slubs in the city

Slub (adj): Maverick; unorthodox; independent in behavior or thought.


dear internets: which state should i live in?

I was born in Texas and resided there until I was 8, at which point my family moved to Minnesota. I’ve lived in the same state ever since.

In certain respects, I’m an obsessive planner. My very detailed life agenda doesn’t see me expiring until I’m around 90, so I figure I have a solid 55 years left to discover the rest of America. Eventually I’d like to move to a different state. The only question is: where?

Obviously this is something that I have a lot of control over and need to figure out IMMEDIATELY, so I decided to use my finely tuned, college-level critical thinking skills to coordinate my future life in a new and exciting state.

I printed off a map of the United States. I used colors to distinguish between the options: green for Let’s Do It!, yellow for Maybe If I Have To, and red for No Way In Hell. Having lived in Minneapolis for the past year – and having grown rather partial to the size and feel of this city, too – I decided to use its population as a yard stick by which to judge all other states. If the total population in the city proper of the largest city in a state fell below this marker, it was crossed off my list. Is this an arbitrary tactic? Very likely, yes. But you’ve got to draw a line in the sand somewhere when you’re sorting through 50 potential living situations.

minneapolis — largest city in minnesota! [image credit: here.]

Shockingly enough, there are only 28 states in the Union that passed my residency test. The total population of the largest city in a full 22 states is under 380,000. I was born in Houston (with a population of 2,099,451 in 2010) and grew up in Eagan (a suburb with a similar or bigger population than the largest cities in Delaware, Maine, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming). I am not a small town girl. Not that I have a single thing against small towns, or the great people that live in and love them – it’s just not really my scene.

burlington, largest city in vermont…it does look adorable… [image credit: here.]

In case you’re inexhaustibly curious like me and get off on reading random statistics, here are the numbers for the 28 states that rose above my cut-off line, from least to most populous (according to my lifelong friend Wikipedia) –

Wichita Kansas 382,368
Minneapolis Minnesota 382,578
Omaha Nebraska 408,958
Atlanta Georgia 420,003
Virginia Beach Virginia 437,994
Kansas City Missouri 459,787
Albuquerque New Mexico 545,852
Oklahoma City Oklahoma 579,999
Las Vegas Nevada 583,756
Portland Oregon 583,776
Milwaukee Wisconsin 594,833
Louisville Kentucky 597,337
Denver Colorado 600,158
Seattle Washington 608,660
Boston Massachusetts 617,594
Baltimore Maryland 620,961
Memphis Tennessee 646,889
Detroit Michigan 713,777
Charlotte North Carolina 731,424
Columbus Ohio 787,033
Indianapolis Indiana 820,445
Jacksonville Florida 821,784
Phoenix Arizona 1,445,632
Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1,526,006
Houston Texas 2,099,451
Chicago Illinois 2,695,598
Los Angeles California 3,792,621
New York City New York 8,175,133

New York City. Holy shit guys.

BUILD ALL THE SKYSCRAPERS. [image credit: here.]

Narrowing down my search from 50 to 28 states is a good start, but that’s still a lot of options. My next tactic was to eliminate possibilities based on personal, flagrantly biased opinions and stereotypes, many of which are probably untrue. But my relative inability to make decisions of any sort kept me from eliminating more than 5 states.

i mean…nebraska is probably not going to happen for me…[image credit: here.]

There are a whole host of completely pointless quizzes on the internet, so my next thought was to ask the interwebs for some guidance. I appreciate thorough research, so instead of taking one quiz to determine conclusively where I should live, I rationalized that 4 would give me a relatively decent variety of insights. To add a couple of variables to my complicated research question and undoubtedly improve the quality of my answers, I decided to take two state-specific quizzes and two city-specific quizzes.

After answering a slew of nonsensical and irrelevant questions (Who is/are your favorite Greek god(s)? How would you describe your weight?), I received the following results:

TEST #1: You should live in Kentucky.

TEST #2: New England – You should live in Main, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Connecticut.

TEST #3: You should live in New York City. America’s largest city will ensure that you will blend into the crowd. You are the brooding type – introspective, creative, and eccentric – and NYC’s cutting-edge, individualistic culture and ambience will appeal to you.

TEST #4: San Diego would make me 100% happy. According to this quiz, Minneapolis would only make me 31% happy.

You may notice, as I did, that none of these quizzes agree about where I should live.

This is probably my cue to move to Italy.

that’s it. done and done. [image credit: here.]

con amor,



to infinity…and beyond

When I was about 7 years old, my parents took me to tour the Johnson Space Center.

Though my family and I were living in Houston at the time, it probably took us about an hour to drive cross-city to the Space Center. (Everything’s big in Texas.) But my parents must have known – even then – how deeply appealing that trip would be to me. 15 odd years later I don’t remember much of our visit, except for vaguely sketched images of a giant pool where the astronauts trained to experience zero gravity. Returning to the Space Center is on my bucket list.

Sophomore year of college, in order to fulfill one of two dreaded Science requirements, I enrolled in Astronomy. My professor was a young, enthusiastic, recent graduate of the U. She had studied dark matter, the subject of which (she assured us) was a bit too complicated for our level of education to handle. Because she avoided talking about her graduate studies, the entire concept became shrouded in a sexy kind of mystery for the students in the course. Professor Reisetter was genuinely passionate about her subject material, even in the face of our largely apathetic student population. We covered the creation of stars, their life and death cycle (mapped out on the HR Diagram), and the subsequent evolution of new stars and entire solar systems after they went supernova. We talked about the different types of galaxies and about the expansion of the universe. We covered well-known constellations both in and outside of class – and once every month we stood on top of the old Science Center, looking at nebulas through telescopes and tracing out star patterns with a laser pointer. We watched videos, studied diagrams, and viewed slideshows filled with vivid and unimaginable pictures of celestial bodies. I accidentally smashed a banana into my Astronomy textbook when both were crammed into my backpack, but it’s the only textbook outside of my majors that I kept after graduation. I cried after our final, not because the test was finished, but because the class was officially over.

This past January I traveled with a good high school friend through Arizona for a week. We dedicated an entire night to exploring the Lowell Observatory, where the (one-time) planet Pluto was first discovered in 1930. The telescopes had been set up for the night, and we viewed the surface of the moon through the largest one. The surface was more pockmarked than I could have imagined; the night was clear, and the moon shone an icy, metallic white through the light of the telescope. The view was exhilarating.

I’ve stared out at the universe from below a cloudless, limitless night sky all across the world: in Kansas, where the gentle farmland is far enough from any major city that you can experience the full impact of a velvety night punctuated by hordes of bright stars without the interference of light pollution. In Wisconsin, where I stood ankle-deep in snow on a frozen lake and clearly viewed my favorite constellation, The Pleiades. In Morocco, where the red sands of the Sahara Desert provided a cushioned seat for quiet stargazing. In Australia, where I attempted to map out a southern night sky with constellations markedly different from those found north of the Equator. How can we describe how it feels to be one small person, peering through our atmosphere at an expanse of space we can’t even fathom? Though my feet are firmly tethered to the ground, sometimes I look out at the horizon – which, if the view is unobstructed, clearly follows the wondrous curve of the earth – and can almost feel our planet sliding through the universe.

The concept of space is fascinating to me. It is thrilling and terrifying and painfully beautiful.

On November 9th, Thrivent hosted Jim Lovell and Fred Haise. The two veteran astronauts talked about their experiences on Apollo 13 with shocking detail and clarity. Their tale was almost difficult to comprehend as they described their small spacecraft navigating the expanse between the Earth and our Moon. While they spun their story, I tried briefly to look through their eyes as they left our planet 50 years ago, hurtling towards our world’s oldest and most loyal companion. This blog entry has slowly been forming in the back of my mind ever since.

This post has been a long time coming, and while it’s been nearly a month since our last update, the slubs continue to thrive in Uptown. Thank you, dear readers, for sticking with us. We all hope you had a heartwarming Thanksgiving, and we joyously welcome the holiday season!

con amor,



whaddup portland

Top 5 awesome things I did today:

  • I got to see Portland for the first time in the light. It seemed really beautiful when we drove to our hotel last night – winding back and forth over the river on the highway made me feel vaguely like I was back in Istanbul – but the downtown area was definitely more delightful this morning. When I have more personal time I’d love to come back here and explore.


  • I went into a frozen yogurt shop. The guy behind the counter asked: “How did work go today?” I answered: “Really well. I’m actually here on business.” Badass. This means I am officially an adult.

Inside the frozen yogurt shop — TartBerry

  • I’m staying in a super swank hotel and loving every minute of it. I was told traveling for business isn’t normally this nice, so I’m really trying to appreciate my fancy room while I have it. Every time we enter the hotel, the doors are opened for us by the doormen. New mission: get the slub house a doorman.

The Paramount Hotel

  • I talked about my future and networked with a local Financial Representative. Further proof that I am officially an adult. Cross your fingers that this particular networking effort pays off…

The Bridgeport Brewpub, witness to my networking win

  • I wandered around the largest independent used and new book store in the world. It’s called Powell’s Books. According to their website,
    1. The building covers 68,000 ft2
    2. 3,000 used books are bought over the counter each day
    3. 3,000 customers walk in to the store and purchase something each day
    4. 3,000 people walk in to the store simply to browse and drink coffee
    5. There are 122 major subject areas and 3,500 subsections to shift through
    6. The store has over 1,000,000 volumes on its shelves

The Rose Room, one of many color-themed rooms in Powell’s Books

You guys. This place was seriously epic. They had room after room and floor after floor of shelf after shelf of books. There were a ton of people just sitting around and reading for fun. It was the definition of yuppie, but I could see myself walking in to the store, grabbing some coffee and a good book, and nerding out. Next time…

con amor,


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pointless? maybe.

On this day two years ago, I was in Istanbul. My study abroad group and I were preparing to go on our excursion through Anatolia, the beautiful, Asiatic side of Turkey. We would have been saying our goodbyes to the city at this point: wandering in and out of familiar and unfamiliar shops, sipping on elma chai or chowing down at Simit Sarayı, snapping photos, braving Istiklal caddesi, fervently cementing our memories of the sights and smells and sounds of Istanbul. And then, at 7 am on September 18th, we would have been on our way to Edirne.

You may be surprised at the detail in that description, especially since I’m the kind of person that forgets where my keys are on a daily basis (even though I always put them in the same place). In response, let me tell you something entertaining: today I stumbled upon the pathetic blog I attempted to update while I was in the Middle East.

I’ve never been good at keeping a journal. When I was a kid, my mom bought me a Pocahontas diary. It was purple and had a plush cover with leaves on it. I wrote in approximately 10 pages of that diary over a span of roughly 6 years. On rare occasions I would be self-satisfied enough to think that my life was interesting and, in a fit of inspiration, would write down my poetic and moving thoughts. And then I would get bored with the entire process and throw the diary away, to be rediscovered again next year when I felt the urge to document that I thought Timmy from 1st grade was gross.

So why I assumed I’d be any better at blogging during Term in the Middle East is a complete mystery.

I was in the Middle East for a total of 113 days, and I wrote a staggering 11 posts in that entire time. One of those posts doesn’t even count because it simply said, “I did that wrong. Don’t read the following post first. Read the one after it. That’s where the story starts.” I titled that particularly inspirational post ‘um.’ Genius.

Going back over my blog –named ‘Shannon on TIME’, which makes it sound like I was taking a hallucinogen – made me feel strangely disappointed. Reading over the few posts I had written, I was effectively transported back into Turkey and Morocco. And while those posts were incredibly amusing, I now desperately wish I could have encouraged myself to take more time to document, to reflect, and to describe.

Before I get all philosophical and serious, let’s a look at a few of 20 year old Shannon’s literary gems:

Post: more turkish time

Quote: “Our professor is so energetic and genuinely funny, but she gets really confused by our questions. Often. And might possibly be deaf, because she talks over us a lot.”

Post: let me show you…

Quote: “Turkish peanut butter is better than American peanut butter. Heresy! You may shout. However, it is the truth.”

Post: a little bit of spice, a little bit of nudity…

Quote: “Surprisingly enough, I had a conversation with a local merchant in Spanish. He tried to tell me that his Spanish wasn’t great considering he had only been taking classes for six months. Not only was his grammar better than mine but his accent was better too. I declined to tell him that I’ve been taking Spanish classes for a cumulative 7 years.”

Post: hello, i am embarrassing american [Here I display my inimitable command over the English language.]

Quote: “Basically that means that Orthodox Christians worship relics of the church, pictures, symbols, etc…They kissed pretty much everything, and crossed themselves after each kiss. Extremely different from my Baptist upbringing. We don’t kiss. We shake hands.”

Post: i suck at this.

Quote: “Our tour guide wanted us on the bus by 7 in the morning, which was not funny. However, the fact that she completely color coordinates her outfits is funny. She was wearing a purple shirt, purple pants, purple socks, and purple jewelry. Today she was in all grey. And she absolutely adores yogurt. Whenever we stop for food she points out all the places with yogurt. Turkish yogurt is disgusting.”

Post: seriously. i can’t eat any more.

Quote: We eat until we’re full, and then Grandma grabs my thigh (because I inevitably sit next to her) and says “Kul! Kul!” which means, “Eat! Eat!” and pushes more food towards me. This goes on until I absolutely refuse. By then I’m so full it’s obscene.”

Post: i rode in a horse cart. what? i rode in a horse cart.

Quote: “It was nice to have a male presence there, just in case. It was not so nice that he felt the need to pull the back of both mine and Kirsten’s shirts down, like we were showing off too much flesh (of which there was none visible) or were being too skanky (a label which realistically cannot be applied to either of us). We thanked him awkwardly, and he nodded gravely like he had done us some vital service.”

These snippets of blog are only a few of many which make up my TIME experience. I failed to detail even a single element of Egypt, which I deeply regret.

So what is this post actually about?

Maybe I’m writing it because I don’t want to make the same mistake twice. My Pocahontas diary didn’t work out because I had nothing altogether thrilling to make a note of, and I couldn’t have done it justice anyway. But my study abroad experience did deserve to be documented. My life was incredibly exciting every day for nearly four months, and although the imprint of that time will remain with me until I die, the memories won’t. I’m already beginning to lose the recollection of sensations and ideas that I couldn’t have imagined would fade away so fast. My slub life may not be 100% captivating – please see the post with the old lady for reference – but I’m knee deep in the process of transition right now, and that in and of itself is something I want to look back on.

Maybe it’s about the power of words. Who knows why I chose to remember the details in those 11 posts, but didn’t give in to the urgency to describe others? How could I explain the need to write about Mexican food and the Cannon River Winery but not feel compelled to write poetry, or a short story, or a critique of my favorite book? I feel remorse for the hole in my TIME blog where I should have used words to capture every day I was abroad. But more importantly, I’ll always be able to re-experience the emotions of the events I do write about, and that ability is one of the most precious I can claim.

Maybe I’m writing today because I miss the Middle East, and I wanted the excuse to reminisce about Turkey for a while. The two year anniversary of the beginning of my adventure has come and gone, but I think about TIME every day. I really do miss being there.

Whatever the point of this post, ultimately it’s an important piece of the larger mosaic that I’m attempting to draw this year. In the future I know I’ll be happy that I took the time to write down my thoughts, even if they’re not particularly interesting. Readers, listen up: everybody has a story to tell, and it’s important enough to write down because it would be a shame to forget.

con amor,