Many questions

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A meme, lifted from Gwen. My answers, as is my wont, are in color.

FIRSTS

First job: My first on-the-books job was dishwashing and bussing tables at a restaurant. I was 14. I hated every minute of it.

First screen name: Boytoy, an ode to Madonna. Things have changed a bit since then.

First self-purchased CD: Soul Asylum, Grave Dancer's Union

Vinyl Album: Other than my Disney records as a kid, I've never owned vinyl

First piercing/tattoo: Ears, age 5, at a drugstore in Cottage Grove/abstract sun on the small of my back, age 19, at Medusa Tattoos in Portland

First true love: Hrm...Nikema Bender, I think. I was...3? In grown-up terms, probably Simon, though I'd have told you differently in high school. It's sort of each to discount true loves after the fact, I guess.

First enemy: My cousin Jenny. We were a month and a day apart (she was older), she was all brawn, I was all brains. It was not a match made in heaven.

LASTS

Last big car ride: In July, to Dallas, to pick up Leo.

Last kiss: Mark, this morning.

Last library book checked out: I have no idea. It has been a while since I have checked anyhting out.

Last movie seen: Good Night, and Good Luck.

Last beverage drank: Coke.

Last food consumed: A Halloween Kit Kat. Nasty.

Last phone call: I talked to a job recruiter about an hour ago.

Last CD played: The new Dar Williams.

Last annoyance: Not getting into a class I want to take because my registration period was two hours later than the history students'.

Last pop drank: Aforementioned Coke.

Last ice cream eaten: My incredible homemade peppermint chocolate ice cream.

Last time scolded: I don't recall. It's been a while.

Last shirt worn: Currently wearing an orange vee-neck tee from Target.

I AM: demanding, but worth it.

I WANT: a vacation.

I HAVE: lots of lists.

I WISH: I could make things better for everyone.

I HATE: diet soda and dress codes and never having enough time.

I FEAR: enclosed spaces and people I don't know.

I HEAR: ringing in my ears, from time to time.

I SEARCH: for pants that fit properly and a fufilling career.

I WONDER: if I'll get lots of trick o' treaters tonight.

I REGRET: not a whole lot, actually.

I LOVE: the sun, Chai, sleeping in, time alone, bad TV.

I ALWAYS: obsess about things I can't change.

I AM NOT: who I used to be.

I DANCE: not well or often.

I SING: even less well than I dance, but much more often.

I CRY: less and less lately.

YES or NO: YOU KEEP A DIARY: No, not as such. I used to keep a very verbose journal, but now this blog is it.

YOU LIKE TO COOK: Not at all. It's messy and you can't count on it. Plus nothing makes me less excited about a meal than having to cook it myself.

YOU HAVE A SECRET YOU HAVE NOT SHARED WITH ANYONE: Hrm. I don't think I do. I mean, there is probably something I've never told anyone, but I don't know that there is anything I've made a point to never tell anyone.

DO YOU...?

HAVE A CRUSH: Generally two or three of them.

WANT TO GET MARRIED: No.

GET MOTION SICKNESS: Not generally. Seasickness, a little bit.

THINK YOU'RE A HEALTH FREAK: Hah. Hardly.

CURRENT HAIR COLOR: Brown with blonde highlights.

EYE COLOR: Light hazel. More gold than green.

BIRTHPLACE: The thriving metropolis of Cottage Grove, Oregon.

FAVORITE NUMBER: 8. This is in part because of my birthday (8/28) and in part because I like the sexy shape of the number.

COLOR: It varies. I am generally drawn to red things, particularly dark red/burgundy shades. Jewel tones in general make me pretty happy, though.

DAY: Recently, I'm loving Sunday. It's the less stressful day. But for nights, I like Friday (for the same reason). Sunday nights are kind of stressful, due to the incoming Monday.

MONTH: Hrm. September, I think.

SONG(S): This varies by mood, but all-time favorites include "Me and Bobby McGee" (anybody's version, really, but I am slightly preferential to Kristofferson's) and "As Cool As I Am" by Dar Williams.

SEASON: Fall. Seems like new things always start in the fall, and that fills me with hope and opportunity, which makes me happy.

DRINK: I could try to say something glamorous here, but in reality, my life begins and ends with Pepsi. Fully caffeinated, fully sugared Pepsi. There's nothing like it.

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Who do you love?

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Today, a tribute to some of the blogs that I love, and read nearly every day, and why:

There are a number of blogs I read that are written by women I have never met and likely never will. I read these blogs because they give me joy, they give me something to think about, and they give me insight into lives that are very different from mine. Most of these are the blogs of parents, though they are not always "parenting blogs." My favorites are: The Adventures of Leelo and his Potty-Mouthed Mom, which is a brilliant recounting of the life of squid and her family, including her three kids, Iz, Leelo, and Mali; Chookooloonks, the Trinidadian tales of Karen, her husband, Marcus, and their beautiful daughter, Alex, which is definitely the most visually stunning blog on my list and gives me a feeling of great joy every time I go there; and Peter's Cross Station, the writings of Shannon about her life with her partner, Cole, and their daughter, Nat, whichI credit with not only entertaining me, but with teaching me a great deal about adoption, lesbian parenting, and being an at-home mom with a Ph.D..

I also read and enjoy the blogs of parents and parents-to-be that I do know, at least as far as having communicated with them personally in the cyber-world. The best examples of this are: The Edit Barn, where I follow with awe the life of the brilliant and dedicated Krupskaya, her husband Matt, and their kids, John and Maia, who I periodically wish were my kids; Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips, where I keep up with Sarahlynn, who I miss from other aspects of my online life, and the amazingly adorable Ellie; and (Carl in) Casimirland, which keeps me up with Ms. Polkadot, another woman I miss from other venues, and her fantastic boys, Casimir and Carl.

Another category of blogs I read daily or near-daily are the blogs of my friends, both those I know "IRL" and those I know only from the online world. I read these blogs both to enjoy the writing of my friend and to keep up with their lives. The most prolific of these friends (as well as the farthest away) is the fantastic Sofiya, who writes At the Bay, a blog that makes me laugh and adds tons of titles to my book list, as well as making me miss Sofiya like crazy. The least prolific is my darling best friend Scand, who hasn't updated Sweat Equity since early August, damn her, but I keep checking nearly daily. A nearly-as-bad offender is my dear Melinda, who hasn't updated Drinking Coffee, Playing with Scissors in nearly as long, and who I miss desperately and wish was coming to visit for Thanksgiving. I also keep a near-constant eye on the Flooded Lizard Kingdom, which isn't updated often enough for me, and is written by the profoundly fabulous Princess, who I don't see often enough.

The category that is closest to my heart (and the one that has the most overlap with the others) are the blogs of women I admire. Reading these blogs often leaves me laughing, or crying, but it nearly always leaves me inspired to be a better person. Some of these are women I have met and some are not, but they are all women who give me hope. These blogs include some of the ones mentioned above, as well as the brilliant rantings of Bitch, Ph.D.; the insight and emotion of the Frogblog; the strength and grace of Girl in Black Carhartts; the amazing wisdom and righteous anger of I Blame the Patriarchy; and, of course, the humor and general fabulousness of nearly everyone's favorite blog, One Good Thing.

I am also deeply indebted to the blogs of women who dare to talk about their problems with depression, their health issues, their grief, and their general malaise. I wish I could let you know how much your words have meant to me, especially the painfully, bravely honest Dooce, who I think deserves a fucking Nobel prize. I also love to read Nyarlathotep's Miscellany, for insight into both the big stuff and the small stuff than never fails to amaze me, and have been profoundly impacted by the treatment of grief and loss, as well as the profound respect for life, found in Emilin's blog, Postcards of Grief.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the women who write these blogs, and the others that I failed to mention here, for letting me share in their lives. I cannot adequately measure what I have learned from them over the past couple of years, nor can I measure the joy, laughter, and inspiration they have given me. I believe 100% in the blogsphere, not for the political or organizational reasons put forward by most people, but because it has provided me with this connection with the lives and experiences of other women. This is as close to conciousness-raising as I am afraid I'm every going to get, and I want to make sure that anyone who reads What If No One's Watching knows that I am here, I am reading, and I am learning. Thanks for writing.

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Four Fours for Friday

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This site has a four-question meme every Friday. I'm bored, so I am going do the last four of them. Four is a nice number. (The questions are in black, my responses are in color.)

From October 7, 2005:

FOUR FOR FRIDAY - THE PICK FOUR EDITION

Q: What are four (4) of your favorite words?
Incendiary, moped, lavacious, grueling.

Q: What are four (4) things you hope to do this weekend?
Get some reading done, watch some football, sleep in, wash Leo.

Q: What are the four (4) things you say most often?
"I'm tired," "No problem," "No way!," "Woah."

Q: What are four (4) things you wish you could do right now?
Leave work, take a nap, put on some yoga pants, take a shower.

Q: What are four (4) things that turn you on?
Full lips, a sense of humor, being well-read, passion about things.

Q: What are four (4) things you know you can't do?
Ski, play the guitar, write code, meditate.

Q: What are your four (4) favorite things to do?

Read, take baths, watch movies, play with my pets.

Q: What four (4) sounds or noises do you absolutely hate?
The vacuum cleaner, scraping/squeaking noises, Sarah Vowell's voice, smooth jazz.

From October 14, 2005:

Q1: When you were in high school or college, did you purchase/wear a class or school ring? If so, do you wear it anymore?
I had one for a little while in high school, but I lost it. If I hadn't, I wouldn't wear it. It just seems kind of silly to me now. Plus it was ugly. Plus I don't wear rings because my knuckles are too huge.

Q2: How often do you use a public or college or university library? What's the last book you checked out of a library?
I never use the university library. I used to use the public library quite a lot, but haven't recently because all I have time to read is stuff for school, which I buy, and I have a backlog of books bought at the Goodwill for pleasure reading. I can't remember what the last book I checked out was...probably something about how to find yourself or figure out what you want to be when you grow up.

Q3: Earlier this week, Apple introduced a video-enabled version of its ubiquitous iPod. Do you own an iPod or MP3 player? If so, do you download and listen to non-music podcasts? If you do listen to podcasts, which ones are you currently subscribed/listening to? If you do not own an iPod or comparable device, would you like to have one? If so, do you think you'd use your new iPod mostly for music or podcasts?

I have an iPod mini, which I got free through one of those online things where you sign up for trial subscriptions and stuff, and I just last night got an iPod shuffle as a free gift with subscription to audible.com. I don't listen to podcasts, or at least haven't yet. Mainly what I use my iPod for is to listen to audiobooks at the gym.

Q4: How concerned are you about a widespread outbreak of what's being called the Avian Flu?
I probably should be concerned, but I'm not. If I let myself think about things like that, I get a little nuts, so I try not to.

From October 21, 2005:

Q1: When you're in the privacy of your own home, what--if anything--do you tend to read while you�re in the bathroom?
Whatever magazines are in there. Right now I think there is a Real Simple on the top of the pile.

Q2: How did you first learn about your current job?
From my friend S. It was her job, and she was leaving it to adopt her baby.

Q3: On this date in 1915, American Telephone and Telegraph Company engineers in Arlington, Virginia, initiated the very first transatlantic radiotelephone call (they called a telephone placed at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France). What was the last country you placed a call to besides your own? Hrm. I don't know that I've ever called overseas, actually.

Q4: If you had picked the winning numbers in this week's Powerball Jackpot, which was worth an estimated $340,000,000.00, you would have been given the option of choosing between a one-time cash payment of $170 Million, or 30 annual payments of approximately $5.6 Million each. Which would you choose and why? The yearly sum, I think. Doesn't it turn out to be more money that way? I'd probably consult a financial advisor or something. I'd do whichever way is more money. I don't see a particular benefit in getting it all at once--$5.6 million to begin with would really be fine. :)

From today, October 28, 2005:

Q1: What are the directions for making a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich? Um, put peanut butter and jelly on bread? Am I missing something with this question?

Q2: How many weddings have you been to, and what is your most memorable wedding-related moment?

Hrm...I haven't been to all that many. Maybe 10-15 in my whole life? The most memorable was definitely my friend Scand's, which was way out in the middle of Amish country in Minnesota on a farm with no electricity. It was a simple, small ceremony in the middle of the forest, and it was lovely, aside from the rain and the misquitos...The most memorable moment, though, was when the groom's dad got up to read a poem and began with, "Rhubarb...soup!"

Q3: Would you rather spend money on good times and nice things now or invest it for the future?
I'd like to say the latter, but it's obviously the former, given my lack of savings. Hopefully I am getting better about that. You have to strike a balance, I'd think.

Q4: Earlier this week, while acknowledging that there's an acute shortage of priests in the Roman Catholic Church, bishops from around the world reaffirmed the Church's stance on celibacy for its clergy. In your opinion, should Catholic priests be allowed to marry?
Yes. The whole celibacy thing just seems ridiculous to me.


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It matters to me

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If I hear one more time that we're "past identity politics" and it now doesn't matter if Bush's next Supreme Court nominee is male or female, I'm going to fucking scream.

It matters to me. I am part of the 51% female portion of the United States' population, and having an 11% female Supreme Court matters a whole fucking lot to me. And-gasp!-I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to get a nominee who is BOTH qualified AND female!

I know Bush is going to appoint a conservative. I don't like it, but hey, that's how the rules work. I can deal with that. But it incenses me to hear people--both men and women--say that we're beyond gender, that it doesn't matter anymore. The implication there, that those of us for whom it matters quite a lot, are somehow behind the times, somehow beating a dead horse, is sickening. Fuck that. I not only want a woman, I want it to be unapologetically OK to DEMAND a woman. I want HALF of the Supreme Court to be made up of women. Liberal women, conservative women, black women, Latina women, Asian women...I want the Supreme Court to look like what our country looks like. And until they do, I don't have a lot of faith in the decisions they make.

More than anything else, though, I want people to stop saying it doesn't matter. It matters to me, and goddammit, that ought to be worth something.

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I'm trying!

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OK, so the blogging every day isn't going so well. And blogging-every-day-except-Wednesdays-or-weekends doesn't quite have the impressive tone of blogging every day, does it?

Thankfully, I am doing better with the exercise plan than the blogging plan. After joining the gym on Wednesday, I visited it Thursday evening, Friday evening, and Sunday morning. Not bad! My goal is to go four times a week, for 45 minutes to an hour. That ought to be enough cardio to get me started, and then I'll reevaluate after a month or six weeks and see how I'm doing. So far, I'm on course.

We had a sudden cold snap here last night. It was down into the 40s and is only going to get into the low-to-mid 60s today. That doesn't sound very dramatic, but considering it was in the 90s only a couple of days ago, it is. Leo is loving it--we let him out and he actually runs around. Mark and I are in a state of shock, trying to find socks and sweaters. When I dropped Mark off on campus this morning, there were actually students with mittens and stocking caps on. Gotta love Texas.

This leaves me in a bit of a fashion conundrum. I have two pairs of work-appropriate pants that fit well enough to wear, and they are both lightish brown (I guess one would be tan and one would be beige, if we wanted to get specific). Everything else is too big or just doens't fit appropriately. And the two pairs I do have are both from the dreaded, evil, and fucking expensive Banana Republic. So I can't replicate them, at least not without spending an arm and a leg. And given all the time I took off last month/early this month, I don't exactly have a clothes budget right now. So that's all very sucky. I am very tempted to go the buy-one-pair-of-black-pants-and-wear-them-twice-a-week route, but even that would require finding something I can afford that would fit. Blah.

My work life has improved significantly since I bought a hotpot and have started drinking tea at my desk. I don't know why this improves things, exactly, but it does. Something about making and consuming cup after cup of tea amuses and delights me. Plus it's keeping my Pepsi consumption down, which is always a good thing.

And with that, the water is boiling...

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What a Grace wants

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My darling Sofiya has written a lits of her wants on her blog today (or perhaps it is from yesterday, but I just read it), and as I'm suffering allergy-related brain freeze (and a miserable fucking sinus headache), I'm a gonna copy her until I think of something more insightful to write about.

Places I Want to Visit:
Damn near everywhere, but here are some top contenders...
1. The Mediterranean. I just saw a movie where a main character spends the summer in Greece and it produced all sorts of longing.
2. New Zealand. To visit said darling Sofiya, of course!
3. Scotland. I want to see where my people come from.
4. The Netherlands. Ditto.
5. Vietnam. I've been intrigued by Vietnam for years, but Tony Bourdain really has me falling in love with it.
6. Cuba. The closest thing around to successful Communism. I want to see it while it's still there.

Clothes and Accessories I Want to Own:
1. Jeans that fucking fit.
2. Work-appropriate but still semi-casual shoes. Something Mary Janesque.
3. A greater variety of soft-knit, jewel-toned vee-neck and ballet-neck tshirts.
4. Even more dangly stone and silver earrings. And some copper ones, too.

Other Stuff I Want:
1. Beauty treatments. It's just awful. Give me a manicure and I want a pedicure, a full facial, a lip and and eyebrow wax, and a new haircut. I'm a monster.
2. Bath products from Lush.
3. A job that pays what I am making now, for the same number of hours, but is doing something that fufills me.
4. Someone to do my classwork for me until this headache goes away.
5. Clam chowder to be vegetarian.

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Portland

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There is a reason it has taken me so long to post anything about my trip. I'm homesick. I know, I'm always homesick, but just having spent the better part of a week there, this is different. I am horribly, horribly homesick. I'm so homesick it is keeping me awake at night. I want to go home. I don't care if it's gray, I don't care if it's expensive, I don't care if it rains all the time, I want to go home.

My city was just as I'd left it, with the only changes being relatively minor and mostly for the better (with the exception of what they've done to The Pearl, but that was never a neighborhood I had any attachment to anyway, so it doesn't much matter). Mark and I hit almost all our old haunts, even Reed, and everything seemed so...comfortable. So much where I am supposed to be.

It's not so much the tangible stuff--the older houses, the restuarants all having vegetarian food--as it is the intangible. The feeling that permeates everything that I am in my place.

Our first night in town, we had dinner and hung out with our former housemate, the incredible E. We first had dinner at our old neighbhorhood Lebanese restuarant, then went to see her apartment (and visit Potter, who is nothing like I remembered him being). Her apartment is this great, light space in an old building, very close to downtown. It has high ceilings and hardwood floors and a clawfoot bathtub. Retrospectively, I am not sure if it's the most amazing apartment ever, or if I've just gotten used to the way housing is here. Either way, the evening was full of things that just aren't available in Austin--beautiful urban apartments in old buildings, good, cheap Lebanese food, and my own sense of history.

The next night, having drinks and dinner with my museum-buddy S. and her husband at a trendy downtown wine and seafood bar, I had the same feeling. Downtown in Portland doesn't mean frat boys and sorority girls in no clothes, yelling. The buildings weren't all build the same decade. I know the streets, and at this point I even miss the gutter punks. When we went to see the new Modern and Contemporary Art wing at the Portland Art Museum, I was even more jealous of the lucky people who live in Portland, who live in a real city, without having a greater population. I miss that.

I know there are things I love about Austin. The weather here charms me most of the year (though even I am ready for a little bit of fall now). I love my house. The friends I've made here, while few in quantity, are outstanding in quality. But none of that changes the fact that I've been here for over two years now, and I'm still not home. Last week, I was home the minute I stepped off the plane.

So what to do with all of this? I have no idea. We're definitely stuck in Austin for at least three years more, while Mark finishes his Ph.D. After that, we could semi-feasibly go to Portland for his post-doc, but that would only be for a few years, then we'd be off somewhere else. The chances of actually getting to settle down there are very slim, and even if it did happen, it wouldn't be for another seven or eight years.

I don't know if I can wait that long.

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Renewing my commitment

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I used to really love to blog. It goes back farther than that, actually...I used to really love to write, and in particular to journal. Lately, it just feels like an obligation. An obligation I mostly fail to uphold. I don't keep an offline journal at all anymore, and as anyone who is still reading this (bless you if you are still checking, I can't imagine why you'd bother) can see, I'm not putting up much here, either. And almost nothing of substance.

I'm a worse person for it, frankly. Whatever mediocre writing talent I had seems to be dwindling (or maybe just have already dwindled), and now it's stresful to string together three sentances, at least for anything that's not technical or business writing. Makes me afraid that my long-ago preminition that if I wrote professionally, I'd stop writing personally was actually true and not just a way to cop out of journalism school.

So I need to renew my commitment, and if I've been told once, I've been told 1000 times that the best way to be a writer is to make yourself write. Every day. Even if you have to write the same words over and over, force yourself to spend the time and get something down. So that's what I need to do. I need to write.

So that's what I am going to do. As soon as I get some lunch.

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Tropic of Calculus

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Nods to Sofiya for the brilliant title.

I have a problem, and that problem is calculus.

See, it's like this: I am approximately 2/3 of the way through my Master's degree, or will be after this semester. I presently have no reason to think that this semester isn't going just fine and won't end with my having 6 more hours of credit on my transcript. My plan is to continue taking 2 classes/semester for three more semesters, while continuing to work, and then be ready to graduate in Spring 2007. Brilliantly easy, right?

Not so much. See, my requirements are done and I can take whatever I want for those remaining credits, except...

except for my quantitive requirement. I have to take two quantative classes to get away with my degree. And in order to enroll for the first of those to classes, I have to have either:
A. taken a college course each in statistics and calculus
or
B. pass a validation exam each in statistics and calculus

I suffered through a statistics course while I was in Portland (in between Reed and here), but I have never, ever taken calculus.

Well, that's not strictly true, either. I've enrolled in and then dropped an online calculus course, because it made no fucking sense. But I've never completed a course in caclulus.

My math education ended in the 11th grade, with a not-particularly-impressive Algebra II course. Not only have I not taken calculus, I've never learned, or at the very least forgot, several steps leading up to calculus. I'm at somewhere around calculus-minus-3.

But the fact remains that I need to either take a course in calculus (business calc counts), or learn enough to pass a validation test. And, in order to graduate in time with my plan, I need to do it no later than this summer, so that I can take my first quantitive course in Fall 06 and my second in Spring 07 and then graduate.

I am so, so fucked.

I've explored my options. Self study? Hardly going to work, both for lack of discipline and because I truly have no knowledge base. Similar story with the online course. So I need to either find a tutor (horror of horrors), or enroll in a class and hope I can magically catch up with everything in between where my math knowledge ends and where calculus begins.

Or I could blow off the rest of this degree. But I really don't want to do that, since I'm 2/3 done and working and going to school simultaneously seems to be working out alright.

Fuck.

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