“The distinction between the past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” -Albert Einstein

Everyone needs to review their lifestyle and goals and skills every so often. I’m looking at my friends and peers, here. Like many have done before us, we’ve reached an age where we’re too young to have a lot of life experience to draw on, and too old to expect people to do things for us.

It’s come to my attention, though, that there are a few things people my age just don’t know how to do. It’s not just filing taxes and checking your car’s oil, but old life skills that people used to take the time to learn how to do.

For one thing, why can’t anyone cook for themselves? Heads up: It’s not okay to eat terribly just because you’re a single. If you haven’t noticed, it’s not the 1950’s anymore, and you can’t expect your significant other to do all the housework for you. Grow up and learn how to make a decent meal, regardless of your gender.

Knowing how to cook should not be dependent on your gender or marital status. It actually makes your life better, and more fun. Let me explain in three easy steps:

1. Food is delicious.

2. Knowing how to cook means you get to eat delicious food whenever you want.

3. Refer to steps 1 and 2.

Congratulations, you now know why cooking is important! Go be a real person.

Another thing we’ve stopped teaching ourselves is penmanship. Seriously, I had no idea how often I would be embarrassed by my handwriting in the professional world. Fortunately, I work in the medical field, so everyone just thinks I’m a doctor. (Yes, I know penmanship has been outdated by the computer, and I’m at peace with that.)

Though Penmanship is outdated, it does Segway haphazardly like an obese mall cop into my next point: No one seems to know how to speak and/or write elegantly. People’s spelling and grammar are atrocious, and hurt me on an emotional level. On top of the systemic issues, some of us seem incapable of forming an argument or narrative. It’s shameful.

The ability to speak properly and write eloquently used to be a requirement for any lady or gentleman. Now it seems like most people have to hire English majors to write copy or craft speeches…

Wait…

Forget what I said. Please keep on doing what you’re doing, because I have student loans to pay off.

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“Meditate on this, I will.” -Yoda, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Today is not about science or technology or language or grumpiness, because I like to keep you on your toes. Or maybe because I get bored easily.

But today isn’t even about getting bored. It’s about knowing exactly where you are and what you’re doing, if only for a minute.

I’ve experimented with a couple different forms of meditation, the easiest of which is just walking or running. Aerobic exercise is proven to help you think, and if you’ve never just gone on a walk by yourself, you would be surprised how beneficial it can be. Believe it or not, all parts of your body will function better when your heart starts pumping more blood through your veins. It’s almost as if we weren’t meant to sit around all day.

Light aerobic exercise is a simple form of what I call “Moving Meditation” (I’m not claiming I coined the term, I just don’t know what else to call it.) The more complex versions are commonly found in martial arts and the various forms of dance. Practicing a choreographed series of moves builds muscle memory, which eventually takes over. Ask any martial artist or dancer, and they’ll tell you it’s a great way to clear your mind.

I did martial arts for years, but it wasn’t until I began to practice Yoga that I ever tried to actually, you know, sit down and meditate. This form of meditation (which I guess is the actual form of meditation) attracts a lot of skepticism because of its portrayal in pop culture. Meditation is largely thought of as spiritual practice, and a lot of people have trouble believing you can just start doing it.

I’m not saying that meditation is not spiritual. If you meditate in order to connect with your god, or the Universe, or whatever, I am not saying you’re wrong.  But personally I don’t use meditation to look outward, because I’ve never found anything when I tried.

I meditate to clear my mind, to relieve tension, to see who I am and what I am doing in one single moment. I may spend the rest of my day caught up in plans and worries, but for just a few minutes I can stop my mind from racing, and know that the world keeps turning.

“Inner space is so much more interesting, because outer space is so empty.” -Theodore Sturgeon

I need you to take a moment to think about space.

You’re reading my blog, so you clearly have nothing important to do. Or you’re procrastinating. Regardless, stop what you’re doing, and think about everything you know about space. Think about how space is huge, like incomprehensibly large. Just try.

Got it?

Wasn’t that exciting? Or scary? Or probably both? Space is amazing, and if you’re like me you know very little about it compared to quantum physicists etc. And those people, scientists and geniuses and all, know very little about space compared to what all there is out there.

So we’re pretty much never going to stop learning about space and how it is awesome and wonderful and terrifying.

Which is why it’s still exciting when we discover new things, like the planet closest to the conditions of Earth that we found recently.

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Above: definitely Earth, and probably not actually Kepler-186f

Even though we’ve found a couple hundred of planets which are close, this one is the closest to having the conditions to support life, specifically liquid water. Based on the type and size of the star, orbital distance, mass of the planet, and probably a whole bunch of other factors, the planet we have named Kepler-186f is a really exciting find.

Don’t go hopping into your spaceship quite yet though. Despite being right in the correct part of the “Goldilocks Zone” (not too hot, not too cold), Kepler-186f’s mother star’s propensity for solar flares present a problem. Still, it drew a lot of attention and got a lot of people thinking, which is great.

So if you weren’t sure, I don’t agree with the quote above.

Oh, and I hope no one is mad I broke my streak of talking about meaningless stuff on Mondays. But then, if you don’t want to start your week off by thinking about how space is wicked awesome,  you’re reading the wrong blog.

“It is a fool’s prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak.” -Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is an English author of considerable acclaim, which he has largely gathered by being awesome. He writes short stories, novels, screenplays, graphic novels, and more. You name it, and Neil Gaiman did it better than you ever could. I normally do recommendations hoping that maybe someone will check out whatever thing I’m writing about, but this time is different. If you haven’t checked out Neil Gaiman, you need to do it. I am not giving you a choice in the matter.

Gaiman’s work has all the charm of Terry Pratchett’s (the two have worked together), but it’s generally much darker. He never quite gets gory, but his stories are much more along the lines of the Brothers Grimm than Mother Goose. He could easily be likened to Tim Burton, and it’s true that they walk the same lines. In my opinion, however, Burton’s work feels safer. Burton excels at the bizarre, but every aspect of his work is meant to be seen. In contrast, Gaiman only shows his audience the story at hand, and is content to let the rest hide in the shadows.

Neil Gaiman has written a whole series of Sandman comic books, and a variety of excellent novels. Some of my favorites are NeverwhereAmerican Gods, and The Graveyard Book. He also wrote the 2002 movie Coraline, which got a lot of attention.

IMPORTANT: Any collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman is pure gold, and should be purchased immediately and treasured.

So basically, do yourself a favor and enjoy something that Gaiman has written, because the man is a genius.

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“My forte is awkwardness.” -Zach Galifianakis

I’m going to describe one of my least favorite situations, which is always infallibly awkward for me (it happens like this every time, I swear):

So I’m walking along with a friend, could be a significant other, but it doesn’t matter in this situation. We’re spending the day together, who knows, but the main thing is that I’m comfortable. And then the worst thing happens:

I run into someone else I know.

I’m not antisocial, and theres no real problem here, except that my friend doesn’t know this person. To make things worse, I never know the two people from the same place; it’s never two people from school, which at least then have one thing in common. No, it’s always a high school friend, and then a coworker. Or the girl I’m trying to impress, and a hobo I met under a bridge, you know.

Regardless, I have to stop and talk, there’s no way around that. I can’t just not talk to someone I know if they’ve said hello first. I’m not rude.

So I go through the usual pleasantries, and even though I’m doing most of the talking, I quickly realize that my friends have conflicting personalities. For one reason or another, my friends aren’t usually, you know, normal. And not everyone’s strangeness mixes very well. So I need to get out, like right now.

But I can’t just leave, I’m not rude.

But then there’s this lull in the conversation. I then realize that, while I have concocted a series of escape routes, I have failed to introduce my original friend, who is still just standing there. And now I have been in the conversation too long to avoid doing so. “Oh!” I say, smiling manically and hoping my exclamation somehow explains my lack of social graces, and I start the introductions.

Within half a second everything hits the fan. Both of my acquaintances have now figured out that they are not destined for mutual friendship, but instead were fated to be sworn enemies. As they subtly begin preparing themselves for what I can only assume will be a kung-fu showdown, I am still there, stammering out an explanation of how I know each of them.

My sentences fragment, and as I get more flustered my capacity to speak English is reduced to single words (Friends! School! Hobo!). Fortunately my stammering and gesticulations miraculously serve to broker a peace worthy of the Geneva Conventions, as both parties turn to help me, clearly concerned for my health.

Shortly after, we part ways. I continue my wanderings with my original companion, who turns to me and says quietly, “They seemed nice.”

To which I reply, “Yeah, but they’re kind of weird.”

 

 

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” -Jim Morrison

I have decided that friendship, not love, is the defining proof that we (humans, in case you’re lost) have an innate desire for companionship.

When you think about it, a real friendship involves no commitment, and requires no promises. There is no set ceremony, no mandatory confession. Furthermore there is no benefit but your emotional response. For love, these things describe the ideal. For friendship, these things are the truth.

Friendship is the weirdest thing: Two people meet and say, “Yep, I like this one,” and then mutually decide to do stuff together. And pretty much for no reason, other than it’s fun. There is no physical imperative, no agenda.

If you ask most people how they became friends, the stories are weird. When it comes to love, people like to make it all rose-tinted. Friendships start a variety of boring and or strange ways, including everything from sharing classes in school to getting punched in the face.

Which brings me to another point: We are designed to find friends, to be social. You can literally pick up your whole life and move it to another part of the world, and you will find friends. I guarantee you; in a new situation you will find someone who is willing to be your friend. I have done it, and I will do it again. I know it’s not easy for everyone. It’s daunting for me, every time.

We are scared to lose our friends. Our friends, who do not fill a biological need and which we can find anywhere across the globe. If we were not inherently social, did not have an innate need for companionship, it would not matter. However illogical, a friendship is a very powerful and important bond, and one that lasts a lifetime. Friendships may be abundant, but they are not disposable.

 

“When I’m driving the highway by myself is when I write best.” -Willie Nelson

I’ve written a couple of posts about driving and how much I don’t like it. It’s been a while since I wrote those posts, but unfortunately for you I still deal with a lot of rush hour traffic.

I may have mentioned that I drive the most stereotypical car for old people, which to be fair I did inherit it from my grandmother. There are a few side effects of this vehicle, other than accidentally and unofficially earning my boating license simply by driving my car. The first and most obvious is that everyone assumes I’m old. This, in itself, shouldn’t be a problem, except that once they assume I’m old they take it to heart. I’ve had drivers pass me, tailgate me, and honk at me when I am driving ten miles over the speed limit. They somehow see me, look at their speedometer, and something in their head says “Well, my speedometer must be broken because that person is old.”

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This is clearly the faulty piece of evidence.

Interestingly the same “old-person” perception works in my favor, if only on occasion. Though old-people cars may piss everyone else off, but it makes me invisible to policemen. I don’t make a habit of breaking traffic laws, but I can certainly push the line on the speed limit in most areas, and especially in suburban ones (keep in mind this doesn’t work in more urban areas or college towns, where it’s more likely for a younger person to drive a Buick.) I have to put this down to boredom: it’s more fun to pull over the 40 to 50 year old businessman in his Mustang, and less entertaining to bust what you assume is a half-blind old lady.

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 Honestly though, which one is a greater service to society?*

While I enjoy and/or despise the reactions to my vehicle, they aren’t what concern me the most. I should mention at this point that my car is the color of a moss covered stone after it has rained, or, you know, the pavement. With all the weather the Midwest tends to have, it’s kind of amazing that I’m still alive.

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*= I kid you not, the headline that goes along with this photo is “73-Year-Old Woman Gets Popped For Driving Drunk, Hitting Boy, And Crashing Into Food Truck On The Way To AA Meeting.” Please click on the picture and see for yourself. I didn’t even plan that.

“I am fire… I am death!” -Smaug, The Hobbit

Because Mondays aren’t made for heavy lifting, I decided to do a piece on everyone’s favorite lizard-man: Benedict Cumberbatch.

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Or everyone’s favorite otter, apparently?

If you internet at all, you know Benedict Cumberbatch has gained a lot of popularity, especially through BBC’s Sherlock. The consensus seems to be that he is very good looking, but no one seems to be able to determine what part of looking at him is good, or why he has any business looking good in the first place. He does appear to be, if nothing else, tall and dark haired.

A lot of people seem to be attracted to his voice, and although he has a nice baritone, I can’t help but thing it pales in comparison to Alan Rickman’s bass.

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Turn to page three-hundred and ninety four…

Regardless, I’m not here to argue the appeal of the Cumberbatch. I’m not a member of the Cumberbunch, or a Cumberbitch, or even a Cumbercookie (part of the Cumberbatch,) but I like him for a few different reasons.

Not only is Benedict a pretty great actor, he is also a pretty great actor who plays excellent roles in a lot of nerdy things that I, well, nerd-out about. As mentioned he plays the illustrious Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s Sherlock, which is an excellent adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s magnum opus. He also plays the dragon Smaug in the The Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug.

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Though I’m pretty sure this part was less about motion capture and more about trying to actually turn Benedict into a dragon.

My other favorite part about Burberry Cabbagepatch is that you can mix up his name with utter nonsense (such as Thornberry Bandysnatch), and most people will still recognize his name. There’s even a whole Tumblr dedicated to new names for Peppermint Scoobysnack.

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“The only difference between suicide and martyrdom is press coverage.” -Chuck Palahniuk

My recommendation to you this week is not a comic, or even a book, but a movie. And it’s a romantic comedy at that. Weird, right? Just wait for the next part: every character dies.

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No. But it’s still a better love story than Twilight.

Wristcutters: A love story is a film that is so incredibly and typically indie and yes, as implied by the title, everyone is a suicide victim (no, nothing I like is normal.) Set in what you can only assume is purgatory, an actor-you-won’t-recognize meets another-actor-you-won’t-recognize, learns his girlfriend from Life is there, and sets off on a directionless road trip to find her. Pretty soon the two actors-that-you-still-don’t-recognize meet up with that-one-chick-who-was-the-love-interest-from-A-Knight’s-Tale, and thus wacky love triangle shenanigans ensue. Oh, and it features Tom Waits and Will Arnett.

What really makes this film stand out for me is not only how clever or quirky it is, but how they never once treat the subject of suicide lightly. It’s not due to the fact that their surroundings are nearly post-apocalyptic or that no one can smile, because these elements are part of what make it fun. The reason I like it so much is because of the characters; some are more grounded than others, but all of them reached a point in their life when they decided they would rather be dead. The story doesn’t stereotype it, doesn’t trivialize it, and (most importantly) doesn’t let you forget it.

The story is about love, second chances, friendship, family, and hope. But it’s also about depression, despair, anger, fear, and apathy. There’s a malaise surrounding, well, everything, but there’s also miracles. But everyone knows miracles only happen when it doesn’t matter.

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“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” -George Burns

People have mixed feelings about getting older, especially when you get to the point that you need assistance doing everyday activities. Most people are worried about bed pans and adult diapers and casual racism, usually because they had or heard a bad experience involving an elderly relative.

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Alzheimer’s made Grandma forget about the civil rights movement.

I used to agree with this whole heartedly, but my 86 year old grandmother recently moved into an assisted-living situation, and being around her has me rethinking the aging process:

Nursing homes are like college for old people.

Hear me out; Nursing homes are the only time after college that you live in a dorm-like facility, eat communal meals, and are surrounded by like-minded people of the same age. You arrive in your new (and probably smaller) apartment and immediately the fun starts. There are all sorts of ice-breaker type games, but instead of talking about your future plans you talk about what careers you’ve had and what your children and grandchildren do. More central to my point, you form an immediate community.

The similarities don’t stop there: you’re probably not doing your own laundry or cooking for yourself, though you have the freedom to do so. Also the older residents, the *ahem* seniors (yes, that joke was terrible) help get you accustomed to your new surroundings, though some of them might have to be reminded of where they are (yay memory loss!) You can spend all day in different activities or classes, or you can hide in your room and be antisocial. Probably the biggest difference is that “graduating” is less exciting for everyone (yes, that joke was terribly offensive.)

Another interesting fact, and one that hopefully doesn’t remind you of your own time in college, is that STD infection rates in nursing homes are disturbingly high. I’ll just let that sink in.

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I’m sorry about that. Here’s a cute picture. Let’s move on.

In conclusion, what most people seem to be worried about with their old age is stagnating and running out of interesting things to do. Well trust me, you don’t need to worry about that. And if you don’t want to take my word for it you can chat with my grandmother, who once again is eighty-freaking-six, and who was out until two a.m. this past New Years’ Eve.

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You really do only live once.