Thursday, June 28, 2007

Whoo-hoo #3 (big one)

This is the best news I've heard all week.

Remember a couple weeks ago, my mom had an incident where she had some memory blackouts for a short period of time? They ruled out all the really scary neurological stuff at the ER, but they wanted to still do some heart-function tests and an MRI.

(One of her friends told her that if she had had a TIA, it would show up on the MRI.)

One thing they did was a carotid artery ultrasound to check for blockage. My mom had been a bit concerned over the results of this test because for years her cholesterol's bounced around - gone borderline high (never high enough for the doctors to push statins on her though), gone down, gone back up, etc. So she was concerned about there being blockage. (Also - a friend of our family had carotid artery surgery and nearly died of complications afterward. So she was apprehensive about the potential of surgery).

Well - the carotids are perfectly clear. No problems there.
The MRI showed no tumors or plaques or anything much.

Except - apparently she has mastoditis (sp?). I guess this is inflammation around one of the bones near the jaw. The doctor thought it was probably a lowgrade infection (My mom had been complaining of a "blocked" ear but she thought it was allergies). My mom asked her if that could have caused the memory episode and the doctor said she couldn't say 100% for sure, but it was likely.

So now my mom's got horse-pill antibiotics (she's allergic to a lot of them, so she usually winds up with sulfa drugs) and a decongestant.

So, to Kate and anyone else who was praying - thank you. It's a weight off my heart to know that she's basically okay and that probably the thing that caused the memory issue was an infection that can be cleared up.

updates n stuff

Sheila - thank you! I would totally buy one of those if I could find it. (Not just to stave off would-be vandals, but because it would make my Martha Stewart wannabee neighbor's head explode). A manatee mailbox. (That's ALMOST a walrus mailbox, which is ALMOST a lolrus mailbox.)

nightfly: yes, you can has party. u bring d booz tho.

Kate - thank you. Stranger things have happened. I'm just amazed that I had forgotten I had it.

And going waaaaay back: Ken, "My Name is Earl" is one of the NBC shows I was vaguely referring to. It's one of the funniest things I've seen on television (let alone network television). And even better, it has that kind of fundamental sweetness to it: Earl's an idiot and a screwup but he WANTS to be better. (I'm wondering how they're going to work the fall season given what happened the last episode of this season, though.)

Overheard in class the other day: "I clip coupons sacriligiously." Hehehehehe. I think, from context, she meant exactly the opposite. No, I didn't correct her, there was no need to and I don't like to look like a pedant (more than usual.) I did manage not to laugh after she said it.

Oh, and speaking of Earls - the guy I referred to as "Earl" is gone again. I e-mailed him telling him that the semester was half over and that if I didn't hear from him by next week about the arranged class, I was going to "assume" he didn't plan on completing it. (I don't know if I'm allowed to come out and say, "I will fail you" or not. If it gets to be the end of the semester, yes.). I really hope I don't get some begging e-mail from him giving me a sob story as to why he couldn't e-mail or phone to let me know what was going on. (Hrm. Maybe he got bit by a spider and his arms wouldn't work.)

The thing that gets me is this: I have a set, limited, amount of attention and energy I can devote to things. I prefer not to devote that attention and energy to people who are just going to squander it and not go anywhere with what they're doing.

One of my friends from church was telling me about his cousin, who is a military chaplain - when the young man was in training, an older chaplain warned him: "Eighty percent of your time will be spent on about ten percent of the people."

And you know? He's right. Ten percent (or less) of the population, the ones who just don't have their stuff together, they're the ones who demand the most time, the most help, the most repetition of stuff. The ones who ask you to tell them again what they're supposed to be doing (when you had just got done explaining it, but see, they were distracted by the fish in the fishtank. And they have in on a printout in front of them, but they didn't read it). They're the ones who claim you never told them to do something (or conversely, never told them NOT to do something), but everyone else in the group seems to have acquired that knowledge (maybe by osmosis?). There are people who would suck you dry for help; you just have to become deft at cutting them off and redirecting them to work on their own without their becoming resentful.


I went to wal-mart yesterday. I think I've figured out how people "lawyerball" the 20-items-or-less lanes. There was a man and his (I'm guessing) mother shopping together - and they each had just about 20 items. And they combined it as a single order. I'd argue that doesn't count (especially because I was standing behind them with my eight items AND THE WOMAN WAS PAYING WITH A CHECK THAT SHE DID NOT START WRITING UNTIL THE CASHIER HAD RUNG THE ENTIRE ORDER UP). I don't know. My opinion is, wal-mart either needs to actually POLICE the policy (as in, "Sir, you might consider stepping down to one of our larger checkstands? It appears you have fifty items in your cart.") or just take down the bloomin' signs.

Because you know? I'm gullible that way. I tend to assume other people follow rules or "suggestions" as rigorously as I do. (And yes - I have gotten in a longer, "big checkout" line when I had 22 items, even when I probably could have slid through the 20 items or less line).

So every time, when I'm just there to buy milk or eggs or Excedrin Migraine or feminine-hygiene products or whatever, I happily get in what I assume is going to be a "short" line, until I see that the person ahead of me is:

some Comic Book Store guy with his month's supply of frozen dinners
a little old lady with lots of baking supplies and lots of cat food
a mom with kids and a fullish cart (In that case, I'm often willing to cut slack - it must suck to have to grocery shop with kids. But still).

I think another reason people do it is the friggin' wal mart has like 40 checkout aisles, and only three of them (aside from the 20 items ones) are ever open. Hello? Wal-mart? 4 pm? People coming home from work? Eighty people in each lane? Might you consider opening another? Even if one of your managers has to come out of his office to do it?

I don't know. What I said before, stands: if my city had PeaPod or whatever they call the order-online-get-delivered-at-home grocery service, I'd be all over that.

(Because it's also always raining when I go to the wal-mart, and I hate having to dodge and weave my way through the line of cars parked in the fire lane because their occupants are so very important that they can't possibly park in the lot like ordinary humans and WALK through the rain up to the store.

There's something just DEPRESSING about 4 pm on a Wednesday with bucketing down rain and the closest parking place being far enough away from the door that you're soaked (even with an umbrella) by the time you get in. And what's even worse is that all the carts have just been harvested from the parking lot so THEY'RE all dripping wet.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Whoo-hoo #2!


The ones that, had I not found them, would have probably meant this paper died an agonizing death. This was the stuff I was "cuss word"-ing about yesterday.

I kept thinking: That HAS to be somewhere. Even I am not a great enough git to totally get rid of all the bits and pieces of that.

Then I remembered a couple of CD-ROMs that my co-author had handed me after some long hours of working on analyses. I was so brain-fried at the time that I guess his, "I copied the output of the analysis on this CD so you'd have it" didn't register. Or it did, and I put the CD aside and forgot it.

But I was looking for a CD of a program I had that I wanted to re-install. And there was the other CD, the one he had made, with his characteristically-cryptic label on it.

Don't get your hopes up too much, I told myself. It's probably just reprints of some of his recent papers. (He used to do what I called "the Reprint Fairy" - every time he had a paper come out, he'd get reprints and then go through the lab and leave a copy on everyone's desk before they came in for the morning. I can't quite decide if that was endearing or annoying.)

But I put the disk in and looked at it.

a text file, with a title that sounded right. So I opened it.

And it was there. Huzzah. (And contrary to what Lileks said, Huzzah is not ONLY used by people at Renaissance Faires or people making fun of them.)

That means the several hours of horrible agonizing effort I would have had to put in today have been done away with. It also means that I have something productive to work on this weekend.

Thank God. (What's the saying? God looks out for drunks and fools? Something like that? Well, I'm not the first, but I'll admit to sometimes being the second.)


I got a "R"!

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

It's because, or so they claim:

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

* crap (5x)
* kill (4x)
* screwing (2x)
* bitch (1x)

Well, I think I actually used "bitch" as a verb (as in "bitching and moaning"), which I don't think is as bad as "bitch" as a noun. And I think I used "kill" figuratively - like "would it kill ya to do this" rather than "I want to kill him."

But whatever. I'm laughing because I'm actually usually one of the more G-rated people in my department.

And I'm also laughing because my favorite joke in the whole world is this:

"Did you hear about the new Pirate movie? It's rated 'Arrrr!'"

(I'm still not laughing about that paper though. I'm really unhappy about how it is going.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

cuss word, cuss word, cuss word.

(I have a friend who has young children at home, and because she doesn't want them picking up bad language from her, when she gets angry, she says "Cuss word! Cuss word! Cuss word!" over and over again. In fact, I think she's encouraged her oldest to do that when he's ticked).

I'm working on rewriting papers.

I HATE rewriting. I HATE the whole publishing scam. I HATE having to deal with co-authors.

But something happened today that is my own fault, and I can't do anything to fix it.

Cuss word.

I had done an extra analysis on some data. I had printed the analyses out, and used them in the last paper I got published (which was in January 2006 - too long ago really for comfort in the academic world). I tossed those analyses because, you know? Once a paper comes out you shouldn't need that stuff ever again.

I was also in the middle of a de-packrat program. I am a horrible, terrible packrat. I save everything. In my parents house there are notebooks from when I was in the seventh grade. Notebooks that were packed up and MOVED when my parents moved from the house where I grew up to where they live now. I had tried over the years to de-packrat myself: it's not healthy, it's not good, it's hanging on to a lot of useless stuff. I had used the justification of "But what if I need it someday?"

Fast forward to last summer. Cleaning my office which had gotten so bad it was a departmental joke. I KNOW I trashcanned those printouts; I can almost see a mental movie of me looking at them and going "I won't need these ever again, thank goodness."

Well, that came back to bite me nicely in the ass.

My co-author suggested I include one tiny, little detail from those printouts. The printouts which I do not have any longer. I don't really want to admit this to him because this is the same co-author who persuaded me to shitcan another article we were writing earlier this spring, and I'm afraid he's thinking I'm some kind of a ****-up now. (Oh, I know he's saying it to people. He said it to me about others: "She seemed so good at the time but now she's gotten lazy." "He seems to be kind of accident prone." And I know - I shouldn't care and it's really shabby that he does it. But you know? I do care. I want him to have a good opinion of me. And that includes not having lost the damned printouts.

So now I'm re-running the analysis program on the data. It's one of these complex situations where there are about eighty permutations of the different factors you can look at, and I DO NOT REMEMBER what combination of factors I used. So I'm going through methodically (and each analysis takes about 15 minutes) and running each one to see what combination of factors gives the same output that I have. (I do have the results; just not the printout of what I did. SO I'm generating a buttload of results and comparing them to see what combination gives the same outcome. If any combination does.)

I'm just so tired and fed up. I almost get the feeling that the co-author is doing a passive-aggressive, "I'll suggest so much crap in this rewrite that she'll eventually call me up and kill the project."

And I feel all "I suck" and I feel all like I'm never going to successfully publish again, and it's eighty eight degrees in my office and there is NO air, no air, and I can't breathe.

And part of me is so #*$U#ing stubborn that I want to go and FIND those results, I've dug through all my filing cabinets (no mean feat) just in case some angel stayed my hand and I actually filed them but no luck.

So I don't know. I hate publishing. I love collecting data. I love writing it up for the first time. But I hate the million-papercuts, being-pecked-to-death-by-ducks feeling of trying to rewrite a paper and make it pleasing to some anonymous reviewer who may or may not understand what you're trying to do.

Tap water follies

I heard on the news that San Francisco is banning bottled water for city employees. They won't buy the water for them any more (what is unclear is if they are going to "water police" and prevent people from bringing a supply from home - which I think would really be wrong. I'm kind of agnostic on a city buying drinking water for their employees, but if they tell them, no, you must drink the tap water and not buy your own - well, then I have a problem).

Ann Althouse has some discussion of it.

Now, I have some misgivings about this kind of legislation. I suppose it's the way it's being spun. I guess I don't have a problem with them saying, "We won't buy it for city buildings because you have a perfectly good source of water available to you near your offices." But I think the blanket ban is a problem.

Because, you know? San Francisco? Earthquakes? Wouldn't it be a good idea to keep some on hand in city buildings just in case?

I mean - I live in Podunk, USA, where our biggest risk is the occasional tornado, and I keep bottled water on hand. I don't usually drink it - it's too expensive to guzzle - but I keep it on the off case (as has happened once since I lived here) that a problem shut down the local water-treatment plant for a few hours, and they had us under a boil order for a day or two.

Now, granted, I know how to boil water. But it's easier to not have to wait 15 minutes (or however long it takes to kill Giardia) for each batch.

I normally drink filtered tap water. Filtered only because my city is overly fond of chlorine (Now With More Chlorine Taste!) and it's surface water, which means that even despite the chlorine, some times of year the water bears a faint eau de algae or Scent O Rotting Leaves.

It's true that tap water is so cheap it's almost free. And from what (little) I know about SF, their tap water is pretty darn good in terms of taste and quality. So it is kind of foolish to drink bottled water if you're near a clean tap.

But. City employees may not always BE near a clean tap. I suspect that some employees have to go out in the field, much as I do - they have to inspect things, or try to catch loose dogs, or take readings off of meters. So, if they want drinking water while they're working (And I know SF is not as hot as where I live, but still - if you're working several hours out in the sun, you need water), they'll have to either bring a supply from home, or buy Nalgene bottles and remember to fill them before heading out, or beg homeowners for a glass?

(Yeah, yeah - I know. I do that. I bring my own water when I go out in the field. But then again - my job is different than that of a city worker. Again - I'm less concerned about the "why should we buy it for you" than I am about the "let's dictate how you live and do your job.")

And, for that matter - again, I don't know the full situation - some departments may not have good water sources. I remember when I was in grad school, we had a period of about a month where the potable water system in the building essentially tanked. They told us it was okay for flushing and probably for washing hands, but not to drink it (After the first day, and many complaints, they brought in those big free-standing coolers, like you see in the old cartoons about people gossiping at the office. They hired Culligan or someone to make sure the coolers were filled until the potable water system was fixed). One of the Althouse commentators noted that in some departments, the main water-obtaining option was the taps in the restrooms.

I don't know, maybe SF has nicer restrooms than my university, but: yuck. I'd rather dehydrate than drink water out of THOSE taps.

And then there's the issue of bacteria on drinking fountains - eeep, I didn't even think about that. Something else to be all Adrian Monk about. (And I use the drinking fountain, all the time. Have even filled my big purple Nalgene bottle off of it). Now I'm not so sure I want a drink of water from it.

Also, there are some venues where a water fountain or other type of water-providing receptacle are not really practical - I wouldn't go to a 10,000 person music festival, for example, if I knew the only options for water once I got there (and knowing the way security goes at some of those events, you're sometimes better off not trying to smuggle it in) were some fountain that the other 9,999 people had been using. (And maybe not just for the intended purpose. Some of our students here use "smokeless tobacco" and more than once - more than I'd like to imagine - I've seen the spent leaf-wads just spat into the drinking fountains. And they don't go down the drain. And it very nearly makes me vomit a little to see them - not a lot of things gross me out, but that's one thing that very much does. I have walked to other BUILDINGS to get a drink when all of our fountains were so contaminated.)

So, like a lot of "blanket" laws, or zero-tolerance policies, this one has some problems with it.

I mean, I like the basic idea - the city will save money buy not purchasing what is really a luxury. However, they're spinning it the wrong way, IMHO - the spin is very much, "Bad people! You are clogging up the landfills with your evil Bottles Of Death!" I would much rather see, "In an effort to better steward the money of the taxpayers of this city, we will no longer provide unlimited bottled water for people who are within easy reach of taps or water fountains."

Or for that matter: imply that it's effete to drink bottled water. Or maybe that doesn't cut any ice in San Francisco, I don't know. I know around here I've seen attitudes like "Real men don't drink water with names like 'Aquafina'"

I also think they do need to keep some options open in case of emergencies or in case of situations where water might not be accessible. On my campus, if the water system goes out, they either cancel classes and send everyone home, or trundle out either water coolers or cases of bottled water so people can drink. If bottled water were banned, they'd just always have to send everyone home. And in an earthquake situation - going home might not be an easy option. (Maybe I'm totally wrong on this and maybe the city will keep stocking shelters. But there's no mention made of that, and it's the kind of oversight I've come to expect from the "We're saving you from yourselves!" brigade).

I guess my main problem is the demonization of bottled water. If you want to drink it, I don't particularly care. Sometimes I do. Sometimes it's safer than tap. (Anyone remember Milwaukee in about 1992? The Cryptosporidium? They got into the city water supply and some people died, whereas others had what was like the worst food poisoning of their lives). Usually it isn't. But don't close off possibilities from people in the name of being "correct."

(That's one of my big issues with the hard-core environmentalists, the ones who would take us back to the technology of 1750 or so, in the name of saving the environment: look, my ancestors worked their asses off so they didn't have to shiver in a mud house all winter and eat roots. Don't tell me I have to revert to those conditions because it's "good for the environment." If YOU want to do it, be my guest. But don't tell me I have to, too.)

I will also add, in the Strange Bedfellows department - that the irony of the Sierra Club promoting people drinking water that comes from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, is not lost on me.

Monday, June 25, 2007


I am NOT in a good mood this morning.

Oh, I recognize that what I'm going to talk about is a minor annoyance in the Grand Scheme of Things, but it's still an annoyance:

Late last night, some a-hole (or, more likely, a-holes) vandalized the mailboxes on my street. Went through and pulled off the flags (they didn't get the flag off of mine, but it's bent and the mechanism's damaged) and grabbed the doors and pulled them down and back so they're all bent and won't close.

(I was able - by using a pliers - to bend mine back so it will at least stay closed for when my mail's delivered today).

But I will need to buy a new mailbox, as will all my neighbors. (Since my mailbox is just barely functional, I'm going to wait a few days - I'm sure there's nothing the vandals would love more than to find a nice brand-spanking-new box to destroy.)

This kind of thing enrages me beyond what it really should. It feels kind of like a violation to me. And it's also so pointless - if someone stole money from me, I could almost kinda-sorta justify it to myself, saying, "Well, maybe they had no job, and their welfare had run out, and they had a kid that's hungry." Or if I had something nice that was stolen, I'd be angry and sad, but also feel like, well, at least someone may be enjoying it.

But busting up people's mailboxes? Why? I mean - yeah, I know, it's a shortlived thrill and possibly if you're drunk/high/bored it seems like a good way to spend the time.

But what pisses me off about vandalism is the collateral damage that's created. All of us on my street are going to have to go buy new mailboxes - assume 1/2 hour time to drive to the Lowe's, pick one out, pay, drive back. And then at least 1/2 hour to install the thing. That's one person-hour per household WASTED. Time we could have spent - I don't know, spent writing poetry or mowing our lawns or playing with our kids or something.

And then there's the cost.

This is the third mailbox I've bought since I've lived in my house. (And I've lived here just over five years). The first one, someone hit with their car. That could have been an accident but if the person were really kind and upstanding, they'd've left contact info and offered to buy me a new mailbox. The second one, I had when I had really bad neighbors renting next door to me. Neighbors I called the cops on once or twice because of their activities. I can't prove it's them, but SOMEONE, while I was out of town, tried to blow my mailbox up with firecrackers (it was all burned inside). It was still functional after I cleaned it out, though, so I kept it, until someone chunked a pumpkin at it the day after Hallowe'en a couple years ago.

And now this. So I've spent perhaps $60 on mailboxes in five years.

I'd get a P.O. Box and just be done with home delivery, except the effort, time, and irritation (the post office here is on the corner of a very busy street and it's an awkward turn into it no matter what direction you're coming from, and it's also the opposite direction from how I either go to work or go home at the end of the day) of that would be greater than periodically replacing mailboxes.

It just irritates me, though - thinking about the person who did that, how they had that free time (it seems like it's always the people who have little time on their hands to deal with this kind of crap who get vandalized) and thought "Hey, let's go destroy someone else's property!"

I wonder, sometimes, if vandalism is some kind of political statement - like, "We don't have nice stuff and we don't think anyone else should." I have a friend whose husband coaches Little League, and they have to be very careful how and where equipment is stored - a lot of times it gets vandalized, and one time when vandals were caught, they were kids from, shall we say, the wrong side of the tracks, and their opinion was very much one that it was OK for them to destroy stuff, because the people who owned it were "rich," and they could "always buy more."

So I don't know.

The other thing I don't know is: should I bother to report this? Is it worth it? I mean, the local police don't exactly put an effort into trying to deter vandalism or deal with it when it happens. And my few customer-service type dealings with the local post office suggest to me that they'd just laugh at me if I called them up and reported it.

If I knew someone who did them, I'd hire someone to build one of those brick surrounds for a mailbox and put my mailbox in that; let the little craps try and damage it then.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

We can has innovation?

I watched a little bit of "network" television (as in, ABC, CBS, NBC) last night. (I guess it was that I was watching "Finding Nemo" - that was why).

And you know? I'm glad I have cable. Because if I didn't, I would be shooting my television very soon. (And I don't currently own a gun.)

It seems as if every show that's being promoted (either for this summer or for the coming fall) fits into one of two categories:

1. Self-help for sad sacks
2. Joe or Jane Public going on television, with a very high probability of being humiliated, and a very low probability of becoming a star.

Television. Dear television. I do not want to watch shows in either of these categories. And even if I did, I do not need five or six iterations of each.

I used to look for network television for two (well, really three) things:

1. Funny comedies
2. Interesting dramas
(and 3. Local news.)

However, with the exception of some of the stuff NBC's done recently, there's no more of 1. And as for 2., it seems they've largely been wiped from the landscape thanks to the reality television craze.

(And yes, I know: "reality" television is cheap to make. You don't need to pay writers or actors. All you need is a bunch of willing loonies who want their fifteen minutes of fame, and someone who's good at editing the resulting hours of boredom creatively enough to make the show look dramatic.)

But, let me comment on each of these new trends.

First, the self-help shows. I guess we should have seen this coming, what with "What Not To Wear" and all of those de-cluttering shows on cable. (In the spirit of full disclosure: I have never watched "What Not To Wear." I just find that kind of thing squirmingly uncomfortable: "Now, Lois, we know you love to wear flats and you have a congenital knee problem. But flats are out, out, out, and they make your legs look fat. Try on these 2" heels. Oh, you'll get used to your toes being compressed into an inch-wide area in a few weeks. But be sure to wear the shoes everywhere so you learn how to walk in them!" And yes, I know, people go on that show voluntarily. But I don't like to think of these two arbiters-of-taste taking a person and going "Everything that sets you apart from the pullulating mass of humanity, you must change now, and dress as we dictate." I know that I sometimes err on the side of dowdiness in my dress, but I wouldn't want some chick and some dude I'd never met before, who don't know my life or my lifestyle, telling me what to wear).

Anyway. They're apparently carrying forward the trend of nanny shows on the networks - where they find some family that will look like a junior version of the Jerry Springer show on film (even better if they can get some random shot of the dad saying either "I didn't know it was this bad" or "I don't think it's such a problem") and then truck in some soi-disant child-rearing expert to whip the family back into shape (And these are the kind of shows for which 'creative editing' was made).

And they've got some show where Shaquille O'Neill bullyrags little fat kids into losing weight. Charming. Fat kids and an inarticulate NBA star.

And I saw one advertised recently - this wasn't on a network, it was on A and E - about some kind of relationship guru who tells people how they must change themselves (hint: everything) in order to find love, so they won't die sad and alone. Look: I don't have a problem with suggesting to someone with poor table manners that they develop the habit of sitting up straight, using a fork, and chewing with their mouth closed. But from what I saw in the adverts, it seemed much more on the order of telling a single woman to take her cats to the shelter because no man will ever love a woman who has cats. Things like that.

(And that actually gets to the heart of what I hate so about dating: "Don't show your true self lest you scare the person away!" Yes, but if it gets serious - and I, silly me, thought the goal of dating was, you know, a long-term relationship, like maybe getting married - when do you slowly sneak back those bits of your "true self"? And what does it say about our society if a person (and I'm not talking about a circus freak here; I'm talking about a fairly normal person) is told that many of the aspects of their personality are unacceptable and must be covered up in the interest of tricking their potential significant other?)

Okay. So - networks, my conclusion on "Self help for sad sacks"?

Do. Not. Want.

Look, if you're doing it for Springer reasons - so people around the country will look at these people and go, "Thank God I'm not that person," shame on you. If you're doing it because in some twisted universe you think it might actually HELP people, you're mistaken - watching little fat kids being made to do pushups isn't going to encourage people to get off their duffs and start an exercise program.

The second category - and actually, in a way, it overlaps with the first - is People Humiliating Themselves on Television.

I blame American Idol.

And I don't blame the millions of people who watch American Idol, but I do blame the low-creativity network execs who see something successful, and then order fifteen clones of it to populate the airwaves in the coming season.

Flipping around, I saw a few moments of some show - there was a guy who looked like Liberace reincarnated playing a peppy rendition of "New York, New York" on a white piano (he even had a candleabra - now that's going a bit far). And then three people evaluated him. The only one I recognized was Sharon Osbourne. And I said to myself: damn, this is just a clone of American Idol - there are people who are marginally talented up on stage, there's a snarky British guy, there's a woman who says nice things, and then there's a third guy. (Thankfully, I didn't hear the third guy use the epithet "dawg." But maybe I didn't watch long enough).

And there's apparently a show where people think they look like celebrities, so they try to sing/dance/stand around and look rich (And that, I've finally decided, is Paramis Hilamaton's "talent") like them.

And there's another one with inventors trying to promote their wacky inventions.

Look: I don't want to watch a sixteen-year-old from Cowflop, Arkansas, who thinks that the fact that she looks a little bit like Jewel (with the right makeup and in bad light) means she is entitled to fame and fortune.

And I don't want to watch some gamer who lives in his parents' basement talk about this 'great new' invention he's come up with that will do away with the need for taking bathroom breaks on long car trips.

Again: Do Not Want.

And you know? With all the faux talent shows on the air, I'm coming to wonder if this is maybe the legacy of the self-esteem movement in the schools - where little Johnny and little Janey are told that everything they ever do is great and good and wonderful, and so, ten or twelve years down the line, Johnny or Janie hop a bus for Hollywood, figuring they're so GREAT, that they can't help but become rich and famous.

And 90% of them just aren't that good. And a few of them are hideous enough that you cringe (or at least I do) to see them on television, and you ask yourself (or at least I do): don't these people have any friends? Didn't they have anyone telling them, "You might want to rethink that career as a singer."

When I was in high school, I used to play the clarinet. Now, I had no illusions of ever joining the New York Philharmonic or anything like that. I knew I wasn't that good. But my orchestra teacher reinforced that; he once made a comment like, "Unless you practice twice as long in a day, and give up doing some of the things you are doing now so you have more time to practice, don't waste your time and mine; you will never be good enough to perform in public."

And you know, after that year, I put the clarinet away and never took it out again? For the longest time I thought my orchestra teacher was being unnecessarily cruel (and maybe he was to me), but if by saying to people "You will never be good enough for a large orchestra," he may have prevented the creation of more Johnnies and Janies running off to Hollywood to share their "talent" with a television audience that is more eager to laugh at them than to support them.

I don't know. I know reality shows are cheap to make, and lots of people seem to eat them up - but they just make me sad. I don't want to watch someone with a problem be cajoled into "getting over" that problem (just in time for the exciting season finale!). I don't want to watch people who really can't sing, or dance, or do much of anything it seems get up in front of a panel of judges and perform.

I want my funny comedies and interesting dramas.

And I want shows like Dirty Jobs - which, I realize, is a reality-show even though I say I hate reality-shows. But the reason I like it is this: when something humiliating happens to Mike Rowe, he bears it with generally good humor. He doesn't cry, or get angry and stomp off, or say "No one ever told me!" No, he kind of mugs at the camera and grits his teeth and goes on, and later, in the "blooper roll" they sometimes show at credits time, he says something funny about it. And besides - he makes a fair amount of money doing what he does. Not like Miss Jewel Wouldbe from Cowflop, AR - where she's competing for maybe a slim shot at a few thousand dollars.

I'll be glad when the reality show trend dies, though I have to admit a bit of apprehension about what it may be replaced by.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Bought my skein of yarn.

You know, it does make me feel better.


Is something screwy with the Innernets today? It seems like every other site I try - just about all of them ones that supply some vital information for a paper rewrite I'm doing today - are timing out. A check of the Task Manager doesn't show that I'm overtaking my poor 'puter's brain, so I don't think it's that my Dell has suddenly gone Lloyd Christmas on me.

But it's annoying as stink - I'm not enjoying this rewrite already, thanks to my co-author's snarky comments and vague "you need to fix this" references. (How, dear man, HOW? "fix this" gives me no direction and no instruction.)

Doesn't help that the humidity, my periodic insomnia, my periodic anxiety have all come to visit me all at once and I'm both tired and feeling like I want to crawl out of my skin.

I'm going to try to put in another solid hour on this, and then I'm gonna bail and go home. And maybe come back tomorrow.

bring on the truffles, the yarn, or the books....

On Joel's blog the other day I commented that I was getting so tired of stories about a certain individual whose great-grandfather founded a famous hotel chain.

(Maybe I'll Homerize her name and call her Paramais Hilamaton. Kind of like Pig Latin.)

I said that I thought I should modify the old "drinking game" (where, if something happened in a movie, people had to take a drink). I'm not a drinking woman (and even if I were, I think, knocking back a shot at 8:30 am would still disgust me). So I said I'd either buy another book, buy a skein of yarn, or eat a square of Lindt chocolate every time she was mentioned in a news story I happened to hear.

(Several commenters suggested the Lindt truffles instead. I've had them, and I guess this is one of those, "There's no disputing taste" matters, but I find them a bit unctuous for me. I'd rather have a square off of one of their good dark chocolate bars.)

Anyway. Took my car in for its regular filter/oil change this morning (and asked the mechanic to check the brakes - they had been grinding and squealing and I had fearful visions of Impending Brake System Failure. He came back in and said the brakes looked perfectly fine; the grinding was probably because it's been so wet these past few weeks. Thank goodness for that - that's $100 or more I don't have to spend.)

Anyway, while I was waiting, the tv box in the customer lounge. (And I also have to add - this is a dealership and one of the salespeople went through and foisted her card on everyone, telling us if we were in the market for a new car, to look her up. One of the other guys sitting in there waiting, after she left, said sotto voce, "It's probably not the best place to sell Fords when people are sitting around waiting for their broken Fords to be fixed." Hah.)

Anyway, the tv box people (I think it was Fox news but I was grading and only listening with half an ear) were discussing the woman who shall not be named here and her "pending release" from jail.

"Pending release?" Whaaa? WTF? Didn't she just go in, like, on Monday?

They also said she's doing a print interview and making $300K for it.

Now, I try not to begrudge actors and actresses and sports stars their high salaries, but this still seems wrong to me. I realize I don't have the interest of ever having been in jail, nor the titillation factor of ever having disembarked a car while wearing a short skirt and going commando, but if someone asked to interview me - and then offered to pay - I'd turn it down. Isn't the point of an interview that you're getting publicity?

I don't know. But I do think I will now entitle myself to the purchase of a book or yarn of my choice, having been subjected to hearing that. (And if you're playing along at home, I guess your having read my blog post now entitles YOU to your indulgence-of-choice. This could get very recursive...)

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Emily - if I had been in a really snarky mood and someone pulled that "fake woman" thing on me, I'd probably have said, "Better a fake woman than a real b*tch."

And I have had the implication that I'm not a 'real woman' thrown in my direction, solely because I have not bred. People who throw that implication? I decide then and there I'm done with them. I don't need that kind of crap in my life.


I know some of you are getting sick of the body-image-fu on here, but right now it's working its way through my system (kind of like a virus, I just have to sweat these kind of things out). I listened to a few minutes of the Dennis Prager show today while doing some last minute house-cleaning before having a meeting here

Prager was talking about some actress (didn't catch who) that he described as "emaciated." His argument was that, to a hetero man, this is NOT sexy - that to guys who like women, curves are generally necessary for appeal. And he asked: why do women do this to themselves? Why do they get convinced that so skinny is the way to go.

And I admit, I was kinda screaming at the radio - stuff about "the Health Fascists tell you that even an extra pound on your body will kill you early and in a bad way" and "because fashion has dictated it for so many years that we have a skewed picture." (Although, yeah, I do know about the "men who prefer women generally prefer women who aren't skin and bones. And to be honest? I can totally look at women I know and go, "oh, she's way too thin" or "oh, she looks good" or "ooooh, she looked better before she lost that 15 pounds" Likewise - as a hetero woman - I look at guys and the really skinny guys or the really muscled-out guys - the ones who look like steroid abusers - just don't do it for me. Give me just an ordinary guy, with some normal muscles, maybe even a little paunch, and I'm good.)

Then a woman called in - I didn't catch her name, but when she started crying, I really started listening. She said that she'd far rather be emaciated - have people look at her and go "Oh, she's too thin" than be, as she said, "Fat and invisible." And then she started to cry. She said she was over 200 pounds (maybe she said 300? I couldn't hear her all that well at that point. But I've known very womenly women - very attractive women - who weighed in at or close to 200 pounds. It's a matter of fat distribution, muscles, and height. The problem is - in our society - 200 pounds is sort of a milestone; it's the point where if you're a woman and you hit that weight, most people assume you have stopped being a woman and started being an It. And that's not right. That kind of attitude is not going to help a person lose weight if that's what she needs to do.) and that people didn't see her as a woman. And she talked about how she had sort of fantasized about dying of cancer, because cancer makes you thin while you're dying, and then it would only take four people to carry her out of the church instead of 12 (meaning, in her coffin).

Oh man. Oh, that just hit me in the heart. I stopped cleaning and stood there and started crying myself. Because I hear her. I hear what she's saying. I know the "invisibility." I know the feeling that you'd rather be too small than too big. I even - in my younger and more screwed-up days - sort of wished for some kind of non-fatal, not-too-painful disease that would make me lose weight - just so I could go to certain relatives' houses and have them say, "Oh, my gosh! You're so thin! You need to eat something!" instead of, "Dear....why don't you go run around outside for a while?" or "Dear...why don't you leave those cookies for the boys?"

This society is far too good at screwing people up. I'm less screwed up now than I used to be but I still have buttons that can be pushed.

I'd love to say to that woman - God made you. You're beautiful. The people who make you feel sub-human because of your weight are being cruel. And I know how hard it is to try and lose weight and be surrounded by people who say, "But if you JUST TRIED." No. Been there, done that, got the XL t-shirt. Trying harder sometimes just doesn't do it.

Anyway. It broke my heart to think that someone crapped on her so much with their attitudes that she'd rather get cancer and die than go on being who she was.


Remember the dude I talked about who signed up for one of my classes three times, and stopped coming each time, and then e-mailed me and wanted me to help him make up the class in two weeks (an entire semester in two weeks) before the end of last semester?

Well, he took my advice, I guess, and is in my summer section of the class.

But. I also teach an arranged-time "readings" class sometimes. I am doing it this summer, as an unpaid overload, because a good former student of mine came to me and said: I need one credit to graduate. I've taken all the majors-classes I need for what I want to do with my life. Is there any way you could let me do the readings class this summer so I could get finished?

And I said, sure, no problem. And there was another person who wanted to do that - to get finished up. So I told her that that was fine (and both of them chose topics that I am very familiar with, so it's minimal extra work on my part).

Well, the other day my department chair e-mailed me. She wanted to know if "all" the students in the readings class were mine. I wondered about the 'all' because I only had spoken with the two (Remember - our summer semester is almost half over).

So I checked with the registrar (We do not get rosters for the arranged-type classes; the idea is the students are supposed to have okayed it with the prof in charge first, so the prof knows who's in his or her class.)

Well, I had two surprise students. The disappearing guy and a woman. (Both were people that I knew how to find fairly easily; they're in other classes this summer). Turns out the woman was working with another faculty member - so it is not a problem for me.

But the guy - let's call him Earl - well, he apparently just got "permission" to take the class (oh, I have to add - this is a Permission Of Instructor class, meaning, technically, we are supposed to okay people before they join the class) from someone who is Not Me.

I am not happy about this.

I am not happy about this for more than just the obvious reason - because when I asked Earl about the class, and said, "You know, you are supposed to come in during the first week of classes and discuss your study plan with the professor," he got all huffy with me.

Wrong move, Earl.

"But I didn't know who was teaching the class!" he said. "I didn't know what I was supposed to do!"

Well, duh, Earl. You are, like, 22. You know where the departmental secretary's office is. Even if my name were not listed on the course schedule you received, you could have - you SHOULD have - gone and asked her. And you signed up for the class without first requesting my permission - you should have known who the prof was BEFORE you signed up. (Oh, what if it was Tolgar the Horrible? or Dr. Purselip-who-fails-everybody? Then what? Never, never sign up for a class like this one without knowing who teaches it!)

And, even beyond that - the freaking semester is half freaking over. This is a readings class. This is not something you can freaking cram for on the last couple days of class.

I told him: You must come and speak to me during my office hours this week and plan out the program of your readings. You know my office hours; they are on the syllabus you have in your hand.

Well, he never came in to speak to me. My office hours for the week are now over. He also knows that in another two weeks, I am going to be leaving town for a week to attend meetings, and after I get back, it will be too late.

I am really done with this guy. I am really fed up with his entitled "wipe my bum for me" attitude.

Look: it is an arranged class. The point of arranged classes is that you talk to the professor ahead of time and ARRANGE what you are going to do. Waiting until the midpoint of the semester to arrange things is too late. Being rude to the professor in charge because you "didn't know who taught the class" (and apparently couldn't be arsed to go and find out) is not the way to operate.

If this guy is pathologically shy or something and it's such a problem for him to talk to someone - and I DO NOT think that is the case; the "job opportunity too good to pass up" that he needs his B.S. for is one where he's in contact with people all the time - well, then he needs to rethink how his life is going to go. If he has that much problem working up the gumption to walk in to our (extremely non-threatening looking) secretary and asking her a question, he needs medication. No, seriously. I generally rail against psychotropic meds given out like candy but if someone's so impaired that they can't function, then they need them.

And as I see it, there are three possibilities in this case:

1. The guy is impaired in some way - pathological shyness, or memory is shot, or something, and it's a medicatible condition. In that case, he needs meds.

2. He has been so coddled he can't do anything for himself. Sorry, I don't wipe bums. I don't spoon-feed. I'm not going to deal with a person who can't make an effort to do what he's supposed to. I have my own things to attend to - as well as thirty-some other students who need some appropriate attention (like, a little help on writing up a lab report) periodically.

3. He's a massive procrastinator. That is a problem he needs to get over, himself. I cannot make him get over it. Likewise, I am not going to enable him in his procrastination - if he comes in next week I am going to hand him a pre-prepared stack of readings (the easiest option for me at this point - choose something I already know so I don't have to do any extra prep) and tell him, "take this or leave this; it is too late for you to have any choice in the matter."

If he doesn't come in next week, or the week after? Tough. He's screwed. He cannot wait until the last two weeks of class and expect me to work with him. I have exams to write during that time, and papers to grade, and other students - STUDENTS WHO HAVE BEEN DOING WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO - to help.

I just shudder to think what he'll be like in his "opportunity too good to pass up." I'm hoping all of this screwing around is some kind of massive case of senioritis and that he'll pull himself up by the bootstraps once he gets into what he regards as the "real world." Otherwise, too damn bad. Welcome to welfare, dude.


I get really sick of people who think of the jobs they are going into as "the real world" and college as some kind of faerieland fantasy where they can do whatever they want and get their asses saved at the last minute by a caring prof. College is supposed to be PREPARATION for the "real world" (and - for those of us who teach or do research at one, it IS the "real world"), not a way of avoiding it.


I am so glad for the four-day summer week here. Thursday is my Friday. Friday is my get-caught-up-on-research-you-don't-have-time-for-otherwise day. Saturday is actually a relaxation day, as is Sunday. And there are almost no meetings in the summer.


I don't think I've ever discussed my deep and abiding love for Mythbusters here, but I do have to say: it is one of my favorite shows, ever. Probably my favorite show on television right now.

Well, last night they did cold weather myths.

They tested, and more or less confirmed, the tongue-getting-stuck-to-a-cold-pole. You know, like in "A Christmas Story": "My tongue is not...stuck! Stuck! STUCK!"

They used a pig's tongue that had been modified so they could pipe warm water through it (to bring it up to normal tongue temperature; this was a disembodied tongue from a slaughterhouse). They stuck it - quite spectacularly - to a frozen pole. Then Tory stuck his tongue to a cold pole in Colorado (except it didn't stick quite as spectacularly; either he was more cautious or else the pole warmed up from his body heat).

I love Mythbusters because it's funny, and it features things being "hacked" (I love tinkering, I love to see people modify things to change their function). It's not perhaps AS science-y as it could be (I have some issues with their miniscule sample sizes, and with the lack of doing blind tests in a lot of situations). But it's a fun fun show, and I love it. I even love the re-runs that Discovery seems to show a lot.

Actually, I like a lot of the Discovery shows - I enjoy Dirty Jobs, though probably with more schadenfreude than is really proper. And I recently discovered "How It's Made" - which is sort of an odd show, but it endeared itself to me fast - basically, it's video of factory assembly lines for stuff - crayons and rope and car oil filters and stuff like that - with an at-times-cheesy voice-over. (I get the feeling - but haven't paid enough attention to the credits to confirm - that it was originally made somewhere else, like Japan, and then dubbed into English with a new narrator).

I tend to find video of stuff being made pretty hypnotic. There's the machinery end of it (machinery interests me. Perhaps I should have been an engineer - a career my father suggested to me - after all). There's also the calmness of it - everything works, nothing goes wrong, there's no drama. (I also enjoy the "making stuff" shows on HGTV and Food Network. Those are on a smaller scale, and there's more of the personality of the presenter being injected, but I still find them fun and interesting.

When I was a small child and used to watch Mr. Rogers, one of my favorite segments was how he's occasionally show (on "Picture-picture") video of stuff - stuff of interest to kids, like Etch-a-Sketches - being made. So I've had the fascination for a long time.

"better than you"

First off:

Ken, I think the cheezburger cat stuff (aka lolcats) is something you either think is funny, or don't, just because of differences in sense of humor. I'm not sure that there's much to "get" - I think the idea is that some of the allusions (particularly the bad English) are to the gaming community or to the Japanese-love-of-many-things-American. (For example: there's a site out there called Engrish that posts examples of attempts to write things in English by non-English speakers. Kind of like the American guy who goes out and gets a tattoo of Chinese characters because he thinks it looks badass, but he doesn't know what the characters mean - for all he knows, it could be off a menu, and say, "Large Chicken Soup $3.")

I just think it's funny because there are a lot of stupid things I think are funny.

On to the real post.

One thing I've noticed about the culture (and something that bugs me about it) is the tendency of us to set ourselves off into little groups, and then snipe at people who don't belong to the group.

And frequently the group-membership, or, at the very least, the sniping, is petty and trivial and seems to me to be "you're making an issue out of THIS? Isn't life difficult enough without making people into enemies that shouldn't be your enemies?"

In my experience, women seem to be particularly good at doing this. I will give two examples.

First: the stay-at-home mom vs. the working mom.

I will start off by openly stating my prejudices in the matter: I believe that having a parent (and it could be either parent; in some families the dad might be better suited as a stay-at-home parent) stay home with the children - at least when they are very small - is preferable to sending them to day care.

This is because, in part, day care generally just isn't that good. (I've sort of seen the underbelly of it: there is a day care that uses my church building and they have terrible problems getting and keeping qualified people. Part of it is they pay like $6 an hour, which is currently less than what the McDonald's pays, so unless you are a mom with kids who might go to the day care and you want to make a few (very few) bucks, it's not going to be an appealing job).

Anyway. I didn't mean for this to be a rant about day care - but at least now you know where my prejudices lie. (That said: there is good day care out there but it's usually expensive and has a long waiting list).

But: the whole working-mom vs. stay-at-home mom thing has been a fight, since the 1980s at least (and probably earlier, but I wasn't conscious of it).

It swings back and forth - for years the attitude was that working moms tended to be these cold beings who didn't love their children, and that was why they worked. (And that was the snottiness on the part of stay-at-home moms: taking that attitude). Now, the attitude, at least in some quarters is: if you're a stay at home mom, you're wasting your life and very likely setting yourself up for extreme poverty when your husband leaves you.

There was some woman talking about this this weekend on Book tv. I could only stomach a few moments. Her attitudes were this - that if you, as a mother, "couldn't find a few hours a day to do something to contribute financially to your family" while the kids were at school, you were squandering your potential and hurting your family. She also implied that when - and it seemed to be "when" in her mind, more than "if" - your husband "traded you in" for a younger model, if you hadn't been in the workforce, you'd be screwed and your only hope would be to get a minimum-wage job greeting at the Wal-mart.

And you know, that seemed like such a narrow and pessimistic view.

My parents have been married very nearly 50 years now (it will be 50 years in 2009.) There was never, ever a thought of ANYONE trading ANYONE in for a "younger model" - it was clear to me, even as a self-absorbed teenager, that the only woman for my dad was my mom, and the only man for my mom was my dad.

Now, granted: having some work skills is important. Stuff happens. Both of my mom's sisters buried their husbands young, and one wound up having to work as a cocktail waitress for a few years because that was all that was open at the time (Later on, she wound up managing a grocery store, after the owner realized how good and how fast she was at doing mathematics - like adding up people's bills - in her head).

But I think insisting upon working because of "what if he leaves me?" is kind of cold and kind of self-defeating.

I also think the "But you're not making a contribution to the family" argument isn't so good. My mom stayed home almost my entire childhood (she taught a semester or two here or there, once both my brother and I were in school, as sabbatical replacements for people: those were the days before the glut of grad students had eager new Ph.D.'s willing to work for a one-year stint in some new school). She contributed A LOT. We never had a cleaning lady, or a lawn service. We had good, home-cooked food nearly every day (My mom likes to cook and she is good at it). There was someone home to meet my brother and me at the door when we got home from school. (And that - in terms of our psychological health growing up - I think is priceless).

Of course, that was in the days when it was possible to do such things (I suppose it probably still is. But I'm guessing, particularly in high-tax states or communities, it might be more difficult, as I remember reading that part of the reason there are so many two-career families now is because of the rise in taxes and "user fees" over the years).

My mom was given a choice - she was teaching college when she and my dad found out they were expecting (well, it was more or less planned, but you know what I mean). My dad told her that he would be willing to hire a nanny or pay for day care (and this was in a day when that was far less common than it is now) if she wished to continue working.

And my mom says that she said no. She said that she felt she would enjoy raising their children more, and find it more fulfilling, than she would find continuing to teach college and "always be worrying about who was looking after my kids."

So she quit her job after having me, and, as I said, only went back to working off-and-on after both my brother and I were in school. I don't think she regrets her choice (I hope she does not); I know I am very grateful to her for making the choice she did.

And you know? Were I in her position - married to a guy making decent money, planning my first child - I'd make the same choice. I'd rather have the fun (yes, and the work, and the nasty diapers and vomit, and the worry) of staying home with the kid than farm him or her out to someone else and always be wondering in the back of my mind what was going on.

But - all that said - I know some women who would have quite literally gone mental if they had stayed home all day with their children. And for those women, it's probably better for them to work.

And so, it seems kind of stupid to me. Working moms aren't better than stay at home moms; stay at home moms aren't necessarily better than working moms. It depends on the family circumstances and the particular woman. I'm sure for one of those "go mental" women, it would be preferable for her children to be in day care for part of the day than to have a weepy/angry mom at home with them.

It just seems petty for women to fight over this. We have bigger concerns.

Another one that I'm beginning to see is the children/no children thing.

Couples who do not have children are not "worse," not "less of a couple," not "less of a family" than couples who do. That attitude makes me very angry because I know a few couples who have dealt with infertility and it is VERY painful for people to imply that it's your bad if you don't have kids.

Likewise, couples who, for whatever reason, choose not to have kids - that's their choice. It doesn't make them less. It doesn't make them selfish or bad. They may have very good ethical reasons: genetic disease in the family, or shaky finances, or something else. Or they may feel they'd be poor parents. Or they may just not want children.

I don't have kids, partly by choice, but mainly by circumstance. I'm not married, for one thing, and I tend to believe that it is best for a child to have two parents in the home. (There are a host of reasons other than that, as well). But I also just don't really care to raise a child - I don't deal well with sleep deprivation, I don't deal well with someone tugging at my sleeve and going, "Hey? hey? hey? hey? hey? hey?....." until I want to scream.

I have a feeling I'd probably be one of those "mental" mothers. (And no, I'm not making slams at postpartum depression, which is a real and tragic condition. I mean to say - I'm unsuited, personality-wise, to be a good mother. I do not have sufficient patience with small, pre-verbal beings.)

And I saw a t-shirt the other day that made my head want to explode.

It was on someone's craftblog website - it was one of those people who designs silk screens. And I guess she was expecting, because the t-shirt had a modification of the old Rosie the Riveter design (altered so she looked pregnant) and the phrase,

"I'm so crafty, I make PEOPLE."

Yeah, great. I'm so happy for you. Yeah, you're SO much more creative than me because you managed to have one of your eggs link up with some guy's sperm.

So I guess those quilts, some of which I've put years into (years are longer than nine months) are chopped liver, then? I guess we all should just hang up our knitting needles and embroidery floss because you have won in the making-stuff sweepstakes?

(I'm also reminded - on the other side of things - of an interview with a Peruvian weaver - she had never married and had children yet lived in a very remote and traditional village. The interviewer asked her some question about whether people thought her life choice was odd, and she kind of shrugged and said, "Well, anybody can make babies." So I guess some people think that having children is for the "little people." Whatever. I don't care for either attitude: if you want children, God bless you and be with you. If you don't, that's fine too. Again, it's about finding what you are specifically being called to do)

See, that's what I'm saying: why do people need to somehow set themselves up as superior over something that shouldn't be seen as a source of superiority? Is it because some people have such a shaky image of themselves that they can only feel good by making a claim that they're better than others who haven't attained whatever exalted state they happen to find themselves in?

I will say, on the positive end - last spring I attended a Catholic wedding (the first one I'd ever been to). The priest was talking about people and relationships as part of the homily and in his blessings for families and couples, he also included one for people who were single, "By vocation, choice, or circumstance" was how I think he said it. And yeah - you can roll your eyes and say that's all touchy-feely and politically correct and all that, but you know? It made me feel included. It made me feel like I wasn't some aberration. And I think there's some good in that, touchy-feely as it may be. (And I would suppose that of all people, a Catholic priest would be conscious of the fact that not everyone is going to be paired up, two-by-two, like Noah's Ark.) And in this society - especially where I live right now - it's really easy to feel like an aberration if you're not part of a couple.

(And again: yes, I know, statistically I AM an aberration. The vast majority of women my age are either married or in a "serious" relationship. But being an "aberration" is not something I care to think about every moment of my life. And I also know the old saying attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt about people not being able to make you feel inferior without your permission. But I don't have quite the same self-confidence Mrs. Roosevelt had, I guess, and it's really not a feeling of inferiority so much as it is a feeling of annoyance - like with that t-shirt I mentioned above - what right does the person have to think they're better than me just because of that one thing?)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I love lolcat

It's been a bit of a trying morning, for a variety of reasons.

But I have "I Can Has Cheezburger" bookmarked, and it can sometimes make me laugh even when I'm irritated or sad or just tired.

Like today:

(The caption says - in case it's too small to read - "SMRT: I am so smart, s-m-r-t"

From one of the old episodes of the Simpsons. One of my favorite Homer lines ever, for that matter: he's dancing around, going "I am so smart, I am so smart, S-M-R-T, no, I mean S-M-A-R-T....")

hahahahahaha. It's one of those things where I totally can't explain why it's funny to me, but it just IS. Everytime I look at that I laugh.

good enough/not good enough

First off: redfish, I kind of know what you're talking about. I have people call me up and go, "I'd like you to identify this plant I found." I tell them to bring me in a "good" sample of it - and they'll bring this twig, maybe with ONE leaf on it, but no flowers, no description of the height or habitat it grows in, and think I can magically tell them what it is from a leaf and part of a twig.


I was thinking this morning while doing my workout. I know I'm excessively good at laying guilt on myself (previously, it was "you're not working hard enough on research" type guilt; lately it's been more body-image type guilt).

I blame, in part, my habit of watching the news. And I also blame how the news has gone waaaaaaaay overboard (or so I think) on the War! On! Obesity! stories. (The latest being what pretty much amount to infomercials-on-the-news for either bariatric surgery or this new Alli stuff).

See, as I said before, I'm clinically overweight. In an ideal world, I'd probably weigh between 20 and 30 pounds less than I do. (Except I personally think - when I'm in a justifying sort of mood - that some of the "overweight" is muscle, thanks to my workout program. And losing weight isn't good if what you're losing is muscle). Up until just a few months ago, it didn't bother me that much. I could kind of roll my eyes and go, "Ah, ta hell wit' all that" when I'd hear some story about "OMG WTF Americans are like so obese." Because, you know? I'm not obese. And, you know? I don't eat at McDonald's and the other places that are generally held up as Targets of Blame in the whole situation (for that matter, I don't even really drink soda - I'm just not that fond of soda - I'd rather have a cup of tea). And, you know? I work out.

But the past few months, the drumbeat has become so insistent. Eat more vegetables. Lose more weight. If you're heavy, you're to blame for every single health issue that ever happens to you.

And I will admit there's a bit of paranoia in the whole thing for me - I've read stories of how in the UK, heavy people are denied certain medical procedures until and unless they lose weight. And I look at the possible D candidates, and I look at their likelihood of winning the White House, and I contemplate the world of having government-run healthcare - run by people who have private chefs and private trainers and who are "naturally" thin.

But the thing is: and I think this is something the media is far too good at - it is making a lot of us folks out here who are TRYING to do what is best for our health feel like what we are doing is not good enough. It is doing the old advertising trick of generating dissatisfaction - in this case, it's not dissatisfaction with the cars we drive or the brand of shoes we wear. It's dissatisfaction with OURSELVES. In some cases, with things about OURSELVES we may not be able to change.

(Quick question, show of hands: how many of you have heard someone in the last week exclaim, "I hate my body!")

Yeah, I thought so.

Because I've noticed myself taking that attitude more lately. I used to be more about, "Well, I'm bigger than the Madison Avenue standard - but I can lift 40 and even 50 pound bags of sand without a problem." or "But I can hike fifteen miles in a day if I need to." or "But I have the stamina to go five miles a day on a cross-country ski simulator."

But lately, I've been saying that to myself less and less. And it bugs me.

I've also found that I don't allow myself to enjoy things as much - I eat an oreo, and I think, my gosh, I shouldn't have done that. Or I look at my dinner and go, you should be cramming another serving of vegetables in there somewhere. Maybe you should dump that white rice. I also feel guilty on the days when I get up, start working out, but because it's 80* out and 75% humidity, I can't complete the hour without going into a near asthma-attack. Or on the mornings I sleep in because I slept badly the night before.

And dammit, I don't want to live this way.

I want to feel again like what I'm doing is good enough. Like taking an unscheduled day off from exercise once in a while is not a sin. Like it's okay to eat a meal without vegetables in it once in a while.

And I find myself wondering, as I hear the endless chain of news stories about how "fat bad! food bad! weight-loss surgery good!" what the motivation is.

Is someone receiving kickbacks from somewhere?

Is this an attempt to, by creating an unhealthy obsession with weight in the American public, maybe distract us from something else (like, perhaps, an erosion of rights: maybe we'll wake up ten years from now and find that there's a ten-day waiting period to buy a pound of butter? Or that grocery stores have been replaced by government "feeding centers" where people file in, are weighed, have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked, and then are given a ration of food that is supposedly tailored to their own particular health "issues"?)

Is it that people in the news media - which seems to ever more falling under the dominance of the entertainment industry - are being brainwashed into believing that fat is ugly, that no person over some magic (low) weight can be attractive or appealing or worthwhile, and they feel it's their duty to scare all of us into weight loss.

I don't know.

I do know...and here's a pre-emptive strike to stave off what someone might say:

To the person who would say to me, "Oh, just go on a diet already, lose the weight, and stop whining," I'd ask you: Have you ever been on one? Have you ever had a weight problem (And I mean - more than the five-pounds-so-you-look-good-in-a-swimsuit type of weight loss problem).

For some of us, it's not a simple matter to lose weight. I have BEEN on diets. I have done the "count every calorie of everything you eat in a day and try to keep it under 1250 calories diet." I've done the "no processed food of any kind, just food as God made it" diet. I've done the "no sweets, no processed flour, no meat, no full-fat cheese" diet. I also did various exercise programs - in particular, I remember, running up and down the six flights of "fire stairwell" stairs in my apartment building, with ankle weights on.

At the most, I'd lose about five pounds in a year.

And, while doing that, I'd be miserable - in some cases (especially that damn 1250 calorie a day thing I tried while I was in college) - cranky and weak.

And eventually, a few years ago, I said, "forget that mess" and went back to eating more or less normally. Now granted - I don't eat what I want. If I did, I'd eat fried chicken a lot more often. I'd eat pizza a lot more often. I'd eat salads a whole lot less often.

And I've read about setpoints, and about how some people's bodies just seem to be designed to be bigger than others. And even at my lowest adult weight, I was still in double-digit dress sizes - I don't think I could get down to the once-much-vaunted-and-now-considered-a-little-BIG-actually size 8. At least, not without starving myself.

So I don't know. I suppose the prescription is to ignore the news stories as much as possible (but again: that little paranoid feeling - what if my workplace institutes a mandatory "wellness" program, as some places have, where incentives [like not having to pay out the ass for health insurance] are linked only to a person's weight, and not to how they eat or how they exercise, or how they live].)

Honestly? What I'd like is this: I'd like a little credit given for the things I DO do to protect my health:

eating leafy greens
working out an hour a day (or as long as I can, if less than an hour, without going into respiratory arrest from the humidity) five days a week
flossing my teeth
wearing a seatbelt when I drive
not smoking
not tanning
limiting my consumption of foods (like cured meats) suspected to cause cancer
eating lots of fruit
limiting how much fried stuff and other high-fat food I eat.

But instead - it seems that the media version you hear is, "Nope, none of that is good enough; you must do MORE."

And, screw "more". I'm tired of "more." I want to go back to "enough."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

petty pet peeves

Ken mentioned his frustration with the inability of even the governing agency of the group to correctly pronounce Realtor.

Which got me thinking about the various petty things that bug me.

One - which I noted in a comment on It Comes in Pints, is the habit 'round here of referring to a matched set of furnishings as a "bedroom SUIT" or "livingroom SUIT." No, no, no. It is "suite." There's an E on the end, it derives from the French, please look up pronunciations before you make a commercial.

Likewise, poor grammar in commercials - even when used possibly for effect - bugs me. There's a company around here that uses the phrase "Get you one!" (or perhaps it's "Getcha one!") in reference to their product, and it makes me grind my teeth every time I hear it.

Likewise - the "homemade" ads. If you cannot act, if you cannot read words off a cue card, please hire someone else to do your commercials. We have a fine theater program at my university and I'd be willing to bet any number of the students would happily do your ad - perhaps even for free, as experience. And then the rest of us aren't subjected to your stricken-looking face speaking in a mumbly monotone about your car dealership.

I've probably more-than-adequately griped about cell phones already, but right now my main pet peeve is the whole "ringtone" phenomenon. I had a student just stop by to talk to me and in the process, his phone rang. His ringtone is "Can't Touch This." (remember that song?). That's really more than I need to know about the person.
(That said: one of my friends, her son was changing the ringtones on all the family's phones. Made his dad's "Dude Looks like a Lady." The funny thing - and I totally couldn't tell her why it was so funny - is well, he kind of does.)

I also hate it that wal-mart, some of the grocery stores, the Hobby Lobby near me, and others, feel the need to regularly totally change where all the merchandise is located - for example, moving the magazines to where the school supplies used to be and placing the school supplies where they used to keep the sunscreen. I realize the reason stores DO this - they figure that by making you hunt for something, you will find lots of other (unnecessary) stuff you want to buy - but it just makes me angry. And makes me likely to buy LESS.

In a similar vein - I hate, with the fury of a thousand blazing suns, the wal-mart corporate practice of only carrying a product for six months or so, and then dropping it. I don't even want to know why. I don't care if it was that it wasn't selling as well, or that the supplier of some alternate brand cut you a better deal. Stop switching brands on me. When I find a brand I like, I prefer to stick with it.

And for companies that discontinue good products, or reformulate on a whim - I hope you get cooties. I had a variety of shampoo that worked very well for me - better, in fact, than any other I'd ever used - and the manufacturer retooled the whole damn line and reformulated everything, and now I'm hunting for a new good shampoo. Not a way to build brand loyalty! (Is there even an expectation of brand loyalty any more? Or is the idea to sell something novel, and then change it up before people have a chance to get "bored"? With things like shampoo, brassieres, and make-up, trust me, I don't want to have to switch every 6 months and spend the time and money to vet several new brands or types before I find the one I like).

Another pet peeve is with weather forecasters. When we're in a drought, don't act all mopey because it's going to rain. Trust me - there are people in your community who will be down on their knees praising God if it rains. Even if it's on a Saturday. Even if it's on a Saturday that is also the fourth of July. Likewise, don't act surprised when it's cold in January or hot in July. We're not stupid; we weren't born yesterday. We're not going to go, "A-hyuk, weather forecaster said it'd be 90 on July 1! Did you ever?" Just report the damn weather; don't try to editorialize it.

Likewise, I hate it when forecasters act like it's their fault the weather isn't what people want. Again: we're not stupid. We know you don't make the weather. It's not that cute or funny. Most "obvious" jokes aren't.

All of the fluff junk on the local news bugs me. I DON'T need a "relationship corner" moment at 6:30 am. I DON'T need "news of celebrities." I DON'T need a "recipe of the week" feature. Tell me:
is the world likely to come to an end today
what is going on in the outside world
what crimes were committed in my community over the past day
does there seem to be a pattern to those crimes and should I be concered
what is going on in local politics
am I going to be stuck with a stupid new sales tax any time soon
what is the weather going to be
what are the scores of the major sports contests of the day before

If I want to hear celebrity news, I will watch the "E" channel. But I don't, so I don't.

I also don't like schmoozy, in-joking newscasters - especially at 6 am. I'm a morning person and *I* can't take that perky-ass crap that early. Please hang it up.

Driving. I have a lot of driving related pet peeves:

people who don't use their turn signal

people who drive down the highway with the turn signal blinking endlessly, so I don't know if they're planning to change lanes EVENTUALLY or if they just forgot the thing on.

people who "lane-jockey" in heavy traffic. You're an accident waiting to happen, bub.

people who drive in the fast lane, on an interstate, in some POS Ford pickup from 1948 that won't go over 30 mph. (And they'd probably have one turn signal endlessly blinking, except 1948 Ford pickups didn't have turn signals yet)

women who have bumper stickers referring to them as "Princess." When I see the word "princess" applied in that context, I interpret it as "high-maintenance, self-entitled witch-with-a-b." Usually I am not far off the mark. Especially when the woman in question is over 25 years of age.

People who like to assert their "betterness" than me also get under my skin.
The evangelistic vegetarians who either poke at me about animal cruelty (look, I didn't kill the cow myself) or about how "unhealthy" meat is, or how "gross" it is, or whatever. I don't care if you're a vegetarian or not. In fact, if I know you are and we go out to lunch together, I'll be more likely to order a veggie meal out of cameraderie and a desire not to offend. But please, don't criticize what I eat in the privacy of my own home.

The person who walks EVERYWHERE in town - who never uses their car - and who talks about (a) how much gas they save, (b) how little pollution they generate, or (c) how healthy it is. Look - I'd walk to work except I live on a street where pit bulls occasionally run loose and I kind of value my connective tissue. And it's also about eleventy hundred percent humidity today - I got winded walking 500 feet from the parking lot. Don't assume that because I do or don't do something it's because I'm unconscious of the alternative or am avoiding it purely because I'm what you would consider a wrong-thinker.

The person who drops their kid off at Youth Group with a list of things they can and cannot eat, should and should not eat, should and should not do that is as long as their arm. I will watch out for food allergies because I understand that is a matter of life and death. But if keeping your child's diet perfectly pure of white flour or refined sugar is so bloomin' important to you, either YOU stay and run interference, or keep your kid at home. I'm one of three (sometimes four) adults with a group of 20 plus kids; I cannot give your precious baby the attention you apparently believe he or she deserves.

Actually - just in general - people who have strange food issues. People who won't eat certain things, not because of allergies or religious convictions or whatever, but because they just don't like the thing, or were scared by it as a child, or whatever and who HAVE TO INFORM EVERYONE LOUDLY ABOUT IT. Look. I am a seriously picky eater. But if there's something I don't like out at a buffet - here's a thought - I skip over it and don't take any. Or I take a tiny little bit to try, because you know, I might decide I like it after all. But it's annoying to have someone walk in to a buffet and announce "THERE IS NOTHING AT ALL I CAN EAT HERE" when they didn't provide any of the food. [and incidentally - that's another picky-eater secret: offer to bring something and then make something you like. That way, you know there will be at least one thing you "can" eat].

People who criticize and complain about stuff they had no hand in helping with. I belong to a women's civic group, okay? And the average age of the group is probably about 55. (I am, by far, the youngest member). I happen to currently be head of the group. I have one member who calls me up on a regular basis to exhort me to get younger members so the group won't die off. In fact, she gets rather unpleasant to me about it. And every time, I explain to her, the same thing: I have asked people. The people in my generation are either too busy with careers, kids, or both to even express an interest. I am not going to 'kidnap' some poor woman and drag her to our meeting. AND I HAVE ASKED LOTS OF PEOPLE. And this woman - she can use the phone, she knows people, she could call people up and invite them. But instead, she gripes to me, makes it sound like *I'm* failing the group by not bringing in oodles of new members. It's almost enough to make me resign my presidency.

Oh - and one last one. People who say, "Oh, that kind of power must be nice" when they find out you're head of some group. No, it usually isn't. It's usually kind of a headache. You have lots of extra responsibility and you're usually the person others bitch to when they don't like something, even if you have nothing directly or even indirectly to do with it.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Ken's FFOT from last week (you need to scroll down) involved the behavior of people at graduations.

And I agree with him. And I think some of the "bad behavior" we see at graduations are just symptomatic of things going on in the culture at large: me-first-ism, where I and my feelings matter far more than those of anyone else, and lack of respect for solemn occasions.

I've been through four graduations in my life. My high school graduation was small (class of just under 100), a lot of us got called up more than once because of honors or awards. (I attended a private school - graduation was outdoors when the weather was good, and instead of caps and gowns, the men wore dress slacks, the school tie, and the school jacket, and the women wore a white dress [of their choice] with a pastel sash if desired.) It was an appropriately solemn occasion - parents and siblings applauded quietly when each family member walked across the stage. After the formal ceremony, there was a "blowing-off-steam" time, when we could run around and whoop if we wanted (and I saw more than one kid with an open champagne bottle in hand, and a few of the guys with stogies). (I, being the big geek I was, used the time to tearfully say goodbye to my favorite teachers.)

My college graduation was anticlimactic, and if I had known the way it was going to be, I wouldn't have gone. I was in a graduating class of (IIRC) four thousand. We were in the basketball arena (rain threatened). No one's name got called and no one walked across the stage (which was probably a good thing given the sheer mass of humanity). But it's not very gratifying to sit through a long, self-congratulatory speech by an alumnus (seriously: I thought he was going to break his arm patting himself on the back. And I wasn't alone in that assessment) and then be told, "Class of 1990, you may now rise!" I also couldn't see my family in the audience, so that wasn't too much fun.

My Master's graduation was nicer. By then, I was at a smaller school, and they had a separate graduate-school ceremony and reception. There was enough space that I invited some of my friends as well as family, and people applauded for me. But there wasn't any hollering, and there sure weren't air horns.

When I finally got my Ph.D., that was the last graduation I "walked" in as a student. I got my diploma, got hooded by my advisor...the only aberration (which embarrassed me a little and I tend to think perhaps should not have been done) was that my father (who was on the stage with other faculty; he was a department chair in those days) got up and handed me a bouquet of carnations (red and white, the school colors). I understand the thought behind the gesture but I felt it was perhaps a bit too bringing-attention-to-one-person. But whatever. (It was also hard for me to juggle my diploma, the carnations, and my mortarboard, which wouldn't stay on).

At none of those ceremonies do I remember whooping or air horns. In fact, I remember at my Ph.D. graduation, each person having to unzip their gown as they walked past the security guy - presumably to make sure no one was "packing" an air horn or bottle of champagne.

Now at graduation, it's some different.

There's usually a lot of howling and whooping for certain people, and, what I particularly hate, air horns.

I really wish people decided air horns had no place at graduation. Especially indoor graduations like the ones we have in the winter.

The problem with the howling and the whooping is it puts the "reader" of the names in an awkward position - do they stop and wait for it to subside (thereby, possibly encouraging more and more extended displays in the future?) or do they keep reading, and thus, have someone's name drowned out in the display for the person who went before them.

(And I have to add: our spring graduation is on the football field. And it is high noon well before it's over. I am not in favor of ANYTHING that stretches that time out longer, as I sit there sweating in my heavy robe, and slowly burning in the intense sun).

I also have to observe - it seems to be that certain majors get a greater proportion of "whoopers." It seems that the business-oriented majors (like marketing) and some of do I say it politely?...majors that have the reputation for being less-challenging...get more people hootin' and hollerin' than does, say, chemistry or mathematics.

(In some cases, I think the person invited as many of his frat brothers as he could, and put them in the audience with either implicit or explicit instructions to make a lot of noise for him).

It seems there's more whooping for men than for women.

I don't particularly like the whooping - as I said, it risks running roughshod over the next few people in the queue (can you imagine? You work hard for four, maybe five years. Perhaps you do it buy working to earn your way through as you go to school. Maybe you've even managed to pull very close to a 4.0 through hard work and determination...yet as you walk across, no one knows it's you [maybe even your family, because they're sitting so far away] because the slacker ahead of you has friends who like to scream out things about him. And yes...I've even heard obscenities screamed at graduation.)

I don't hate it as much, though, as I hate the airhorns. I feel for the folks in the audience next to the airhorn-blowers - at the indoor, winter graduations, even I find them painful - and I'm down on the gymnasium floor, away from the bleachers. I've seen small children led crying from the gymnasium after several air horn bursts - probably hurt the poor kids' ears, and scared them to boot.

I think air horns have no place at graduation.

My main objection to the things - and also to the whooping, and screaming "You did it, you old b*stard!" and all of that - is that people are, once again, behaving as if they are at home, alone, in their living rooms.

(The reason why I don't go to the movies any more? If I want to enjoy a film without people talking, cell phones, snogging couples, or children asking "why? Why did he say that? Why are that man and that woman doing that?" I have to rent the movie when it comes out on disc.)

Look. People. You can see that there are hundreds of people sitting around you. Some of those people very likely have hearing aids. Some of those people may be musicians or in some other profession where their hearing is very important to them. All of them are here to celebrate different people who are graduating. They are not all here to celebrate YOUR son or YOUR daughter. I'm sorry, but your child really only gets a tiny pie-slice of the glory today - it must be shared between all the graduations. Do not try to take more than your pie-slice just because you think your kid deserves it more, or because they had to "work really hard" to graduate, or whatever. Save it for the party you throw them later.

And that also goes for standing on chairs, blocking other people's views. It's NOT just YOUR child. Please respect the other people who are not blowing air horns or heaving their bodies right in front of everyone else just so they can get a better photo (and, incidentally? We have three professional photographers taking pictures. Surely you can afford one picture by a pro? It will be better than whatever you could take any way).

My other concern and objection is that graduation, although a joyful time, should also have a certain decorum to it. Air horns interfere with decorum. Screaming interferes with decorum.

I realize that this probably marks me as a stick-in-the-mud fuddy-duddy, but: I think there are some times we should be serious. Graduation is one of them. Young people (and some not so young, these days) are embarking upon the next phase of their lives. They have completed something that was, at least at times, difficult, and although that should be celebrated, I think it's not the time for a whole-hog, all-out festival.

I mean, for goodness sake: we have an Invocation at graduation.

One of my concerns is that we're losing the ability, as a culture, to be serious yet joyful about things. Serious yet joyful should be the tone of, for example, a wedding: joyful because you're celebrating the love of two people, but serious, because they are making a solemn commitment to each other (and to their God, if they are religious people). I personally dislike weddings where the couple have written their own vows, or where there's some kind of "irregularity" - where there's an attempt to chuck out the time-honored and "make it our own."

And I guess that's it, for me - I have a dislike of people getting rid of tradition simply in the service of "newness." If there's something that doesn't work, if, for example, the tradition assumes all graduates are male, and they are no longer exclusively male, then change things. But don't get rid of everything, don't throw hundreds of years of history in the dumpster, just because you can.

And that's kind of how I feel about the people who use graduation as a time to draw attention to themselves, to behave like a seven year old at Chuck E. Cheese.

(And I wonder - could it be all the growing-up-at-fast-food-restaurants, and never eating anywhere "serious" - or all the kid-themed, kid-centric stuff in our culture, that contributes to a generation of Peter Pan adults who want to keep acting like they're seven and at Chuck E. Cheeses? When I was a kid, sure, we went to the Pizza Bazaar and places like that [we did not have a McDonald's in my town until I was in high school], but my parents also took us to "grown-up" restaurants, and expected us to behave accordingly. [And I secretly - and not-so-secretly - LOVED going to the "grown-up" restaurants because they were special.)

I don't know. I suppose someone who is a better social commentator than I could connect all the points - also throwing in the rise of the "casual" Sunday-morning "praise service" where there's no bulletin, and no hymnals, and in many cases the Lord's Prayer isn't even said. And the way people behave at and dress for work now. And the rise of take-out, of simplified food. And all that.

But, for the sake of all that's good and holy: can we please get people to stop bringing air horns to graduations? That might be one little start of a fight back against the people who would encourage our descent into boorishness, slobbishness, and disregard for the other people sitting around us.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

And another one....

Kate used the Serenity Prayer as the basis for her "prayer for my career."

And I got to thinking: a version of that would work well for me, too. So here goes:

God grant me the skills to inspire the students who do care
The strength of character not to take personally the boredom in the ones who don't
And the intelligence to understand that it's the ones who care that I'm teaching for, anyway.

Oh, and Joel did the Ten Commandments, so here's my version (not as elaborate as Joel's, but then, my background is more "plainspoken.")

1. I am ricki, thy professor. I hold the keys to your grade. Thou shalt not piss me off.

2. Thou shalt not make any graven image of a data graph using notebook paper when graph paper or computer program hast been specified.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of thy professor in vain, nor call her at home after 9 pm (even though thou hast been clever enough to find the phone number she dost not give out to students) nor refer to her as "hey you" nor mispronounce her name.

4. Remember the deadline, to keep it holy. [Yes, Joel and I have that in common]. Six days dost I give you to labor on your laboratory reports, if it not be done by the seventh, that is thine own sorry fault.

5. Honor thine other professors and teaching assistants; do not slander their names in ricki's hearing.

6. Thou shalt not unnecessarily kill leaves or insects or any thing that crawls upon the ground or flies in the air when we are on field trips. Nor shalt though damage trees by pulling the leaves off of them [Seriously: what is it with people and that? Out of a class of fifteen, I can usually count on having two or three who stand there and pick and shred the leaves of the shrub next to them if we happen to stop for a moment on a field trip. That kind of mindless destructiveness bothers me.]

7. Thou shalt not two-time research projects for my class. Thou shalt remain true to each of thine classes; if thou art doing research on turtles for Herpetology, thou must come up with something new for my class.

8. Thou shalt not walk off with clipboards, measuring tapes, staplers*, or other classroom equipment. Even though thy lab fees went (partially) to pay for it.

[*if I had been thinking the one time that happened, I could have kind of embarrassed the guy by doing my {pretty good} impression of Milton Waddams: "Sir? Sir? Excuse me? I believe you have my stapler."]

9. Thou shalt not attempt to blow smoke up my skirt when thou explainest why thou missed a deadline, failed to do a required part of lab, or otherwise failed to take responsibility for thine own deadline. Committing a falsehood in the service of saving thine own sorry ass merely compounds the error.

10. Thou shalt not covet my job, nor complain that I have "so much time off" that I canst not understand thy duress at having but a week to complete a lab write-up. Thou shalt not covet a larger truck, fancier cell-phone, or phatter wardrobe, lest thee begin working too many hours to pay for said thing, and thy grades slippest.

[as you probably have guessed, I LOVE doing this kind of thing. My favorite writing assignments in high school were when we were told to write a story or an essay "in the style of" some author we were reading - I remember doing a story in the style of the King James Bible, and one a la J.D. Salinger, and a parody of Oedipus....]