Monday Snax

Another busy weekend in North Carolina: Guion backed Daniel Levi Goans at his CD release show in Greensboro, and I was in Charlotte/Davidson, hanging out with my fam and celebrating with Eva and Peter.

Grace was Eva and Peter’s wedding photographer and has just put up some of her amazing photos from their “first look” on the railroad tracks. Check it out.

Quick selection of photos below:

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We took Ally out for a (belated) birthday brunch at The Egg.
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The beautiful, happy bride gets dressed.
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Eva and Peter get hitched! At the Green Rice Gallery in Charlotte.
The cutest child EVER
Thumbnail from phone picture from a home video. Proof that Sam was the cutest child ever to live.

Snax!

“Cruel,” by St. Vincent. New favorite song (I’m OBSESSED) and album. I can’t wait for her concert here in October! This music video is also totally crazy and creepy. (The Fox Is Black)

The Psychologist. Why novelist Vladimir Nabokov may have actually been the greatest psychologist of his time. (The American Scholar)

The Writer’s Voice. A reflection on the experience of hearing a great writer read his or her own work–with links! Listen to the dulcet tones of Flannery O’Connor, W.B. Yeats, Philip Larkin, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, and J.M. Coetzee. (The Book Bench, The New Yorker)

Al Gore’s Excellent Timing. You know all this apocalyptic weather we’ve been having lately? Al Gore chimes in on a reason, and it’s not the Second Coming. These statistics are chilling… or should I say warming? (The Atlantic)

Bookish Illustrations. Lizzy Stewart’s solemn and wonderful sketched book covers for beloved classics. (Wolf Eyebrows)

Meg Gleason: Personalized Stationery. Love these cards, especially the last one in the set of photos. (Design Work Life)

Farm Life. What an idyllic childhood Courtney must have had… Jealous! (Radiate)

Your Wild Horses. Wild, white horses, galloping in the surf? Of course these photos are going to be amazing. (Eye Poetry)

Got a Girl Crush On: Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. Did this really happen?? Has anyone seen this movie? (Got a Girl Crush)

Pen on Paper: A Defense of Writing. Yet another article about why handwriting matters, this time from The Curator. (The Curator)

Chat History. A true and heartbreaking romance, rendered in Gchat. (Good)

The Dark Side of the Placebo Effect: When Intense Belief Kills. Apparently, if you believe too hard, you can die. (The Atlantic)

Dr. Neubronner’s Miniature Pigeon Camera, 1903. Um, awesome. (How to Be a Retronaut)

Buzzing: Inheriting the family “crazy”

I want to BE this woman. Source: BBC.

Mental stability has never been one of my strong points.

This does not mean I am prone to hysterics or wild bouts of unpredictable emotion. From the outside, you would never know that I was psychologically shaky or possessed. I like to keep it quiet; my neuroses are pleasantly hushed.

More recently, I have been thinking of my brain’s inability to calm down, to move on, to focus as an inherited trait. Mental disturbance runs in my paternal family. It follows a spectrum, from clinical mental illness/borderline genius to sociable obsession. As far as I can tell, I’m definitely on the lower end of the intelligence slide with the manifestation of my instability rooted soundly in friendly obsessions.

My father is an interesting example of this murky family phenomenon. He is highly intelligent and extremely humble about it. As my grandmother likes to say, “You’d never guess that he was actually smart.” He jokes around and plays with the maturity of a 7-year-old. Yet he has three master’s degrees, in electrical engineering, computer engineering, and robotics; Mom says he was just a few classes away from his Ph.D. (but then I was born and ruined everything). He worked on an algorithm for years to figure out how to combine tracts of land in auctions; he solved it and was the first person to do so. He worked on the team in Boca Raton that built the first personal printer.  He programs computers in his sleep. Like his four siblings and parents, he has this genius thing working for him.

But he also is obsessive. I was thinking today that I am like him in this way. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit the genius bit, but I definitely picked up his inclination for obsession.

This is what I mean by “friendly obsession.” A sociable or socially normative obsessive personality, as manifested in my family, means that you have a tendency to get locked into one idea, hobby, or task and you are unable to let it go for a given period of time.

This is how it worked with Dad. Every few months or so, he would discover a new talent of his and make this new talent his whole life, his central pursuit. For example, he decided, when he was 30, that his new hobby would be tennis. He started playing tennis every day. He bought a device to string his own rackets. In a few years, he was playing semi-pro and winning state tournaments. A few years later, it was piano. He went out an bought a glossy, beautiful baby grand piano and plunked it in his office. He taught himself how to read music and started playing the piano every night. A year later, it was guitar. He bought five guitars and taught himself how to play them (and me, eventually). Then it was model airplanes. Then it was complex building and landscape projects. Then it was hockey. And so forth.

You see this obsessive trait played out in my paternal family. For my grandfather, it was bodybuilding. For my grandmother, it was shelter dogs and Dobermans for a while; now it’s NASCAR. For my uncle, it is his prized fleet of motorcycles. Everyone has their THING.

And I have mine. You know what it is without me having to say it again. In my own cycle of life obsessions, I don’t remember one being this powerful and affecting to my daily functioning. But there you have it. When I was young, I was obsessed with writing novellas and performing historical plays. In late elementary school and early middle school, my obsession with dogs began. Naturally, that one hasn’t died out. In high school, I was obsessed with guitar. College distracted me from this obsessive tendency for a solid four years, although it manifested itself in the continual drive to achieve and make straight A’s and write excellent papers.

Now, almost a year out of college, I find the obsession creeping back. It’s the more predictable, stubborn type. It leaks into my dreams and my solitary moments. Dangerously, it crowds out all other disciplines and interests. For Guion’s sake, I try not to talk about it (“it” being dogs, of course). This is going to be a long year, this Year of Patience. To keep my spirit aloft, I have devised a series of monthly goals (more drawn-out and relaxed versions of my Weekly Challenges) to keep me distracted from how long I have to wait for a puppy. It will be good for me. This is my new mantra.

Essentially, all you need to know is that I am an ideal candidate for becoming one of those Crazy Dog Ladies. You know the type. High-waisted jeans, outdated hair, fanny pack full of liver treats, screen print T-shirt with a cameo of her favorite breed? Yeah. That’s me at 50. Or earlier, if I’m not careful…

Mini-burst-aster

So. We got pummeled by what appeared to be a tiny tornado last night (also called a “mini-burst” apparently) that caused a lot of damage. We were without power from about 5 p.m. last night until 6 a.m. this morning. Lightning ripped giant oak trees out of the ground, crushing our neighbor’s truck and trailer. Downed power lines splayed across the street. Our porch chairs were flung out in the street when we got home. Caution tape was tied over our street to prevent anyone from entering. It was outrageous. The whole neighborhood was huddled around outside, in shock. The storm happened in about 15 minutes and took out most of Charlottesville’s power in its wake.

We managed to make the most of an unfortunate situation, however. We were planning on making dinner for our new friends Michael and Mallory (Guion had a lovely dish of ricotta-stuffed shells waiting to go in the oven), but after we couldn’t figure out how to start our oven without power, we wandered to the downtown mall. We managed to find the one place that miraculously had power, Eppie’s, and had a nice dinner there. Michael and Mallory were lovely and fun and we had a great time with them. (I was especially pleased to find a fellow reader in Mallory. I haven’t met any girls here except for our neighbors.) Conveniently, the concert we were planning on going to (our worship leader Sam’s band, Hill & Wood) relocated to the Tea Bazaar just next door. And then we came back home and slept in sweltering, humid blackness.

There was something remotely touching about the surge of interdependence in the neighborhood, though. Everyone huddled together in hushed groups on the street, walking together along the dark and eerie downtown mall, swapping horror and survival stories from the afternoon. It evoked images of “The Road,” for some reason, although infinitely less bleak. Charlottesville is still very pretty and lush, despite all the trees on the ground.

Anyway.

I think this is very interesting. This is from the paper I’m proofing today at work.

The critical implication of the research on evolutionary preparedness is that people are likely to react with little fear to certain types of objectively dangerous stimuli that evolution has not prepared them for, such as guns, hamburgers, automobiles, smoking, and unsafe sex, even when they recognize the threat at a cognitive level. Types of stimuli that people are evolutionarily prepared to fear, such as caged spiders, snakes, or heights (when adequate safety measures are in place), evoke a visceral response even when, at a cognitive level, they are recognized to be harmless.

Loewenstein et al., “Risk as Feelings,” Psychological Bulletin, 2001

Guion and I are going away for the weekend! He’s turning 23 on Sunday and so we are going to celebrate his and Emma’s birthdays with a bunch of friends at Emma’s family’s new cabin. Photos of the mini-burst carnage coming on Monday night, ideally. Be safe; have a lovely weekend.