Math and Other Numbers

You may have noticed from reading this blog or following me on various social media platforms, but I am not a math person. At the risk of sounding like a braggart, I have degrees in history, English Literature, Education, anthropology, and a partial degree in museum studies. There is and has always been a clear method to the madness when it comes to my degrees and I have a definite plan to use each and every bit of knowledge that I have gained, but there is something that you may have noticed. These are all the social sciences, and the social sciences all have something in common.

They really don’t tend to use math that much.

That is really oversimplifying things; I use math in my role as an archaeologist and it’s something I’m glad I know how to do, but I noticed that my work tends to be more focused on the critical thinking, the basic math, and the logic puzzles than on the things I learned in geometry and pre-pre-calculus.

Full disclosure, I stopped taking math at that specific level, because I knew that it was not my strong suit and I wanted to take extra English, history, and music classes.

This topic does make me laugh, though, I can remember a friend of mine informing me when I was a lowly undergrad that, by becoming an archaeologist, I would become a “real scientist.” I laughed and said thank you, because what else do you say to that? I know that historians are not technical scientists, you chemists and biologists don’t need to rub it in!

Look Mother! I’m a real scientist!

But the main point of this post is math. I always hated it with a burning fiery passion, and now that I’m older I think I know why. I struggled with some of the more abstract concepts (to be fair, I also hate philosophy. Am I a drawing on a cave wall? Does it really change my life if I am? Nope. So I don’t care), and it was frustrating. I’ve always been fairly intelligent, and subjecting myself to something that I was horrible at was low on my list. Especially when I could be doing things that I was improving at and enjoying!

There are two major exceptions to my math saga, however. I adore logic puzzles; ranging from Sherlock Holmes to “Who Owns the Zebra.” I think this is because I am a social scientist, and we work in logic puzzles. Every other field seems to give you a set of clues, point you in the right research direction, and then you form your conclusions. While in English you can argue based on your opinion, in history and archaeology, there are actual answers. Something really happened, and other things did not. There is, in fact, a wrong answer.

I love that, when the answer falls into place, when the last piece of the puzzle fits perfectly and the truth (or as near to the truth as we can see) is revealed.

The other things in math that I love are equations. Not super complicated ones, but ones where you solve for x. For some reason, I’ve always found them relaxing. I would guess that this is because there is always a correct answer. X is something, and that is the way it is.

I wonder if this is because every day, I work with people. People aren’t always logical. There are emotions and there are messy situations that can be hard to deal with. My training has prepared me for that. It seems like that’s just what I do; no matter what my job is, I work directly with people. I love my job. I love most jobs that I have had, and I am very lucky to be able to say that.

But sometimes, when I find myself peopled out, thinking about some complex question about history, literature, anthropology or ethical museum practices, when I’m tired of wrestling with the big questions in my fields, I color.

Didn’t see that coming, did you?

You shouldn’t have, it was a weird fake-out.

But sometimes, I find some quiet math. I balance my budget and make a ten-year financial plan. I pull out some old equations or logic puzzles and solve those bad-boys, because sometimes it’s nice to be able to find the answer.

Solve the puzzle. Sometimes, this is the most frustrating part of math. There is a right answer and there is no room for negotiation. There are no additional facts to support your argument. 2 + 2 = 4, and there is no room for debate (unless you’re using fancy math).

So that, dear reader, is my personal journey with math. It’s fascinating, but I’m thankful that now I can just pick the parts I like, the parts that are fun (and the other things, like balancing checkbooks or doing taxes. Less fun, but still important).

Bring on the logic puzzles and the equations!

The math people can keep all the other stuff.


Wait, How Long is a 5K?

Recently, I was thinking to myself that I wanted to find some sort of something that I enjoy doing, something that will keep me in shape and be fun. I had a few guidelines for this, however.

First, it needed to be something that I couldn’t hurt anyone else while doing, except on special occasions. As a fan of kickboxing and Shotokan Karate, it was important to me that whatever I added be different.

Secondly, it needed to be something I felt comfortable doing. I’m a bit of a klutz and I have an interesting relationship with the concept of rhythm, but there are things that you can use for this. Sadly, there is one thing that is challenging for the rhythmically impaired-dancing.

Add to this the fact that I’m about as full of grace as a witch hunt, and there you have it. Dancing is a dangerous, dangerous activity!

My arms tend to flap about like I’m trying to take flight. But, since I can’t fly, I look like Rocko in “The Pebble and the Penguin.” For those of you who are not compulsive watchers of cartoons, he’s a penguin who wants to fly.

But moving on.

On day, pondering this question and getting tired of laughing at myself and my jazzercise (which I not so secretly still love), I saw an ad for a thing called the Muddy Muggle Fun Run. Being the Harry Potter Fan that I am, I had to investigate.

Although it has since been renamed the Muddy Mortal (there was a copyright thing), this is a Harry Potter themed obstacle-course 5K, with prizes and all of the trappings you expect from your Harry Potter-themed events.

I didn’t run, but I knew I had to be part of this.

Of course, this meant that I had to start running. Oh gosh. Happy coincidence? I know have a solid reason other than a vague “it’s good for me” to run; I’m training!

Since I hate people seeing me run, this will be challenging, but the race isn’t until June, so I’ve got some time.

Being related to a runner, I got advice on my shoes, the best local trails, and even stole the unused treadmill from my parents. I had all the pieces to begin training for my 5K.

I figured that my running form was pretty terrible, so I enlisted the help of my brother. Apparently, I’m not the worst (I’m not good, but I could be a lot worse). And, I will get a whole slew of Harry Potter-themed prizes, a fun experience, and of course, good health. I’d call that a victory.

As I started running, I realized that this was a wonderful sport. When running outside, I could listen to music, see the beauty around me, stretch, and just push myself. When I run on my treadmill, I watch Disney movies, admire the artistry, and just push myself.

I feel like there should be an animation post here, somewhere.

I discovered something strange. I like running. I like the feeling it gives me, the satisfaction of knowing what my body can do (maybe I couldn’t outrun a monster, but I could make it work for my death), and the feeling of clarity that I found I have when I run.

Running with other people is also, surprisingly, fun. But only in small groups. Let’s take this one step at a time.

On Superheroes

A few months ago, I realized that I was going through a bit of a bad place. I was unhappy at work, and with the general direction that I felt my life was going, and this made me angry. Actually, I was angry all of the time, and felt like most of my day-to-day activities were in place just to prevent that anger from spilling out and turning me into a rage monster.

If you’ve met me, you may realize that I am, generally speaking, a fairly calm person who it really takes a lot to actually anger. But I’ve been thinking about this a lot since that time in my life, and other than feeling like where I was in my life was turning me into a much more cynical, less trusting, hard-hearted person than I wanted to be, I realized that it’s the calm people who explode in a frightening way.

What does this has to do with superheroes? Well, I’m getting to that.

First, sorry comic book fans in advance.I’m the type of nerd who saw the movies/Linda Carter television show first, then thought, hmm. I’ll dig around in comic book lore. Do you have a favorite series on one of my favorites? Please share!

You see, my favorite superheroes have something in common. You have Captain America, who is an ordinary person who becomes extraordinary because of his compassion, his sense of justice, and his belief in freedom. All in all, he’s a stand-up guys and an all-around decent human being.

Then you have Wonder Woman, because, come on. She’s an immortal princess who fights for truth and justice, while protecting the environment and putting Batman and Superman into their places. Plus, she could probably do it all without her superpowers. She also works full-time. Okay, I might have made that up, but you get the drift.

Batman. Tortured, vigilante, determined to protect the people in his city from suffering what happened to him. Trying to do what’s best for Gotham, while understanding that killing is not the answer (usually).

But when I started thinking about myself, because my brain never sleeps and this is how it works, I remembered another guy. And while I can feel like I want to be like Captain America or Wonder Woman (and I am thankful to not be like Batman), I realized this guy was the one I related to most.

Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk.

Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Bruce Banner is a mild-mannered scientist who, when he gets angry, turns into a giant green rage monster. He smashes things, doesn’t recognize his friends at first…it’s a mess.

The Hulk movie, and Hulk’s part in the first Avengers movie, seems to focus on this incredibly smart guy, trying to avoid getting visibly angry, because it’s scary when he is. Now, I don’t turn into the Incredible Hulk, but when I get angry, I can feel it bubbling up inside of me and I imagine that it is not a pretty or comforting thing.

These days, I’m less angry. But my experience with the rage inside of me taught me something. If I’m going to act like a superhero (and not an actual person, because I am going to follow this metaphor to the bitter end), I should try to act like Captain America or Wonder Woman.

I shouldn’t be always angry, and unlike Hulk, I was able to remove myself from the situation that made me feel angry all the time.

But I also need to acknowledge that there is a little/large part of me that is Bruce Banner,  the shy, nerdy person who, like all calm people, comes complete with a boiling point that once reached unleashes a force of anger that may not frighten anyone else, but scares the heck out of us.

However, ignoring the anger only makes it worse (and gets things closer to the boiling point). Sometimes, life makes you mad, and I had to learn to recognize it.  Just like the Hulk learned to focus his anger and save his friends in the end, I learned to recognize my anger and remember that it’s okay to be angry(as long as I don’t destroy a factory or Harlem, like Hulk did).

I just need to remember to breathe, pray, and always look on the bright side of life.

And now that song is in your head. You are welcome.


Books I Have Read, Things I Have Seen

The funny thing about leaving a full-time job to go back to school, and taking a two-month gap is that it leaves you a lot of time to both clean and catch up on things. Personally, I chose to catch up on books, because that’s the way I roll, but I did finish a few wonderful televisions shows on Netflix as well.


So, here are the Top 10 Things-I-Read/Watched in December that I think everyone should read/watch (in no particular order). (All photos from

“Parks and Recreation”

Never have a watched a show and thought, “Oh my gosh, I can relate to that brand of crazy,” more than when watching Leslie Knope on this show. Leslie Knope is a woman who works in the Parks Department in a town Pawnee, Indiana, and she is determined to make life better for her citizens and co-workers, whether they like it or not. She’s always making lists, over planning, constantly having three backup plans…she’s wonderful.

parks and rec cover

But it’s not just Leslie’s story; we also have her boss/friend Ron Swanson, who hates the government (their friendship is amazing), her best friend Ann, her husband Ben (who can handle Leslie’s crazy and loves her for it), and her other coworkers (who I won’t list, because it would get too long), who round out the cast of government employees in this show, filmed like “The Office.” I laugh every time I watch this show. I just love it.

 “Hell On Wheels”

Normally, I am very picky when it comes to shows set in the 1800s; I kind of wrote my master’s thesis on this era, so I get very annoyed when things are too “off.” However, this show. I love this show. It follows a former Confederate soldier, who is seeking revenge on the Union soldiers that killed his wife and finds himself in the midst of Hell on Wheels, the town that follows the building of the transcontinental railroad.

hell on wheels

The dynamics in the show are fascinating. You have former Confederates who don’t trust the Yankees (and vice versa), the conflict between the African American workers and the Irish workers, and the conflict between the former Confederates and the freed slaves. All of these conflicts are historically accurate (and logical), and portrayed as such. The cast is fantastic, though I think Anson Mount’s Cullen Bohannan and Common’s Elam Ferguson are my favorite characters, because I love the relationship that they build through the show (plus, they’re two complex characters).


I don’t really have anything to say here, other than if you haven’t watched M.A.S.H., you’re missing out. It’s the story of an army hospital near the front lines in Korea during the Korean War, who deal with the reality of death and suffering all around them by turning to humor.

mash cover

It’s not always a hilarious show, but MASH is able to walk the line between making you cry tears of laughter and tears of sadness. It never forgets that it is set in a war, and the characters are wonderful. It’s just good.

“Last Man Standing”

This is the story of Mike, a man’s man who has been traveling the world for the Outdoor Man catalog, a sporting goods store where he works as Marketing Director. When his boss tells him that the catalog is scrapped (because funds), and his wife, Vanessa gets a promotion at work, Mike finds himself staying home and in a world dominated by women (his wife and their three daughters). He moves the advertising to focus on vlogs, and begins to be more involved as a “hands-on” parent, as IMDB calls it.

last man standing cover

The show is basically this family as they grow and change throughout the years, and the way that a very conservative father deals with his daughter’s boyfriends and neighborhood crises. One of the funniest episodes is where he tells his wife: “Of course I’m not happy, I’m raising three daughters. Two of them are democrats,” and realizes that he is raising strong independent women (and he married one, so he should have seen it coming).

Tim Allen plays Mike in such a way that even if you disagree with him, you can’t hate him. Nancy Travis as Vanessa is a wonderful foil to his character, and the two of them handling and raising their children is hilarious and often poignant to watch. Basically, it’s a really fun show.


Where has this show been hiding?! I had heard that it was funny, but I was not prepared for just how hilarious this show was. The story follows JD, a young attending doctor and his friends as they learn and grow. There are also moments where we see what is in JD’s head (musical numbers, fire-breathing bosses, that sort of thing).

scrubs cover

The characters are, even at their most annoying, still likeable and the show feels real, without getting overwhelmed in the sadness of working in a major hospital. It’s the hospital show I didn’t know I needed. It’s brilliant.

 “Legally Blonde”

legally blonde dvd

I realize that I might be many years behind on this one, but I’d only ever seen the musical version. Personally, I prefer my films to be musicals unless they involved Nazi punching or dinosaurs, so I still like the musical version better, but I did really like the film.


 “The Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyers

I’ve actually written an entire book review on each of the five books in this series, so I’ll try to keep it to basics here. Basically, “The Lunar Chronicles” takes our favorite fairy tales, “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Rapunzel,” and “Snow White,” reworks them, and sets them in a technologically advanced dystopian society.

cinder cover

There is also a kingdom on the moon, made up of people who have magic powers and are ruled by the cruel Queen Levana, but are secretly hoping that the long-lost Princess Selene will return to save them (a wish the people of Earth share). The story follows Cinder, a cyborg mechanic who is more than what she seems, and her friends (new friend added in each book or so), as she learns about her destiny and fights to save her people.

It’s clever, witty, engaging, and not just a tired old retelling. If you haven’t check out “The Lunar Chronicles,” give them a read.

 “The Land of Stories” Series by Chris Colfer

This series was one that I was very pleasantly surprised by. Not that I doubted Chris Colfer’s abilities, I just wasn’t sure how a series about a pair of twins who are sucked into a fairytale book, find themselves trapped, have to journey on a quest to be freed, and learn that they may have close ties with this worl–okay, I lied. I knew I would love this book from the get-g0.

the land of stories cover

As soon as I cracked the pages, I was sucked into the world that Colfer had created. It’s witty, often hilarious, and ties the fairytales that I know and love beyond “happily ever after.” It’s a fun and engaging series that is still being written right now, so I’m excited to see where Colfer takes it.

“The School for Good and Evil” Trilogy by Soman Chainani

The series follows the adventures of Agatha and Sophie, two friends who are chosen to go to the School for Good and the School for Evil. However, they do not go to the places they are expected to go to. I hardly ever review books on Goodreads, but I made an exception here, and below are some snippets from those reviews:

“This trilogy was genius, to me. The first book while looking at the power of friendship and the love we have for our friends. It also reminds us that sometimes appearances can be deceiving, while the second one shows our heroines that actions have consequences, and sometimes a Happy Ending can be re-written. The final book in the series was a satisfying conclusion to a wonderful series of fantasy books. With Evil running amok (the classic villains are re-writing their stories), the school now just for Evil, and an Evil Queen crowned, Good’s numbers are dwindling. How can a girl who doesn’t feel worthy of her role as Princess and who just wants to save her best friend, work with her Prince and the legends of Good to save their world? Bonds will be tested and secrets will be revealed in “The Last Ever After.”
the last ever afterThe ending of “The Tale of Sophie and Agatha,” and the series, is wonderfully written and discusses, choice, love, destiny, fate, good versus evil, love of friends and love of soul mates, choice, loving others and loving yourself, the nature of good and evil, and loyalty.

Another thing I love about this series is that Chainani writes his female characters very well (probably because they are characters who happen to be women). Content Note: It was in the Juvenile Lit section at Hastings, but the series is “Heroes of Olympus” or “Goblet of Fire” dark, with the third book reaching “House of Hades” and “Deathly Hallows” levels.”

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

This book had been on my radar for a while, and I finally said, okay, I just need to read this and see what the fuss is about. The story follows Santiago, who is searching for treasure. On the way, he learns and grows and finds a treasure worth more than he could have dreamed.

the alchemist cover

 He learns how to listen to his own heart, to see opportunities before him (and the wisdom to act on them), and the importance of following his dreams even when things seem impossible. Short, sweet, and very thought-provoking and inspiring, if you haven’t read “The Alchemist,” I would do it.


Did I Ever Tell You About The Time I Almost Died? (and other great conversation openers that are totally/mostly exaggerated)

AKA, The Longest Blog Title EVER. It occurred to me the other day that there were some stories that I didn’t blog from my time on the boat, or from general life, for various reasons.

Some of these are stories that are just hard to explain through words; others, were too nerve-wracking and I didn’t want to worry my parents until I was home (I played it down, you know, like, I almost fell off of the boat today. But I’m okay! How was your day? That type of thing).

So I thought I would share 20 of my favorite stories and/or revelations about my time on the boat, in short form, with you today. For the full story, complete with voice inflection and hand gestures, ask me in person and I’ll be happy to entertain you 🙂

1). I almost fell off of the boat one time.

2). Crap! It happened again! Only from the deck, and a wave was involved.

Photo: Author’s Collection

3). Ugh, it smells like fish. I guess that could be because of the fishing boats.

4). Why are sea lions so annoying?

5). Crab pots everywhere!

6). One time, I was supposed to get off the boat for a sail off, and I just fell asleep on my bunk.

7). I loved the mizzen on Chiefy. It was my favorite sail to furl, and I got fairly good at it (at least, I was told to teach someone else how to do it, so I had to be at least proficient).

8). I worked on a historic tallship, and would go to museums on my days off. And Starbucks’ and bookstores.

9). I brought 7 books on the boat, and came back with more.

10). I only got seasick on the boat after my uncle died, and anytime I ate fresh fruit before a transit.

11). Sailing reminded me of the power and majesty of God. He can calm the sea, which could easily kill me, and He still loves me.

Crossing the Columbia Bar Photo: Author’s Collection

12). The garbage pile at the Army Corp Dock in the Bay reminded me that sometimes I really hate people.

13). No books with large sharks or monsters for me; I only read books about catastrophes occurring on land while at sea, thank you very much.

14). What is this Doctor Who show you people watch?

15). Well, thank goodness we’re near the Coast Guard Station.

16). No, I am not going to let you 5th graders walk the plank.

17). Oh my gosh, someone was almost squashed!

18). Tango, it happened again; different person, same spot.

Main Mast Photo:Author’s Collection

19). We just pulled ourselves to the dock. Because upper body strength and engine trouble.

20). Well, hello, bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Bonus: No, the Korean War did not happen in 1776.


My Life is Weird, and Other Thoughts


NOTE: I found half of this, unpublished, on my old blog. I thought I’d spiff it up and share it here.  I assume I started it around the time I finished grad school.

I’m going to be brutally honest here. Grad school kind of sucks. It’s hard, writing a thesis is a miserable experience and I didn’t look at a train for, well, days, after I finished school. I can’t help it; I love trains! My master’s thesis in anthropology examined the impact of the railroad on the small town of Sandpoint, Idaho between the years 1880 and 1935, looking at the archaeological records, archival material and additional sources. I am proud of my thesis; I poured two years of my life into that thing, AND I paid someone to let me write it. I got great experience in Collections Management and learned all about archaeology and the policies that govern the field.

But, while in grad school, I learned something unexpected.

I had always imagined myself as a curator of archaeological collections, also qualified to work in the field (because, let’s be honest, working in the field is exhausting, sweaty and amazingly fun). But while I was at school, I realized that I really missed the boats. And not just the freedom and amazing-ness of being part of the crew of a square-rigger, no. I really missed my job as the cat-herder and PR Ninja. In short, as the StewCo (or Education Coordinator/Steward, if you prefer).

This was a strange thing to learn, halfway through my final year at grad school for a different field.

I wanted to be an educator. I ignored the impulse for a while (I was in school still, and determined to graduate), but then I started making lesson plans in my head. I finally thought, maybe I should go back to school to get certified? And, this year, I have.

Also, in an effort to not lose all my hard work getting over heights, I tried climbing things. I quickly realized that if I didn’t have a clear purpose up there, even if I was properly and securely fastened, it was not going to happen. I would freeze up. My body literally would not move. I felt a strange sense of deja vu. I think it was because I didn’t have a job to do and I wasn’t even going to get to see a kick-ass view. Just the top of some plastic rocks and for no real reason.

Furling Photo: Author’s Collection

So I realized that was all dumb, and I don’t climb things anymore. I assume that when I go back to the boats (someday, please, someday!), I’ll have to climb things again (but I hope that it’ll be less painful this time, because I know the benefits). I was pretty good at furling the mizzen, and I adored the headrig. It was just the yards that I hated.

That, in short, is the story of how I, Miss “I Never Want To Teach,” ended up back at school, working on getting her certification to teach middle-schoolers history and/or English.

I feel like my life is proof that God has a sense of humor. Not in a mean way, just that He chuckles at my antics quite a bit.

Just For Fun…

In one of my classes, we had to write a genre parody. I chose to parody the listicle genre, and am sharing it here for your reading pleasure 🙂

Disclaimer: All photos and memes are the property of their owners (and quite fantastic).

“Five Things You Should Do If You Have a Boat and a Storm Is Coming”

Most ships, at some point or another, encounter a storm of some kind. Some storms, like hurricanes, can be dangerous and sometimes the ships do not make it through them, like the tallship Bounty or the cargo ship El Faro. Luckily, humans have years of sailing experience that, while they cannot entirely guarantee your safety, can go a long way to helping keep you and the rest of the crew safer. From the smaller squall to the hurricane, here are five things to consider if you’re sailing and suspect a storm:


#1 Can a Football Be Used as a Flotation Device?
Not all harbors are created equal. Some harbors will just funnel the storm in and bang all the ships inside it together. The main advantage here is that the crew is not on board. A former sea captain told “Popular Mechanics” that you really want to find a port that has natural protection from the storm’s wind, thus preventing additional damage to the vessel.


“The Two Natural Reactions to Seeing a Dinosaur” Photo: Huffington Post Parent


#2 Can boats catch on fire?

If there’s not enough weight to your vessel, it is more inclined to roll about. Additional weight, or ballast, provides a bit more balance. Also, all cargo should be firmly latched or tied down (sea-stowed) to prevent sliding of everything. Have you ever been hit by a sliding bench? It hurts.

Photo: Asian American Comparative Collection

#3 Is it possible for large marine life to swallow my ship whole?

While it is always possible to be in a storm at sea, and all ships from the historic style tallships to the modern cargo ships are made to weather some storms, larger storms like hurricanes are not to be trifled with. Although it can seem like a safer bet to be on the open sea than in a port, the recent sinking of the tallship Bounty proves that the safety window is smaller than one thinks. Especially in heavier, more intense storms.

Photo: Author’s Collection

#4 Will my data plan cover me if I’m at sea?

If you are on deck and there’s rough weather, don’t take any chances. Wear your climbing harness and make sure you are attached to the boat. This way, you have a less likely chance of falling overboard. Also, if you’re about to go on deck, make sure to announce it so that your crewmates know, and let them know when you’re returning below (and always proceed with caution).

baby seals

#5 My boat is leaking, should I stop cooking dinner and see what’s up?

Your captain and first mate are Coast Guard certified and they and the rest of the officers have probably done this before, at least in some level of storm. In an expected storm, they have considered all the possibilities before setting sail or making the calls they have made, and in unexpected storms, they still consider all possibilities. You may be scared, but panic only spreads and mutiny can still be punished by death if you’re far enough out at sea, as a former captain of mine liked to tell us before a transit. No matter what the storm, everyone on board has a job to do. Stay calm, and do it.

Photo: Author’s Collection

Every ship will go through a storm at least once, and there are measures that we can take to make our time at sea that much safer. Just remember, always announce when you’re on deck, and try not to fall on top of your friends.


Informational Sources