Friday, September 28, 2007

cut and run

Well that's it. I decided. I'm officially abandoning the PhD. I'm hoping I can hang on until the Spring so I can stay insured and loan deferred until I have even minimal employment lined up.

Lots of thoughts on this although none coherent enough to share here at the moment, plus I have my period again and I'm mixing words, word parts, and phrases so I'll wait until I'm more eloquent to discuss the details (although this sums up some of them).

I thought I'd put it out there now, nonetheless.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

brand new phone

I have a new cell phone. Unlike my fella who takes a fondness for obtaining and playing with techy gadgets to a level where I sometimes think it might be appropriately classified in the DSM-V , I had been putting off my most recent phone upgrade. Although I do like gadgets, I also like being in a certain comfort of use zone with such important every day tech. Given how important my cell has become, it falls squarely into the category of shit I don't like to fuck with lest it disrupt or hinder my routine use of said shit.

One of the things I dislike the most about switching phones is that it is the electronic equivalent of changing offices and having to wait for things like your filing cabinets to arrive. Or worse, having to move each file one by one because you can't afford to hire movers to just pick up the old cabinet (files and all) and cart it 20 feet down the hall for you. Oh yeah, and you lack the physical means to move it all at once yourself.

How's that for an unnecessarily drawn out analogy? Regardless, I assume the point is sufficiently clear. Changing phones can be a pain in the ass, and it wasn't one I had the time and inclination to deal with right now.

Still, I will upgrade when necessary. Since my old phone was starting to do some slightly annoying things which suggested it was necessary (is it me or doesn't it seem like something which costs that much money should last for more than two years?), and since I was at the point where a particular upgrade was in fact nearly free, last week I finally bit the bullet and got a new phone. But because I was not super-psyched about doing this, and because there's been so many other things going on, I've been a little slack on updating the new phone so it approaches being as routinely useful and informative as my old one. I write post, my new phone is ringing - well, it's making a noise like ringing. I've found the newer phones seem to be set up to encourage the user to buy any number of exciting ringtones. Toward that end (I believe), the "rings" the phone's manufacturers have left for built in choices range from sounds which most humans will universally find mildly irritating to sounds which I believe may actually inflame select layers of neocortical cells in any mammal within hearing range.

So when I say my new phone is ringing, what I mean is that my new phone is making a mildly annoying sound as it sits, unanswered, on my desk. Why not pick it up? Because just a few moments ago, it made the mildly annoying sound in my bedroom. I fetched it, looked at the call information displayed on the front, and saw a Boston area number. Thinking it might be someone like my brother or one of the aunties who I've recently been in touch with on account of a family death, I answered it. While I've entered some of the more important contacts, I hadn't gotten around to others like the local pizza place, the university financial aid office, my former infectious disease doctor (whose number I often have occasion to share on account of this being a high Lyme disease area), and my parents.

It turned out that when it rang just then, in the bedroom, when I picked it up because although I didn't recognize the number it was familiar and Boston-area, it was my mother.

"I just wanted to call and wish you a happy birthday," she said.
"Ah. Well, did you get that all out of your system then?" I asked.
"Yes," she answered.
I sighed and said "Great. Bye," and I ended the call.

And now she's calling back, causing my phone to burp and chirp annoying little noises at me.

On the plus side, I currently have a renewed sense of purpose in completing my cell phone transition. Additionally, I think I just might go make myself some ring tones. For the 'rents, I need something which will immediately convey the right quality and type of information to unmistakably specify "Holy shit don't take that call!"

Monday, September 24, 2007

b-day bbq?

Used to be by my birthday, it was apple picking weather. Now, it's usually a nice beach day. To wit, my birthday weather is as follows:
Tuesday - Sunny. Highs in the upper 80s. Southwest winds 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph.

I ask you, wtf? Where are my crisp fall days? Where is my breezy but not biting, glorious Autumn weather? I want to wear sweaters and cotton tights and boots. A prolonged summer dramatically limits my wardrobe choices and that libra cusp can make getting dressed a lengthy ordeal on even a less limited day.

However, we made the best of it. Since my birthday falls mid week, it means I get to celebrate it for an extended period which spans at least both weekends around it. This weekend, my fella made me dinner. My apologies in advance to the non-carnivores out there. Don't keep reading if your dietary preferences extend to others. In my defense, while I enjoy the taste of meat, I consider giving it up almost as often as I consider quitting smoking. However, I cannot afford what is essentially a dietary luxury since I'm already two different kinds of vitamin deficient. Getting my nutrients from food (which we all need already on account of the whole caloric intake thing) is easier and cheaper than than finding creative supplements for a guilt free diet.

That said, dinner tonight was thick steak rubbed with garlic and perfectly cooked on the grill, brown sugar glazed carrots, and baked sweet potatoes. For dessert, A___ presented me with a slice of unbelievably rich chocolate...well I guess "cake" is the appropriate word for it. It consisted of super dense layers of chocolate cake-like matter layered with what seemed to be a light-ish dark chocolate fudge filling. The outside was covered in a thin coating of this same fudge-like icing with curls of dark chocolate shavings.

My man rocks.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

This is not my beautiful life

While my fella and I were waiting for the car salesman to bring around what I was assured would soon be my frosty green 2004 Civic, the Talking Heads was playing at a volume just under loud over the speaker. They pipe the music throughout the dealership, even out into the lot near the door to the salesroom. Through the many hours I was there last night going over variously unaffordable car replacement options, I realized that the dealership playlist was meant to target my age group, possibly a few years older. I smiled, because I found myself perversely thinking of the soundtrack of the aged come the year 2045. I was imagining how strange it will be to hear Frankie Goes to Hollywood playing softly in the background while my roommate is being suctioned for a sputum sample or having her bedpan changed. Most likely, the many intervening years of car dealership soundtracks and other audio indignities will ameliorate the jarring scene that would otherwise be.

On a happier note, I think I'm getting a car. I say "think" because there could still be a hold up with the financing. But if that clears, I pick up my pretty green Civic on Friday. I have my Ford for two more days. I can't get rid of it soon enough. On the way home from this afternoon's meeting with the Honda financing fellow, I sat at the red light with my hand stuck out the driver's side window to compensate for the Ford's intermittently fucked left rear blinker. The smell of cooking coolant wafted in from the engine while the fan whirred away in a mostly futile attempt to bring the engine temperature down from just a hair under well done and I was reminded of exactly why I am willingly about to go very deep into debt and to bleed my combined savings and semester's living expenses of a hefty $6000 this week.

I am so damned happy I have good credit and about a thousand left over from my divorce settlement. But the savings will be gone after Friday, and the debt load will be at a frightening all time high.

This unavoidable situation has helped to underscore that I've been feeling much closer to quitting my PhD program since at least May. I'll leave the precious pauper act for those who have the health, some level of unshaken belief that life always turns out ok, and the family financial backing to support such silliness. Lacking these luxuries, it's nothing short of terrifying to know that I am literally pouring time, energy, and a huge amount of money into completing this degree.

The faculty attitude which sees any slow downs for my health problems as a smoke screen for lollygagging my way through the PhD program are quite wrong and clearly deserving of a battle. It's the kind of fight I don't easily walk away from. But it is looking less like a battle I can win with anything better than a pyrrhic victory. And the degree itself is seeming less and less likely to support me in what are the most probable and desirable careers for me given my physical constraints, my shaken belief that life will always turn out ok, my apparent allergy to academic culture, and what I know about the academic labor market.

An unbelievably petulant and exceptionally passive aggressive email in my inbox from the new grad in my lab this morning helped push that growing sense of "This is not my beautiful life" a little further into the range where bailing seems the best way to cut my losses. So far, I've lost many things including my self respect on more than one occasion. I've found myself needing to sacrifice personal principles I hold extremely dear in order to even try to play nicely with the other children. I spent the last few years of good health I think I will ever have in my life first attending one crappy PhD program and now another, which, after a change in leadership is rapidly transitioning into high grade crap itself. My debt load is increasing each semester I waste here with little chance of a sure way to pay it off at the end (i.e. few tenure track jobs available and those that are involve hideous teaching loads). I know I have more I can lose before I am left with nothing but I doubt my ability to pull up out of nothing. If I were healthier, I might not be so sure of that, but as it is I don't think I can afford to take the hit to my sanity, any chance of current or future peace of mind, and all of my patience that another year of this program seems to require.

Help support the Jena Six

(From the NAACP)
- Donate to the NAACP–Jena Fund : 4805 Mt. hope Drive, Baltimore, MD 21215. This donation will help the NAACP advocacy activities in Jena.
- You may also donate to the families directly by contributing to the Jena 6 Defense Fund. Donate online or mail donations to: Jena 6 Defense Committee, P. O. Box 2798, Jena, LA 71342.

Some backstory on the Jena Six

The Case of the Jena Six: Black High School Students Charged with Attempted Murder for Schoolyard Fight After Nooses Are Hung from Tree
Democracy Now
July 10, 2007

Six black students at Jena High School in Central Louisiana were arrested last December after a school fight in which a white student was beaten and suffered a concussion and multiple bruises. The six black students were charged with attempted murder and conspiracy. They face up to 100 years in prison without parole. The fight took place amid mounting racial tension after a black student sat under a tree in the schoolyard where only white students sat. The next day three nooses were hanging from the tree.

Judge Reduces Charges in Jena 6 Case But Refuses to Overturn Mychal Bell Conviction
Democracy Now
September 5th, 2007

A Louisiana judge has refused to overturn the conviction of Mychal Bell. He and five other African American teens were arrested and charged with attempted murder after a schoolyard fight in which a white student was beaten and suffered a concussion. An all-white jury found Bell guilty of second-degree battery and conspiracy in June. On Tuesday, a judge dismissed Bell's conspiracy charge and prosecutors announced they've reduced the attempted murder charges against two others among the Jena Six.

Court Overturns Conviction of Mychal Bell

Democracy Now
September 17th, 2007

In Louisiana, a state appeals court has overturned the conviction of 17-year-old Mychal Bell, one of the Jena Six, but he remains behind bars. Last year Bell and five other African American high school students were arrested for beating a white student during a schoolyard fight. The fight occurred after white students hung three nooses in a tree in the schoolyard. An all-white jury convicted Bell of aggravated second-degree battery but on Friday a Louisiana appeals court ruled that Bell should not have been tried as an adult. Bell has been in jail since December and remains locked up after Friday's ruling.

Douchebag du jour (VIII and V)

It's that steaming pile Mark Rowan again.

I don't blame you if you're thinking "Who the fuck is that?" He's a nobody but he's been working hard to make a name for himself by being a major douchebag. Let's not disappoint him folks. I may not say it in a paper funded by student (and indirectly, taxpayer) dollars, but I'll write it here. Mark Rowan is a douchebag who deserves, no I'm sorry, who it seems really needs to someday personally experience what genuine suffering feels like.

That life tends to involve pain for all humans is rarely a thing I take solace in, however when it comes to people like Rowan, I find a comfort in knowing someday life will kick him hard. Maybe it won't be until the end, when he's drooling into his hospital jello cup, subject to the numerous degradations of age and illness that a modern "middle class" and better life nearly guarantees as its final reward. But it will come. I sincerely hope that during whatever dark hours life holds in store for this birth defect, he has a moment to ponder the many ways in which his existence has been a waste of human - hell, even mammalian - potential. The boy simply refuses to heave himself up off his scaly belly and stop rolling in his own muck. Someday, I hope that muck drowns him.

For those of you who don't remember Rowan, he's the editor of a campus newspaper in CT, The Recorder. He's the guy who approved and defended a column called "Rape only hurts if you fight it" in February 2007. Shortly after the shit rather publicly hit the fan over that column, Rowan called his decision a "lapse in judgment". His apology for that lapse was pithy, but only in an ironic sort of way.
"We didn't know the campus community as well as we thought we knew, and because of that that's why we're getting this backlash and we're sorry because of it."

Rowan won douchebag du jour (V) here way back in May of this year for being the umpteenth "boy who called witch hunt" when the community The Recorder is funded by tried to hold him accountable for his seriously fucked up take on editing.

This time, Rowan has approved and defended a cartoon published in The Recorder called "Polydongs" which makes a joke about the abduction and torture/assault of a teenage minority female. The Recorder ran this cartoon on September 12th - about a day after the story about Megan Williams' abduction and torture broke.

Below is a description of the cartoon from Take Back the Recorder.

Panel 1: Polydong 1: "You know...when I eat a bowl of smacks or golden crisps, my urine smells like honey."

Panel 2: Polydong 2: "...Does it taste like honey, too?"

Panel 3: Polydong 1 (faded, focus of panel is on a door barred with chains and a padlock): "I dunno. I'd have to ask that 14 year old Latino girl tied up in the closet." (from under the closet door: "!Yo tengo hambre!")

Panel 4: Polydong 2 (in a bubble bath): "Oh. Tell Jaunita I say 'hola.'"

Beneath the panel: "The Recorder does not support the kidnapping of (and subsequent urinating on) children of any age or ethnicity."

Rowan's defense this time:
Rowan noted that he got two comments from Hispanic girls who thought the comic strip was funny.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

One day to go!

I did four hours of lecture today - back to back - covering my fella's class which is right after mine. And I was still standing, or at least talking and presenting, by the end of it. I'm impressed. It helps that his students seem like a pretty good bunch, they actually thanked me today. How's that for a nice group?

My fella's going to be coming back to the U.S. tomorrow! Yay! Yippeee! And woo-hoo! It's been a long two weeks. His flight gets in late to NYC, so he might stay at his brother's place down there to catch some sleep before driving back to beautiful bucolic CT - but knowing I'll be seeing him soon makes me very, super, extremely happy.



megasuperdouchebags supreme

By now you've probably heard about the six deformities who kidnapped a woman in West Virginia. I read today's story on it because I had noticed a headline last night saying something about no hate crime charges. Sure enough, the prosecutor is not bringing hate crime charges against the six (arguably there could be gender as well as race in there - I'm sure they called her gender slurs during the ordeal). Below is a list of names of the six, who are currently being held on $100,000 bail each after being charged with the list of crimes next to their names. When I first saw that there was any bail, I was pretty pissed. But today I realized with people like this, $100,000 bail equivalent to no bail. Hell, they probably have more teeth among them than dollars.

I doubt anyone's going to post bond for them since (according to this news item) over the last 16 years, police have filed 108 criminal charges against the six which included first degree murder, domestic assault, brandishing a deadly weapon. One of them, Bobby Brewster, apparently had been charged in assault on Ms. Williams in July. Still, in a time when bail is based as much on the prosecutor's perception of the severity of the crime, it seems like this is a bit light.

So...there's talk of racism. Clearly there's the big undeniable, horrific racist and sexist crimes themselves. But I notice the racism and sexism of the institutions which should have been able to prevent this from happening. These people were in and out of the legal system for the better part of two decades, sometimes for quite serious crimes. The first degree murder charge came down to manslaughter. The woman charged served five years. Talk about a slap on the wrist. Moreover, according to the news item I read today, one of the six assailants (Bobby Brewster) assaulted this woman in July - but there was no court date set.

Here's the list of charges and charged, followed by a bit of the news item.
Bobby Brewster, 24 - charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and assault during the commission of a felony
Frankie Brewster, 49 - charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and giving false information during a felony investigation
Danny J. Combs, 20 - charged with sexual assault and malicious wounding
Karen Burton, 46 - charged with malicious wounding, battery and assault during the commission of a felony
Alisha Burton, 23 - charged with assault during the commission of a felony and battery
George A. Messer, 27 - charged with assault during the commission of a felony and battery

Neighbors: Torture suspects were trouble
By Shaya Tayefe Mohajer, Associated Press Writer
September 13, 2007

Authorities say they held a 20-year-old black woman for about a week at their mobile home, where she was tortured, sexually assaulted and forced to eat rat droppings.

Megan Williams' captors, who were white, choked her with a cable cord, stabbed her in the leg while calling her a racial slur, poured hot water over her, made her drink from a toilet and beat her, according to criminal complaints.

State authorities said Wednesday they would not to pursue hate crime charges because the other charges the suspects face carry stiffer penalties. But federal civil rights violations remain an option, U.S. Attorney Charles T. Miller said.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

per plexed

I'm wondering about the difference between "per piacere" and "per favore"? I don't speak Italian often (try close to never) but in calling hotels to speak to my fella, I've had to bust it out. In these exchanges and in my recollection of when I did use Italian more (when I was taking it in college), I it seemed I've been about equally likely to say one as the other, although "per piacere" is the one I tend to stick on the end while if I think I say "favore" at the start of a sentence.

I have no idea why I do this. I think it is an arbitrary positional distinction I have made rather than anything having to do with the language itself.

I am wondering though what is the difference between the two phrases. Does one have a different use than the other or are they more or less interchangeable?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday monday

Ok it got worse.

I left a little late to go to the nuts and berries doc. Not too bad, but enough to have to hustle. As I passed the place where my car overheated the last time I had an appointment with this person (this today was try three in fact), I felt a wave of relief that my car's temperature gauge was staying in the low to middle end of things.

I got there about 7 minutes before my appointment feeling more relieved. Found the building easily, and found that the door to the office was locked.

The sign posted outside with the hours indicated the office was closed Monday. I could have sworn my appointment was for Monday the 10th though. I called and got the voice mail. On the outgoing message, the doctor announced her office's business hours which were Not Monday. I left a message explaining that I really thought I had this appointment today, etc. and asked them to call me back. They did, just as I was coming out of the campus parking garage. It turns out my appointment was today. So what happened? They were at lunch when I called, the door was locked because someone accidentally locked it, and the office hours are right usually not Monday but not this month because this month the doctor is seeing patients on Mondays.

When I got into the department, I found that the friend who said she'd take me to my ultrasound appointment tomorrow was inexplicably absent from work. She is not answering her phone or email either. These days this can mean anything from she forgot her phone or her phone charger at a friend's house to she's on the lam from the latest round of serious family fuckery and won't be contactable for weeks. Good thing my car's working ok so I don't have to worry about it breaking down if I end up driving myself tomorrow.

This evening I stopped on my way home to mail some stuff from a mailbox about five blocks from my apartment. I spilled a bottle of water - I mean dumped one of those big bottles of water all over the passenger seat getting my letters out of my bag. The seat was soaked. Ok, well I was almost home, I thought. I left the car running, mailed the letters, and got back into the car to find the needle on the temperature gauge teetering on red. I need a new expletive for moments like this. "Fucksticks" is good, but already taken. It's not bad as a temporary linguistic device though.

I do have a new word for something else, and that's some fun at least. It's not super easy on the tongue, but it seems coinage worthy as a concept. It's "manmel toe". At a talk I went to on Friday a man in the audience was sitting in such a way, with legs splayed wide, that he had in fact created a manmel toe with the seam of his pants. I'd imagine this would be quite painful, however he kept at it, even (it seemed) leaning into it.

yeah, it's monday

My alarm didn't go off. I know it is rare that this truly happens, but it did today.

My day is full of running around. I'm hoping my car can stand it. When I got it back from the mechanic this last time, they made me promise I was either getting a new car or would bring it back in if I hadn't replaced it by October. Seems I don't have a lot of brake left in the rear.

Today I have an appointment with a naturopath, at the strong suggestion of my primary care's nurse practitioner. I'm a little less than enthusiastic, but I'll try it. I'm trying to keep an open mind because if it will help me feel better, then that's good.

After the nuts and berries hour, I'm meeting with an Irritator (who, true to name, simply could not meet any day last week), and promptly after that I'll be dashing off to go sit in a room with about 8 other bored to hostile teachingassistants, listening to a fluffy childish woman-girl (whom I've nicknamed "poopapotamus") tell us how to do the job she's only done once - and not well. She was rather recently bragging to me that she failed two students for turning in their final papers 6 hours late. With some context, this might not be as shitty as it sounds. But without is how she presented it, and she was really, truly proud of this. I voiced disapproval, which doesn't matter too much because my guess is that she's more interested in male approval than female.

I'll give some backstory, not lots but some, later. It involves poopapotamus taking two weeks off mid semester to get married but refusing to accommodate me for a conflict between her meeting (it's a weekly thing!) and a medical test which has already been rescheduled three times...long story. I'll tell it later because I have to run to get to the beads and rattles appointment by 1:00.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Information from the CDC discussed in the excerpt below can be found here.
Does anyone else think this is about the most damning bit of evidence against all that "war on boys" shit?

CDC: Suicide rate among U.S. girls soars
By Greg Bluestein
Associated Press Writer
Sep 6, 2007

ATLANTA - The suicide rate among preteen and young teen girls spiked 76 percent, a disturbing sign that federal health officials say they can't fully explain.

For all young people between ages 10 to 24, the suicide rate rose 8 percent from 2003 to 2004 — the biggest single-year bump in 15 years — in what one official called "a dramatic and huge increase."

The report, based on the latest numbers available, was released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and suggests a troubling reversal in recent trends. Suicide rates had fallen by 28.5 percent since 1990 among young people.

The biggest increase — about 76 percent — was in the suicide rate for 10- to 14-year-old girls. There were 94 suicides in that age group in 2004, compared to 56 in 2003. The rate is still low — fewer than one per 100,000 population.

Suicide rates among older teen girls, those aged 15-19 shot up 32 percent; rates for males in that age group rose 9 percent.

"In surveillance speak, this is a dramatic and huge increase," Dr. Ileana Arias said of the overall picture. She is director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

More research is needed to determine whether this is a trend or just a blip, said one child psychiatrist, Dr. Thomas Cummins of Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "We all need to keep our eye on this over time to see if this is a continuing trend."

kitty scratching

I don't know if this will embed. If it doesn't, here's the link.

Shorty on the Wheels of Steel

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very special ed

I kinda feel bad for these guys. Still, I find myself marveling at the deep trust or massive entitlement which would lead anyone to believe this is an appropriately low key way to peddle pot. And on this note, today is my first lecture of the semester. Here we go.

From The Boston Globe
A pair of freshmen at Northeastern University learned a tough lesson before classes even started this semester, when one of them allegedly leaned out the window of his dormitory and yelled something regrettable in earshot of plainclothes police officers.

"If you're looking for weed, my roommate F_______ has some for sale," (the student) yelled, according to a release issued today by the Suffolk district attorney's office.
According to the release from prosecutors, police went to the second floor of the dormitory after hearing Emery yell and found the door open. In plain view was a bottle of Grey Goose vodka, a shot glass, and a plastic baggie of marijuana.

Pot PSA from PFG:
It seems this situation could have been avoided if these fellas had simply followed a couple of simple rules:
1. Don't publicly refer to your reefer as "weed", in fact just avoid any of the generic and well known names. My siblings and I called it after a friend's mother - a woman who was such a massive smoker she (and her name) had become emblematic of the substance.
2. Don't leave "Pattie" out if she's not in use.
3. Keep stash, instruments, and implements tucked away until the door has been closed, locked, and secured. You never know who might walk by and see it. Like a plainclothes police officer. Or that annoying guy who mooches Pattie off anyone and everyone. You know the guy. The kid who begs you into letting him smoke with you and who then acts like a retarded gibbon - long arms flailing and knocking over the milk crates you have carefully stacked on your microwave and mini-fridge, yelling things like "MAN I AM SOOOOO HIGH!" "THIS IS REALLY GOOD WEED!" and "I'M TOTALLY STONED!"

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Higher ed

or special ed?

I got an email today from our new associate vice president of campus something or another services (the old one having been driven out of the position after some not very savory issues surfaced regarding recent extremely expensive campus construction projects). The part of his email I have excerpted below perplexed me, not necessarily deeply, but at least moderately.

All other areas are also asked to consider placing air conditioning units on a "low" setting when in use or turning them off, particularly when not occupied.

My reading of this sentence seems to require that air conditioning units be the semantic object of occupied. I think if I tried to diagram it, I'd need a 3d+ chart. Perhaps a sentence mobile.

I don't usually quibble over syntax. I'm not a grammar tyrant, but this sentence is needlessly screwy on account of too many high-falutin' syntactic stylings, and that always annoys the crap out of me. Why do bureaucrats love the passive voice so? And why is it that people who have such piss poor written communication skills get these high paying jobs?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

not Monday, again

I want to say at the outset, while someone was apparently injured here, and probably rather seriously, I've been assured by the police that this person will be ok.

I woke up to the cell phone alarm, slapped it into snooze and went back to sleep. About two minute later my house phone rang. I dug my cell out from under the pillow, opened it and grunted a sleepy "hello?" into it. Shit. I dropped the cell and picked up the house phone, glaring at the caller ID. It was my gynecologist's office. I answered it. The receptionist told me they need to change my appointment. Again. Without computer and calendar, I picked a day I hoped was good and set it up. I repeated the day and time to her, then to myself after I got off the phone. I thought about getting up and writing it down. In a minute, I told myself. Next time the alarm goes off....

Even though I technically still had at least 20 minutes of snoozing left before I'd consider myself to have overslept, and even though there was a cozy orange cat on my bed (making it all the more appealing), a warning cramp fairly launched me out of bed to find food to take my drugs with. This is so not how I like to get up.

Cat fed, coffee poured, and drugs swallowed I sat down to update my calendar. I had been repeating the new date and time of the gynecology appointment since rising. I heard a chainsaw in the distance. I didn't think a hell of a lot about it at the time. I thought "oh, a chainsaw" because I don't like chainsaws, and then went about pointedly ignoring the sound. It seems like someone in the neighborhood is always having yard or house work done on any given day. Nothing remarkable there. Just pretend there's no chainsaw. I called to change an appointment which I just then realized I had doublebooked and got some guff from the staff member on the phone.

In general, I'm not a fan of doctors' office staff. Often, I find they piss me off. I think I get more pissed than I would otherwise since I used to be a medical secretary. This means I have done their jobs. While I realize it can be a hard job, I don't think I was ever that shitty to a patient. To doctors and nurses? Yes. To respiratory therapists? Sure. To other secretaries even? Definitely. But not patients.

This staff member wasn't shitty, she was exasperated that this was the second time I had to change this appointment. I held my mouth in check, mostly because I was still waking up and therefore rather verbally unarmed. It is frequently at this point where I get cheeky and from there it's a very rapid descent into shitty. When she finished giving me her exasperated huffy mild shit and making my new appointment, I explained, "You know, that last time I canceled I was calling you from my broken down car. And when we rescheduled that appointment then, when I was calling from my broken down car, I didn't actually have my calendar with me."

It wasn't much but I thought she needed to know it. She had slid back into a more sympathetic tone, complete with gracious "oh"s and "ooh"s while I was reminding her about these circumstances. I'm not fooled. I've seen what's under that mask and I won't forget it.

I got off the phone, updated the calendar again, and was just returning my attention to some serious coffee drinking and email checking when I heard the chainsaw cut out. You remember the chainsaw. The one I pointedly ignoring until I realized it had stopped suddenly and was followed by what sounded like a dog which had been hit by a car.

For a moment, it was just that. This yelping sound and nothing else. It was otherwise quiet. And then every dog for blocks started barking and howling along with the sound, which continued. It was an urgent sound. You cannot ignore a sound like that. I grabbed my cell phone and went outside just in time to hear the yelping turn into a very tortured sounding human voice saying "HELP ME! Somebody please help me!!! HELP!"

What seriously sucked was I had no clear idea where this man was. Consequently, my 911 call was sort of fragmented. "Hi, I'm in (town name). I just heard what sounded like someone working with a chainsaw outside, then a man started screaming and yelling 'help me' and I'm walking toward where it was coming from but I don't know what house he's at yet....I'm on (street name) near (street name) and I can tell he's around here somewhere..."

I'm sure they love this kind of call. I realize as I type it that I have just completely assumed they get this kind of call from other people.

I was coming up on the huge house about a half block down and another half block around the corner from my street. This was where I suspected the man was, mostly on the reasoning that this was the biggest house around and so the inhabitants could probably afford and be inclined to hire someone to come work on the yard, which is most likely who was doing yard work on a weekday morning.

The man had gotten quieter now and less verbal although he was still vocalizing. The 911 dispatcher stayed on the phone with me while I yelled "Where are you? Are you ok?" into various driveways and yards until I got to the long driveway at the big house. I hobbled up to the top of it.

Here's what I saw.

A tree with a huge branch hanging off it. I couldn't see the point where it departed from the tree, just that it was at such an angle that it had to have been nearly detached and just stuck there on the tree or something. I saw a man standing a little away from the tree. He was standing where the side I couldn't see would have been fully visible to him. "Where is he? Is he ok?" I yelled to him. He half turned toward me I saw he was holding a cell phone to his ear.

Two men came running out of the garage toward the tree. They were each carrying several two by fours. One of them had heard me asking if the guy was ok and replied hurriedly "He's stuck in the tree and he's hurt."

"What's the address?" I yelled to anyone who could answer. "For 911" I added. The man with the cell phone snapped the phone shut and said "They're on their way now." Then he approached the tree, where the other two men had started doing something with the boards on the side I couldn't see.

I waited for a moment near the top of the driveway, thinking I should probably go since I was serving no useful purpose and since I had NO inclination to actually see what had happened. I started toward the road. I got out to the street just in time to see the first emergency vehicle slowly driving by. I guess the guy who called 911 had no idea what the address was either (hey, there's a lesson here - make sure your damned house number is visible from the street!) . I waved them down and sent them up the driveway. I started to leave again only to make eye contact with a cop who was very slowly driving by, scanning the sidewalks carefully. "He's up there, in back" I said helpfully pointing back toward the driveway. He pulled into the driveway and stopped. Sirens were starting up somewhere. "Can you stay here and send the others up?" he asked me. Er, ok. So I did, only realizing after I sent up the second cop car how much it sucked that I had no bra on under my t-shirt. Great. You know, you just don't think about this sort of shit when you hear someone screaming like that.

After the fire trucks came and parked out at the driveway entrance, bright obvious lights flashing and all, I decided there was plenty of indication where the emergency was. And my cramps were coming back. I started to think about walking home, which seemed a bit further now than it had about 20 minutes ago. A cop came down the driveway on foot and said "He's going to be ok," and that was all I needed to hear - I was out of there, arms crossed very not casually over my chest, wanting to walk much more quickly than my hip would allow, which is probably good because while I am not huge of chest, without bra there's still a hell of a lot more jiggle than I'd care to be showing as I made my way back up to my apartment.

Now I'm back home, drinking more coffee, feeling sort of sick to my stomach, being thankful that I didn't go around the tree to get a better look, wondering why my period always manages to come at the worst possible time (my first two hour lecture of the semester will be on day two - of course), trying to shake off that knock on wood feeling, and trying to forget the chilling sound of that particular pain call.

Did I mention that I have always hated chain saws? I do. When I hear them I have to consciously tune them out or I'm likely to have nasty images flood my mind. Good lord I am glad I didn't go around that tree.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Found this over at Cranky Prof's Cranky Epistles. I edited down the text size because really, who needs 130% font size anyhow?

You're The Sound and the Fury!

by William Faulkner

Strong-willed but deeply confused, you are trying to come to grips with a major crisis in your life. You can see many different perspectives on the issue, but you're mostly overwhelmed with despair at what you've lost. People often have a hard time understanding you, but they have some vague sense that you must be brilliant anyway. Ultimately, you signify nothing.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Irritating Requirements Before...

...You can collect your data.

The acronym doesn't actually mean this, but I_R_B_ does seem to stand for it often. I've been dealing with these folks directly and indirectly for years now and it is with this experience that I say the Irritating Requirements Before undertaking any research too often fail to address or even recognize the real potential areas of trouble in studies like the ones conducted by my peers and me, instead bogging down research with excruciating attention to details like the order of items on a consent form.

I've spent most of today reviewing and rewriting these wee details of a proposal I got back on Friday and yep, I may be bored out of my skull but I am about done with that shit. There's only so long I can try to patiently and ever so carefully phrase a comment that disclosing all the details of the experimental manipulations to the participant before they go through the experiment is not something anyone normally does, and that in all but some specific cases, it probably shouldn't count as "deception". I mean, if I extended the "puffy" sound on certain consonants that my subject will hear by 50% and then play them mixed in with consonants where the "puffy" part isn't extended, and I don't tell them, this is enough to count as a deception. I don't know what brand of crazy these people are smoking but they seriously needto consider cutting down. On the plus side, in my search to assuage the many irritating concerns the Irritators had with my proposal, I did find some neat freeware.

The other perk of having something I had to do but which could be done sitting on my ass at the computer is that I felt like hell today. Without the very structured revisions I had to do, I might have just floated in the murk of feeling like shit. While I feel like hell many days, today's feeling like hell was especially notable since I'm on my own for the next 11 or so days until A____ gets back.

I hate that this is how it is.

When I was a healthy person, I'd miss my partner when we were apart but the big time sucking "what do I do now?" type feelings didn't usually start to set in so quickly. Now that I am not a healthy person and my world is rather a bit more narrow, it set in about 24 hours after A___ left CT.

When I was a healthy person, I'd go through this "kid alone in the house" phase where I'd do all the things I like to do or which my own personal inertia (or is it entropy?) moves me to do but which I believe (rightly or wrongly) will annoy my partner or are not healthy to do around partners (like things which will put me in a mood where I will be unapproachable and odd).

What does healthy me do on a long weekend which is the first three days her partner is out of town and early enough in the semester to mean no grading? I stay up late without regard for what's a decent hour. I let myself get wrapped up in stupid and pointless internet activities like posting rants about local politicians and my university on the local newspaper forums.

I smoke and eat shitty and don't sleep well and let myself get a little strange. I write long rambling poems about ex boyfriends who suck, about ex advisors who suck, and about my parents, who clearly suck the most of all. I write and write and write. I go into school late and stay late, working until well past dark in the lab and enjoying evening cigarette breaks on a quietly busy school year evening. I go out for dinner with people and I drive home alone feeling all independent and grown up and shit.

I read two novels in one day.

I watch crap I wouldn't want to watch with someone else, like three episodes in a row of Ugly Betty, wishing it would get better but not caring too much that it doesn't. I cook. I even invite people over to watch movies with me and to eat the food I cook. They blow me off and I call up a friend and crab about how much grad school people suck, gloatingly eating whatever excellent thing it was I made. I go to a bookstore in another town and wander for hours. Or I buy underwear.

I pull out all my makeup and try different looks. They all end up looking more or less the same, except that I find it is true that only youngsters should wear frosty eyeshadow. I wax and bleach. I do my nails, usually several times.

I abandon half full mugs of coffee on surfaces at home for days and then, at some point when I realize how many of them are out and am totally disgusted with myself, I have a huge cleaning fit where I don't stop until every surface is dust and clutter free and as shiny as it can get. I might rearrange furniture. Today I was struck by an urge to paint the walls in the living room.

Few and little of these activities are options now, and without the outside or truly active activities to mix things up, I find I am less inclined towards sinking into just the ones I can do with little activity in my own apartment and by myself. Also, I simply can no longer stay up late and not eat right for days so as to get into that proper poetry-cleaning-working late then moving furniture around- frame of mind (no really, it's like a potato chip, caffeine, and nicotine induced trance or something). Instead, I partition out my time into little bits of "productive low energy stuff" and "nonproductive low energy stuff". "I could read for a while..." I think, then notice how slender the paperback I just got is. So I decide I'll work some first. "Then I could read after I work and then watch this movie." Except the movie turned out to be one where not one but three dogs die. Jeeesus. (btw, I don't recommend it)

Yesterday I had a day planned of work, local errands, dinner and reading or movie, work, movie or reading, and bed. I got to dinner and movie and then I got sick. When you're sick and alone and you know you'll be alone for the next 11 days without a hell of a lot to take your mind off either being sick or alone or both, you really feel it.

So it was with some sense of gusto that I approached the task of reviewing my proposal today. I was so engaged in it that I only realized just now that I've been doing it for the last 6 hours (with two short breaks to talk to A___ and to my sister). And I am still not done with it. Well, it beats the three dead dogs movie, and that's a start. I think I'm going to go curl up with a stats book now.

thoughts of halloween

This is one holiday where I have long pushed the season. The months long ramp up to Halloween doesn't seem as troubling as the designation of November through January "the christmas season!".

I'm wondering why. Bear with me while I explore it. I think to me Halloween is one of the few organic holidays we have left, although it's certainly been er, whatchacallit, over processed in recent years. I guess some time between the mid 80s and late 90s the liquor companies realized it wasn't just a holiday for kids. Which is a real pity because with the level and type of over processing intensive booze ad campaigning entails comes the over-popularity of what I call the personal fantasy (usually involving sex) costume or possibly just the sexy costume. Sometimes those can be amusing and fun when such a costume is worn by someone whose inner hotty is not too at odds with the rest of the individual's persona and who has explored this facet of his or her personality enough to have a sense of humor about it. However, such a costume or more specifically, the non-introspective individual in such a costume can be creepy and just plain old skanky.

E.g., the brides. They were students from Spain in a department which shall remain nameless. I was having my (then) traditional halloween party in a month or so and had invited these two women along with most of the department - some faculty included. Because I'm that person, the one who if she's going to bring cupcakes for one person makes them for everyone. Yep. Ok, well mostly everyone. I do draw a line at people who plain old suck. Anyhow, these two women were not really what you'd call friends but weren't what you'd call people who suck so they were invited. Let's call them Marta and Lucia.

Lucia had been to a US Halloween party before but Marta had not. Both were very excited. And I should mention both were interested in this german student who I had invited, "Hans". I don't know which of them initiated the bride motif. Possibly both of them were struck with the same type of image when they saw the rack of used wedding dresses when we entered the Salvation Army store. Although I didn't see either Marta and Lucia buy the dresses that night, they had swooped on them. Apparently they returned later and bought a couple.

Marta and Lucia showed up at the party, both in white wedding gowns and both with long black elvira like wigs. Marta had done up her face vampircally, Lucia hadn't. I don't recall what Hans had worn - I may have blanked it out. I think his costume was where Marta got the riding crop she had been brandishing for much of the night until she was overcome by the fruits of her man-dilemma induced binge drinking (her boyfriend from Spain had flown in to visit that week, adding another point in the already unruly Marta, Lucia, Hans love polygon). Pre-puke, Marta had spent quite a bit of the evening running after people, gown hitched up, swinging the riding crop and announcing "I am going to BITE you!" (for the most authentic effect, you have to imagine this said in carefully articulated English with a hint of a Spanish accent). Pre-puke, Marta, Lucia, and Hans had been smarming all over people at my party, including me. Somewhere there are pictures of me and one of the brides taking turns feeding each other grapes. I heard later that they had gone further than such coy flirtations here and there, going so far as to group sex-proposition a friend of mine. Ewwww.

Like I said, creepy.
But I digress. I was talking about the lead up to holidays and whether it is justified by the holiday being truly seasonal.

Halloween is, christmas I'm not so sure about. With christmas, there is little to no apparent connection between the nature of the celebrations/festivities and the reason for them. Let's see - Jesus was born (in a desert) so this fat guy in a red suit comes along and sneaks into your house to give you presents. Yeah. And stockings full of stuff? Where does that come in? Stockings maybe go with the whole winter season thing, but then we go back to Jesus being born, and while we do celebrate "chirst"mas instead of the proper pagan holiday which late December should be (you know, seasonally speaking and all), we're all part of a big fat cultural denial about the real purpose for this holiday in the northern climes. Winter. Cold stuff. White for what's on the ground, green for what we hope will be one the ground, and red for what probably needs to be spilled for that to happen.

I remember I had a christmas song book when I took piano lessons as a kid. I never got to the point where I could readily read music, but I'd open it up to whatever song I was pecking out by ear on the keyboard , "First Noel" was easiest for me. The picture was of a child shepherd with a lamb set against a background of snowy desert with the town of Bethlehem looming in the distance. Snow and Bethlehem? Maybe I'm wrong but I didn't think the middle east saw a whole lot of snow.

Even on a more basic level, there's fuckall that red and green and white have to do with Jesus? Like I said, pagan. But you can't discern that from the festivities. Yes, Santa wears red and white. But aside from Santa also being somewhat removed from the "real" point of CHRISTmas, the color choice in a christian context at least is apparently arbitrary. Santa could just as well have worn orange and purple for all that red and white symbolize now (i.e. not much in a modern context because we are very busy with marketing symbolism - bet you can id a pepsi sign even if the word "PEPSI" is nowhere near it).

Then there's Halloween. The holiday colors are the same colors you see around you in the Fall and they are the colors of death. The celebration entails images of death, dead things, and things which are beyond death (i.e. magical). Hell, there's even candy corn. What do we have at christmas? Candy canes - red and white again, this time in the shape of something which I have a hard time automatically associating with anything santa or jesus-like. I can stretch it to see some relation of canes and winter but usually the broken and twisted limbs which would necessitate the use of a cane come a bit later in the season.

Why candy at halloween? It's not an uncommon notion culturally that special food is served when the dead are celebrated. Then we have lanterns for the dark, gourds because it's a harvest holiday, costumes because we are trying to confuse the dead who might otherwise take us back with them when their time to walk the earth is over. It all makes sense, more or less, symbolically speaking at least. And seasonally speaking. It's a seasonal holiday with symbolism, but that symbolism isn't too far removed from the actual season itself. Unlike christmas.

Have I justified why I get psyched for Halloween starting in mid August? Not really. For me there's something about the light change. There's usually a late afternoon in mid to late August where it's a little cooler and I realize soon it will be Fall, which is very close to Winter. It's not at all a long stretch from watching a riot of reds tumbling out of trees against a sparkling blue sky to watching those same bare trees scratching at a blanket of gray on gray sky which is darkening even now while there is far too much of what we call "day" left in the I'd better enjoy the hell out of this golden safe feeling sun while I have it. And that makes the sunlight, which was already beautiful, seem even better. It makes food taste nicer, people look more attractive, and life feel fuller.

While I don't party much these days, I still very much look forward to Halloween. My yearly traditions still include watching bad old horror movies, handing out candy if not from home then on campus (I call it "reverse trick or treat" when I'm on campus giving candy out to my colleagues), and taking at least one day to dress up even a little - maybe wearing my purple glittery horns or spider boinger-headband and my dracula socks which have a button you can press that makes dracula's LED eyes flash red while a spooky sounding midi plays (although I've learned not to wear the latter when I need to attend a lecture or talk of any sort since one careless leg cross can set it off and once it goes off it's going until it stops, there's no kill switch).

What made me think of this was seeing a hit on my blog from someone looking up killer prom queen on google. Somewhere I have those pictures of me in that get up. I'll scan them if I can find them.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

most referred

Up until recently, the highest search based hits on this blog came from the following two types of searches.
1. "hippie", "import store", "hippie room", etc. as a result of posts like this one
2. "shaved gynecologist", "shaving and gynecologist", etc. as a result of this post

Since Senator Craig's recently publicized bathroom follies though, the number of hits from searches on the topic of tearoom trade is definitely picking up.

This amuses me.