adventures, by accident


January 2012

Point 083

Yes, friends, that’s how far into 2012 we are: 1/12, or 0.038.

January was a good month. I stuck to my resolutions fairly well, and even had a few adventures. I’m done with my stash of soda and am moving on seltzer – I need a little bubble in my life, so just plain water or even iced tea isn’t going to cut it. I’ve been doing well on the gym and yoga, though I’m still afraid of the weight room. I’m pretty comfortable with weights, as a general rule, and even took a weight training class in college, but I’m just not feeling it at the moment. I think, like with running, I get bored if I don’t have something for my eyes to do (scenery doesn’t count).

And, adventures. You’ve already seen the photo from my spontaneous trip to Harpers Ferry and Shake Shack. I also visited T for the long weekend around Martin Luther King day, stopping in for a quick visit at my alma mater and the Maritime Aquarium, among others.

Clapp Laboratory Building at Mount Holyoke College
Clapp Laboratory Building at Mount Holyoke College
Seal at The Maritime Aquarium
Seal at The Maritime Aquarium

I also had a nice trip to Dallas for the ALA Midwinter meeting, which was challenging and exhausting. I generally like traveling alone, but it can be more stressful than having a travel companion, especially when you’re going to a new place (or have to use the restroom in the airport). It was challenging to be “on” for three days straight, making small talk, attending sessions and social events, taking notes and Tweeting and carrying heavy tote bags full of swag. I did pretty good on this last – I didn’t have to ship anything back to myself or lug an unbelievably heavy suitcase home. I even got to do a tiny bit of sightseeing and try some restaurants, though not as much as I would have liked to. I guess I’ll have to go back for a real vacation, someday!

Pegasus topper for the Magnolia Hotel in Dallas, TX
Pegasus topper for the Magnolia Hotel in Dallas, TX.

Keeping busy

Work’s been busy the past few weeks. Getting ready for classes to start again, and all the tasks that come with that, has been eating up a lot of my time at work. I subscribe to or follow a number of professionally-adjacent library-y blogs, newsletters, Twitter feeds, and whatnot, but in the last two weeks I haven’t had a lot of time to do more than casually browse.

What’s really been helpful in times like these has traditionally been bookmarking, but I’ve also been using my Instapaper account really heavily (a service I’ve mentioned before). I splurge-purchased the app for my iPod Touch, and have an online account with a bookmarklet as well. Basically what Instapaper does is save the text of articles to read later, so that I can access them even if I’m not online. There’s a nifty feature, too, for exporting the articles to various formats, including a Kindle compatible format.

When I encounter long-form essays that I don’t have the time to or can’t read at work, I’ll hit the “Read Later” button. If article pile up, I can sort them into folders (like ‘Libraries’ or ‘Reviews’), download a batch to my Kindle, and read them right before bed, or on my lunch break, or anytime I don’t want my laptop (or even my Touch) around.

I’m pleased to report that I’ve finally had some success with audiobooks on a recent road trip! I listened too, and very much enjoyed, the audio versions of both Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey’s recent books. Both were read by their respective authors, and I’d read the books before, so I had an idea of what was coming. Even having read the print books, I really liked hearing the authors’ voices, whether they were telling a story or representing a person featured in the book. It made a long drive seem much shorter, and I definitely laughed out loud.

How Long

One thing I often struggle with is how long to stick with something that isn’t quite working for me. Sometimes I make the right choice, like abandoning the eating disorder riddled world of swimming in favor of rugby in college. Sometimes I make the wrong choice, like any year of French after a teacher made me cry in class. Sometimes, these issues are big, like choosing to stay when I wasn’t sure about Mt Holyoke or choosing to leave when I wasn’t sure about Simmons. Sometimes these issues are tiny, like leaving a party I’m not enjoying, or even more difficult for me, giving up on a book I’m not enjoying.*

I’ve complained already once about my current knitting project, which is supposed to be a rick-rack scarf, but is turning into a fuzzy and somewhat warped mess. I’d abandoned it, but I don’t have anything else going – no other project ideas for the intended recipient, no patterns jumping out at me from my Ravelry queue, no yarns begging for my touch. (I’m also on a strict yarn diet to get rid of my stash, broken once a year for Maryland Sheep & Wool, where I splurge a small portion of my tax refund.) If I abandon the project, I don’t know what else I’d do with the yarn, or with my hands while I’m watching tv? When is it okay to abandon a project?

* I have been trying to follow Nancy Pearl’s advice, based on the fact that there really are just too many good books out there to waste time on the bad ones: I subtract my age from 100, and read to that many pages. If I’m into it, I’ll usually breeze by page 72 without even noticing. If I’m not into it, it’s usually a struggle to get there.

Rolling Stone

January is turning out to be a quite a month of travel for me, and surprisingly busy at work. I came back to Baltimore from Chicago at the beginning of the month, was in CT this past weekend, and am off to Dallas for a conference this weekend. I’m pretty anxious – it’s my first real professional conference – but excited at the same time. I’ve been reading a lot, mostly generic nonfiction, and made a really huge and delicious pot of carnitas not too long ago that I’m still working my way through. They say a rolling stone gathers no moss, but from the number of library books I’ve accumulated this month, I beg to differ.

Slow Start

I’ve been lax about posting in 2012, in large part because frankly very little has been happening. I’ve spent minimal time in the kitchen, and what time I have spent there has been boring, unless people are suddenly interested in my ability to turn sauteed mushrooms into a pasta topping with a splash of dry white vermouth? I’ve been working on a scarf, which is supposed to look like rick rack ribbon ( but instead looks like the record of a failed sobriety test. I did visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park on Monday with a friend, which was nice but a bit drab:

Church in downtown Harpers Ferry
Church in downtown Harpers Ferry

I have read one book so far this year that I loved, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I didn’t realize until I cracked it open that it was set in and around my hometown of Evanston, which was a nice sentiment for me. It’s the story of two high school boys, both named Will Grayson, who run into each other in downtown Chicago on an eventful winter evening. Both character’s voices (each written by a different author) felt authentic and real, and the writing managed to be both serious and fun, and tremendously poignant. A highly recommended read.

All the news that’s fit to print (and some that really isn’t)

The onset of 2012 did bring with it one piece of bad news (in addition to the sudden onset of actual winter temperatures in Baltimore) – the lapse of my grace period for free, unlimited access to The New York Times. I haven’t run in to any problems with the paywall yet, but I am anticipating them, since I get the headlines emailed daily and follow the paper on both Facebook and Twitter. I subscribed to the paper for a year in college, when a course called “Reading the New York Times” came with a substantially discounted subscription. And yes, it was a liberal arts college. Since then, a daily newspaper hasn’t really been in my budget. In fact, since my “periodicals” budget is a $10 subscription to Baltimore magazine, I don’t anticipate splurging on even online access to the Times. If I run out of reads per month, I’ll probably stick to NPR and other sources for the news.

And I feel a little bad about this. I have a number of friends who work in journalism, in one form or another, and I do really enjoy reading actual News Reporting (and not just AP-style summations). I think there is a lot of good and important writing still going on in newspapers – like the LA Times‘ recent series on autism is a recent example – but I also think there’s a lot of dreck in newspapers too. My parents continue to subscribe to the Chicago Tribune, mostly for the sports coverage and the food section, and they complain frequently about the downgrade of content. (My parents also subscribe to the NYT, though I suspect it’s mostly so my mom can read the Vows section and reassure me with comforting stories every time I have a relationship breakdown. Money well spent, probably.) The paper is thinner (both the number of pages and quality of paper). Fonts are bigger and there’s more large pictures (mostly advertisements). More outside reporting is drawn from wire sources. Etc.

I realize I’m not adding anything valuable to an ongoing debate about the Future of Newspapers. My one point is that I still very much believe there’s interest in good newspaper-type journalism, I just don’t think that they’ve found the right price point or distribution methods; at least, not yet.


2012 is off to a strange start. Nothing like hearing NPR list the wide range of Baltimore business and services closed today for the holiday to perk up the drive in to work, right? Not to mention the limited services, including gym and food, on campus during the January break period, and the mice infestation that appears to have cropped up over break. On top of which, my roommate was diagnosed with Celiac while I was away, so gluten cross-contamination is now an issue in our kitchen. And don’t get me started on the leaky tub faucet. I suspect I’ll spend a lot of the coming week thinking, “This time last week, I was …”

But January does hopefully bring the next installment of Cookbook Club, featuring Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

(PS – This time last week, I was drinking Blackthorn hard cider and watching soccer with my sister. That one’s going to be hard to top.)

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