Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Pooh Glasses

I admit to having a Winnie-the-Pooh phase in my younger years. I'll even admit to not really being out of the Winnie-the-Pooh phase, although the stuffed animals are in a box in the attic. And my father, usually desperate for ideas for holiday gifts, one year gave me the set of Welches Winnie-the-Pooh jelly glasses. Empty glasses. I can still hear him yelling at me, "You know how much jelly I had to eat for those!!"

I actually like the holidays. Our family, when we were whole and young, were always in our best form during the holidays. Aunt Celia hosted the Thanksgiving dinner in Portland, and on the drive there I was on the look-out for Ruldoph along the I-5 corridor. My brother and I played pool with our dorky cousin, and we tried to understand the intricacies of the pachinko game in the basement.

Christmas, too, was always very special in an Inspector Gadget sort of way, with my parents trying to keep my brother in the dark about what he was getting. One year, he systematically opened all his presents, and then rewrapped them. I watched in horror, the same feeling I have when I watch old CSI episodes late at night; the good doctor performing an autopsy. The following year, Mom didn't label any of the gifts, and then couldn't remember what was what. That was the year that my brother got a t-shirt with rainbow hearts and I got blue parachute pants.

My parents divorced in 1985. Aunt Celia died at 38 in November 1994, just two weeks before Thanksgiving. The holidays are more divergent now, but they aren't any less whole. These days, the holidays mean I get to wean myself off my asthma medication and hop on a plane for the cleaner, happier west coast. I get to see friends and family I don't normally get to see anymore. I get to wear a gortex jacket instead of four layers of wool, and I get to ride the light-rail, go shopping and dancing and hiking, and do all the things that make me feel like a whole person, rather than an underpaid research machine. This year in particular will be fun because I'll get to see two of my best friends in full pregnant form. And since they are my skinny friends, I will smile inwardly, knowing for a few months at least, I won't be "The Fat One."

Where was I?


The complete set of Winnie-the-Pooh glasses are with me here in GradShitTownVille, reserved for very special occasions. This evening, while shopping for ingredients for a chocolate pecan pie, I came across one of the greatest things about the holiday season:

The nog.

Ah yes, my love for egg nog is freakish and horrible, and I've been known to splash a bit of the nog on my cereal in the mornings. This year my concern was that my love for nog would conflict with my new-found hatred of corn syrup. But no worries, the local store was clever enough to carry Horizon Low Fat Egg Nog, ingredients including egg yolks and tumeric (for color), but definitely no corn syrup. But this first glass of nog to bring in the new year isn't served in a Pooh glass. The Pooh glass is too reserved, too oppressive for that first gulp of thick, yellow heaven. This evening, in a 9 oz Gibraltar Tumbler, I marked the begining of the holiday season. The dizzy dog, snuggled in her blanket, munched on rawhide in happy approval. And with the first glass down, I ready the Pooh glasses for many future deposits on my arterial walls.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Let us raise our Pooh glasses and toast to all for which we are thankful.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Good Dog.

I have a dog. She's twelve years old. I adopted her when she was four at the Oregon Humane Society in Portland. She's a good dog. She's very laid back and behaves more like a big cat, except when presented with a leash. Then she looks like she jumps around like she's moshing at a Kiss concert. She's been with me through three jobs, two houses, three boyfriends, and has walked thousands of miles with me.

Once, late in our relationship, I said to the boyfriend, "I love you more than the dog." He said, incredulously, "Really?" I thought a little more about it, and replied, "No, not really."

So, when the dog gets sick, my world stops.

This morning, I was eating my breakfast toast when the dog stumbled into the kitchen
like she was drunk. Her legs were moving without any coordination, and she kept falling to the left. Her eyes weren't tracking. Her head was bobbing like a blind musician. I called the vet, and we headed for the car. She was alert enough to understand we were going somewhere, but she couldn't walk, so I carried her. She stumbled into the front seat of the truck and crash-landed against the steering wheel, which was funny even though I was a little panicked. My attempts to stay calm were interleaved with the assumption that the dog was going to die. All this, just three days after I'd reminded her of the "You cannot die when I'm in graduate school" speech.

Twenty minutes later, we both stumbled into the vet's office, with me trying to carry her, and
the dog trying to walk.

This is the same vet that diagnosed her heartworm when we first moved her, which helped me find some meaning to moving to this place. Her old Portland vet never tested her for heartworm. If we hadn't moved to GradShitTownVille, she wouldn't have been tested early, and she probably would have died.

After today's prompt examination, the vet said her condition is very likely explained by Vestibular Disease. It's basically "Old Dog Vertigo." This is caused either by an inner-ear or middle-ear infection (or a brain tumor). He is treating her with antibiotics, which may or may not help. What she needs now is to be still and quiet in a well lit room, and we'll hope for recovery in 7-10 days.

This dog is a true bad-ass. She's had cancer, knee surgery, heartworm, and currently has arthritis. All that, and she still leaps for joy when we go for a walk, but we probably won't be going for a walk for a few days. Nonetheless, we know how to handle these kinds of situtations. We'll get out the old ramp, create the towel pully system, and prepare for a little lower back pain (for me, not the dog). She's sleeping quietly on her favorite rug now, the same rug she always throws up on when she's sick. She gets up from time to time and tries to walk, stumbling to the left. She's still quite interested in petting and food.

I'm looking forward to an exciting weekend of vomiting and doing the odd little dance required for helping the dog outside to the bathroom. Right now, I crack up a little whenever she cocks her head to the left, and then I kind of cry a little.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Room for Rent

Looking over the GradShitTownVille newspaper to find the Sudoku puzzle, I saw an ad that said,
Room for rent in Artist's home. $225 per month. 555-1234
I paused a moment, and tried to remember how many times I've seen such an ad. Quite a few, really, but then I'm from the West Coast. The phrase "artists's home" is inviting, I suppose. I think of backdrops in movies; those very well-lit, airy lofts with maple floors and high ceilings. There's original art on the walls, a pottery wheel in the living room, and in the background, Demi and Patrick are making out. I doubt that this is what the ad's "room" looks like, but that's what comes to mind.

I also realized that you hardly ever see the following ad,
Room for rent in Scientist's house. $225 per month. 555-1234
What would this room look like? Would there be test tube racks and nested beakers everywhere? Posters of Professor Honeydew and Albert Einstein? Maybe an intriguing, gigantic boiler in the basement? Odd.

Anyway, it's something to think about, because these days my brain is stuck in a rut. The boyfriend is out of the country for a few weeks, and I've entered what I call "Hamster on the wheel" mode. The only thing that occurs to me to do is workout or work. I'm never sure why I go into this mode when he's gone, except to perhaps admit that I'm a raging workaholic. The boyfriend, too, is a raging workaholic. But, as I learned from my House MD DVD, he and I are like ethanol and methanol. Alone, we are potentially poisonous chemicals in the human body. Together, we bind together and are pretty harmless.


Which makes me wonder why doctor shows can be so good and shows attempting to demonstrate graduate school are so so so bad. St. Elsewhere, House MD, ER, Grey's Anatomy are all pretty good television shows featuring the trials and dramas of TV doctors. Now, I understand that it's very unrealistic that every single doctor in a staff at an emergency room or hospital would be totally dreamy.

Oh Dr. Burke!

Yet, the medical science featured seems decent. Perhaps that's because I know nothing about medicine, so as long as there's beeping machines and blood and needles, it looks okay to me. Contrast this with that dumbass "NUMB3RS" show. There you get a poorly written show about mathematics, the FBI and graduate school written by people who have no clue. The professor characters say things like, "I'm very glad I hired him as a collaborator."

You don't *hire* collaborators!

You're telling me. Moreover, these guys never seem to have paper deadlines.

You said you were in a rut?

Ah, yes. These days I'm thinking about two major issues that aren't particularly joyful. In a recent turn of events,

I think you already mentioned this, but maybe it was just to me, because you whine about it ALL THE TIME,

my advisor says I need to publish 10 papers in the next three years. So, it feels that I have to look forward to three more years of living in this hell on earth measuring out my life not in coffee spoons but in paper deadlines. I lift my head a bit to look past graduation, and I have the passing realization that the rest of my life will be measured out by paper deadlines. With this huge "10" number looming over my head, I have this horrible stomach ache; that I will have to fit marriage and children and parents and friends between the paper deadlines. I will be either a horrible mother or a horrible researcher.

I guess I'm being overly dramatic, especially with the TS Eliot reference, and I suppose that life has to measured out in some kind of unit, but ...

but you said you were thinking about two things?

Wait for it. Jeez.

I suppose, after almost five years of this crap, I'm just a little exhausted. I'm tired of feeling like Bill Murray waking up every morning to Sonny and Cher's "I've got you babe." I'm tired of getting paid shit to work constantly, and I'm tired of being told to be an independent researcher when I'm trying my very, very hardest to do just that. Okay, so I am whining, but isn't that what "to blog" means?

It's the same root as the verb "to blave," And, as we all know, "to blave" means "to bluff."


...but you said you were thinking about two things?

Yes, I did. But I realize now that don't think the other thing is bloggable. So I will let T-boy finish this one up. Take it, Stearnsy:

For I have known them all already, known them all:--
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Overloaded terms

In case I haven't mentioned it here on this blog, I am learning Japanese. Why? I guess I figure I'll only be a student for a couple more years, and I wanted to take advantage of that by learning something I probably couldn't learn on my own. Why Japanese? I love learning languages, and there's a remote chance I could move there someday, so I might as well learn it. I also have a huge set of Chinese brushes at home, and it'd be nice to actually understand some of the characters that I script.

Yesterday was our first day of Kanji. Until now, we've been communicating in written form using only the two phonetic alphabets of Japanese, Hiragana and Katakana. Kanji is a pictograph-based alphabet, and it's one reason why Japanese is so hard to learn. Japanese newspapers restrict themselves to using "only" 2000 kanji, but there are many, many more.

The word for Sunday is "Ni-Chi-Yo-U-Bi." The Kanji for "Ni-Chi" and "Bi" is the same, but pronounced differently based on context. This freaked out many of the kids in the class.

I say "kids" because they are all undergrads, and I'm actually older than everyone, including the teacher. It's very humbling, since I'm also one of the dumbest kids in the class. I do fine on the exams, but I can barely talk, and I sound something like Benjy in Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury.

And yet, finally! I was so happy to learn that something from computer science could be reused in my Japanese class. Consider the following snippet of code in VBA:

if (a = b) then
a = b
end if

That's right, the same symbol is used for testing equality and for variable assignment. The term is "overloaded operator" and it's particular use can only be determined based on context. So yesterday's Japanese class seemed obvious to me (for once) thanks to science.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I asked for it

In a phone message from Cheryl,

"So I was at Megan's and she says I have something to tell you and she's pregnant. Then we go over to Erin's and Erin is pregnant. Then it turns out Megan M is pregnant, too. Then we go over to Jenny's and Jenny is pregnant and it just so happens that Jenny's sister is also pregnant. So I told my boyfriend he's not touching me."

It's like the Village of the Damned back home.