Sunday, July 13th 2008

Bat and frog
posted @ 10:25 pm in [ ]

The bat and frog monitoring goes quite well, thanks!

I monitor frogs solo, and did so last week. My site is an intermittent stream, and I walk along it, as close to the water’s edge as I can, and poke around (up the bank, too) looking for leopard frogs. I didn’t find any the last time I went, but I did find a couple of turtles, several bullfrogs, and a mama duck with about 10 fuzzy little ducklings. The site is pretty challenging, between the terrain, steep banks in some spots, the fact that the stream splits into two or three streams at various points, and there is some getting through barbed wire fencing involved. Last week, there was also some mild cow confrontation as I irritated a herd while scrambling through a nearby fence and they all stood up and glared at me. Beef cattle ain’t dairy cows, that’s for sure.

The funny part is that the conservation folks are really annoyed with the bullfrogs. They’re an invasive species in Colorado, most likely having come along with the stocking of local trout ponds. They eat all kinds of stuff, from the insects and things that leopard frogs would like to eat, to mice and other small critters that wander too close to the water’s edge for a drink, to the leopard frogs themselves, regardless of their stages of development. It was hinted at that if I wanted to take a big ol’ spear along and have bullfrog legs for dinner every night for a week, they wouldn’t mind a bit.

It makes me ruminate on the nature of ecosystems and invasive species. At what point does an invasive species simply become part of the ecosystem? Since ecosystems change all the time, where do we draw the line saying a change has fully occurred?

The bat monitoring I do with a partner, who is a nice post-doc in biology and has also done some cool nonlinear dynamics work. We are stationed at a reservoir, which we monitor two consecutive nights at a time. We’ve done two stints so far. We hike in for about 20 minutes or so from where we park, set up by the reservoir a bit before dusk, and wait for the bats to come feed. For about the first hour or so, we’re both looking and listening. For the next hour, just listening. Because, yeah, it’s dark and stuff.

We are assisted in this listening with a piece of equipment that magnifies the sounds of bats’ wings flapping (Colorado bats can be heard around 35 - 40 kHz), and maybe a bit of their sonar. It’s a small box, about the size of the original Sony Walkman, with two knobs: kHz, and on-off/volume. What’s really cool is that it seems to me that each bat has a unique sound signature. When we hear multiple bats, they all sound different to me, and we often hear the same signatures again and again as a single bat will make multiple passes while feeding.

All in all, I’m really enjoying myself and learning a lot.

Monday, August 6th 2007

Hedonism Lifecoach and the 120-day plan
posted @ 10:43 am in [ - ]

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about what I wanted to accomplish next, which of my goals for the year I hadn’t met yet, and the fact that I have no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing in a few months’ time. I’m committed to teaching through the fall quarter, which ends the week before Thanksgiving. After that, who knows? It seemed like a good opportunity to work on some short-term pieces and goals. The 120-day plan includes elements like putting together a plan for mass publication of the diss, having my next piece of career lined up, making progress with some things I’d like to be better at, trying salsa dancing, and a bunch of other stuff.

One of the things I did was to stop going to the nutritionist I was seeing, because I was kinda miserable and my results sucked. Hedonism Lifecoach says: “Stop doing things that make you miserable and only give you sucky results!” I got a personal trainer instead, who gave me some customized workout plans (which are really good) and a nutrition plan based on the Glycemic Index. I’m crazy about it — it has aroused foodie passions in me I had no idea even existed. It’s all based on blood sugar, which I appreciate because I’m a bit hypoglycemic. Hypoglycemia is sort of the opposite of diabetes: instead of not making enough of your own insulin and having high blood sugar, hypoglycemics make a bit too much of their own insulin and have low blood sugar. It generally involves having to keep blood sugar stable by eating regularly throughout the day, the alternative in my case being getting really light-headed and stupid and sluggish, physically and mentally (yeah, it’s like a window on the current administration’s world — you’d think it would make me more sympathetic). Some people also get cranky or depressed.

Anyway, the idea with using the GI is to eat foods whose sugars are broken down and used gradually and efficiently (as opposed to lots of refined sugars and fake food, which tend to make blood sugar spike and crash), so lots of fresh fruit and vegetables that I like; some whole grains, which are good ’cause they have groovy textures; pleasant dairy products in moderation; the kinds of light proteins I’m big on anyway, like fish, ‘fu, and pulses; and hey, even some red wine now and then. The effect is terrific: it’s all my favorite foods in proportions I enjoy. It’s like every meal is a treat! I also don’t have any cravings at all, not even the late-evening desperate sugar ones I used to get with the previous low-carb, high-protein deal. When I told my new coach what my diet had been like for the past several months and what I missed, she kind of wrinkled her nose and promptly told me to eat all the fresh fruit I wanted. “Nobody ever got fat from eating grapes,” she commented. I would test that, but jeez, the low-GI lifestyle makes for some damn filling meals, which for me are all kind of Mediterranean-based tapas-esque fare. Some things happening or waiting to happen in my kitchen right now:

  • Artichoke hearts (the whole ones, in brine)
  • Tons of fruit: apples, mangoes, bananas, pears, berries…
  • Greek yogurt (fluffy, a lot like sour cream)
  • Kefir (this yogurty drink that somehow gives you a lovely sense of well-being)
  • Pita bread and piadina (Italian flatbread I make myself)
  • Spicy walnuts
  • Caramel-walnut biscotti (made with toasted out flour)
  • Salad with fun lettuce, dried berries, hearts of palm, and toasted walnuts
  • Ezekiel bread (made from a bunch of different sprouted grains–tasty and chewy)
  • Red peppers! Plain, stuffed with goat cheese and olives, topped with hummus… is there nothting they can’t do?
  • Celery juice and carrot juice, still big faves
  • Salsa
  • Caponata (an Italian pepper-based vegetable spread — I’m working up to using eggplant)
  • Roman egg drop soup (homemade vegetable broth, spinach, eggs)
  • Olive tapenade
  • Red pesto, made from sun-dried tomatoes
  • Pasta again! Yaaaaay!
  • Brown rice
  • Fish tagine, a lovely flavorful Moroccan fish and vegetable stewlike deal
  • Hummus
  • Tuna & chickpea salad (red onions, parsley, olive oil, red wine vinegar — I now officially have no use for mayo anymore)
  • Baby carrots
  • Stuffed grape leaves
  • Bite-sized bits of fresh salmon with mojo sauce
  • A nice peanutty shrimp and snow pea stir fry Phillip made last night with lovely peppers and onions
  • I bet there’s a red pepper frittata lurking in there…

So basically, I get maybe 2 - 5 of these things together on a plate, a few bites of each, tapas style, and it’s fantastic! I want to eat like this for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, June 19th 2007

Top 10 ways you can tell the friendship is really over
posted @ 11:44 am in [ - ]

I was having a phone conversation with someone yesterday, and this interesting question came up: Just because your friend ran off with your spouse or significant other, is he or she still your friend? Should you still expect to have tea? I’m thinking: No, not so much. Here are a few tips to help you cull your Christmas card list.

  1. You mortgage your house to bail her out of jail and she skips town immediately. She sends you a postcard that says only, “HA-HA!”

  2. Knowing you’re deathly allergic to peanut butter, she invites you over for some nice satay.

  3. You find a large pile of poop on your lawn with one of those little florist’s gift tag sticks in it proclaiming the poop to be to you from him. It does not appear to be gardening fertilizer.

  4. When confronted, he claims that going to the amusement park instead of showing up to donate that kidney he promised you was just “keepin’ it real.”

  5. She poisons you with anti-freeze over several years.

  6. The dummy he’s using to train his attack dog bears a striking resemblance to you and seems to be wearing your workout clothes.

  7. He shot you, or is Dick Cheney.

  8. You find her under your car with a pair of tinsnips and a pamphlet entitled, How to cut brake lines.

  9. He spray-paints “I hate you” on your car or child, or shaves it into your pets.

  10. Given the choice between receiving $5 and saving you from a scorpion pit by pressing a button, she takes the $5.

Monday, May 7th 2007

Hot Nerds Society
posted @ 10:10 am in [ - ]

In light of the responses to some recent postings, I feel compelled to tell you that I’ve been considering starting a sort of club. Many years ago, it occurred to me that I actually knew a bunch of nerdy hotties, and that they all felt kinda socially misunderstood in a lot of the same ways.

Cash Tower, for example, was conceived by a screamin’-hot astronomer/physicist of Norwegian extraction whose loves included sharp parody, vegetarianism, live jazz, social justice, and good beer, and who rode his bike everywhere he went. So: hot, funny, successful, smart, interesting, possessed of an impressive bike butt, among other fine qualities. I knew several women who were suitably impressed, but none of them asked him out. Why the hell not?! I could get them to confess they wanted to wear his ass as a hat, but they claimed to be too intimidated to try. “He’s a guy,” I would urge, “What is he going to do, say no?” My friend Tim was a computer nerd trapped in the body of a porn star who didn’t know how to date anyone he actually found interesting. I had other friends who were always settling, whether by downplaying their attractiveness so they would be taken seriously intellectually; or dating people they weren’t really compatible with; or just feeling sort of different.

I think there should be a place where hot nerds can go to hatch entertaining plots, have good conversations that don’t make the other person look like he just ate a bug, plan and take field trips, get and offer understanding personal and project-oriented advice and support, and just generally be unapologetically saucy and clever. Want to talk about how the M.I.T. Museum makes you all tingly? Here’s a sympathetic audience! Want to go to a dance club for an anthropological experiement in whether you can get any and need a wingman research assistant? You bet! Want to plan the hack to end all hacks, but can’t quite puzzle out how to get the goat to drive the police cruiser? Somebody here can probably give you a hand with that. It also gives us all the opportunity to crush those limiting stereotypes. We could raise money with a calendar containing hot pictures as well as pithy quotes and jokes supplied by members.

Saturday, April 21st 2007

Confession time
posted @ 10:17 pm in [ - ]

Suebob’s comment in the below reference to my new sideline deserves some response. I guess it was bound to come out sooner or later. Okay, I admit it: I’m not just an academically-trained wag. Sigh I’m attractive. Here, see for yourself.

I had a good time playing dress-up this week! I had an interview with one agency and a photoshoot with another. I think it would be a lot of fun to do some modeling to make money while I’m trying to make the diss into a book, for example. I really loved being a bike mechanic while I was starting this process. I’d still do that if I could afford it. It’s a nice balance to do something physical/not too mentally taxing while trying to do a lot of one’s own intellectual heavy lifting.

Okay, so back to the business about not telling you I’m foxy. Basically, it’s like this: Being a stone nerd trapped in the body of a 1940s pinup girl is the #1 thing that makes my life weird. In fact, it is so very, very nerdy in here that it often takes me a minute to realize when people are responding to the outer shell, even when they interact with me as if I am a member of a completely different species — maybe not even a eucaryote. (What the hell is this guy’s problem? Oh yeah: I’m hot.) I alluded to this a little bit when I talked about how I like poster sessions because I prefer to be judged on my ideas before an audience gets a good look at me. On the other hand, contrary to what I was led to believe in junior high school, Queen of the Nerds is a sweet, sweet, groovy position.

You gotta get past the initial “attractive women are idiots” reactions (and heaven forefend you are also a voluptuous mama with a sweet rack — it’s as if people assume that one’s ability to tie one’s own shoes disappears with the straight-shot view of one’s toes), though, to get the crown. It’s a pain in the ass. I guess I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think it was relevant to what you come by for, and I like being judged purely on what I think about and say and how I do it, and not on the basis of appearances, which, let’s face it, happens all too often in this culture.

So now you know.

Friday, April 6th 2007

Plug for online town meeting
posted @ 1:06 pm in [ ]

These days, I’m teaching a couple of online sections of a globalization course. One of the things I think is incredibly hopeful about globalizing forces is that regular folks have unprecedented access to each other, and to decision makers. It’s a very powerful vehicle for change that has barely begun to be tapped. MoveOn will be holding an online forum where regular folks all over the place can interact directly with some of the 2008 presidential candidates. I got the following request today and I’m honoring it because I think it’s a cool idea. The request itself, followed by the contact link to go check it out, is below.

“Can you help us spread the word about an unprecedented online event? Next Tuesday—April 10th—at 7:15pm Eastern, MoveOn is using the Internet to connect presidential candidates directly to the people. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, and Joe Biden will answer questions from’s 3.2 million members in the first of three unprecedented virtual town hall meetings. The topic: Iraq. MoveOn members are asking candidates the tough questions about their Iraq plans, and we’re gathering in living rooms from coast to coast to hear the answers directly. The mass media won’t be filtering our questions or filtering the answers—-MoveOn will be connecting candidates directly to the people. Right after the virtual town hall meeting, MoveOn will survey our members to see which candidate they believe will do the best job of leading us out of the war in Iraq. We will also let MoveOn members know how they can get involved with the candidate of their choice. Spreading the word about our virtual town hall on your blog will make this democratic experience that much more effective. We thank you in advance for your help—and as always, thanks for all you do.”

Join's Virtual Town Hall: Iraq

Sunday, March 25th 2007

Does he really deserve a sweater?
posted @ 1:12 am in [ - ]

I knit. Yeah, ’cause it’s what’s hot in the streets. It’s also fun to make useful items in a portable format, and you know what they say about idle hands being the devil’s workshop. In my case, they’re more like the devil’s Fordist mass-production factory floor. Nothing like a nice ball of yarn and some knitting needles to push that red, candylike, conveyer-belt-halting button, keeping one out of trouble.

Like a lot of people who knit, I give away the vast majority of my completed projects, and I’m usually making something specifically for someone else. For me, it’s mostly a pragmatic choice. I knit because I like to, and I produce so much knitted stuff that if I didn’t give it away, my house would be crammed to the rafters with various knitted doodads by now, and I wouldn’t be able to get out to, you know, get more yarn. Fine, I’m a fiber junkie! Is that what you wanted to hear?! I’m hiding my yarn “problem” by making things with it and giving them away! Happy?!

Okay, me too. But seriously, here’s something that has been coming up a lot lately. My only knitting girlfriend in this time zone found a perfect sweater pattern for this guy she’s into. The thing is, though, that making sweaters can be a real pain in the ass, especially if you want them to fit well, and it can take a while — and this pattern is a complicated one. So if you’re going to make a sweater for a guy, he’d better be a.) damned appreciative, b.) around when it’s finally finished, and c.) worth the hassle. This guy she’s into? Not a.), not c.), and not even b.) in the capacity she’d like. The hell with that, I say! Make him some butch mittens or something and let him earn a damn sweater.

I am not alone in this assessment. There’s a whole knitting book called something like Don’t Knit Your Man A Sweater Unless You’ve Got the Ring, and the very book in which the ever-so-perfect pattern in question appears — the fetchingly titled Domiknitrix — tells us, “If you are seriously planning to knit something for your sweetie … Make sure he’s into you. If you have any doubts whatsoever, don’t waste a minute knitting for him. Don’t entertain the delusion that you’re weaving a spell with each stitch. If you haven’t won him yet, the sweater will confirm he’s not worthy and send him packing. … If you’re at all unsure about your fella, start with a hat. Let him earn a sweater.” I might add: Surely someone in your life is more deserving of the project you’d really like to make. Might even be you.

So how is my girlfriend to know whether Mr. Unworthy has proven himself? Hmm, perhaps some guidelines are in order.

Mr. U.: Is engaged to a girl who is still in high school, whereas he is in his 30s. Worthy: Is not trying to wedge himself into a perpetual adolescence not involving really cool cars.

Mr. U.: Wants my friend to be available whenever he needs to go to the emergency room or needs any sort of reassurance. Worthy: Needs less reassurance, fewer trips to the emergency room, and is capable of reciprocating if she would like to go to the emergency room or be reassured she’s not getting old sometime.

Mr. U.: Is apparently irresistable to text while my friend has been drinking, but not all that responsive. Worthy: Would hold her hair.

Mr. U.: Is allegedly cute and charming. Worthy: Is at least as cute and charming as her weinerdog, for whom I did knit a sweater (and am not sorry).

Mr. U.: Alternates between being passionate about her and saying he wants to be “just friends.”
Worthy: Is passionate about her pretty much all the time and not just a fickle manslut.

Mr. U.: Flakes out on plans, calling to change plans, and being a reasonably considerate person. Worthy: Doesn’t suck.

Mr. U.: Has multiple tattoos and was a junkie for a number of years. Worthy: Is more or less as non-toxic as Play-Doh (TM), rather than being a walking Superfund site.

Mr. U.: Has the dynamic lifepath of a bobbing jellyfish.
Worthy: Has an endoskeleton and a plan.

Feel free to add to these distinctions.

Friday, March 23rd 2007

Not-writing vs. writing
posted @ 12:29 pm in [ ]

I was corresponding earlier today with a fellow writer about not writing. The truth is, most of us, however accomplished we may be as writers, spend a lot of time — indeed, often the majority of our time — not writing. Those of you who followed my commentary about my process, lo, these many years, may be struck by just how much time during that process I spent not writing. Sometimes I knew exactly why I wasn’t writing and sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes when I was writing, I felt inspired and it flowed, and other times it was drudgery I had to bribe myself with treats to complete the barest minimum, but it still counted as writing.

The weird thing for me was that I had always had an easy time of it with my own writing — I could always produce for myself, or for a check. Plus, writing my dissertation was the part of my program I had actually looked forward to. I’ve never really enjoyed most of my coursework, and comps scared the hell out of me, but I was pretty sure I could write a book okay, and I thought it would be really fun to do my own work for a change instead of an assignment. The not-writing part was particularly baffling for me.

When I teach writing courses geared toward skills development (as opposed to more creative, workshoppy courses), I always spend at least a week on dealing with obstacles, because getting stuck is a reality. I like to get everyone talking about what hangs them up, because the two things that make obstacles huge and insoluble are isolation, where you feel like you’re the only one having this problem and therefore there is something wrong with you and therefore you can’t do this and are utterly unsuitable for writing or graduate work or maybe life; and habituation, or not knowing what else to do. So when we all talk about what hangs us up in a group, not only do we find out that lots of other folks have the same obstacles, but that everybody has some kind of obstacle, and furthermore, when someone is not suffering from your personal obstacle, they can often see an effective strategy to beat it. It’s like in Monsters, Inc. when every kid has his or her own personal monster, and the other monsters aren’t so scary.

I have one perennial obstacle that I have to do battle with every time I have some sort of large, time-consuming project that requires my attenion. I named it “productive procrastination.” It’s where I have this list of stuff I have to get done, and I do all these other little tasks instead of dealing with the big project. It seems to be an artifact of my personality that I want to clear out my schedule by dealing with the little, manageable stuff, and then have lots of time to deal with the big stuff. It never works that way, though. Instead, I spend all my time working on the little stuff and I run out of time for the big stuff. Technically, it’s not really related to writing per se, it’s related to large projects in general, specifically ones that don’t have immediate tangible results. It’s also related to my being more detail-oriented than big-picture-oriented. Getting fifty little things done is a lot easier for me than getting one big thing done, and it’s more satisfying, too. Generally speaking, I usually handle that by breaking down big tasks into dozens of little ones and trying to find ways to observe tangible results.

I ran into two more dissertation-specific obstacles during my process, though. The first was the practical time and money problem. I married for love and went to graduate school, and full financial support for late-stage doctoral students really only happens in some of the hard sciences, so I was obliged to work full time (sometimes as many as four or five jobs at a time) while trying to write a book, which is miserable and exhausting. If I had it to do over again, I think I would have spent some time applying for grants and stuff, or otherwise securing a little more funding. Often, the timelines for the application processes were kind of far off, and I hoped I would be finished by the time the disbursements came up. If I had been a little more cynical about how long it would take me to finish and considered fundraising to be part of my process, it might have gone a little more smoothly for me. I doubt it would have saved me much time, though, and it might have been a distraction to deal with yet another thing. I hate it when money has to be a practical concern, because, you know, I hate money. I think that’s obvious from my career choices.

The second was a new one on me: ambivalence. Why wasn’t I writing? Didn’t I want to finish? Eh. Sometimes, I just couldn’t bring myself to feel strongly about it one way or the other. Upon closer examination, there were some things I really liked about being a doctoral candidate. I liked the quality of hopeful aspriation or something that came with it. Being a student was also comfortable for me, because I had been doing it for so long, despite my growing irritation with its ever-increasingly age-inappropriate suckitude. I knew the University community well and understood how it worked. Finishing might mean moving really far away and I had developed something resembling a life in Colorado. I would lose my email address I’ve had for years and years and years. What if I couldn’t get a job when I finished and had all this alarming debt and no way to pay for it? Finishing meant inviting instability to move right in and set up housekeeping in my stable little world. On the other hand, I was not getting any younger, my friends were finishing and moving away, stuff was changing without me, I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t seem to finish up, and earning a real income is more appealing than mere deferment. Generally, I’m not freaked out about The Unknown, but yikes, finishing meant venturing into the unknown everything. I think I just didn’t want everything to change all at once.

With pretty much all these things, including the vast, gaping, directionless unknown I’m currently facing down, the most effective way I’ve found to deal with them is not to worry too much about what to do next summer or next year, but to keep the end goal in mind and just to do The Next Thing. At the moment, The Next Thing is to figure out the new goals.

Monday, December 25th 2006

posted @ 12:39 pm in [ - ]

Merry Christmas, christians, quasi-christians, and other mainstream Americans!

I’ve had a number of email queries about my activities, most of them tinged with concern. First, let me clear up the rumors. Yes, I am writing today, have been for the last few days straight, and will be for the next few straight. Yes, my husband is out of town visiting with his family. Yes, we did get another inch or two of snow last night, and no, the old snow hadn’t melted yet, but yes, the sun is out today. No, Jackie is not pregnant. In fact, she’s in heat. The Cat Who Barely Even Peeps is occasionally punctuating my fortress of solitude with a string of 17 - 35 rapid-fire yowls that set off neighborhood car alarms.

Other than the yowling, things are going very well, in no small part because of the very low-distraction atmosphere. I’m almost out of paper towels, and Titania just stuck her tail in my coffee, but beyond that, no complaints. I have my road bike set up on the trainer so I can take daily “rides” (normally, I keep it in the shed, so that’s kind of a steamy treat), I spend many hours a day writing so I can polish off Part III in the next week, and I haven’t done much house-leaving at all. Some concerned friends have thoughtfully invited me for various Christmassy family functions so I wouldn’t be a pathetic orphan or turn into a pumpkin or anything. I know, I have great friends!

I want to assure you all, though, that I don’t feel pathetic and abandoned, or remotely squashlike. You know how I’m always going on here with some variation of, “If I could just… {stop time for a little while, have about a week or two where nobody was expecting me to be somewhere or do something, get some quiet distraction-free time, master time travel, etc.} …I could get this thing done and get on with my life?” Well, I haven’t mastered time travel (yet), but this time of year is the next best thing, and I couldn’t think of a more thoughtful (commie heathen) holiday gift from the universe. My university and a lot of businesses shut down, people leave town or are wrapped up in holiday/family stuff, everyone puts everything off until the new year… Time does sort of stop right around now for most of the country. I’m getting my long-awaited time warp (so to speak) and I’m seizing it!

So don’t worry about me. I’m not sad or lonely on Christmas. I’m actually having a pretty giddy time in my Lair of Chaos. Better yet, because of my chaotic Christmas, I will emerge in the not-too-distant future as (the mildly evil) Doctor Spawn! I know I have a lab coat around here somewhere, and since I’m not teaching Anatomy & Physiology anymore, I haven’t had a good excuse to wear it. Heyyy, it’s kind of like fodder for Issue #1 of Doctor Spawn comics… Anyway, thanks for your concern. Everything’s cool.

Monday, December 11th 2006

Our neighbors think we’re Jewish
posted @ 12:05 pm in [ ]

Several houses in our neighborhood have lighting displays by which one could read. Well, in terms of lumens, anyway — it’d be pretty damn distracting to try. Phillip has been known to string white icicle lights around the perimeter of the living room ceiling during the holidays, which gives one a pleasant sort of 2001 “It’s full of stars” feeling upon arriving home, but I’m really not into doing the display thing myself. Most of the houses in our neighborhood have some sort of lighting display, even if it’s considerably more understated than all that. Not us. Must be Jewish.

Interestingly enough, I’ve had a handful of different people ask me if I’m Jewish over the last couple of weeks. I guess I might be able to fake it as long as nobody asks me to recite a half-Torah, but I’m hot sure where the questions are coming from. It could be my lack of goofy Christmas hats, sweaters, or other paraphernalia. It could be that I’m very ethnic-looking compared to much of anglo-nordic Colorado. It could be that occasionally, Yiddish offers a mot juste I just gotta use, and that confuses people who are not from the east coast. It could be that I sometimes complain about the lack of good deli. But hey, I also complain about the dearth of fresh seafood, cheap dairy products, and truly kickass pizza. It could be my lack of ravenous seasonal consumerism, but you know that’s not because I’m Jewish, gentle reader. It’s because I’m a godless commie.

That’s not to say, though, that I don’t enjoy finding the right gift for someone, because I absolutely do. Some years I have done a lot of shopping and spending. This year, I’m doing a lot of knitting, because I’m low on cash and it’s a good way to chill out after a long day of making my brain spin. It has also given me a good way to use some of my yarn stash, which made me feel oddly moral somehow. When it’s all finished, I’m going to make myself a huge felted tote bag using a bunch of the colorful remnants of all the other projects. I’m looking forward to it–should be pretty cool.

It’s really satisfying to make someone a one-of-a-kind gift you know they’ll really like, but that doesn’t mean I don’t approve of the most “impersonal” of all gifts: the gift card. I feel the need to weigh in on this because I’ve noticed so many people talking smack on them this year. Hey, it’s a little piece of plastic possibility, people! Make a frickin’ retail wish!

I suppose this is the point at which I should mention that this year, apparently I have officially become hard to buy for. Huh, I say to myself. When did that happen? Is it because I’ve been a dissertation-writing hermit and people feel like they haven’t seen me in a while and don’t know what I like anymore? Is it because I lost some weight this year and people don’t know the current size and shape of my fabulousness? Is it because I’m apparently Jewish now? People have begun asking Phillip what I want, and he doesn’t know either. Aww, maaaaaan! I’m getting a bowling ball, aren’t I? There is still plenty of stuff I like and am embarrassingly demonstrative about liking: yarn, road trips, tools (especially bike tools), candy, stationery supplies, shoes, sucking less at pool, dance clothes, books, accesssories, craft kits, coffee, House of the Dead III, puzzles, tunes, James Bond, art, mammals, scotch, pedicures, justice and freedom for the proletariat… For those of you who are looking at this for the sole purpose of trying to figure out what to get me, though, there’s a bit of guidance below. Heyyyy, it shouldn’t have to be so frickin’ hard to figure out what everybody likes, right?

I’m also blowing off a lot of holiday stress this year. I haven’t decorated (because I’m what? Jewish), I’m not going anywhere, except dissertationland and perhaps out for Chinese on Christmas day, and instead of the past years’ mass mailings of holiday cards, I’m doing the same thing I did last year: Tit-for-tat cardwriting. If I get a card, I send one back. If I don’t, I don’t (elderly relatives are of course exempt from this policy). It cut my card distribution by more than half — and it was the ingrate half, too! Plus, a few cards a day is quite manageable, whereas a big stack you need a hernia belt to lift to the height of a mailbox hardly seems like a good trade-off for three seconds of holiday visibility with people who are blowing off the ritual themselves. Next year, I should have something good to crow about and a lot more time on my hands, so maybe I’ll return to Annual Contact Mode then. I might even write a frickin’ Christmas Letter! How would that be?

What could Meg possibly want? Well, first of all, consumerism annoys me, so feel free to go cheap. Call it the justice for the proletariat part of the wish list. Feel free also to make a contribution to something or volunteer for something instead (you know, provided it’s something good. Please do not make a donation to Focus on the Family or something in my name — that’s a worse gift than fruitcake). If none of that feels right, though, here are a few ideas, in no particular order and good year-round:

  • I often think about joining the Denver Art Museum or the Botanic Gardens (we already belong too the zoo and the science museum), but I never get around to it or have the cash together when they hit me up.

  • As for the stationery supplies, Levenger used to be insanely fabulous. They have gotten a lot more expensive in the last couple of years, though, and don’t carry as many of the things I really used to like about them, in favor of more and more office furniture, for which I have no frickin’ room. Plus, as previously mentioned, commie, so uncomfortable with the idea of incredibly expensive leather-encrusted everything (including a leather Monopoly game, I kid you not!). Some lovely bags, but they’re outrageously expensive. The stuff I really used to like was the groovy, cheap pen sets, pre-stocked bags of stationery supply delight, and cool, cheap art sets, all of which there are hardly any anymore (these seem to be all that’s left), and they used to have way cool, incredibly novel stuff on sale all the time. They also used to have a wish list feature, which they also seem to have dropped. Sigh. Generally speaking, I am especially enamoured of kits/sets and smooth-writing implements with brightly-colored ink.

  • As wild as I am about James Bond, I’m not crazy about the asychronous way they’re packaging the new box sets. However, a bunch of used Bond DVDs would be pretty cool. The three suckiest (worth having only for the sake of completeness) would be Octopussy, License to Kill, and Moonraker. We have Die Another Day on DVD already (and a few others on VHS). Beyond that, the field is wide open.

  • The two yarn stores I frequent most are Posh (my favorite) and Showers of Flowers (because it’s huge). Both offer gift certificates.

  • I wicked need a trip to the dance supply shop because my pointe shoes are getting soggy and I’m a little too sleek for the unitards I’ve been wearing to class. Plus, saggy Spandex is just sad. My local dancewear provider, Classical Dancewear in Golden, doesn’t seem to have a website. Also a little sad. There’s always Discount Dance Supply, though.

  • Since I’ve taken over the maintenance of my own (and occasionally my friends’) bikes, I’ve been accumulating tools for that. I could use a pedal wrench, a set of cone wrenches, some other stuff…

  • I get most of my shoes, clothes and accessories at discount joints like T.J. Maxx, Ross, and Burlington Coat Factory. Hey, just because I’m a commie doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be stylish and foxy. I am also a huge fan of L.L. Bean tote bags (gotta love the custom boat & tote!) and plan to pick out a couple sometime wicked soon.

  • Most of my books and tunes come from Barnes & Noble or these days, and I always want/need books and/or tunes.

  • For scotch, I am partial to single-malts from the highland region and the occasional Islay. Good red wine is good too, and bad red wine is hilarious. Bad scotch is not funny.

  • For the pedicure thing, there are a bunch of day spas and nail salons near me. This one and this one are right in my neighborhood and seem pretty reasonable, but since I don’t spend nearly enough time pricing spas, I have never actually been in either one, nor any of the many others nearby. Since I go to Nirvana anyway, location and atmosphere are not a concern.

  • What about the puzzles? I have decided not to attempt Sudoku until I finish writing, because it would be a terrible distraction. I like crosswords from the Boston Globe a lot and don’t have easy access to them anymore. I dig logic puzzles and can whip up a truth table fairly quickly. I wicked love jigsaw puzzles, but they’ve been too time-consuming to work on while I’ve been writing. I think one of the things I’m going to do when I get my rough draft in is spend a couple of days watching James Bond, doing jigsaw puzzles, and possibly drinking.

  • What the hell is House of the Dead III? It’s an arcade video game where you get to shoot zombies. I like version III the best because it has a plastic pump-action shotgun. Dave & Buster’s had it the last time I was in there, a few months ago.

I hope that helps give those concerned a few ideas.

« Previous Posts