2012 DayZero Recap

It's been a good year, and a big one in a lot of ways. I'm still working on a lot of my DayZero goals, but I figured a nice way to recap the accomplishments of 2012 would be to look back over the completed goals. And really, it's a nice way to give myself a push for bigger and better things in the year to come.

9. Get a really good idea of the general topic around which I want my career in teaching and research to revolve.
  I'm really enjoying Cultural Sociology, and I think it's very reasonable to expect that whatever I end up doing over the course of my career, my research will have a lot to do with cultural narratives, symbols, solidarity, etc.  I want to study the things that make humans amazing, and culture is a good place to start.
15. Invest some money in something more binding and official than a regular savings account.
  We bought a house.  There can be no investment more truly real.
16. Paint a whiteboard wall in the office.
  I did it!  It's even got a fancy Celtic border design!
19. Try something new that scares me.
  I started taking Zoloft this year.  I've been fairly private about it, and it was an incredibly difficult decision for me to make, but it's really payed off.  I feel a lot better, and my varied anxieties are nowhere near as debilitating as they might be, or as they once were.
26. Enter at least 3 art contests.
  This year has been insanely productive where art is concerned.  Among other things, I entered three deviantART contests.  I even came in third place in one of them (along with Kate Cragoe)!
36. Do some kind of wall-art in the house.
  The whiteboard wall kind of counted for this too, since it involved some artsy design incorporation.
37. Finish an entire crossword puzzle of at least 2-star difficulty (or equivalent) without help.
  I did it!  Twice!
42. Travel to at least 8 brand new places (each at least 30 miles from home).
  Roanoke, VA; Memphis, TN; Austin, TX; Sulphur, LA; Natchez, MP; Louisville, KY; Lexington, KY; Mammoth Caves National Park.
43. Visit 2 new states.
  Try five! Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas
49. Visit Lisa Haines-Wright.
  I did!  It was wonderful!  And I got to see Gahdon and Rob Lafleur on the same day!
50. Try to be nicer, without sacrificing being funny, dry, or sarcastic.
  I'm not 100% sure I'm succeeding, but I really am trying.  I feel like I've been kind of an ass, and I'm trying to do that less.  Among other things, I'm trying to ask other people about themselves - how they're doing, what's new, etc.  It sounds like a little thing, but whenever people ask me these things, I tend to tell them how I'm doing and then neglect to return the courtesy.  I'm trying to pay more attention to other people.
51. Try to be less childish, without sacrificing being curious, wondering, or playful.
  Again, not sure it's working, but I'm trying to be less childish, especially at home.  As people are fond of pointing out, I tend to be rather curmudgeonly - this quality tends to overwhelm my personality in public, but it means that all my childishness comes out when I'm at home, and it gets irritating for Caitlin and myself, and it makes me feel very undignified.  I'm trying to do it less.
57. Visit a friend out-of-state.
  Robyn and Tucker got married!  I know, I was there!
58. Visit Katie in Austin (or whatever other odd place she happens to be living at the time).
  Just got back.  Katie is cool, Austin is cool, Katie's ladyfriend is cool, as are her roommate and her two weird gay cats.
69. Bike 15 miles in a single day.
  I did it!  17 miles, one day!  (Nevermind that it was accidental...)
70. Eat some really good bread pudding.
  Boltini's blueberry bread pudding in downtown Champaign.  Amazing stuff.
71. Win something.
  I won third prize with Katie in that art contest, and a bunch of board/card games.
72. Get my Illinois driver's license (finally).
  Done.  It took us forever, but we finally have in-state licenses.
75. Find a way to be civically/politically active that is more involved than just signing online petitions and contributing money.
  My activism has subsided a little since the contract negotiations ended, but for a while I was reasonably active in my union, going to meetings and marching around campus.  You know.  Yelling stuff.
76. Eat a better muffin than last time.
  I did.  It was a very satisfactory muffin.  Banana nut, I think.
81. Get a copy of Seven Samurai for Caitlin.
  Did it!  On a whim!
87. Find a Japanese food dish that I actually like, so that when Caitlin or others want to go get Japanese I'm not the dissenting vote.
  I like vegetable tempura!  Though I did confirm that sushi and sashimi are still gross.
89. Get better at living an ecologically sustainable lifestyle.
  I've actually been working pretty hard at this.  Leaving lights off unless I actually need them for things.  Taking shorter showers, and trying to shower when there's actually a reason, rather than just as a reflex.  Reusing art supplies and scrap paper.  Using the random blank pages in books as sketch/notepads.  Eating leftovers, sometimes.  I think I'm doing pretty well at it.
91. Either through actively changing or consciously accepting the status quo, become satisfied with my social life.
  It was sort of a combination of the two, really.  There are still days when I feel like Nobody likes me / Everybody hates me / Guess I'll go eat worms, but for the most part I'm pretty happy with the few friends I have here.  Especially after joining the ATLAS team, I feel like I have friends based on mutual compatibility, not just on common circumstance.
95. Buy the Harry Potter movies.
  Did it!  On a whim!
97. Learn to create tidy illuminated art, using actual gold leaf.
  Another artistic accomplishment I'm pretty happy about.  I've still got a lot to learn, but I've successfully created a couple of gold-leafed pieces that I'm really quite pleased with.
98. Become proficient in SPSS, Stata, and SAS.
  This feels a little like a lie, since I've kind of forgotten my training in Stata and SAS.  But I have eceived training in all three programs, and my intent is to get progressively better at the latter two in the coming semester.
100. Hug my dog.
  Almost every day.

Mad Men lessons

I really don't understand why this show is so addictive, but it is. Maybe it's the valuable history lessons that it can teach us.

1) Men in the 60s were uniformly gross, and women in the 60s were (almost) uniformly attracted to that quality.
2) 90% of people in the 60s were alcoholics, and about 90% of those didn't think it was a problem.
3) In New York, there were hippies and suits (and the women belonging to hippies and suits). That was the full range.
4) Wealth is directly proportionate to either (a) insanity, (b) callousness, or (c) social monstrousness.

273 days to go.

On January 2 of 2010, my good buddy Willie (Cool by Intent) convinced me that it would be a good idea to check out this thing called Day Zero. It's a site where you can set up a list of 101 goals you'd like to accomplish in the next 1001 days - a little less than three years. Each year since posting it...well, I guess that'd be just last year, I've posted an update at the turn of the calendar with my progress.
The New Year has rolled around, by our ridiculous Gregorian calendar, and I'm in a pretty good place. Still married, still relatively healthy, living life more or less as I'd like to live it. There have been some stumbles, and I've come up short on a few of my goals, but on the whole, things are really going quite wellCollapse )
It's been a good year. Peace out, 2011. On to a great 2012.

Writer's Block: Desert island

List three books that have changed your life:

In chronological order:
Martin of Redwall, by Brian Jacques
As a kid, I was into speculative fiction of various kinds, most particularly horror (Goosebumps series, some of the tamer Stephen King stuff), but the Redwall series was my first foray into traditional fantasy fiction, and I became immediately and totally hooked. From age 11 or so (or whenever I picked up Martin of Redwall) to age 18 or so, I rarely picked up a book (besides school books) that wasn't fantasy fiction, and that proclivity has directly informed my choice in friends and hobbies ever since.

Power Politics, by Arundhati Roy
I can't remember at all how I came across this book, but it was during my junior year of high school that I read it (the first time). Up to this point, I had been socially-minded and politically active, but in the narrow way of children and teens, seeing only those issues that touched my existence in some way. Roy's books, beginning with Power Politics, helped me to start thinking about international and global social issues, and also showed me that I could be truly passionate about problems that didn't in any way affect my day-to-day life. In a way, the book didn't change me as much as it might have, because reading it made me want to go into Political Science and I haven't taken a single Poli-Sci course, but the values it instilled in me I still use daily, in my career and in my social life. This book was also the first where I went through the text underlining, highlighting, and dog-earing pages - a practice which I've found immensely useful throughout my schooling.

The Sandman, by Neil Gaimain
The effect of the Sandman series was much less direct than the other two books listed here, but no less substantial. The mythology informs my peculiar type of humanistic faith. The central themes of responsibility, continuity, beauty in the bizarre, and most importantly, friendship, comprise some of the main themes that I try to ascribe to my life. It affected my life in a more superficial way, because its aesthetic beauty as a volume of pages contributed greatly to my desire to start collecting books. This may be also the only book (or series, in this case) which has actually changed me physically - I have a tattoo on my leg of Morpheus and Matthew, and a quote from the final book in the series, The Wake.

Thoughts on Rabble

This is (probably) the only thing I will have to say on the subject of the debt deal. I may respond to comments, depending on their tone. Don't come to me with mean sarcasm and political puffery, I won't abide it:

Dear Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Tea-Partitians, Hippies, and all the other people screaming about how the "other side" screwed "you:" There's a reason you all feel like you got screwed. It's because you did. All of you. Everyone lost, and we can pretty solidly blame ideological absolutism. If each of us lends a finger, together we can all point our fingers at each other, and we will have accurately captured the scope of blame. But if we could get that kind of community coordination, don't you think maybe we could put it to more constructive use?

Please, please, PLEASE, let's learn a lesson here. Screaming is not the answer. Generalization of a malicious "other" is not the answer. Let's remember that solutions come slowly in a democracy, and always with a price. Let's learn that an acceptance of complexity is not a vice, and endeavor to truly consider the full field of perspective. Let's talk, and ask questions, and place value on understanding, rather than just defending a position. Let's stop glorifying the ideologues and dismissing those who search for synthesis and compromise as "spineless" and "pandering."

The gray area isn't the middle - it's everything. Everything is complicated, everything has relevant context, and unless we are seeking either an anarchist state or absolute authoritarian rule, discourse and understanding are of greatest importance.

G'night, ya rabble.

-N. (R.)

Writer's Block: Fairest one of all

What is something you would never want to change about yourself?

you don't often see this more optimistic side of self-reflection, and that's too bad. i will encourage it:

there is much i would change about myself, but amidst the changes i'd like to hang onto my passion for learning. truthfully, it'd be better described as a love of grokking, but not everybody's read Heinlein, so "learning" will have to suffice. learning is at the heart of what life is about for me, and i wouldn't trade it.

(friends: i'm curious what your answers to this question would be! reply to this post, or to the question on the homepage!)