Saturday, February 23, 2008

Disturbing Things I Have Learned in the Past 24 Hours:

1. Did you know that the only real difference between Jello and glue is that Jello has some sugar and flavoring? Otherwise, there's pretty much no difference at all. Jello is made up of the same animal by-products and skins that make up glue. Or so I heard on the radio today, anyway. I came into the program a few seconds into it, so it's possible that they may have been talking about Jello past and not Jello present, but I'm pretty sure that they're talking about modern Jello. And while I sort of knew this already, I never really thought about it before until today. I'm just grateful that I was never a big fan of Jello in the first place. With that said, I'm sure Jello isn't any more disgusting than half of what I eat on a daily basis. The difference is that normally I just don't think much about what I'm eating, but now I can't stop thinking, "Jello! Cow hooves! Skin!" And now you can enjoy that appetizing thought as well. You're welcome.

2. I talked to Roomie for a couple of hours last night. I'd called her to ask her a question about shoes for the wedding and the next thing I know two hours had gone by. That's how it is with us. At one point I asked her whether or not she is going to wear a veil and she said she is and then she said, "Do you know why brides wear veils?" and I said, "No, I never thought about it before," and she told me that someone told her that back in the medieval days (I don't know what country's medieval days we were talking about) the bride and her bridesmaids all wore matching dresses, and the only thing that distinguished the bride was her veil. She wore the veil to cover her face so that demons couldn't give her the evil eye and curse her on her wedding day, and the bridesmaids wore matching dresses so that the demons would get confused and give the evil eye to the bridesmaids instead. I was like, "Wait, so I get to absorb all the ojo* on your wedding day?" and she said, "Yes!" and I said, "Awesome!" Glad to know that I'll be soaking up the evil spirits. Anything for my Roomie!

3. My dog is capable of eating an entire McDonald's hamburger in less than ten seconds. It's his third birthday today so we took a Car Ride! to McDonald's to get him a hamburger. He ate the meat first, then the bun, and he managed to eat the entire thing in the time I was opening a ketchup packet. I love my dog.

*Maddi and I love joking about giving people the ojo. Her mom is one of those cute old Mexican women who goes around touching babies because she's afraid that if she stares admiringly at them without touching them it will curse them. So it started out as kind of a good-natured joke about her mom, but now we like to tease each other about giving people the evil eye. The best was one time Maddi sent me a text message while I was driving, so I flipped my phone up to read it and it said, "I'm sad that you had to leave today, so I'm sending you the ojo via text message." I laughed so hard I almost ran off the road, which I guess means it worked.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I Know Where I Want it To Go

Have you guys heard of Psapp? I'm sure you already have, since I'm usually a good six months to a year late when it comes to music. And if you're one of those people that's really into the whole music scene, I'm about an entire decade behind you. So, yeah, you probably already know about this group, but if you don't, you should check them out. Their song "Hi" is on the latest Disaronno commercial, and I kept hearing it and thought it was incredibly catchy. Also, I was pretty sure I'd heard it and liked it on Grey's Anatomy before (which makes sense, since apparently Psapp does the Grey's theme song). So I asked Google who sang the song on the Disaronno commercial and now I know about Psapp and I can't stop watching all of their quirky music videos on YouTube. I recommend you watch them, too. Maybe it won't be your thing, but it will give you important insight into the sort of music I like to listen to when I'm dancing by myself in my kitchen while making pancakes for dinner (always for dinner and never for breakfast).

P.S.-How on earth did anyone ever live without the internet? Do you know how many times a day I Google things? I'm going to give a conservative estimate and say that I Google for one reason or another at least a ten times a day. Here are just a few things I have googled in the past 24 hours, according to my search history:
"song on Disaronno commercial"
"Julian Beck+obituary"
"splooge" [I did not actually look at any of the websites brought up by this query, I swear. I was just trying to see the amount of hits for each spelling so that I could settle a debate-with myself-about the most proper way to spell it. Because it's critical to my daily life to be able to spell "splooge" correctly. Isn't that true for you as well? And yes, I decided that "splooge" is the proper spelling, which is what I had been thinking all along]
"Texas Centennial Exposition"
"Is Tyler Perry gay?"
"How to bake a potato in the microwave"
"2008 Academy Awards"
"P.F. Chang's+average check"
I Google all. day. long. I just love the fact that whenever a question pops into my head about anything I can Google it, and while I may not get an exact answer, I get several potential answers and can immediately get a sense of what information is out there.
And I'm so happy that I get to be a graduate student now, as opposed to in the dark ages of card catalogs and typewriters. How the hell anyone ever managed to write a paper without a computer and a university-provided subscription to multiple databases of journal articles is beyond me.
And YouTube! Today I gave a well-received presentation using nothing but video footage I found on YouTube, amazing stuff from the 1960s and 1970s that doesn't exist on DVD yet but somehow ended up on the internet.

Alright, that's enough of my Ode to the Internet. I'm not actually drunk right now, believe it or not, I'm just feeling a little loopy from a combination of too many conversation hearts and too little sleep. This was a really hectic week. I had presentations due in both my Tuesday and Thursday classes. We have to present pretty much every single week in my Tuesday class. It's mentally exhausting, because you spend a few days building up to it and then you do it and you think, "Yes! Done with my presentation!" and then it immediately hits you that you have to start the whole process over again pretty much right away. I'm telling you, grad school is all about riding the waves, and they come fast and furious in this course. Anyway, I'm used to having a lot of work due for Tuesday but I don't normally have to do presentations for my Thursday class (we only do two the whole semester) so that was a lot of extra work thrown into this week. On top of that, I also had my independent study meeting this week. Dr. AMP and I only meet every other week, and this was one of our on weeks so I had to finish up a bunch of reading for my project with him. Then there was the usual amount of reading that has to get done each week whether you're scheduled to do presentations or not and, well, there wasn't much time to do anything other than work this week. I had so much to do that I wasn't able to take a real break all week. Basically, when I got tired of one task I could switch to another, but quitting work entirely wasn't an option. Like I said, it was a hectic week.
Thank goodness I do pretty well under the pressure of having a long to-do list, and thank goodness that every week is not as busy as this one. I do still have a lot of work to do between now and next Wednesday, but most of it is just reading, which I pretty much always enjoy (yes, really). And next week is a short week because I'm going to a conference on Thursday.
I keep forgetting that I have to get on a plane a week from today. I'm excited about it, though. There are seven of us going from my university. That's a really big number of people from one school, especially since this conference is big but not one of the two huge ones in my field. I'd call it a mid-sized conference. So we're definitely going to dominate. Which is funny, because it's a regional conference that's not even for our region of the country. Ha. Two of my friends from my MA program are going to be there, too, and I'm really looking forward to seeing them since I haven't seen either of them since May. Anyway, I'm mostly looking forward to getting to hang out with so many friends well away from the school setting, and hopefully there will be the opportunity to do some networking as well.

And on the very bright side, once I get back from the conference there are only two more weeks of school until spring break. Which is blowing my mind, frankly. This semester is going by incredibly fast.

I'm off to bed to read a magazine for a change. I'm kind of hoping it snows again tonight. We had several hours of snow on Wednesday (of course on Wednesday, since that's the day I have to walk miles to class, remember?) but the ground wasn't cold enough for it to stick. They're saying we could get another inch or two tonight, though. I could use one more snowstorm to make my winter complete (but no more after that, though. I'm actually still a big wuss about winter, and I'm not feelin' the whole snow-possible-until-April thing).

Friday, February 15, 2008

Stolen Meme

I stole this from Sara, who didn't tag me, either, but who needs to be tagged when you're trying to avoid actually doing productive things, like reading for classes? Not me!

What was I doing 10 years ago?
Ten years ago I was a high school freshman. At school I was taking Theatre I, Dance, English, and Algebra. Interestingly, the Theatre class, which you would think would be the most interesting, is the one that I have almost no memories of at all.
I loved that dance class, where my friend Jessi would make me laugh every morning until my stomach ached. In true fifteen year-old fashion, she and her boyfriend were perpetually breaking up and getting back together, and whenever they were together they celebrated their anniversary weekly. Which is I guess what you have to do when you can only manage to stay together for three weeks at a time. Eventually they started having sex, which I found very exciting and scandalous-in-a-good-way because I hadn't even had a serious kiss at that point. Despite the hours of goofing off with Jessi in dance class, I did audition and make the dance team at the end of the semester. The team was fun, too, but nothing was as fun as that first semester.
It was about this time ten years ago that my English teacher had an actual mental breakdown right in the middle of our class. She was ranting about how terrible our assignments had been, and she finished up the rant with something to the effect of, "You people don't even know what an apostrophe is!" and then she slammed her hands on the podium and stormed out of the classroom, leaving all of us sitting there, staring at each other in open-mouthed silence. She never came back that semester. In retrospect, I am sure there were much bigger issues going on than our issues with apostrophes. We had a substitute for a while after that and then got transferred to another teacher. We learned about archetypes and read The Once and Future King and Homer.
My Algebra class was utterly horrible. The teacher had absolutely no control, and none of my friends were in the class with me since they'd all taken Algebra in 8th grade (I was too busy doing artsy electives instead because I've always disliked numbers). Very little learning went on in that classroom because people were too busy flinging stuff out of the second story window and lighting notebooks on fire. I am not hyperbolizing, those things actually happened. It was like spending 90 minutes in the madhouse every afternoon. I was kind of afraid of 3/4ths of the class and everyone else wasn't at all interested in me, so I mostly hid out in a corner. There was only one guy that I ever talked to in that class, but we ran in completely different social circles and my high school was huge and I never talked to him again after that semester. Last year, he found me on MySpace and left a sweet message saying he has always remembered me and how funny and nice I was to him in that class.
I was still eating lunch every day with most of the girls I had been friends with in middle school, but it was becoming increasingly clear that most of us would drift apart, not because of fighting but just because we had less and less in common all the time. I spent more and more time with Kristen and Melissa, who would stay my closest friends throughout high school. Since we didn't drive yet, Kristen's dad drove us to and from school, even though I lived close enough that I could have walked. Every single afternoon he would say, "Hi girls! How was school!?" in the exact same tone of voice and in unison we would reply, "Fine," and that would be the extent of the discussion most of the time.
We were all members of the Teen Volunteer Club (mostly because Melissa had a crush on the president) and we were some of the only freshmen that went to freshmen class meetings (again, more because of the chance that certain guys would be there than because we actually cared all that much about fundraising). We were still young enough that the biggest event in our social lives was having sleepovers at each other's houses or maybe having someone's mom drive us to the movie theatre once in a while. The three of us all had crushes on the same guys, but dating was just a theory and not remotely a fact for us at that point, so it didn't really matter. Guys and who was dating and who wasn't dating wouldn't become an issue for a few years yet. We were lucky to get to be friends for a long time before we started having those kinds of fights. Freshman year, I had a mental list of about six guys that I "crushed on" to various degrees, and a single smile in the hallway was something worth analyzing. [I should point out that I don't think I would want to date the adult version of a single one of those guys.]
I wore baggy jeans and carried a purple backpack and I hadn't yet made peace with the fact that I have curly hair so I used to sleep with it in Velcro rollers every night so that I could make it into a smooth pony tail in the morning. Sometimes I could talk my mom into french braiding it, and that was my favorite.
I still have my journals from that year, and when I read them now I'm amazed at how they tell me everything about what other people in my life were doing, but very little about how I felt about it. I'm glad I'm confident enough now to be happy with my hair. I wish I could recover the part of me that was capable of having heart-fluttering crushes on half a dozen guys at once.

What are 5 things on my to-do list?
My actual to-do list is quite boring at the moment, so here are five things on my lifelong to-do list:
1. Earn the PhD
2. Visit at least one location on every continent including Antarctica
3. Have a baby
4. Become a leading expert on something so that I get called to speak on NPR or the History Channel
5. Publish something (book, article, short story, whatever)

What would I do with a billion dollars?
First of all, I'd invest a lot of it really well so that there would be no way I could accidentally blow through it all and so that my entire family would be set for generations. Then I'd start spending. I'd buy my dad a boat and a lake to put it in. I'd make my brother the owner of the Chicago Cubs. Mom and my sister can have whatever lavish gifts they decide they want, too. I'd give a million or two to each of my friends with student loan debt. I'd staff a private jet and a yacht and spend lots of time traveling. I'd still finish my degree, but there'd be no stress about finding a job. I'd do a ton of philanthropy. I'd give money to dog rescue, I'd establish regular and study abroad scholarships at each of my universities, maybe I'd even donate a building or two. I'd give a ton of money to science and arts funding. I'd get a chef, a personal trainer, a driver, and a masseuse. And I'd never look at a price tag on a clothing item again.

3 of my bad habits:
1. I fidget pretty much non-stop with my rings and earrings and my hair, if it's down.
2. I'm the queen of saying, "I'll be there in five minutes," when I actually mean "twenty five minutes."
3. I text message while driving.

5 places I have lived:
1. Hometown
2. College City
3. MA Town
4. London
5. Here

5 jobs I have had:
1. Valet Captain [I did not text message while driving other people's cars]
2. Box office manager
3. Waitress
4. Bartender
5. Teaching Assistant

Things people don't know about me:
There's not much that people don't know about me. I honestly can't think of a single event in my life or element of my personality that you wouldn't eventually find out about if you knew me long enough. I kind of wish I had secrets, but I don't. I mean, there are certain things I don't tell certain people. I obviously would rather my professors not know about my sex life, for example. But in general, nothing is completely and utterly off limits. Here are a few things you may or may not know, depending on how well you know me.
1. The last two times I voted, I voted for Bush because that is who my father suggested I vote for (Republican fiscal policies are always better for small business owners), and I didn't really care enough to actually decide who I wanted in office. This time around, I'm going to cast my own vote.
2. I let my dog lick leftovers off my plates and silverware before I put them in the dishwasher, and if my cat sneakily manages to get a few laps of the milk in my cereal bowl, I'll eat the rest of the cereal anyway. It hasn't killed me yet.
3. Whenever I'm in a new relationship, or am doing well in my classes, or basically whenever anything good is happening, I don't want to talk about it at all for fear that the minute I talk about it, it will stop being true.
4. I really want to be on Jeopardy!, but I'm afraid if I ever actually got on the show that I would never buzz in on time, or that I would miss something pathetically easy and all of my colleagues would mock me forever.
5. I highlight my books as I read, then go back and type up reading notes based on what I highlighted. I don't believe in the sticky note method, or in writing notes in the margins of books. I don't believe in highlighting novels or plays, however. For some reason I only highlight non-fiction.

21 and Other Non-Events

Well, this week went by incredibly fast. I don't really know why. It's not like I was any busier than I usually am (I was actually somewhat less busy). Still, one minute it was Friday and then, blink, Friday again! Anyway, on to the random junk I feel like rambling about today:

-The weather sucked this week. When my radio alarm clock went off at 7:15 on Monday morning, the first thing I heard was, "It's 18 degrees in the city with the windchill making it feel like negative 5! Colder in the suburbs!" Thanks, dude. Because I really love the days when I have to get up at 7:15, and that whole negative 5 thing makes the idea of climbing out from under the covers SO much more appealing. On Tuesday it was cold and dreary. On Wednesday it was still cold and it rained all day long. Wednesday is the day I walk literally 4 miles across campus (two miles roundtrip in the morning from my office to the buildings where I teach, and another two miles in the afternoon from my office to my class and back to the parking garage; yes, there's a bus, but I hate waiting for it, plus I'm usually all for any excuse to get some extra exercise). Walking in the pouring rain sucked as much as you might imagine. I don't own rain boots, mostly because I don't really understand rainboots. I've never lived somewhere where I needed rainboots before. I grew up in the desert, and while it rained fairly often in College Town and MA Town, it was usually warm enough there that having slightly wet feet wasn't that big of a deal. So, rainboots. Do you wear them just to walk to work and then change into regular shoes that you're carrying in a bag or something? Or, in my case, would I just sit in class for three hours wearing rainboots? Because I'm thinking that would look really stupid unless you were wearing jeans (rainboots over jeans looks okay). And I don't know why I'm vain enough to care about stupid-looking rainboots when I don't pretend to actually have much fasion sense, but I am. So how does it work? I can see wearing them if I had an office job where I was then going to stay inside all day; then it would make sense to wear the boots to work, change into nice shoes, then put the boots back on at the end of the day. But I can't see myself standing up in front of my classes wearing slacks or a skirt and rainboots, but who wants to carry another pair of shoes across campus to change into them for just an hour or two? Basically, I don't know how galoshes fit into my lifestyle (Galoshes! What a great word!) Maybe someone can enlighten me on this whole thing, because it would be nice not to have soaking wet, freezing feet like I did all day on Wednesday. Luckily, the weather seems to be marginally improving. At least it's not raining today. Enough about the weather, though. It's February, I think it's safe to say that the weather sucks everywhere right now and talking about it isn't going to make it nicer.

-Tuesday was a momentous day in my family. My baby brother is finally, FINALLY 21! This means my entire immediate family can now drink together legally! I realize this probably isn't a huge deal in many families, but as you know, drinking together is a big bonding activity in my family. We're a family that likes restaurants and bars and nightlife. When we were very little, I guess my parents just couldn't indulge as much as they wanted to, which, honestly, they never seemed to resent; all three of us were wanted children, so it's not like my parents didn't know what they were getting into. They'd take us to restaurants with them often, and they drank in front of us, but I honestly don't remember there ever being an instance in my childhood where I thought they had drunk too much to be parenting responsibly. They sometimes laugh now about moments where all the adults in a situation had had a bit too much to drink, but we kids never felt unsafe, which I think is a very big thing about compromising drinking and parenting (and yes, I think it should be a compromise; I have never believed that you have to alter your whole entire lifestyle just because you have a child. Make some sacrifices, absolutely, give up everything about your previous lifestyle cold turkey, no). As we got older, my parents could leave us alone when they wanted to go out. Once I turned 21, though, things got complicated. It wasn't a very big deal, though. I could go out with Mom and Dad if I wanted to, and my brother and sister could do some under-21 thing together and it wasn't ideal but it was alright. Once my sister turned 21, though, it started seeming really unfair. We'd be on vacation or my parents would be visiting us or vice versa, and we'd want to go to a bar or have drinks at dinner, but my brother couldn't be included. For the past couple of years there have been a ton of times when we wanted to go places but had to either leave my brother behind (which wasn't fair to him) or not go at all (which isn't fun for anyone). Once we even all went to Las Vegas for my sister's 21st birthday and my brother opted not to go because he thought he'd be bored. Having to be the youngest sucked for him in this situation, basically.
But now he's finally 21 and he actually survived his birthday so we can all go out together! Which is what we'll all be doing when we go to Las Vegas for his 21st birthday next month! (P.S.-I never got a trip to Vegas for my 21st birthday, I guess because my parents hadn't hit their midlife crisis yet and weren't trying to think up half a dozen different reasons to go clubbing in Vegas each year. Still, I think I'll pull a guilt trip about this in a few years and make everyone go to Vegas for my 30th).
Apparently my brother's birthday celebration was pretty crazy, as it should be. I feel like if you didn't do something stupid on your 21st birthday, then you didn't do it right. I'm a big fan of ritual in life, and throwing up on your 21st birthday? It's not fun, but it's a rite of passage. My brother might win, as far as 21st birthday stories go in my family. My own was relatively tame. As soon as it was midnight, I went to this dive bar with a bunch of random people (seriously, the night was kind of an anomaly: there were several people there that I rarely hung out with, and I also only went to that bar once or twice more in my life). The only good thing about the bar was that if you were old enough to drink they would stamp your hand with a stamp that said "BUS DRIVER". Why does a BUS DRIVER stamp even exist? I don't know. But somewhere there are pictures of me proudly and drunkenly displaying my BUS DRIVER stamp. Anyway, to this day I still can't think about drinking vodka and cranberry juice without feeling slightly queasy. There was a really weird country band at the bar that night. I don't remember much about the band, except that there was a guy playing the spoons (really) and they weren't very good. The last thing I remember is my friend Ian lying to the band and telling them I was his girlfriend in the hopes that they would let him borrow their guitars to play some different music for my birthday. The next thing I vaguely remember is being back at my apartment, sitting on the floor beside my toilet and moaning about how I wasn't going to be able to wake up the next day to go to class, but I HAD to go to class (not for a real reason, just because I'm so flippin' responsible). Apparently I also looked up at my roommate, whom I had been living with for 2 1/2 years at that point, and happily exclaimed, "Oh yeah! You live here!" And I shrieked a lot. That's still true, by the way. When I get very, very drunk, I get excited about everything and very shrieky. Supposedly, there are times when I don't even shriek words, I just shriek. I'm sure that's lots of fun for everyone around me. Anyway, I woke up the next morning in my own bed, wondering who had put me in my pjs (thanks, Kiki and Roomie!) and thinking, "I hope I didn't throw up in Kate's car..."(I didn't). I did drag myself to class, even though I felt like hell, and I spent most of the rest of the day sleeping on a couch outside my department's main office, which wasn't as weird as it sounds. There was always somebody, or multiple somebodies, sleeping on that couch. I was so nauseous I couldn't even drink water until 5:00 that afternoon, but by 11:00 I was ready to go out drinking again. Amazing, how that works. So I made my first of many (MANY) trips to the Pub. Ah, college.
On my sister's 21st birthday we were in our hometown for Christmas, so I took her out drinking with one of her friends and Phil and some of his friends. She wins the prize for being the only one of the three of us kids to throw up in a car on her 21st. At least it was her own car. I was the designated driver, but I (smartly) refused to drive unless we took her car. My favorite moment of her birthday was when she pulled her head back into the car after throwing up as we cruised down the freeway and oh-so-sadly and pathetically sighed, "I'm the throw-up MONster!" To this day, I'll still sometimes say, "I'm the throw-up MONster," in her sad little voice just to make myself laugh.
As for my brother, he apparently drank to the point of throwing up (in a bathroom, at least) and then passing out in the backseat of my sister's car. She ended up taking him to her house and putting him to bed on her couch. But here's the problem with my brother: you know how with most drunk people, once you have managed to get them into bed everything is okay? They'll just stay asleep and if you're a really good friend you stay up and check on them once in a while to make sure they don't vomit and choke? Yeah. It doesn't work like that with my brother. When he drinks too much, he sleep walks. So even once you've successfully gotten him into bed, you never know where the heck he's going to end up, or what he's going to do while he's sleep walking. His favorite thing to do is throw up and/or piss in places that aren't bathrooms. Notable occasions so far: in his closet (my sister had to teach him how to do laundry so he could wash all his clothes the next day before my mom got home), all over my bed at home (thankfully, I wasn't living at home at the time), and all over one of his best friends, who was sleeping on the floor of a spare bedroom at someone's house (gross beyond words). His birthday was the best (worst?) so far, though: when my sister put him to bed, he was wearing his pants and boxers. But he woke up completely naked! And his pants and boxers were nowhere to be found. My sister eventually found them in her garage, of all places. The best part is that my sister's poor roommate got up early to go to work and had to witness my brother's naked body sprawled on the living room couch. Poor girl.
Nobody I know has ever been able to beat Kiki's 21st birthday story, though. The story is a bit lengthy and really needs to be told in person to be truly enjoyed. The short version is that Kiki climbed into bed with the guy she'd been making out with in a hot tub all night and she couldn't figure out how he had fallen asleep so quickly and why he didn't feel like making out anymore. But she was drunk, so she went to sleep, and several hours later when the guy tried to kick her out of his bed she said something to the effect of, "Come on, Brian, we were making out all night, can't I just sleep here for a few more hours?" and he said, "I'm not Brian, I'm Donnie." She had gotten into bed with his roommate! There are so many puzzling things about this story, besides the obviously puzzling element of how the heck Kiki ended up in the wrong bed in the first place. Why didn't Donnie wake up when a random stranger climbed into his bed? Why on earth didn't it dawn on Brian to wonder what had happened to the girl he was hooking up with? This is probably one of my favorite stories ever, and for a year or so afterwards we sould occasionally spy one of the guys at the Pub and gasp, "Look, it's BrianSlashDonnie!", which is how we referred to both of them.
So yeah. My baby brother is 21 now, which makes me feel really old. It makes me feel old because for some reason my brain stalled on 23 and I can't seem to convince myself that I'm older than that, but there's just no way I can possibly be 23 if my brother is 21. Also, I remember when that kid was born. I remember standing on the railing of my mom's hospital bed, eating M&Ms and wondering why on earth the baby brother was so red. I just can't believe he's 21.

-I'm staying in City A this weekend. A friend who I made through my dog went out of town for the weekend and asked me to house and dog sit. My dog absolutely loves the dog I'm sitting for. She's a hound like him and they are so cute together that it almost kills me. I brought my cat down with me, too, and she likes him as well. I want a second dog so badly, but I know it's going to be several years before I have the space and money to get number two. Being with this second hound makes me realize how very low energy mine is, though. I mean, he likes to go for long walks and he has moments where he's very loud, but for the most part he just wants to sleep on the couch, preferably with a human for a pillow. Poor Molly keeps bounding up to him like, "Play with me! Play with me! Come on, let's go!" but nine times out of ten he just raises his eyebrow at her, grunts, and shifts to a more comfortable position on the cushion. Typical guy.

-Nicole wants to try to hook me up this weekend. She came into class on Monday and said, "So, *A*, I have a proposition for you." I immediately said, "You're going to try to hook me up with someone, aren't you?" She sheepishly replied, "Well, I don't know if you're open to that sort of thing, but...yes?" She then went on to tell me all about this guy she works with at her part-time job, but she started out by saying, "Well, let me tell you about him and you can see what you think. He's kind of little, but you're little, too, so I don't think he'll be littler than you. And, okay, he kind of likes Star Trek, but-" At that point I interrupted her and said, "Why exactly are you trying to hook us up?" and she said, "I'm telling you the bad things first. It wouldn't be fair for me to tell you he's great without also telling you the bad stuff." Fair enough. Nic then went on to tell me all of the good qualities she has seen in him, and she said that he's attractive. I suppose I trust Nic's opinion more or less since I like her boyfriend when he comes to visit, but I'm not exactly enthusiastic about matchmaking in general. I've never actually been set up with anyone before, but I've heard enough horror stories to know it rarely works out well. Then again, I'm not in a position where it's easy to meet anyone at all these days, so I figure I might as well meet the guy. I only agreed to go if Nic doesn't tell him anything about me, and she promised she wouldn't. So I'm supposed to meet her and a bunch of her co-workers for drinks after they get off work tomorrow night. At least it's convenient since I'm staying just a few metro stops away from the bar right now, and even if the guy ends up being a total bust I'll at least get to meet several of Nicole's coworkers, and I like meeting new people.

Alright, that's it. I'm gonna walk the dogs while the sun is out.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


So I've been doing this Sparkpeople ( thing for three weeks now, and I'm really enjoying it. It appeals to my hyper-organized sensibilities. I thought for sure I'd have to stop tracking my eating once school started, but now that I'm in the habit I haven't stopped. It only takes about two minutes to log in after each meal and figure out how many calories I consumed, and since I have a computer in my office I can log anything I happen to eat at work, too. I suppose I won't be logging when I'm on vacation and away from all computers (even I'm not anal enough to keep a written record of everything I eat and log it in when I get back to a computer...I don't think...) but other than that I can log easily. The truth is I probably won't keep track of my progress when I'm on vacation anyway since that will be splurge time.

I didn't start doing this because I was worried about my weight (although, frankly, who wouldn't like to get a bit closer to her ideal body?) but because I was curious about how healthy I was. I think in general I have pretty healthy habits. I am lucky to not be an emotional eater (if anything I'm the opposite; when I get very sad or very stressed I get an upset stomach and have to force myself to eat) and my body generally makes relatively healthy choices for me (I've always preferred mustard to mayo, balsamic vinegar to ranch, I genuinely enjoy and get filled up by Lean Cuisine meals, etc.) I've also always been fairly active. I'm much less active now than I was when I was in high school and dancing for 2-3 hours most days, but I still do some form of physical activity most days, even if it's just leisurely walking the dog. I have a very strong mind-body connection and I literally feel not only physically but mentally "off" if I go more than 3 or 4 days without a workout. Apparently this is not the case with everyone. I have several friends here who have almost completely sedentary lifestyles, and I sometimes wonder how they keep from going insane under the pressure of our lives. Anyway, all of that is to say that I think I'm generally a pretty healthy person.

But this Sparkpeople thing has been pretty eye-opening. I realized that while I was doing okay, there are a lot of things I can do better food-wise. And in just three weeks I've found that my habits are changing a lot. I'm happy to report that it was pretty easy to up the protein content of my diet. I'm still not eating a ton of meat, but just little things have made a big difference. I love, love, love Laughing Cow cheese so I've been eating that pretty much every day, I've been putting chopped nuts on my salads and oatmeal...little things like that are now getting me to the proper protein range. The biggest challenge has been controlling the fat, but even that is not as hard as I thought.
The biggest thing that this is helping me to do is just think a bit more about my choices. For one thing, it has made me much more conscious of portion sizes. I'm also genetically lucky in that I don't need to eat a ton of food to feel full, so I was naturally doing good on portioning things like cereal, soup, etc. With some things, like pita chips or my beloved chalky conversation hearts (hooray for February!) I found that what I was considering a portion was actually smaller than the portion size listed on the bag. But with some things (cookies, salad dressing) I was eating two or more portions at a sitting. So it has been helpful to realize that, and it hasn't felt like a sacrifice at all to limit myself to proper-sized portions.
Here's the thing: I love food, and I am not into making any sacrifices at all when it comes to my eating. I take huge pleasure in eating good food. I have had meals that were better than sex. Seriously (well, better than some sex). So I've long claimed that I would never be able to diet. Now, though, I realize that's not entirely true. I could never limit the type of food I'm allowed to eat. I can, however, pay attention to how much I'm eating and what kinds of food I'm eating, and it turns out it's actually kind
Since I'm not on a mission to lose any weight, I'm not super strict with myself. Some days I know I'm going to go over my recommended calorie limit and I just acknowledge that from the start so I don't feel disappointed about it. Usually, these are days when I know I'm going to be drinking. Nothing like thinking about all the empty calories in alcohol to make you think twice about having another beer! There was a day a couple of weeks ago where I had to acknowledge to myself as I entered my food totals for the night before that I'd had three beers and five vodka tonics. Uh, not exactly "everything in moderation." So, hey, added bonus: since I started tracking I've been drinking less when I go out. Anyway, I went way over on the day of the Super Bowl party and the night we went drinking in City A and when I went out for dinner for Mardi Gras (where the point was to be gluttonous) but other than that I've done really well.
The trick, I've discovered, is to put all the things I know I'm really going to want to eat that day onto the list early. Right now, for instance, I have Valentine's Day cookies that I absolutely love. My mom made some and sent them to me, and I also made a batch to take to my class on Tuesday night. They're pretty much nothing but butter and sugar and bleached flour. Am I going to eat them? Hell yeah I am! But if I know I'm going to eat two of them every day (and I am) then I put them on my food list at breakfast and then I know how many calories I have available for my actual meals that day. And it just helps me make better choices. If I know I'm gonna eat two cookies later, maybe I eat a Lean Cuisine for lunch instead of mac and cheese. Or I walk an extra mile to burn off the calories in one of those cookies. No biggie. It really is great. I guess I'm making a few sacrifices, but it doesn't feel like it at all.
One of the biggest things I've noticed is how much less soda I'm drinking. I used to drink at least two 12 oz. sodas a day. Then last year I cut myself back to just the 100 calorie cans and only allowed myself to have one a day. The only time I drank more than that was at restaurants, where I still tried to limit myself to just one (sometimes I was successful with that, sometimes I wasn't). Now with this new program, I'm making myself drink my full water bottle each day (32 oz.) and I realized today that I'm no longer feeling the need to drink a soda every day anymore. Part of it is the whole choice-making thing, because a lot of times I'd rather spend 100 calories on actual food than on soda, and part of it is just that I'm not craving it as much anymore.

Anyway, just thought I'd let you know how it's working out for me. I'm going to try to really stick to it for another few months, just until my body really knows what it needs and portioning becomes innate and not something I have to think about. If you're wanting to lose some weight, or if you're like me and you just think nutrition and fitness is interesting, you should try it out for a while. After all, it's free! I realize having to be organized enough to track your food doesn't appeal to everyone, but it's infinitely easier than trying to stick to some stupid diet plan, and you can be very flexible with it. Oh, and I don't use any of the message boards or motivational portions of the site, but I know some people really need the emotional motivation to get healthy, and the site seems to have plenty of that, too.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


My poor cat is a wreck. I took him to the vet yesterday since he needed to get a rabies shot. He had a full wellness exam, too, and it's a good thing he did because it turns out he has a bad ear infection! Poor guy. Every year the vet cleans a bunch of gunk out of his ears, but he has never had an infection before. I had noticed just the other day that he was shaking his head when I was scratching his ears, and that he was starting to get a bald patch from scratching so much. I sort of had a feeling there might be something wrong. So now I have to give him ear drops twice a day for the next ten days, and hopefully that will clear the infection up, although the vets says I'll probably have to try to clean out his ears weekly from now on. Have you ever tried putting drops in a cat's ears? You should try it sometime, it's quite the workout (especially if, like me, your cat weighs 15 pounds). I'm in the habit of cleaning my dog's ears out weekly (he has long floppy ears and air doesn't circulate into them well so they're prone to infection if you don't clean them regularly) so I guess adding the cat to the weekly routine won't be too much of a hassle.
I'm really frustrated with how incredibly expensive vet care is here, though. I've been comparing prices and everyone is really expensive. I think I'll keep going back to the person I went to yesterday for now, since I liked her, but it's seriously three times the amount to get vet care here than it was in my last home. Here's how insane it is: the vet recommended that my cat get his teeth cleaned. He's nine years old and lived in dumpsters for a large portion of his life, so I'm not surprised his teeth are kind of a mess. She showed them to me, and they do look pretty gross at the back of his mouth. The thing is, it costs $600 to do a dental treatment! SIX HUNDRED FREAKIN' DOLLARS. That's more than half of my monthly income right now. It's so expensive because you have to pay for the dental work itself, plus the anesthesia, plus on older cats (anything over six is "older") they won't do the surgery without an IV, catheter, and a blood test to make sure his body can handle the's just ridiculous. Who can actually afford to pay for things like that?! That's more than I pay for dental treatment for myself. And I've looked into pet insurance and it doesn't really help much. You end up paying at least $300 a year for the insurance, and there are a ton of things it doesn't cover. When I eventually have a real income (if that ever happens in my lifetime) I plan to make a savings account for emergency pet care, but I just don't have the money to do that right now. I don't even have an emergency savings account for myself. It just annoys me, because then I end up feeling guilty, like I'm being a bad pet mom for letting my cat walk around with rotting teeth. Logically, though, I know cats and dogs were living for thousands of years without dental treatments and heartworm pills and all of the other things we're now encouraged (practically required, if you don't want vets giving you guilt trips) to do. My pets are like family to me, and I know I would go to greater lengths than many people would to keep them healthy and with me as long as possible. But seriously, vet costs are getting extremely out of control. Even people like me have to draw the line somewhere, and I'll be drawing that line at a six hundred dollar dental treatment.
I asked the vet, "What are the consequences if I don't do the dental?" and she said, "It's not an emergency situation," and I said "Okay then." And I went to Petsmart and spent $12 on a prescription tartar control food to mix into his cheaper grocery store food, and $4 on some stuff to put in their water that is supposed to fight tartar and gum disease. And that's going to have to be good enough.

Speaking of pets, I passed one of my neighbors when I was walking my dog this morning and she smiled at him and said, "Hi, Luke!" She has been saying hi to him for months and a few times she greeted him with a name and I thought to myself, "What is she calling him?" Now this morning I distinctly heard that she's calling him Luke. My dog's name is not Luke. It's not even remotely close to Luke. It's a two-syllable name that starts with a C. So I can't figure out why on earth she would be calling him Luke. The problem is that she has been calling him this for months, apparently, and I feel like it would be awkward for me to suddenly say, "Oh, by the way, it's not Luke." So I guess if she wants to call him Luke, that's cool with me. She seems a bit eccentric anyway.
Oh, and speaking of weird neighbors, I was getting into my car the other day when one of my neighbors pulled up and got out of his truck. Since he was right beside me I was a friendly neighbor and said hello, and he said hi and then added, "Hey, do you remember my friend, the blonde guy that was working on the truck with me the other day?" In my head I was thinking, "No, not really, and the time you and your friend said hello when you were working on a truck was actually two months ago and not exactly the other day," but out loud I said, "Kind of..." and he said, "Oh, well, he wanted me to tell you hi." So I said, "Well, tell him I said hi, too." But what I wanted to say was, "Well, that's pointless." Seriously, what's going to happen? He's going to tell me his friend said hi and I'm going to say, "Oh yes, I do remember your friend the blonde who said exactly two words to me. I'd love to get to know him! Let's hang out!"? In what universe does that actually happen? I realize I'm being kind of bitchy, but based on looks alone I'm not interested, and if he was interested in me based on looks alone, then he should have grown some balls and talked to me that day and not told his friend to say hi to me (two months later). We're not 12.

Friday, February 8, 2008

I am the Walrus

It's a Thursday, so I refused to do anything productive today, even though I probably should have. This week went pretty well. I mostly continued to stay on top of things throughout the week, and I ended up having a nice balance of work and fun.

Dr. Absent-Minded Professor threw a party tonight. It wasn't a party for anything in particular, it was just a chance for past and present students to get together with Dr. AMP and Dr. AMP's spouse. I had no idea what it was going to be like. Dr. AMP is one of those people that I can't imagine even having a house or a life outside of the office and research, let alone being married, let alone wanting to invite people over for wine and snacks. But it ended up being a lot of fun. There was a ton of food, the house was lovely and full of interesting conversation pieces, Nicole, Emily, Cara, Cristin (a fellow grad student who is also kind of my boss since I TA the course she teaches), and Dr. H were there, so I already knew a lot of people, and several of Dr. AMP's former students were there as well as some current students who are ABD and not on campus much, so I met interesting new people as well. My favorite new person was a girl from Denmark doing an exchange program this year. She was a lot of fun and we exchanged e-mail addresses so hopefully she'll come hang out with me and Nic and Cara and the rest of the crew in the future. All in all, it was much more lively and fun than I was expecting. Dr. AMP, who usually strikes me as a little socially awkward, was surprisingly gracious and talkative and encouraged us to hang out until much later than I meant to stay. It was a good night. I hope we do it again in the future.

What else can I tell you about? My plan for the weekend is to do a whole lot of nothing. I have to take the cat to the vet tomorrow for his shots and I think I'm going to make some Valentine's Day cookies this weekend since it's my turn to bring snack to class on Tuesday (yes, my Tuesday night class has a snack schedule, like preschool). Other than that, I'll mostly sit on the couch watching TV and reading for classes. There are no plans to go out this weekend, but I'm actually okay with that. I got to go out both Tuesday and tonight, so I really need to work this weekend anyway.

One last thing, to change the subject completely, does anyone else find it really odd and disturbing that people keep calling Obama the next JFK and that he is actively encouraging that comparison? I understand the comparisons, don't get me wrong. If we're judging based on charisma, he's the only candidate that actually has any, in my opinion. But let's not forget that the whole Kennedy story ended tragically. Why actively encourage comparisons between yourself and that narrative? I can't help getting a chill every time someone makes that comparison. It just doesn't bode well. Anyway, I still don't feel like I can confidently (or even semi-confidently) support any candidate at this point. I didn't vote in the primary, partially because I'm registered independent anyway, but mostly because I still haven't been able to figure out whether or not I can vote in my new home or whether I have to get an absentee ballot from my old home. I'm finding it surprisingly difficult to find a straight answer on the internet. I feel like I read somewhere that if you're a student you're allowed to vote where you're attending school, and that's what I did in college, but maybe that doesn't apply if your school is in a different state? I'd rather vote here; my home state inevitably goes one way every single time so there's really no point in voting there (if you go with the dominant party, what was the point? They didn't need your vote on top of all those others. And if you go against it, you end up feeling like your vote was useless, too...I realize this is partially why lots of people in America don't vote so I hate to talk like this but it feels kind of true.) If I vote here in a state that tends to swing more, I at least feel like my vote could "count". I just haven't gotten my act together enough to figure out whether or not I can vote here if I'm not a state resident. I'll get it together before it's time to register for the November elections, though.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Monday Monday

Don't you love when you feel like you've had a very productive day? I always end up feeling so virtuous. The only problem with productive days is that they often involve getting up early. And this morning I was up really early. 7 A.M. early.
See, after last night's Super Bowl party I came home feeling slightly buzzed. The friend who hosted the party had ordered a half keg (pony keg, whatever you want to call it), but the so-called "half keg" was definitely a full-sized keg. And it wasn't a full-sized keg that was half full. It was a full freakin' keg. And there were 12 of us at the party. I don't care how valiantly you try, 12 people cannot drink an entire keg of beer during the course of one football game. Or rather, I suppose in theory 12 people could do it, but the 12 of us that were at this particular party are not capable of that feat under any circumstances.
So anyway, I came home feeling like I was just buzzed enough that trying to do any reading for classes would have been a pointless effort, which is why I ended up going to sleep at 11:00, which I suppose is why my body was awake at 7:00. Since I was up anyway and I'd already had eight hours of sleep, I figured I might as well go to the 9:00 lecture instead of the 10:00 lecture (all of us TAs have to go to one of them on Mondays and Wednesdays). So I did that, then I went to the bookstore to return a book I don't need after all, then I went to my weekly TA meeting, and then I drove out to the country to check out the kennel where I'm thinking of leaving my dog at spring break. By 12:30 I was home again with the whole afternoon stretching out in front of me.
So I did my laundry (did I mention that my schedule allows Monday to be laundry day again? Order has been restored in my world) and went to the apartment complex fitness center and ran 3 miles in 30 minutes. Which is pretty good for me. Given, it was on the treadmill and I'm firmly convinced that treadmill running is easier than outdoor running, but I was still proud of myself. I don't run very much. For one thing, I don't think jogging is actually that great for me. My family is pretty physically fit, but genetically we're predisposed to weak ankles and bad knees. My mom tore both her Achilles tendons after years of running, my dad recently had to have knee surgery. And I manage to twist my ankle two or three times a year just from walking, because I'm that much of a klutz. I just feel like running probably isn't the best choice for me. Also, most days I can't find the time to spend more than 40 minutes working out, and my dog needs to get a workout,too, since he's stuck in an apartment without a yard. So I feel bad using that 40 minutes to work out without the dog, and I can't run with the dog because he has stocky little legs. So normally I spend either the whole 40 minutes walking and occasionally jogging with the dog, or I spend 20 minutes walking him and 20 minutes doing strength training. But today for some reason I felt like running, and it felt really good.
And after I ran for thirty minutes, I came home and actually cooked a real dinner. I made soup! Potato, artichoke, and spinach soup. It's delicious. And, to add to my feelings of virtuousness, one serving is only 350 calories. And full of vegetables! Tasty and healthy is my favorite combination.
Also, I've finished all of my reading for tomorrow AND Wednesday. And I bought all the plane tickets I need for spring break today, and I made an appointment to take the cat to the vet for his shots on Friday, and I responded to all of my e-mail. I will never be this on-top of things again all semester, so I'm enjoying it for the one night it lasts.

And tomorrow is Mardi Gras. What are you doing to celebrate? A bunch of us decided we're going out to dinner. Fat Tuesday is supposed to be about splurging, and while we can't booze too much since we all teach early on Wednesdays, we figured that spending money on a real dinner is a splurge in and of itself when you're a graduate student. It should be fun.

Sorry this was kind of boring, but I'm posting it anyway. Shouldn't we all get to brag on days when we actually have our acts together? I think we should.