This Is The Only Way I Get Anything Done

About 80% of the work I've done since moving to SC has gone this way: I get all pissed off about huge projects looming on the horizon, I fret and whine and mince about them for a while, then I wake up one day and drink coffee all morning and stay in my PJs and bunny slippers and write until the thing is finished. This time, with the new austerity measures, I'm doing it non-hungover, which does represent something of an innovation. Either way, here it is, 11:48am, and I have not showered or brushed my teeth or made myself in any way presentable, but I have written the goddamn conference paper I have to present in early April at the biggest, most prestigious, most intimidating, most shit-scary conference of historians of France in North America (oh, also, apparently I'm presenting it to my department as well...please form an orderly queue to the left to shoot me.) It's a mess, of course, but it's done and I have time to revise it into something slightly less messy before then.

The doc said I should try to keep coffee consumption down as part of the blood pressure stuff. She is a wonderful doctor and I respect her very much, but my attitude is this: she can have my alcohol and my salt, but no one touches my F'ing coffee.


Glasses Half Empty

(Alternate title: on the other side of drunk.)

Just a few more notes on the current austerity measures here. When I was in Paris, my homie Pierre decided that he was only going to drink when he was socializing, because otherwise he would drink all the damn time. Pierre, being made of sterner stuff (plus dur, bien sur...) than I am, stuck to his guns. I thought this was a great idea as well, until I realized after about a week how shit-bored I was most evenings, sitting around in my tiny apartment on the Ile St. Louis, and I made the educated decision to get back to drinking wine and watching movies on Chinese pirate sites.*

About 1.2 years later, I'm sitting around my tiny apartment on the Ile Santa Cruz, sober as a Turk, thanks to the intervention of blood pressure and triglycerides (and the women who love them.) The problem with sobriety is that, for people like me, life itself doesn't pack much in the way of sparkle. I'm grateful for the ongoing availability of air, water, and low-salt, home-cooked foods, but I'm skeptical about any kind of imminent mental transformation (or, I suppose, an immanent mental transformation, either...but that would be redundant) that would see me joyfully skipping around, celebrating the virtues of the chemically-unaltered human condition.

But, then, that's the good thing about getting the hard word from the docs: this isn't up to me and my willpower any more. It's about hanging around for several more decades for the benefit of my daughter to-be and other people I'm very fond of.

* Compare to the famous refrain from Trainspotting: "At, or around this time, Spud, Sick Boy and I made a healthy, informed, democratic decision to get back on heroin as soon as possible."


Apparently, I'm Fat. Also: Insomnia

As part of my "let's be healthy before we have a baby" project in ought-ten, I had a full panel of bloodwork done this morning (at 7-freaking-30 in the AM!) While my cholesterol levels are normal, I have high, not just "borderline high," triglycerides. Triglycerides are basically the form fat takes in your bloodstream as it's transported to its new happy home in your beer gut.

I am 6'1" and 160 pounds. But apparently, I'm still fat. W...T...F. I exercise, I don't eat junk food, I don't eat fast food, I walk everywhere, I spin, I kick, I laugh, I cry, I'm better than Cats. What the crap are the lipids in my blood thinking?

Also: I've concluded that insomnia is proof that humans are broken animals who can't even do basic things.

I'm going to go lie in a field and daintily sip pure spring water harvested in wooden pails by virgins and see if that helps.


Taxation, Bobsled Announcers

Taxation: academics spend a lot of time pursuing grants. A grant is a sum of money, from a modest 500-dollar one-time deal to attend a conference and present a paper up to the famous and bizarre 500,000-dollar Macarthur Foundation "genius grants" for being smart, charming, and having a firm handshake. They're awarded by committees, selected from a pool of comparable applicants, and they are often the only thing that makes research and writing possible.

What grants have is the ability to allow people to do their research and write their papers. What grants don't have is tax withheld. Thus, despite the fact that the grant I'm on this year is doled out in three chunks, 2/3 of which take place in 2010, I still owed for the whole damn thing on my 2009 taxes. Right now I feel a little like Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, after he renounced all worldly positions and went to go join the wandering ascetics.

Bobsled Announcers: are really funny. We watched about 20 minutes of two-man bobsled on the olympics last night. B and I were trying to figure out what the announcers reminded us of and B finally realized that they're almost exactly like professional wrestling announcers. Compare:

"A lot of power there, Bob, a lot of strength, a lot of DETERMINATION!!!!!"
"And the Crimson Mandibles hits him from behind with a STEEL CHAIR!!!! VERY UNFORGIVING!!!!"


Another One of These

(i.e., a list post)


Caramelized shallots, black coffee, v-neck sweaters, slip-on Vans, argyle, Obama, New Zealand, rain, the color red, Arrested Development, manual transmission, rabbits, Motorhead, girls in glasses, video games, teaching, French, Dungeons and Dragons, electric bass, most green vegetables, camping, winter, messenger bags, Irish bars, the Ottoman Empire, existentialism, girls with short hair, otters, public transportation, Scotland, brie, high-speed internet, funny ring tones, thrift stores, hats, good grammar, Ghostbusters, Devo, red wine, mp3s, leather jackets, airports, cleanliness, earplugs, praying mantises, brown clothes, big trees, tattoos, atheism, raspberries, and the state of Oregon.


Captain Neckbeard, Fake-Tattoo Riverdance

A truncated narrative of the ongoing critique of the olympic opening ceremonies by a group of our dearest friends in a beach house in Lincoln City, Oregon, this last Friday:

"What the HELL? How are fake-tattoo utilikilt-wearing tap dancers with fiddles CANADIAN?!"
"What is lamer than tap-dancing? Anything?"
(reply): "Watch, next they'll have slam poetry."
(twenty minutes later when they ACTUALLY DID have slam poetry): COLLECTIVE SHOCK.

And then there was the flying kid who looked like Frodo with Downs Syndrome. I'm sorry, he just did.

Here is a picture of Slam Poet Captain Neckbeard, who emerged for the first time from an empty coffee shop to find himself in front of the entire television-watching world:

Notes: the thing with the tap-dancing fiddlers is that it really, truly doesn't matter that there is (apparently) an indigenous tradition of tap-dancing and fiddling in eastern Canada. To non-Canadians, and I suspect to many west-coast Canadians as well, it just looked like a Hot Topic version of Riverdance. In other words, it looked weird and Irish, not Canadian. Mounties? Yes. Gretzky? Oh heck yes. But Riverdance as Canadian? No, not at all.


Notes of the Hunted

(Post title isn't referring to anything specific - I've just always liked to think of myself writing notebooks about being hunted for Knowing Too Much.)
  1. I am off to Oregon for a trip to the coast very similar to that of last year!
  2. My homie K requested I post a link to her fun and informational blog about geeky pop-cultural phenomena.
  3. She also requested I post a link to Axe Cop, which is (apparently) a webcomic "written" by a five-year old and drawn by his much, much older brother.
  4. Another great webcomic I recently discovered is the Perry Bible Fellowship. It is dark and hilarious.
  5. I am still terrified of flying!
  6. That's all for now!


An Unlikely Athletic Comparison

Despite my abiding not-giving-a-shit about sports, a simile about academia and athletics popped into my head the other day. Ahem:

"Securing a tenure-track job in academia is to graduate school as playing professional sports for lots of money is to being on a varsity team in high school (or, maybe, college.)"

It's the same species of insanity. You have all of these people who are genuinely talented and love the idea of participating in this world that they've followed for years, if not their whole life. They practice, they hone skills, they develop social networks based on this shared obsession. Then, they hit a certain point in life when they don't get the call, and they end up drifting from one temp adjunct or lecturer position to another (academia) or working in a tire warehouse and grunting a lot (sports.)*

It's actually pretty funny. Most of my friends and I have always been good at playing the "we don't really care, we just want to teach, we don't have any delusions of grandeur" game for all of these years, but it is a little shocking to get that cold bath of defeat at the end, especially since most of us have succeeded at all of the intermediary steps in the meantime (i.e. we got grants, we did research, we learned languages, we passed qualifying exams, etc.)

Mostly, I think I'm just super-bummed that I have to do a semi-normal job hunt pretty soon. I've really enjoyed the six years off from that particular grind...

* I'm being a little mean here. Failed sports people can also coach middle-school track.

P.S. I thought the "Fall of Numenor" graphic would be a cool kind of 70s dragon-metal image for this post.


Everything Good in Life

I went to the doctor yesterday. I hadn't been in to see a doctor for general health reasons since I was, I think, about 19. At this meeting it was confirmed that I have borderline high blood pressure; the term is "pre-hypertension." I was instructed to purchase a home blood pressure monitor with which to take two daily readings, to record the results, and to return in 8 weeks to consult. Through adjustments to consumption and lifestyle, it is hoped that I will be able to knock a few numbers off of my readings and return to the normal / safe range.

As you can imagine, I am thrilled to bits. Let me break it down like a fraction:
  1. Salt: makes everything taste good.
  2. Alcohol: makes everything fun.
  3. Caffeine: makes everything possible.
My prescribed adjustments to consumption and lifestyle?
  1. Eat less salt.
  2. Drink less booze.
  3. Hold myself to two cups a day.
As ever, the things that make life worth living are the things that kill us.


How About that Lost Premier?

So there is a new group of the Others, and these ones are kung fu hippies instead of paramilitary yuppies. The actor who plays John Locke must be stoked because he gets to be eeeeeeeeevil now (apparently, he is literally The Devil.) There is a special magic dirt that keeps the smoke monster (AKA The Devil) away, but the smoke monster can still pick something up and hit you with it, even if you're standing in a circle of magic dirt. Sayid (sp?) didn't really die, because he is too good-looking, but Juliette did, which is a shame because she is good-looking too. Sawyer decided not to kill Jack, but that just means they'll still shout at each other for the rest of the show like they usually do. It is not clear if Miles is going to get to do anything important, ever, or if they just keep him around to periodically talk to the dead. I can't figure out who the actor is who plays the kung fu hippy translator, but I'm sure I've seen him in something before...


An Open Letter to a 'Badass Bruiser' in the Video Game "Borderlands"

Dear Badass Bruiser,

I write today in hopes of resolving an issue that recently arose between us, an issue that I feel threatens the very social fabric of the planet Pandora.

We have always had our differences. I am a so-called "Vault hunter," a mercenary in search of a mythical bounty of alien technology. You are a leader of men, a chief among your fellow warriors, albeit one whose way of life revolves around banditry. That our paths would cross and our purposes would be at odds is practically a given.

I must emphasize that I do not hold any grudges against you for shooting at me with a corrosive machine gun. We met on the kampfplatz of battle as fellow warriors, men of action, men of valor, equal in strength and courage, but fated to oppose one another. You fought valiantly and, please believe me, you have my most profound respect.

No, I write to complain of a merely logistical issue, one that stretches the very limits of plausibility:

I shot you in the fucking head with a combat rifle and you didn't die.

In fact, I shot you in the head three times. This simply does not make any sense! I know that you are very big, and that you have an abundance of health (as indicated by the red bar that floats in front of you while I shoot you.) But the most elementary understanding of anatomy would seem to indicate that your brain is still inside of your head, and further that if your brain is shot full of rifle bullets, you would proceed to, you know, die.

Please, consider the implications of your actions: by surviving three shots to the dome, you've undermined the very realism of our shared environment.

It is my hope that we can resolve this issue without further bloodshed. Just die when I shoot you in the head and everything will be fine.

"Roland," soldier class, level 26.