Saturday, June 30, 2007


Hey! Did you know fireworks are legal in CT?
This is natural selection at its very best.

Friday, June 29, 2007

veggie what?

While I certainly feel bad for anyone who eats this product, I have to wonder - why would you eat something called "Veggie Booty" in the first place? It seems like a lexically motivated natural selection may be at work here.

(From WebMD)
Veggie Booty Recalled Due to Salmonella
FDA Reports 52 Cases of Salmonella Illness from Eating Veggie Booty Snacks
By Miranda Hitti

June 29, 2007
The FDA is warning consumers not to eat Veggie Booty snack food because of possible contamination with Salmonella wandsworth, bacterium that causes gastrointestinal illness.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


It's fucking hot here. Very uncomfortably hot.

It was too hot in my office to work today and too noisy to move my set up into the air conditioned living room. The maximum volume on the computer is barely enough to get those little bits of speech I need to hear, and when there's an old air conditioner chugging away in the room, it's hopeless. So I decided I'd venture out and run several air conditioned errands. Pretty much up to this week, since the surgery I was having too many bouts of bad pain to go much of anywhere on my own, so this was the first time I was out and about by myself. It felt nice, emotionally.

Physically, it was not so great. My car's air conditioning is going. Or rather the whole temperature thing is a problem for my car, running the a.c. only makes it more likely to overheat. With the window down, I was able to get some air which was slightly cooler than an oven blast in my face. Still, I mostly enjoyed being out doing things for myself by myself for the first time in a month, even with the heat. It wasn't until I was at the fabric store that I started to lose my steam.

The fabric store had not been as air conditioned as I had hoped. I was hoping for arctic blast level chill. What I got instead was the slightly cool but still muggy feeling of standing in the shade at a park. Additionally, by the time I got to the fabric store, I was experiencing some feminine discomfort.

This is obviously the appropriate name for it, right? It's like "feminine products" or "feminine hygiene", or "feminine napkins". The last term calls to mind images of lace and gingham, possibly a nice crisp linen folded into a fan and placed in a glass on a table with tea cups. There might be a small vase of violets, possibly cucumber sandwiches, a bowl of berries, and the faint sounds of chamber music.

There would not be anything like the warm, wrinkled wad of cotton which was working its way onto my mind as I waited for the lady at the fabric store to cut me a 2 and 1/2 yard swath of cream colored vinyl.

"Ooops, this one's just about 2 yards..." she said after unrolling the cream colored vinyl off its cardboard spool.


She waited while I trotted back to the bargain fabric table and searched for a roll that looked like it had more material on it. Passing over the ample bolts of superman blue and black leather-like textured vinyl, I grabbed a bolt of smooth pink and marched back to the measuring table.

"This one's 2 yards and 2 inches...will that work?" she asked with genuine sweetness, which is the only reason I didn't erupt into a stream of frustrated swears.
"That's like 74 inches, right? No. Hang on there was another one."

At this point, I was genuinely in serious feminine discomfort but god damn it I had errands and I was going to get them done.

I hunched down to get the last roll of not hideously colored vinyl from the discount table. Bending and hustling back and forth from the measuring table to where the fabric rolls sat was making me more warm. The white leather-like textured vinyl stuck to my arms as I threw the massive roll down in front of her. I apologized, feigning something like weakness of arms to excuse my abrupt motion and the thud the vinyl made as it hit the table.

"So...what are you making?" she asked pleasantly as I stood there wondering if there was any way I could possibly sneak a subtle adjustment in before I had to start screaming and jumping up and down.
"Oh, uh, well it's for my air conditioner. It's a curtain, to put over the doorway."
She looked confused and was still measuring, so I continued.
"It's so the cat can get in and out of the room with the air conditioner. I can't shut the door on him, but I don't want to air condition the whole apartment."

In the car, I managed to subtly adjust the dreaded feminine device into a less intimate position. Carefully, quite furtively, achieving something not very effective but at least different. No matter, one more quick stop at the 7-11 and I was home.

At the 7-11 I parked in the shade of a white van in front of the store. There was a man sweating in front of the open hood of the white van. He stood looking hot and frustrated on the walkway. He was staring quite intensely at whatever it is people stare at when their hood is up. He did not look up as I approached. I noticed he had one arm behind his back and when I got around him, I saw he had this arm stuck way down the back of his shorts, up to about his elbow. The arm was rotated such that the interior aspect of his forearm and hand had to be in contact with his ass. The motions of the part of his arm which was not submerged in khaki made it clear that his hand and forearm were seriously working down there.

Sweet jesus.

This man seemed completely oblivious to the context of his hand in pants behavior. I wondered if he was doing it unconsciously, if there was in fact even anything he needed to adjust or if having his hand halfway up his ass was simply his prefered stance when looking under the hood of this or any vehicle.

Since then, I've been considering how much of the behaviorial contrast, my reluctance to adjust despite a discomfort which approached pain versus this guy's shameless store front ass-mining expedition, is gender based.

If women were allowed to walk around shirtless in the sweltering heat, or to generally care less about the view their bodies inflict on others, I suspect there would be some who would not hesitate to reach down and assertively adjust what needs adjusting - pad, thong, whatever. Would I be one of them? I'm kind of prissy, so I doubt it. It annoys me though, that I can't know whether my being at least in some ways very much a linens, violets, and berries kind of person is a product of years of social conditioning or some property I would possess regardless of that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I was recently told that my blog color scheme is a brain burning combo.

I've been considering changing the drapes here. The black sometimes seems overwhelming. But I sort of like the dark, and no I'm not saying that in some kind of goth/emo "my soul weeps black inky tears" way.

Really, it's not that.

When I wrote my qualifying exams, about halfway through I changed the document background to something approaching charcoal. The black font on white screen was making me want to pull my eyes out of my head. I had an eye exam around that time and I happened to mention to the opthamologist "you know how sometimes your eyes hurt so much it's almost like you want to take them out and massage them?" (She looked alarmed for a moment then said "Err, no.")

I am at some point planning on changing the format here in no small part because I sometimes think the black all over does give the impression of black inky tears and whatnot. But that's for later. Right now I finally have DATA to analyze. Which means waveforms and spectrograms are what I'm searing into my brain for at least the next week or so.

June 29, 2007
Update: As you can see, I've changed the color scheme. Also I switched to a new template. Most of my content didn't transport automatically so I had to put it in manually, but overall the transformation wasn't as much trouble as I thought it would be.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Hey it's a news story on politics, language, and Boston. I just can't resist.

Ballot translations could mean too much
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff June 26, 2007 Mitt Romney could be read as Sticky or Uncooked Rice, Fred Thompson as Virtue Soup, and Tom Menino? Rainbow farmer -- or worse.

That's one translation of their names into Chinese, according to Secretary of State William F. Galvin, and if the US Justice Department's voting rights division has its way, that is how they could appear on many Boston ballots in 2008.

Under a 2005 agreement, which Galvin is now challenging in court, the federal government required Boston to translate election ballots -- including the candidates' names -- into Chinese characters in precincts with prominent Chinese-speaking populations.

Galvin said that he has supported, even pushed for the ballots to be printed in Chinese, as long as the surnames remain in Roman letters. Translating them into Chinese, he said, would create chaos and imbalance in an electoral system that needs to be as precise as possible.

The problem, he said, is that there is no actual translation of the names. Instead, the Chinese translate English names phonetically, by finding characters that most closely match the sound of each syllable in the name. There are many different characters that could be used to capture that sound and many different meanings for each character, creating the possibility that the Chinese voters could read something quite other than "Romney" or "Thompson" when they read the ballot.

You know how sometimes when you need to spell a name or word over the phone and you have to give phonetic context words for the letters to clarify? ("That's 'S' like Ball..."). Using this algorithm with the English phonetic context words, we get a spelling for the word VOTING as "victoroscartangoindianovembergolf"

That's sort of how the candidates' names are being proposed to be spelled, except in the case of the proposed character forms, the phonetic context words would represent a syllable of the sound of the target word - like "MEH" from "Menino" - rather than representing a sound segment of the word - like "M" from "Menino".

I'm taking liberties, but overall I think the analogy is more or less sound.

My limited understanding of Chinese characters is that while they can encode sound elements of a word, they did not develop to do so and consequently they do a very bad job at it.

One might be tempted to make a similar point about the English writing system too. But the writing system we use for English is at least meant to encode sounds - it just doesn't do a great job 100% of the time when it's applied to English. It's not the writing system's fault. The mismatch between our current English writing system & spelling rules (a.k.a. "orthography") and spoken English words is due factors like the apparently very high appeal posed by England to would be invaders. We can also put some blame on the monks. Can't forget the monks and their damned roman alphabet and assumption of "when in doubt, go Latin" - which brought us such grammatical fuckery as "To whom do you wish to speak?". But anyone who's got some literacy experience with Italian and Spanish knows that the roman orthography certainly can do a rather excellent job when applied in a less haphazard way.

Not so with Chinese languages and the traditional Chinese writing system. At best, you can squeeze some syllable sounds out of Chinese characters, but you're still working with a writing system that developed to favor encoding meaning over sound. Needless to say, encoding meaning in the writing presents a problem for widespread literacy. Think about it for a second and you'll probably start to see why (I'm not going to summarize a topic which has inspired dissertations, massive research grants, and many years of study to even elucidate). To remedy the literacy problem posed by a non-sound based writing system, several types of phonetic scripts have come into use for Chinese language(s). The most popular and current is Pinyin, which uses roman script to encode the sounds of Chinese words. If you are literate in Chinese, you almost certainly are literate using the Pinyin orthography.

So Chinese can be written using the symbols of the roman alphabet. So why not just put the candidates' names on the ballot the way they are always spelled? Skipping over the fact that the spellings of people's names hardly ever match up 100% to the way they are said (e.g. "It's spelled L-I-P-S-H-I-T-S but it's pronounced 'leep-shech'"), for a writing system to ever have a chance of systematically representing the sound(s) of a spoken word, there need to be accepted rules or conventions for which letters are going to stand for which sounds. These are the familiar spelling conventions like " I before E, except after C... (hey you know who to blame). Pinyin, the writing system which uses roman script for Chinese words, has its own spelling conventions. Thus, putting candidates' names on ballots in a language which would be readable for someone who is Chinese language literate could be as simple as writing them in roman script but using the Pinyin spelling conventions for the sounds of the candidates' names.
Here's my somewhat underinformed first attempt

Romney - Romni
Thompson - Tomsen
Menino - Meninou

I'm sure these are not 100% accurate. For starters, Chinese languages use pitch in ways English does not. These spellings have no tone/pitch indicators because I have NO idea what tones a native speaker of Mandarin would assign to the names. I also don't know for sure that the syllabification native speakers of English give these names would be stable when the names are spoken by a native speaker of Mandarin. But presumably a Mandarin-English bilingual, biliterate individual could be consulted to produce a decent, nonambiguous transliteration (in Pinyin). Although all of this does raise an interesting point - should the written name more closely encode the way the name is said by the person whose name it is or should it represent the way a native speaker of Mandarin would say it?

Possible slight imprecisions in the mapping between the spoken word and the printed word seem so very minor when compared to the large scale lexical ambiguities which are raised by using a non-sound based writing system to encode a (non-native) word's sounds.

The silliness of using traditional chinese orthography to print the sound equivalent of names - most of which aren't even "English" but which appear exclusively in English - is striking. It makes me wonder why one of the underemployed linguists out there couldn't have been consulted before the federal government made this language stipulation.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Red line versus Green line

Usually the red line wins, but not when this fellow is around. Should we call him Karaoke Karl? My sister got an earful of Karl this weekend.

Contrast this with the Green line's "DJ Nitetrain", who - it would seem - rocks.

Damn, I miss Boston.

political news

New Yorkers crowd White House field
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK - New Yorkers: They're smug, egotistical, and already think they run the country (if not the world). So what's the rest of the nation to do now that three of 'em are mentioned as White House hopefuls, ready to swap Penn Station for Pennsylvania Avenue?

Cringe? Clap? Or just consider somebody else?
The specter of an all-New York November 2008 was raised when Bloomberg, a titular Republican since his 2001 mayoral run, announced last week that he was quitting the GOP to become an independent. His predecessor, Giuliani, is running for the Republican nomination for president, while second-term New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is among the Democratic hopefuls.

While New Yorkers are all too aware of the differences between the Big Apple's big three, folks beyond the Hudson River were not as certain.

"I think basically they are the same candidate," said Bob House, a Republican from Des Moines, Iowa. "We all love New York. But when our options are New York, New York, New York, I think people want to see a different life experience."

These kinds of news stories always bother me. They encourage thinking about something rather important in superficial, largely fabricated terms. I mean, why not write an article on how many of them prefer tennis to football?

The crux of my irritation is that the mainstream news coverage tends to set the tone and topics for the national discourse. It's not that this kind of reporting encourages what could be strictly defined as ignorance. There is information being conveyed. The mainstream media habitually focus on irrelevant details to the exclusion of reporting on relevant issues, but these outlets do convey information to the public - information which includes such hard hitting facts as knowing where each candidate lives, what the candidates' spouses' names are, how many children each has, and what the candidate's favorite sandwich is.

Strictly speaking, I suppose someone with a head full of this sort of detail is debatably (at best) "ignorant". However, I feel very comfortable applying the term "fucking moron" to a person if these superfluous bits of fluff and stuff are all he knows and (crucially) all he cares to know about the candidates and the upcoming presidential race.

For the sake of argument, let's entertain the subject of this article, briefly. Consider Senator Clinton - a "New Yorker" according to this story. She didn't live in New York until she was running for office. Before that, she lived in D.C. for the two terms of her husband's presidency, and before that she lived in Arkansas for something like 17 years. She was born and raised in Illinois, went to school in MA and CT. So how the hell does a couple of years living in Chappaqua make her a New Yorker? It doesn't. Dubbing her such reflects a desire to group candidates based on one superficial, personal aspect of the candidates.

This grouping and the story about it has got fuck all to do with any substantive similarities or differences between these candidates. Further, the subtext of this article reinforces some truly moronic (and ignorant) views of New York - that NYC is the same as NY. NY is essentially two different states - economically and culturally speaking. You don't believe me, go visit places like Elmira and Candor NY, then go to NYC.

I'm gonna get preachy for a second here. If you want to research the potential presidential candidates, look for older news stories about them - from before they were considering running for president (or in Clinton's case, before Bill was running for president). If they've held public office (and they almost invariably have) look up their voting records, their campaign donations, and summaries or texts of speeches they made before they started a national campaign. Also, consider putting a little of your attention on the other races where your vote really is a vote. The press pushes the presidential race like it pushes the olympics. It's a fucking dog and pony show, barely better than a season of American Idol. It's certainly important, but not so much so that we should only know about this race. If ever you are in doubt regarding the possibility of other branches of government making newsworthy fireworks to rival any presidential campaign, recall that the Senate shares responsibility for staffing some of our courts (take Supreme Court nominees Rehnquist, Thomas, Alito, Scalia, please). The exclusive and silly focus on the presidential race and office has helped to create an uncomfortable consolidation of executive power, and that has gotten us nothing but trouble.

Friday, June 22, 2007


I was contemplating what to ask for in terms of a teaching responsibility for the Fall semester. This news item may have made the decision for me.

Older siblings really are know-it-alls, study finds
By Colin Nickerson, Globe Staff

Is big sister always telling you what's best? Does big brother seem to know it all?

Instead of stewing in resentment, maybe you should start listening when they dispense smart-alecky advice.

Turns out, they really are brighter than you, by and large.

A massive study by Norwegian scientists appearing in today's edition of the journal Science concludes that a child raised as the eldest has a higher intelligence quotient, on average, than younger siblings.

Stories based on this research study have been floating around. The non-scientific media claims keep growing, e.g., the headline has mutated from "families' eldest boys do best on tests" (with the buried caveat: "...the Norwegian analysis focused on men...") to "oldest children are smartest". I'm waiting for the headline which reads "Youngest Girls: Why Bother?"

When I see this sort of malarky science reporting being given high press value, it makes the notion of teaching methods to students who will have been exposed to it without innoculation seem quite a bit less enticing. Such articles are likely to enflame what are even now flickers of a will be research topic in the undergrad major come Fall, who if experience is to be any guide, will come in wanting to prove things liek their own personal take on a long standing family grudge about who's best.

The family ones are only a little less troublesome than the people who want to "prove" gender stereotypes. Oh here's a tip on that one. Tell the students if they want to use male/female they have to either (a) call the variable"sex" or (b) measure "gender" explicitly because they cannot conflate gender with sex. It does help, mostly I think because they don't like having to write the word "sex" over and over.

On the brights side, seeing this sort of article does make the notion of teaching intro somewhat more appealing. I feel like some kind of magpie, plucking up the garbage which has been given the glimmer of "science", and flying off to line my nest with it, or in this case, to add into my lesson plan on *scientific*literacy*.

I am armed with library access to many journals. (Hey, one nice thing about being an academic. I found one thing I still truly inherently enjoy Jay!) I can't wait to read the article on this "Massive study by Norwegian scientists". We can just be happy it wasn't "a team of Norwegian scientists". You just can't argue with the findings of a whole team of scientists, can you?

Oh my...

You know what's embarrassing? When your advisor emails you a week after you have surgery and says "I'm trying to find those files, the stimuli from 5 years ago...When you get a chance," and you don't get in for 1 and 1/2 weeks later and it turns out she still hasn't been able to find them anywhere. You talk, catch up, do all the coordinating that needs doing, and she leaves.

One cigarette break later, you get to work looking everywhere. You look on all four work station computers, on every cd you can get your hands on - even the ones which are labeled for something else. You coax the various computers to open the various zips and you find nothing.

You look in all the drawers and cabinets to see if you missed a cd or a zip but you just can't find them. After about 40 minutes has passed in frantic, fruitless searching, when you're sitting there pondering a pile of floppies and Jaz disks you found in a dusty cardboard box on the floor, you know you're in trouble.

Then a thought strikes you. You enter your advisor's office. You turn on her computer, feeling a little guilty for going on there when she's gone and feeling quite furtive about logging onto her personal computer. You tell yourself she wants the files and you don't want to come back empty handed without having turned every damned stone and you just seriously don't want to bust out the floppies. You search for probable names of the folder the files would be in, starting with the most obvious.

And you find it, on the first search. The folder, the files, the meticulous notes you made on the creation of the files, detailed documentation of "to do" and "done" tasks relative to the files when they were last your responsibility. You find all of it just how you left it five years ago - wrapped up nice and neat.

Now that is embarrassing.

Not for me. For me it was kind of validating. And I can honestly say, after being made to feel like a useless husk of a PhD student for the last two years by my department head, it felt kind of good to call my advisor from her office and leave this "You'll never guess where I found those files..." message on her answering machine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wal-mart pays $2M

Fired Wal-Mart pharmacist awarded $2M
Associated Press
June 20, 2007

A pharmacist who claimed she was fired by Wal-Mart after asking to be paid the same as her male colleagues has won a nearly $2 million award against the retail giant.

A Berkshire Superior Court jury concluded Wal-Mart discriminated against Cynthia Haddad and awarded her nearly $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages Tuesday.

"It sends a message that you can't treat people poorly because of who they are," said David Belfort, Haddad's attorney.

Great ruling, but what is up with the lawyer's remark. "...You can't treat people poorly because of who they are"? What can you treat them poorly for then?

This wasn't about "Treating people poorly". This was about discrimination (as a legal term, not psychological). While discrimination includes treating someone "poorly" (usually), I think you'd have to agree that simply treating someone bad is not sufficient to cause discrimination.

For example, one could say I treat The Fluffy Professor in my program poorly. Or that I treated my mother poorly. In neither case would I be open for a discrimination law suit.

I'm sure what the fellow meant to say was "sexism is bad", or at least that's what he would have meant to say if it weren't forbidden by an increasingly strong taboo. To claim sexism (even when a jury was pretty convinced of it in fact if not name) is to invite invalidation.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Friendly's sold

Of all the things in the news today, the one which immediately drew my eye was the headline "Friendly Ice Cream Corp. Sold". It's a local story. Along with the story is a link for readers to share their "Friendly's memories". Personally, I find it hard to wax nostalgic about Friendly's. This is not to say I haven't got any Friendly's memories, just not any of the sort which I think I'd want to share in a pleasant trip down memory lane context. More evidence of my jaundiced views I guess.

I should back up. Friendly's is an ice cream/family restaurant chain. Of all the local chains of my childhood, Friendly's has never stood out as anything special. Compared to the occasional local dairy farm run ice cream stand/shop (of which there are usually a couple in any New England region), Friendly's is downright nasty.

It's not so much the ice cream which makes Friendly's nasty, and possibly in a town where there are many more choices for restaurant than Friendly's, Friendly's wouldn't seem so, well, wretched. But living in Buttfucknowhere CT for 9 years now has made me sort of loath Friendly's.

The only chain which outnumbers Friendly's are Dunkin Donuts. I do not feel a similar loathing for Dunkies because they are not a "restaurant". They don't try to be, even with all the silly shit they keep adding to the menu. You can still treat them like a coffee shop. Friendly's, on the other hand, is a restaurant. Because it is a restaurant, it occupies a dining niche which, were it not for Friendly's taking up that space, might be filled by something (or some several things) else. Something better.

In one of the three strip malls which border my university campus and which count as the commercial district of the "college town", there is a Friendly's. There used to be a nice little coffee and donut shop in this strip mall. According to the campus police (the ones I liked, yes, I'm the kind of tool who talks to police officers - the decent ones at least), this coffee shop had the best coffee. I used to go there. They had chess board table tops and games you could check out. It wasn't great, it wasn't bohemian. It was a regular working class local privately owned coffee shop and it went out of business a few years ago.

The space stood empty for some time. Two women I knew who ran the coffee truck on campus considered moving into the space the nice locally owned coffee shop used to lease, but they dropped their plans when they were told by the owner of the strip mall that they would have to limit their menu due to a deal with Friendly's. That is, Friendly's wouldn't allow any shop to move into their strip mall if that shop planned to offer menu items which might compete with the items Friendly's offered.

Talk about fucking collusion.

Needless to say, the space is still empty. It was occupied for a short while by a nice enough coffee shop - although the atmosphere left something to be desired ("ugh, who ever heard of painting a dining room BLUE?!" my brother yelled when we ate there once). But they went out of business about a year ago, leaving the empty space and yellowing "for rent" signs up in the windows.

Friendly's, however, remains - offering such delightful menu items as the "fishamajig".

I recall going to Friendly's with some school mates when I was in my former graduate department. It was me, another American (Kelly), and a young woman from Spain (Emma). Emma had only been in the country a few months. We looked over the menu and Emma asked "what is 'fish-a-ma-jig'?"

Kelly and I laughed and advised her NOT to order it. "See, it's like fish and whatever. Or whatever kind of fish," Kelly said.
Emma was confused.
"The suffix "ma-jig", in English, is added onto words to denote a sense of non-specificity," I explained.
"It's like 'fish or something, but we might not know what'," Kelly added.
"Oh," Emma said, staringt at the menu.
"So you probably shouldn't eat anything that has the morpheme 'ma-jig' or 'ma-bob', that's another one that means sort of the same thing."
"And don't eat something that has a 'whatsit' in it either. That would be ill advised also."

I wonder if Friendly's will change their menu now that they have been sold. I wonder especially if they will change their atmosphere. The one across from my campus has a chronically grease-slippery floor, an ordor of bleached french fries, and acid-like pictures of giant ice creams photoshopped into photographs of New England landmarks. The ice creams seem to be lurking, waiting for an unsuspecting tourist. Also, the local Friendly's plays just truly wretched music from the late 60s/early 70s. I mean BAD music. Muskrat Love, Neil Diamond, John Denver, all the worst of course, bad bad music.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Lyme Disease in MA

Lyme cases in Mass. go up 50% in one year
By Felicia Mello, Globe Correspondent
June 15, 2007

The number of Lyme disease cases reported in Massachusetts jumped by about 50 percent from 2004 to 2005, a single-year increase that prompted concerned state health officials to say they were stepping up efforts to educate the public about prevention of the disease.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported yesterday that 2,336 cases were reported in the state in 2005, compared with 1,532 the previous year. Nationwide, the number of cases rose to 23,305 from 19,804 in the same period, an 18 percent increase.

update and caveat: The exerpts below are from a CNN story on Lyme cases nationwide in the US. I don't recommend the story for a source of accurate information on symptoms or treatment since it is in fact misleading in those areas. But the information about the infection rates is important. Knowing that this disease is becoming so common is crucial if you or someone you know starts having symptoms that suggest Lyme. Medical providers are still a little behind the ball on the prevalence of the disease and therefore they tend to underassess the risks any particular individual has of having caught it. Decent info on Lyme symptoms and treatment can be found at the CDC site on Lyme and the Mayo Clinic's Lyme info pages.

CDC: Lyme disease cases double in U.S.
June 14, 2007
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The number of cases of Lyme disease has doubled in the United States since 1991 and these numbers are probably underestimated, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

More than 21,000 cases of the tick-borne disease are now reported every year, the CDC said, making it the most common illness transmitted by bugs or animals in the United States.

The northeastern states had the most cases, with 2,335 cases reported in Massachusetts in 2005, 3,363 in New Jersey, 5,565 in New York, and 4,287 in Pennsylvania.


I had my post op appointment yesterday. I think I left my book in one of the waiting rooms. My gynecologist's office has two waiting rooms. One is the main outer reception area room. This is the standard waiting room featuring a TV, a somewhat surly receptionist sitting behind the sliding glass window which is typically slid shut, and many many parenting magazines. I consider the parenting magazines to be truly cruel, as this gynecologist is not a typical OB-GYN doctor but a specialist in "reproductive endocrinology". In normal person terms, this means he's the guy you go to see if you can't make, carry, or have babies.

Thus, a waiting room which is practically plastered with magazines featuring glossy images of smiling children and parents, while potentially quite relevant to many of the patients sitting there, seems like it might be a source of anxiety or possibly sadness.

Consider if you were going in because that last set of tests came back and you've got a feeling the news isn't good. I think I'd probably be sobbing. If I wanted kids that is. It does bug me that my female specific health issues are important to address only if they are couched or approached in the context of my reproductive abilities. But that's how it is. And the reality is that most of this guy's patients desperately want to conceive and give birth to a child.

This potentially insensitive magazine selection extends into the inner waiting room. The inner waiting room has an old research poster up on the wall showing the percent mean changes (and standard deviations) in lipid panel levels for women receiving various forms of hormone therapy. It is an old poster, printed out on multiple piece of 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper (landscape formatting) rather than the more modern and highly popular posters which I have come to think of as "wall sized". Something about the old fashioned poster comforts me. It feels more humble and therefore somehow more reliable than the wall sized posters which preesnt both impressive and non-impressive research endeavors with equal overwhelming grandure.

Apparently it comforted me right into leaving my Joyce Carol Oates book on one of the happy child and parent strewn tables. I felt stupid last night when I realized I may have left the libaray book there. I hadn't even really liked it very much, I was having a hard time connecting with the characters, the subtexts, or even just the scenery. I brought it just to have some distraction since I found the baby/parenting magazines insipid in the extreme. It did occur to me this morning though that the book might have been a source of even momentary salvation for some woman pondering an outcome which would make looking at glossy smiling baby faces unbearably difficult for a long time.

Given how the visit went, I think it was understandable, possibly even likely, that I would leave a piece of me behind when I left. I was in a total of two waiting rooms three times, thus the book was in and out of my bag repeatedly. I sat in the inner waiting room once when I was first called back, then again after the exam but before the "wrap up". The second wait was longer than the first. The first, I think I had barely taken the book out before my fella and I were summoned by the resident who was working with my doctor that day.

The resident struck me as a bit tight lipped, nervous and hiding it reasonably well, although not as well as she thought. She wore open sandals like flip flops but in nicer materials. I strongly disapprove of open shoes in a hospital, and the doctor's office is IN a hospital - you go down the hall and turn left and you can easily access two different inpatient units. Christ, you can see straight into a patient's room from one side of the bank of elevators you have to take up to get the office. The idea of wearing anything other than a full coverage shoe in this environment was shocking to me. I wonder when I see them, do the people who chose such footwear walk in some kind of bubble which preserves them from encountering spilled sharps containers, bodily fluids, and the more than occasional poorly driven stretcher or wheelchair? I cannot imagine sacrificing so much necessary practicality and utility for fashion unless one was completely unaware of the sacrifice.

The resident was not very good with the exam. She was sporadic on her warnings for touches, and gave none when she inserted the speculum. I should say "tried to insert" because whatever she did with the first attempt to get it in failed. I heard it clatter out of control for a second, pinching bits of me in it. I shrugged my left foot over, stopping just short of kicking her in the shoulder and glared down over the sheet for a second. She looked up after a moment and said "sorry..." Despite her leisurely tone, I wanted to believe that she was very very sorry, not because I was feeling filled up with human kindness milk or honey or whatever fluid it is that human kindness comes in these days, but because I had to believe she was sorry or I might get pissed off enough to kick her and you don't kick someone who has metal instruments in you.

After sucessfully inserting another speculum, she began poking about for the strings which were supposed to be the visible evidence of my IUD.

"Can you find them?" my gynecologist asked. He leaned over her left shoulder since my foot was close to her right.
"Uh...I think..." came her voice from behind the sheet. "Oh yeah, there, I think there they are" she said finally.

I released the breath I hadn't been conscious of holding.

"They're really..." she said and I felt the sensation of internal digging about "short. They keep slipping," she said with something between slight alarm and frustration.
"uh..." I said, foot poised. My other foot was thudding against the stirrup in the uneasy rhythm I maintain when something uncomfortable is happening to or in me. It's more than discomfort, it's not emotional but it's not totally physical. It's that "ishk" feeling which moves from your gut to your head and makes your hands tingle. It's a little hard to describe because the triggers are different for everyone, and I suspect the manifestation varies a bit too.

Consider the things that make you sort of shudder. How it feels when you think of being catheterized, for example. Or someone digging about in your arm to find a good vein. Or what happens after you put you hand down on a sewing needle, what happens aside from the pain of course. Or the feeling you get when steeling yourself to pull a splinter out of a toe. Or maybe to insert something into your eye. We all have different boundaries of that feeling, some of us being able to tolerate even a painful experience with no such sensation only to find ourselves close to swooning over something only mildly painful but UNcomfortable in that way.

Her digging was UNcomfortable like that. She stopped for a moment, I think I had begun humming tunelessly and rolling my head about a bit. My doctor handed her an instrument. "It's easier if you use a forcep sometimes," he said, and quickly added "gently" as she inserted it, again with more clattering.

But once she gained her comfort with weilding the forceps, she seemed to locate the string relatively quickly. "Don't pull hard," my doctor told her when she annouced in a victorious voice "I got 'em!"

Then it was time for the ultrasound. He let her start. "Slowwwly..." he said and I watched a blur of ghost insides images on the monitor, resolution swaying in and out uncontrollably.
"More slowly," he said to her and it sounded like he was laughing a little. I didn't mind since the ultrasound is truly not painful unless someone chooses to grind down on a tender spot with the probe.

Finally my doctor took over the exam. He moved the probe around in slight angles making crisp, meaningul images clearly and easily on the screen and taking a few stills here and there. We had the usual "your left ovary has a cyst" "My left ovary ALWAYS has a cyst" conversation.
"That's good!" my doctor said happily. "It means it is ready and working to make a baby." He didn't say this with condescention but I heard it and bristled nonetheless. I tried to remind myself that most of this guy's patient population would give their right ovary to hear someone say "your left ovary has a cyst" and this helped me feel less cranky.

There was some fluid (which you know, to me seems like it might have some relevance when taken in conjunction with that constant left ovary thing but what do I know, I'm just the patient). Mostly what he was interested in was making sure it didn't look like his serious cutting and sewing had come undone and in making sure the IUD hadn't worked its way up to my esophagus or something. All was good, and I am happy for that.

The pain, he said, was from the cutting and sewing and also from the IUD. The IUD was to be checked again in 3 months, according to the manufacturer. I had intented to make the appointment when I was leaving but the surly secretary was at lunch.

Making the appointment for the 3 month checkup is like a promise, or a hope. Hopefulness that it won't need to come out before then. That I will tolerate it, that my body will learn to tolerate it and stop trying to expell it. I don't know that I do believe this, but I am practical and I know if I don't make that three month appointment soon, I will forget. I mean to call today, to make the appointment and ask about my book.

If I consider it too long, the thought of the IUD inside me, strings hanging too short to grasp even with me cranked open wide, is a little creepy. I know it would disturb me less if it were less trouble, less painful. I talked with my doctor about the pain. "It's going to take a little while, but it really should get better in a couple of weeks," he assured me.

My god I hope so. Last night was HORRIBLE. Fresh blood instead of old, but not much and that is a good thing. But the pain, god almighty it was bad. I took 400 mg of celebrex (do NOT try this at home) and I was still having these waves of profoundly painful cramping - worse than any menstrual cramps, and I get bad menstrual cramps. Fortunately the wave pattern of the pain meant I had some in between times when I could carry on half conversations with my fella or pat my cat or read. For this I was relieved and thankful, not thankful to anyone in particular, just feeling a sense of staggering and nonspecific gratitude.

I took another pill before bed, took a hit of benadryl to put me out (again, don't try at home - my family history as medical professionals makes me probably a bit stupidly fearless with mixing meds - I do check for interactions and contraindications before I do this but it is not a practice I advocate at all).

I woke up without pain today. Nevertheless, I'm planning on staying totally drugged for at least the next week. No, these are not the fun drugs. The fun drugs fuck up my intestine, that touchy fucking tube of hell. The only side effects of my current pain med is a risk for kidney failure and ulcers, and an increased risk of having a cardiovascular "event". Nothing even remotely cool, oh yeah, except for the coolness of not literally grinding my head into the floor, my nails into my head, and frantically pounding on things with my fist while muttering "fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck" like a mantra while it feels like something with dull, wide teeth is chewing its way through the deeper parts of my pelvis.

It's after four, I just now realized on my most recent trip back from the bathroom. I also realized I haven't called yet. I will call when I am done with this post. After this next cigarette. No more pain pills until 10:00 tonight, and although I remember looking at the pill bottle this morning at 10:00 AM, the twinges of pain I felt just now make me wonder if I did in fact take the 10:00 AM pill. This poses a conundrum. Which do I believe? Do I trust my memory and, by extension, my sense of reliability? I explicitly recall holding the pill bottle this morning, but I don't have an explicit memory of taking a pill. But why else would I have been holding it if I hadn't taken a pill? I'd like to believe I am not so flakey that I'd pick it up, look at it, and then put it back without taking the med. But flakey is alluring because I don't want to believe what my body is starting to whisper, that I hurt even though I have 6 more hours to go until I'm supposed to take another pill. I want to think that I must not have taken the pill this morning since it shouldn't have worn off so fast.

It occurs to me as I sit here typing and not calling for my routine 3 month appointment and not knowing where my book is that the question might not be so much "what do I believe" as "what do I believe in?"

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tenure or Titanic?

Oh this is just perfect. I was looking over the news again this evening when a little tidbit article caught my eye. One of those fluffy bits on the Jobs page of The Boston Globe. It's called "6 Myths About Work". I clicked and skimmed it, then laughed out loud when I got to this one, myth number 5:
Going to grad school open doors.
Grad school generally makes you less employable, not more.
For example, people who get a graduate degree in the humanities would have had a better chance of surviving the Titanic than getting a tenured teaching job.

Gay day (II) in MA

I am all about direct citizen involvement in the political process. This means I am, in many cases, for giving more power to the electorate rather than less. However, I have to agree with MA House Speaker DiMasi on the issue of putting the equal rights of a minority group up for a popular vote. Especially when that minority group is a set of individuals who are stigmatized and often vilified by massive, non-local based campaigns.


From The Boston Globe
Legislators vote to defeat same-sex marriage ban
A proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was defeated today by a joint session of the Legislature by a vote of 45 to 151, eliminating any chance of getting it on the ballot in November 2008. At least 50 votes were needed to advance the measure.

lynch the landlord?

My landlord started painting the kitchen in the apartment upstairs at midnight last night and finished at 3:30 AM. He was here last night too but finished much earlier.
When I went up at 1:45 to ask when he'd be done and to tell him his bumping and thumping around was keeping me up he whined "But your bedroom isn't under the kitchen!"

"It's intermittent 3:00 AM. That's the worst kind because everything else is quiet and that intermittent thudding and banging and scraping is so intrusive" my fella noted. Indeed.

Landlord will be back tonight. He told me this last night in his, what? excuse? Argument? He always debates. I'm not looking for tail between the legs obsequiousness. Just not a debate about how he didn't think he was making that much noise or where my bedroom is or that he "just opened a restaurant" The restaurant is relevant, he believes, because he's "been working 18 hour days. I don't want to be here at 2:00 AM either, but I have to. It's just economics."

Ok, so here's a guy who can barely manage this building - and he opens a restaurant. The upstairs apartment has stood empty for months - he's been losing rent for MONTHS while there are plenty of folks who'd have painted it for a song, during the day, months ago. And this is the way of doing things that makes the most sense. This let it stand empty for months then paint it at 2 AM shit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I think the surgery recovery is going well. What's problematic seems to be the IUD. At least that's the going theory. It's been giving me serious hardcore cramps, which means more drugs than I or my body wants, and that (I think) is screwing with my intestines. Significantly. Last night featured three near passouts from intestinal cramping. It was miserable and I think my fella was pretty traumatized by watching me roll, gagging, shaking, and sweating on the bathroom floor. He's been quietly working in his office all day after sleeping in with me.

I should be working but instead am finding myself seriously distracted. No small wonder, but knowing why doesn't make the experience any better or easier. I was really hoping that IUD would work. So the question is how long do I give it before I tell them to take it the hell out?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gay bomb

No, really. And not in like nineteen fifty-bigot, this was in 1994 according to this story.

For as long as it stays up, here's a blurb from network coverage on the Pentagon's Gay Bomb project.

Just in time for father's day

Father found guilty in honor killing
LONDON - A father who ordered his daughter brutally slain for falling in love with the wrong man in a so-called "honor killing" was found guilty of murder on Monday.
The men accused the young woman of shaming her family by ending an abusive arranged marriage, becoming too Westernized and falling in love with a man who didn't come from their Iraqi village.

have spouse, will travel

I ran across this story today in the Boston Globe about academic couples. The focus couple in the story were a tenured professor at Harvard and her husband, who had been a non-tenured professor at Yale before leaving for a position at Harvard. The article tells about the couple's 13 years of commuting between MA and CT. Not to belittle their plight but it's nothing I haven't heard before. I've heard of further long distance relationships among even married academic couples. It's become a fact of life if one or the other spouse refuses to put his or (usually) her career aspirations aside for the other. This, among other factors, is what results in the spreading epidemic of the "academic gypsy". It's a lifestyle I won't and can't accept for myself.

What struck me when reading was a quote, below, from Henry Louis Gates Jr. (a former chairman of African and African-American Studies at Harvard):
"I don't think universities do themselves any favors if they lower their standards to recruit a spouse."

I have to say, while I think that the academic gypsy lifestyle is misery on ice - sometimes literally due to winter commutes - and things need to change, I gotta agree at least a little bit with Dr. Gates' sentiment. Such compromised standards are after all how my department ended up with one of our least liked faculty members. His wife was a desirable hire and he was, well, baggage.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Why "Simon"? Why?

I Would Simonize It All Day Long
Weight lifter to buddy: If I had a vagina, I would call it Simon!
Australian National University Gym
via Overheard Everywhere, Jun 6, 2007

Ok, I'm officially hooked on "overheard". I adore those moments - especially when they happen in loud public or semi-public places. The noise parts like a curtain for just a moment and reveals a voice, loud and clear, giving you a wonderfully out of context discourse moment.

Favorites from my own life include:
- "Someday, Kippy, you'll have to shave too" my 9th grade science teacher talking to one of the more annoying boys in the class during lab
- "...Stick it in!!!" one of my (favorite) professors having an animated conversation at a party

Overheard in NY - Unicorns

Mine Was in Death of a Salesman -- What about You?

Queer #1: In seventh grade I was the unicorn in the school play.
Queer #2: Oh my god! You were the unicorn? What play? I was the unicorn! Oh my god!
Queer #3: No fucking way! I was the motherfucking unicorn, too! This is fucking crazy!
Queer #1: I know! I can't believe we were all fucking unicorns!

--Hollywood Diner, 16th & 6th

via Overheard in New York, Jun 10, 2007

Thursday, June 07, 2007

chock full o'fuck

I had surgery on Friday. Between post-op nausea and having seen what was done to my tonsils (presumably during intubation (or extubation)) the thought of bathing my throat in hot carcinogenic smog made me shudder a bit. This is why I have had so few cigarettes. I did smoke a little last night though. I had a really seriously rotten day yesterday. I mean rotten. Bad bad bad. There's at least one faculty member who I am planning to verbally spank when I am back in the swing of things.

The nice thing about the smoking is that I guess when I am emotionally ready to quit, perhaps I will have an easier time of it physically than I thought.

Today I'm feeling dangerously better. Dangerous in that I'm nowhere near healed up enough to be lifting stuff or engaging in my habitual cleaning fits which call to me when I am in a rotten mood (woke up thinking about yesterday's fuckery) but I feel well enough at times during the day that I find myself eyeing the vacuum cleaner warily, as if I might sneak up on it and wrestle it into coming along quietly and not putting up a fight.

My advisor called yesterday to ask how the surgery went. A____ talked to her since I was still in bed at 11:00 having been up at 5, 7, and 8 AM to take pain meds and chew on some rolaids since the pain meds have been beating up my stomach. A____ told her it went well and that I was recovering. No details. She'll press me for those later, sounding concerned. I will be inclined to answer very sincerely, as I usually do, only to find later that her extremely short term memory for any of the details and inability to apply the information pragmatically ("right, that's why you weren't in that first week in June...") suggest the concern was barely more than polite interest on her part. I can't stop her from being who she is. But I suppose I can try to modify my own behavior. So I feel like I need to come up with a version of an answer to the question of "how'd it go" which doesn't downplay serious health issues or their impact on me but also doesn't make me feel like I divulged too much personal detail for no good reason.

So here's the version she probably won't get.

It sucked, I felt like shit, but I am quite certain that the surgery was a very good call. I honestly hadn't expected it would be as extensively fucked as this. I had endo all over the place. It was in the uterosacral ligament, on a ureter, and all throughout my intestine. Regarding the last set of sites, some were quite deep. From what the doctor described to A___ just after the surgery, if I'd waited much longer I'd have been looking at a bowel resection.

Also, it turns out my uterus is not only enlarged but also had a few growths. The GYN removed the growths and they are being tested. Until I get the results, I'm supposed to be reassured that the cause of the enlargement may be adenomyosis, which is shitty and has no cure (other than hysterectomy) and little treatment, but won't kill ya. It will cause lots and lots of pain, but because it won't kill you it's called "relatively benign" in medical literature.

It's been almost a week since I heard all this news and I am still pretty damned pissed at my about to be fired GI doctors. I'm pissed at them because I now have confirmation of what I suspected which was that they were prematurely giving up on a diagnosis after having done everything one would to diagnose (one of them said that to me - like I was some freak who was just dying for another colonoscopy). Turns out they forgot I wasn't a 57 year old man but was in fact a premenopausal woman who has a stated, surgically confirmed history of endometriosis.

The whole situation has been like gasoline on the constantly smoldering disgust and contempt I have for the medical profession in general.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

bad parenting to go

You mean those shoes with rollers in them are dangerous? OMG, who'd have thought.

1,600 roller-shoe injuries reported
Accidents from trendy roller shoes are far more numerous than previously thought, contributing to roughly 1,600 emergency room visits last year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Wednesday.

Those injuries were mostly in children, the target market for the wheeled shoes that send kids cruising down sidewalks, across playgrounds and through shopping mall crowds.
On Monday, a report in June's Pediatrics said 67 children were treated for roller-shoe injuries at a Dublin, Ireland hospital during a 10-week period last summer.

Heelys, the most popular brand, are sold in 70 countries. They're made by Carrollton, Texas-based Heelys Inc., which maintains that the shoes have a safer injury rate than skateboarding, inline skating and even swimming.

I wonder if anyone's counted up the injuries to adults who were trying to avoid injuring or being injured by a child in these shoes.

The popularity of these shoes is evidence of some seriously questionable parenting. When I see a kid on these things, it evokes in me a similar reaction as when I see a parent in the supermarket check out line letting his kid use an empty grocery cart for a death-(or at least serious injury)defying gymnastics routine. I am horrified, worried, and angry. With roller shoes in the mix, the stunt inclined child can cover more ground faster than ever before which means that, depending on the child's trajectory, coordination abilities, and general motor skill, I and other horrified bystanders can now easily become part of the neglected child's hijinx.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


= the number of cigarettes I have had in over 100 hours.


From today's news (Local Cop Responds to Plane Scare):
"...A couple of male passengers allegedly started creating a lot of chaos."