Thursday, May 24, 2007

It's 12 o' you know where your inferior vena cava is?

Feelin' like a brand new woman (A woman with heart!)

SO...I have a job now, really and officially, as an assistant at a research group in K.C. Which is great, because I was contemplating the unappetizing possibilities of having to take a job as, say, a Starbucks barista ("Ma'am, if you're going to have a triple chocolate caramel macchiato, I don't think light vs. regular whipped topping is really an issue you should be hassling me about." Yeah, I really can't see myself in retail--foodservice or otherwise). And it's cardiovascular research, no less, which sounds really swanky--though perhaps not as swanky as neurophysiology--with a shot at lead-author credit on papers. And I'll get to do some of my own little projects, maybe *she said, jumping up and down like a little kid who's been promised candy.*
I'll be recruiting/keeping track of study participants, as well...which may be a full-time job (hyuk hyuk) in itself, as (according to the website, anyway) there are over 100 clinical trials currently underway at the Mid-America Heart Institute. Other cool tidbits I learned from the site:

MAHI opened the first US Women's Heart Center in 1994.

They're host to the "only heart-transplant team in the region" (they don't specify "region," but I'm going to guess they mean western Missouri and Kansas, maybe Arkansas and Iowa too...because surely, surely Wash-U/ Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis has a transplant team. This reminds me of the old hedge-your-bets academic paper-writing trick: write generally, but not so generally that someone will call you out for it; specifically, but not so specifically that someone can actually pin you down and say you're wrong). And this is just a guess, but I bet that Valentine's Day is crazy around many hearts can you put up in the waiting room before it becomes a fire hazard?

Oh man, that gives me an awesome year, I'm not going to give traditionally heart-shaped Valentines...oh no, no, no, that won't do at all. What I'm going to do is draw an anatomically correct heart on a piece of cardstock, vena cavae and pulmonary artery/vein included! Macabre, you say? Could someone receiving such a card, and finding within it declarations of love and affection, be made uneasy? Be reminded of a certain Edgar Allan Poe tale, or perhaps a book from R.L. Stine's adolescent oeuvre (who else remembers him? Hands? Anyone?)..? Nah, not the people who know what a science/ medicine geek I am. Which is to say, not anyone who knows me even reasonably well.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Today is the day of delicious linkage. Feast upon these time-wasters and mind-expanders: it's a special webcomics edition!!! *If there are three exclamation points--and there are, for those of you playing the home game--you know it's gotta be good.*

XKCD, a webcomic (in the artist's own words) of "romance, sarcasm, math and language." I was introduced to this comic by my math/physics major friend Keith. Thanks, Keith! If you're the kind of person that gets the jokes in this comic, you'll feel simultaneously incredibly smart and incredibly geeky.

Dinosaur Comics--sometimes hilarious, sometimes pretentious, always postmodern. Plus, there are dinosaurs. Stepping on things. And doing a cost-benefit analysis of nihilism. Rooooar!

Perry Bible Fellowship--if you expect this comic to be in any way related to the scriptures of the Holy Universal Church, you will be sadly disappointed. But then you'll realize that these comics are amazing, and some of them are incredibly well-done (from an artistic as well as an intellectual standpoint) and you'll feel better.

Indexed, the work of the wonderful (I'm assuming based on her work, as I've never met her...sort of like I assume James Lileks is wonderful, or Jesus Christ for that matter) Jessica Hagy. I feel like her last name is sort of unfortunate, but I also have a best friend whose last name is Nagy...If it's Hungarian, then it's probably actually pronounced Hojj, not HAG-y. Moving on...

Dykes To Watch Out For by the (in)famous Alison Bechdel. Did you know that some of the first DTWOF books were published by Firebrand Books in Ithaca, New York? Well, you do now. Hilarious and sometimes poignant look at lesbian life--coupled and single, monogamous and not-so. I have to admit I liked the earlier incarnation of the DTWOF comics, when everyone was young and things were swingin'--but c'est la vie. Incidentally, I'm aware this is not exclusively a webcomic, but I don't--how do you say?--care.

Let the procrastination begin!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Fish AREN'T vegetables, dammit! I tell people I'm a vegetarian, and then when we go out to eat, they always say something like, "Well, we could split the tilapia if you want..." (yes, being poor college students, we frequently split dishes when we go out to eat...the one or two times a year we do go out to eat and don't tuck in at the coop instead). Do fish have babies? Yes. Ergo, I don't eat fish. Everything in the kingdom Animalia, I don't eat. Seafood (besides wakame and nori--edible seaweed which is in fact quite delicious), chicken, and so on. Mollusks. All that.
The reasons for this dietary restriction (and I don't even think of it as a restriction anymore, to be honest--rather it's a way of being kind to myself and to Creation) are threefold:
1. Not eating meat is, in fact, healthier than eating it. Most meat has a fair amount of saturated fat, and though it's true that meat has a lot of protein, it's also true that most Americans get too much protein--which is bad for the kidneys and bones. It's also not at all difficult to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet, assuming of course that you are paying a modicum of attention to basic nutritional principles. If you think vegetarianism is a license to live on Doritos and grilled cheese, you're going to have problems; but if you eat beans and lentils, have soy or other veggie protein products (tofu, tempeh and seitan are the big three) and get in a dairy product or two a day, you'll be more than fine. Vegetarians are less likely to be obese than meat eaters, have lower serum cholesterol, and are less likely to suffer heart disease and stroke. The Denny's Grand Slam (or bucket-o-meat-and-eggs, as I like to refer to it) is named that because of the way your arteries slam shut after you shovel it in.
2. It's better for the earth. The amount of grain and water that go into producing one portion of beef is enough to produce 40 portions of grain-based food. The problem of starvation is not one of productivity; it's a matter of logistics. Overgrazing due to cattle ranching is also leading to desertification in many parts of the world. In South America, rainforest is often cut down to provide space for ranches. I don't want to support an earth-destroying industry, or an industry that injures other people (both directly--read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, particularly the section on the meat processing plants--or indirectly, as you can read in Diet for A Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe).
3. In a related vein, I want to minimize the harm I cause to all sentient beings. That means that not only do I want to avoid participating in human suffering--ie, letting a child in Mozambique starve so I can have my Big Mac--but also that I want to minimize animals' suffering. I've always had dogs and cats; I visit obsessively to look at pictures of adorable puppies and ferrets and squirrels (yes, I have a soft spot. Eat me). I would never dream of carving up my cat Stella (though there are times--like when she surreptitiously peed in my suitcase over winter break--that it's crossed my mind); why would I treat a pig (which is about as smart as a dog, or so I've heard) so differently?
I don't want to be the asshole vegetarian, all high and mighty (is that just a Midwestern phrase, or do other regions use it too?), flaunting my superior karma as I eat tofu scramble. In fact, I have an active dislike for pleather-wearing, soy-cheese eating, Rice-Dream scarfing vegans for precisely that reason: they push their more-PC-than-thou habits in everyone's face and make you feel like shit for enjoying a piece of bread with honey and butter (Did the cows consent to be milked? How could you rob the bees of the product of months of hard labor?). I realize I may be being logically inconsistent, and I'm sure there's a way I could weasel out of it, but frankly it's late and I'm tired and I'll be sure to post a cogent defense of my simultaneous love of animals and avowed distrust of vegans soon. (Dilbert comic cheerfully lifted from

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hilarious Mash-up of old sex-ed films.

Everyone remembers watching 'the film.' Some looked forward to it ardently, others stayed up the night before plotting how to fake illness so as to avoid hearing their teacher/nurse say words like 'menstruation' and 'penis.' (I was in the latter category, what with the Midwestern Methodist upbringing and all...when we had to memorize the ten commandments for Sunday School in third grade, one of my classmates asked, "What's adultery?" Oy. Our Sunday School teacher blushed and stammered for what seemed like forever before she finally gave us the dirt). We had three separate films--one in fourth grade, that just laid out the basics of puberty and periods; one in fifth grade that talked a little about what the boys were going through; and finally, in sixth grade, the whole shebang--sex and all (though of course these films were the very opposite of sex-positive).

When the day finally came, after lunch (so as to optimize the chances that someone would end up puking from the nervous tension) the girls were herded into one room, the boys into another--we (the ladies) had our teachers and the guidance counselor to explain things to us, while the boys were saddled with the gym teacher and the principal. I actually felt sorrier for them than for us. The day after, my friend Doug told me that, in an effort to eradicate the shame attached to various words, the principal had the entire class full of sixth-grade boys say them in unison--mostly the names of various anatomical structures. Doug's cheeks reddened even as he recounted it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Fun (and possibly even useful) German phrases of varying slanginess

(I have considered offering false translations, a la the 'My hovercraft is full of eels' Monty Python sketch, but as I would not be able to see the confusion and non-stop laffs such a prevarication would provide, I have refrained. Would still love to see an 8th grade student telling his German teacher to lick his boots, though).

Haben Sie eine Kippe? Wenn ich schwimme, rauche ich gern.
Do you have a cigarette? I like to smoke when I swim.

Ich habe nichts gestohlen, vertraue ich Ihnen.
I haven't stolen anything, I promise you.

Ich bin kein Alkoholiker--am Oktoberfest tanzt jedermann nackt am Tisch!
I'm not an alcoholic--during Octoberfest everyone dances naked on the tables!

Schauen Sie mich bitte nicht so an. Seien sie doof? Pissen Sie auf!
Please don't look at me like that. Are you deaf? Piss off!

Guten Morgen. Koennen Sie mir bitte sagen, wo man gutes Pot finden koennte? [Pause] Was meinen sie, ich bin nicht im Amsterdam? Wo bin ich dann, und wie bin ich hier gekommen?
Hello. Could you please tell me where one could find good pot? [pause] What do you mean I'm not in Amsterdam? Where am I then, and how did I get here?

Morgen gehen wir nach Polen. Sie haben keine Ahnung, dass wir Sie besuchen werden.
Tomorrow we're going to Poland. They have no idea that we're paying them a visit.

And now you see what getting a degree in German language and literature from an Ivy League university can do for you! Impress your friends. Frighten the dog with gutteral exclamations! Invade Poland (again) or France--the food there is better.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lesbian Pulp Fiction Day rides again! So what do you do when you're a stranger in a strange land? That's brood pensively for a while in front of your table-of-oddly-shaped-objects, then commence to strippin'. Nothing says "I'm not from 'round here" like wandering the streets half naked. Unlike New Yorkers, however, who eat tourists for breakfast (at least when there's a long line at Dunkin' Donuts and they don't have time to pick up a cappuccino and chocolate frosted before the C train leaves), the citizens of Lesbos are quite appreciative of visitors. Especially when they're young, 'confused,' and have SO perfected the art of pouting.
What would lesbian hell be, exactly? Certainly not the cozy nook depicted here, kept a comfy 80 degrees and chock-full of naked women (though the reclining woman does appear to be headless...hmmm). No, one imagines lesbian hell would be a place of 3-inch acrylic nails, where you couldn't get a decent vegetarian meal and all sporting events were rained out. On second thought, it could just be full of men.

This is Exhibit A for all that is wrong with college lesbianism. Sure it's exciting, the way riding down Suicide Hill on your bike with the busted brakes was fun during elementary school. It's exhilarating because no one knows what the hell they're doing, and if you come out of the experience alive and with minimal scarring, you've won the game. It doesn't seem like this was really the party dorm, by the way: "Oh, man, I'm in Sappho Hall. The curfew there is, like, 9 o'clock." Indeed, indeed. More time for naked pillow fights if everyone's in by nine.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Old, but important, news

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a law that banned a type of late-term abortion, a ruling that could portend enormous social, legal and political implications for the divisive issue.
The sharply divided 5-4 ruling could prove historic. It sends a possible signal of the court's willingness, under Chief Justice John Roberts, to someday revisit the basic right to abortion guaranteed in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case.
President Bush, who signed the law in 2003 and appointed two of the justices who upheld it, said the prohibition "represents a commitment to building a culture of life in America." ("Oh, except for women's lives. We don't really give a shit about that," he added. -ed)
"Today's decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people's representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America," he said in a statement released by the White House. ("Except compassion for women. They're all sluts anyway," he said. -ed)
At issue is the constitutionality of a federal law banning a rarely performed type of abortion carried out in the middle-to-late second trimester.
The legal sticking point was that the law lacked a "health exception" for a woman who might suffer serious medical complications, something the justices have said in the past is necessary when considering abortion restrictions.
In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the key swing vote in these divided appeals, said the federal law "does not have the effect of imposing an unconstitutional burden on the abortion right." He was joined by his fellow conservatives, Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Roberts.
Sole woman on bench reads bitter dissent (what a surprise. A woman has a problem with a bunch of old white men--Clarence Thomas is an honorary old white man--making decisions about women's bodies!)
In a bitter dissent read from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only woman on the high court, said the majority's opinion "cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away a right declared again and again by this court, and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women's lives."
She called the ruling "alarming" and noted the conservative majority "tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases" by doctor's groups, including gyncecologists.
The Justice Department and abortion rights groups have offered differing views of the legislation's impact on women's overall second trimester access to the procedure, and whether the procedure is ever medically necessary.
This was the first time the high court had heard a major abortion case in six years, and since then, its makeup has changed, with Roberts and Alito now on board.
Their presence on the bench provided the solid conservative majority needed to allow the federal ban to go into effect, with Kennedy providing the key fifth vote for a majority.
Alito replaced Sandra Day O'Connor, a key abortion rights supporter over her quarter century on the bench.
"A lot of us wish that Alito weren't there and O'Connor were there," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who opposed Alito's nomination, said. (Me too.)
Doctors call this type of late-term abortion an "intact dilation and evacuation." Abortion foes term it a "partial-birth abortion."
Three federal appeals courts had ruled against the government, saying the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 is unconstitutional because it does not provide a "health exception" for pregnant women facing a medical emergency. The outcome of this latest challenge before the court's new ideological makeup could turn on the legal weight given past rulings on the health exception.
In states where such exceptions are allowed, the lists of possible health risks include severe blood loss, damage to vital organs and loss of fertility. Court briefs noted pregnant women having the procedure most often have their health threatened by cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure or risk of stroke. Doctors are given the discretion to recommend when the late-term procedure should be performed.
The federal law has never gone into effect, pending the outcome of nearly three years of legal appeals.
Specifically, the ban encompasses what doctors call "intact dilation and evacuation" (also known as IDX), which Congress in its legislation termed inhumane.
It is a rarely used second-trimester procedure, designed to reduce complications to the woman. More common is "dilation and evacuation" (D&E), used in 95 percent of pre-viability second-trimester abortions, according to Planned Parenthood. Both are generally performed after the 21st week of pregnancy.
A major part of the legal dispute was whether the federal ban also includes the relatively more common "standard D&E abortions." The government contends the law does not, and is sufficiently narrow not to place an "undue burden" on a woman's reproductive choices.
Raw numbers were also at the heart of the debate, because the two sides disagreed on how often the procedure is performed. Solicitor General Paul Clement, the Justice Department's top lawyer before the court, suggested it is rarely performed, and that other medical options are available, so banning it would therefore not be a real barrier to women.
Abortions rights supporters say "intact" abortions are a medically accepted pre-viability, second-trimester procedure.
Since the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, some states have tried to place restrictions and exceptions on access to the procedure, prompting a string of high court "clarifications" on the issue over the years.

Awesome. And by awesome I mean idiotic in the extreme. It seems to me that physicians, not politicians and lawyers, should be making medical decisions. After all, they do have a pretty rigorous training process (it's called medical school, and it lasts about 6 years--heard of it?) This is like having an auto mechanic make decisions about how to run a particle physics lab...not the brightest idea I've ever heard, unproductive, and ultimately dangerous.

Women used to die all the time from illegal abortions--spraying Lysol into their uteruses, attacking themselves with bent coat hangers. We could very well be heading that way again, and I place the blame squarely on the Bush administration and the justices Bush appointed. The blood of every woman who dies because she couldn't get a safe abortion--it's on their hands, man. And as Lady MacBeth could tell you, the blood of innocents doesn't wash off.

Visit the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and make a donation, or just educate yourself on this important issue. The life you save may be your own...or your sister's, your daughter's, your friend's.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

And by the way...
(I think God has a sense of humor)
Think Global Drink Local

Yesterday was Slope Day--the last day of classes at Cornell, and a day devoted to alcoholic debauchery. It was my first of-age Slope Day, so I bought a sixer of Ithaca Beer Company's Apricot Wheat and set to drinking around eleven. Later on this was supplemented by a glass of Hosmer Winery's red table wine (pretty good...meh, but it's made less than half an hour from my house, so at least I can get some snobby liberal local-food pride out of it). I didn't get DRUNK, since I find that neither enjoyable nor healthy--considering my personality and family history, I know enough to be careful with alcohol. I have no desire to end up in Betty Ford (not that I could afford it anyhow). Still, I got a good buzz on, and TV on the Radio was playing on the Slope, and it was a gorgeous day. I drank my beer, listened to the concert, grilled a few Tofurkey dogs (damn they're good) and generally spent time lounging in the sun with these people I've grown to love so much over the past four years. What's not to love?
Of course, there are always people that aren't so moderate, like the poor girl from Sorority X who fell in our house's parking lot. Just...fell. Couldn't walk anymore. When I saw her, two guys from the frat next door had her leaning against a car. "Wow, she's probably got alcohol poisoning," I thought when I saw her: half-closed eyelids over unfocused eyes, goofy expression, floppy limbs. Only after one of the frat guys asked me for help did I realize that she had cracked her head on the asphalt. There was a pool of blood at her feet, and the guys had blood smeared on their arms. "What should we do?" they asked.
"You need to call the police--or someone," I said. I ran inside and got a towel for her head. I couldn't tell whether she had alcohol poisoning, or a concussion, or both--she was completely out of it. When one of her sorority sisters wandered by, the frat boys flagged her down. Broken-head girl couldn't remember the day, her last name...last I saw, she was being hoisted onto the back of a go-cart by some volunteers, bound for the campus medical center. I've been inside the med center on Slope Day, accompanying friends, and it's not pretty--the whole place is essentially turned into a triage unit, a la MASH, with pallets laid side by side on the floor and IVs of Ringer's and 0.9% saline hanging from poles like squishy translucent fruit in some bizarre jungle.
So remember, kids...take it easy and drink responsibly. Alternate water with beer, stay away from hard liquor if you're going to be drinking a lot, eat before and while you're drinking, keep track of how many you've had, blah blah. Because if you want to ruin your day, a head injury is a good way to do it. And if you want to sustain a head injury without the fuss of an auto or bike accident, getting so drunk that you end up introducing your occipital bone to the pavement is the way to go.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Suze Orman is terrifying.

So, as graduation nears (oh my Jesus, oh my Jesus, oh my Jesus, she mutters, as she rocks back and forth in the fetal position) I've begun thinking about how I'm going to handle my personal finances once I'm out in the 'real world.' Let's say I get the clinical research job that I really really want, and would be incredible at (are you reading this, potential employer?). And let's further say that I get paid, after taxes, about 2,000 bucks a month. Perhaps this is pie in the sky, but let's dream a bit longer. much of that is a reasonable amount to spend on housing? How horrible/ lame would it be for me to spend a few months at my parents' or at a friend's, paying a drastically reduced amount in order to build up the cash for an apartment deposit? Finance has always seemed like the most deadly-dull, gray-tapioca-boring thing in the world...yet when it has personal applications, it suddenly becomes interesting. Hmmm. Noted.
So, somewhat bewildered, I took to the web. A lot about Roth IRAs and nest eggs and early withdrawal penalties (which sounds like a form of birth control, doesn't it?) but nothing that I could see applying immediately to me. And then I stumbled upon...*cue Darth Vader theme*...the Suze Orman Empire. The woman IS a brand. Like Oprah, where she got her start--like Martha Stewart, who owns a company called "Martha Stewart OMNImedia," for Goddess' sake! She has a column in Oprah's magazine, to which my coop used to have a subscription, and every so often someone would leave it on the kitchen table, open to that page, and I would feel accosted by her smile as I sat down to have my morning cup of tea. There's a manic look about her that I don't like. Her smile's a bit too wide. And being the focus of those large, aroused pupils makes me feel like a skittery prey animal. Basically, I am afraid that Suze Orman is going to eat me.
Anyhow, she's very popular with women in particular because she emphasizes a more wholistic, even spiritual approach to money management. A sampling of buzzwords and book names should give you the basic idea: "Women and Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny," because if your financial future is secure, your husband will never dump you for his secretary, and you'll never get diagnosed with lung cancer. "The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom," which includes gems like "Step 2: Facing your Fears and Creating New Truths," and "Step 7: Being open to Receive all You are Meant to Have." Obviously the welfare mothers and urban poor are not willing to create new truths for themselves--that's their problem. If they were really open to the abundance of the universe, surely they would be receiving more than a fistful of foodstamps and a voucher for Section 8 housing. Riiiight.
This has turned into a bit of a bashing session, for which I apologize: she's a brilliant woman, obviously very shrewd and insightful. She's FINALLY come out as a big lesbo, which I appreciate (when is Oprah finally going to admit her thing with Gayle King?! Maybe this will be the kick she needs)--people need to know that the Lesbian Mafia is still present and still strong. I'm sure she gives a lot of money to charity and flosses every night, blah blah. I just wonder about the real benefits of giving the impression that money management is about bougie investors getting their stocks in order and putting aside enough money to send Jimmy and Annie to the University of State. Sometimes it's about a single mother with 3 kids having to work two jobs to make ends meet--she might not be home at dinnertime, but at least she knows the kids have something to eat while they're home alone.
Not to mention that, for me, it's not especially helpful to keep a dream journal when I'm putting together a budget. I need a calculator, a sharp number 2 pencil, an estimate of income and a list of fixed expenses, and maybe a nice manila envelope to keep it all in. No scrying or drumming required.