Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy Holidays

Sorry I've been MIA for so long- a whole week is a long time for me to forget to post. But see, I've been very busy, between work and holiday stuff...

Thus far, I've done cashiering and fitting room attending and now there's markdowns, which we have to finish up before the ninth because that's when the store does inventory. Pretty straightforward. I have had a bit of an issue with requesting time off... See, I needed to have tomorrow, New Year's Day, off for a big family party we go to every year. I also needed last night off to go see a concert which I will tell you about later. So on Thursday I reminded my manager of this, and she said, "Oh, why didn't you request time off?"

"I did," I replied. "I mentioned it to [the other manager] when I was hired and he asked me if there were any times I wouldn't be able to work."

"But you didn't get anything in writing?"

"I was supposed to get it in writing?"

Yes, I was. See, they had neglected to tell me that there are special forms to fill out when you want to have certain days off. And it was too late to fill out the forms for tomorrow. Argh... So I basically have to try to get someone to fill in for me but if no one can, my manager did say it'd probably be okay if I didn't come in.

I keep having issues with this stuff, because it's all so different from my last job. See, the daycare I used to work at kept the same schedule every week, and I could not miss work unless I gave them two week's notice or I was infectiously ill, because missing work caused serious ratio issues and there wasn't enough supervision for the kids. Plus, scheduling was all oral. That's because it was small and non-profit, but I can't get used to a normal system.

Oh well. They haven't fired me yet, and everyone says I'm a good worker. AS long as I don't come in plastered some day I should be fine.

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So, cool holiday stuff I've done:

THE CHRISTMAS REVELS

On the 23rd, I went to the Revels with my great-aunt. This particular great-aunt is not your classic stodgy type, but is one of my strongest role models. She's eccentric and kooky and has her doctorate in Italian Studies despite getting it at a time when such things simply weren't done by women, and she's generally great fun. She was a professor of Italian for years, and she's just finished writing a translation of Italian poetry and she's getting it published.

She was kind of the black sheep of her family. The youngest of four sisters, she lived in Italy for a good chunk of her adult life and never married. Radical feminist, rabid liberal, all that fun stuff. But she mellowed a lot after her stroke and with age. Anyway, she lives in Arlington with her (male) life partner/significant other to whom she is not married, and every year she takes one of us grand-nieces or nephew to see the Christmas Revels in Sanders Theatre in Cambridge.

The Revels are a musical play/performance put on all through December every year. They change the theme each season and this year, the theme was Germanic Christmases, so they talked about St. Nicholas and his legends and Knecht Ruprecht, his companion. St. Nicholas narrated the performance, and there were traditional songs and dances, including several where the audience sings along, and then the one song and dance right before intermission where the whole audience gets up and goes out into the entrance hall and dances together and sings. It was a lot of fun.

At one point St. Nicholas called up to the stage four audience members and sat them down and asked them if they were naughty or nice, and then insisted that they tell him one thing that they had done that was naughty over the past year. The first two answered with the tamest sins they could imagine- "I eat too many sweets" and "Sometimes I don't do my chores." The next was a little girl, and St. Nicholas coaxed her, saying, "Now remember, what happens in Sanders Theatre, stays in Sanders Theatre" and then looked out over the 200 or so faces in the audience. She said she couldn't think of anything she'd done naughty, and then the last person, a middle-aged man, confessed a real sin, as if Nicholas was real, and we all cracked up and it became a running joke for the rest of the show.

If there's a Revels in your area or you live near Boston, you should go some year. It's funny, the music is beautiful, and the dancing is really neat. The atmosphere in general is wonderful and there's a real sense of community there. It's terrific.

I spent the night at my aunt's house and returned home for work the next day, missing a chance for a lobster dinner with my aunt's significant other's son. This made me sad, but oh well. Not like there's not enough good food around the holidays.

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CHRISTMAS EVE

I didn't think I was supposed to work on Christmas Eve, because I didn't understand that schedules at normal places change every week. So I was two hours late, after getting a call from my boss. I felt really bad about it but there wasn't much I could do, it was an honest, if silly, mistake. But it wasn't that busy anyway, just some frantic husbands looking for jewelry or scarves, and we got out early- at 6 pm- which meant that I was able to go home for some Christmas Eve traditions.

I baked sugar cookies, much to my diabetic father's chagrin, and put some out for Santa. You can tell my parents are sort of abandoning the traditional pretense of Santa because they didn't even bother to bite the cookies like usual. Oh well. Daddy says that we'll get presents as long as we can be considered "schoolchildren," which is partially to set a limit on Santa gifts and partially to tempt Shrewd into going to graduate school. I asked if that means I'm going to get gifts from Santa until I graduate med school at age 26, or until I complete my residency at age 30, but Daddy just made a face at me.

Then we ordered Chinese food. This is a very important Christmas Eve tradition. Mummy cooks all Christmas Eve Day for Christmas, and doesn't want to cook for Christmas Eve, so we need to order takeout- but the Chinese part is a tradition. Years ago my paternal grandmother's brother, my great-uncle, decided to order takeout from one of his customers on Christmas Eve to support the man, and the man happened to own a Chinese restaurant. So my great-uncle walks through the door with "dinner-" more than enough food to feed an army. Christmas Eve, we order enough Chinese food for twenty people- we know that's what the restaurant expects because that's how many fortune cookies we get- and divide it among six eaters (my paternal grandfather spends Christmas with us). That's why I'm not allowed to eat Chinese food all through December- to prepare.

That's Christmas Eve around here- hang the stockings, put out cookies, stuff ourselves with Lo Mein and go to sleep. Great fun.

I had to sleep on Shrewd's floor, though, because I was put on the sofa bed downstairs to allow my grandfather a little more privacy and mattress quality and it kinda ruins the pretense of Santa if you see your parents creep by your bed to stuff your stockings. Shrewd's floor is dirty, crowded, and smells like eel, which is what she was carving up at work that day. She reports that she does not like to skin eels.

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CHRISTMAS DAY

Shrewd and I woke up at 7:00, then waited until 8:30 when Grandpa woke up before we alerted The Brother and then went to go jump on Mummy and Daddy's bed. This, by the way, was a lot better for the furniture when we were 6, 9, and 11 instead of 16, 19, and 21. There was much pretense of being incredibly excited to see what Santa brought, more for the tradition than anything. Once Grandpa and the parents had gone downstairs, gotten some coffee, and established themselves in the family room, we were released, but the usual barreling down the stairs has become much more sedated with our advancing years.

Every year, we each get one big present from Santa, which almost never actually fits in the stocking, and then a bunch of candy and fun little things in the stocking. My big present was somewhat exciting- a digital camera. Awesome. Now I can put pictures up that I actually took, instead of stealing them from online. Then we each opened one non-Santa gift, including the adults that have been adults long enough to not be considered "the children."

We ate our traditional Christmas Breakfast of fresh-squeezed orange juice, egg casserole (half with no sausage, half with no veggies, and another pan with both- my poor mother), sweet rolls and pumpkin bread, and special sugar-free apricot bread for my dad. That last one is a new addition. Oh, and there was chocolate for breakfast, but that's pretty much par for the course around here.

After that, we opened gifts until my great aunt, and her significant other (honestly, "boyfriend" is inadequate but they aren't married, what should I call him?) arrived for Christmas dinner. My mom prepared two main dishes, one the traditional roast for Christmas and the other essentially just for me, because she can't seem to understand that I can eat side dishes. But the turkey was very good.

We finished opening presents after dinner, with our guests, and then we had pies made by my grandfather and played Trivial Pursuit until my great-aunt had to leave. It was a lot of fun. There were several cool gifts, like my mom's new Roomba, which we spent a ridiculously long amount of time watching as it cleaned the room. That thing's pretty sweet. Also cool was my new brown sweater, which my mother gave me, and which she herself admits makes me look sexy. Mothers are not supposed to say these things, it's weird. But I do love the sweater.

I also got these really neat disease plushies, E. Coli, the Common Cold and Strep Throat, which Shrewd is very jealous of, and a lovely new jewelry box that has almost enough space for my earrings. I have a lot of earrings.

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BLUE MAN GROUP

Yes, we went to see Blue Man Group perform last night. It was... AWESOME. Everyone needs to see Blue Man Group once in their life. There was drumming on water and toilet paper and strobe lights and honestly, I can't describe it except to say it was funny and cool and... an experience. That's a good term, an experience.

Afterwards we all went to Finale, a very expensive but wonderful dessert shop. We ordered a couple desserts and split them. I had been there once before, with the Girl Scouts, so it was my idea. Finale is the kind of place you can financially go to only every once in a while, with intervals depending on your income, but probably not more than once a year. Health-wise, I'd recommend at least five years between visits. "Sugar-free" is like a curse-word there.

This kinda sucked for my diabetic father, but I think everyone liked the desserts. but my brother's poor girlfriend seemed a little startled that they were to be shared. I hope we didn't scare her off too bad.

Also with us was my maternal grandmother, who came up only two days after my grandfather left, so I had my own bed for a grand total of two nights. But I'm all set up to sleep in the basement now, since I decided I couldn't handle the total lack of privacy that comes from sleeping in the living room. I have an air mattress and a whole mess of blankets, because the basement is freezing.

Anyway, Grammy came with us to the concert and then afterwards we opened her presents to us, which didn't take very long. She gave each of us kids an iPod Nano, which is pretty cool. Shrewd might exchange hers for a Creative player, but she's not sure yet. So between the digital camera and the iPod I've gotten both of the big gifts that I wanted. Very cool.

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So those are my holidays. I wanted to have a friends party but I never found the time, though I might do one in January before school starts up again. I may or may not be returning to regular posts, but I definitely will start up with normal posting when I return to school on the 16th.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Crisis of Whatever

Oh, hey, it's Saturnalia! I haven't been checking my Roman calendar much lately, so I didn't mention it earlier, but Saturnalia started on the 17th. Saturnalia was a festival honoring the god Saturn/Cronus, the father of the great Olympians.

The festival lasted from the 17th to the 23rd, and consisted of some public religious rites, but also a school holiday, the making and giving of small presents, and a special market. They legalized gambling for the week, even for slaves, but that wasn't saying much since gambling wasn't exactly rare the rest of the year. There was much feasting and merriment.

They also basically excused slaves from punishment and let them treat their masters with disrespect, and the masters either served their slaves a banquet, ate with them, or allowed them to have one before the masters' own. Everyone wore casual clothes, not togas, so it further blurred the master/slave boundary. One person was elected master of ceremonies and directed the partying in his circle.

Saturnalia is a source of many Christmas traditions common in the middle ages- masters and servants switching places for the day, a master of ceremonies, that sort of thing. This major holiday was probably why it was decided that Jesus was born in late December, despite there being pretty much no evidence of any time of his birth- I mean, at his birth, even if you believe in him, he wasn't known to be a prophet of messiah or whatever you think he is. So they didn't really record anything. But the early Christian leaders weren't stupid, they knew that the best way to get people to stop celebrating the pagan holidays was to replace them with events that happened at the same time and were kinda similar in nature. Luckily, there were a lot of holidays that fell at around the same time, in different non-Christian religions, so lots of birds with one stone.

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Speaking of Christianity, interesting thing happened today. I was working at the register and a customer noticed my necklace- my prayer box necklace that my little cousin gave to me- and started asking me about it. "What's in your little box?" she asked. "My daughter has one like it."

"Oh, it's a prayer box," I explained. "You write your prayers on little slips of paper and put them inside."

"Ah, yes, that's what my daughter's is too- but hers is a little different. where did you get it?"

"My little cousin gave it to me for Christmas one year," I answered, omitting the fact that said little cousin is almost a teenager at this point.

"Oh... Are you Catholic? Do you know if those are mostly a Catholic thing? I heard they might be."

Uhm... okay. Here's the thing. First of all, I'm not positive what religion my aunt, uncle, and cousins are, just that it's Protestant and I don't think it's Baptist. I want to say Methodist, but that's irrelevant. The thing is, my cousin is really active in her church and sings in the choir and all- and I know that whole family looks down on ours. I mean, my aunt was a born-again Christian, and my mother- her sister- is an atheist. Meanwhile Shrewd knows more about what she doesn't beleive in than what she does (though I don't think she considers herself atheist anymore) and I'm... well, I'm complicated. Now, I don't think that my cousin understands that I'm not Christian, because I doubt that's the sort of thing my aunt and uncle would talk to her about. She at least should know that I'm not as religious as her family is. But I still kinda felt like giving someone a prayer box is essentially saying, You should put your faith in my God and my religion, and be more religious, like me. It's a bit like giving a cross pendant. A lovely gift, if you know for sure that the person is a Christian and will appreciate wearing their religion around their neck.

But I beat the system. I wear the box and I even put prayers inside of it, though they aren't serious prayers for the health and happiness of my family- those I say myself, since anything important ought to be said in person, and not written down. Right now my box contains prayers for success in school and for a Prince Charming to come along. Things that I could accomplish on my own with minimal divine intervention if I had the nerve and made enough effort. Still, they're prayers. They're just to a radically different god than the one the box was originally made for.

Anyway, back to today, and the conversation. It kinda went downhill from there. I told the woman, "Oh, my cousin is Protestant. It's not just a Catholic thing," thinking, It's not just a Christian thing, and she said, "Oh, good... Are you religious yourself?"

Uhm, lady? I don't even know you, I'm the girl who's ringing up your wrapping paper at 25% off. Why are you getting into a theological discussion?

"Oh, no, not really... My dad's Congregationalist, but we never really go to church," I answered, deciding that I would not explain the complexities of religion in my family to a total stranger, nor would I let her know that I was not only not Catholic, but not Christian at all, since she seemed the sort to smile sympathetically, offer some story about how Jesus saved her, and inform me of services at her church of choice with an excellent pastor who could "help me through my religious turmoil."

In fact... Next thing you know she's standing there talking about this Christian camp thing that she went to, and how "most of the people who go there have already had some horrible event in their lives, but really, you shouldn't wait that long," and I'm thinking, Right, because there's no way that a 19 year old could have already had horrible events, like, you know, a suicide attempt, and she's telling me how the experience changed her forever and made such an impact on her life and I should look into it, really, if I want to get in touch with my faith...

Meanwhile I'm trying to figure out when she's going to leave. I was trying to be nice and smiley and friendly but honestly, it was getting hard. I mean, come on... Maybe I should have just said "Oh, I'm not Christian," but I think that would have dragged out the conversation longer, and ended up with her suggesting that I correct my "crisis of faith" at her church. Because honestly, that's what everyone says. I say I'm not Christian. They ask what religion I am. I say I have a collection of beliefs that are hard to explain and that don't fit into an organized faith. They assume that means I'm looking for a faith, specifically theirs, and start suggesting that I check out their church/temple/whatever.

But honestly? I am actually pretty religious. My faith is mine alone, but I adhere to my beliefs stronger than many Christians and Jews I know (I'd say Muslims too but this is New Hampshire, we have like ten Muslims total, and fewer of any of the other religions). And the important things- a strong moral code that fits with most of my society's customs, a sense of right and wrong, and a general sense of personal self-worth and acceptance of life and my place in it- that's all covered. I'm not in the market for a new faith, though I am in the market for followers, that'd be awesome. Starting a cult is twenty-third on my list of Things To Do To Ensure Immortality Among Geeks, and that's a joke, so no hate mail, please.

I talked about this for a long time with my sister and what we concluded was this: One of the central themes of our morality training as children is that it doesn't matter what you believe, so long as you're a good person. For me, being a good person is defined as following the five most basic morals in the world: Don't kill, love/protect/nurture your family, honor your vows, respect your fellow man, and care for your body and your soul. #4 is pretty significant here- because part of it's definition is "don't judge if you disagree."

I respect the beliefs of even the crazy uber-Christians. I agree with some of their beliefs, even. But the fact that I respect them is cheapened by the fact that they don't respect me, and think I am incapable of creating my own belief system without a church to guide me. So it doesn't matter what they believe- as long as they're a good person... which means that it doesn't matter what they believe, as long as they respect me. And everyone else.

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Oh, and I bought Harley Quinn. She is AWESOME. And bald. She's a bald Barbie. That makes her AWESOMER.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Blue Light Special on Defibrillators, Aisle 12

Another day at the job. They finished teaching me (mostly) how to use the register, though that woman who paid with a traveler's check threw me for a loop. It was crazy-swamped, so I basically was ringing people up non-stop all day. This was good as I had a really bad ache in my lower back and abdomen that you'll either understand, or you won't, and not having a chance to catch my breath was a convenient way to avoid thinking about it. Unfortunately, the pain started at about 3:30 this morning, woke me up, and refused to let me go to sleep again until 5:30. My alarm went off two hours later, and oh yeah, I went to bed at 1 AM last night. So yeah, four hours of sleep. I managed to stay focused thanks to orange soda, vanilla Chai tea, and diet coke. That and the fact that interacting with people causes my heart rate to increase precipitously and I act like I'm on a caffeine high anyway.

But not too bad, all said and done. I think I did pretty well learning the ropes of cashiering.

But... This one woman brought up a tall ceramic vase but noticed that it had a large chip in the side, so she didn't buy it after all. It was pretty big so I stuck it in the corner of my little cashier stand thingy where I didn't think I'd trip over it, planning to bring it over to the service desk at the first available moment to ask if it was going to be returned or marked down to clearance or what.

Problem was, there wasn't really an available moment, and the next thing I knew I was calling over one of the other employees who was working up front, a middle-aged woman who is a regular employee, to help me with something I didn't understand on the register, and as she left, she brushed the vase and knocked it over. The top broke clean off. She immediately looked at me and said in the darkest voice you can imagine, "Why was this here?"

I swear to god my heart stopped. That tone of voice is the exact same tone that a certain teacher at the daycare I used to work at used with me when she thought I wasn't properly supervising the kids, despite the fact that you can't always sprint across sand fast enough to stop a kid from kicking sand in another's face. It always made me feel like the world's biggest idiot, and like I had done something wrong, despite knowing full well that it wasn't entirely my fault. I swear, I have nightmares about that woman and the way she treated me. She gave me the respect a Southern plantation wife would give to a particularly clumsy, uneducated slave girl that she regrets wasting her husband's money on. She sort of treated me like one of her kindergarteners, except she was allowed to make me do work- despite the fact that my job was not, and never was supposed to be, working for her in the kindergarten room. I hated how that woman made me feel.

And then, to hear that same sort of inflection in my co-worker's voice today... It scared me, and I kind of had a panicky moment. So I did the only thing I could, I told her why I had put it there- it was chipped and I hadn't had a chance to bring it to returns- and the weirdest thing happened to her. It was like total change of attitude ("Oh, it was chipped? That's okay then, we wouldn't have resold it anyway," sort of cheerful but still matter-of fact), and she morphed from Scary Kindergarten Teacher back to a normal human being, and I calmly debated buying myself a defibrillator for the future.

I bet they sell them at Wal-mart. I'll ask Mack.

And in other news, that Harley Quinn doll that I kinda really want despite being much too old for Barbies is in fact only $8.00, which means I only would have to pay $7.20, but I still can't decide if I want to be the sort of girl who buys a supervillain Barbie for herself. I definitely want to be the kind of girl who owns one, it's the buying that I question.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Toys!

Today was my second day of work. It was a day of bumbling around trying to learn the ropes and wishing people would stop assuming that it takes me twice as long as normal to do simple tasks, or even better, give me a longer list of stuff to do so I don't have to hunt them down to get my next set of orders.

See, I'm supposed to be doing registers, but it's so crazy busy in the afternoons while I'm working that they can't finish training me. I started today, but it wasn't very long before I was holding up the line and they had to send me away. I keep forgetting stuff- there's a lot of little steps. I mean, I basically know what to do, but sometimes if I feel rushed I make mistakes. And fixing them takes a while. It's not like I won't learn, I mean, it's just a matter of doing it until I get used to the system. It's just frustrating, right now.

So instead I was sent back to help in the Housewares department, unpacking boxes and restocking shelves, and then going through and making sure all the Christmas stuff was on the proper sale racks (This is good to have done, because one of the problems I had at the register was knowing what counted as "Christmas themed." Now I know, so I won't have to check all the time). Then there was general picking-up-and-returning-to-the-proper-location stuff to do, since shoppers tend to grab something, change their minds, and leave it randomly on a shelf somewhere. The problem was, as I was unpacking the boxes, I'd finish a set of them in no time at all, and then I'd have to go hunt down the woman supervising me and get her to tell me what to do next. I felt like such a little nuisance, but I hate sitting around and doing nothing, especially when I know that's not what I'm supposed to be doing.

But after I had checked the aisles about five times for things that needed straightening, picking up, or returning, I was snagged by the store managers, who were trying to figure out how to move new merchandise out into the toy department. So I was recruited to rearrange the shelves, which were half-empty anyway, and then move toys out. This was at least a department which I am a little more familiar with, since I recognized most of the toys from my last job working at a daycare. So I was basically arranging the toys in displays and bringing them out from the back room all afternoon.

I have one thing to say: I know that everyone says this, but I feel I need to say it anyway. Bratz and MyScene dolls are the worst possible gift for a young girl. Barbie says "I'm a docile female, a stereotype of the fifties generation who badly needs a hamburger and some cute flats," but at least the company tries to give her roles as a doctor or a teacher or an athlete (and not just cheerleading) so concerned parents can try to make the dolls represent what they hope their daughter aspires to be. Bratz and MyScene (Mattel's answer to Bratz) just say "I'm a hip young socialite who wears very little clothing and looks like the sort of girl who would get plastered at a party and wake up in some strange boy's room with no underwear." Alternatively, they say, "That will be a hundred dollars, please."

Honestly. I don't even believe that Barbie is emotionally damaging to girls and I think that Bratz and MyScene is ridiculous. If they're still around if/when I have a daughter, I'm issuing a Christmas-gift warning: stereotypes of women okay, teenage pseudo-whores bad.

That said, I was stocking the Barbies today and I noticed two things. First, Mattel has given Barbie a new movie, in which she is one of twelve sisters who love to dance. Yes. They have made a Barbie version of the Grimm fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I am completely affronted by this attack on my childhood memories. That was my favorite story when I was a kid. However, at the same time, I kinda want to watch that movie, despite it being a badly animated movie based on a doll. I just want to see how badly it's butchered. And if they made Ken into the Old Soldier who marries the eldest sister (presumably Barbie) against her will, stealing her from the gorgeous enchanted man whom she was sneaking away to dance with each night. Don't worry. I don't actually think they used that version. In part because the dolls all wear ballet shoes, so I think they dance solo.


Second thing: There was on the shelf a Harley Quinn Barbie doll. Yes, the DC Comics villainess. Apparently there is also Batgirl, Supergirl, Lois Lane, Poison Ivy and the Invisible Woman (complete with clear plastic "invisible" arms). Now, I realize I'm 19 years old and I am supposed to be mature or something. That said- I really, really want a supervillain Barbie doll. Like, passionately. Like, I might actually go buy it if it's still on the shelf tomorrow.And if it isn't, I might just go to Toys R Us or something and find a Harley Quinn or a Poison Ivy Barbie. They look really cool, as you can see in the images, and come on, it's a supervillain Barbie. I'm wondering if I can convince my parents to get me a Barbie doll. They're like $20 each. And having a supervillain Barbie on my desk would like, make my life.

I am officially the world's biggest loser. AND I LIKE IT!

I also have decided that I strongly dislike the fact that the law says I have to take 15-minute breaks once in a while. Because honestly, there's nothing to do on 15-minute breaks. Can't go anywhere- not enough time. Can't shop- not enough money (Just enough to buy a Barbie). I basically sit in the break room, drink a soda, and read the posters on the walls warning you against shoplifters. Whoa, 'bout killed myself with the excitement there.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A-Shopping We Will Go

My mother's crazy schedule as of late lead her to ask my father to handle much of the year's gift-buying. My father promptly asked his go-to girl on the subject of Buying Stuff- me.

So today, instead of cleaning the house as I originally intended, I helped my dad buy Christmas gifts- including, I might add, my own stocking stuffers. My mother was rather displeased when she discovered this, but hey, it's her fault for asking Daddy to do anything.

Luckily I also got much of my own shopping out of the way.

I also cleaned the kitchen (mostly) and the kids' bathroom, the two dirtiest rooms in the house. They're already messy again, after my absence for four hours. I'm rather displeased.

IN other news, The Brother has come up with a Christmas gift idea for his girlfriend and it's the cutest thing in the world. It appears that all those years of telling the kid about romance and wooing girls and all the jazz actually sunk in. We've made him into a geeky Casanova.

I feel like I should cackle maniacally right now.

Anyway, I'm wondering just one thing: If we managed to basically guarantee that The Brother could get and keep any girl he chooses, why the heck couldn't we have arranged for, say, Shrewd and I to be equally adept at amazing the gentlemen?

Oh yeah. Because Mummy, Shrewd, and I actually know what girls want, and Daddy can back us up on it. Whereas anyone in this family who thinks they understand men keeps it to themselves.

In other words, we're the opposite of the norm: most people know all there is to know about the minds of men and nothing about women. We seem to have the reverse condition...

Ugh, I want to go to bed.

Yesterday was my first day of work. It was pretty standard- sign a bunch of forms, watch some training videos, get a tour of the store... Then they stuck me at the fitting room, which isn't as easy an assignment as it sounds, because besides sorting the clothes that are returned and getting them ready to go back, they also have the fitting room person put security tags on new items and hang them up to go out to the racks. So always busy.

Mummy, Daddy, and the Brother met me after work and we went Christmas tree shopping. The very first tree the guy grabbed for us was absolutely perfect, so the trip was easier than most. Then we checked out the inside of the nursery there, and Daddy saw a miniature key lime tree that came up to my hip and produced real, edible fruit. He was raving about it. Mummy was all set to buy it for him but I had to remind her that a) the tree requires to be placed by a window that gets direct sunlight, of which we have almost none, and b) the chances that Daddy would actually remember to take care of it are pretty slim. Ah, reality checks. Always fun.

After the tree was up and Mummy had gone to work lighting it, I made dinner for everyone (I always cook dinner one of the first three nights after I come home) and then after our 9:00 meal (oops) we watched the movie I mentioned yesterday.

Then today, I woke up at noon, wandered downstairs for breakfast with every intent of going back upstairs afterwards to finish that biology paper that was due today, and the next thing I knew I was hanging wreaths out the windows, then decorating the tree, then planning dinner, then at Home Goods getting a set of burgundy glasses with my dad, god knows why, he drinks burgundy maybe once or twice a year, then I was getting groceries- and then at 5:30 pm I realized as we drove back with the groceries that I still had a paper to finish.

Oops.

It didn't take very long, though, and I was still able to be roped into helping with dinner again. Except we had rotisserie chicken, and no one thought to explain to me in my rotisserie virginity that it takes forever. We had dinner at 10:00. Tomorrow, I intend to serve dinner before my normal bedtime.

It's important to set goals for yourself, you know.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Why I Don't Watch Certain Movies Aound Friends

Who am I, and what have I done with me?

I'm sitting here crying, like literally crying, real tears and all, which I only do when I have a breakdown or something. And I didn't have a breakdown, I watched a movie. I'm crying over a movie! The last movie I cried over was AI, I think, and that was years ago and because I was depressed and it was a bad idea to watch a sad movie.

But what really gets me is this- this wasn't a sad movie, at least not the ending, which is what I'm crying over. And these aren't sad tears. I'm a nineteen year old girl and for the first time in my life, I'm crying because I'm happy, because I saw something beautiful and sweet.

Man, I feel like... a girl.

And in case you're wondering, it was It's a Wonderful Life, and I've never seen it before. I can't believe I'm crying because of it- I mean, yes, classic movie and very sweet and everything, but I don't cry over movies. This is me. I don't get emotional over the lives of others!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Now tell me about your parents...

Today is the Consualia, a festival honoring Consus, the god of counsel, who protects the harvest while it's being stored. Mules, horses, and donkeys were exempt from all labor and were garlanded and led through Rome, and there were chariot races in the Circus Maximus, which I guess doesn't count as work. They even had mules race chariots.

Weird.

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Well, I'm at home. Today was a flurry of packing broken by a Mythology test. The room looked weird and stripped without it's usual junk. I also discovered large collections of dirt under the fridge, under my desk, under where Loquatia puts her shoes... Ugh. I need to wash that floor.

Five trips down the stairs later, Daddy brought me home. I've been here for less than four hours and I've already settled my fish in, eaten dinner (...fish), wrapped several Christmas presents, put in a load of laundry and cleaned my bedroom. And I watched Dr. Who with my dad. I feel empowered. But mostly tired.

And I got my work schedule from TJ Maxx today. I'm not working Sunday or Monday, which gives me time to clean the house for my sainted mother who can't tell her boss that she's sorry, she can't help them with yet another software glitch, since she won't get credit for it and she has a project due at the end of the month, and she was sort of intending to celebrate Christmas at some point, thank you very much (My mother has a history of overworking, but this is pretty bad even for her, so I promised I'd get the house clean for the holidays and subsequent neat-freak-grandmother visits if she'd pay me for it).

Tuesday and Friday I work from 11:00 to 8:00, so I don't have to wake up at a decent hour (yay!) but I still get home at one. Wednesday and Thursday it's 10:00 to 7:00, so I should be able to cook dinner for my mother as well (yes, we eat that late sometimes) if she's too busy. Then Saturday I work from 3:00 to 11:15 at night, because I told them I could work "any hours" and I'm guessing most of their employees have those "social life" things that I keep hearing about, which presumably occur on Saturday nights. Maybe you can buy those at TJ Maxx. I'm hoping for a discount.

Speaking of social lives, the Brother certainly has one- he's on a date AGAIN, like EVERY Friday night. He's pretty lucky that his girlfriend drives, or he'd never be able to afford the gas.

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Anyway, I aced my Chem final (yeah, I was shocked too- and after all that worrying!). Like, 103 out of 105. Which means, not factoring in the 80 I got in lab, I have an A in the course. This is exciting.

And my mythology exam- I think I did tolerably on it despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I was shaking out and massaging my hand by the time it was over. It was three essays in two hours. The first was on Theseus and why is he a hero, and that was fairly easy because I'd studied Theseus and I knew his legend fairly well anyway. Then there was a question comparing the female characters in Euripides' Medea, The Bacchae, and Alcestis, as well as the women of the Iliad and the female characters in Peter Schaffer's Equus. That was a little harder, as I could only remember one of the women in Equus and I hadn't known we had to study Alcestis or The Bacchae. Oops.

Final questions talked about the male heros in the Iliad and how they all caved in to peer pressure, or something. Then we had to scan WB Yeats' "Leda and the Swan." If you haven't read that poem, you should:

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By his dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
How can anybody, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins, engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?


Okay, first of all, amazing imagery. Second of all, it's a poem about a woman having sex... with a bird...

This story is more popular than almost any other story in Greek mythology centering around a woman and a divine or unusual lover. It's more popular than that of Tyro, and Tyro's life was a whirlwind of love, lust, revenge, and politics. Yet it's pretty simple- just a footnote to the life of Helen of Troy and the Dioscuri (the Gemini, Castor and Pollux), who were produced from this liaison. Zeus came to Leda and raped or seduced her in the shape of a swan, and that's why Helen is so beautiful... But yet, incredibly popular in poetry, literature, and art.

I think it's because humans are naturally drawn to the perverted. We don't want to experience it ourselves, of course, but that doesn't mean we don't want to read about it, or imagine it. Why does every news magazine have an article about those poor kids locked up in cages by their parents? Because it's newsworthy. Because we want to hear about it. Humans fly to disturbing images and stories like moths. Trust me, I'm guilty of it too. It's why I know so much about serial killer psychology (thank you Wikipedia).

But... why? Why are we fascinated by the strange and taboo? Pretty much everything in human nature can be traced back to some fundamental reason; if everyone does it (in some way or another) there's usually a reason why we want to. In our ancient history, was there some advantage to learning about things that disgusted and frightened us? Maybe it's some sort of reconnaissance, like learning more about your enemy. Or maybe it's a way of making ourselves feel better (I'm not a bad parent, I mean, look at them!).

I don't know. I think we're jealous. Not of the action itself, god no. Instead, we're jealous of the fact that they aren't bound by our laws. Maybe we don't want to break the same social taboos that they did, but we still wish we could break some taboo- have the courage or the insanity to defy a tenet so crucial to our society's structure. Leda was seduced by a swan- bestiality. It wasn't her fault, unless you live in one of "those" nations, but still- she defied a huge taboo (two, actually, she also cheated on her husband). It's like the combination of a perversion fixation and a rape fantasy- the sense of doing something dirty and wrong, but it's not your fault, no one will blame you, there's nothing you can do.

I think Leda's story is a mirror into the human psyche, like much of mythology. She got to experience what we all fantasize about- a chance to ignore the laws of morality but not face the consequences. We like to hear about the crime, not the punishment, because the punishment reminds us that even those who break the laws are still bound to them. Leda was raped, so those laws don't apply. And that, I believe, is what fascinates us.

And if anyone asks if I want to screw a swan, I swear I will kill them. That's not the point. I'm not excusing my own actions, I seriously think most people do this. Of course, I could be as wrong as Freud and the Oedipus crap...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I'm sure in 1985, plutonium is available at every corner drugstore

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

That might be because they couldn't reserve a room in the Bowels of Hell on such short notice, but meh.

I think I at least will not have to retake the entire course. This is good.

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I was going to go to the review session last night, but one of the TAs, an older graduate student who used to teach high school, was running it. After the first half-hour, I realized he was still talking about "positive study skills," the major one being "start studying well in advance."

Uhm... this was the night before the exam. And the UN's been cracking down on the unauthorized use of plutonium in my DeLorian.

Anyway, I left that review, and studied on my own until the Chem fraternity's tutoring session. That was a bit more helpful, I'd say. Except the guy helping me was cute, and consequently distracting. But I was proud of myself, because I stayed mostly focused and there were only five babble-moments when I couldn't get my mouth to work right.

Anyway, I went to bed really early- 9:30- on account of having to wake up at the ungodly hour of 6 AM to shower/dress/eat/panic before the test at 8. It's weird getting up that early, because no one else does; the halls are empty and silent. The halls aren't even empty and silent at 1 AM around here. I was first into the shower; this wasn't actually a good thing, because it's not like it's been cleaned since November anyway and the water was COLD even though it was the shower that normally scalds me. I had to let it run for like five minutes.

I think I impressed Loquatia with my ability to get up that early. She was definitely expecting me to hit the snooze until at least 7. She doesn't believe me when I tell her I used to get up at 5:30 every morning for high school, and have not always been the lazy slug-a-bed she knows now.

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I'm beginning to wonder if I'm in the wrong major. No, I haven't been listening to my mother, you'll know when that happens because you'll start hearing news reports of ham and feathers on plane windshields. No, I have decided this because I was studying Chemistry, specifically tetrahedral-shaped molecules, and all I could think of was the ancient weaponry that they used to throw down in front of war horses- the kind where a spike would always point up, and the horse would step on it and be unable to continue. Please compare:



And while this helps me remember tetrahedral shape, if you can't study Chemistry without thinking of ancient weaponry, it might indicate an underlying problem. Oh well. I don't intend on majoring in something useless, like history- that's what minors are for.

(This explanation always irritates my English-major mother and German-major father, which is why I say it so much. Mind you, they're both computer programmers, thus proving my point.)

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Okay, I have issues coping with stress, of any kind. My grandmother's the same way, as is my mom. We all developed our own way of dealing with it- my grandmother tries to be strong for everyone else and confides in her sisters, my mother bottles it up inside, and I used to hurt myself or loose myself in a fantasy world. Now, I still use the fantasy world more than I should, but I talk about problems, or write about them. I share them. And since I've learned to handle stressors, mostly through communicating and complaining, and trying to find productive ways to solve my problems, I no longer need to be medicated.

But the thing is, this approach I have makes me see the world of blogging/journaling a little differently. There's this site, Trainwreck, that chronicles the worst blogs and journals on the internet- the mommy blogs, the self-involved-my-life-sucks journals, and the people whose lives are trainwrecks- so bad you can't look away. Normally I totally agree with them 100%, these people are losers. BUT. There's this mommy-blogger who's been on it a lot for bragging about her "incredibly precocious" kid, and she was up on it again- but this time they were ragging on her for complaining about her new kitchen not being all she'd hoped for, when she posted pictures and it's a pretty sweet arrangement. One commenter complained: "[B]ut [I] have to tell you, you complain a lot for having such a BITCHIN’ KITCHEN! B-I-T-C-H-I-N. and [I] can say that, because [I]’m from the 80’s. But what most disturbs me, is that you have so much (healthy, intelligent son, nice husband, nice standard of living) [and yet] you rant so much. And the things you rant about are that you’re son is so smart,(though you’re really humble) is beyond his grade level in intelligence, and that you have this new kitchen you didn’t [initially] want that you have (Sweet Jesus! You have a Wolf range, for Christ sake! AAAAAAAAhhhhhhhh!). ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! If you weren’t so spot on on most issues, [I] would just hate myself for reading this blog! [I] kind of feel that you don’t have a grasp on world issues and what’s going on around us ([A]fghanistan, [D]arfur, etc)."

Uhm, yeah. Okay. So she's a little self-involved. So she complains. But we can't all think about the horrors of Darfur and the civil unrest in Afghanistan all the time. How many times have I talked about Afghanistan? I mean, that doesn't make me less of a person, I just a)don't want to insult anyone by sharing my most likely naive views of the world, and b) have other, more immediate concerns.

Because Darfur is horrible and I'd love to do something to help, but let's face it, it doesn't affect my everyday life. I will wake up tomorrow and I will think about packing to go home, and my mythology test, and the final paper on x-ray crystallography I need two more pages on before Sunday. I'm not going to think about genocide (Probably. Never know). That's not because I "don't have a grasp on world issues." It's just because that's not my life. And I have a pretty wonderful life, I mean, I have problems, but I'm from a well-off family and I never really lack anything I need. I've been sheltered from the world's problems due to location and my community, and I have a wonderful family and a nice standard of living. So... I can't complain? I'm supposed to take all those little things that bug me and bottle them up inside? The whole point of having a journal and a blog is to be able to share the things that are weighing on my mind without needing an actual confidante, who I'd have to like, rope and tie and hide in my closet next to that cowboy I caught my sister for Christmas (oops).

So I won't read that blog because I think she's insufferably proud of her kid, who seems pretty average, maybe a little smart. But I still think that it's unfair to criticize her for complaining, no matter how well-off she is.

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I know it's supposed to be embarrassing to wind up as a trainwreck, but if I ever wind up there, I think I'd have to be kinda proud that they thought I sucked that much. Besides, I'd probably get a lot of readers that way. Even if they are laughing at me, not with me.

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But there was a paper thing I was supposed to be working on... and a test tomorrow... and I guess I'm supposed to go contemplate mass genocide for a while, too...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Potassium on Toast

Today is the Lectisternium of Ceres. A Lectisternium is when you have a sacrifice by inviting the god to the feast. The Romans picked up the god's temple statue and laid in on a dining couch with a pillow, and then served the "god" food by setting it down before them, then cleaning it up when they were "done" (They could tell the god was done because the poor schmuck sent to clean up didn't get struck by lightning or anything).

It's also the Sementivae, another festival to Ceres/Demeter (and Tellus/Gaea), this time of sowing.

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Tacita officially moved out today, leaving behind an oddly empty corner and plastic pallet. It's not horribly tragic for me- she and I were never close, and it turns out that she's just moving upstairs, so I'll probably see her almost as much. More depressing than her leaving is what she left behind- space, which I don't think I've seen in this room since move-in day.

Plus really dirty floors. She pulled up the rugs last night and the floors were absolutely filthy. We need new rugs; otherwise, you might actually be able to see how filthy our floors are.

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I'm currently defrosting the fridge, and Loquatia's packing. She was using the third desk, the one they're removing, and the lofted bed, which will also vanish. She'll be in Tacita's old bed and desk. Which will be moved, since Tacita complained every day about the terrible arrangement of the room that meant her chair could only pull two inches away from her desk. The whole room will probably get rearranged next semester. It will be very weird to actually be able to put a chair in here and not make Libentra sit on the floor when she comes to study.

Except... Libentra won't be in all my classes next semester. Wow. That's sad. I think the only one she's in is maybe Latin.

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Libentra and I are going to the Chem review tonight, held by the Chemistry-themed fraternity, which is not to say a fraternity that brews their own beer (though they might), but rather one that focuses on Chemistry and the physical sciences. That should help, as I can't for the life of me remember what "MO" stands for or what potassium and sodium have in common besides exploding in water and being butter-like in consistency (potassium is the squishy, accidentally-left-on-the-counter-in-summer butter, sodium is the cold, hard sort).

I have a final tomorrow and all I can remember is potassium is squishy. I'm toast.

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I have my stress ball. I have a Latin exam that I should survive, since it's just translation. Then I have a review session, then I need to sleep tonight, like, go to bed at 10, since the Chemistry is so early tomorrow. And it's in a classroom I haven't been in before, so I will most likely get lost. I only need to answer 40 questions correctly to pass, and 50 to have a C (in the class, not on the test).

Deep breaths....

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I had really good ravioli for lunch today

It's the Agonalia Indigeti, today, which was celebrated four times a year (January, March, May, and December). The thing about the Agonalia is all the Romans knew was they were to publicly sacrifice a ram. They didn't know why, or to whom. Just that they were supposed to do it. Which makes it one of the more ridiculous holidays.

It's also the Septimontium, a festival celebrating the wall that was built around all seven hills of Rome.

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Two nights ago I blogged about people criticizing overweight people and telling them to just "diet and exercise" like it was the easiest thing in the world. I guess now I'm going to tell the other extreme. Have you ever read a pro-ana website? It's ridiculous. You think, god, these girls can't be for real; even if they think about it, surely they won't admit it. You tell me you're 5'9" and 100 lbs, and all you ate today was a half an apple and a bite of turkey, and you're so mad that you had to gain ten pounds because your boyfriend told you he'd break up with you if you didn't start taking better care of yourself? Honestly.

The trouble with either eating disorder- overeating or undereating- is that in this modern day and age, you can find someone who celebrates your unhealthy body. There are support groups for overweight people, telling them to celebrate themselves as Big Beautiful Women, ignoring the fact that they are at a greater risk of many illnesses. "Society is being spiteful," they say, "and refuses to accept us because we don't fit their standard of beauty, and won't diet away our lovely extra pounds."

My father always said the most basic, universal standard of beauty was health. That's why most guys like girls who are thin, but not thin enough that their bones show in weird places. That's why big boobs and some junk in the trunk is sexy. And that's why the number one standard of beauty is good skin. You will never find a website support group saying "Society is being spiteful, and refuses to accept us because we don't fit their standard of beauty, and won't wash our skin once a day to chase away our lovely acne."

Health and weight, though, poses a problem. What's healthy? Used to be weight was a sign that you ate well enough, so weight was beautiful. Now, most people in this country can get a decent amount to eat, but we've discovered the health problems associated with being fat, so thin is in. None of this changes the fact that absolutely no fat is as unhealthy as a lot of it is. Beauty is being at your ideal weight. Not too thin or too heavy. And your ideal weight is not what you think would be a good weight to be, but rather what your doctor tells you it should be. My doctor tells me to lose a few pounds. Thus, I'm overweight. If your doctor tells you you could stand to put some meat on your bones, you could.

Look, there is nothing sexy about a preteen body with bones jutting out at weird angles. These girls set ridiculous goals and then proudly boast their accomplishments before deciding that that was easy enough, they can go further, further... And when someone tries to intervene, they say, "Society is being spiteful," they say, "and refuses to accept us because we don't fit their standard of beauty, and won't force-feed ourselves until we swell up like a balloon." Or my favorite, "They're just jealous of my body."

It seems that whatever your body type, they're jealous of it. They want to be big and beautiful, and be able to eat whatever they want without caring that they're heavy. They want to be supermodel thin, and look like the girls in the fashion magazines. Well, kids, I hate to break it to you. I don't want to look like that. I want to have muscles; a toned stomach, nice arms, great legs. I also want to hide my ribcage and keep my breasts. I want to look- and feel- healthy. I know what that means for me. Do you?

Weight is not about self-image, honestly. If you listen to your doctor, and stick within what he recommends, you're fine. I'm sick of people criticizing society for not letting them stay at an unhealthy weight. Yes, it's your body, and your choice. But if your eating habits are incredibly, obviously unhealthy- or if you're in a chat room telling everyone that you're anorexic or that you're a compulsive eater, then people have the right to point it out, if they're nice about it. Especially your doctor- he doesn't just have the right, he has the responsibility.

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That said: Being thin does not mean you're anorexic. Plenty of people are a little underweight because of their metabolism, but anorexia is when they're not trying to stay at a doctor-recommended weight. And while I've never been on this side, as far as I can tell, the only thing that compares to the challenge of loosing weight it gaining it if you have a fast metabolism. There are people who eat until they feel like they're going to explode and they can't stay at a healthy weight. There is a physical limit to how much people can eat, and these people have to push themselves past it every day. I feel bad for them. I swear that's not even a joke, can you imagine having to eat, eat, eat once your stomach already felt hard and dense as a rock? Besides, when you gain weight, you feel gross and sluggish even if your body needs it, because it's just not used to the change.

I admit, I make anorexia jokes about girls who are very thin. I'd never do that if I really thought they were ill, but that doesn't make it any more fair that I joke about anorexia but get mad if people joke about weight. The trouble is, we live in a world where a joke about someone being bone-skinny is not seen as being nearly as mean as making a joke about them being overweight. But I'm getting better. I don't make those jokes nearly as much. It's been nearly two months, I think, since I made one, besides the occasional benign "you're so skinny" comment or getting mad at a girl if she claims she's fat when her diameter is half of mine, which is really more of a "remember who you're talking to" comment than anything else.

I'm not perfect. I know what I should do, and I try, but I make a LOT of mistakes. Which is why I have so few friends.

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Meanwhile, one of those few friends- actually, a guy that I barely consider my friend anymore, since I haven't seen him since graduation and wasn't really planning to make an effort to see him again,informed me today that he wants to meet so he can give me my Christmas present. Uhm... what? We barely spoke all senior year, we haven't really been what I'd classify "friends" since the beginning of junior year... why is he giving me a gift? Honestly, does he even know me well enough to get me something I'd like? Meanwhile this means (it was expressly implied) that I have to get him a gift, too. And I haven't a CLUE what to get him (See gift idea #1 at right). I don't usually buy my friends Christmas gifts except for Mistake, because I've known her for so long she might as well be family. But I mean, if asked, I would have described Mack as my best friend last Christmas, and I didn't get him a gift, at least not one specifically tailored to him. And this year, it's a small gift for Mistake as always, and nothing for the rest of them unless it's something they can eat. I might bake cookies or something. The point is to make a gift they won't feel bad about accepting if they didn't get me anything, and I don't expect them to get me anything.

So it's actually more of a problem than a benefit for me. Because he doesn't know me well enough to get me something I need, so I'm guessing it's either something that's obviously related to something I'm interested in, or it's just a really bad gift.

And what do I get for him? I haven't a clue what he's interested in, and I'm not about to spend more money on him that I spend on a girl I've been friends with since kindergarten, so that leaves me with a pretty small budget. Grr...

I might check the stocking-stuffer bin at the Discovery Store to see if they have anything really inexpensive that's still cool. Dammit, though, this complicates life!

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Exam #1 is over. Bio is out of the way. Loquatia and I studied together, and we explained to each other what we didn't understand, so it was really helpful. I think I did okay. My guess is 90%, maybe 85% if we were studying something wrong or if he's really picky.

And I got an 81% in Bio lab, and an 80% in Chem lab, both a lot better than I feared, so that's good.

Tomorrow: Latin. Not too much of a concern. Then Chem on Thursday, which is a concern- a HUGE concern.

And I still need to pack up for the break. Hmm.

Well, study-break's over. Back to work for this grade slave.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I'm In A Weird Mood

Nothing of any real interest happened today, I was studying. So instead of a real post, here's a picture of an embryonic snake. Isn't it awesome the way the tail curls into a perfect spiral?

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I also have this to offer you: a retelling of a story from Phrygian mythology. However, we only have this story though the Greeks, so it's my retelling of a Greek adaptation of a story from Phrygian mythology.

See, it appears that Zeus is more normal than you'd think, because this myth starts out with him having a wet dream while sleeping on the ground. Now, the thing about gods is that when their stuff falls on the earth, it doesn't die; it invariably impregnates the earth-goddess Gaea. This, along with the commentary from the other day on paternity suits, is why it's probably for the best that there are no Greek gods wandering around today.

Especially since the child that the rather startled and disgusted (Zeus is her GRANDSON) Gaea produced was a hermaphroditic child they called Agdistis. But the gods were afraid of Agdistis with it's two genders and the power that would give it, and they cut off it's boy parts. It was thus made into a goddess, Cybele, who was primarily worshiped by the Phyrgians as their Great Goddess and was later confused with Rhea by the Romans.

But the story does not end there! See, the gods tossed Agdistis' genitalia on the ground, and, as ALWAYS happens when you toss the severed gonads of a person on the ground (see Lorena Bobbit), an almond tree grew there. That was the first almond tree from which all almond trees of today are descended, which is an argument for not eating almonds EVER EVER AGAIN.

Anyway, unknowing of all of this, one of the daughters of the River Sangarius, Nana, was sitting under the tree one day... She, for UNFATHOMABLE REASONS that probably today would involve much psychotherapy to correct, stuck an almond up her... yeah... and became pregnant. This was naturally somewhat embarrassing, considering that she was a virgin and would have to explain how the heck she'd gotten pregnant at all, and honestly, who wants to have THAT conversation with their father?

So claimed she was getting fat and then left the baby on a mountainside to die, because that's just what they did in those days. But as ALWAYS happens, the baby, named Attis, was suckled by goats and raised by shepherds. Grew up to be quite handsome, that boy did. So much so, in fact, that Cybele fell in love with him. Not knowing, of course, that she was technically his FATHER. Attis became her devout follower on the condition that he remain chaste.

Attis left the goddess, though, and had sex with a nymph, of which there always seem to be plenty available for such trysts. Cybele was less than pleased, and she drove him insane, in which state he castrated himself. Ouch. When he came to, and realized that he'd just ensured himself a place in the Phyrgian Boy's Choir, he tried to kill himself. Cybele intervened and turned him into a fir tree. After that, the priests of Cybele were always eunuchs, which puts it into the category of Really Sucky Jobs.

I'm guessing this story needs very little embellishment- it's officially the WEIRDEST one I've found in myth archives, and that's including that swan banging Leda (the logistics of which act were discussed for quite a long time in my Myth class a few weeks ago). But see, all myths are there for a reason, so we're going to look at possible morals of this story: hmm. Well, don't jack off if there's nothing between you and the ground, but honestly, I hope everyone knew that by now. Uh, don't eat almonds, ever; hermaphrodites have superpowers; don't cheat on a goddess... oh, screw it. Moral of the story: the Greeks were WEIRD, and the Phrygians? WEIRDER.

Oh, and this amused me immensely- there is a website that tries to make connections between Attis' story and the story of Jesus. The only ones that I really get on the list is that the festival honoring Attis' birth was on Dec 25th and his mother was a virgin, sorta. The rest depends on your sources. But honestly, who comes up with this stuff?

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Okay, that's all I have for today's Weird Mythology Story of the Day. I'm basically gonna write these if there's nothing more interesting to talk about, which is usually the case. If I have time tomorrow I'll talk more about Sir Squirts-A-Lot, the ever-fascinating Heracles and his many, many adventures ("Hey guys! I remembered this cool myth that some hero did but I can't remember who did it. What should I say?" "Aw, man, just give it to Heracles like the rest of us!"), or maybe Odysseus, who loved his wife so much- he just had to get home- he couldn't think of anything else! Oh, wait, look, nice ass on that nymph... maybe he'll just rest here a moment- OKAY! NOW he can't think of anything else but his dear wife- oo, that little princess is cute... and that sorceress... Nothing compares to the comforts of home, naturally, but as long as you're on the road, might as well plow a few fields, am I right?

This is why I like mythology: there are two approaches to it. On the one hand, you can be all serious and talk about the deeper meaning of the myth and divine marriages and what it all meant to the Greeks, like much of academia. Or you can approach it like I do, take the stories at face value, and LAUGH YOUR ASS OFF. The above story is very, very significant to the culture and the dichotomy of women and men and all that jazz, but it's also so absolutely ridiculous that it's funny. This is also why I highly recommend taking mythology classes with people who are NOT classics majors and just want the credit. Their commentary is worth the homework hours.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Dónde están los cahones?" *

There are a million and one online blogs/discussion forums/whatever all dedicated to discussing obesity. I read one, a particularly mean one, and although I don't want to reply to them since they really don't care and will shoot me down anyway, I want to complain somewhere.

First of all. There are a lot of comments that divide up people into "healthy," "fat," and "anorexic/bulimic." Like anorexia means you're really, really skinny. Well, how's this for you- NOT EVERYONE WHO IS ANOREXIC IS SKINNY. Many of them started out actually overweight. When I was younger, I tried to be anorexic (Daddy figured it out and stopped me) because I am actually on the heavy side and it bothered me. Plenty of anorexics start out really overweight, especially middle-aged women. If an overweight woman never, ever eats in front of you, don't assume she's trying to hide her binging and goes home to eat mountains of food. She might actually be anorexic. Which is a bad way to loose weight and should not be considered as good because "at least she'll stop being so damn heavy."

Second. Yes, medical reasons are not an excuse to be overweight. Diseases that put you at risk of obesity don't mean that you won't be able to lose weight with diet and exercise. BUT. It makes it a LOT harder, and it's not their fault that it is more difficult. So cut them a bit more slack than you would your average eats-too-much-exercises-too-little person.

Third. People who are naturally thin, or who have always kept their weight down, don't realize what it's like to lose weight once you're already heavy. My parents and my sister are overweight, even more so than me. Dieting is one thing, though I'd like to see you try to diet when you're on a budget and can't afford healthy food, or when you're raising kids and they don't want to EAT healthy food, or when you're eating at a cafeteria where the healthy food is so damn nasty it drives you crazy. Also hard when you're living with people who are healthy, like my brother. My mom feels terrible making him eat diet food when he's at a healthy weight, but we always run out of the good food first, so Daddy eats the bad stuff. Also, if you're used to eating a lot, and go to eating a little, you will be hungry ALL THE TIME. Then you can't focus on school or work or anything because all you can think about is your stomach's noises.

Then there's exercising. Ever tried exercising when you loose your breath within five minutes or when your stomach/breasts bounce uncomfortably? It's miserable. And even besides that, consider this: A couple hours of exercising every day. When was the last time you thought to yourself, "Man, I always have a couple extra hours at the end of the day when I have absolutely nothing to do; no homework, no kids to chase, no work to do..."

I'm not saying that people shouldn't lose weight. I'm going to be a doctor, I'm the first to admit the healthy benefits of a proper weight. I'm just saying that I'm sick of people who have never, ever been overweight in their lives, who have never fought to loose weight or dealt with the pressure of the incredible inconvenience that losing weight is, going online under pseudonyms and talking about how "disgusting" and "lazy" overweight people are. My mother works almost non-stop at her job, telecommuting or at the office. Meanwhile she's spent the past 21 years caring for her kids as a working mom. She doesn't have TIME to devote to losing weight, because she's so busy... She's NOT lazy. Not in a million years. She just never had the time or energy to devote to losing weight after I was born, or The Brother after me. There are a lot of people out there who are overweight without being the sit-on-the-couch-and-never-move stereotype; they've just got different priorities. So all those people who rant on and on about "ugly fat chicks-" never "ugly fat men," no one cares about them- need to find themselves a pretty, perfect girl who'd rather go to the gym than care for her children or contribute to the household finances, and SHUT UP.

As a side note- any girl with a BMI of less than 23 is NOT FAT, and considering my own BMI, if I ever again hear a guy describe a stick-thin girl as "fat" because her abs are not rock-hard and she happened to have some unflattering pictures in a bikini due to an unfortunate pose, I will SIT ON HIM so he can appreciate the difference between rolls of skin with almost nothing in between them and my heavyset glory.

(Okay, so technically I'm only five to ten pounds from the high end of an appropriate weight range. I'm still in a heavier weight class than the kid I had in mind, so I fully intend to crush his rib cage if he jokes about that girl's weight again. He can, however, describe her hair as "dishwater blond" or her skin as "jaundiced" all he wants. Not that I would ever describe a girl that way. I'm just trying to offer him alternatives. He has to placate his girlfriend somehow.)

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One last thing: I would like to express the irony that last night I was offering out advice on dealing with guys. Bit like the blind leading the blind, or maybe the legally blind leading the completely so. on the plus side, I think I'm beginning to understand why a funny, silly, cute girl can best even me in the "can't get a date" arena, and it has absolutely nothing to do with weight.

It might have something to do with the fact that the most intelligent girl in the world can be amazingly unaware of what guys like in girls. I mean, I'm pretty clueless, but I at least know that the intelligence a guy seeks in a significant other is not an amazing ability to solve math problems at the speed of light, but rather a light in her eyes and wit in her tongue, and the ability to hold her own in a conversation.

The worst thing is knowing what guys are looking for, and not being able to provide it.

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*As stated by Mistake to Closer at lunch today....

"Are you just going to keep adding on to that nickname until it is as emasculating as possible?"

I didn't get any studying done today, because the Internet was down, and then Mistake and I went to the mall instead to do some Christmas shopping, then we watched High School Musical (good) and The Perfect Score (meh) with Closer, and then sat around and were bored... Generally just didn't study.

During the "bored" time, we played Truth or Dare, a game which my mother banned me from playing ever again when I was in middle school, on account of my being really, really good at it, and consequently making the other girls do/say stuff that they later regretted, or immediately regretted, and then there was crying and complaining calls to mothers. But don't worry, no one cried tonight, at least not because of me; Closer's eyes could have welled up when Mistake hit him in the groin, but that had absolutely no Basiorana involvement.

I will recommend not playing Truth or Dare with dating couples. "Truth or Dare?" "Dare." "Kiss me." *kiss* "Truth or Dare." "Dare." "Kiss me back." *kiss*... Mistake has installed Christmas lights, which at least gives me something to look at when I examine the ceiling in an attempt to ignore the lovey-dovey nonsense in front of me. Especially when there was pantsing involved, because honestly, there's a limit to how well you want to know your friends. And that's WAY past the limit.

Walking out of their dorm, I passed a cop car, then a fire truck, then an ambulance, all headed into Stoke. I've decided that it was Mistake and Closer's fault, though I'm not sure HOW yet.

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Last night was the Stress Fair, which was cool; we got cotton candy and played True Colors with Tibicina ("flute-player"), a girl we knew in high school. We also made stress balls by putting flour into balloons; I should say, I did, as I was the only one patient enough to finish the flouring. However, I was playing with the stress ball during the movie we went to see afterwards (Employee of the Month, pretty funny), and it broke and exploded flour all over my lap. I sat like that for the rest of the movie and then afterwards raced to the bathroom to deflour myself.

That's NOT the same as deflowering myself. Primarily because "deflowering" implies a "deflowerer" who is not the same person as the "deflowered."

Anyway. We played True Colors until Cocky Guy showed up (Cocky Guy is a guy Mistake met at orientation. We hung out with him a little at the beginning of the year, but he was apparently a bit of an ass to her and really offended her, and she always describes him as "cocky" or "jerky asshole who's so damn full of himself." Cocky is the nicer of the two [and I don't really know him so I feel bad being mean], and works as a double entendre that's almost as good as his real name, so we'll go with that). Then Tibicina and I ran through the giant blow-up obstacle course (I won both times, I am the giant blow-up obstacle course champion) while Closer and Mistake went to get movie tickets so Mistake could avoid Cocky Guy. She's pretty lucky he declined to join us when Tibicina invited him.

I know what Mistake told me about what the kid did to piss her off, but honestly, sometimes I wish she'd just let him know that she dislikes him, rather than making him think it's her being a jerk. Because honestly, if she told him "I was really offended when you did _______, and that's why I've been avoiding you" he'd probably get mad at her and stop trying to contact her, thus making her life easier, or he'd realize she had a point, apologize, and maybe try to be better about it in the future, or, more likely, somewhere in between. But honestly, she doesn't need his friendship, so what could it hurt to give him a little constructive criticism?

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Anyway, Tibicina works for Vector and she and I talked about it; she's actually quitting soon, though she still defended it a lot. They get some devoted people there, you know. I think it's the water, though there might be some nifty air-vent chemical-release program they've got set up.

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But it's 2 AM, so... tired.

Friday, December 8, 2006

The Snow Dance Worked, The Ground Is White!

I was wondering if I should change my blog name. I mean, sure, it's catchy and cute and goes well with "Basiorana," meaning "I kiss the frog" or, if you want to be literal, "I, the frog, kiss" which is not nearly as cool, but to translate directly involves the insertion of an "m" at the end and "Basioranam" is not nearly as rad as "Basiorana."

BUT I digress. Despite the high quality name I have for this here blog, the name is not really accurate. I mean, sure, it speaks of my pathetic desperation, but it implies that I actually am kissing people. Which is inaccurate, as the only frogs I have kissed are the amphibious sort that don't change into anything cool when you kiss them, much to my seven-year-old chagrin. The only human I've kissed was not actually a frog, but in fact a prince, if by prince you mean "Kal-El, Prince of the Planet Krypton" since I'm still pretty sure he's Superman and hasn't told us yet.

Actually, I don't know if Superman was a prince on his home planet... Hang on while I check Wikipedia... Oh. Nope, not a prince, just the "Last Son of Krypton." Bummer. Anyway, mild-mannered Clark Kent aside, there is still the matter of the name. So I think I need a disclaimer on the top of the page: "The Amphibious Sort."

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Thanks to doing some online research, I'm starting to worry about the Vector job. People have had bad experiences, it seems; first a guy in Group mentioned that his friend had a bad experience, and then there's a blog that contains lots of negative (and some positive) information: Cutco Complaints. Like the claim that you have to sell to husband and wife at the same time (absolutely MORONIC, if there's one thing Girl Scouts have taught me it's that people buy more without their spouse to criticize), or that employers try to make employees feel ashamed about asking for base pay.

And there's talk about them not giving you any referrals- making you get all your own from family and friends. Well, I can think of maybe, uh, three couples that fit the demographic and that it wouldn't be a total waste of time to go to. Since I don't expect to get commission for those sales- I mean, I might be able to convince, say, Mistake's folks to sit down and listen to the presentation, but I'm not gonna expect them to actually buy anything. Same for my folks, even though Mummy needs knives. I might convince her to buy the $135 knife set from me afterwards, but I doubt I'd get her to pay $500 for knives. So if they don't give me referrals, there wasn't much point in hiring me.

Plus, you know, there was a lot of complaint about pushy salespeople, despite what they said in the interview about that being a good way to get fired. I was gonna e-mail my questions to the manager, but he doesn't have an address available. So I was going to call him, but I'm really uncomfortable confronting him over the phone.

You know what? I was thinking I'd go with the job anyway, since I didn't have another choice and all, but honestly, I should not feel uncomfortable about a job. If it's making me uneasy, I shouldn't do it. And I got a call from TJ Maxx today saying that I got that job, he just has to check my references. Plus I'll have full-time work at a company that I haven't heard anything bad about. So as soon as he confirms next week that my references are sound and I can have the job, I'm calling Vector and telling them that I changed my mind.

But man, was I panicking last night, when I thought I had to take the Vector job or not have anything to put on my resume for the summer. I felt kinda crappy and down before I went to bed, and my chest hurt like it does when I get anxious. When I finally fell asleep, I dreamed about stripping.

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So I never did mention what I did last Sunday. Well, my family went to this Cultural Bazaar down at Harvard. They have merchants selling for lots of money things you can get for pennies overseas, but a percentage of it goes to help indigenous tribes, so I didn't mind too much. There was an Indian dancer who performed with bells on her feet, that was cool, and there was good Indian food, and all kinds of cool stuff, like a Native American man who sold gorgeous dream catchers and a Thai man with cool hair sticks. I bought some Christmas presents.

Anyway, that's only mildly interesting and has little or no continuing importance on my life. More important is that while we were taking the red line into Boston I happened to see a poster advertising this study they're doing at Harvard, on personality and family. They were looking for volunteers and promised $275 for three hours of questioning and 20 ml of blood (meh, I'm not really using that stuff anyway). You have to sign up two family members as well and they have to undergo the same thing and get paid the same. Other requirement, for anyone who's thinking this sounds like a good thing to sign up for, is that everyone must be over 18 and one must have a history of depression (me, I've got all three with a history of depression, between my sister and mom, but that's a different problem).

I called and the woman in charge gave me a quick interview to see if I qualify; suggestion: never agree to an interview regarding your psychiatric health while in a dorm room with your roommates and the door open; and then once she confirmed that I was, in fact, quite insane, she arranged for me to come in on the first Friday in January at 1:00, at which time I hope that the TJ Maxx hours will be calming down. She said that they call the family members and have them come in at different times, later on, so Shrewd and Mummy can pick whatever time works best for them.

So yes. Basio is selling her body for science. I have ALWAYS WANTED TO DO THIS. There is quite a lot you can consequently say about my personality because of this, but let's not go there.

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There was a news article on CNN during breakfast today about those Wii game controllers that came out recently. You hold the controller and move your hand, and then your movement is picked up by the thing and translated into your video game character. Problem is, people get a little over-energetic, and the things fly out of their hands and into lamps/windows/plasma screen TVs. Oops.

This is hilarious to me. Besides the image of somebody explaining to their landlord why they put a hole through their glass window with a game controller, the very idea that you'd have a Wii is kinda pointless. I mean, you want to move around? GO OUTSIDE. Or to the gym, if it's a day like today. Or SOMETHING, I mean, they've got like fantasy tennis and stuff, and you can be just as active playing fantasy tennis as real tennis, and honestly, that's like the most ridiculous idea ever.

I guess it's like DDR- designed to be played in the privacy of your own home, so you don't embarrass yourself with your terrible skills. I dunno. I like computer games well enough, but I mostly like cheat codes so I can annihilate the ancient Romans with rocket-launchers on my cars. And Sims amuses me because it's essentially social interaction without the actual social interaction.

I can't wait until we develop HoloDeck technology, and people can immerse themselves in a fantasy world. Give them a world with cool weaponry and hot girls and feed them. Next thing you know, the population will decrease drastically. OO! New plan for world domination! TO THE WAR ROOM!

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That funeral I mentioned earlier this week, in Somerville, is on Monday, so I can't go. Finals. The wake is Sunday night, though, and I can't decide if I should go or not. On the one hand, I'd like to pay my respects; on the other, no one will judge me if I don't go since it's finals week, and it would consume all of Sunday afternoon. I have to think.

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Today was the last day of class for the semester. Tonight Mistake, Closer and I are going to this Stress Fair thing, which is not, apparently, a fair where you go to get stressed, but rather a fair to address the problem of stress. Only mildly disappointing. Then tomorrow I may or may not be going to a frat party, depending on the final verdict from Mistake and Closer and their gang, which is not actually a gang, because they don't wear bandannas. Most of the time. Then it's study, study, study, test, study, test, study, test, study, test, home. Fun and exciting, no?

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Life is much less interesting without fortune-cookie titles

I have this final paper to do for Bio, on... anything Biology related. Gotta love vague topics. So anyway, the trouble is that it's 7-10 pages. So I was going to do it on a disease like everyone else, figuring that would be easy to research, but fatal flaw- there's only so much you can SAY about a disease. Like, sure, the important ones can have whole books written about them, but your average non-epidemic disease is kinda limited. Besides, I kinda wanted to do something that someone who doesn't actually have a certain illness would care about.

So I figured I'd do it on x-ray crystallography. Here's my approach: If my mom can read it and say, "Oh, that's fascinating! But I don't really understand the science of it," then it's a good paper. For those of you who haven't a clue what I'm talking about, crystallography is how they know what molecules look like. Molecules are too small for even microscopes, but yet scientists know how they are put together. They do this though crystallizing the substance and shooting x-rays through it, and measuring how the rays are diffracted. It's pretty cool and I only marginally understand it. So I'm going to try to understand it and then I'm going to write a paper on it.

And my doing a paper on x-ray crystallography has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the fact that my professor loves the subject and wants to try it before he dies. Not a bit. Nope.

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I discovered a new life form today! It was very exciting. I named him Moe and then Moe and I had a tearful goodbye before I washed him and his three-month-old jello-y home down the sink. Moral of this story: Basiorana ought to clean that fridge out more often.

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I actually look presentable right now, but believe me, it was not an easy ride. My skirt, for example, is safety-pinned so it doesn't slip down too low, not for modesty's sake, but because it's supposed to rest at my WAIST, as in, that part that dips in, not the belly-button or the hips. I'd complain a lot more if this didn't mean I was loosing weight.

Meanwhile, the only marginally clean blouse I could find stretches so tight across my chest that I'm kinda concerned that it will rip open any moment now and I will be forced to live out some kind of weird version of a trashy supermarket novel. Actually, that's a pretty bad description, since it doesn't sound NEARLY as problematic as my shirt bursting open would be. Suffice it to say, though, that just because a fabric stretches, does not mean it fits. I really need new shirts, and then, I need to THROW THESE ONES OUT.

And then, there's the hair. My hair is SO GROSS right now. It's also ridiculously long. Actually, some of it is. It's really all different lengths, so the last inch is composed of about 1/3 of the hair that is actually on my head. I started the day in a braid, but it quickly frizzed and worked it's way free to escape in messy glory. So I poured a gallon of hair gel into it and pulled it up into a bun on the top of my head. So there.

I have won this battle, Oh Wretched Hair. But don't think I rest easy, for I know that tomorrow will be a struggle of equally Biblical proportions.

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Okay, so last night was my last Chem lab ever, and after the INCREDIBLY SCARY moment when she was assigning groups and I swear I thought that the group doing methane with me consisted of Incredibly Hot Guy, shorter-but-still-hot Flirts With TAs, and this guy that hangs out with them who's also surprisingly attractive. Thank GOD I heard wrong, that would have ended oh-so-badly. I only wound up with Surprisingly Attractive Guy. You won't understand why I call him that unless you see him, and you won't see him unless I tell you his real name, and I won't tell you his real name unless I get a head injury...

Anyway, we were looking at methane because it's a greenhouse gas, and then we had to find ways to reduce methane in the atmosphere, and honestly, the best we could come up with is stop raising cows for meat, because that's where 14% of the atmosphere's methane comes from- domestic livestock. Don't think about it. So next time someone asks me why I don't eat beef, I'm totally gonna say, "COWS CAUSE GLOBAL WARMING!" and whip out the statistics chart I happen to have in my back pocket.

We made posters and then graded each other's posters, based on content and "wow factor," how impressed we were by it. The most "wow" one had to be the one with the farting cow on it, and in the cloud was methane facts. Only it wasn't a "Wow, great poster" so much as a "Wow. You put a FARTING COW on your poster." But I said wow, so they got the points.

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The last Group session was today, with 3/8ths of us present- man. I'm the only one who hasn't missed a meeting since I started, which was after the first meeting. Anyway, not much accomplished, but I learned that the guy in Group that I refuse to admit is attractive because he's in Group and at least as messed up as me (that was going to be his name, or GIGTIRTAIABHIGAALAMUAM [pronounced Gig-teer-tay-ab-hee-gah-al-ah-moo-am] for short, but I thought that that was just unfair, especially considering the acronym is longer than most names I use) is going to do the Art Therapy group next semester, so if that works out for me, we might be in Group together again. Not entirely sure if that's an incentive, you know, familiar face, or not. Meh. Not that I'd make my choices based on one kid anyway. Hmm...

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I've been reading blogs, as in, blogs other than those of people I know, and there's this neat feature on the modestly named Bestest Blog Of All Time which picks out a random blog for you and notes the good ones. Some of them I found kinda boring, but there are these ones: Nate is a Blog, which is funny random, and Dating Profile of the Day, which amuses me in the "oh god there are people like that out there" sense.

One blog I found only mildly interesting, save this quote: "Nonetheless, it matters to me that Canada is fair and just, even if it doesn't jive with my jehovah." (Shanthology). Jive with my jehovah? I want excuses to use that phrase in everyday life.

Some other note-worthy blogs I've found include Kissing Frogs, a collection of bad dates, and Go Fug Yourself, which is like a Worst Dressed column in a news magazine only funnier. I'll put these all in my blog list later.

But if you're really bored, check out Bestest Blog of All Time and cycle through the random blogs. Seriously. There are a lot of bad writers in the blogsphere, but there's lots of good ones, too.

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Hmm. There seems to be something I should do right now... something... related to the fact I'm in college... and have my last day of class tomorrow... hang on, it's coming to me... OH YEAH homework. Damn.