Tuesday, December 30, 2008

bacterium terium on the floor

New Years Resolutions:
1. Work more
2. Exercise more
3. Write more

4. Keep work desk clean
5. Keep work papers organized

I can't recall the last time I took New Years to mean that I should make some resolutions. Resolutions don't seem fun-- I think that's it. But this year is different. Not only is it a new year, but a brand new world spreads itself before me, as I am out of the Catfish Lab. I am in my new lab: Alice's Lab, and I had my first day of experiments today. It was thrilling! It turns out that I do love being a scientist. I love running experiments.

I am growing bacteria. That alone is exciting! I will get to peek into the incubator every day and watch them grow. It is almost like having a plant. Almost like having a pet. Almost like --- Sea Monkeys!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Echo and Narcissus

It's hard to watch a person you love, admire, and respect (more than almost anyone else) spend time and energy and devotion on a person who doesn't deserve even a minute of that attention.

I don't know what my role exactly is with him. I don't know if I was ever supposed to be involved in the first place, but I am, and it's a false and frustrating kind of involvement--I'm consulted, I say what I think, even the brutal things, but I have no power or control. I couldn't possibly, even if I wanted to.

You can't make a person see what you see--you have inevitably different and separate points of view, no matter how much you communicate. You're only communicating to them what you see; you're painting a picture of your point of view, and then they say "Oh, so that's what you see," but it isn't what they see, and it doesn't really affect them.

This person, this object of his attention, is not a special person. Not kind, empathetic, interesting, productive, inspiring, worthy of respect, uplifting, exciting, deep, thoughtful, or even decent, at this point. This description is "my opinion," though I am only one of many who hold it. But then that just makes it them against the world--they're in that stage where they believe they "have a connection" that they've never had with anyone else, and this makes it worth continuing.

When asked the pros and cons of being with this person, he can't think of any pros. But it's that "connection" that people talk about. All that means is that the other person makes you feel special. That you have shared intimacy between you. It's a false feeling that they "get" you. They "understand" you because you were both lonely and now you're spending time together. Even though you're miserable now, it's not technically from lonliness.

I experienced this with my first boyfriend. I thought we understood each other unlike anyone in our lives had ever understood us before. The truth is that we both had a similar chip on our shoulders and some similar pain in our lives, and we recognized that in the other. But you can't build on that. It's like pitching a tent over a hole in the ground.

The truth is, they don't "get" you and they never will. They don't even really know you as a whole person, because they'll never understand your brilliant side, your peaceful side, your happy side. They don't want you to be happy because then you'll leave them behind. They want someone to lay down and be sad with; they want somebody who will leave the party early with them.

When you're "in love" with someone who exhibits narcissistic behavior, they don't think about your feelings for even a moment. You think they see your pain because they know it so well in themselves, and that's why there's a false sense of connection. They're even really good at listening to you when something's wrong in your life--in fact, they revel in it, because then they're not the only unhappy ones. But try to share something good about your life with them...watch how they retreat or change the subject. They don't want those things for you.

You spend enough time with them to know intimately the ins and outs of their moods, their insecurities, their meltdowns, their patterns, and you become the caretaker. The Very Special Caretaker who is the only one who understands the dosages, the remedies, the exact amount of time and space, the words that will illicit the least amount of reactionary anger. And "the connection" and the sense of closeness--of the two of you against the world--is fueled. It's one big ego dream that alters your sense of reality--it takes you out of your own life, your goals, your freedom, your tendency to seek joy. You're not you anymore--you're on call. You're the red-eyed patrol nurse. You brush off your family and friends because they're not in desperate need of you. Your everyday interaction with healthy people feels less intense, less passionate. You slowly start to reject healthy behavior in others and yourself. You can't relate to it anymore. You can't relate to anything without sirens attached. At the warm party, you're outside on the phone. You let them pull you away from happiness. They've convinced you that happiness is dull, boring, and fake because they can't feel it. They're your beautiful, dark, tortured thing, alive with pain and self-loathing and need.

The worst delusion is the one about losing them--you've become scared of freedom, naturalness, and peace. Of quiet. Your delusion is that you'll be lost without them. You've forgotten who you are if you're not the caretaker. You imagine a long string of quiet, mind-numbingly boring moments in which all there is to do is think about how you've lost them and you don't know what to do without them. You don't know who to be.

The truth is that you can do anything you want without them. You can think about what you'd like to do today--who you'd like to see, where you'd like to go, what you'd like to have for dinner. You can laugh really loudly without feeling lame or guilty. You can sit around without feeling boring. You can see your family and friends and admit that you have a great time together. You can stay in one place and enjoy yourself. You can turn your phone off. You can be you again, or at least start to remember who that person is. Later, you can meet a person who truly sees and appreciates you--someone who wants to hear about the good things in your day and gets excited for you. Someone who doesn't need you in their life, but who just likes your presence. Someone you don't even feel like fighting with, because they believe in you, and you don't have anything to prove.

It's not as bad to watch it happen as it is to be the one going through it, of course. I won't pretend that any of it is about me. It's not my responsibility, it's not my life, it's not my business. But I still wonder if there's a sliver of possibility that something I say could make a difference--could bring clarity to the situation. The truth that I need to face is that the answer is probably no. Just because I've been through something doesn't mean someone else will look at my life and say "Hey, I know how that turns out. I'm going to go ahead and not go down that road." And just because I have a lot of opinions doesn't make me an authority. My ego dream is that I can fix it, but I can't, because it isn't mine to fix. I just have to hope that he chooses peace. I guess he'll have to get completely sick of it before he leaves. I'm just worried about how long that will take. People choose peace only when they're ready for it and not afraid of it, because it's scary. Peace means quiet, and painful clarity, and sometimes boredom--it means admitting where you're wrong, and letting go, and stopping, and accepting. And I'm having a really hard time with that, myself.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

if only for a moment, every man is an island

It's been a good while since I've visited, much less posted, and I extend my apologies and assurances that it is nothing personal. It's mostly due to the fact that I don't have regular access to a private computer (I'm currently logged in at the Lafayette Public Library), which makes it uncomfortable to write at the frequency I maintained before the computer at home decided to throw in the towel. But then I think, anyone can (and probably does) read this bloggy on the Interwebs, so what do I care if someone wants to take a peek over my shoulder?
The semester ended. Finally. And much to my disappointment, all that's seemed to dissipate is the overriding sense of stress and pressure that managed to keep me on top of my myriad tasks, but also had me on the verge of a breakdown. The sense of suffocation and complete lack of joy in living are still my companions, as well as loneliness and depression. I haven't really been able to shake the last two since the return in January. I am reminded of the talk of karma from Penguin posts past and wonder if I'm being repaid for the peccadilloes of my youth. But it could also be the graver errs I've made and continue to make that have me licked.
The only thing that's different about how I feel today and how I felt about two months ago, is that now I'm accustomed to it. And that's kind of scary.
What's even more scary is that I feel like I'm turning into my Dad more and more every day. As of late, I'm most like him when I interact with him and -- not surprisingly -- we have not had a pleasant interaction in weeks. I think I hurt his feelings and the irony is: that is his legacy to me. After all, I learned from the best. I'd give it back or let it go, but it seems to linger like the smell of an animal that's been trapped and died in the walls of a house. Although, I suppose eventually any stench will fade away, given the right amount of time.

Anyway, I promise to be a more committed blogger. Also, I really hope everyone has warm and fulfilling holidays, whichever they celebrate.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A 42 Family Town

I enjoy the month of December.
There is still plenty of cold weather ahead, it is Christmas Season, and I am filled with Hope for the upcoming year. December is also a time where I look back at the past year and think of all of my accomplishments. This usually involves writing a Christmas Update letter and sending Christmas cards out to my extended family and faraway friends.

It is Sunday, December 21st. I have already traveled to my vacation destination, and I haven't even started composing a Christmas letter.

Remember the post Probability of Order? That was vague, wasn't it? Right. Well, I did it- I made the change- the turbulence is over- I left my old boss's group.

What does that even mean!!!

Unless you are in pursuit of your PhD in the basic sciences, you probably don't immediately understand the significance of leaving someone's group. At the end of this post I have a link to some of my previous thoughts on my graduate situation where I compare it to Slavery in the Old South. Today I will use a different comparison.

My department is a small town where the popular pastime is gossiping about other people's business. The town consists of 42 families, but instead of houses, we live in one apartment complex composed of 3 buildings. The gossip flies faster in such a close proximity.

The research groups are polygamist families before any sort of feminist revolution. The boss is the husband and the graduate students are the wives. (Although husband and wife here are used only to indicate power, not gender.) Leaving my boss's group is equivalent to getting a divorce and getting remarried in this small town of 42 families. My old boss has now been divorced 7 times in the last 6 years.

The good news is: I am out. I am now in a new group lead by a woman who has been a professor now for 2 years. I am going to have to work 60 hours a week on a regular basis- but it will be toward something that will get me a PhD. And that is the goal.

I feel a big sense of peace with this change because I trust my New Boss "Alice" where as I did not trust the old boss "Catfish." Catfish had the following priorities:

1. Complain about life in general, esp. about home repairs, graduate students, and other families in our 42 family town.

2. Sculpting: Ordering rocks and staying home from work to have them delivered, getting graduate students to make illegal copies of sculpting videos at the library, giving chemicals from the lab to the sculpting teacher, making a mess in the lab by mixing chemicals and rocks, talking about sculpting.

3. Making money by not actually doing anything: This is Catfish's secret obsession. He likes to talk about how he invested 1000 dollars in this start-up company that is one of his student's thesis projects. My thesis project had me doing experiments that had already been published in 2002! Why did I have to do them? Because he had a patent on this idea (which was a dumb idea which will never make him any money) and he was sure that if I did the work for it he could start a company and make a profit. Right. Forget about doing something because it is good science. Catfish only wants to use science in hopes of making himself rich. What else?

4. Playing Solitaire and Hearts on his laptop. You know how with Windows the start menu shows the recent programs used the most? Right, well every week for group meeting we hook up Catfish's computer to the projector and give him our power point presentations to show. He inevitably clicks on the Windows start menu icon... and the 2 most used programs on his laptop (his only work computer BTW) are ALWAYS Hearts an Solitaire. (the thing is- not only is he not working- how can any semi-intelligent person be entertained by those games!!! Right- Catfish is not intelligent.)

5. Telling graduate students that they need to buy research supplies with money from their paycheck. Awesome. Did I mention that it is HIS JOB to provide research funding for us? Oh yeah- Solitaire is way more stimulating that writing grants or publishing papers. What else is his job? helping his students get their research published in scientific papers. The last time one of his students published a paper containing original research was in 2005. In a few days it will be 2009.

Okay enough of that-- How did I get out? Well my old thesis project was based on this instrument and it was broken when I got it and continued to get worse. Catfish didn't think it was ever broken so it took a long time for me to convince him that we needed to fix it. And finally after trying to fix it for a semester- I realized that it wasn't fixable. The instrument I am talking about is a prototype that never made it to market. There are 5 of them in the world- and they are composed of many "made to order" parts. So... right... but Catfish has a patent (see #3 above) so when I told him that I needed a new thesis project because I couldn't fix the instrument- he said no. And I found a new thesis project in a different group. (A socially acceptable reason to get a divorce.)

In my new group, my new boss, Alice has a different set of priorities:
1. Get research done
2. Publish papers
3. Write grants
4. Stay on top of the current science literature

I think I will be happy in my new family.
Merry Christmas to me.

Recommended reading: Yes Masta, Youse a Good Masta

Monday, December 15, 2008

How'd this egg get here?

I've been thinking a lot about when I'm going to get serious about pursuing writing (as in, 5 year plan and maybe a 2009 summer program), and how I will transition from my current job (which I like) and how soon, etc. etc. I just ran across something that seemed apt and very applicable to my life and the lives of a lot of my friends and acquaintances. It's by Martha Beck. (If you've never read or heard of her, she's pretty much the reason I pick up O magazine.)

"'I just don't think I'll ever find the right life for me,' Shiela frets.

'Of course you won't,' I say. 'How strange to think you would!'

It amazes me how often people use that phrase: 'Find the right life.' Would you walk into your kitchen hoping to find the right fried egg, the right cup of coffee, the right toast? Such things don't simply appear before you; they arrive because you rummage around, figure out what's available, and make what you want."

She then goes on to say that all you technically need to guide you (rather than a clear vision of what your ideal life would be) is that "warmer...colder..." sense like the one you use when you play that game of find the hidden object in the room. Knowing what feels better and what feels worse. Then, she says, "If something feels both good and bad, break it down into its components to see which are warm, which cold. Begin making choices based on what makes you feel freer and happier, rather than how you think an ideal life should look. It's the process of feeling our way toward happiness, not some Platonic ideal, that creates our best lives."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Probability of Order

I haven't posted in a long time - mainly because I feel that my life experiencing some mild turbulence. I am so American because by "my life" I mean my working life. My home life is beautiful.

The turbulence is fine- I am not distressed about it. I am only being cautious as I move about the cabin and having my seat-belt buckled when I am seated.

My current experiences right now have got me wondering: Does everything happen for a reason?

Katu said, "Everything Happens For A Reason." (EHFAR)
I said, "I don't know if I believe that. I don't know if I believe in anything, even Science."

EHFAR got me thinking about Presbyterians and predestination. In college I was at a Bible study in the Methodist church and the preacher talked about how Evil exists in this world. Car accidents kill promising teenagers who haven't had a chance to realize their full potential. Everything does NOT happen for a reason. Some things are not of God.

Even if we remove God from this equation, Is there order in the universe? I now think that there is only a certain probability of order.

I am wondering about EHFAR because suddenly things seem to be falling into place. Actions I took in the past because I thought they were good things to do now have an unforeseen payoff.
This could be the probability of order swinging my way again. Or it could be the fact that humans have evolved to look for meaning in their own lives.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I am currently reading The Ten Year Nap which was recommended to me by a professor at a near-by girls college. It has 3/5 stars on Amazon so I would not have picked it up had it not been about mothers who had stopped working to raise children-- a topic that I am interested in.

One of the reviewers on amazon said that the book is just all of these women complaining about their lives, but not changing their lives. And reading it, I find that it is a *depressing state* book. I mean that all of the characters in the book are living a life that I do not care to emulate. In short, it makes me want to return to work shortly after my kids can walk.

I was reading the book this morning, and one line in particular caught my attention-- it was something about how now that this woman character was married with kids she didn't stay out all night anymore like she did when she was single. A similar statement has been said to me by many of the women who come talk to my Women's group- except that our speakers say they don't spend all of their time working like they used to- now they lead more balanced lives.

Then I think of my life where I am young and already I have to work on leading a balanced life. If I am already working on adapting now, how will I adapt in the future? This is my handicap- the fact that I get so stressed out about life in general... Cardiovascular exercise is supposed to help with that- and it might help me some- except that thinking about doing cardio also stresses me out. That's where Yoga comes in. For the first time I am able to really relax, and I don't anxiously anticipate Yoga the way I do other activities. Yoga could be the solution to my headaches.

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard

I went to see Twilight: The Movie with some teacher buddies last Saturday. I had read the whole book series and was excited (Harry Potter-style) to see the film. My experiences at Cinemark made me want to write about two things:

1. Getting along with girls (I hope none of them read it. I should unlink PM from my regular blog.)
2. Human yearning?

1. I got invited to see this movie by my friend and fellow English teacher at school (we'll call her Blondie). We're kind of friends by default--we are both aware that we have nothing in common but we went through grad school together and are now working in the same place (I recommended her for the job, actually). Blondie is a person with very blond hair (obviously) and lots of eyeliner who gets drunk at bars more nights in the week than not and dates many macho loser type guys. Then she talks about her adventures in the teacher's lounge and says things like "how do I get myself into these situations?" and lets other teachers play Life Coach with her.

All that being said, she's a nice person and we get along pretty well as long as we don't spend too much time talking about her drama. But the bigger social problem is, we don't actually have anything to talk about.

So when I get invited to the movie, I think: "I could see a movie with just about anyone." Also, that this would be a way to show her that I'm willing to hang out every once in a while (I usually dog out) so that I wouldn't look like I never want to. Gee, that looks pretty awful once you type it out.

Saturday: two other teachers join us. One's a science teacher from our school and one's from another school (friend of science teacher). Science teacher is 36 years old with dyed black hair and piercing on the inside swirly part of her ear (I don't know what that's called, but it's notable for a teacher). Teacher from other school has long brown hair and talks about her dogs. Both are nice, but here's what lunch was like:

The three girls "joke" back and forth about how they are all sluts and basically take turns telling stories about these lame guys that they are not really dating but who just WON'T stop calling and texting. They've all got their phones out on the table and are sending or receiving texts throughout the conversation. What was most boring about this lunch was that this "You're a slut, no you're a slut" exchange was standing in for humor. That was it! Nothing interesting or funny was said the whole time, and nobody was asking questions and listening to anyone else, either. It was just taking turns talking. I just kept thinking I'd be having such a good time if my other friends who are actually fun and funny were here.

The high schooler in me couldn't help but wonder if this was what it was like to hang out with the popular girls. I think a couple of years ago, this lunch would have made me feel inadequate or boring and I would have believed in the Sex in the City charade, but this time it was just plain boring, and a little sad (in an empty way).

But there's this other part of me that recognizes my own superiority complex--the older I get, the more ridiculous it is for me to stereotype people like we're all in high school and the harder it gets to ignore the complexities of people's lives (as Fermi says: the XY axis isn't complicated enough to chart someone's life).

What we did all have in common at that table was that we are all self-aware and we want for people to think we're interesting, fun, sexy, and smart. We just have different ideas of what those qualities are.

But, the thing that still pisses me off every once in awhile is when I feel Blondie stereotyping me as a complete square. She has this look of utter shock when she asks me what I did over the weekend and it involved leaving my house. She also says things like "You don't seem like the type of person who would..." a lot. I mean really, is going to bars the only thing that makes a person (and a grown-ass person, I might add) interesting? I know it's rough to be single sometimes, but can't you all stop trying to one-up each other with what you think are wild n' crazy tales that you were the first one to experience? Nobody wants to sit there and listen just so you can feel interesting while telling it!

Why do you care what she thinks? you might be thinking. Good point.

This is getting lengthy, so I'll have to write about human yearning some other time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Life vectors and Money

Novella came and stayed at my apartment recently. I had a very good time with her, and we got to hang out more than I was expecting which was nice. Along with other things we talked about people we knew from high school and what/how they are doing now. I started thinking about high school people -- about how we all had very similar day-to-day lives at one time, and now we have scattered and are doing very different things with our lives.

Then I think- maybe it only seemed like we had similar lives. Maybe the part of our lives that was the same was not the part that mattered. Maybe the things that influenced us were the parts that were not so visible to my high school eyes.

I guess this is the nature vs nurture thing. Or it could be the nature and nurture thing where nature (our genetics) is the X axis and nurture (our experiences) is the Y axis, and our resulting direction in life is the vector in space having both X and Y components. And that is how it would be in 2 dimensions. But with genetics I imagine that we would not only have multiple lengths of the X axis component, but also that we would have other dimensional possibilities.

So the part that is the same is the fact that we wall went to the same high school. But there are so many other variables. How much did we pay attention in class? How did our home life influence our interest in school or boys or girls or drugs? Maybe our home life was so drastically different that it switches us into another dimension entirely. If we consider all of this it makes perfect sense that members of a high school class would be scattered about the universe.

Human beings have too many variables to make a good science experiment. In the class I am auditing I think about how there is so much we don't know about biology and life. We don't know every step in evolution, although we have pieces. We cannot create a living E.Coli bacterium yet (from non-living synthetic materials.) I feel like we are close. We should be able to create an E.Coli. But even bacterial life is SO complicated. If humans continue to exist for long enough (assuming we don't bomb ourselves into extinction) I bet we will get far enough in science to create life from non-living materials.

On a side note- tomorrow is Monday. I am meeting with my boss AND ordering supplies for my project. The total cost of supplies I need is $7.40. I have a feeling that my boss will tell me to purchase the supplies with my own money. And I will tell him no.

I have the feeling because in the past he has told us to purchase things with our own money - and I have already spent $170 on my research project of my own money. I am not doing this anymore. It pisses me off because it is HIS JOB to get us funding - AND he makes ten times as much money as I make. And he expects me to use my salary to do HIS job, and still do my job? The problem is that my boss feels that he doesn't have enough money. He is selfish and stingy.

I am ready to tell him tomorrow that I am not spending another cent on my research project, and that if he doesn't have the money to support my project then I can find another group.

This is hard for me because I am standing up to my boss, and because it is dealing with money. I have issues with money because my dad never wanted to spend money and so I thought that if I spent less money than he would love me more.

The great thing is that Jips, my husband, loves to spend money. And since I want him to have the things he wants because I love him and we can actually afford the things he wants... it makes me think that I can have the things I want then, too.

But beyond my husband - I have trouble with money. I hate talking about it. I hate asking my boss to spend money on my research because he is always acting pissy about spending the money. So this will be a big step for me.

Friday, November 21, 2008

point for a penguin

So since we like to talk about grad school things on this site and since grad school is one of the main things keeping me from posting more often than once every 2 months or so, I will post a story.

The setup: Contemporary Political Theory class. 9 - 11:50 thursday mornings. This was my week to lead discussion and make questions for the class. There are about 20 people in this class. Most of the people get along pretty well and are respectful to one another. There are a lot of crazy terms flying around that don't actually mean anything, but there are other people besides myself who don't live (or aspire to live) the purely academic (read bullshit) life of political science grad students. Anyway, everyone in this class is nice and respectful except for this one guy, we'll call him super-prick.

cast of characters:

myself: feisty, had very little sleep the night before, worked very hard to do a good job with this presentation stuff

super-prick: things he is God's gift to everything and everyone on Earth (and probably beyond). Thinks he is the smartest person in class, more so than the teacher or those who have studied more, longer, and in more places than here. He's tall and definitely conventionally attractive (I'm sure some brainless girls have been stupid enough to fuck him over the years, that is if he will let beings of substandard intelligence go near his axis of power). What is, by far, the most infuriating thing about this jackass is that he is so arrogant about knowing a lot about political theory and he is, by far, the most condescending person I have ever encountered. He generally doesn't even look up from his paper when he speaks.

Right before our face off:

The topic of the class is multiculturalism. One of the quotes I found from the book is that universities have an obligation to protect people from racist thought, even if it might go against free speech. Then I gave a quote from the LSU chancellor in a letter from 2006 saying that the university discourages but will not ban the flying of a purple and gold confederate flag. Maybe it wasn't the most theoretical of questions, but it talked about the not so pretty side of culture, and it also related to the culture of this area (the south in general). People are raising their hands and discussing things. There seems to be a good response, then this:

super-prick: (long pause) When I thought about this question (leans back in his chair for a long pause) I was reminded of high school and being stuck with these kinds of question in civics class.

(note: I can't remember what exactly he said, but he said it in a condescending way and basically said to the whole class, since he's too much of a pussy to address me outright, that he thinks my questions were not on his elevated level)

peace bone: (somewhat jokingly) well I did teach high school last year

super-prick: well I guess that fits

(damn son, why don't you just tell me I need to leave your intellectual space since I'm tarnishing your brain waves.)

So the class goes on and more people raise their hands and offer talking points. Super-prick raises his own hand to chime in.

super-prick: I would like to pose my own question (assumingly because mine was so inadequate)

peacebone: (interrupting loud enough for all in the class to hear) oh, is this a college level one?

super-prick: (blank stare and silence)

giggling ensues from a good number of people in the class.

Score 1 for peacebone!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Your laptop will love you for this.

I sprayed Febreze on my hair tonight. I went to a cook-out before coming home from work, and I helped with the grill. This meant that my hair and clothes smelled strongly of charcoal. Clothes are easy enough to change, but hair -- what could I do? I didn't want to shower, and spraying Yardley London English Lavender on my hair would only make me more nauseous. I needed something to eat up the odor -- and Febreze did the trick.

Had I been in a reasonable state of mind, it would have been easy for me to take a shower. In fact showering is what I probably should be doing now. Instead of being reasonable, I am a slave to my desires: for yoga and blogging.

Today is my third day of doing the video: Fat Free Yoga. I am a bit obsessed with the way it makes me feel. The video itself is a bit hokey. Well, its not really the video but rather the narration:

You might not like this pose, but it likes you!

Your kidneys will love you for this. Your adrenals will love you for this.

One of the four workouts is even titled: Your life is in your own glands.

I do all of the 4 workouts except for the 16 sniffs in the gland segment. It is the "exercise" where you take 16 small sniffs inhaling, followed by 16 small sniffs exhaling. I actually tried to play along the first day, but I ended up with 12 sniffs each and then I was all out of rhythm with the video.

The video makes me feel so happy after and the next day. I think I am going to go shower now.

Monday, November 10, 2008

no substitute

Attitude is everything no substitute for quality work.

I am too tired to write a whole post about this... but feel free to share your thoughts.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

the floor is made of lava

toothpaste for dinner

How Babies Are Made 10/30/08 is a blog post by Natalie Dee that has significantly influenced my life. Hopefully the link gets you there. If not, I believe I have provided enough information for you to find it.

How Babies Are Made has cured me of my "baby wanting" for the time being. This is good, because the idea of babies seems very appealing when compared with the drudgery of my graduate program-- however, the Hell written about in How Babies Are Made is significantly worse than grad school.

In other news, Tino has requested that I post some pics of the pups. Previously, I have refrained from posting any photos of my dogs because it could be incriminating evidence of my true identity. But now, I say: Bah! I am taking the risk.

The first photo is of Herman; I have titled it: The Floor Is Made of Lava, because he is walking from the chair to the couch as a kid would if they were playing the game.

The next photo is of Diego. He is our little Red Headed Step Child.

And finally, we have them both together on the couch in Together On The Couch.

Training Success: A Review, Days 1-5

The book says that we are supposed to do 2 training sessions a day of 20 repetitions of click and treat for 3 days. That didn't quite happen. I do think that my dogs get the idea of their current training sessions now, though. Here is a review of our progress:

Wed (day 1): 1 session PM
Thurs (day 2): 2 total sessions: AM and PM
Friday (3): 1 session AM
Saturday (4): 1 session AM
Sunday (5, today): 1 session AM

Today I actually have time to do more sessions with them but I am going to try to move on at this point. So far we have had 6 sessions which is the same number we would have had in 3 days of twice a day.

In Chicken Liver news, I have decided to trash the remaining livers. The livers have a grainy texture that fragments in my fingers as I try to feed them to Diego. On top of that they smell horrible. Chicken Livers have been the bane of my training existence.

I am also looking forward to moving on to the next training exercise because Diego has a problem of being over-zealous about food so that he scrapes my fingers with his teeth every time I try to put a treat in his mouth. I have cut up longer strips of centimeter cheese to help with this, but the box game that comes next will solve the teeth scrape problem.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Herman the Foodie

Training Success: Day 2

I think I read on a dog training web site that the handler should vary the food rewards so the dog is expecting the unexpected. Will it be chicken or cheese? Hot dog or steak?

In this light, I purchased something new: Chicken Livers. They were actually recommended in the same line of the book as hot dogs. This was my first experience with chicken livers, and you can take my word for it: Chicken Livers Are Fowl! Um, I mean FOUL! Nasty as hell. But the book said dogs like them, so I took them out with me in a baggie.

I take Herman out training first, and click and stick a piece of chicken liver in his mouth.
Herman spits it out.
I try again.
He spits it out again.

At this point I determine that Herman does not enjoy the chicken livers. Luckily I also had some centimeter cheese with me, and he likes that. So we used the cheese and did the click training.

Diego on the other hand LOVES chicken livers. (Although I cannot differentiate his love for chicken livers from his love for any other food.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What's cooler than a back pack?

A hip pack.

I don't know if I've blogged before about how much I love Amazon: Amazon and on-line shopping in general.

The book I ordered: When Pigs Fly: Training Success with Impossible Dogs, arrived last night. Not only is it hilarious, but it makes me think that maybe my dogs aren't so bad after all. The Pigs-Fly training method is based on 100% positive reinforcement which I agree with. My uncle started his own dog training and dog walking company and he uses negative reinforcement. Dominant downs etc. His method took the life out of his dogs. They seem depressed and I didn't want my dogs to be like that.

Luckily Pigs-Fly has the answer. It is a slow answer but I think it will work. And the best part is that training my Pigs-Fly dogs won't take the life out of them.

So here we are: Day one: Loading the Clicker.
The clicker concept is that dogs can process a click noise in their brain faster than a human word. In this fashion the click becomes an instinctive signal. This is important for training because studies have shown that you have 1/2 a second between the behavior and the reward for the dog to associate the two. Clicking is easy and fast.

But in order for the clicker to work you have to "load it." This is what the boys and I started on today.

Materials: clicker, dog, bag of treats.
Today our treats were hot dogs and cheese. Each treat consisted of 1/40th of a hot dog or a 1cm by 1cm square of sliced cheese.

Instructions: click and shove a treat into the dog's mouth within a half second. Pause, and repeat 20 times.

I took Herman out first. He was afraid of the clicker so I hid it behind my back and showed him the treat. Then I clicked and shoved it in his mouth. After I ran out of a handful of treats he ran away so I had to walk up to him with a new handful and start again. Then we went back inside. Herman seemed relieved that the training was over. In general he doesn't enjoy new activities that he cannot predict. Hopefully it will get better.

Next it was Diego's turn. Diego went crazy-eyed-bible-thumping-fanatical about the treats. I am not sure if he got the link between the click and the treat, but boy does he LOVE training!

In the Pigs-Fly book, she says to start training somewhere boring like in the kitchen. I had to improvise and do it outside because we have a small apartment and I think it would be way too chaotic if I was trying to train two dogs at the same time. So we went outside but stayed in my apartment complex.

So that's it for today. Click and treat. I am supposed to do this twice a day for three days to fully load the clicker.

I started this post professing my love for Amazon. It is true. Who has time to physically shop? I don't, especially in my city's traffic. And so my next Amazon purchase is this excellent multi-pocket fanny pack to hold training treats, keys, and poop bags for my future Pigs-Fly training sessions. I am going to look rad with my hip pack. Can you tell that I am getting old?


I've got 14.5 inch calves (circumference). Previously ignorant of this essential detail, I ordered boots from Zappos. I only measured after noticing that my calves bulged over the tops and the side zipper pinched me on the way up.

I am interested in black leather boots that have a zero to one inch heel (and if heel, then wedge) that are also wide enough for my feet and loose enough for me to be able to zip them all the way up without cursing.

I have scoured Zappos.com. These are the ones I originally wanted:

They were not available in my size. These were the ones I mistakenly ordered (with the 13 inch calf size):

These are the two other kinds that I'm considering. Which do you ladies like best out of the next two: the "Thrilliant" or the "Keep N' Stylish" (respectively)? Like I don't have a million other more important things to worry about. Here's my thinking on these boots: the heels are cuter but prissier (not a good thing, in my mind), and the flatter ones are not as sexy but more practical and maybe easier to teach in.

New Era

Words escape me in light of this momentous, historical occasion.
In all honesty, I cried a little (tears of joy) as I listened to the speech he made in Grant Park last night.
It feels nice to be proud of America.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dog-possible: Diego the Impossible dog

It all happened too fast and too early in the morning. At least that's what Diego thought. He's the one who took a bite out of the guy's leg. Yes, I'm being serious. My dog bit someone. Fuck.

7 am. I roll out of bed and put on my signature giant black robe.
-Right, so it isn't even mine, it belongs to Jips, and because it is designed for a man it is large and it engulfs me in fluffiness. -
I hook up the dogs: Diego, a 25 lb pure beagle, and Herman, a 55 lb brown dog, and open the door of my apartment to go outside.

Now, in front of my door there is a narrow walkway, (about 4 feet wide) and there was a blond 22 year old coming back from a run walking into us. I pull the dogs back and the guy keeps walking past.

Please note: my dogs are harnessed and on leashes: nylon leashes with loop handles, not that pull and click kind. We are standing in the doorway of my apartment which opens into this 4 ft wide walkway, and this guy deliberately walks into us. The physical closeness would mean nothing for someone walking along crowded New York City sidewalks, but it meant something to Diego. He freaked out - lunged - and bit the guy in the leg.

The wound was less than one square inch-positioned on the side of his leg- between his shin and his calf. But remember, he was coming back from a run? His heart rate was up- and he had great circulation--the wound bled all over the place.

He asks if he can come into my apartment to clean up. (His apartment is just upstairs- but I say sure.) I wipe the blood off of his leg with a Puffs Plus with Lotion. He wants peroxide- I look around and we have almost no first aid supplies. Awesome. We have gauze and Target brand neosporin.

He says he loves dogs, he isn't going to report anything, etc. He says not to be too hard on Diego. We introduce ourselves. He lives upstairs. He leaves.

But my dog bit a person! Sure, I bet Diego felt cornered and scared. Add that to the four year mystery of his upbringing and you get a dog bite. Keep in mind that Herman was in the exact same situation, and he just stood there. Herman we raised from a puppy- we properly socialized him and he knows his place in our house.

I looked up dog bites on the Internet and it says that it is the owners fault for not raising the dog properly. I do take responsibility for my dog-- but I got him from the pound when he was four years old and pretty fucked up.

Diego is cute and affectionate, and that sums up all of his redeeming qualities.
When we got him, he had a collapsing trachea, heart worms, and ear infections. I had to hold him if he woke up at night until his second dose of cough medicine took effect and he went back to sleep. Jips holding him didn't cut it for Diego- it had to be me.

He wouldn't walk on a leash. He would just stand outside and freeze up like a dear in headlights. So I picked him up and carried him on walks with Herman. In interesting places I put him down and let him smell. After about a month, he learned how to walk the whole way by himself.

One day I was picking up dog toys from the carpet because I was about to vacuum. I found a tooth- a large canine tooth. I checked the boys' mouths and sure enough it was Diego whose tooth broke off. He had surgery to remove the rest of it because it was hurting him to eat. The vet said that years of rocking metal with his teeth had caused them to wear down. Someone must have left him in a crate for a long time when he didn't want to be in one.

Then what else? He has seizures on occasion, and he has a back problem- he can't handle steep stairs or the disks in his lower back get inflamed. So now we walk around the slope hill in the back of my apartment, and his back is doing fine.

Add to that the fact that he likes to pee on the TV stand and my computer chair and you have our special dog. And he likes to attempt to "hunt" every other dog in our apartment complex. He gets the scent- nose down tail up- and lifts his snout to give that loud trumpet beagle bay that his breed is known for.

I say all of this, but he HAS made tons of progress. He is a much healthier and happier dog now that we have had him for 2 years. Except for the fact that he is still a little bit neurotic and scared of everything. We understand that he likes to hide in the bedroom during a thunder storm, and he understands that we prefer him to pee outside rather than on the TV.

So now what do I do? He bit someone, and I have to change something. I ordered this book off of amazon: When Pigs Fly: Training Success with Impossible Dogs, because I think Diego qualifies. I will let you know how the training success goes when the book comes in.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Virtual Shopping

Wool Military Coat: $358

Metallic raincoat: $320

Smythe Equestrian Jacket, Plaid: $598

Smythe Equestrian Jacket, Black: $598

Knee High Stretch Boot: $129

Cape Cadet Coat: $865

I am not really going to buy any of this. Mainly because I can't imagine spending more than $200 for a coat. Those boots are hot, but they would kill my feet.


Just a quick question to everyone who is inclined to answering: what do you think about internet dating?
It's always seemed a little bizarre to me. (And a little bit creepy too.) In all honesty, I feel desperate for considering it as an option, even for a moment. But hey, it seems to be working for a lot of people out there, right? Still though, I can't imagine budgeting monthly for my website Yente to make me a match. It just seems like things should be, I don't know, easier than that.
Has anyone ever tried it? Any hilarious/enlightening anecdotes about the world of internet romance?
I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I meant to post this a while back, but I'm only now remembering.

I was on Library duty the other day during a lunch shift. Kids were coming in to take AR tests and asking me to put the monitor password in, etc.

Suddenly I hear some racket in the hallway. It's noisier than the usual yelling and slamming of lockers. A bunch of kids in the library jump up off the computers and crowd around the library entrance to see.

I'm trying to grade papers in peace over by the librarian's desk, and the librarians are in the computer lab or down the hall or something. So I get up to go fuss at the kids in the hall and tell them to go back to class or lunch or wherever the hell they came from.

When I walk up behind the kids in the doorway, I hear a sound like a blowdryer blowing up an air mattress. Then I see a kid on a hovercraft scooting down the hall and whooping. A HOVERCRAFT, y'all. How do you fuss at that?

Turns out it was the Physics class. The teacher was right there with them (a small Asian woman who has won a bunch of teacher awards). They were just doing a lab or something. Building a hovercraft and trying it out. As you do.

On closer inspection, it was a flat round disk on the floor that looked somewhat soft, like a stiff yoga mat. There was a tube coming out of the top and some blowing device that was stuffed into the tube. The kid taking a ride would mash the trigger of the device until it (I guess) pushed some air under the mat and some other kids would give him a hard push. Then he'd sort of glide down the hall right in front of the library and yell.

I thought to myself: I'm teaching in a place where you can occasionally find a kid hovercrafting in the hallway. During class time. And I felt a little grateful.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Last night I had the pleasure of hanging out with some of my most beloved people and their fam. We were going out for an early-ish dinner, since the eldest of the elders doesn't like to eat past 6 pm. We decided on Ground Pat'i, a cornerstone of the Lafayette diner scene. Driving in separate vehicles, the elders led the caravan and us young whipper-snappers were holding it down in the S00B, trailing behind them. Stopped at a red light, we began talking much shit about the restaurant that was blocking our view of what we thought was to be our final destination. It went something like this:
O'Charley's? Why would anyone want to eat there? I think they give you a free steak and drink on your birthday. O'Henry's does that too. Oh, right. That's O'Henry's, not O'Charley's . . . they're so different, obviously. It's a wonder how I could get them confused, etc.
Suffice it to say, the general sentiment was that chain restaurants suck ass and are never truly an option. For us young people, anyway.
We got a call from the elders, to the effect of: Hey! You guys wanna go eat at O'Charley's?! . . . It's Irish!
We acquiesced, but not without letting it be known, in a passive-aggressive kind of way, that we were not enthusiastic and were, minutes before, approximating O'Charley's level of Suck.
And did it ever exceed my expectations; though, not by being bad, but by being comPLETEly mediocre, which is effing depressing. Because: This is actually appealing to middle America.
That friggin place was stuffed to the gills and this perplexes me: I don't understand how someone could have a rumbly in the belly paired with an urge to eat out, and arrive at O'Charley's as a real, for cereal option of sating both. But there I found myself presented with an enormous menu, filled with page after page of crap that I didn't even bother reading the description of, much less think about eating. The first thing my eyes landed upon (which is, admittedly, the inspiration for this post) is something that I've yet to wrap my brain around: the Cotton Candy Martini. I scoured the restaurant's website for a picture of the drink only to find nothing; I, therefore, resorted to a google image search to find to my horror, that this is an actual thing beyond this chain restaurant. Diabetic coma, anyone? Have a cotton candy-tini. Because life's too short to never go into insulin shock.
So, now that I've established that I am a bitchy elitist, let me redeem myself by saying this: I had the cedar plank tilapia with fresh asparagus, and I have to say that it was pretty OK. The fish was burned around the edges, but apart from that, had a wonderful, smoky flavor and the asparagus was cooked to my liking, i.e. a little al dente. Oh. There was a side salad too, but it was romaine and other such forget-ables. I also want to give props to our waitress. She was on top of her shit, polite and generally awesome. I never wanted for lemon water.
I don't think I'll be going back to O'Charley's any time soon or, you know, ever again. However, the company was high-spirited and enjoyable and the elders paid for my meal! I was shocked at first, cause I never would have ordered a thirteen dollar entree had I known they were picking up the bill. But then I was touched and appreciative, since they certainly didn't have to do that. I bet had they known what an ungrateful trollop they were comping, they'd have thought twice. Luckily for me, though, they can't read minds and don't read bloggies.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I haven't been quite sure what to write about, mainly because I didn't want to write about the most significant thing in my life lately: being alone.

I am not totally alone, I still have Herman and Diego with me, but Jips is gone visiting his family for five days. So for five days I am living alone. I've never actually lived alone before. I don't think it would be good for me. I need people around me, even if we just coexist in an overlapping space. With that being said: maybe I am the difficult roommate. ;) I certainly am the messy roommate!

My mom asked me if I had trouble sleeping. I don't have trouble at all, and that is probably because I always go to bed by myself and Jips stays up. The good thing about sleeping alone is that there is more room in the bed. And Herman will sleep the whole night with me since Jips doesn't come to bed taking Herman's spot.

The funny thing is that normally I feel like I can't get enough time for myself. But this weekend I feel so alone that time by myself feels unnaturally empty. I had planned on studying alot -which I need to do- but the aloneness makes it hard for me to concentrate.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


One of my most remarkable students, who was in my class last year as a freshman, gave me one of his poems to read today.

He joined the club I am a sponsor for--the school's literary magazine publishing club. I don't teach him anymore, but I do see him at meetings.

Hm, this is going to require some set up. Let me paint a picture of this kid before I talk about his poem:

He is one of those unique kids who says what he means and says things in a serious and earnest way even if other kids snicker. He is a deep thinker who questions the norms of society (which makes him not only an engaging person, but an interesting student. Especially during discussion). He is black and from a poor area. He speaks exclusively in Black English dialect (doesn't know how to code switch like some of his black peers). Some of the white kids didn't take him seriously for a while because of this and assumed he was dumb. His papers were always full of grammatical errors because he wrote in his dialect, like many of my students do.

He is also very funny and warm, and would have the entire class laughing on many occasions. He is one of the few kids who has cracked me up to the point that I have to stop in the middle of an explanation.

But he would turn in poems to me last year, things that weren't assignments, that were very dark and troubled. He spoke of his dad and him "not seeing eye to eye" a lot. He wrote about having something "dark" within him--painful images. Last year, I thought maybe he was being abused.

The poem he turned in today was simply heartbreaking. It is now obvious to me that he is gay and living in a vehemently anti-gay environment. In Baton Rouge, I've noticed that most of my black Christian kids staunchly believe that being gay is a choice and a "sin." And it's certainly not only the black community that thinks this way, but it seems to be especially strong there.

There was this one line about hiding "what's inside with tall white Tees and baggy pants." It just kills me. I never thought about it last year because he doesn't fit the usual gay stereotypes, but then again, I was shocked when my brother came out to me a few months ago.

To hear my brother talk about how he felt in high school--how he felt confused about what was going on in his head, how he wanted to deny it, how he'd have a crush on a guy from a distance and just pray the guy would never talk to him. How he was terrified that anyone would even suspect because there was already such a xenophobia about ANYthing outside of the very narrow norm at his Catholic high school. How he hid such a big part of himself for all those years. He's twenty three now and has just come out to his immediate family and is dating someone for the first time in his life.

I'd hate to tell this fifteen year old kid, "Hang on 'til you're twenty three! People MAY accept you then..."

I guess I'll tell him to study really hard so he can leave Baton Rouge, at least. Move to the Netherlands.

The whole thing made me think about all my students who are obviously gay and aren't able to be out, or who are in denial. I can think of about five students off the top of my head right now that are obviously gay (boys) between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. I teach at the most diverse and "accepting" public school in town--there's even a Spectrum Alliance club. But these kids can't come out STILL. Or if they did, they'd be practically shunned by their classmates. I want to believe that there will be a time one day where kids don't have to be ashamed when they figure out that they're gay. When it is socially acceptable to the point that they get to have a normal dating life at the age that straight kids are ready to start dating each other.

I can hardly imagine such a time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

white-knuckling it

I met with my faves Professor (she's totes adorable, organized and actually models the behaviors she encourages us to practice as teachers) today to talk to her about my options in terms of becoming certified. She said that it would be in my best interest to finish the program at UL since I will be almost finished by the end of this semester and will have much lighter course loads in the spring and summer and, therefore, have more time to work. I signed up to take the PLT (the last of my Praxis tests) and will be ready to start student teaching or an academic internship in the Fall.
I trust her opinion and respect her advice. She said that I was setting myself up for success in getting certified in both German and English (and suggested that I might consider getting certified in another foreign language, like French or Spanish, to make myself more employable). But she cautioned me to get in touch with the contact at the Student Teaching Office now so that he'll have more time to scrounge up a German teaching position for come August.
EXHALE . . . Ok. I'm really doing this. Powers that Be: please help me hang in there for a few more months and pretty, pretty please let there be a teaching position available somewhere not awful.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

TFA is short for: Shot in the FACE

I can feel it: the obsession creeping in. I am checking MY OWN BLOG multiple times a day to look for comments and new posts.

Skuh asked me why I said TFA is the devil. The reality is that I just like to make outlandish claims without any substance to them. I don't know that much about Teach For America, but these facts make me distrust them:

1) they are an organization with lots of propaganda
2) you can write the TFA experience on your resume
3) their target age group = college kids

Organizations and Cults love to target college kids because often times college kids don't want to grow up and they don't know what they will do with their lives. College kids are legal-for-labor and they don't always place a high value on their time. The exploitation opportunities are endless.

Skuh, I know you aren't doing TFA so you can write it on your resume. But that will be the focus of the people you will be working with. You were an English major so you might not know how annoying pre-meds are. People who are too focused on resumes are a bitch to be around because they lack something that most other people have: a soul.

I am naturally distrustful of organizations especially if there is propaganda involved. From what I have heard, TFA does not tolerate any negative talk about TFA. Personally, I like the truth and I like free speech. TFA likes to smite the truth.

And finally, if you join TFA you may be shot in the face by one of your students.

Check the links:
Feministe: Why I Hate Teach For America
(read the comments on Feministe, too)
Philadelphia Rain
Loving to Hate Teach for America
How I Joined Teach for America-- and got Sued for $20 million


Did yall watch the new HOUSE Tuesday?
If so you will love LOL House, courtesy of J-Money.
It is really funny! Scroll down to see the pics.

I need to lighten up.

Yes, I'm at a loss. Yes, I've been upset. No I don't have a real job or prospects of getting one soon. Do I need to get over it, regardless? It's probably not a bad idea. Like Fermi said, focus on the positive. 
Last night my friend RayB came into town to visit, since she moved back to NOLA a few months ago. Incidentals: she looked great and I told her so. New Orleans agrees with her (I told her that too). I was walking out of the house to go over to JoMo's for the get-together, when I spied a flat tire in the darkness. I called Jacques to see if he'd give me a lift, he obliged and I came back inside to wait, though in actuality I was mostly sulking. 
I flopped down and cried and wrote in my live-action journal this, among other things: 
"Financial loss begets more financial loss and I find myself in a low and hopeless state . . . The post-graduation years have been some of the most trying times in my life. What's frightening is the lack of direction and the absence of an end that will justify these means. I am too young to feel this tired and downtrodden . . . Another frightening reality is that life is hard and it will never again be easy. It will only get more difficult . . . Granted, no one ever said that life would be easy, but I'd at least like to see a point to all of it. As of late, my perception of the world has shifted from that of a place saturated with purpose and meaning to a landscape devoid of both."
Grim was my outlook. I smoked a cigarette until I could no longer deny how much worse it was making me feel, stamped it out and went out front to wait for my ride and kick my tire, since that's what you're supposed to do when you've got a flat. 
The company last night was nice and witty (and there were puppies!) and it did me much better than I had anticipated. I walked away with a very minor head injury, and a gas of a story to explain it:
JoMo's roommate, Liberace, is one of those guys who, firstly has been accused by his fellow bandmates of having Asperger's, and secondly hoards weird crap for the love of bizarre things and the stories behind them. He had this stuffed Matisse doll, that I took an interest in cause I couldn't imagine how creepy the circus that it came from must have been. It's clothes were felt, for cryin out loud, and the crotch on the doll was out of control, in the worst kind of way. Liberace explained that his Mother saw this Find at a garage sale, thought of him and made a gift of it. He said something to the effect of, "Oh, you should see the box," to which I replied, "This thing came in BOX?!" (I was surprised, as I assumed that abominations such as these were not manufactured but just came into existence, like evil and the AIDS virus.) Liberace interpreted my mock horror as burning curiosity and decided to toss me the box, so I could have a look-see. Being that he DIDN'T GIVE ME A HEADS UP though, the next thing I knew, there was a box hitting me in the head (which hurt just slightly more than I thought it might). It then ricocheted off of my forehead and, on its descent, brought down various chachkies that were thought to be perched safely on the coffee table. I immediately thought and blurted out, "Why in God's name would you think that would be a good idea?! Ever??" Needless to say he felt really bad. I was not hurt, only somewhat stunned and mostly tickled.
As we were leaving, he apologized again. I told him not to worry about it. As soon as we stepped outside, though, I started laughing and Jacques asked why. I said, "Liberace really did hit me in the head with a box." He said he looked forward to practice (they're in the same band) the next day so that he could tell everyone another Liberace story.

Anyway, I had a good time, laughed a lot, lost a little blood (ok, I'm exaggerating). You'd be surprised at how your load feels lighter after a night of cuttin up. You'd also be surprised at how the light of day can make a tire that looks flat at night look like it's actually just runnin a little low on air.  

Saturday, October 4, 2008

for 200 points, rhymes with "bad school"

I'm going to continue the post train of talking about grad school. It's 1:30, the VT game just kicked off about a mile away from where I'm sitting right now. That location is my desk in my horribly messy room. Messy because, as Fermi says, I have other stuff to do that take priority. Messy because, as Fermi didn't say, I haven't slept here in about 3 weeks. The portion of my life contained in stuff (books, clothes, earrings) is in here. The portion of my life that includes my body has been annexed to Germany. Not the country, just the German boyfriend's dorm room. Now before you get too sniffy, he has a queen bed and a private bathroom (which always trumps a single bed and a typical dorm style, shower shoe kind of bathroom).

That being said, I feel a sense of relief when I spend chunks of time in my "actual" room. It's not that I don't like spending time with Der Junge, but all of my shit is here, I know where it is, decorations suit my style, and I can be totally quiet (other than blasting Wilco). After going 24 years with no relationship, I realize now how good alone time can be. Together time is still good too, though. Especially when you lub them.

So back to the real topic, graddy school. I just finished writing a paper about 2 hours ago. Did I mention that I have a paper due on every Saturday this semester? Or that not one day goes by where I'm not forced to slave away for at least a small amount of time (i.e., 3+ hours at a min.)? The stress from having to do the amount of work I have to do would be enough to fill my plate. The side dish of having a new boyfriend who is returning to his home country in December is sufficient as well. But, the appetizer/dessert combo of being averse to my advisor/teacher of 2 of my 3 classes plus becoming seriously depressed by the content of both of this person's classes takes the cake (no pun intended). I cry in a serious, sobbing kind of way at least once a week. I am reminded of living in a foreign country by my inability to handle small, uncomfortable situations (like parking ticket drama). I read the articles/books for class and feel depression, but nothing compared to the depression felt in my seminars when the ideas I skimmed (since there's too much reading to actually read for details) are fully explained to me in all their bleak fatalism.

I remember reading a passage in a book about applying/going to grad school that said something like "don't go into a grad program thinking you can just easily quit if you don't like it, there's a whole process of shaming and self-questioning/self-doubt if you decide to bow out." Now, that's not direct, but I definitely understand, now, what they meant. There's a sense that you have failed at life if you fail to complete a grad program you started. There's all kinds of internal politics and drama in my department. I am the girl whose name is remembered because it's not pronounced the way it "should" be. One word for that: Yankees.

So I don't know what the future holds (who does?) but I do know that I can survive this semester. And I know that if I decide to, I can get this degree. Why? because I am better than them. Why else? Because, like Fermi, I can sit back and realize that most of this shit is just not important. Ok, that last one is a work in progress, but at least I'm not getting 3 hours of sleep and crying during bathroom breaks like the other first semester student in my department. And the other thing, I know that if I do decide to quit this shit, it's their loss, not mine.

Goal 1: Control the Universe

The 1992 graduate asked me who I worked for, and when I told her she scrunched up her face in disgust. I smiled and said "yes."

"Maybe he's changed." She said.

"He hasn't. The person who told me I should work for him got fired the year I joined."

"That was the same thing that happened to my friend who worked for him." she said.


Now in my third year, my boss is not the problem. He isn't going to fire me, because right now, I am more valuable to him than he is to me. On top of that, I have learned how to deal with him. I don't stress out about group meetings or seeing him.

The problem is now internal and personal. Personal because my house is a mess, and I have to study organic on my down time rather than clean my house. Internal because I feel like I haven't done anything worthwhile in the past 2.25 years.

I know it isn't true. I have a paper published in a journal where "only experts in the field" publish. I won a teaching award. I have led the revival of my Women In Science group for the past year growing our membership from 5 to 45. I passed my oral exam and all of my PhD qualifiers.

But I have not made a scientific contribution to my field. In reality this is mostly because of (1) choosing to work for an older advisor who has had several bad ideas that I had to entertain. and (2) bad luck, old instruments, lack of funding. I am certain that I am not alone in my current status of lack of contribution. A professor I respect got his whole thesis out of the last 6 months of the 6 years it took him to get a PhD. In fact, most people I know (haven't/hadn't) done anything worthwhile (at this point in their PhD education.) I guess I feel frustrated because Katu, a friend that I respect, HAS done worthwhile work.

To further Analyse the situation:
  • Katu works longer hours than me, and she probably works harder than me 85% of the time
  • Katu works for a young professor who has good ideas
  • Katu does not have a paper in the esteemed journal that I have one in
  • Katu hasn't led the Women In Science group
  • Katu hasn't won a teaching award
  • Katu has passed her PhD qualifiers
  • Katu doesn't exercise regularly or have dogs
I guess I am only bothered because she is further along in getting the degree, but she is not further along in being the total person that I want to be.

I ask myself: Would I trade my accomplishments for Katu's? The answer is no. I just want it all. And that brings us to the truth: that you really can't have it all. Life is a trade off, and with each thing we choose we discard a different choice.

So I guess the answer is: focus on the positive. I am the person that I want to be except for the fact that I'm not omnipotent.

Friday, October 3, 2008

it's friday!

so this past weekend i went to austin city limits with the hubby and my little sister. it was SO fantastic....there is something about being with thousands of other people outside and being able to see 10 of your favorite bands all in one weekend. i haven't been able to go in the last 3 years, so it was really nice to go back.

and austin has quickly moved to the top of the "where we want to move after gradschool is over" list. :)

the real reason i felt the urge to post now is that i had a very enlightening experience a few minutes ago..... my major professor decided that i have to start meeting (and interacting) with our weekly seminar speakers. this is quite a scary task because these seminar speakers are in the top of their respective fields in economics, and i'm just not on their level. the one thing you don't want is to make a bad impression on someone who could eventually offer you a job. plus i have a tendency to say very very dumb things when i get nervous.

anyway, the meeting was actually really great.... i explained my research as a third year student would (extremely nervously) and yet managed to sound intelligent. i also got the best compliment there is: "this topic is really interesting to everyone"

that, my friends, is an extremely good sign!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

running out of options

I think I am going to drop out of the Alt Cert program at UL. It's expensive and I don't have the time to make any money. I am unsure that it's in my best interest to continue along this path. 
I am looking into Teach for America as a serious option, as well as programs in different states that pretty much pay you to get certified. 
I am so fucking tired of not making any money. And I'm even more tired of not having a real job. I feel like it's time and that I deserve both, but reality would tell me otherwise. 
I am sure of nothing save my loss of hope about so many things.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Welcome to Fall

Yesterday, I noticed that the garden on my street had been converted into a haunted garden. Pretty spooky, right?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

how charming

looks like I'm the third taffy girl trying to catch up on a little penguin blogging today. Fermi, I LOVED your story about the mama's boy on the bus. Mostly because I love watching/stalking people on public transit, but also because it was interesting to see someone through your eyes who is just starting grad school as I am just starting grad school. Tino, I put the Natalie penguin up. I thought: "how apt!"

so here's a quick rundown of some life stuff:

1. grad school is fucking hard

2. I miss sleep and friends

3. I'm scared about becoming addicted to diet soda through my new-found need of caffeine to study

4. Virginia is a strange place

5. having a dining plan sucks just as much as it did 6 years ago. At least there's a better selection than cheese pizza and corn on the cob a la highland cafetoria.

6. I think I'm falling in love.

The Natalie Penguin

HA! I came on this site because I saw that penguin on Nataliedee's site and I was going to post it here. Looks like somebody beat me to it.

I haven't blogged in a while. A tree fell on our rent house and we moved to another rent house. We're in that annoying stage where all of the things are in the new house but they are all in boxes. It is strangely overwhelming.

I'm in a little bit of a tight and stressful period. Hurricane + moving + end of six weeks grading deadline + a million rehearsals for a performance coming up + PMS.

But school went awesome today--I like it when I'm actually TEACHING.

I'm supposed to be grading papers before rehearsal. I keep saying in my head: I'll do one small stack per night. It wouldn't take me long at all, but I don't do it any night! I think I'll go sit at my dining room table in the middle of all the boxes and knock some papers out right now. I should probably at least get off the couch to pee.

Fresh Air

I am unsure of what it is about the quality of the first cool spell in Louisiana that reminds of being a bright-eyed Freshman at LSU. I just remember being excited and scared about being another face awash in a sea of faces. The cool air caused me to be on my toes and expect the unexpected that was assuredly waiting just around the bend. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that time that was inexplicably more exciting than now, but then I come to my senses and realize that it's always better for me to be where I am than where I was.
I am well into the semester and pleasantly surprised at how dedicated I am to the program. Usually by this time in the semester, I would have already begun to slack and pull my just-barely-keeping-up tricks out of my bag. This time around, not surprisingly, I am schooling with a renewed sense of purpose, cause I need a fuckin job, y'all! So, I am feeling good and that -- although it'll take a lot of work and hustle to keep up with everything -- I will do just fine. I don't know when I'll be done, though, which is a bummer. I've been assuming all this time that I would be done by the end of the Spring semester. I have been, sadly, mistaken and now don't know when I'll be done. Regardless, I don't think I'll be moving out of state in the Fall. Sad face. Oh well . . . hopefully I'll at least be able to move out of my parent's house, if not Lafayette all-together. Cross your fingers for me, please.
I started teaching an ACT Prep Course at SLC and I seriously don't know what I'm going to do about the Math section, seeing as I haven't even thought about studying Math since I tested out of Calc WAY back when. I'll just have pull some of those tricks out of my bag. Any tips are welcomed . . .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Apron Strings and Grown-Up-Clothes

Obviously, I have not been blogging lately. I blame it on this graduate women therapy group that I am quitting today. More on that later.

Work is pretty awesome. Seriously. :) And, I managed to work out not once last week, but 4 times! By Monday (yesterday) I was feeling so energized that I did 40 min on the elliptical rather than my minimal 30 min. I feel like I might be getting my life back, and that is a good feeling.

Yesterday on my commute home: bus then train, I had my binder of organic to study but I got distracted by a gentleman on his cell phone. The guy had his back to me on the bus, but he was tall, blond, and lanky... and he was wearing kackies, a dark polo, and "grown up" shoes. You know, not tennis shoes, boat shoes, or even flops,* but instead black leather dress shoes. This is not how the normal nerdy American student dresses at my university. As the shoes suggested, there was something uniquely "grown up" about his appearance. But his conversation is what distracted me. He was talking to his mom. This I am sure of. He seemed very sheltered, but maybe we all seem sheltered when we talk to our parents. Maybe not.

He was talking about starting graduate school. (This is what caused my ears to perk up.) He is taking 3 neuroscience classes, and he just found a research group. Three grad students and one post doc. A small group. He seemed really relieved to have found a group... And it is impressive that he already has a group and it is mid-september. Now he has to play catch up on his classes.

He has an undergrad math degree. He hasn't taken his advanced math classes in 6 years though... He worked between now and his Bachelors. That is probably why he is wearing Grown-Up Clothes.

His little sister is engaged to a friend of his. A guy he has known since Kindergarten. His mom says that the guy is self-centered. Grown-Up-Clothes says he has always been that way, and that he doesn't think anything of it because he never expects anything else from him. His sister's name is Logan. Fuck. If my parents named me Logan and I was a chick I would be pissed.

The other interesting thing about this guy, other than the start of grad school talk, and the total innocence with witch he talks about it, is that he is not from the south. He talks with long O's. He says "You KnOW" repeatedly. And in, "People say I am good at memorizing," mem-er-ising turns into Mem-OOOORR-rising. Grown-Up-Clothes is a beagle in human form.

As we were waiting for the train, I saw his face: baby face. Indicative of someone without "life" experiences. It is true that you can't hide anything from people who know about things. Like drug addicts can tell other addicts by the look of their face, and the lack of "life" shows up just as well.

I felt some sympathy for this kid, Grown-Up-Clothes. He is a long way from home. He doesn't have many friends yet. He is optimistic about graduate school. And in the next 2 years he will figure out how shitty it can be. I wanted to tell him it will get shitty, and to hold on. But I said nothing to him. Mainly because he never got off of the phone with his mom.

*flops = flip flops