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.