Thursday, January 31, 2008

Normally this would be time for Things that Piss Me Off (tm), as I realized recently I haven't done one of those in a while. However, I'm trying to be more positive (no, that wasn't my New Year's resolution, exactly, but kind of) and so let's try Weird/Eclectic Things I Like. Then I have something to bitch about, which will sort of even out the disturbance in The Force.

1. "New Soul" by Yael Naim--which you know as the Mac Air song. "I'm a new soul came into this strange world hoping I could learn a bit bout how to give and take...but since I came here, felt the joy and the fear, finding myself making every possible mistake..." She's French-Israeli. Can you think of a more gorgeous combination? Because I can't. I love her voice.
2. Diet Dr. Pepper. I like this even better than I like diet Coke. If I were being executed and got to pick my last meal, I would have a diet Dr. Pepper and vodka to drink. Also, now that I think of it, Cheez-its, Planter's Cheese Balls, Waldo Pizza's Vegetarian pizza...I would plan to explode when they turned the electric chair on, basically, showering everyone with all the food I didn't eat during my lifetime because I was being 'good.' Cherry cheesecake. Oh, God, Reese's peanut butter cups--no, actually, Reese's FastBreak. Butterfinger. Saag paneer! Vegetable korma! Bombay lentils! Why no meat? I mean, if I'm saying to hell with it and eating whatever I want, why not? Well, I'm assuming I must have done something pretty shitty to get executed (then again, considering the justice system, maybe not) and I wouldn't need any more bad karma on my balance sheet. Speaking of, "Last Meal" by Jacquelyn Black is a book of photographs of the last meals of 40 death-row inmates that's really worth checking out.
3. The show "American Dad." True, it's sort of like Family Guy redux sometimes, but it's still hilarious.
4. Sleeping. Been tired lately.
5. Coffee with 2 packets of splenda, a splash of skim milk, and a dash of cinnamon. Or chai (yum).
6. Today, especially the following people (who shall remain without last names for their own protection, and so the people I know who share first names can forever wonder if I meant them): Amy, Amina, Nathan, Jenni, Linda, Mary Beth, Regan, Kirsten, Paula, Suzanne, Keegan, Addie, Brook, Julie, Yohanna, Lisa, Andie and Sarah.
7. That it seems like McCain is coming to the front. Don't get me wrong, I don't want another Republican in office, but of all the conservatives in the field, I think he has the least 'eff-everything-up' potential. Giuliani would've been ok, but Huckabee and Romney? "I don't believe in evolution" indeed. Yeah, science and faith are mutually exclusive--if you're incapable of complex thought.
8. Tool. I came upon their music again recently. I'd forgotten how much I like it, a little treat like when you find a fiver in the pocket of the pants you're about to wash. Bonus.
9. The word "idiopathic," which sounds really knowledgeable and cool, but is actually just a medically and legally acceptable way to say, "We don't know what the hell is causing this." Use it in another context for extra fun!

The bitching will come later. Oh, wait, I guess I did manage to get some in.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Blisters suck.

I went out to the cheap no-they-didn't-fall-off-the-back-of-a-truck shoe store on Saturday because the soles of my running schoes were literally worn down to smooth rubber (do as I say and not as I do: Replace your running shoes every 350 miles or so, which for me ideally means every three months--I can get away with going a little longer because my body weight isn't as high and I don't run on sidewalks very much--or when the spring or tread on them is shot; running on old crappy shoes is one of the best ways to get injured, next to running on concrete, sprinting without warming up, and running with scissors). The new ones were the least expensive Adidas they had, Ketchikan, which is also a city in Alaska and (according to Wikipedia at least--don't cite this in any official academic papers, kids) "The Salmon Capital of the World" and home of Misty Fjords National Monument, which frankly sounds like it belongs in Scandanavia and not the US. Everyone knows that proximity to fjords leads to socialism, female elected officials and universal healthcare. So depending on your political perspective, they mark either the gates to paradise or the gates of hell.
To return from that lengthy aside--which, if you are one of the five people who reads here regularly, you are quite used to doing--I got my new shoes and thought to myself, "Hmm, for the first time in weeks it's not ass-biting cold outside. Perhaps I will go for my weekly long run outside, and cover a nice 7 miles, and the sun will feel good on my face and the wind will whip exhilaratingly through my hair and I'll break in my shoes." Note the thing I did not think about, in fact the very thing that breaking in shoes is supposed to help you avoid: Blisters. Midway through the run I thought, Hmm, there's a slightly uncomfortable sensation on the side of my foot. When I got back home and took off my shoe, lo and behold, an angry swelling the size of a quarter full of gross fluid, like a little bitty waterbed.
Which got me thinking--what is that fluid in blisters, anyway? I figured it was probably just blood serum, plasma, the same clear fluid that leaks out of scrapes sometimes, but I had to make sure. Because I'm such a biology badass, of course, I was right: blisters are full of plasma, the liquid part of blood--water, minerals and vitamins, and proteins (albumin especially, and antibodies of various kinds). If your white and red blood cells are people tubing down a river, hopefully not swigging beer as they go because alcohol and water sports don't mix, as Uncle Ralph taught us all that summer when he had to get his scalp stitched back together and lost his fishing license--the plasma is that river. When tissue is destroyed, as in a blister, plasma leaks out into the space between the epidermis and the dermis, and you get that waterbed effect. I've put a bandaid over it, am putting my new shoes away for a few days, and am hoping things heal up quickly. Today's going to be another unseasonably nice day.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Movin' on up

I'm moving into a new apartment--renting a room, actually--next weekend, and as such I'm being reminded of exactly how much I hate packing. Unpacking is no problem; you're working with the flow of the universe, order tending to disorder, the second law of thermodynamics, spreading your shit out all over the house. Packing, I contend, is actually contrary to the laws of nature, which is why it's so hard. You are struggling against the universal pressure of entropy. It's a Sisyphean task.
It also doesn't help that I'm one of those sentimental sort of people who keeps every little bit of correspondence, every little memo and jot from anyone I've halfway liked over the years. Even if it's just a post-it note with someone's handwriting on it, you never know when you might need to work some voodoo on someone, and if you can't get ahold of their hair or toenail clippings, a handwriting sample is the next best thing (I'll leave it up to you to decide whether I'm kidding or not). So I have boxes of that stuff in addition to all the standard books and clothes and computer and random CRAP that accumulates over time. Where does all that stuff come from? Have my papers been reproducing under the bed at night? I know for sure my shoes have been budding like yeast in my closet, producing a pile of black shoes that are almost identical but just different enough to justify keeping them all (a well-known and documented shoe survival strategy).

I'll be moving in with three other people, a cat and a Jack Russell puppy. The place is close to work, and is close to (though not exactly IN) the hipper parts of town. In the summer, pretty much every place worth being will be bike-able, which makes me feel good; like I'll finally be able to be a proper self-righteous biking, messenger-bag-carrying, semi-co-op-living, vegetarian liberal.

This morning it was a balmy 18 degrees when I went out to start my car! I didn't have to scrape the windshield, and I could touch the steering wheel bare-handed without fear that I would have stripes of frostbite on my palms and fingertips. Supposedly it'll be in the 50s by this weekend, which means I'm going to take the new North Face jacket my friend A got for me and go for a run outside. A day without a treadmill is like a day without a spike in the head! God I hate treadmills, especially the one at the Y I go to--they're all mounted in front of TVs, and for some reason I always end up on the treadmill in front of the TV tuned to the Fox News network. I usally make it to my target heart rate before I've even begun running because I'm so pissed by the partisan crap. Did you know that watching people make false generalizations about homosexuals and quote self-serving rationalizations for economic policy could be part of your daily fitness routine? Try it, 'sfun! *Not recommended if you have a heart condition, hypertension, or have ever abused conservative news outlets in the past. Talk to your doctor about whether 'stupid sh*t' cardiovascular therapy is right for you. Be certain to balance your intake of Fox News with an equal or greater quantity of real reporting, such as that from the BBC, The Daily Show/ Colbert Report, Mother Jones, or AlterNet of the Independent Media Institute.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's cold as balls today. Abominable snowman balls. -3 F. The wind chill is -16. Which means it's colder here than it is in Ithaca. It's Minnesota's fault, you realize that. All this cold air is just slipping past the US-Canadian border at Minnesota and making its way down here like a frigid immigrant out for all our noses/fingers/jobs (just kidding...seriously).

My new office is nice, though my desk is smaller and I don't have a cubicle (the absence of a cubicle could be seen as a pro or a con, I suppose). The other people in the office are only here a few days a week, which means I have a private office most of the time--this represents a definite step up in the heirarchy of peons.

I can't believe it's Thursday already--this week has flown by. Monday, of course, I was at home (I was kind of sick, not terribly ill, but sick enough that when I remembered that it was also MLK day I decided,"screw it, in Dr. King's memory I'm going to stay home in bed." And it was good). It seems that the key to making time on the job pass quickly is to stay occupied--not spend a lot of time at loose ends, not spend a whole lot of time trying to determine which project to tackle next. That's the problem--I'm not lazy or unmotivated, and in fact could be described as something of a 'go-getter'--but sometimes I have a hard time deciding where in particular to direct my superhuman task-accomplishing abilities. [flex] I know I should prioritize according to urgency and importance, like they taught us in the time management seminar (Oh. My. God. I could get a tape of that seminar and I'd never need to use my Ambien again! And I bet the tape wouldn't have side-effect risks like "eating, driving or having sex in your sleep," which I swear to Goddess is what I heard on an Ambien ad recently. Would you rather die because you were eating grilled cheese and screwing while driving down the highway--in your SLEEP--or deal with some situational insomnia? Now that I think of it, the grilled-cheese sex cruise wouldn't be a bad way to go). End parenthesis. Remember what we were talking about? That's right--urgency and importance. Urgent=needs doing now. Important=may not need doing this second, but really needs to be done. So for example, a romp in the broom closet with the woman in the next cubicle may be urgent, but it's not important (unless she's your partner, and one of your shared lifetime goals is to do it in a broom closet). TPS reports? Neither urgent nor important. Paying the electric bill the day before it's due? In my neighborhood, both urgent and important, unless you relish the idea of playing your own private version of Survivor: There are Crackheads Outside and the Alarm System is Electric, Damn. Mostly I do whatever the first thing to fall to hand is. Urgent things, important things, and then once those are done, little piddly things that have no real bearing on...anything.

Monday, January 21, 2008

You've got questions, I've got answers (though they may or may not be correct)

Howdy, y'all. I've got an occasional let's-interact-more kind of idea...questions and answers, a la "Ask Dr. Oz" or "Ask Dr. Phil" or whatever in Oprah's magazine, with the obvious caveat that I am not a physician as Mehmet Oz is, nor even at this point a medical student (though I do have access to lots of medical databases via my job) and also that I am obviously not a tremendous douchebag, as Dr. Phil is, though I do have access to a lot of douchebaggery simply as a result of living in a world where contact with such people is inevitable. So if you have a question, post it--anonymously, not-anonymously, with a pseudonym like "Phil McGraw"--and I will try to supply an unprofessional but non-jerky answer. Today's first question is made up, as other questions will be until real queries start to trickle in. This won't be an everyday sort of thing, you understand--just now and again, ie, when I feel like it.

Dear Anne,
Recently I was involved in some, um, romantic activities, when all of a sudden I felt like someone was stabbing me in the head. Since I don't go in for that sort of thing, it really affected my ability to enjoy myself, and eventually I just put the kibosh on the whole encounter. Within a half an hour, the pain was gone, but now I'm afraid to get frisky again. Seriously, it felt like my skull was cracking. What's the deal?
Margaret Thatcher

Dear Marge,
I would say you're being paid back for your economic policy (the universe is trying to get you to empathize with the lower classes by showing you that it sometimes hurts to get screwed) but that seems unnecessarily antagonistic. What you're dealing with is called "coital cephalgia," or sex headache, where 'coital' means 'sex-related,' 'ceph-' relates to the head (enCEPHalitis=inflammation of stuff in the head; normoCEPHalic=the head looks normal) and 'algia' means 'that hurts, dammit' (arthrALGIA=my joints hurt, dammit; myALGIA=my muscles hurt, dammit). Most of the time this pain is a result of elevated blood pressure/muscle tension dilating or constricting blood vessels in the head; it can come on before, during or after orgasm, and is most common when someone's really getting into what they're doing, ie, is being an active and enthusiastic participant. It's a subtype of the exertion headache people sometimes get from exercising, and isn't something you should worry about too much. Taking a dose of pain reliever an hour or so before you anticipate sexual activity should help, as should being a little less active for a while.
However, if this is a first-time occurence, if the pain makes you nauseous or dizzy, or if you have other symptoms like disorientation, slurred speech or numbness and tingling, for God's sake go to the emergency room. It's possible, though not likely, that you've popped a blood vessel, or that you've got some other emergency condition going on. Better safe than sorry; even the best sex isn't supposed to be LITERALLY mind-blowing.
Take care,

Friday, January 11, 2008

Random Pop-Culturey stuff

Imagine the weirdest snack-food flavors you could ever encounter. Multiply the weirdness quotient by about 10, and you have the snacks at Squid-flavored potato rings? Check. Teriyaki Chicken Chunks? Bingo. Grilled-Cheese Sandwich and Ketchup potato chips? Yep. Holy Mary mother of God, what possessed these people to perpetrate such atrocities upon the munching public? What on earth made Tyson think that "Chicken Chunks" would be an attractive name for a snack food? To me, that's right up there with "Lard Nuggets" and "Nacho Shards." Ugh. On the other hand, I guess you could keep some around the house for use in the event that there's a poisoning and there's no ipecac available.

Next up: There's a movement in Colorado--which, I'm sorry to report, has become Evangelical Nutjob Central--to pass an amendment to the state constitution that would declare a fertilized egg a 'person,' and entitle it (notice how I'm using the impersonal pronoun, because at that point the egg is neither a he nor a she) to all the rights that a person is entitled to. The author of the amendment is a very conservative, "religious" (I use that term in the pejorative; I also consider myself religious, but do not pretend that my religion/spirituality gives me the right to dictate to others how they should make major, fundamental life decisions) 20-year-old law student named Kristi Burton. She says the amendment has nothing to do with abortion, merely that it would establish rights of personhood for fertilized eggs. I call bullshit. Anyone with half a brain can see where this is headed. If the amendment passes, then abortion is suddenly equivalent to murder, or at least manslaughter. What about a woman who is ruled to have a miscarriage because she didn't follow doctor's orders? Manslaughter again. Someone who doesn't eat well or take prenatal vitamins? A child abuser, or at least guilty of child neglect (though it would be interesting to see how the state would can't exactly remove a week-old blastocyst from its parents' custody). Not to mention the fact that some contraceptives act by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus...would that be considered manslaughter as well?

I have to say, this is close to my own heart. I had to take emergency contraception once (after a violent rape that occurred while I was at college) and the thought of being prosecuted for trying to piece my life back together by avoiding pregnancy, or the thought that I might be required by law to carry my rapist's child to term, is abhorrent. It is not only deeply sexist, it not only betrays a lack of critical thought on the part of the pro-egg lobby--it is cruel. I was a psychological wreck for quite a while after the assault anyway; I can only imagine how much worse it would have been to have to cope with a pregnancy as well. I can hear the arguments already: Don't punish a child for its father's sins. Or, more popularly, Pregnancy from rape is so rare that it's not a possibility worth discussing. Unfortunately, if you estimate that there are about 94,000 rapes per year (see statistics here on the FBI's web site) in the USA, and assume (as is generally accepted) that a single incidence of intercourse will result in pregnancy 8% of the have 7,520 pregnancies per year as a result of rape. True, it's not hundreds of thousands. But I think it's far, far more than I could stomach.

Monday, January 07, 2008

I done been robbed

I'm in a...quizzical mood, I guess you could say. I sent an article in to a particular third-wave feminist political magazine that I read every chance I get. I wait to hear whether I've been accepted or rejected; whether they'd like to hear from me again or if they'd prefer I never darkened their mailbox in the future. I lose a month's worth of email while I'm taking a little sabbatical, and assume that my acceptance (or, more likely and sadly, rejection) is in that inbox, which I can no longer access. So I check online and discover--lo and behold!--an article on the very subject I submitted has been published in this quarter's issue! Hot damn!

I go to my local bookstore, pick up a copy of said magazine, and see...that someone has written a piece on the exact same thing (Yes, sisterhood is powerful...solidarity...stupid ho). Does the fact that I'm bitching about this make me a writer? That's what writers do, no? Bitch and moan about other writers? I'm not really that upset, it just seems weird and funny. It took me a long-ass time to come up with that particular topic, and I didn't think anyone else would have considered writing about it. I figured that even if the editors didn't like the piece for a short front-matter type work, they might write back and ask me to expand on it for a feature. But no. Someone already wrote a feature on it. Skank.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

I just bought "Hell Among the Yearlings," Gillian Welch's first CD.
I would link to the Amazon page where you can buy it, but I'd rather you went to your local independent music store to get it. So there.

I could write some of the lyrics down, but honestly it's her haunting voice and the way she works her banjo that makes the songs perfect (though she's a decent lyricist also). And wouldn't "work your banjo" be a good metaphor for...something?

And who turned me onto Gillian Welch in the first place? Amy, of course (from the french 'amie,' or 'friend').