Thursday, March 31, 2016

The final frontier

     Long ago, in graduate school, I started watching repeats of old Star Trek episodes. Back in those olden days, before Netflix and Amazon Prime, the only way to see television shows was to pay ungodly sums of money for entire seasons on VHS tapes. Unless you had a brother, like I did, who could *ahem* procure the shows for you through more nefarious means. Ah, the good old days of BitTorrent.
     Since I had all these great episodes burned on CDs, I started sharing them with a few people, who also became enamored of Star Trek. (This is, in fact, how I gained a reputation among a select audience as a dealer, as I pushed my addictive product). A few of us came up with the idea of meeting together weekly, to watch a few episodes and drink beer.
     After a few years, I moved away and started attending virtually, through video chats. Since academia requires a lot of moving, this weekly connection was an important chance to see old friends, as we moved for post-docs, temporarily lived apart from spouses, and moved again for yet another position.
     Time passed. One couple joined the group, and one left. Babies were born, and people died. We bought houses, took permanent jobs, and still kept coming back every Tuesday night to chat with friends about our lives, watch one episode of Star Trek, and then carefully ignore every law of physics that was violated.
     This year marked our tenth anniversary. Because I'm a complete dork who convenes committees and writes press releases and white papers for a living, I wrote up a tenth anniversary report detailing the history of the group. Because my friend T is equally dorky, he drafted a timeline, complete with Star Trek references, and soon there will be a commemorative t-shirt. It's hard to describe what this group has meant to me through the years. They've provided companionship when I moved to a new city, alone as a post-doc, and they've provided comfort after my husband died. It just goes to show that you can find community almost anywhere, even around the nucleus of illegally obtained sci-fi television shows from the 90's.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Beware the cavorting capsule

This cheerful, dancing capsule adorns the informational brochure that came with my oral typhoid vaccine. When the doctor told met that the oral vaccine gave me twice as many years' protection, and didn't involve a shot, I was sold. But it's a live vaccine, I have to take it for a week, and it has more frequent side effects. So far I've had fever, chills, and what is delicately referred to as gastrointestinal distress.
I'll definitely grant that this is better than typhoid, but at the same time I'd have to point out that this vaccine has a 75% effectiveness rate. I wish I had approached this smiling guy with a little more caution. Hopefully the next four days will go more smoothly than the last two.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Project Day, yet again

Saturday was once again a Project Day, and this time it was at my house. This was great timing, in that I wanted to put in garden beds before too much of spring was gone. This was also terrible timing, in that I had just worked twelve days straight and the weather didn't cooperate.
My plucky friends and I were undaunted, of course. I had counted on my (strong) friend N helping me to rent the tiller and to lift it into my car for transport home, and I was worried when he got sick and couldn't come. Instead, a female friend helped me pick up and load the 125-pound tiller. I had worried needlessly; these two friends are mothers who pick up heavy children every day and they are bigger and stronger than me. 
What you can't see in the pictures below is that it was in the low 50's F (low teens C) and raining. So please dump a cup of cold water over your head, carry a 40 pound bucket 100 feet and dump it, and repeat. Then you'll get a better feel for our day.

 It was hard work holding the tiller back so that it could churn up the clay soil and grass.
Four adults and three small children hauled topsoil and compost* from the front yard to the new garden beds in the back yard.
The new beds are beautiful. The very next day, I ordered asparagus, a fig tree, and raspberry bushes to plant in the new gardens. This was a perfect way to celebrate the new gardens, as these are all plants I couldn't have in my old place (since they take so long to establish) and I could order the plants without moving from my bed, where I spent most of Sunday recovering.

*Many thanks to my in-laws, who bought me 5 cubic yards of dirt as a housewarming gift.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Great Material Continuum

On Sunday I was planning to go to Home Depot and purchase supplies for the garden, but instead I got a new couch. I wasn't intending to get a couch; I have a perfectly acceptable one. It's originally from IKEA, pulls out into a double bed, and has only a half a dozen stains on it. I can blame some of those on the pets, but not all. (Tip: when a friend says, "I'm sure we'll be fine using super glue while sitting on the couch," don't believe her. Super glue stains are forever.)
However, on Saturday night I saw that someone on the neighborhood listserv had an old couch that needed a new home. It was from the 1930's, and it was the two things I can't resist- old, and free. I went to look at it the next morning and was smitten. In fact, I didn't even think to sit down on it until after it was in my house. Luckily, it's pretty comfy for an eighty-year-old sofa. As far as I can tell, the cushions are stuffed with cloth, instead of foam rubber (which would make sense, because I've read that foam rubber didn't become widespread until the 40's). It's very different than sitting on the boxy IKEA couch, which was snapped up by a Craigslist buyer this evening. 

As my friend N said, this is all part of the Great Material Continuum*, whereby some material goods are in excess in some places, but lacking in others. The Continuum has taken away a less optimal seating option and given a more styling option.

*Nerdy Star Trek reference. Read more here.