Still Here, Y’all

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Some of you may be surprised to learn that, despite the absence of any recent blog posts, I still exist. Yes, I know that there were three whole months where I didn’t post anything at all, even though I have indicated in the past that I have a personal rule about letting even one month go by without any new blog posts. Yes, I know that my identity is intrinsically linked to my internet presence and that it is necessary for me to express my thoughts online in order for me to prove that I do indeed think. Yes, I know that my blog is the repository for my mind and that I am essentially a zombie if I don’t utilize the opportunity to add to the archives of this repository on a regular basis. Okay, I just made up some of that stuff, but you get the point. The point is that it’s not cool that I haven’t been blogging at all this summer. I’m going to stick with my standard go-to excuse, which is that I have been really busy. I think I’ll also offer a sub-excuse by pointing out that sometimes, life kind of stinks and it isn’t really necessary to document all of it online. Nonetheless, the fact remains that I have this blog and that I think it’s kind of cool and that I would really enjoy to blog every single day. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. Even now that my schedule isn’t as ridiculously full as it was in the spring and early summer, there still are some days when it wouldn’t even be technically possible and other days where there are other things I need to be doing with my time. But I really do hope to get back into the pattern of posting something once or twice a week. We’ll see how that goes. So, yes, this blog post is just to let you all know of my continuing existence and to let you know that you can expect to see new content here in the near future. As a special bonus, here is a picture of my beautiful cat. Observe her great beauty.

Romana

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First Day of Classes

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A random picture I pulled from my facebook page
Although it is irrelevent, I would like to note that there are frogs who live in the area where this picture was taken. I’ve never actually seen them, but they’re sure loud in the nighttime.

Summer has come to an end.

Well, technically it hasn’t; the first day of fall is September 22, which is still a ways away. But summer break has come to an end. Classes start tomorrow. That means that the schedule, lifestyle, and general mindset that I’ve been accustomed to for the past three months is suddenly going to cease to exist. I can no longer set aside entire evenings every now and then for going outside and reading until it gets too dark, then wandering around aimlessly, listening to the cicadas and watching the fireflies until I feel like going back inside.  I can no longer ease into the day so slowly that I don’t actually get anything done until mid-morning. I can no longer decide for myself what I want to read and whether or not I want to decide ahead of time when to finish it.

Yeah, I’ve used this before, but it seemed very fitting in this particular context.

If this sounds like a complaint, it really isn’t.  I’m not going to lie and say that I absolutely love school and enjoy every moment of it, but I will say that I enjoy many moments of it and that I’m aware that I get a lot out of it. And this time of the semester, it’s easy to be motivated about academia, optimistic about grades, and excited about the opportunities and experiences of the upcoming months. Amid the frustration of paperwork, the confusion of schedule conflicts, and the constant worry about where the camaduka all the money’s going to come from, there’s still something fun about the start of classes.

I think I’m going to really like all of the classes I’m taking this semester. One of them is a dance class that I’m contracting off campus, which will be an interesting experience; I’ve never contracted a college class off campus before. I’m also taking three English classes and a logic class, so that I can be awesome like Spock. But I’m going to enjoy it more than Spock would, because enjoyment is a human emotion.

So that’s pretty much where I currently stand on the issue of school and stuff. Within the next six weeks or so, my opinions on this matter will very likely change to some extent.

This one is just about the weather

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When I left work at 5 PM yesterday, it was a remarkably beautiful day. The sunshine and the clouds were lovely, the temperature was unseasonably pleasant, there was a gentle breeze, and there was something in the air that somehow emphasized the fact that I had the rest of the day completely free to do whatever I felt like doing on such a summer evening. So I opened my window wide, microwaved some pizza, ate it, rearranged a few stacks of books, and then spent several hours alternatively writing science fiction and reading, with an occasional internet chess game thrown in there for good measure.

It got late, and I got tired, but I didn’t feel like calling it a day, so I decided it would be a wonderful night to do a full-length practice GRE test. (For the record, that was a bad idea. My brain doesn’t appreciate being asked to do that kind of thing after 11:00 at night.)As I finished at about 1 AM, I noticed something odd. The sky was flickering pale purple. I thought it was lightning at first, but it was unnaturally constant and predictable, and the thunder was unnaturally nonexistent. Besides, the clouds were still lovely, the temperature was still unseasonably pleasant, there was still a gentle breeze, and there was still something in the air that underlined the fact that it was one in the morning and I didn’t have to go to sleep yet because it’s summer vacation and I’m not a little kid anymore and I can do whatever I want. So I decided that I wanted to stick my head out of the window and watch the sky flicker and flash for a couple hours.

The view from my window at about 8 or 9 this morning

As it turned out, it was lightning, and it was one of the most spectacular lightning shows I’ve ever seen. About once a second, several blazes of light streaked across various parts of the sky simultaneously. Gradually, the thunder realized what was going on and decided to join in, and the wind decided it wanted to share in the fun and began to spread a presage of doom. The air turned ominously red and filled with mist. Then it began to rain. First, it was a light, misty rain, but by the time I eventually went to sleep, it was stronger. When I woke up a few hours later, it was a torrential downpour. The fog was so thick that not only could I no longer see the Birmingham skyline, I couldn’t even see across the street.

Now, it’s late morning and the rain and lightning have stopped, the fog has cleared, and the clouds are dissipating. I can see patches of blue in the sky. It’s going to be a beautiful afternoon.

Random Thoughts on a Sunday Afternoon

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There is no particular reason for this picture to be here, but I like it.

1. One of the coolest things about having a car is that it’s a lot of fun driving home (or rather, back to campus) from church. I don’t know why that would be more fun than driving any other time, but it totally is.

This is how it ended

2. On the website where I play correspondence chess, there’s this one person that I’ve been playing repeatedly for practically the whole time I’ve been using that website, and I’ve almost always beaten him. I don’t know why, because according to his rating, he’s considerably better than me. This last time, I thought for sure I’d lose because I made some stupid mistakes very early in the game that led to him preventing me from castling, taking my rook on a8 for free, and gaining a couple pawns. Somehow, I won anyway. I’m not entirely sure how I managed to do that; it must be because I’m clever.

3. Sometimes I have a weird nagging fear that I’m wrong about what day of the week it is. Today was one of those days. On the way to church, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t really Sunday, so I was glad to see other cars at the church. Just as I was about to pull into the parking lot, I saw a squirrel in the middle of the road. It noticed me at the same time, and was so startled that it jumped several feet straight up, then landed right in front of me again. I had to slow down practically to a stop in order to avoid hitting it, especially because it was so stupid that it still took several seconds to decide to run away. But this story ends happily, because the squirrel survived, and because it was a Sunday, just as I had thought.

4. My hair is insanely curly today. I like it when my hair is insanely curly.

5. Some people may think that I put too much lemon juice in my lemonade. I say I’m supposed to use lots of lemon juice; it’s called lemonade, not waterade. The only reason I use any water at all is that my parents taught me how to make lemonade, and they said it should have water in it. Since I am a very good daughter and always do exactly what my parents tell me, (I can hear my family members rolling their eyes as they read this) I continue to put at least a little water in my lemonade.

6. When I was little, I thought that the part of the Confession that says “…But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them…” said ‘hardly sorry’ and I was very confused. It was quite a revelation when I learned how to read and saw what it really said. The moral of this story is that learning how to read is awesome.

This is actually the view from the window of my dorm room last summer. I can’t get a picture from my current window that does the view justice.

7. The view from my window is really incredible. I can see quite a lot of the city. Birmingham is beautiful; it has forests and hills and skyscrapers and city lights, and they’re all visible from this little glass-covered hole in my bedroom wall.  Windows are a pretty brilliant idea. I know they aren’t exactly a recent invention, but I still think that they deserve acknowledgement as one of the cleverest human achievements of all time.

8. If there was really any such thing as the fashion police, I expect that they would come to arrest me today. In my defense, I like these socks and I like this skirt and I like this shirt, which is a common link between them, and thus, they go together. Although it’s true that I’m simultaneously wearing horizontal stripes, diagonal stripes, and a floral print, I don’t think that’s really the important point here. The important point is that I’m wearing awesome clothes today. I have such style and class.

9. I am vaguely aware of the fact that if anybody else was to walk into my dorm room and look around, they would inevitably come to the conclusion that I am weird. I suppose it’s already a little strange that the top of my desk is completely hidden under stacks of books, (which are piled on top of a finished jigsaw puzzle) a chess board, and various papers and notebooks. What’s a little odder, though, is that one of my walls has nine pieces of notebook paper taped to it, all of which are covered in letters and numbers. Two of them are about chess games, but the other seven are all records of random stuff written in forms of notation that I had to invent myself.

10. I hate my internet connection. It will hardly ever stay online for long enough for me to actually do stuff. I’m really sick and tired of losing chess and scrabble games just because I keep losing my internet connection. I suppose that those technically aren’t the most important things I do with the internet, but they definitely are the most time-sensitive things. So far today, I’ve won a couple games by playing well and have lost quite a lot of games by losing my internet connection. If there was a list of the most frustrating situations in the universe, unreliable internet connections would be pretty close to the top.

11. Last night, it occurred to me to wonder what would happen if I soaked bits of marshmallows in the paprika water in which I had previously baked apple slices. There’s only one way to find out. They’ve been soaking for half a day now, and I think it’ll soon be time to take a look at them and see if anything interesting happened. If not, I can always microwave them, because microwaving marshmallows is always interesting.

12. I remember the last time I was bored. It was April 12, 2007.

13. Once upon a time, I had a dream in which my brother challenged me to figure out a system of 26-variable calculus in order to convert language into mathematical equations. (Incidentally, as bizarre as that sounds, it really is the kind of thing that my brother and I would think about doing) Even though it was only a dream, I took that challenge seriously, and I am annoyed by the fact that I still don’t know how one would go about doing that.

14. ‘Tis raining, which is odd considering that it was a beautiful, sunny, summery day just a few minutes ago. But actually, this is a very nice summer rain, and I bet it won’t last for long anyway. I’m just really glad that I decided not to leave my car windows open a crack. Oh, what d’ya know, it just stopped raining. That was quick. Alabama weather is weird.

Here is a random picture from last summer that shows the cat messing up the scrabble game my sister and I were playing. It’s automatically a cute picture since it has both my cute cat and my cute sister in it.

15. My vocabulary really is sadly deficient.  For the last couple weeks, I’ve been keeping track of all the words I can find that I don’t know, and the list is outrageously long. Every morning, I write all the new additions to the list on little slips of paper and put them in a box with the others, and then, at intervals throughout the day, I take a few words out of the box, guess what they mean, and look up their definitions. If I was right about what it is, I make a mark on the slip of paper before it goes back in the box; I can take it out once it has five marks.  I’m starting to think I should be using a bigger box for this.

16. Someday, relatively soon, I will be an adult and will no longer live in a college dorm, and I’ll have my own kitchen and be able to cook my own food and will have a well-balanced and nutritious diet. I am looking forward to that very much. Nonetheless, I am currently quite content with the fact that my diet lately has consisted mainly of chocolate oatmeal, peanut butter jelly sandwiches, yogurt, microwaved s’mores, and excessive quantities of ice cream and milkshakes.

17. Great camaduka, that’s a weird-looking cloud.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics and the First Law of Thermostats

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I’m not going to pretend that I really understand much about physics, but between my high school physics book and Google, I think I know what the second law of thermodynamics is. It says that in a closed system, the temperature tends towards equilibrium, or in other words, cold stuff cools down hot stuff and hot stuff heats up cold stuff. This explains why ice melts in a glass of water, why putting food in a hot oven makes it cook, and why my parents always told me and my sister that our bedroom wouldn’t be the hottest room in the house on a warm summer day if we’d just leave the door open so that there’d be some air flow.

Technically, a room with a closed door isn’t exactly a closed system, unless the door is totally airtight. Most buildings, though, act as closed systems as long as all the doors and windows are closed. Thus, if the air conditioning is set to a certain temperature, that’s the temperature it will be in that building. Of course, depending upon various details of the building and the air conditioning system, it might not literally be the exact same temperature in the entire building. That’s not the point, though; the point is that if you set the air conditioning at a really low temperature because it’s hot outside, then it will be cold inside. Of course, the reverse applies for furnaces. If you turn the heat up really high because you’re cold, then it’ll get really hot.

It’s annoying to be in a building where the temperature is too high or low, but it’s even more annoying when the temperature outside is at the other extreme. The human body can gradually adjust itself to temperature changes, (through some method that I’m sure relates to the second law of thermodynamics somehow) but it can’t instantly adjust to a drastic temperature change. If my dorm room is about 80 degrees, the library where I work is about 70 degrees, the laundry room in my dorm is in the 60s, it’s 100 degrees outside, and it’s a zillion bajillion degrees inside my car, I’m not going to be comfortable at any of those temperatures.

Therefore, my plea to people in general is this: Don’t set the thermostat temperature so high in the winter and so low in the summer.

A New Experience

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This summer, I have been expanding my horizons, embracing new experiences, and learning about how other people see the world. It was not my intention to do so, it kind of just happened, but I have been living life as I have never lived it before. What I mean is this: I have temporarily stopped being a morning person. It is no longer natural and normal for me to get up and start my day long before everyone else and then to be asleep when the night is still young. Now I tend to go to sleep at two or three in the morning, if not later, and then struggle to wake up at a reasonable time. Because my to-do list specifically says that I have stuff to do in the morning, I generally do force myself to be out of bed by about seven-ish (which is already pretty late by my regular non-summer standards) but every now and then, I decide to sleep as late as I want, mostly out of curiosity to see what it’s like to sleep up late, and to see what time is a natural waking-up time, according to my current lifestyle. Each time I do that, it is a little later. Today, it was going on nine when I finally dragged myself out of bed, which is probably the latest I’ve ever woken up when I’m healthy. If this trend continues, I might end up waking up at three or four in the afternoon by the end of the summer.

Actually, this has not been a complete transformation. I never was completely a morning person, at least not for the last several years. Waking up is not a fun thing to do and I think it is horrible that people have to go through that ordeal every single day. What makes it even worse is the fact that we have to do it before having breakfast and coffee; any task that difficult should only be done after having slowly eased into the day. Unfortunately, that’s not actually possible. I am enough of a non-morning person to feel that way even when I’m in the habit of getting up at 5:55 AM every day. Even now, though, I haven’t completely become a night person. I still have less energy and less inclination to do important stuff when it’s late; lateness is a good time to listen to music or watch science fiction, and even then, there’s a good chance that I will fall asleep before the movie/episode is over.

I definitely intend to revert back to my morning-person schedule by the end of the summer, but for the next few weeks, I’m fine with this whole staying-up-super-late thing. It has long been a matter of interest to me to know whether morning people and night people really see the world differently. Does the chronology of the day literally work in opposite directions for these two different categories of humanity, or do night people just feel morning tiredness more acutely than morning people, and vice versa? Based upon my recent experiences, I think that the latter is the case. Since I still retain many of my morning-person tendencies, I can’t offer a definite and decisive statement on this matter, but it has seemed to me that morning still feels like morning and night still feels like night. I just don’t necessarily like the morning anymore.

Dear Morning, I know you and I have had some good times together, but now I hate you. No offense.

Summer Survival Tips

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In case anyone reading this doesn’t already know, Alabama is hot in the summer. Specifically, the high yesterday was 103 degrees, and that was pleasantly cool compared to most of last week. Besides that, it’s ridiculously humid most days, and the sun is pretty intense, too. In this kind of weather, the common conversation starters “Hi” and “How are you?” decrease in popularity as most people choose instead to begin their conversations with remarks about the temperature. Heat is also the favored topic of facebook statuses and photo captions. These conditions will apply for at least the next eight or nine weeks, and probably a while longer than that. In recognition of this fact, here are a few tips for how to survive summer weather.

1. Ice Cream

This is the kind of ice cream that awesome people eat

This is a pretty obvious one. For most of the year, ice cream is something of a special treat. It’s something you eat sometimes (but not necessarily very often) because it tastes good. During the summer, ice cream becomes much more essential, and the flavor is only one of several reasons. When it’s very hot, foods that are generally served warm lose much of their appeal. In fact, even foods that are generally served at room temperature may not seem so appetizing. In order to keep from starving, it is necessary to eat cold foods. Ice cream, of course, is the logical choice. Besides, there are few joys that compare with eating a large quantity of ice cream outside on a hot day, allowing the ice cream to soften and melt as you eat it. (One of those few joys that does compare with it is the joy of eating a moderate amount of ice cream outside on a hot day. It is clear, though, what the one must conclude after making this comparison. More ice cream is better.)

2. Sun Tea

When I was little, I didn’t like iced tea, so it’s a little ironic that the memories of sun tea have stuck with me the way they have. My family has a big glass jar with a yellow picture of the sun and a yellow plastic lid. On some summer days, particularly if it’s a special occasion, my parents will fill it with water, stick a bunch of tea bags in it, and leave it to sit in the sun, causing the water to slowly and semi-magically turn into tea. Despite the fact that I rarely drank any of that tea and didn’t really enjoy it when I did, there was something pleasant about the knowledge that there was tea brewing outside. I think it was mostly because of pleasant associations. To my subconscious mind, sun tea was connected with various other aspects of the summertime, like the patriotic music that we listened to on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, and like visiting my grandparents, whose sun tea was just like my parents’ sun tea. Now, I actually do like iced tea, and I was delighted to discover last summer that I can make sun tea on my windowsill in a little glass jar that originally had strawberry jam in it. This summer, I have been using a slightly larger jar that used to have apple butter in it. The iced tea itself isn’t any more effective at keeping one cool than ice water is, but ice water is less special, partly because it is boringly clear, and partly because it doesn’t sit on your windowsill looking very interesting. I like to think that anyone outside looking up at my tea-making window would think that I’m some kind of mad scientist doing a bizarre experiment.

3. Don’t Hide from the Heat

Besides, it’s beautiful. Why stay inside all day when outside looks like this?

Apparently, this one is a little counter-intuitive, because I have noticed that most people seem to think that the best way to handle the heat is to spend as much time as possible inside with the air conditioner set to a fairly chilly temperature. The problem with that is that anytime you do go outside, you’re not prepared for the heat. If you go outside every now and then, and if you set the temperature inside to be somewhat warmer than ideal, you adjust a little better. Of course, there’s nothing you can do to make yourself feel comfortable at ninety or a hundred or a hundred ten degrees unless you are one of the rare people who actually don’t mind heat as much as the rest of us do. Still, it’s better to be uncomfortable because of the heat than totally incapacitated by it, and letting yourself get accustomed to it can make a difference.

4. Ice Cream

Oh, I said this one already, didn’t I? Well, it’s the most important one, so it bears repeating. Eat lots of ice cream. It’s awesome.

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