Thursday, January 31, 2008

I have Mad Skillz

Nix’s List of Obscure Talents
(a work in progress)
Sew (hand)
Sew (machine)
Ride a horse
Computer art (photoshop)
Website design (HTML)
Care for dogs, cats, fish, hamsters, parakeets, snakes, etc.
Mod a My Little Pony
Set a turtle trap
Catch a venomous snake
Latch hook
Manage small children in large groups
Distinguish crocodiles and alligators
Speak Spanish
Write (prose, supposedly)
Google with skill
Paint (oil)
Paint (watercolor)
Sex a fruitfly
Read obsessively!
Use a flow cytometer to estimate a genome size
Use statistical software
Program a VCR
‘Knit’ chainmail
Make jewelry
Identify a wide variety of rocks
‘Hex’ code on Petz (fairly obsolete skill!)
Play the viola
Play handbells
Play the piano (badly)
Run a classroom
Cross stich
Play field hockey

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dream logic (drēm lŏj-ĭk)

Dream logic (drēm lŏj-ĭk):


  1. A mental state characterized by irrationality and lack of lucidity occurring within the context of a dream: I dreamed I was working on my spanish quiz, and dream logic made me think my professor asked questions about how to use the flow cytometer in my genetics lab.
  2. Illogical or delirious thought processes generally triggered by sleep deprivation, grogginess, and/or sudden or incomplete awakening: I did not have time to work on my spanish quiz this morning because my dream logic told me my snooze button could be used to stop time.
  3. A state of mind between waking and sleeping: The gentle hum of the $250,000 flow cytometer combined with the weariness of a long and hectic day lulled me into a trance, and dream logic helped me believe I was home and only dreaming of being in the lab.

see also: sleep madness (Questionable Content, sidebar)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Information -Super- Highway

I love the internet.

Shocking, I know. But all that information at the tips of my fingers just tickles the world-conquering megalomaniac in me. I am a Google Master. I can find anything. Seriously, they should offer some sort of ninja degree or something.

When I was about nine or ten, I remember my mom talking my dad into buying a set of used encyclopedias for the house. Sure, they take up a lot of space and they can be rather pricey, but you can look things up in them. It doesn’t even matter if you actually find these things, it’s the looking up that matters. Because, as my mom explains, then you see something else interesting, and then something else, and before long you’ve killed hours browsing the encyclopedia. That’s right, I’m descended from a woman who believes in reading the encyclopedia for leisure.

Now take those encyclopedias and increase the information in them exponentially. That’s right. I’m doomed. The urge to cruise the information superhighway is like a drug in my blood. Excessively melodramatic prose optional.

Why bring this up? Only to offer some justification as to why I have just spent the past four hours browsing old comic book covers on this site with no end in view.

“Batman you have been found guilty of witchcraft. I sentence you to be BURNED AT THE STAKE.” –Superman

I love the internet.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

Somewhere along the way I set my internal clock a good four, maybe five hours back. While this is all well and good in regards to my quest to become officially classified as a nocturnal creature, in the meantime it means I’m awful cranky during class.

In order to address this problem, without actually doing anything to alter my lifestyle, I hit the information superhighway. Almost immediately I find out that nocturnal animals "generally have highly developed senses of hearing and smell." Something to look forward to. How To Sleep Well starts out with the advice "sleep only when sleepy." Check. I wasn't actually aware that was a significant problem plaguing humanity. My problem is staying awake when sleepy. Moving on down the list, "develop sleep rituals" sounds intriguing. Maybe I could incorporate ceremonial masks?

According to The World Clock I’m on Honolulu time. That or Kiritimati. My initial impulse is to vote for Honolulu over obscure-never-heard-of-it-ville but closer inspection reveals that Kiritimati is in the Christmas Islands, which sounds nice and festive. Plus it’s cloudy in Honolulu right now, and I am sick of anything to do with rain. It’s cold and icky, I have tons of stuff to do, and I never get to sleep before 3AM because my brain has apparently taken a metaphysical trip to the tropics for vacation. Hmm.... clever.

If anyone asks, I’m in Kiritimati.
The Time is Now:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Word Play

“The plaque was cloaked because it wasn’t even there.”

There is a moment of confounded silence as Mom, Jacob and I struggle to parse this unusual pronouncement.

“What was your verb?” Mom asks.

“Cloak.” Matthew, my youngest brother, sounds pleased with himself. “Like invisible,” he adds helpfully. We stare silently for a few moments longer.

“It was invisible because…it wasn’t there,” I say, sounding out the idea. For some reason this sends everyone into laughter. “That’s very Zen.”

I’m in town picking up a few forgotten items, and tonight on the car ride home from the hamburger place I mentioned the writing exercise I’d been working on. My mom, always ready for an unusual group activity latched onto the idea of making a family game of it. The idea might have slipped quietly into dormancy, but my littlest brother has been a MadLib fiend since he got two new books for Christmas. There is no escape. Nouns and verbs will be supplied. Adverbs may also be demanded.

We get down to business with only a modicum of tussling over the rules of the game. Jake, who considers himself very funny, is eager to supply words but not particularly interested in forming sentences with them.

“No, everybody’s writing them,” Mom says.

“Well, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Well, if you don’t write them you’re not playing.”

“I’m joking, Mom.”

“Jacob!” she says in exasperation.

“Joking about writing them.”


The four of us each write five nouns and one occupation. Next, everyone writes two verbs for each job, a task which generates some brain stretching. ‘Mad Scientist’ turns out to be remarkably tricky, while ‘Hair Dresser’ leaves the boys stumped. Eventually, however, all the cards are completed, and we’ve all drawn five nouns and eight verbs to try to match up. More brain stretching ensues.

“What the heck is a ‘sproutling’?” I grumble.

“Oh, it’s like a baby plant,” Jake explains.

“That’s a sprout.”

“Or a seedling,” Mom offers.

“No, it’s sproutling,” Jake insists.

“That is not a word,” I say firmly.

“Yes it is!”


“I know it’s a word because it’s on one of my Magic cards.” I give him a look, but don’t dignify that with a response. Mom rolls her eyes. “Fine. I’ll go look it up.”

“Knock yourself out.” I’m actually formulating a sentence with the word ‘sproutling,’ so I’m not all that concerned about its validity anymore.

A little later we’re all waiting on Jacob to finish. Tracking down a dictionary and proving himself wrong ate up his time.

“Are you almost done?”

“Just a second. I’m trying to make the demons dance, but it’s not working.”

“Man, I can think of several sentences with ‘dance’ and ‘demon’,” Mom says.

“Yeah, me too,” I chip in.

“Agh, nevermind. I’m just going to shave the demons.”

“'The demon shaved'?” I say quizzically.

“The demons danced on the cheesecake tempting her,'” Mom offers.

“Ooh, that’s a good one. Or ‘demons danced in his eyes,’” I suggest.

“Fine, whatever, I’m done,” Jake says, throwing his pencil down. “Let’s read them.”

Matthew is eager to go first. He leads off with “Never tease an elephant, or you will get trampled.” His words were ‘elephant’ and ‘trample.’ He apparently misunderstood the thrust of the game, but the results are fascinating. A few of his other gems:

--If you are going to wear an evening dress you should shave or it will look like you threw it on at the last minute.
--Never compose a song on paper or an old lady will throw it down the arroyo.
--I definitely don’t want the style that makes my hair look like a flame.
--Don’t cut that wire or there will be a cataclysm.

Mom and I are more reserved, but we each have our favorite offerings. Mom enjoys her sentence ‘The giant explosion washed over the village like a tidal wave,’ as well as ‘The song plundered the girl’s raw emotions.’ I’m less than impressed with my own ‘The sproutling dueled its way free of the soil,’ but very fond of ‘The telescope snipped out a piece of the night.’ My strangest verb turned into one of my better sentences:

--He wanted to be a football star, but luck bullrushed him onto a different path.

Jacob surprises us all with a remarkably well put together set of sentences, commencing with “The demons shaved away his conscience, slowly blackening his soul.” Looking back I don’t know why I was surprised—the boy lives and breathes sarcasm and banter. Clever wordplay is his forte. Another example:

--The baby was rebounded between nonconsensual parents like a fragile Christmas Lladro that requires infinite amounts of maintenance.

The two most disturbing are my personal favorites:

--The innuendo synthesized an erotic rhythm in the previously nonchalant conversation.
--His hairy epidermis ravaged her tender uncalloused skin.

The game extends itself into one more round, this time with much more excited chattering and diabolical giggles over the word selection. Sentence construction proves to be as interesting as the giggles implied.

“Hey who put ‘castrate’ for spy?” I demand indignantly. “Jacob.”

“It was supposed to be for cowboy,” Mom explains.

“Oh! I was wondering what kind of spy you were thinking of. I knew it wasn’t for neurosurgeon.”

“What does ‘loin’ mean?” Matthew asks.

“It’s the area between your legs,” Mom explains, as Jake laughs, smirking in a self-satisfied manner.

“Okay,” Matt says. “What does ‘probe’ mean?”

Mom chokes and covers her mouth as Jakes’s laughter sputters and turns into a coughing fit. I hold back a giggle fit, and manage to explain, “It means to poke. You probably shouldn’t use those two together.”

This time around, Matthew has the gist of the game, and if his Zen lines about invisible plaque mystify, other sentences impress:

--The cheer assassinated an unexpecting old man’s ears because it was so loud.
--The socks ride on the feet, being guided every step of the way.

The rest of us have plenty to offer as well:

--The glorious spectacle hog-tied the attention of the soon-to-be victim.
--The beer had seen his crimes, and gagged him with his broken promises.
--The grazing deer lobotomized the farmer’s vegetable garden.
--The erupting volcano cantered down the mountainside, snorting smoke and glaring with fiery eyes.
--The socks slipped and slid on the wood floor, scheming his downfall.
--The disaster castrated the man.

I’m tempted to embellish on that last, but it’s so much more fun when open to interpretation. However, the true show-stopper is Matt’s innocently intended combination of two previously mentioned words:

--The loin probes the air because someone needs to go to the bathroom.

Utter pandemonium. I nearly suffocate.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Writing Day 1

Sundays are officially writing exercise days as of about ten minutes ago. Now you know.

Today I'm trying one from the book Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, which I highly recommend. For this excercise I have listed 10 random nouns:

1. earrings
2. angel
3. footstool
4. garbage
5. chandelier
6. soldiers
7. lawn
8. maple tree
9. galaxy
10. nostril

Next a random occupation:


And finally 15 random verbs relating to that occupation:

1. stalk
2. track
3. target
4. trap
5. shoot
6. camouflage
7. sneak
8. dispatch
9. slaughter
10. trigger
11. butcher
12. tan
13. skin
14. carve
15. hunt

Now the object is to combine nouns and verbs in interesting ways to form unique sentences. Here's my shot at it (no pun intended):

· Her sparkling earrings trapped his eyes in a mesmerizing festival of light.
· The avenging angel carved a path through the sky.
· The footstool snuck under the tired man’s feet.
· The pungent garbage quickly dispatched their sense of smell, dragged it behind the dumpster, skinned it, and butchered it.
· The gaudy, extravagant chandelier camouflaged the peeling paint and spotted wallpaper.
· The weary soldiers stalked their beds down the trail back to the base camp.
· The sharp-bladed lawn skinned their soles as they ran barefoot through the yard.
· The slim maple tree shot from earth like a spear.
· The bright, wheeling galaxy slaughtered the nothingness around it.
· One nostril seemed to track her wherever she moved. It was really creepy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Office

“Oh, pause it, pause it!” My mom waves at the TV through her laughter. We’ve been working our way through the first three seasons of The Office, a task which involves frequent interruptions for excited chatter and commentary. Currently we’re groaning our way through Michael’s heavy-handed attempts to flirt with the Barbie-model salesgirl visiting the office. She’s having remarkable success selling purses to an office full of men, a fact which she attributes to their complete ignorance of the subject.

“You know, that is so typical," Mom says. "When I worked for the oil company there were so many men there other companies would always hire these...” she gropes for an appropriate description.

“Pretty salesgirls?”

“Yes, these women who would come in to sell things, and they would take the men out to lunch… it was sort of insulting.”

“Lily says they do that with the pharmaceutical reps at doctor’s offices.”

“That was one of the weird things about being a woman working in a primarily male field. It’s like you get to see these things you’re not supposed to. Like, for example, we used to have to go to these schools… you had to do so many training sessions a year, and they were usually in the city. The company would pay for a hotel for a week. Everyone had their own rooms, but you’d spend a lot of time with all these men, like in the hotel bars in the evenings. They had these women who would sell lingerie, who would model it in the bars.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“No, these women would come in and out wearing all these different lingerie items, and some men would buy them for their girlfriends and wives, I guess. I always thought that was kind of strange.”

Really strange. Like ‘Here, honey, I saw this on a hooker and thought of you.’ What the heck? Who would even buy that?”

“It was kind of surreal. I’d be the only woman there except for these ladies walking around in lacy nightgowns, and little skimpy nightclothes… like teddies and things. They’d just walk up to men in the bar and start telling them ‘this is made of pure satin,’ and things like that. They were selling lingerie and sometimes guys would buy things, but it was like that’s not really what the men were paying for, you know? And there I’d be. 'La la la.'”

I am amazed. “That is just so bizarre. I can’t believe stuff like that really happens.”

“Well, it was like I was telling you, when I’d be at the rig sites and I’d walk through and the men would all be watching porn, and I’d just sort of have to pretend I saw nothing.” She parodies shooting uncomfortable glances to either side. “You know, I wonder with all the laws and regulations and sexual harassment charges if they could still do that these days. I mean, in their own private rooms, probably, but in the public rooms like that.”

“Man, I sure hope not. That is crazy.” I shake my head, and the conversation moves on to other topics briefly, before we return to our viewing of The Office. The over-the-top and borderline offensive antics of the chauvinistic male cast members no longer seem so exaggerated. I remember some of my mom’s other work stories. Like how her male coworkers had their initials and last names on their doors while female workers had their first names written out: ‘so that people would know it was a woman.’ Suddenly, the sitcom’s hyperbole is seeming disturbingly plausible.

Mom passes through later, while I’m working on the computer. “You know,” she says, “looking back on it, on the things I would have to put up with, I am amazed at the level of sexual harassment that was—commonplace, back then. I mean, the lingerie thing was kind of funny; it was like getting to see what when on inside of men’s strip clubs and such. I didn’t mind that. But a lot of the other stuff that went on—I just can’t believe what was tolerated back then.”

No kidding.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Poetry is proportional to Laziness

~plus ~

Umbrella (broken)
~minus ~
Tennis Shoes (lost)
~minus ~
Time (late)

A Sandal Full of Water

~to the power of ~
An Empty Stomach

Screw This, I’m Going Back to Bed.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


“Hey, look, those people are getting on across the street. Cheaters. ”

My brother Thomas shrugs, unmoved by my whining, and huddles deeper into the collar of his jacket. Tuesdays and Thursdays our classes start at the same time, so we’re sharing a bus for the first time since my elementary days.

“They’re stealing all the buses,” I add. I’m glad I went back for my hooded jacket

“Yeah, but it’s a long route. I think it takes about 15 minutes for the bus to make it all the way back around.”

“I know it does. I’ve watched enough of them go by.” We settle into silent contemplation of our freezing extremities until another bus pulls up across the street. I frown at the people clambering onto it. “At least it’s warm on there. Maybe we should go across.”

“The problem with that idea is that you have to have 15 minutes to spare to get to class,” Thomas points out.

I glance at my watch, and roll my eyes at him. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t have class until 9:35.”

“What time is it?”

“9:10.” I so rarely get to correct him. I enjoy the inner warmth of smugness as the bus pulls off across the street. It doesn’t last long, but a girl’s got to distract herself from freezing to death somehow.

Our little frozen huddle of bus stoppers form a lethargic bunch, but we rouse somewhat as a bus pulls around the corner. We lean around each other, von Trapp style to scrutinize the display on the front. Route 27, the sign flashes. The lights scroll to the next panel. Another bus follows. It fans a cold wind across us as it wooshes by.

“Drat,” I grumble. “We should throw ourselves in front of the bus in protest.”

Thomas grins musingly. “The bus driver would be like ‘Another bus would have followed!” He sobs the last line, wringing his hands in imitation of the grief-stricken driver.

I laugh. “Man, I’ll bet three buses go past us. It probably would be faster to get on across the street.” It’s not the drivers’ fault either. Some of it’s beginning of the semester confusion, but mostly they’re just overloaded and understaffed. All around campus, the bus display boards flash: Now Hiring! They might as well add We’re Desperate!

The next bus knocks me out of my reverie as it zooms by, proving my point. School Spirit says its display board. As bus fumes envelop me the sign clicks over. Catch it! it beams at me, disappearing down the road. “The bus is mocking me, Tom,” I growl.

“You’ll live,” he says dismissively. “That or jump in front of a bus.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Drama, drama, drama

It’s a cold and drizzly day outside, the sort of day that makes you question the merit of leaving a nice warm apartment (and bed) to struggle your way to class. Reminding myself that it’s only the third day of classes and much too soon in the semester to start skipping, I duck back into the apartment to fasten up my jacket before heading out the bus. There’s no hood on the jacket, so the frigid air runs through my hair like clammy fingers. I feel a bit like I’m breathing in a fish freezer. Yuck.

I check my watch and pick up the pace, because I’m running late and I really don’t want to sit out and wait for the bus in this stuff. Of course, ‘late’ is relative to precisely nothing, insofar as I have yet to work out any coherent system to the bus times. I have only found one consistent answer to the question ‘when does the bus leave?’: Right before I get there. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten within sight of the bus stop just in time to watch the back of the bus zoom into the distance. The unmistakable gasping noise of bus brakes in the distance lets me know that today is holding true to form.

Drat. If I miss this one there won’t be another for at least 15 minutes... and there’s a good chance I won’t get on that one either. Yesterday, three buses went by before I actually made it on one. The route is overloaded. 15 minutes plus 7 or 8 minutes to walk plus a completely unknown number. A quick mental calculation tells me I won’t make it to class on time.

I can see people filtering onto the bus in the distance. It’s taking a while; there’s a lot of them. But the bus is still pretty far up there.

The professor takes attendance, and he sounds like he's going to be a jerk about this type of thing.

I make a run for it. One hand goes to my pocket to hold my iPod in place, and my other arm tries to control the swinging of my book bag. Not exactly graceful, and I’m feeling like an idiot, but every step towards the bus decreases the chances that the driver will pull off without me.

My diet coke goes flying out of the bag and bounces twice on the pavement. No drinking that thing anytime soon. I scramble to retrieve it anyway, and half-run the last few steps to the bus. It’s filled to overflowing with people already, but the bus driver leaves the door open for me, so I smile apologetically and scootch my way into the front of the crowd. “Full,” I comment to the bus driver at my elbow. This apparently doesn’t merit a response. Oh, well.

There’s one stop left on the route, and, as much as I sympathize with them, I’m still startled when the driver stops for the half dozen people standing there. My fellow aisle passengers and I exchange helpless glances and shuffle nervously. Little by little we coalesce into a solid mass of humanity. I have somehow relocated to the center of the bus, and the only support bar is the one running along the ceiling. I’m short, but if I reach straight up above me, I can just wrap my hand around it. I feel sort of like I’m hanging from the monkey bars on the playground, but the bus jolts into motion and I hold on for dear life.

At least if I lose my balance there’s a cushy mass of people on all sides to hold me up. Unless I fall into the seat next to me. I eye the guy sitting in it, and squelch a wave of irritation. He’s not obligated to offer me his seat, and it’s not that I feel entitled to it as a woman. But he could reach the blasted bar no problem. If I fall on him I’m going elbow first.

As the ride progresses I lose all feeling in my arm, until I’m finally risking death at every smooth point just to get a few seconds of blood into my hand. Whee! No hands! I tell myself it’s like snowboarding or surfing. Self is not convinced. The bus jerks as the traffic ahead slows, and I am reminded that I twisted my knee falling down the mountain the first and only time I tried to ski. I make a frantic grab for the headrest of the seat across the aisle. Slightly better.

Unfortunately, this is when I notice how weird I’m feeling. I’m carsick and dizzy—maybe all my head blood is going to my arm. But my face feels flushed and hot, and I’m suddenly much more aware of the people pressing in around me. I unzip my jacket. The dizziness is getting worse rather than better. I skipped breakfast, but that’s not unusual. Did I eat enough last night? I think so. It was mostly junk food, but that's also nothing unusual. I remember having a big glass of water before bed; I can’t be dehydrated can I? I’m probably just a little motion sick. And maybe still light-headed and over-heated from running. Sometimes people faint at concerts from having their knees locked too long. I had a friend who fell off the stage that way. I flex my knees.

The bus moves onwards, but I’m hardly aware of its occasional jolts and bumps now. I feel like I’m suffocating. I look around. There are a lot of people on this bus, and I’m smashed in the dead center of them. The windows are all closed. Maybe I am suffocating. The oxygen could be getting low. Like when people get trapped on an elevator in a movie--they're always worrying about running out of oxygen. I fight back a claustrophobic impulse and another surge of nausea. Nobody else is dropping to the floor gasping like a fish. It’s probably not possible for everyone else to be breathing all the air. And why the heck would they make air-tight elevators? I scootch my jacket as far off as I can get it in this crowd.

Caught in self-absorbed misery, I’m startled to feel my throat move in reflexive nausea. Black speckles dance in front of my eyes. My knees tremble. Sweet heavens, I might actually pass out. I thought I was just being overdramatic! I want to sit down; I want off this bus; I want to throw up; I want to breathe. Maybe I should beg the guy next to me for his seat. But it’s not more than a few minutes farther and claiming you're about to pass out is just so melodramatic. Besides, he’ll probably think I’m just some entitled female making it up to get his seat. (I’m on the verge of fainting and I’m worrying about women’s lib. Go figure.)

I lock my throat and concentrate on taking deep slow breaths. Not much farther. Just around the corner and down the street. The air will be nice and cold. Just a bit longer. Don’t make a scene this close to the bus stop.

Oh, God, what if I do throw up? The edges of my vision swim, and I feel sick. There’s people all around, and I can’t breath, and if I throw up on someone I’ll die of embarrassment. Maybe I should tell them to stop the bus and let me off. I don’t know if they will and I don’t have the energy to be insistent. I don’t even have the energy to make a scene at this point. Picturing a chaotic mass of confused and alarmed people milling about on the bus makes it worse. If I pass out will they get me off this bus or will they all crowd around and suffocate me?

The bus gets backed up behind another bus at the stop sign just before the bus stop. My vision is fraying at the edges. Let me off, let me off, let me off. I lose some time. The people in the aisle ahead of me are shuffling forwards. I move down the aisle like a zombie. Each of the three large bus steps threatens to conquer my shaking legs, but there’s a bench on the sidewalk just outside the door, and I set my focus on that with grim determination.

I suck the cold clammy air into my lungs gratefully, even though its soggy grip around my head makes me feel even more flushed and nauseous. Dropping onto the bench I stick my head between my knees and spend a few minutes feeling miserable and disregarded as people flow past me. At the same time, I’m trying not to attract attention by looking like someone about to pass out. It’s a paradox, but I feel lousy and my demands of the world don’t have to be logical.

Finally, I realize I need to head to class if I want to make it on time. I certainly don't want to run. I take my feet, zipping up my jacket even though I don’t feel the cold yet. My lungs notice it well enough, and it’ll be worse if I wait. The classroom, when I arrive, feels stuffy and close, but I’m more than ready to get out of the drizzle. Plus I’m still feeling weak-legged.

I slump into my seat, completely forgetting to sign the attendance sheet.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Personal Protection

“So, do you want to hear what my very intelligent little brother did last night?” Lily asks, as we head to her car after class.

“Ooh, tell!”

“Well, I love Jonathan, and he’s so smart, which is why it’s so funny when he does the dumbest things, you know? It's like sometimes he just doesn’t use his brain. Anyway, he never remembers to brush his teeth, which can get, you know, gross. Because the food builds up on his front teeth, and I’ll be like, ‘Jonathan, go brush your teeth right now!’

“So anyway, Sarah got him this Listerine spray-type stuff in a little bottle. Like that you mist?—” she mimes a breath spray—“you know what I’m talking about? And he took it to class the other day, and one of the kids told him it was like pepper spray and you could spray it people’s eyes and it would hurt. So when he gets home, he decides he should test it out.”

I grin, savoring the direction the story is taking. “Uh oh.”

“Yes. Smart, right? So he squirts some in his face, and it doesn’t hurt. So then he decides he should try it on Dylan, don’t ask me why. To see if it worked the same.”

“Ohhhh, dear.”

“I know! I have no idea what he was thinking, or how he convinced Dylan to do it, but apparently he talked him into it. I guess Dylan had watched him spray himself, or something. But he sprays Dylan in the eyes and he feels it all right!”

I clap my hands over my mouth to cover a horrified laugh. “Oh, no!”

“Yeah, apparently it burns like crazy. So Dylan runs off crying to tell Daddy, and I guess Jonathan doesn’t believe him or something because get this: he turns the bottle around and sprays himself in the eyes!”

“Oh my gosh, he didn’t! Why would he do that?”

“Don’t ask me! Why would he do any of this? To see if it would hurt, apparently! So Daddy comes in, and Dylan’s crying, and Jonathan’s crying, and Daddy’s trying not to laugh, and asking Johnathan what he was doing. And he reads off the bottle and it says ‘keep out of eyes.’ He’s like ‘you’re supposed to put this in your mouth. Not your eyes.’ ”

I’m cracking up. “Oh my gosh, I love your brothers. That’s so awful.”

“Yeah, it’s a good thing Mama wasn’t home. She freaks out about this kind of thing. Daddy had to call poison control and make them flush their eyes out with water and everything. And me and Sarah and Tyler were all waiting by the door to see Mama's face when she finds out.”

I shake my head, wiping my eyes. “Wow. That is so classic. Man, I remember this time when I was little and I wanted to make myself sneeze with pepper? You know, like in the poem—‘feed pepper to you little boy’? Alice and Wonderland?”

Lily makes a face. “Ooh…”

“Yeah. Don’t ever put pepper up your nose. Ever. It burned so bad….”

“Well, did you sneeze?”

“I cried. It was really unpleasant. And I didn’t even sneeze. It was all lies.”


“I know, isn’t it? Childhood is filled with propaganda. So, yeah, don't put pepper up your nose.”

Lily laughs, shaking her head in mock sympathy, and beeps her car open. "I'll make a note."

Monday, January 14, 2008


When I have a million and one things to do, and not nearly enough time to do them in, my number one approach to the problem is to make a list. This allows me to be constructive and organized, while at the same time avoiding doing any actual work. When I’ve killed as much time as I possibly can making a list, I generally eke out a few more minutes of constructive non-work by organizing my list into subcategories: in essence I make lists of lists. This is called prioritizing. Every list item then gets two dates: the time I should do it, and the time I must do it. Once this framework for efficient procrastination is established, I’m free to go about my regularly scheduled activities until I miss the first deadline. Then, of course, I have to rewrite my lists.

And now, I present to you an abbreviated list of Things on My Desk:
1 Picture frame cube with half the picture slots empty
2 Nail clippers
4 Used up Barnes and Noble cards
1 Stuffed Dinosaur-Mouse creature
2 Boxes of push pins, 1 regular, 1 glow in the dark
1 Roll of duct tape
1 text book from previous semester
Box of assorted pens, markers, pencils (mechanical), etc.
3 broken watches
1 of those little call bells that go ‘ding! ding! ding!’ when you hit them
1 unmailed letter
Pile of thank you notes, unsent
Stack of papers requiring attention
1 long lost novel (Dragon Champion), under stack of papers
2 lanyard key-chains with jump drive
1 broken pyrite that I don’t know what to do with
1 half-buried laptop computer and accessories
2 Sticky notes with unattended to-do lists, dating back at least 2 months (on laptop screen)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Breaking Up

I got dumped today. So of course, in true maudlin style, I decide to write about it. And not just that: in the ultimate example of narcissistic angst, I’m going to blog about it. You may be excused.

All right. So I was pretty sure it was coming. At least I was pretty sure I was pretty sure. I don’t exactly have a lot of experience with the dating thing so I’m never quite sure when I’m being perceptive and when I’m confusing my life with a B-movie plotline. Apparently the abrupt four weeks of silence interspersed with awkward and one-sided phone calls over the break really were a sign. I am a relationship prodigy. Go me.

Heck, it only took me a few weeks to figure out that my first official relationship was heading towards a break up. That’s only a few weeks less one or two dates longer than it took for me to reach this conclusion in all my previous quasi-relationships. Either I’m too picky, or not picky enough. Since I can’t seem to manage the traditional meet a guy, fall madly in love, date a while, fall madly out of love relationship format, I try to accomplish one new thing in each relationship.

This time around the goal was to manage a good old fashioned, traditional-style break up, rather than my previous strategy of skipping that step and going directly into witness protection-style avoidance mode. In the past this strategy has led to such proud moments as me spending an entire school year dodging into doorways and down hallways, not to mention the time I made Lily help me send the equivalent of a break-up e-mail to warn off an oblivious stalker-type. I’m not good with conflict—at least of the making another person not like me variety.

So I told Lily going into this that my goal was to still be talking to the guy at the end of it, which she promptly told me was ridiculous. Nonetheless, I really wanted to at least have the option of talking to the guy, even if it was only to snub him by not talking to him. This is not an option under the Witness Protection Program of break up by avoidance. That in mind, Dave was ideal. He had just come out of friendly break up with a girl at his previous college. He didn’t have much previous dating experience either. He was interested. He was really, really cute.

Unfortunately, we had exactly one thing in common—and similar professional interests, even if somewhat obscure, can only get you so far. Herpetology—that’s the study of reptiles and amphibians, folks—is a somewhat close knit field of study. And pretty much everybody in it is just a little bit crazy. In a good way. I told my mom early on that part of the reason I knew I was in the right field was how much I liked all the other people doing it. And this is beginning to sound like some sort of peer-pressure drug and/or extremist cult, but what I am trying to say is that there are many types of people, and these were the type of people I could get along with and even make friends with naturally, which doesn’t come easily to me.

Regrettably, it does not automatically follow that I could maintain successful romantic relationships with all of theses people (and certainly not all at once), and this was the case with Dave. In grade school terminology: I liked him. I just didn’t like like him. So from pretty early on, I found myself wondering how the relationship was going to end.

As happens The Break Up didn’t fit any of my envisioned scenarios, and yet it was so eminently fitting I feel as if I could have picked it out of a line up a week into the relationship. It was Dave. It was me. It was our relationship. The tricky part is—I’m not actually sure what happened. The break down, to the best of my knowledge, is this:

He calls me up after Christmas break and feeds me the ominous but passé ‘we should talk’ line. I'd already gotten something similar via e-mail, so I'm not completely surprised. This is where things get tricky: I have no idea what he says next. I always did have a hard time making him out on the phone. I’m not sure if he mumbles, or my phone has some sort of anti-Dave filter installed. On rare occasions I have suspected that I have some sort of psychological block. Whatever the case, I guess my way through the content of three or four incoherent but ill-omened sentences before I finally have to interrupt the presumed break up speech to say: “I can’t actually hear a word your saying.” Lovely.

This turn of events evidently catches him off guard as well, as his explanatory speech is abandoned in favor of a condensed, to-the-point proclamation. He simply says that he doesn’t see our relationship as continuing. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. The gist of it anyway. Actually, I once again have no idea, but rather than prolong the awkwardness of it all, I take a flying leap and say something non-committal but understanding: “I sort of thought this was coming. I kind of got that vibe from you.” I don’t know where exactly my brain is pulling these lines from, but I have to fight a manic impulse to start quoting lyrics from ‘Good Vibrations’ by the Beach Boys.

More semi-coherent explanation of the break up rationale follows, before I distinctly catch the phrase: “to be fair to you.” Now I haven’t exactly been forthright about my own feelings, and a part of me is feeling a bit of a jerk, but that line strikes me as somewhere between funny and insulting. “You’re breaking up with me to be fair to me?” I echo. I had a friend in high school who habitually ended phone conversations with the line ‘I should let you go.’ I’m getting the same feeling here. If you can’t be honest, at least be sincere. I really hate phony double-talk.

But, as I mentioned, I’m not exactly straight-talking the situation myself, so I let the comment go pretty quickly, opting instead to awkwardly circumlocute my way around to my goal. I really don’t want to say it, so we suffer through another few minutes of what I assume is mutual discomfiture. I’m trying to figure out a way to phrase it that doesn’t make me sound like I’m quoting from the universal break up script, but all I’m managing to do is make myself sound like an idiot for longer, so I finally get to the point. “…we can still be friends?” The usual overeager and quite possibly insincere agreements follow. Whatever. I have accomplished my relationship goal, and I can't wait to extricate myself from this whole awkward business. The phone call trails off into platitudes, clichéa, and awkward silences until one of us, I don't remember who, finally puts it out of its misery.

Victory. I have now successfully concluded a relationship via proper break up style. I am going to ignore the nagging voice that tells me that phone break ups are tacky. I am going to ignore the strange and inane melancholy that keeps getting a hold on me. I am going to announce at random intervals: 'I've been dumped' and: 'I don't have a boyfriend' because I have always been a big believer in expressing my feelings through whinining and complaints. If I annoy my brother enough he'll cheer me up by making fun of me. I am not going to be upset because being dumped hurts my vanity. I am definitely not going to be upset over something I knew was coming, or a guy I didn't like like. I am especially not going to be upset over the guy who let me know we were in a relationship via Facebook.

He changed his Facebook status back to single within an hour.