Top 5 Worst Calendars of 2015

It’s time again for the semi-annual worst calendar list. After a 2013 and 2014 full of goats in trees, I’m ready to move on to something new. There are all the usual contenders: different breeds of dogs, kittens, more kittens, gardens, sports teams, cars, hobbies…but what will it be?

The Worst of the Worst

5. Thomas Kincaid’s Disney Explosion. I’m sorry to repeat myself, but I’m afraid this particular selection is going to have to make the list each and every time.

4. Nude Circus Freaks. A case of knowing your strengths and sticking with them.

3. Butter my Butt. Another repeat, but seriously guys.

2. Minecraft. Sixteen months of artists’ renderings of Mincraft. The reviews are hilarious.

1. Baby Memes. Because once wasn’t enough with this shit?

Runners Up:

Keeping it depressing.

Rock and roll animals. I actually kind of want this one. Those eyes!

Squirrels. “Life lessons,” cutsie photos, what could be better?

Bronies! Sad, drunk bronies.

Sons of Anarchy. A heartwarming selection.

Intimidating Hens. And reaching for puns. I almost love this one, actually

And a little extra something from Regretsy. This advent calendar will give you nightmares.

Kombucha Klub

I celebrated by return to California today by doing the most California thing possible: brewing Kombucha. I got my scooby two weeks ago as part of my office scooby exchange (yes, really), carrying it home on Bart in a mason jar with a paper towel over the top. I’m sure the smell endeared me to the rest of the crowded car fully of rush hour commuters.

I then proceeded to shove the thing in my pantry for two weeks while I went out of town. Surprisingly, this seems not to have mattered.


Kombucha

Kombucha

Upon my return I did exactly what you’re not supposed to do when moving between time zones: took two Advil, drank a pint of water, and collapsed into bed at 6:00 P.M., where I remained for roughly 14 hours.

I woke up in the morning feeling just rehabilitated enough to make my house habitable again. I bought groceries, mopped the floor, vacuumed (incidentally, I bought an informercial vacuum on impulse right before leaving on my trip), did laundry, paid bills, and generally behaved the way I imagine a responsible adult who has to be at work by 8:00 on Monday probably should behave. One of the to-dos on my list, in between buying toothpaste and writing an angry letter to United airlines (postponed to tomorrow), was to rescue my poor scooby.

I chose the first recipe in the Google results. I have yet to read it to the end.

I had no black tea in the house due to my level of caffeine consumption as I tried to prepare my graduate project before leaving. I drank all my coffee, all my tea, and even these little packets of Starbucks instant coffee my mom gave me two Christmases ago. Ugh. So, I decided to use Spicely hibiscus.

I like the idea of herbal tea more than I actually like drinking herbal tea. I tend to buy it in batches of four or five boxes at beginning of a health kick, usually in an effort to fool myself into drinking more water. I’m especially guilty of buying and saving boxes of Spicely teas, because I really enjoy going to the store. Its maybe a mile from my office, just down from Montgomery Bart, and it sells only three things: spices, tea, and chocolate. Two of these things are available for sampling. They even pair the teas and chocolates, a conceit which I’m pretty sure is absolute nonsense, but which I really enjoy. They have these little adorable shopping baskets, and the women working there will tell you which teas are good for which ailments, and in general going there is a great relief from being in downtown San Francisco.

Hibiscus tea

Hibiscus tea

The hibiscus tea instead of black was my first departure from the recipe.

Of course, I’d forgotten that I bought a box of PG Tips for my office, so in fact I had plenty of black tea all along…oh well.

Kombucha Tea

After I reminded myself how many cups are in 3 1/2 quarts, I boiled the water, stirred in two heaping tablespoons of tea, and a cup of white sugar. The tea steeps in the pot until cool enough to be transferred to some kind of glass or plastic receptacle. The main thing is not to put anything as close to vinegar as Kombucha in something made of metal. I used to giant mason jar, because even though the Kombucha has to stay in the dark while it brews, for some reason I like making it pretty. Fine.

Once the tea is really room temperature, you add two cups of tea from a previous batch (this is your starter), followed by the scooby itself.

Here, I wandered from the recipe again. My jar was not large enough to hold all the tea, so I dumped all my rice into a tupperware, washed out that jar, and started a second batch. I’d already dumped all the starter into the first jar, so I just poured some of that, along with the extra sugary tea, into the second jar. Then I started to worry that the tea was still too hot, so I waited a while longer before sliding the scooby in.

Sometime during the two weeks I’d been away, my scooby developed a friend, so I put one in each jar, covering one with cheese cloth, the other with paper towel, and placed both in the pantry, where they will remain for the next 7 – 10 days. Here’s hoping this doesn’t end up giving me a weird infection or making me blind or something.

Kombucha

Kombucha

Tangents inspired by “The Liars’ Club” and “Lit” by Mary Karr

Cover illustration for Liars' Club by Mary KarrI’ve been slowly making my way though Mary Karr’s stunning memoir the Liar’s Club in my spare time for something like a month now, but it wasn’t until a recent 15 hour plane flight that I had a chance to sit down and and finish it.

I love everything about Liar’s Club, its sequel Lit (which I actually read first for some reason) and Karr herself. Her talent, her dry humor, her uncompromising cynicism, her wit, her gift for quick incisive characterization, and her ability to starkly expose and examine her own behavior all make me respect her enormously. Plus, I really enjoy it whenever someone interviews her (prime examples here and here).

Karr’s memoirs are full of unlikely events, often fueled by manic instability and substance abuse. Its consistently surprising, often shocking. But the thing that strikes me most about Karr’s work, especially having given it a couple of weeks to settle, is probably the way she makes God not-quite-so-unpalatable.

I haven’t been much of a God person lately. Like the last 15 years or so. Much of a God person is how I described it to a coworker once, thereby inserting my foot into my mouth. I’ve hung onto the phrase since. Its a handy way to articulate my exact position–beyond agnostic, but not quite all the way up to the rabid atheism that makes you want to actually argue with people. It also seems to suggest to the super-religious that I’m too lazy and ignorant to make big conversion points, which is handy.

What I generally keep to myself is that I really used to believe in a big way, and that there are times I really wish I still could. I remember the comfort there is in faith, the mystery, the sense of purpose, the incredible scope inherent in the idea of God–its something no other atheist I’ve known personally has really been able to appreciate.

These days, I’m sometimes too apt (like the other liberal democrat city-dwellers) to think of religious practice as a kind of mass delusion embraced by the weak, the shallow, the victimized, the under-educated, and the controlling, hateful charlatans who hope to take advantage of them. In fits of politically correct tolerance, I even occasionally fall back on the anthropological approach, which basically boils down to ‘why would anyone think this shit.’ (NB: Nothing makes you look like an asshole quite like speculating on the possible motivations of people you have never met. Political figures are exempt from this rule.)

But when smart, snarky feminist Mary Karr talks about her conversion–to Catholicism of all things–it reminds me of everything I admire and respect in true religious devotion. Rigor, discipline, scholarship, accountability, and most of all living in a conscious and conscientious way, investing small acts with mindfulness, engaging in a level of reflection otherwise almost unheard of in day-to-day existence. A religious expression that is personal and genuine–not just a string of catch phrases repeated by rote, but an evolving experience, the hard work of being an honest and decent human being.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression. There’s a lot more in these works then religion–God doesn’t occupy more than about three chapters across the both books–but that’s what I keep returning to in retrospect.

Super tiny boarding house style studio apartment, furnished

Ta da! Turns out you can cram a lot of crap into a studio apartment. I had been waiting to share pics until the new place could be fully and perfectly decorated, and completely clean. But, it’ll be a few months before I can afford my sofa and rug, I may never hang the mirror, and as for clean, well…you get the idea. So here it is, without further ado, seven rooms in one and a half.

The Kitchen

Studio apartment kitchen
Entering from the main room.
Studio apartment kitchen
Looking to the left…
studio apartment built in cabinets
…and back toward the entrance.
Studio apartment tea
The tea station.
Studio apartment kitcchen
The sink, doubling as both kitchen and bath room sink. (I’m especially proud of the utensil hooks.)
Hooks, shelves, and more hooks
Studio apartment furniture
One of the few pieces of furniture I purchased especially for this space, a kitchen cart from Ikea which fits perfectly in the strange hole under my counter and includes: tupperware and plastic baggies, a tooth brushing station, and a box of pharmacy stuff.

The entry way

Closets

My God, closets.

Studio apartment closets

Studio apartment closet and dressing station

Main room

Studio apartment dining area
Dining area

Studio apartment decoration

Studio apartment bedroom area

Studio apartment bedroom area

Home office

Studio apartment home office

Studio apartment home office

Things I’ve Learned or Remembered Since Moving

Six weeks into my new apartment, I have determined that…

1. My house will never, ever be clean enough for me to take and post “after” pictures

2. The landlord was totally bullshitting about that window thing. I closed it during the second of several cloudbursts in March. No suffocation has yet taken place.

3. Berkeley is more boring than I remembered.

4. But my God its cheep.

5. I really miss my car.

6. A half-way decent shower is a luxury that may elude me all my life.

New Years 2013

New Years Resolution imageNot so long ago (or at least it doesn’t feel long ago), in a fit of credulous sentimentality, I made the mistake of publicly posting my New Years resolutions, in the mistaken belief that it would somehow make a difference. The whole exercise was ludicrous  and I don’t know what’s wrong with me. But, since I did that, I might as well do this….

 

5. Care for skin. I didn’t do so bad with this one, actually. No shocking sunburns. Nothing but a mild tan acquired despite layers of spf. The liklihood of my getting skin cancer has not risen since last year.

4. Weigh 125 lbs. Not so much. Its not that I didn’t loose any weight; its just that I gained it all back. Carry that one over into 2013, I guess.

3. Achieve a modicum of financial stability. Not so bad in this department either. More lucrative job? Check. Two, actually. Small savings? Check. It was hard. Really, really hard. But its there somehow, and I’m not touching it.

2. Graduate! Oh, right. No thesis; no diploma. May 2013, here I come.

1. Write everyday. Um…no. Huge improvements in this area actually; I’ve put in a lot of work. But everyday? No. It does occur to me that this was a dumb idea. That if I was going insist on quantifying, I should have gone with something like total pages, or total hours. Excuses, excuses.

Top 5 Worst Calendars of 2013

When shopping for a calendar turned into an extended exercise in yikes, I decided to share. If you really think about wall calendars, they’re all a little strange–flowers, pets, farm animals, sports teams, scenic views, children dressed like adults–but these are each in one way or another, a new level of terrible. I give you, the worst calendars of 2013.

The rules: No Cafe Press weirdness (examples: this or this). Too easy. You could fill up a top fifty list in 5 minutes on there. Calendars must be offered on websites which feature mostly mainstream products normal people could conceivably want.

The Worst of the Worst

5. Butter my ButtFull title: Butter my butt and call me a biscuit. Classin’ up the joint, I see. Well, I’ll be.

4. Underwater Dogs. What. the. fuck. This gives me the shivers, but people love this calendar: 58 positive customer reviews.

3. The Peeps Show. Something the quirky-hot-girl in a romantic comedy would come up with. Listen, honey, you’re not that charming. Just stop.

2. Thomas Kinkade: The Disney Dreams CollectionAppalling. There is so much sentimental bullshit crammed into this, its hard to know what to say.

1. Celebrity Feast. I take that back. Now it’s hard to know what to say.

Runners up:

Breastfeeding Mamas. Okay, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for breast feeding, empowered moms, cute babies, and going topless. I’m just saying: wouldn’t this look great on my desk at work?

One Direction. Its like there was a most-unintentionally-homoerotic photo contest.

 

Ma’s Dolls. Six haphazard snapshots of super creepy mice dolls. Alright.

Goals for 2012

I decided to make my 2013 New Years Resolutions public. At least as public as a blog read by exactly 2 people can be. Partly for purposes of accountability, and partly so that I do not loose the piece of paper I wrote them down on and forget what they were. Without further ado then, my resolutions, in order of importance, are:

5. Care for skin. This means sunscreen. And aloe, and lotion, and no more super-hot showers.

4. Weigh 125 lbs. I’m not going to tell you how much weight loss will be required to achieve this. Suffice it to say that it will be challenging, but neither impossible nor unhealthy.

3. Achieve a modicum of financial stability. Pay off some debt, spend responsibly, find a more lucrative job, develop a small savings account, win lottery.

2. Graduate! I am currently two classes (6 unites) behind if I want to graduate in December 2012. Somehow, I’m going to have to find some way to make up for this. But how?

And, the big one…

1. Write everyday. I mean fiction. If you count journals and letters, I actually do this. But I write fiction, and do pretty much everything else, in slightly frantic bouts spanning 1-4 days, with respites in between of inappropriate duration. This must stop! This is not the first time I’ve made this particular commitment, but this time it’s the serious number one thing. I will call in sick to work, I will miss an assignment at school (anathema!); if I have a 103 degree fever I will write about my visions, if I’m on a road trip I will pull over by the side of the road, if I’m tired I will drink a case of 5-hour energy. This one is the one.