Friday, December 12, 2014

Things only 38-year-old professors who should be grading exams understand

I am tired of your listicles.

No, I'm not "discovering" that there are no grown-ups, that we're all just faking it. All I ever thought "grown-up" meant was an age, and only the unlucky among us escape aging.

There are no things that "only tall people" will understand. I'm a shortie, but I'm not utterly lacking in empathy. Ditto for birth order, intro/extraversion, people from [place name], and "children of the [decade]."

I'm not even going to bother clicking on something built on gender essentialism or something that forgets gay, queer, or asexual people exist.

I'm tired of reading lists that assume we all have the same life trajectory. Apparently a single, childless, non-home-owning 38-year-old is a freak of nature, just like a 70-year-old who has uncomfortable shoes but no grandchildren.

There are now well over a thousand secrets to happiness. I barely have time to read them all, let alone perform them. The only life hack that has really made a difference for me is opening my bananas from the bottom.

"Look how dumb these people are" is beginning to feel mean, possibly because the same few items appear in them over and over.

Listicles of cute and/or funny animals are okay. I will accept more of those.

I am skilled enough to click on the correct "next page" button instead of a cleverly disguised ad, but I don't like being reminded that I am nothing but a delivery system for ad dollars.

Also not thinking very highly of me are listicles that start off with the assertion that I am spelling words wrong, using near-homonyms of the proper words in trite phrases, or using common household products wrong. Am I supposed to be suspectible to negging?

Your listicle has GIFs from bad television shows in it.

Your argument that [x] is "the best" lacks logical rigor.

I am perpetually slightly dissatisfied. It is never true that there is "no [place, age, life stage] I'd rather be." Get back to me when we have solved world hunger, I ride a winged unicorn, and night cheese firms and tones the buttocks, and I will re-evaluate my stance.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Finally debt-free

In April 2012, I decided I had to get serious about paying off my credit card debt. I'd been in New York City for eight months and paid off my moving costs, and I was finally making a real salary after eight years in grad school. Total credit card debt? $22,510.57.

This week, I finally paid the end of it off.

I didn't do anything fancy. I simply put a large chunk of my income towards the bills every month. First, I paid off the smaller of my two cards, then tackled the larger card. (The psychology of having a card paid off was more important than tackling the higher interest rate card.) Finally, about a year ago, I transferred what was left to a new 0% APR card.

I haven't totally sworn off credit cards. One card I've had for nearly two decades has a high credit limit that is good for my credit rating. That is linked to my iTunes account - it keeps it active, and it means my checking account isn't cluttered up with $1.29 charges. It gets paid off every month. The other card I use for purchases that are more secure on credit cards, such as airplane tickets. It gets paid off as well. The third card will be closed soon.

A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders, but of course there were trade-offs. My savings account is practically empty. In fact, I have a negative net worth overall. My student loans aren't huge (although morbid as this sounds, at least if I die, my family won't have to pay them), but my 401(k) and rollover IRA will let me retire around age 70, if I plan to make it to 70 and a half. I've increased my 401(k) contribution - it should be higher, but first I need a savings buffer. That comes before paying off any student loans or maxing the 401(k).

This is the first time in my adult life I haven't had credit card debt. You know, that's pretty exciting.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Batona Trail logistics

I ended my trip after two days because of the cold. Not the cold during the day, but at night. My first night was on the edge of my tolerance at 35 degrees, and it was going to be 5 degrees cooler the second night, and another 5 the third night. While my sleeping bag is rated to 15 degrees and I had a liner, I sleep cold.

A few logistics:
  1. This was the biggest enemy I faced on the trail:
    Puddles, the great hazard
    That’s right, puddles. Big and too deep to wade through, the danger came from having to walk around them when there were thickets right at their edge - including lots of greenbriar. I can see why in the summer people complain about ticks.

  2. The map is terrible. Now, I didn’t get lost. However, whoever drew the map knows nothing about usability. Sand roads, streams, contour lines, and borders all look identical. Most of the ponds aren’t shown. Segment distances aren’t given for side trails, such as to the campsites. There are two reroutes (the Bass River one was called a “relocation,” which brings to mind internment camps) not yet shown on the map. I hope when the redone map becomes available, it is better, because there aren’t any commercially available alternatives.

  3. Taking the bus to Atlantic City and then the NJ Transit 557 bus to Greenleaf Road and walking two miles to the trailhead worked fine. Next time, I’d go down to Atlantic City the night before and try to make it to Buttonwood Camp the first night.

  4. If you want to start at Batsto, take the train to Egg Harbor City or the 554 bus to the same and then call a taxi. It’s not worth walking the 7 miles.

  5. Bodine Field Camp is not worth the 1.2 mile hike to it. There is a water pump … somewhere. I couldn’t find it. There’s also no way to pay there.

  6. I thought water might be an issue at this time of year, but there was plenty. Just bring something to treat it with.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hiking the Batona Trail

TrailI set out to hike the 50-something mile Batona Trail - recent reroutes have stretched it past its original 50 miles - over Thanksgiving. I didn't make it. But the part I did see was well worth it.

As I tend to be overly fixated on the landscape equivalent of charismatic megafauna, I was worried I'd find the trail dull. Certainly some hikers have. But the trail was surprisingly beautiful. It is mostly "just woods," although a few ponds break things up - it's not a trail of waterfalls, clifftop views, and dramatic rock formations. It reminded me of middle Tennessee's cedar glades, and my dad pointed out it looked like the land near one of their homes in the Upper Peninsula. In general, the UP has taller trees, but the Marquette area has sandier soil, much like the Pine Barrens.

PondThe trail is completely flat - at least the part that I did, from Bass River to Batsto. Later on, Apple Pie Hill is the high point of the area and it features a fire tower. Flat means less scenic variety, but it's also easier hiking. As this was my first backpacking trip in about three and a half years, I was okay with easier. (I was still feeling it.)

At night, the temperature dropped close to freezing. That was chillier than I like to sleep outside in. On the plus side, it means way less to worry about in the way of insects, and not drinking gallons of water like one would in the heat.

SandI'm not sure what my total mileage was, as I'm not sure how much longer the reroute at the beginning of the hike was. Best guess is that day 1 was between 12 and 13, including the road walk, and day 2 was almost 17, again including the road walk out.