Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sleep Efforts

I basically have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, and one of my symptoms is massive insomnia. It is called onset insomnia because it is not being able to fall asleep. I also can't stay asleep, but that is less frustrating to me.

Well, yesterday I was sitting at work after not having slept (for more than a few hours at a stretch) in several days, and I looked up how to sleep. I could take melatonin, but I am afraid I would not be able to wake up on time. There are light blocking goggles to keep light from interfering with your melatonin production for a few hours before bed, but I have read that some people just don't produce a lot of melatonin. So those are both ideas to consider, but I have implemented some other things: white noise, warmer than ordinary room, gentle transition to waking up, darkness, and a worry book. A worry book is to write down the things you are mulling over so that you can think about them later during designated awake time.

Last night was when I used every single sleeping strategy, and it was pretty successful. One thing that keeps me waking up every few minutes after I fall asleep is, is my alarm on? I set my phone to go off 4 or 5 times at five minute intervals. For last night I set it to vibrate the first two times, and I put it in my pillowcase. That meant I could sleep in earplugs. I also spread my bed canopy into a tent so less light would get to me. The nicest part of my sleep correction is my roommate's space heater, which has a fan that produces white noise incidentally while it keeps our room tropically warm. I loved it so much that I think I will buy that exact one and use it on low or no heat if the heater gets fixed. I was so pleased to get home at 11:30 and just sink into my bed, because even though I can never sleep, optimism bias dictates that I fully expected to be able to sleep, because look! earplugs!

And I had a pretty restful night. I only woke up twice to check my alarms. Then I woke up twice to get water and needed more water in the morning. Generally I only wake up to get water once, sometimes not at all. I think the heater dehydrates me. And I had a nightmare that I was stuck in an empty ice chest. I slept from 12 to 5:45, and probably spent most of an hour awake during that time, and it was nonetheless the best sleep I have had since three weeks ago when I slept for nearly 40 hours between Friday and Sunday.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Explanatory Style

Blaming other people for things makes you happier.

Explanatory style is a psychological attribute that indicates how people explain to themselves why they experience a particular event, either positive or negative. Psychologists have identified three components in explanatory style:

  • Personal. People experiencing events may see themselves as the cause; that is, they have internalized the cause for the event. Example: "I always forget to make that turn" (internal) as opposed to "That turn can sure sneak up on you" (external).
  • Permanent. People may see the situation as unchangeable, e.g., "I always lose my keys" or "I never forget a face".
  • Pervasive. People may see the situation as affecting all aspects of life, e.g., "I can't do anything right" or "Everything I touch seems to turn to gold".

People who generally tend to blame themselves for negative events, believe that such events will continue indefinitely, and let such events affect many aspects of their lives display what is called a pessimistic explanatory style. Conversely, people who generally tend to blame others for negative events, believe that such events will end soon, and do not let such events affect too many aspects of their lives display what is called an optimistic explanatory style.

Some research has linked a pessimistic explanatory style to depression[1] and physical illness.[2] It is important to note that the concept of explanatory style encompasses a wide range of possible responses to both positive and negative occurrences, rather than a black-white difference between optimism and pessimism. Also, an individual does not necessarily show a uniform explanatory style in all aspects of life, but may exhibit varying responses to different types of events.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe Hill Complex, 1000-1500 CE. (you have to click it.)
Remember when I spent a year learning Welsh because of castle ruins?
And no one told me there was this.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Invasion of the Night

This is Robert Matta's Invasion of the Night. It is my favorite painting. (I have not seen very many paintings yet.)
It's like an abstract surrealist painting. Is that a thing? How did he do that? It's slightly eerie but the clear and luminous colors pull me in. I think because doesn't have a main focal point it feels like just part of an amazing scary landscape that could continue seamlessly in any direction. I really would like to see what the upper left corner expands into. There are a number of fairly self contained, involved subjects. I think I have mentioned that by the end of a tv show i have forgotten the beginning, so this painting is so fun, i just start somewhere and look and look.

SF MOMA didn't have any prints. So I tried to forge it. But, it really, really didn't come out.

I put down all the colors as planned but I couldn't manage to put in anything to look at. It looks just like a boring, flat background, in ugly colors. I think if the colors were right (this photo shows the yellow pretty well but the blue is less bright in real life.) I would like it. I had fun making the white parts iridescent, and drawing the gray parts with candle smoke,* and making the blue disperse with laundry detergent.** Also I was scorning it pretty hard when i took the pic so I didn't put it right way up- the side at the left is the top. Or maybe it didn't fit on my couch that direction.

* That is a giant canvas, it was hard to maneuver safely. Which is to say that I didn't. It was so bad. This is why children should be allowed to play with fire, so that as adults they don't spill wax down themselves while holding a cloth board with one hand and their knees.
**You mix the detergent with water and brush it on, then sort of drip diluted acrylic on it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Art History is the Best History

This is a T-O map from the 12th century. T-O maps were a common depiction of the world in medieval Europe. It has Africa, Asia, and Europe. Asia is bigger than Africa because it had the Holy Land, which Europeans tried and tried to take from the Muslims.* Africa and Europe were much more connected than people think now, because the Sahara used to be smaller. It is still growing through dessication, but in 500 BCE there were trans Saharan trade routes. Wow. And East Africa was in contact with Asia because the trade winds blew one way for six months and then the other way. wow.

So here is when each continent was discovered by Europeans (also by mankind, in the case of Antarctica)
1. Europe- prehistory, 40k years ago
2. Asia- I can't find it on the wiki page but proto Indo Europeans were in 4000 BCE**
3. Africa- my prof said 500 BCE, wiki says 332 with alexander the great but a different wiki article says contact was "older than recorded history"
~Carribean, and then I will just say the rest of the Americas: 1492~
4. South America: um, 1498? Columbus (he was italian, it was colonized by Spain) went to a bit of the coast of Brazil near Trinidad?
5. North America: again, it is a little hard to sort out but I think 1513, when the spanish found Florida. (spanish)
6. Australia- 1606 (Dutch, colonized by English)
7. Antarctica- 1820 (found apparently by 3 ships in one year, Russian, British, and US)

1820 just happened, the other day. I think my great grandmother died in 1999 at the age of 95. Antartica was discovered only 1 lifetime (~89 years) before my great grandmother was born. 1820-about the same time as photography and the calculator.

*Mormons should maybe stop evangelizing in foreign countries before Utah/New York (where Joseph Smith got the tablets from the angel Moroni) has, you know, problems.
**wow, I just clicked back to the article to check whether that was BCE or CE. I... wow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


As a child I hated almost every food. I liked lettuce, tater tots, cereal, warmed tortillas, pickles, kumquats, and probably 3 other foods. Mom and Dad insisted that those things were "not food" but there was no way I could eat lentils, or cake, or anything. (I think i was eating by instinct like animals because I could not swallow foods deliberately. I could put peas in my mouth, I could chew the peas, but I could not swallow the peas.)

I've been eating like that again recently. I don't know why except that there are no fruits in season. But today i started feeling like I've been fasting too long (clarity interjection: I am not fasting. I am eating lettuce and bread and looking sadly at my other foods before deciding that it is too much of a time commitment to make anything) , all floaty and not super coordinated. So I ate an iceberg salad and some safeway bread and some soymilk and waited a few hours to let it take effect. Actually I did not mean to wait a few hours. I kind of sat down on the couch and felt a little dizzy and the next time I looked at the clock it was 3 and 1/4 hours later. I forget what I did. So I had to get up to go to work and I made soup! Out of chicken broth and an egg. Eggs are tremendous at making me feel well fed. I went on an egg kick this winter break and I think I ate 6 eggs in one day. I have extremely minimal skill at keeping my food consistent (guess how many plants I have killed through neglect this school year. Hint: the last 4 were cactus.)

Also I woke up this morning at nearly 3, and felt totally rested, but went back to bed because I am a person, not a cat, and I am trying a new thing called Sleep at Night*, and then at 6:30 when I allowed myself out of bed I was so tired I failed at showering. That is, I took a shower but when I got to school I realized my hair was quite sticky, I appear not to have rinsed it.

*As a rule i can only fall asleep when exhausted, which takes between 6 and 32 hours. Maybe i should join the army, and they can feed and rest me. I would be an awesome soldier, but if they wanted me to join they would take care of old homeless vets and recruit for entry level positions across class lines.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Around Christmas I bought some charcoal pencils in Mega Longs, and I have been really liking them, so much so that I think I want to branch out into either pastels (it is amazing how expensive excellent pastels are) or just tinting charcoal drawings. I've used charcoal sticks before but they are dirty, hard to transport without breaking/destroying your bag, hard to make details with, and I wasn't able to do the intense free kind of drawing for some reason.

This is how dirty your hands get with charcoal pencils. Actually you are supposed to use a paper blending stump so the hand oils don't ruin your work. I am using hairspray as fixative so I am not really worried about it.

This is a scary shark I copied from natural geographic. I have a complete sea monster fixation. It just seems so unbelievably wrong that the oldest vertebrates (not sharks specifically, but fish) can actually eat the best vertebrates (me. me and charismatic mammalian megafauna like dolphins.).
It is swimming in the photo I used, that is why it is floaty.
I really like smudging charcoal since it is very quick and realistic, but I am trying to do the gestural physical spontaneous way of charcoal drawing. It is meant to be a bear, without a reference photo. That is how I keep my pencils together, it is an eraser.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What conversation are we having?

I was looking at my old blog posts to try and find out how long ago I last took japanese, and it turns out that people comment on my old posts, and sometimes they are mean.

But it is undeniable that I am not the clearest writer, so I think that is where that came from.

Caitlan Vandewalle is attending cooking fire

I am pretty sure all of the things I've realized about early people and Jesus's companions are not even remotely relevant to the tenets of Catholic faith. I think I am fascinated by them because first, they make me feel like life is neat, and second they provide a context for biblical events.

And, the promised land? I mean way back when, with Moses? Would seem like hell to 100% of the people I know. I mean, every facebook status update would be: "ooh, sunburned!" or "super thirsty, you guys!" or something. "Caitlan Vandewalle is attending Washing My One Dress In Malaria Water at Sunrise"

Things the first 200 popes, also Moses and Them, didn't experience:
Gender and Racial equality, or attempts at same
Vision Correction
North America (I am quite stuck on this one)
Universal Education

Things the first 200 popes, disciples, and everyone in the bible and most of the saints didn't know about:
North America
The Moon (I mean what it is made of and how far it is)
Which... I would be a completely different person without those three things. They are so important to me.

Flirting with Agnostic Theism

I don't know exactly what agnosticism means to me, but I have all at once let go of the ethics and beliefs that I have had since early childhood and I am waiting a little bit to decompress before developing/choosing new beliefs and ethics.

I think I kind of felt, you know, spied on. By God. Which I'm sure is a very childish way of looking at an allpowerful loving entity. But now that I don't feel like I am disappointing any omnipresent being I feel quite free. Like, my couch is stained, so I disdained Spray and Wash and sharpied a space scene on it. I have an Art Couch. And I'm looking in to craigslist dating. I started with some penpals in Maine and Pennsylvania. And I approved my financial aid which I somehow never realized I had. And then I looked up plane fare to the bahamas, which makes it more concrete a goal. And then I looked up colored contacts, which I have wanted continuously since I was 14 years old.* And a 2 month supply costs $80. And I have wanted them for 6 years.

I guess when I was Catholic I felt Important. Things were At Stake, particularly my immortal soul. Eternal is quite long. I mean, 70 minutes of Statistics is quite long, Eternal is just insane.

Last Sunday I was sitting in Jesuit Church with my great aunt Sue, and the irrelevance of what we were singing about (camels) to the immensely pasty north american crowd hit me really hard. I started crying and my chest, you know, cracked open. I have often felt a little bit unconnected to the topics of sermons, such as obedience. Also the miracles are not very exciting. And the things we are meant to take from the sermons are just... just something. I can't explain very well, but the stripped down events in the New Testement doesn't have anything for me to key into and absorb.
'This one time? Jesus was walking on water, and-'
'Walking on water? What, like that one lizard?'
'No, like the Son Of God.'
'Oh, right. Yes.'
But the lizard is a miracle as well. And I have seen it on television.

I was reading the introduction to my little Gideon's Bible and there were no words there that felt relevant to me. Allow me to transcribe it:
"The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.

It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter. Here paradise is retored, Heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed.

Christ is its grand subject, our food the design, and the glory of God its end.

It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgement, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest reponsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents" -Gideons International New Testament Intro

Great labor? Mind of God from a 2k year old perspective? Condemning triflers? Eh... I want a religion that doesn't worry about triflers. Doesn't even give them a thought. Something really, really simple. Not like transubstantiation.

I think I am quite interested in Equality. Earthly Equality. Also I think there is a sort of positive godesque prescence in my life. I am trying to resist fleshing this out until I have decompressed.

Everything I am doing I am doing from a new perspective. Things that were scary (singing in church, being critical, ruining a couch) are not at all scary, because the people watching me are just people, they didn't create my world and/or die for me. Things that were not scary when I was in my cozy catholic womb/bubble are quite scary because it seems like things are Up To Me now.

Along those lines, I have had a terribly frightening few days. I know part of it is my different perspective, described above. But is my life always this scary, and I just felt immune?
Sunday: Had to drive through a snowstorm, 25 mph on the freeway, minimal visibility, the car got stuck on a hill and had to get help.
Monday: Just a little turbulence, nothing too scary.**
Tuesday: I got home from work at the hostel at midnight and no one was home except a stranger sitting on my couch- but he was just my new roomie. I had most of a heart attack before he came out with "Hey, I'm Nate!"
Wednesday: riot where my mom works.

I'm sure Thursday will be fine. Actually I will probably get eaten by a shark.

*My understanding of my faith was that nothing at all was a problem except sin. Like, if you get killed- you live forever in a golden sky kingdom with everyone good. But OTOH colored contacts are vanity! And vanity is a sin. And if you sin you will have an unfullfilled earthly life and then on to wailing, and nashing of teeth.
**That was the first time I have flown as an agnostic theist and it occured to me that the early popes, the disciples, and everyone, couldn't fly.*** (neither stay in the sky nor travel incredibly fast) They couldn't eat fresh foods from other continents. They couldn't communicate with people in, say, japan, instantly, or even know about japan. Or the Americas, where I live and study their lives.
***I looked it up and Pius X, the 257th Pope, was pope until 1914 which I think means that the first 257 or more popes had never been in the sky. (until they were martyred or died of heart attack) And I have, and I'm just some girl. I can't make a plane stay up but I still get to go in them.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Shopping in SF the other day with a friend I realized how terribly boring real stores are, compared to thrift and online stores. I got more and more listless until we went outdoors and started photographing the light fixtures and the bus stops and then I realized I was not getting sick, I just don't like shopping.

Shopping with my grandma is a little different because she loves it soooo much and is very good with coupons.* So in the last 2 days I have got
4 pairs of shoes
2 pairs of jeans
a wool jacket
a teapot
2 shirts
3 aluminum tins
gel toe separators
and also we went to 2 different costcos. And 2 bed bath and beyonds, which is when i got the teapot and the toe separators. I really like them, actually, toe spreading is very important. And the teapot was half off fifty dollars less a twenty percent off coupon. And it is a really amazingly
nice teapot. I bought it to replace the one I destroyed, but instead I think I will keep it.

So now I am thinking of all the things that I want, such as colored contact lenses (online I can get 6 pairs for about $70, and since they're prescription I'm sure insurance will help) and fish for my little aquarium. Apparently they need a special heating lamp. I want tiny tiny catfish. Or, what I really want is a seahorse, but they are much more difficult to keep and they cost more. Also, no one bought me a tiny ikea swing at christmas.

Annotating the skymall magazine with anti consumption ideas on the flight here seems so distant.

No, wait, I remember now, no one should pay $600 for a dog cage, and elevator shoes are stupid.

*Although at Macy's I had to take pictures of the dressing room wreckage someone had left for me. I can't show you, because I stopped keeping track of my computer cable 3 moves ago when I thought my camera was broken.