If you’re anything like me (and I suspect a solid 95% of people are, in some meaningful way), this year has been approximately one half fevered nightmare and one half giddy joy. Which is probably the human condition, or whatever. But with recent and less-recent events making me feel like life is an overwhelming horror, I thought it would be nice to dwell on the positives of the past cycle around the sun.
It’s the winter solstice today! Axial tilt: it’s the reason for the season. The days are going to start getting longer again, which is in itself something to be thankful for.
The first thing I am grateful for this year is the ability to find beauty anywhere. My un-love for LA in my last days there furnished me with a brand new motto: “You will find joy wherever you go, idiot.” And three weeks in South Bend provided additional proof, should any be required.
A sunrise in South Bend, of all things. Who’d’ve guessed?
2012 was also a fantastic year in pop culture. By which I mean I Netflixed a bunch of tv shows from the 90s. By which I mean that if I had done nothing else this year but watch Babylon 5 for the first time, it would have been a good year. By which I mean I may have a slight Babylon 5 addiction.
Fortunately, I also happened to graduate college (what?), attend two kickass weddings, read a lot of cool stuff, and get a job (again, what?).
Once again I’ve abandoned you all for weeks. Midterms plus interviews plus presentations plus pointlessly raging against politics leaves little time for blogging.
But there’s so much exciting STUFF going on, so this is sort of a round-up post.
- Oxygen detected in the atmosphere of one of Saturn’s moons. Dione, not Titan. Which brings us to….
- The Sirens of Titan. I’m on a Kurt Vonnegut kick. I last read most of his books about five years ago, and picked up Cat’s Cradle up at the library a couple weeks ago on a whim. And everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
- Probably the reason I needed so badly to read some Vonnegut was that the last book I read was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Which I highly recommend, and all, but which is not something you want to read if you’re looking to feel good about yourself as a member of the human race or of the biological sciences. For my money, the two most important things civilization has given us are science and basic human rights (fancy coffee drinks are a close third). So what happens when those two fundamental values clash? Nothing light-hearted enough to be reading during midterms, that’s for sure.
- But if you want to feel good about something humanity has done, may I suggest our treatment of baby sloths with little teddy bears and bandages that look like jammies? (Preceded, I am afraid, by an advertisement)
- And finally, in case certain ongoing incidents are making you, like me, feel kind of down about the whole history of mankind along with the future of both your gender and your chosen career, and in case the baby sloths did not provide a permanent fix, let me just point out that you are made of atoms whose emergent properties can rather conveniently be altered by atoms that have formed molecules like caffeine or ethanol. So, being alive? All in all, pretty cool.
Numbers are excellent. As long as something is expressed in numbers, it seems rational, sane, comforting. Like NASA in the 1960s — basically, it was all brains and slide rules. Numbers have power, but it’s a reasonable, understandable power.
Words, on the other hand, are terrifying. They do all sorts of ridiculous, unpredictable things for no reason. Maybe the psychologists think they know, but I sure don’t. And I should. I’ve used far more than my lifetime allotment of semicolons already, and I have used them correctly. And I am downright Burgess Meredith in The Twilight Zone about books.
Two words: College. Libraries.
As I began to prepare for my Florida-based adventure in July, I was reminded of an adventure earlier this year that led to an outdoor bookstore called Bart’s Books in Ojai, California. If you ever have the chance to visit, you must. There was a citrus tree we couldn’t identify growing right in the center of the store, and a cat that never moved, all surrounded by shelves and shelves of used books of every genre.
What I’m saying is, space is great, but Earth can be pretty nice, too. Anyway, at Bart’s Books, I bought this pretty thing:
966 pages, 114 stories, $9.00. This is how the world should always work.
I am an unabashed fan of mid-twentieth-century science fiction. To be fair, my grandpa lent me Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series when I was about eight, so I never really had a choice. I also have a wonderful used copy of a Ray Bradbury anthology in which someone else’s grandmother wrote “7/1/93 Have fun at Camp Love, Ga.” I like to imagine the recipient was going to space camp. Continue reading