Sunday, March 29, 2015

Water Hook Up

Yesterday, I was talking to my son on the phone.  "Can you guess what that noise is?" I asked.

"No.  I give up."

"It's the sound of me mopping the floor."

"Wow, Mom!  I didn't know we even have a mop!  Good for you."

But we do have a mop, and I used it. I filled up the bucket with warm water and put vinegar and a tiny bit of dish soap in there, and swished everything around on the floor for a bit (what's the deal with mopping, anyway?  Does it seem vastly ineffective and weird to anyone else?), and when I wasn't talking to R. I was listening to loud music.  I tried not to walk on the floor, but that only lasted for about 5 minutes, so there are a few insignificant muddy footprints here and there.  Overall, though, it's a vast improvement.

It had gotten so sticky everywhere in my house, as if a toddler lives here, and the reason for that is bees.  Spring is the time for my bees to start building up their population so that there are thousands of bee women by the time the big honey flow happens.  They need to put lots of people I mean bees on the job of pollinating and gathering nectar.  But right now there isn't a lot to eat out in the wild, so I make sugar water, which involves spilling and stickiness everywhere.  (I know.  I am my own toddler.)  A few bees have figured it out and hang around inside to clean up -- like having my own, six-legged house elves.  But their tiny little tongues pale in comparison to the vast stickiness at hand, so I carry them back outside to be with their people.  I mean bees.

The other day, I was going through my hives, which are on an upstairs deck.  I was wearing my bee suit and holding a clipboard, because where there are bees, there's data, and where there's data, there should be clipboards.   In the midst of all this, I heard a voice calling my name, and it wasn't even in my head, it was out in the world.  And there was a man walking up the driveway, about 10 steps in, calling out, "Hello?  Betsy?  If I come closer, will I get stung? I need to turn on your outdoor faucet."

He's one of the construction people working on replacing our water line, which, by the way, I'm super excited about because making coffee with tonic water has gotten old over the years.

"No, the bees won't bother you," I say, but he stands motionless, the way you were taught in third grade to behave when there are stinging insects around, so I unzip my veil and go downstairs to meet him.

A few bees got caught in the folds of the veil, so they came with me.  I greeted him near the door, me and half a dozen disoriented honeybees.  To my credit, I wasn't carrying the clipboard.

He stood way back, and said, "Maybe I could use the hose on the other side of the house?"

I wish I could have said yes, because there is a hose over there, but this thing happened that I don't really want to explain to him.  I'm reluctant to even get into it here, because this is already a post about nothing much, but anyway.... One night this winter, I woke up and thought, jeez, it's cold.  I knew that because I sleep with the door and window wide open, and there was frost inside everywhere.  I remembered that a hose was still connected to an outdoor spigot, so I crept outside in the cold darkness to remove it, but it was stuck.  Maybe it was frozen, or maybe misthreaded, or maybe it was just too dark and middle-of-the-night-ish for me to be successful.  I knew that if I didn't do something right then, I'd forget about it until the pipes burst, so I went inside, got some pruning shears, and cut off the hose.  Right?  It might seem crazy, but isn't that what we do?  We travel through this life trying our damnedest to minimize loss where we can, and meet it head on with grace and kindness where we can't.  The loss of a hose seemed bearable.

"I think it's best if you use this one," I replied.

The construction guy was still keeping his distance, and he's looking at me like I'm a freak and a half, I guess because of the bee suit.  (But I have to say, because it's the women's bee suit, it does have the cute embroidered bee on the ass.  Grr.)  The bees were pretty occupied with something sticky they found on my suit; they were happily enjoying a ride-along and Construction Guy had nothing to worry about, but he didn't know that I guess.

The faucet is situated just above a gap in the porch that provides access to the crawl space -- it's kind of a weird 2' x 3' opening that things fall into.  I handed him a hose, and after examining it, he said there was a missing gasket, and water would probably drip into the crawl space when he turned it on.

"That's fine," I said.  "Oh wait.  Let me get my shoes out of there first."  Because, and I didn't explain this to him, but the shoes had fallen in a couple of weeks ago, and I was just happy to know where they were.  (I know.  You're thinking, "wow, I wonder how her house got so sticky, with all this thoughtfulness going on?")

So I fished out the shoes, some yellow raingear, and a bicycle pump while he looked on, aghast.  I thought it made me look pretty solid, actually -- all that useful stuff, and I knew right where it was.  But he suggested that I do the hose myself, and walked away.  I would say he backed away slowly, but he didn't.  Just normal walking down the driveway.  I know what he's thinking, he's thinking I'm sketchy, but I'm so on the up and up you wouldn't even believe it.

I'm pretty sure he grouped me into the same category as the sweet young adult who walks around our neighborhood barefoot, playing the ukulele, with a homemade basket strapped to her back.  But that's so not the case.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Horoscopes: The Plot Edition

Pisces (2/19 – 3/20):  There's a problem with my manuscript, which is the same problem I have with my life:  there is no plot.  I wander around each day from thing to thing without some of the key bits, namely rising action, climax, resolution.  On a good day, I set the timer, write for 15 minutes, ding ding ding, go wander around in the woods, and take a nap before yoga.  If we want a plot to our lives, we need a plot to our days, Pisces. I think Annie Dillard said that.  So good news -- we're all getting plots this week!  And you, my lucky ones, get "hero goes on a journey."  Make it worthy of you, and send me a postcard!

Aries (3/21 - 4/19):  This morning as I was skimming my FB news feed (you see what I mean?), I saw a link to an article with the trick for getting away if your hands are duct-taped together. Is that a real problem?  Of course I clickedBut anyway, in case you're in that position, you put your arms over your head and swing them down with force.  Oh, Aries, I'm so sorry I brought this up.  I think we have enough to worry about without imagining situations involving duct tape.  Even at it's best, duct tape is the symbol for brokenness.  How about if your plot involves restoration, or rebirth?  Good things are ahead, Aries.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):  I think if I had a goal, it would be easier to have a plot, so I thought about goals today. It turns out that my goal is to have a plot.  So I've been researching plots on the internet, and two of the big ones are:  man on hill, and man in hole.  So many questions, Taurus.  How did man get into hole?  Was he pushed?  Did he crawl there?  Does man in hole ever meet man on hill?  What if man thinks he's on hill, but it turns out to be an ant hill or something, at the bottom of the hole?  Can there be a mid-plot correction from man on hill to man in hole?  Taurus, why don't you try rags to riches this week.  Enough about the hole.

Gemini (5/21 - 6/21):  This week, wake up and think of the tenderest, sweetest thing you can imagine.  Even if it's just a sip of perfectly clear sweet water.  And let the plot be metamorphosis!  Yes, my dear ones, you get to descend into a cocoon, become watery slurry, and emerge as a butterfly! Flap your little wings as you go by.

Cancer (6/22 – 7/21):  Here's something.  The other day, I saw a woman walking down the street with a baby on her back, holding hands with a toddler.  They were moving at the achingly slow pace set by the toddler, whose legs were about one fourth the size of an adult leg.  The mom didn't seem in a hurry, she was just walking that slowly.  I don't know what your plot is for sure, Cancer, but take it slow, enjoy every possible moment.

Leo (7/23 – 8/22):  I went to Seattle the other night to feed some homeless teenagers; a few adults and I took a few homed (is that a word?  What's the opposite of homeless?) teens; we made a bunch of food and it could have been super fun but it wasn't as fun as it could have been, mostly because of one person who values rules before kindness, which will probably be a whole blog post one of these days.  I think his plot might be vengeance, which I am not for.  But meanwhile, Leo, see if you can do something plot-ly with identical twins.  Haven't we always wanted a twin?

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22):   I went to the Senior Center for dinner the other night with some lovely friends -- it was the annual steak dinner and cake auction.  We like to think our being there was funny/ironic, but it's really more like foreshadowing.  The way life is flying by, I will be elderly in about 5 minutes.  (Possibly before I finish this blog post, because it's taking me forever.  Did you see that squirrel? Ding ding ding, nap time!)  The dinner was the sort that's rare these days because it involved overcooked vegetables from a can and steak that was probably treated badly as a cow.  The only conversation was the auctioneer, taking about cake. The whole thing makes me look forward to catching the bus to that very senior center one day to play dominoes (that happens every Friday @ 12:45).  Virgo, your plot is aging gracefully.  Keep it up!

Libra (9/23 – 10/22):  The plot for you, Libra, is Stranger Comes to Town.  I believe there are only two plots, hero goes on a journey, and stranger comes to town, which is actually the same plot from different points of view.  But I'm outnumbered by the internet, which lists so very many plots.  But be on the lookout for the stranger.  Sure, take the candy from him, get in the car.  Do what you must so that something will happen.  Why not?  

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21):  The weird thing is that I've been sitting here thinking about plot, and it's almost been too noisy to think.  Then I was like, wait a second. . . why is it so loud around here, in the middle of the quiet quiet country where I live?  And it was because of gunfire.  Right?  I'm looking for a plot when a shot rings out?  Multiple shots, in fact?  Of course!  Your plot:  Use everything that's on the mantel on Monday for good, not evil.  Just to move the story along.

Sagittarius (11/22 – 12/21):  Then I realized, why is it always a gun on the mantle?  Couldn't it be a chocolate cake, or a man in a hole who thinks he's man on a hill?  Here's the plan, Sag:  Put some cool stuff on the mantle in scene one, and then just go for it!  Enjoy.

Capricorn (12/22 - 1/19): Alas, you get the Type C literary plot:
Type C: The Literary Plot  It doesn’t matter what decision the hero makes (to sacrifice or not to sacrifice); he or she is led inextricably by fate toward a (likely tragic) end, i.e. a conclusion that leaves the reader feeling as though life has no meaning/we have no control over our actions/the gods are toying with us like rubber duckies in lukewarm bathwater. Source: WriteWorld.org
But, Cap, don't live the rest of your life in a lukewarm bath!   See if you can live a simple plot with a happy ending.  Happy happy happy!  Smiley Face! Enjoy the ride.  Why not?  At the very least, add hot water in the tub.

Aquarius (1/20 – 2/18):   Sometimes, when I get stuck, I look to see what people are searching for on the internet.  Guess what the most searched for chemical element was today, Aquarius?  Hydrogen.  Is everyone busy making bombs?  Number two was silicon.  (Do you see why I get nothing done?)  Silicon is in breast implants and  That makes me sad for some reason, or maybe I started out a little sad and it didn't help.  Breast implants and oven mitts?  But here's this happy bit:  the astronauts left a silicon chip on the moon inscribed with tiny messages of peace in 73 languages.  Space travel, Aquarius!  There's your plot!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Thank you

I'm feeling overwhelmed and full of gratitude by the response to my essay.  I've heard from so many people who have sent me their poetry, shared fears for their children, mentioned me on Twitter, and written from jails and mental institutes and kitchen tables.

Many of you have asked me for a list of poems that might be helpful, and when I read that, I get a little teary.  I can't tell if your ask is casual, in the category of, "Oh, I'll be in your area, where are the cool restaurants?", or more akin to laetrile treatments.  You've exhausted everything else, and the desperation of loving children who are in peril causes you to grasp at straws, seek guidance from an ill-equipped stranger.  Because you've tried everything else.  So I'm reluctant to ignore.

What I want to say to you is this:

It's not the poems that caused my daughter grow up to be the healthy and strong woman she is today.  It's what she was born to be, as are your children.  The poems kept me busy, out of her way, and feeling useful while she did the hard work of growing up.  She decided to stay on the one way conveyor belt into adulthood where you begin to understand that the problems in the world are huge, possibly unsolvable.  My poem project was akin to something you would do to keep your toddler busy:  "Here honey, while Mommy cooks dinner, could you move these pennies, one at a time, from one jar to the other one?  Good job!"  

I spent a long time thinking about shoes, and trying to understand what they meant to my daughter versus what they mean to me.  For me, safety, comfort, habit.  For her at that time, they seemed to represent selling out.  I'm incredibly proud of her for how deeply she cares about justice and right and wrong, and how hard she works to make the world a better place, and how unwilling she is to sell out. 

For those of you who have children who are struggling, my only advice is to find that thing that matters to them, and honor it in the most tender, respectful way you possibly can.  Give them a long leash, even though it's terrifying.  If you don't know what that thing is, study them until you do know.  Give them legitimate sources of power in their life.

I tend to think in metaphors.  During that time, I envisioned my daughter as swimming across the cold hostile ocean from childhood towards adulthood.  I was rowing a boat along side her, not fully understanding what it was like to be in the water with sharks, taking on unexpected mouthfuls of briny water, and getting pummeled by waves.  It wasn't my job to tell her how to do it, or why to do it.  I was just there to hand her a sandwich or a poem every so often, cheer her on, and be her biggest fan with the hope that she'd keep swimming.  Maybe a metaphor will help you too.

I wish you all a thousand blessings.  May your children grow up to be loving and wise, because they were treated with love and wisdom.

Oh, and your question about poems: here's a good place to start.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

Shoe poetry

My essay is up!  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Horoscopes: No More Emergency Water

Pisces (2/19 – 3/20):  I finally threw out my stash of emergency water.  But first, I acted out the scene where I'd need it -- I set it on the floor across the room, and crawled toward it as if I'd been struggling toward it for days, maybe because my legs didn't work, or perhaps I needed to stay low for some reason (shooters outside?), or maybe I'd been transported into a Wyeth painting.  I drank as if my life depended on it, as if this two ounces of expired horrible-tasting water was all that stood between me and death.  Pisces, I dunno.  I think that when 2 ounces of icky water is all you've got, death might not be so bad.  Your week will be full of grace and birthday festivities.  Enjoy!

Doesn't this look like an orchid?  Guess what?
It's red cabbage, left in the fridge for waaaay too
long.  And poof, it turned into an orchid.
Aries (3/21 - 4/19):  Are you wondering why I had the water?  Yeah, I know.  So, there's a parenting ritual that started sometime between the time I was a child and became a mother.  It involves sending an emergency kit to school with your child.  They give you a list of what should be in it:  water, a snack, a comfort object, and a comforting note from you.  I always got hung up on the note.  What do you write that's true and comforting when you're beloved children are in the situation where they need to drink two ounces of water from a foil satchel?  
Dear Child of Mine Whom I Love More Than Life Itself,
I'm so sorry I can't be there now.  I'm don't know why I'm not  -- it's possible I'm hopelessly trapped under several tons of rubble, or perhaps the apocalypse or the shooter got me first.   You know I'd be there if I could.  
But at least you have this cool package! Six ounces of water, a granola bar, a teddy bear, and this note!  Right?   
Advice from beyond:  Listen to your teacher.  Drink the water, but look for more!  You've got less than three days to live without it.  I hope you make it!! :-)  And I hope you like the snack.  I hope you find this letter comforting.  
P.S.  I loved every minute of being your mother, except this one.  I hope you get to grow up.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):  And how is it that water expires?  See the date?  2007.  If water gets old the same way baked goods or meat do, we're so doomed, because we're drinking the same water that's been around, well, since the beginning of time.  But suddenly, we put a few ounces in a plastic sacket (is sacket a word?  It should be!) and it goes stale?  Luckily there's no expiration date on you, Taurus.

Gemini (5/21 - 6/21):  I've been super excited about Amazon delivering packages by drone, because nothing says "we're in the future" like clicking the "buy-it-now" button and having a tiny unmanned spacecraft materialize to deliver your next print cartridge or even a brand new puppy!  But when I start thinking about drones, I end up thinking about Mars, and argh, I know, I bring this up every week, but please don't make me go live on another planet.  Oh, how I love this one.  Gemini, you should stay on this planet too, unlike that guy from Bellevue (the city, not the hospital -- but I can totally see how'd get that confused.) He's one of the finalists for going to the red planet, ready to say goodbye to everyone and everything he's ever known and hurtle off into space.  When asked if he'd get bored, he said no, because he has his kindle.  I shudder as I type this.  Gemini, pact:  Let's stay on this planet FOREVER.

Cancer (6/22 – 7/21):  I've been thinking I need a new mattress.  Well, that's an exaggeration -- I think it for about five minutes once every morning when I get up and my back hurts, and I wonder if it's related to my 20 year old bed.  And then I promptly stop thinking about it, the way I do with things that involve spending money, going to stores that are complicated or fluorescent, or committing to things that you have to sleep with every night.  It sounds like a complete hassle -- first, mustering up the courage to cross the river (I don't think they don't sell mattresses on this side.) And all the other steps that I won't spell out because your life is hard enough already, Cancer.  But I picture all the steps involved and act them out in my head, overcoming one after the next: finding time, getting in the car, finding the store.  I even imagine that I've worn nice socks because I'm guessing I'll take my shoes off to try on beds?  Is that how it goes?  But I get stuck right there.  I take the shoes off, and then I balk at imagining what's next.  Do I actually take a little nap in the store?  Because how else would you know?  Don't you want to sleep with something before you marry it?  I mean, one quick coffee date and you bring the giant thing home forever?  That seems wrong.   And it occurs to me:  why is a mattress left to personal choice?  It's not like some of us are made out of different materials.  We all have spines and muscles and organs and a heart that beats.  Shouldn't there be a right way to sleep, a definitive mattress choice?  Shouldn't the FDA tell me what to buy?  Is there a mattress pyramid?  Couldn't I just yell my BMI into the sky and a drone will drop the perfect bed for me?  Cancer, I don't want to sound alarming, but you should wear good socks this week.  

Leo (7/23 – 8/22):  I know.  You think we should get to have preferences in our mattress.  I guess so.  Maybe.  But think about the basic human needs:  food, sleep, water. We've identified daily dietary requirements.  When it's left to choice, there's always that guy sitting on the couch eating pop tarts who eventually dies of organ failure, and the fire department has to excavate him from his childhood bedroom, although he's 28.  Is it the same with mattresses?  I wish someone would just tell me the right mattress for my species.  Oh, you're a human?  Click on this button, and the proper mattress will arrive tomorrow.  

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22):   The saddest thing ever is that the gorgeous, gangly, un-realistically white trumpeter swans that winter in our little valley are dying.  The rumor is that they're ingesting lead shot that remains in farm fields where the swans graze.  I can't tell you how heartbreaking it is to see a swan bobbing in a puddle, head down.  It's the swan equivalent of the floating belly up dance that fish eventually do.  Ugh.  One species at a time, Virgo.

Libra (9/23 – 10/22):  I was wondering recently why it is that I don't eat much fruit, and I finally figured it out.  It's sticky, and it's a commitment.  I tend to avoid sticky commitments whenever possible.  Take an apple:  you have to bite in with all your teeth - no nibbling.  And once you've taken that first bite, you're in for a whole apple, and it rapidly starts getting brown, and suddenly you're in a hurry to gobble this sticky orb that's splashing juice, and you can't resume your normal life until you've chewed through the whole thing, and then there's the core -- do you eat that, or find a way to dispose of it?  I have no complaint with the taste.  Or an orange:  First you have to peel it, and then, again, it starts drying out right away so you have to eat it all, and your hands get sticky.  I won't even get into the peach, T.S.  No, I don't dare.  So I've taken to roasting fruit.  All of it.  Try it.  Let me know what you think.  Bring roasted apples and goat cheese to your next potluck, Libra.  People will love you for it.  (Of course, they love you anyway.)

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21):  There's an artist who's described as "collaborating with the bees to create art".   I'm not saying these pieces aren't cool, but is she really collaborating?  It looks more like she puts stuff out and the bees make the art.  But, if we're adopting this loose definition of collaboration, I'd like to announce that I'm collaborating with the spiders and mice in my house -- we've been working together on a gigantic art project.  We call it, "Home."  It's adorned with small and large webs and other items we made together.  I might let you see it when it's finished.  Leo, let the line between art and home be blurry.

Sagittarius (11/22 – 12/21):  Oh, my loved ones are all suffering, grieving, grieving.  Learning how to love and the why of it as well.  Arrgh.  How I wish I could spare you from that.  But in the end, deep true feelings are all we have.  Stick with them, feel instead of avoiding.  It's why we're on this planet, Sag.  You have all my blessings.

Capricorn (12/22 - 1/19): I had a dream last night where I was supposed to solve a really complicated formula -- there were exponents and parenthesis and lots of x and y and square roots and so on.  And the answer was supposed to get me somewhere, I'm not sure where or why, but I couldn't solve it, couldn't solve, kept trying and felt dumber and dumber, so I started climbing up the snowy mountain, and guess what?  There was a pig roasting on a spit.  I think that means things don't have to be solved, they just have to be.  We know what we know, Cap. Whether things get solved or not, the truth lives on.  Thankfully.  Grateful for you, Cap, on this day.

Aquarius (1/20 – 2/18):  There's some amazing research that shows that crows recognize faces, which is definitely more than I can claim.  If my own kids wear a different hat, I hardly can be counted on to identify them.  But more than recognizing humans (that's seriously amazing -- can you fathom being able to recognize one crow from another?) - they also appear to mourn their dead.  So be kind to the crows.  They're grieving too.  In fact, be kind to the living things.  Even if we can't all recognize you, it's still just a good way to be.  Enjoy your week, Aquarius.

And one final thought, for you dear readers who make it all the way to the end.  My essay will be in the NYT next Sunday, 3/1.  It comes out a little earlier online, and will be posted here.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Horoscopes: The Zipper Merge Edition

Pisces (2/19 – 3/20):  The poor polar bears are suffering from all manner of trouble.  First, melting ice.  Then, PCBs found in their tissue.  And now this:  the penis bone is getting smaller, and not only that, but it's weak and breakable.  I know!  This is also happening to the otters, thought to be the result of the many challenging environmental factors, especially global warming and pollutants. Sometimes horrible things, though, can  be used to propel action.  Currently, the thinking of the 56% of congressional republicans is this:  "If we acknowledge that humans have a role in global warming or pollution, then we'll have to act, and if we act, corporate profits go down.  Let's put our hands over our ears and point off in the distance to something, anything -- Obama's birth certificate, Malia's outfit, whatever we can think of!"  

But what if the understanding was, "If we don't address global warming, our genitalia will become tiny, vulnerable, and prone to breaking." If there's one thing the repubs care about besides corporate profits, it's the penis itself.  Anyway, moment of silence for all the shrunken, friable penii out there, Pisces.

Aries (3/21 - 4/19):   When you need to look up a phone number, Aries, do you:

  1. slog down the long driveway to find the phone book that some semi-unemployed person has hurled out the window of an older Nissan? or
  2. Use the internet.  

Why are they still throwing phone books at us, Aries, as if it's 1989?  My first instinct is to yell, in my most outside-est voice, MAKE IT STOP!  But now I'm wondering -- it seems so unlikely that this would be an actual job, phone book delivery.  Like, "Now hiring!  We're looking for people to deliver a tiny fraction of the internet to people who have the whole internet!  But you'll put this bit of the internet outside, down by their mailboxes to make it even less convenient than the actual internet."  

I've learned that when things are really unlikely, well, maybe there's something else going on?  Maybe it's a magic trick of sorts or a secret code?  Is that soggy phone book in the driveway actually a portal to another time or dimension?  Check it out, Aries, and get back to me.

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20)
:   Speaking of magic tricks.  It's like this:  we're on a bus, who knows if anyone's driving  -- I tend to think no one's at the wheel, but that's neither here nor there -- regardless, it's for sure not you or I in the driver's seat.  And all indications are that the bus is heading for a cliff.  We aren't certain which cliff it is:  over population, climate change, war, decivilization, ebola.  (Just kidding about ebola.)  Who knows.  But one things we humans can do, which is why I'm so grateful to be one, is make merry on the bus anyway.  Snacks, music, laughter.  It's all we've got, Taurus.  Be that.

Gemini (5/21 - 6/21):  I had this little bit of good news this week, and then it turned out to be a mixup -- the good news wasn't really for me.  It was the e-mail equivalent of someone waving at the person behind me.  But for a minute, I thought an artist was going to take something I wrote and animate it.  I felt like Cinderella, and someone called and said they wanted to make a gown for me, and I get to go to the ball.  But oops, the gown was for someone else.  It's weird, though, when I was just merrily sweeping the hearth, all was well, but then, for a moment, dreamed of the gown for my essay, and then back to the hearth, which was worse.  Oh Algernon.  I feel your pain.  And Gemini, yours too.

Cancer (6/22 – 7/21):  Sad to see that David Carr died.  He was an interesting person, and after seeing Page One a few years ago, I realized that I'll subscribe to the NYT until I die, because it feels like the right thing to do.  It feels like an act of good citizenship.  I know, that's just me.  But watch the movie if you haven't already, Cancer.  And then go out into the garden where it's all happening right now.  

Leo (7/23 – 8/22):  Speaking of the NYT, I am super excited that one of my essays will be published in the Modern Love column.  No solid date yet but it looks like March.  That's never happened before!  Stay tuned.  Might be a good time to buy a lottery ticket.  Luck seems up.

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22):   I was sad to see how many haters there are out there, Virgo.  Bleh.  But here's something interesting I learned in massage medical school:  if someone feels ticklish, have them put their hand on your arm, and the ticklishness subsides.  How does that work?  

Libra (9/23 – 10/22):  For a while, the motion sensor light on my back porch didn't work, and then it randomly started working again, but no matter how I adjust things, it only stays on for about 3 seconds unless there's a new motion.  What this means, Libra, is that when I have a guest departing in the evening, I have to stand on the back porch and wave goodbye furiously, kind of like the Clampetts would.  At first I was kind of self-conscious about that, but now it seems sweet, to really send people off with a lot of waving.  Try it, Libra!

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21):  My bees have been out a lot lately because it's been so unseasonably lovely, and I cannot begin to describe how glad it makes me.  All those little insects, buzzing around, looking for life and finding it, carrying pollen around on their little bee legs.  Here's what Aristotle believed about bees, 2,300 year ago -- wow, that's a long time -- but anyway:
"The honey is what falls from the air, especially at the risings of the stars and when the rainbow descends; on the whole there is no honey before the morning rising of the Plieaed.  The bees do not make honey; it fetches in what falls from the air.  .  .  (Historia Animalium, V XXII)
Jeez, that's beautiful.  Will someone draw that for me please?   

Sagittarius (11/22 – 12/21):  I'm always kind of amazed that so many of the anti-vaccine people are fine with getting tattoos.  Right?  Tattoo ink: contains mercury, lead, arsenic, and phthalates, among other things.  If that stuff were in the tiniest trace amounts in our food, we'd be picketing or something.  But sure, go ahead and inject it directly into the body!  Let the white blood cells spend the rest of their days chipping away at it, and carrying the color, bit by tiny bit, directly to your liver where it will stay forever, and wreak it's own havoc.  But god forbid we try to prevent disease outbreak by injecting a carefully developed, regulated vaccine.  Oh, Sag, I'm sorry, that was kind of a rant, and not a real horoscope.  Here's a horoscope:  The stars are all lining up for you this week! Carpe the diem, as they say.

Capricorn (12/22 - 1/19): I was cc'd on an e-mail rant to The Powers That Be, I'm not sure why, but the rant was about a traffic/behavior issue on a  particular stretch of road. Here's the deal:  the road has a stretch that goes from one lane to two lanes and back to one.  Most of us obedient folk stay in the same lane, because we know we'll end up there eventually, and getting in the right lane for a short stretch seems weird, rude, cheater-ish.  But there's been a lot of emphasis on promoting the Zipper Merge lately, which says that all lanes should be used for as long as possible, and then we should politely alternate at the merge point.  In reality, in this  particular road stretch, people get irritated by the right-lane passers, and don't want to let them back in, but they're usually in a giant white truck and they muscle their way in anyway.  But I've been wondering if we should all zipper merge more.  (OMG, it's tiring to be me sometimes.   Seriously.  I spent about 6 hours thinking about this, making little models, trying to figure out how to make the little video.  All just for these two shaky, amateur, inconclusive videos.  And I know while I'm doing it that there's so much more to life than modeling traffic on the kitchen floor, but I can't stop).  But the results are: it takes 3 times as long to travel that stretch of road when people use the right lane.  I wish I were smart enough to figure that out without building a whole traffic jam on the kitchen floor, and wasting a bunch of daylight at it.  But, I feel like there's something in there to learn and I can't quite put my finger on it. Something about how we don't need to take up all the pavement all the time, which might be a metaphor for something about living life.  If you figure it out, write that book.  Don't forget me when you're rich.  And, stand strong with data in the face of the zipper merge lecture.

Watch the orange car.  (You knew it was a car, right?) 14 frames.

And here, it takes 29 frames for the orange car to get through.  I was going to draw
trees and stores so you'd know what was going on but sheesh, I would NEVER waste my time, 
that's fer shure.

Aquarius (1/20 – 2/18):  You know the trajectory of a joke, how it's funny, and then, when repeated a few times, not funny anymore, but sometimes, if someone keeps picking it up and batting it around, it gets funny again?  And then, maybe even hilarious?  Only sometimes, though.  I think it's like that with disappointment, which, if batted around enough, turns into gratitude.  I've pretty much given up on romantic love, financial stability, and companionship, which are kind of big.  I've learned not to yearn.  But I've finally gotten to the point of noticing the big chunks of time to study things like the zipper merge, and of course, to take naps.  

Friday, January 30, 2015

Horoscopes: It's the Law!

Pisces (2/19 – 3/20):  I read about Benford's Law in my Grapes of Math book, which says that the leading digit in a number is most likely to be one.  At first I thought duh, you have to get through the ones to get to anything else -- you can't have two of something before you have the one of that thing.  But that's just me, not understanding Benford.  Here's what it says:  in any set of numbers, say, the population of all US cities - about 30 percent will have one as the leading digit, half as many begin with two, and so on, so that nine is the least common first digit.  Crazy!  Why do we care about this, Pisces?  I'm not sure I can put it into words, but we do!  I mean, there are applications -- detecting fraud, for example.  But what makes me so happy is that there's this invisible force that directs how numbers act.  Right?  Do all the US cities have to get organized to make sure their population fits in?  NO!  It just works out that way.  I guess I love the invisible things that we don't even know about, and they march on, being an organizing force.  I know you'll agree, Pisces, that there's something good in that.  Doesn't it make you wonder about all the other things we don't know about?  Oh Pisces, the magic of it all.  

Aries (3/21 - 4/19):   Speaking of forces governing the world, one thing that makes me irritable, and I've probably ranted about it in the past, is when people try to organize a potluck.  If I were a real researcher, I would have discovered something called Odinger's Universal Law of Potlucks that would prove that this behavior is unnecessary.  And annoying.  People will bring what speaks to them, and there will always be enough.  There will be one or two people who create exquisite offerings out of things they've grown or raised lovingly and then slaughtered, there will be a few people who grab a bag of chips on the way to the event, and there will be a bunch somewhere in the middle - recipe followers, who have some or all of the relevant ingredients.  It's a law.  You can tell all the people who's names start with A-L to bring a main dish, just like you can tell water to run uphill, but it just creates bad juju, like damming a river.  The river will find its own way, and you can pretend you have control but we know better.  Give a potluck a thousand years, and the potluck equivalent of a new canyon will be forged.  Freedom from tyrannical potluck organizers!  Let the people choose!  (I think that was in the original Federalist papers, before the aliens came down and altered them. Oh wow, I've really strayed off into the weeds here.  Sorry, Aries.) 

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):   Speaking of laws, Zipf's law, I learned from Dr. Language, is a baseline for everything the linguists do. The law says that in any given text, the most frequent word occurs twice as often as the next most frequent word, and three times as often as the third most frequent, and so on, so that a graph looks like this. Ok, it's slightly more complicated because there's a constant involved, but I don't want you to leave me just yet, Taurus.  Don't go! Again, you're wondering why you should care about Zipf and his law. (Whatever it is, isn't it legal in WA anyway?)  You should care, Taurus, because it's a mystery!  Why does it do that?  How is it that someone can take The Dubliners, cut it up and sort the words, and it follows this rule?  Doesn't that intrigue you?  I spent about, oh, way too long (which equals 4 hours) taking various blog posts and other writings and graphing them, and yup, it's the law.  I'm awestruck.  Go for awestruck when you can this week, Taurus.

Gemini (5/21 - 6/21):  The seahawks.  Sheesh, there's a lot of hoopla about that.  It feels  like religion or patriotism, where it's best not to admit out loud that you don't believe in god, or you think the war is a bad idea.  I hear so much, 

 "No, even you would have loved the last game!  Really! It was amazing!"  

Um, no, I wouldn't have.  I agree with Ty Burr, who said that he prefers his popular culture served up with a tincture of irony, and American football exists to stomp out irony wherever it lifts its effete little head."  I'm happy that all the humans are so excited about something, but really, I'm just not interested in watching a bunch of overpaid guys, immersed in a culture of misogyny, run around after a stupid ball.  And the whole twelve business confounds me.  Maybe because the twelves are proud of decibel level, and I'm spending my life on a mission to promote the inside voice.  Sorry, all my lovely friends who are fans.  I'm glad your team is doing so well, and I'm happy for all the rallying and revelry, but I'd be lying if I didn't say it creeps me out.  The cheerleaders don't even make minimum wage?  Seriously?

Cancer (6/22 – 7/21):  Ok, and another thing?  I'm not so interested in what Marshawn Lynch has to say.  Seriously.  If we're in the biz, as a culture, of fining people for not talking, um, there are so many others I'd be interested in hearing from, like,oh, how about Emily Bazelon?  But as a general guide, shouldn't we take someone at their word when they say they have nothing interesting to say?  It pretty much blows me away, that we fine people, actually charge them money, for not talking when they don't have anything to say.  This, my dear Leo, is how boring-ness is perpetuated.  

Leo (7/23 – 8/22):  This kind of freaked me out.  Soon we'll be housing lactating women in over-crowded feedlots and selling their milk to bodybuilders.  No, that will never happen.  Nothing bad ever happens when women of childbearing age have something testosterone driven men want, right?  Oh Leo, sorry if I sound a little out of sorts.  Keep on bodybuilding without the supplements.    

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22):  Bergmanns Rule says that, in general, larger creatures are found in cooler environments.  Kind of a duh, and not exactly a law.  When it's cold, it's good to have a large mass compared to your area of skin, so heat doesn't leave as easily.  It's starting to make me believe that temperature is the most influential ingredient in the world.  But here's something that the bees do:  they keep their thorax warm by beating their wings.  They let the abdomen stay cool, so as not to waste calories on heating it, much like I do with my house.  (If my house were a bee, we'd call the upstairs the abdomen.)  But if they want to cool down, say, because they're fuzzy little people flying around in the hot sun?  Capitalize on that cool abdomen.  Such a slick design, Cancer.  

Libra (9/23 – 10/22):  I had the privilege of giving a little talk about blogging the other day to some college students, and someone asked why I only update my blog about once a week.  I had to explain, um, well, it's not really a plan, it's just that I don't get out much, and it takes me a while to gather material, even the tiniest little bits of material. Even pocket lint, Libra, takes a while to accumulate.  If I were to ride the bus more, or just tangle with the humans, I'd update more.  So there you have it, Libra.  The truth.

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21):  I'm reading the most fascinating book about bumblebees now, and one thing I've learned is that a full-bellied bumblebee will die of starvation in 40 minutes.  Which is not unlike the paycheck-to-paycheck life that many of us lead, me especially (without the paycheck part).  But picture it:  you're flying around, gathering nectar, moving your little wings fast enough to keep your body warm, your belly is full, but in less than one hour you're dead if you don't keep going, endlessly seeking flowers, more flowers.  Scorpio?  What do we make of all this?  

Sagittarius (11/22 – 12/21):  Speaking of invisible laws, I've been trying to understand gravity for a while.  I made this a while ago and haven't really figured out much since then.  

Capricorn (12/22 - 1/19):  Speaking of hidden forces -- it's the stuff that happens whether we understand it, whether we acknowledge it, whether we believe in it, that what makes the world worth it.  Love, for example.  There is love that's so pure that it needs nothing, no evidence, no action.  Like the ocean, expansive and complete, even if you never visit, you haven't seen a starfish in years or gotten your pants accidentally soaked up to the knee with brine.  The ocean doesn't change for you, it just is.  Hold onto that, Cap.

Aquarius (1/20 – 2/18):  Ok, I have this neighbor who leaves for work super early, like I think it's 5:30, and before that he/she cooks bacon.  I know this because I sleep with all my windows wide open, and the aroma wafts in at 4:30.  Bacon is not just a normal smell; it has super powers.  It feels like a message travelling from the deceased pig directly to your nose with the command, "COME FIND ME."  An olfactory seance.  None of the other smells do that.  You smell lavender, or woodsmoke, and think, oh, pleasant.  You don't think, I MUST GET OUT OF BED RIGHT NOW AND GO TO WHERE YOU ARE.  Do you think there's a secret message to be decoded, maybe some way to save the planet?  See what you can learn, Aquarius.