Posts Tagged ‘calendar’

“Hot out today,” the woman at the bus stop said. It was 5 pm. It was 101 degrees. I nodded.

“Hard to believe it’s September,” she said.

That broke my heart a little bit. Because September is my favorite month, and the precursor to my favorite season. September is when the first apples start to ripen on the trees. It’s when the nights turn a little bit crisp and there’s the scent of fall in the air. In September all your notebooks are new, all your pencils are sharp, and your homework is always in on time.

For the last four years, I missed the feeling that you get on the first day of school: the sense that something new and possibly extraordinary is about to begin. As a “young professional” I found it almost impossible to adjust my mental schedule to a lifestyle that disregarded the academic calendar. I thought that once I was back in school, that sense of disorientation would disappear.

I was wrong. As it turns out, going from a 9-5 lifestyle to a 24/7 one isn’t such an easy thing to do. I seem to have picked up some habits in the past four years that I’m not ready to abandon.  Although technically I may be “back” in school, this doesn’t feel like going back at all. It’s not just about my schedule: my relationships with my peers, the pedagogy of my professors, even my homework is different than it’s ever been before. Whatever I’m doing here, it’s something entirely new.

New things in September – that, at least, is a familiar feeling. But at 100 degrees fahrenheit, I don’t think I’ll be getting apples this fall.

Back to the Future. Obviously.*

A pleasant 98 degrees at sunset in Austin; 64 degrees and cloudy in cambridge.

Hannah: 7 out of 10 on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Feeling pretty peaceful now that it’s cooled down a bit.

*I think the post title works with the content. Or maybe I just really wanted a picture of a flying car.


Read Full Post »

When I lived in Maine, I used to work at a public computer in a room that doubled as a science classroom. To keep me company was a wildly beautiful taxidermied wolf which stood guard next to my desk. (Anna is, generally speaking, a more cheerful office mate).

This weekend, I had the chance to talk over Skype with my brother Saul, who is currently studying abroad in ancient Rome. As a classics major, he’s always been a little anachronistic. But now that he lives on a hill overlooking the Vatican and spends his days wandering around in 1500-year-old ruins, he seems to have stepped out of time altogether.

Saul told me that this week marks an important holiday on the Roman calendar. (When we asked whether he would be taking part in the festivities, he didn’t answer). Tomorrow is Lupercalia, the traditional Roman festival of fertility and purification, in honor of Lupercus, the god of shephards, and of Lupa, the female wolf who suckled Remus and Romulus, mythic founders of Rome. (Lupus is Latin for wolf.)

Each year on Lupercalia, the Luperci (wolf priests) would sacrifice two male goats and a dog. Boys representing Remus and Romulus were then dressed in loincoths made of goatskin. They were anointed with goats’ blood and sent running through the streets bearing sacred goat-skin whips that they used to symbolically purify anyone standing in their path. Joyfulness ensued.

At the end of the fifth century CE, Pope Galasius outlawed this boisterous holiday, replacing it several years later with the occasion that we now refer to as Valentine’s day. In the 1500 years since Galasius’ era (and, more specifically, in the 100-odd years since the start of the Hallmark era) that once-cheerful occasion has turned into a bit of a downer.

This year, I think we should all try to find a little perspective. Forget, for a moment, the loneliness and the ugly decorations, the high expectations and inevitable disappointments. And remember that, had you lived 1500 years ago, you could be chased through the streets by half-naked boys carrying wolf-skin whips.

Weirdly warm, 47 degrees and overcast

Hannah: 6 out of 10 on the can’t get out of bed to jumping for joy scale. Tired.
Anna: Out today.

Read Full Post »

Amateur Astronomers, take note: tonight is a big night for celestial sitings. Tonight, weather permitting, we have the opportunity to observe a stunning collision of otherworldly events. On the eve of the winter solstice, on the night of the full moon, (beginning at 1:33am EST), there will be a total lunar eclipse. At 2:41 EST the moon will be fully obscured for a total of seventy-two minutes. It is the first time in 372 years that these events have overlapped.

And if you brave the witching hour and step out to observe the eclipse, there’s more: in the total darkness (if it’s not flawed by light pollution, of course), you may have the opportunity to catch a shooting star. The Ursids meteor shower will be occurring tonight as well.

NASA recommends 3:17am EST for primary viewing time of the whole shebang.

The lunar eclipse should be stunning. The Ursids – little known because they are so difficult to see – are less guaranteed. But if you caught the Disney channel movie you know: when a meteor shower and a lunar eclipse coincide, King Arthur will return. And chivalry will once again rein. And we will all drink mead, and celebrate.

Read Full Post »

Speaking of flashbulb memories, here is the New York Times’ collection of memories from when John Lennon was killed, thirty years ago today.

It’s wonderful and moving to see how a musician, and one who sang about things like peace and love, has shaped so many people’s lives. Who among us doesn’t love The Beatles?


Read Full Post »

Yesterday was the 69-year anniversary of the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, marking the start of the United States’ direct involvement in the Second World War.

The Pearl Harbor attack was thirty-five years before I was born, but it is still a cultural hotspot. Like the day JFK was assassinated or 9/11, it can evoke powerful memories and strong emotions. “Flashbulb memories” are memories that combine a personal event with a cultural hotspot – the recollection of where you were and what happened to you on a historic occasion.

I don’t have a “flashbulb memory” for Pearl Harbor, because I wasn’t there. But it makes me think of my grandfather, who fought in the Pacific and who was stationed in occupied Japan after the war. He hardly ever spoke about his war days, but he did tell a story about the spiciest meal he ever ate. He also talked about the day that Japan surrendered. He was in a tent when he heard gunshots outside and he thought, “this is it, I’m going to die.”

Instead, the gunshots were celebratory rounds in honor of the end of the war.

So on this anniversary of Pearl Harbor I’m thinking, not just of war, but of the end of war. My grandfather was about to be sent with the ground troops to invade Japan and he was absolutely certain that his life was almost over. “If the war hadn’t ended then,” he said, “you wouldn’t be here.”

This post is in honor of the people who still don’t know if they’re coming home, and of the granddaughters they might someday have.

What does Pearl Harbor evoke for you?

Read Full Post »

This is an exercise in mindfulness.

Bring your awareness to your mouth. Take pleasure in the sensation of rubbing your tongue against your teeth and the roof of your mouth. Swallow. This should feel good.

Now, take a clean glass. Spit into it. Now, drink your own spit.

Repulsive, isn’t it?

This exercise comes from Ellen Langer’s seminal book Mindfulness, one of the first to bring the concept of mindfulness into Western medical lexicon. I love it because no matter how many times I try, I can’t help but be totally grossed out. I know that rationally, there is no reason to dislike saliva. But I cannot break my constructed hatred of spit. It’s disgusting.

Langer’s point is that every day, we take thousands of actions that are not rational. Some of them, like not drinking our own spit, are fairly innocent. Others are more troubling: the ones that impact the way we act around disabled people, for example, or the elderly. (One of Langer’s  most laudable impacts has been in teaching nurses and families to recognize the difference between physical disability and mental disability.)

Mindfulness can also be helpful in improving the way we treat ourselves, especially at times when we are feeling particularly out of control. Anna is lucky in that she has totally overcome all of her Thanksgiving anxieties. But for the rest of us, this time of year is overloaded with emotional, cultural, and environmental stressors. There are childhood memories. Family expectations. Cultural pressures. The smell of snow on the wind.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed on Thanksgiving. It’s also easy to act on all of those anxieties without knowing why. To get angry at the turkey. To break down over the cranberry sauce. To lash out at an innocent great aunt or overly energetic toddler. All of which means, less time to enjoy a delicious dinner in the company of the people we love most.

Which is what Thanksgiving, at its best, can be about.

This holiday season, I’m going to try to be a little more mindful about where my emotions are coming from. And I’m going to hope that increased awareness will improve my ability to act, instead of just reacting.

But I’m still not drinking spit from a glass.

Wishing everyone a happy thanksgiving, with love from DTU.

Weather: 36 degrees, a bit overcast, and beautiful


Hannah: 7 out of 10. Excited to go running this afternoon.

Anna: 7.5, and thrilled to have a few days to relax.

Read Full Post »

Happy End-Of-Daylight-Saving-Time!

Here are some reasons why DST (as we like to call it) matters:

Historically DST was designed to, as Wikipedia puts it, “exploit sunlight hours.” In researching for The Emotional Calendar I learned that the Wikipedia article on DST is actually heavily based in myth – but you’ll have to read the book to find out the truth 🙂

Physiologically DST has been linked to everything from increased rates of heart attacks to increased traffic fatalities. I just read an article in Scientific American about a new research method which allows scientists to track our circadian rhythms by looking at our hair follicles. Since DST disturbs our circadian rhythm (the approximately 24 hour cycle that our bodies run on), this should help scientists understand how – and why – DST messes up our health.

Personally the end of DST (that’s yesterday) marks the end of time, at least temporarily. When I was in high school, I was in school or commuting from 715am to 5pm. In a comic twist, my school was located in the windowless basement of a converted office building. In the winter months, I didn’t see sunlight at all! But now, DST means that for a few more weeks (until the ice sets in) I’ll be able to go running before I go to work. Hooray.

Culturally we all have feelings about the way sunlight shifts. The New York Times collected DST poems from some great contemporary poets, all of whom happen to be Pulitzer Prize winners (what does that mean about the state of poetry today?). One of them, Louise Gluck, is even featured in The Emotional Calendar! Cool.

“I sat at home and began to cheer up. What if none of this happened? I thought. What if there was nothing to be sad about?”

– James Tate


Weather: Cloudy and 40 degrees. Fortunately I haven’t been outside yet.


Hannah: 7 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. I had a wonderfully relaxing weekend.

Anna: 6. Strange, vivid dreams last night mean I feel a little off this morning.

Read Full Post »

This just in from my favorite science blog: “snot is mostly comprised of mucous secreted by the inflamed tissues of the nose, and dead neutrophils that swarmed in kamikazi-style to gobble up whatever bacteria or virus they could find.”

Sad but true: in the past seven days the temperature has dropped from an appalling seventy degrees to an equally appalling thirty-two. With the temperature drop has come a corresponding drop in physical well-being. I spent the whole weekend sneezing (although it didn’t keep me from loving Halloween) and Anna’s voice has been reduced to a croak. Flu season has begun.

Cold & flu season is exciting because it’s an opportunity to talk about the immune system, which I studied for The Emotional Calendar and which is actually really neat. Kevin – an immunologist, science blogger, and (full disclosure) friend – explains it better than I ever could here: it’s all T-Cells and Macrophages and suicide cells and other cool stuff.

But it’s hard to get excited about immunology when it’s 3 am, your head hurts, and you can’t breathe through your nose. November is the ugliest phase of fall. The leaves are off the trees, the sky is gray, it’s cold out, and everyone is sick. October may be a good month to channel Love Story – in November it’s all about fleeces, the world’s ugliest sweater. And of course there is the heavy anticipation of impending doom – by which I mean the rapid approach of the holiday the season.

November is a good month to stay inside and focus on something small and cozy. Like cellular biology, perhaps?

Weather: cold and cloudy. 43 degrees.

Hannah: cold and cloudy but no longer sneezing, thank you. 5 out of 10 on the “I’m so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale.
Anna: 7. She already voted and two people want to be her roommate!

Read Full Post »

My world hasn’t revolved around an academic schedule in several years, but like many people, it still affects me. I suppose this could be because many of my friends are in grad school and as soon as September hits, it becomes difficult to coordinate schedules around seminars, chapter deadlines, advisor meetings, and dissertations; I’m vigorously reminded that the school year has begun. But I have a sneaking suspicion my calendar will always be impacted by the start of the academic year.

You see, when I imagine each year, I conjure up an oval. I’m nearly always situated at the 6:00 position, or September. If I move clockwise and go halfway around the left side of this stretched oval, I hit May and June crowding around the 12:00 position. If you’ve followed, you’ll realize I mentally pack the entire academic year into one half of my clock-like calendar. Only June through August sit on the right half of this oval. And, if you’re not satisfied by this culturally-influenced perspective, let me add that in my mind, the left side is in shadows and the right side is awash with light, so there’s a strong seasonally-driven, light-related component as well.

For as long as I can remember, this has been the way I imagine time passing in a year. If someone mentions scheduling an event in December, I imagine myself at a dark 9:00 position dotted with lights—lights on a Chanukiah, Christmas lights, all sorts of lights that bring cheer.

But December is not where I mentally start on my calendar, despite the fact it ends with the secular New Year. I start in September with the rest of the students. Always. And so I expect that even as the years pass and my friends graduate, adding various letters to the signatures of their emails, September—and the beginning of the academic year—will continue to hold a unique place on my emotional calendar.

Weather: Some sun shining through earlier today, but completely overcast now.


Anna – 4 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “Jumping for Joy” scale. 6 points off for too much stress surrounding the search for a new roommate—is it already almost Nov. 1!? Also, too many commitments this week.

Hannah – 8 out of 10. She has a new book to read!

Read Full Post »