30 March 2008

so true.

I love this post at "The Making of a Cosmo Girl" (guilty pleasure; sue me) about the bipolarity that occurs at the beginning of new relationships. I completely concur.

Also, I think I am hungover from the S'mores ice cream in a way that I wasn't hungover yesterday from Friday's margaritas. I find this very perplexing.

29 March 2008

it's not you, it's your books.

I have to say, I really loved this essay in the New York Times Book Review entitled "It's Not You, It's Your Books." Ok, yah, so I'm enjoying a quiet evening at home with a pint of Ben & Jerry's S'mores ice cream in one hand (graham cracker chunks in ice cream = amazingness) and a cannister of almonds in the other (edgy!!). So you could definitely accurately say, "Yah, you would like that article." The article is about the concept of dumping someone because of their taste in books. What a bourgeois dilemma!!!

For the record, I have never rejected someone solely because of their taste in books. I have definitely connected with people over books-- I'm not going to lie that I love it when somebody says they loved The Fountainhead. I doubt this would ever be the basis of a relationship though-- although I would probably marry a guy who adores The Handmaid's Tale as much as I do. Admittedly, I feel reasonably safe from the problem all together. Graduate School is such a magical cocoon where seemingly everyone is well read. But I digress.

The article did get me thinking about the books I list as favorites and why-- as well as a notable silence on my list that I should probably confront. As it stands right now, I have five books listed as my favorite books on Facebook. I think they are reasonably expressive of my tastes and influences. They are as follows, with accompanying justifications:

The Handmaid's Tale-- recommended to me for summer reading by the brilliant Mrs. Clark, my 11th grade English teacher. It was my first exposure to anything even remotely dealing with the intersections of feminism and religion-- skillfully done by Margaret Atwood in the form of a dystopian novel. I reread this book annually. Incidentally some of the events and people who inspired the book will comprise a significant component of my Master's thesis.

Behind the Scenes of the Museum-- recommended to me by my seminar advisor at PLU. A brilliant, funny novel about families, secrets told in kind of a material culture perspective.

Women of the Republic-- Token history book. I adore Linda Kerber's work. This book is about women in colonial America and the early United States and how they found political influence through a concept Kerber calls "Republican motherhood." I listed this book before I found my thesis topic, but interestingly it connects to it in a conceptual way that I hadn't really considered.

Home Away From Home-- I read this moving novel last fall during Fall Break as I negotiated some significant life changes. It's about a 30's-ish woman whose husband dies and her life in the year after he dies. Usually, I don't like grief novels, but if anything it's about accepting changes and letting yourself experiment and make mistakes as you figure out a new identity. A beautiful and appropriate story.

Lamb-- recommended by my brother over Christmas. A very funny novel about the adventures of Jesus and his best friend Biff. Reminds you of how little we know about Christ. Very funny.

The unnamed book-- I admit I have previously been too embarrassed to list it--it's by no means high literature in any form-- Danielle Steele's Jewels. Typical Danielle Steele-- independent woman made strong by circumstance falls in love with wealthy man, finds success and fulfillment in life. It's such a guilty pleasure! Someday some young historian will write her dissertation on the role of of Steele's books on our culture. Someday, someday-- you people will understand the importance of this book!

You know, I just realized that there is probably room for The Little House books on this list, but that's a post in and of itself. At any rate, there you go, take me or leave me, those are my faves.

more gail collins goodness.

on John McCain:

"And at bottom, his economic vision makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. He’s going to keep the Bush tax cuts, continue our $3-trillion-and-counting war in Iraq and decrease corporate taxes. And how is he going to pay for it? By getting rid of pork-barrel earmarks. And I am planning to remodel my house by purchasing a tube of Elmer’s glue."


Dear Gail Collins,

I love you[r writing] like I love Fresca.*

Melanie


*hat tip to anybody who gets the reference.

28 March 2008

why i'm glad i took chemistry. finally.

It took me seven years, but I can finally say that I am glad I took chemistry in high school.

Really? Yes. I know, Mom, you remember all the tears. The panic attacks as I entered the classroom. Taking the final in my quiet paradise of my English teacher's planning period because I just couldn't handle it. The four chemistry teachers-- a long term substitute, a teacher returning from a nervous breakdown leave of absence, a student teacher, a finally normal teacher, and then the student teacher again when the normal teacher went on paternity. The sweating (yah, tmi, I know, but I had anxiety!) It was hell. It was the lowest grades I got in school, ever. I was pretty sure it was the end of my life as I knew it, the end of my self-confident easy learning skate through school. It took all I had left, made me gain ten pounds in Junior Mints, propelled me into a lazy senior year filled with crayons and ultimately, into community college, because I never, ever wanted to be that stressed out again* .

But yes, chemistry, I'm glad I took it. I am glad because as I sit here, trying to transcribe an oral history filled with a muddle of particles and helium and radon and six million electron volts, I am not entirely clueless. I don't care about it, it doesn't interest me, but I can at least understand what is being said by this eminent old theoretical physicist about the discoveries he made with another retired geriatric experimenter (which is, in and of itself, amazing that two eighty-eight year old men are still contributing to their field). Thank you, slew of inept teachers. Thank you, book that I threw across the room. Thank you, college prep classes, for not being as worthless as I thought you were.

*about which I have no regrets; my love for TCC is abundant.

the tragic state of health care in america, or, why i hate being a grown up sometimes.

Watch out-- this post will be filled with profanity. -M

Today I received a bill for 335.40 from University Health Care. For August 23rd of last year. When I still had decent benefits through Uncle Callison (my student insurance now is sketchy enough to make me a diligent partaker of my multivitamin and hope my appendix never bursts). Surprised, both at how quickly seven months can pass, and in extreme wonderment at how, after seven months, I was being fucking billed, I called their billing office, because um hello, this I cannot afford. I already spent that money on plane tickets for wedding fun and family reunionizing!

I don't have good experience with billing-- something similar to this happened in November over treatment I'd received in May and June and finally it was determined that it was nothing more than an unfightable case of my insurance just being assholes who don't want to fucking pay to have me tested because fuck, they might actually fucking have to pay to treat me. So I was defensive when I made my call today.

This defensiveness quickly melted into hysteria (blasted "hysterical woman" stereotype! I hate being that woman!) as I was told that my former asshole insurer had denied the claim not once, but four times, and finally UHC just gave up and sent me a bill. I told poor billing guy, over and over and over, but I was covered through the end of that month. I mean, fuck, what if my appendix had burst? What if the bill was for 8,000 dollars? Clearly I was being screwed. Finally the guy conceded that my former insurer had said that they didn't recognize my ID information and that I would have to call my former insurer. I would have to do the work because people specializing in medical billing can't fucking handle it. This is our health care system-- oh just charge the patient, they can assume the costs, we don't care how we get our money as long as we get it. That fucking attitude is destroying our country. When patient care-- the whole fucking purpose of going to the doctor-- is not the priority, our country is headed down the shithole fast.

Enraged, I hung up and tore into the black hole pit of hell that constitutes my filling system. Finally-- FINALLY-- I found the letter from my former insurer stating I was indeed covered and called their asses. You know what they told me? Oh, it's because they were filing with former insurance Utah, not Washington. It means they had your prefix wrong. Three little letters on my insurance card that the billing people didn't catch. Of course our system didn't recognize you. Our records don't even show they tried making a claim, the nice girl said.

So I called UHC and the guy had his tail between his legs as I told him how his fucking system that he should understand works, and hopefully I won't get billed for it.

But here's what makes me mad. If you don't know what questions to ask-- if all you did was go to the doctor and that's all you really understand about the situation-- then the system makes you pay. The healthcare system in this country privileges not only the people who can pay for it, but also the people who know how to negotiate it, the people who can articulate their needs or concerns or problems to ensure they don't get fucked over. Honestly, this is the kind of shit that gives me heartburn, I'm choking down berry-flavored Tums like skittles right now because it gives me reflux that everything-- fucking everything in this fucking country-- seems to come back to some kind of privilege. Whether I got the job with insurance because I'm white or because I was a woman or whether that guy didn't take me seriously because I'm a woman or because my class has put me in a position to get higher education so I can have the linguistic skills to deal with the bureaucracy-- it's all dependent on some kind of privilege. And that makes me so angry because it seems to me that healthcare shouldn't be privileged. In a country with as much abundance, with such an exceptionally high standard of living, it seems to me that access to healthcare should be a right extended to all Americans. And that my friends, is why I will support a Democrat in November, because this shit can't be tolerated any longer.

*end rant*

27 March 2008

rides of march, part four. guest post!

This is a special guest post by my most beloved Big Brother (who will be in this fair city oh-so-soon! eee!). He writes about what has undoubtedly been the pinnacle of "rides of march" good times. Cheers!


My Little Sister was in town for a Spring break, incidentally coinciding with a Friday full moon. Full moon Fridays are for Booze Croozin, slow, pseudo-organized night rides usually involving adult beverages and barbeque. Little Sister was game and The Wife was willing to stay home with the Chillins.

I have several guest bikes in the stable and Little Sister usually rolls on an Electra New Belgium Cruiser when she stays with us. She has short legs, but the bike fits well if we mash the seat all the way down. The usual crooze route winds about twenty miles through hilly Tacoma, so the reclined single speed was a questionable choice. Thirty minutes before departure, Little Sister decided she'd rather have gears, so I dusted off a ladies Costco Special mtb that I had commuterized several years ago. She posed insightful questions whilst test-riding such as, "Do I stop pedaling to shift, like on my bike?" No! And don't forget that there isn't a coaster brake, use your hands! It's a good thing Big Brother is here to set her straight. I loaded up my Xtracycle with 2.5 litres of dunkel, fixins for s'mores, and a few extra layers of clothes. We were off.

We rallied at the grocery store so everyone could stock up. I needed brats and Little Sister needed tissues and two pounds of gummi dinosaurs. There was a "bum" theme for the evening, which was widely interpreted or ignored. An hour after the scheduled rendezvous, all riders and trailered dogs hit the trail with blinky lights flashing and Dr. Octagon blasting from the boom box. The weather was perfect for croozin; temps in the 40's with completely clear skies. We picked up other riders along the way. The ride to the park was relaxed and uneventful, aside from the occasional failure to yield the right-of-way to an unsuspecting motorist. We rode around the park gate, killed all of our lights, and slowly rolled to the barbeque spot as the moon rose through the trees.

The Narrows at night
Is a beautiful sight
By the full moon at 5 Mile Drive.

Everyone shared what they brought. We drank a few beers and grilled sausages and veggie patties. The boom box played Eazy-E, Beastie Boys, and Metallica while folks tossed an LED frisbee and made s'mores. The dog kept the animals away for we didn't see any deer or raccoons on this trip. The stars were dazzling above the faint glow of homesteads across the Sound.

The fire was dying and we were cold, but the ride home would warm us. Little Sister and I chatted the whole way, while she lazily shifted gears like an old pro.


rides of march, part three


Tacoma Bicycle Chic. As seen traveling back from the playground.

rides of march, part five

egrediously inefficient bike rack near ambulance loading dock, with backboards in the background.


I woke up this morning with a deep yearning in my soul. Mocha. I wanted a Mocha.

While the need for magicalespressocoffeedrink is easily filled in this part of the world, today obtaining my fix seemed less simple. It was snowing-- big, giant, fluffy flakes turning the landscape into the surface of a powdered sugar donut. What to do? I recalled there is a Starbuck's in the nearby hospital. So I saddled up the Red Rider, put on my Posh Spice Sunglasses / Snow Goggles and (for once) my helmet and away I went.

Once the wanted elixir was secured, I sat down in the seating area. One of the hazards of going to Starbuck's alone is that inevitably I find myself eavesdropping. Today was no different. A man sat nearby, sedately plugging in his laptop, talking on his phone.

He told the person on the other end that he was in Utah. That his son had been in a car accident driving home from work in Park City. That his car had flipped six times. That his son was in critical care. That when he arrived in Utah, the doctors had prepared him for the death of his son. That every day his son has hung on and improved. That that's just how it goes. He said it all with a very straight face, with an assured acceptance of the situation that somehow conveyed sorrow and relief all at once.

My tears betrayed me; I had to leave.

To be so lucky that my greatest concern is where to get some coffee when it's snowing.

26 March 2008

girl scouts.

So I am procrastinating this morning, and consequently just finished reading a totally useless blog post on the Girl Scouts. I'm not going to link it, because it was completely worthless in terms of content, but the discussion got me thinking about my time in Troop 187 (I think that was the number) and what I really took from my time in the Scouts.

I was a Brownie in Tulsa. I am not really sure if I wanted to be a Brownie or if my mom just arbitrarily signed me up, probably both, but I loved it. I don't remember much more than going to this girl Robin's house and for some reason, my first encounter with one of those on-counter apple peelers that makes the peel come off in one long string. I thought that was amazing. I associate my scouting there primarily with a brown jumper and our initiation ceremony.

Scouting really sucked me in when we moved. I'm pretty sure that getting me into a troop was a first order of business. It was with that bunch of girls that I grew up-- through crafts and campouts and frigid March days selling cookies. The nostalgia is almost overwhelming. What surprises me the most is not that Scouting taught me how to wield glue guns and pocket knives, but how much we internalized the messages of Scouting. The "can-do" attitude that comes with learning the skills to earn a badge, the integrity built from saying every week, "On my honor, I will try..." That stuff sticks with you even if you didn't think about it at the time.

But what I did understood at the time, and what I appreciate now, is that the theme of sisterhood and friendship is where the Girl Scouts really get their power. The fact that I remain close to two girls from my troop is evidence of this, as is the time I saw a former-fellow-troop member walking down the street and speedily turned around so that we could have a brief reunion. I think it plays out in what we, my old Scout friends, expect from each other-- that regardless of what's happened, or how we've changed, we've been determined to stay friends. I hadn't thought about it in a long time, but today I recalled the song I've known since I was six, and it hit me how much a part of me those values are.

Make new friends
but keep the old
One is silver
and the other gold

A circle is round
and has no end
That's how long I want to keep my friends

i'm just sayin'.

My unofficial campaign pin arrived while I was gone! *cackles maniacally*

return.

It is good to be home! The weather is great and the school routine is novel enough to be refreshing again. My potty mouth is noticeably cleaner, as is my bedroom. The Red Rider is back on the pavement and I am starting to feel better after a bout of nasty sick yuckyness over break. All in all, I feel like I'm in a good spot. Heck, I even paid off my car today! Seriously grand stuff. Now if only I didn't have to face a daunting pile of books and a host of book reviews to write! But I'll stress about that later. For now, I am riding the wave of post-break sanity.

So that we all might partake in the positivity, here are some Alternative Motivational
Posters*:


*Make sure you follow the link for more awesomeness. They have a great little sideblog filled with entertaining links such as this and this. Cheers!

16 March 2008

while i've been home...

... I've been working on getting back in the whole "peace + happiness" groove that I'd been sorta neglecting.

...I had the following conversation with my niece:
Niece One: Auntie, you look like Violet from Charlie [and the Chocolate Factory].
Me: How so?
Niece: You have big cheeks.

...I've finished 25% of my mom's handmade ultra-belated Christmas gift.

...I witnessed Niece Two's first laugh.

All in all, I'd say Spring Break is off to a nice start. Greetings from Tacoma!

10 March 2008

rides of march, part deux

Temperature: Fifty degrees.

Weather: Sunny, clear, light breeze.

Me
: Riding my bike to the post office.

Knowing that I can bill The Man for my "work"
: Magnificent.

Really folks. I am convinced that it doesn't get any better than this.

09 March 2008

rides of march, part one.

If you couldn't tell by the tone and quantity of my posts this week, I'll be forthright-- it's been a shit week here in gradschoolland. I got sick, I got busy, I was under a lot of pressure (still am) and I suffered a significant disappointment. Consequently, I haven't taken the Red Rider out since last month. Plagued by guilt and continuing to stall on my myriad of assignments due in the next four days, I decided that I would be a good bike owner and take my bike out. As it is rumored that some quality bike action is on tap for the trip home, I decided that a series chronicling some of my bike activities this month would be appropriate-- if anything, to make it up to my bike for all that neglect.

Tonight I did a typical ride around campus. This is the view across the street from where I work:


Pretty sweet, eh?

As I made my way down the hill through campus, I was surprised by the flurry of activity taking place outside the Marriott Library. Granted I wasn't that surprised, because I have
found that the local youth are generally pretty creative with their use of campus property (i.e using the bike-avator as a hotbox). Nonetheless, I think the Spork Party would be pleased that somebody momentarily gave a rat's ass about the stupid ASUU campaign advertisements polluting our campus:


It's blurry, I know, but here you can see that they had also entered the library construction area to get some wood so they could do sweet jumps. I was pretty amused. Click on the bottom picture and you will see that they are on Razor scooters.


the namesake.

After a long day of alternately sleeping and working and reading yesterday (it's a vicious cycle) I settled down with my Netflix guilty pleasure The Namesake. I got Netflix primarily because I have to watch five movies for a particular class (and it is of course, so amazingly convenient). Unfortunately, my last selection-- JFK-- took me three weeks to get through, so I felt like I had earned watching something that I could actually watch in one sitting and didn't make me think that every situation I encountered in print or real life was some type of conspiracy. I mean, crap, I'm like that enough, as anyone who I've ever accused of being "patriarchal" well understands.

I have to say, I really enjoy movies about India. Water was one of the most painfully beautiful films ever-- so stunningly heartbreaking-- and I of course adored The Darjeeling Limited. The Namesake isn't as much about India as it is about love and accepting the identities that make us who we are. The movie is about a set of Indian immigrants and their American-born son's challenges in defining himself as Indian and as American, as played out in his changing relationship to his family, women and his name. I cried for about half of the film-- and not just because I am a big time wuss, as indicated by the way I cried over Waitress for like, three days-- family dramas just tug at my heart, and I think this film does an especially good job at capturing the complexities of those relationships.

Anyways, what I'm saying without any real analysis is that you should watch this movie so you too can appreciate how beautiful it is and can spend one of two hours crying because you too have felt the intense grief that comes with love and figuring out who you are.

p.s. I love daylight savings! It's six o'clock and still light out! Yaaaay!

08 March 2008

bitches get things done, NYTimes style

I've really been enjoying the articles in The Paper by Gail Collins. I think she does an amazing job of capturing what's going on in this tragically unending primary season-- I don't know about you, but I'm ready to buy my button and get on with the real campaign already.

Today she left us with this to ponder:

"The good news is: While Barack may understand the audacity of hope, only Hillary really gets the audacity of audacity."

Amen, sister.


for Will-- Collins also wrote that "if Hillary Clinton were a state, she’d be Ohio." This might be something to consider as you choose a PhD program....

07 March 2008

happy spring break to all, and to all, a good flight.

what follows is filled with foul language and is not for the faint of heart or easily offended. -M

'Twas the week before Spring Break
And all through my room
spread a giant fucking mess
and a real sense of doom

The explosion of books
and papers entrap
I can't hardly work
I'm so buried in crap!

The recycling is piling
and I can't find a pen
Just wait until Sunday
I'll be freaking out then

One paper in progress,
another unwritten
German to translate,
But no, I'm not quittin'!

For from out of the clutter
comes a thought that doth flatter!
Grad school's but a moment!
This shit doesn't matter!

So what do I care
if my room's getting smelly
Or that the stress eating
turns my body to jelly?

For on the horizon
Spring Break calls me home!
With nieces aplenty,
and the North End to roam!

With the promise of real beer--
no more three point two!
Merry night bike rides
and family dinners--ooo!

With visions of skies gray
my heart starts to swell
And then bursts out my yearning--
"TACOMA!" I yell!

As I make this last thrust
of effort for school
I call out in the night
for those places so cool--

"On Harmon, on Capers,
on sweet Southern Kitchen,
On Parkway, on Red Hot,
I'll soon stop my bitchin'!"

And despite my damn thesis
and my job that demands
I know I'll soon be in Tacoma
With a Fat Tire in hand

amen.

06 March 2008

apparently it's art thursday.



Naturally, I liked this one the best.

my life in art.


You can find more art by Robert Ryan here. Love it.

05 March 2008

**asses.

I realized I referenced my glasses in the last post but that most of my readership probably doesn't know that I am bespectacled.

That's what happens when you go to grad school, you see-- you read all the time and get a sweet job at a research center-- and then the eye strain starts to suck your will to live. Fortunately they are just for reading and I no longer end my day with a splitting headache. Yay for glasses.

if you can't read this print, you should probably visit your local optometrist as well.

melon meltdown madness.

I had a meltdown today. Not the old-fashioned sobbing hysterics that used to characterize my meltdowns... it was actually more of a shutdown. I just couldn't take my day, or my week, my cold or the pressures of school.

Naturally I wound up at the craft store looking for something else to do.

I read about Sublime Stitching on Apartment Therapy last week and was duly impressed with the images of say, flying devil spawn and the possibility of them adorning my tea towels. So I got some embroidery gear and went to our magical City Library and checked out the Sublime Stitching pattern book. While the contents of the book are not nearly as subversive or quite as awesome as the website, you can just iron them straight on the fabric and set to stitching.

I made this with the help of some Kozy Shack tapioca pudding and my reading glasses:


There was something satisfying about finishing something that would be evaluated by no one else but me.

Needless to say, I can't wait for Spring Break.

caught red handed.

Shit. They are on to me again.

Stuff White People Like, #81: Graduate School

"Being in graduate school satisfies many white requirements for happiness. They can: believe they are helping the world, complain that the government/university doesn’t support them enough, claim they are poor, feel as though are getting smarter, act superior to other people, enjoy perpetual three day weekends, and sleep in every day of the week!"


This is my life.

Might I suggest some other requirements for happiness that it satisfies:
*opportunities to attend countless meetings that culminate in free lunch, cookies or coffee

*filling shelf after shelf with expensive paperbacks bearing provocative titles: "Whiteness of a Different Color" "The Way We Never Were" "Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptive Technology"

*ceding personal agency to people you barely know who will "help" you determine what you work on and how you do it, and the ultimate trajectory of your career, and therefore, your life

*feeling impressed because those people were on a British radio show or nominated for a Pulitzer (and subsequently impressing your colleagues with your superior knowledge of the faculty's resume data)

*spending any extra cash on alcohol, clothes and plane tickets in an endlessly hampered effort not to go crazy. (wait, what extra cash?)

*endlessly accusing your friends of being bourgeois or romanticizing the working class, preferably in the same breath

That's all I could muster. Are there any I forgot?

02 March 2008

hold me closer, tony danza.

So last night we went to the Tavernacle, a dueling piano bar here in Salt Lake. Aside from musical awesomeness, beverage tastiness and people dancing on the pianos, they also had a prop box next to the stage complete with a picture of this fine representative of compromised gender roles*:

So you could say we had an amazing time... but I'd rather call it an "extrava-danza." Har.

*I mean Tony Danza, not me. I don't think I'm doing anything all that transcendent compared to the glories of "Who's the Boss?" And obvs. my picture was not in the prop box.

Photo credit to Will who reluctantly took this picture.

01 March 2008

bizniss.

I'm officially void of cleverness, but I feel that it is probably appropriate to tack up a little update on what's been going on down here in the SLC. Other than the fact that the glorious rain has just turned to snow *grumbles*.

1. I found the perfect cup of coffee. Hint: It is not the sludge I brewed up at the American West Center today. Thank goodness for the redeeming effects of half and half.

2. These are nice for sore throats.

3. I have what smells like a thesis topic. An analysis of female conservatism and how the Eagle Forum came to be so powerful in Utah. Will feature many oral history interviews with lovable right-wingers, including those who give the stink-eye over domestic partnership laws. This should be an enlightening project. Hopefully my advisory committee will be solid by the end of the week. I am so relieved.

4. I'm translating part of this and reading part of this. The latter is infinitely more fun.

5. I come home in less than two weeks, people! Stock up on the Mothership and get ready to eat some teriyaki!