Friday, August 24, 2012

Life on my own #30: Lists

Most people check off list items. I scritch them.

At the grocery store, when I’ve got a dozen things on my list – bananas, strawberries, carrots, celery, cereal, milk, chicken, hamburger, cottage cheese, colby jack, some ice cream and some tortillas – I can’t always keep straight what I’ve already picked up and what I have yet to get.

You wouldn’t think it so hard with merely a dozen grocery items, but they’re none of them written in order. I usually write them as I think of them, so the bananas and carrots will come first, followed by hamburger and colby jack with the celery up next… see? No semblance of sense whatsoever. But I try to walk through the grocery aisles as efficiently as possible… which means I don’t pick up groceries in the order they’re listed.

So I scritch them out.

It’s easier to scritch, you see, because it requires the manual dexterity of an ape. My dexterity diminishes greatly when I’m walking, pushing a shopping cart and trying to manage my purse, all at the same time, so making a neat little checkmark is just too challenging. Pity the poor soul who still feels beholden to the little pre-printed grocery lists with the convenient checkboxes on the left.

Who put checkboxes on the left, anyway? Wouldn’t it be easier for righties to check things off on the right? English is read left-to-right, you say? Pishposh, that makes no difference…

Scritch, scritch. Bananas now looks like
bananas scritched out
… especially the two-tone part. I somehow have the magical ability to never pick up the same color pen when I’m writing on the same piece of paper.

When I’m at work, I keep sane by keeping lists. I bought one of those page-a-day planners specifically so I could write all my lists in it and then scritch everything out. You know how busy you’ve been by how much is written on your day’s page. And you know you’re in for a stressful day when there’s only three things on the list… because you know you forgot something.

Scritch, scritch. Finished that article! Scritch, scritch. Got ahold of that interview subject. (I’m sorry, person I interviewed. I just called you a subject. Like a predicate, only not.)

I never made so many lists before I moved out on my own. Mom always told me if I forgot to do something. (Sarah! go put your cereal bowl in the dishwasher! I was really bad about that one.) Or if she wasn’t around, my sis would gently remind me about the laundry I had waiting in the washer or the tune-up I’d promised to give her bike.

And if I missed a grocery ingredient, well, Dad works about sixty feet from the grocery department. “Just call Dad! He’ll pick it up.” Never mind that you’ll have to tell him exactly what brand, flavor and size, because there is an entire WALL of peanut butter to choose from. Five shelves, count ‘em, and each one about twenty feet long. That’s an overwhelming variety if I ever saw one. Who needs so much peanut butter, anyway?

Here in my lovely apartment, I’m the only one. If I forget to buy the bananas, welp, I’m outta luck, because I’m the only one who was along on the grocery trip to remind myself about the bananas.

And since I can’t tie a piece of twine on my finger for each thing I have to remember – I’d run out of twine in about three weeks – I have to make lists. (Well, technically I could start on those wizardly memorization tricks – you know, the house with ten rooms and such – but I always get lost about the room filled with bananas. Which room was next, the kitchen or the dining room? And why is the dining room covered in yellow? I already got the bananas…)

That way, if I have ten things to get at the store, I come home with fourteen. (If I only had ten, I’d know I missed something… did you ever go to the grocery store without buying something you’d forgotten you needed?)

And when I’m at work, I don’t go insane figuring out what to do next. Mister List, please tell me the next little task that will guarantee my future success.

Then I get to take my victorious energy out on the list. Scritch, scritch, scritch.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Life on my own #29: All-nighters

Is it an oxymoron to have completed a Bachelor’s degree without the aid of any all-nighters?

There I was, a 4.0 student, walking across the stage of my college’s beautiful chapel (seating 3,000, every one of them filled with sentimental families). Even had the little braids to prove my academic excellence. But I had missed one proud badge of college success:

The all-nighter.

One of my relatives – Mom, maybe? – said she pulled at least one all-nighter in college to write papers. One of my good friends, another honors student double-majoring in English and history, regularly wrote papers on as little as 3 hours of sleep. I’m nearly certain my college roommate pulled an all-nighter or two while I slumbered.

Me, I can remember two nights in my life when I got less than five hours of sleep.

Until the evening of the glorious Perseid meteor shower.

I kidnapped one of the gals from church and we hightailed it on down to my cousins’ house. My cousins, as you might recall, live on a farm way out in the middle of nowhere – perfect setting for stargazing, don’tcha think? And those Perseids! It’s a tradition of mine to go watch them every August on the night they’re most active. (I admit, that was easier to work out when I worked overtime on second shift.) My young friend had never seen a meteor shower and my young cousin didn’t start college classes for another week, so we decided to stay up late watching them.

Passing the time before the peak hours of the shower, we read poetry. Ogden Nash was never so funny as at midnight.

Then around 12:30 or 1 a.m., we ventured out onto the dewy wet grass (getting dewier by the moment) to join another cousin watching the meteor shower. It was kind of chilly. We had blankets to lay on but we had to retreat indoors to retrieve some more… we were sandwiched between layers of fabric by 3 a.m.

Sixty-some meteors later. Ahhh, the bliss that enfolds you when you’re curled in a blanket, staring at one of the natural wonders of God’s creation. I don’t understand meteor showers… I can’t imagine what it would be like to ride a meteor across the universe and into the atmosphere. I guess that’s part of why I enjoy them so much.

Around 2:30 a.m. we were trying to convince ourselves that it wasn’t too cold to stay out another half-hour. I don’t know how we got from that to the topic of all-nighters, but we did. (Minds work rather strangely after midnight. Must be that Twilight Zone magic of la madrugada (the wee hours of the morning).

And suddenly, I found myself mouthing phrases like “I’ve never pulled an all-nighter.” “Wouldn’t this be a fun night to pull one?” “No, it wouldn’t be too bad in the morning, certainly not much worse than getting only four hours of sleep.” “Sure, I can stay awake all night, and I’ll prove it.”

Or something like that.

Suffice it to say, come 5:30 a.m., my cousin and I started chatting about anything and everything just to be able to stay awake. Rumored heartthrob Heath Ledger (RIP) did his best to keep us alert until then, but the silence of the laptop speakers and the darkness of the void left by the laptop screen led us dangerously close to slumber.

(What? You don’t regularly watch DVDs on a laptop? What are you, a freak?)

Chatting, chatting, for an hour. I don’t remember a word of what we talked about.

And then a hot shower to wake up. Oh, right. I didn’t fall asleep! Well then, a hot shower to… banish that feeling between asleep and awake that sometimes steals over you while you’re driving. Not a good thing. And I was driving the half-hour back home with a poor, sleepy high-school friend in the passenger seat. Definitely need to be the alert driver.

But I made it. I made it through praise band practice – playing the guitar – and through coffee minutes and through Sunday School and through praise band during church and through the sermon. I even drove home without drifting into la-la land and the left lane.

Oh, and know what else? I tried napping for about two hours. Fitfully. Isn’t pulling an all-nighter supposed to make you dead tired the next day? Mine failed.

Not that I intend to pull any in the near future. Just that one time – to say I did it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I love books and other randomness

Random updates on my life:

  • I’ve finally gotten back into reading. I think I finished no fewer than three books in the last week and have started a fourth. Aren’t you proud of me? The books I’ve finished are Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (as you already knew), Revelations of a Single Woman by Connally Gilliam, and Unfashionable by Tullian Tchividjian. I would recommend them all to different audiences. P&P&Z needs to be read by fun-loving P&P philes. Revelations is a great read for post-college, pre-dating gals like me. And Unfashionable? Cool for young thinking Christians.
  • The fourth book I’m reading is Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church by D. A. Carson. It’s one of the few books I actually bought without having read it beforehand, and I’m already glad I did. There are so many things I can identify with in the emergent movement, yet I know that I’m not satisfied with their solutions, so I’m anxious to finish it. I’ll probably be reading that later on tonight.
  • My car window still doesn’t roll up all the way. I’ve rigged up a plastic-covered cardboard panel that I can affix to the car door when it’s parked, to keep the overnight storms from drenching my seat, but I do need to get it to the shop sometime in the next week…
  • I had a pork burger on Tuesday evening and it actually was pretty tasty.
  • I miss college friends. Pretty sure not a one of them lives in the same state I do. And now two of my best ones live in an entirely different hemisphere. How am I supposed to survive this? Smile with tongue out
  • Last night, when I wrote this, I was so tired I went to bed at 9:30. I’ve been up entirely too late most nights this week. I made it to bed by eleven on Tuesday night, I think, but that was the only day this week I wasn’t up past that. And my bedtime’s supposed to be about ten!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Elizabeth Bennet, zombie killer

If you haven’t already guessed by the post title, I finished reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies this morning.

Wow, that made me laugh so much. And I took probably half a dozen double takes when a well-loved (and well-remembered) quote got changed up to fit with the zombie gag:

“A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages; she must be well trained in the fighting styles of the Kyoto masters and the modern tactics and weaponry of Europe. And besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions…”

See? Spliced in there, brazenly, without the second author batting an eye. I picture him sitting there at his laptop keyboard, gleefully thinking up how many silly zombie references he can cram into the narrative without obliterating the original story entirely.

All in all, it was a hilarious book. I did not read it as serious literature, and I don’t think it was meant to be taken that way. As a matter of fact, when I put it down I thought “steampunk lit” exactly described the genre to which it belongs. An anachronistic, hallucinogenic mix of the Victorian and the modern. Where else could you comfortably fit a book that features a heroine like the zombie-killing Elizabeth Bennet?

A few observations that contain SPOILERS:

  • He (the author) killed off Collins! It was a very summary move on his part, but for mine, I was pretty content to be rid of the guy. Although, once I knew Charlotte was going to die, I was definitely expecting a period of mourning followed by Collins’ return to Longbourne to make an offer of marriage to Mary.
  • On the other hand, they made Mary much less of a bookworm and more of a girl obsessed with training to fight zombies. I was sad to see the change, but maybe that’s why he didn’t go that route.
  • The zombies mucking about Hertfordshire made it much easier for people growing up in the present generation to feel like it really was an impropriety/danger to go walking about alone, as a woman, whereas the original arrangement where Jane rides over to Netherfield and catches cold, then Elizabeth walks over by herself to keep her company, required a pretty good understanding of the social norms. I can see why people who don’t like Pride and Prejudice might enjoy this silly adaptation, despite the preponderance of Austen’s original material. (The book is probably 97% Austen, 3% Seth Grahame-Smith.)
  • Nice splice of making Jane’s cold (mentioned in the point before this) play into Darcy’s decision to separate Bingley and Jane! He thought she was succumbing to the dreadful torment! I applaud you there, ridiculous author.
  • I think I would rather have seen Wickham and Lydia killed off by zombie virus than Charlotte. I liked Charlotte, even if she didn’t really add to the story after the visit to Lady Catherine’s.
  • Steampunk zombie illustrations! ‘Nuff said.
  • I’m highly amused at the fight scene that Elizabeth’s first rejection of Darcy’s offer became. Dialogue almost pristinely exact to the original, but some of its meaning changed by context – and the mental images thoroughly altered by the narrative of their sparring.
  • I feel like the beginning sentence – “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains” – is not entirely devoid of the satirical air that its predecessor in Austen’s original carried.
  • I really did laugh out loud at the “discussion questions” following the text. My favorite: “Does Mrs. Bennet have a single redeeming quality?” And another good one: “Some scholars believe that the zombies were a last-minute addition to the novel, requested by the publisher in a shameless attempt to boost sales. Others argue that the hordes of living dead are integral to Jane Austen’s plot and social commentary. What do you think? Can you imagine what this novel might be like without the violent zombie mayhem?” Eminently chuckle-worthy.
  • Lots of the gags/jokes didn’t fit in with the Victorian-era sensibilities of virtue and polite society – Darcy makes a couple off-color comments – but, again, I think it’s that strange mix of the antique and the modern coming in here.

OK, I’m done rambling nonsensically about this book. But if I ever find it at a library booksale, I’m buying it, if only because I intend to become the state’s most authoritative amateur “expert” on the various iterations of the Bennet-Darcy story.

P.S. I think I kinda like steampunk. Maybe I should put together a steampunk wardrobe the next time I wander through Goodwill.