Friday, December 28, 2007

Awesome Console Idea

I have an awesome idea for a console add-on. I'm watching Pete play Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed and they both have a lot of information to remember. Mass Effect, in particular, is very good at keeping everything organized for you and making sure that you can access more information than you could ever possibly need. Nonetheless, sometimes it's hard to remember "I checked this unmarked room already" or "I need to come back and ask this person these same stupid questions when I have more charm or intimidation." I really liked being able to make notes all over my maps playing Zelda on the DS; it was most helpful. I think that they ought to make a wireless "notepad" for the Xbox - something the size of that e-book reader Amazon is hawking. It would have a touch screen and a stylus (pen-length, please, for adult-sized hands) and could interface with the information provided by the game and allow you to make your own notes and associations.

For example, in Mass Effect you could open your journal on your TV screen and the map on your notebook and mark a big ol' unsmiley face for a lock you failed to finesse and will need to open with "omnigel" (or whatever it's called) when you have more of it (if you ever don't have enough). Or if you thought to yourself, "I'd like to give my friend Big Monster-Looking Guy some better armor, but I'll need to level up his Armor Wearing Skills; I hope I don't forget," you could open the buddy screen on your notebook and write "Needs better armor" over Big Monster-Looking Guy as a reminder. If you have trouble remembering where you're going, you could create little linking icons between the map and the journal entries the game so helpfully provides.

I think this would be even more helpful in games that don't provide Mass Effect-levels of information. It would create a whole new world for gaming guides and down-loadable content. You know how in those "Official Game Guide" books they sell for $20 at game/electronics stores they have specialty maps of where all the flags/keys/MacGuffins can be found throughout the game? Imagine if you could download those from the Tubes and X out each one as you collect it. For OCD gamers (like me) or completionists, that would be pretty neato.

Anyway, these are the things I think about while watching Pete play games. Well, this and, "I wonder if my brother would let me borrow his Xbox to play some Katamari."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I am not dead, Blogosphere!

Okay, so I did not post at all in the month of November. This is partly because life is very boring. (The good kind of boring, where you're happy, but nothing to blog home about, so to speak.) Things got busy at work and I have learned that although I think I've been very careful and have excellent attention to detail, there is nothing you can do to catch every mistake when reworking a medical form. I cut and forgot to subsequently paste questions. I missed numbering errors. I capitalized and italicized inconsistently. But lucky for me, there were a lot of people looking at it and I think we've caught everything now. (hahahaha!)

But this process, and the process of doing cognitive interviews about the form with actual patients, has lead me to really think about "health" - as an abstract - and about how social convention both helps and damns us. On the latter, because patients seek out their physician and their physician's advice, they will do pretty much anything the physician asks them to. Fill out a 13-page form? Sure! Answer the same embarrassing question four times? Why not! This is great for physicians because it allows them to quickly and easily get the information they need when they need it. Because they aren't wasting time explaining why patients should follow instructions or rereading a chart looking for one piece of hidden information they could easily ask for, they're brains are free to think about the patient's condition and to develop an autopilot for making diagnostic connections. On the other hand, patients will sometimes suffer through humiliating or painful procedures because they trust their doctor so implicitly. Why wouldn't you ask what something is for, why it's being done, why this piece of vital information can't be ascertained another way? Every patient I interviewed said the same thing about the incredibly long form: "I'm sure it's useful to the doctor. She wouldn't ask if she didn't need to know." When it comes to the doctors I'm working with, that's absolutely the case - you couldn't ask for more dedicated or caring specialists. But this is a general statement; it's not really about the physicians asking the questions; it's about any physician.

This brings me to "health" as an abstract. What is wellness? How do we define when we're well? What does it mean to be well? I think a major component of "health" is fear. You live every day in your body: shouldn't you know it better than anyone else? And yet it does so many strange things, for which there is seemingly no explanation. Finally, one of the strange things causes you concern, you know that you don't personally have an answer, so you go looking for one. And for most people, in that fearful state, unsure of what their symptoms mean, whoever they see first is who they see period. No matter how good or bad that physician is (and honestly: how would we tell the difference without being physicians ourselves?), most people will never question him/her or seek out a second opinion. And if you're a problem patient - someone who comes back repeatedly with the same mystery complaint, who believes in health fads, who's on the internet 24/7, who brings literature with them to the doctor's office - you will sometimes be given a catch-all, meaningless diagnosis because they don't know what's wrong with you and just want you to go away. Fibromyalgia. Interstitial cystitis. So long as there's a technical-sounding name, they can even make something up. And for some people, this works. Sometimes it really is psychological, and all they needed was a name for the condition and then suddenly the supplements or exercises or diet-changes take effect. And how is that not a cure?

What part of health is purely psychological? Don't we all rely on physicians to do fear-management and to help us understand what the emotional burden of our condition will be? I think an argument could be made that 95% of health is psychological. You can have a physiological problem, testable and visible to a trained professional, and not feel a thing. Are you then well or unwell? You could have achy joints every day of your life from birth, but that's your reality, so it isn't until you're an adult that it becomes clear that most people do not expect their joints to ache after sitting for more than an hour. Were you well or unwell before your realization? Are you any more well or unwell now? Our expectations for "wellness" are sometimes defined by our community, sometimes by the media, sometimes by personal experience and sometimes by our physicians. Is one right and another wrong? How is anyone supposed to understand wellness? How can anyone argue that there is an objective wellness?

These are the things that I've been thinking about. My guess is that they'll roll around in my head and ram up against specific problems and examples over the next couple of years. Hopefully that will help me decide what I want to do vis-a-vis a PhD program. If the questions become solid enough where I'm dying to experimentally explore them, then I'll want to go back to school. But if they stay amorphous like this, I'm not sure what good more school will do. Do I really want to get a PhD just to determine if something is measurable?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Moving! Also, this thing I found!

So we are finally all moved in, although we're still unpacking. And still writing thank you cards for wedding gifts. If you haven't received one yet, we're working on it! It would help us, if you have recently moved, if you could send us your address. Except Joseph: he's totally on top of things. ::gold star::

In other news, I found a note in the pocket of my winter coat from my cousin's wedding last spring. Here is what it says:

What is it with weddings and satan these days? And the admonitions against cheating?! SO WEIRD!

Let's make sure that we tell whoever marries us "no discussion of philandering" if we have any kind of ceremony.

I use nanobots to control you.

In your food.

Dude- where is he going with this?

[A family friend] says they've [my cousin and his girlfriend] been getting couples counseling with her pastor. I wonder if it's this guy.

I plan to be 90% of the trouble.

I would like to thank my brother for being awesome at our wedding and not talking about philandering, nanobots, womanly wiles, or the devil.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Just in case I missed you...

I've been trying to send this to everyone I know, but I may not have your email address. If that is the case, now's your chance! Read about voting YES on Measure 50! And send me your email address!

Are you registered to vote in Oregon? You should be!! And you should be voting YES on Measure 50! Why? Because...

WE LOVE CHILDREN! HOORAY!

But perhaps you would like to hear more about this exciting civic opportunity! You should first investigate...

www.healthykids-oregon.com

because it has exciting colors and colorful drawings, possibly made by real children!

But just in case you wanted Instant Information Gratification...

What will Measure 50 do?
Ultimately, it will give approximately 110,000 children health coverage through the state.

How will it be funded?
Measure 50 amends the constitution to include a tobacco tax, which funds the Healthy Kids program.

Who is lobbying against it?
Big Tobacco (those child-hating jerks!)

Perhaps you have seen No On 50 ads and are wondering, "Hey, what the hell?! I don't even know what to believe now!" I will attempt to respond to their salacious... I mean "thoughtful" arguments.

Over 70% of the funding generated by this bill will NOT go to kids! ::gasp::
Actually, the opposite is true: over 70% of the funding will go DIRECTLY to kids. ::double gasp:: I'm not sure how they got this so backwards. I mean, it's kind of a big mistake ::couLIEgh:: to make, especially on television where everyone can see it.

The state is using this bill to give millions to HMOs! ::faint::
The state will still use a competitive bidding process, and HMOs can participate. So, theoretically, if the HMOs had the best prices and gave the best coverage, then yeah, they would get millions of dollars. But the state isn't just forking it over. The state wants a dog and pony show. The state wants Hostess Cherry Pies emblazoned with the state seal. Also, good deals on care. That too.

This bill is a BLANK CHECK ::scare quotes!:: and the state will SQUANDER $67 million on Hostess Cherry Pies and road repairs!
Um, no. Just, just no. All the money is accounted for; it's all going into specific programs. Like smoking cessation! And safety net clinics! And the expansion of OHP (Oregon Health Plan) Standard to about 20,000 more low-income adults!

Amending the constitution is scary. It should make you want to cry. And hate children.
Remember, that's what this is all about. Even if you agree that amending the constitution is scary, this is about children - all the children. This is about vaccinations, well-child check-ups, preventive care and chronic condition care for things like asthma and diabetes. Kids are cheap to care for (from an insurance stand point) and healthy kids become healthy adults. Uninsured kids are much less likely to get care for things like ear infections and injuries, which means that they're sicker when they get to the hospital, so they spend more time in hospital when they get there. :( [That is me being sad for the children.]

So that's what I have to say about that! If you have any questions, feel free to ask! If I don't know the answer, I'll make one up! Or you can always write to the good people at www.healthykids-oregon.org or to Bruce Goldberg, Director of the Oregon Department of Human Services.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why is "husband" so hard to remember?

Because I have 7 1/2 years practice saying "boyfriend." What's really weird is that it isn't a problem in public, but at home. I automatically say things like, "You're the best boyfriend ever." And then I'm forced to add, "I mean husband. Yes, that's the one." This leads me to one sad conclusion: those phrases have lost word-level semantic meaning for me. The meaning is in the phrase as a whole, like how people can say and use correctly "Je ne sais quoi" or "c'est la vie" without knowing what the actual words mean because they don't speak French. Still, it's particularly weird to me because I was so sick of the term "boyfriend." It just didn't accurately represent our relationship anymore. Who knew that familiarity (with the term) would breed both contempt and fear of change?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Once you graduate, where do you get advice?

Here is a question: Now that I've finished graduate school, where do I go for advice on my student loans? I am disinclined to tap my school's financial aid department as they haven't been much help in the past. I'm not sure I can trust my lender to give me unbiased advice and my bank's loan people aren't set up to make student loans, let alone give informed opinions about them. What have you done? Who would you talk to?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Joe Has The Best Idea Ever

In the comments for my August 14 post Joe suggested a hilarious scenario, one that I hope we witness in our lifetimes. In the form of a sitcom. I want a sitcom world in which McDonald's (or similar) enacts the BMI rule. It would be just one season. Maybe two, but you'd have to have a full story arc from the beginning.

Episode One: Characters are introduced, scene is set.
1) McDonald's-loving congressman. He has a fat wife/daughter/son/whatever and writes the bill that requires fast food establishments to measure BMI before selling customers food.
2) Congressman's chief of staff. He has to run interference between the congressman and the loved one. He also has to sneak the congressman fast food, which means he spends a lot of time working out. He is a foil. And a tool.
3) Congressman's wife/daughter/son/whatever. Fat, angry, frequently tries to bribe the chief of staff.
4) Fast food executive who has to deal with the legislation.
5) Fast food executive's nutrition/training expert/consultant who has to "synergize" the new requirements and "actionize" their implementation.
6) Beleaguered fast food restaurant manager. The only person to see that this is total insanity and that it's never going to work.
7) Motley crew of fast food employees.
7a) Pimply faced teenage boy.
7b) Greasy ex-con/-vet (depending on whether the show is on Fox or ABC).
7c) Goth girl teenager.
7d) Preppy but poor girl teenager from the NASCAR Ghetto who is all about "makin' it to Corporate!"
7e-g) Several Hispanics of indeterminate age who only speak "fast food English." They also see that the new legislation is never going to work, but no one listens to them because all Americans are racist. (Subtle, huh?) Oh, also, they are always in a group. And I can't decide if it's funnier if they're subtitled or not. I say not and reward all of the kids who took/take high school Spanish.
8) Assorted regular customers.
9) Assorted random, one-off customers.

Episode Two: The Employees Go To Training.
Hilarity ensues when the employees have to duck out one or two at a time for training in using the new "BMI Customer Machine." The expert/consultant informs them that it stands for "Because McDonald's Invests in its Customers. Pimply Face says, "Wouldn't that be BMIIIC?" ::laugh track::

Episode Three: Congressman realizes he's too fat to get a Big Mac. Hilarity ensues!

Episode Four: The Machine breaks, but the only people who notice are the Hispanics and no one can understand them. By the second half of the show they have gotten a repair person out (a sassy lady in a jumpsuit with indie glasses, a red rag in her back pocket and a black pony-tail pulled through her hat!) and... um... hilarity ensues.

Episode Five: The Congressman's wife/kid/whatever gets a job. At the McDonald's! Will his/her obesity turn people off their food? What if a customer asks him/her something like, "So, what are you allowed to have?" Hahaha! Making fun of people whose lives are at serious risk for a whole slew of terrible diseases and conditions! Hahaha!

Then there's the rest of the season where, you know, hilarity ensues, except for one or two touching moments. (Preppy Girl finds out that "Hispanics are real people too!" And then she realizes that she still doesn't know their names! Haha!)

Final Episode: The attorney general or supreme court or whatever declares the law unconstitutional. The expert/consultant goes on to a new project (it's a reality tv show: what happens when you put ten people together in a three bed/one bath on a deserted island... and they all happen to be ethnic Maylays who are obsessed with Prince?!). The congressman's wife/son/daughter/whatever loses a butt-ton of weight on a local version of Celebrity Biggest Loser. (WOOOooooOOOOO!) And the congressman has a heart attack. Because of all the McDonald's he ate. And he dies. The final scene is his funeral. And his skinny wife/son/daughter/whatever is there gnawing on a chicken leg. His chief of staff gives a disapproving look, to which s/he replies: "What?! I'm on Atkins!" Hahahahaha!

This has all been extremely stream of conscious. Which is about how well thought out I think most sitcoms are. But I think this would be an awesome concept. The trick is to limit it to a single season (maybe - MAYBE - two) so that you don't end up with any weddings at the McDonald's or crap like that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Just ignore constitutionality for a minute...

...and consider the following (possibly retarded) thought.

What if McDonald's determined what you could order at their restaurants based on BMI. My brother could have whatever he wants; Pete and I could have salads, chicken or parfaits; the morbidly obese could have salads and diet coke.

McDonald's is trying to sell itself as healthful with their new commercials showing fresh foods never before seen in an actual McDonald's restaurant. They haven't changed their products, they just want you to think they have. But what if they were honest about it and decided to actually influence their patrons' health. Then all the young, thin, beautiful people eating burgers would be truth in advertising. Although they'd have to tape new ads of happy fat people eating their dressingless salads and sipping their Super Sized waters. That would be kind of awesome.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Anxiety! TV! Eehugh...

I have the anxieties. Sometimes, at night, when I am tired, I become particularly susceptible to being overly (and inappropriately) empathetic. Were you to walk in on my watching TV, and were I to not notice you, you would be able to watch my face mimic the expressions of the characters on the screen, moment to moment. I am like a mirror when I'm tired. Or a big dumb monkey. Whichever you prefer. But sometimes, when a show is quite good or I like the characters quite a lot, I am left with their emotional detritus long after the show is over. So tonight I am filled with anxieties about someone killing me and needing to throttle a friend because I watched "Weeds" when I was really too tired to be watching that show.

Here are some other shows that are super good: The Closer, Burn Notice, Psych. Yes, I watch a lot of TV on channels in the 50s (at least here in Portland). The Closer (on TNT) is really good; it's very clever and the characters are interesting and likable. Burn Notice is surprising. I guess I didn't give USA enough credit (as I am SO sick of Monk). Every so many episodes he just caps/blows up a guy. Because he's an ex-spy and you shouldn't fuck with him. Psych (also on USA) is a great comedy. The show is totally aware of how improbable its premise is and it embraces it. I really appreciate that in TV. Of course nothing on TV right now is quite as funny as 30 Rock. If you haven't seen that show at all, it is totally worth the half hour of your Thursday evening that it requires. If you have seen a couple episodes but haven't seen the ones with Isabella Rossellini, you need to watch them now. Highlights include her pulling down Tina Fay's top in one episode, and saying, with complete sincerity, "Damnit, Jack; you know how I love my big beef and cheddar," in another.

Maybe I'll see if I can find an episode of 30 Rock on the intertubes so that I can assuage my anxieties with the sweet balm of giggle fits.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Recipe for deliciousness!

I had a breakthrough tonight! Today I am a lady who can once again eat certain cooked fruits! Last week, in a moment of weakness, I ate a slice of a delicious peach my mother was having for a snack. It was so so delicious (the first bite of peach I've had in maybe four years) and worth all the minor mouth itching. But that was just it: the itching was minor! There were no welts. I was welt-free! So I thought to myself: hey, maybe I can eat cooked peaches like a normal person with birch pollen-related cross-allergies (like myself). And that's what I did tonight. I ate half a cooked peach and I did not itch, welt, swell or die. I just enjoyed a piece of fruit more than I have ever enjoyed a food stuff before. So here is the recipe.

Sydney's Four-Year Baked Peaches
(serves 4)

2 peaches, halved and pitted
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
cinnamon
nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place peaches center-side up in a 13" x 9" glass baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. (I didn't fully cover them; just a splattered them. But if you like a lot of cinnamon, go nuts!) Sprinkle each one with just a couple grains of nutmeg: it is powerful stuff. Set aside.

NOTE: you could peel the peaches if you wanted to. If they have particularly thick skin, you may want to consider doing so. You also may want to slice a little off the back of each half so that they don't roll around in the baking dish.

3. Mix water, honey, sugar and vanilla in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium/medium-low heat until the sugar is melted and the mixture has thickened.

4. Spoon mixture over each peach, making sure to cover each face completely. It will pool in the centers and that is cool. Don't worry about overflow or washing away cinnamon. Just pour it all until your pan is empty.

5. Bake in oven for 15 minutes, or until the peaches are tender. But be careful, don't cook them to mush or they will not be as delicious!

6. Remove from oven and place in bowls. Serve with vanilla ice cream or marscapone cheese.

NOTE: I suggest mixing making the marscapone a little more interesting, like so:
For each person...
1/4 c. marscapone
1 tsp-1 tbsp sugar (depending on how sweet they like it), or 1 packet of splenda/equal
1-2 drops almond extract

Eat, enjoy, and think of me: the girl who can't eat delicious peaches (except sometimes when cooked) because her stupid body thinks they're birch pollen.

Calling on Portlanders who love root beer!

Are you a friend of mine who loves root beer? Are you in Portland? Pete -webtron gadfly- has made some delicious root beer cupcakes. He saw the recipe on Boing Boing and when he saw how much root beer schnapps it used, he was sold. So now we have 20 or so root beer cupcakes that we can't eat because we drank so much damn Henry's Delicious Amazing And Perfect Root Beer last night, we're sick of the stuff. So if you like delicious cupcakes and root beer, give us a call: there's one with your name on it!

Addendum: Why We Own Root Beer Schnapps
Yes, it's as disgusting as it sounds (not in baked goods, but in anything else). No, we did not buy it because that sounded "awesome." My brother and a coworker of his were comparing mixed drink recipes (or maybe just weird crap they'd mixed together and drunk; I forget how they got on this topic) and his coworker suggested a Root Beer Float: vanilla vodka, root beer schnapps and cream/half & half. Aren thought this sounded awesome (or at least interesting) and so procured the necessary liquors. The verdict? I didn't have one as it smelled like pure, vile alcohol, but Aren said that it tasted like liquor with an aftertaste of flat root beer. Yum. Turns out this was just a hypothetical drink and his coworker had never tried it before. So we were left with most of a bottle of root beer schnapps and the knowledge that no one would ever drink it. To our surprise, a couple jacks and jiggers have been siphoned off at various times in the name of curiosity. I think Stormy had a jigger over ice, but that kid is both brave and adventurous. After the cupcake caper, we only have about a quarter of the bottle left. So if you are a friend of mine or Pete's, you are in Portland and you want to try some root beer schnapps: come on down! We have at least a jigger with your name on it!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Am I in the southern hemisphere?

The date: August 11. The time: 11:30pm. The place: Portland, OR. The temperature: 59 fawking degrees! I'm not kidding: I'm wearing a hoodie, jeans and tennis shoes, and we haven't taken the comforter off the bed more than three times this summer. Or whatever you call this season. Maybe "The Sunny Season" to differentiate it from the prior "Gray And A Little Rainy But Fresh Season." After "The Sunny Season" comes the "Gray And A Little Rainy But Everything Dies Season." And then finally the "Cold And Gray Season."

I shouldn't complain. I hate heat and humidity. This is just shocking, that's all. And that's all I have to say on that for two reason: 1) There is a spider on the ceiling and I must get Pete to do something about it; 2) The overhead light is flickering irritatingly (and suddenly!) and it's quite maddening.

Oh, but before I go: I went to the Portland IKEA yesterday and today. It is really weird to go into a place I associate with Europe and the east coast and see it filled with local yokels. Not to put too fine (or judgmental) a point on it, but that place was just loaded with morbidly obese Oregonians today. It was depressing. Like a Future Stroke And Diabetes parade. If I were ever going to hand out nutrition information leaflets, I think I would start at IKEA. Not that I'm the picture of health or anything myself; my BMI sets me comfortably in the Overweight range and if I get any more sedentary I think I might qualify as a pet rock. BUT... it was bad. It made me worry about Oregon and the health of her citizens. How is it possible that we're so fat as a state when we're living in one of the greatest places on earth for sport (where it's 59 degrees at night in the goddamned summer!)?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Trying To Care About Baseball

Pete told me about a very interesting point John Lovitz made about the whole Bonds/Aaron/Doping thing. He said that Lovitz said that a friend of his in the MLB said years ago that there were thousands of players doping. The quote, as Pete recounted it, was "If I knew, how could the commissioner not know?" On the other hand, he continued, if thousands of guys are doping, why aren't they all hitting home runs like Bonds?

I'm trying to care about this, but it's not easy. It seems like there's a principle here and that maybe it's related to something bigger and more important, something about lax morals in our modern age or what have you. I don't know much about Hank Aaron as a person, but he's always seemed like a nice guy. I think the difference is in what it meant for Aaron to break and then hold the record versus what it means for Bonds to do so. When Hank Aaron neared Babe Ruth's record, he received death threats, yet he was voted into the Hall of Fame with like 98% of the vote (or however the Baseball Hall of Fame works). The man played in a segregated league on a team called the Clowns, for crying out loud! Barry Bonds' record, on the other hand, does not represent a major step in the battle against racism. It's my understanding that there's some question as to whether or not he'll even be allowed into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he certainly won't receive 98% of the vote. And I have no sense that he represents what's best about baseball, the way Hank Aaron continues to do today. On the other hand, no one is willing to take Bonds to task over the steroid accusations, I assume either over lack of evidence or lack of will to really carry out the witch hunt that would instigate. The question of his Hall of Fame eligibility is certainly less clear than Pete Rose betting on baseball. And maybe Bonds does represent a milestone in the civil rights movement: a record-approacher whose death threats have nothing to do with his race but rather with his supposed drug use.

The thing is: baseball is boring. ..::B O R I N G::.. It takes forever, the stats are arcane, you can't understand what in the hell the announcers are talking about, and the players don't seem to have any of the joie de jouer that earlier players had (or that you see all the time in basketball and even pretty often in football). It might as well be test cricket for all the interest it holds for me. And I think other people can feel that too, the ennui that makes it seem strange to see the excitement and pageantry at Japanese baseball games. I mean, it's our national pastime, right? Then why are our stands half-empty and morose when the Japanese stands are full and almost riotous? Watching Tony Bourdain at a Hanshin Tigers game on "No Reservations" made me think, "hey, maybe baseball games could be fun." But then I remembered what going to an actual game is like (Mariners, Father's Day, 1991 maybe?) and wondered why I couldn't remember taking the Crazy Pills whose effects I was so clearly feeling.

So I don't really care, is what it comes down to. Bonds' victory is ambiguous. Maybe he's the best slugger out of all the dopers, but that would still make him a doper. He's no Hank Aaron, but he's not really a Pete Rose either. One could argue that he rather nicely represents the state of baseball today.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ian McEwan Writes The Books I Wish I Wrote

I just finished On Chesil Beach and it is really beautiful. I wrote a review on Facebook and I'm too lazy to copy it here. But there is something I left out of the review because it was without context. A couple months ago when I read The Historian I complained that no one can write a decent sex scene. They're usually awkward, embarrassing and definitely not sexy. Mostly I feel like they miss the whole point of sex, focusing on the erotic as though it is mutually exclusive from love or kindness or friendship. Now that I put that in words, it seems really clichéd, which isn't how I meant it at all. It is just to say that most sex scenes in books seem to be detached from the overall narrative, these intense moments of passion, gratification and sometimes joy, when in reality sex is (in my opinion) rarely all that separate from one's general narrative. But maybe I'm missing the point. I'll grant that could be the case. Ian McEwan, though, never misses the point. On Chesil Beach contains the most beautifully written sex scene I have ever read. And it's awkward virgin sex! The whole scene is built up to as part of the character construction as the plot centers around the wedding night of the two protagonists, Edward and Florence. The sex (which is rather graphically detailed - on a scale from "Pride & Prejudice" to "The Mammoth Hunters," it rates above a "Lady Chatterley's Lover" but maybe just below a "Mists of Avalon" because he doesn't euphemise) is never removed from the context of the characters' relationship. Florence is disgusted by the whole idea of physical intimacy, but is horrified at the idea that she might disappoint this man she loves so dearly. Edward has mistaken her fear and revulsion for coyness and is looking forward to finally consummating the relationship, which has him worried about poor performance. McEwan weaves all of their respective anxieties into the narrative of the experience. And although it is a cringingly awkward and shameful experience for the protagonists (as the loss of virginity is for any member of any rather closed society, as postwar England is painted in this novel), it was somehow still beautiful to read.

I finished this book yesterday and I feel lighter and somehow happier today for having read it. It's short - less than 200 pages, I think - and didn't take long to read. But it made me re-evaluate why we fall in love and when and how it happens. At some point in the book Edward realizes that though he is already in love with Florence, he feels a wave of additional fondness wash over him and realizes that the joy of truly loving someone isn't something that sits with you always at the same level, but is rather something that comes in waves. The message I took away from it is that one can fall in love with the same person again and again without ever falling out of love with them. And I think that's true (I know it's true for me). So read this book! Or anything by Ian McEwan, really. But if you're looking for something short and brilliant and beautiful, pick this one.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cap'n Ferret Fancier

Nothing can make you mean like watching a documentary on people who "show" ferrets. Like a dog show. But with ferrets. Pete and I went from kind, caring, gentle shows, to the meanest, most judgmental jerks in about five minutes flat. It was the horrible ferret song sung by one of the ferret ladies. Seriously, though: if there is a real cross-section of America that "shows" ferrets, this show (on OPB) did not give it fair representation. But if the OPB show is representative, ferret people are almost universally obese 60+-year old women who either had children who have grown up and moved away, or who never married and never had children. They're weird. They like country-style furnishings and those tapestry pillows with scenes of rabbits and flowers. And tie-dye. And turquoise. I'm not kidding: even if you only have one mean bone in your body, ferret ladies will turn you into a trash talking ass hole.

Pete said at one point, "I bet there's one ribbon per ferret at that show." Here's how OBP ended the program. "327 ferrets entered the show. [pause-wait for it...] 400 ribbons were awarded."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter again - don't worry! No spoilers!

Hey, all you writers out there! You with series-es! Yeah, you lot - come over here. That's good, okay, now you can all hear. Look, you have to start plotting out the series from soup to nuts from day one. If Rowling has taught us anything, it is that the most satisfying final book is one that ties everything together without tying everything up. If that makes any sense. Okay, okay, mystery-series-writers, you're right, you probably are exceptions. Sure sure, if a series is intrinsically episodic, then planning from A to Z is maybe not necessary from day one. But if there's a plot to follow, a story arc, a character whose journey one is meant to care about, please please PLEASE sit down and plot it out - all of it! - at the beginning. And don't bring characters back from the dead after the final blow just because everyone is clamoring for them. Get used to it! We readers are a rowdy noisy lot and also we're very demanding and unreasonable. But be firm! Be steadfast! And over time we'll come to appreciate the finite nature of your canon. Maybe we'll feel like we do about Nirvana, happy that we never had to suffer through a slow and synth-filled death.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter

Hooray!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sydney sleep now

Wedding planning...
Student loan payments...
Inadequate salary...
Wedding planning...
Need shoes for dress...
Training nurses to use Excel...
Allergies...
ALLERGIES...
ALLERGIES!!!

Splitting headache.

Left frontal lobe wants out.
Preferably through eye socket.

Sleep. Must sleep. For Saturday there is:
Harry Potter!
HOORAY!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lightning is neato!

We just had a big ol' East Coast-style Thunder & Lightning Extravaganza here in Portland! Stick lightning and everything! It was all beautiful and clear this evening; the incredible, wonderful dry heat had just been replaced by the cool crepuscular breezes, which were sighing this way and that... and then, from the southeast, this green-gray miasma that can mean only one thing began first to creep and then to roll its way into and over the city. The storm was both calm and violent - the key lime-sized drops of rain were slow and infrequent, but heavily soaking. And it moved so quickly that for about five minutes after the rain had stopped at 25th and Marshall it was still bludgeoning the pavement at 25th and Northrup. The lightning was so cool - even the kitten (Domino, who is now a year old and as big as the old cat, Heidi) couldn't tear her eyes away from the window. I made her come in from the deck when the thunder started (I had to fish her out from under a patio chair) because I was worried that the noise would scare her. I should have known better: that cat isn't scared of anything. She was just desperate to get back out, running full speed up the stairs any time Pete or I took even a step in their direction. She stood by the window and mewled. She wound herself around and through Pete's legs and whined. But once we sat her in a north-facing window, she was glued to the spot until the storm moved too far north and the best parts of the lightning were obscured by our neighbors' rooftops. At that point I figured it was best to let her out, before she went totally nuts. I was surprised to find it was still raining- big, silent crocodile tears accompanied by more thunder to the south. Matt Zaffino (local weather hunk for the past 10-15 years, for those who don't recognize the name) says we're likely to have more storms throughout the night. Man, I love thunder storms! It was so cool to have real, awesome stick lightning for once too. I just hope I get to wake up in the middle of the night to the sound rain pounding the side of the house and thunder really crashing, not just grumbling.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I need my Harry Potter! ::whining:: Now...!

I just finished rereading Harry Potter 6 and now I need - NEED, people - number 7. I really enjoyed 6 the first time I read it, but it was even better the second time around. I'm going to have to reread 4, because right now, from where I stand, 6 seems like it's the best. There was so much that I missed the first time around because it was necessarily contextless. But knowing how it ends, having the context, well that changes everything! Or at least it feels like it does. So I'm all excited for number 7 now, even though I'm sure I'll cry right through the whole thing.

Is it the 21st yet? No? Damnit!

Friday, July 06, 2007

No, seriously: those PSAs suck

No, I'm sorry, I have to disagree: those ads are stupid. That irritating little dog being all like, "You disappoint me." Those ads make me want to get stoned and punt a puppy across a large room. And I love puppies! I don't think they really make the case for "smoke pot = loserdom." I think they make the case for "guy with talking puppy = tool." I really doubt that anyone sees those and says, "Yeah, pot is lame!"

The anti-pot ads I liked were the ones with the kid talking about how when he smokes weed he just goes and sits on his friend's couch in his basement. And that's it. They don't do anything and life just passes them by. I thought that was honest and probably the closest thing to a convincing argument one was likely to see in a PSA. Although really: does anyone think, "Ooh, marijuana looks so glamorous!" I bet it's more like, "Ooh, marijuana makes my boring suburban life a little funny and helps pass the time." But then, I've never been much for what is (for me) essentially an expensive sleep aid. So perhaps I'm biased. :)

That dog is a tool.

Also, I hate him. And his little flag.

Yeah.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Why do dogs hate pot?

TV is all about dogs hating on stoners these days. There are two ads/PSAs in particular: a "live action" and a cartoon. The live action one doesn't really make sense. I mean, if you think your dog is talking to you, it's not the pot that's the problem - it's whatever the pot is laced with that's the problem. Also: making animals look like they're talking is always a stupid gimmick. And then the cartoon. I HATE those PSAs with the yellow background where the cartoon puppy is like, "You disappoint me," and then goes and raises his lame little flag. (Symbolism, anyone?) I hope those ads are making kids want to smoke pot. And I hope that they think "Fuck that sanctimonious little dog from the TV" as they do it.

Also, can anyone explain to me the sour skittles commercial with the guy hooked up to the milking apparatus? I mean, that is seriously weird.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Read this comic!

Thinkin' Lincoln linked to this comic today - Bear & Kitten. You should read all of it. It's awesome. I'm going to learn Drop Bear Fu.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

My degree!

Did you ever wonder what a masters in science from Georgetown looked like? Did you ever wonder what it would look like if poorly photographed? Well now's your chance to find out! Lo- this is that for which I worked so hard and took on so much debt. Bask in its glory!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

S&M Jousting?

Last weekend, Pete and I were driving around looking at apartments and houses for rent, when we saw the most curious sight. In the park at SE 21st & Belmont, we saw two men jousting. On super tall unicycles. In what appeared to be S&M gear. Surrounded by a crowd of people. We couldn't get pictures right then because the light turned and I was at completely the wrong angle. But we circled the block and got the following shots. Apparently the guy in the black shorts had won, and the crowd seemed divided as to whether or not this was a good thing. It is so weird to hear people booing in Portland!


Friday, June 15, 2007

The Historian Can Bite My Butt

And lo, my butt is big! 650 pages! I wasted my whole lunch break to read the last 50 today and it was so disappointing. Here is a summary of why it was a total waste of my time, as told in snotty narration as I imagine the author must have conceptualized it:

"I'm going to tell most of the story through letters so that 70% of the book's paragraphs will start with quotation marks! Then I'm going to wait until the last 50 pages to neatly tie up all the loose ends, except for the last 5 pages in which I will pretend like there is the possibility of a sequel even though all the characters are dead, totally squared away or both."

Why did I finish it, you might ask? Yes, why indeed. There are several reasons.

1) I hate to leave a book unfinished. Especially when they're a really easy read. Or I'm trapped on a plane and my only other option is Daredevil. ::shudder::

2) There was only one thing I couldn't figure out. One stupid, stupid plot point that seemed too poorly thought out to go unexplained. It takes too many sentences to explain the actual plot point, but suffice it to say it was along the lines of writing a book about the Greatest Chef's In All Of History and they all happen to be from the same town in the same state and they were all born within 50 years of one another and all end up working in the same restaurant together. That is so patently ridiculous, the author must have an explanation, right? Oh - she does - but that doesn't mean it's a good explanation, or that she'll spell it out before the last 50 pages.

3) At some point, you've looked at a train wreck long enough and you just have to stick around and see if anyone survived.

Anyway, there are only two reasons I would ever recommend this book: you're at the beach (where anything is worth reading because, hey, you're at the beach!) or you're stuck on a plane where your other option is talking to a sweaty old guy with a bad comb-over who keeps looking at your "goodies" or a really fabulous movie like Mrs Doubtfire or the aforementioned Daredevil.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Another Thought About Writing

Here are two things that very few people should ever attempt in novels: genius characters and descriptions of sex. Someone who is not a genius cannot write genius. I think that if I were a writer I might - might - be able to write a side character who was a genius by describing as exactly as possible the two geniuses I've known in my life. (What's that, Pete? Oh, sorry. Three. Three geniuses. Thanks, Pete.) I don't know that I could write that character as saying very much, but I could describe how s/he sat while watching TV or eating steak. But I would never - in a million years! - attempt to write, a) a first-person novel about a genius, or b) a novel where one of the main, speaking characters is a genius. This is one of my major criticisms of The Di Vinci Code: there wasn't a single "puzzle" in that book that was in the least bit difficult to solve. And yet the characters - one of whom is a genius cryptographer, the best in France!, and another of whom is a genius "symbologist" ::grumblegnashhiss&spit:: - were totally mystified! Here is the deal, Authors Of The World: if you are not a genius (and please, seek outside verification on this, and not from your mother), and you can figure out the solution to a puzzle you have created, then Q.E.D., it does not take a genius to figure it out. And it's insulting to your reader to imply as much!

And the sex thing... I cannot think of a single book in which I've read a really detailed sex scene and thought, "Man, now this is art!" But I can think of plenty of times when I've thought, "Man, now this is embarrassing!" Here are the books that spring immediately to mind where this phenomenon is concerned: Clan of the Cave Bear, Jean M. Auel (and any of the sequels, for that matter; I've heard Plans of Passage is essentially pornography, but I couldn't even make it through The Mammoth Hunters); and The Mists of Avalon, Marion Bradley (and any of the sequels or prequels). If you have read a truly beautifully written sex scene in a book, please suggest it! But if tongues swirl anatomy in moist detail or ladies that are just deep enough for their lovers' giant johnsons, I will seriously question your taste.

::sigh::

The book I'm currently reading (The Historian) violates both of these precepts (or "fiats," if you prefer). There are no puzzles, but the side characters make very prosaic observations about things historical and the main character frequently comments on how he is "astounded" by the "quickness" of someone's mind, the "breadth" of their "intellect," or their "genius." And while one reference to a sex scene is very tasteful - more like a movie montage of provocative images - the other is a pseudo-sex scene (in that sex doesn't actually result) and involves "adolescent fumbling" and an "ugly white brassier." I mean really! It just leads me to believe that the author has never actually had sex and has never seen a movie with a rating higher than PG-13. And that makes it embarrassing, the way fan fiction is embarrassing. It's like a window into how she wishes her 16-year old life had been, or how her first time with her True Love had been/would be. And I don't need that window, because it's not an autobiography; it's a work of fiction with sci-fi/fantasy overtones that seriously stretches the limits of my suspension of disbelief.

Anyway, The Historian is like 600 pages long, I'm on page 444 and I've just been tearing through it (because the story is more interesting than the writing is bad/embarrassing, even if it's a stretch) so I've been thinking about this a lot. I have a high tolerance for crap: I read all but one of the Ender's Game sequels. (If that offends you, I... wait, no. I don't apologize. If that offends you, you enjoy bad novels. Sorry, but I'm pretty sure this is empirical truth. Okay, okay... Ender's Shadow wasn't so bad. Geez!) And I read a ton of Star Wars novels and a lot of fantasy novels, and let's face it, many of the latter are soft core for geeky adolescent girls. "I am a witch who rides a unicorn - don't fondle my heaving boozums, Mister Night Elf! Oh, your tumescent manhood - I mean elfhood - is too much for me! Make me a woman, sexy mythical creature! Take me now, before my unicorn gores you!"

Sunday, June 03, 2007

English Slang and American Weirdness

I've been reading "Scary Go Round" from the beginning, and I've learned some new British slang. Well, new to me anyway.
  • Skellington: variant of "skeleton." Pete pointed out it's also in the Cream song about the baby going down the drain. That song is awesome!
  • Trumps: farts.
  • Tupping: frickin'
  • Smalls: undergarments
"Skellington" is by far my favorite. Normally it's Americans adding extra sounds and syllables into English words ("burglarize" instead of "burgle," "Acclimatize" instead of "Acclimate", "Orientate" instead of "Orient"... there are other examples here and here - although it seems that some of the examples at those links are of British legthenings).

I've also been reading this great book about word origins that has some really wonderful, oft forgotten American words.
  • Hornswoggle: origin unknown. But it belongs to a group of "fancified" words invented in the American West to poke fun at the sophisticated. Why can't our anti-intellectuals invent words these days instead of "Blue Collar Comedy"? The next three are also examples of this.
  • Absquatulate: "to depart in a hurry." Faux-Latin affixes: ab- "away from;" -ate "to act upon in a specified manner." All around the made-up root -squatul-. Literally meaning: to squat away from. Hilarious!
  • Busticate: "to break into pieces."
  • Argufy: "to argue."
  • Buckaroo: from the Spanish "vaquero," or "cowboy." Interestingly, we got the word "cowboy" from translating "vaquero," and "buckaroo" from mispronouncing it!
  • Hosey: dibs. (Bostonian) Maybe from "call holdsies," maybe from the French "choisir," "to choose." But "I hosey shotgun!" is pretty neato.
There are others from that book, but I can't remember them. Also a neat word:
  • Grampus: kind of big fish in cold water. Also, an orc.
In fact, looking up "orc" to see if Pete could use it in Boggle is how we found the word Grampus.

::snicker:: grampus...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Things in books that are lame

Hey, I remembered (all on my own!) what I wanted to blog about last night: Things That Bad Authors ::couDANBROWNgh:: Do That Both Drive Me Nuts And DEFINITIVELY PROVE That He Or She Is A Bad Author. See, this is why this wasn't the title of this post; I was feeling very strident about it last night. So I invite you, the reader!, to comment and add to the list the things that frost your cookies when it comes to bad writing. But here is my list (so far), and please to note the asterisks indicating the "stylistic manoeuvres" employed in "The DaVinci Code." (God I hated that book.)
  • *People don't speak, say or tell nearly as often as they "grin." ::aaaARRGgggh::
  • *Eyes are always twinkling.
  • *Everyone speaks English.
    • INTENSIFIER: *****!There is a stupid, contrived reason as to why non-English speaking characters are speaking English.
  • [This one is actually Pete's, but I whole-heartedly agree.] Non-native English speakers say everything in English, except for "yes" and "no" which they say in their native tongue. Da, darlink.
  • Oblique cultural references meant to let you know how smart the author is. (Dan Brown probably did this too, but I was so incensed by all the eye-twinkling and grinning with French accents that I didn't notice at the time.) For example, in a book that talks about Dracula, it isn't enough to point out that the movie version might not be an accurate historical representation of Vlad The Impaler, it has to be the Bela Lugosi version. Specifically.
  • Settings that come with a full, contextual set of obligatory actions (like restaurants: waiting, ordering, sitting, eating, drinking, waiting, paying, tipping, leaving) that are completely ignored. For example: characters arrive at a restaurant and are somehow seated without ever seeing a waiter, and their food arrives without ever ordering, all the while they're having an uninterrupted conversation, and then they pause to eat a single bite of food, a couple more lines of dialog, and suddenly they're helping each other put their coats on and leaving. If your characters converse throughout a meal, and you record all of the conversation for the reader, then it better actually be a meal's worth of talkin'. Please to note: J. K. Rowling does not make this mistake. When her characters leave a meal midway through, they're hungry later. If they fight, but finish their food, she lets you know that they finished their meal in awkward silence.
  • Over-the-top oddballness as a proxy for intelligence or a good up-bringing. Characters who proclaim that they never went out as teenagers because they grew up in the Orient with their diplomat/archaeologist/ninja parents, but they were never interested in that sort of thing anyway. Because the children of bankers and postal workers are always dull and uninteresting.
Okay, your turn!

Yes, I suck at blogging

I know, I know, I should post more often. Or ever. Baby steps, Sydney. But I have gotten super busy at work and super lazy at home. I have so many things I've been meaning to blog about... Off the top of my head, all I can come up with is:
READ "THE BLIND SIDE" BY MICHAEL LEWIS! OR PERISH!
But that's less because I so intensely want to blog about how AWESOME that book is and more because that book is so intensely AWESOME I keep bringing it up, even in totally inappropriate contexts. "You know Gramma, your desire to hold onto all of your old crap is just like Bill Parcell's desire to hold onto his stupid belief that the real key to football is all in the brawn and not in the strategy." Gramma says, "I hope Atlanta doesn't beat up on my Braves too badly... I hate Atlanta..." Yes, it's a football book. And yes, I loved it, so other non-sports people, you have to read it too. OR PERISH!
Also, Pete is worse than useless when it comes to remembering things that I wanted to blog about. It's almost like he's not actually in my head at all. This is good to know, as we are planning to get married this summer. I'm pretty sure that shouldn't be in my vows, though: "To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, whether you remember what I want to blog about or not..."
So that is why I have not posted anything. I've been working. And lazy. And did I mention being lazy? Because that's really the crux of the problem. Perhaps when Pete and I get our own place, and I have a desk again, I will be better about posting. Because then the lazy won't be amplified by the inferno-like heat of my computer melting my lap.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Most Inappropriate Wedding Songs

This is a call for abstracts suggestions! Please submit your best examples of the worst wedding songs! Think inappropriate, ironic, hilarious and/or just plain wrong. And don't bother with the super obvious, because "Love Stinks" or "Love Hurts" or whatever go without saying. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

For the wedding march:
- Maneater (Hall & Oates)

For the ceremony:
- A Little Less Conversation (Elvis)

For the reception:
- I'm Not In Love (40cc or something... 10! 10cc!)
- Run Around Sue (Dion) [Only if you're marrying someone named Sue, especially if they are known for "running around."]

Okay, so go to town! I know you have some great ideas! And don't worry, we're not going to use these for our party song list. I've just been looking at "suggested play lists" for weddings and they're so much worse and more cliche than I could have ever imagined. It's all "Unchained Melody," "Too Good To Be True" and "Celebrate." Don't get me wrong, I like "Too Good To Be True," and even "Unchained Melody," but a whole evening's worth of similar songs and similar emotional climaxes... it's a bit much. Lucky for me, I've never been to a wedding with one of the suggested wedding playlists I've seen in magazines. Nonetheless, I do find myself thinking of what kinds of hilariously wrong songs could accidentally (or intentionally) be played at a wedding every time I find myself in a receiving line.

NBC Gives Back To Pete's Sister

NBC cares about the Martin Sisters' busy schedules. NBC knows that they are just crazy about SNL and never miss a new show. NBC also knows that they likely have other plans on their birthday, which falls on a Saturday this year. So NBC has decided to make things easy for them, to put on a new show that they wouldn't mind missing: Molly Shannon & Linkin Park. ::shudder::

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ah, family!

My family is pretty damn awesome. They're all happy and funny and they like everyone. Holidays are a hoot and even though we always tell the same stories the same way, even though we always play the same games and serve the same foods, even though the cousins all try to bait each other into the same traps and minor embarrassments, I always look forward to them. We're not a large family, but what we may lack in membership we more than make up for in personality.

Given that, they're pretty hard to compete with in the "awesome families" category. One might worry that marriage would pose a problem, as who wouldn't want to spend every holiday with such a splendid group of lovable scamps? But lo!, Pete's family matches mine pound for pound in awesomeness! Perhaps more, as they are generally smaller and narrower, and also there are even fewer of them. ::emoticon!:: Pete's family is all happy and wry and clever, and they like everyone too. And holidays are a gas, with their combination of English and American customs, their stories that are different every year, and those rare moments when someone says something so funny it gets a real, genuine guffaw out of one of Pete's brothers-in-law. Or one of his sisters, for that matter. And although he doesn't have cousins in town (or on this continent) he does have a niece and nephew, and they are pretty amazing.

This is just to say that I'm very grateful for how lucky we both are. And I would finish this post with some amazing summary, only I just rubbed my eyes with the hand that held the chili pepper I chopped for dinner (Asian steak salad!) so now I have to go wash away the burning.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

More wedding thoughts

I think that what's hardest about all of this is that I'm not interested in the ceremony at all. Mom's best friend said, "Well, if they don't want to get married in front of people, they must not think it's going to last! Because that's the only reason you don't get married in front of people!" She was, of course, "kidding on the square" (thank you Al Franken, for that most useful of designations) - she knows that Pete and I wouldn't bother if we thought it wouldn't last, and I'm sure that's one reason people elope. The thing is, I just don't know what to do with ceremony and ritual. I either come up feeling empty - which is sad as ritual is supposed to add meaning - or uncomfortable. I don't want to be the center of attention unless I make myself the center of attention. The idea of everyone staring at me as I walk down the aisle between the two halves of everyone we collectively know makes me very uncomfortable and a little anxious. And I'm kind of a private person, when it comes to this stuff. I don't make out in grocery stores; I don't even kiss Pete in front of my mother, with whom we've lived for almost two years! So you can imagine how the idea of describing my innermost feelings for him in front of everyone I know and care about would make me more than a little uncomfortable.

But we can't seem to get out of some kind of a ceremony, no matter how small or short... I don't want to make an entrance. I don't want to solemnly swear or somberly vow anything. I don't believe that a formality makes our relationship any more real, any more, well, devoted. To be sure, the formality does change the relationship: we get new kinship terms for each other and our families; we get the aforementioned health insurance; we get to do our taxes differently; our "couplehood" (or whatever you want to call it) gets recognition for its seriousness without having to explain. But the formality doesn't create the sentiment. In fact, for me, it detracts from it. I have long been annoyed by the assumption that because I'm only 26 I don't know what a "real" relationship is. I've felt the term "boyfriend" was inadequate for about three years now, but fiance just leads to a whole bunch of questions I don't want to answer: ooh, when's the wedding? Do you have a theme? Are you doing it in a church or in front of a judge? What kind of dress do you want to get?

I don't know what the ceremony will be like. What we wanted to do was get a friend to sign all the papers (as the "Officiant") and then have select family members sign as witnesses. And then we'd exchange rings and smile and be happy, and we'd all go out to dinner with the fuller family and toast champagne and say, "hooray, now the state recognizes what we've known for years! We were meant to be!" I like the idea of doing it without really saying anything, that the realness of our love for one another is enough. But Mom said, "You don't think she'll [the "Officiant"] do it without making you say anything, do you?" And frankly, I don't know. But I am getting the very real impression that the way we want to do things will be spoken of with disapproval for the rest of our natural lives. Either as, "you'll never believe what they wanted to do... ridiculous!" or as, "you'll never believe how they did it... ridiculous!" And I have the distinct sensation that behind many of the smiling faces saying, "You have to do what's right for you and not worry about anyone else" (like the dental assistant when I got my teeth cleaned today) is the thought, "they're going to regret it; they'll look back and say, 'we were such foolish kids.'" I don't think I'm projecting; I think I'm extrapolating from similar experiences where there was more to the conversation after that point.

And none of this is to detract from ceremony in general! I have been to several really lovely weddings, weddings where I felt my heart swell with everyone else's as the bride and groom exchanged vows. I've been to several really weird weddings where the officiant went on too long, or inappropriately, or there was a karaoke power ballad, and I still felt moist-eyed at the exchange of rings or first kiss as husband and wife. But that was because the ceremony was meaningful to the people involved. I wasn't moved because someone said, "I do" or lit a candle. And that they wanted to share that moment with us was really wonderful! But that's just not who I am and I wish, I really truly wish that I could get that across to people. I'm not going to regret not having a ceremony, I'm not going to look back and go, "Oh, what a fool I was!" That's why we're having a big party - because that's the part that's meaningful to us. I'm going to look back on the beautiful pictures from that night and think, "What a great time! Everyone I know and love was there and it was just wonderful!" And every time I wear the dress or shoes I got for that party, I'll think of it and I'll feel happy and centered and lucky. And there won't be any uncomfortable or anxious moments.

On a semi-related note, last night my Mom told my Gramma, "Big news: Sydney's getting married!" Gramma said, "Sydney? Really? To whom?"

Please to keep in mind, Pete has seen Gramma pretty much every Christmas, Easter, 4th of July and Thanksgiving for the last five years. And that about five years ago, in one night, she referred to him as both "Steve" and "Rory." My Aunt said, "No Mom, that's Pete, that's Sydney's boyfriend Pete." Gramma said, "Oh, I thought his name was Steve." And that at this most recent Christmas she addressed his card to "Pete J." Gramma says, "What did you say his last name was?" And I said, "Martin." And Gramma says, "Oh! I thought it was Jackson!" Back to the story!

Mom says, "To whom! To Pete!" And Gramma says, "Oh Tina, but Pete's family!" Maybe we should have made out in front of my family...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Shrimp Lady Arriveth!

Pete is the bestest and on his half day found an excellent vantage point from which to photograph the fabled Weird Shrimp Lady billboard. Here she is, in all her glory!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Health Insurance, Taxes and Other Reasons To Tie The Knot

Pete needs health insurance, so we've been debating getting married since we got back to Portland. We don't want to do it if we can't afford a party where all of our friends and family can come and celebrate with us, but we never have any money so we keep putting it off. Only now Pete can't get over this stupid cold - maybe it's bronchitis: we don't know because we can't afford a doctor! So I've been looking into throwing said crazy party towards the end of the summer, when people will likely be in town anyway, and I have discovered two things.

1) I am crap as a girl. The words "wedding" and "bridal" give me some hardcore tardwillies and I find myself thinking, "never mind! never mind!" every time I'm confronted with the "wedding planning" sections of venue websites. Aren't girls supposed to dream about this stuff from their wee days? Aren't we supposed to stand in front of a mirror in our mother's high heeled shoes wearing a cheesecloth veil and holding a bouquet of sock balls folded over wooden spoons, thinking, "Someday I too will be the blushing bride! O, how I long for that day, when my feminine destiny will be fulfilled!" I never once played "wedding" or "bride" or whatever little girls call that "game." I played Pioneer (specifically Laura Ingalls Wilder) and Princess Escaping Marauding Dragon. Please to note: the preferred roles in these games were Laura as a girl or adolescent and Princess; never Mrs. Manly Wilder or Queen. I also liked more generic pioneer games, usually ones in which I and the girl down the street played sisters who were orphaned at the foot of the Blue Mountains (typhus!) and had to make our lives out of the found objects left by other pioneers whose oxen could not bear the burden of their India Rose China Sets or dowry trunks full of lace curtains when faced with said mountains. I'm not sure what that says about me, other than I probably would have been crap as a pioneer too. "Ooh, look at all this free stuff! Hm, we're in Ontario, Oregon, you say? Good enough! Tea, anyone?"

2) Weddings are fawking expensive! This can also be read as: I am crap at math. I'm thinking $95 a head... that's not so bad. 100 people... that's what, $1,000?" Thank God I have Mom around to say, "Well, I don't know how, but if you want a $10,000 wedding..." And then I say, "Gaw!" And then there are some choking noises as I am both shocked at the actual price and ashamed of my inability to multiply by one hundred. ::shamed::

Here are things I don't need in a wedding: flowers (allergic); DJ (iPod); bouquet (see "flowers"); ceremony (allergic); bridesmaids (no need if no ceremony); garter toss ("That's not sexy." ::dirty looks:: "Oh, wait, yes it is!").

Things I do need in a party that might look like a wedding but is legally distinct: good music (iPod); good food; good friends; a nice venue; a couple nice speeches ::couJOEgh:: ; dancing (if people are into it); good beer and wine. Why is it so hard to get that for $1,000 or less?

Hey, Universe! Yeah, I'm talking to you! I'm not made of money, you know. So ease up!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Everything Else Doctor

Yea! I don't have bronchitis! I have asthma!

Eye Doctor

I just got back from getting my eyes checked: yes, they've gotten worse! I'm now at -4.00 in both eyes. Woot? It's about what I expected. I got the weird yellow numbing stuff - there cannot be any stranger feeling than having numbed tear ducts. I got the dilation drops, so my pupils are still large as dinner plates. But all of that is very routine, not very interesting. What was interesting, in my opinion, was the visit to the contact lens guy. I haven't been fitted for contacts since I first got them, which turns out to have been about 11 years ago. I figured he'd just measure my eyes, confirm that the size was right, and suggest a more expensive make and model of contact. He asked what kind I wear.
"Acuvue," I said.
"Oh, you mean Acuvue 2?" he asked. "Because Acuvue is really old, like their prototype disposible lens. No one really wears those anymore."
I said, "Sure, I guess. I don't really pay attention." Which is true. I was pretty sure it was just Acuvue, but whatever, I've been known to miss details before.
"Let's measure your corneas," he said. To be helpful, I offered up the numbers on my boxes of contacts, 8.4 and 14.0. "Oh, I guess you do wear Acuvue!" He said. "And I bet you have steep corneas. Only Acuvue uses 8.4; you'd be an 8.3 in Acuvue 2."
I thought to myself, "Great, contact lens sizes are like dress sizes now: totally arbitrary." He proceeded to use his weird machine to measure my corneas - the least unpleasent process at the eye doctor!
"Um, wow, well, that can't be right," he says from behind the apparatus.
"Hm?" I say.
"Well, by this measurement your corneas are flat, like really flat. I'll do it again, to be sure." So he measures again, and gets the same numbers. "Wow, um, someone really messed up when the last time this was done. You're nearsighted, so I would expect you to have steep corneas, that's pretty common. Nearsighted plus an 8.4 on your old contacts, that's definitely what I would expect to see. But your corneas are flat. Not just relative to what I expected, I mean there's steep, there's medium, and then there's flat and yours are flat. You're more like an 8.8."
I'm not really sure what this means, except that according to the contacts guy, not only were my lenses behind the times technologically, but they were actually too tight. I never had any problems with them, they never hurt or gave me dry-eye, so I didn't think it mattered. Then he gave me a pair that were the right size and prescription to try out. I will tell you what I told him. You know those commercials where some girl says, "Wow, it's like I'm wearing nothing at all!"? (Be sure to say that last part in a Teen Girl Squad kind of voice.) I always thought that was a little specious, like, "Of course you know you're wearing contacts, you can feel that they're there, you just don't think about it all day." Well, now I know that those commercials aren't specious at all - I was wearing poorly sized contacts! The second these new contacts touched my eyes, it was like they dissolved. I didn't have to roll my eye and blink twice to get it to lay flat, I didn't have to pull it out and start over. It was so comfortable, in fact, that I pulled my lid to the side and mimed putting on eyeliner, something that always dislocated my old contacts. Not even a little movement.
So hooray! It is totally worth it to get this stuff redone every decade or so. You know, just in case.

Movie List

So I was reading a post on a blog linked to by The Hired Tongue (Quixotic Quest, 04 Feb 2007 11pm) and it has this crazy movie list he found somewhere on Facebook. Here's what he says, "SUPPOSEDLY if you've seen over 85 movies, you have no life. Mark the ones you've seen. There are 239 movies on this list.
...Behold, the most random assortment of movies I have ever beheld. I am at a loss for what holds them together. The list has a certain horrid fascination, though. Enjoy." And my God if he isn't right! It is a list of horrid facination! His score was 65. Mine is 108. What's hilarious is that while I don't have a life (so, that rating is perhaps accurate), I never go to the movies! Ever! The last movie I saw in the theater was "The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," and the one before that was "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." And yet this list would have you believe that I am quite the movie buff! So here is "my" list, with some additional symbols as I felt like this left something to be desired in caveats (like, "it was on TV" or "I was trapped on a plane").
(x) I’ve seen it
(~) I’ve seen part of it (not counted)
( ) I haven’t seen it
(x)tv I saw it on tv
* Saw on a plane
^ Mom owns
# I own

(x) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(x) Grease ^#
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean ^#
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest ^
( ) Boondock Saints
(x) Fight Club ^#
(x) Starsky and Hutch 
(x) Neverending Story 
(x) Blazing Saddles 
(x) Airplane 
Total: 9 

(x) The Princess Bride ^#
(x) AnchorMan 
(x) Napoleon Dynamite ^#
( ) Labyrinth 
( ) Saw 
( ) Saw II 
( ) Saw III 
( ) White Oleander 
( ) Anger Management 
(x) 50 First Dates 
(x) The Princess Diaries 
(~) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement 
Total so far: 14 

(x) Scream 
(x) Scream 2 
(x) Scream 3 
(~) Scary Movie 
( ) Scary Movie 2 
( ) Scary Movie 3 
( ) Scary Movie 4 
(x) American Pie 
(~) American Pie 2 
( ) American Wedding 
( ) American Pie Band Camp 
Total so far: 18 

(x) Harry Potter 1 ^#
(x) Harry Potter 2 ^
(x) Harry Potter 3 ^
(x) Harry Potter 4 ^
(x)tv Resident Evil 1 
(x)tv Resident Evil 2 
(x) The Wedding Singer 
(~) Little Black Book 
( ) The Village 
(x) Lilo & Stitch 
Total so far: 26 

(x) Finding Nemo ^
(x) Finding Neverland ^
( ) Signs
( ) The Grinch
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
( ) White Chicks
( ) Butterfly Effect
(x)tv 13 Going on 30
( ) I, Robot
(x) Robots *
Total so far: 30 

(x) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
( ) Universal Soldier
(x) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events *
(~) Along Came Polly
(x) Deep Impact
(x)tv KingPin
(x)tv Never Been Kissed
( ) Meet The Parents
( ) Meet the Fockers
( ) Eight Crazy Nights
(~) Joe Dirt
(~) KING KONG ^ [the remake, not the original]
Total so far: 35

( ) A Cinderella Story
( ) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
( ) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
( ) Halloween
( ) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving X-MAS
(x) Flubber [the original, not the remake]
Total so far: 36 

( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
( ) Practical Magic
(x) Chicago ^
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
(x) Hellboy #
(x) Secret Window 
( ) I Am Sam 
( ) The Whole Nine Yards 
( ) The Whole Ten Yards 
Total so far: 39 

(x) The Day After Tomorrow
( ) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
(x) Ten Things I Hate About You
(~) Just Married
( ) Gothika
( ) Nightmare on Elm Street
(x) Sixteen Candles ^
( ) Remember the Titans 
( ) Coach Carter 
( ) The Grudge 
( ) The Grudge 2 
(x)tv The Mask 
( ) Son Of The Mask 
Total so far: 43

( ) Bad Boys
( ) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Sleven
(x) Ocean's Eleven ^
(x) Ocean's Twelve ^
(x) Bourne Identity ^
(x) Bourne Supremecy ^
(x) Lone Star #
(x)tv Bedazzled 
( ) Predator I 
( ) Predator II 
( ) The Fog 
( ) Ice Age 
( ) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown 
( ) Curious George 
Total so far: 49 

(x) Independence Day ^
( ) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
( ) Christine
(x) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
( ) My Boss’s Daughter
(~) Maid in Manhattan
( ) War of the Worlds ^
(x) Rush Hour ^
(x)tv Rush Hour 2 
Total so far: 53 

( ) Best Bet
(x) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
(x) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
(x) Sideways ^
(x)tv Mars Attacks
( ) Event Horizon
(x)tv Ever After
(x) Wizard of Oz
(x) Forrest Gump ^
( ) Big Trouble in Little China 
(x) The Terminator 
(x) The Terminator 2 
( ) The Terminator 3 
Total so far: 62 

(x) X-Men ^#
(x) X2
( ) X-3
(x) Spider-Man ^
(x) Spider-Man 2 ^
( ) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
( ) Catch Me If You Can
(x) The Little Mermaid
(x) Freaky Friday [the original and the remake]
( ) Reign of Fire
( ) The Skulls
(x) Cruel Intentions
( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek ^
(x) Shrek 2 *
Total so far: 71 

( ) Swimfan
(x) Miracle on 34th street ^ [There is only the original, right?]
(x) Old School 
( ) The Notebook 
( ) K-Pax ^
( ) Krippendorf's Tribe 
( ) A Walk to Remember 
( ) The Glass House 
( ) Boogeyman 
(x) The 40-year-old-virgin 
Total so far: 74

(x) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring #^
(x) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers #^
(x) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King #^
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark #
(x) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom #
(x) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade #
Total so far: 80

(x) Baseketball #
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
(x) Elf ^
(x)tv Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
(~) American History X ^
( ) Three
Total so Far: 83

(x) Mean Girls ^
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
(x) Monsters Inc.^
(x) Titanic ^
(x) Monty Python and the Holy Grail #
( ) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard
Total so far: 87

(x) Sleepy Hollow
( ) Club Dread
(~) Hulk
( ) Dawn Of the Dead
(x) Hook
( ) Chronicle Of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
( ) 28 days later
(x) Orgazmo
(~) Drumline
(x)tv Hocus Pocus
Total so far: 91

(x)tv Kill Bill vol 1 *^
(x)tv Kill Bill vol 2 *^
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) The Hills Have Eyes
(x) Uptown Girls
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator
(x) Army of Darkness
Total so far: 95

(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(x) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
(x)tv Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
(x)tv Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total so far: 103

(x) The Matrix #^
(x) The Matrix Reloaded ^
( ) The Matrix Revolutions
( ) Snakes on A Plane
(x) Evil Dead
(x) Evil Dead 2
(x) Team America: World Police
( ) Red Dragon
( ) Silence of the Lambs
( ) Hannibal

Total seen: 108
Total I’ve seen part of: 12

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

GROSS PICTURE! FOR SERIAL! LIKE WITH BLOOD AND STUFF! EW!

Some of you may be wondering what happened with my second allergy test, which I had like a month and a half ago. As you'll recall, I was initially tested for a bunch of gross categories (and here I mean gross in the sense of "general" rather than "icky"). Anything for which I did not test positive was put on the docket for the more specific, under-skin test. Have you ever gotten a TB test, to see if you've ever been exposed? If not, a nurse uses a very very fine, short needle to put a little pocket of fluid just under your skin. It hurts less than a bee sting unless you get a super good nurse, and then it doesn't hurt at all. Imagine having 18 TB tests done on your upper arm and that's what the second round of allergy testing was like. Would you like to see the result?
Yeah, the red dots are blood, but that wasn't so bad. The bigger the swollen welt, the more allergic I am! Woot! I was going to ask them for a list of all the things they tested me for with each one marked positive or negative. But then I was positive for all of them, so the list seemed redundant. The good news? I'm least allergic to dust! Hooray? ...! My favorite thing for which I was tested was "smut." It's a kind of mold, but I like being able to tell people that I'm allergic to smut. If only I could orchestrate it so that I would sneeze whenever I saw a "Girls Gone Wild" ad... I'm sure some Pavlovian thing with steel drums would do the trick. I'm also really allergic to grass, tree pollen and cats! Thank God I live in an arid, scrubby environment with no pets!

Elephant's Appendage

There's a painted ad for Elephant's Delicatessen on Burnside that looks a little, um, "anatomical" to Pete and I. Sure, when we saw the ad for the first time we got that it was the elephant's tail. But we both realized that the same way: "Dude, that tail totally looks like a penis." I leave it to you to decide if we're just too immature or if that ad could have used a better editor.

As an aside, we tried to get "It's Time!" pictures, but while we've been sick new billboards went up and now I don't know where they are. But don't worry, I'll get them!

Monday, April 02, 2007

"It's Time!"

Is anyone else creeped out by Fred Meyer's "It's Time!" campaign? It's been around since last year and I think it is just crazy weird. It totally looks like they're a cult sending not-so-secret messages to their followers. Pete pointed out that it also looks like none of the people pictured have any understanding of how to eat the fruit or vegetable they're holding. I'll try to take some pictures, in case Portland is the only place these billboards appear. I looked on-line, but apparently I'm the only one who thinks they're strange enough to photograph.

Also, the Indian casino billboard on I-84 east at 33rd of the lady eating shrimp is totally hilarious. I'll also try to get a picture of it. It looks like someone else is weilding the shrimp fork. Like that part of the "Dick in a Box" video where Justin Timberlake pokes Kristen Wiig with a feather - same idea, only think "scary smiling woman being poked with a jumbo prawn on a shrimp fork."

Hm. You know, in the telling, that does not sound so hilarious.

New Feature: Pete Stuff

So FREQUENTLY, Pete finds something awesome and hilarious on-line and I am like, "You should post this on your blog." And he says, "But no one reads my blog. You should post it on yours." And I point out that people would read his blog if he ever posted anything on it. It's a circular argument. So I hereby inaugurate the "Pete Stuff" feature which will appear any time we have one of these retarded conversations. It's to benefit all of you, The People. I was originally going to call this feature "Awesome Stuff That Pete Found On The Internet But Is Too Lazy To Post On His Own Goddamn Blog," but then I didn't think I'd want to retype that every time he identifies something new.

This first "stuff" actually comes via Pete from Ben. Are you familiar with Viva Pinata? Pete and I discovered it some time ago and it is muy weird. It deeply bothered me at first because I could not determine, try as I might, whether or not it was ironic. I hate that! Now it doesn't bother me, but I still find it unwatchable. Nonetheless, this Viva Pinata-related video on YouTube is hilarious. Please to enjoy!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Newt Gingrich is an A-hole

Seriously, that guy ought to be tied to a chair and forced to watch his family suffer the indignities that his proposed policies would inflict on others. I don't even know where to start on this one. The fact that bilingual education has been scientifically shown to make kids do better not just in language classes, but in all subjects? That a bilingual society is not a weak society? That it's illegal in many states (like Oregon) to provide English-only election materials? That it's flat out immoral to even want to do so?? ::pant:: ::pant:: I'm just not going to start anywhere. I can only hope that he and his entire clan are kidnapped by Mexican radicals who put them in a living tableau where they have to obtain false papers, work crappy jobs for less than minimum wage, are given no help in learning Spanish, and then are asked to sign important papers and vote in local elections all in a language they barely understand. Even better - let's make it Chinese kidnappers, to simulate what it's like for illiterate people to try and hazard their way through our society.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Things I hate

Tim and Eric on Adult Swim.
I hate "Tom Goes To The Mayor." It is a stupid, stupid show.
I hate "The Tim and Eric Super Amazing Show! Good Job!" or whatever it's called.

They try so very very hard. And it is the worst form of contrived "randomness." It's not Dadaist, it's not absurdist. It's the ramblings of two idiots who were once told they were funny by a bunch of stoned losers and have taken it way too seriously.

Here is what I miss:
Sealab 2021
Space Ghost Coast to Coast
Venture Brothers (the second season was nowhere near as good as the first - shoddy production values).

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lo, my defenses have failed!

I am so very very sick. And I think it's cosmic punishment for bravado. This weekend I was all like, "Haha, isn't it funny that my brother's been sick for a week and a half, my mother's been sick all week and Pete's coming down with something and yet I'm not sick? Haha! I have the worst immune system ever! How ironic!" Yeah, well, that was a poor strategy. Monday night I started to feel bad and Tuesday I was sick, but nothing compared to Tuesday night. This cold has had diferent symptom sets for each of us - Aren and Mom have had bronchitis; Mom and I have had chills; Mom, Aren and Pete have had runny noses. But Tuesday night I had body aches and chills like you wouldn't believe. Every single point on my body hurt. And it didn't mater that I knew it was just viral, that it wasn't "real" pain, like from a sprain or whatever. I have no idea how people with chronic pain deal on a daily basis. One night of body aches and I was ready to throw in the towel. Wednesday was sore throat day and today is sore throat/coughing/feeling faint day. (I think maybe I have low blood pressure today? Is that possible?)

What I have learned is this: I am a HUGE sickness wimp. Mom's been crazy sick, but she hasn't missed a day of work. Aren only missed a couple days of work, and he was sicker than all the rest of us combined. Pete and I have really gotten off easy compared to them. But let's compare Pete and me. What did I do yesterday? I woke up at 4:20, at 5 and at 6:40 when I got up because there was no point. I watched TV in Mom's room until 8 when I fell asleep again. I slept until 11:30. I ate lunch. I watched tv until six or so and then I made chicken soup. I ate dinner, watched tv, and went to bed. Now, let's compare what Pete did. He got up around 10, brought in the recycling bins from the curb, took stuff down to the main post office to mail it, made lunch, cleaned out the cat boxes, ran to the store to buy chicken soup-making ingredients that we had run out of, put left over soup away and did the dishes. In short, Pete is amazing. Also, I am a huge wimp.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Happy Pi Day!

I just heard about this today. I think Pie Day would be better than Pi Day, but apparently (according to the American Pie Council, whatever that is) Pie Day is 1/23.

You know who is awesome?

Neil Patrick Harris, that's who. If you don't know who that is and you are American, you should look around your cave, gaze at your crude shelves full of anarchist tracts and survivalist literature, mentally catalog how long it took you to build that hydroponic "mini-collective-farm" out of old beehives, consider how long it's been since you had a hot shower or used soap, and ask yourself, "Has it been worth it?" Actually, I extend that command to anyone who doesn't recognize that name and is from an English-speaking country, because Doogie Howser, MD has had such a lasting influence on Western culture. Observe: Your doctor looks young? He gives you advice that seems specious? You want to be a jerk about it? There is only one thing to say! "Okay, Doogie, thanks. Now send in a real doctor and leave your plastic stethoscope at the door."

ANYWAY... my point is that Neil Patrick Harris is awsome. Proof? Pete will not only watch, but actually often enjoys watching a sitcom, "How I Met Your Mother." And I think he will confirm that the best parts are the Neil Patrick Harris parts. He just has perfect timing and makes even the most clichéd sitcom antics work (because he does so with a sense of irony). Also, the show seems to be written well, which helps. I had the hugest crush on him as Doogie Howser, MD, when I was but a girl, and that is one of only three school-girl-crushes-on-tv-or-movie-stars to which it is not embarrassing to admit.

And now you know who is awesome.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Post-Modernism: RIP

Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for post-modernism! And possibly critical theory. Let's take a look at our Important Post-Modernist Life & Death List, shall we? (*=Critical Theorist)

Ludwig Wittgenstein d. April 29, 1951
Theodor Adorno d. August 6, 1969
Martin Heidegger d. May 26, 1976
Roland Barthes d. March 28, 1980
Jacques-Marie-Emile Lacan d. September 9, 1981
Michel Foucault d. June 25, 1984
Louis Althusser* d. October 23, 1990
Jean-François Lyotard d. April 21, 1998
Pierre Bourdieu* d. January 23, 2002
Jacques Derrida d. October 8, 2004
Jean Baudrillard d. March 6, 2007

Jürgen Habermas*, beware! You're nearing your 88th birthday. And Noam Chomsky*... You just turned 88!

I was surprised that no one but the BBC covered the fact that Baudrillard died yesterday. Maybe they will today, but I doubt it. As important as he is to my field - or any qualitatively-oriented social science - I'd be surprised if enough people recognize his name to warrant any kind of televised obituary. I remember when Derrida died, endless seminars, tributes, discussion groups and other homages popped up all over campus. You would have though the French department had lost one of their own faculty! I can't imagine what they're doing for Baudrillard; maybe nothing, maybe they had a department-imposed day of mourning, I can't say.

If you don't know Baudrillard's work, you should totally check him out. His most famous work, Simulacra and Simulation (1981) is a little hard to read (and understand...) but I've heard his more recent stuff is much more accessible, if Crazy Liberal Propaganda (my favorite kind! ::squeal::). His book, America (1986), got pretty mediocre reviews - people thought he was stretching - but that would have been a hard time to be a post-modernist. His most recent stuff has been about how the Gulf War was really a simulacra - that the abstract reality of the war was entirely invented by public discourse and was not real (he does not dispute that it happened or anything like that). He has another book about how the same thing happened with 9/11. As you can imagine, he was not very popular in some quarters...

Anyway, I think it is strange to realize that Post-Modernism may have died yesterday along with M. Baudrillard. Sure, there are probably scholars who call themselves Post-Modernists out there. But who are they? What clout do they have? Do they represent an era of intellectual critique and epistemological change?

Also, if I left anyone off that list, let me know. Or don't, if this whole exercise has been too depressing. Just go read some Foucault and think happily about a time decontextualisation was a crazy new idea.