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Bulk shopping, hair care

I have strong opinions on the subject of bulk shopping. I generally dislike the style that involves going to Costco and buying a pound of cinnamon. Unless a person makes cinnamon rolls every single day, I have a hard time imagining a scenario where a person would be able to use up a pound of cinnamon before it loses its wonderful flavor. Plus, you're still left with an empty plastic container at the end, and now you have to get rid of it somehow. Downcycling isn't quite the same as recycling either.

Shampoo and conditioner have been a slightly different story. I know I've written about that before, specifically because I know annikusrex made a good conditioner recommendation to me, but Goog seems incapable of pulling up the old entry, sigh. Lame. Regardless! I can now tell you that it takes me ~3 years to use up a one-gallon jug of shampoo, and the shampoo remains perfectly good up until the end. And so, today, I had the joy of ordering a fresh one-gallon jug of shampoo, along with a one-gallon jug of conditioner. Here's to the next three years of hair-washing!

This reminds me of two other things I've pondered recently. Have you heard about the trend of coloring armpit hair? I think it's hilariously fun. Why not? It celebrates the fact that women have armpit hair.

I still shave my armpit hair. By this point, it just feels better to me. But I go through periods where I stop shaving my leg hairs because it's an annoying costly chore and my skin doesn't like it. That got me to thinking about what it would be like to live in a culture/place where people don't have strange notions about body hair modifications (think about threading as another instance). What "manufactured needs" do we accept, and where do we draw the line for personal/aesthetic/financial reasons?

Farewell, Grandpa

My last remaining grandparent passed away this morning, at around 3 am. Overall, I think our family experienced many blessings during his transition back to stardust, so while we will all mourn his passing, we will do so with the knowledge that he felt ready to go and was surrounded by loving family and lifelong friends. More than anything, I'm glad he was able to spend his final days at home.

I'm grateful I had a chance to visit with him over Thanksgiving as well - it was pretty clear that he was beginning to slip away. I just regret that he and my dad won that last cribbage game.

Tough times for my family right now. Several of my dad's siblings are experiencing some serious health complications, on top of what my dad's currently going through. Liver surgery's scheduled for the end of the month, but my dad's been fighting this terrible cold ever since Thanksgiving. It's a nasty one - I'm still experiencing some of the lingering aftereffects, and I'm in good health. Get plenty of rest and eat well and take care of yourself during this season, folks.


Blargh [book: The Circle]

So, my mom read The Circle (Dave Eggers) recently for her book club, and then left her copy of the book lying around the house. When I was in town, she asked if I'd like it, after multiple people had glanced at it and generally agreed, "Yeah...disturbing." I shrugged and brought it back to Texas with me.

Now that I think about it, I recall feeling ambivalent after finishing A Hearbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, too. I appreciate a lot of what Eggers does for the literary world, but his writing grates.

The book managed to be sufficiently gripping that I stayed up past my bedtime reading it last night, but I would say, in a heartbeat, just go read 1984 instead and be done with it.

The biggest thought I take away from The Circle is, what's involved in trying to construct a successful novel where the protagonist isn't likeable?



Life these days mostly consists of erging and writing manuscripts, although I did get to spend Sunday afternoon making a bûche de Noël with the housemates. J had never made a French buttercream before, so it was fun to show him a new trick. Meanwhile, A, K, and B played with marzipan for decorations, instead of the slightly more traditional meringue:


This photo shows the backsides of a couple of wee ants made by A, and a whole bunch of sparkly mushrooms. And yes, that's Mr. Hanky in front. My eventual conclusion is that at some point I'm going to have to make a more biologically-accurate bûche. Think about it - I could fill it with all kinds of insects and fascinating fungi!

Anyway. By yesterday afternoon, I was exhausted, but managed to get myself on the erg nonetheless. From the erg, I headed straight to a nearby bar for a bicycling "brews cruise" put on by one of the local brewers. Because, yay bikes, and yay, another chance to ride around with silly lights! After our second stop, in downtown Bryan, I'd just about lost my voice, so I headed home and to bed.

When I'm about to go to sleep and scrottie is out of town, I always send him a quick good-night text message, and then he sends along a reply shortly thereafter. Well, I must have been REALLY tired last night, because I was out pretty cold by the time he texted back. And yet a part of my brain decided that I wasn't really asleep after all, so I should send him a second text in reply to his first text. The most I remembered of the experience the next morning was a feeling of the struggle involved in typing in the correct letters on the phone keypad. It turns out I sent a pretty coherent message, in the end. But I hope I don't make a habit of this sleep-texting.

Our land

My last living grandfather is in his final days. He's surrounded by loved ones, giving vigilant attention, which, as an uncle has noted, is exactly what he would want. I'm ever more grateful that I was able to visit him twice while home over Thanksgiving. The living memories are so, so important.

As I process my emotional response to this, I'm remembering a phrase shared by a native American woman who felt called to work on explaining to us non-natives some distinctions in our respective worldviews. She said, "The earth is our ancestors. We are walking on the ashes of our ancestors."

Once again, Mt. Rainier factors into this story. My grandfather has been moved, at his request, back to his home of over a half-century. He's in the living room, where Mt. Rainier is present to greet him. He has gone out to visit the mountain just about every year of his life. It has been a rich, fulfilling life. In the way of Western civilization, none of the family members have been especially interested in and committed to the project of inheriting the land he's lived on and cared for and cultivated. So, in the way of Western civilization, the lot will be sold once he passes on. Given on to a new set of memories, without much attention to the history and legacy of the space. I suspect the sad, old apple tree will go, too. Maybe the blueberry bushes will be spared, and the pears. The house's septic system is in poor shape, so the house will probably go, too. The barn, with its distinct creosote barn-smell, long disused, slumbers. In many ways, it's the barn that's the center of that piece of land.

And with the house and barn and land gone, our memories will be loosened to roam free, like ghosts. They will be called back on Mud Mountain because it is so big and sloppy that not even westerners could turn it into a thing to be bought and sold.

I think, too, about the phrase uttered by the native woman when I read about this decision. Just as Texas is leaching its earth, so is Arizona. We Westerners still aren't any good at thinking in cycles (birth-life-death-rebirth), or thinking beyond our individual life spans of profits and incomes and wealth and power and force and violence.


Current status: In Texas, applying for jobs and writing manuscripts. Departure date looks to be pushed back to the end of January. Subsequent destination: Lincoln, Nebraska, for 6 months, for more manuscript-writing and an experiment. Destination after that, unknown. I was involved in an NSF proposal which might have extended my time in Lincoln, but learned today that it did not get funded (PHOOEY). So, that's that.

Several postdoc positions have popped up this year that have sounded quite enticing, but timing's tricky and I can't seem to get useful feedback from some key players on whether I should apply for them or not. Part of the question is, can I stand to spend another __ years living somewhere on a temporary basis? Can I stand to keep gutting it out in a tight academic job market? An extremely helpful phone conversation with my brother indicated to me that I'm still on the young end of the spectrum in terms of applying for faculty positions within my subdiscipline, but the ratio of my "years since PhD" to number of publications is at least within a reasonable range for my field, and I know my publications are of good quality.

The lead time involved in applying for faculty jobs might astound non-academics - the timeframe is around a full year between applying and starting a job. In the meantime, I find it a bit hard to wrap my head around the short turnaround time for non-academic jobs.

One of the difficult aspects of this stage of things is that there are many people in my life who would like to be reassured that, on some level or another, things will be all right. Figuring out how to respond to that is, in itself, emotionally draining.

Rowing on the brain

The trouble with getting up early and erging in the morning is the energy crash that happens an hour after the conclusion of erging. It's bad enough this morning that I postponed the bike ride in to work until lunchtime.

But at least I got the day's meters done.

Last night's dream was rowing-themed: it involved sitting in bow seat, holding a wooden oar handle, and feeling exceptionally weak and as if I'd forgotten everything I knew about rowing. Then, for some reason, the coach decided to pull all of the other rowers out of the boat (they'd all been selected to race in an upcoming regatta for which I wasn't eligible), so I had to row the boat back to the dock by myself. Magically, it worked, despite the fact that I was sweep rowing with only one oar (port).

The other day, a friend pointed out this system for converting a stand-up paddleboard to a single rower. I imagine it would feel like rowing an ocean wherry - more pleasant than an erg, to be sure, but not quite the same as skimming along in a narrow, sleek racing shell. But I also imagine it would be more durable and easier to store and transport for those of us who are itinerant.


Bird by Bird

I'm thinking about rewriting my teaching statement for these job applications. Alternatively, I might just write another document, a Teaching Manifesto, intended to reach a broader audience beyond hiring committees, because over the years of my own education and teaching I've reached a specific perspective on educational goals, and I'm starting to think the whole thing deserves to be its own essay.*

Part of the reason I bring this up is because I first heard about the subject of this post, the book Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, in my undergraduate Writing Fellows training seminar, and the Writing Fellows experience continues to inform how I approach teaching. I'm not quite yet at a point where I'm ready to write the shitty first draft (Lamott lingo) of my Teaching Manifesto, but when I do I suspect you'll be the first to hear about it.

Bird by Bird is twenty years old by now, but it's a timeless book for writers because Lamott does a phenomenal job of reaching out and capturing the thoughts and emotions one experiences as a writer. While her intended audience is primarily writers of fiction, writers of all stripes will find in her work someone who is sympathetic to the struggles of professional writing and able to offer up both consolation and kicks in the pants as necessary.

While reading the book, though, I kept thinking back to a comment scrottie made while I was reading Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, by Studs Turkel. He had a hard time with the idea of reading Working because the concept of reading about work just sounded like a whole bunch of work! However, that wasn't my experience of Working - Turkel did such an amazing job of capturing the different workers' voices and their passions for what they were doing and purposes behind their work, that the book is a rich and fascinating compilation about the human experience.

Reading Bird by Bird was closer to work than leisure reading. I read most of the book while traveling, where I didn't have the mental space to settle in and write, so it also involved reading about work instead of just going out and getting work done. Today, after finishing it, I wound up bringing the book in to work so it can sit next to How to Write a Lot, which looms on a bookshelf right above my desk for maximal impact.

And on that note, perhaps I should get back to work.

*The other day on a different social media platform, I posted a rather simple commentary piece on how most students don't know what learning is, but in the same vein, there's some odd tension in the biological sciences over teaching methodologies, too. With teaching philosophies, it can actually be dangerous to be overly pedantic, and at the same time, many biologists teach poorly or use uninformed teaching methods. So - the Manifesto will start with my perspective on the purpose of an undergraduate education, and will then cover specific tools and approaches that should be used to facilitate student development, as informed by my experiences in grad school and as an undergraduate Writing Fellow.

Descent into holiday madness

Last night's erging was, oof. But! We managed to get some "pink-frosted cookies" baked up and decorated with rainbow frosting colors and sprinkles:

Cookie time
(photo by K)

Of course, the frosting recipe I used makes oodles of frosting, which means we have leftover rainbow frosting, which means we're going to have to do something with it, like make a gingerbread house. And that got us talking about making a bûche de Noël. Plus I might make one other treat that can be mailed off to a couple of key individuals.

As if we all need the sugar high.

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