Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Like Lists

Ways in Which I Wish My Life Were More Structured:
1. I wish I had an actual weekend. Not the kind where I have to sometimes work on Saturdays, but only when marketing wants us to do a liquid nitrogen demo at the Ostrich Festival; or where it's a last minute accidental weekend because it's raining, but I still have to call my boss and tell her it's raining and discuss rescheduling, and it stresses me out more because then I just have more crap to do. I wish I had the kind of weekends where I could, like, plan stuff. Or sleep in. Today I actually contemplated officially joining some religion so I could practice a Sabbath.
2. I wish I got 7+ hours of sleep every night. But sometimes I start work at five-thirty in the morning, and other times I start work at five-thirty at night. My circadian rhythms are f&%$ed.
3. I wish I could go hiking 4 days a week. Lately it's been only one or two. I wish this was scheduled. I wish I could go in to my work's Google Calendar and block off two hours from 7-9 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and write HILARY NOT AVAILABLE, BUSY PREVENTING HEART DISEASE. Alas, this doesn't fly in nonprofit work. Which seems really weird to me.
4. I wish I could stick to my budget. Specifically, I wish I had stuck to a budget for the last five years and now had a savings account that I could drop on vacations and car repairs. Or maybe a house.
5. I wish I made the time to write for an hour or two every day.
6. That's pretty much it, but while I'm wishing, I wish I lived in Norway and had six weeks of paid vacation. And that Norway looked like Arizona.

Ways in Which I Wish My Life Were Less Structured:
1. I wish I had some screwdriver buddies. These are the guys you would never ever even think of calling if your car broke down on the highway at one a.m., but you always think of calling them when it's Friday and you just found a bottle of tequila hiding in the back of your freezer. These are the kids with at least one MIP, a pickup truck, and no filter on their offensive-joke thought-to-mouth pathway.
2. I wish I could randomly find myself with three-hour chunks of nothing to do except sit at home and read the new Robert Jordan (which, incidentally, since he's dead, was written by someone else, who happens to be a better writer (don't kill me!!) and managed to write an entire book while eschewing the word "cleavage").
3. I wish my job were a lot more like college classes where it didn't really matter if you showed up every single time as long as you, you know, got your shit done.
4. I wish I didn't have a dress code. As sexy as khakis and a polo are, it's frustrating when I show up in civvies at work parties and people don't recognize me.

Hmm, that list was shorter than I thought it would be.

Ways in Which My Life is Totally More Awesome Than it Was at This Time Last Year:
2. I stopped lying to myself and finally dyed my hair so that I'm not grey at 23. I had at least five of my ex-boyfriends tell me how awesome I'd look with grey hair, but I don't feel very awesome with grey hair, and anyway, you're exes. That means you're automatically idiots. I look more awesome with pretty shiny brown hair. (Thanks, Meg)
3. My apartment is all mine. (Roomies, I loved you, but I love you more from my one-bedroom apartment.)
4. I can now recognize the symptoms of myself under stress and put a stop to it before I turn back into a raging selfish crying tense pile of bitch.
5. Peter and I are speaking.
6. My new awesome INFJ best friend, K.R., who, like, gets it.

Things That Still Kind of Suck:
1. I still haven't been published
2. Dwyer is in Mongolia.
3. I still trip over everything.

The Wicked Awesome Norwegian-Speaking Parrot

Update: The wicked awesome Norwegian-speaking parrot totally started nodding his head in rhythm to "Two More Bottles of Wine" by Emmylou Harris. I freaking love this bird.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

John Mayer Is an Idiot, For Other-Than-Obvious Reasons

I like John Mayer, and I think he's very talented and that he makes good musical decisions. And I also think that people should lay off him for having the same sense of humor as any immature twenty-something idiot kid. If Family Guy had made any of the same jokes that John Mayer had, everyone would be talking about how funny the last episode was. Blah blah blah all you want about how as a celebrity he needs to set an example, but John Mayer is the epitome of twenty-something male culture, lack of discretion and all. John Mayer's not necessarily a big fat jerk, our culture just encourages jerkism.
But today I was listening to his song Heartbreak Warfare, and, man, John Mayer is such an immature twenty-something idiot kid.

Lyric excerpt one: "If you want more love/why don't you say so."
Right. Chicks totally do that all the time, and it totally goes well:
Girl: "Honey, I really need you to love me more."
Guy: Pulls flowers out of his ass. "Baby, I was just waiting for you to say so."
You can't straight up ask for more love! What does that even mean?! It's hard enough trying to ask for different expressions of love. For example, even saying something as simple as, "Hey, sweetheart, I know that when you buy me all this shit I don't need, you're really trying to tell me you love me, but is there any way you can just give me some backrubs instead?" tends to cause a lot of conflict. Is it really going to go over that well with you, John Mayer, when your girlfriend comes to you and says, "Hey, I don't think I'm really getting enough love here. Can I have some more?"
But I like this whole "I'm sensitive and take criticism well" angle. Let's see where this goes.

Lyric excerpt two: "How come the only way to know how high you get me/is to see how far I fall?"
Hmm. Toughie. I'm gonna guess it's because you never show it at any other time. This is just a shot in the dark, but if your girlfriend has been reduced to making you jealous in order to prove your affection for her, I'll bet that you've stopped even slapping her ass when she walks out of the shower naked-- forget about things like telling her how high she gets you, or how much you love her, or, you know, doing nice things for her. Like, as much as it sucks that when you're an idiot kid who never manages to adequately express your emotions to the person you love best (except months later on a multiplatinum record that she won't be able to stand listening to) your girlfriend tends to make you jealous to pry these emotions out of you, well, unfortunately, that's the most effective way to go about these things, because you're just an idiot kid who can't express himself. Heartbreak warfare, indeed. More like crowbar on a rusty tin can.

That said, it's a good song, and I really dig the guitar solo.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Laws of Ecology Research

Ground zero: Duct tape is your friend. Buy a holster.
1. Basically, no matter what contingency you plan for, something else will go wrong.
If you string your irrigation lines thirty feet above a wash so that the summer monsoons won't destroy them, coyotes will chew on them.
2. No matter what contingency you plan for, it will go wrong anyway.
Even if you string your irrigation lines thirty feet above a wash so that the summer monsoons won't destroy them, you will still find them a hundred yards down river entangled in an uprooted tree the day after the first monsoon.
3. You will never have enough money to do what you actually need to do.
Five full-time undergrads and three brand new computers to record your data and run statistical analyses? Hahahahahaha, you're cute. Come back when you've been published in Science.
4. You won't need at least half of what you buy in advance.
$2700 worth of soil monitoring equipment? Useless, unless you have five full-time undergrads to refill the ionized solution at sites sixty miles apart every single day (see rule #3).
5. You will need at least twice as much money for unplanned expenses as you think you do.
Your ecobus lands on chance. "Due to the ceaseless chewing on your irrigation lines by coyotes, you have to encase all of your lines in PVC pipes and pay some undergrads to bury them all below ground. In the desert. In the summer." F*$%. Maybe you can pay them in beer.
6. You will fall headfirst into a cholla at least once. If you don't, you are the one who has to do the data analysis.
Seriously, I still have the scars.
7. If there are any computers involved, they will crash at least once.
I think this one is self-explanatory.
8. When all of your results are in, and you've paid out of your own pocket to recover the data from your sad, sad wreck of a hard drive, your committee will be sure to ask you why you didn't control for the effect of the temperature change on the water caused when you buried your irrigation lines.
But...the beer...!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Zeus Was a *PIMP*

Occasionally I feel like the entire human condition can be reduced to the habit we have of folding laundry, only to wear it and get it dirty again.

Today I had an outreach training session with T-Bel, and we drove out to Happy Valley Road, which is as lovely as it sounds, to take our portable planetarium into the seventh grade classroom at a K-8 school.

I was reviewing the phases of a star out loud, and there was some really lovely desert mountain landscape drifting by the window, and T-Bel chose that moment to inform me that while, at the moment, our yellow sun was happily converting hydrogen into helium, eventually it would work its way down the table of elements and produce iron, and turn into a brown dwarf, but that at that point it would have grown so large that its outer edge would be where Mars is now.

I had a small panic attack. “Sorry,” I said, clutching at my collarbone like I do when I'm feeling uncomfortable. “That seriously freaks me out.”

“It's okay,” T-Bel said, “at that point we'll have been dead for billions of years, and there won't be any life on this planet anyway.”

I looked out the window and horribly imagined the toxic methane extinction of all of my beautiful desert plants, and the crumbling of the Earth's tectonic plates into flaming iron dust, my own bones having long been fossilized and destroyed, and a complete lack of culture, human or otherwise, to remember and cherish what is probably not even going to be any major contribution to society of mine, realized that it wasn't really my imagination but that it was actually going to happen someday, and that the only thing I could do about it was to go about my life and sit through four hours worth of explaining Greek mythology to seventh-graders while wearing a blue polo and khakis. Then I had a large panic attack. (Like, not only will this be gone, this will be gone, too!)

This isn't an unusual experience for me, by any means. Probably once every couple months or so, particularly when I am very tired and just getting into bed, I start drowning in the realization that I am going to die one day and that my whole life, in the scope of things, will have been completely insignificant. I mean, when the universe is infinite, and space is so large that we can't even see into the next galaxy with any kind of accuracy, the idea that I really need to get my finances in order suddenly seems pretty f*#&ing dumb. Even my big dream of being a writer and managing to create something that reaches out to other people on an emotional level is only a very small comfort against the idea that the sun will one day implode, and no one will be there to notice. Much less read my novel.

Does anyone else ever have panic attacks about this?

Why am I forced to breathe in and out of a paper bag when thinking about this, while T-Bel can somehow make jokes like, “Well, hopefully by then we'll have figured out how to travel to other planets, or else they'll have legalized euthanasia.” Am I a freak? Why is everyone else just happy to do their laundry?

This particular panic attack took a while to subside. Most of the time I can suppress my abject fear of dying in insignificance by making a to-do list incorporating all of the stupid forms I have to take into the payroll office and the clothing items I should donate to Goodwill, but today when I tried to do that all I could think was, “This is so stupid! The sun is going to implode, and here I am trying to inflict order on my universe with a laundry list. THERE IS NO ORDER!! ALL IS CHAOS!!! IT'S NOT FUNNY!!!!”

And I'm laughing at myself now, but this seriously scares me.

So suppression wasn't about to get me through my day, because things like doing my job and washing my car and even having mind-blowing sex on the stove with whosit number bazillion-and-one were not even close to being reasons to keep on living in the face of entropy and Neptune's liquid nitrogen lakes boiling away next to a toxic supernova that used to be our lovely sun.

But then I thought, "Well, what else is there to do?"

This is what my life is. I am small, and relatively powerless, and human, and I get paid to tell seventh-graders about the exploits of Zeus and his mortal lovers, and I do my laundry so that I can have clean clothes the next day, and that is what I am supposed to do. I remembered a quote from one of my favorite children's books*: “Making food, eating food, clearing the things away afterward—this is what life is about.” And it is. You eat your grandmother's chicken soup, and you fall in love with all the wrong people, and you sometimes spill your seed trays all over the front seat of your car, and you travel to all the places you always wanted to go, and when they die you bury your pets with little brick headstones in some semblance of trying to make something permanent to say, “Hey, I was here, and so was Harry, and he used to fall asleep on my sternum,” and, by God, you fold your laundry just so you can get it dirty again the next day. If I could somehow force the sun to keep burning, I would, but I can't. So I fold my laundry.

I think I'm okay with that.

*Wise Child, by Monica Furlong. Epic!