30 October 2012

and in the end a scary announcement

"Where were you on Thursday and Friday? We missed you! There was a hole in this place, I mean, it was really taking a nose dive without you," says one of our campus handymen to me yesterday.

"I was...taking some time to reflect on my life and to rest."

"Oh! Time to reflect," he laughs, "that's heavy stuff."

 Later, as I'm out on a ticketing round he stops on his way to check on some steam lines down the road. "Now, Emma," he says, "it's not this part of your job that's causing you to reflect on your life is it?"

No, I tell him, this part is refreshing. He's funny, and likes to tell me stories from his life like how he, a college grad from New York City planning on going to law school, ended up in Oregon working on a ranch and about his girlfriend he had once who encouraged him to take up meditation with her but she broke his heart when she got a part as an extra in Animal House (1978) and was paid to kiss somebody.

Today he told me I should teach classes on "Life's Options."

The people I work with are pretty great. They tell me about their lives, their second jobs, their daughter's wedding plans, things their ancestors did in small towns that have disappeared. They tease me when I tell them about my trips to natural history museums and suggest that I'm really drinking moonshine out of the Mason jar I use for a water bottle at work. They put up with my nagging and sending them on errands about campus and making them fill out paper work.

But I'm learning I really don't do well starting work at 7:30 am. And keeping regular office hours is not my favorite. I'm trying to come up with ways to brain wash myself so I wake up excited, mostly so that I don't wake up at 4:30 and lay awake with dread at the thought of hearing an alarm clock soon. I'm already planning the next quilt I want to make with a bit more planning and with a sewing machine (!!!?!!?!) and wondering if I could really just pull myself together to make a living with the things I make. That will take some time and practice and mistakes I expect. Good thing that's what I'm already doing, taking time, practicing and making mistakes.

My eyes ache but I just really want to let you know some scary news in honor of halloween: guys, I think I may really like Taylor Swift.

23 October 2012

there was a leaf that seemed more like snake skin

Late this afternoon I took a walk to a park a few blocks from my home. It's tucked in a bend in the river––well, everything in this town is in a river bend––where there's good geese watching, some days. Not today, this grey and misty day.

I had the idea to walk to a park because last week I went to my friend's artist lecture at the local historical museum and he talked about rediscovering parks now that he has young kids. I walked past my old elementary school, past the track I did cool down laps on for cross country, past the sledding hill, and to the park I went to as a child and which was covered in water when I moved home.

google had no dome-shaped swing set and it's surprisingly hard to draw....

The only part of the playground equipment that's still the same are the swings. The swing set is dome shaped, which is great because you know how you're always kicking people when you want to twist up in your swing or go from side to side rather than front to back? Not so with the circular/dome shaped swing set! You can have your pals at your side and flail around as much as you want. I swung for a while watching the fog creep around in the bushes at the base of the railroad bridge and the cold, dark water running past.

No, the river is actually rather slow. Make that the cold, dark water walking past.

I notice some things keenly moving back here as an adult. Many of the higher traffic roads are in poor condition. They're repaired by patches so that in the end you have piecemeal sections of tar and concrete dissolving into gravel and stubbly grass. With today's cool, grey cloak of mist it seems that if I could cut out a square of road and hang it on the wall I'd have some fine art. But then it'd be stuck as is, not subject to further weathering and development of pot holes and I like it better that way.

I'm making my town seem like seedy industrial or rural decay. Really, it's nice, it's clean, we make do.

Another thing I notice keenly is that most swings are not designed for my adult lady hips.

22 October 2012

get that weight of your shoulders

There have been a series of secret closed-door meetings in my office today which may have nothing to do with me but may also be about the details of a new position they'd like me to take at work. This would be added on to what I do now, minus the parking tickets, but with a significant raise and a commitment to stay several months longer than I'd originally planned.

I will seriously consider it.

Maybe with all that added moolah I could do one of those unpaid internships I've been eyeing; travel to Rochester, NY, to check out the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation (and visit friends in NYC, duh); visit Kara in Hawaii; and/or move to Seattle like I've been wanting to do FOREVER.

Or I could say no.

Move a few months sooner--how many months, I don't know. It could be two, it could be seven. I'm not entirely certain on what they'd require me to commit to.

This past week I lay down to sleep exhausted and then a niggling little thought, will I take the job?, creeps in and frets me into total wakefulness. Hate those nigglers. Without the aid of sleeping pills I end up tossing and turning, pacing, and reading until the wee hours of the morning. Last night I took a melatonin right away and settled down to science blogs for some insta-happiness and relaxation. This is how I discovered the below-posted MinutePhysics about the darkness of space.

So, yes, last night I may have fallen asleep imagining the Doctor (Who) picked me up and asked me where I'd like to go and I asked him to take me a few billion years into the future to where the universe has expanded so much all the stars are too far away to see and the sky is just dark. Utterly dark. I'd simultaneously be exceedingly excited and sad to see such a sight.

Wouldn't it just be breath taking and mind blowing?

And I've been wondering, if the universe is expanding, is our solar system expanding? I haven't heard anything about us getting further from the sun. I don't think we are but why? I definitely need to understand this dark matter/expansion thing much more.

And since humans--particularly those of industrialized/first world nations--have gotten larger (I don't mean obese), significantly larger over the last hundred years, that means our organs have grown proportionally as well, right?

Everything is expanding.

Friendships are expanding. Can I say that? The strange and great thing that's happened since I've been off in the northern plains is that friendships that were disappearing or only small potentialities have grown. Currently I'm the worst snail mail pen pal ever, but via phone and email people I never expected to know better have reached out and become my regular correspondants. Please appreciate the awkward nerd-language there. Naw, let's say charming. Also, Grace is now coaching me on what pop music I should like via email. Now if only A.G. and I can skype sometime, we can get some good dancing in.

In conclusion, if you get the chance, could you mail me a couple of mountains? I'd really like to take a hike.

21 October 2012

this blows my mind

"A few billion years after that, you'll be standing on a hill looking up on a clear night, and the sky will be close to pitch black, no Milky Way, no constellations, just blackness, because the stars we see today are speeding away from us, leaving a faint, infrared light. It will be very lonely. (Unless you're a telescope-wielding butterfly. Butterflies can see infrared. Distant retreating stars will be visible to them. To us, those stars will be invisible.)"

-Robert Krulwich

hand wash only, with any color

I have an idea, let's take this brain of mine––

No, let's take all of me.

Let's take this all of me and slit right down the middle, head to toe.

Let's run some water, cool and refreshing. A gentle pool of water, not just sloshing between my toes, let's get that gall bladder, my fibula and phalanges, my brain stem.

Use some lavender castille soap to clean everything out, then rince me off. Find a sunny mountainside and hang me out to dry. Clip my intestines and pancreas to the line, watch them flutter in the breeze.

Then take me down.

Put me back together.

And lay me down to sleep for a good long sleep.

And I'll wake up tomorrow, give you a nice smile, and make some breakfast.

18 October 2012

Ridiculously academic papers about how someday we'll have cyborg eyes and won't be bothered by the crisp lines CG is capable of make much more sense than all of the instruction manuals and software literature I have to read for work.

Being in limbo is really weird. All of the time.

more map!

click to enlarge

Again? Would You  mind taking a peak? I have one specific question for you:
1. Does the dotted line that goes from parking lot 1, across the river and between lots 3 and 4 seem like a road to drive on? I don't know a less leading way to put this. Do I need to do more so people aren't surprised when it turns out to be a foot bridge?

I'm also concerned this will end up being used for ten years, during which time the aesthetics will become completely dated, like neon multi-colored shag carpet from the 1970s, rendering the map quite unprofessional looking. Valid?

(sigh) most likely.


17 October 2012



build a ladder to the stars and climb on every one

16 October 2012

lately this is what i do at work: design a campus map

click to enlarge
Care to give me some feedback?

this is for my little dragon boy

I hope you have your kazoo in hand

15 October 2012

last fall, found now

14 October 2012

half-baked alaska

A lot of times I feel like whatever I say has to be funny. You know, like in Pride and Prejudice (1995) when Colin Firth says to Jennifer Ehle--or maybe it was the other way around?--something cynical about how neither one of them will say anything unless it's extremely clever.

I just did two things I never thought I'd do. One, confess to feeling the need to be funny because funny is subjective ergo failure is rampant and also, well, often, "the funny guy" is annoying. It's OK, though, because I'm not a guy. And two, I just tried to paraphrase something from Pride and Prejudice and on top of that I had to try to paraphrase a specific movie version because I'm not going to go back to the book to figure out if it was a screenplay thing or an Austin original. Here's a third truth: I don't like reading Austin.

Although, to be completely clear, I am highly aware that most of the time I'm only being funny to myself/I'm the only one aware I'm joking. Like the time I was on a group date and my date was trying to make rice pudding but it wasn't thickening and so I said, "Oh, put potato flakes in it," because obviously you wouldn't do that with the special rice pudding he was making and so I thought it was funny? But I've inherited my dad's tendency to say facetious and even fallacious things with deadpan face. So everyone else thought I was serious, I think. Or maybe it was a mean thing to say? I don't know. And it wasn't even a funny joke.

This is embarrassing to me. Talking about this is embarrassing.

I keep being called up as a substitute Sunday School teacher which makes me a bit anxious. I started adding in strange antics to get other people to loosen up and do more of the work so I don't just sit in the front and babble and want to cry because I'm nervous and also because I'm nervous and babbling I end up sharing personal stories I never mean to. Blah. So, these strange antics are things everyone's really enjoyed. A couple of weeks ago I made a girl stand up on a chair to pretend to be Samuel the Lamanite and I had someone being the narrator and another guy as Kenneth Branagh White (instead of Vana White). They all did a really good job--if you need a narrator I can hook you up, he did the perfect voice--and people shared wonderful thoughts and seemed to come away with the important things of the lesson and I would even hazard to say the Holy Ghost was there. And that's the real point, isn't it? To have a lesson where the Holy Ghost can testify to people? So this should be me feeling like I'm doing the right thing.

Remember how in elementary school it was cool to wear wind suits? I never had one but I really wanted one. That's just something I was thinking about today.

Anyway, I don't like teaching because half of what I do during the lesson are silly things like tell everyone bald jokes or shuffle from the piano to the front of the class because Lisa asked me to or recommend that if you're going bowling you should wear really thick socks and I'm doing it because I can't stop myself. Partly because I want people to feel relaxed and comfortable so we can have good discussions (good) and partly because I have some incessant need to say clever things (annoying).

I say annoying because sometimes I catch myself trying to think of a witty response and then I wonder why it has to be funny, why don't I just say something sincere?

Today I had to teach again and I let the lesson go in the direction people wanted to take it. Sunday school isn't always the place for the kind of discussions I really want to have. 

That would be something a little more like this: we were studying the section of the Book of Mormon, Third Nephi chapters 1-7, that takes place five years after a prophet has told the people that Jesus Christ the Son of God would be born and they would know he'd been born because on that night there would be no darkness. And he told them other signs to look for because these people, the Nephites, lived somewhere on the North or South American continent. They wouldn't see Christ during his mortal life.

The catch is that Prophet Samuel told them these signs would happen in five years and it's been five years and there had been no signs yet. And there's lots leading up to this but somehow the society of the Nephites had reached a point where they've set a day for the execution of all the people who believed that there would be signs and there would be a Son of God born on earth.

We're supposed to apply all scriptures to our own life and so often the discussion at this point is about how it's hard to have faith but you need to be strong against the trials and opposition you find in a worldly world. And that's not a bad discussion, and at the moment we're not exactly facing public execution for believing in Christ.

I imagine not every one of those nonbelievers was anxious to kill the believers, I don't know, it doesn't say. Clay Jenkinson, a humanities scholar and maybe most known for his work portraying Thomas Jefferson, suggests that in any revolution a large percentage of the population just wants to continue their daily life, trying to feed their families and take care of their own business. I imagine it's the same here. There are the vocal and persuasive who gain power and work to have their way and there are some who go for their ideas and there are some who don't want to stick their necks out and oppose and there are some who just don't want to be bothered either way.

My fingers are very long-winded. If you've stopped reading by this point I understand, so have I, even though more thoughts are striking me right now. Perhaps, part of what we need to learn here is to be more aware that we're not shutting our eyes while other groups are being thrown under the bus.

Aaaaaaaaaand maybe I'll write more later. See, I told you I'm going to give you half baked ideas.


i'm an ant and my dad is a centipede

This morning I've been remembering that time two years ago when my little nephew took a two hour nap on my chest and my sister was sleeping on the couch next to me and the remote was out of my reach so I was stuck watching whatever was on the food network which is how I discovered the Galloping Gourmet and I was quite overheated because holding babies makes wearing sweaters unnecessary but I didn't want to disturb that sweet, sleeping baby by trying to take off my heavy sweater.

It's one of my favorite memories.

12 October 2012


11 October 2012

only, olny, lyon, nylon<--cheating

How come it's so hard to write about what you care most about, think most about? Shouldn't there be words and phrases abounding, waiting to be poured forth onto empty pages and digital spheres and into, even, some ears?

It wouldn't be so important, only, I want to do what I love. I want to effuse about media tout le temps, only, it sometimes seems as impossible as the French language.

But maybe I should just relax, enjoy my reading and note taking. Revisit the millionth draft of a paper and worry about what to do with it later.

Le mono is back forcing me to accept that during the last two months of trying to recuperate I should have maybe done more than take two days off. Especially since I spend at least two hours a day walking. I bit the bullet yesterday and talked to my boss about cutting back on my hours until I feel fully better.

I'm just so tired.

And I don't want to hear any sympathy, I'll only brush it off, as you know if we've spoken about this. I'm just going to buy a No Doubt album, I wonder why that hasn't occurred to me before.

How is it we have expectations for ourselves of what we should be able to accomplish, expectations that seem perfectly reasonable––because there are the unreasonable expectations, but those are seem to be easier to face up to. For instance, tonight I deleted two unread dictionary.com word of the day emails acknowledging that it will be OK that I don't know every word in the english language. Oh blah, blah, blah, I'm tired and bored of this. I'm going to read from a science blog so I can go to bed happy.

It felt really good to delete those emails.

this year's wonky slippers

10 October 2012

well, clothing construction 101 T.A., I never did learn to sew straight lines

I did not embroider "Fraser." Maybe I'll tell you about it someday.

On one hand, with all the frayed edges I've not bothered to hem or pink and for all the different weights of fabrics I've sewed together and for the really haphazard binding and quilting job I did, this quilt is quite possibly evidence I could make a living by being paid to NOT quilt. But you know, I kind of like it. Mostly I like remembering all of the people I was spending time with while I hand pieced most of it together. My leaf, insect, and stalactite drawings are pretty great, too, but apparently I didn't take pictures of them. 

The quilt works, anyway, and quite comfortably and I feel satisfied.

I got tired of trying to quilt lines and began stitching stars instead.

It's strangely difficult to take a picture of an entire quilt. I'll work on that skill maybe.

08 October 2012

where do we go?

(in which I switch from real science to my imagination--in other words, the beginning of my career as a science fiction writer)

But really trees take in carbon dioxide, which is one carbon atom bonded to two oxygen atoms. During photosynthesis, the energy from the sun separates the oxygen from the carbon and the tree releases the oxygen. So the tree gives us back twice what it gets. But perhaps by this point we've finished exhaling, have walked away from the tree and someone new is standing by and they're inhaling. Inhaling us.

06 October 2012

disparate or disconnected and doctored

It's fall. And lovely. And strange as all of North Dakota's weather patterns are.

The leaves outside my window began turning yellow the first week of August, the sun began to noticeably rise later--it used to be fully risen before I'd wake up at 6 or 6:30. Now it's just over the horizon when I drive to work at 7:25 and I know in a few weeks I'll barely be getting a peak of light before I bury myself in my office hole.

It's not a bad hole, really. My counter/desk is black and is ever showing office dandruff (crumbs of paper and dust) but the people who come through are usually friendly. The other day as the campus carpenter was doing some paperwork I read him my email invitation to celebrate Constitution day with Constitution cake in the Student Union. "Is it a part of the same cake they ate when they signed the Constitution?" he jokes. Wouldn't it be amazing if that were a national tradition? Every year on constitution day every citizen goes to the town square to take the required bite of Constitution Cake.

Every year on Constitution Day, citizens queue in the piazza to eat the requisite bite of the original Constitution Cake.

Now it's really fall, the leaves are falling and dry scuffling rattling across the pavement and there is more yellow, more orange, and less green. We wrap up our tomatoes at night and buildings smell like reawakened furnaces.

I think about falls a lot.

In LDS theology there is no original sin, there is the Fall but there would be no flesh and blood humans other than Adam and Eve if Eve had not begun the Fall by her first bite of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In fact, there is a great paradox because God told Adam and Even they must "multiply and replenish the earth" and he also told them not to eat that fruit. But, among other things, they couldn't have babies if they didn't eat the fruit because theoretically they wouldn't know how. So they had to eat or the rest of God's plan would fail. It's the most mind-boggling impossible situation and I love it.

First of all, the Garden of Eden, however literal of a place it is, sounds creepy to me. Was there no entropy? The Secret Garden is bad enough with all it's perfectly tame vegetation but what if Eden and Heaven have no decay? What about those organisms that carry out the process of decomposition? Do they not matter? Do they do something else instead? And a "perfect" garden where humans don't need to lift a finger and it just takes care of itself? How are you supposed to feel connected to the earth?

There is also the implied necessity of rebellion/failure/transgression––this act that we cannot classify because we can't even entirely, or, I can't figure out exactly what happened because: woman made from man's rib? What? And where do dinosaurs fit in? And the evolution of primates? Maybe? And I like snakes.


Hold tight for what's about to happen. You can roll your eyes a little but there's a point. There's a Doctor Who episode ("The Satan Pit" S2E9 1 Dec 2006) in which the Doctor and an astronaut are stranded without hope of escape (and no TARDIS!) on a planet orbiting a black hole (something which they recognize is impossible yet is inexplicably happening) at the mouth of a giant, ancient-religious-rite looking pit. They can't see the bottom of it but they've got ten miles of cable and so they plan to send the Doctor down because if they can't do anything else, why not?

Balancing on the precipice, the Doctor speaks of the universal niggling at the back of one's neck, the urge to see, to look, the temptation. Ida the astronaut says it's a hold-over of evolution from when we were more ape-like and we followed the urge to jump to see how far we could and to survive by doing so. The Doctor says no, it's even older than that.

It's the urge to fall.

Stepping out of the safety and regulation of the K through Bachelor's educational system has been like entering a vast, dark and foggy night. I thought there must be dance steps drawn out beneath me and that I was doing something wrong since I couldn't see them. But lately I don't care, even if they are there, I'm just going to jump and fall and jive my own way.

There is the urge to fall, when you reach the precipice of having too many unanswered questions. You've scoured every inch of ground around that precipice and can find nothing to satisfy you, not even the surety that you have solid ground beneath you. So you let yourself fall.

And I think it's because you hope and you trust or you need to trust, you just need to know that if you fall it will be alright.

P.S. Two weeks after having begun this train of thought we've had a blip burst of winter, all the leaves were ripped off the trees within seconds and now we're in skeletal, uhhh, fallinter.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5...


I've written lots of things but can never finish them and am tired of hoarding these half-formed ideas. So be prepared for reams of incomplete ideas and may you please finish them for me, please? Thank you.