The color of Michigan.
A house out in the country,
Not a neighborhood, only the county road.
And all the houses surrounded by corn fields.
The green, green, green of the corn stalks
And tall grass around our house.
How blue the sky is when there’s nothing but cornfields to contrast it.
How white the snow is when it piles three feet.
Leveling the porch with the outdoors.
And you stay out to play for hours and hours in the white clouds.
Even if the cold is biting off your nose.
Colors and cold. That’s what I remember.
Around this time of year I see a lot of writing challenges pop-up. For whatever reason we decided November is Blog Like Crazy month. 'Cause it's finally gotten cold and we're all pent up in the house bored to death? I don't know, we'll go for it.
I've never thought of participating in these challenges because they're always too vague. "Blog every day of the month!" Like okay, I'm pretty sure if I had either more time and/or creativity I would be doing that literally every month. But I don't, hence my current inconsistent and lack luster schedule. Committing to blogging every day is somehow going to give me more ideas? Or is the mechanical recitation of "Thou Shalt do this everyday" somehow going to improve my writing skills and technique? Am I missing something?
But, I've been following I am the F-Bomb for a while. It's a community of female writers based out of Birmingham, Alabama which states very generally that it is a "women's writing website." We write about music, love, dating, feminism -pretty much everything. And they have decided to day writing challenge. And this one I'll agree to because they'll give me prompts! As a insider, I'll say this too -they look like fun prompts. I like them and I'm excited and invigorated and will take the plunge even during this the month I am least able to fulfill it because I'm working all the time.
Want to get back to writing yourself and think this would be a good opportunity? You can follow I am the F-Bomb on Facebook or sign up for the Newsletter on the website
In the past few years, I've become a booze hound. The practical and delicious art of the drink drew my interest of my Chemistress tendencies. Why, a modern day potion maker I shall be!
Tonight I participate in the Cold Brew Hustle at Velo Coffe Roasters
Participants will compete in boozeful and boozeless rounds so see who can come up with the best cold brew cocktail. Winner gets fun things! And to support some stellar people in need.
I fancy, after my years of boozing, I have some taste, some ability to sift through a variety of flavors, picking out those which will play and balance each other. Sweet here, sour here, savory here.
You come in with the known values: Thou shalt use at least 1.25oz of mezcal, vodka or bourbon. Thou shalt use at least 0.5 oz of cold brew.
Then, whatever you want. How do you decide something fun and new and creative from infinity? You start with something you know. Something you like. Something you have a well defined sense of -bourbon for richness. Turkish Coffee, dark coffee and cardamom flavor, that's nice too. And what for spice but more spice? Some Velvet Falernum with allspice, ginger, almond. All of this with the bourbon, it's a little too strong. How about an egg white to froth and smooth it all together?
It all sounds good in theory, how about in practice? More of the bourbon, less of the coffee? More of the coffee, less of the falernum? Try and try and try until you get it right.
This is my method with all endeavors and expectations. I start out with at least some level of knowledge (sometimes that knowledge is really close to zero). If I don't have enough, I research and research until I believe sufficiency has been obtained. Then experiment, a scientist always. I begin with my hypothesis, I rigorously test the hypothesis against it's variations and possibilities collecting my data. Then decide, right or wrong? Sometimes right, sometimes wrong. I can have a pretty good idea of what I think will happen, but it doesn't always. So long as you have been meticulous in your testing, does it matter if your opinion changed? You know the answer now and your previous feelings have no bearing on what the truth is.
Expectations -have them, and change them when you need to.
"So, don't take this the wrong way," my boyfriend says. "But how would you becoming an herbalist make you any different than a snake oil person?"
It's true. Becoming an herbalist is something I've wanted to do for a long time. Not particularly as a profession (yeah, I'm way to champagne taste for that lifestyle), but as a hobby and interest. As you well know, being a chemist means I'm fascinated with the interactions of the human body and how we use substances to alter it. Once upon a time, I was going to be a pharmacist I loved it so much. But being a pharmacist these days is often far from the "Chemist" role they used to play and I took another path.
Even so, I feel strongly supportive for the natural medicine world. But "How is it different from the Snake Oil person world?" is a good and valid question. If herbs are so good, why aren't you prescribed herbs instead?
Evidence. It's always evidence. You want demonstrable fact that the substance you're placing in your body has an effect which is known and desired.
And is it really so hard to acknowledge that plants can make that possible? There's a reason marijuana, mescaline, and magic mushrooms are illegal to possess. Not all natural products known to produce effects are bad though. From willow bark we obtain aspirin and from yew bark we obtained Taxol, one of the first cancer fighting drugs. In fact, most of our antibiotics from Penicillin onward come from natural products with natural product research being one of our primary means of new antibiotic discovery. Pharmacognosy, the study of natural products, remains an important field of research and the National Institutes of Health supports it and other alternative forms of medicine with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
And yes, I realize it's not as if we prescribe you to go out and chew yew bark rather than take actual Taxol. We take the compounds we find in nature and modify their delivery to better suit our purpose. In doing so, we make them a very important thing to drug companies -patentable. While improving the method of delivery helps to improve efficacy of the drug, it's also the thing that turns a natural product into a money making source of good. Adding even just one, provable atom to a chemical turns it into a different compound, and if you can prove you're the one that makes it a consistent process, you get a patent. And here's where I become wary. How much of a difference is that one atom worth? How much more efficient does it make the compound? How much more expensive?
That's a lot of data we don't have, and I don't know if I trust the drug companies to give it to me. If I have a drug that's 10 times more bioavailable than the natural compound, I need to know what the price of that drug is to find my breakeven cost. Maybe it's much cheaper to take the natural product instead of the patented pill version. Would the drug company tell me so? As with all medical care, I'm not sure a for-profit model ensures the greatest care to the greatest number. Which is why I'm glad there are a few impartial parties in this fight.
Germany has an advisory board called "Commission E" which evaluates and instructs the methods of traditional herbal use. They fall under the German version of the food and drug administration, and if you go to a pharmacy in Germany, it's not unlikely they'll prescribe you herbs instead of medicine for certain (mostly minor) ailments like cold and flu or upset stomach support. The World Health Organization also has a division for the research of effective traditional remedies. And finally, my favorite, the Cochrane Collaboration is an independent network of healthcare professionals throughout the world who perform meta-analysis of healthcare data identifying successful practices and screening out items with unsupported or insufficient evidence. You always see the hot, clickbait articles "A new study says this is good for you! A new study says this is bad for you!" I'd only trust the results of one study if it had a good hundred thousand people. Unfortunately, that's not manageable from a financial standpoint so most drug studies aren't that big. Cochrane takes all the related studies it can find -in this case of studying the flu vaccine use, 69 studies for a total of 70,000 people- and analyzes all of them to determine actual findings or contradictions. If you want to know whether or not eating eggs is actually bad for you, I'd go to one of their systematic reviews.
I like data and I love science. I love that with diligence and experiment we can sort through beliefs to find out what improves our lives. Skeptical of natural medicine? I totally get that. If I weren't a biochemist who can read all of these insane papers and figure out if this nutbag actually knows what they're talking about or not, I'd be intimated and scared too. People can be mistreated by the medical industry because they're fearful and vulnerable and don't have the information they need to make a decision. Or maybe they do have the information, but it's too complicated for them to understand and they get confused. I believe in herbal because I do the legwork to study what works, and
Now, the question is just, what herb school do I go to?
Doesn't France look like a fun place to be? Well it's not. At least not in my experience. So here's the thing: I've been a lot of places and seen a lot of things, and yet somehow, I've never written of my many misadventures. I think that's a travesty to the world or travel writing because with all my mishaps, I could be the next Bill Bryson (if maybe I'd up my wit game). And besides that, I've got a few actually good recommendations, so, I think I'll try my hand at travel blogging when I'm out of other ideas and just looking to get my fix.
Today is a tale of Spain. And France. Of life and love and adventure and nearly getting stuck in a foreign country with no way of return even though you speak the local language -kind of sort of a little bit. Names other than mine are changed for privacy.
Don’t St. Jean-de-Luz Us
“Do you want to go to France?”
“We’re on vacation in Spain. Why would I want to go to France?”
“Because we could get another country on our list?” Alex doesn’t have to see me raise my eyebrows at her. I lean over. “See, we’re so close to the border here, it’s only about an hour and a half away. Rick Steves says people do it a lot.”
She leans over to look at my already battered blue and yellow guidebook. It started out fresh at the beginning of the trip, but wine and gazpacho have drizzled down its sides while the pages have curled from being bashed against cameras and water bottles in my purse. The map shows the northern border of Spain where the Basque Country meets Bordeaux. We’re just outside of the region in Pamplona, but the trusted guide tells us we can reach Spain by bus in about an hour and a half.
She shrugs. “Are you sure you just don’t want to stay here?”
I ponder. Pamplona -home of my famed and beloved Hemingway, setting of The Sun Also Rises, my favorite novel- has been fantastic. Brilliantly sunny and I’ve discovered my favorite food in the world, crostini with blood sausage, caramelized onions and quail eggs. We’ve wandered throughout the town, I’ve drank brandy where Hemingway drank brandy –rather poorly by comparison, I’d wager. No, I’ve done everything I want to do here. We’ve got an extra day before heading to Barcelona; I might as well get France in.
We leave the next morning bright and early on the bus. Pamplona began our day with rays of sun, but the sky darkens as we travel west towards the Atlantic Coast and north to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the small French beach town we plan on visiting. The bus driver clearly doesn’t speak English, so neither of us sleep as we near our stop. Before we know it, the breaks hit and we’re in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. After a hurried exchange with the driver to ensure that “Yes, the bus will be right back here at 5pm to take us back to Pamplona,” as communicated by many nods and “Si, si”, we step onto French soil having never waved a passport. Point one for France.
The sky is filled with dark clouds just waiting to unleash rain upon us. It’s cold here, maybe 65F to the balmy 85 of Pamplona. I reach into my bag to grab my jacket and realize it’s still curled into a ball on the bus where I left it trying to nap. Point lost for France trip.
We tour the city, but it’s nothing like the fantastic beach town we hoped for. It’s cold and dreary with drizzles periodically breaking out around town. We try going to the beach, but we’re cold and wet. I try to buy a jacket to replace my lost one and almost forget my wallet with passport in the shop. We give up and go to eat French Fries and drink French wine –everything we can find is overpriced tourists’ food. At 3:30pm, Alex and I look at each other. We are so done with France.
It takes us a while to return to the bus stop, and we arrive an hour early. Conveniently, the train station resides in the same plaza and we can wait indoors for our bus. We buy beer and camp out reading the rest of Rick Steves’ suggestions, now with some trepidation given our current circumstances. At 4:45, we set aside the book, eyes locked on the plaza outside. We’re ready to run at everything resembling a bus just so we don’t miss it. We wait. 5pm and still no bus. 5:15, no bus. 5:30, no bus.
“I mean, he did say he’d come right back here, right?” Alex looks at me, concerned.
“I think so. Like seis? Or that’s 6. I mean, cinco? Damn I don’t know. The bus schedule says 5pm too.” We go look at it again to verify. It does say there’s a bus at 5pm to Pamplona. Not crazy.
I venture a trip to the train ticket window thinking maybe they have some information. I work up my best 11th grade French to try at the ticket counter.
"Bonjour!” The attendant stares at me. I continue, “Je voudrais un autobus dans les….I mean, pour le Pamplona, Espagne.” I didn’t nail it, but I used enough French words to get across what I wanted, I’d wager.
“Non,” the clerk replied.
Straight up no? I even tried to speak actual French to you, jerk. “Pardon,” I started again. “Je voudrais un train pour Espagne.”
The clerk again started, only vaguely acknowledging that, indeed, Spain was a country near this region of France, and theoretically we would be able to take a train to it. He showed us train tables and point to signs, and though we didn’t quite understand what the dotted red line between our current city and Hendeya meant, we purchased tickets that would take us to Irun, back to Spain which actually seemed to want us there.
Thrilled 10 minutes later when the train showed up, we clasped hands and shrieked a little, glad to finally go home. 5 minutes later, the train screeched to a halt where Hendeya should be and everyone got off. We looked at each other. Surely we weren’t there yet. Irun should be a good 20 minutes to half hour away, and Hendeya close to that. Since literally everyone else on the train was disembarking, we got off our most recent hope and blindly followed the crowd. We wound up at another, much smaller ticketing station. Essentially, a wide locker room stood on either side of a telephone box with an agent selling tickets. When it was our turn in line I asked timidly, “Pamplona?” Unlike our French cohort, the Spaniard found entertainment in us. He raised his eyebrow and shook his head.
“No” Yet again we were defeated! He slammed keys on a keyboard and titled a monitor to me. Wisely surmising the clueless looking American girl behind me was part of the entourage, he’d typed up two tickets to San Sebastian, one of our connecting cities. “Cinco euro por dos.” He held up five fingers then motioned to both of us. Immediately I forked over a note, and got the tickets.
We were next loaded on what I can only title as an intermediary form of transportation. Not a train or a bus or a metro. It looked vaguely like the sky tram at Disneyworld and was called the EuskoTren solidifying its tenuous state as a legitimate mode of transportation. Another five minute trek at approximately 5 miles an hour and boom! We were finally in Spain.
I’d activated my phone for international travel as a precaution, but had so far avoided its use to steer clear of the astronomical data charges. Knowing it was data charges or pay for a last minute hotel room in San Sebastian, I flipped on GPS and we raced to the train station to find our train back to Pamplona awaiting.
Oh wait, no we didn’t. All the trains for the day were gone. The clerk thought perhaps one more bus for the night would be traveling through on the way to Pamplona soon. The bus station was a good 20 minute walk from the train station so we’d better hurry. We sprinted and sprinted arriving at the bus station with gasping for breath only to watch as the bus backed out of its spot to exit the station. In my last ditch effort, I ran full on in front of the bus to block its path.
Thankfully it stopped. Alex and I clamored on trying to explain our situation in broken Spanish to the driver. The driver responded that the bus was pretty full and it’s unlikely we would be able to find two seats. When it became clear they’d find us seats or we’d have a hysterical meltdown and disrupt everyone’s plans, she called out in Spanish to ask if there were seats. Miraculously, two people raised their hands. We opened our wallets to throw money at the generous bus people, but the driver simply waved us back not wanting anymore fuss. After approximately 50 “Gracias” to our bus mates, Alex and I settled in. An hour later, we arrived in Pamplona.
We walked slowly, haggardly to our hostel. We turned the key and came upstairs to find our host standing and chatting at the desk with one of his friends. “Oh, good! We were worried you wouldn’t come back.”
So were we, Pablo. So were we.
Everything in the world is awful. Maybe not the entire world, but a lot of it. So, I offer my love and joy and talents to you here as a tiny gift of good to the universe while we’re sorting out the rest. A lot I can’t make progress on now, but I can help you with your drink game while we wait (especially if, as I am, you find yourself looking more and more to that bottle each day.*
I don’t think a cocktail is a cocktail without citrus. You can debate back and forth all you like about what is and isn’t a cocktail, but I adore the zesty, spicy, tangy, unimaginably delectable flavors. And the essential oils? Don’t get me started. In another life, figuring out the how limonene and linalool are so bewitching would have been my PhD thesis.
As the rules of “the perfect drink” go, you also should have a hint of sweet. Enter the beguiling Oleo Saccharum.
The name offers its explanation. Oleo for oil and saccharum for saccharine for sugar. With this bartender’s friend you utilize my favorite thing, chemistry!, to make up the perfect drink ingredient.
With the rise of craft cocktail culture, we’ve seen the rise of vintage ingredients. Sure, oleo saccharum sounds like a kickass hipster name for an ingredient, but I’m not sure anyone appreciates quite how clever this syrup is.
Oil and water don’t mix, right? Those are basic scientific facts. Working all of the complex oils from a citrus peel into a water based simple syrup will then be difficult using the standard flavored simple syrup formula. If you need this formula, it’s pretty simple. (haha! look at me.) One part sugar to one part water, boil until sugar is completely dissolved and mixed. Allow syrup to cool from boiling before throwing in your flavor ingredient (think mint, raspberries, blackberries, lavender). Allow to sit for an hour or so, then strain and serve.
Sugar water is slightly friendlier than regular water to oil, but still, it’s not great. In the case of citrus, we modify this process to allow for maximum chemical efficiency. Sugar is hygroscopic. Hydrgawhosawhatsit? Hygroscopy is the ability of a substance to absorb water and wet things. Materials that are hygroscopic readily absorb all moisture available to including oil. Sugar boasts this magical property, readily absorbing oils such as those from citrus fruits. Once we’ve entrapped the citrus oils with the sugar molecules, creating a citrus simple syrup becomes chemically easier, not to mention yields more robust results. Try to make a lemon simple syrup by the first method I mention, then compare it to the oleo saccharum method and you’ll see what I mean.
But wait, mint and lavender rely on oils too? Why can’t we do them the oleo saccharum way? You’re not wrong. Major components from mint and lavender scents are from oils, but many also come from water soluble molecules. While a fresh citrus peel oozes oil, herbs, at best waft, it having comparatively no volume. It’s best to stick to the traditional simple syrup method unless you’ve got a lot of liquid on your hands.
So then, what’s this magic recipe? Since it became my obsession I’ve made nearly every kind of oleo you can think of -lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, clementine –using a variety of recipes I’ve found online. Like from Bon Appetit and Liquor.com. After playing around, I’ll offer my best, chemist perspective process.
Step 1: Peel your citrus. Today I’ve done two types of grapefruit to experiment with Ruby Red vs. Yellow grapefruit flavors. Try to avoid peeling off the pith (the white stuff on the interior of the peel) to avoid bitter flavors.
Step 2: Mash your citrus. You want to get as much of the oil flowing as you can to migrate into the sugar.
Step 3: Two words –surface area. You want to maximize the area of citrus exposed to the sugar without using too much sugar thereby diluting the oils. To do this, layer. Place a layer of citrus peel on the bottom of your bowl.
Step 4: Sprinkle sugar on top ensuring the peels are lightly covered. Again, you’re maximizing the area of sugar touching peel to suck out the most oil. Overdo the sugar, and you’ll lose the best effect. But wait Elise! This isn’t a good recipe. You didn’t tell me how many cups or tablespoons to use! Yes I did. Use enough but not too much. Layer rinse and repeat.
Step 5: Let it soak. The minimum about of time you should give them is four hours. Bare minimum. I often let mine sit out for about a day to give it plenty of time. Then they look something like this.
Step 6: Pick out the peels. Here, I deviate from the sites. At the end of the recipe they’ll tell you to push away all the peels, let the oils concentrate and use them as you will. The first time I tried this method, I found nothing resembling “oil” in my bowls so much as oily, sugary clumps. Maybe if I had more patience to wait and separate, I would have found more oil over time. But I’m not patient. I took those sugar oil clumps and used them to make a simple syrup with out of this world citrus flavor. Like I said, the sugar molecules have locked in the oil and make it much easier to work into the water to form the simple syrup. So, I do it that way. It gives you more volume for your product and is, presumably, easier also to work into your drinks than the mess you would get otherwise. Again, I don’t know how to use sugary clumpy messes in a drink, so I take out the peels and make a simple syrup. Estimate the amount of sugar you have, add an equal volume of water and boil.
And voila! You have delightful, delicious citrusy oleo saccharum -manna from the heaven. Oh and don't forget to use your leftover juice with your fun new syrups.
There I am, endlessly scrolling to avoid getting ready for vacation, and I see this. “Nuclear Plant Holds Bikini Contest for Internship!” Are you kidding? Shared on my Women in Nuclear Facebook group, indeed, a nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic has decided to hold an internship competition based on bikini results. Get the most likes and you’re in!
Of course, I click and my first response is….a little jealously. “But I want to have a bikini shoot in a cooling tower!” What? Like I’m going to lie to you and say a fashion shoot in a nuclear plant isn’t on my list of top five things to do in life? Come on. I continue on with the juicy gossip.
My assumption was these would be college students –makes sense, they’re looking for jobs after they graduate. Desperate for anything in this economy. But no, these are high school girls. Fresh out of high school girls. Whaaaaaaaaat?!
The denizens of the internet jumped on the company immediately. Despite their innocent claims that, “The combination of beauty and the industrial environment gives an interesting result.” CEZ quickly apologized after the world pointed out to them that having girls compete in a hotness contest to get into a nuclear plant for a highly technical vocation probably wasn’t the best means of assessing talent. And, oh yeah, why the hell are you making women compete for technical jobs based off their looks?
It drives me crazy for two prominent reasons. Firstly, the inherent unfairness that this is not something that happens to men. Secondly, why can’t we just be both? Why is it so often beauty or brains but the idea of both is appalling? Or, more often, the brains dismissed in favor of the beauty?
You may be inclined to disagree on the first point. For both sexes, being attractive gets you ahead. However, obtaining perks because of your pretty face is distinctly different than your company trying to liven its public image with a few half-naked girls. Do I see any “Vote the hottest mechanic into the office!” campaigns? No. I work at a nuclear plant. It’s old and crusty and no one cares about it (despite how great it is for the environment and energy). I get it. Flash some skin and people will get interested!
A perfect lead into my next point. We’ve established a rather advanced civilization. We’ve gone to the moon personally and explored other planets and stars with our gizmos. Can we as a species get past the psychological thrill of sex sells? It’ll be difficult with its being hardwired into our DNA, but we’ve cured cancer and nearly eradicated killer diseases. Maybe we could wrap our minds around being entertained and fascinated by things other than cleavage. Am I asking too much creativity of the world? Probably so, I regret it’s a habit.
Beauty is separate from brains. There’s no inherent connection. Being beautiful has never been tied to higher IQ, SAT scores, ACT scores, any quantifiable metric we have for testing intelligence. It comes into play with being more successful when psychological and social factors exist, which unfortunately is just about everywhere. But it shouldn’t because it doesn’t matter. Manicured nails and washboard abs don’t save you when you’re trying to figure out why your nuclear reactor tripped offline or how to treat an ER patient.. It’s only what’s upstairs which saves you.
And since brains matter so much, I want women to be remembered for them. Hi, my name is Hedy Lamarr. I’m remembered for being a beautiful actress. Oh yeah, I pretty much invented the foundation for Bluetooth and Wifi, too. How come you know Edison’s name and not mine? Don’t I affect your life as much?
Hedy, silently judging you.
You probably also know of Karlie Kloss, if not her name, at least her face if you saw it. Maybe you recognized her on Bill Nye’s new show as the leggy blonde who's taller than he is. Did you know she’s also super into coding and organizes “Kode with Klossy” to teach young girls coding? I’m betting you didn’t. Or Audrey Hepburn and Bridget Bardot, remembered for their distinctive looks, but not their serious activism.
I’m not saying I want women to eliminate beauty either. In last month’s National Geographic, Mayim Blalik of “The Big Bang Theory" talks with Neil DeGasse Tyson about the state of women in STEM where she recalls a question, “What do you think about [the sexy-scientist stereotype of] the white shirt open with the black bra underneath? And you know, I don’t knock women or scientists who want to do that. For me, that’s not the way that I choose to portray women in science.” That’s right. Don’t knock me if I do, don’t knock me if I don’t. I just want to stop worrying about what people are going to say when I get promotions. Hopefully not the spew of rumors I hear now.
You could frame it that it boils down to self-interest. Quite frankly I do want to be the sexy scientist with the crisp white collars and black bra. And I want to seamlessly float from “Damn, she looks good” to “Damn, she knows her stuff” with no hesitation or insinuations about how I got my success -the knowledge part. Maybe it’s just because I’m an antagonist and I like making people actually use their brains and struggle a bit to understand things. Only a little. It’s more I think the overwhelming majority of girls are like me and we would really just like you to shut up about it. And maybe, just maybe, get an engineering job for being awesome at engineering instead of losing to the second-rater who modeled.
My first screen name was ToughChc4. ToughChc because obviously I was a Touch Chick, 4 because...I don't know why 4. There is absolutely no reason for me to have chosen 4; 4 is not one of my numbers. Because ToughChc1,2, and 3 were taken? Maybe? We'll go with that.
'Our Digital Selves' sounds like the name of an art show I've attended. Hell, maybe I have. But I can't think of it so I'll use this until I get sued. Last month one of my pieces was published on Thought Catalog. so far, I'd believed this writing thing to be a frivolous entertainment. Writing because I simply must write. I do it because it frees my soul, but don't let yourself be fooled. I do this because I want to become wondrous and write a piece to tickle all the nerves inside your brain and make a whole hell of a lot of money in the process. And with my first outside publication I thought, "What if I could actually do this?"
My next thought was, "Oh god, what if people know who I am?!" (I've no interest in fame other than to get your money.)
First I was ToughChc4. For a short bit, I was Boggingurl. Then I moved on to Silence_Is_Golden for a spit. In early college, I became Iamscientiste. In later college, I became TheChemistress and that's where I live now. Facebook was intersting because it was the first social media website that made you use your name. At the beginning it was lax, but time drove them to become more strict. On Facebook, you are you. No longer do you hide behind a screen name -or a fake name.
But I kind of want to hide. You're always warned to "Take down those party pictures!" in case employers investigate you on Facebook beforehand. Then again, have no social media presence and they're suspicious because if you're not online, what do you have to hide? People now get fired over what they say online. I don't know how I feel about that. On the one hand, most of the articles I've been about people getting fired for social media posts have been outrageously offensive, racist and homophobic, problems I can't see myself getting into. On the other, you never know. Milo Yiannopoulos was fired for his seditious comments. Certainly I won't condone pedophilia (or Milo obviously), but his comments were based off his own experience. Where does it land to get fired for talking about your life and your interpretation of it? How is that any different that what I do here?
With social media, the walls come down between public and private. It never used to be a problem because you couldn't broadcast to millions of people. They'd never know or care. Now I can communicate with someone across the world in an instant. Effective communication requires a deft hand, and people get it wrong continuously. IF I'm going to do this, I'd better get good.
For now, I'll install a wall albeit thin. I've been sharing this with all my Facebook friends. But if I grow, I don't want people I don't know to know me. The Facebook me isn't even me as my true self, but it is currently me as a representative for my writing. Let's make that a different person and solidify this alter ego.
I'm currently sitting in a balcony overlooking the Hilton golf course in Waikoloa, Hawaii . There's the pool I was in just an hour ago! Typically the Hilton style isn't my vacation of choice. I'm an off-the-beaten path girl. Dive bars, corner stores, and live like the locals Why exactly am I in a Hilton now?
It all started with me wanting a free trip to Harry Potter world. Hilton asked, "Would you be willing to listen to a presentation from us in order to receive two free nights at a resort? One of them is in Orlando!" Why yes I would thank you very much. And so I attend their presentation. Hey, what have you got to lose? You know you're not going to buy a timeshare. Except at the end of the meeting I kind of wanted to buy a timeshare. They're so convincing! They have compelling arguments about valuations and interest rates and cost of living adjustments! All those wonderful technical details a numbers nerd like me loves. The price is good, I have the capital, do I want to buy a condo?
Oh wait, I'm incapable of making significant financial decisions without meticulously going over spreadsheets and data again and again. I say thanks but no thanks, and before I can leave the table, they come back. An option. Pay a portion of the condo now. If in 18 months you decide you don't want it, you can turn that portion into a week long stay at a Hilton resort instead of a down payment.
Wait, Elise, why are you babbling your story about buying a condo? I'm never going to be in that situation! This is pointless.
While you may not be in this situation exactly, you're going to be in this situation at some point It could be what to do at work, it could be whether or not you change jobs, go back to school, decide to leave a romantic partner. Anything. You'll have a decision to make, probably a big decision. One that you really want to work out, but could also have disastrous results. Even more, someone is pressuring you to make this decision. Pressuring hard. How do you go about making that decision?
While it's pretty to believe we're rational human beings, our reptile brains still exist. We're fearful creatures who become more fearful when the stakes are high. We get emotional and the emotions override those logical portions harming our decision making capabilities. We panic and that's when we're most likely to make bad decisions. Why am I telling you this ? Because you should know how to override those emotional reactions and go back to your logical brain instead.
STEP 1: What's your bottom line? What's the worst case scenario? While we're emotional and irrational, we're also risk averse. Keep from getting caught up in the gilded daydreams by always having "This is what I can't lose" in focus.
STEP 2: How good is good? Marketing does this to you all the time. On Sale! Buy 5, Get one free! Save a total of.....$1? Sure, it's still technically a deal, but comparatively it doesn't matter much. Especially when it's the case you wind up buying more than you need just because it's a good deal. Which leads us to.....
STEP 3: What do you actually want? What will make you unhappy if you don't get it? The minimum of your desires. As long as you satisfy this, you're happy and everything on top of it is just bonus.
If you can keep those three in the forefront of your mind, you have a good chance of controlling the impulse beast away from a bad deal. In my case it went like this this:
What's the worst case scenario? I spend the money and I get a Hilton vacation at 50% off. Not too shabby considering Hawaii's on my list of places to visit anyway.
How good is good? Well again, 50% off the worst case scenario is good. But the actual deal? Well, that I don't know. It could be very good, it could be okay, it could be very bad. Label as indeterminate and judge based off worst case.
What do you really want? I want to travel! All the time. Do everything and see everything, Will this help me in that goal? Maybe, maybe not. Buying time to decide couldn't hurt given the alternatives.
And here I am on my Hilton vacay having decided against the condo. Am I disappointed in my decision? Just that I couldn't get more people out here with me.
If you've been following me for a while, you'll know that last October I bought a house. That is my house. I think it's super cute, but most importantly, I have a sunroom, a back porch, and an impressive jungle of a backyard. Now that I've achieved the American dream of being a wealthy landowner, I wanted to get handy with it. A few weeks ago I ventured to Home Depot, that kingdom of home improvement, chosen over Lowe's to be my home store of choice due to the availability of Bear paint to buy all the tools. Before moving into my new home, I possessed a set of Craftsman wrenches and screwbits bequeathed to me for Christmas by my blessed father, and that's it. I didn't need anything and didn't have the space, why bother? These are my tales of home improvement as a Millenial and Girl aka utterly inexperienced.
Before I begin, let's get a few things straight.
First off -the tools! What do I want? What do I need? What am I going to do? A lawnmower and weed eater certainly on the docket. One day I'm going to build a greenhouse out of my parents old windows so I'd need a saw and sander and drill. I need to strip the deck to restain and hell, the pressure washer is on sale! Why not one of those too? Throw in some miscellaneous knick knacks to store and hang it all, and bam! I'm the first time homeowner experience.
What kind of tools did I buy? As Ottenfelds do, I hemmed and hawed and spent endless hours on forums researching. Milwaukee, Black and Decker, John Deere? How am I supposed to know?
Ultimately, I went Ryobi everything. Reviews on Lowe's and Home Depot.com rated all th tools highly. On the deeper forums, critics said they were fine for beginners but wouldn't hold up to the level professionals needed. Oh hey, wait, I am a novice and at often less than half the cost of the professional brands, the answer seemed clear. As I figure out what I really want and need, I'll upgrade.
Another key factor in the Ryobi decision is the madness that is my garage. Alas there exists but one electrical outlet in the garage from which my heating and air conditioning units draw their power. I rather like those being available and so my options for power output in the garage are slim. Battery powered tools without needy electrical cords following them around are a must. With a series of different battery packs, I can buy a couple of each voltage to interchange between all my tools. And I don't have to deal with messy gas instead drawing upon the supreme electrical power offered by my nuclear unit? Done.
So how'd they do? The weed eater performed spectacularly. I'd heard of string units before. Though timid at first, I learned indeed this mechanical beast could take on another natural weed and with the extended 18V battery I had no problem trimming the front lawn before the real game began.
As for the lawnmower, I’m still entranced by the electric age, but it needs some work. To be fair, I have a very hilly yard so one could expect to need some extra torque and expend the battery a bit faster. As I finally looked up, I have 0.50 acres of land, the back being much larger than the front. After only 45 minutes in the front, the lawnmower died on me. I'd done the hilliest side first, so I'm not exactly surprised by the failure as the brochure guaranteed an hour and an acre. Accounting for the difference, 45 minutes and very hilly is probably good. I recharged and went after the next day - this time on flatter soil so the battery lasted me an hour. Still not enough to finish out the front yard. Additionally, the bagging mechanism was a bit unstable as it rests in notches rather than latching in. Hit a bump, it falls and you cease. Not a problem for anyone with a flat lawn, but with my hilly, stump ridden mess, it's a bit disconcerting.
For the finale -buy a second battery to recharge while you're mowing. They charge in less than an hour so it should allow you to swap back and forth with enough time to mow without interruption in between. And thank god I've been able to sneak in an April post in the guise of central time zone to keep my promises. Here's some nerd math and simple explanations about budget planning and calculating return on investment at home, thereby yielding the cost effectiveness of mowing your lawn. Things like this are important and will help make you more financially savvy,
Before I decided to follow in the traditions of my family and cut my own damn lawn, I hired lawn boys who charged $35 to cut my front lawn. I'd say they did it in an hour, but as I will try to illustrate here, the time it takes them doesn't matter unless they were charging by the hour. The time it takes you to mow your lawn matters because that is an opportunity cost. What opportunities are lost by you choosing to mow your lawn instead of having lawn boys do it?
My lawnmower cost $250 outright. Add the cost of another battery to make it practical, and it comes to $350. That means it would take 10 sessions of front lawn mowing by the lawn boys to equal the cost of my lawn mower. You get this number by dividing the total cost by the cost per session. $350 total cost/$35 cost per session = 10 sessions. If I mow my lawn more than 10 times by myself, I start earning a "Return on Investment". There, the cost of purchasing the lawnmower diminishes from my additional use of it, and I start earning money from the purchase decision. Even with my poor battery, it only took me 2 hours to mow my front lawn. So at most, I'm looking at 20 hours of sunk time over the course of the summer to make up my investment. THAT''S NOT THAT MUCH. And I get the benefit of exercise from mowing the lawn? The choice is clear. DIY when you can my dears!