinda love the idea of the former in a bathroom and the latter next to a closet.

I realize these are sort of weird to hang up and see everyday. But I love them so much. I love this idea of working on the inner person rather than the outer one. And I think someone (not me, probably, but surely, someone), could do something really cool with Greek and Hebrew typography that would make them really cool.

But, yeah, until that point, it'll just have to suffice to have them running through my head over and over again.

καὶ ἡμᾶς ἂν σώσειεν

Every time, without fail, during finals I have this two weeks of total panic. It's not necessarily panic about projects and papers, at least not explicitly. In fact, it's obviously about that but that's not what I focus it on. Rather, I feel panicked that I'm totally wasting my life. I mean, learning about Hell is fun, for sure, but what does it really matter? That is, who does it help? It doesn't cure cancer. It's not building better cities. It doesn't even make lots of money.

So what I am doing? Enjoying myself, sure. Making myself feel less freakish and alone. And, eventually, maybe I'll be able to teach some of this to other people and make them love it. But that does seem minor, doesn't it?

Then, of course, Plato comes to my rescue. In my Greek class, we were reading a little selection adapted from the Republic. Socrates says, "And thus, my dear Glaucon, the story is saved and it will save us if we believe it."

And just there, I remembered why I care about these sorts of things. Stories save us. Whether you buy into eternal salvation or just a humanist approach, stories are at the core. The stories we read, the stories we hear, the stories we create. All of it is story. And there are people who hold onto these stories. And I want to be one of them.

Oh, no, please, go ahead.

I have this conversation at least once a day.

"So, what are you studying?"
"Religious studies."
"Oh, interesting. Like all religions or do you have a specific emphasis?"
"Not right now. But I'm hoping to do graduate school in religion and literature and probably drift towards popular culture and religion. Mostly newer forms of Christianity, too"

And then the person goes on to tell me about the axe they have to grind in regards to religion. Or a religion. Or God. It's like the mere mention of religion makes people feel like they can unload on me. I don't mind it, mostly because nothing is expected of me and, often, I can see they have some sort of point. But still.

I imagine this will only get worse as time goes on. Though, I guess it could be worse. I could be expected to give out free medical, legal or tax advice. So maybe nodding while someone tells me that organized religion is the worst idea man has ever come up with isn't too much to endure.

My secret shame

I'm not a foodie. Not even close. I like the taste of things like Cheetos and peanut M&Ms way too much and I sort of think it's ridiculous to tuck into a meal that looks more like an exaggerated Easter hat than food. Don't get me wrong. I like tasty things very much. It's just that I can't really seem to care that chocolate A is made from beans that only grow once every 4,000 years and were roasted with nothing more than the thought power of Buddhist monks. The effort put into listening to such descriptions almost makes me lose my appetite.

That said, I can't really just admit that I'll eat anything. Because I do need to keep my snob cred up. So, what it boils down to is that I make fancy-ish things when I have people over for dinner and when I'm alone, I eat a meal of plain, cheap spaghetti. Or, and here's really the point, an entire can of this:

That's right. I love Dinty Moore stew. I'm ashamed to admit this. I mean, even the can alone calls up images of flannel-wearing yokels who can't even be bothered to use a can-opener and so need a pop top instead. It's weird that this would be the limits of my shame. I'm fine telling people I love cheap tuna (instead of Albacore white), or that baking with margarine doesn't make *that* much difference in a lot of things. But, telling people I like cheap beef stew is, apparently, too much.

Until now. Now you all know. And I'm not going to be embarrassed by it any more. And I'm not even going to go on to defend myself by telling you the ingredients and how maybe it's not such a bad food item after all*. I'm just going to let you all know: I had Dinty Moore stew for dinner a couple of nights ago. And I loved it.

*Oh, some of you want to know, don't you? Well, here they are: Beef Gravy (Water, Beef, Tomatoes [Water, Tomato Paste], Corn Flour, Salt, Modified Cornstarch, Caramel Color, Sugar, Flavoring), Potatoes, Beef, Carrots.. See? Other than supicious "flavoring" and sugar, it's all real food! I had no idea.

Things I have a crush on

1. This:Thanks, Helvetica, you're the best.

2. Actually, her name's Marina. And she quotes Yoda.

3. The idea of anise-flavored seven minute frosting. But, I am still (sadly) seeking a vehicle for it.

4. Clytemnestra. Yeah, the woman who killed her husband, Agamemnon. I'm pretty sure she's a tragic hero. And c'mon, Aggie had it coming.

5. Ties. Wearing one every day is the Best. New. Years. Resolution. Ever.

6. Misquoting Lady Gaga's sketchily attributed quote that "Art is a lie. And I kill every day to make it true."

A caveat

If you're the kind of person who needs a consistent flow to your conversation, the kind of person who holds no truck with digressions, under no circumstances should you ever accept a group chat invitation involving me, ke, and Annie. It will drive you to the brink.

Oh these legs? They're mostly just for show

My gym membership expired. And I can't bring myself to renew it. Mostly because it seems ridiculous to pay 300 bucks when there's a perfectly good (ok, an acceptable) gym on campus. That is free. Or rather, that I've already paid for in that mess of student fees. (And, if we're being picky, I haven't even paid for it. Uncle Sam's paid for it. I'll be paying him back at some point, though).

At any rate, I'm torn by losing my gym membership. The treadmills there are nicer. It's part of my routine. I could, theoretically, take to swimming again. The people who go there are more in my fitness level than those that use the university one. But, my main problem is this: they have a parking lot. right. next. to. the. entrance.

I realize this is absurd. I'm supposedly going there to exercise, so parking close by shouldn't be a concern. I should be willing to walk and boost my workout a little. But, it's so handy. And I'm so lazy. And, if I do have to park somewhere far away and trudge to the gym on campus what, precisely, am I expected to do with my gym bag all day? Cart it around? What does the universe think I am? A mule? Somebody with a reasonable level of energy?

The problems I face are so overwhelming. But my stinginess-slash-debit-style-living really make the purchased membership not an option. So tomorrow, I'll be trying out parking far away from the gym. And, I'll even try not complaining about it. It's times like this that I really miss those regular, substantial paychecks that whole working full-time thing leaves you with.

vlogrop: The Believers

I've been moaning for a long time that I haven't been blown away by a book recently. Granted, my reading was curtailed dramatically. So I guess I shouldn't have expected the few ones I did manage to read to blow my mind. But nothing stuck.

And then, Petra suggested The Believers by Zoë Heller. I knew Ms. Heller from her What Was She Thinking?, a book I thoroughly enjoyed. However, The Believers was more than enjoyed. I adored it. So much.

The characters are all irritating. Unbelievably self-involved or self-hating or otherwise grating. I wanted nothing more than to sit Audrey, one of the main characters, and slap her. She's a mother of three adult children, a woman of strong socialist leaning but little engagement who has been astoundingly disappointed by life. But, does she really need to be so difficult all the time?

That said, I identified with her. Not in the sense that I saw myself in her but more in the way that I got, to some extent, where she was coming from. Which is why the novel is so good. The characters are awful, but you're intrigued, not in a voyeuristic way, but a humanistic one (almost sympathetic at times) in what they do and the choices they make.

However, beyond the individual human dramas, the novel is a nice exploration of the gap between the things a person says they believe and they way they actually act. And the process of losing your faith but sticking with it regardless.

This review really doesn't do justice to the book. Just go read it. Right now. No, faster.

Lady of the House

Dear Jeannette Rankin,

I know you've been dead for nearly 40 years now, but I have something to confess. I totally have a crush on you.

Yeah, that's right. I just can't get over the fact that you were the first woman elected to Congress. In 1916, nonetheless. Women in other places were fighting for the right to cast a ballot, and your home state of Montana sent you to DC. [Props to Big Sky Country, too for that one].

But, aside from being the first, you stuck to your guns. You voted against World War I. You weren't alone, but it wasn't a very popular stance. You lost some support and got voted out. That's too bad. But then you helped found the ACLU. So, there's something else I like about you.

When you were re-elected in 1940, you promised to stay out of war. And you did. After Pearl Harbor, you cast the only dissenting vote. I cannot imagine what that felt like. And even if World War II seems to have been a good idea in the long run (probably?), I love that you didn't give in, claiming you "refuse to send anybody else" to war. I want to ask you how you had the gumption to do it.

However, why am I posting this love letter to you today? Because today I came across this quote of yours: "You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake." Sigh...perfect. Just perfect.



Happy St. Patrick's!

My whole house smells like corned beef. I have green jello chilling in the fridge. In one class I went to this morning, somebody already smelled like beer. And I'm sporting a new tie picked out with the help of a friend last night.

Sigh...I love holidays.

The liberal arts, simplified

The distinction of a degree in the humanities is something everyone should aspire to. While other fields might actually prove useful, none prove as capable of making everyone uncomfortable. For instance, at your next family reunion, inform your extended family that you’re about to get a degree in art history and just watch them writhe and try to come up with something non-condescending to say.

But, why waste thousands of dollars and several years toiling at it to end up with little more than piece of paper and a crisis about what to do with your life? Instead, everybody can have all the benefits of a humanities education without ever taking a single class! All you have to do is the following:

  • Memorize Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. It forms the basis of everything critical anything.
  • Become passingly acquainted with Freud. We humans want sex. And death. And we’re messed up because of our parents. And cigars are not, in fact, ever just cigars.
  • Understand, glancingly, feminist theory. Men oppress women. And have always. Women must reclaim their own space. You should probably read “The Yellow Wallpaper”, too.
  • Embrace postmodernism. Truth doesn’t exist. There’s no single, secret meaning to be found by all. Everything can be broken to its constituent parts.
  • Know some stuff about Jesus. People wrote about him. And then painted him. And set up a church to him in Rome. Uh, then some other stuff happened.

Sure there are other things you’ll need to learn if you really want to be a humanities type. You’ll have to learn to watch movies and then say things about them. And, you might have to learn to write a coherent paper. But, pretty much, get those five things in a row, and you’re just as prepared as any of us to enter the scholarly discourse. Congratulations!

I can make it, I can make it. Oh, I guess I couldn't.

There are some things that are just bad ideas. For instance, if you are driving to Vegas on Friday, it's probably not the wisest to completely break the side mirror on your car a few days prior. Just probably. I mean, in one sense, it would make the drive more entertaining. Not that I'm speaking for experience or anything...

I wish I could say that backing into a garbage can Monday was a low point in my driving record. But that would be a lie. I've backed into other things before. Including once backing into another car in a parking garage. I pulled back into my space and jumped out to check the damage. In doing so, I somehow locked my car. With the keys inside. While it was still running. This was ten years ago (gosh, have I been driving for that long?) and so before the whole expectation-of-a-cell-phone thing. I had been at a doctor's appointment, so I had to go back into the office and call my mom to have her come drop off a key. That's up there with my dumbest moments ever.

The mirror is completely off. It's dangling, the surface shattered (do I get seven years of bad luck in this case?) from the side of my car. It looks so pathetic, I'm almost tempted to snip whatever it is that's holding it at all and just leave nothing there. But since I don't really understand anything about anything, it seems like taking sharp objects to a car part might be a bad idea.

You'd think that, four days afterwards, I'd be starting to get used to not having that mirror. That I wouldn't, every time I glance that way have a few seconds of panic wondering what happened to my mirror. But, you'd be wrong. Every. single. time. Sigh...it's getting old.

And now, here we are on Thursday. I leave tomorrow. The repair shop swore up and down the mirror would be on Wednesday. No such luck. Nor have I heard from them today. Which means that taking my car to Vegas is right out (I just don't trust myself to not do something dumb without the benefit of a mirror. My record in a car with all safety features doesn't give much confidence). It also means that my already pretty strong distaste from repairmen has another grievance to chalk up.

Fortunately, I'm going down with a friend. So, we'll take her car. But, I still have to get to Provo. Maybe I'll just plan it so I never have to merge right. Because nothing says, "we're on a schedule" like taking an hour and a half to get down to Utah County because you can't leave the far right lane.

he's not heavy, he's my brother

Brothers are great*. I have two of them, both of whom are the awesome. Though, for totally different reasons. My younger brother is hilarious and knows everybody (seriously, you can't throw a stone in this town without hitting somebody he knows). And was voted Prom King for goodness' sake. But this post isn't about him. It's about my older brother.

My older brother makes fun of me mercilessly. It is, after all, part of his job description. He's the one who started the jokes about whether Canada had electricity, the internet, running water and so on when I moved there. He kept asking me when I worked at the jail if I'd gotten shived yet. He teases me for living in Utah. He pokes fun at me for quitting my job and going back to school. Basically, you get the idea. I don't take any of it too seriously, because I know he doesn't mean it. Well, I hope he doesn't.

He also sends me video clips that are hilarious, even if completely random. And pictures of various absurdities he comes across. Like signs informing the public they are not allowed to urinate on city property. Or, in discussing t-shirt ideas, he sent me this, "Eat Meat Sparingly....unless that would be inconvenient, then just eat meat whenever you want". And he mocks Footprints every chance he gets. So, he's not just funny at my expense, but funny in general, you see.

But, really, what he's great at, what made me want to write this post is as follows. There's a few librarian jobs that have been popping up in the Salt Lake area. I texted him asking if I should apply and ditch the whole graduate school idea. He replied, "Yes. Obviously. We must ALL lead lives of quiet desperation, not pursuing our dreams."

So, y'know, even though he tells me I'm ridiculous for going back to school and pokes at me about the additional debt, he still gives really good advice. And, y'know, is supportive or something.

In word, thanks. That's all.

*Sisters are great, too. Yeah, that's right, I didn't forget you guys. :)

I may have a problem

I have a weakness for paisley. Given the various things in the world I could be/am addicted to, this isn't so bad. However, I'm beginning to wonder if, at some point, I will pass the limit of the number of paisley ties any one person is allowed to own. I just bought another one and well, I think the picture below says it all.

But, if being able to go almost two weeks without repeating a paisley tie is wrong, I'm not sure I want to be right.

buoying spirits unawares

I go back and forth on the whole idea that people are often the answer to our prayers unintentionally. Not that I expect a theophany every time I ask for something. It's just, well, it seems too coincidental. And also sort of self-centered. It seems likely that people just do things regardless of what we need or want. To assert otherwise sort of makes me uncomfortable.

I say that, but then sometimes things happen that make it seem like maybe there really is a God who engineers even tiny, inconsequential stuff.

To wit, I've been having a sort of rough patch. Nothing serious, just a run of kinda lousy days and some little prickly bits, too. Like failing to turn in the electronic version of a paper that was already done. Being given work tasks that make me feel sort of clueless. Getting a speeding ticket. Stuff that just sort of sours otherwise uneventful days. It's the sorts of thing that aren't that out of the ordinary but which, for whatever reason, feels moderately overwhelming at the time.

But then, in the last couple of days, someone I just met told me they'd heard good things from one of my professors about me and someone whose life I've envied practically since we met (it's soooooo cool. honestly) told me that she was, in fact, jealous of my life. My bland, sort of frivolous life.

These are dumb things really. Tiny things. And these people have no idea the difference they made. But, they did. For a little moment there, I was reminded that, hey, maybe things just seem a lot worse than they actually are. It's weird the power small things can have. And, whatever the source of these interactions, I'm so, so, so grateful for them.


My Hebrew professor, in discussing the etymology of some words has been known to contemptuously spit out that the root comes from "the Indo-European storehouse". He's not exactly a purist, but I can see the problem. Why borrow words from a system that doesn't really meld well with your own? Especially when these words aren't particularly complicated semantic undertakings. Though, some languages like to borrow. It's what they do (I'm looking in your direction, English. You're pretty much willing to invite any morpheme into your bed, aren't you?)

So, that said, borrowing a word here and there doesn't seem like such a problem. But, what if you're Greek? And, say, it's the 5th Century and you've created small things like drama and democracy and vase painting and Classical architecture. Why on earth, when you were smoothing things out like this didn't you bother to regularize the word for "to carry"?

Remember how you guys did the Golden Mean? And even went so far as curving parts of the Parthenon so it'd look straight? Yeah, you have a thing for order. That's cool. But, seriously, order begins at home.

For those of you reading who don't do Greek, here's how the verbal system works, at least theoretically. When you learn a verb, you learn six principal parts, related to different tenses. This is partly because ancient languages are needlessly complex at even their most regular bits, but also because the rules are sort of mishmash and it's generally easier to just memorize things.

So, a nice, regular verb looks like this:

παιδευω, παιδευσω, ἐπαιδευσα, πεπαιδευκα, πεπαιδευμαι, ἐπαιδευθην

Even not reading Greek, you can see this guy "παιδευ" sort of hangs around and gets stuff added to it.

Then, there's φερω, the word for "to carry". No real problem there. But then you look at the other forms which come out:

οἰσω, ἠνεγκα, ἐνηνοχα, ἐνηνεγμαι, ἠνεχθην

WTF? Three DIFFERENT roots? Sure, just pull anything you want out of Proto Indo-European. That's a good choice. Oh, and while you're at it, could you chose one root that likes to lose part of itself sometimes? That'd be swell.

I hate you sometimes, Classical Greek. Sometimes, I think you should die in a fire. Or, y'know, at the hands of the Romans. You pick.

At Oran like elsewhere

I spend way more intellectual energy and effort on carefully my crafted Facebooking than I really should. The curating of photo albums takes a good deal out of me. I. must. be. funny. And status updates are (generally) reserved for something rather clever*. They don't always have to come from me. In fact, a fair amount of the time, I just take a quote of some sort and tweak it.

However, on days like today, that pretty much beat me up for no good reason, I'm stuck. All I can think of are things from Camus, Sartre or the gloomier works of Graham Greene and Julian Barnes. Not particularly cheery, eh?

This leads me to wonder if these fancy degrees I have slash am working on did anything worthwhile other than giving me more beautiful ways to describe my dissatisfaction with my life. A life, btw, which is ridiculously good. I guess, if that's really the sum total of my education, I should wait for someone who chose more wisely and studied something useful to make a time machine. Then, I'll just go back in time and tell 18 year-old alea to pitch it all and go for the accounting degree. Then I'd be happy.

*Or, what I find clever. Because I amuse myself. And no one else.

Cheetos and starbursts are totally a meal

My sister works an irregular schedule, with several days of very long shifts and then a block of time off. According to her, this contributes to her eating patterns being Pavlovian. That is, without the cues of working, she loses track of the need to eat. She’s, obviously, not bothered by this. However, some of the rest of us can be. Because, see, we go to visit her when she’s not working and (if you’re me) are too timid to admit that you need food.

What’s weird, though, is that, left to my own devices, I’m not a very good eater. I don’t think my eating is Pavlovian, though. I think it’s social. If other people are around, I eat. If not, I don’t. It’s not that I avoid eating. It’s just that it doesn’t seem to happen. Sure, I snack. I nibble. I maybe even nosh a little bit. (Oh, let’s be honest, I’ll munch on some chips or consume some candy). But I don’t eat.

The fact that, periodically, my body decides that taking in calories in any form is beneath its interest doesn’t help my tendency to suddenly realize Sunday night that I have, in fact, gone two days without eating anything. The thing that usually gets me to realize this is trying to figure out why my head should be hurting so much.

On the plus side, this method of eating really cuts down on the grocery bills. On the downside, my body hates me. But then, I see this as some appropriate payback for all the times it’s decided it didn’t want to play nice.* I think, though, it's probably in my best interests to get out of this bad habit and, y'know, learn to take care of myself.

*Naturally, I refuse all blame from those situations.

You know what this envelope needs? A better taste

I don't actually mind the taste of envelope glue. In fact, I sort of like it. I'm always a little bit sad when I buy stamps now because they only sell self-adhesive ones. But, if I did find the taste of envelopes unsatisfying, I'd probably buy myself some Mmmvelopes. These little guys TASTE LIKE BACON!!!

I'm a big fan of bacon. A huge one even. I almost cannot get enough of it. That said, I'm totally buying some of that bacon salt. If it really works, I'm guessing that my non-bacon-sensing taste buds might atrophy from lack of use.

Of course, Bacon Salt is, I fear, one minor step away from the obvious trajectory. To wit: Squeez Bacon.

Reader, I died.

Life in the 19th Century was rough. Want proof? Look to the Brontë family. Patrick Bronte managed to outlive his entire family. By six years. No, no, wait for it, it gets better (worse?)

Patrick marries Maria in 1812, she dies less than 10 years later, having given him six children. Of these six, the two eldest die in 1825 (of consumption). The youngest three all die within 10 months of each other in 1848/49. Of course, all three died of some respiratory ailment. Because that's what people did in Victorian England (see above). Especially, if like Branwell, the son, you were an opium addict. I'm curious how Charlotte felt, out-surviving every single member of her family except her father. Apparently she got over it enough to get married. And pregnant. AND THEN DIE. Yep, she died with child, less than a year after her wedding.

Even better than all this is the fact that the sisters were never considered to be the success stories of the family. All the family's hopes were centered on Branwell. Then, of course, he seems to have either lost or stolen some money from his railway job, had an affair with the mother of the pupil he tutored, and became an alcoholic. So, maybe his death isn't so tragic. Well, it is tragic that it all had to happen at once to this family. So much dying. All over the place.

Sheesh, how did anyone survive in Victorian England?

Also: why did no one tell me that William James and Henry James were brothers? Doesn't that seem a bit excessive to have that much century-later impact birthed in one family?

Day 3, some bullets

I'm back in school, which is actually a pretty good thing. Now, all that extra mental energy that for the past month I was directing at myself can focus on other problems. Y'know, important things like Greek participles and learning a Tai Chi short form. A few things have been happening to me. Not enough for a whole post each, so instead, I present the highlights of my first three days.

  • My Greek prof is in his mid-sixties, I'd guess. But, he fist bumps. This happened on the first day when he put out his fist for me and I wasn't quite sure what he wanted. But, I went in for the bump and yep, that's what he was after. I'm not sure if the fist bumping makes him quirky/awesome or just sort of pathetic/trying too hard. He, does, also, though, wave to us. Like a little up-down of the fingers. This is more bizarre if you know he does this at random times. And that we meet in a seminar room which is just a big table. So he waves across the 3 feet. He also, though, does pitch accents when reading ancient Greek, which pretty much forgives everything.

  • I'm taking directed studies from the Hebrew professor. He sort of intimidates me (and by sort of, I mean, I feel super awkward and dumb around him). But, I bumped into him on campus yesterday and he handed me three bow ties. "Pick two," he said and then walked off. He's given up wearing ties and had told me last semester that I needed better ones. I didn't expect him to personally remedy the situation, though.

  • I find it so adorable, Sociology, that you think you can act like a social science when you want and then pretend you know what you're doing in the humanities world. You talk about experiments and data and hypotheses and then move on as if you understand deconstruction. I really don't know what to make of you. Also, how, precisely are you not anthropology?

  • I was in a class that was going to be horrific. On the first day, we were assigned a group. A group that would discuss questions together every. single. class. AND would be doing a group project together. The same group all semester. But, I found out it was waived with some transfer credits.

  • Of course, finding this out and getting this to actually happen has proved a headache. The adviser for languages and literature seems particularly useless. And, I feel like I'm going to get sucked into a catch-22 because the transfer admissions won't accept transfer by classes from previous degrees until approved by the adviser and the adviser won't approve them until the transfer admissions accepts them. Good thing they make everything so smooth and easy.

  • I'm not able to take Star Trek. I feel sort of glum about this, but as a bonus, the directed readings will provide me, I'm sure, with an endless supply of funny stories.

  • I'm always reminded the first few days of class that I'm such a snob. Like, in my institute class where one irritating guy said he was going into business and I thought to myself, "Of course you are." Or a guy in another class casually let it slip that he lived in Israel and Chile and San Francisco. So, you know he's cool, right? I probably shouldn't be allowed around people.


You speak (er, draw(?)) the truth so often. And yet this one feels particularly correct.

Thanks for that.

Neither here nor there

I have a very complicated relationship with the notion of traveling. On the one hand, I love it. There's new places to see! Adventures to have! Friends and family to visit! On the other hand, there's bags to be packed! Planes to be boarded! Time to be consumed by simply waiting! Money to be spent! Fears to be had about overstaying your welcome! New places to navigate! Foreign bathrooms and beds and furniture to negotiate! It exhausts me even thinking about it. But it also exhilarates me.

I think a large chunk of the problem is that I'm a list maker. And, getting ready for a trip always makes me feel like I should make a list of things that need to be accomplished before I leave. Inevitably, these lists are too long and I get to feeling overwhelmed. Then, I make lists of things to do where I'm going. Then I make lists of things to pack. Then it's a list of books to bring. And, before you can say "all aboard", I'm buried in piles of bullet points. On top of all of that, the world stubbornly refuses to cease moving forward while I try to get these things done. So, I'm still expected to work, even though I have laundry to get done. Or celebrate a friend's birthday even though I haven't packed (and of course, I have to make cupcakes for said celebration).* Of course, I also need to send in conference registrations, buy textbooks for classes, trim my beard, make a few major life decisions and so on and so on.

Clearly, I lack perspective. These things can wait (most of them). And the ones that can't can be accomplished. And, people invite me to visit them (or consent to let me visit them) because they like me (right? people aren't just too nice to say no, are they?) and so, I shouldn't worry about messing up on the trip. But, I can't shake the panic that sinks in about 48 hours before I go anywhere and which lingers as a sort of queasy uneasiness for the entire duration of any vacation.

One of the things not helping for this trip is that I'm coming back the same day that school starts. Thus, missing the first day of my Greek class. Since this is a different prof, I can't even rely on the semester of quasi-good graces I built up. Leaving Phoenix at 6.30 in the morning also sounds a bit like hell. And, it's decisions like this that remind me that I make dumb choices when I'm traveling. I frustrate myself so much sometimes.

So, I have all these bad things floating around, but every single time, I love the trip. Seriously. I have a great time regardless what actually happens and even if I get only five hours of sleep in three days. That's why I keep coming back to the idea of going places. It appeals to me much more than it irritates me. But, still, gosh, I wish this journey coming up overmorrow were finished already. Doesn't it realize I have a trip to Alaska to worry about?

*Note to this friend: I actually really do want to celebrate your birthday with you tomorrow. I just feel stretched, but I still know what's what, if you will. And I'm mostly being absurd.