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I've been wanting a more public blog. Actually, I've been wanting two more public blogs, one to talk about things like exciting places I go and ice creams I eat, and another that's disaster/emergency management focused. But I need blog names and/or witty subtitles.

Anyone have ideas? Also, I've been planning on using wordpress, but does anyone use another platform they really like/hate?

lidol: second chance

Every time, I decide I'm not going.

I turn the alarm off and decide it's not worth it. I'm tired. It's not worth it. There's no good reason for me to drive over an hour for ballet class, of all things. I'm not a ballerina. I think that was established conclusively by third grade, when I was kicked out of dance class for having an attitude problem. I thought this wasn't totally fair, since I would have had a better attitude if they could have made class less boring, but agreed with them on the main point. I didn't have a future in dance.

And that was that, for almost twenty years. Until, having moved to a new area and looking for exercise more interesting then the treadmill, I found myself in a pole dancing class. After a lifetime of thinking that I was the kind of person who was meant to be strong instead of graceful, I found something that made me wonder just why I couldn't be both. I wanted to get better. And that meant more classes and cross-training, from pull-ups to hip-hop to trapeze. And then, finally, to ballet.

I walked in knowing I would hate it, armed with the same sort of grim determination I bring on the rare occasions I decide I'm going to go jogging or drink a protein shake. There are things we do because we love them, and others we do because dammit, they're good for us. And the truth is, ballet will never be a thing that I love. It's too formal, too slow, too repetitive. I'm not overly comfortable with endlessly watching myself in the studio mirrors. More importantly, there's no thrill for me. Nothing like the adrenaline rush that comes when trying a new move offers the possibility of crash-landing onto the mat lined ground.

And still, surprisingly, I don't hate it. I admire the beauty of what the moves should look like, even if I'll never get it right. I find the repetition less meaningless the more I know what I'm doing. It's become a challenge, something I want to do just because I'm not sure if I can. Somehow, every time, after turning off the alarm and deciding there's no reason to go to class, I get up and do it anyway.

The score's been Ballet: 1, Jess: 0 for too long. I'm not going to forfeit the rematch that easily.

ljidol exhibit a: Week 0, Introduction

My 6-word biography:

Disaster loving archaeologist, looking for adventures.

What's yours?

New Year's Eve

I couldn't decide how I felt about this year, because I spent most of it feeling like I wasn't doing anything productive. On the other hand, I feel like I'm a much more awesome person then I was last year, so I think that's a win.

I am sorry I was so bad about posting and keeping up with lj friends this year, though. I have plans to work on that. But the actual introspection and goal setting can wait till tomorrow. For now, let's end the year with a meme I've done a few times before:

Tell me what you think my New Year's Resolutions should be! Serious or silly, I promise I will at least attempt them.

Trip Breakdown:

I am in Chicago! This means that I SURVIVED ALASKA.

Days in Alaska: 45

Day length when I got there: 17.5 hours

Day length when I left: 13 hours

Coldest temp: 28F, in Denali.

Buckets of dirt carried: I don't even want to know.

Sod blocks lifted: See above.

Mosquito bites: I stopped counting at 172

Pictures taken: 2,600

Cameras destroyed: 1.5

Planes taken: 11. Only within state borders: 5 planes, about 1100 miles.

Busses: 9, about 850 miles

Trains: 1, 150 miles

Tour van: 1, 400 miles

Car rides with complete strangers: 2, about 30 miles. (Travel rule: It doesn't count as hitch-hiking if they're staying at your hostel. Or if you're in a national park.)

Top speed driving an ATV: 18mph.

Places stayed: 3 hostels, 2 campsites, 1 Quonset hut, one mattress on a friend's floor.

New foods eaten: 8. Yak, bison, caribou, reindeer, cloudberries, crowberries, highbush cranberries, Akutak/'Eskimo ice cream.'

Communities/Towns visited: Bethel, Quinhagak, Eek, Anchorage, Palmer, Wasilla, Talkeetna, Mckinley Village, Kantishna, Fairbanks, North Pole, Yukon Crossing.

Number of these towns where the mayor is a cat: 1

Wildlife seen at close range: 11 bears, 5 moose, 2 bunnies.

Places where I could see Russa: 0

Aug. 18th, 2012

First: our blog. Now with video, since I managed to get through to youtube.

We had a half day today. The wind was a steady 35mph (gale force, standing in place is difficult, anything we don't weight down is torn out of our hands and goes flying into the tundra) but we had to stop when the gusts were going over 50mph (the smaller members of our crew were at risk of going flying into the tundra.) Before the rain got too bad, we amused ourselves by watching the tide run in the wrong direction. A few waves reached our cliff, just a few feet from the western wall of our trenches. It's hard not to picture how easily our entire site will wash away.

Our first day digging a human skull bounced out of a sodblock and rolled over my foot, and nothing has really slowed down since then. This site could easily keep a lot of archaeologists happy for years, and we had less then a month. We have museum quality artifacts that barely get any attention because we've found five more interesting things that day and we have to keep digging. It's triage work, at this point. We leave for the site at 8:30, get back at 7:30 or later, and don't take breaks - that's at least 10 hours a day of moving dirt. The permafrost begins to seem like a perfectly reasonable place to take a nap. We have a progress meeting at dinner - the wind and our raingear don't leave much room for talking at the site - and then sometimes stay awake to watch part of a movie. There's internet in the building where we eat, and I can check facebook and email, but it can take 10 tries to post anything and by evening I'm lucky if I can move all my fingers.

(Go to school, people said. Get a degree, they said. Where did I go wrong?)

This might sound bad, but I should point out that none of it makes me actually want to stop working at the end of the day, or kept me from going to the site on Sunday, our one official non-work day. I can be warm and rested almost any time, but there are artifacts in the ground RIGHT NOW and I need to excavate them ALL.

I think it's time to admit it's not that I just keep running into slightly unhinged archaeologists, it's that a certain amount of manic obsession is a basic reqirement of the profession.

Happy Birthday Tea!

Quick update: I'm fine, in Quinahagak, finally starting to be able to stay awake after dinner, finding amazing things, and havve not been eaten by a moose. Possibly because there are no moose.

Anyway! Today, (Alaska timezone today, at least,) was teaberryblue's birthday! So happy birthday!

I excavated this priceless carving of Fudgie the Carvel Whale for you.

I was going to mail it to you, but then I realized it belongs in a museum.

let me sum up

Now that I am actually doing things, I never feel like I can get caught up enough to post. Highlights of this summer so far include my sister's graduation, going to readercon with teaberryblue and meeting a lot of interesting people, and getting heat exhaustion while working at my mother's fireworks stand. Wait, maybe that last one wasn't actually a highlight. Anyway. Now I am going to Quinhagak, Alaska, for a month to do Archaeology.

(I always kind of want dramatic theme music to play when I announce that I am going off on an archaeological expedition, even when that 'expedition' is taking place by the side of a parking lot or something.)

I leave tomorrow morning! And then I am on airplanes forever. I'm not even getting into Bethel - the last leg of the trip I can fly on a commercial airline - until early Tuesday morning. From there I have directions on how to find the guy who does charter flights to Quinhagak. Hopefully by Tuesday afternoon I will be on the Bering Sea. Really on it - the site is on a small cliff that's being eroded as permafrost melts, so the project has a limited time frame to excavate as much as possible. I will talk more about it once I actually get there!

Now I am finishing packing, having finally acquired all my gear. We were told to pack like we were going to be working inside a car wash on a blustery winter day, which would have been a lot easier if I could have fit the men's sizes. I feel like I'm going to be on The Deadliest Catch.

I'm also stocking up on apps and books for myself, and movies and music that might be fun to share with other people - I'm bringing the ipad. I'd love any recommendations!
I need to remember that being in chronic pain isn't good for me.

That sounds like it should maybe be obvious, doesn't it? But I always think that because it isn't bad pain, I should be able to deal with it. And sure, I can ignore low level aches, and work around occasional, more serious hurts. But doing that day after day for months takes a lot of mental energy. I end up tired and grumpy, and sooner or later I go from evaluating every activity to see if it's worth risking more pain to just assuming I can't or shouldn't do anything. 

I also need to not be ashamed of the fact that I need to type. That's how I communicate with most of the people in my life, and when I can't do it quickly and effortlessly, without needing breaks every few sentences or having to plan days ahead to try for stretches of time when I'm all right,  I'm not going to be happy. I end up wasting my time doing stupid mindless mouse clicky things that hurt anyway, but they're all I can do and it makes me feel semi-connected.

I feel kind of foolish for letting this go on for six months - but I didn't know what else to do, when I went to the doctor and was sent away with advil and an instruction to avoid things that hurt. I don't really have experience with a medical system that includes things like specialists and second opinions. 

Anyway, after my body pretty much completely fell apart by the time I got back from Flordia - it felt like everything from my fingers to my neck was on fire - I went to see a chiropractor. I was a little nervous and kind of skeptical about his ability to help, but he has quickly become one of my favorite people ever. For one thing, unlike the doctor I went to, he actually bothered to try and figure out what was wrong - which turns out to not actually be carpal tunnel so much as tennis elbow and thoracic outlet syndrome, which basically means my collarbone is trying to strangle my shoulder/arm nerves. (Look, you can interpret the medical literature your way, I'll do it mine.)

The process of figuring out the problem areas was actually really interesting - it's kind of bizarre to have someone make your hand go numb by pressing on your clavicle -  and this explains a lot. Like why I've been having awful side stiches at the drop of a hat, and why I am totally fine grabbing onto metal bars and flipping myself any which way even though carpal tunnel is supposed to kill your grip strength, but can't drive a car without problems. And now I am doing things that will hopefully make me better, which I will talk about in another entry because this one has already taken me 3 days. I usually try hard to not complain about my health or my mother here, but for a long time those have been so tied to anything I would talk about that I end up doing nothing, so for now I'm giving up on that.
I am way too behind on posts again. That's hard to fix, though, since my carpal tunnel has come back with a vengeance. In both wrists this time. I'm okay with casual mouse use, but typing (or trying to use my trackpad at all) hurts quickly. But I have been very good about resting and stretching and all that, and things seem to be getting better.

Besides that, I finished my radio class - I finished a demo but don't know if I want to apply for a show - and started taking a mixed aerial class, which is super fun. Trapeze is my new favorite thing and I want one in my apartment, though lyra is almost as good.

(I pretend to be Lillian Leitzel, but with less dying.)

This weekend I went to Delaware and saw teaberryblue's family. That was nice. Now I'm going to Flordia. It's going to be, um, interesting. Already we've driven through Amish country and then down the coast, but I didnt get any of the delicious nearby food because everyone else in the car thinks dorritos and gas station dunkin donuts for every meal is just as good. Why is fate so cruel?
Dear Livejournal:


I have not done anything resembling a real-life update in months, and have failed at checking in with lj in general. I'm sorry! I've had kind of a lot going on in real life and in my head, but it's mostly petty annoying things that don't seem worth making an entry about. And then when there was something I might want to post I would think 'Oh, I can't update with that, I still haven't talked about these ten other things!" and then I don't update at all.

So, I'm just going to admit that I will never catch up. Though if there's anything you have been wondering or think I should post about please let me know! In the meantime, let's start with something small: I got a new hat.

It's my favorite, though I am trying to not let my other lovely purple hats feel abandoned.
Inspired by wookiewife who was inspired by gratefuladdict - Two Truths and a Lie. Two stories out of each set are true, one isn't. It's up to you to decide which is which.


When I was in pre-school, I wanted to be an entomologist. I practiced diligently whenever I played outside. Worms, caterpillars, beetles, ants: I studied and collected them all, protesting when we went in for snacktime and my wiggly new friends were taken away from me. The adults never seemed to understand that they were stopping me from preparing for my future career.

My grandmother taught chemistry at the local university. Mondays she had a lab in the evening, and on some days, instead of leaving me at the preschool late, she would let me go with her. I watched the students take tests or discuss notes while I drew on the blackboard and marveled at the fancy equipment, convinced being a chemistry professor was the best job in the world.

My dream of being a rhythmic gymnast never had much basis in reality. Just to start with, I'd never taken a gymnastics class, and couldn't so much as do a cartwheel. But after watching the summer Olympics when I was six, I was hooked. I practiced with ribbons and ropes for years, inventing my own routines, imagining that some day my secret talent would get discovered.


My degree essentially prepared me to only be useful when things go wrong. No one wants an Emergency Manager when things are fine, after all. It's a good fit for me, though, because I like to fix things. The only real downside is I start to look a bit ghoulish, when I cheerfully anticipate future crisis. I have to remind myself that when someone mentions they've heard on the news about a potential catastrophe, I shouldn't reply with "I know, isn't it awesome?

I discovered the competitive pole-dancing world only about six months ago, and fell into it fast. Part of the appeal, I suppose, was finding a dance-sport where I don't feel awkward and bulky - just jealous because the other women all have more muscles then me. Now, after adding hours of pull-ups and weight training to my weekly schedule, slowly improving my inversions and handstands, I wonder what it would take for me to be seriously good.

I didn't really start off wanting to be a radio star. I started taking the training class because it sounded interesting, and I thought I might learn some useful skills for podcasting. But spending that much time at the station made it easy to keep imagining what I could do better. Now I'm trying to teach myself journalism, listening to NPR full time, and seriously considering applying for a public affairs show next semester. It's a station with a small audience, of course - but it's a start.

lj idol: knife to a gun fight

Occupational hazards of my first archaeology job included:
Heat. (My first week coincided with one of the worst heat waves the area had seen in years.)
Ticks. (Getting tested for Lyme disease is not super fun.)
Poison Ivy. (SO itchy.)
Thorny briers. (I looked like I lost a fight with a bobcat.)
Barbed wire. (Enough said.)
Stone fences. (They become a hazard when they're lined with barbed wire and you have to balance on them carrying surveyor's equipment.)
Trees. (Yes. Trees. One day a branch we were sawing through snapped back and smacked me in the jaw, giving me a sore neck and a killer headache.)

We were going over land intended for development. This involved going out with surveyor's equipment and hacking a path through the overgrown and semi-wooded former fields so that we can put in stakes every ten meters, and then digging test pits along that grid. I'm talking about hundreds of test pits. Possibly, over the summer, thousands of test pits. And on a good day, for all the effort, bruises, and risks to my well-being. . . I'd end up with some flakes.

Flakes. Of stone. They're mostly the leftover bits from making stone tools - whatever needs to come off to make a nicely sharp arrowhead or knife. From an archaeological perspective, they're tremendously exciting. Enough to make it worth digging layer after layer - 5 centimeters each - and sifting the dirt so we don't miss even the tiniest pieces.

Sometimes we'd find things in a layer that was occupied in the colonial era. Porcelain fragments, actual silver silverware, window glass, the flintlock off an old rifle, house foundations. It was nice, in a way, to find artifacts bigger then my thumbnail. But they were all so new. Three hundred years, at most. It hardly seemed bothering with.

So it was almost a relief once we got down past those distractions, to the layers of soil that hadn't been disturbed for 500, 1000, 1500 years. Down to where there was nothing but dirt and rocks and - sometimes - tiny stone flakes, perfect enough to make the barbed wire and poison ivy seem worthwhile.


ljidol, reinvent the wheel

First, you found a city.

I've spent most of my life preparing for the day when I will have to single-handedly rebuild civilization. Well. Actually, I've spent large portions of my life playing Civilization. The computer game. I started with the original version when I was 12, then continued my training with each new addition. There were other empire and city building games, of course, but it always came back to Civilization. After all, no other game could show me quite so clearly what it takes to uplift humanity.

Once my band of wandering nomads has been persuaded to settle down, we can start to explore the area. We'll concentrate on expansion for a while, and once we have few more settlements, we'll be ready to start on an early world wonder. The great wall, perhaps, or the pyramids. It will take hundreds of years to complete, of course, but our cultural superiority must be established early.

We'll grow quickly once we study medicine and sanitation – so I'll have to leave those for a while, until I've upgraded our farms and figured out a way to keep the serfs happy. Making sure I have enough military units stationed in each city will probably help. At least, it will stop widespread riots. And if the people aren't rioting, they must be happy. Right? It's for their own good. No one will be pleased if the protests set us back so much I have to sacrifice a percentage of the population in order to finish that world wonder.

And the military units may come in handy especially if they're more advanced then the ones our neighbors have. My people will be peaceful and intellectual, of course, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't be prepared, if only for our own safety. My nation-state can't reach it's full potential if we have rivals nearby, threatening our resources. Sooner or later, they'll become jealous of our wealth and achievements. Better to get rid of them first. Once that's taken care of, the future progress of humanity is easy. Almost too easy.

So next, I'll have to work on our nuclear program. After all, if you set off enough bombs, it will leave the world a mess. Probably wipe out all our settlements, along with any other civilizations too small and distant to bother adding to our empire. But I'll make sure enough people survive to get along on their own for a while – say, as wandering nomads.

Then we'll found a city.


ljidol, preoccupied

It starts with something simple. I'm hungry. I should see what I want to make for dinner.

So I start looking up recipes. I find an interesting nutrition blog, and then read someone's comment about having cupcakes confiscated by the TSA. I wonder if TSA agents get to eat the food they confiscate? I wonder how people become TSA agents, anyway?

Their website doesn't say a lot about that, but they do have places where they're hiring. One's a town in Alaska I've never heard of - I wonder what it would be like to live there? They only have two restaurants, but according to posts on this message board I find, the pizza one is actually really good. But it sounds like the coffee isn't so good. Can I live in a town that doesn't have good coffee? I suppose I could make my own. I wonder how hard it is to buy coffee beans there? I bet the shipping and handling is a pain.

I wonder if I could grow coffee beans? Can people actually do that? It looks like they can, but you need a tropical environment. I should get a greenhouse. I can set it up to do hydroponic gardening. I like hydroponics. It's a nice word, and it seems very efficient. But it might be hard to get the hang of. I should take a class.

I wonder if I could find a gardening school? Oh, there's a lovely one. They're having a class in 'plant nutrient management' next week, but it doesn't say how much it will cost. Oh, I can't go, it's a Friday, I have the hair appointment. Oh. Also, the school is San Francisco. I don't live in San Francisco. But it looks pretty. I would rather move there then Alaska. They have a lot of coffee shops. Why was I looking up coffee, anyway?

It probably wasn't important. Besides, I'm getting hungry. I should see what I want to make for dinner.


ljidol, current events

I don't have to watch the news anymore. I have people who do that for me.

Technically, they don't do it for me, exactly. They do it for the internet. But it works out to the same thing. And I'm apparently not unusual in my preference - it seems that now people under 30 get more of their news from the internet then from tv.

It's not that I think crowd-sourced reporting can replace 'real' news, but it does have advantages. For one, it's fast. A story someone sees first-hand can be reblogged or twitted or tumbled or facebook shared, and I'll see it on my feed while official news outlets are just realizing something newsworthy has happened. Of course, part of that is because the official news has to do pesky things like 'conformation.' (Usually. Premature reports of Joe Paterno's death went from a student news twitter to the mainstream sites within minutes, before anyone thought to double-check.) People in large groups can be brilliant, or they can be idiots.

And there are times I want the experts, not an average, everyday view. There are times I want detailed investigative reporting and moving writing, not 140 character updates. But I'm more likely to find them when I'm on a 'social networking' then I am when I'm actually looking for news. I can follow cnn.com, my local newspaper's site, and maybe a few more - if I can stand scrolling through yet another article on what we've learned from this year's superbowl commercials - but I can't read everything. Luckily, I don't have to. I won't miss a good story as long as I know someone who read it, and thought it was interesting enough to share.

And it lets me see news from as many angles as I want. I like news commentary, but it usually runs the risk of giving a one-sided view. Now I don't have to watch one version of a political speech on CNN and wait for the hosts to give me their analysis later, because I can pick my own commentators and see the speech being liveblogged while I debate their observations in the comment section.

I care more when news a social activity, instead of something that is just on in the background. And when there seems to be little going on in the world that isn't bad, I need all the help I can get.

(I started thinking about this after I listened to A NPR interview with the author of a book on twitter. I saw it through a link on facebook.)


I found an article on Why it's better to start your new year in February, which sounds like a fabulous idea to me, mostly because January was kind of useless.

I'm super behind on livejournal - both updating and friendslist reading/commenting. I've just been feeling overwhelmed by a seemingly endless stream of things that aren't really worth talking about, but somehow take up all my time.

One of those things is my grandmother's basement - because she needs a new boiler put in, we've been sorting and organizing stuff. The most recent variety of 'stuff' is boxes of stamps that appear to have been not opened since she moved to this house in 1970, but there's also an impossible amount of books - especially non-fiction and especially textbooks. If anyone has a subject they might be interested in, let me know and I'll save some for you. Or let me know if you think you might be interested in anything else likely to be found in the mysterious cavern of this basement, like shoe-polishing kits from the 50's, or cigar boxes filled with pipes, or bean-bag fruit.

lj idol, some assembly required

Sometimes I wonder if I could reassemble my life out of all the things I've left behind.

It could start with the small, everyday losses. Receipts I never really looked at, some pencils, loose change. 'Buy 10, Get One Free!' cards for the coffeeshop I like. The paper I wrote someone's phone number on, a magazine I forgot I was reading, matches to all those single socks clogging up my drawer. They slip out of my life one at a time, with so little fuss that I rarely notice their absence.

Then there are the more noticeable losses, the ones I mourned but couldn't fix. A bag I left on the train, a phone that disappeared in the airport. My car keys. An earring that dropped somewhere on my walk, a favorite coat which I last saw in a taxi. Things that stayed lost after I checked the lost-and-found, or made hopeful calls to customer service lines, or retraced my steps.

Then there's the things I walked away from. Things I gave away or threw out when I thought I'd outgrown them, things I never knew I would miss. Books I gave away, later, when I didn't know I'd want to read them again, postcards and notes I didn't realize were irreplaceable. Everything that couldn't fit into a car, when I moved out of my parents house. By now I can't remember what those possessions were, but I remember they used to be mine.

And then there are the intangibles. A story I'd written out in my mind, which never made it to paper. The view from my old apartment. Being part of the neighborhood where I used to live. Plans I used to believe were possible. A job I liked, a language I used to halfway know. Friends I used to have but somehow misplaced, people's names that I've forgotten.

I imagine if they could be collected, brought together again, that I could simply turn a corner one day and find this mirror image of my existence waiting. But I'm not sure what it would be waiting for. Not me, I hope. The person who could own those things - live that life - is someone else entirely, and I think I lost touch with her a long time ago.

lj idol, open topic

I like to think of myself as a kind person. Considerate. Caring. Filled with goodwill towards kindred human beings.

All that stops the instant I get behind the wheel of a car.

Somehow, as soon traffic starts to clog, those other drivers stop being potential friends, admirable individuals, or fellow travelers on this road of life. No, when I see them through my windshield, they're bitter rivals, if not outright enemies. Every single car between me and my destination is keeping me from where I need to be. Each one has the power to carelessly ruin my day.

Which is, when I think of it, incredibly selfish of them. How dare they do this to me? By the time traffic outright stops, it isn't just drivers that are the targets of my righteous indignation. The radio station announcer that failed to warn me. The department of transportation that didn't do a better job planning their roads. Stupid Henry T. Ford and his stupid assembly line - did he even stop to think about the long term consequences of enabling an automobile focused society? And what's wrong with society, anyway, that we allow things like this to happen? We let ourselves lose hours, days, years of our lives, wasted in these metal cages, when we aren't even going anywhere. And we act like it's normal! What kind of monsters are we?

By the time I get to an exit, my misanthropy has usually reached a new all-time high. I find new reasons to hate everyone before I reach the train station - my level of personal offense at those people who stopped in the middle of the road to pick someone up, or that guy who double parked, couldn't be any higher if they'd put up flashing signs explaining that they were inconveniencing me on purpose.

Later, when I take the subway to class, I regret my anger, my uncharitable thoughts. I promise that next time I'll stay calm. I say I'll try the yoga breathing or the stress ball or the soothing music. But I know that the truth is, it's just harder when I'm driving. Liking people outside of a car is much easier - probably because, outside a car, I can actually see them. I can see that the woman next to me is trying to manage three bags of groceries, and the man across from me is reading a book to his toddler. I can see the obviously-lost foreign tourists argue over a map while nervously watching that group of teenagers, and I can see one of the teenagers go over and give them directions in their own language.

And if we stop between stations, and there's an announcement that the train is 'currently experiencing slight delays,' I can see everyone groan, roll their eyes, and go back to what they're doing. No one gets worked up about it. What would the point be? We're all in the same boat - or at least the same subway car.

Not rivals. Not enemies. Just people.

lj idol, sticks and stones

By my third week on the job, I never wanted to see a pile of lumber again.

It wasn't actually the wood that I minded. It was more the fact that people kept expecting me to move it. And sort it. And put it into other piles, and load it in and out of trucks. And cut it into different sizes. And then build things out of it. The building things part had definite high points - for one, they let me use power tools, and I'd very quickly come to the conclusion that power tools were awesome. I couldn't understand how I'd gone my entire life to that point without getting to play with power saws and drills.

Holding huge, heavy pieces of wood into place so that everything could be power-tooled together into bunkbeds was not awesome. But when the nonprofit I worked for moved their volunteer dorm, me and my two weeks of power-tool experience got the bed assembly job. More accurately, I got the piles of wood which had been bunkbeds at the old place and theoretically would be again. Fifty beds, each with twenty pieces, all heavy and up to six feet long. No instruction manual. I'd taken this 'job' - actually a mostly unpaid, full-time internship - because I was excited by the group's public service projects and volunteer efforts, but by the third time I dropped a plank onto my foot, it was hard to work up excitement for anything.

And then I started to actually look at those pieces of wood that I was stubbornly fighting with. Over the next few days, I got to know them. These planks had a long history. They'd been through four or five moves, had several different owners, and each slept hundreds of volunteers. And it was, quite literally, written all over them. Some former sleepers had left the basics - their name, a date. 'Courtney's bed.' 'Adam was here.' They ranged from a 12-year-old, who came with her church from Washington, to reunion groups with college graduation years well before I was born. I saw schools from San Jose State University in California to Johnson State College in Vermont. (They, helpfully, drew a map.) They listed cities and states from Seattle to Maine.

Some left advice, from the practical ("Cab from Bourbon St, $15 + tip") to the more philosophical ("Trust your calling.") Some left song lyrics, some bible quotes. Some gushed about how they were having the best times of their lives. My favorite was more balanced. "Trolleys suck," it said, "showers are freezing. I <3 this city. It's all cool."

I ended up feeling quite fondly towards 'my' beds. I thought of my favorites on later projects, when I was tired and annoyed and had to unload yet another pile of two-by-fours. I'd remind myself that yes, it sucked.

But things were still all cool.


ljidol, counterintuitive

Top causes of death for my area and demographic:
1. Unintentional injury
2. Suicide
3. Malignant Neoplasms (cancer)
4. Heart Disease
5. Homicide

Things I spend my time worrying I am going to die from:
1. That brain-eating amoeba someone in Louisiana got from their Neti-pot. No, I don't live in Louisiana. Or use a Neti-pot. But I did, once, months ago, and that means that if I think about it I can feel the bacteria eating my brain like tiny little piranhas. It's tingly.
2. An elevator door closing on me and cutting me in half. Or just snapping off my arm. I cannot be convinced elevator doors don't cut through flesh like lightsabers.
3. Being patient zero in a global pandemic. This would mean both that I won't have enough warning to implement my extensively researched pandemic-survival strategies, and that I'll have my life and activities thoroughly analyzed by the CDC. And they'll eventually determine that I triggered the disease by eating raw cookie dough or something and the world will be like "WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO US?" and my grandmother will be so very disappointed in me because she told me that raw dough was dangerous.
4. Axe murderers. I don't know why they're worse then, say, knife-murderers. But they are.
5. That girl who crawled out of the TV in The Ring. Alternate fear is surviving the tv-girl by showing deathly-video to friends, then having dead friends crawl out of TV for revenge.
6. My electronic appliances achieving sentience. I try to be extra nice to them when I think of it just in case, but deep down I know that if my Macbook had the opportunity to get revenge on me for not buying it the extended care plan, my life would be over.
7. Being trapped in the wrong place during a zombie uprising. Someplace small, without food and water, so I can't stay long-term, but in the center of zombie activity so I know they'll get me as soon as I open the door. Occasionally when I'm in traffic I imagine all the other cars are zombies and try to imagine how long I would last before I have to roll down my windows and embrace the inevitable. I've started to carry a week's supply of water in my back seat.
8. Giant spiders that want to carry me off to a cave and cocoon me alive so they can snack on me later. I'm sure this happens. I saw it in a movie.
9. Explosive depressurization. You know, like what happens in space if someone sets the wrong controls on the airlock, which I think I also saw in a movie. Except I'm fairly sure this can happen to me in elevators. I try to exhale deeply so there isn't air trapped in my lungs, but that only works for 30 seconds or so before I start to turn colors and the other people on the elevator give me funny looks. I tell myself it's ok, because they'd feel dumb if the door opened and we were actually on Mars.
10. Things getting dropped out of airplanes and landing on my head.

The state of my arteries, though, somehow never keeps me up at night.



Since I've had interesting suggestions from this before, I am once again appealing to my friendslist: Tell me what you think my New Year's Resolutions should be.

While I am thinking of new years, here are my favorite retrospective things -twitter's year in review and DJ Earworm's 'World Go Boom' remix of the 25 top songs of 2011, which is even more brilliant then usual.

I also liked this this interview where he talks about his process and the themes he's seen in this year's songs.

'. . pride and perseverance with songs like Firework and Born This Way that say, 'You're amazing,'" he says. And "the theme of sort of being screwed over and the various reactions to that," like when Ne-Yo sings "Give me everything tonight" and Adele croons about lost love. "I think about it as people's feelings of change and collective devastation."

Which is interesting because I'd been thinking that outside of country, we seem to not have many popular songs lately that are specifically reacting to current events and problems - I can find more from the 80s about factories closing and unemployment then I could looking through recent hits. I'd also noticed the popularity of what I think of as 'Heck yeah, I'm awesome' songs, and how even the 'go out and party' music seems more defiant then lighthearted. But it hadn't occurred to me that this might be coming from the same place.
This was a good year. There weren't a lot of changes or spectacular accomplishments - apart from graduating. But there were a lot of very good moments. Sitting on the floor trying to teach my grandmother card games by flashlight after Hurricane Irene, singing Irish pub songs at 3am in Chile, sitting in the bar in HP costumes with Tea waiting for the last movie, getting near-sunburned at Falcon Ridge folk festival with my sister, seeing Chicago from the top of a giant ferris wheel.

I feel like this is the first year I started to really get better at seeing myself as a competent adult. A competent adult who likes ice cream and silly jokes about dinosaurs and cartoons. It was a good year, and tomorrow will be even better.

So. I graduated. That happened. I have a MPA in Disasterness and have fulfilled my lifelong goal of being able to put a little string of letters after my name. Unfortunately, the process seems to have permanently killed off brain cells. A few weeks ago I was an emergency planning machine, living off stress and adrenaline, finishing five pandemic annexes before breakfast. Now. . . I am lucky if I can make it four hours before I need to go eat brownies and take a long nap.

Fortunately, I don't actually care about anything that might be happening in my life or the world. Because I've graduated. Forgot to do Christmas shopping? Whatever. I have my degree. Cookies burnt? I don't need cookies, I have a Master of Public Administration in Emergency and Disaster Management. Livejournal no longer works on Chrome so I have to use my phone which can't handle the new icon-selection menu meaning my paid account is a waste of money? Who cares! I have a degree! Tsunami headed for Connecticut? . . . that's nice, but it's time for my nap.

Meanwhile, I am approaching the world like these puppies. (omg these puppies.)

Everything is so big and open and full of grass and sunlight and books. BOOKS. I'd forgotten books. They're wonderful! And there are all these new ones - apparently, they kept being published even after I stopped reading things that weren't federal reports and records of historic disasters. Next I'm going to try TV shows. I think I used to like TV shows.


Jessica Ariel

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February 2013


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