Monthly Archives: July 2010

Swimming with the fishes

Posted on

I’d intended to write a proper post before I left for my vacation, but it’s 3:10 a.m. of the day I leave for the beach and I haven’t started packing. Well, I’ve chosen my books, obviously, the important details are taken care of, but I still need to consider secondary concerns such as directions and remembering my toothbrush. No time to write now, but I’ll be back next week sometime.


Always look on the bright side of life

Posted on

I am twenty-nine years old, in good health, with a job that pays enough for me to have food, shelter, health care, and clothing. My car is paid off. I have a master’s degree. I have white skin in a society where that kind of thing matters, and I mostly match the beauty norms established by that society. I have published a reference book. I have supportive parents and three cats. I am lucky. I have it good.

The problem is, it can be very hard to keep a sense of perspective. I’ve just typed it up neatly—see, it’s right there, just one paragraph up—but those very valid points have a way of slipping my mind. We humans have a tendency to focus on our own unique problems. Regardless of how well off we are compared to others, we can’t seem to evaluate our positions in the grand scheme. We each have our own personal scale of happiness. It exists in a vacuum.

This is how it is possible for me to be miserable, despite the persuasive points listed in Paragraph #1. (Hello, Paragraph #1! I see you! I am ignoring you!) This is how it is possible for me to feel trapped, as though I have no options for escape, even though every Tuesday night I go to visit a man who is literally trapped behind bars.

Today I learned that I would not be invited for an interview for a job in Chapel Hill. In this wretched economy I am not the only person searching for a job (and at least I have a job; see Paragraph #1), and I recognize that competition for any open position will necessarily be fierce, but even I—one of the world’s natural pessimists, when it concerns my own future—expected that I would at least get an interview. My education, my work experience, and my interests all merged to make me spectacularly qualified for this position.

Normally when I hear people making excuses for not having gotten a job or an interview, it sounds just like that: excuses. The whole crappy job market right now is a pretty valid excuse, mind. I don’t mean to belittle the trials faced by the 8.9% unemployed in this country, or whatever the figure is these days. My beef is with people who don’t have enough self-awareness to recognize when they’ve been outclassed, people who will grasp at flimsy excuses rather than acknowledge that they were personally lacking.

I hope I am not one of those people. Somebody tell me if I am being one of those people.

For a variety of reasons, including but not limited to the fallout of the actions of the gentleman behind bars (see Paragraph #3), I am desperate to leave here. I want to go home. “Home” could refer to many places, including some I’ve never even visited. My best guess is that home is in North Carolina somewhere (the state proved its suitability over the course of seventeen years and three cities), though I am sure there are other locations that would give me what I’m looking for.

If anyone dares at this point to suggest that home is a state of mind, that I just need to embrace my surroundings and cultivate my own happiness, I will punch you in the nose. (This is not a persuasive threat, coming over the internet and what with me being a pacifist and all. It will have to do till I come up with something better.)

I really keenly want to leave this area. To maintain my standards of food, shelter, health, etc. (see Paragraph #1 for details), I cannot leave this area until I have secured employment elsewhere. It is not as though I can move into Mom and Dad’s basement. They do not have a basement.

But I am not leaving this area till I find a place that might give me a fighting chance at happiness, or at least contentedness, or at the very least not-miserableness. I do not care to jump out of the frying pan into the fire, which is probably not a very good cliche to use right now, seeing as this past June was the hottest on record, ever. The whole world is one big frying pan.

But! I do not want everyone thinking that I am a font of whining and hand-wringing. I am, but I do not want everyone thinking that. I will therefore finish today’s entry with a bit of talk about three books. (Conveniently, this will support my claims that I am in fact a librarian, should any job recruiters come looking.)

1. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender, was okay, I guess, but not as magical and luminous and perfect as the reviews are claiming. It was a quick read, and I liked the prose, and it was much more palatable than most literary fiction—but I swear, sometimes I think these hoighty-toighty book critics never bother to read fantasy at all. Like The Time Traveler’s Wife, this book is getting a lot of attention for being “literature” with a bit of speculative fiction thrown in. Sorry, folks: Gabriel Garcia Marquez pwned that years ago.

2. Bloodroot, by Aimee Greene, did this shifting perspectives thing to tell the story of a family saga across years of poverty and violence and suffering. Which William Faulkner pwned years ago. It’s not as heartwrenchingly beautiful as the reviews led me to expect, but I still liked it well enough, and would recommend it to anyone who likes to read books with a rural southern Appalachian setting.

3. The Folding Knife, by K. J. Parker, reminded me that everything else I read is rubbish. That woman, or man, dunno—Whoever he or she really is, she or he is writing circles around the best authors in fantasy, historical fiction, and literary fiction, all three genres which could rightly claim the author. Every time I finish a book by Parker, the world shifts. Also every time I finish a book by Parker, I want to take pills and die—they’re always really extraordinarily bleak—but that’s not the point. They’re incredible.

Oh, and one bonus book: John Dies at the End, by David Wong (pseudonym of Jason Pargin)? Funny. As. Shit. I got confused during a lot of the scenes, it wasn’t scary like the reviews said (what IS it with all these reviewers being wrong all the time?), but I kept cracking up. Though not in the psychologically unstable way that would make anyone reluctant to hire me.

Ewe. Lamb.

Posted on

Eating meat is my most noticeable, persistent moral failing, unless we count sloth, but I can’t reconcile those adorable furry little animals with deadly sin. I have more egregious breaches of ethical conduct, but not to the tune of four or five times a week. The consumption of animal flesh wins in the category of Willfull, Frequent Transgressions.

Theologians may disagree. If there are any theologians reading this blog, I’d be interested to know.

I’ve thought long and hard about meat eating in the past decade. I’ve concluded that I’m comfortable with the idea at its basic principle. For a while I pondered whether it was ethical for humans to exert their dominion over other animals. We alone among omnivores are capable of choosing not to eat meat; is it inherently wrong to exercise that dominion, when viable alternatives exist?

Probably not, I concluded. Vegans may disagree.

Evolution put us in a position to consume meat. With a bit of forethought, we can eat healthy diets without meat, without animal byproducts whatsoever—but with a bit of forethought, we can eat healthy diets that do include meat. Biology is on our side there. Nature intended us to have the option. I’m at peace with the idea, in theory.

In practice, the animals we consume usually live horrible lives. The food needed to maintain them taxes the earth, as does the waste they produce. In modernized economies, raising animals for food is destructive to the environment. And when you’re feeding tens of millions of people, food production necessarily becomes concentrated in an oligarchy of humongous factories. Agribusiness is huge, and when things go wrong, the ramifications are huge. e coli outbreaks in a pig plant in Virginia affect people thoughout the country and the world.

I tried vegetarianism once. It lasted for four months. Truly the only thing I missed was the pork dumplings you can get at Chinese restaurants. My experiment with vegetarianism ended when the heroin addicts above me vandalized my apartment by causing my kitchen ceiling to fall in. A vegetarian diet requires creativity and resourcefulness in the kitchen, qualities that are almost entirely absent in me as a cook in the best of circumstances. When my kitchen was destroyed I conceded defeat.

Sometimes I toy with the idea of attempting vegetarianism again. This would give me more energy to invest in my other moral failings. And, aside from the obvious benefits to the animals and the environment, and also to my wallet (a leg of lamb set me back twenty dollars and two hours yesterday), it occurs to me that someone of my activity level should maybe swing toward the animal-free sort of diet.

Through a program at work, I got a p*dometer a few weeks ago. I can never remember how to spell it. The root word for “foot” is sometimes –ped (pedestrian and pedicure, but not pediatrician, not pedophile) and sometimes –pod (cephalopod and podiatrist, but not iPod). I can’t be bothered to look it up, sorry.

So anyway, I got the footometer and have been wearing it daily for a few weeks now. I’m supposed to record my daily number of steps, with the goal of reaching 10,000 steps each day. Most days I come nowhere close to this, which serves only to make me feel guilty. I think it’s supposed to make me walk more, but that doesn’t take into account my propensity for the Deadly Sin of Adorably Furry Little Animals, nor does it factor in the obnoxiosly hot weather we’ve been having. If the weather ever settles back down into the crisp chill of the mid-80s, I might possibly consider walking a bit more, just to wipe that disapproving frown from the face of my footometer.

Meanwhile, with sloth going strong, I need to rein in another favorite sin, gluttony. These days I am eating a remarkably healthy diet served in strikingly modest portions, but the needle on my scale has staked its claim and cannot be coerced nor bullied downward. One possible tactical strategy would be to scale back the amount of animal tissue I consume. It’s not much by American standards, but it could be eliminated entirely.

Quite possible I am only thinking this way because I am still mad at the leg of lamb I purchased. In addition to matching my monthly energy bill in price (in a normal month like February, I mean, not from this past June, when I had to rob a bank to cover the charges), the lamb presented an affront to me by being fatty.

This is typical of lamb, I gather, but it was my first time ever trimming a big piece of meat. It occurs to me that lamb is not the ideal animal for one’s debut fat-trimming experience, especially if one has obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’m guessing that other people have less fastidious standards, but I was not content till I’d sliced out every… last.. piece… of… fat. Which took two hours.

And the resulting lamb vindaloo? Okay, I guess, but I can taste too much of the cinnamon and not enough of the clove, ginger, garlic, cayenne, coriander, or cumin. Right now I am resenting meat in general and lamb in particular. As cute furry animals go, it has nothing on the sloth.