It’s Getting Dark

Oh, Dear Reader, I have made a grievous mistake. Today is Valentine’s Day, and I should be happy, but alas and alack, I am not and it is all for this: I’ve anthropomorphized a robot.

The Mars rover Opportunity is probably something you’ve heard of, but don’t know a whole lot about. I know I didn’t know a whole lot about it until yesterday. I knew it sent us some great photos, and I thought it sang “Happy Birthday” to itself every year, but then I learned that that is actually Curiosity. Yeah, there are two little roving robots up on Mars right now (well, technically only one is left roving, and actually we’ve sent up seven total).

But Opportunity lasted the longest, landing on Mars 15 years ago. It was only meant to last for 90 days, but it proved to be much more resilient than that. Opportunity traveled just 28 miles in its lifetime, but those 28 miles have never been covered by anything else from Earth, so maybe don’t be a dick about it, okay?

On June 10th, 2018, Opportunity entered into hibernation to reserve its
solar-powered battery. Dust storms blotted out the sun, and it shut down with hopes it would boot up again when the dust settled and it could be charged once more. The end of Opportunity’s watch was called yesterday, February 13th, 2019, when, after six months of sending signals out to it, it had failed to answer. Its mission has been officially declared complete.

Its final message was:

My battery is low and it’s getting dark.

Mars Exploration Rover – B aka Oppy

I’ve struggled so far to not call Opportunity “him” for a number of reasons, mostly because he says “my” so the little dude comes off as sentient, but also, well, just look at him!

This is technically an artist’s rendering, but you get the idea.

For goodness sake, he looks like Wall-E!

Anyway, it’s not just me who’s humanizing this poor, little, lonely sentinel out in space, and undoubtedly all these sad-as-fuck tributes are aiding in the over-abundance of feelings I’m having for a hunk of metal:

The only source I can find on this is the signature, “blindwire.”

So, basically, I’m wondering: what the fuck? I have cried about this more times than I can count on one hand in the last 24 hours. For a little bit I wondered if I was suffering from depression, and it’s just coming out like this, but the truth is I’ve kind of always been incredibly weepy. I cry over the smallest things, especially if they are manufacture like a well-timed song or a commercial about forest creatures, but this seems extra bad. Something about this little machine is fucking me up hard.

The logician in me understands this: Opportunity is not a living creature, it does not have sentience, it doesn’t know what’s happened to it (at least I’m on board with those sentiments 99%). And yet…AND YET…I feel bad for it. I’m sad it’s all alone, I’m sad it doesn’t get to know how much it did for us, I’m sad it doesn’t get to come home. But maybe what I’m really sad about is what it appears to represent: the end of space exploration. Of course, this isn’t the case at all, NASA still exists, Curiosity is still out there, and we have a whole future ahead of us in which we’re bound to eventually get into some Star Trek shit. But seeing as we’ve entered the darkest timeline here on Earth, specifically in the USA, the future just doesn’t quite seem that bright, and the death of something so good from a time when things seemed possible (I was 16 when this guy shot off into space) just feels so heavy.

And maybe someday we’ll actually get to Mars, we’ll collect him, and we’ll set him up in the Smithsonian with a nice little plaque that humans can wonder over and appreciate. That’ll be a really nice day, and I guess it’s really something to look forward to, it’s just so hard to imagine as a possibility right now in the face of everything else our nation is going through. We seem so doomed to repeat ourselves, to stop dead, and–worst of all–to regress, and it’s terrifying and disheartening. But, on the other hand…

We’re not quite broken yet, are we? I mean, if we’re sad about it, at least we’re not apathetic. The 24 hour news cycle is so in your face that you can become numb to all the bullshit deluging out of it, but this little dude, sitting alone in a crater, covered in red dust, can still illicit real feelings (in me, at least). And maybe that’s a sign that the future’s not going to be so bad after all.

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Dear Spider On The Ceiling Of My Kitchen

I know I am about a million times bigger than you (do your multiple eyes allow you to comprehend our size difference?), I produce loud obnoxious noises (do you even have ears?), and I appear to have the powers of a goddess by turning on and off the sun (okay, that one’s real), but I assure you: I only want to be your friend.

You see, unlike most irrational humans, I understand you have intrinsic value as a living, breathing creature, and I understand you have extrinsic value because you feed upon my nemeses: mosquitoes. This is all to say, I have no desire to smoosh you.

However, none of these perfectly rational realizations preclude me from that most based reaction of fear when, bleary-eyed and hunger-panged, one nearly walks head-on into a shockingly large, dangling, brown-recluse-looking mother fucker. I expected you to be there just about as much as you expected me which is to say not at fucking all, and I appreciate your instinct to scurry up your anal silk to avoid collision instead of swinging onto my face and crawling into the closest orifice to lay eggs. See, I know you’d never do this, but that weird, primordial fear is inherent in so many of my species, so you probably have your ancestors to blame for my response.

I am sorry my shriek was so ear-piercing (again, apologies if you don’t have ears) and my movement to quick that you likely felt threatened. Further, I am sorry that I maneuvered around my kitchen while I went about normal human chores in such a way as to make you feel I was distrustful of your kind and you were being watched. It was very speciest of me, but I can be the bigger creature (which, I guess, I naturally am anyway) and admit that that is exactly what I was doing.

I’d like to start over, turn a new leaf, spin a new web, as it were, and extend to you a…fly carcass wrapped in silk. In this vein, have placed a small plastic container on the counter, very close to the spot you are currently occupying next to the pot light (and have been occupying for a few hours now, a fact I know because I can’t help how I was raised). You would only need to move a foot (something like a few hundred spider-feet) or so across the ceiling and drop down into said container. Once you have done so, I will very gently slid the lid on top so as not to jostle you, but I will not latch the lid. Then I will carefully place the container outside, open, so that you may exit it at your leisure.

I think you will find the out of door suits you immensely better than my kitchen. Yours in sincerity and solidarity,

Ashley “Arachnids Are Friends Not Foes” Caggiano

Thoughts While Watching 2001’s The Fast And The Furious

For reasons unknown, Husband got it into his head that we, as a couple, need to subject ourselves to the entirety of the Fast and Furious movie franchise. Because I love him, I have agreed to devote 15 hours and 57 minutes of my life watching ethnically ambiguous men beat one another up furiously between races where they make their cars go, what I can only assume from the titles, is very, very fast.

We began with the first of what is currently only eight films: The Fast and the Furious. A la my She’s All That post, the following are my thoughts while watching, jotted down in real time in a notepad application on my phone. I have no screen shots, but I am sure, Dear Reader, that you remember this movie masterpiece frame by frame.

We’re 3 seconds in, and I can already tell this is not a movie that was made for my 31 year old lady demographic.

Are they gonna kill this truck driver? What the heck, I do NOT remember this at all!

Wouldn’t you stop if people were attacking your semi? How are you this good of a semi driver? Is this movie actually about semi drivers?

Jesus, this movie just feels like 2001.

PAUL WALKER!!! (My mom loved him.)

Is Paul Walker really going to have this girl cut the crusts off his sandwich? What a man baby.

This girl working at the diner (Jordana Brewster) is 2001 hot. She has no lips and a straight figure. 2001 was a simpler time.

Okay, Michelle Rodriguez just showed up and I am here for her.

“Sandwich crazy” needs to be entered into the DSM.

Who is this beardy fuck? Vince? Fuck off.

I’m feeling ultra gross how a tuna sandwich is being equated with Mia (Jordana Brewster) right now.

DON’T YOU EMBARRASS VIN DIESEL!

The movie is a commercial for NOS. I don’t know if that’s a brand, but I bet it is (and I refuse to look it up).

For a few seconds you see all these diverse people at the “car club” and you think this is nice, everyone getting together, but then they play music specifically from a person’s background and show how separate they actually are and–is that Ja Rule????

P Dubz’s car has blue lines under the hood so it is the coolest car there.

No hot lady with a flag signaling the drivers to go? What kinda bullshit car racing movie is this?

No one going 200mph would stop that easily.

The real miracle of this film is that, in the scene where they scatter from the police, no one hits anyone else.

I feel like I don’t even need to say this, but I’m gonna: All of these lines are terrible, and they even terriblier delivered. I had to make up a new word to express how terrible this dialogue is.

Now there’s a motorcycle gang! And they’re Asian! But they weren’t invited to the car club! But they race too! They have a turf war! What the hell?!

Dem cheek bones doe, dem tight pants doe! Johnny Tran needs his own movie.

AAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhahahahahahahaha the car BLEW UP.

All these lit candles at this drunk-person party–this house is going up in flames like that car.

Waaaaaay back in 2001 there were NO WOMEN on the police force.

Do you think anybody thought twice about calling this yearly dessert meetup “Race Wars?” Like do you think the writers, producers, or directors considered different names? Or do you think there’s a complicated, in-universe reason for the name?

FLOPPY DISKS.

This drop out with ADD should be the main character.

Vince fucking sucks.

Either I am thinking way too hard about this, or the director really wanted to give this backyard bbq a last supper vibe, and Vince is Judas. Or maybe it’s Paul Walker. Or maybe I’m thinking too hard about it.

I don’t think there are this many parking spaces readily available in LA.

P Dubz is a bad liar.

Okay, so Vince still fucking sucks, but he isn’t wrong about P Dubz being a cop. Man this is rough.

I just stopped paying attention for the last like 20 minutes and when I looked back up Vin Diesel was grabbing Michelle Rodriguez’s ass in such an awkward way that it looked like he was going to tear her in half buttcheeks first.

Okay, this movie is just Grease without the music. OMG what I would give to see Fast and Furious and Fabulous.

OMG SPOILER ALERT: Vin Diesel was the bad guy all along, I cannot fucking believe this!

Well it looks like, in a completely uncharacteristic turn of events, Michelle Rodriguez decided to wear her seatbelt and that happened to be the one time a car rolled over. Thank you for making a good choice and being a role model for all the kids who will see this movie.

The reveal that P Dubz is a cop to Vin Diesel was actually pretty great. This is easily the best scene in this film acting-wise, writing-wise, even how its shot.

Also giving the truck driver a shot gun was a good choice. You don’t see a lot of shot guns in movies anymore. Or at least I don’t. Maybe I’m watching the wrong kinda movies.

Is this thing ever going to end? There is so much yelling, and bullets, and revving engines.

Guess Johnny Tran isn’t getting his own movie.

Ooo, Vinny D and P Duz gonna talk the only way the know how: by racing!

The greatest love story of this film is the one between Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.

Choo choo, mother fucker!

Are we really doin this, bro? Yep!

Like Vin, I did NOT see that semi coming. (Hey there, Ashley from way after watching the movie here: Vin Diesel headed up a ring of robbers who heisted semi truck goods. Then Vin Diesel gets hit by/runs into a semi truck. I did not get this connection when I watched it, but now…are the writers of this franchise actually geniuses???)

KISS KISS KISS!!!!

Spoiler Alert: Paul Walker and Vin Diesel did NOT kiss. Guess they’re saving that for the second movie.

Liberate

Today’s session was self lead and full of crying because I don’t fucking know why, but day 30 always is a tear fest. It’s certainly got something to do with succeeding and knowing you’ve been on this journey with thousands of other people all over the world and somehow feeling them through the ether, and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by someone else’s emotions, but I’ll never really know.

It’s hard to do a forward fold when your nose is stuffed up. Really throws your breathing right off! But I completed a 30 minute practice today with little guidance–sometimes I synced up with Adriene, sometimes I did my own thing, sometimes I modified what I wanted to do because Rutherford had parked himself underneath me in chaturanga. I crave direction in yoga because I have no way of telling how long I’ve been practicing. Sometimes ten minutes feels like an hour, sometimes thirty minutes feels like I just started. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be, maybe your body tells you when you’re done like that.

In any case, 30 days of yoga, and thus blogging, is officially over. I don’t think a single day has gone by where I felt like either was a challenge. I missed two days, but I didn’t beat myself up about either, and I feel fine looking back on them, so it seems my mental state has improved significantly. I feel more flexible, stronger, active, and happier. Basically, everything I needed was accomplished.

Most importantly, I’ve reestablished a daily yoga routine. This is something I need in my life, it’s not to be ignored.

In less healthy news, on my quest to become a good kitchen witch and baker, I made pretzels last night for the first time. They were amazing:

Recipe is here, I just don’t mess with the pretzel salt. I ground a little pink salt onto them before they went in the oven, but they probably didn’t even need that after the bicarb bath.

They’re not particularly pretty and maybe not what you imagine when you think of a pretzel (kinda like me as a yogi), but they were so soft and chewy and surprisingly buttery considering I only used two tablespoons in the dough and then just melted one tablespoon more and spread that out over all six of them in the end. I made some spinach artichoke dip on the side as well and roasted some broccoli and cauliflower because of green reasons, or “greasons.” Not the kind of dinner you should have often, but okay for rare occasions and baking trials!

I definitely went to bed with bread gut last night though. Bleck.

This morning I planned out my habits for February in my bullet journal. Here’s my monthly spread for February, keep in mind the designs for the headers I stole from something I saw online:

I was smart enough this time to not put birthdays on here before I took the picture.

If nothing else, maybe my handwriting will improve from journaling. Probably not, but provided it remains somewhat legible there will at least be a little log of my life in 2019. Will my possible future children care? Maaaaybe? I need to make it more interesting if that will ever be the case!

Celebrate

I really wanted to write this sort of uplifting post today about being a cheerleader for someone else. I wanted to say something like “celebrate someone in your life today, someone you wouldn’t normally.” Because there are a lot of people out there who are jealous and snippy and want to tear everyone else down, but really we should be proud of people when they succeed and happy when they are happy. But I can’t exactly find super eloquent words to do this, so instead I’m just saying it plainly.

Cheer for somebody, tell someone they did a good job, be proud–even silently–and see how that feels. Because I gotta tell you, it feels SO MUCH BETTER than jealousy. Instead of picking out someone’s flaws, pick out their perfections, allow yourself to be impressed by them, inspired, excited about what they’re going on to do. Celebrate humankind.

Dedicate

A subtitle for today’s blog could be “Planning for Brainstorm February,” but I gotta stay on this month’s brand, and dedicate actually works out. I dedicated today’s practice, as Adriene asked us to, to “my work.” It was meant to be a person or a thing that wasn’t ourselves to prove how self love and care isn’t selfish, which I 100% agree with, but I wonder if choosing my writing really is selfish. I reasoned that I’d like to write for other people, I want to bring joy to others, but am I capable of that? Is it not just selfish but self aggrandizing to think that’s where this all will lead? I dunno, but that’s what I did.

I’m at least an ancillary believer in putting things out into the universe to make them come true, so I’ve formed a writing plan for the next month and for the whole year. I even wrote it down in my bujo. Woah.

One of my 2019 goals is to complete three new first drafts. I did like half to two thirds that last year, so I know it’s possible with some proper planning. Currently NaNo is traditionally in November and camp runs in July, so I’ll be observing these for two of my drafts. I was pumped to find out the NaNo people actually run two camps, but bummed to see they’re in April and July. July and November are four months apart, but April isn’t equally spaced like the others, so I’m creating my own little NaNo event in March instead so my drafts will be equally spaced, leaving my three full months between writing sessions for editing of last year’s and this year’s drafts and, if I’m so inclined, other new writing projects.

If 2018 taught me anything, it’s that a well-thought-out, specifically designed plot will help me reach my word goals. That is not to say the plot cannot change as my characters reveal themselves through the story, but when I find myself in times of trouble, my methodic plot comes to me, speaking words of wisdom: “just do this shit right here, you already wrote it down, Jesus.” So to get to that point, I’m dedicating February to plotting. For the rest of this week I’m tying up my SAT loose ends, then come Monday the 4th I’m following this schedule:

  • Monday – Story one’s premise, general outline, character sheets, and how I see the story ending
  • Tuesday – Plot act one
  • Wednesday – Plot act two
  • Thursday – Plot act three
  • Friday – Fill in plot holes, flesh out any parts that were skipped
  • Saturday/Sunday – General clean up

Rinse and repeat for three weeks until three plots are written, then use the last four days in February to pick which one I’d like to work on in March and to fix anything up that needs to be done before jumping in. Maybe this seems lofty, but I have about five different stories rolling around in my brain already to choose from for this process, and I have many of the characters and events thought out and even written down in some instances, so I’m not going in completely blind.

I don’t really write in “acts,” but I can generally feel where they fall in my work. Acts one and three, or the beginning and the end, are typically 25 to 50% of the whole thing while act two, or the middle, is at least half if not more of the story. It’s the alternative meat product in my vegetarian sandwich. So I’m not too sure I’ll have “equal” work for the middle of the week, but then again I’ve never worked like this before. I guess we’ll see at the end of February if it works out at all.

Power

Today, I have the power to stay on task. I mean, I had the power to stay in those standing splits the whole time and do shiva squats, so I could probably conquer the galaxy if I put my mind and brawn to it today. But we’ll save becoming Supreme Leader of the Universe for another day.

I’m also writing about pirates and an invisible ship today. Sort of like Jack Sparrow meets old school Wonder Woman. Except there’s also dragons. And I’m getting lots of chores done, and planning a tofu fried rice for dinner with leftover hibachi that’s going to be killer. Oh! And I did my February bujo spread and a little planning for the upcoming month. God damn I’m on a roll!

In other, not as great news, I was looking at my credit score and found some discrepancies. 1) A debt that I’m completely unaware of and 2) Two hard inquiries for the same pull. Both are pissing me off, but while I can dispute the debt, I can’t dispute the inquiries using the bureau’s online system, so I’m going to have to call them which I’m sure will be a shitshow. I think it’s utter bullshit that these companies, which are completely private and seem to be held to absolutely no standard and are wrong so frequently. (Seriously, you NEED to watch that whole video in the link.) A very smart friend encouraged me to sign up for Credit Karma a while back, and I am so glad I did. But I’m going to drop the anger, and focus on fixing it.

January is almost over which means I need to soon take a step back and evaluate what habits have been working for me this month and what has not. Specifically, I need to look for a method for tracking habits related to writing that goes beyond sprints and word counts because February is going to be brainstorming and plotting heavy, but I don’t know how to track those things exactly. I’m thinking the best way may be to just set minor goals throughout the month because it’s hard to track progress when brainstorming isn’t exactly tangible. I might write a thousand words about two or three scenes one day, then I might write a hundred words but get down a third of the plot, so it’s a little wibbly wobbly. If you have suggestions, I am so hardcore open to them! And hopefully if I figure something out, I’ll share them here.

I also need to figure out how I’m going to blog going forward. I think I’m going to end January with more views than I’ve ever gotten in one month, so daily blogging is tempting, but I know it’s not sustainable, and that’s the key to any habit or change: sustainability. Also, the content isn’t the quality I’d like to hit. I like utilizing quantity for productivity–and that really does work for me–but we love a quality queen, right?

Drop

Anger is addictive. Next to food, it’s my drug of choice, and it’s at the top of the list of things I’d like to drop.

The problem is, it feels good to be mad, doesn’t it? Of course, no, not really. Being in a foul mood, yelling, finding irritation in everything–these aren’t pleasant experiences. But they can be cathartic, and that’s, well, it’s kinda bullshit, isn’t it? I mean, what the fuck? Shit that makes me feel good should be good for me! God damnit brain, GET IT TOGETHER!

Whew, see how easy it is?

I have some coping mechanisms, I tell myself to “be zen,” and I ask myself if this person–the one who’s angry all the time–is who I want to be. The answer is “no” 99% of the time. But I do struggle with being the kind of person who lets things go and ending up actually the kind of person who gets walked all over. It’s not one or the other, surely, but you must admit, it’s more of one or the other.

The key might be to drop even more and sooner. Don’t hold onto annoyances, but don’t let them go. Air your grievances, let every day be Festivus, and maybe less of those things that bug you will happen in the future. But probably not a whole lot less, so you gotta just let some stuff go. Or not. I don’t fucking know.

Alive

It’s crazy how much more flexible I am at the end of the day as opposed to the beginning. I like starting my day with yoga after a hot shower (I don’t function without showering first thing in the morning, this is a result of being very greasy, very hairy, and very sweaty at night). Yoga can set the tone for the rest of the day, remind me to basically be a better, more patient person. And I’m generally pretty flexible anyway. But oh boy, yoga at day’s end has me getting into poses so much more easily.

Alive was a much shorter practice, so it fit into my day well. We had another busy, long day which was full of fun, but I was concerned I wouldn’t get on the mat once we got home. I will admit I thought about just packing in two practices tomorrow, but realized I would have been disappointed with myself tomorrow if I did that. Now, no disappointment, only pride! Sure, it seems a little thing, taking 14 minutes from my day to stretch, but you gotta know by now it’s not.

Balance

I LOVE BALANCING POSES. They make me feel like someone who is graceful and elegant and all the things I’m not. Today, I successfully did not place either foot back on the ground until the video prompted me because I am a goddamned crane/dancer/tree.

We’re moving into the last week of Dedicate which means I’ll soon be on my own to motivate myself to get on the mat every day. You’d think it would be the same–just get up every morning like I’ve been doing and get to it–but there’s something special about completing a series, collecting those experiences as they come out, that makes it a tiny bit easier to begin. Getting on the mat is the hardest part, Adriene always says.

I read a quote once about balance, but I can’t find it now. it went something like this:

You don’t find balance by standing perfectly still, you find it by constantly shifting.

I can’t recall the exact words, but the concept stuck with me because it’s not one of those bullshit-isms: it’s actually true. In a yoga pose, you don’t try to come to complete stillness in order to stay up on one leg, you have to move a tiny bit to stay there, and really you should be breathing and moving the whole time anyway. If you strive to find complete stillness, you’re a lot more likely to fall over (and hold your breath which isn’t great). Similarly, in other aspects of your life, you won’t find balance by halting your progress or sticking to a perfect routine because the world around you is constantly shifting and if you don’t go with the flow you’re sure to be knocked off course.

So when I’m in tree or dancer or really anything, that quote floats around my mind in some way, like a mantra. It’s not standing still, it’s moving to accommodate everything else.