Things I learned…recently

It’s been a while since I have taken the time to sit down and write one of these blog posts.  It’s not that I haven’t learned anything, it’s just that I have a case of the lazies.

It happens.

So, what have I learned?

I learned…

…that field geology is not my thing.

This past semester I took a historical geology class to fulfill a science requirement.  It was an interesting class, challenging and time-consuming.  I learned a lot and that’s always a good thing.  The course was geared toward geology majors, and I was a little apprehensive about that at first, but my fear proved unfounded.

I rocked that class.

<see what I did there>

However, one of the things my professor required for course completion was a bit of field work.  He believes that he cannot allow his students to walk away from historical geology without at least one day in the field – mud covered rock hammer in one hand, chunk of fossil-filled platy limestone in the other.

Okay.  No big deal.  I can do that.  Dig around in the dirt for an afternoon, maybe find a fossil or two, identify an unconformity or a fault, take a strike-dip measurement.  Not my favorite things, but whatever.

I did a little research on the site where we were to do our field work.  It’s a place on the North Sulphur River known to contain Cretaceous period fossils.  According to a few maps, the site boasts a park of sorts with an outbuilding and concrete stairs leading down the steep river embankment.  Okay, no big deal.  I can do that.

The day of the excursion was rainy, a chance of severe weather loomed, but we went anyway.  We are geologist, a little thing like a tornado watch isn’t going to scare us – or so our professor told us.  The site was in the backwoods of nowhere, down an overgrown two lane farm to market road – and not where we thought it was.  There was no outbuilding, and there were no stairs, but there was a trail – or so our professor told us.

Now, I have to tell you, my professor is an older man – late sixties, almost seventy, but he is the most energetic person I’ve ever met.  If Indiana Jones were a geologist, he would be my professor.  He is also a dirty rotten liar.  There was no trail, only a runoff path that spilled down a sixty degree drop through overgrown brush and misshapen trees into the river bed thirty feet below.

Sixty degree drop; thirty feet below. 

Oh.  Did I mention it was raining?  Yeah, so the ground had turned to slick as snot clay mud.   You know that stuff, right?  It might as well have been a sheet of ice.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am not an outdoorsy person, and the whole scenario was so far out of my comfort zone, I felt like I might drown in my own anxiety.  That nagging voice of reason in my head was doing his best Lost in Space impression, “Danger, Will Robinson.  Danger.”  But I ignored him.  After all, I have expanded my horizons in recent years, ventured into uncharted territory, overcome a few of my more benign phobias.  I could do it.  

Right?

Right.  So, I took a deep breath, sat down on my butt and did the crab crawl –  inch by inch, down into that fucking river bed.   I spent two hours trudging through mud so thick it stuck the bottom of my shoes (I grew two inches) and caked the hem of my jeans.   I foraged for fossils, took a strike-dip measurement, almost dropped my compass into a mud puddle, and suffered the indignity of a really bad hair day.

Then I clawed my way back out, up thirty feet (at a staggering sixty degree incline) inch by fucking agonizing inch.

Success!

And it only took three weeks for all the cuts and bruises to heal.  Bonus.

The experience ranks right up there with whale watching from an inflatable raft in the middle of the churning Pacific.  I’m proud of myself for doing it, but I will never, ever do it again.  Ever.

…that one of my new favorite things to do is sit in a bookstore coffee shop with my daughter sipping a cold frappy, nibbling a calorie heavy treat, and reading a good book.

…that sometimes blog spam is amusing.  I normally don’t pay much attention to it – just hit the delete button and move on.  But today I found this attached to one of my reading challenge entries:

Thats just because youre still mad at him for winning the starting RF job over your man-crush last April.

It’s like I’m in a fight with someone and I didn’t even know it.  Such drama.

…that the 10 hour drive to South Padre Island is so much more fun than the 11 hour drive home.

…that we have entered that point in tennis season where I am again forced to question my long-standing Federer allegiance.  I can forgive a loss at the Australian Open to Murray, but a loss on clay to Tsonga in the quarterfinals?  I’m at the breaking point…seriously.  If Federer doesn’t step up on the grass in London, I’m out.  I mean it.  For real this time.

that there is a Great White shark lurking just off the coast of Cape Cod.    Note to self:  no beach excursions during future trips north to visit my Boston peeps.

…that there is an Atlantic Green sea turtle named Allison at Sea Turtle, Inc. on South Padre Island with a prosthetic flipper (think boat rudder, only for a turtle) to help her swim.  Go read about her – and all of the good work this amazing organization does – (here).

…that I will take a Stats class over Art Appreciation any day of the week.   I had two objectives going into this summer – knock out a couple of required courses I have put off because I know they will suck and get a tan.  Well, it’s only a few weeks in and I’ve already failed.  No, my tan looks great, but I seem to have hit a hurdle with that other thing.  It turns out I’d rather jab a stick into my eye than sit through 10 weeks of art appreciation, and its endless string of mindless “art” projects and presentations.  I couldn’t drop it fast enough.  Of course, now I have to take an extra class in the fall to make up for it, but I think art history will suit me much better.  I sure hope so.  On a side note, Stats is going to work out just fine.  Who’d have thought?

…and last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by my sweet daughter and her band awards.  I’m not proud or anything…

Embarrassment of Riches TBR: May check-in

Better late than never.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to participate in the Embarrassment of Riches reading challenge hosted by author Patricia Burroughs.   The goal of the challenge is to make a dent in that stack of books I have been intending to read, but never got around to picking up.

Given the size of the pile I have amassed, I am aiming to get through 24 of them before the end of the year – a silver level accomplishment.

So what did I read in May?

  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre:  I’m a sucker for a good spy novel, and le Carre’s George Smiley just might be my favorite fictional spy of all time.  Tinker is set in the early seventies and weaves the reader through a spine-tingling maze of betrayal and treason as Smiley seeks to discover the mole within the “Circus” – a mole channeling operational intelligence to the KGB.  The plot twists and turn as Smiley works to corner his prey, and in the process, exposes each of a wide cast of characters’ deepest, darkest secrets.  I loved this book, though perhaps not quite as much as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, which was a work of pure genius, but Tinker is definitely true to the brilliance of le Carre’s mastery of the genre.

Albright

  • Prague Winter:  A Personal Story of Remembrance and War:  1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright:  It took me a while to get through this work of non-fiction – three months, perhaps.  That’s not to say it wasn’t a good read.  It was.  I just found it tedious.  Albright is a thorough writer with a quick wit and offers up an unexpected barb or two to lighten up the heaviness of the period, but she tends to bury the reader in too much prologue and back history.  The personal stories about her family experiences, memories of the war, and unrealized Jewish heritage were fascinating, though.  I’m glad I took the time to finally finish it.
  • I also finished Gospel of Freedom by Jonathan Rieder.  Gospel is an interesting work that puts King’s iconic Birmingham jail letter into historical context.  This was a new approach to this letter to me.  I have read it before, but always from a literary perspective – audience, prose, etc.   It’s not my favorite book on King, but I think any criticism I have stems from the writer’s tendency to ramble.  Of course, this a new publication and not from my TBR list, but…

Currently reading:

  • The Unlikely Spy by Daniel Silva:  I believe this is Silva’s first novel, and not at all what I was expecting.  It’s set during World War II – didn’t see that coming; probably should have read the cover blurb.  It’s also told from so many points of view, I have trouble keeping track of who’s who.  Unlike his Allon novels, the hero is lukewarm and somewhat uninteresting.  I find myself drawn to the female antagonist even though I know she is the enemy.  She’s so much more engaging.  Perhaps this is Silva’s intent.  He has done this before – painted the bad guy in a sympathetic light, though not to this extent.  We shall see how it ends.  I will report back.
  • Mark of the Assassin by Daniel Silva:  Six chapters in and I haven’t met the hero yet.  I don’t hold out much hope.  It is obvious that Silva hasn’t hit his stride yet.

Progress toward goal:  9 of 24 read.

I need to step up my game.

So, what are you reading?

Blog? What blog?

Oh!  This blog.

Worry not, my faithful followers.  I haven’t been eaten by a bear or abducted by aliens or fallen down a deep bug infested hole in the middle of a secluded rain forest.

<shudder>

I’ve been busy.  You know, doing stuff.

What stuff?

I’m glad you asked.

The month of May marks the end of my semester and usually goes one of two ways:  1) I am overcome with creativity and spend endless hours either at the keyboard writing like a madwoman or viewing the world through a camera lens snapping photographs of every unfortunate bug and blossom to cross my path; or 2) I am overwhelmed by life, say screw it all, and overdose on trash television.

Sadly, it’s been the latter kind of month, and consequently, my brain is in full-on decomp after watching an endless stream of Ancient Aliens, Married to Medicine (an all-time low for me), and the Real Housewives of Orange County.

I blame science.  Specifically, historical geology.

I spent four months immersed in millions/billions of years of earth history- from its origins to the revelation of geologic time to the theories of evolution and plate tectonics.  I studied orogenies (the process of mountain building – get your mind out of the gutter), sedimentary deposition environments, bio – and litho – facies, faulting and folding, and learned to age date and correlate rock formations.  I can identify a whole slew of fossils based on a laundry list of characteristics.  If you ask nicely, I can even give you their kingdom, genus, species and period of existence.

While this is all fascinating stuff, it is not conducive to cultivating creativity – neither is “reality” television.   I spent the first 2/3 of May stuck in “left-brain” mode.  I couldn’t see the beauty of a rolling field of wildflowers.  I only saw an eroded anticline left over from a Mississippian period thrust event. I wondered if it was faulted; if the adjoining basin was filled with terrestrial material; if there was evidence of a transgressive or regressive marine environment; what fossils might be present.

Disturbing, I know.

To combat this troubling trend, I tried to drown my inner geologist with anything and everything offered up by the Bravo network.  It worked for a while.  Of course, there comes a point when one realizes that consuming junk might be satisfying in the interim, but it lacks sustainability and, in the long-term,  is detrimental – sorta like Oreos.

So, what does one do when faced with a situation such as this?

Go to the nearest art museum; attend a historical lecture; read some frivolous fiction; take a trip to the beach.

Kick that “right-brain” bitch out of bed and tell her to get her shit together.

I did.  I feel much better now.