Lesley's List: This Week's Four Massively Dorky Fascinations

Just when you thought I couldn't get any nerdier, here I come to BLOW your MIND.

Aug 10, 2012 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

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My best-loved Zoya colors. 

Zoya Nail Polish

I don’t do much in the way of fancy nail art; the furthest extent of my experimentation in this area is the Sally Hansen nail polish strips, with which I have serious case of come-here-go-away syndrome. I just like color -- if possible, unusual color, and I like it to not wear or chip for a least five days. Oh, and if it doesn’t have those four nasty carcinogenic chemicals found in lots of nail products (formaldehyde, toulene, DBP and camphor), that’d be nice too.

Enter Zoya, my current favorite brand of nail polish. The brand is committed to non-toxic formulas, the colors are fantastic and this polish is tough, let me tell you. I’m not exactly easy on a manicure, but Zoya holds on like nothing else.

Also, while they have many normal colors, they also have some super interesting ones, like Gemma, which is a pale asparagus green with an iridescent purple shimmer, as if somebody liquefied some of those sparkly summertime beetles and stirred them into pea soup. 

Or Renee, which looks like a fairly straightforward fuchsia in the bottle but freaking gleams nearly fluorescent with a nifty semi-matte satiny finish once applied, and is like an adult version of the gross blacklight-reactive fluoro polish you bought at the corner drugstore around Halloweentime in the sixth grade. Or Caitlin, the precise murky lavender of the dust hanging in the air illuminated by the autumn afternoon sunlight in your great Aunt Dorcas’ creepy crap-filled attic.

Guys, seriously, I should be writing product descriptions, am I right?

Nevertheless, I’ve reached the point where Zoya is the only brand I’m buying (I get mine at Ulta), and all my other nailcolor -- of which there is a lot -- is languishing in its shadow. Did I mention that it’s vegan? I mean, I don’t care much about that, but I’m sure somebody will.

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Dramatic reenactment.

Not Sitting Still All Freaking Day Long

When I first started working from home, I heard a lot of jokes about the inevitable slacking off that would happen (also jacking off, as apparently a lot of at-home employees do a lot of masturbating, I’m told). People said I’d work in pajamas. People said I’d only put in four hours a day.

How I wish they were right. It turns out I have the exact disposition to make me the best telecommuter ever, because I do the complete opposite of these things, like getting fully dressed before 8 am and often working way past 9 pm. The positive in this is that I can feel confident in my productivity at home (truthfully, I am like 10 times as productive at home as I ever was in an office, where I spent half of every day talking to people). 

The negative is that I routinely sit for at least six hours straight.

I am the worst at taking breaks. Most days I don’t even remember to eat lunch until 3pm -- breakfast never happens. I’m proud of myself if I manage to pour a cup of tea before I sit down in the morning. Yes, I know there are various apps to help with this, things to beep at me and flash at me and threaten me into taking 30 seconds for a freaking pee -- sometimes I really resent having to pee -- but none of them have worked.

Yeah yeah, poor me. So I’ve decided that instead of fighting my natural predilection to work myself insensible, I’m going to make working more active.

Which means I ordered a standing desk

Rather, I ordered a flimsy laptop cart to experiment with as a standing desk. Many actual full-size standing desks can be expensive, it turns out, which baffles me a bit as they’re not all that different from a regular desk, just taller.

What is a standing desk? It’s a desk you stand at. I know, this is like the pinnacle of the fabled first world problems: “I don’t have to chase after wooly mammoths and try to stab them with pointy sticks to survive, waaaahh.” And some of the standing-desk converted (not to be confused with the treadmill-desk converted, and yes, that also is a real thing, people working on treadmills) are pretty religious about it. 

For example, many standing-desk enthusiasts believe you should ONLY stand, all day long. If that does it for you, then rock it out you standers, but I worked retail for several years in my early 20s and that was enough for me to know that sometimes, sitting down is MAGNIFICENT. I’m not turning my back on sitting. Sitting and I are still friends. Most days I spend the bulk of my working hours sitting on a balance ball anyway. I just want to alternate sitting with not-sitting.

Anything that gets me up and off my butt for a couple hours is worth a shot. 

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Sitting in a dark room, lit only by the glow of a computer screen -- evidently this is the natural geek habitat.

“Fitness for Geeks”

One of the really sweet deals about writing stuff on the Internet for a living is that you get free books, pretty much all the time. At least, I get free books, and that is wonderful, or at least it’s potentially wonderful, as sometimes the books I get do not much appeal to me (like the recent package containing a hardcover version of a weird chick-lit novel about a nanny, of which I already had a paperback galley copy, and the three Ann Rice “Sleeping Beauty” novels whose covers promise they will be an excellent follow-up for fans of “50 Shades of Grey,” which I have not read).

I received “Fitness for Geeks,” published collaboratively by O’Reilly (of technical book fame) and Make (the really swell quarterly magazine for people who like to break things) a few weeks ago. It probably came with a press release that told me more interesting information about it, but I must have lost it. Like I often do, I opened it, gave it a quick flip, and then dropped it on the towering stack of Free Books that occupies roughly one third of my desk’s surface area. 

I only picked it up again because earlier this week I bumped into the book pile and knocked the whole thing on the floor, and seeing “Fitness for Geeks” again, I thought it might be worth reading after all. Books about fitness can be hit or miss, I find; often those directly specifically at women can have a lot of subtextual body-loathing that puts me off. Non-gender-specific books, on the other hand, are very often about as engaging and compelling as a beige room.

Weirdly, I’m enjoying this book. I wouldn’t call it the one true fitness bible -- there’s too much pop science and even a bit of woo-woo crap in there -- but it’s holding my attention far better than I expected. The author writes in a chatty, first-person voice, which makes all the stuff about chemistry and biology a little more palatable, and employs a lot of super nerdy metaphors -- like, super nerdy as in “Think of this as rewriting lines of code!” not “blah blah Doctor Who something something.” 

There’s also some vague promotion of eating paleo, and fasting, which sure looks to me like “periodically starving yourself,” but hey, I’m not a scientist. There’s also quite a bit about various fitness-tracking gadgets, which is dangerous for a gadget nut like me as within the first 20 pages I was looking up prices online. In general though I like the positive tone with which the author extols everything from taking the stairs to the virtues of seeing the sun now and then. 

Now if only someone would build a true Nerd Gym, I’d be good to go.

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This picture came from MARS. How freaking amazing is THAT.

Mars Science Laboratory, AKA Curiosity

DID YOU HEAR that we landed a freaking ROBOT on MARS late Sunday night, around 1:30am-ish Eastern Standard Time? DID YOU ALSO HEAR that I stayed up to watch the live coverage of the control room on NASA TV and maybe cried a little about it, and then woke up early on Monday morning feeling hung over, like actually hung over even though I'd had nothing to drink and even on the rare occasions when I DO drink, I do not get hangovers?

I’ve been obsessively following similar NASA missions for years; when the Phoenix polar lander successfully arrived on Mars in 2008, I was watching it unfold on the incredibly nerdy NASA TV online. (I cried about that too.) When the first images from the Cassini mission to Saturn started turning up in 2005, I was mesmerized. I love space. I love NASA. I have said for years that if I could choose how my taxes were spent, I would instruct the federal government to put them toward public education, funding for free reproductive health services and birth control, and NASA. (Imagine if we COULD choose this, seriously -- where would your money go?)

So I have been especially excited about the new Mars rover, dubbed Curiosity. Enough that, um, I may have spent hours watching the live webcam feed of the clean room where it was being built. I am also a participant in the extreme dorkitude of having submitted my name (along with 1.2 million other nerds) to be microscopically etched on a chip currently residing on Curiosity’s deck. MY NAME IS ON MARS RIGHT NOW, EVERYONE. DON’T YOU DARE TELL ME THAT IS NOT SUPER AWESOME.

Unfortunately, NASA is facing big budget cuts, specifically to its Mars programs. By the end of its planned run, Curiosity will have cost $2.6 billion dollars over the entire life cycle of the project, a number that accounts for a total of eight years of development, construction, delivery and actual use. For comparison, the US government spends $670 billion each year on defense spending alone -- every day in Afghanistan, for example, costs $300 million. Every. Day.

Certainly the federal budget needs to be dealt with, but it seems tragic to me to take some of the relative pittance given to NASA, an agency working on projects that inspire awe and amazement and wonder, and a sense of infinite possibility, when we also spend so much on becoming more efficient destroyers of same. I think Mars is better than next-generation weapons development. 

Oh here, Neil DeGrasse Tyson will explain why space is so important, to the whole world, so much better than I can.

Have a delicious weekend, everyone.