Friday, December 29, 2006

Looking for a contraceptive that's convenient — and tasty?

That's how the news story on chewable birth control pills began.

I can't help thinking WHY? What, other than having a new pill, is the fucking advantage of chewable minty freshness? The write up is all about making it easier to take the pill (correctly). The drug’s site references this. "Research has shown that compliance still impacts oral contraceptive failure rates, and anything we can do to make it easier for our patients to maintain a daily regimen is a notable advancement," said Laurent Delli-Bovi, MD, Medical Director, Women's Health Services at Chestnut Hill Family Planning Facility in Boston, Massachusetts.

While I may feel cantankerously skeptical about the worth of a chewable pill, I do know that medication compliance is certainly nothing to be sneered at. For example, a staggering majority of people being treated for Hepatitis C will not complete the entire course of treatment because the side effects are just so horrible. Less treatment means lower chances of clearing and kicking the virus. Similarly, if you miss just a few birth control pills (bcps) in a month, you lose a significant amount of efficacy. Less effective means more chance of preggers. It also means a change in the risk/benefit ratio and when a medication's risks are just barely outweighed by the medication's benefits, it doesn't take much to tip the scales so the drug is too risky to take. Hormonal contraception has plenty of hefty inherent risks to weigh against. In the category of inherent risk, I’m including only the ones that exist even when we don't consider factors like interactions with other medications. Some of just the short term inherent risks of bcps are weight gain, mood changes, loss of libido, and death. (For the full list look under the heading "side effects and possible adverse events" or somesuch, printed in the tiniest font imaginable on the insert which has been folded into an impossibly small but quite dense packet, glued shut, and jammed in with your pills.)

It seems women who choose to use bcps perceive the apparent risks to be outweighed by the apparent benefits, where the big benefit presumably is the increased freedom from and control over one's reproductive cycle and where death should be considered the most obvious and serious immeidate inherent risk. I think, though, that such a comparison of medical risks and benefits is not as integral to the decision of what contraceptive to use as it should be. If it were, the favored option would be condoms. Condoms are not just the best bet in terms of lower inherent risks. They won't give you a stroke or make you fat, and they will keep you not preggers if you use them right. Pills? They'll keep you not preggers if you use them right. Also, condoms have the added attraction of being good for you by limiting exposure to several nasty diseases like HPV, HCV, HIV, plus all the good old fashioned ones. Obviously, if the decision were only or even primarily in terms of health benefits and risks, condoms win. But they don't. Why not? Compliance.

Because condoms are not user friendly and they are not user sexy. A condom is a latex wrapper which requires a certain degree of practice if not skill and a kind of shamelessness which in some contexts can be seen as unappealingly wanton. Using condoms might raise unspoken questions about how much roll is left at the bottom, an issue which for some people could affect The Mood. Condoms can necessitate a higher level of lighting, especially for folks who haven't had tons of experience putting them on. All of these spell out a kind of encounter that is highly incompatible with what seems to be typical, vanilla, het US sexuality.

That pills come in at all should suggest that the issue of compliance isn't just about risk/benefit, side effects, or efficacy. It's not about health related issues. It's about userfriendliness and also usersexiness. We live in a culture where long standing norms mandate that feminine (sexual) availability and desirability to a man universally trump the woman’s health and wellbeing. So in terms of the user friend/sexy aspects of compliance, birth control pills, although they can kill a woman in a couple of ways (or leave her forever dribbling into a drool cup) are a far better contraceptive. I find this revolting. However, it's a choice people are allowed to make, not just the eventual choice of specific contraception, but the decision of how to assess the available options.

In light of this, I can see that it makes sense to improve bcps as a form of hormonal contraception. I can even see that there is some benefit of focusing on increasing compliance in terms of making them more user friendly/sexy since this seems to be an aspect which carries a lot of weight in people's decisions about what to use and how to use it. And still, I can't quite see how making chewable mint flavored pills will make them better in ANY way. Of course being chewable or mint flavored makes them no more effective or less dangerous. Would chewable pills increase patient compliance in terms of user friendliness or user sexiness and thereby at least give more women the full 99% efficacy to weigh against the full set of health hazards associated with pill use? Not really.

According to the story, the new chewable mint flavored bcps will address the pressing needs of
A) Women who "don't like swallowing pills"
B) Women who "want to take their birth control with them"
C) Women who "sometimes forget to take their pills"
There is so much wrong here.

Let's start with B. So the chewable pills are easier to take with you? They are no easier to take with you than the nonchewable counterpart pills. Loestrin(fe), the old school nonchewable counterpart of the new pills, comes in a pack that is credit card sized. According to the AP story, the new improved chewable pills come in a credit-card sized dispenser kept inside a velvet pouch. The velvet pouch cannot possibly make that big a difference. If the dispenser is too much, you can pop one or two pills out and stash them all sorts of places (e.g., the bitty front pocket on jeans, in a compact). But you can do this regardless of whether the pill is chewable or not. In fact, the nonchewable might have the advantage here since who wants to chew up some pocket lint with their bcp? Before I got all the way through the article, I remember thinking “it might be nice for when you don’t have access to water or liquid and you need to take your pill within the next two hours or something to avoid feeling ill when you wake up” (that was always an issue for me when I took them…the timing was critical or I’d wake up hurling). Then I got to this part: Women must drink 8 ounces of water with the tablet. The chewables are as fucking portable or not portable as the nonchewable counterparts are. Both still require access to water to take. No advantage here.

And then there's C. This was just insultingly illogical. How the fuck would making the pill chewable make it easier to remember? No advantage here.

That leaves A. It’s for women who don’t like swallowing pills. This at least logical, but it's pretty damned weak. I've had to take some antibiotics which I thought perhaps I should use a fork and knife on, and generally I'm not someone who's got swallowing issues (hey don't go reading into that). But I hadn’t realized that this is, was, or could be a significant issue in compliance with this particular type of pill. Have you ever seen how small the nonchewable bcps are?

While I know there are some people who have problems swallowing pills, I have a hard time believing that this is a major reason why women might not take their bcps correctly. The drug company may as well have just changed the color. So clearly this innovation is just a ploy, and given how seriously shitty for you bcps are, it's a disgusting ploy. It's also a stupid ploy. If compliance in contraception use comes down to how user friendly/sexy it is, then they're gonna need something other than chewable minty freshness. If the drug companies can't get their heads around making safer hormonal contraception, maybe they should at least rethink the whole makes you fat, angry, and unarousable part.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

big ol' sentences

I realize that my last two posts were chock full of them. Needlessly big old sentences happen but they are never a good thing. That's what I get for writing it sporadically over several days, over christmas-time. "It" being singular reference for them because they started out as one post. I split it into two when it became completely unruly. Well it's out there and I'm reluctant to edit such lengthy posts. Thus they will remain, more or less, as they are - plural overstated rambles.

I'm going to try for shorter sentences here. Or at least for parsable sentences here.

Christmas is over. I got some mixed emotions. A sample pack as a matter of fact. The picked through left overs look a little sad sitting there on the coffee table. They don't come wrapped individually in little crinkly brown paper cups. These come loose, knocked around in a beautiful box tied with a silver trimmed blue bow. Unfortunately, some of them seemed to have already gone stale before I opened it. A couple left a nasty aftertaste I can't seem to get rid of no matter how many tums, proton pump inhibitors, or anticholinergics I've tried to wash it away with. Also, it appeared that one or two of them had been smooshed by a finger, curious to see which had the much coveted sweet soft centers. Little did they know this was the nut packed holiday sampler.

On the pro side, I found a website where you can make an elf. A____ and I (and my sister) made one of my division head. This may have been the highlight of my christmas weekend. Currently, I am making myself a holiday sweater. Also this week I discovered "The Office" (US). I'm renting the british version on netflix.

Then comes next week and a return to work.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

pique part 2

I noticed some years back that when you are open about stuff, there are a very large number of folks who take this to mean they have license to throw all sensitivity to the wind in their response. I don’t mean that their response is equally open, if by open we include sincere as a necessary trait. The response is simply insensitive. This isn’t always so bad from anonymous strangers, but it sort of sucks when a friend or someone you respect has that sort of reaction to getting a glimpse at your unclothed inner self. The suckiest part is that often this behavior feels like it was invited if not deserved as a result of having been open in the first place.

Having had a couple of occasions to think about this kind of situation as it arose between me and others here and there, I've come to the following conclusion. Thinking being open means you're asking for inconsiderate, remote, socially conditioned responses which place a premium on upholding the disclosure ban (to the detriment of supporting a friend, lover, or even just a fellow human being struggling with some totally normal but perhaps distastefully negative aspects of the human condition) is like thinking when a guest is invited over, they are welcome to shit on the host's coffee table if they don’t like the dip, find the curtains tacky, or are allergic to the host’s cat.

Being open is inviting someone into your space. It’s like letting someone into your home. Of course anyone would agree an invitation to come in doesn't even indirectly imply that the guest could or should do something like that once they are in, not if the invite is into someone’s house. (Ok, fine, a guest could logically and feasibly do that I suppose, but you know what I mean.) Why does letting someone in on a less physical level mean a lower standard applies?

The most rotten part is that this gets internalized, even if you disagree with it. So when someone gives you the "too much information" response (in any of it's forms) to what is sincere and possibly quite necessary self expression, you feel bad. You are the one who has violated the social norm and you now can add guilt for that on top of whatever was going on that lead you to "there" or to express "too much information" in the first place.

I wanted to say for my friend and for whoever else has had a run in with the disclosure police that the desire to be open, to express oneself and even to do this in a forum as public as a blog is not deviant. Sure, at times it might be narcissistic. It might be self absorbed and silly. It might come across as boring or whiney. But those feelings are part of the human experience folks. Self absorbed silly shit come with being a person. Keeping your silly self absorbed shit just to yourself is no guarantee that you're going to move past that, if indeed that is your goal. Plus, who said that all literate introspection on one's personal life and personal response to a larger life is shit? Try reading some Yeats. Talk about mixing your political, personal, and even spiritual, and all out there in the open for EVERYONE TO READ!!!! My god, it's like a fucking blog.

Admittedly not everyone's writing resembles the skill or artistry level of a poet. But keep in mind the focus of the criticism lodged against people who give us "too much information" is not "you don't write in rhyming meter". It's "your personal stuff is up where everyone can read it...ewww!" as if no one ever put their personal, trivial, possibly not terribly stylish shit out there, ever. So untrue. This is nothing new. A quick history lesson should make it clear that this impulse to reveal and disclose even the less exciting and/or less pleasant details of a minor and otherwise unimportant life is about as normal as you get.

Before we had words, we some neolithic guy smearing antelopes across a cave wall in ochre and ash mixed with spit and god only knows what else. I wonder if anyone at the time was thinking "Oh-my-god. Thog so needs to get over himself"

A more direct lineage from ancient to modern expression of the mundane can be seen in graffiti. Graffiti by it's definition is not art. Mutating words into tags is not art. Lines about whether boys or girls give better head written in a ring that spirals out from around the toilet paper holder like some kind of sharpie galaxy of profanity is not poetry. Interactive stories, debates, prayers, curses, vows are not literature if they appear on a wall and not in a peer reviewed journal or magazine. But god damn people just feel compelled to put it out there on the fucking wall don’t they?

Graffiti, while it may be debatable in polite circles as a form of art, is without any doubt the best kind of snapshot of the individual embedded in his or her social contexts. It is therefore valuable if you are interested in what I guess I’m stuck calling “the human condition”. The sentiment hasn’t changed for a while now either. Consider the following from "The Walls of Pompeii"*
Marcus loves Spendusa.
Serena hates Isidore.
Thyas, don't love Fortunatus.
Sarra, you're not acting very nicely, leaving me all alone.
Restitutus has deceived many girls many times.
I have screwed many girls here.
When I came here, I screwed. Then I returned home.
Let him who loves, prosper. Let him who loves not, perish. And let him who forbids others to love, perish twice over.
Let him who chastises lovers try to fetter the winds and block the endless flow of water from a spring.
Lovers, like bees, lead a honey-sweet life.
I am amazed, o wall, that you have not collapsed and fallen, since you must bear the tedious stupidities of so many scrawlers.
Shelton, J. As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History Oxford 1988.

And here’s an adaptation of a sentiment that has also been around for a while.
Don't like the tedious stupidities? Don't read the wall.
Don't like the drama? Stay off the blog.

You can give someone shit for "going there" or for having disclosed "too much information". But recognize that your response and your need to vocalize it can be seen as being every bit as tedious and irksome as what you’re responding to, and 100% as personal.

Just for shits and giggles, here's the rest of Margaret Cho's "don't go there" bit (from Revolution)

I'm considered a highly inappropriate person. And it makes me a problem dinner guest because at some point during the evening the person seated next to me says, "Okay, uh huh okay, too much information. Yeah, don't go there." I live there. I bought a house there. I will take you there. Because to live as a minority in this country feels like dying of a thousand paper cuts and I ain't going out like that, so I always have to tell the story.

Like I was driving in my car and I saw this woman in front of me and she had a bumper sticker that said, "This car was built with tools, not chopsticks," and it was in this super chinky font that was really like "hi yah!" like that kind of feng shui hong kong fooey font that's really like "aaaieeeaaaiieeaiaai." You know, that kind of font? And I exploded with anger, like I just turned into the Asian Incredible Hulk. I got gigantic and yellow like, "boom boom boom Aaaagh!" And I rolled up next to her and I had nothing prepared. So I just started to scream like, "Aaaagh Aaaaagh Aaaaagh!" I just kept doing it and I kept doing it and I forced her to make a left turn against the red light.

And I felt really good about myself, because I don't want to be the better person. I don't want to rise above it. I don't want to turn the other cheek. I will show you what cheek I'm gonna turn, okay?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

pique part 1

I understand there is a long standing or at least far reaching social custom of self righteously expressing discomfort at disclosure of things less than sunshiney happy great. Oh no, I don’t mean to say that disclosing this sort of thing can be uncomfortable. That much should go without saying. I’m talking about people’s reactions to someone else’s disclosure. There are some folks out there who are so disturbed by disclosure that they will react strongly to someone else's, and even when it occurs in a place where it could have been quite easily ignored. Like in the impersonally distant space afforded by things bloggy. Still, some people are so bothered that they will promote themselves from simple disclosure patrolman to disclosure detective - not just issuing tickets for blatant instances of someone saying too much, being too graphic, too detailed, or getting too personal but going that extra little bit out of their way to apprehend the effusive bastard who has the nerve or lacks the restraint to properly bury his too not happy thoughts and feelings in public.

Think I'm over-reaching? Maybe a wee bit but consider the common type. The particularly flamboyant version of a disclosure cop. The person who, while making the stereotyped head and hand gesture combo, laughs maybe a bit nervously and sneers "OhMyGod....too much information!" and "don't go there!" at you and then goes back to reading his/her celebrity gossip-rag website.

From this hypothetical composite but immediately recognizable example of the familiar social phenomenon of disclosure policing, we can deduce that “going there” is very much socially proscribed. The problem is most of the interesting people live THERE (to paraphrase Ms. Cho). In fact, one of my friends has indeed bought a house THERE. Or rather he inherited the house, but there he is, right firmly THERE in "there-ville". Then what to do about the people who are THERE. The zero disclosure policy translates into all sorts of unpleasant mandates. Keep your head down, avert your eyes, work really hard to not be THERE, and for the love of god if you must suffer at least have the decency to do it in silence and self inflicted isolation. Commit yourself to the Sissyphean task of changing yourself when most of what needs changing is society. And do this so others won't be made uncomfortable by shamelessly displayed evidence of your discontent, deviancy, or disquietude.

Or you could "dare disturb the universe". You could say something now and then. You could share your feelings and thoughts about life, your slice of it and how the bigger view looks from THERE and deal with the disruption this causes. I’m not sure if that’s what Eliot meant when he wrote those lines. I read them that way for me. As if having a sincere and honest reaction, word, or conversation, would be so out there that everything would fall apart.

I go there. I live there. And you know what? It turns out my shit is so relatively tiny that the universe CAN handle it. How about that? My friend had been providing “too much information” but now thanks to some custodian of decency out to protect the universe from being shaken to its core by semi-disgruntled musings of a new parent and recently dissertated (heheh) academic, my friend’s blog has swung in the opposite direction. Now posts from the last 6+ months have come down off his blog. This sucks. I don’t like knowing someone got silenced. Also some of the posts were quite funny, despite hints at bleakness here and there. Some of them were informative in terms of elucidating the shit that is an academic job search. But they were too negative for someone or for some set of ones.


Monday, December 18, 2006


Yippie! Grades are in. Papers will soon be shuffled. And I will pray no one comes calling at my office door at the start of next semester with a complaint about not getting the A they are sure they deserved. It's possible. There are a couple of people I think might have a hard time coming to grips with a C despite having consistently done a semester worth of C work or with the full letter grade or more reduction as a result of having bombed the hell out of the end of the semester.

I think next time I'm going to have them put just ID numbers on the essays because I kept worrying that my impressions of them so far might influence my assessment of their end of the semester writing. I'm pretty consistent and reliable in things I measure, but years as a researcher make me nervous about non-blind ratings. I take some reassurance that in the end, the final grades are nicely skewed towards the high side (25% in the A range) and have a distribution that goes all the way down to an F or two.

Friday, December 15, 2006


The semester is wrapping up and I am having a hard time feeling the relief I thought would be here like a nice reward for keeping it together and getting shit done all semester.

I keep anticipating it, any day now....but so far it's not coming. I wonder if that's because Christmas is looming just around the corner. Or maybe the problem is the sense of waiting for something is not an anticipation of relief but something else entirely. There are hints that is the case. When I stop and sit quietly, I can almost feel something looming. Like a movement in the corner of the eye. It's not anything as dramatic as a sense of dread but it does involve a murky sense of something not very pleasant.

Then maybe I need to take some stock of what's up in my life to figure out what's motivating this. There's the chronic christmas-phobia, never to be discounted. On top of this (and possibly partly because?), my health's been not so great the last few weeks. Oh then there are the guys who've been working on the oil burner/boiler in the basement all week, with no heat in the meantime. It could be worse, the weather could be seasonably cold. If our oil burner had to totally meltdown, I guess this was the week for it. On the con side, these guys have been in my basement directly below my apartment for most of the week starting at about 8 AM each day, which has seriously impacted my sleep time. I am NOT an early riser, mostly because I am not an early bedtimer. Last night was the first night all week I even thought I was going to get to bed before 3:00 and as it turned out that was more wishful thinking. The guys working in the basement thing started as a result of my calling my landlord and to bitch him out/convince him to actually DO something about the burner that keeps setting off the alarms (something other than disconnect the alarms). That wasn't an easy conversation and it sure wasn't fun. I can go toe to toe with people like my landlord, but I am always drained afterwards.

And now I have a pile of exams to grade (essays all) in addition to a student who had an end of the semester crisis which has left me wondering if I am turning into the kind of bitch who has the "hey I dealt with it so you should just suck it up and do it too" attitude I hate when I see in other people. I don't think so, I mean I don't think that is the true nature of my reactions to this situation, but thinking about her, the mess she's in, the mess she's made of what was supposed to be a nice less-stress end of the semester, and my reaction to all of it is occupying a great deal of my time. It's not really avoidable as a line of thought either since I still have some administrative crap to deal with as a result of her crisis (missed the inclass test and the essay portions of the final exam), and come Sunday I must assign her a grade whether I've heard from her, the dean's office, or whoever. Witnessing and experiencing this is kicking up nasty thoughts of how people in my program like my faculty and peers view me and my seemingly constant stream of illness.

Which then brings me back to my health, which sort of sucks. As an adolescent and younger adult when I would feel these waves of excitement and anticipation for no specific reason. They were not common but very nice when they occured. Those moments always felt like they held promise and hope, not for anything in particular but just for the potential of many things, futures that were not only immediate and long term, but also of various kinds. I LIKED that feeling. What I've realized recently is that they have mutated. It wasn't sudden. It began after living a few years of my body making a habit of betraying me a bit. Now I think I'm kind of stuck with them. They come on as vague unease at best and something approaching full on anxiety/panic at worst. To have those reassuring, happy moments of awareness of simple potential not only gone but replaced with a fear of insurmountable limits fucking blows.

So what am I waiting for? For the relief or for the fear?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like...


It's 53 degrees out (that's Fahrenheit, not the temperature units everyone else in the world uses). Tomorrow's high is predicted to be 55.

I'd say any fool could see this is officially screwy weather. I can and I am not that knowledgable about the environment or climate. I'd say I know about as much fact as the average person on this issue. And yet to me, what I am witnessing is unnerving and disturbing. The solid month of rain which is swamping Spring and Fall. The violent thunderstorms in the winter, complete with tornado warnings (this is NEW ENGLAND Toto, not Kansas).

I have a deep sense of "this ain't fucking right" that I can't get away from. The smell of thawed earth in December, the sight of buds and blooms on trees in November provoke vague thoughts of melting ice caps and warming oceans, lost habitats and starving animals. Here and there memories of Katrina and the December 26 2004 asian tsunami emerge, calling to mind notions of weather gone very very bad.

Yesterday it was quite warm. Less than today but still not even a little December-y. I was in an outdoorsy store (I followed A___ in) and heard this one presumably outdoorsy kid who worked there saying to another young employee "I just LOVE this weather! I love love love it!" He was sort of dancing and jumping about when he said it. I wanted to throw him a hackysack. Actually I wanted to shove one down his moron throat. How the fuck can you "LOVE LOVE LOVE" this weather? It is FUCKED UP. I can see something like "golly it sure is nice not to have to worry about an ice storm but this is creepy". Or the kind of rejoicing relief a January thaw can bring after weeks of cold. But that ain't this. No. He love love loves that it hasn't even really become winter yet, that the weather is so fucked up our seasons are shifting and mutating, and it's happening often and persistently enough that it's becoming hard for even a skeptic to dismiss as a fluke. So why does this kid love love love that we've fucked up our climate? Because he was up at (insert name of impressive hiking trail in northern/central new england...probably something in New Hampshire) this weekend and it was AwwwwweSome!

Although this kid was anywhere from 5 to 15 years younger than me, it's that sort of attitude that I think of when I think "babyboomer".

Monday, December 11, 2006

almost there

The tests are graded, now it's time to sit back and wait until I have to collect their final essays next week. Right?
Now it's time to answer questions like "OMG, I don't know how I could have done so bad on the test. Is there any way I can still get an A/B/C?" To which the answer (sadly) is often "no". In most of those cases, I kind of want to write back and point out that I gave quite a bit of extra credit. Total, my class had the option of getting up to 14 extra points added onto their final grade, which doesn't include the extra credits I gave here and there on specific assignments. How many of them took the option? No one took all and many took none. I don't point this out when I write back though. What would be the point? Making them feel bad? That's not cool. They're already not getting the grade they want or need, why rub it in that they passed up the opportunity to invest a very little time in what could have been some nice insurance here and there during the semester?

And then there are people like the girl who didn't take a quiz because she had been sick and missed the second week of class. She says she didn't ask for a make up because she assumed I wouldn't let her. WHY??? Why would anyone assume something like that? I wouldn't assume that. I would assume I could at least ASK if I could make it up. And that is why people think I'm a bossy bitch I guess. I'll take that over fucking myself into a failing grade. With her, I was really wanted to write back and say "you know, you'll find plenty of people who are willing to screw you over either through negligence or malice. Don't make their job any easier by screwing over yourself too." I didn't write that either.

Someone should really tell them this isn't high school though.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fatty McFat?

I just read a story on the NYC transfat ban. I recall a similar measure was considered in Chicago. My reaction to these ordinances is best described as sort of perplexed and a little scornful. I guess as a smoker, I can't help seeing the bans on things like artery clogging fat as a little bit of a double standard. It says "hey, we understand it's hard to take accountability for your own shitty dietary choices." But cigarettes? Yes, smoking's been banned in some places, but there's always a big old dose of blame on the tobacco consumer. The transfat bans and discussions which go with them do not place a similar blame on the fat-munchers. Regardless of whether I think stipulating when, how, and where people can consume things that are legal and arugably their own (bad) choice to consume, the way the issue of personal accountability is partitioned between smokers and poor eaters really rubs me the wrong way.

Take this quote from NYC Mayor Bloomberg, for example:
"Nobody wants to take away your french fries and hamburgers — I love those things, too," he said recently. "But if you can make them with something that is less damaging to your health, we should do that."

When was the last time you heard that kind of apologetic language about smokers and smoking from antismoking advocates? The common reasoning which seems to support the double standard of blame/accountability is that the negative effects of the substances contained in cigarettes smoke, unlike those in an artery clogging McMeal, are not easily contained to just one person. If you smoke in public, you are exposing others to your nasty carcinogen laced fumes which are both unpleasant and constitute a physical irritant for many people. Further, if you smoke in public you are making it very hard for people who have chosen to quit to maintain a tobacco free state.

Another argument in the various tobacco free public health campaigns and policies is that we all pay for other people's smoking habits. Even if someone were to confine her nasty health destroying tobacco habit to the privacy of her home and car, she puts herself into a higher health risk category through tobacco use. Google "health insurance" "health care costs" and "smoking". There's been plenty of interest in calculating what tobacco addiction costs not just the individuals who smoke but society. It seems to be common wisdom at this point that all of us, smokers or not, pay for individuals' tobacco addiction and use in terms of increased health care costs. Those health care costs mean higher premiums and copays for those of us lucky enough to be insured and higher taxes for the working uninsured. These claims, true or not, seem to be a significant factor in the stigmatization of smokers.

However, let's not forget that cigarettes contain a highly addictive substance. As far as I know, there haven't been any widely released studies on the physically addictive properties of fat ("fat addiction" is a totally separate thing from eating disorders, and I'm disregarding the stuff about general fat or carb addictions which are, at best, hypotheses). So if you eat this shit habitually, you are choosing to put yourself at increased risk for a variety of physical ailments and you are creating a public health nuisance that could be quite legitimately considered nearly if not exactly as bad as that caused by smoking - if we applied the same reasoning to both smoking and eating high trans fat diets. For example, the "shared cost" argument which supports a culture of stigmatization of smokers can easily be applied to people who consistently make poor dietary choices. Obesity and malnutrition resulting from overconsumption of transfats are associated with lifelong substandard physical conditions which, much like smoking, put the afflicted/consumer at risk for a greater number of diseases.

So who the hell is Bloomberg to say "no one wants to take away your fries"? Someone wants to take away cigarettes, to the point where a smoker could lose his job for smoking during his non-work time, based on the theory that even if smokers can keep their fumes to themselves, they can't keep the cost created by their legal substance addiction to themselves.

I do recognize that restaurants make it hard to make health conscious choices regarding their menus. A restaurant chain that has a lot of locations locally, Friendly's, will not provide calorie information to customers, even type 1 diabetic customers who would simply like to know how much insulin to give for the presumably responsible oriental chicken salad. I know this because I was with someone who once asked, then looked it up when he was given an uninformative answer. "We change our menu so often that we can't keep up with the nutritional information on every item" was the reason given for their providing no nutritional information. Ok, so how about they give the info for at least those things that have been on their menu for YEARS? Nope. I do think that shit like that is something public health officials can and should regulate. This issue is addressed in the NYC diet regulations recently passed, but it is poorly addressed.
(from the AP report)
Some [restaurants] that chose to inform customers about calorie content will have to list the information right on the menu. The rule would generally apply to fast-food restaurants and other major chains.

Breaking that down: It's not mandatory to provide nutrional information, and those restaurants where the info is voluntarily provided will essentially be punished for making the information available to health conscious diners. I don't blame the restaurant chains for not wanting to spend the extra printing costs for menus which include page after page of nutritional info. A reasonable alternative would be a highly visible notice on the menu which says "nutritional information is available on request" or an insert/table topper/tray liner with the info on it. I wonder if such options were considered or if the members of the NYC public health board made their menu only decisions after having seen the shocking scene in Super Size Me where a chain routinely hid the nutritional info posted in the restaurant.

It would be a simple and no more authoritarian solution than banning transfat to mandate and enforce nutrional information availability while making it less costly or difficult for restaurants to comply. But this puts the responsibility on the restaurant goers, and that brings me back to my initial point. While possibly too much blame and stigma is put on smokers, I think too little is put on the people who eat themselves and us into a national health crisis. I am a little divided on all the antismoking policies, and I certainly think the stigma is excessive. But what bothers me the most is the selective and extreme application of the notion of responsibility which translates into a motto of: Smoke yourself to death, shame on you. Eat yourself to death, shame on someone else.

Monday, December 04, 2006


While the peace and quite is nice, I think too sedating. I rarely work with music on since I can't help but process the lyrics, in fact I think with the whole can't get the music out of my head thing lately, I just can't help but (overly) process the entire audio. I've NEVER been someone who is good at tuning out acoustic stimuli. So I need to have acoustic stimuli I at least LIKE. My favorite ambient acoustic stimuli include (but aren't limited to) sounds from the street heard on waking in a friend's attic bedroom on an early June morning junior year of high school, island (numerous tracks), carnival just after a short rain storm around dusk, wind over late july trees, theater just before the curtain goes up, distant church bells (although any bell tower works church bells have the potency of at least someone's belief other than my own), small waves against the side of a wooden boat, and percolating coffee.

Most of those are calming sounds. Right now I need more stim - hence music.

As soon as this song with the er, sorta screechy kid and frenetic acoustic passes, maybe there'll be something fun to listen to.


Today was not the last day of class but it was the last lecture. I was so set. And then I got sick. Presumably it' s a stomach virus although no one else I know is sick. I'm happy no one else I know is sick but it does bother me that I am. See I was trying this new "pretend I'm all healthy and shit" attitude. It was supposed to make me all healthy and shit. Instead I'm all gurgly and unwell of stomach and I have a fever. (Sure sounds like a virus, huh?)

The only other, um, person who is sick is the cat. With him being old and somewhat poor of kitty health, the notion of a not super well kitty is nothing new. What's new is that he recently started a routine where he meows, goes to his cat box, meows some more, gets in his box, and then just sits there. If it wasn't sad and a somewhat alarming behavior, it would be cute to look over and see him sitting in his box like he's waiting for it to take off, pull out, or set sail (it's a big box). But this is not a good or cute thing. Not at all.

It looks so pretty out. The cat and I are chilling at home while my guy teaches my lecture for me. The cat is crashed out on the rocking chair in front of an open window. My neighbor is playing her harp - I can't hear the melody but every now and then a note or two come through. The wind, which looks and feels like a breeze from the window, is whistling quietly as it blows down the chimney. If it weren't for sick, this would be sort of nice. Less nice is huddling over an illconceived second cup of coffee, wondering if it would make me feel worse to have food or a cigarette. The seemingly obvious answer is "cigarette" however I've found when I'm feeling this intestinally fucked, food isn't always as friendly as you'd think it would be.

But it sure is pretty out.

Friday, December 01, 2006

home stretch

One more week of classes. I am quite pleased about this. Teaching was great and I do look forward to doing it again. I guess I'd better since I have two lab sections in the spring. But labs are small, meet once a week, have no written assignments, have a set of premade lesson plans, and I've done them several times before. Teaching as an instructor leaves little to no time for anything else, and with dissertation pressure bearing down on me and loans piling up, I'd like to get the hell done sometime soon. I am also looking forward to taking a little bit of a break before diving back in. One more week, then a grading frenzy, and then break.

I'm planning on dying my hair cherry red in celebration. At least parts of it, my hair that is.

Monday, November 27, 2006

do the (best) right thing

So the ball is rolling. Finally. After a miserable few days worrying about this kitten, about what the right thing to do is, what the best thing to do is, I decided that to put it in the hands of the local animal control officer. I didn't get into the whole "rabid kitten" thing because I've seen the kitten around and if he were end stage rabies on Friday, he'd be as bad or worse today. He's not. He's not drooly and seems perky, friendly, and not psycho-rabid or stuporous rabid. Regardless, he needs veterinary attention. I just called the city's animal control number and left a message with the highlights of the situation. I don't feel like it's resolved, but I feel a little bit better for having done something to get things started.

The scenario I am hoping for is that animal control will compell her to either prove the kitten has been to the vet or they will take the kitten. If it's the latter, I think my sister may have just won herself a kitty. If it's the former, that works too for the immediate sense in that the kitten will get seen by a vet sooner than it apparently would if it were left entirely up to dumber and dumbest. In the longer term, having it on file that there was a complaint means if I find that cat out in wretched weather in the future, I make another call, and (I hope) at that point animal control will simply remove the cat. And either way, my sister may be getting a kitty.

I decided to do it this way because the girl and her man seem to be approaching this as some kind of battle of wills, mine versus theirs. It is not. There are laws about this sort of shit and I could have just turned her ass in without even a knock on her door. She doesn't realize it was a courtesy of me to even discuss this with her, let alone to offer to facilitate her getting the kitten the proper attention and care it needs. Putting it into the realm of animal control, I hope, will frame it in a different, less debatable context for her. She insists on being unreasonable, I insist that the kitten be cared for, but in the end I don't have the right or authority to compell her to take the kitten to the vet. Animal control does. Now I keep my (kitten scratched) fingers crossed and hope animal control calls back soon and does what seems to be the best right thing.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

damned if I do...

As the saying goes. It's very applicable today.

See, if I push the girl with the cat, it could make things worse. But not pushing the girl with the cat seems to have at least equally nasty possible outcomes, with a few added ones like me feeling personally responsible for failing to act should any of those potential bad outcomes come to be.

I could then resolve to push, but not so hard that I would cause her to fail to be moved. But then I have to hard is too hard?

I also wonder what I am truly willing and able to do if I, pushing or not, find that she fails to act.

This is a wretched and frustrating mental process to be stuck in. It can go on and on, and will if I allow myself to dwell on it. I know there is NOTHING productive I can do tonight. Therefore I have been trying to put it out of my mind as best I can. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


There's a lot to be thankful for this week. My cat even should be thankful. What he should be thankful for is to not have an owner who is as irresponsible and rotten as my neighbors. My neighbors have a kitten. He is very small and happens to be one of those cats who loves people. He just can't get enough of people. All he wants to do is sit in your house and enjoy company. He is in fact not very demanding, simply the presence of people seems to be all he desires. However, my neighbors have determined that cats can live outdoors, as is evidenced by the large number of apparent strays living outdoors around our apartments. Therefore, they reason, a 7 month old unneutered unvaccinated loving companion seeking cat who is neither feral nor totally a stray can live outdoors.

Why would you want to do this? Aside from just being a fucking moron, it seems there are some reasons for their choice to inflict outdoors only restrictions on this cat. The reasons are "my roommate is allergic" and "my boyfriend doesn't like cats". This was said by the very young woman who owns this cat. I think she does care for the cat. The problem is, she has two men telling her what to do. And the bigger problem is she believes them.

Rather than see her kitten end up a smear on our driveway the other night, my sister decided he should be moved indoors briefly while she moved her car (don't want to park in the wrong spot, we have assigned parking). So she brought him in briefly. This turned into him following a neighbor's visitor in the next day and getting stuck in our hall. Which then turned into him staying in the hall for most of the day, then working his way into my kitchen. My cat watched in horror from behind the french door to the rest of the house. "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?" he seemed to be slapping out with his swishing tail while all this kitten attention took place.

Now I was not overly happy to have this kitten in here. I really wasn't. Cute aside, I already caught something from a cat with even less contact but in a similar situation. Years ago, I had just moved into my (then) new apartment with Tom. One of my neighbors, Terry, had many children and pets and just kept getting more. She was wretched. She treated her children and her pets horribly. I never knew which I was going to find standing outside my kitchen window, crying in my garden. Seriously, it was either Tima or one of the never ending supplies of kittens Terry's cats seemed to produce. When I moved in, I witnessed Tima, her sister, and a couple of other stray kids dunking one of Terry's cats in the kiddie pool. Poor Shadow. That cat put up with a lot. I stopped the kids and then sat with them towelling Shadow off. It turns out Shadow had ticks and I got one. Then I got Lyme disease and I've not been well since.

So while I adore cats, I am reluctant to get too cosy with outdoors ones, even if they are cute skinny kittens who are left outside on a cold soaking rainfilled day. I did feel that it was ok to have him in the hall though. This turned into my patting him, feeding him, and playing with him because I am a softy and he was so cute and sweet. He gave me a small scratch, I can't remember if it was when we were playing with him or when I was trying to see if I could get him to go back out (this was early on when I was still hoping my neighbors were home and hadn't gone to check out his outdoor "bed" the girl had set up for him at her boyfriend's direction).

As it became clear they were not coming home that night, we decided to set the kitten up in the hall with a bed, food, and a litter box. It was better than the outdoor box the neighbor had set up for him and there was food.

Today I went over to talk to her about the kitten. I was hoping to either convince her to bring him in a little more or to let someone adopt him. She wasn't having any of it. In the meantime, I noticed kitten had started drooling. I had thought he felt warm, possibly feverish. No, I'm seroius. One of my other neighbors even commented on it (kitten had made his way into her house too earlier in the day). So by the time the girl and her man came over to collect the kitten from my hallway, the kitten had full on drool and was indeed rather warm.

Fuck. "Um...did you ever get his shots?" I asked twisting my feet into a knot which is what I do when I am nervous or holding in a violent impulse. "No...we didn't have time. And I was waiting to get a job to take him to the vet," she said to the floor and not to me. Her boyfriend had researched outdoor accommodations for cats, he told me this. But in this internet frenzy of research to justify neglecting the cat, they hadn't bothered to look into the low cost spay/neuter/vaccination programs in the area. Which are ample.

That there's the final straw. Not only do I now have to know this MORON, this supreme idiot, this selfish rotten child of a woman who lets men trample not just on her but on the things she loves without regard for the fact that some of those things are living feeling creatures (yeah mommie issues), this door mat is letting her kitten stay outside and doesn't want him in because she's afraid he'll get "spoiled" and want to be indoors all the time - not only do I have to know she is over there abusively neglecting her cat, but now I have to wonder do I have fucking rabies.

Mother fuckity fuckola. There's precious little I can do at the moment. I don't want to call animal control and have the kitten killed and tested. He wasn't acting odd, just drooling and feverish. I'm really hoping it's that he's losing his kitten teeth. His breath was foul and I guess they can get fevers when they are losing their teeth. I'm still calling my doctor on Monday but I'm also going to be a royal pain in this girl's ass until she takes the kitten to the vet. She said she'd try to take him tomorrow (I guess the drooling alarmed even her although I give it 1/2 hour after she and the man left before he was able to talk her out of it). She's going to wish she never learned the word "CAT" if she doesn't get him to a vet ASAP. No, not threats of retribution. Just me, at her door, several times a day every day until she at least gets the kitten checked out. You might be thinking "wow she's a total hypochondriac". I might too if I hadn't caught Lyme in such a similar way just a few years back. Since I did though, I prefer to think of it as anxiety that has a basis in a seriously shitty experience. If I have some proof kitten saw the vet and the vet said it's all good, that'll be enough for me. Until then, I'll be a little bit twitchy (although hopefully not in the literal sense).

My cat should be thankful I kept him the hell out of the kitchen, away from the kitten, and that I washed my hands every time I patted it and changed my clothes at least every other time. He should also be thankful I'm not a total idiot like this chick. And I am thankful that although I have done some supremely, spectacularly stupid shit for the men in my life from time to time, I don't think I've ever sunk that low.

I am not thankful that I now need to call my doctor on Monday and tell her I got scratched by a drooling febrile unvaccinated kitten in a state where rabies is like the fucking catch of the day. More joys of living in the middle of buttfuck nowhere rural New England. In case you can't tell, thankful or not, I am in a bit of a rotten mood about this. Mostly, I think, because I am in shock that someone as just, well, ungodly irrationally stupid as her continues to exist. We can only hope her stupidity facilitates her rapidly removing herself from the gene pool before she spawns. I plead guilty to some dumbass thinking for letting myself get cozy with the kitten, but for fuck's sake, it was a cold wet skinny little kitten howling to come inside from the rain. At least my stupidity had some heart in it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

global o!

This is so my speed. Not my style - the acoustic guitar serenade when you get to the site is a bit er, not me. And the stuff about male sexual displays being aggression and war is a weak tie in at best. a concept I think it's fucking great. That time of year needs some good positive energy and I'm all for being a part of that.

Pass it on!

The more info part (from
This is the First Annual Solstice Synchronized Global Orgasm for Peace, leading up to the December Solstice of 2012, when the Mayan Calendar ends with a new beginning.

The intent is that the participants concentrate any thoughts during and after orgasm on peace. The combination of high- energy orgasmic energy combined with mindful intention may have a much greater effect than previous mass meditations and prayers.

The goal is to add so much concentrated and high-energy positive input into the energy field of the Earth that it will reduce the current dangerous levels of aggression and violence throughout the world.

Global Orgasm is an experiment open to everyone in the world.

WHO? All Men and Women, you and everyone you know.

WHERE? Everywhere in the world, but especially in countries with weapons of mass destruction.

Winter Solstice Day - Friday, December 22nd,
at the time of your choosing, in the place of your choosing and with as much privacy as you choose.

WHY? To effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy a Synchronized Global Orgasm. There are two more US fleets heading for the Persian Gulf with anti-submarine equipment that can only be for use against Iran, so the time to change Earth’s energy is NOW!

"corporate-style management"

Selections from the AP story below. Check out the last line.

Pay packages rise for college presidents
WASHINGTON - More college presidents are earning annual compensation of $500,000 or more, fueled in part by stiff competition by schools for the best candidates, according to a study.

Some 112 of the 853 public and private university presidents surveyed said they had pay and benefits packages of more than half a million dollars, according to an annual report being published Monday in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The jump was more prominent among public university presidents, rising from 23 last year to 42. The median pay package for those leaders is now $374,846, about 4 percent higher than last year's median of $360,000.
The survey attributed the pay increases to increased competition for top candidates, who are seeking more money amid growing job duties and a move toward more "corporate-style" management at universities.

Shameless? Yep. And rather irksome. Especially when you consider the rate of increase in college tuition at four year schools. What a racket! There are hiring freezes and early retirement offers as part of the corporate style management. The trend is to replace the lost teaching staff with contingent labor, people who are just as qualified as their 20 year senior peers were when they first came on the market. But these folks are coming onto the market in the new era of "corporate style management" of universities. This leaves them with prospects of temp jobs with no or few benefits and lower pay scales than those offered for the few tenure track faculty positions.

The next time you're wondering why you or your kid is taking 6 years (without time off for bad behavior) to finish what used to be a 4 year degree due to lack of availability of class space or a total absence of decent academic advising, consider how much these jackasses at the top are making. Kinda pisses you off, huh? Does it piss you off enough to write to your state legislators and tell them this is a disgusting use of your money? It does me, although I doubt it would help in my state. The appropriations committee chair is in my university's pocket.

Friday, November 17, 2006


On the cusp of a migraine, this morning I woke up to the sounds of my musically inclined neighbor. She plays the harp and her name is something that sounds like a name you know but is not. She was not playing the harp. From her apartment was some kind of wind instrument. I like strings of pretty much any variety. I fucking hate wind instruments. Some more so than others, but pretty much the entire set is bothersome to me.

And what was being played on this wind instrument?

It was christmas music.

Continuing to sleep was out of the question, but a little dead kennedys on the ipod at least took the edge off being awake. This is not how I wanted to wake up. I had already realized 10 minutes before that (a) we had no coffee left (b) I couldn't go get any because my car was in the shop and A____'s is a stick and (c) Neither one of us had any cash left on us so even if I did wake A_____ and ask him to go get coffee, the mission had just become more complicated than the drive through down the street.

Flutey christmas music was like salt for my wound.

And I am noticing this is starting to look unpleasantly like a pattern. Oh say it isn't so....

Last Friday, it was the carbon monoxide detector. While I am glad it works and got me out of bed, several things surprised me about it. One was how easily I could have stayed in bed.
The other is how hard it is to do what you know is right (e.g. call 911, pack up your cat, sit on the porch with laptop and kitty and no coffee) when there is no immediate sensable evidence that you should.

See, it turns out there was a good reason for the CO detector to be going off last week, and that would be the presence of CO. It seems the unseasonably warm weather shut off our oil burner, which, when it restarts, causes a build up of gas. At least this is how the landlord explained it a day later when he called back - that it happened once before when the weather was warm (hey don't bother telling anyone, I mean it's just the carbon monoxide alarm and all). Landlord fixed it later last Friday by coming over and opening the windows to air out the basement.

Good. Meanwhile, I guess most of the night at least, it was wafting up....up into the spaces around the furnace, spaces like my apartment and the hallway where the CO detector was.

I'm not saying I narrowly escaped death. I don't think there was that much gas. I think though that I might have escaped a rotten sick head feeling for the rest of the day. And I think I had my ability to actually respond to an alarm tested. I discovered that when there is JUST an alarm going off, when it doesn't say what it is (see this isn't the old school bat cave, not EVERYTHING has a label on it), when you have people standing around saying "oh my I wonder what that is?", when one of those people is a man who talks like he's taking charge and going to deduce what is causing this based on whatever, his fucking Y chromosome and male pattern baldness (not loving guys this week), it's really HARD to go into your apartment, pack up your kitty, and call 911. Maybe it's years of conditioning based on meaningless latenight false fire alarms in my dorm as a younger woman, but I discovered there was almost a physical force to overcome to take the alarm seriously.

So that's my Friday so far, this one and the one before. This one has resolved...the dead kennedys/pixies shuffle seems to have done the trick.

I really gotta get me an mp3 player of some sort if I'm going to get through the holidays (wait, I mean the birth of jesus christ. Related - do you think these (self) righteous media sluts will start a campaign to boycott people who don't say "god bless you" when someone sneezes?).

Monday, November 13, 2006

how to

Oh jeez. I'm stuck in my lecture writing. The problem is how do I explain this to my students? Is it better to oversimplify it, to confuse them with a detailed description which would necessarily include a lengthy history of the very larger context issue, or do I just skip it and say something like "and there's another theory which assumes you don't infer reality?" I'm too tired to sort this out tonight.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


"I think your mother and I have more than paid for what we did when you kids were younger"

That is the latest from my dad, said to little brother T on the heels of T's latest meth mess. Of course, the latest meth mess was very near to the previous meth mess. I sometimes feel like I should be counting in between to know when the storm will be above me.

During the meth messes, there's a sliver of semi-lucid but totally dysphoric thinking before a descent into full psychosis. That sliver tends to involve excruciatingly critical thought where T focuses on whatever he's done which he thinks might have made his life right now wrong or bad enough that it is so impossible for him to live without meth. He doesn't put it like that but this seems to be what is going on. This time, his demon driven inner critic picked living with parents as "what needs to change".

My sister and I couldn't agree more that living with them is horrible. But this is not because of the unseemliness of a 34 year old living with mom (and dad). I think some slack could be cut for someone who turned HIV positive when he was only 24 and supposed to be starting out feeling fearless over confidence in his own ability. I'd argue that this kind of arrogance is common in 24 year olds and is necessary to get us through the transition from adolescence to adulthood. To be given what at the time was a certain death sentence, and one with still quite large stigma in the larger social context, has got to take some of the wind out of that sail.

My sister and I don't like the living with mom and dad thing because mom and dad are abusive fucked up people and like many abusive parents, they continue inappropriate, hurtful behavior even with their grown children. Although the hitting stopped as soon as we were old enough to potentially hit back (with my dad, with my mom it's a different story), they have no regard for boundaries and continue a pattern of emotionally abusive behavior. One example of their continuing and intolerable behavior is the chronic attempts to exonerate themselves for what they did when we were kids. This is a large part of why my sister and I won't have dealings with them. It is dangerous to our health. Personally I feel it risks my freedom as well since my interactions with them in my late twenties often ended with nearly violent fights. I decided it was better for me to stay away from them after hearing my father snarling at my 30 year old sister and then kicking the dogs. I was angered to a frighteningly severe point and it was all I could do not come after him with whatever was around. My mother was intentionally antagonistic, setting up times for us to have mother daughter moments together then sabotaging them, then using the failed "moment" to have a tantrum where she would say things like "you're dead to me!"

My sister made the same kind of decision a short time after I did. My brother noticed my parents' continuing horrible behavior, how it stifled our adult identities in very damaging ways. He talked about it, had nightmares about it, and then lost himself in meth and k.

My mother's a pro at the exoneration game. She can work in a plea for extenuating circumstances or co-victim status masterfully as if she were expressing guilt or remorse for her failings as a parent, prompting you to say things like "it's ok" when you know it's really not. My father is either less skilled at or less comfortable with the subtle approach. He chooses a more direct tactic, like the example at the start of this post. This is odd because he was the more physically abusive one. You'd think it would be harder for him to reconcile a desire to believe he did nothing wrong with years of memories of assaulting his own children. However, it seems he has convinced himself that we owe him some sort of absolution.

Even if he had spent the last 15 years being the best dad ever, what he wants is not an option. It is just not possible in this case. The guilt he feels he has paid off was not placed on him by a court. His (and my mother's) "guilt" is a natural guilt. It is a simple and direct consequence of repeatedly harming children who were in their care and who therefore had no hope of avoiding them, no other recourse, no one else to tell them they did not suck or did not deserve to be ground down emotionally and physically. The guilt they have is a consequence of destroying lives they charged themselves to foster. And because the guilt here is not an artifact of a legal system, it is not debatable. It is consequence. Hurt someone over and over and you are guilty of hurting someone over and over. They might move past it, replace it with something good later, but the history is still there. Hurt someone over and over as they are becoming a person and you will have written the act and your part in it into their existence completely and inextricably.

If we keep up with the analogy, it is fair to say my father admits some guilt but believes he has paid his debt and is arguing that he has served his time in guilt prison. See, he thinks the sentence and the guilt are separate things. He's wrong. The guilt is the sentence. There's not a debt, there's a mark, an unhealing wound that each of his children can at best bandage and treat gently. For my father, the sentence is what he created - hate, distrust, anxiety, pain, damaged people who will measure their success not in terms of living a good rewarding life but in terms of not harming others as they were harmed and not letting fear of being harmed again limit and color every aspect of their existence.

My point is that no matter what my parents may have convinced themselves of, there's no getting off the hook on this one. There's only pretense and denial, and that seems to be exactly what my father is pleading right now. Because my sister and I won't speak to our parents, and because our brother lives with them, my father is making his case to my brother. You'd think if he were convinced that such a wrong thing to do were somehow a legitimate and plausible option, he'd have tried to make the plea to me. I'm the one he didn't hit much. I'm the one who inherited his temper. I'm the one who is most like him. I'm also the one who most recently and directly called him on his shit, reminding him that if you intimidate and push people they just might push back, and that bullies who live in old man bodies shouldn't antagonize the very people they damaged. Could be this is why dad's not asking me, that and convenience. My brother is conveniently located, right there in the same house. So dad is pimping his "debt paid" shit to my brother.

Even if my brother were inclined to accept my father's logic, my brother cannot choose to ignore the damage done by what we were raised in. As with all of us, it is part of him. He can choose to find ways to channel it, to address and express it in safe areas and with safe people. He can try to find the social equivalent of a bomb squad to help him defuse the explosive devices his trauma will occasionally build in his soul. He can choose to subject it to attempts at emotional alchemy. He can do any number of things, but he cannot refuse that it is there, which is essentially what my father is asking. To attempt to do that risks my brother's soundness of mind, and that is already something in short supply these days.

Which brings me to the next point. Whether my father consciously intends it or not, this strategy of his can only serve to further the abuse. It is abusive to try to coerce my brother into declaring my father's time served. There is no way my brother can do that without assuming some of the guilt himself.

So what is it that dad thinks he and my mother paid for?
Let's make a list.
For inviting my mother's adopted father who was an unconvicted, untreated pedophile to live with us when we were 3, 4, and 5.
For using my mother's father as a babysitter, thus giving him access to us and putting us into a position where we were expected to recognize him as an authority.
For failing to respond appropriately when my sister informed them (hey big surprise) that he was sexually abusing her.
My father: For letting my mother "handle it"
My mother: For "handling it" by alerting her father to the accusation, the result of which was that her father stopped trying for my sister and redoubled his efforts with me and my brother.
My father: For beating the shit out of my brother and sister over and over and over and over and over......
For making me a witness to it.
For abusing my brother and sister in violent but not battery ways, like locking my brother in a small laundry hamper in the basement, then leaving him down there in the dark for what seemed like hours.
For force feeding my sister a piece of cheese that she tried to feed the dog. The dog licked it a few times, decided she didn't want it, then walked away and left it on the floor. My father grabbed it, grabbed my sister with his fist balled up in her hair, pulled her head back and literally stuffed it down her throat. She gagged and cried and choked on it. How many years of guilt do you serve for that? How fucking many?
For behaving in every interaction with us as if we were the most loathsome and criminally reprehensible of beings because we did things like NOT PICK UP ALL OUR TOYS or DIDN'T IMMEDIATELY STOP LAUGHING AT SOMETHING or WATCHED A TV SHOW THAT STUPID PEOPLE LIKE or WANTED TO DRINK TANG AND EAT WONDER BREAD or ACTED "CUTE" or any number of things kids just do.
For more often than not storming into a room and when he wasn't hurting people breaking stuff like the tv (kicked, thrown out window) and the phone (ripped out of the wall).
For calling my sister stupid, retarded, moron, ditzy, empty headed, a space cadet, dipshit, maggot, little bitch, ungrateful little shit, selfish pieceof shit....
For mocking my brother when he cried after being beaten.
For becoming enraged at hearing any of us cry when he scared us.
My mother: For letting it happen even though she knew (and I knew she knew because I wrote her notes telling her).
For letting it happen.
For letting it happen.
For letting it happen.
For facilitating it.
For being drunk and inappropriate (she once open mouth kissed my brother then laughed about it, made jokes about masturbation a lot).
For leaving.
For systematically invalidating my anger at my parents' horrible behavior.
For confiding in my sister with her personal marital problems with my dad, thus robbing my sister of a genuine mother figure.
For acting as if our love was never good enough.
For flipping out and beating the shit out of at least my sister and me in public places.
For writing stories where characters which strongly resemble her own children fantasize about having sex with their parents...and asking us to read them.
For getting drunk at parties and sobbing to strangers that she shouldn't have ever had children because we were so horrible.
For gettting drunk at home and sobbing to her mother that she shouldn't have ever had children because we were so horrible.
For violating each and every boundary we so desperately needed in that house.
For threatening us with foster homes when DSS came in (finally) to investigate the claims about her father's sexual abuse of us.
For lying at family therapy.
For attacking me, occasionally physically and always with unwarranted spite, repeatedly the summer before I started college and was out of the house more than I was in (but never in any trouble).
For her tantrums at christmas, birthdays, and many other holidays which usually involved booze and were often in public.

I know there's more but these are the ones that occur off the top of my head. If I were to count each and every instance of only the most horrible and concrete of this list, their guilt is worth at least three lifetimes of regret, one for each of their children. Neither of them has the right to ask for absolution from any of us for their acts or for the outcome of their acts. To speak of having "paid for" any of this is absurd, and I'm pissed off enough that I'm thinking of finding a public and punitive way of telling them so. If only I had free time and some money...I'd sue their asses. Not because I'm a fan of litigious solutions but since my father has chosen to wrap his inappropriate desire in that framework, it strikes me as just to consider a very public accounting of the crime and the cost.

Addendum: I just found this. So it seems my parents are in fact still open for a lawsuit, at least civil if not also criminal. I just might look into this, seriously. I don't have a lot of free time and I have even less money, but maybe the inquiry will make me feel better.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

fuck santorum!

Of all the election results news, I think this one warms my heart the most:
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey, son of a popular former governor, soundly defeated incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum, a conservative and third-ranking member of the Senate GOP leadership.
To hell with a victory toast. I think all of us, gay, straight, and in between should have a victory fuck in honor of his defeat. And just for fun, try something different. I think Rick would have wanted that much at least.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

voting is hot

It's backwards. The turn out I mean. More people go out and vote in an election where their vote is dilluted and filtered through an intermediary body, the electoral college, than go out and vote in elections where they directly elect someone. What the hell is wrong with people? I blame the media in part, but really they are just whores packaging and reselling us what we want to hear and see. At least most of the time.

So what's wrong with people that they can't see the so called "off year" elections as the big deal they really are? My guess is it's just not as sexy as voting for president. Oooh, president, you know? One way to address low turn out for elections then would be more hype of a sexy sort. I advocate t-shirts and pins that say "Kiss me, I voted!" Yeah, it's dumb but think about how cool it would be if as many people voted and got into voting as are into say St. Patrick's day. And along those lines, there should be festivities around voting and political participation. Voting eve and day bar nights, including politically themed trivia games. Costumes might be fun, dress up as your favorite (or least favorite) politician, statesman, or political concept (liberty, justice, bureaucracy).

Here's one for you. There's all sorts of bitching and moaning about the lack of participation in the under 25 set. Ok, so you'd think folks would do something to address that, right? All of these proposals would help. Less commercial and frivolous would be if universities took an active role in promoting political participation. My own university, for example, has NOTHING up on the website about voting, voter registration, where students can vote, etc. Any visits by politicians to our campus are announced through chalk on the sidewalks, not through university wide email or posting on any of the various university sites. This sends a message that the university administration just doesn't care about engaging students in active citizenship. And why should they? If the students started noticing state level political processes, they might start lobbying their state legislators about issues which the university would rather they not care about, e.g. rising tuition costs, too high student to faculty ratios, and corroding or unsafe student facilities.

I'm about to go vote in my new town. Registering was one of the first things I did after moving in. I can't imagine doing things any other way. When more young people feel this way, then maybe we'll see some interesting changes in our government. Until then, I'm thinking of starting a club at my university for the sole purpose of making and distributing "Voting is hot" t-shirts. Because it is.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

lost and found

"did you ever find my digital camera?" my ex asked me numerous times after our breakup. To which I invariably responded "NO".

Sometimes I responded testily. Sometimes I was even very nasty about it. I was annoyed that he persisted in thinking I knew where his camera was. I had been very good about not trashing his shit, about not hanging onto trophies or whathaveyou. As much as it sucked, I made the effort to maturely and discretely return all of his crap as I found it. Maturely and discretely mean I grouped stuff together and left it for him in the department, rather than using each new find as an excuse to call him with harassing requests to come over to pick them up, or with screeching psycho threats to set fire to it all on his family's lawn.

Admittedly, a few things remain in a box in the trunk of my car, mostly stuff he gave to me or pictures of him and/or his family that I have no need for. I hadn't seen his camera during the miserable months long process of finding his shit mixed in with mine. Moreover, I was quite sure there was no reason it would have ever been at the apartment I moved to after we split up in June of 05. The breakup had been coming all spring of 05, at least that long. As I recalled, we hadn't exactly been filling up the hard drives with snapshots of this happy time, (although it turns out there were a few, some of which at this point count as nearly amusingly horrid).

Further, he was barely around once we moved apart in June of 05 - him to rush off months in advance to move closer to his 30 miles from campus crappy nontenure track one year lecturer appointment at a satellite campus while he finished his dissertation and me to move into the shitty but what counted for affordable near campus little rat trap apartment while I tried to get this last chapter of grad school underway.

So why the fuck would his camera be at my place? And more to the point, why the fuck should I know where he dropped all the things that were important to him in his rush to get his dissertation hand stamp which he believed would give him unfettered access to fully competent adulthood-world?

"It's probably in some family member's car" I had snapped at him the last time he asked. In July, we had that last big fight. You know the one, the one you've had over and over but this time you see just how far apart you are and you are so TIRED of trying to fix it that you are crying just from sheer exhaustion. We decided to give it "a break", at least while he worked on his latest draft of his dissertation. During that time, he took off for the beach with his family. Had he come back, finished up, and had anything remotely eloquent to say to me on his return, things might have gone differently. He didn't. He did happen to mention he had gone to Boston to visit the art museum with "a friend" (whom he later exchanged promise rings with - that's right, during our "break" for him to work on his dissertation he was instead taking trips with his family and hanging out with "ass like an ibook" friend).

That pretty much cemented the breakup.

So here we are, well over a year later, and what has turned up in my most recent move? That's right. It's his camera. I found it the last day of my move.

The battery was dead but it turns out my lovely new laptop has a reader for the memory card. Presto, there they were. Some quite nice pictures I had taken with his camera during the Spring of 2005, before the move, before the breakup.

I took off all the pictures I wanted and left him with the pretty nature pictures he can tell his family he took (he'd done this in the past) and pictures of himself, since that will be important to him, to ibook ass lady, and to his family. I also left on this one of me since I do of course plan to return the camera.

Friday, November 03, 2006

In the air

There was something in the air today. Preseasonal promos on the radio. The house near the mall flashing out a cheerfully bright message - that in just 52 days, the christmas consumerism marathon will culminate in one week of too much family, too much booze, and slipper socks. Ah christmas. It's not a day. It's a fucking ideology.

It wasn't upon me yet. I was aware of the christmas items encroaching on the halloween aisle around October 26, however it seems I had been even more self absorbed than usual with my midsemester move. I think this inward attention had saved me from noticing these christmasy things on too acute a level. That or my mother and brother tag team calling me throughout my move to give me updates on my brother's most recent, disasterous meth-moment. It ended with the hospital, I was told by phone as I was cleaning the toilet at my new place.

On my way home tonight, I stopped for movies and food. The guy at the counter in the video store mentioned that he was on CNN today. "Really?" I said, genuinely pleased to be interacting with people again but torn about displaying too much interest which might encourage a full conversation. Mostly I was worried about the mood of the growing line of people behind me. Friday at 5 PM in the video store involves a lot of people who are no doubt hoping to get this done fast before getting home. The impatience was palpable but since this is CT, the people behind me merely shifted around, stepped up a little closer to me, and pressed their already overly thin lips together more tightly when the kid added "it was a crowd shot but I was totally on CNN for like 5 seconds!" Someone behind me snapped at her children "Asia! You get over here now. Where's your brother?"

After escaping with only a few more huffs and exasperated puffs from the uptight citizens of NE CT, I went to the supermarket next door.

About 10 paces into the supermarket it hit me. The stench of christmas. It took a few unfortunate passed through that area for me to realize where it was coming from - a big bin of bags of scented pine cones. The "scent" was like cinnamon but cinnamon on steroids and wearing an entire bottle of some horrid 1970s cologne (like "big game rhino").

I'm not antiperfume or scent. But I am one of those people who is rather sensitive to smell though. Chemically stinking shit like the reek emanating from a vat of big game cinnamon scented pine cones puts me into some kind of overdrive nauseated brain scramble.

I worked my way through the supermarket taking too long on account of being brain scrambled, forgetting most of what I came for and abandoning several items in order to avoid having to cut back past the cones once I had identified them as the source of the holly jolly stink.

The nearly inescabable smell assault made me realize something though. I'm totally fucked this christmas. See, several months ago, I started having sort of intrusive music issues. This has not ever been the case with me. I'm not one of those people who go around humming things, who gets song after song stuck in her head. Or at least I didn't used to be. Sure, the occasional "ear worm" would make it's way in now and then. But not ever to this constant level. The nice thing has been that I found I can usually "reprogram" it when I want to by thinking of another song. But that assumes I am not being subjected to nonstop external stimuli of the musical variety. This year, with the constant stream of christmas music just around the corner, I fear my mental ipod will be permanently stuck on a wretched yuletide shuffle, prompted by too frequent sensory collisions with bells and chimes, blaring horns and hurried strings, and other seasonal musical slop.

Bing-bong bing-bong!
Hurry up and start buying some SHIT for christmas!
It's just around the corner...

...through there, down the hall, and around the next corner.
The lightswitch is on your right.

Friday, October 27, 2006

trick or treat

My mother called again today. She also called my sister - that was unexpected. The usual same song and dance, this time with the refrain "I miss you". Miss what exactly? Miss having another kid's life to ruin? I guess she's all done with my brother - who emerged finally to tell me he resigned from his $40k job and will be down for christmas. Down for his birthday or thanksgiving? No. Apparently he's spending that with the goblins up in MA. He also happened to tell my sister that I had "indicated I was ok with the idea of everyone doing their own thing for thanksgiving". This is a typical example of his creative reinterpretting of what is said to him. And it was rotten as it made my sister think I had preemptively uninvited her down via my brother. All so he can feel ok about not coming down anytime soon. I think he sometimes wants to avoid me because I say "crystal meth" and not "picked up", I say "when you used" and not "when things got bad". I refuse to speak obliquely about his addiction.

I told my sister mom was calling because it's halloween and it's the scary thing to do. It feels like the Stuart Smalley spooky story.

Got my period today and it's supposed to rain buckets on moving weekend. Still I'm unreasonably optimistic about the move, the physicality of it at least. A big fat lump of the emotionality of it hit me tonight out of the blue. I thought I'd gotten over the worst of that, but apparently not. It hit me when I opened a container which had held some soap I used for a while when I was with Tom, when I saw my lettering on the boxes from last year's move. FRAGILE.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Beautiful blueness

Today looks amazing. After days under ambivalent clouds, waking up to a shiney self assured blue sparkle of a sky put me in a nice mood. I think what makes it so dramatic is that the sky has the same depth it has in November but without the sorrow of completely bare branches framing it. Today, there are still enough leaves left to wave off thoughts of an over-close Winter.

My unbelievably sore ankle and continuing email discussion with a couple of poorly behaving students are testing that mood, however I am going to think of what today looked like when I first saw it. I think it is powerfully beautiful enough to get me through.



Friday, October 13, 2006


Why is is spelled like that?

Every linguist who has a sundae eats it.

This evening was frightening. After hours making a lecture (more like 2/3 of a lecture), my computer became confused in mid powerpoint (what with all the sundaes). It experienced this strange not quite frozen but very not fluid behavior. I guess I'd say it was slush. I don't know why. You wouldn't think powerpoint was that taxing, but apparently it was performing a highly strenuous, um, copy and paste or something.

Nothing scares the backup ocd into you faster than a slushy computer.

Oh and unrelated, except that it hurts right now, I have a name for what is wrong with my hip. "Fucked up" was good enough for me, but people have asked so here it is: hip impingement. That's what the big jock doctor says at least. Sounds trendy to me.