28 December 2006


Christmas is finally over. For the first time in a full month, I'm having a bit of down time, which is lovely. I think the bulk of my holiday binge eating and spending is accounted for, and now it's time to get back to consciousness, moderation, and frugality. I'm currently in the middle of the woods, miles from the nearest town. Snow is falling. Fat squirrels are feasting on cracked corn outside. The sky is gray. I haven't gone outside today. I've been drinking coffee, and snacking here and there, and catching up on long-overdue emails. I'm still in my pajamas. I may take a shower after spending a few minutes on the treadmill in the basement.

26 December 2006

repost: stats & figures, 26 December.

December 26, 2004 was a much different day than today.

Largest and deadliest earthquake in 2004.

This is the fourth largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and is the largest
since the 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska earthquake. In total, more than
283,100 people were killed, 14,100 are still listed as missing and 1,126,900
were displaced by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 10 countries in South
Asia and East Africa. The earthquake was felt (IX) at Banda Aceh, (VIII) at
Meulaboh and (IV) at Medan, Sumatra and (III-V) in parts of Bangladesh, India,
Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The tsunami caused more casualties than any other in recorded history and was recorded nearly world-wide on tide gauges in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Seiches were observed in India and the United States. Subsidence and landslides
were observed in Sumatra. A mud volcano near Baratang, Andaman Islands became
active on December 28 and gas emissions were reported in Arakan, Myanmar.

I woke up late on December 26, 2004 and checked email while i waited for coffee to brew. There was a message from Big Mike, a friend I'd worked with in Thailand. Normally jovial and light-hearted, I thought nothing of the subject heading "I'm still alive". I opened and read the message, to learn it truly was to inform friends and family he'd survived intact. His message that morning was the first mention I'd heard of the tsunami.

The epicenter of the earthquake that caused the tsunami was about 80 miles from an Indonesian island where I'd spent an idyllic 5 weeks. In such a low-lying and primitive area, all was destroyed, though all the people I knew there survived. The only casualty was Bunny the dog, who washed ashore weeks later, and received a heartfelt burial by all those who loved her.
In the weeks following, I was obsessed with gathering information on the tsunami. I clipped articles, and watched news footage, and researched online, and configured web content alerts. I found myself constantly on the verge of tears, if not crying uncontrollably, while thoughts of ravaged coastline, countless missing, and nameless dead played over and over in my head.
Eventually, recognizing unhealthy behavioral patterns, I forced myself to stop reading and watching and researching. I still can't figure out why exactly I reacted as strongly as I did to the tsunami.

Maybe it's this: If you live here, December 26 is still essentially a holiday (some have to work, but for the most part, it's still laid back like a holiday). If you live somewhere like Thailand though, it's just a day, a workday like any other. The December 26 I spent in Thailand was a workday like any other. So maybe that's why: because I worked there, and I knew what December 26 would have felt like, and how it would have looked, and I knew all the mundane tasks that would have needed to be accomplished before the day really began. And so December 26, 2004 could have just as easily been the December 26 I spent there.

24 December 2006


I'm finishing my Christmas shopping today. Yes, it's 24 December. I am that person. It's actually early enough that stores aren't too insanely busy. I hope to finish early, that I might allow myself enough time for wrapping said gifts...

Happy holidays to all. Though I'm currently in MN, this picture is more relevant to my time leading up to the holiday (and gives me a bit of solace that my time in the wintry tundra, despite the mild temps and conditions, is short):

Wishing you peace & love.
xo, aa

15 December 2006

rodeo, MDT style.

Finals were completed Thursday afternoon. Somehow the classes this module proved to be much more challenging than those of the first module, as my grades will no doubt reflect. In any case, I'm glad to be done. Welding actually turned out to be really fun, and I quite enjoyed torching through steel with a really hot flame. But the guest instructor was stubborn and infuriating during the theory sessions, so I can't say I learned as much as I ought. Hydraulics was the opposite situation: I always enjoy theory sessions with Don, but the lab portion was a bit of a nightmare.

The sole purpose of the lab was to devise a contraption to perform work using hydraulic power. The group I was in didn't really gel. We had difficulty deciding on a project. When a project hypothesis was proposed, we had difficulty deciding on a design. When we'd decided on a design, there was debate over specifics, and so on, ad infinitum. Everyone in the group gets along well outside the group, it was just that, in the confines of the group project, we all just wanted to bitch-slap each other most of the time. With time running extremely short, we finally decided on the most basic of all hydraulics lab projects: the hydraulic can crusher.

Other groups were far more original. The best of these was the hydraulically-powered mechanical bull, which utilized 2 different actuators: one to shift the bull to and fro, and another to rotate. The bull was widely discussed, but who would ride the bull was even more widely discussed: the group's members were hell bent on getting Dan Vasey, MDT Program Director and Wisconsin farm boy extraordinaire, on the bull. When push came to shove, Dan obliged and rode the bull proficiently. Several others also stepped forward to ride the bull, most notably, an advanced-semester student by the name of Jacob.

The MDT program is 2 semesters in length. There are other courses a student can take to augment the MDT curriculum, but the basic certificate can be obtained at the end of the second semester. So at the end of each semester (because the program can be started in either the fall or the spring), there's always a group of students leaving. And because the program is small, and so intensive, we all get to know each other pretty well. Maybe a bit too well.

Jacob and some other advanced students took Thursday to celebrate their impending graduation. After a few hours of imbibing, they stopped back at the MDT facility, for whatever reason. They happened to arrive just at the point when we were beginning to showcase our hydraulics lab projects.

I don't know why, but Jacob was wearing the bright yellow speedo under his shorts (you must remember that this is a diving program, so half-clothed boys barely faze me anymore, so common is the sight). I don't know why it was important to ride the bull in the neon speedo. But it certainly made for a memorable last day of class.

And despite the unlikelihood of ever seeing Jacob again, I don't think I'll soon forget him.

12 December 2006

good, for nothing.

I'm so good at one thing: procrastinating. I'm procrastinating now, and hoping that by admitting it here, giving this fault of mine the credit it's due, that it might dissipate to the point of being manageable.

What's amazing about procrastinating is how many other things one can think to do instead of task at hand (in this case, studying), and how many of the things you've put off for months and months can somehow, suddenly, sound terribly enticing, urgent even. Here are some of the things I've done, or have been thinking I should do, this very day:

-Clean my car
-Wash clothes
-Browse fave shops
-Attend class at the gym
-Explore neighboring town of Carpinteria (I've been meaning to do that for so long)
-Buy fruit from cute guy at Rincon fruit stand
-Chat with downstairs neighbor
-Write blog entry
-Write emails
-Send b-day cards
-Cook stuff
This list is not inclusive: I've had far more random impulses today, I just can't remember where they are, because my mind keeps thinking about how I have these big tests tomorrow, and I keep telling myself that I'm going to start the studying in 5 more minutes, or after I do this one more thing... but I keep procrastinating.

That said, I'm going to get to the studying. Right after I run downstairs and throw a load of laundry in.

10 December 2006


Can't write now, studying...

I have finals this week. I'm a bit frazzled, but thankfully the multitude of cold germs I've been plagued by seem to have found new hosts, so I'm mostly free of illness as I commence finals week. Mostly I think I'll be ok for the tests, though one is obliged to be a bit unnerved and stressed before finals, so I feel a bit of stress at the unknowns.

I went to study tonight with friends Rob and Carlo, and after a few hours of looking over books and discussing possible exam questions, we headed downtown to the harbor for the parade of lights. Not the kind of parade your mind would immediately conjour images of, this parade takes place on the water: a goodish number of boats docked in Santa Barbara, lavished with lovely, colorful Christmas decorations of varying motifs glided past a crowd assembled on Stearn's Wharf. The same sort of spectacle took place on Friday in the harbor where I work, so all this weekend at work, between diving boats, I puttered past sail- and powerboats decked out in their finest holiday regalia.

And strangely, there in the harbor, it finally started to feel like Christmas time.

06 December 2006

pop pop, fizz fizz.

It started out, on Friday afternoon, as a novelty: a bit of congestion in the head, a sense of the teensiest fever. I awoke Saturday morning with enough of a head cold to preclude me from diving for the day and hence, from going to work, but not enough of one that I shouldn't enjoy my unexpected freedom just a touch. I spent some time in the drafting lab at school, ran errands, and browsed at some shops, but by mid-afternoon I was feeling pretty abysmal, and so returned home. Upon returning, and finding no cold meds in my keeping, I scurried up the street to the CVS to get some Alka Seltzer Cold & Flu, and some of that terribly flavored antiseptic spray for the scratchy throat, and then a bit further up the street to Ralph's for some soup (Ralph's is not the small neighborhood grocery it sounds, but rather a chain, formerly Safeway, somewhere between a Byerly's and a Rainbow in MN) before shuffling back home.

I spent the rest of that day and the next in bed. I happily slept through most of my Sunday. By Monday morning, I was beginning to feel a bit better, but was suffering the effects of a cold-med hangover during my early classes. It cleared off eventually, and the rest of the day was standard. The following morning I was feeling alright, but still had some congestion in my ears, and so took another day off from diving. I slept most of that day too, following the rationale (which was later echoed by my most sagest of friends, MZZ) that I wouldn't be sleeping so much if my body didn't need it. I also hoped that the added sleep would clear away any remaining cobwebs of sick that might be hiding in the furthest reaches of my sinuses.

But I heard it the other day, in the hallway, and only now can I grasp its full weight: the cough of one with whom I share the bathroom.

I can only make sense of it this way, that I actually recovered from what I had this weekend, but somehow, in the midst of the almost-recovery, I contracted cough-y sister's cough-y germs, and now I'm stricken with week's cold #2. And I'm not pleased with it. It's bad enough was sick all weekend and have sacrificed 2 days of work, and that I have to go for a whole weekend without delicious coffee in the morning, but now into the week as well. And I really must forgo the coffee because now, with the cough-y congested irritated-red-chapped-5-year-old-nose cold, the coffee actually makes my throat hurt. So now, not only am I grumpy because I'm sick, but also because I can't partake of a normal morning routine, and because I have to keep blowing my nose, and seriously, it really hurts, and because I have a scratchy throat, and because I feel like I shouldn't go to the gym at night, and because finals are coming up and because I'm still trying to figure out easy/cheap/handmade gifts to give all my beloveds.

I'm going to bed now. And hoping some other germ doesn't sneak in my window overnight.

01 December 2006

for your consideration.

For all the frustration experienced since becoming the women's auxiliary to team boy-stank, there are moments when they almost redeem themselves. The first of these occurred the very first day, at the swim eval, before I knew the evils and pitfalls of team boy-stank: during the 150-foot breath-holding exercise, I surfaced for my last breath before swimming the final length, but started coughing and sputtering, rather than inhaling to descend. Gentle giant Swedish Simon was poolside, smiling and encouraging me to keep trying, convincing me I could do it, and I did, sort of. The coughing and sputtering was a deal-breaker for that particular event, but I did actually make it to the other side. A minor miracle in my mind, considering that prior to that day, I'd never even come close to accomplishing it.

Another followed a night dive at a site called Mesa Lane, where I was forced to ditch my weights post-dive at the bottom of a staggering flight of stairs. Afterward, when I returned to retrieve them, I turned around to find one of the Joes, who'd hiked down to help me when someone'd mentioned where I'd gone (and it was awesome that he came to help- not only was I totally spooked and sketched out finding myself alone on a long stretch of beach, and sans flashlight, but I was sincerely not looking forward to navigating 200+ stairs, after a cold dive, in a wet dive skin, hefting an additional 20 pounds in awkward-to-manage dive-weight form at 1am.).

There have been other moments, intermittently, small things mostly, but generally enough to keep me from losing my mind amidst the dark haze of testosterone that permeates the MDT facility. This week, in particular, certain members of team b-s (oh, I kind of like that...) have been especially sweet:

Upon leaving for T-day break last week, Carlo and I planned to hang out that Saturday night. While at a relaxed towny-ish bar called the Press Room, discussing our mutual confusion over the objective of the game of Cricket, and watching random clips from B&W movies from the '30s, he paid for the drinks. Sweet.

On Monday, I bought a bed and frame, but had no way of transporting it to my place. I called and asked my friend Rob, who not only agreed to help, but packed everything neatly into the back of his truck, drove it from there to here, but also manhandled the mattresses up and down flights of stairs, and held things in place while I re-assembled everything. Sweet.

This morning, I decided to drive to school, as overnight temps are now in the 30s, making for cold extremities on the bike in the am. Pulling in to the parking lot, a young woman pointed out that I had a flat tire. Later in the day, I mentioned the mishap to Brendan, who offered to help switch out the tire for the spare. A few others pitched in, but Brendan did most of the work, indulging my need to contribute every so often. Sweet.
So there you have it. Proof that the stinky boys, despite being stinky and prone to topics of discussion better left to poker tables and sound-proofed garages, have their moments of seeming human-ness and normalcy. And for this reason, I love them all, just a little.