Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I don't have a smart phone not because I'm a Luddite but because I know myself: I am easily distracted, I have a hard time prioritizing things, and I have too many interests. I know that smart phones help when you're lost, or when you must have information at your fingertips immediately or when all of the sudden you're next to Willie Nelson in the checkout line at Whole Foods and you need a quick picture, but I am willing to sacrifice all of those things for my personal sanity.

I'm starting to think that I should swear off the internet, too. There is just SO MUCH information out there, and I want to know and understand a big chunk of it. The internet makes me want to write down every little thing (check out this artist, look up that new policy, find those pictures, discover this scholar). I don't know where to direct my energy, much like being unable to decide whether to throw out an old bill or not. Keep it? File it? Scan it? Burn it? What? Basically, it's extremely overwhelming, reduces my short term memory substantially, curbs my ability to focus for long periods of time, and frustrates me. I can't wrap my head around all that's out there, and I can't seem to prioritize between URGENT and PRIORITY and just INTERESTING. 

It's similar to when I was about 10 and realized while standing smack dab in the middle of a beautiful library that I would not only never be able to read all the books in that library, but that every library is different, which meant that I would never be able to read all the books in the world, which just seemed like a horrible fate: how can I learn everything if I can't actually learn everything? I had to swear off libraries for a whole summer because I got strange panic attacks every time I entered one. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but that's how wacky my mind is. I don't know if I'm alone in these situations, but I feel like the internet is just an extension of that library: an endless cavern of information and knowledge that I can't possibly process. 

Clearly, I have chosen a career path where I need to use the internet. Not only do I need to use it, but I am actually charged, to an extent, with populating it with more information to overwhelm others. Do most people get this overwhelmed at the prospect of facing the interwebs? Am I the only nutcase who can't seem to navigate them without heart palpitations and brain overload? 

My answer? GACK. (And yes, I note the irony that I have chosen to discuss this in a digital diary format that no one but me reads. I'm basically typing to myself.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

My body

(So it's been a while...oops.)

I am just stunningly appalled with this nation and its reaction to women as child-bearers. Yes, it is incumbent upon us, the hardier sex, to keep the world turning by having progeny. Because of this burden, and biological fact, having sexual intercourse with a man requires some care in order to not become a Duggar. This responsibility should be shared between consensual, adult partners, whether it is splitting the cost of birth control pills, condoms, IUDs, or being abstinent. Unfortunately, sometimes things go awry: birth control fails, women are raped, poverty befalls a family or parent unable to care for one more. Whatever the reason, an abortion is a viable option. Terminating a pregnancy within the first trimester is a right that was brutally fought for in this nation in the 1970s, culminating in a win in 1973 that we call Roe vs. Wade. Your opinions about a fetus as a viable life are fine as long as you keep them to yourself and your body. A woman's body, and the fetus inside it, which is unable to survive in the outside world until it has reached at least 5 months gestation, is hers alone. No one gets to stick anything in a woman's anywhere without her explicit permission. Many conservatives seem to think that women who entertain abortion just stroll into a clinic and have a procedure as easy as taking a bath. This is absolutely ridiculous. Nearly every woman who decides to abort a fetus has thought long and hard about the repercussions of having a child in her life, or in someone else's. It is not an easy decision to come to, and I am thankful that I haven't had to make that decision. Shoving a probe up a woman's vagina is repulsive, medically unnecessary and could cause far more trauma to a woman than looking at an ultrasound of her fetus. This legislation of morality is precisely the gateway to lead to backalley abortions, a growing poverty rate among women and children, and other consequences not felt by conservative male lawmakers who have a penis. I suggest that we shove a probe into the anuses of all men who would like Viagra. Medically unnecessary? You betcha.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Up and coming

New Year's resolutions are dumb. We never stick to them, and since time technically doesn't even move linearly, they're pointless anyway because there's not really going to be a new year but rather our silly marking of time in lives. How's that for fatalism? Regardless, here are my resolutions:

1. Learn the Periodic Table. I don't know why, exactly, but I think it's important to know some things. To have them in your back pocket should you be in a MacGyver episode where you need to read what's on the toothpaste tube and then make a puppy out of it so you can escape with your puppy. At any rate, I'm trying to learn what this stuff is that makes up our galaxy and all the crap in it.

2. Learn the Countries of the World (and their capitals). Same here. I used to know this stuff, but then I forgot it. While I could probably name most of the world's countries, I most definitely could NOT name their capitals. Once again, I think it's important to know this stuff.

3. Practice Yoga or Pilates at Home (at least twice a week). I have found that yoga makes me a better runner and pilates makes me stronger in general. Why wouldn't I do this? Mostly to watch another episode of Community or to read the New Yorker, which are both important pursuits, but they can happen not during the hour or so that I should be strengthening and lengthening.

4. Earn Good Credit. This is a trickier one, and it's one that's not so much a resolution as much as a MUST GET THIS DONE kind of urgent matter. This involves getting my finances in order, establishing a no-nonsense budget and really working toward becoming a grown-up.

5. Draw More. I used to draw all the time. I couldn't hold a pen in my hand without intricate doodles taking over every notebook and post-it. Then grad school came along and sucked my creativity and will right down a sticky pipe that leads to nowhere good. It's time to get my art life in order.

6. Get Rid of Stuff. This has been an ongoing process, but it's really time to let go. I don't know what holding on to every card I have ever received does for me, but I think it's time to move on from trinkets and heart erasers from the fifth grade. I just get so sentimental with every little thing when truthfully, it's my friendships and family that are far more important. If my house were to burn down, it shouldn't matter because I have friends (and renter's insurance).

And because we as humans not only organize time linearly but we also are superstitious, I can't end with just 6 resolutions:

7. Get Organized. This one kind of relates to #4 and #6, but seriously, folks, it's time to keep a planner for real. None of this panic and anxiety because I didn't have my schedule straight. It's time, once again, to at least pretend I'm an adult.

Happy (productive and exciting) New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Id & ego

Apparently people are quitting Facebook in droves. But people are joining ole FB in droves, too. It's just that the quitters live in the US and the newbies live in developing nations, especially in South America. (And I guess this isn't that new, as the NYTimes attests.) One of the anecdotes that the first article offers is about a young man who was in an elevator with a woman who he had never personally met, but about whom he knew much: where she was from, whose sister she was, and where she had last vacationed. Another story told of a woman who felt like she was in touch with everyone even though she had been communicating solely via social media. Both left the site for good. So all this got me thinking (in the spirit of Ms. Carrie Bradshaw as she sat down at her ancient Mac): why don't I quit Facebook?

Before I tackle the why quit question, I think I should start with why I like it. It is great to keep in touch with those friends that I don't get to see often, especially the ones in far flung countries like Spain and Peru. It's great to see pictures of my friends' kids, whose childhoods I'll likely miss. It's fascinating to see what So-and-so from 1991 is doing today, and what music she listens to. It's great to keep abreast of my friends' interests and blogs and music and thoughts and ideas.

But there's another reason that I like Facebook. (This is where I get a little bit uncomfortable because it's kind of like looking in a dark, demented mirror.) Truth be told, I like the validation: that people agree with my politics, my humor, my activities, my music. Do I have something witty to say about Rick Perry? Did I unearth that weird YouTube gem? Am I attuned to current events? Is that music video really as good as I thought it was? When I thought about removing my profile, I immediately thought about getting zero likes. What would my life be like without that constant validation? Well, for one thing, it would likely make me appreciate real live validations much more (that whole face to face communication thing). It also made me think of the ways that children seem to be coddled as of late - they're never wrong, they never fail, they can't ever fall. And I think that part of that stems from the constant hypes that they receive: you are smart, you are pretty, I like your Facebook post about your cat puking this morning. And then I thought: life is hard. Sometimes people don't like you or don't like what you have to say, and that's OK as long as that distaste is expressed respectfully (no punching, please). Isn't it good for us to experience that? The constant mediation of daily activities and deep-seated politics and values removes a sense of reality and a sense of place: who is my audience? Why do I filter? Why do I care?

This long look into the dark mirror is embarrassing and telling and I'm not sure what I'm going to do about it. According to AA, awareness is half the battle (or at least a really fundamental step); is that good enough? And yet I feel like I'm copping out, abusing my new-found awareness retreating into denial. But isn't that what the internet is all about? Instant information and ME ME ME ME ME? I have a blog for crying out loud. It was originally intended to inform friends and family about goings on in Peru but it has evolved (devolved?) into a Kathryn-shaped something.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

33 (and not quite 1/3rd)

So I recently celebrated my 33rd birthday. And I love it! Mostly because I love cake and celebrations and having my friends nearby. But also because I am healthy and employed and happy and have all my teeth. It's funny because here, in our age-obsessed, wannabewrinkle-free society, we complain about getting older when in fact, we are fortunate to be alive and in pretty good shape. In Peru, birthdays are a big deal, and everyone gets a party and a dinner and cake and the whole nine yards. They joke about women turning 15 and men turning 18 over and over and over again, and when I share about how Americans fear age, my Peruvian friends sharply retort, "aren't they glad they're alive?" In a country with a much shorter life expectancy, it's no wonder that Peruvians would treasure life. Grey hairs? Bring 'em on. Slowly, anyway.
Here I am celebrating my 28th birthday in Iquitos, Peru in 2006.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Time change

So if you really did discover a time portal to 35 billion years ago, wouldn't that screw up the parallel time of the future? Like, wouldn't dinosaurs get used to humans, humans to dinosaurs and then humans and cro magnons would have a war of their own? An unmatched war, of course. And then what if humans and cro mags mated? Would the future alter as the past was? Or would there just be a parallel future? Or would past and future blend later or before?

Time is tricky territory and truthfully, I don't entirely understand it. According to Einstein (or better yet, according to my limited understanding of Einstein's theories), we can never travel backward in time but only forward. And in the novel, Einstein's Dreams, we are given thirty different vignettes of how time could change subtly and not so subtly. 

All of this crosses my mind while watching the (relatively problematic, colonialist, racist and also ridiculously over budgeted) tv series, Terra Nova, which depicts the first possibility described above (humans from 2149 who leave their desperate, filthy world for earth some 85 billion years beforehand). There are as many problems with the show as there are dinosaurs in it (thanks, Stevie!), but it does raise the interesting question of time travel and of course, it pits the nerdy (though buff) scientist realm against the cro magnon (pun intended) militaristic realm in hopes of offering hope/escapism in an era of environmental and political crisis and exploring the time-honored (once again, pun intended) tradition of time travel and its possibilities. I'm not sure why I watch it other than for the purposes of procrastination (and to see how well I can identify dinosaurs, which fascinated me as a child; my favorite was the ankylosaurus because he could really knock out an opponent with that tail club), but it does occasionally lead me to ponder some questions out of the norm of my everyday life. Sigh. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


CLE Fun Fact: Cleveland had the first traffic light in the United States back on August 5, 1914 at E. 104th and Euclid.

Organized sports have never thrilled me. I was raised by a devout Buckeye fan (class of 1967, I think) and have spent much of my life attending Ohio State football and basketball games, not to mention major (Oakland As) and minor league baseball games (Pawtucket Red Sox, anyone?), hockey games, professional basketball games, and the occasional soccer game (World Cup 1994, Chicago). We went to a fair number of Ohio State swim meets, but that doesn't really count as organized sports. I don't usually understand the rules to sporting games, and I'm generally bored. I got a little bit more interested in soccer after living in Spain and Peru and I like a soccer game here and there. I do love to watch World Cup but I think it's more about seeing the fans strut their stuff, which I find absolutely fascinating. Then there's the Ohio State Marching Band, which I have loved since youth. They are so tight and well organized and so very classic: they make me want to shout OH - IO despite my lack of allegiance to the Buckeyes as a football team. 

But that's the thing that's really electrifying about sports. They unite (some would say blindly, but still) people across diverse backgrounds and cultures in a solidarity rarely found elsewhere. It's hard to put a jock and a geek and a princess and a nerd in the same place and have them get along, finding common ground but at a game, they're best friends. Fans also believe in their power as fans of X sport: "if I'm not there, they might lose!" or, "they have to win, I wore my lucky cap!" That kind of superstition is part of our culture, kind of like knocking on wood. Even though it's not really my thing, and I prefer more solitary sports (running, swimming, cycling), I do have an appreciation (to an extent) of that jocky, weird culture, even if I don't have an interest or investment in it.