A fun collection of comic strips that are perfect for the introverted, self-conscious, and generally weird among us (so, you know, basically everyone who bothers to read online book reviews!) The breezy visuals contrast well with the feelings of insecurity and uncertainty that are the topics of most (though not all) of the strips, but this isn’t a “collection of despair.” You’ll laugh at most of them, and there are also several that extol the virtues of being cozy. This is very much a “feel-good” collection. I’ve been a fan of the online version of these comics for a while now and I’m looking forward to more of the author’s work; this collection in particular really gives me a sense that Sarah Andersen is a talent to watch. All in all, highly recommended.
Absolutely amazing; the perfect blend of heartfelt, passionate, thoughtful, and scientifically interesting. Although I love trees (having moved to the PNW specifically to be in forests again), I’ve never really thought particularly hard about them, about what they’re doing. Trees are scenery; beautiful scenery, no doubt, but certainly not the most important part of the story, right? Stories are about characters, not backgrounds.
Hope Jahren’s book convinced me how wrong I was to think of trees and plants as mere background. They are active characters engaged in their own lives and their own struggles, and though it doesn’t play out in a timeline that makes sense to most humans, the stories of trees are just as interesting as our own.
Jahren’s book alternates between brief (but fascinating) passages about the lives and science of various plants; how they grow, how they struggle, what they’re doing, and each section is relevant to a bit of the narrative of her own life. Resiliency, love, achievement; each part of Jahren’s own human existence is related and connected to the lives of trees and plants.
This is a hopeful, thoughtful book that invites you into a world you’ve seen every day but likely haven’t stopped to consider. I found myself reading entire passages aloud to my fiancee, eagerly sharing with her the latest fascinating thing I’d just read, even though she’d already agreed to read the book herself when I was finished with my copy. But the feeling of discovery of a new world was so exciting, so marvelous, that I couldn’t help but share whatever I found. In that way, I found myself relating to the author more than I ever thought possible.
If you’re a nature lover, this book deserves to be on your shelf. But even if you’re not, even if you’ve never thought of a tree beyond that time you pressed leaves as a kid in school, let Jahren show you her world. Share her triumphs and obsessions and enjoy her very personal, very deeply moving story of what it’s like to be a woman devoted to science. But most of all, let her show you how interesting it is to think about trees. She and her trees might just surprise you.
Welcome to 2016! What? It’s already been 2016 for an entire week? What do you mean? Where have I been? Why am I writing so many questions?
Indeed. Where have I been? New Year’s Day was a week ago tomorrow. Everyone else already shuffled through the New Year’s Day hangover and made resolutions, unfogged their brains, and then went back to work and life. What have I been doing, that it took me a week to woke up?
Well, due to a convergence in the schedules, I ended up with a solid seven days off from work. Seven days. IN A ROW. Without spending any vacation days. See, what happened was that my schedule was set to rotate to a new one in 2016. The combination of having Friday off (New Year’s Day), my old schedule having the last part of the week off and my new schedule having the first part of the week off, it created this unbroken string of days that did not require me to wear pants.
What did I do with all my free time? Well, I’m happy to say I did go for a few hikes, including one hike while it was snowing, and that was lovely. But mostly I gamed. I gamed hard.
My intended furnished me with several video games over the holidays, including the Witcher 3 and Fallout 4. Both of these games are absolutely massive, sprawling world RPGs that can easily devour 100 hours or more. EACH.
Basically, it was an epic video game bender. It was glorious.
But it’s glorious because it’s the kind of thing you do very rarely. It was fun to laze about for a week, accomplish nothing, ignore my email, and basically lose myself in the digital worlds. But it’s hard to do that for too long without it starting to affect your mind and not in a “video games rot your brain” kind of way, but more like “I need to actually be doing something again so I don’t become a shell of a person.”
It reminded me of how it was to be in my late teens and early twenties; even though I was in college, even though I had a job, gaming binges like that were what I loved most. But as I’ve gotten older (and I am older now, my 29th birthday was Dec. 24), my gaming time has become more selective, dare I say, more mature. I’ll go for long periods without playing anything. I’ll play for a few hours after dinner and dishes are done. The binge days are long over. And that’s a good thing. For the most part.
It was fun to lose myself for a while, but only for a while. I’m dusting off the cobwebs from my brain and getting back to work. I’ve got a day job that I love and I’ve got a novel that I’m excited about. I’ve got my wedding coming up and man if that isn’t making the time fly. There’s a lot going on. Life is good and there’s a lot to do and I wouldn’t change anything else about it.
The virtual world is a fun place to visit. I’m going to keep on visiting, because oh my god you guys these games are so much fun. But the binge is over. And I’m glad that it is. I don’t think I’d want to live that way, even if I could.
I’m going to tell you a story about something that didn’t happen. But it could have happened, almost did happen, and the telling of what could have happened is worthy and amusing.
I started a new job last week (relevant contextual detail) and I was scheduled to go into work in the afternoon. I have not yet been at this job for a full week. I do not know my boss’s phone number, my department’s phone number, or any other means of contacting my employer.
I was doing the morning chores, washing dishes, the usual. Because it was the morning and my girlfriend had already left for work, I was not wearing pants of any kind (although to be fair, I usually don’t wear pants when she’s here, either). Regardless, it’s just me in my boxers and my undershirt.
The recycling was full and had been moved to the front porch for transfer once I was done with everything else. I picked up an empty box and carried it outside to put with the other materials. As I did so, I noticed the front door was swinging shut behind me. In a moment of ninja reflexes, I caught the door a half-second before it closed. Then I tried the doorknob, to see what would have happened if I hadn’t caught it.
It was locked.
Imagine being locked out of your house in your underwear. You didn’t carry your cell phone outside with you, so you have no way of calling your girlfriend to come home and let you back in. You don’t have your keys and you don’t have a secret key squirreled away somewhere outside. Your house is a second & third story condo, so climbing through a window to get back in is out, not to mention you’re really particular about keeping all the doors and windows locked to prevent someone else from doing the exact same thing.
And you can’t even just wait for your girlfriend to come home and free you from your predicament, because she’s gone for the next eight hours and you have a new job you need to be at yourself before then.
And you don’t really know your neighbors all that well, because you’re somewhat of a shy person, so if you did go to a neighbor for help (say, to call your girlfriend to come home and let your ass back in or to call a locksmith), you get to do that in your underwear (and not your best, this-is-the-underwear-I’d-wear-if-I-spontaneously-became-a-stripper underwear, but the It’s-laundry-day-and-this-was-the-only-thing-that-was-clean underwear).
And if you decide you don’t want to confront your neighbors, the only other way to reach your girlfriend would be to walk a mile down the road (in your underwear!) and approach the receptionist’s desk at her office (which is now the same office that you just started working at) and ask the receptionist to page her for you and you can be assured that your new boss and all of your co-workers in your new department would probably arrive back from lunch together at that exact moment and you would forever be known (assuming you still have a job) as that guy who showed up to the office in his underwear.
Also, I forgot to mention that I wasn’t wearing shoes. So there’s that.
So there you go. A story about how a locked front door, a gust of wind, and my underwear very nearly started a chain reaction that would have led to me getting arrested after walking into Target to steal a pair of jeans.
I’m glad it didn’t happen. I do feel bad for the alternate-universe version of myself who is now dealing with all of that, however.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a twenty-something male is living on his own and is pretty bad when it comes to basic life skills like maintaining one’s files and/or opening mail. The mail all goes into a pile on the young man’s desk. When the desk starts to overflow, the mail (most of it unopened) all goes into a box that can be safely hidden away until a vague, unspecified future date when the young man “will get around to it.”
The idea was that I needed a paper shredder because I was getting roughly a hundred pre-approved credit card applications a week and I knew that if I threw them out, anyone willing to root around in my trash could sign up for a shiny Capital One card with a low APR of only 23%. This might sound paranoid but for the fact that I have literally had to chase someone out of my trash bin who was rooting through my discarded stuff.
So all those Capital One offers went into the box. And I was also vaguely uncertain about how long I needed to store my pay stubs, so those all went into the box too. And since I wasn’t sorting my mail, it all went into the box. My bank statements went in as well, and the bills, and the student loan stuff . . .
And of course, I was paying my loans online and doing my banking online and paying the bills online, so there really wasn’t a need for any of that paper. I didn’t want to throw it out though, so into the box it went.
I asked for (and received!) a paper shredder for Christmas and armed with this fearsome tool of whirling blades and gnashing teeth, I resolved to finally get through my box. I hauled it out into the living room and proceeded to open and then shred roughly three years of statements, applications, and other junk.
I hauled away four full trash bags of shredded paper that day. My only regret is that I didn’t take a picture of the before and after.
Now? Now there is a trim little file folder on my desk. My important documents are in there. Everything else goes right into the shredder, instead of a box.
Is this what growing up feels like?
So, it’s been pretty quiet around here, yeah? My fault, of course; I’m the sole proprietor of this little corner of teh intarwebz. There are a lot of things I could blame for my recent lack of personal responsibility, a state that extends far beyond just not blogging for a while.
I could say that the double punch of rolling from another grueling NaNoWriMo right into “having an Xbox One” ended up being a lethal blow to my personal productivity. Why sit down and try to write something when there are so many games to play? Dragon Age: Inquisition alone took about a month to play, although that was because I took my time with it and sipped slowly, savoring each story progression quest like a fine wine. I still have Titanfall (shoot things as a giant robot!) and Destiny (shoot things with space magic!), not to mention that I finally tried MineCraft for the first time, even though this puts me a few years behind everyone else in the world.
If there’s a more deadly game to one’s productivity than MineCraft, I don’t know what it is. Last night, I intended to relax and play for half an hour before going to bed; and then suddenly, it’s 1:30 am and I’m halfway through the construction of an underwater glass tunnel. Why am I building an underwater glass tunnel? BECAUSE UNDERWATER GLASS TUNNEL.
I could say that all of those fun things are the reason why my blog went stagnant, I stopped updating my budget, and failed to really do anything outside of going to work. But that’s not the real reason. I could also say that, well, basically I’m a video game addict and so it’s my addiction’s fault, but I’m hesitant of using the word “addiction” so freely. There’s a much more appropriate word, in my opinion: escapism.
It’s easier to escape into a virtual world. It’s smooth and it’s easy and it’s fun. The problem is that you tell yourself you’re just going to take one quick dip into the abyss, just stick your toe in a little, but the abyss doesn’t want to let you go. Its pull is slow and steady and sure. And once you’re in up to your knee, suddenly the fact that you haven’t written anything, anything for four weeks feels like too much failure to overcome. What would I write about at this point? Sorry for not writing? I hate posts like that. A blog that fills up with “I promise to write more” is a blog that’s already on life support.
It’s easier just to stay in the abyss.
I write this because I’ve learned to come up from those depths. It was World of WarCraft during my undergrad years that taught me the importance of actually attending to my own life, although sadly it was a lesson that took much longer than a month over the holidays to learn. But I did learn it, even if sometimes it’s easy to slide back down.
It’s not a New Year’s resolution. I’m not resolving to write more often, exercise more, play fewer games, worker harder on my budget and paying down my student loan debt. This is just a moment in time; a realization that I am an escapist and like so many facets of one’s personality, there is a dark side as well as a light one. Realizing it is the only way I know how to keep it in check.
I think I’m close. I’ve got a house in my sights. All I need to do . . . is pull the trigger.
BLAM. And then the lease agreement will be signed, and it will all be over . . . except for the moving.
It really is quite remarkable how you can make anything sound ominous with the right metaphorical language. I should work for the news media!
Seriously, though, I’ve ridden by so many houses over the past few days. I wonder how many people have looked our their window only to be startled by a helmet-clad man in a black and green jacket, peering into the window of a neighboring house.
Fortunately, no one has asked about me yet. I might end up living in one of these places and one really wants to put the best foot forward when meeting new neighbors.
Titan is my favorite moon. Well, okay, aside from our moon. There’s a lot to appreciate about our moon. It’s very pretty to look at and we do sort of owe it our existence as terrestial-based lifeforms, what with its role in creating the tides and all. So I do owe the moon quite a bit, as much as one can “owe” a celestial body.
But there are other moons in our solar system and of those non-Earth moons, Titan is my favorite.
It’s a moon with its own atmosphere! It has lakes of liquid methane on its surface! Its particular combination of dense atmosphere and low gravity means that a human on the surface of Titan could strap on a pair of wings to one’s arm and fly. You know, assuming the intense cold and/or toxic atmosphere wasn’t instantly fatal.
It’s also the most distant object we’ve ever landed a man-made object on! We have a picture of its surface!
Admittedly, this is not the most impressive picture ever taken. It’s downright lame when you consider the beautiful shots that the Curiosity Rover is posting to its Twitter account! This picture kinda sucks . . . unless you consider what it really represents.
This isn’t Mars. This is a moon in the outer solar system. It might be smudgy, it might be low res, it might be a picture of a field of rocks but this is the most distant land we’ve ever laid eyes on.
When talking about moons, the hot topic these days is the potential for life. We know that moons like Europa (around Jupiter) and Enceladus (around Saturn) have sub-surface oceans that might be just suitable to support life.
I’ve always held out hope that Titan, which also is believed to have a giant sub-surface ocean, might end up being the one, the first place in the solar system outside of Earth where we encounter life.
If I’m very, very, very honest and I admit that I’m allowing myself to dream, we’ll land a rover and find little spacefish. I realize that it’s much more likely the first definitive proof of alien life will be little microbes.
It seems a new report may have knocked Titan out of the running as a candidate for life, much to my dismay:
New research casts doubt on the possibility of finding life as we know it on Saturn’s moon, Titan. The giant ocean believed to exist below the moon’s surface has long been thought a place where life could exist . . . In a paper published earlier this month, NASA researchers say they have found evidence that the ocean could be “as salty as Earth’s Dead Sea.”
It’s possible that Titan might have had life in the past and there will be cool remains to discover. Even if there isn’t any life to be found, it’s still an endlessly fascinating place.
But if it’s as salty as the Dead Sea? There’s a reason why we call it that, after all.
And yes, I realize that even the Dead Sea does have trace amounts of microbial life. It’s still not the same. I want Titan’s oceans to be filled with crazy spacefish and weird star-plants!