Monday, December 14, 2015

The Body is Dead, Now what?

***Note: This is a paper I wrote for a class called Writing and the Body at the University of Utah. I posted a survey and many wanted to read what I come up with, so that's why its here.  It's super long, so if you have nothing else going, knock yourself out!

The Body is Dead, Now What?

The trouble with bodies is that you have to do something with them.  When a body is born you have to make sure it doesn’t die, and when it does dies, you have to figure out what to do with it. Two important decisions must be made when a body kicks the bucket: what and where. Meaning What are we going to do with it? and Where are we going to put it? These decisions are not trivial; they are permanent and ultimately lead to the final rhetorical statement made by the deceased and their loved ones. When it comes to disposal of the dead, the living have many options: casket, cemetery, cremation, natural or “green”, sea burial, organ donation, Viking burial, tissue dissemination, space burial, donation to science, Tibetan sky burial, mummification, and finally, plastination, There are so many.  The sky is literally the limit for those who are managing the departing affairs of a loved one, yet why do many choose six-feet-under?  The answer is place. In this paper I suggest that funeral practices are all about place and that what happens to the body is not as important as where you put it.
When it comes to matters of burial, people tend to follow what is popular within their culture or adhere to religious guidelines.  In 2013, the National Funeral Directors Association reported that 48.7% of U.S. deaths were disposed of by burial, while 45.4% chose cremation. This shows a considerable change from 2005 where burials accounted for 61.45% and cremation was 32.3% (  In the state of Utah, the most popular form of disposal is the traditional burial in a cemetery complete with the expensive casket and all of its associated bells and whistles.  In Utah, the cremation trend hasn’t followed the national trend, and most folks could tell you that without supporting data. Due to lack of official data on the subject, I decided to create my own using a fabricated survey of sorts which I propagated through that scientifically sound strategy called Facebook.  Surprisingly, I received well over 170 valid responses.  The survey asked for opinions regarding various funeral practices and where they lived.  Of the responses received 74% were from Utah.  Within the last year, Utahns in the survey reported that 35.2% attended one funeral, 39.3% attended two to five funerals, and 7.4% had been to more than five funerals.  Together, that’s 84% of Utah folks who participated in at least one funeral, and of the Utahns who had attended a funeral, 65% indicated that the funeral involved a casket and burial in a cemetery. The cremation rate was 24%.  The natural or “green” burial was represented, but only with 3.3%.  Contrast this super scientific data with the national trend and you’ll see Utah is 10 years behind. What’s interesting about these findings, is that recipients were also asked how they’d like to be disposed. Only 54.5% wanted the casket situation for themselves, but 65% would choose to bury their loved one with a casket.  It seems we hold on to the casket and cemetery burial more for loved ones than we do for ourselves.

A Tisket a Casket, A Green and Yellow Basket
            Our modern-day funeral practices are a result of the industrial revolution of the 1900s, a time which “represents a transition from an overwhelmingly agrarian, pre-modern world to an industrial and modern one” (Gonzales 2).  Before the industrial revolution, the care and disposal of loved ones was a matter of family and community.  People held private viewings within their homes or churches.  Funerals were small and quiet.  The industrial transition of that era, however, had a significant impact on all practices of the day, including the disposition of the dead. As a result, care of the deceased was removed from the family and community and given to a professional or “undertaker” (Gonzales 2).  A new industry is born, and in the process, death would become “overwhelmingly facilitated by the medical field, where the dying are removed from the public sphere and into specialized institutions” (Gonzales 10).  The removal of the body from personalized care meant the funeral industry could “protect the public from the disorder of death and create the 'magic' of a funeral” (Gonzales 2).  This “magic” means seeing a dead body in an open casket – a body that has been prepared to look as alive as possible.
            The open casket tradition is a recent development of the last 150 years (Roach 58). After reviewing the details and procedures required for this reviving magic, it’s rather amazing that so many choose this option. First, the body is prepped. A spurred eye cap is installed beneath each eyelid to make sure the eyes don’t open, and the corpse is washed thoroughly and sealed shut where needed. The mouth and eyes are swabbed with a disinfected and rinsed. The mouth is checked for "material" because the contents in the stomach have a way of moving their way up after death. The face is shaved, which can be a delicate matter because the skin no longer heals – if the razor nicks the surface, it could be problematic.  The mouth is sewn closed, as it has a propensity to disturb viewers when it falls open, and the anus is also sewn shut to prevent leakage.  The body is then ready for embalming (Roach 57).
To embalm a body, a cannula is inserted into the carotid artery, a pump is started and embalming fluid is circulated to provide immediate rejuvenation and color to the corpse (Roach). "Modern embalming makes use of the circulatory system to deliver a liquid preservative to the body's cells to halt autolysis and put decay on hold. Just as blood in the vessels and capillaries once delivered oxygen and nutrients to the cells, now those same vessels, emptied of blood, are delivering embalming fluid” (Roach 59). This preservation method was invented by the Dutch in the 1600s but did not become mainstream until the American Civil War.  Before the war, soldiers were buried where they fell.  If a corpse was wanted by the family, the body could be disinterred and shipped in a "hermetically sealed" coffin.  The problem with this, however, is due to lax regulations, the coffins were not hermetically sealed and the decaying bodies would leak and stink. To appease this situation, a fellow by the name of Thomas Holmes reinstated the embalming practice to allow more time for the body to reach loved ones. Additional popularity was added to the practice when Lincoln was killed and his embalmed body was paraded about the country. This gave the whole embalming business a boost as people noticed "he looked a whole lot better in his casket than Grandmama had looked in hers" (Roach 60). With that, the practice of embalming took on like mad.
There is one problem with the business of embalming, however, and that is the preconceived notion that embalming preserves the body indefinitely. In reality, it is meant only to get the body through the funeral service: "The body may contain bacteria spores, hardy suspended-animation DNA pods, able to withstand extremes of temperature, dryness, and chemical abuse, including that of embalming. Eventually the formaldehyde breaks down, and the coast is clear for spores to bring forth bacteria" (Roach 63). If the casket were to get wet or be subjected to any sort of humidity, the body would decompose as if it had not been embalmed at all. Concrete vaults help deter moisture some, but there is no chance that the corpse will survive the natural decomposition process.  The point here is that all bodies will decompose.  When you choose to embalm a body, place it in a casket and bury it in a vault, the process is slowed considerably, but in the end, the body will take a dirt nap in its own ashes and dust.  One can, however, take comfort in the fact that this nap will take place in a pretty box.

"Who Will Put Flowers on My Grave?" ~ Tom Waits
            Cemeteries as dedicated, sacred resting places have been used by general populations since the 15th century, however, the concept of burying the dead in groups has been around since the Paleolithic era. In ancient Middle East, members of the community were often buried around temples, and the Greeks of old buried their dead outside the walls of their cities.  Once Christianity and its association resurrection beliefs become popular, the dead were buried in churchyards.  But as the world’s population increased, and more urban cities were established, overcrowding became an issue and cities began to set aside various plots of land to accommodate the burial of the deceased (Columbia Cemetery).  At cemeteries, loved ones are placed in a hole six-feet deep and covered with dirt.  A marker of some sort – a headstone or rock as symbolic gesture – is placed atop the grave so that others may locate their loved one and pay respect.  Due to the culturally accepted casket and burial method of body disposal, cemeteries have become popular, making it difficult to count the number of cemeteries that currently reside in the United States. This popularity is advantageous for those who chose this method, as it provides options and flexibility for those making the “where” decision for themselves and their deceased loved one.
            In "Defining the Place of Burial: What Makes a Cemetery a Cemetery?" Julie Rugg presents several defining characteristics of a cemetery which include “obvious physical properties” of an “established perimeter” that protects “the dead from disturbance” and sequesters the “dead from the living” (260).  The most important function for a cemetery, Rugg suggests, is that “the site carries the purpose of enshrining the identity of the deceased as an individual” (260). A grave must be a carefully marked in a sacred place, and it must be available for others to visit so that it might provide spiritual and physical connection to the deceased.  Cemeteries are sacred and loving spaces where new meaning is made each time a family lays one to rest.  Cemeteries do a great job of commemorating and memorializing. However, I would argue that their only symbolic association with death keeps them from becoming living spaces. Cemeteries as final resting places fail to celebrate life; rather, they celebrate death, as there is little else that a cemetery represents.

“It’s Better to Burn Out Than Fade Away” ~ Neil Young
            Cremation is perhaps one of the oldest and most widespread methods of corpse disposal.  Substantiated evidence shows it was used in Greece as early as 1000 B.C.E (Columbia) and continued as the predominant method until the rise of the Roman Empire and subsequent spread of Christianity.  Early Christians rejected the custom because most adhered to the maxim that a cremated body could not return to heaven.  So prolific was this belief that cremation was illegal in most of Europe until the beginning of the 19th century. A cremation revival fired up in Italy, around 1870 (Columbia), and in 1876, Dr. Julius LeMoyne opened the first United States crematorium in Washington, Pennsylvania. By 1900, the U.S. had around 20 crematories; today, there are more than 2,100 (CANA). 
Popular culture contributes to the misconception that cremation involves only the burning of a corpse, but in reality, the process of cremation can be complicated. The Cremation Association of North America or CANA defines cremation as “The mechanical and/or thermal or other dissolution process that reduces human remains to bone fragments” (CANA). This definition includes a reference to “mechanical,” largely because bones do not burn and require a sort of mechanized reduction – a commercial-grade blender, perhaps. Regardless of detail, cremation leaves loved ones with a nice, neat collection of ashes – ashes that can be viewed often without the revolt of decay and can be spread about in memorial places. It’s a nice alternative to the image of a toes-up corpse, rotting slowly, unless you think too closely about that burning and blender bit.
In an anthropological study titled “Blowing in the wind: Identity, materiality, and the destinations of human ashes,” David Prendergast, Jenny Hocky and Leonie Kellaher discuss and contrast the sensory and imaginative differences between a traditional casket burial and cremation. "[S]ensory or imaginative awareness of decay and the social and emotional experience of transition raises questions as to how the fast-tracking of bodily deterioration via incineration might, for example, influence the passage from being a wife to becoming a widow" (884). To those left behind, this suggests a corpse is neither alive nor dead and that “fast-tracking” or cremation can, in many ways, help the bereaved move on.
Prendergast, Hocky and Kellaher refer to a corpse as being “wet” and in a state of decaying transition. A cremated corpse, on the other hand, is referred to as “dry” and without transition (884).  Their research suggests that cremains and their “dry” attribution allow for greater connection between the living and the deceased. “Dry” ashes are still “a residue of the corpse” but become a “tangible substance” that “resists rotting and bears little resemblance to the flesh” (884). This makes a physical connection between the living and the deceased a possibility.  Ashes “have the formlessness and flow of a liquid” but are still “bone dry.” Because of their ambiguous relationship with the deceased’s body, ashes “offer survivors a potential symbolic form" (884). As people choose locations and associated ceremonies for the scattering of ashes, “both the living and the dead are made to co-exist within a shared landscape” (891). This, essentially, creates new meaning for spatial locations or place, and becomes “a focus for repeated private and public ceremonies" (885). 
New or renewed meaning for Place, then, becomes a significant part of the scattering of ashes and the bereavement process. Place becomes a way to establish and integrate the deceased with the every day world of those left behind.  Evidence of this can be found in comments made by those who have participated in this custom. In my survey of funeral practices and opinions, one question asked survey-takers if they had ever attended an ash-scattering ceremony and requested details. Many revealed specific places and how the ritual established new and renewed meaning for those places.  People chose places like the Sierra Mountains, a favorite hike, the Grand Canyon, the Atlantic sea, the family ranch, a favorite desert or momentous forest. Some chose to divide the ashes, bury some in a cemetery and keep the rest in an urn, while other chose an urn only.  Many would discuss place vaguely, using references to a “safe” place or the fire “place” or a sacred “place,” but others would provide more insight: “As a family we gathered and to [sic] strew ashes in places that were important to them.  For my grandparents, it was where they first met and fell in love. Along with their ashes we threw out wildflower seeds.”  Another response said the ashes of family member were buried in a “sacred place that I cannot disclose here.” Several people also revealed that ashes were divided in small amounts and distributed amongst loved ones with instructions to scatter the ashes in a place that meant something to them and the deceased. These people did not just provide a standard “we scattered ashes” response; they included a place with their description, because place is what it’s all about. 

“It’s Not Easy Being Green” ~ Kermit the Frog
Burial practices have a tendency to follow economic and social trends.  As was mentioned earlier, the undertaker and funeral industry was sparked by the industrial revolution and that hip and edgy thing called “technology.”  It’s no surprise, then, that exigencies surrounding recent save-the-world and recycling trends have wormed their way into funeral practices.  Now, like Al Gore, Daryl Hannah, Robert Redford and the Toyota Prius, Corpse Disposal has Gone Green.  Present day embalming and burial practices have a significant impact on our planet. Evidence shows that each year we bury our corpses with 827,060 gallons of formaldehyde, 30 million feet of hardwood, 90,272 tons of steel and 1,636,000 tons of concrete (Gonzales).  That’s a lot of garbage, and it’s not the type that biodegrades quickly, or even at all. To those who care, cemeteries are no longer “quiet beacons of eternal rest.” Instead, they are “quasi landfills of chemically processed human remains” (Gonzales 44). This vision of loved ones as garbage, coupled with spouting concerns over limited burial space, has led to a full-on Go-Green uprising.
Now, if you so choose, you or a loved one can be laid to rest without chemicals in a natural place. Generally, the corpse is dressed in biodegradable clothing, wrapped or boxed in biodegradable material and buried without a vault or other materials (US Funerals Online). It’s a terrific idea.  The problem, however, is that green funeral practices follow other green trends, and as a result, the procedures are muddled with rules, the biggest one being that you can’t just put your green body anywhere.  The body must be buried in a designated Green Burial Ground.  According to U.S. Funerals Online, the United States currently has “93 registered green burial cemeteries and memorial woodlands.”  The state of Utah has one registered green burial ground and it resides in a city called Bountiful.  Again, we revisit this idea of place.  We choose a cemetery to commemorate and dedicate; we choose a place with meaning where we can visit and pay respect.  Beacause of green ideologies, “close physical proximity to a green cemetery is especially imperative to those choosing burial alternative as a means of reducing negative impact on the environment” (Gonzales 40). If you’re a purist, that cemetery should be close enough to walk or ride a bike. Therefore, if a green burial ground is 200 miles away, the pollution you create while driving there might negate any points acquired on your Greenie’s environmentalist scorecard.
With so many environmentally conscious people in the United States, it’s surprising to see that the Green Burial movement has failed to catch on. I would argue, however, that the reason more don’t choose this custom comes back to this issue of place.  As was discussed previously people need a physical place for their deceased, and that place must have meaning.  Some will choose a cemetery within a certain city because that city has meaning, while others will spread ashes in a strategic location. To pick an arbitrary Green Ground only because it fits the green regulation does not provide the physical and emotional connection people need.  In order to increase the popularity of green burial, we must find flexible ways in which people may lay their loved ones to rest in places that have meaning. A company in Sweden called Promessa Organic might have such a solution.  At Promessa Organic, corpses are frozen to -18 degrees Celsius and dunked in liquid nitrogen.  In its new brittle disposition, the body is placed into a tumbler of sorts and transformed into powder.  Additional processes are applied to remove water and any inorganic additions to the body, such as surgical additions or dental fillings. Once the body is prepared in this way, it can be buried in a shallow grave as compost and the body is recycled back into earth.  A tree or other plant can be planted with the body to mark and represent (Tufnell).  This practice has not yet been approved in the United States, however, so until this or other viable green methods are allowed, those wishing to go green are stuck with existing green burial grounds.

“This is the End, Beautiful Friend” ~ The Doors
            I began this paper with the intent to unearth the available means of corpse disposal, hoping to focus on the most odd and outrageous. I thought that would be interesting. The great thing about writing, however, is that while you might begin, fully committed to a certain idea, what you find always leads you somewhere else.  In the beginning, I wanted to pore over the plastination process, sift through specifics of sea burial, groupthink the Green thing and show the sexiness of the space burial, complete with the far-out rhetoric of Timothy Leary and Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry who chose this as their final frontier. I also wanted discuss the dreadful tissue dissemination (complete with a Breaking Bad reference), memorialize mummification, siphon through the reasons people shun science donation, and finally, I wanted to talk about Tibetan Sky burials and ventilate the Viking tradition of setting the body on fire in a canoe (and how my survey-takers deemed this the best way to go). Ultimately, this writing adventure took me somewhere completely different, and the cool and outrageous received but a pithy explanation in the concluding remarks.
What happens to the body is not pretty.  There are varying ways to speed or slow the decomposing process, and while some methods might seem less intrusive, they all are gross and the cycle of life will bring us all to same ashes and dust. I found some really cool facts on the various methods of corpse disposal.  But what I wasn’t expecting, however, was the importance of place, or how much this concept would actually move me.  People need a continued connection to their loved ones after they pass, and they do it through place.  It’s the reason Green burials remain unpopular and it’s the reason people have trouble donating their bodies to science. It’s also one of the many reasons people just cannot throw their loved one’s body in a vat of chemicals for complete dissemination (Roach).  The body does need a final resting place, but for those left behind, that resting place cannot be arbitrary. It must be a physical location that has meaning.  Once the body is placed there, that meaning is renewed ten-fold.

Works Cited
CANA. Cremation Association of North America. History of Cremation. 2000-2015. Web. 12
Dec. 2015.
Columbia Encyclopedia. Cemetery. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.
Columbia Encyclopedia. Cremation. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.
Gonzales, Marisa. "The green burial movement: Reworking the relationship between death and
society." Proquest Dissertations Publishing. 2009. Web. National Funeral Director’s Association, 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
Prendergast, David, Hocky, Jenny, Kellaher, Leonie. "Blowing in the wind: Identity, materiality,
and the destinations of human ashes." Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute. 12.4. Dec 2006: 881-898. Web.
Roach, Mary. Stiff: The curious lives of cadavers. New York: 2003. Print.
Rugg, Julie. "Defining the Place of Burial: What Makes a Cemetery a Cemetery?" Mortality 5.3.
Nov 2000: 259-275. Web.
Tufnell, Nicholas. “Freeze-drying the dead could help save the planet.” Wired. 13 Oct. 2015.

US Funerals Online. What is a ‘green’ burial site? 10 Feb. 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Vera! What is going to become of you?

Nearly two years ago, Vera dropped a bomb on my poor, fragile, delicate physical disposition:"Stu has accepted a temporary project in San Diego," she said, "and we'll be there for a couple of years."

If you're new around here, or if it's been a while, please, lets us get current on the Who of Vera and Stu.  Vera and Stu started out as neighbors, then somehow wiggled their way into being the best friends ever.  I  sorted through the Vera 'n Stu mentionings on this here blog, with the hopes of directing you to a featurette or two, but holy darn, there are just too many!  I love them that much.

I knicked Vera with that name after a Pink Floyd tune (Vera! What has become of you!) and Stu is short for Stu Pidasso (say it out loud – I didn't give him that name and don't directly recall its origin). Vera had a birthday in 2011 and received a tribute.  Stu had a birthday a few days later and also received a tribute.  That would be a good place to start.

Nearly two years ago, Vera dropped that moving-to-Sandy-Ego bomb, packed up her stuff and left.  They said it was temporary, and that they'd be back – that they'd be back to brighten and entertain the hood again.  They said they were keeping the house and they'd be back.  They loved the hood and  said they'd be back.

Did I mention they said they'd be back?

The day they left was one of the saddest days ever.  I cried when I hugged them.  I cried when I got home and I've cried several times since.  But why all this crying?  It's only temporary.  They said they'd be back.  What's the big deal?

The big deal is this:  I knew they wouldn't be back.  Don't ask me how I knew this.  I'm also pretty sure I wasn't being my normal pessimistic self.  The Universe looked me square in the face and said "They aren't coming back." 

So Vera and Stu showed up this weekend.  "Wow!" said I, "I didn't know you'd be here.  Did you tell me and I spaced it?"  She replied with an "I don't think I told you" and asked if we'd be around.  I said sure, wander down.

She wandered down, looked me in the face, just like the Universe looked me in the face, and said, "I have some news..."  Stu has a project in Hawaii.  It will last three years.  They will sell the house.  They will retire somewhere warm.  (News flash!  Utah ain't warm, so they aren't retiring here!)

I'm so happy for them.  Many people – myself included – yearn 'n burn for the chance to work abroad, to see some new sights and experience a fresh culture.  It's a great way to work a bunch and retire in style.  I'm truly happy for them.  I'm super sad for me, though.  Super sad.

I have an invitation to visit – and most certainly will – but there will be no sitting on the porch with Vera on a whim.

Monday, June 22, 2015

How To Create the Best Birthday Ever


No it's not.  It's not awesome.  

Summer school is for fools, so I guess that makes me a fool.  I'm about ready to wrap up my one and only summer class, titled Writing in the Sciences.  This class was 100% online, and for the record, writing classes work better when your critic is a human being that you know or have met.  This nebulous on-line professor of mine is mean 'n picky and looks like Severus Snape.  (She doesn't really look like Severus Snape.  I'm just being dramatic.  She's a very nice person, and genuinely cares about her students, but she doesn't appreciate my snarky comments and claims there's no room for them in scientific writing.  Go figure.)

For this class, I had three major writing projects: a research proposal, a documentation "how to"showing how to do something scientific and a research review.  They were not easy.  They were very hard.  However, going to college in this decade is out of control, sick and riduculous.  I am doing all of my scientific research on the couch.  All of it.  Not at the library.  Not with 3x5 cards.  Not with microfiche.  Not with WordPerfect 4.2 on 5 1/4 floppies.  Can you believe that?!  And can you believe how badly I just dated myself?!  I can!  Because I'm about to date myself even more by telling you I turned 43 this weekend. 


It was the best birthday ever.  It topped all birthdays.  So good was this birthday, I felt I needed to pay it forward by letting you in on the recipe for the best birthday ever.  Then you can either a) have a birthday just like it, or b) help someone you know have a birthday just like it.  I also plan to use my new 'n improved scientific writing skills to provide said birthday instructions in the form of a documentation "how to."  Hang on to your hats!  Prepare to be amazed!

How To Create the Best Birthday Ever
In many steps

1. Make Bike Ride Plans In American Fork Canyon

This would include riding this trail called "Joy" the night before with a girl called Hillene.  While driving home, you could dream up an epic tour of American Fork Canyon's best, which goes like this:
  1. Up Mill to the Horse Trough.
  2. Dirt road across for a bit.
  3. Ride Ridge to 4-Way.
  4. Down Joy.  
  5. Up Deer Creek to Summit Parking Lot.
  6. Across Ridge to 4-Way.
  7. Down Tibble Fork.

Here's Hillene, Making Plans

That, is the perfect ride.  I was so excited I couldn't sleep.  

2. Invite Friends

This is the part that is very flexible.  And if you're like me, you begin the inviting at 8:00pm via text message.  This time I conned Spouse and the Biking Borchert Babe. Hillene invited Bry because the wildflowers were out and we needed someone to educate us on their classification.  Last minute, I decided to invite a couple of my crazy neighbors, both of which are scary fast.  Every time I ride with them I'm always in the back crying "Hey... Wait for me!"  I figured that since it was my birthday and because I'm special on this day, they could hang and I would therefore be free from "fat kid in the back" syndrome.  (I hate that.  I'd rather wait for people than be waited on!)

I was wowed by the RSVP of seven whole people.  Seven!  I have Seven Friends!

Here we are.  Note the motorcycle.  It ain't ours.  
It belongs to the friendly gentleman who took this picture.

3. Arrange Transportation to Trailhead

Unless you live in the mountains, getting to the single track requires some vehicular mobility.  Spouse and me both have racks on our vehicles, enough for seven bikes, so that was taken care of.  Also, if you have a truck, get one of these tailgate things.  They have velcro straps that keep the bikes in place and will hold four to seven bikes.  It's magnificent.

4.  Go to Bed, But Don't Sleep Because of Excitement

5.  Bring Bling for the Birthday Babe

Hillene brought bling for my helmet.  It was really silly and made for an excellent day of attention.  Everyone knew it was my birthday and provided well birthday wishings.  Grown men on motorcycles, little girls, middle-aged tree huggers – all were hollering a happy birthday to yours truly.

6.  Drive to Tibble Fork Reservoir

7.  Park and Ride

Complain for the first two miles because Mill Canyon is a beast.  Provide assurance to those who've never seen this beast that the whole ride is not this way. Take pictures, drink water, eat every 45 minutes and enjoy the view!

8.  Stop Periodically and Sing Happy Birthday While Circling

9.  Finish Ride and Admire Map for its Lady Parts Resemblance

10.  Watch Video of Ryan Hall Wishing You a Happy Birthday

Say "What the...? How the...?" over and over while scratching head.  How did this happen?!  I love it!

11. Go for a Boat Ride and Watch Yahoo #1 Wakeboard for First Time

12.  Eat Thai Food and Cookies

13. Read 58 "Happy Birthday" wishes from E-mail, Texts and Facebook Friends.

14.  Feel Loved.

Did all of that really happen?  It sure did. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Opinions Are Like Fonts

As was mentioned earlier, I've made a giant leap into that awkward territory called "college as an old lady."  It's been great fun and I'm learning and acquiring all sorts of things, including opinions.  I already have loads of opinions – maybe you know this already. Opinions are not in short supply around here and I dare say I might be jam packed without room for more.  But this is college, and college requires that you learn and grow opinions, so in the name of collegiate affiliation, fortification and supplication, I shall sacrifice and acquire more opinions.  For (dissing) the greater good of mankind.

The interesting thing about opinions is that as you acquire more and more, the heated ones have a tendency to float to the top. In this particular stage of my life, I have three fierce and fiery ones atop the froth of my opinion cocktail.  They are: gluten (love it!), computers (the only way to write!) and fonts (judge books and people by ‘em!)

See, you could quit reading now and get the gist.  But being as gluten, writing on computers and fonts are intense nail-biters, I have no doubt you'll continue.

My love for gluten (and it's spongey texture) has no relation to today's post, so I’ll move on to my preferred platform for sentence composition: the computer.  During an in-class writing exercise last semester, we were asked to write with multiple platforms. There were three options: computer (using the software of your choosing), paper (again using the hard and softwares of your choosing) and the smart phone.  We were all assigned to write using one of the aforementioned platforms. First, I was assigned the computer and did a happy dance as I snaked a sideways glance at those stuck on paper and phone. Just when I was about to get comfy, however, the professor pulled a fast one and switched us all to a new platform. I was sentenced to paper.

Paper! Oh the horror.

Nothing stumps me more than paper. I have this condition called acute paper-writing-induced-hand-ache. I don’t do the pen and paper thing much any more, which means the hands are out of shape. So when old-fashioned writing is required, I get the acute paper-writing-induced-hand-ache. And then there's the fact that writing by hand is slower than tar.  My thoughts are like water and evaporate quickly, so if I have to wait for my slow 'n clumsy hands to translate these thoughts? Poof! Nothing will materialize.  It’s important to note that while doing the paper method of writing, I did another happy dance because I wasn’t stuck on my phone. Because, well, the phone? It’s great for notes, but actual writing? Not sure. Perhaps I should try it before acquiring this opinion.

This writing platform exercise grew a new 'n intense opinion. I knew that I preferred the computer to other forms of creation, but I had no idea that it was the happy-dance type of preferred. Paper feels so permanent, and sloppy, and exposed. Computers, on the other hand, feel temporary, and adjustable and private.  (Because my passwords are rock-star solid!)

Now let’s move on to fonts. Fonts are everywhere. There are thousands, maybe even millions and my opinionated mind says 80% of those fonts are garbage. Perhaps there should be some sort of registration office for fonts so that we can keep track of them all. We could assign each a social security number and make them pay taxes.

Also during the semester, we were required to read excerpts from a book called Design Principles by Robin Williams (but not that Robin Williams).  This book has some basic how-to tips for designing documents and images so that the desired message is communicated effectively.  During this reading, I was reminded of my inflexible and rigid platitude for all things font. While Williams’ design segments were informative, easy to read and provided many ways for us non-designers to improve, there was this “font” thing about it; meaning she used that one font that I hate, that font called Comic Sans.

Nothing, aside from the chalkboard scratch, prickles my neck hair more than the Comic Sans. Not only should that font pay taxes, its existence is felonious. It should go to jail.

Needless to say, I didn't learn much from Williams' how-to for design tips because I was too plagued with disgust over her Comic Sans discourse.

I'm no design junky, so I'm rather awed by my font particularity.  Why do I care, exactly?  Not sure. I'm not alone though, because I've been around long enough to know most of you have opinions about fonts too, just like you all have...  you know.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Weather Woes - Tuesday Tunes, vol 125

Oh this weather.  It has me singing the blues.  Rain, rain and more rain.  And when there's no rain there's some wind and thunder and lightning.  This is one of the problems with bike riding: it requires semi-decent weather.  (Although I should prolly clarify and say that one of my problems with bike riding is that it requires semi-decent weather.  Some of you might not have a problem with it.  Me on the other hand?  I'm no weather warrior.)

On the road, rain is a bust.  On the trail, rain can lead to mud which is also a bust.  Rain can be a bust all the way around unless you hit the trail right after the proper amount of rain, which can lead to this strange phenomenon called "hero dirt" (this "hero dirt" requires a post on some other day).

Never in my life – aside from the times that I was busy chasing the Powder Day – have I watched the weather so closely and with such obsession.  Four times a day I check the hourly postings on  Obsessed, I say, obsessed!  Some check Facebook and whatnot while I check my weather app.  I don't just check the weather locally, either.  I check the locales of various friends and such:

 photo 6fa82a4c-d22f-4bf8-96dc-5bc9ffbd86c5.png

If you look closely, you'll see rain flying in every city around me.  Boo.

It's Tuesday and it's raining so I thought I'd bring back the Tuesday Tunes.  Today's chapter is all about my Weather Woes.  Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Top Ten Reasons Not Running is a Good Thing

About ten days ago, I had this genius idea.  I could present a top ten list of why not running is a good thing.  Sometimes I'm known as a one-door-closes-another-one-opens kind of gal (not right away though) and figured the best way to demonstrate my one-door-closes-another-one-opens virtue would be to fashion a top ten list.  I would present ten glorious pieces of evidence to demonstrate that giving up the mileage slog has some sort of benefit.  I stewed over this for many days.  Ten, even.  And here's what happened:


And then when I heard these crickets (I really did and do!), it occurred to me that this is very strange, this use of cricket chirps to demonstrate silence.  Obviously a diversion transpired and my quest for the top ten not-running accolades was sidelined as I went straightaway to investigate the origin of this crickets phenomenon.  If I don't get to the bottom of this – and now – someone might die.

You might think otherwise, but searching for this information was not as easy as it seems.  There's this whole insect thing to contend with.  (With which to contend?)  And a game and all sorts of other variants to disambiguate. After three googleings, 24 mouse clicks and a scrolling-induced hand-cramp, I'm still without information on this subject.  Lots of articles and whatnot say why it's used (because, like, duh, it's because you can only hear crickets when there is silence) but no one really says when or why it was first used or who started it.  One guy, who calls himself Earl Snake-Hips Tucker, solicited a response via with "the first time I recall it was in a Pink Panther cartoon @1970. The Pink Panther is conducting an orchestra, possibly at the Hollywood Bowl, and after he finishes the concert, he sees that there's only one (enthusiastically applauding!) person left in the audience. Before we see the sole attendee, I think there's the sound of crickets chirping. Anyone with any earlier cite?"  

You know what Earl Snake-Hips Tucker received from his request?  Crickets.

No one responded! Laughed my ass on for real!  I say I laughed my ass "on" not "off" because when was the last time you saw a get-thin-quick offering that included laughing your fat ass skinny?  To this day I don't get why "laughed my ass off" is used.  But before I move down that tangent (and do three more googleings, 24 mouse clicks and acquire another scroll-induced hand-cramp), I must return to the task at hand: a top ten list of why not running is a good thing.  I still have no idea where I'm going with this so I guess I'll call this a writing exercise and just start already.

Top Ten Reasons Not Running is a Good Thing:

10. No more black toes! That is, until you squeeze your wide hairy hobbit feet into shoes that are too small, walk about campus for an entire day and choke the big toe.  Luckily you have this Megan girl, who does not have wide hairy hobbit feet and you can give them to her.

9. Save money because you can eat less now!  Yeah.  Reaching.  I don't eat less now so I'm not saving money.

8. New friends!  Because your old ones are too busy running. Which leads me to:

7. No more running group drama! Better leave that one with a no comment.  For now.  Although it just occurred to me that I might have been the reason for the drama.

6. Sleep more!  Truly, this is great.  The bed (and the couch and my office chair and the front seat of the car) have this new fun permanent indentation.

5. No stress about staying healthy!  Which means no more ice baths, frantic massages, foam rollers, tens-unit electrocutions, panic, missed races and lost cash.  And if by chance you're splattered with the stomach flu, cold or pneumonia?  Big deal.  Sleep.

4. More Spontaneous Fun! Now that you don't have a magnum fartlek or long run or hill repeats to do in the morning, there's plenty of room for a late movie on a whim, a quick out-of-towner or whatever suits the present fancy.

3. Saturday morning pancakes with the Yahoos!  Try new varieties, like pumpkin, sourdough, raspberry, molasses and chocolate chip.

2. Live Longer! Too much running might actually shorten your life.  I heard this first on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me and did a sort of happy, you-suckers victory dance. The claim was published by the Copenhagen City Heart Study through the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

1. More time for bikes! Yes. Bikes are rad.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Saturday Morning! Who's Gonna Play With Me?

By and extra large, the most difficult and trying result of this not-running business, is the Saturday Morning.  Oh how I miss the Saturday Morning.  For 17 years (aside from the couple of years in which I was carrying the Yahoos), I'd wake around 5:00am, meet friends for play, run my guts out and return home to eat like a horse.  Each Saturday would have been in the ball park of 15 to 20 miles.  And strangely enough, I'd come home with more energy than I had when I left.

Saturday Mornings now are just about me sleeping in, me dragging my butt out of bed to go ride my bike (by myself), which doesn't usually happen until the afternoon, and then I get bored because I have no one to talk to and bail early.  I usually sing "Saturday Morning! Who's gonna play with me?!" all the way home.

On this Saturday Morning, one in which I'm sitting in bed, waiting for the motivation to land, I decided that it was time to do a Saturday Morning playlist.  First up?  Saturday Morning (Who's gonna play with me) - Eels.  It's a great tune...