Packing for Israel

I just moved to a new apartment a month ago, and it’s way more space than I’m used to. I finally have some furniture (nice furniture!), except all my books have a home on the floor. I only have about two bookshelves and they fit my cookbooks and my art books. That is about it. Too many books. See?

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Books here, books there, books everywhere! The sad thing is that there are about 400 books in my library here in this apartment, and almost all the rest are at my parents house, sitting there, waiting for me to rescue them and put them on brand new bookshelves. If I brought them all here, the floor probably would collapse.

But in the next couple of days I am leaving on my big conservation trip to Israel. Yay! I cannot wait to see all the archaeological sites which are such a huge part of Israel’s history and rise to statehood. I cannot wait to meet all these new friends at the kibbutz, and I cannot wait to handle such important artifacts.

I decided that I would just use my old backpacking pack to carry everything around; it makes it easier for me to carry archaeological supplies, school supplies, and clothes in easily accessible pockets, and also means I won’t be that person rolling a suitcase through sand. Unfortunately…I have so.much.shit. (Although I am incredibly excited about my new travel hair dryer and my camera charger with European plug-in add-ons).

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Ignore that big, flowery bag. That shit ain’t goin nowhere except the closet.

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Summer, to me, has always represented traveling to new places, eating the cheapest things available (because you are spending all your money on travel), and reading all the things you couldn’t read during the winter because you were too bogged down with schoolwork. This summer has been sort of up and down. I have been going through some huge transitions and it makes me feel completely unorganized. There are still unpacked boxes in my den, I still don’t have a washer and dryer, and now I am about to leave the bedlam for three weeks to go tromp in the desert.

But that is why traveling is so important. It can take you away from those little things in life that were giving you so much trouble, and change your perspective in a minute. You go from worrying about being able to pay rent, cleaning every day, and making sure you exercise every once in awhile to meeting new, different people, hearing stories, becoming a new person in a way. You no longer worry, you just exist, and are happy existing. If I could go to a new country every three months, I would be the happiest person in the entire world.

Of course you get homesick. But that homesickness is also beautiful because it makes you appreciate the home and family you were taking advantage of when you left. Traveling is the best way to become outgoing, it is the best way to understand humanity, and it is (cliche) the best way to understand yourself. Never in your life will you feel so alone or so connected to every human as you will when you are traveling. And coming back is its own reward. You never go back to the way you were before. And it’s a good thing.

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Ten Random Tidbits

I like lists. A lot. Lists are awesome and amazing, and….um….they are great. So with that profound introduction here are ten tidbits about me. I know it sounds egotistical (which is what makes it fun!), but if you actually read them, I guarantee there will be some links you want to click–maybe about books or video games or other things you might like.

And if you want to include your own lists at the bottom about you, feel free to do so 🙂 Making lists about yourself can make you nostalgic, help you remember old things you had forgotten, or just help you learn new things about yourself.

Ten Random Tidbits about Taryn

1. I am deathly afraid of tornadoes.

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Look at that thing and tell me you wouldn’t rather die in any other way possible. That swirling tissue of connectivity from the sky to the ground is demon-spawn, hell-created, is responsible for almost every nightmare of pure and unadulterated terror I have ever had. Now, I live in North Carolina. We are not known for our tornadoes, although some do sweep by occasionally. But every time there is even a tornado watch, you can find me in my neighbor’s bathtub (they live on the first floor), with my nose pressed into the NOAA website on my phone’s browser.

I am not happy about my storm cowardice. In fact, I love thunderstorms. Give me a good ol’ safe bolt of lightning any day. Put me in a car with hail. Even hurl hurricanes at me during the season while I live on the water. Just don’t mention the unpredictable mass of fear that is a tornado.

At least my cowardice has an explanation. From about 6-8 years old, I lived in Iowa City, IA. Now, there’s a place that knows its tornadoes. We even had a cellar specifically designed to save us from these awful debris-spraying funnels. I think that cellar is part of the problem. It wasn’t no freakin’ cool hideout. It was a goddamned fallout shelter, with bare, stony walls and cans of shit I wouldn’t eat if the zombie apocalypse rained down on me. It smelled like rust and a little like being buried alive. Also, my parents are a little nuts. I’d say nuts in a good way, but not in this case. We lived in a huge, broken-down home near acres of cornfield, and you could see tornadoes coming from miles away. So they used to stand us in front of the tornadoes and TAKE PICTURES IN FRONT OF THEM. What the fuck. Good parenting at its best.

2. I played basketball in high school, and rode the bench like a champion. 

I use the term “played” very loosely. I was a power forward; big and ungainly, with no business running up and down a shellacked death-trap. I could shoot relatively well, but I was too scared to foul anybody, and if I had to dribble the ball- god have mercy on our souls. Fortunately, my high school team was too good to give a shit about me, so I spent most of my hours cheering on a team that led us to nationwide victory; and I proudly had nothing to do with it.

3. My first real kiss happened on the beach, under a full moon, when I was sixteen.

I hate cliches. Which is what makes it so weird that my high school life was just one, giant walking one. It was a perfect, sweet, actual kiss (not the grab-ass you play when you’re in middle school), and was before I turned into a total evil, slut-creature that all eighteen year olds become. Again, a cliche in the making.

4. I am obsessed with casual, online adventure games.

It is no secret that I am a PC gamer. I like other platforms, but I have just always had a knack for PC controls, and so that is where I stay, forever locked into my gaming niche. And I love adventure games. I grew up on Syberia, Sherlock Holmes, The Longest Journey, and Nancy Drew. But with growing technology, a new genre of completely useless, stupid gaming has evolved: casual gaming. And I am addicted.

Look here, here, and here for free games. Yeah, that’s right. They might be point-and-click. They might include little square boxes that pop up when you kit the I key. They might involve vapid characters, useless logic puzzles, and terrible graphics. But, damn, they are the best time waster out there. [I am being harsh on these games. A lot of them have amazing characters and graphics. But, let’s face it, most of them don’t.] (Look here, here, and here for some examples of great characters/graphics). My favorite casual, online adventure games are the ones where you go steadily along, finding items and unlocking codes, until you hit the grandaddy of all puzzles and you are stuck for five hours. You realize you should eat something, do schoolwork, or maybe just take the dog for a walk. But you can’t. Because by God you will figure out how these three separate colors fit together to match the treasure-poster on the wall.

5. The first book to change my life was Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder.

Sophie’s World was far from the most poignant book I read, and it was far from being the best. I don’t say that with animosity or irony; it is just a fact that later on in life, there would be books which would touch me more deeply than the writing in Gaarder’s wonderful novel. But Sophie’s World was amazing because I read it at the perfect time in my life. It was right when I was aching to get out of the country, but was still too young to know what pilgrimages signified. I read it when I was in the midst of teenage anxiety and stress from the unknown, and when I felt like I hated and loved everything in the world at once. Sophie’s World is a wonderful novel about the history of philosophy and a girl navigating through a flexible reality. I felt much like this girl while I was reading the book, and I think I envied the way she was able to escape in the end. I now have a First Edition copy of the book because it represented a turning point in my life, and I own it so that I can be nostalgic about the passion I felt during those quintessential years of change into womanhood.

6. I hate squirrels.

They gross, they obnoxious. I’d have a pet cockroach first. Bam, nuff said.

7. I am addicted to Etsy, but too poor to actually shop there.

Every time I go onto the website, I see things I want. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Do you know what that is like? And they are always one-of-a-kind things which I immediately determine must be in my apartment, must be somewhere near or on me. I love the fact that Etsy has the weirdest shit imaginable for sale. See this, this, and this.

But you know what? I’d buy it. I’d buy it all. Etsy has a penchant for choosing some of my favorite things in the world and turning them into commodities which I require immediately. For example, think Adventure Time paraphernalia, bright colors, and just the adjective “vintage” makes me drool. Also, if I am on a roll, I might as well tell you that things like this, this, and this don’t help either.  In fact, feel free to check out my favorite here: just don’t tell anybody that I was the one who got you onto this addiction.

8. I can’t just do one thing at a time. 

I am probably undiagnosed with ADD. Or some sort of multitasking disease. Judson and I have a debate over whether people can actually multitask. He insists that it is scientifically, and therefore physically, impossible to concentrate on two things at once. Instead, your brain moves from one thing to the other in rapid succession. My take on it is that the logistics don’t fucking matter. I have to be doing two things at once or else I will be bored and useless. If I am doing schoolwork, some sort of noise must be happening. Whether music or the television (usually the latter). And, sometimes, which drives everyone crazy, I read two things at once…well you know, I’ll have two books with me and read like a chapter of each between them. I have to. While I’m writing this blog, I am reading my Israel book, watching TV, petting Fritz, and arguing with Jud about multitasking.

9. I am an INFJ to the fullest extent of its definition.

If you don’t know what an INFJ is, let me just tell you: they are fucking confused individuals. It means that they are incredibly passionate, but insanely logical. They are introverted to the extreme, but have to be around other people to feel fulfilled. They like success, but create challenges along the path of their goals. They like to teach, but they get frustrated when someone doesn’t want to learn. Basically, they are bipolar and sometimes hypocritical and completely emotionally nuts.

They are usually leaders of the free world, sucka.

10. I love politics.

This blog steers away from politics for the very reason that I love them so much. It is amazing I have friends at all. That is how much I love politics. I like knowing about everything that is happening internationally and domestically, and I like to talk about it. And if I get started here, this blog will never come back to video games and books and history and food, it will just melt into a lecture on why bipartisanism doesn’t work and how we are all fucked because we ruin the environment and don’t know how to make money. Anywhooo…..

I will end with this cute picture of a squirrel. Wait…squirrels can’t be cute…

Science Fiction and Wheel of Time Review

I put up another series of lists!

This time they are all about my love of science fiction books. The first list I added is courtesy of Librarything, which is a wonderful site where I keep track of books, and talk to other community readers about their love of books. One of the groups I am a part of on Librarything is a science fiction group. They have compiled a wonderful list of science fiction books which members of the group agreed were some of their favorites. That list can be found here. I also added NPR’s great science fiction list. This list has been shortened by NPR to a list of winners, but I hate leaving out nominees just because people didn’t vote for them.

Also, I thought I would give a review of the science fiction series I am reading right now: The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan.

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When I picked up the first book in the series, entitled The Eye of the World, it was more from desperation than anything else. I was without a car, without a computer, and the only book I had to read was completely about my unending, terrible thesis. I have to admit, I looked at the cover of the book and chuckled to myself. It’s a man in full warrior garb riding a white horse in front of a full moon. Come on.

However, if anyone could capture an audience with just a few pages, it would be Robert Jordan. His prose is both full and flawless. You go through a thousand words without even thinking about anything, even turning the pages. Although the world Jordan creates is simple (the maps are very linear), the actual descriptions of each environment are complex and rich with colors, sounds, and smells.

The characters in the Wheel of Time series started a bit archetypal. The main character, a boy named Rand, is in the throes of his teenage years, is attached to his rural home, is shy and afraid and only mediocre with a sword. As he makes his journeys, he grows into a more confident leader, as any main character should, and does anything to protect the girl. A Warder (or warrior), strong, stoic, quiet, and the bad guy: power to rule the Earth.

However, to me, some of the peripheral characters are much more interesting and inspiring. Mat and Perrin, friends of Rand, are complete opposites, one encompassing mischief and sweet naiveté, the other logical and slowly working through an alien universe. The powerful Aes Sedai, Moraine, who has magical powers which are used for evil in ancient lore, but which are constantly used to save our main characters. And, my personal favorite, the strong and stubborn Wisdom (woman tribe healer, you could say), named Nynaeve, who wants to look after her village members, but has never experienced much herself.

All in all, the first in the series (not the prequel which was written later) is successful. I have a good time reading it, I can’t completely guess what is going to happen next, and, as I reach the end, I know I will pick up the second in the series.

If anyone has any books they would like me to read and review, or if I’ve already read something and you want an opinion, let me know! I love talking about books, and since it isn’t part of my job, I do it for fun 🙂 Have a good day readers.

 

UPDATE: After reading ten books in this series, I realize that this review does not even scratch the surface of how amazingly complex these books are. The first couple of books in the series are an innocent account of young people venturing forth into a complicated world. As they become more accustomed to their lives outside of their small village, they realize they all have a destiny much greater than their old lives. Most of them have integral parts to play in the ending of the world, especially Rand, who is fated to die at the hands of the Dark One. (This is not a spoiler- they say it all throughout the books).

There are multiple cultures, with people who have diverse styles, ways of speaking, and customs. There are interwoven threads of dozens of stories, and there is no omnipresent narrator, meaning that the characters are on their own, struggling to find their way through numerous problems. Although I have read some reviews that complain about the romantic relationships in the series, I think they aren’t taking into account the anthropological perspective (of course I say this.). Every culture has a different concept of love and a “normal” relationship with a life partner, and I think this series encompasses the difficulty of living life no matter where you are from. Around the sixth book there are so many plots and subplots, that I think a lot of people stop reading at this point. I would encourage whoever is reading this series to stick it out. Things start to fall into place, and everyone’s place in the story starts to become clear. If you start getting confused about the characters, I would recommend look at the Wheel of Time wiki, which I now know exists.

The only thing that hasn’t changed: Nynaeve is still my favorite character!

Man Booker Prize

I have updated my Book Lists to have some Man Booker Prize lists! Keep an eye on the longlist section because it will be updated as I get more information on the nominees.

Israel, Fantasy, Billy Budd, and Native Americans in NC

My total “goal points” still only equal 2 considering that instead of eating healthy food last night, I came to Raleigh to see my bestest friends and drank a shit ton of beer (the added point is for not watching any TV yesterday). Also ate something that was basically “bread with sauce” and can be considered the greatest invention in history. And, no, I will not retroactively add points for things I did last week (although I seriously considered it); I will be good, and honest, and um…I dunno…just not a shithead. Continue reading for more literary thoughts below: 

On a more productive note, I am spending my day reading, mostly because I don’t have a car now that someone has taken it to work…. and because I don’t have any money to go anywhere, anyway. My research at the Office of State Archaeology got pushed forward until tomorrow, so there’s no work for me to do today except read. 

I’ve been trying to brush up on my history of Israel before I visit the country, so the first priority is this:

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Which I have to admit is really wonderful book. It is easy to read, and starts at the beginning of the Zionist movement, meaning it encompasses almost all of Israel’s tumultuous history. My favorite part (of course) is that the book mentions key archaeological sites, and how they relate to the political climate of Israel through the centuries. I am still in the beginning stages of Palestine’s growth, but am steadily moving through the 1920s.

The second book I am reading is about the occupation of Native Americans in North Carolina. It is a famous book in my field of Southeastern Archaeology; mostly because it encompasses a long temporal range and, yet still is able to make the movement of people through North Carolina fascinating and easy to understand. This book is particularly for my thesis, but if anyone is native to North Carolina, it is a great way to start learning about its prehistory, and the archaeology associated with the state.

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So now for the fun stuff. I think I might have mentioned that as an undergraduate, I majored in English before I majored in Anthropology. I always wanted to be a creative writer (don’t judge me on these blogs- these are casual, assholes). I still creatively write, but if I am being honest with myself, what I really do is just…read.

As most English majors know, being snobby about literature is required as part of the curriculum. They beat it into you that only the studied, recognized authors are the ones that matter, and even as a halfway-independently-thinking adult, it is still hard to break the pattern of only reading classics. To be fair, I have always just enjoyed the classics more. Even as a kid, I read classics before the popular stuff. There are a couple of reasons for this. As a kid (and today), I am a morose. I am cynical. The depressing plots are the most interesting, and, dishearteningly, the most philosophically relatable. For example, I am now reading some of Herman Melville’s short stories, the most notable of which is Billy Budd.

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When Herman Melville wrote Billy Budd, he wasn’t just writing about the sailors on the ocean to stick with a theme. He was really writing about isolation, about being misunderstood and misconstrued and, eventually, forgotten. Melville had a good reason to be writing about this stuff, guys. I mean, he was basically booed from the stage for everything he wrote. Yes, even Moby Dick, that wonderful whale tale. He was constantly being criticized for his writing, and I think some of his friends were even getting sick of his brooding, sullen characters.

Who can’t relate to being poor Melville? Haven’t your friends cut you off for being brooding, sullen, and mad about your greatness going unrecognized? Okay, well maybe yours haven’t, but that’s just because you haven’t hit your mid-twenties yet. Don’t worry, it will come.

So, the last book I’m reading is kind of by accident. My friend lives in a house with roommates, and they have kindly furnished his room for him. In this room lives a tiny little bookshelf full of obscure science fiction and fantasy. I have recently been caught up in the genre entitled “Obscure Science Fiction and Fantasy” and was immediately excited about this find.

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Apparently, they have the whole series just sitting there, waiting for me to read it. Which I am certainly doing. The writing is phenomenal. And I don’t mean in a genre-y sort of way. This guy can write. His descriptions are rich and interesting, and I find myself finishing chapters without even thinking once about the time. Science fiction/fantasy is one of those genres that gets a lot of flack from the surrounding literary community, and as I grow older, I am constantly wondering why. Once I finish this series (which I think is like eleven books), I will definitely give a more in-depth review.

If anyone has any books they want to recommend, and I mean ANY! I am always up for something new. Feel free to post any in the comments.

The Point System

Even though I’ve just moved, I’ve been kind of down in the dumps. I miss my boyfriend, I miss my dog, I’ve gained weight, and I haven’t really been accomplishing all the things I’ve imagined for myself. I thought the time leading up to this summer would have been productive: I was exercising and eating right (for the most part), I wasn’t drinking excessively (and that cigarette above is not really a cigarette, I swear), I was reading as fast and comprehensively as I could, and I was spending more time with my friends.

Unfortunately, the health setbacks have put me into the all-or-nothing mindset- I can either be healthy or I can be thin. Of course this isn’t true. It’s just a tendency of mine to think this way when I’m anxious. By the way, it was Nutrisystem that fucked me up. Sure I lost 10 lbs in a week and a half, but I paid the damn price. And now it’s all back, pretty much.

Anyway, in an effort to make myself more productive and feel better about my interaction with the world, I am creating my own point system. Productive things I do will give me a point (or more) and unproductive things will set me back. When I reach 50 points, I will reward myself. Books, probably. We all know I’ll go buy books. Bigger accomplishments earn me more points. And these accomplishments aren’t just material productivity. I am considering anything an accomplishment that puts me in a more peaceful state of mind- anything that helps me create balance or gives me more self-confidence. I am tired of obsessing over the flaws in my physical appearance. That shit is tiring! And…wait for it….unproductive.

Boo. Yah.

Taryn’s Productivity Point System

One Point For…
Every Hour of Creative Writing
Every Hour of Exercise
Every Hour of Visual Artwork (Including Photography)
Every Book Completed
Every Day of Only 1 Hour of Television
Every New Recipe Cooked

Five Points For…
Every Finished Short Story + 1 Revision
Every Finished Visual Art Piece
Big School Project Completed
Every Day without a Negative Thought
Every Thing I Build for the House
Cultivating a Garden
Every Month I Go Without Weighing Myself
Every Dinner Party Thrown (notice the key word here- dinner)

Ten Points For…
Every Story Sent in For Contest or Publication
Every Overall A in a Class
Every Craft I sell on Etsy
Every Month I exercise every single day

Lose One Point For…

Every Day I Judge Someone Negatively
Every Day I Judge Myself Negatively

And there you have it folks…my little, personal point system. I realize that doing things like this doesn’t help everyone become productive, that it doesn’t make everyone feel good, but, in a weird way, this type of organization gives me something to strive for. In every other area of my life, I am incredibly messy and unorganized- but I love to give a little order to chaos when I’m feeling down.

If any of my friends want to participate with me, that would also be awesome! Just let me know and I can even take pictures of the things we accomplish and put them on here.