Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's All My Fault(line)

Patience Update: I looked in on my old friend today – the countdown clock.  In about 6 weeks I’ll be in double-digits! Tempus fugit, dude!

 List Update: You know the one – the list of all the stuff you gotta have in order to travel in an RV.  Before anyone warns me not to buy too much – I know.  I’m the first minimalist I ever met.  I would be a card-carrying member of the simplicity club but membership cards clutter up the wallet (which is what I carry instead of a purse because a purse leads to more stuff).  

 I’m shopping deliberately using my carefully-considered list.  A cocktail shaker here, a can opener there.  Today, for example, I bought a paring knife.  I’ve given it some thought and feel that one knife ought to be sufficient on the road.  I use one paring knife for almost all cutting and slicing chores at home. 

 Dissertation Update: I’ve submitted one of the last chapters to my committee and have been waiting to hear the verdict.  I’m sure there will be revisions; of course I hope they will be minor ones.  I finished the last chapter this past weekend but I won’t submit it until the other one comes back.  There is no doubt that the closer I get to my goal, the more intense the pressure. 

Stress Update: Do you ever feel like your cranium is sitting atop tectonic plates?  That your left temporal lobe is California?  These past 2 weeks have been the one-day-at-a-time variety requiring deep breathing, sound judgment, and perspective. 

My tendency to be distracted has improved but my fingers are still seizing up at the keyboard.  When I sit down to write, I have to do a concert-pianist warm up.  I call it the QWERTY scale.   

Talk to you soon. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blogger Comment Woes Partially Solved

For those of you who, like me, have been having trouble for weeks now posting comments on other Blogger blogs try this:

When you try to leave a comment as a Google Account and it takes you to the sign-in page:

go ahead and sign in but UNCHECK "Stay signed in". 

That seems to work about 90% of the time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Attack of the Killer Stress

I’m not being melodramatic.  As George Carlin used to say “It’s bad for ya!!!”.

I’ve been giving the phenomenon of long-term chronic stress a lot of half-baked thought lately.  It’s begun to hold an objective clinical fascination for me as I witness my symptoms unfolding.  I believe the psychology people call this “intellectualizing”.  It’s apparently my go-to coping mechanism these days.

Note: I must warn you, this topic has absolutely nothing to do with travel other than the fact that I’m hoping that, when I’m able to finally do it, it will be my salvation.

There have been a few troublemsome incidents this week.  Allow me to list them.

Last week instead of returning the milk to the refrigerator, I put it in the pantry.   The realization was almost immediate.  Just as it was the other day when I finished brushing my hair and promptly threw the brush into the wastebasket. 

Yesterday morning while getting ready for work, I was holding a pair of earrings in my left hand and a glass of water in my right.  Lost in a storm cloud of thought, about the day's schedule probably, I stopped myself just before I swallowed the earrings with a gulp of water.  I must have mistaken them for two Advil.  Imagine trying to explain that one to the people in your life? 

This morning I had to look up the day’s date at least 4 times because I couldn’t remember the two-digit number 19.  It is the 19th, isn't it? 

I can only imagine how awful my lecture was this morning.  Nothing like making a fool out of yourself in front of 49 people who are paying you to know more than they do.  My (unreliable) recollection is that I started out strong but towards the end I couldn’t think of the work “appendicitis”.  I said “appendix removal” hoping that was the actual term, feeling certain that is wasn’t.  My students, bless ‘em, must be very forgiving.  Such compassion will carry them a long way in nursing.    

I’m having very unsettling reactions when I sit down to work on the last 2 chapters of the dissertation.  It’s completely irrational.  Mostly, when I sit down to compose, I start to tense up, breathe hard, lose focus, and (seriously) make one typing error after another.  This behavior is really bogging me down. 

My conclusion is that the stakes on every keystroke are so high right now.  And that fact alone builds a cinderblock wall of distraction.  Downright dysfunctional is what it is. 

This afternoon, I left the office earlier than I wanted to because I wasn’t getting any quality writing done - although I was hyperventilating pretty successfully.  So I stop at the library.  I’m not finding a single one of the 4 books on my list which, only hours before, I had confirmed were in the stacks.  I’m starting to get very frustrated – I felt tears welling up – especially when I realize that I can’t remember which comes first – F or G.  Nope, not making it up. 

All I could think was that I should just leave the building, walk slowly to my car if I can find it, and get home.  That’s what I did.   

But it’s not only a memory issue.  I’m having trouble with dot-connection.  Several days ago, I noticed that the annuals on the porch were looking just awful.  Really brown with no blooms.  I thought, “Hmmm.  I wonder what their problem is?”.  Before I could finish this very dim line of thought, I began thinking of something else entirely – probably a statistical issue.  Today, once again, I noticed the plants are still looking really bad.  Worse even.  Then it occurred to me that I haven’t watered them in God only knows how long.   So it took me days to solve that mystery.     

Now I’m worried that maybe tomorrow I won’t be able to find the milk or my hairbrush.  Or my earrings.     

Two Questions:

1) is this a) an irrevocable descent into senility or b) situational loonyness?

2) should I be driving?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hooray! Gulp!

I’m taking a few minutes out from writing my final two dissertation chapters to write about something equally as important as my research – my travel plans.  

Everything is coming together although not in the way I envisioned.  Life, huh?

After several weeks of back-and-forth, the boss and I were unable to reach an agreement about my teaching assignment for Spring semester which begins January 2012.  I wanted an assignment where I could work from the road – completely doable in my mind, completely NOT in hers.  So the result is that I’m taking the entire semester off.  

This is a development both wonderful (hooray!) and frightening (gulp!).  But mostly wonderful.  Downside: no income at all, possible hard feelings all around that may or may not subside.  Upside: well, I don’t need to tell you, do I?  Freedom.  

Once again, I have a choice between $ and no time or time and no $.  The equation of time = money rarely varies, doesn’t it?  Or not for us middle-class types anyway.

It’s undeniably nuts to think about financing a tow vehicle and taking on debt with a severely depleted income.  This is not how I planned it.  But I’ve been so practical (mostly) my whole life, I think this is one of those times when you have to just not think.  And just do it. 

I can hardly conceive of what those upcoming 5 months will be like.  I only know it will be very different from my current existence.  And there is no time to think now of these unseen possibilities.  But there will be …. and that’s all I care about for the moment.   

Well, back to business.

Stay tuned. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Search for the Perfect Cuppa

And by perfect I mean, not only a steaming cup of full rich flavor, but produced by using a method which is simple, fast, easy to clean, and not dependent upon electricity.    

We traveling coffee drinkers face quite the challenge.  If we rely on what's out there, we are at the mercy of fate and may end up with anything from the convenience stores's burned-out toxic sludge or the $5 option that, while good, we always resent because it's $5.   And I'm not even that picky about the blend, I just want it to be made properly. 

Even a retail coffee source that proves reliable in most cases is still highly variable - yeah, I'm talking about you, Krispy Kreme - though it's easier to forgive a disappointing brew when it's accompanied by a glazed donut or two.  Or a dozen.  And let's not revisit the horrors of making your own in a hotel room.  Blech!  Instant coffee?  Puleeeze!   

In fact, if I had to choose one single reason why RV travel is superior to other forms of travel, I would have to say - you can always get a good cup.  Always.  Ditto wine, bed linen, and food.

For camping, we always used a stovetop percolator.  This worked pretty well except that one must be diligent while making a pot.  One moment's distraction could lead to boiling the water.  Once it boils, forget it, the result will be burned and bitter.  Let's just say I've "outgrown" this method as I'm easily distracted these days.  In fact, soon I'll reach the point where it will be unsafe for me to be left unatended. 

So I've tried just about every coffee-making method with the execption of the french press.  The single biggest drawback to using a french press for camp coffee is that the all the grounds must be cleaned from the pot - a real mess apparently.  (I always used a paper filter in the stovetop percolator basket which made clean-up a snap.  My favorite camping tip). 

However, the french press will been my next experiment should the Melitta Coffee Cone, which I received yesterday, prove disappointing.  Here's a video to show you how it's done.

When I ordered the cone from, I was hopeful yet apprehensive, because it all just seemed too simple.  And the price was right which is usually a red flag - $5 - about the cost of one Starbuck's skinny latte.  The price included the cone and five #2 filters.   

I have to say initial results are promising though my technique may take some tweaking. 
For the first cup, I filled my over-sized mug with water and poured it in the tea kettle.  A whistling tea kettle for which aforementioned distractions become a non-issue.  I then measured out a heaping tablespoon of coffee into the filter.  Result: too weak. 

The second cup was almost a 10.0 because this time I measured out 2/3 of a mug of water and the same amount of coffee.  I think my third cup will be the winner when I used a really heaping tablespoon of coffee.  Naturally, since the water was boiling, the coffee was piping hot enough that I was able to add a pretty large amount of cold milk which made the temperature just right.  Ahhhh!  

Other advantages to the Melitta cone are: it makes a single cup so nothing's wasted, it's about as lightweight as an item can be, it's not going to break unless it gets stepped on, it's handy to have about the house in case of electrical outage, and it's all-in-one design means I won't need both a coffee maker and a tea kettle.  And, it goes without saying, it makes an effective ice-scraper:

(The odd thing to me about this is not that he used the cone in this way, but that he documented the event in order to share it with the world).

Well, I know we all have our favorite ways to attain that elusive perfect cup on the road.  Want to share yours? 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Dear Amazon: I Love You Very Much.

For the first time, I'm beginning to feel that the time may come when I am actually on the road.  The countdown clock is counting down.  My deposit for la casita is in the mail.  I checked some books out the other day at the university library and the due date is September 27th - a day when I might realistically be through with school

Yep, it's beginning to seem real. 

But I really had cause for delight when the post came today.

Now I'm even readier!

Corps of Engineers campground guide, my newest version of The Long Long Trailer, and the potential for the perfect cup of coffee. 

More about the search for the perfect road brew in another post.