Tag Archives: time I will never get back

Jan
31
2013
2012: Year in Review

The 2013 calendar on my wall suggests another year is over. I marked the end of 2010 and 2011 by answering the following set of questions. The questions annoyed me this year. I hope that means the dying embers of my “I have to track everything” fire cannot be stoked back to flame. I’m cultivating a new mellow vibe. Next year I will sum up 2013 by how I feel at the end of the year, not by how many boxes I can tick off a list. I don’t plan on doing this quiz again, so let’s send it out with a bang (or a whimper).

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

Enrolled in some adult education, started making ice cream, created an ice cream blog, published a memoir piece, gave up trying to de-link my name and this blog (note to co-workers: while I mutter profanity under my breath at the office, I write it out loud here), “won” a craft contest, and had a tarot card reading.

The tarot reader was kind, but these cards basically said, “get off your ass and make a decision already.”

 

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Yes and no, and not really. The monster in my head set 30 goals for 2012. You can see them here. I have a different mind-set about goals right now (stay tuned). I have no desire to paste my 2012 goals here and painstakingly document which I met and which I did not. Does it matter that I didn’t run a 5K in under 30 minutes when I trained really hard, completed two races, and ran faster at the end of training than at the beginning? Does it matter that I went to bed an average of 20 minutes earlier in 2012 than 2011 or that I got 33 minutes extra sleep per night on average when I’m still tired a lot? Isn’t it disturbing that I can tell you those figures?

Looking at last year’s goals cracks me up now. How did I get to a point in life where I could suggest “scheduling weekly unstructured time” without irony? How did I type “go cold turkey on perfectionism” as one of 30 goals with a straight face?

One of my goals was to “locate my inner voice.” Wait…shh! What’s that? I think I hear something…

“ENOUGH WITH THE GOALS…TAKE A FUCKING NAP ALREADY.”

I like my inner voice.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
I’ve been meeting quite a few childfree people lately. And I’m getting old. So I’d be really shocked if anyone close to me got pregnant/gave birth.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
I spent several horrible days believing one of my in-laws was not going to make it, but thankfully (and possibly miraculously?), he did not die.

5. What countries did you visit?
If the U.S. doesn’t count, then 0.0.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Enough money to retire. Not kidding.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I could talk smack about the ice cream class or some other happy event, but the only day from 2012 that “will remain etched in my memory” (which I interpret to mean “never going to forget the date of the event”) is November 6. That was the day my Mom told me she had cancer.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I guess I’d say making new friends. I had really started to worry I wasn’t capable of doing that.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Negativity? Not being a good-enough listener?? Not getting enough sleep??? Tracking my failures so vigorously???? Fuck this question.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Ice cream machine!

12. Where did most of your money go?
Seriously? Mortgage. It will always be mortgage (or rent), won’t it?

13. What did you get really excited about?
Ice cream!

14. What song will always remind you of 2012?
A whopping 9.5 percent of my music collection came out in the last ten years. Here is the only new music I bought all year even though I’ll almost certainly not associate it with 2012 long-term.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?
Both. The more I know, the harder it is. The closer I get, the farther away it seems. You know?

b) thinner or fatter?
Fatter.

c) richer or poorer?
Richer, bitches (it’s all about retirement, baby).

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
What I wanted to do.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
What I didn’t want to do.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
In Erie with my family. Spent the first few days of my vacation frantically trying to finish my first cross stitch ever. I won a Subversive Cross Stitch in the Craft Whores contest and selected the bad boy below for my brother, only to be surprised (and horrified) that it was a kit I had to make myself. This was one of my brother’s favorite phrases in our misguided youth. By the time I got this in the frame, it also turned out to crystallize my thoughts about cross stitching eloquently.

peace on earth

peace on earth

19. What was your favorite TV program?
I’m addicted to watching House Hunters International while saying “fuck you” with jealous venom. You guys need a vacation home in Belize? Of course you do. Fuck you. Accountants can easily find work on Grand Cayman? Fuck you. You’re really going to complain about the lack of double sinks in a vacation home? Fuck you. Special shout out to the guy with a 2 million dollar budget who expressed disappointment that there were no windows in the closet: OMFG, FUCK YOU!

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
If I wanted to read, I’d go to school.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?
Holy repetitive quiz, Batman. See #14.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?
Jesus, I don’t get out much, do I? We streamed Moonrise Kingdom for our 2nd annual pajama night and were not amused (we have a 0% success rate for avoiding movies in which a dog bites the big one on our “happy family PJ movie night”).

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I guess I’m too old to remember what I did on my birthday. I know I ate cake, but that’s only because I have a blog. I turned 39, and I don’t plan on aging further.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Errr! How does this question differ from #6? 

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
Not naked

26. What kept you sane?
Fear of anti-depressant side effects.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
A lot of the stuff I thought was important (or at least devoted a lot of time to) is really, really not. Like tracking every last detail of my life…ahem…like end of the year surveys such as these.

Nov
14
2012
Man to English Dictionary

I’ve written about my awkward first kiss before. Except for a brief glimpse, I haven’t written about what happened next. Because what happened next is I was a moron.

I told myself a relationship with this guy was risk-free practice since he already had a girlfriend (long-distance, “agreed to see other people,” blah, blah, blah). I was sick of the lateness of my blooming, I needed to get my mind off of an unrequited love interest, and this guy’s attention was intoxicating. These are shitty reasons to date someone. I can admit I was a hypocrite (neither of us were in it “for the right reasons”).

But just because I was a hypocrite doesn’t mean my ex wasn’t a douche.

I was naive. But it didn’t seem possible that he could just want me for sex, especially since he wasn’t getting any. Even looking back on it, I’m still amazed by his patience and persistence. Good for you, buddy. You had a goal, and you went after it with single-minded determination. I over-analyzed everything he said to me, searching for deep meaning that wasn’t there. I didn’t understand the male mind…yet. How could I have known so little rattled around in there?

The good news? You don’t need to date a douche to learn what you need to know about men. Just read my Man-English Dictionary.

I’m not saying men aren’t capable of love and commitment. I’m saying even then they’re still thinking about banging you 97 percent of the time. The other 3 percent of the time they’re thinking about food or banging Kate Winslet (exact percentages and celebrity fantasies may vary).

Here are some phrases in “man-speak” and their English translations. If you have more to add, please share in the comments because I’m finding this very amusing.

MAN ENGLISH
“You’re too smart to play games with.” “I wonder how difficult it will be to get you to sleep with me.”
“You’re gorgeous/irresistible/important to me/I’ve been thinking about you a lot.” “I want to have sex with you.”
“I find you intriguing.” “Challenge accepted.”
“I want to get to know you better…see where this leads.” “Vagina or bust.”
“If I wanted to be with her, I would be.” “I’m taking a break from my girlfriend because I want to have sex with other women before settling down.”
“I’m not in this for sex.” “I’m also willing to spend time with you doing things that could reasonably lead to sex, or having an occasional meal if you pay.”
“Don’t be afraid to let your guard down. You don’t have to be so strong all the time.” “Seriously, let your guard down. This will only take a minute.”
“I’ve never had a problem with commitment.” “I’m totally committed to having sex with everyone I’m simultaneously dating.”
“I’ve never had a one night stand.” “I’m interested in having sex with you the entire time I’m apart from my girlfriend.”
“You seem to be holding back emotionally, the last seven or eight girls I’ve dated told me they loved me within a month.” “Does using the word love in any context help? Also, 8 of 9 girlfriends dentists gave it up within a month, what’s with you?”
“I’m not secure in how you feel about me.” “I’m pretending to be emotionally vulnerable to see if you’ll reassure me with sex.”
“You can let go of your morals and no one will know.” “I’ve run out of things to say to convince you to have sex.”
“Whatever is between us will likely be forcibly reduced to a strong friendship next year.” “I’m moving in with my girlfriend next year, but plan to keep pursuing you sexually until then and want to assuage my guilt by pretending to be clear about my intentions.”
“We will always be friends.” “Once having sex with you is no longer a possibility, you will never hear from me again, until the check I wrote to repay the money you lent me bounces.”

The pinnacle of my ex’s douchiness came during his rehearsed “letting me down easy” speech. We took a walk around campus late one evening right before the end of the semester and he offered, “if you want someone to notice you, get him to see you in the moonlight.”

It was the night of a new moon. I shit you not.

What a douche.

For the record, he still owes me $105. And I want it.

——————

For auditory learners, here is what men want:

Jun
25
2012
This Post is About Something

The point of this post is that I need to have a point to my posts.

I didn’t type that as an introduction, I typed that to try to stay on point.

Perhaps the problem is just A.D.D., but it’s not (usually) like I want to say random shit such as “I like eggs” in the middle of a post about something else. Although it is A.D.D. that made me stop writing to go search for a way to share how I meant “I like eggs” to sound (it’s at the 2:26 mark)

No, most of my veering is at least tangentially related to the original topic. I always thought I was a very analytic person, but apparently in my writing I’m a synthetic (wait, what?) person. I have a compulsion to cover topics from every angle. I spend hours drafting lengthy posts once a week or less when I could write two or even three shorter posts that people might actually read. Seriously, it usually takes me at least three hours to write a post and that is just counting ass in the desk chair time, not all the time I spend thinking or jotting little notes down here and there.

This is bad. It’s bad because it makes something I enjoy doing into a struggle. It’s bad because blogging “experts” say one of the keys to writing a good blog post is to keep it to a single point.

Since I need help deciding when I’ve entered the realm of “this should really be a separate post,” I’ve been disappointed with the specific guidance provided by blogging “experts,” which is not helpful.

They conflate topics with points. Like don’t write a post about your maple bacon cupcake recipe along with a review of the new Katy Perry movie (which Dave said he’d go see if it were in 3-D, by the way). No shit, those are two different topics? Although I could see Katy Perry wearing a bra with cups made of maple bacon cupcakes…maybe this could be one post.

Jesus, I just found out the Katy Perry cupcake bra is actually a thing. I knew she wore weird crap on her buzooms but I’m 38 years old, I haven’t seen an actual Katy Perry video. I thought I just invented the cupcake bra. Oh well.

I swear to all that is holy I didn’t know about this before writing the line about Katy Perry wearing a maple bacon cupcake bra.

Anyway, the Katy Perry maple bacon cupcake bra post is not my problem. My problem is isolating a single point within a topic area. I have no trouble selecting a single topic to write about, but my brain then wants to synthesize every possible point I could make about it. I am thorough, y’all.

Here’s a recent example:

I wanted to write a post about my backlog of post ideas. The idea was to solicit feedback from you to help me prioritize the list and see who was still with me (I hate the unintended but real consequence of losing subscribers with the move to self-hosting.).

This led to writing about wanting to figure out how to write posts that will resonate with people. This led to writing about the mystery of finding kindred spirits out there in the internet ether, when you are as weird as I am.

I wrote 1,300 words before realizing I hadn’t really made my original point and now had at least three posts going in one. I still haven’t finished writing any of them because I’ve exhausted myself.

Blogging isn’t going to last much longer as one of my hobbies unless I become more efficient. Solution #1: having a point!

I’ve decided to start every writing session by typing “the point of this post is….(insert point here).” If I don’t know what the point is, I will stop and figure it out. I will touch base with this topic sentence periodically to make sure I’m not writing a new post. Lather, rinse, repeat until I have a shiny new post without giving myself a migraine.

So how did I do on this post? I’m 1 hour and 40 minutes in and I’m about done. Even on a post focused on having a point, I still also wrote several nebulous strands that should be separate blog posts. I don’t think I can make my brain stop doing that, but I did manage to pretty quickly identify them as not on point and successfully table them. But I do seem to have given myself a migraine.

Do you have trouble staying on point? Do you have any tips for staying on point? How do you feel about eggs?

 read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Jun
1
2012
Merry Berry Month of May

I’ve never been a big fan of strawberry ice cream, especially when it includes pieces of strawberry. They freeze and provide a grating, icy mouth feel to something that’s supposed to be smooth and creamy.

My Ice Cream 101 professor mentioned the difficulty of adding fruit to ice cream due to its high water content, and my mind started racing about ways to tackle the problem. Ever since the class, I waited for strawberry season. For the past two weeks, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in strawberries. After washing, hulling, and eating many quarts of strawberries, I’m over strawberry season.

The recipe I used as a starting point (Jeni’s Splendid Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream) used only one half-cup of roasted strawberry puree per quart of finished ice cream. Two weeks ago, I made that recipe as well as two variations. Why did I make the variations? Because I like to make things difficult and I want to create something of my own. Irritatingly, we liked Jeni’s recipe the best of the three. But none of them (all made with just a half-cup of strawberry puree) bowled us over with strawberry flavor.

In case you didn’t believe I made three versions of strawberry ice cream in one weekend.

I’m a bit on the lazy (logy!) side. So given all the work involved in this endeavor (hauling our asses to a farm in Maryland to get the strawberries, then washing, hulling, slicing, roasting, and pureeing them), I wanted more berry flavor. I’m demanding like that. The ice cream sort of tasted like a strawberry yogurt popsicle. 

Not being such a huge strawberry ice cream fan to begin with, I decided to try making one of my favorite strawberry desserts into an ice cream flavor. Enter strawberry pretzel salad ice cream:

Strawberry Pretzel Salad Ice Cream

I took some of the leftover roasted strawberry puree and boiled it with more sugar until it became syrupy and thick (so it wouldn’t freeze). Then I swirled the strawberry sauce into cream cheese ice cream. I baked up a small amount of sweetened crushed pretzel crust and threw that in as well.

I loved it. It tasted almost exactly like strawberry pretzel salad and the strawberry swirl had much more berry flavor than any of the dedicated strawberry ice creams. The pretzels started getting soggy after a couple of days though. And Dave didn’t like it, totally bursting my “I’m a brilliant ice cream flavor creator” bubble.

Over Memorial Day, I tested another variation of strawberry ice cream, doubling the amount of strawberry puree. We liked it marginally better than the original three versions. Economically speaking, I’m not sure the flavor boost was worth adding an extra half-cup of puree. The dairy just seems to dilute the flavor either way.

Gold star for anyone who correctly guesses which of these contains double the amount of strawberry.

I don’t know if I have a future in the ice cream business, or food service more generally. It seems that “artisan” and fresh, local ingredients are all the rage. That’s all well and good, and I would want to make homemade ice cream with high-quality ingredients if I opened a store, but some of the effort (and more importantly, expense) seems silly. Maybe I’m just disgruntled from all that washing and hulling and slicing and roasting, but I find it really hard to believe that most people would notice a difference between fresh farm strawberries and store-bought frozen strawberries after adding sugar, pureeing the crap out of them, and then diluting the puree with more than 3 cups of dairy. I see a test of this in my future, but not anytime soon, because I’m sick with this.

After all of this, we simply hadn’t eaten enough strawberry dessert. So I did what anyone who had already made five batches of ice cream in two weeks would do…I made another dessert. A testament to the lack of excitement in my life, this extra dessert-making was due in large part because I wanted to take a picture of a piece of actual strawberry pretzel salad next to my ice cream version.

Variations on a theme of strawberry pretzel salad.

Since strawberry season is almost over here, I also made extra strawberry puree to freeze so that I have it on hand to make strawberry ice cream for my summer ice cream social. I didn’t make quite as much puree as I’d hoped since I overfilled the food processor, causing puree to ooze out everywhere, but that’s a bitch-fest for another day.

NOTE: Photo of the puree made with my blood, sweat, and tears from $5.49/quart strawberries running all over my kitchen counter and down my kitchen sink drain is not available.

Please to enjoy one of my favorite commercial ear worms ever, from my hometown joint Eat’n Park. I make better strawberry pie, by the way.

Apr
4
2012
I Won The Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Race

Uh, no. But since I completed the race on April Fools’ Day and got a medal…

This was my third Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in a row. Last year, I suggested it might be better to quit while ahead since I beat my previous time by more than five minutes and race day was during peak bloom.

But I vacillate on decisions, so I entered the lottery for the race again this year. It’s a very popular race (“the runner’s rite of spring” don’t you know), and I figured the chances of my getting in three years in a row were….uh, apparently guaranteed.

The first time I ran this race, in 2010, my goal was simply to enjoy coming back from injury, finish, and set myself up for a summer half marathon. Done, done, and done. Last year, I just wanted to beat my time from 2010. Done to the tune of 5:35.

This year…huh. I didn’t really have a goal in mind. I honestly didn’t think I’d get in again. I’ve proven to myself I can run this distance and I’ve proven that I can improve a ridiculously slow time to a marginally less ridiculously slow time.

My training this year was pretty half-assed. There were many weeks I only ran twice. And I could feel myself running much s-l-o-w-e-r. Maybe it was because I was completely on my own this time (I joined a winter running group the past two years), maybe my other hobbies just took up too much time and energy, maybe my eight or so extra pounds were slowing me down, or maybe I just wasn’t feeling it this year.

There was no doubt in my mind I’d finish, but I knew I had no chance of beating last year’s time. So how did it go?

1.) I astonished myself by getting to bed at a reasonable 11pm. But I didn’t fall asleep right away and kept waking up. It must have been nerves, but how silly is that–it’s not like I had any chance of winning!

2.) Given the malaise I’d felt about training, Little Miss Rule-Follower  (me) brought her iPod to a race for the first time ever. It’s not “allowed,” but in a race of 15,000 people, who was going to notice my headphones?

3.) Starting with the proper wave is helpful! I started with the last wave before and found dodging people (who are these people who manage to be slower than me? I am slow!) maddening and a little dangerous. But this year, I started right in the middle of the appropriate wave. I actually had a nice little cushion of space around me most of the time. I like my personal space.

4.) I planned on starting my iPod after the crowd at the start spread out but when I saw a woman sitting on the side of the course holding a compress over her left eye with blood all over her and the concrete, I decided to hold off on my music a little longer. I listened to the Wedding Present for the last 6 miles. I’ve been obsessed since seeing their Seamonsters show a couple of weeks ago.

5.) Remember my nemesis…the juggler? If not, here’s a hint: he runs the race while juggling. And he is faster than me. It’s annoying. I caught a glimpse of him (running next to Santa!). I’m directionally challenged and the course winds around itself so much I couldn’t tell if he was ahead of me or behind me. I’m sure he beat me again.

6.) The many volunteers who line the course offering encouragement are fabulous. Except for the guy who decided to say, “just keep thinking about breakfast!” Thanks for reminding me of the waffles Dave’s making me after the race, jackass. I only have seven miles left to crave them.

7.) The spectator sign that stood out most said, “You train longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage.” I struggled with the meaning behind this…was she saying I had trained for a long time or not?

8.) For about two miles, someone (thing?) made really bizarre breathing noises behind me. It sounded like being chased by Darth Vader. I could hear it over my iPod. I was too chicken to turn around. If it had actually been Darth Vader, he would have scared the crap out of me. If not, I didn’t want to see the human capable of making that noise. As you might remember, noises annoy me.

9.) While the traditional Yoshino cherry blossoms (the ones that provide a cloud-like halo around the Tidal Basin) were gone due to our freakishly warm winter, the East Potomac Park section of the course had a number of Kwanzan cherries in full bloom. They have gorgeous clusters of pink double blossoms.

10.) Of course, the key question is: did Dave actually get a picture of me on the course this year? Well, I should say a picture in which I am in focus. You betcha! I am Ninja Runner!

11.) What’s that you say? My time? Well, you get what you train for. Not only did I not beat last year’s time, but I also ran 28 seconds slower than two years ago. Oops.

Next stop: the 5-K training plan from the FIRST Training Programs. I just finished their book, Run Less, Run Faster and am excited to try it, although it won’t be running less for me. I already limit my running to three days a week and their proposed weekly mileages are considerably more than I do now, even for 5-K training. We’ll see.

Feb
17
2012
Photo Friday: It’s Always Better on Holiday

Every day for the past few weeks, I have walked by this advertisement.

Part of a set of ads with “humor” customized for DC, they miss the mark for me in that they resonate just enough to remind me how annoying DC can be (it’s an election year, so I’m extra cranky) but not so much that they are funny.

Another example of the hilarity: “It took an act of Congress to get you out of bed this morning.” HA! Get it? Mornings are hard…and this is DC, so like Congress makes laws here and shit. So yeah. That’s hysterical. It’s not as if I get out of bed every morning so I can continue to receive a paycheck.

A quick internet search yielded the news that others find these ads charming. Oops. Apparently they also ran ads in New York, and the NYC ads are a little more clever, like maybe they were written by people who actually live in New York. They inexplicably used the dumbest ad in both markets: “A text-walker ran into you while you were text-walking.” Is this thing on?

But back to the holiday ad, which really fries my ass.

You see, this Monday is a holiday. Indeed, my calendar most certainly does mention that fact and I’m sure yours does too. And I’m not likely to forget a paid day off, whether it’s on the calendar or not.

So you can imagine how charmed I was when some people I’m working with who don’t get the day off kindly scheduled a meeting I need to attend on the holiday.

The splash or 12 of vodka I plan to add to my OJ will be the only good part of that particular DC morning. Thanks for the daily reminder of my missed holiday, Tropicana!

Happy President’s Day. If you have the day off, enjoy! If you don’t, grab a mini bottle of Tropicana on your way into work. Tell ‘em Congress sent you!

Jan
10
2012
Breaking My Stride

I knew what I wanted. I had pictured tears of relief and pride at the finish line of my first half marathon, but my eyes stayed dry. My words were salty instead. “If I ever talk about doing that again, punch me in the face.”

I also muttered obscenities regarding the measurement accuracy of the infinite last tenth of a mile. Several of my toes burned, a painful reminder of my idiotic decision to walk on the beach in my running shoes the day before.

But mostly, I felt an exhaustion that said, two hours, 34 minutes, and 27 seconds is too long to do anything not involving popcorn or a horizontal position. I didn’t want to quit running, but I wanted to be faster, to release my inner cheetah. While I’d never run a pace even close, I set a goal of a 30-minute 5K.

On my speed-work days, I worried my inner cheetah was a tortoise. But the race I’d chosen was perfect:  on the trail where I usually run, night-owl friendly start time (11:30am!), and fall weather (I’m a delicate flower).

Keeping my pace felt effortless the entire first half. At the turnaround point, I thought, I have this. Then I learned something new about my trail. It’s not completely flat. The second mile and a half was all uphill. I’d never noticed the incline before, but pushing this foreign pace made it obvious.

Running began to feel like wading through mud. I wondered if I’d be able to finish, let alone beat my goal time. As I wrestled with myself, I noticed my husband on the side of the trail, my dog sitting at his side. I hadn’t expected to see them until the finish line. Chuck’s tail started wagging when he saw me approach. I felt a burst of adrenaline and my pace quickened. I prepared to give them a wave as I passed. I had no time to spare.

Then Chuck darted right into my path, plopped himself down, and looked up expectantly at me for the obligatory doting.

Although I did have to slow down to avoid crushing my dog, I didn’t have to stop, shouldn’t have stopped. But I couldn’t resist my fluffy muffin.

I missed my goal by 28 seconds. I like to blame it on Chuck. He broke-a my stride.

————————-

Seriously, could you resist that face?

This post was inspired by the RemembeRED writing prompt: to write, in 400 words or less, about an unfulfilled goal beginning with the words, “I knew what I wanted.”

I’ve run four more 5K races since Chuck’s anti-Matthew Wilder interference and the trend is going in the wrong direction. I bought Run Less, Run Faster since I want to run faster and I can also totally get behind running less. I’m hoping it helps.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Dec
2
2011
Photo Friday: Buckeyes!

Praise all that is holy, this year’s buckeye making is complete.

Buckeye rolling movie: Crazy Stupid Love (I’d give it maybe 2.5 stars? It was good for what it was, silly entertainment to keep my mind off the monotony of rolling buckeyes.)

Yield: 170 (new record)

Elapsed Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes to roll. Almost 2 hours to dip and put away.

Exciting new complications: The dough was softer this year, I was almost able to mix all three pounds of powdered sugar using the mixer and then a wooden spoon. I threw in a little more sugar but it was still soft. I tried to avoid having non-buckeye-like holes in my finished product (see last picture here) by dipping them without skewering them. I used a dipping tool and it took awhile to master it, if I can say I mastered it at all. Many buckeyes dove into the chocolate like it was a swimming pool and they were on vacation (see sad tiny remaining speck of peanut butter filling on the buckeye second to bottom on the left of the photo). My inability to control the dipping process without a skewer and the softness of the dough yielded some freaky little misshapen buckeyes. I also must’ve got the chocolate too hot, because many buckeyes have annoying large “feet” this year. But they don’t have skewer holes in the filling, by god.

Number eaten: 1 as always. Even though they look a little funky and sad, they taste the same as always. They still taste like effort to me though, so the “making buckeyes as diet plan” concept is still effective.

Nov
14
2011
The Bread Loaf of Time

Dealing with time is one of my biggest struggles. Dave once told me about an experiment that showed the passage of time is actually slower if moving than if not by comparing two atomic clocks. As someone used to obtaining a non-treated counterfactual through random assignment of fairly large numbers of units, taking a difference of two clocks didn’t work for me.

I spat out a string of questions about the design of the study. “How did they actually measure elapsed time?” “What is the normal accuracy of these clocks?” “Did they repeat this more than once?” “Why didn’t they use several clocks in each location?” Since Dave didn’t really know, I sort of won an argument about physics against a physicist, which was fun but left me without an understanding of time.

The Fabric of the Cosmos: The Illusion of Time

Given my desire to understand time, I didn’t beg for the remote when I found Dave watching an episode of PBS’ NOVA called “The Illusion of Time.” This was part of a four-hour series based on a book by physicist Brian Greene, or as I like to call him, annoying string theory guy.

Annoying string theory guy has become a bit of a celebrity; he’s even been on Letterman. So he’s pleased with himself, is what I’m saying. He wears a leather jacket and a swagger during this show, but he wasn’t fooling me. If you are going to be a geek turned famous scientist, at least be lovable like Carl Sagan, who sounded like Kermit the Frog and seemed credible. When annoying string theory guy speaks, I feel like he’s trying to sell me a stolen car.

Five minutes into the show, one of the scientists interviewed, Max Tegmark, had this to say: “There’s basically no aspect of time which I feel we really fully understand.”

Great! Can’t wait to hear about it for an hour then.

Throughout the hour, I got the distinct impression physicists just make things up. I freely admit I don’t understand physics. Physics was an elective and I elected not to study it. I definitely think physicists are smarter than I am. But I also suspect they don’t really understand this stuff either, they are just smart enough to fake it.

Einstein = Genius

It was cute to see the man crushes these physicists have for Einstein. The first half of the program explained how Einstein overthrew “the common-sense idea that time ticks the same for everyone.” According to David Kaiser: “It’s mind-blowing that you and I will not agree on measurements of time…Why should my measurement of time depend on how I am moving, or how you’re moving? That, that doesn’t make any sense.” So far we agree, that doesn’t make any sense!

Apparently, there’s a link between space and time. Annoying string theory guy explained the clock experiment. The 1971 experiment compared elapsed time for an atomic clock flown around the world with the elapsed time of a clock on the ground. At the end of the experiment, the two clocks differed “by a few hundred billionths of a second.” I couldn’t believe measurement error was smaller than that difference, but Dave insisted there are atomic clocks accurate enough to detect an effect that small.

“In 1971?!?”

“Yep.”

I’m supposed to believe we had technology that accurate forty years ago, but today I have to wait 20 minutes for PDF files to spool to my work printer? Can’t Microsoft hire these clock people?

Einstein’s genius didn’t extend to creative names. Annoying string theory guy explained that Einstein fused together space and time “in what came to be called…” …wait for it… “spacetime.” You don’t say? Even though the show contained no point more clear, they needed a second scientist to explain it. Max Tegmark explained it again, only even more slowly and with arm motions and an earnest look, just to be sure we were all clear.

SPACE + TIME = (say it with me) SPACETIME

Annoying string theory guy turned a visual of “spacetime” into a loaf of bread to illustrate. I found this both condescending and, grudgingly, helpful as I’m not a theoretical learner. He showed how slices of “now” can angle toward the past or to the future depending on the movement of aliens 10-billion light years away. So just as all of space exists, all of time exists as well, or so Einstein said and Einstein can’t be wrong.

Or as Sean Carroll said: “If you believe the laws of physics, there’s just as much reality to the future and the past as there is to the present moment.”

I don’t believe in physics, I just believe in me. Yoko and me.

The Arrow of Time

So 30 minutes in, I got it. Past, present, and future are an illusion. I didn’t see any practical application to care much about, as the aliens who can see our future are too far away to tell us about it before we’ve experienced it too, but I got it. Then the only woman in this telecast, Janna Levin, said: “Our entire experience of time is constantly in the present. And all we ever grasp is that instant moment.” Then I got confused again because I remember the past, how about you?

They spent the next few minutes discussing time travel, because otherwise most people will stop being interested in a show about science. Then the last 20 minutes painstakingly tore down all of the limited understanding I built during the first 30.

The last part tried to reconcile why time appears to move only forward when the laws of physics don’t require time to have directionality. Annoying string theory guy implied entropy might help explain this “arrow of time.” I fell in love with the entropy guy, both because he has a cool bust of himself on his gravestone and because his work shows my inability to stay organized isn’t a character flaw, it’s a law of physics.

But no! Entropy can’t explain the arrow of time because the laws of physics say disorder should increase both toward the future and toward the past. Annoying string theory guy then said: “And that makes no sense.” As if everything said before that point had made sense.

Since they were having trouble reconciling Einstein’s theory of relativity with the arrow of time, they decided to blame the discrepancy on the Big Bang. Annoying string theory guy: “So our best understanding is that the Big Bang set the arrow of time on its path…the universe has been unwinding since the Big Bang, becoming ever more disordered.”

So basically, really intelligent physicists can’t explain time either. In the next episode, I look forward to not understanding, and also possibly debunking, quantum mechanics. 

Check out this uncomfortable yet endearing video which increased the strength of my crush on Max Tegmark. Hopefully a future episode of NOVA will explain the power physics geeks have over me.

Oct
3
2011
Getting Too Comfortable

I really appreciated all the comments on My Parachute is the Color of Apathy a few weeks ago. I didn’t formally tally the comments into the “pro-change/take this job and shove it” side versus the “pro-stability/milk the 9-5 for all its benefits while you fulfill yourself in your free time” side, but it seemed pretty evenly split to me.

Since I wrote that post, I’ve been exploring ways of making my current work less of a drain. These are “around the edges” kinds of changes; things like working from home more and actually scheduling a long-overdue vacation.

I hate how long my commute is. For years at work, we’ve been told our office would be moving “soon.” Of course, the date kept slipping. Until it stopped slipping and the early 2012 date became real, became soon.

I estimated the change would shave 10-15 minutes from my one hour commute. That’s 20 to 30 minutes of my day I could have back! Let’s just say I was wholly in favor of this move and looked forward to cleaning my office in the tiny bit of downtime we usually have before the holidays.

A few weeks ago, we received an email with the following subject: “Move Delay.”

I hadn’t even realized how much my fragile little flower of a psyche was depending on this move until I got the official word it’s delayed again. Until 2013…almost two years from now.

Do you remember Marie (Carrie Fisher’s character) in When Harry Met Sally…? How early in the movie, she’s always complaining that she doesn’t think the married man she’s seeing is “ever going to leave” his wife? How Marie’s friends always say, “of course he isn’t,” and Marie always responds, “You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right,” but still doesn’t break it off with him?

I ask because a voice saying “your office is never going to move and it won’t make any real difference anyway” went through my head as I read the “Move Delay” email. And the next thing that popped into my head was (because I talk to myself!), “You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right.” But, like Marie in the movie, I wasn’t ready to act on that knowledge.

I’m not saying staying in my job is as dumb as dating a married man. I’m simply saying I can identify with Marie’s inertia.

Marie didn’t really believe the married man would leave his wife. She was probably just afraid of being alone. Maintaining the relationship she already had in hand was easier than the upheaval of breaking it off, of having to think about what she really wanted, of having to do something potentially scary to get it.

I’ve never been a big risk taker, but I used to be more adventurous than I am now. The choices I’ve made as an adult have been informed by a desire to guard against uncertainty and upheaval. But I’ve also been incredibly lucky not to have experienced any uncertainty or upheaval during years when the economy hasn’t always been so solid. I got a secure job in my field directly out of school with good pay and great benefits. In 15 years, I’ve never been forced to make a change.

So I’ve been lucky. But ironically, I have started to wonder if maybe some uncertainty and upheaval might not have been all bad. Maybe it would have forced me to think harder about what I wanted, might possibly have led to a more fulfilling career. Perhaps the lack of external pressure has made me soft, made my adaptation muscles atrophy.

The best thing about having my post Freshly Pressed by WordPress was hearing your stories. Margaret, at Figuring Out Fulfillment, has a great story. I’m very excited to have a guest post from her this Wednesday so she can share it! Margaret chose some upheaval for herself. In addition, the dot-com bust around the time she started her career didn’t let her get too comfortable.

Be sure to come back on Wednesday to hear Margaret’s inspiring story.