Monday, February 27, 2017

Sh*t

Ahhhhh...it's been a while since I did these weekly to do lists. I think it's to do with ditching college. It has now officially ended, I certainly have received my failing grades. I sent a message to my "academic advisor" (I use the term very loosely), letting her know I was never taking classes there again. I also told her not to reply, since I filter all her messages to delete. (I'm tempted to check my trash.) So, THAT SHIT IS DONE! I have no back-up plans. College will happen when it does or maybe I'll have a philosophical epiphany and never go back. I have no idea. But I sort of let everything go for a while when I let college go. My planner is woefully empty of even vacationy things and this blog has lacked a bit. I think I'm over my slump (maybe), at least enough to write a to do list for this week!

Photo Jan 20, 3 36 13 PM

To Do This Week

01. Get back into running
02. Bank those travel blog posts (and others)
03. Work out with Kendra
04. Unpack
05. Reorganize shit
06. Edit photos
07. Sew something

Monday, February 20, 2017

Let's talk weird.

I'm currently sitting in the guest bedroom of an AirBnB in Austin, the "weird" city. Adam and I have now had two and a half days in town, but more like one and a half, because I ran a half marathon and then napped for a good chunk of our first day. We have done the things that make Austin unique, excluding exceptionally huge and expensive music festivals. We were driving back to our AirBnB, and I was giving my classic #fuckaustin rant that y'all might've missed on Snapchat. It was beautiful, really. I was talking about how totally not weird Austin is and Adam said, "Is Portland weird or any other weird city for that matter?"

The answer is no.

IMG_2886

Portland, OR is not weird. San Francisco is not weird. New Orleans is not weird. Key West is not weird. Berkeley and Oberlin and a dozen other liberal arts college towns are marginally weirder than large cities because of all the idiotic college students, but they are not weird. All of these cities are generally boring with occasionally interesting things.

Portland has great beer and lots of outdoor space. San Francisco has some decent art, decent parks, that pretty bridge, and some good food. New Orleans has a bunch of drunks seasonally, and a smattering of unique culture. Key West had all the gays, but now so does everywhere else. And of course, "weird" college towns are just college towns with young people under the delusion that because they left home and don't agree with what their parents say, they are weird. But none of these cities is particularly unique. Portland is super, super white, and largely boring. San Francisco is overrated...and while it does have "culture" in terms of being a large city with various immigrant neighborhoods, it's really no different from any other large city.

That's the thing. Everywhere in the U.S. is really just like everywhere else in the U.S.

IMG_2906

Austin feels a lot like Tucson mixed with Omaha. It is oddly crowded while still being very sprawling. It has only a few highways and then some major city roads that are almost constantly crowded. It is perpetually under construction. It has a few bike lanes but very few cyclists and few pedestrians. Public transportation is awful, and traffic is just about the worst I've ever seen. (L.A. and D.C. still win.) The food is hipster fare, claiming to be unique, but then there are five other restaurants just like it. Any old school culture it once had, like The Broken Spoke, have long since been swallowed by the pavement wasteland of chains and condos. There isn't any real art to speak of. There aren't great museums. There is very little green space. There probably was a time when this lush, humid land that borders the desert was gorgeous and cool and livable...but now it's just a blight with too many humans draining all the resources. And while Barton Springs is cool, you can find spring fed pools in many places, especially in Florida. Supposedly there is a great music scene, but that's just bullshit. Name one famous band or musician from Austin. It doesn't count that Austin has a shit ton of life music venues and a bunch of local nobodies. Everywhere has that. Half the music I listen to on a regular basis is $5 cds bought at local shows of bands you've never heard of from towns that aren't on a map at venues that may not even operate anymore. And sure, there are some fucking huge festivals in Austin, but there are fucking huge festivals all over the world. Basically, Austin has literally nothing. Even the river that runs through it shares the name of a much larger and more important river.

Austin is a nice idea, but it's just not "weird".

IMG_2931

So it made me think about what cities are weird, and I've come up with two...but one of them isn't a city. Honolulu, Hawai'i and Put-in-Bay, OH. Honolulu is legitimately incredibly unique. It's culture dominates the city and is not white. From the names of parking garages to the names of the news anchors, the Hawai'ian language is a powerful influence that you cannot miss. The city streets are even in Hawai'ian. Honolulu has the best bus system in the nation, which you might not even need, since hitch hiking is still legal. Honolulu has more green space than any other city, and sits in the only state that is an island chain that has more green space than any other state, excluding Alaska. Honolulu has a royal palace because the original government was a monarchy, which no other place in the U.S. has. Honolulu has arts and culture that you cannot find anywhere else in the U.S., because it is the only city within Polynesia. Inside and out, from top to bottom, there is nothing that Honolulu has that you can compare to other cities. Honolulu is truly unique, and while no one calls it "weird," it certainly isn't like anywhere else in the U.S.

As for Put-in-Bay, it's a small village on a small island in Lake Erie. The year round population isn't the smallest, and the people aren't the most culturally diverse, but the tourist culture is the most unique in the U.S. While other cities boast a spring break that might last for a week or two, Put-in-Bay's entire tourism culture is based on the same attitude you find in any spring break. And because it is a remote island on Lake Erie, there isn't a winter culture or year-round population that really balances the summer tourism. (Unlike Key West, which has a large permanent population and year-round tourism.) So while the things you can find on Put-in-Bay happen elsewhere in the U.S., they don't happen on the same scale or to the same degree. Put-in-Bay is a strange place.

I can't wait to get the fuck out of Austin and on to other towns that I know don't suck. But I'm also here to tell you that the hype is just hype and there is nothing you can get in Austin that you can't get somewhere else.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tuesdays

Apparently, Tuesdays are my thing.

I have no big thoughts this week. Adam and I embark on an epic road trip the day after tomorrow, so I'm packing, thinking, organizing, collecting, thinking, planning, thinking, and also thinking. I got a burst of energy today and cleaned up shit I've been looking at for weeks. Since I ditched school, my days are slightly emptier, but also still full. There is a lot to do in the next couple of months, and I'm not entirely looking forward to it. Also, I might go get a job.

I don't want to abandon this blog, and I really hate that I just typed that...but I'm also not entirely in the same writing frame of mind as I have been in the past. So, I'm gonna keep trying with the weekly updates. We'll just see what happens. I have some stuff in the works, and I might even write about it, but first...I'm going on vacation this week and next and I'm super excited!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

065. Hike all the trails in Cleveland Metroparks

As I mentioned in my 101 Things Update, a goal of ours is to hike all the trails in the Summit County Metroparks and in the Cleveland Metroparks. We had already completed the Summit Metroparks. So I made a list detailing the Cleveland Metroparks. I had wanted to get started on these a couple weeks ago, but in the last week, we've been able to hit up some of the smaller parks and knock entire parks off our list!

It has been relatively disappointing (for me, Adam doesn't seem to care) and disheartening. Most of the "trails," especially in these smaller parks, are very short, poorly marked, and not in great places for trails. For example, Bradley Woods Reservation is a small metropark in a suburb that does not have a lot of green space. It's necessary to the community and it boasts six trails. Two of these trails are excellent trails. Bunn Lake Loop is a gravel path around a small pond that is poorly maintained, but in an excellent location and relatively dry. The All Purpose Trail is a paved trail near the front of the park that is oddly disconnected from the rest of the park. It requires a walk down the road into the park, which has no sidewalk and not much breakdown lane. In short, it's not safe to get from the parking area to the paved all purpose trail, which isn't in any woods and runs along the road, so it's not particularly scenic. A third trail, the Quarry Loop Trail, is an ok trail if it had regular maintenance. It is in need of boardwalks in wet areas and widening as well. It circles remnants of the old quarry, through the woods, and is rather pretty. But it's a little hard to discern, since it's across the road from the parking area, with poor signage, it's a little weird to get to it. The final trails are just crap. They were completely flooded, which was frozen when we went. In the fall and the spring, they would be impassable. Furthermore, this is the only park I have ever seen that has a sign about mosquitoes!!! It is laughable that there is an informational sign which details the importance of mosquitoes and identifies the park as a swamp. Now, why even put these trails in the woods? They are incredibly short, poorly marked, and largely impassable for at least half of the year.

Photo Feb 04, 1 42 07 PM
Bradley Woods

The thing is, this is the case with many of the parks. Huntington Beach is an excellent park right on the lake which boasts five trails as well as an all purpose trail that is less than a mile long. Unfortunately, the trails are barely trails, the blazes on trees (worst way to mark trails) are hard to read, and when the trails have connectors, they aren't even marked. Because of this poor maintenance and insistence on putting half mile loops in small patches of woods, the Cleveland Metroparks suffer a unique fate that other parks avoid; locals make extra foot trails wherever they want. There were several access trails to Huntington Reservation from the neighboring residential streets. They weren't marked, of course. The trail along the creek was unidentifiable as well as flooded because it's in a poor position and entering and exiting it was on such a steep, poorly maintained trail that it was nearly dangerous.

I do not understand why Cleveland Metroparks insists on having these incredibly short and poorly maintained trails that are hard to follow. They aren't a benefit to the ecosystem, since park goers clearly make their own paths. I think the benefit to the community is relatively small. Sure, it's green space, but it's irresponsible to allow such a large population to use green space with such reckless abandon. The land should be protected and the trails should be obvious, well maintained, and easy to use, so that people learn to respect the space they're in. Instead, it's not uncommon to see teenagers galavanting wherever they want within a park.

You might be thinking that the problem with teenagers happens everywhere, but I can assure you it doesn't. Akron has a couple of parks in highly populated areas with trails from neighboring communities. These trails are well marked and very clear, making it less easy for people to disrespect the land by traipsing about wherever. When someone tries to make an offshoot, Summit County Metroparks will often lay down small logs to prevent the trail from becoming established or even put up a railing and a clear marker for where the trail actually goes. Cleveland, on the other hand, will have three trees in the middle of a trail, all of them with blazes demarcating the trail, and with five foot paths in varying directions around the trees.

Photo Feb 06, 4 33 01 PM
Huntington Beach

I'm not actually looking forward to completing this goal, because these sorts of poor choices have been consistent in every park I have visited.

The only upside was finishing Acacia Reservation, an old golf course that is becoming a more natural park. However, the website lists one trail and the park actually has three paved trails, one of which is closed. The current map details one trail, which would be much longer than the website states, and it appears to be all one trail...but it's not. The website also fails to list trail closures. This is just pathetic and lazy, honestly.

Cleveland Metroparks needs to remove some of its trails, especially within the swamp that is Bradley Woods, and invest in some type of ground cover to help delineate the existing trails. Crushed limestone, mulch, gravel, and pea gravel are all excellent options...as well as building boardwalks or laying stone in the areas that become incredibly muddy. A muddy trail is a vulnerable trail. People don't like mud, so they continue to widen the trail instead of walking through the mud. Boardwalks and rocks prevent the mud from becoming distasteful and keep the trail in decent shape. Blazes don't work, and neither do little symbols nailed to trees (which will grow around them). Instead, trails need sign posts, especially in areas where it's easy to create an offshoot. This would make the trails easy to follow and encourage people to stay on the trail.

Photo Feb 07, 1 45 46 PM
Acacia Reservation

I love what Cleveland brings to the area in terms of green space, and I would never want the parks to disappear. However, they could learn from Summit County and from Cuyahoga Valley National Park about just what it takes to create trails that provide an outlet for visitors as well educating them on how to respect the land and how to use the land while still giving the land space to be wild.

Nevertheless, three reservations have been checked off our list, and we have just over a dozen left to complete! We've had a wet winter and we're going to have any even wetter spring, so I definitely need to invest in some rubber boots to finish this goal!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How to make a decision

I'm currently reading a book by an economist about how to make medical decisions. She wrote the book because she had a medical condition that caused her to receive a lot of rules instead of a lot of information. She was less able to make decisions because the rules were handed to her as edicts and because she couldn't access the information behind those rules. Just the introduction is enlightening and it has sparked me to write this post about a decision I just made and why I made it and why you might make a different one.

Ok, so according to this economist, here is how you make a decision : Collect all of the data. Confirm the pluses and minuses or the cost and benefits. Input your personal feelings. Make the decision. She uses this in an introductory class for MBA students regarding buying businesses. Figure out the cost of the business, what it will make, what else you could do with the money you'll use for buying the business, weigh in your personal feelings, make the decision. What I love is that she emphasizes both the objective; data and also the subjective; feelings. She admits that a decision for one person might be right and for another might be wrong, but that making decisions this way is the correct way to make a decision no matter the outcome. To use another example : If you want to buy a house and you've figured out its market value, you can decide to offer that market value because that is what the house is worth. But maybe this house is your dream style with the perfect lawn in the best neighborhood and so you want to offer slightly more than market value because it's so great for you. Conversely, maybe you feel market value is too much, because market value is determined by what other people are willing to pay, so you offer less.

This felt like such an A-HA! moment, reading that...and also so great because that is how I make decisions.

For her, regarding the medical issue, she realized that when faced with a medical decision, she wasn't always able to access the data. Her doctor couldn't or wouldn't give her statistics and even looking them up in reputable sources, she found more rules and not more data. Finding actual studies behind the rules, and finding actual data...that was difficult. Which leads me to something I want to tell you about making decisions...

Data isn't what someone else tells you, even if that someone else is a doctor. Data is numbers. It's statistics and it's studies. Data matters HOW THEY DID THE STUDIES, not just what the results were. You are probably not actually getting the data you think you're getting, and you're probably not making decisions correctly.

I know you're like, "But Fenna, MY DOCTOR SAYS...and my doctor IS A DOCTOR." Sure, but how are doctors trained? Here is the thing that I might know that you don't because I took statistics and social science research, so I had to study just how they do studies, methodology and data collection and then how to process and interpret that...your doctor might not have taken those classes. I did, so I know things. Your doctor might really know a lot about the human body, but not about statistics and it's likely that your doctor received information from someone with a similar education gap.

And honestly, don't even get me started on newspapers and news tv shows and everything you can read on the internet. Trust me : You probably don't actually have all the data.

So let me tell you about why I decided to stop doing the work for the two classes I'm currently taking and why I'm going to fail those classes and why it doesn't matter for me, but some of my friends think it would matter for them.

First, I calculated my GPA with the 0 for those two Fs I'm going to receive. I discovered that would leave my GPA at a solidly respectable 3.0.

Secondly, I'm not going to graduate from the college where I'm taking these two classes. This college is incredibly unethical, does not care about its students, and actively discourages creative thinking...also, they pay my professors a ridiculous 11-ish dollars per hour. Someone with a PhD should make more than what I can make at McDonalds. It's a problem that my college doesn't value me but it's an even bigger problem that they don't value my professors.

Thirdly, I considered what it would cost to retake these classes at another institution, if necessary. Yes, that number doesn't make me happy, BUT...

Fourth, I considered what it costs me to continue taking these classes. I took four weeks of the classes while waiting for the financial aid refund I needed, which is the entire reason I took the classes. (The refund was three times the amount of the cost of classes, so it was a no brainer to sign up for them. The question was if I could stand them and since my GPA wouldn't take too much of a hit by failing them, it made sense to sign up so I could get that refund.) Taking these classes for four weeks I learned several things : 1. My professors aren't as smart as me and aren't actually teaching me anything. Incredibly arrogant, I suppose, but it's true. One is a survey religion class that looks exactly like something I took my freshman year in high school, so much so, that I can pass the weekly quizzes without reading any material at all. On top of that, the professor regularly deducts points for my content, which is exemplary AND he discourages me from actually exploring religion, forcing me only to study the main religions of the world. It's so boring and teaching me absolutely nothing. I have no questions and every answer is a quick Google search away anyway. 2. Since my professors aren't teaching me anything, is there anything I'm gaining from the material? Again, the answer is no. The material is subpar and some of it is incredibly inappropriate. I disagree with the curriculum, so why am I wasting time "learning" it. 3. I'm not going to continue as an Anthropology major wherever I go next. I thought I liked this major of study, but I have since learned that current prevailing thought is not in keeping with the science behind the field and I'm not interested in spending any more time fighting prevailing thought just to receive Bs because my professors haven't evolved yet. In twenty years, everyone will be thinking what I'm already thinking and I can't wait around for that to change.

Finally, I realized, with the help of a good friend, the I need to let go and stop engaging in these classes and get those two Fs. (My mom suggest withdrawal, which would have a more positive effect on my GPA...but then I'd have to deal with the administration and that is a hearty FUCK NO!) My friend said, "I mean if you're not getting anything out of the class, you're not learning, you're not enjoying it, you don't need it for whatever your ultimate goal is, and it won't be in your way if you quit that class, then I'd say fuck it". And she is SO FUCKING RIGHT! Taking the paradigm of correct decision making and my friend's input, the decision is totally clear...

Failing the classes does not harm my ability to transfer and does not impede my future degree plans, though it does cost me money if I have to replace these credits with other classes. However, it gained me money in the short term. Taking these classes is incredibly detrimental to my spirit and poses no benefit to my education. The best answer is to close down that fucking window, delete all this work from my Google Drive, and let that fucking college disappear in my rear view mirror (of life).

To recap here is the only way to make a decision : Collect all the data (data is numbers, not something you hear or read from someone else), figure out the cost benefits, weigh in your personal feelings, make the decision that is right for you. So easy to write out, much harder to follow through on, but that economist is totally right, it is the correct way!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

081. Race across Scotland

Item .081 on my 101 Things to do in 1001 Days list is to "Look into that race across Scotland," which I committed to doing this winter/spring in order to continue accomplishing my list!

So first, let me tell you about the race : It's a 105 mile, two-day "race," across the Scottish Highlands, from coast to coast. It is meant to be done with a partner. It is a challenging race with an elite challenge to finish in one day. The longest run is 14 miles and the longest ride is just under 50 miles, while the kayaking isn't very much distance at all. To me, because of the cycling, it seems incredibly doable. It's possible to do the race alone, but not encouraged. Despite it appearing doable, I know I'd still need a minimum of two years training to learn my abilities on a bicycle and also to save up for the cost of the race.

I would not have to bring my own bike, as they have a partnership with a cycle center to rent a bike when I arrive for the race. Though I would have to figure out food, camping gear, and all the equipment needed to do a race with three elements. Some of the cycling is off-road, which affects the plan as well. But it looks really fun and really doable.

I found a couple of reviews of the race online. The best one is essentially a blog post inside a forum. It's incredibly helpful in letting me understand the times I need to make to really be able to finish the race and what to expect for elevation changes and terrain. It is clearly a mountainous race, which would make me incredibly slow (as of now), but I think there is time to really practice.

Consider this item ticked off my list, and consider this race added to my bucket list!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Stop Hating Yourself : Real Friendships Make You Feel Good

I know I've talked before about secret language. The language people use when they mean something else. It's something I get a lot...because I'm different. I've been thinking a lot lately about how I don't fit in and how I still chase fitting in. Today, that was made abundantly clear when I sat with a "friend" who used my own vulnerability to tear me down and reduce me to a pile of what she believes to be my worst personality traits, which are all my fault, of course. It was a profound lesson in how I (and many of us) continue to try to fit in, even within our interpersonal relationships, and why we don't have to!

Have you ever heard those people say something like, "We can go months and then reconnect and it's like there was no time between us!" That's generally considered a compliment to the friendship. And in some ways, it can be. When we're forced to be apart from our best friends because of distance, then it's a great quality to be able to meet up once or twice a year and catch up and feel that friendship. It's always a bummer when distance makes what seemed like a great friendship fade. But often times, in our world obsessed with being busy, what it really means is, "I like to forget about my friends for months at a time and force them to accept this neglect by treating me like it's ok and all we need to do is give summaries of what passed in the time I was ignoring them."

Of course, no one says it this way! They say things about marriage and kids and school and jobs. And sometimes, it is genuinely true that someone might have a lot on their plate and not necessarily be able to keep up on their friendships. But that is not handled by allowing yourself to forget about them and force them not to contact you because actually wanting to spend time with your friends is considered demanding. Being genuinely busy, as anyone who has ever attended med school will tell you is a real thing, is handled by expressing how much you miss that person while you're working on an important goal, not reducing them to the lowest priority on your list. The worst is telling someone who is actually trying to be your friend that reaching out to spend time together is too "intense" and creates "pressure". Reaching out to spend time with someone isn't an intense pressure, it's a hand of friendship extended.

But the thing is, it is genuinely ok not to have time for more people in your life! You don't owe anyone your friendship. But it's not ok to create a false reality where being "too busy" is ok and having someone try to hang out with you is "stressful". That's just bullshit.

I have been called many things in my life, and I am always surprised when someone insults me to my face and declares it like it is a revelation and they are doing me a favor by telling me so. There are many people who don't like the way I run my life, in particular my interpersonal relationships. But the thing is, it's not really their business, right? Unless, of course, I open up to them about things I've struggled with...then it is their business. Today, I learned just how hard I've been trying to open up to someone over and over and just how much she's not really interested. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that she knew from the very start how desperate I was for a connection for her that she did not feel and did not want.

And then, as has happened with other "friends," my struggles with interpersonal relationships was reduced to the idea that they "crash and burn"...which is, of course, my fault and also a problem unique to me. I guess it's not cool to constantly analyze the way I'm treated and not put up with the usual passive aggressive bullshit that is so prevalent in our society. We are conditioned, starting with family members and continuing through bossy administrators in our educational system to shitty bosses, to put up with people treating us badly. Sadly, this so often leaks into friendships, where we are regularly supposed to forgive transgressions against us by those closest to us, because it's acceptable to be shitty to each other. It's not socially acceptable for me to stand up for myself, no matter how light that transgression seems, and to tell people what I want, in no uncertain terms. It's certainly not acceptable for me to get rid of the people in my life who drain my energy and don't support me. Heaving forbid anyone be direct and truthful! That shit is not ok, and it's part of an overarching issue with interpersonal relationship that is obviously the root of all my problems, especially when it comes to pursuing art. (Yes, that was said to me under the guise of friendship today. "Life circumstances aren't the problem, YOU ARE!")

But you know what? Fitting in is far less appealing to me than actually liking my life and finding joy in the relationships I pursue. I cannot believe I allowed myself to be sucked into yet another situation where I allowed someone to tear me down and justify it with her own perceptions of my flaws. Y'all, I have got to learn. I had misgivings several months ago, many long conversations with Adam about the way things had changed...even attempted to address concerns with this friend...which went nowhere, of course. And there I was today, having everything about me boiled down to the easiest insult and then having it declared as if it is a revelation that I need to understand about myself.

Y'all, I am "INTENSE"!

And apparently, everything else I am doesn't matter because all this intensity is just too much. Shouldn't I tone it down a bit?

Nope. Never will. I'd rather crash and burn than dial down any intensity I have.

Relevant Lessons:

  • You are not too much of anything, and if anyone describes you as anything less than a passionate, driven, interesting human being, cut that fucker out!
  • Wanting to be friends with someone isn't a bad thing, EVER. It doesn't make you desperate or clingy or anything negative. Friendship is positive and pursuing that doesn't make you a stressor in someone's life!
  • Friendships are meant to enhance your life and to feel good. If a friendship doesn't feel good, it's ok to end it. It's ok to be honest and tell the person why (because haven't we learned that ghosting sucks). Being an open and honest person, even in the face of unpleasant things, doesn't mean you are allowing things to "crash and burn".
  • Feelings are ok! If you have lots of feelings and like to express them, then maybe you are intense! But if that's a word used as an insult, then whomever said it to you needs to fuck right off right away.
  • If someone is constantly too busy for you and tells you to accept that as a fact of their life, then it's ok not to be friends with them. Maybe that person really does love you and is really overcome by crappy time management, but that doesn't mean you have to sit on the sidelines and wait for their schedule to clear. You are worth someone's time and you are worth someone making time for you.
  • Oftentimes, we equate fitting in with high school bullshit like trying to be a cheerleader (it's fine if you wanna be a cheerleader, so did I!), but fitting in is actually more insidious than that. Fitting in is the way in which we often try to earn the approval of our parents, or how hard we try to fit in with social groups, or how long we might cling to a romantic relationship even when it's not working. We can try to fit in and become so exhausted by that constant struggle without even realizing we're doing it, because our society is all about telling us all the things we need to be in order to be someone else's idea of WHATEVER! But you shouldn't have to work to fit in with friends, or constantly defend who you are, or put up with being insulted as if it's helpful. You can be yourself, and that's ok. Friends should accept you for who you are. Period.