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Wasting Time

I find myself procrastinating more and more as I near the finish line… Today while I’m lackadaisically running simulations to tie up some loose ends, I’ve been reading old posts by Errol Morris on the NYT blog about photography (Zoom).  The blog has a number of lengthy, multi-part series on old photographs.  I read the first two of a seven part series currently running about depression-era photos (e.g. Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Woman) and whether they are posed, and whether it matters if they are posed.

Craving a completed series, I moved on to one on the Crimean War.  I found the following paragraph buried in it, which, though it is certainly not the most captivating part of the very verbose series, enthralled the knitter in me:

The Crimean War, often described as a precursor to the American Civil War, is more a harbinger of World War I – a stationary front informed by endless and futile exchanges of lethal artillery fire. Trench warfare par excellence. Lord Raglan, the commander of the British forces, previously the Duke of Wellington’s aide-de-camp, lost his arm to a French cannonball at Waterloo. His specially designed sleeve – the Raglan sleeve, along with the cardigan and the balaclava – is how we remember the Crimean War. A war defined by innovations in wardrobe – a sleeve, a sweater and a hat. Raglan, who died in the Crimea just before the fall of Sebastopol, seemed often confused about what was going on. He would exhort his soldiers to go out and fight the French and had to be reminded that in this particular war the Russians were the enemy. The French were his allies.

I used to be quite the history buff – I honestly believe I may have gotten every single answer on my AP U.S. History exam exactly correct – but I’ve been thwarted by my poor memory and the myriad other subjects demanding my attention.  I miss the rich, albeit  partial view you can gain of other times and places.  I think the historical record of now will be slightly absurd for the overly detailed and scattered records being kept by everyone and their mother, myself included.

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Unrelatedly, though from the same article, my favorite phrase of the day (or perhaps, ever):

You could just make out the orange roofs of a large building complex. Gorbachev’s summer home. It kind of looked like a metastatic International House of Pancakes.

This doesn’t conjure visions of the actual IHOP building, but rather little outcroppings of pancakes, stacked high, all over the countryside.

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Violent Dreams

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had an over-active imagination.  Every little interaction sets off a ripple of frenetic thoughts, convoluted pathways followed to various ends.  If my parents were running late, I would imagine in great detail some tragic car accident, how I would feel to have lost them, and how my life would unfold subsequently, down to detailed conversations with fabricated acquaintances in an imagined future.  Actually, anytime anyone is running late, I have a variation of that trainwreck of a thought.  Boyfriends hit by cars while riding their bikes to work, best friends abducted from bars by evil predators.  There are less… tragic..?  manifestations; any time I meet someone I imagine the role they might play in my life, flashing from one imagined interaction to the next.  Sometimes it serves a practical, albeit morbid, purpose – when I hear my father cough in the way that only a lifetime smoker can, I immediately picture his impending illness, followed by his death, and then: what will my mother do?  How will we help her?  How will she move on?  I suppose on some level I think that if I can carefully consider all of the terrible things that might befall me and my familiars, I will be more prepared.

Despite any flimsy argument I can make for the pragmatism of my excessive and generally dark daydreaming, I have learned to stifle the impulse, to distract myself, so that I end up with the clif notes, rather than giving myself over to it.  If I didn’t, I would have one hell of an anxiety problem. You could probably argue that I do have an anxiety problem, but I think I’m mostly fine.

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Fiance and I have a constantly evolving 5 year plan.  Right now, it contains a lot of knowns – get married, move to the Northwest, work hard, get a cat, save money aggressively.  Maybe buy a house.  Maybe stay in WA, maybe come back to the Southeast.  The plan also contains some more fuzzy details – the biggest of which is that we both want to start a family.  I have a range of biological arguments for why I would like to have a child before I am 30 – reduces breast cancer risk, lower probability of complications in momma and child, the terrifying possibility of infertility and the time it would take to wrangle with it.  And, we both want kids, kind of a lot.  So, that’s on the 5 year plan now.  Somewhere in there with making the transition from over-worked post-doc to permament employ, i.e. working my ass off and impressing people until I’m 29, with no time to spare for procreation…  But that’s a different can of worms.

We’ve talked about the kid thing – theoretical divisions of labor, how Fiance (the lightest sleeper in the damn world) will survive, the fact that they will have the softest hair ever, and with any luck won’t inherit my immune system.  We have thought about how to prepare financially, how we are going to name all the boys Stanley and all the girls Wanda (don’t ask).  We talk about having them sooner versus later, pros and cons.  We talk about how I will be a pain in the ass when I’m pregnant – I”ll probably have a host of random medical issues, and the weirdest eating habits ever.  We talk about how he has to love me even if I get fat, and he says he wishes I were chubbier anyways.

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My proclivity for morbid fantasy caught me fully unaware last night.  I was watching Bridge to Terabithia on TV, and near the end, a child dies.  I wasn’t expecting that plot twist at all, so it was rather like I got punched in the stomach.  Suddenly tears are streaming down my face, and I think about all the children lost lately – children in the blogs I read, children in the newspaper.  And I am afraid.  I am petrified.  My own imagination runs me over, runs me through, faster and more intense than ever.  I am scared I’m not strong enough to endure even the possibility of that reality.

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I wish that I were this kind of person:

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Hello world!

Hello, indeed!

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