Have you ever been driving fast down a dark two lane highway? Maybe not over-the-limit fast, but still, fast enough. The tachometer gets into its upwards creep and you just want to get where you’re headed already. And then, from somewhere deep in the nighttime forest of the back of your mind it pings at you that if a deer were to jump out from the side of the road you would be irrevocably, inescapably fucked.
In recent memory the worst I’ve had to swerve around was the left-hand-side cushion of a sectional sofa on Foothills Parkway. But the road ahead is dark and the forecast is calling for chances of scattered stags.
“I’ve come by, she says, to tell you
that this is it. I’m not kidding, it’s
over. this is it.
I sit on the couch watching her arrange
her long red hair before my bedroom
she pulls her hair up and
piles it on top of her head-
she lets her eyes look at
then she drops her hair and
lets it fall down in front of her face.
we go to bed and I hold her
speechlessly from the back
my arm around her neck
I touch her wrists and hands
feel up to
she gets up.
this is it, she says,
this will do. well,
I get up and walk her
to the door
just as she leaves
I want you to buy me
some high-heeled shoes
with tall thin spikes,
black high-heeled shoes.
no, I want them
I watch her walk down the cement walk
under the trees
she walks all right and
as the pointsettas drip in the sun
I close the door.”—"Eat Your Heart Out", Charles Bukowski (via jicarh)
1. The South Platte River by the oil refinery in Denver. It’s such a dispirited little thing; I feel utterly deflated every time I drive over it.
2. “Everything” bagels with Italian seasoning. Let’s get something straight, Colorado. You know who doesn’t make bagels? Italian people. For good reasons. Enough already.
3. The horrendous, ferocious blue demon horse with the LED laser eyes at Denver International Airport. True story: the sculptor, Luis Jimenez, created the horse as a talisman of sorts to ward off evil spirits. During the construction, however, the horse’s head fell off and killed the artist. Coincidentally, a tiny part of me dies, too, every time I see that piece of shit public art.
4. The smell of snow. Right before it snows in Boulder the wind (which usually comes from the west over the mountains) shifts and comes down from the north. When it does this it blows through the town of Greeley. Greeley is notable for its slaughterhouses and meat-packing facilities. It’s where that Swift processing plant is, the one that’s always in the news for hiring illegal immigrants or poisoning thousands of people with E. coli-tainted meat. So when the wind goes through Greeley, it brings with it the redolent stench of cow shit and diseased cattle. This means there are thousands of children in the Front Range who have grown up associating imminent snowfall with the smell of shit. Fucking magical.
Nick recorded this song in Mono and it has a gritty, 60’s soul feel that you can’t really reproduce digitally. Hailing from LA you can feel the sun in this song, and I am excited to hear more. Follow him on tumblr.
Me: Oh…. fuck- Fudd: What? Me: No matter how much I search, I can’t find a paper I need to reference Fudd: Oh. I guess it’s time to drop out, become a plumber? Me: Got it Fudd: Nevermind
This is relevant to my life.
Unrelated, but funny: My sister sent me an email the other day describing a delightful near-mishap as she was filling in citations for her dissertation from Endnote. As she writes her rough draft she just puts in a PubMed reference number for each citation and then goes back later and fills in the actual article. A misplaced digit in the reference number almost caused her to cite this gem in her clinical psychology dissertation:
If you’re interested in the defecation behavior of minipigs, this one’s a can’t-miss. From the abstract:
Feeding facilitated defecation, supporting the assumption that the gastrocolonic response is present in the pig. The system has been shown to be highly reliable and valid, and thus provides an excellent tool for the investigation of the rhythmicity of ingestive and excretory behaviors in minipigs.
You’d think Boulder, Colorado would be swarming with hippies and green-movementarians. You’d think all the buildings on campus would be LEED-gold-star-certified or powered by solar and reclaimed methane from the Greeley slaughterhouses or something. You’d think there’d be a whole-hearted campus-crusade to reduce energy wasteage. You’d be wrong.
Our antiquated Speech building is a case in point. The toilets run constantly underneath inefficient incandescents. There is no clear separation of recycling versus normal trash. And the heat! The heat is pervasive and oppressive and unstoppable. For reasons completely unrelated to external temperatures, our building is kept consistently at a balmy 80 degrees. No one- not even the department secretary (and they usually know everything)- has access to a thermostat.
The fact that my lab is on the top floor and has no windows adds to this problem. The fact that the room is insulated (for sound-proofing) probably doesn’t help either. The melty icing on this cake, though is that something appears to be wacky with the ducts, because instead of sucking hot air out, the “fan” is blowing the rest of the building’s exhaust into my tiny lab. I would say, conservatively, that my lab is about 95 degrees F. This is something I have complained about before.
Facilities managment claims that there is nothing they can do about the heating problem. I say that this demonstrates a lack of creativity on their part, as I can think of about 79 things they can do, though admittedly, most of these take the form of “shove it up your ass” or, take a long walk off a short pier”. The best problem-oriented solution I’ve devised thus far is a dry ice swamp cooler.
From the OED, here is the first citation of “swamp cooler”:
1950 Newsweek 14 Aug. 51 In dry climates it is possible to rig up a primitive but highly effective cooling system, called a ‘*swamp cooler’. It consists simply of a fan blowing over an excelsior mat which is drenched with dripping water.
Like Newsweek says, a swamp cooler is basically a fan that blows air across a water source. The hot air naturally causes the water to evaporate. As the water evaporates it takes energy from the surrounding air (it takes energy to go from a liquid to a gas) and the air cools down as a result. This is called evaporative cooling. It’s a very effective mechanism (in fact, it’s just like sweating, which we can all agree is part of a highly intelligent design, no?). Shoddy internet research tells me that a swamp cooler can knock several degrees off the ambient temperature over and above what you can do with a fan alone.
I plan to take the swamp-cooler concept to the next level with dry ice. Dry ice isn’t like normal water ice because it’s made of carbon dioxide, or CO2. Carbon dioxide is a gas at normal Earth-surface temperatures and pressures. In fact, there’s plenty of it in the air you’re breathing right now. And though being a gas is what carbon dioxide likes to do, it is possible to cool it down sufficiently so that it becomes a solid. I don’t actually know the process entailed, but luckily, I’m going to make the facilities management folks responsible for acquiring the dry ice.
One cool thing about dry ice is that it doesn’t melt like normal water ice. That’s why it’s called “dry” ice - get it? Dry ice goes straight from solid to gas, which is called “sublimation”. Just like water cools the surrounding air as it evaporates, so does dry ice. Since dry ice is so much colder, it sucks a lot more heat from the air when it sublimates, resulting in cooler temperatures.
Less shoddy internet research informs me that dry ice sublimates at a rate of 5-10 pounds per 24 hours, when in an insulated cooler with a lid. Obviously, I can’t use a lid for my swamp cooler- the only way the cooler works is if the stuff is actively sublimating and cooler the air. I’ll probably need 10+ pounds per day just for the time when I’m in the lab working, and I’m going to be here at least 2 weeks …
Facilities management is going to wish they’d installed a fucking thermostat. Nothing they can do, my ass.
Words potentially related: unkempt, discombobulated. And an illustrative GPOYW.
If you’ve been following English vowel changes for the last 1500 years you can probably spot the stem comb in the word unkempt. While unkempt now has the sense of a “general state of untidyness or personal bedragglement” (or at least, that’s how I’d define it), it used to refer much more specifically to wild, uncombed hair. I’d like to take an eymological leap here and say that discombobulated (a newer word, only attested since the 1830s) is unkempt’s younger, bougie cousin.
The etymology of discombobulated is unclear. The OED posits that discombobulated and its spin-offs - discomboberated and discombobracated (!!) - potentially stem from association with discompose or discomfit. I say bullshit: Neither of those words have “comb” in them, but the discombobulated variants all do.
Ok, these words are actually almost certainly not related, nonetheless, these were the thoughts I thunk upon looking at myself in the mirror this morning. Also, this is what I look like when I wake up. General personal bedragglement, indeed.
The streets of Sioux City, Iowa were sodium-dim and empty. Perhaps unsurprising, as anyone with a lick of soul had probably long-since abandoned this desolate patch of concrete along I-29. Even those unfortunates who had no choice but to linger here retained at least the self-preservation skills to stay indoors on a cold January night.
I considered putting a few quarters in the meter, and then didn’t. From my vantage point I could see clear from one side of the deserted town to the other and it seemed unlikely that anyone would come around in these temperatures to dole out tickets. If anyone did come by, I reasoned, my illegally parked car might prove to be big excitement. Out-of-town plates. A rogue traveller. An outlaw. Who could say to what proportions the meter maid would exaggerate me and my pathetic misdemeanor. And who was I to take away what might be the only interesting thing to happen all winter to Sioux City’s last remaining meter maid?
The sidewalks were slippery with ice so I walked down the middle of the four empty lanes. I found two restaurants open on Pierce Street. Juanita’s was a tiny $1 taco place full of Asians and scruffy, hoodied teenagers. Down the street on the corner was a Vietnamese pho joint staffed largely with Mexicans, who were sitting languidly, playing cards under twitchy fluorescent lighting. I decided to take my chances with the taco shop. A sign taped on the upper pane of the cracked glass door informed me that effective immediately Juanita’s would not be accepting credit cards or personal checks. Another hand-written sign told me that liver and tongue tacos were on special, as well as caldo de mariscos. I walked back out into the night. At the pho place, I thought to inquire about the credit card policy. The wrinkled Vietnamese man didn’t understand my query. I patted myself down looking for my wallet, seeking a visual aid for this communication breakdown. From my left jacket pocket I pulled a small rectangular block of extra sharp cheddar cheese, still in its serving-size wrapper. I contemplated its provenance and continued my search. My wallet emerged from the dark recesses of my handbag. I extracted a credit card and proffered it with a thin smile. ”No machine”, the proprietor said dryly. ”Cash”. From the looks of business at the establishment, I wasn’t positive he’d be able to break my $100 bill.
I returned to my car: no caldo, no pho, no parking ticket. I drove a few blocks to the Gas & Go, which in stark contrast to everything else in the town was a brightly lit commercial oasis. My tank wasn’t empty so it only came to 17 bucks. ”It will only cost $17 to get me the hell out of Iowa”, I thought. Thankfully, the Gas & Go took credit cards.
Tristan minus 2 hours! Sitting at a coffee shop on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin waiting for his employed ass to get out of work so we can go tear this town apart. First order of business: mac-n-cheese pizza. I love this state!
My mother will be happy to know that the stranger from the internet who stayed in my apartment last night did not serial kill me. Loscheiner is the first stranger from the internet I have met, and the experience was resoundingly positive. In addition to bringing me such delicacies as chocolate mustaches and a half eaten bag of potato chips, Lo generally made for comfortable, pleasant company. All while pretending as though I was doing her some big favor by letting her stay with me.
The whole situation makes me want to rethink my whole Do Whatever I Can To Avoid Interacting With Strangers strategy.
Meanwhile, if you visit me in Columbus, I will insist we have ice cream, no matter how cold it may be outside. When I moved here, I was skeptical of my new citymates enthusiasm for Jeni’s. Not that I didn’t think it would be good, but all ice cream is really good. How much better could this stuff be? I was worried this enthusiasm reflected more on how boring Columbus was than anything inherent to the ice cream. But once I tried it, I was fully converted. This is just really superior ice cream, so much so that if Jeni’s is indeed the most exciting thing about my new city, one couldn’t conclude from that that Columbus is any more boring than any other city I’ve spent time in.