Wednesday, October 23, 2013

World Series Problems

I have a problem on my hands here. First of all, I love the World Series. It's probably my 3rd favorite annual sporting event that doesn't involve BYU sports. The first two being, in order, March Madness and the NBA Finals. It's also my 5th favorite overall sporting event. That list consists of:

1. Summer Olympics
2. March Madness
3. World Cup
4. NBA Finals
5. World Series

My earliest memories of sports involve watching the World Series in the early 90s. It's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. So what do you do when you hate both teams playing?

My favorite teams are the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees. So you can see my problem when the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox are in the Fall Classic. I want to have someone to cheer for, because that makes watching any sporting event more enjoyable. Even years when the Yankees aren't in the World Series I can usually pick a team to get behind without much trouble. (I only mention the Yankees because unless some major changes are made in Chicago, it's looking like it'll be another 105 years before the Cubbies go to the playoffs, let alone the World Series. Hopefully Back to the Future II was right and I'll just have to wait till 2015, but it's not looking good.) If it were just the Cardinals or the Red Sox the issue would be resolved easily; I could just root for the other team. But no, they're both in.

So what do I do? Do I just root against whoever is at bat? But if I do that I'm indirectly rooting for whoever is pitching/playing defense, and I just don't feel good about that. Is there some way we could get both teams to lose? I mean, I don't want to involve catastrophe or mayhem or anything that might result in loss of life and limb here. I can't just root for "good baseball" because then that means that both of these teams that I do not like are doing well, and that just doesn't sit well with me.

I'll probably just cheer National League and be done with it. It doesn't solve the problem, but it dissociates me from directly cheering for the red birds.

Oh well, at least the Braves aren't in it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Exploring Indiana

So one of my favorite things to do these days is to explore the Indiana countryside on Sunday afternoons and evenings. It's kind of a modified and less awesome version of "Snake Murder," but since Jordan isn't here in Indiana to come exploring with me it's the best I can do. (Quick clarification, "Snake Murder" doesn't necessarily have anything to do with murdering snakes. But it also doesn't not necessarily have anything to do with murdering snakes. I just want to make sure that's clear.) This Indiana version of snake murder isn't nearly as awesome as the Utah version, mostly because Jordan isn't here, but I get by.

When I go off exploring, I never head out with a destination in mind, because I want the trip to develop organically. Basically I get in the car, turn on some Christmas music, pick a direction, and drive.


Let me add a quick side note on Christmas music. I'm not going to argue with you about when it's acceptable to listen to it. I listen to it all year round. Deal with it. You're not going to persuade me that I'm doing it wrong or that I'm ruining Christmas's specialness or that I need to change my listening habits. Any such arguments would fail before they even got off the ground. Because they're wrong. And because I do what I want. And what I want pretty much always involves listening to Christmas music.

Speaking of possibly unpopular opinions about Christmas music, let me say that Celine Dion's "O Holy Night" is the best version there is. Hands down. That's not to say that other versions aren't lovely and wonderful in their own right, but hers is the best. And it's not even close.


Anyway, as I drive, if I see anything intriguing or beautiful or eye-catching, I stop and explore. Simple as that. Sometimes I just stay on the roadway and snap a couple pictures. Sometimes I throw fallen walnuts at their tree trunks, imagining myself to be a pitcher in the majors. (I have little control, so clearly I could never be a major league pitcher. But when a somewhat rotted-out walnut hits a tree trunk and explodes you can't help but feel awesome about yourself.) Sometimes I end up chasing white tail deer through hidden meadows. There's just no way to predict what might happen.

Once I'm good and lost amongst the trees and the corn and I don't really know where I am in relation to anything else (with no mountains around to use to orient myself I get turned around fairly easily), or once the sun goes down and it's difficult to discern the usual tell-tale markers of adventure, I tell my GPS to take me home (country roads), and I head back to Lafayette.

It's been a great way to get to know the area a little bit, and it's come to the irrevocable conclusion that Indiana is beautiful, though my students disagreed with me when I tried to express that idea to them.

With that, here are a few pictures that I've snapped during my adventures over the past month or so. I put a few pictures up on the facebooks, so none of those ones are here. Also, I'm no great shakes at digital post-processing of photos, so these pictures are presented to you in their all-natural, but less-than-stellar glory. (explanatory...ramblings are found under each picture.)

First off, there's this picture of the Wabash River. This isn't actually a picture from my excursions through the countryside, sorry. I include the picture because I cross over a bridge spanning this river every day going to and from school. Probably 2/3 of the time (maybe more) I walk the route, and I take particular joy in walking across this bridge. There's just something so peaceful and serene about walking across a river, even when there are cars traveling at moderately high speeds just feet from your path. Just last week as I was walking to school I saw a beaver swimming through the shallows on the east bank of the river. I stopped and watched him until he swam under the bridge, and I was a bit late to class as a result, but it made me really, inexplicably happy. This picture was taken as I was walking back to my apartment, so I'm facing southeast. The buildings in the distance are downtown Lafayette.

When I saw this tree house I absolutely had to stop and investigate. Can't you just imagine being a little kid and spending an entire summer in and around this tree house and pond? Heck, I'd settle for being an adult and doing the same thing. There's a certain magic that this scene (or at least the idea of this scene) evokes for me; I just wish the tree house and pond were off in the woods somewhere instead of next to the road. I mean, just imagine setting off into the woods for your secret hiding place where you pass the long summer days having mad adventures with your friends, real and/or imagined. Perfect.

I love the rocky foundation of the barn in this picture. I don't know why, I just do. Also, the silo reminded me of the time this last summer when Smed and I went on a 17 mile bike ride to Utah Lake, around the airport access road, and back on little girl bikes. About 1/3 of the way through the ride we saw an old, unused grain silo that we decided we had to climb. So we crossed an empty field, jumped a fence and climbed up. Once we got to the top we laid ourselves down on some seemingly precarious boards, and looked up at the stars. 

This barn and silo picture also shows something that I've found I love about several of the farms around this area. I love how the cultivated land goes right up to the tree line. It's like the wild and untamed natural world is fighting to reclaim the land the farmers have tamed and put it to work. For some reason now I'm envisioning squirrels and bushes and trees with knives and pitchforks going to battle with ax-wielding farmers (which are very different than Axe-wielding farmers)....(ok, so I know it's not kosher to put two parenthetical remarks in a row, but I feel a need to explain the last one. I was going to link to an AXE Body Spray commercial there where it says, "Axe-wielding farmers," but I hate those commercials, so I didn't. But I feel too clever for my pop culture-infused play on words to not leave it in. So to make up for it, here's a commercial of a Panda in a grocery store instead.)

So these last few pictures were taken at Ross Hills Park. First though I need to give a quick back story on how I got to Ross Hills Park. In my explorations around the area, I've found that one of my favorite things in the world is to drive or ride my bike down roads that feature trees growing along both sides so that their branches create a kind of tunnel over the road. I just can't get enough. I don't have any pictures of said streets, because so far none that I've tried to take capture just how wonderful they are. This is probably because I'm usually driving when I take them. I'll keep trying, but no promises. Anyway, one Sunday afternoon I was driving along a particularly satisfying tree-lined road when I passed a sign that read, "Pottawatomie Trail of Death," with an arrow pointing to a road on the left. I don't know about you, but that's the kind of sign you can't just pass by without investigating further. Turning, as the sign indicated, I ended up at Ross Hills Park. Funny enough, I never did find out anything about the Pottawatomie Death Trail while at the park. (I've since done some extensive research, though.) Death trail nowhere to be seen, I started wandering around, and in doing so I found this weirdly ominous archway framing a pathway that lead into the woods:

Naturally I had to follow the path, though with some trepidation. I mean, somewhere near here was the Pottawatomie Death Trail. While I didn't know the specifics, I assumed it was something similar to the Trail of Tears, which I had learned about, and imagining such a horrible event occurring nearby was more than enough to cast something of a melancholy over the whole scene. Melancholy and a tich of apprehension. The kind of apprehension you feel in the beginning scenes of a horror movie. (I don't actually watch horror movies, but I imagine that if I did, there would be some apprehension felt during the beginning scenes.) Plus, history aside, we're talking about something called a "Death Trail." Not exactly the most inviting name. Was this the death trail? Probably not, but there was no way of knowing. That said, I swallowed my fear and strode on into the woods. And the trail led me to this:

and this:

and this:

eventually opening out into this meadow that was completely hidden from the view of the rest of the park:

(Sorry this photo's a bit grainy. It was the only way I could figure to get both the sky and ground to show color.)

When I came out of the trees into the meadow I scared three white tail deer that had been munching some grass. Naturally I was as quiet as I could be and tried to take a picture:

Before long (and by that I mean almost immediately) the deer spooked, as they are wont to do, and took off. As they ran, I instinctively took off after them. I'm not sure why I did it, but it like I was a little kid again chasing starlings through the field behind my house. If I'd stopped to think through what I was doing I would have realized that I had no hope of catching them. Nevertheless, it felt right to chase them all the same.

I explored the meadow extensively, and found this old dead tree with this awesome vine climbing it:

It was like the vine had decided to make this trunk its home so as to change its colors and drop its leaves as though a surrogate for the old dead tree that clearly longed for the autumns of yore.

Not long after finding and exploring the meadow, the sun went down and I had to leave the park. But on my way back home I saw this:

and then later still this:

Which brought me back to the conclusion that sweet mother, Indiana is beautiful.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On Gravity

For the past week or so my friends and follows and various other social media connections have been telling me and everyone they know that they should go seen the new flick Gravity. and to see it in 3D. IMAX if possible. They say it's incredible. That the attention to detail is remarkable. That it captures the sound of space (silence) perfectly. That it's a visual spectacle. That it has 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, for crying out loud. And so on, rhapsodizing till the cows come home.


quick sidebar relating to cows, and then I'll get back to Gravity. The other day I went for a drive in the country and drove past a field full of cattle. They were a group of fine, normal-looking kine, except for one. The one was weirdly fat. Like, it wasn't a cow that you would look at and say, "Whoa that's a big cow. He'll be some good eats some day," but rather a cow that you would look at and say, "Wait, that's not a cow shape. Why is it so wide? and squatty?" I'm probably exaggerating the weird of this cow because it wasn't one of those things where you stop the car and take a picture because THERE'S THIS WEIRD LOOKING COW!, but it was just weird enough that as I drove past I thought to myself, "Huh, something isn't quite right there. That cow is a weird shape," and I've been thinking about it off and on ever since.

Well, that was a propos of nothing. Back to Gravity.

Like I said, apparently it's the film to see if you want to be hip to the jive when it comes to movies these days. I won't be seeing it.

When I was a little kid I loved space. It fascinated me. It filled my little soul with wonder. I would go outside at night, lie in the grass, look up into the sky and soak it all in. It was just so enormous. So beautifully mysterious. I would look at the moon and struggle to fathom how incredible it was that man had walked on it. I mean the moon! To this day there is little that soothes my soul quite as much as looking up in perfect silence at the stars. That said, my relationship with space was complicated. There was a sinister dark side to my fascination with space, and it came in the form of a recurring nightmare.

In the nightmare I'm in space. That's it. The details of how I got there or what I'm doing there are never clear, except for an overwhelming anxiety connected with being there. I'm usually floating motionless in space without a suit of any kind. Naturally, such a condition should mean that I'm dead, except I'm not. I'm alive. Alive, but with one condition. I can't move. At all. If I move, I die. I can't breathe. I can't twitch in the slightest. Even feeling my heart beat is cause for alarm because the tremor of my chest might be too much movement. Which only makes my heart beat all the harder. I am just the slightest movement away from having the breath sucked out of my lungs and ceasing to exist entirely. The fear and panic rise until I can't take it. But I can't do anything about it so I just stay still while waves of hysteria wash over me. And in the throes of that horror, I wake up. But the horror would be so real that even awake I couldn't move. My heart would pound, but I'd lie on the bed as motionless as I possibly could. I couldn't cry out for consolation, or get out of bed and go tell my parents I'd had a bad dream, because if I move, I die. All the muscles in my body would be clenched to keep them from moving involuntarily. And I would just lie in bed basking in the panic of my nightmare until my pinky twitched, or until I blinked. And when the air wasn't ripped violently from my chest and I didn't die when I breathed, I would start to relax and usually tremble slightly as I fell back asleep.

It's been a long time since I've had that nightmare, but to this day when I think about it, my heart quickens a little and I feel very uneasy. To tell you the truth, I hadn't even thought about that nightmare for years, until earlier this summer when I was at the movies, and one of the previews was for Gravity. That preview brought back all my old fears from my nightmare. In fact, watching the preview was like watching the prequel I'd never seen, or at least remembered, to my nightmare. It was awful. I'm not going to post the trailer here or link to it, because I really don't want to see it again. And if that's the reaction I had to just the trailer, how much worse would it be to actually see the movie? I don't know. And I don't wanna.

I think at some level we probably all have that primal fear of space, which is why this movie was made in the first place. Without such a fear, the whole premise would fall flat. But that's not a fear that I want to indulge in for fear of rekindling it in any of its old glory, if you can call it that. No, I'd rather just sit back at home and watch Danny Kaye's antics in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty again. No nightmares there.