Sunday, August 18, 2013

It's begun

Despite my determination not to become a stereotype, I certainly felt like one yesterday, rereading the same passage of my torts book over and over again, the Latin refusing to become any less incomprehensible (or Google-able...still need to find a good Latin dictionary on the Internet), becoming angrier and angrier as dictionary websites that might have been able to help me refused to load. HM came home from work to find me still in pajamas, still in the same chair he'd left me in, wild eyes darting around beneath a messy topknot bun, rambling about the Latin. "I was doing so well until I got to this part!" I insisted. "You read it!" I suggested, aware even at the time that this was completely nonsensical.

"I don't know what any of that meant," he said, quite possibly sneakily, quite possibly knowing what he was doing.

"IT SAYS THAT THE DEFENDANT SHOT THE PLAINTIFF BUT IT WAS AN ACCIDENT AND..." on and on and it became clear that despite the mess of Latin, I had understood some of the passage.

When we got to the part about various webpages not loading, no dictionaries, no Latin dictionaries, no dictionary.com, not even Wikipedia, he said, "Are you using Firefox?"

"Why would I use Firefox? Chrome is the best."

"Download Firefox."

I had to open Internet Explorer in order to do this.

HM explained that there is some bug in recent versions of Chrome where it updates Flash, but doesn't properly delete the old version of Flash, so that any website with any Flash on it (such as an ad) starts attempting to load both versions of Flash concurrently, causing the website to crash. So, for now at least, Firefox is the best.

Not only was it helpful to have access to several dictionaries (a regular dictionary, a legal dictionary, and a Latin dictionary), but I was also relieved to learn that my web page woes were not my brand new laptop's fault. Because what I was most upset about wasn't the incomprehensible Latin (I could always ask about that in class on Monday), but a fear that the brand new laptop I had just spent lots of money on was in fact garbage. That by, after four years of Linux use, trusting Windows again instead of putting my faith into Apple, I had made a terrible, expensive mistake.

The other issue was that the free legal dictionary app I downloaded (as a placeholder until I bought a real one--I'm not crazy!) was also garbage. Part of the panicky stress into which I had lapsed was that the definition I'd found for a key word in the passage made the entire thing really make no sense. Because the definition was wrong.

I had hoped to complete enough reading yesterday that I could take Sunday off, unless I felt like reading ahead. I still have Monday reading to do. That's okay; class hasn't even officially started yet, so I have plenty of time to establish a good study schedule.

If I don't find myself able to take off an entire day each week, what I will at least do is set aside time to read and write for fun. So this blog is not going to die (or continue to languish as it did this summer) just because I am in law school. It may or may not take on a bit more anonymity, however. Like most adults, I have to think about my web presence and how it reflects on me professionally. Believe it or not (from the recent sparseness of posts), I have spent some time thinking about my "brand" as a blogger, a writer, and have done things like secure "botanylicious" as a username on different social media platforms. But I don't want "botanylicious" to be an intentional representation of my legal career. I don't think it should be a secret, but more like a thing someone might stumble across accidentally and that's okay. I just don't think that I should intentionally attach a banner of kitten unicorns with bacon wings to my (eventual as-yet-to-be-created) LinkedIn profile, where I am supposed to seem serious. It is important to display a balance of the serious professional and the real person with outside interests, but kittens with bacon wings is over the line. My Flickr account with pictures of flowers--okay. Pictures of kittens with bacon wings and a story about getting blue cheese dressing in my hair--too silly.

So I plan to split my web presence as the law student from my web presence as a silly writer. I am just not sure how. Especially since I plan to write more often; I learned in my last grad program (the one I left for law school) that the more I wrote outside of class, the easier it was to write for class. All writing is writing practice.

I do have drafts of posts about some of the things HM and I discovered upon moving to a new part of the country. (Side note: aren't you glad I didn't rename this blog, "Big-Haired Jersey Girl in Oregon In the South"?) These posts were drafted before our encounter with the giant insects I kind of should have known to expect but sort of forgot about until face to face with one. So pretty soon I'll start compiling drafts and paragraphs from emails into some stories. But for now, I have some reading to do.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

It's 1988!

Handsome Man and I drove from my parents' house in New Jersey to our new home in Georgia in one day. Google Maps on my phone said it would take twelve hours. Whatever maps iPhone uses said it would take almost fifteen hours. MApple/iMap was correct, because apparently it is clairvoyant and predicted a car fire in Virginia and car accident in South Carolina. (And so the Apple v. Android-or-Ubuntu debate continues.)

What maintained our sanity during the drive, as we sat for about an hour between mile markers 137 and 133 on I-81 in Virginia, and as we detoured through an airport to get around the South Carolina traffic jam, were the podcasts I downloaded during the week. In addition to our usual Radiolab and Planet Money, I added some suggestions from a web article I had read right after the wedding, shared by someone or something on my Facebook feed, about the best podcasts for long road trips. Here is the article. New to us from this list, and most enjoyed by both of us, were Here's The Thing and Good Job, Brain!. I also downloaded one episode of, but did not listen to, The Accidental Creative, and one episode of A Way With Words which I enjoyed but I am not sure Handsome Man did. It wasn't as big a hit as Good Job, Brain! Handsome Man and I either discovered or developed a shared love of trivia during our time on a pub trivia team in Portland.

Anyway, one of the episodes of Good Job, Brain! was about music. The link is here. At one point the podcast brought up the Chicago World's Fair and a song with no copyright referred to as, "The Snake Charmer's Song." This is where I discovered something odd. I think I even paused the podcast to exclaim about it to Handsome Man. The podcast gave the song lyrics wholly unfamiliar to me. Handsome Man's memory of the song was in accordance with the podcast's. He began to sing, "There's a place in France, where the naked ladies dance..."

"Wait!" I exclaimed. "That's not at all like the version I know!"

"I wonder if it's regional," I mused, "like playgrounds in different parts of the country have different words for that song. Or if Sparta Alpine School just had its own version. It was about Mars, not France!"

"Mars?" he asked.

I began to sing the following:

On the planet Mars
Where the ladies smoke cigars
Where the men wear bikinis and the children drink martinis

When the snake is dead
They put roses in its head--

Here, Handsome Man interjected, "This doesn't make any sense!"

"I know!" I replied, before continuing:

When the roses die
They put diamonds in its eyes
When the diamonds break

IT'S 1988!

I faltered a little before that last line, as it suddenly occurred to me that out of that whole nonsense song, this last line was the most nonsensical of them all. What does 1988 have to do with anything? We didn't even start singing this song until 1992! Was this a mishearing on the part of someone? Am I misremembering? Did anyone outside of Sparta Alpine School in Sparta, New Jersey, sing a version of The Snake Charmer's Song remotely like this one?

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Foreword to "It's 1988!"

Every morning I would wake at dawn. The coffeemaker had been set up with a timer the night before, so that coffee would be waiting for me as I sat down to a breakfast of a hard-boiled egg and a whole grain muffin, a new batch made once a week, different recipes as I worked my way through the muffin and then the quick bread (adapted to muffin) section of The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. If I'd forgotten to do so the night before, I'd have to charge my phone, and the breakfast would then become a little more leisurely, but the time would be spent productively reading and writing. I would drink a pint glass of water before changing into my running clothes and leaving.

While running, I listened to news podcasts (downloaded during breakfast) in German or French to help my language skills. I remember thinking this gave my morning routine the appearance of sickening virtue--exercising and learning a foreign language at the same time. Actually many of the mornings I would listen to How Was Your Week? instead, and always when the foreign language news podcast ended I would switch to something fun and in English. Spilled Milk appeared regularly in the rotation, although on a run or long walk this just made me ravenously hungry. Maybe it pushed me to go a little faster toward home, toward the refrigerator.

I wrote often. I wrote drafts I planned to edit and post. But as tends to happen when I become too set in a routine, when I figure out how to get organized in the space and time that I have, sudden upheaval overturns my carefully manufactured systems. Learning how to adapt, to function efficiently and effectively without my systems, is a constant process.

I have written extensively on this blog about the carefully constructed system of grocery shopping and cleaning tasks assigned to specific days and spreadsheets telling me what to buy where, which governed my last year in New Jersey before suddenly, that system didn't work anymore, as I prepared to move to Oregon. I did not write (but the late fall of 2011 when I wrote very often and suddenly around the new year of 2012 quit writing--that's when this happened) about the car break-in of Christmas 2011, in which a suitcase containing nearly all of my work clothes was stolen. While not exactly a schedule or system, I had selected wardrobe pieces to match and coordinate and construct many work-appropriate outfits from a few pieces, to maximize what I had without buying too much. Do you see a common thread within these two systems? Saving money. I treated myself as though one misstep, one foolish purchase of socks or the wrong brand of flour, was almost a moral error. Like it was irresponsible and careless, as though the decrease of money I was able to put into my savings account that month was an actual numerical measurement of my own virtue. Not my value as a human being, but my ability to make wise, responsible decisions.

When these upheavals of my carefully-designed organizational systems occurred, when forces beyond my control upset them, I always told myself, "See? This is a lesson. You can't control everything!" A large withdrawal from my savings account to replace my stolen wardrobe did not equal a withdrawal from my moral worth; I needed to wear clothes to work, and it wasn't my fault that someone broke into Handsome Man's car. Furthermore, the construction of these systems presumes an ability to control everything. I always say that my systems help me function better in the case that everything doesn't go according to plan, so that instead of chaos, I have something slightly less organized than my system but organized nonetheless. Yet in fact these systems sometimes prove to not be adaptable enough; they don't survive big changes (what I call an "upheaval"), and they don't transition well into a system that does work in an unstable period.

A new personal goal is to adjust this, to establish systems tat are adaptable and flexible. I may have, in the past several months, come up with a good system for living out of suitcases.

It wasn't just my clothes that got me worrying and kept me from writing at the turn of 2012. It was that I was thinking of leaving my graduate program. The idea of law school kept appearing, but at that time, I saw more risks than benefits into which I could put faith. I wrote on paper then, too, but none of it appeared here.

This is not the post I planned to write this morning. I planned to write something inane, something that might frustrate readers who observed a long absence of writing followed by my reappearance newly married and living in Georgia, not Oregon. I planned to dodge any serious issues completely, not to answer the question, "What happened?"

What I planned to write was simply the following: that I had a too-carefully-planned routine in place, of eating the same breakfast every day, drinking two glasses of water, going for a run and long walk while listening to foreign language news, followed by another two glasses of water and arm exercises with weights while listening to or watching something on a "to do" list; that this was interrupted by a need to go back to New Jersey on a one-way ticket; that I told Handsome Man that I would be gone probably a week, maybe two (prompting him to exclaim, "TWO weeks!?"), but I returned to Portland only to move; that some sad things happened in the first third of 2013, and that is all I will say for now; that Handsome Man and I are married now; and that Handsome Man and I now live outside of Atlanta, Georgia, in a very tiny, very cute house with a huge yard.

After this, I planned to write a little about our new location, our new home (with pictures), some non-serious things floating around my head (I'm trying to think of ways to adapt salad rolls to cuisines other than Vietnamese, so they will appeal to a wider array of palates aka my parents), and a silly memory conjured by a podcast listened to on the drive from New Jersey to Georgia. However, this post has become lengthy already, and I have postponed going running (attempting to establish routine yet again) long enough for this morning. A post inspired by the podcast Good Job, Brain! will be up later this week. To any of my former readers who have stuck around after a many month absence, thank you for reading!