Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It is, however, frickety snowing AGAIN

It's 2:45 a.m. I'm watching Bill Nye the Science Guy, eating a snickerdoodle, and working on my kick-ass Christmas card.

Being done with the first semester of graduate school is awesome.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Erin's Recipes for People Who Can't Cook: Why yes I am procrastinating version

So in a continuing wallowing theme, I had an urge to make something chocolate tonight, and I decided to pull a bedraggled scrap of paper out of my wallet. Said piece of paper bore a recipe for Easy Chocolate Truffles that Eileen, the massage therapist at my former(ish) place of work gave me. Unfortunately, she gave it to me verbally and sometimes I assume that I'm going to remember more than I do, so I don't write everything down. Needless to say, the recipe didn't turn out quite like I expected, but it is still delicious. However, I have changed the name of the recipe to reflect better what the final product looks like.

Chocolate Cow Pies

3/4 c. butter or margarine
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 can sweetened condensed milk*
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter. Add cocoa and stir until it dissolves. Add sweetened condensed milk. Decide that sweetened condensed milk is the stickiest substance known to man. Stir over low to medium heat until mix gets thick. (Yes, this is where the directions get vague. How thick? How long are we stirring, here? Longer than I was willing to, I suspect, and that was about 10 minutes.) Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Eat some off a spoon. Repeat as necessary. Spoon remaining batter onto cookie sheet in piles. Chill. Realize that cow pies will not come neatly off cookie sheet. Revel in how actual fresh cow pies would probably behave much the same. Gross.

*The first time I opened a can of sweetened condensed milk, I thought it had gone bad and I was horrified. Because seriously, it bears very little resemblance to milk. I mean, evaporated milk at least still looks like milk, you know? Anyway, yes, it is supposed to look like glue. Try not to think about what else it might look like.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I promise I will wait until I am in a better mood to write them

I forgot one thing. If you want a Christmas card from me, you should send me your address, since chances are good I don't have it. This is especially true if I don't know you.

I highly recommend sending me your address, because I have a kick-ass idea for a Christmas card, and there is a long tradition of awesome Christmas cards in my family, so you should get on board. Of course, be warned that I might lose energy and just send out regular cards with Santa or the Baby Jesus (or both) on them.

Do not post your address in the comments—email it to me. You can click the link at the top that says "Contact."

Okay, I'm going to bed because if I don't, I'm going to go outside and lie in a snow drift FOREVER.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

"Frozen Testicles" would also be a good name for a band. As would "Cavernous Bellybutton."

Here is what my family thinks is quality entertainment: getting up at 4 a.m. to stand in line for 20 minutes in 14-degree weather and talk about my sister's bellybutton. Seriously. I laughed really hard.

So we decided this year that we were going to do the Black Friday thing. My parents and sister came to visit me here in IC for Thanksgiving, meaning that there were actual shopping options closer than 60 miles away. Plus, my computer is dying a slow, agonzing death, and I wanted to attempt to get one of the cheap computers Best Buy was offering. I figured that maybe IC was the place to try, since the college students had all gone home and maybe everybody else was just too practical and Midwestern-complacent to be out at the ridiculous hour of 5 a.m. Alternately, I hoped they would be at Wal-Mart rioting in the electronics section.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at Best Buy a little after 4:30, we were approximately 200th in line, so there was little to no chance I was going to get one of the approximately two cheap computers Best Buy used to lure in suckers like me. I have no idea why we decided to go ahead and wait in line until 5 a.m., especially after overly energetic Best Buy employees told us they were only letting in staggered groups of people, reducing the chance that someone would be hilariously crushed against the doors.

Wait in line we did, though, with somewhat more purpose after we got ahold of a copy of the ad and SB found some memory chips on a crazy deal. In the meantime, my sister had slurped down her travel mug full of extra-strong coffee and become animated enough to talk. Her conversational topic of choice? The bellybutton. Let me try to recapture for you the gist of the exchange.

E3: Oh my gosh. I cleaned my bellybutton for the first time the other day.
Me and M4: blank looks
E3: It's huge in there!
Me: What?
E3: It's huge! My bellybutton is cavernous.
Me: laughing There are stalactites?
E3: I could keep things in there. You know how some people just have polite little bellybuttons? That's not me.
Me: I think I see a lichen.
E3: Seriously. Like half a Q-Tip fit in there.
Me: Laughing so hard I can't see. You know if you press on your bellybutton, you can really gross Grandma out?
M4: Yeah, she doesn't like that.
E3: Yeah, I'm afraid if I stick my finger in there I won't get it back out.
Look, somone put their travel mug over there. We should steal it.

Lord only knows what the people next to us in line thought, especially when we reenacted the whole conversation for SB when he got back from warming himself in the car. However, the point about the travel mug was well taken. It was silver and shiny, and when we came out of Best Buy, it was still there. So E3 stole it.

We did finally make it into Best Buy in the fifth group; of course, the computers were unavailable and the store was a crush, which made both me and my sister feel claustrophobic, so we discussed that, loudly. We sent SB off to find his chips and wandered across the store to look at DVDs. This was a fatal error. If I can offer you one piece of advice about Black Friday, it is this: stick together. You will never find each other otherwise.

So the Best Buy experience was irritating, not least because "helpful" employees asked me every five seconds if they could help me find something. It got to the point where I wanted to say, "Yeah, you can help me find something. Where's my DAD?"

Anyway, we eventually found my dad, who had found his chips, and we sent him off to check out while we assessed the situation at Target next door. There were only about 20 people milling in front of the Target door because, we discovered, Target didn't open until 6. We weren't really that thrilled to be waiting another 40 minutes, so we decided to just stand there and people-watch until SB came out of Best Buy. My mom borrowed a circular from some nice lady standing in front of us; I listened to the idiot behind me attempt to defend his choice of outerwear. "It's a sweatshirt! It's the same thing as a coat!" Bzzt. I have no sympathy for your frozen testicles, you fantastic example of Darwinism, you. Nor do I want to hear about them anymore.

By 5:40, SB still hadn't come out of Best Buy and the line at Target was up to about 100 people, of which we were the 25th, by M4's count. At that point, we could hardly give up our fantastic position in line, even though we were freezing and still didn't want to buy anything despite now being fully informed of the available deals. At 5:50, approximately 150 people in line, still no SB. Finally, at 5:55, SB (and E3, who had gone to steal Best Buy's heat on the pretense of looking for him) joined us. SB: "What are we doing here?" Good question, Dad.

We walked into Target on the nose of 6 a.m., but not before we got to watch a little drama unfold—a woman tried to cut in line! Oh, the horror. Frozen Testicles set up such a ruckus that the security guard was forced to step in and keep her out. Shut up, Frozen Testicles. She's not going to take your $98 acoustic guitar.

In the end, we decided to hit J.C Penney, as well. I ended up buying a shirt and couple of cheap DVDs; SB got a few things at Penney's (including a cute pair of brown loafers I stuck on his pile just as the saleslady was finised scanning his items; she had them scanned and in a bag before he could say "boo"). Afterwards we went to Perkins and got some eggs, where my sister continued her bizzare conversational ways by announcing that she thinks she farts more than the average person.

So that was our Black Friday experience, or at least the interesting part of it. Next year I think I'll follow E4's example: stay home and sleep, and hope that someone brings me a cinnamon roll when I finally crawl out of bed.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A zillion years later

Thanksgiving break is here, except for the part where it's not so much a break as "finals." I have nine days (well, seven, now) to write two papers and an untold number of journal entries. Let me tell you, woe is me indeed. Especially since I haven't been doing much school work these first two days, and my apartment still has to be cleaned for when my parents and sisters arrive. Sorry, guys, but clean sheets might be the best I can do. We'll see.

Anyway, some tidbits:

—You can make a root beer float with diet root beer, but I wouldn't advise it. I don't know why, but it does something wonky to the ice cream. Must be the sugar/aspartame interaction. However, since I don't really believe in normal soda, I suppose this'll have to do. Life is hard when you want to keep your teeth in your head. (By the way, I've always thought it was extremely gross to think of your teeth being in your head, even though that's clearly where they're located. It makes me think of someone biting through my skull. Yuck.)

—I went to see Walk the Line yesterday, and thoroughly enjoyed it, although I'm unclear on what distinguishes it from a well-done made-for-T.V. movie. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, I guess. In any case, the theatre was enjoyably free of the slavering prepubescents in love with Daniel Radcliffe, but it didn't save me from the annoying phenomenon of the Narrating Couple. Sitting just behind me was a couple who felt the need to explain extemely unsubtle plot points in a tone that was nowhere near under their breath. It went something like this: Reese Witherspoon writes down "burn burn burn" on a piece of paper and plays a note on her autoharp. Couple: "Oh, she's writing 'Ring of Fire.'" Johnny Cash stumbles around on stage and eventually falls down. Couple: "He's still taking those drugs, huh?" Brilliant analysis there, Nostradamus of the Cinema. Why don't you go see if you can figure out who put Harry's name in the Goblet of Fire?

—I have been reading a lot of Dinosaur Comics. I don't know why, but I find the premise of a comic with the same drawings every day to be very funny. And of course, the writing is hysterical. Check it out.

—Did you know that people in the Middle Ages were super concerned about what would happen to their bodies after they died? It's because they were sure that Jesus was going to return and take them to heaven body and soul on Judgment Day. If you don't have a body, then you don't get to go to heaven. So burial. (I don't really know how they dealt with decomposition. Jesus can give you back your skin and internal organs, I suppose, if He wants to.) Cremation was right out. And there's a lot of really cool art of angels making birds and snakes and lions regurgitate body parts that they've apparently eaten. The Middle Ages: simultaneously gross and awesome. I am writing about all of this for my Chaucer paper—it's not just a random interest. As opposed to my interests in cannibalism and zombies.

—If you're wondering what I might be teaching you next semester with these little factoids, I can give you a SNEAK PREVIEW. I registered for classes last week. As of right now, I am taking: Shakespeare! It's a class on all the plays nobody reads, so get ready for some wild Timon of Athens trivia. Also, Medieval Gesture and Emotion! Hopefully with 20% more cannibalism! And, Calligraphy: Gothic Hands! I think Gothic Hands would be a pretty good name for a band. I have used more exclamation points in this tidbit than I like to use in a week. I hope you're happy.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

In which the following things are mentioned: incest, cannibalism, bastards, hell, technicolor pig slippers

So November is shaping up to be de los muertos, and I'm not talking about All Souls' Day. I spent this weekend writing another theory paper and generally trying to map out a strategy for the rest of the semester, which i going to be...challenging, to put it euphemistically.

In other news...Lyra ate a Post-It tab yesterday, which was simultaneously horrifying and hilarious. I stuck it on her shoulder; she pulled it off and swallowed it. Clearly my fault entirely, but I've never known her to eat anything else plastic. Evidently the adhesive makes it go down easier.

I gave blood today, at a blood drive run by undergraduate pre-meds. You can just imagine what that was like—three 18-year-olds telling me I had to sit down for fifteen minutes and drink some red Kool-Aid. (Which, by the way? Red Kool-aid at a blood drive is perhaps not the best choice ever for avoiding overtones of vampirism.) I bled in seven minutes, sat down for ten, and then ran away from the super-intense chicks talking about their potential shadowing assignments. Seriously, kids, lighten up. You're not going to get into med school, anyway, because I know your rhetoric teacher and she doesn't like you. Bonus: two girls fainted while I was there, and another's vein collapsed. Awesome.

October's rallying cry was "No Heat 'til November!" Now that November's arrived, I'm being rewarded for my holdout: it's been 70 here during the day, and at night I can get by adding a sweatshirt and the technicolor pig slippers. I'm tempted to extend "No Heat 'til November!" 'til December, but then I wake up with a face-full of heat-sucking cat in the morning and I reconsider. I'm getting way more than my RDA of fur that way.

Random things in which my interest has been rekindled since starting school (and hanging out with weirdos like me on a full-time basis): science fiction, the Plague, zombies, boys with earrings, cannibalism, hell, and the domestic arts. Having lunch in the graduate student lounge is a grab-bag of randomness, let me tell you. Today's topics of discussion were: weddings, how to make the sign of the cross, classes for next semester, overseas phone calls, the Indian caste system, and incest. The English department needs Conversational Ritilin.

All right, I'm going to tell you now: don't expect an update until Thanksgiving week. I've got the whole week off, and I'll be sure to regale you with tales of my Chaucer paper (on demons, sin, and the body in the Friar's Tale) and my South Asian Lit paper (on grandmothers, grandsons, and the developing political atmosphere of mid-century India). Until then...don't let the bastards get you down. Or something.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Erin's Recipes for People Who Can't Cook: Bean Pot

I'm pretty sure this, like Tater Tot Casserole, falls under the heading of White Trash Cuisine, but I like it and it's easy, so why not?

1 lb. ground beef
1 med. onion, diced
3 15-oz. cans pork and beans (pork optional)
3/4ish c. brown sugar (I hate things that call for 3/4 c. because I don't have a 3/4 c. measure. I usually just eyeball it in a 1 c. measure)
1/4 c. molasses
2/3 c. ketchup (I do, however, have a 2/3 c. measure. I know, random.)
1 tbsp. prepared mustard

Brown and drain beef and onion. Add all the other ingredients. Bake uncovered at 325 degrees F for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Whee, meals for a week!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

At this point, the World Series is just frosting

Ha! My siblings aren't answering their phones right now. They spent all season riding me about how my Astros were games and games behind their Cardinals, and now...well, as I told my brother, winning the division doesn't mean much if you can't win the pennant.

This is particularly sweet as my sister took evil glee in calling me Monday night when Pujols broke our hearts with that homer. The message I left her? A gentle reminder that the baseball gods punish those who gloat too early, and oh yeah, who won the last game ever in Busch Stadium? Yeah, wasn't the Cardinals.

Awesomest post-game information: apparently the Astros' owner promised to buy Roy Oswalt a bulldozer if he won. New construction equipment all around, I say!

Confidential to Roy O.: if you're looking for a mother for your children, I'm your gal. And you know how I feel about kids, so that means something.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Stop the university, I want to get off

So this whole grad school experience has taken a sharp turn for the difficult this week, as things start moving inexorably toward finals in a very ominous way. Ominous like having two presentations in one day—I'll be dead after Tuesday, so if you've got something to say, say it now. Some notes:

Panopticon is a funny word
I don't know if you've ever read Foucault, but we're doing Discipline and Punish in Theory tomorrow. It's a fascinating book and wonderfully written, with the added bonus of being scary as all get-out. Foucault seems to have this idea that everybody should live in a sort of imagined panopticon, which is where you are constantly under surveillance, and you know it, so you behave. Very 1984, right? It is, of course, more complicated than that—he has some fun (anti-)Marxist ideas about how it would maximize production and so on—but mostly it led to my informal discussion group trying to plot an overthrow of our theory class that featured the phrase "Stop gazing at me, Dave!"

See? This is what happens to humor under stress.

Speaking of things not being funny anymore
Early in the semester, I was kind of having fun telling people that I was reading until my eyes bled. That was an enjoyably visceral (if cliched) metaphor, but it's abruptly stopped being funny this weekend, as my eyes have literally started to hurt at all times. For the past four days, there's been kind of a dull pain in my eyes that feels like the precursor to a migraine that will never come. It's leading me to have wild day-mares about slowly going blind from reading like Mac in Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott.* Mac had to wear green goggles and he couldn't read anything for like, a year. The horror! Anyway, there's no point to this except maybe that there's a physical component to my pain. It wasn't helped by the fact that I stabbed myself in the eyeball with the corner of my comforter this morning, in a boneheaded moment that could only have happened to me. Flipping the comforter off the floor onto the bed, and whoosh! It's in my eyeball and I'm cursing. Owie.

Candy isn't going to cut it, here
In somewhat brighter news, the graduate student Halloween party is coming up at the end of the month, and it promises to be a crazy bash. Although in my current state, I keep thinking of really...morbid costumes. Virginia Woolf: long skirt, hair in a bun, cardigan with rocks in the pockets. Okay, that's the only one I've thought of, but the more I think about it, the funnier it seems. I don't think that's a good sign.

Sometimes theory is like brain candy: tasty, but it'll rot everything right out of your head
So one of my presentations next week is on Judith Butler's Gender Trouble, which revolutioninzed feminism and how the academe thinks about gender (allegedly). And while I'm interested in her theories, I'm almost more interested in my reactions to them. Let me give you an example from the text:
"Further, the feminine could not be theorized in terms of a determinate relation between the masculine and the feminine within any given discourse, for discourse is not a relevant notion here. Even in their variety, discourses constitute so many modalities of phallocentric language. The female sex is thus also the subject that is not one. The relation between masculine and feminine cannot be represented in a signifying economy in which the masculine constitutes the closed circle of signifier and signified." (15)

Okay, if you're like me, you just skipped right over the block quote, so let me quickly summarzie. She's saying we can't talk about femininity as a relation to masculinity, because our language is set up to focus on the male. Basically, we can't conceptualize "woman" because "man" is too pervasive. So we've got this wild, radical idea. And on some level, I find it really attractive. Because I think it's true that culturally we've set up "male" as kind of the base level of functioning and thought (she's got some interesting stuff on how male = mind and female = body) and so whenever we think about female, we're really thinking about male and not-male. Which, you know, problematic. On the other hand, though, I'm kind of like, "" I mean, these ideas are so entrenched that it's going to be literally impossible to ever think about female without thinking about male. It's an inescapable ideology. So identifying the problem is really just complicating a system that already works, essentially—this is where you get people going, "Why are you even thinking about that? It's ridiculous." And they're not wrong, really. I mean, there are obviously some problems for some people in the system, but at the same time, everybody functions, you know, we've all got issues, so this theory is great, but it's just that. Theory. Conclusion: the problem with theory is that it's too theoretical. Bon mot: Theory is the Catholicism of the academe. Identification of sin, confession, and ritualized guilt, except here nobody is absolved and the Bible is really really confusing.

That theory part was not coherent, so now you know how I feel ALL THE TIME
Fun facts to get you out of this ramble at least a little ahead of where you started:

-Malayalam is the only language in the world whose name is a palindrome. It's spoken in Kerala, a southern state of India.

-Peasant children in the Middle Ages were more likely to have parental supervision from ages 4 to 7 than from 0 to 3. Evidently parents weren't big on getting attached to infants that were just going to die of the plague anyway, so they'd just leave them in the cradle when they went out to work in the fields.

-Virginia Woolf killed herself in 1941 by putting stones in her pockets and walking into the River Ouse. Now do you get the costume thing?

P.S. Bread update: still not moldy. Self update: getting increasingly weirded out by bread.

*Eight Cousins was one of my favorite books ever when I was younger; I probably read it for the first time in about fifth grade and I adored it and its sequel, Rose in Bloom. (Quick plot synopsis: Rose is an orphan, and comes to live at Aunt Hill with her eight male cousins. She becomes their darling and eventually ends up married to Mac, whom she nurses back to health from his eye difficulties, even though she has spent both novels entirely in love with the oldest cousin whose name I can't remember.) Anyway, I tried to go back and read the two books last year and could. Not. STAND the writing. Just awful—everybody patronizes Rose, probably because she's absurdly insipid, and the cousins are total twerps. And don't even get me started on the other romantic subplot, which is so...sexist and class biased and...gah. Okay. Rant over. The moral? I'm now afraid to reread other books that I loved absolutely as a child (The Chronicles of Narnia, Little House on the Prairie, The Wizard of Oz, and so on and so forth).

Monday, October 10, 2005

Strange magic

I've had the same loaf of Wal-Mart brand wheat bread since the first week I moved to Iowa City, and IT HAS NOT MOLDED YET.

I don't know if that's awesome or extremely suspicious.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


The WB just ran a promo spot for Supernatural in which they flashed quotes from reviews over clips of the show. Pretty standard.

Unfortunately, one of the quotes was "OMG."

"OMG"? May I just say "WTF"? Who's reviewing this show, John Q. Teenager? Some kid with a blog and a shaky grasp on sentence structure? "OMG" is not a credible review. And it's not even obviously positive, there, WB Promo People. I'm 90% certain it was in a sentence that said, "OMG, this show is teh awful!!!1!1!" And even if I give you the benefit of the doubt on that? It's still OMG. It's a fireable offense.

So now, even if Supernatural becomes the best new show on television, I can NEVER WATCH IT. Because I will always think "OMG," and then I will be filled with rage. Ugh.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Some things I was told tonight when I got my aura read

My friend S. had a party tonight, at which her friend N., whom I've met twice, was persuaded (by me) to read my aura. (He mentioned this ability when I first met him.) See what you think, and I'll give you my opinion at the bottom.

1. I'm physically pretty healthy "compared to most people in graduate school." Whatever that means.*

2. My intelligence shows up as a bright yellow, meaning that it's intense (it would be murky if it were somewhat...not so prominent). That, combined with the green growth-potential, is most heavily figured in areas of communication—understanding how people communicate, what they're communicating, and how and what I'm communicating. Not surprising, for an English graduate student.

3. There's a purple overlay. It's the color of royalty—I demand a lot of respect and have a generally healthy self-esteem (with a few weak spots that I'm not going to tell you about). As my friend B., who was molesting the aura-reader at the time, said, "Ha! I could have told you that within 10 minutes of meeting her."

4. My aura reacts—spikes, really—when I command the attention of a room, especially when I'm able to draw attention away from someone else. N. called it "amusingly subversive." I think this is hilarious.

5. My interpersonal relationships showed up as pink, compartmentalized bubbles, evidently surrounded by some grey and black cillia, and not very many of them are a deep pink (indicating a close, two-way relationship). He seemed to think they were more compartmentalized than normal, because I'm apparently the kind of person who takes a long time to form deep personal attachments. The grey and black indicate that I've been hurt before and am somewhat wary of letting people in. I'm reserved, in other words.

6. I'm looking for love, but cynical about my chances of finding it.

7. I generally feel that I teach people more than I'm taught, speaking interpersonally. Sort of arrogant. Sorry, people. (There are exceptions, and I'm thinking of them right now. I'm not going to write them down, though, so then each of you will think that you're an exception.) I'm supposed to be on the lookout in the next few months for people from whom I can learn, but it's evidently going to mean giving someone a second or third chance, which I'm admittedly not very good at (see #5).

8. I should probably not be expecting to meet anybody who could be a romantic interest for a couple of years, and when I do, I'll have to really be open to it or I'll overlook it entirely. I don't know how he could tell this; it had something to do with there being sparkly lights and the shadow of sparkly lights in my aura.

Anyway, the whole experience was fascinating, whether you believe in the ability or not. N. sat and stared at the space above my head for about 5 minutes, and then said some disturbingly insightful things, all while trying to get B. to stop fondling his hair. I asked a ton of questions about what the aura looked like, specifically, because I was interested in the colors and in imagining what he was seeing. And in the end, I found the reading to be deadly accurate, and I strongly doubt whether N. could have picked all that up in the less than 8 hours that he's spent with me (especially given that several of those hours were not so sober and he was distracted by...other people). So. Let me know what you think, both of the accuracy of the reading and of aura-reading in general. I'm now terribly interested in the whole subject.

*Apparently it means that the health aura, which is closest to my body and looks like little wavy lines of white light, is relatively bright.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

This post is about sex!

Not really. Only in so far as everything in Freud is about sex.

Okay, so I'm getting ready to write a paper about Freud and dream analysis and theory, and I thought I would do a little thinking out loud, as it were. Or weren't.

So, here is how dreams work, in a nutshell.

First, there are three levels of the mind. Later, Freud will come to call them the id, the ego, and the super-ego, but in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), he hasn't invented that terminology yet. So we get a Conscious (Cs.), a Preconscious (Pcs.), and an Unconscious (Ucs.). The Ucs. (id) is basically a primal, wish-driven want machine. Most of these wishes are sexual and formed in infancy. These wishes have been repressed because they're inappropriate—this is the classic "sleep with your mother/kill your father" issue that everybody knows about. Or other terrible things that you want to do and think are inappropriate also end up here, although I'm not sure how that relates to infant sexual fantasies. Doesn't matter. What we need to know: Ucs. = "bad," powerful wishes.

So all that sort of hangs out in your Ucs., but because it's unconscious, you don't know about it, and what's more, you can't know about it. The Ucs. has no way to access the Cs. directly and let you know that you're having these issues, because you've repressed them so efficiently. Go super-ego. So this is where the Pcs. comes in. The Pcs. is basically there to keep you from exploding from these unconscious desires—I haven't found this directly in the text, but I get the impression that if your Pcs. goes haywire, you have a psychotic break and open fire. So. Your Pcs. takes random crap that your Cs. has noticed throughout the day—say, that there's a long hallway lined with blue chairs in the IMU (student center), and essentially allows the Ucs. to cathect (cathect: imbue with cathexis, which is wish-energy) the image. This is a compromise that allows dreams to work. Because you're horrified of your unconscious wishes, you can't be allowed to experience them directly. However, they can't go unexperienced, either. So the Pcs. and the Ucs. work together to express them, but to sort of...hide that expression from you. This process is called overdetermination, and it's why you'll dream of something completely benign and wake up sweating and terrified. Like my hallway above. I know it's absolutely harmless—it leads from the information desk into a ballroom. However, in the dream I had a few nights ago, I was deadly certain that I didn't want to go down the hallway because there was something bad at the other end and I would be in the wrong place if I did.

However, that's not all overdetermination does. Overdetermination also imbues things with about a zillion meanings, because remember, your brain is trying to protect you from that really baaad thing that you're wishing. So if there are multiple meanings, it's going to be harder for you to be hurt by that wish. So my hallway is like, my wish to have attended a different school, my desire to kiss the German guy, and my latent desire to kill my parents for having another child, or something. I don't know. You can't really analyze your own dreams, because you can't remember them (that's repression again!) and really you're just incapable of accessing what your Ucs. is trying to tell you.

So now the question is, how do we apply this to literature? According to Freud, the way you know when you're on the right track as an analyst is when the patient reacts to what you've proposed as an analysis. Of course, literature can't really "react," per se. When was the last time you saw the letters of your page rearrange themselves to spell "Damn, you're brilliant!"? (Last week, hm. Were you high? As a kite, yes, I see.) So we have to see if a psychoanalysis of text makes the text "resonate." Does a psychoanalytic reading open up more questions? Does it lead us to a deeper understanding of the unconscious intentions of either the text or its author?

Okay, I think I've got the basic points of this down, so I'm off to see what I can do with Reverend Dimmsdale's cathexis. (Oooh, dirty!)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Point of Etiquette

Okay, is there a way to compliment your professors without sounding really marginal? Because I have two professors who wear just outstandingly excellent shoes, and since I'm a firm believer in positive feedback, I'd like to mention my approval. I just haven't figured out how. "Dr. L.,* can I discuss this grade with you? Also, nice shoes. Really top notch."

And since it's grad school, let's "complicate" and "trouble" the question by examining the fact that one professor is male and one is female. Does this create two protocols? How does the gender of the complimenter factor in? What if I tell you that one of the classes is pass/fail and one is not? That one of the professors is a medievalist and one a writer? That I'm really just procrastinating reading my theory right now?

*I don't actually call my professors "doctor." They go by first names with graduate students.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Erin's Recipes for People Who Can't Cook: Beef Stroganoff

1 lb. ground beef
1 med. onion
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
8 oz. canned mushrooms
1 can (10 1/2 oz.) cream of mushroom soup
8 oz. light sour cream
2/3 bag egg noodles (wide)

Chop up onion. There are varying theories about how you can do this without making your eyes water, but forget it. Spoon in your mouth, chewing gum, pinching yourself, whatever. You're going to tear up. Chop quickly, that's my advice. Toss onion and ground beef into pan to brown; lightly pepper. Crumble meat as it cooks. Put water on to boil for egg noodles.

Once meat is browned, drain. Then add garlic salt, flour, mushrooms, and more pepper. Stir and cook one minute. Put noodles in water pot to cook (5-7 minutes). Add mushroom soup to meat mixture. Stir and heat on medium for 10 minutes. Add sour cream, heat through. Drain noodles; mix in a little pat of butter to keep them from sticking. Serve gravy on top of noodles; attempt to keep cat from licking plate before you are finished.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The mish-mash. The MONSTER mish-mash!

Don't date midgets, boys
There are three German guys that ride the bus at the same time I do on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I love them. They're hilarious, not only because they're cute and European, but because they have no idea that I can understand everything they're saying to each other, including their commentary about the mysterious Amy, who's cute if you go for small women, apparently. Evidently these guys are in some sort of business program at UI, and they like football, especially the Pittsburgh Stars. (I know. So cute.) I'm trying to figure out a good German line with which to strike up a conversation some day and make them wonder if they've said anything untoward the past few weeks.

Sugar shock in three, two, and convulse
I've said it before, but sometimes Iowa City is just entirely too cute for its own good. I went to the weekly farmer's market tonight and bought an onion from a Mennonite or an Amish woman or whoever it is that lives in Kalona and wears a bonnet and grows vegetables. I also got some zucchini and a long discourse on the various varieties of garlic. I didn't know garlic came in varieties other than "bulb" and "granulated." Anyway, there were children playing soccer with their parents in the adjacent park, lots of free samples, and generally pleasant expressions on the faces of every person I saw. It was like the most wholesome thing I've ever experienced.

My Intro to Grad prof wears headphones all the time and I think it's kind of weird
Top ten songs on the playlist lately:
1. Ryan Adams - La Cienega Just Smiled
2. Dave Matthews - Some Devil
3. Michel Buble - Fever
4. K.D. Lang - Helpless
5. Green Day - American Idiot
6. Counting Crows - I Wish I Was a Girl
7. Melissa Ferrick - I Still Love You
8. Weezer - Beverly Hills
9. Sara Bareilles - Fairytale
10. Antony and the Johnsons - For Today I Am a Boy

Hm. Seems to be some gender confusion and self-loathing in there. Honestly, my life is way more upbeat than this list suggests.

I think this is actually how most academics structure their careers
It's kind of hilarious when you find yourself structing your entire reading of a text around one person who really just irritates the crap out of you.

There's a guy in my Chaucer class who I absolutely can't stand (because he's an arrogant idiot—an all-star, if you will—who dominates the conversation and is incapable of keeping his shoes on gross put your damn sandals on and shut up right now), and I spend a lot of time thinking about things to say that will refute whatever he's just said. Generally it doesn't even have to be something I believe. As long as it's contrary and defensible, it's a go. Amusingly enough, the entire rest of the class does the same, as far as I can tell.

I don't know if that's really the best way to go about evaluating texts critically, but if you can make the theory work and smack someone down at the same's a beautiful thing, man.

Oh, and can I just say one more thing, chief? I hate people who insist on taking notes on their damn laptops. What do you think you are, a 1L? No. We're English graduate students. We are humble. We use a pen and paper, and we don't distract everybody in the classroom with our tappy tappy and our power cords and bite me you pretentious all-star. You're lucky that's not an Apple you're typing on, or I'd stab you in the eye with my super uncool yet totally unoffensive ball-point. Seriously. Why are you taking notes on a computer? There's NO GOOD REASON. You're just trying to show us all how "with it" and "smart" you are,but mostly you're showing us that you're totally out of touch with your actual major, which is entirely composed of PAPER AND THE INK THAT IS ON THAT PAPER. If you want to work with computers and typing, go hang around with the computer science people, who will immediately laugh you out of town. Put the computer away. And put your shoes on, right now. You're wrong about The Knight's Tale, too.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Interesting facts I have learned in class so far

Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, was accused of rape in 1380. This is weird, given his generally empowering view of the female gender.

"Satyagraha," Gandhi's program of passive resistance, actually means "truth-force," and is, like most foreign words in my South Asian Lit class, impossible to pronounce. (Suh-tee-gruh, with the last "ha" part kind of swallowed.)

A literary journal may be considered successful if its circulation hits 2,000. By comparison, The New Yorker has a circulation of over 500,000, and Sports Illustrated of over 2,000,000.

Hindi, one of the national languages of India, and Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, are essentially the same language. They just use different writing systems.

Nietzsche was not an anti-Semite, or at least not one of particular vehemence. After he died, his crazy anti-Semitic sister edited all his manuscripts to fit her agenda. Also interesting: Nietzsche went insane ten years before he died. It was either syphillis or a tumor. Sadly, this does not explain his extremely weird writings.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Everybody says cut my hair

I have a new hairstyle.

It's nothing drastic—if you saw me right now, you might not even notice. I've got the new swoopy bangs that are all the rage with the kids right now. Mine swoop to the left and are aaaaalmost long enough to tuck behind my ear.

Anyway, having the new bangs is not so terribly interesting (unless you're like me and you CANNOT stop playing with your hair, ever). What is interesting is how I got them. I actually let my sister cut my hair.

You have to understand the magnitude of this event. For an adult woman, I am entirely too attached to my hair. I've lost all perspective. I feel intensely uncomfortable letting licensed professionals touch my hair because once I figure out what works with a certain cut, I don't want to have to figure it out again. That's the reason my hair is as long as it is: stylists can't mess it up (and neither can I). So allowing E4, who is neither a licensed professional nor even a high school graduate, to touch my hair was an act of total trust. Or total unwillingness to pay for a real haircut.

The thing is, though, that E4 has very cute swoopy bangs. And then the other sister (Juliette Lewis!) got them—and, in a Single White Female twist, hair color the same as E4's. Since their hair is roughly the same texture and curliness as mine, I wanted them too, and the girls assured me that they were very easy to create.

So tonight I sat on the toilet lid in front of E4 and asked her four times if she was sure that she knew what she was doing.

"Have you done this before?"
"Yeah, no problem."
"To whom?"

This was not reassuring, or even comprehensible. But the parting, the measuring, and the snipping proceeded, and now I have adorable bangs hanging in my face and irritating my mother, and I look even more like my sisters. And every time they look at me, they can see my bangs and know that I love them. Or that I'm very cheap. Either way.

Monday, August 29, 2005

NEW FEATURE: Erin's Recipes for People Who Can't Cook

As I have discussed on more occasions than I care to link to here, I am a special kind of dumb in the kitchen. So when something actually chances to work out (that isn't a pan of brownies or some sort of powdered macaroni item), I like to share with you the process so you can either (1) make some use of the information or (2) laugh at me.

So today's recipe is for chicken salad, and I made it up all by myself, more or less. As much as one can make up a recipe for something that is simple and ubiquitous like chicken salad. But anyway, the almonds are the secret to the whole thing, because the texture contrast makes it interesting. You could also add celery for that purpose, but I hate celery. Stringy pseudovegetable. Bleh.

Protein-Tastic Chicken Salad, which is not unlike all chicken salad, but with more explicit directions and almonds

3 chicken breast halves
15 grapes (I like purple, but it's up to you)
handful slivered almonds
salad dressing (mayo if you're a heathen)

Cube chicken breasts. Tip: This is most easily done if the chicken is still partially frozen. Boil chicken breasts on medium heat until they're done (or, if you're me, until you remember to take them off the stove). Drain. Salt and pepper cubes. Get out a new cutting board so you don't die of salmonella, or at least flip over the chickeny one. Dice slivered almonds and add. Slice grapes and add. Note on grapes: if it bugs you to have random pieces of grape skin floating around in your salad, peel your grapes, because the skin will separate from the grape slices when you stir. Dump on salad dressing "until it looks right," as my mother likes to say. This means about four big spoonsful to start. Stir. Sample. Adjust salt, pepper, and salad dressing to taste. Salad dressing may need to be readjusted after refrigeration. (I don't know; it always seems to need more later.) If you are on a low-carb diet or hate bread, serve on top of a lettuce salad. Otherwise, serve on a hamburger bun with lettuce. Makes 5 or 6 sandwiches, I would guess; I haven't used all mine up yet so I don't know.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I'm a new graduate student, so here are some LISTS

Things I had to read this weekend, which is the first weekend after classes started, mind you
South Asian Literature: Four articles (~100 pp.), plus 80 pp. of Waiting for the Mahatma by R.K. Narayan (done)
Theory and Criticism: Four passages from De Sassure's Course in General Linguistics (~60 pp., bonus for REALLY boring and also somewhat pointless)
Chaucer: One article (50 pp.), 75 lines of General Prologue (bonus for Middle English), six passages from Sources & Backgrounds book (~25 pp.) (done)
Literary Journals: 12 essays (~100 pp.)

Ways I deal with all this reading so I don't go nuts
1. Bitching. This is universal to graduate students, apparently. The Association of Graduate Students of English (I know, clunker of a name) had a picnic this weekend, and the top two topics of conversation were (1) how much reading everybody has and (2) how much everybody doesn't want to do all their reading. Oh, and this one girl told the story of how she got shot in St. Louis. Don't go to St. Louis, kids.
2. Highlighters. I have tons of highlighters, and sometimes I play a game with them called Pretend You Have to Find the Important Ideas in This Stupid Article. If nothing else, highlighting makes my professors think I've read whatever it is. Plus, pretty.
3. Wine. Believe me, De Sassure goes down a lot easier when he's greased by a glass of riesling. You know, it's writers who have the reputation for being alcoholics, but I suspect critics are not far behind on that front. Note to my parents: I am in no danger of becoming an alcoholic. I hear that doesn't happen until at least comps.
4. Cats. Whenever one or both cats park themselves on top of me, I feel all loved, and then I think I'd better treasure their attention because it doesn't happen often, and then I can't move for an hour until they're done napping. Might as well get some reading done, provided it's not being laid on by some feline.

Things I did this weekend besides read
Attended picnic (x2)
Took classmate to emergency room
Kicked cat in head (x2—she was trying to escape)
Made chicken salad (see recipe feature above)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Making of Dr. N.N. Mind

I’m back, whee!

I actually only have a few minutes before I have to catch the bus for my next class (Introduction to Literary Theory), but I thought I would get everybody as up-to-date as I can.

I settled in, by and large, although there’s one box in the kitchen that I just haven’t been able to bring myself to unpack, so it’s still sitting in the middle of the floor. Lyra hides under the flaps and swats at my ankles when I walk by, like a painful little reminder that my housekeeping is terrible. Thanks, baby girl. Speaking of Lyra, she’s in love with the hallway and wants to spend as much time in it as she can. If she could marry the hallway…well, she wouldn’t, because then she would be cheating on the bookshelf next to the window in the office (a.k.a. the cats’ bedroom). Anyway, needless to say, the cats have adjusted well and are back to being their normal pesky selves, including leaving some extemely foul poos in the litter box, probably as revenge. Bleh.

School’s going well so far, now that we’re past the orientation/anticipation stage. Let me tell you, if there’s anything more useless than general orientation, I can’t think of what it might be. Here is what I learned: There’s a website. This website apparently holds the key to all knowledge, making the people who actually work in various university offices useful for only one thing: telling you the address of the website. Departmental orientation was somewhat more interesting, as I got to meet my classmates. Most of them seem very nice, although they are typical English graduate students—a little overenthusiastic and socially awkward. I’ll fit in well.

Classes started yesterday. I’ve been to three of my five classes already, and it pretty much looks like I’m going to spend the whole semester reading. Reading, reading, reading, a little writing, then more reading. Seriously, I’ve already spent over $80 on copies (one course pack and one set that should have been), on top of $200 for books. Poor! Do they not remember this?

Iowa City itself is charming and quirky, but not quirky in that pretentious/self-conscious way that Austin is. (Sorry, Austinites. But if you have to try to be weird, then you’re just like my freshman who used to have mock sword fights with himself in the quad. Weird, yes, but also annoying and scary.) They have right-turn arrows and warnings for any curve that’s greater than 120 degrees: WARNING CURVE TIGHTENS 25 MPH. I can’t decide if those are for the old snail-like Midwestern drivers, or for the crazy college kids.

Moving to Iowa has reminded me of a lot of things, like that Midwestern guys seem to be above-average attractive and that people besides me actually do use their turn signals. Going to the grocery store is, as always, an exercise in hilarity. I bought fish sauce last night at Hy-Vee, and I had to explain to the clerk that it didn't taste like fish and was actually sort of tangy. Not hilarious because I explained, but because she looked like she absolutely did not believe me. I mean, I do sometimes tell wild lies, but not usually to unsuspecting store clerks. Oh well, the look on her face was probably somewhat like the look on mine when I discovered Beefomato in the juice aisle. It's apparently the Midwestern equivalent of Clamato. They're equally disgusting, in any case.

All right, I'd better run or I'm going to miss the bus, and then I'll be late for class and it will be a whole drama. I'll have further updates on class and classmates, but probably not today as I'll be working on my 2-page response paper for Chaucer that's due tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

We were ON a BREAK!

If you hadn't noticed, Dr. N.N. Mind is taking a short haitus from posting. I'm in the process of finishing up my life in Houston so I can move on to graduate school. I hope to be back sometime in the third week of August, perhaps with an entirely new and exciting design. See you then.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n."

Today has been a shitty day.

Well, that's not entirely true. It was going along pretty decently there for awhile; I was getting some work done, listening to good music, and I had a nice lunch. And then about 4 o'clock someone made a random comment to me (I won't repeat it because it was entirely too contextual to be relevant here), and that quickly the day was shot.

I don't know about you, but once I've achieved a bad mood, nothing can make it go away except for an extended private sulk and about eight hours of sleep. Not even the violent downpour and subsequent twin rainbow over downtown this afternoon had any effect on my mood. And you know how I love the rain.

So here I am, fully immersed in my private sulk, which in this case seems to be listening to Kasey Chambers and writing about how SOME people are EXTRAORDINARILY thoughtless and apparently need to have NEEDLES shoved into their KNEECAPS before they finally GET it. (Don't worry, said people don't read this blog. I'm not even being passive-aggressive here. I haven't gotten that far in the sulk.) Unfortunately, this isn't the good kind of sulk, where I can feel self-righteous about how I done been wronged; my feelings are hurt because what Jerk #1 said was true. Asshole.

Anyway, that's the scintillating story of my evening. I'm going to go find some crabby food (probably ice cream) and contemplate the pitiful state of my life. I'll return you to your regularly schedule sarcasm and good humor tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"This is the true story of two people, picked to work in an office..."

Erin: I did thoroughly enjoy Slate saying the French have got to go.
M!: Yeah - the Tour de France would be a lot better with less of the French involved.
Erin: As would most things in the world.
M!: Indeed.
Erin: Maybe we just need to start paying more attention to the Giro d'Italia.
M!: That might be a way to go.
Erin: I like the Italians better than the French.
M!: Me too, but I like the race less.
Erin: Why?
M!: It's not as long, so there's less drama, for starters. I like the French countryside.
Erin: Bleh.
M!: Which I'm sure looks shockingly similar to the Italian countryside for the most part.
Erin: I hate France.
M!: But still. Maybe if they swapped . Like the French run the Giro and the Italians run the Tour.
Erin: Right. Well, I'm kind of intrigued by Austria. Maybe they should just do more of that.
M!: Gradually put more of the race in Austria? Until it's all there?
Erin: Well, that, or just pay attention to the Tour of Austria until the Tour de France essentially goes away. But either way. Austria. It's gorgeous, it's grueling, and the Austrians are aggressively organized but not mean.
M!: Okay, get on the phone with Europe and float that idea out there.
Erin: The Austrians would love it. Seriously, it's like the best idea ever. Austrians even dislike the French.
M!: Who doesn't dislike the French?
Erin: Um...the Canadians?
M!: I guess. They like everybody.
Erin: Yeah, but they have a more than casual tie to France. Also, I think Palestinians like the French.
M!: That's odd. the French supportive of Palestine?
Erin: Yes. They hate the Israelis because the Americans like them.
M!: So it's not so much a legitimate ideological stance as it is them being contrary? That's a pretty lame way to structure your foreign policy.
Erin: "Well, we're not gonna. We're gonna have a sandwich." Well, I'm sure it has some other things--the French are somewhat anti-Semitic. Way more than the Germans or the Austrians, actually.
M!: Hm. Maybe someone needs to go smack France around again to shake some of that superiority off.
Erin: Dude. Everybody in the world has delivered a smackdown.
M!: I think the US is about due to give them another one.
Erin: But it just gives them an inflated sense of self-worth.
M!: Not if they're all gone. How long has it been since we've shot at French people?
Erin: Too long! What actually needs to happen is that the entire Earth needs to ignore France.
M!: Exterminate the French!
Erin: Hm. Then what do we do with France? Are you proposing that we just break it off Europe?
M!: We could divide it up amongst the surrounding countries.
Erin: Yeah, that's going to be a smooth process that won't irritate the English or the Italians at all.
M!: The English had their turn having lots of territories. Same with the Italians/Romans.
Erin: Maybe we should give it to somebody that would infuriate everybody. Like...Papua New Guinea.
M!: And besides, if your country was ever Facist, then you're automatically out of the running. Italy: out. Germany: out.
Erin: Austria. Communists should probably be out, too.
M!: Yeah. So it leaves like, the Portuguese.
Erin: You don't like my Papua New Guinea idea?
M!: Sure.
Erin: Portugal killed a lot of Indians.
M!: What if we expanded Luxembourg to a ridiculous degree?
Erin: Or Liechtenstein. Or maybe we should give it to a lot of displaced minorities and watch them fight it out while filming a new reality show.
M!: Awesome!
Erin: So, like, American Indians, Israelis...Taiwan, and...the Aztecs.
M!: "Watch what happens when people stop being (whatever they say on Real World) and start committing genocide."
Erin: Polite?
M!: There you go.
Erin: I think it should go, "Watch what happens when people stop being oppressed and start committing genocide."
M!: That works too.
Erin: Oh, Nepal. Nepal should be there. They'd be like, the sleeper. Who spends most of the show trying to get everyone to calm down and be Zen, and then sneaks in and wins it all at the end.
M!: Now with the Aztecs, could we combine them with the Mayans?
Erin: Sure.
M!: Because I think that would cause a lot of internal friction.
Erin: And make for good t.v., yes.
M!: Right.
Erin: And of course, the whole thing will be picked up by Fox.
M!: I don't know - it's a pretty big undertaking. I think the Survivor guy should do it, and I think he's got an exclusive deal with CBS.
Erin: Hm. Maybe Regis would host.
M!: Intriguing.
Erin: He's about due for a very irritating comeback.
M!: Yep
Erin: I like it. Let's work up a spec script and send it to George W. and Regis's people.

Erin: Next on the agenda: fixing major-league baseball.
M!: I think the Nationals nee Expos are doing a good job of that.
Erin: True story, but I think the NL Central needs to ship a team to the AL West, and a new DH rule needs to be instituted: if your team wants to use a DH, the pitcher he's batting for has to stand in for one free bean ball.
M!: I like that.
Erin: He can wear a helmet, but no armor.
M!: Does he get a bat or does he just have to stand there?
Erin: I think he just has to stand there. He's apparently too much of a weenie to wield a bat on his own.
M!: Is there going to be a rule for pitch speed?
Erin: No.
M!: Can he move?
Erin: No, it's a free bean ball. He has to take it. I think the only rule is "don't aim for his face."
M!: Or does he have to keep his feet planted?
Erin: It's like a free shot.
M!: Wow.
Erin: Feet planted, for sure. He can maybe move his torso to mitigate broken bones.
M!: This sounds like a recipe for an exploding DL.
Erin: Well, maybe people will think twice about using a DH, then.
M!: Does the rule apply for pinch hitting in the NL?
Erin: No, because that can be strategic.
M!: Very well then.
Erin: Hm. Or we can let the fans throw eggs.
M!: Pies
Erin: Eggs are way smellier.
M!: But pies are funnier
Erin: Eggs hurt more.
M!: Fair enough
Erin: Although really, there's no reason not to do both. And they can just sell them in the stands. For throwing convenience. Eggs for $1, pies for $5. It's a huge money-maker.
M!: Yep.
Erin: Well then. Any other baseball issues that need our attention?
M!: How the Astros have gone from being awful to just mediocre.
Erin: Evidently they got tired of sucking. They had a meeting in the clubhouse and were all, "Sucking sucks. Let's not do it anymore." And everybody nodded.
M!: But they're not so interested in being good yet.
Erin: Baby steps. They beat San Diego; I thought that was promising.
M!: Indeed.
Erin: Or a fluke, it's unclear.
M!: And Roger is throwing ridiculously.
Erin: Yes, it's sad when you're 7-3 but your ERA is under 1.50. If your ERA is 1.41, you should be 15-0.
M!: Yep. Lots of 1-0, 2-0 games will kill you.
Erin: Very true. Interestingly, the Yankees won their first game with less than 3 runs this weekend. I hope they continue to be mediocre.
M!: Yep.
Erin: It warms the cockles of my heart.
M!: It'll be nice if they learn that a bunch of high-paid, old superstars isn't the way to win.
Erin: Yes. Although A-Rod is hardly old.
M!: No, but he's a douchebag, so that's kind of the same.
Erin: True story.

Monday, June 27, 2005

I'm starting to suspect that ABC 13 has pyromaniacal tendencies

I've gotten in the habit of watching Good Morning America as I get ready for work, which is fine. It's the romance novel of news programs, to be sure, but it's fairly decent background noise while I'm putting in my contacts and changing clothes three times. However, GMA is interrupted at 7:55 and 8:25 for local news.

I'm starting to ask myself what the point of this is, as the local news in Houston is ALWAYS THE SAME THING. There are about five items on a rotating schedule (one for every day of the week). They are:

1. A shoddily-maintained apartment complex burns, but no one is hurt.
2. Someone attempts to cross the freeway on foot and it killed.
3. An Enron muckety-muck or a human smuggler is sentenced at the courthouse.
4. There is an incident at a chemical plant (usually a fire).
5. A schoolchild is suspended for some ridiculous reason.

Seriously. These are apparently the only things that ever happen in Houston. Every once in a great while something different happens—the traffic incident is a flipped Hummer instead of a psychotic pedestrian, or it's the Legislature screwing up instead of the judiciary, but really, what's the point? It's getting to the point where I can recite along with Marisa Rivas, and I'm afraid that by the time I move to Iowa, I'll be able to do the sign-language interpreter's part, too. Last week alone there were five fires. Five! One two three four five! One for every day of the week. No other news happened. Amazing.

Frankly, the only reason I don't mute the local news is because I want to hear the weather, although I don't know why. It's just as monotonous as the news. Hot, hot, hot, rain tease, hot hot hot. Wind from the south, misery from all directions. No offense, Doug Brown, but I'm starting to hate you.

Maybe I should try another channel. I do have a new love of Matt Lauer lately, since he allowed Tom Cruise to make a more complete ass of himself the other morning. Or maybe I just need to move.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Some Lists

Words and Phrases I've Been Overusing Lately
True story/sad story
General malaise
Bad news bears
I'm going to stab [you, him, them, that guy if he does that one more time, I swear].
Interesting (Bonus: generally used when I'm not at all interested)
(C) Bite me
Oh, Lordy
Good grief
Slash, i.e. "I'm going to eat this...slash throw it at you.

Reasons My Sister and I Could Be Twins, According to My Brother
We like art and literature
We are loud
We do not enjoy science
We are irrational
We do not think he is as funny as he thinks he is
Nor as knowledgeable

Reasons My Sister and I Could Never Be Twins, According to Both of Us
She is tiny and I am not
I am a listener; she tunes out when people talk
She likes cucumbers and beer and a vast array of foods that disgust me
She enjoys the center of emotional tempests; I like to observe from a safe distance
I like Chagall and she does not
Control is important to me; she couldn't care less who's running the show as long as it's entertaining
We were born four years apart

Reasons My Sister and I Could Be Twins, Ignoring the Obvious Problem of Birthdates
We are smart as whips, however smart that is
We are clumsy
We are disorganized, except when it counts
We have green eyes and big hair and the same toes
We like baseball and travelling and lying to people for no good reason (why yes, my middle name is Edward after my grandfather and she was born in Spain while our parents were itinerantly living there*)
We do not think my brother is as funny as he thinks he is
Probably not as knowledgeable, either

Places I Have Eaten Since the Month Of No Eating Out Ended
Nit Noi
Jason's Deli
Auntie Chang's Dumpling House
Texadelphia (twice)
Jamba Juice (twice)
Dessert Gallery

*These are lies that I and my sister (respectively) have told and managed to make people believe. Hers is better than mine because she convinced her roommate that it was true, and then her roommate interviewed her about Spain during a project for Spanish class. Evidently E3 claimed that our parents had gone there on a whim, Dad was working as a waiter and we stayed there only until she was five, thus explaining her complete lack of ability to speak Spanish. The roommate got an A- on the paper. I don't know if E3 has ever 'fessed up, but it makes me laugh every time I think about it.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dude, I really hope your technique's improved between then and now

Did you have that phase in elementary school where you faked being sick a lot so you didn't have to go? (I realize it's not so much a "phase" for some people, but I was an overachiever; I knew it couldn't last that long without going on the dreaded Permanent Record.) I had this phase when I was eight. It was not because I didn't like my teacher, Mrs. Schumacher; I liked her fine. No, it was because Justin wouldn't stop kicking me in the back during Library.

Justin was a little twerp who clearly was lacking in social skills, and when I was eight I thought he had been placed on earth and in my second-grade class solely for the purpose of making my life hell. Fifteen years of distance lets me see that he was in deep like but too socially maladjusted to show me, so he got my attention however he could.

I have a pretty clear memory of Justin's face, which is a relief since I can't remember his last name for the life of me. He was tall for his age, had medium-to-olive skin, brown eyes, and that weird color of hair that's lost somewhere between brown and grey. Besides being of indeterminate color, his hair looked like it had been cut by a Cuisinart, and random bits of it stuck up in odd directions. (He was only about 10 years ahead of his time with that cut; a classmate of mine in college had it all four years.) Justin wore a jean jacket every day, usually over some sort of ratty T-shirt. I suspect that his family wasn't particularly well-off.

Justin made me cry pretty frequently for a period of about two months, during which I blew my chances at a perfect attendance award. One time I was actually sick, seeing as I threw up on the front steps of the school (I don't remember if my mom, who had just come to get me and was escorting me to the car, went back inside and told them to clean it up. If not, gross.), but the other three or four times I had a mild malaise that was mostly a nervous knot in my stomach from not knowing what new torment was going to be visited on me next. The library lumbar kicking happened on at least two occasions I can think of, and I know he landed a hard punch on my upper arm in the coat room once, besides the usual verbal set-downs and so forth. I wasn't as tough then as I am now. I wish I'd hauled off and socked him across the kisser instead of pretending to be nauseated and calling my mom.

I don't remember telling my parents anything about this problem, although I know I had a couple of girlfriends who were aware and would sit beside me in library to keep an eye on it. I just didn't really have anything concrete to tell my paretns. Other than the fact that he hated me, I didn't know anything about Justin. And come Valentine's Day, I found out I didn't even know as much as I thought I did, as he sent me a black Transformers Valentine signed "Love, Justin" in crooked print. I puzzled over it for days. Then I put it in a box and didn't think about it again until I was 24.

Eventually Justin stopped trying to puncture my kidneys through my skin and actually started being nice to me, and we became decent friends. I never went over to his house, but we did play tag and four-square during recess, and I stopped thinking that his hair looked quite so frightening. On reflection, I find this whole relationship extremely hilarious, since it's an inverse of a pattern that happens to me ALL THE TIME. Like a guy, torment him, eventually become friends with him by some weird twist of fate that's entirely out of my control.

Okay, I'm probably not tormenting them. Intentionally.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Poll: How can I be more punk rock? Or at least less 80-year-old woman with too many cats?

So, given that I have been thinking about doing one or all of these things at least since high school, which of these do you endorse, or if you can't be positive, hate the least?

A. Blue or green streaks in my hair
B. New piercing: ears
C. New piercing: eyebrow
D. New piercing: somewhere slightly more scandalous
E. Tattoo in a place that is not readily visible 99 days out of 100
F. Other: ________________________

Friday, June 10, 2005

May 10, 1933. Ring a bell, gentlemen?

So evidently some mental midgets in the right wing (do I repeat myself? Probably) have compiled a list of the Ten Most Dangerous Books of the 19th and 20th Century.

By and large, I'm not really shocked by any of the titles on the list; they're about what you'd expect from the Far Right: The Communist Manifesto, The Feminine Mystique,, and, amusingly, The Kinsey Report.* Might I suggest, esteemed producers of Human Events Magazine, that if you were getting more of what's in The Kinsey Report, you wouldn't feel the need to make so many hate-mongering lists? Just a thought.

I'm also not particularly shocked that the list exists at all; people have banned books since books were invented. That's probably why books came about in the first place: so we could write down dangerous information, hide it, and then kill the people who knew the information in the first place. Reading is power, and don't you forget it. We're not banning books here, but if they could, oh, you better believe that they would. Human Events and its book judges have named these titles "dangerous." Now, where else have we heard that certain books not in line with a certain [usually reactionary] strain of political thought are "dangerous," hm? Where, where, where? Oh, it's a thinker.

Anyway, no, what shocks me is the list of judges. And not so much their names, but their professions. Of the 15 judges, fully eight of them are professors. Professors. These are men (yes, all the professors were men) who make their living by studying ideas, the very things that they're so roundly condemning. I don't get it. However, contradiction seems to fly right over these men's heads: in condemning Nietzsche because he was a great favorite of Hitler's, they blithely ignore that Hitler hated and burned books by Freud and Marx, who are both prominent on the list.

I shouldn't be surprised to find that kind of flawed thinking in a group that would label books dangerous. The only dangerous books are the ones that are flung at your head by an enraged librarian. Dangerous people, however, come in all shapes. Even close-minded college professors.

* I was upset by all the books on this list, of course, but some of them seem so harmless, particularly the honorable mentions. Silent Spring? Yes, it's clearly dangerous to think that maybe our actions have consequences for the environment. That Rachel Carson. Coming of Age in Samoa? Oh my God! It's the radical idea that other people are not the same as we are! The horror! (Oh, and by the way, for those of you too lazy to look it up. On May 10 in 1933, the Nazis burned 20,000 "un-German" books in a Opernplatz at the center of the University of Berlin.)

Monday, June 06, 2005

The only drug dealer I've ever had a problem with wears a white lab coat

So CVS is taking over the world. For those of you that live in an area that hasn't been invaded (like, say...France. Oh, wait, France = invasion, always. Okay, Pola—...Russ—...Antarctica), CVS is a ubiquitous pharmacy that bought out Eckerd last year and now you can't turn around without smacking into one. In the past year they've torn down an excellent gas station to put up a CVS, as well as a marginal gas station over by the freeway, and we suspect my mechanic's garage died to bring us still another CVS. There are three CVSes within walking distance of my house, which, in Houston, is saying something.

You can tell when they're putting in a CVS, too, as Mary pointed out when my mechanic's garage was sacrificed. It's something about the lot size and layout, I don't know, but it's very clear when one is going in. And you can kind of calculate based on how far the lot is from the nearest CVS. If the distance is greater than three blocks, it increases the chances like, 400% that it's going to be a CVS.

This is not to say that I have a particular problem with CVS; I don't. The last prescription I ordered was filled competently, although the chick didn't call me like she said she was going to. Every CVS I've ever been in is clean, well-lit, and at least passably organized. About the only complaint I have is that their greeting card selection is for crap, but since I buy a card approximately once in never, it's not really a problem. I just think it's odd that they're springing up everywhere.* Like, is there some sort of Faustian deal in effect? Perhaps the same one that Sam Walton signed?

I mean, really, the CVS thing is just symptomatic of Americans' extreme laziness. "I can't be expected to drive THREE BLOCKS for a tube of lipstick! I'd rather use this red crayon! Mmm, waxy!" Either that or it's a sign that Americans have very strange and very dire medical issues. "My face is sliding off my skull! I need medication NOW!" If this latter is, in fact, the case, can someone let me know? I'll stake out the CVS pharmacy counter with a camera for that sort of entertainment.

*As an aside, I called Krispy Kreme "the CVS of the doughnut world" last week. I thought it was an apt comparison, because when was the last time you saw a Dunkin' Donuts (Boston excepted)? I think Krispy Kreme bought them. Eckard's is to CVS as Dunkin' Donuts is to Krispy Kreme. I could write the SAT.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

I also feel hot, and not in that good "these are cute new pants" way

Long time no update, hm? This is what happens when you go out of town and then come back to a desk full of actual work and two trainees. As I said yesterday, it's like having the work equivalent of a toddler and a newborn, plus my own job.

Anyway, yes. Last weekend was my brother's wedding, which was less of a catastrophe than I expected. My sister-in-law looked beautiful in her dress, my brother only pissed us off a couple of times, and I got to see lots of relatives and friends I hadn't seen in a loooong time. I also got an invite to visit relatives in New Jersey, Washington, and Omaha, and an invite to have margaritas sometime from my pseudo-aunt Lois, who is wholly unaware of just how good my memory is and how much I like margaritas. I probably won't tell SB, though, because he got mildly annoyed when Lois's husband bought me a G&T at the reception.

Random amusing link: Reasons Why the Female Characters in Certain Male-Written Fiction Are Not Like Actual Women at All

I discovered a new thing this weekend which is actually very helpful. It's called Announcing Your Feelings. I've decided to stop expressing my mood solely through facial expressions and tone of voice, and just tell everybody how I'm feeling. On the way to my brother's wedding rehearsal, I announced to my parents, very firmly, "I feel crabby," because I did. I had no desire to attend a wedding rehearsal and pretend to be nice. My parents sort of laughed and SB asked, "Well, that's fine. It's just a matter of how you deal with it." I replied, "I plan to be sullen and withdrawn." Nods all around, and then I was sullen and withdrawn for about five minutes until my sisters started teasing M4 for crying at rehearsal. Then later I felt like I needed a drink, which I announced to my parents, my sisters, and the waitress at the rehearsal dinner, and still later I felt drunk, although I did not announce it because I was too busy shushing people and giggling uncontrollably.

So from now on I will be announcing my feelings willy-nilly, and people can just deal with them. Right now I feel like peeing. So...yeah.

I realize this entire post sounds like I spent the weekend in a drunken haze or contemplating a drunken haze, but I promise, I was sober for at least 95% of the five days I was in Nebraska. I didn't even drink the bottle of monkey wine I brought my parents. (Yes, I buy wine based entirely on which bottle is the coolest. I have a bottle at home right now that I bought because it was shaped like a cat. No joke.)

In other news, I went to the doctor on Wednesday, which was a whole new experience in competence. I know that sounds sarcastic, but it's really, really not. I haven't had a competent doctor since I was ten, and even then it was the same guy who'd managed to incorrectly predict the genders and birthdates of all four of my mother's children. But my new doctor is a woman who actually let me have an opinion about my own treatment. Amazing. So anyway, I found out I'm not dying, none of my moles are cancerous, and I need to have a glucose tolerance test, which is happening tomorrow. Evidently they make you swallow a lot of sugar and then try to extract it again by sucking it out your veins, or something. I'm not really clear on that. What I am clear on is that I'll get to spend the morning in the lab reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell while not doing work, so, you know, at the very worst it's a push. Also, my doctor put me on medicine to help me metabolize sugar better, which is good in the long run, but bad because it means that a margarita could send me into hypoglycemic shock. So that's a sad story.

Monday, May 16, 2005

A brilliant tip (plus, shiny)

Okay, if you are on a budget but you need wrapping paper, here is my advice: get a giant roll of plain silver.

Silver wrapping paper will get you through every possible situation. It's good for birthdays, Christmas, weddings, Hanukkah, and graduation. All ribbon colors match it, so you can put whatever you want on there.

I have three rolls of wrapping paper—one orange-and-yellow plaid, one gold with Christmas balls, and one plain silver, and seriously, I don't know why I have anything other than the silver. It's the classiest and the most versatile.

So that's what I recommend. Also, "Prom Night at Hater High" by The Long Winters.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bubble tea and birthdays will be the exceptions

Shameful: I have "The Greatest Love of All" stuck in my head. Fortunately it's the version Joe sings at graduation in Say Anything, but still.

But this is not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is the Month of No Eating Out.

The Month of No Eating Out starts today, and it's going to be pretty much what I said. A month. Where I don't eat out. Fun, huh?

By and large this is to curb going out to lunch at work, which tends to be expensive. Saving money is the chief goal of the MoNEO, since I've got a butt-load of expenses coming up here at the end of the summer. But it's also to force me to cook more. We all know I need practice, and I need to stop letting food go to waste because I don't feel like cooking it. Even if it is tofu.

So that is the current program. For those of you who were hoping to eat out with me at some point this month...sorry. But! Let me know far enough in advance and I will cook for you. Mmm, tofurkey.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Thank God I am going to grad school soon and will have something worthwhile to do with my evenings again

Tonight I sat on my couch and tried to teach myself that card trick where you hold them in one hand, bend them, and then shoot them to the other hand. To the shock of only my cats, I am very, very bad at it.

Sometimes I like to think about possible back-up careers in case I flunk out of grad school (slash can't find a job after I get my degree). I think poker dealer in a casino would be fun, and, if nothing else, shiny. It's the only nametag job I can think of that wouldn't make me want to stab my eyes out every day. I'm probably not pretty enough to get hired automatically, so I'd have to get the job based on my witty banter skills and the aforementioned card trick. Note to self: keep practicing. Both.

If that washes out, I've always said (in all seriousness, really) that I'd like to go to beauty school. Lord knows I play enough with my own hair to make this worthwhile. By the way, I had my hair dyed professionally last week. I know! It's sort of maroony now. The guy told me, with a heavy gay lisp wrapped in a Mexican accent, "Honey, I guarantee you it is going to turn out fabulous." I'm not sure if that actually happened, but it'll do until after my brother's wedding in two weeks.

Oh, yeah, anyway. I've had beauty school in the back of my mind since I was about six, I think, and made friends with my mother's stylist's daughter Sarah, who had fantastic curly red hair that I didn't have the sense to covet until much later. I think I'd like to learn how to cut and dye other people's hair, especially if I could become one of those stylists that just does whatever the hell she wants without regard to the client's demands. I am probably intimidating enough to get away with this. Or maybe they teach you that in one of the advanced beauty school classes, who knows. Alternately, I could be one of those stylists that calls all her clients cute little nicknames like "sweetie" and "babydoll." (Like my flaming Mexican stylist, who is, incidentally, bald, and answers the phone with "Hey, bitch.") Also, I would start saying, "Girl, please," a lot more, which I think I'm going to do anyway.

The other alternative profession is massage therapist. I'm not as gung ho about this one, if only because I suspect it's actually a lot of physical work, and [Girl,] please, I think we all know I am not about the strenuous exercise. Still, I adore my massage therapist because she is kooky and free-spirited and knows about weird stuff like how squeezing your earlobes will make a headache feel better (try it) and the synergy of your uterus and your bowels (sorry, guys). Also, she can make football players cry by pressing on their knots, and I am all about learning how to make burly guys cry like tiny babies. Another bonus: she totally charges $60 an hour, which is approximately six times what I make currently. I've been told by a few people that I have good hands (ooh, racy!), so it's definitely an option if this English thing is a bust.

Looking at these alternate professions, I have to say I'm a little surprised by how people-oriented they all are. Clearly my subconscious thinks sitting on the couch and practicing card tricks before an uninterested feline audience is getting just a tad old.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Summer Reading List 2005

These are the books I want to read before I stop getting to read what I want again. If everything goes according to plan, you'll get a fun little book report every so often. Let me know if you read one of these and want to discuss. It'll be our own little book club, whee!

Lost by Gregory Maguire
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Farber
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche (admittedly this is cheating a little because I've already started it)
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
Der Kleine Prinz by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara by Joe Lesueur
Max and the Cats by Moacyr Scliar
The Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
The Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Pompeii by Richard Harris
She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
Monkey Dancing by Daniel Glick
I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Following up the gross with the random

I got a new computer at work last Monday, which was totally exciting because I didn't think I was going to get one of the five new ones they'd ordered for our department. But I did, so yay! The best part of this computer is that it came with a flat-panel monitor that I turned on its side so I could see an entire page of whatever book I'm working on. The worst part of this computer is that I can hear its parts whirring and clicking at odd intervals, and I know the randomness of it is going to make me have a psychotic break and go screaming out of the building at some point this summer.

This is a rule: if you have new clothes, you must wear them as soon as possible. I don't know why, but this is clearly true. If you don't wear them on the first appropriate occasion, clearly you didn't need to buy them. If you don't understand this're probably male. (Oh, please, that's not even my joke. One of the girls at work came up with it.)

Did you know the vividness of your dreams is linked to your menstrual cycle? (Clearly this is less applicable for guys.) I have no scientific evidence to support this (only some fruit loopy websites), but it made perfect sense when a coworker told me that after I explained to her that I'd been having really intense dreams for the past couple of days. I realized this does actually happen about one week out of every four or five. They sort of culminated last night in dreaming that my mother had died, which is my last recurring dream left over from childhood. The other one that I remember clearly: that my parents had left us with our babysitter Tara and the basement had turned to pools of lava. (Liquid hot magma.) We had to get out and it was scary. I think this dream was brought on by the combination of Fire Safety Week at school and a concurrent study of the Ring of Fire. Did anyone else have fire trauma? It seems like it was fairly common among my friends. Smokey was more threatening than comforting, I think.

If you eat pizza-flavored items (chips, goldfish, jerky, whatever), you are not an adult. This is true. I'm having pizza-flavored Pringles right now.

Does anybody want to play 1000 Blank White Cards with me? If so, let me know and we'll kick it at the Walabama Ice House.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

In which I make my mother ashamed of me again, but my sister is happy
because I've finally posted some shit (*rimshot*)

Warning: this post discusses bodily functions and is probably WAY more information than you ever wanted. Seriously. I only posted it because my sister said I needed to write something, and then informed me that she had to poop. It sort of took off from there. You've been warned.

I've discussed how my family isn't crazy about saying "I love you," but that doesn't mean we're not a little too close in other ways. Burping, for example. My mother's commpletly given up trying to civilize us—she doesn't even look at us pointedly any more when we let a solid belch fly. Secretly I think she thinks we're funny. I swear I saw her chuckle when my brother informed my fiancee that he was excusing himself permanently, and would henceforth belch when and where he pleased without a by your leave. By her leave, I guess. Whatever. Maybe my mom was just having a little schadenfreude moment at my sister-in-law's expense.

E4 has also gotten in on the act. She rewards burps that have good volume and length by saying "Good push." When I asked her what that even meant, she gave me a level look and said, "It's like a little 'I love you.'" Ah, the witty runs in the family. It's on the gene right next to the "laugh at farts" sequence.

My other sister takes the bodily functions rudeness to an entirely new level, as is her wont. Usually in the middle of a conversation. We're chatting about a new pair of pants and out of the blue she goes, "Hey, did you hear about the Browns? They're going to the Super Bowl. I'll be right back." I was momentarily confused, and then more-than-momentarily grossed out. Of course, thinking about it now, I don't know why I should be surprised. She's a product of the family that once spent an entire meal at a restaurant discussing pooping. My brother was trying to convince us it was "fun." I kid you not.

I'm impressed, actually, by how much this excessive misbehavior colors my attitudes. I once decided that I didn't like a friend's boyfriend because he didn't laugh at a fart joke on Scrubs. ("There's your heated seat, my friend."/"It's everywhere!") I was eventually proven right—the guy was entirely too uptight to be dating my friend. One might even say he was...anal. Oh, please, you knew it was coming. I also try to choose friends who will embrace my talent for burping, because frankly, I'm good at it, and I like to do it. It's not quite as good a bodily function as sneezing, but it certainly gets a better reaction from people. I've had more than a few instances where I've burped at my friends in public, forgetting that not everybody does that. It's embarrasing, but it's also funny as shit. Literally.

I think we've all heard that thing about how in some cultures it's a compliment to the chef when you burp, although I can't remember if it's the Japanese or the Native Americans or just the Rednecks. In my family, it's a huge compliment when we burp around you at all. It means we like you. It means we trust you. It means we're gassy.
And if you ever hear one of us're adopted.

Monday, April 18, 2005

I am Catholic! Stop predending that I'm not! Do I have to recite the Hail Mary RIGHT HERE?

Often I try my material out at work before posting it here. This has been certified giggle-worthy by my co-workers. If it's not funny, blame them.

I've been thinking about the Pope lately, as I must, since I am Catholic. This Catholic thing, by the way, was apparently kind of a shock to my co-workers, who had to be reassured several. Times. that I do, in fact, go to Mass every week and can even tell you how the Catholic aerobics (stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, shake it all about, kneel) of it go. Their ignorance, however, confirms I am doing my job as a Catholic, which is to be chill and non-evangelical. It's good times being a Catholic. I'd recommend that you try it, but you know, whatever. No pressure. Although what I think is really interesting is what one of my friends told me once about converting to Judaism (sorry, I can't remember which Jewish friend it was), which is that the Jews are kind of like, you know, we don't really need a whole lot more chosen people here, so chill out. They make today's Catholics look like 15th century Catholics. Hm, that was a fun digression. Yay Catholics! Yay Jews!

Okay. What was I saying? Oh yeah, the Pope. Right.

Okay, there's the whole process of being elected Pope, and then, all of a sudden, some guy is the Pope, and he picks his pope name and puts on his pope robes and meets the popel people. It's the pope name I'm wondering about. Like, does he have that picked out before he goes into the conclave? "If I become pope, I'm going to be Pius XLXVIII?" Or is that bad luck, you say it and God goes, "Noooo, you shall be Pope Nobody the Nothingth," and then you get assigned to be Archbishop of Antarctica and you spend a lot of time ministering to penguins? I don't know. I just think it's a lot of pressure to pick a pope name on the spot like that. That's probably why we had two John Paul's in a row, because you know John Paul II was a dark horse. John Paul I dies, Carol Wojtyla gets elected and is all, "Uh. What? Pope name? I don't know...John Paul?" And then everybody thinks he's a copycat but they can't say anything because, hey, they just elected him pope. Also, can we get more creative with the names, here, popes? We've had enough Innocents and Pauls and Clements. (And I'm probably going to hell for this, but doesn't Clement make you think of a redneck guy who's missing a few teeth and wears overalls to church? Me too.) Let's go back to the early popes and start picking fun names. May I recommend Zebedee? Pope Zebedee. It's got a certain cachet.

Update: Habemus papem! More when we find out who it is later. If he's Pope Zebedee, you owe me a MILLION dollars.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Heart-Attack Bread Pudding

Adapted from Chef Michael Babb's recipe, with apologies. Makes two 8x8 bread puddings.

1 stale muffin
1 French baguette, long (the kind that sticks out of bags in movies)
11 eggs
2 c. whipping cream
3 c. half-and-half
2 c. sugar (half brown, half granulated)
2 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon plus enough to dust top of puddings
8 cubes white chocolate bark, chopped until the pile falls off the edge of your cutting board.

Throw the muffin on the floor to distract the cat. Then check that your bread is stale, or dry it in the oven if you are too impatient to wait for natural staleness. I recommend the oven method because I always wait too long otherwise, so my bread goes from stale to moldy, and that's just gross. Tear the bread into small chunks and put half in each 8x8 pan. Put them back in the oven to finish drying while you watch the last 15 minutes of your t.v. show.

Crack all your eggs and pick out the biggest chunks of shell. I figure nobody's going to notice the really small bits. Whisk the eggs until you get tired; make sure the yolks are all broken and things are pretty mixed up. Add in the sugars, the cream, and the half and half. Eyeball the vanilla and cinnamon; why dirty a spoon? Whisk until your sugar is mostly dissolved. Pick out those hard molasses things from the brown sugar; someone could crack a tooth.

Dump the chocolate chunks over your bread and then ladle the milk mix on; turn the whole thing with a spatula as you go so everything sticks together and looks as disgusting as possible. Ideally it should look like something a wildebeest regurgitated. (Mmm, tasty.) After you've got all the milk mix on and everything mixed, let the bread puddings stand for about 30 minutes.

Heat your oven to 385° F (I know) and put in two shallow pans with water in them. Sprinkle the tops of your puddings with cinnamon and set the puddings in the pans. Bake for about an hour, until the pudding sets and the edges turn golden brown. Good luck getting it out of the oven after that, because it will be hot and weigh approximately twelve pounds, not to mention you've surrounded it with a lake of lava. Enjoy!

Oh, right. After the stuff cools enough to get it out of the fridge, you can top it with a white chocolate ganache. This is a particularly good idea if you are suicidal and want to leave a smiling corpse. Heat up a half cup of whipping cream in a saucepot on the stove, and add your remaining four bricks of chocolate (chop them first). Stir until everything is melted and kind of translucent. Dump over your puddings. Eat immediately.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I should get my own Food Network series: "The Blind Feeding the Blind"

What's a good toy for a nine-month-old kitten? If you said "stale muffin," you win! She's currently batting it about the kitchen. It's a very bad muffin. Blueberries make you evil.

Tonight I made heart-attack bread pudding, which involves 11 eggs, a pint of whipping cream, a pint and a half of half-and-half, and an accidental overdose of white chocolate. (It was supposed to be six bricks, but eight fell out of the package and I didn't notice until I'd chopped them up. What can you really do with an extra half cup of white chocolate shavings?) If it turns out, I'll be taking half of it to work tomorrow, and giving half to someone I hate. Eleven eggs!

I have to say, I'm not the world's greatest cook, and I suspect this is because I have no problem with fudging recipes. (There's a joke in "fudging," but I can't quite find it. Make your own, you lazy bastard.) I read somewhere that the secret to being a good cook is careful measurement. Oh, wait, that's making good coffee. Um, good chef...oh, right, sharp knife. Well, I've got that, so really, I just need to start obeying the damn recipes. For example, tonight's bread pudding is a mish-mash of three different recipes, plus I sort of adjusted it based on what I thought would work. One recipe called for three cups of sugar on top of the white chocolate, and really, I thought that was overkill. Like, let's aim for death after work and not during. I cut it back to two cups, but upped the eggs by three so the whites could do their congealing thing and hold everything together. Yes, this is seriously how my mind works. Julia Child spins in her grave; my mother the food scientist is writing me out of her will.


Sorry, as I was writing it occurred to me that I had forgotten to put the cinnamon on top of the bread pudding, so I had to rush off to the kitchen to do that. Of course, I was too lazy to take them out of the oven (I say "them" because it's in two 8x8 casseroles), so now one pudding has entirely too much cinnamon on top. Give me a break; they're in water baths and I only have one potholder. I know, sad story.

So, will this recipe work? No friggin' idea. It wouldn't be my first disaster in a pan, and nor, I suspect, my last. The thing is, when I enter the kitchen, my common sense seems to go right out the door. Can I catch an egg with my knee against a the cabinet? Sure, great idea! Thank god my mother has IM. She fields all the stupid questions that result from my lack of culinary common sense, like when I asked her if I could start a fire in the oven with water. I've asked her all sorts of things, like what's the difference between cheese and milk and how do you know when cantaloupe is ripe and what the hell is wrong with my chicken? (Renin, salt, and active cultures; thump and smell; you're cooking it at too high a temperature stop cooking everything on high for the love of all that's holy.) The woman knows that I am minus the cooking gene, believe me.

Although, I will say, I did get the gravy gene. According to my mom and her friend Pat, good gravy is genetic. My mom makes fantastic gravy; Pat can barely make gravy with a mix. (This is her secret shame, because somehow she's the only woman in her family without the gene.) I discovered last time I (over)cooked a pot roast that I, also, can make a good gravy with little to no effort. I'll tell you the secret, but it will honestly do you no good if you don't have the gene. The secret is this: don't stop whisking. Put in your thickening agent while you're whisking the broth, and don't stop whisking until you take the whole mess off the stove.

Oh, thickening agent. (Last thing, because I have to go get the bread pudding out of the oven in a minute.) How great a product would this be: milkfat in a jar. I know, it sounds gross, but it is the most practical idea I've had in weeks. Okay, here's the thing. My "recipe" tonight called for half-and-half, whole milk, and whipping cream. That is far too many milk products to have to buy, especially since I walked to the grocery store to get this stuff. If I could just buy skim milk and a jar of milkfat, I could mix it in the correct proportions to get all these things, no? I know, I'm a genius.

Update, 11:45 p.m.: I am a genius (slash idiot savant). The bread pudding is awesome and also deadly. Recipe tomorrow.

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