22 May 2006

So, I'm sifting through files on my computer trying to find the final report for this project that I worked on back in the day, which, though unsuccessful, led to the rediscovery of a bunch of stuff I wrote when I was trapped in Texas. Apparently while in Texas I spent a good deal of time thinking about how much more fun I had while trapped* in New Hampshire, and, more importantly, a lovely game we used to play called "F**k, kill, marry." My personal challenge (at the time)?: Howard Roark, Hank Stamper, and Dave Eggers.

Another great game is "Sinking ship" where you take all of the people in your immediate social situation (in NH a house of 8) and decide the order in which you would throw them off a sinking ship in order to, presumably, save yourself and whoever you're playing the game with.

I've had some wierd (and fantastic) summers.

*By "trapped" I mean living somewhere isolated from things like the internet, phones, TV, sane people, and cultural stimuli, but surrounded by wildlife, crazy folk, and alcohol.

20 May 2006

What am I up to?

So, part of my job involves a "trail use study," which means I spend many hours every couple of weeks counting the number of people who use certain trails. This would be fascinating except that NO ONE USES THE TRAILS. That's not true. But in the 6 hours I was out last week I saw approximately 10 people. Sure, sure, this means I get paid to hang out in nature and do pretty much nothing, which is awsome, except when I do actually have other things to do with my working hours (which is always). But here we are. So I decided to start taking pictures of flowers, and these are the winners. Plus this gave me an excuse to figure out the flickr thing (partially). My favorite is still this one:
Because the native plantains get so little love, and they're pretty freaking adorable in their itsy-bitsy-ness.

I've also spent some of that time thinking about what I would get if I got another tattoo, and who I would have do it. But don't worry...no more tattoos in the near future.

11 May 2006


If I ever have the opportunity to really, truly warp the mind of a young person, my big plan is to do so by only ever showing him or her maps that look like this (or derivations thereof):

This map, originally produced by the SASI group, shows all the countries of the world in actual land-area proportion to eachother. As we map geeks know, most maps are some derivation or another of trying to project a spherical-ish surface (the globe) on to a flat page or screen. Which leads to lots of distortion, getting worse and worse as you move away from the equator. And, since most of the developed world lies signinficantly north (or south, hi New Zealand!) of the equator, these projections could give us developed-world-ers an inflated sense of our importance (at least geographically).*

I've flipped the map upside-down because, from the perspective of the universe, what is up? The only reason we draw north as "up" is because the first folks to figure out this whole map-drawing-printing-and-distributing thing drew themselves living on the top of the planet. Does it matter? Not really. Not climatologically. In fact, looking at the map this way reminds me of why it's so much colder in Siberia than it is in South Africa.

So, would a kid raised on this map freak out when he got to the first grade and saw his first north-up interrupted sinusoidal projection? Maybe. But that's what independent parent cooperative schools are for, right? So no kid ever gets called a freak because they know what Lambert conformal conic means.

* I should note here that maps like this are NOT good for navigation. That's a whole other thing. Really any projected map isn't very good for navigation over long distances.

08 May 2006

Talent? Ain’t no such thang.

I was recently at a bar (no!) discussing the fact that doing things you’re not good at totally sucks. I, for example, “am not good at” learning languages. Or having rhythm. My conversation partner (can that be a new category on Friendster?) “is not good at” skate skiing. But, of course, along come the internet and some numbers/econ geeks to point out that the whole concept of “not [inherently] good at” is false. I actually found this column to be quite inspiring…or at least leveling. The conversation in the bar led to us both pondering the few times that we’d transitioned from “not good at” to “okay.” My favorite personal example is snowboarding. There was a time when I was terrible at it. I have walked down mountains (bunny slopes) and spent entire days more on my butt than on my feet. My right knee is f***ed up partially thanks to that period of learning. But I don’t suck at snowboarding any more. I’m not particularly good, but I’m aware that it’s due to a lack of commitment and the fact that I’m a big chicken, not a lack of talent.

Chicken-ness and lack of commitment are things I can control, and it’s somehow reassuring that, theoretically, when I try to learn new things I am in control of my success. So the fact that I’m not very good at playing the fiddle is because I’m not trying hard enough (which is true). And it’s up to me to change that. Or to give up and add ‘playing a musical instrument’ to the long list of things I’ve bailed on.

The column also claims that “when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don't love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good.” What they gloss over is how you come upon things you actually love to do. It ain’t talent, but if our likes and dislikes beget skills, how do we develop likes and dislikes? Some are clear – I like and am good at reading maps because my father is an architect and I grew up reading plans. I am not good at team sports because neither of my parents played any, nor did they encourage me to do so. But my excessive love for trees (there must be a latin word for this)? Or my sense of humor that verges on the completely bizarre?* the root of these is a mystery even to me. But because I believe that the nature/nurture question is weighted towards the nurture side, I’m guessing they’re somehow subtly environmental.

How does this help to solve the problems of the world? Well, if more people believed that what was standing between them and success was (1) finding something they love doing and (2) working hard at it, I’m pretty sure the world would be a better place. Or, to take it the step further that the column does, the best thing would be to raise children in an environment that encourages as many likes and passions as possible. Except bad passions, like schmoozing politicians, making and distributing tacos in lieu of the mail, or getting other people addicted to drugs. Some passions should go unfulfilled.

*Britt- have you seen this? Watch “Blueberry” immediately.

03 May 2006

Opposite day?

First of all, Tom Friedman is talking about a third "environmental" party like it's a new idea. Um, what? Admittedly, during the last election he was too busy thinking about Israel and 9/11 to worry too much about the environment, but did he really miss the entire Nader campaign? Say what you want, but pretty much if it weren't for third party candidates, we'd have a green president, damnit.

Second, Mark Morford can't just complain about everything. Writing an article that basically is against smart growth (i.e. generally building denser developments with mixed-use commercial/residential. Google it.) because it does involve a lot of Pottery Barn cleanliness is just stupid. If someone chooses to live in an apartment above a Sunglass Hut where they can WALK to the Whole Foods, WALK to their yoga classes, hair appointments, and botox sessions, and take a shuttle or BIKE to their middle managment job at the nearby office park, that's f***ing awesome. Because that person wasn't choosing between that lifestyle and our hipster urban I-don't-own-a-car shop at Rainbow make my own underwear world. It was this clean, Disney-ified version of urban life or an actual tract home, where they'd DRIVE 20 or 50 or 100 miles a day in their Passat or Excursion or H3 to do the same things, only isolated from the world, on their ass, and belching noxious fumes the entire way. There are more people. There will be more homes. Mixed-use in-filling is so far the best option. Get over it.