The Eternal Battle Against Entropy, and My $60 Pillow

For most of my adult life, I lived in very expensive cities on about $30k, which means that I lived in small spaces with several other people, and my furniture was generally of the found or scrounged variety. I was always fairly comfortable in my surroundings (if you discounted the auditory and olfactory senses), but I very rarely spoiled myself with a new Nice Thing.

I’d always assumed that if I ever wanted to abandon my more bohemian aspirations and get an actual job (sell out and go straight), I would make more money and be able to afford my own place and new furniture. And I’d be able to occasionally splash out on a Nice Thing. And in fact, that happened! (Well, that, along with moving to a very inexpensive city.)

But here’s the rub: it turns out that even when you have some disposable income, it’s still quite a job to spoil yourself. For one thing, buying a Nice Thing is never the end of the endeavor. Usually, even though you’ve paid a lot of money for something, you still have to figure out how to transport it, assemble it, paint it, set it up, get a bunch of different types of chords and attachments for it, introduce it to your other stuff and mediate disputes, figure out why it’s not working the way the box says it will, knock it onto the ground and break it in a fit of pique, buy another and start over, etc etc etc.

And too, the very second you have the Nice Thing installed, assembled, and working, the forces of time and nature begin to work against you. The Nice Thing must be cleaned, fixed, maintained, charged, rotated, upkept. In many cases, it creates its own new messes and complications that you then have to deal with. It begins to disintegrate the very second you bring it through the door.

And so with each new Nice Thing, you have a more complicated life than you had the day before.

In fact, dealing with your continually slowly deterioriating surroundings is more or less a full-time job. For example, as I sit here typing this, one of the floodlights over my garage has gone out and the other has started shining 24/7 instead of being motion-detected like it is supposed to be. The clicker that is meant to open and close my garage door has ceased to function. Even though I vacuumed three days ago, everything around me is again covered in a blanket of dust. There are untold numbers of huge cardboard crates and packing materials from assorted Regular Things that have come in the mail that need to be broken down, bound into bundles, and put into the recycling. The cover that goes over my box springs is covered in dust, and I can’t lift the mattress by myself to get it off the box springs and wash it. One Nice Thing I recently purchased is a keyboard tray that needs to be assembled and attached to my standing desk and I can’t figure out the instructions, and also I think I need to purchase additional tools. The last time I paid any attention to either the front or back yards was just before Halloween, and even though I spent an entire weekend sweating over them at that time, they already resemble Grey Gardens. There’s an oil spill on the garage floor. One of the fireplace tiles has cracked. I never put a winter cover over the swamp cooler. The sliding glass door is in backwards. Some of the sills at the bottom of the doorframes have come unnailed. The bathroom sink has started backing up. There’s a certain table that I clear off every single day, and every morning there are somehow 4,000+ pieces of crap scattered across it again.

Everyone lives this way, and for each person or animal you add to your life, the problem is doubled.

I think that in general, most people deal with the ongoing sabotage of entropy in one of two ways: (1) they are oblivious to it, and go about making their art or playing with their children or dozing in front of the TV completely numb to the rising tide of grime, clutter, popped lightbulbs, stinky upholstery, and broken appliances surrounding them; or (2) they are a person who just naturally efficiently and quickly deals with any sort of physical issue that arises without sweating much over it, procrastinating about it, or being flummoxed by how to fix it (and I would suggest that perhaps this second type of person does not have a particularly rich inner life).

There are also a very few people who are exceedingly wealthy enough to pay for all of this to be the problem of some other person or persons. And there are a dwindling number of men who have managed to marry an old-fashioned woman willing to make combating entropy on behalf of the family her full-time occupation.

But for most of us, the options are to ignore this shit, or spend all our free time dealing with it.

Anyway, the point of all this is that this winter, I’ve tried to stop rewarding myself with food and alcohol, and instead have actually been on the hunt for a Nice Thing to enrich my life without requiring a substantial outlay of time and energy for me to accommodate it. This was surprisingly challenging! There aren’t many Nice Things that fit this criteria!

I’d been noodling on this for a while now, but then I finally cracked it: I purchased a pillow that cost over $60. And let me tell you — if you have a spare $60 around, go online and buy yourself a $60 pillow immediately. 

Me, I’d never given any thought at all to pillows! They’re just there. I bought my pillows probably about five years ago for about $12 at a Walgreens or something, and at this point, they have the consistency of a half-empty bag of oatmeal that was left out in the rain for a month. But they’re just pillows, you just lie on them, it never occurred to me to make them better.

But this pillow! It’s far more comfortable to sleep on, yes, but it’s also SO MUCH BETTER to fold into a bunch and prop myself up against in bed. I don’t slowly slide down while I’m reading, or realize that I have a migraine and a neck ache after sitting against it for an hour.

And it is the perfect Nice Thing because it came to my door, I popped it out of the box, and into a pillowcase, and that was it! Done! The pillow immediately went about its job of making my life better without my having to go to any trouble at all to get it situated and functioning in its new position. And it won’t break or run out of batteries or need to be tuned or charged or have its software upgraded. It will just sit there and be a good pillow until it isn’t a good pillow anymore, and then I will throw it out and buy another one.

That’s how everything should be.

Me and T

I haven’t posted anything in forever, so here’s a selfie! Because I work in a distributed workplace, every so often somone will start a selfie thread and everyone posts a picture of wherever they are working from at that moment.

This can get interesting as some of us are nomads, but since I never leave the house, I rely on adorable props to get likes. Like this furious little fur baby here, who is quite simply the worst assistant I’ve ever had.  Photo on 1-26-15 at 11.58 AM

P.S. I so appreciate that I work somewhere where we can all post pictures of ourselves working in old T-shirts with no makeup and unbrushed hair and no one bats an eye. Most American women in their mid-30s have to wear heels and lipstick every freaking day to be taken seriously; I don’t even have to wear pants.

P.P.S. I am wearing pants here, though. (They might be pajama pants.)

Crafty

It will surprise exactly no one to hear that I do not typically craft, build, or work with my hands in any way at all, other than typing. But in a moment of spontaneity, I volunteered to help with an event here in Albuquerque that teaches girls to be interested in electricity or something like that.

We’re going to be helping them to make adorable little light-up bookmarks out of felt and LED lights. When I offered to help, I assumed I’d be sort of following along with the girls day-of, but it turns out that it’s a relatively short workshop, so we all need to know how to make this stuff, so that we’re able to actually be of some help during the workshop.

Which is how I found myself on a Saturday evening confronted with this:

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There’s a PDF that explains how to sew the bookmarks (which are really much cuter and more interesting than what I’ve managed to make here) — what you’re meant to do is to sew a battery holder thinger to the back of the bookmark using conductive thread, and then you sew down the bookmark and around the positive side of one or more little LED lights, and then you do the same thing with the negative side.

Simple enough, as it turns out, although I think it’s supposed to look somewhat more polished than this:

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The real problem for me was less making the circuit work and more basic sewing. But I mean, look at this shit:

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That’s meant to show you how to knot your thread when you’ve finished stitching, and if you can make heads or tails of it, more power to you. I just made a big, elaborate tangle out of the thread and then trimmed off the bunchy bits, and it held up, more or less. It’s not like a bookmark gets a ton of wear and tear.

The other thing is, it’s best to pay attention to both the front and back of your bookmark while you’re making it, because otherwise, the aesthetics leave something to be desired:

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Still, the light worked. I even added another one (also not very aesthetically pleasing, but then, what did you do last night that was so fucking great):

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At this point, I have to tell you, I felt mightily accomplished. So much so that I decided to keep the party going and assemble a flat-pack bookcase that had been sitting in its box for a couple of weeks.

The catch-22 of flat pack furniture is that if you plan to assemble it without punching a hole in the wall or screaming at your children, you need to have some wine while you put it together. But drinking makes you somewhat less attentive to detail.

Which resulted in this. Once again, it’s more or less functional, but the aesthetics tripped me up:

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Whatever, I can just hang a cloth over that bit. Or pin some fancy LED felt bookmarks to it.

The other thing is, there’s sort of a big gap where the top half of the bookcase is supposed to bolt into the bottom half. The bolts didn’t go all the way into the wood. So is it possible that this bookcase will fall over at some point?

I would say it is not only possible, but probable! But, you know, you can’t control every single little thing in life, and I don’t ever sit on that half of the room anyway.

Here’s to more projects in 2015!

A Year In Reading

Since basically all I do is read, a year-in-review post and a year-in-reading post are one and the same. I am a Vibrant Party Person.

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Anyway, I read over 55 books this past year.

And actually, you know what? I’m not going to list them. And I’m not going to say which ones were my favorites. Because, honestly, who the fuck cares, the twelve other people out there who still read already know which books are good.

My primary resolution for 2015 is to read fewer books. I just decided. I read too many books! It’s lame and stupid and I’ll be dead soon, so there, that’s set: read less, Urello, you ossified crone.

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Soylent Update

I thought it was about time for an update on my Soylent experiment. I’ve been on about 90% Soylent for about a month and a half now. I ate food for a week and a half while my mom was visiting, and then for a week while I was out of town on a work meetup. Otherwise, I’ve mostly just been eating Soylent, except for the ocassional weekend pizza.

In this time, Soylent has gone through three different versions. Here’s how they’ve worked for me:

Version 1.0

The original. This was the version I was on for my first week.

The good:

  • Completely filling;
  • Made me feel really great — high energy, just felt really good; and
  • I don’t have to shop, cook, eat, or wash dishes.

The bad:

  • OMG gas. Peeled the paint off the walls.

Version 1.1

For this version, they halved the sweetener, which I really appreciated. It tasted less sweet and more neutral. They also added enzymes to help with the gas issues, but that didn’t make any difference to most people, and it made the formula a lot thinner and people complained of blood sugar spiking.

The good:

  • Less sweet;
  • I guess the texture was a bit smoother; and
  • I don’t have to shop, cook, eat, or wash dishes.

The bad:

  • Not filling at all. I got hungry pretty much right after having a glass; and
  • Didn’t make any difference to me at all, as far as gas goes.

Version 1.2

Because of the limited improvement in digestive issues and the satiety problems, they removed the enzymes for this version. They also replaced the fish and canola oil blend with a canola and algae oil blend, making Soylent 100% vegan.

The good:

  • Back to filling, although I still do not feel as satiated as I did with 1.0;
  • As with 1.0, I feel really great just in general;
  • I suppose it’s nice that it’s vegan. Morally speaking, we should all probably be vegan; and
  • I don’t have to shop, cook, eat, or wash dishes.

The bad:

  • Gas;
  • I have some bloating on this version that I didn’t with any previous; and
  • This version sometimes makes me feel a little bit nauseous after a serving. There are reports on the forums of a lot of people getting a “bad” batch of 1.2 — I think it’s more that this formula just causes a bit of nausea in people, but I have no idea why because they don’t seem to have changed much from 1.0 just in the basic formula.

Version 1.3 will be arriving soon, but the only real change with it is just that they made the packaging more efficient.

I have found that as far as the digestive issues go, I am fine if I have Soylent for breakfast, and then it becomes a little uncomfortable if I have it for lunch, but it’s not actually until I also have it for dinner that I really have a problem. I’ve tried various OTC aids as suggested in the Soylent forums (Beano, probiotics, kombucha, peppermint, activated charcoal, drinking very slowly, standing on your head for 1 hour after drinking and reciting the tenets of the Noble Eightfold Path), but so far, nothing really makes a substantial difference.

Until they fix the gas issues, I’m going to probably start having it for breakfast and dinner and eat a sandwich or something for lunch, and see if that helps. Not to mention, since I’ve been running more regularly, a pitcher of Soylent per day doesn’t seem to be quite enough to keep me from going to sleep hungry (although it should be).

If eating solid food once a day doesn’t fix these problems, I might need to throw in the towel until they fix the formula.

Everyone will tell you that specific food cravings mean you’re missing some essential nutrient: for me, I previously always craved rare, bloody red meat (no matter how many beans and lentils I ate, and even though I always took a high iron multivitamin). But on Soylent, I don’t get any food cravings at all, ever, which is really pretty amazing. Now, I will still absolutely eat an entire cake in one sitting should one just happen to appear before me, but not because I’m hungry for it.

I have been on the 28 bags per month subscription, but between the travel and ocassionally eating other food, I am not getting through my subscription nearly as fast as they’re shipping it. So I’ve paused it to finish up my stock, and then I might try the 14 bags/month subscription instead. I’m not sure that will be quite enough, though, and I wish they offered something in between that and 28.

I’ll update on this again in another month.