The 3 Postulates of Paleness in Pleasant Weather

I’m happy to live in a part of the country that has four seasons. None of that “well, there is our two days of spring, bring on summer!” nonsense. Sure, the humidity gets to be terrible, and traveling between the hot subway platform to the freezing air-conditioned office is rough, but I’ll take it.

Like many people, I enjoy those first few days of summer-y weather. There is no better pain than the touching something metal that’s been out in the sun and realizing that you’ve just burned yourself. It hurts, but in a good way: that means it’s nice out!

But then, as a pale person, you realize that it’s once again that time of the year where you can’t go outside. Ever. Without putting on some sunscreen, that is. I work in a basement, so you’re darn right I’m going to sneak outside for a short lunch break every day…but not too long, because then I’ll get sun burnt.

Sure, I put on facial moisturizer each morning that has SPF coverage, so I can usually assume my face is going to escape unscathed. I can’t say the same thing for my arms, or my decolletage, or the back of my neck. And I’m not going to waste precious time shellacking myself in sunscreen before I go outside: I only get 45 minutes, after all. So what’s a pale person to do?

Well, buck up and remember the 3 Postulates of Paleness in Pleasant Weather, that’s what!

  1. Spending more than 15 minutes in direct sunlight will cause one to burn, therefore one must find a space that will become shady in the allotted amount of time, or find a space that is in the shade to begin with.
  2. Cloud cover is not an acceptable alternative to sunscreen. The sun will go through the clouds and give you a just-the-other-side-of-rosy glow anyway.
  3. Saying “hey, screw it, I don’t need sunscreen” may feel like a sound decision in the moment, but goes against the rule “wear sunscreen now, have beautiful skin that doesn’t resemble fruit leather later on”, which trumps every other rule in every other possible situation.

As a pale person, abiding by these three assumptions is important. I’ve found myself a nice reading spot that provides shade while not detracting from the warmth of the sun. As a bonus, it’s wood, not metal, so there won’t be any awkward “ouch!” moments.

My reading spot of choice. Hello, shade!

Someone please tell me what’s it like to not have to worry about these things when one goes outside. Last year I had to go outside during a fire drill and the sun was so strong that I got a little sunburn, because I had no opportunity to find shade, and no time to put on sunblock. So please, make me jealous, I want to live vicariously through you.


On Missing Academia, and Finding a MOOC

This time last year, I had just started some summer courses. After frantically trying to figure out if I could finish my graduate program in the summer instead of returning in the fall (and realizing that I could), I had found some online classes to finish my elective requirements. Applying as a non-degree student was easy, but issues with getting my transcript to my home institution and barely turning my paperwork in one day before the deadline was a bit more difficult. It was a stressful couple of months, but when it was over, reality set in: I was done with graduate school! I was done going to class after a full day of work, I was done waking up early to get to the library to write papers on a Saturday morning, I was done dealing with the world’s worst elevators every week.

One year out though? I miss it. A lot.

I only took one year off between undergraduate and graduate school (and to be truthful, I only waited a full year because after a year of full-time employment at the college I work for, they help you pay for graduate school). Being surrounded by college students is a constant reminder that I can’t count myself among them. They complain about finals and papers (and yes, I did that too), but I find myself wishing I had those things on my to-do list again.

And so I signed up for another online class, for a MOOC. Assuming that not everyone that reads my blog stays up-to-date on the latest happenings in higher education, a MOOC is a “massive open online course”. It’s not quite a traditional seminar class, or even a traditional lecture course in a large theater. Instead, websites like edX house courses that are a mixture of readings, videos and quizzes. They offer courses from professors at prestigious institutions like Georgetown, MIT and Rice, and the content is available over the course of several weeks, so you can complete it at your leisure. If you finish the course and pass the exams, you get a certificate of completion.

edX logo, via edX

logo via edX

Do they count for anything? In most colleges, not just yet. Should they? Well, that’s a big, ongoing debate in higher education circles. For some (like me), they are a great way to stay fresh and learn new things. From a professional standpoint, taking one of these courses is a good way to get first-hand experience so I can actively engage in the “MOOC debate”.

So, I signed up for “Ethical Reasoning 22x: Justice” by HarvardX. Let’s see how it goes. If I like it, great, I’ll get a shiny participation certificate to download. If not, it was free, no harm no foul.

If you’re interested, check it out! Classes do close (once the “semester” ends, registration closes), and new ones open frequently. Some of the current offerings through edX are things like “Human Health and Global Environmental Change” and “The Ancient Greek Hero”. The ones coming down the pike sound intriguing also, like Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science:

Top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how everyday cooking and haute cuisine can illuminate basic principles in physics and engineering, and vice versa.

Let’s not kid ourselves, I already signed up for that one. Have you ever considered taking a MOOC? How else do you satisfy your need to be a lifelong learner? (Besides reading voraciously, I already do that.)

Writing in Transit: The Tube

“What’s that show about, Mom?”

“Oh, it’s about…a teacher that does bad things.”

Two minutes later, same question. “It’s about families that fight each other and there are dragons.”

Grown-ups talk about television a lot when their children are sitting in between them, with ponchos and umbrellas and backpacks full of textbooks and short attention spans.

“What’s that one about, Dad?”

“Well, there are people that advertise things, like cars and headphones.”

Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men. If you need an elevator pitch for something, ask a parent to describe it to their kids. Hello there, succinct sentences.

Writing in Transit is a recurring series of 100-word stories based on my experiences on the subway bus. Posted on Fridays, they’re exactly 100 words. I double checked.

Fashion Post: Loving and Letting Go

So, this year I’ve reduced my monthly budget for clothes. I wasn’t spending the full $150/month anyway, and with an increase in rent and utilities (I didn’t realize how nice it was to split bills with three other people!), fashion was the first thing to scale back on. To sequester? Too soon?

I’ve been really good at tracking my purchased and buying a mix of things I need, and things I want. Using Jessica’s trusty list of closet staples, I have been meticulous with the voice in my head saying “do you need that?”. I had to buy a dress for a friend’s wedding, but I made sure I could also wear it to work and out to brunch without looking overdone. I got rid of my trusty black pencil skirt in the move because it had to go, but I just bought a new one from J. Crew on a great discount. For almost two years I’ve been saying that I need to go about fashion this way, but until the last few months, I hadn’t really been doing that.

My closet could use another purge, I think. And unfortunately, the dress I wore yesterday is most likely going to be one of those casualties. I hate getting rid of clothes that I love. It’s easy to get rid of jeans that have a hole in them, or sweaters that have gotten so pilled that I shouldn’t leave the house in them. However, it’s those middle-of-the-road clothes that are harder: sure, they’re a little stretched or faded but they still work! They’re so comfy! I still love them!

No. I need to start letting go. And I need to start with this dress.

I can’t find a picture of myself wearing it, so I’ll have to describe it instead. I bought it at a street fair four years ago (like, four years ago this weekend, I went to the same street fair again on Sunday). It’s black with some white stitched flowers, knee-length, with some eyelet lacing. Guys, eyelet detailing is back in now! I should totally keep it! But when I was sitting on the subway yesterday morning I noticed that the lace is still a nice black, but the rest of the dress has faded to the point where it almost looks like navy blue. In my apartment lighting I couldn’t tell, but on the train and at work it was noticeable. And it looked weird.

I love this dress, but it isn’t of the highest quality and it’s not like I can refurb it to make the dress a nice, new looking black anymore. So it has to go.

…that being said, when I got home it somehow managed not to end up in the garbage.

Someone give me advice on how to be ruthless letting other things go. Because at some point I’ll probably have to tackle my bookshelves too, and I’d rather not do that whilst sobbing over every volume I deem “free market” worthy.

Writing in Transit: The Bargain

Her: So, if I make you watch Pride & Prejudice, how much Star Trek do I have to watch?

Him: Well, that’s a tough one…I mean, it’s not like Star Trek and Pride & Prejudice should just be an hour to hour ratio. I feel like you need to watch at least three or four episodes to really get it.

In lieu of a drabble, here is a quote from a particularly adorable couple on the train last night. This conversation went on a bit longer, but they didn’t come to a definitive agreement.