30 March 2006

Baseball

We’ll file this one under: Things that Make Me Go ‘Eh?’

So the university I work at has a baseball team. The baseball team has a field. The field has grass. I walk by it every day on my way to and from my cube.

Now I’ve never liked baseball. I just don’t get it. Part of this has to do with the rules and a traumatic, elementary-school-gym-class experience with the rules.

I got out running from first to second base, see, even though I made it to the base before the stupid ball did.

Why? Because some schmuck caught the ball, which meant I wasn’t allowed to run to second base in the first place. No one – and by that I mean the frikkin’ Bruce-Jenner-look-alike gym teacher – bothered to explain this ahead of time. I suppose he assumed that everyone loved baseball and already knew this rule. And apparently, everyone did. Except me.

Add to this that running is about the only school-sports thing I was ever good at – and suddenly I’m being told NOT to do it – and you’ve got one pissed off eight-year-old (or nine-year-old, I don’t quite remember). I actually yelled at the Bruce Jenner clone when he asked me if I understood why I got out. “No!” is all I said, but I think he got the idea that if I had had the vocabulary, he’d have gotten himself cussed out for not explaining things ahead of time (idiot).

The whole affair did very little to endear me to baseball.

One of my grandmothers, on the other hand, loved baseball. I can still see her sitting in her TV room – baseball cap in place, beer in hand (we’re German – everyone drinks beer, even grandmothers), staring intently at the little green diamond on the screen. She would rouse herself frequently to cheer on her team or swear at an umpire (in German, no less). Had she not lived 300 miles away from where I did, I might have had more appreciation for the sport. And, perhaps, I would also have known the rules like everyone else and that whole elementary-school gym trauma thing would never have happened.

Who knows? And more to the point, who cares? None of this has anything to do with the university baseball team and their field and why it makes me go ‘Eh?’.

Which brings me back to the whole purpose of this post:

They have this field. It’s very pretty. It’s very green. It’s very closely and carefully mowed. I’ll bet they pay some guy big, full-time bucks to make sure it stays that way.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Anytime it rains, about 500 big, burly guys materialize out of nowhere and unroll this GI-normous tarp to cover up the grass to keep it from getting rained on.

In other words, to keep it from getting wet.

Here’s the part that makes me go ‘Eh?’:

It’s getting sunny and warm out. Yeah, yeah, quitcher bitchin’, it’s shorts and motorcycle weather south of the M-DL* already. Don’t rub it in. I’m pregnant, remember? This isn’t cause for celebration for me.

Anyways. It’s been sunny and warm out every day this week. Every day this week when I walk by the field on my way to or from my cube, they’ve got sprinklers popped up out of the very green, very carefully mowed grass. They’re watering the field.

In other words, they’re getting it wet. On purpose.

Eh?

27 March 2006

I am SUCH an idiot

Sometimes. Like today.

OK, so I've been bitching and moaning for months (basically since I got the thing) about this monstrosity of a printer that they made me buy for myself. It's a laser printer with a scanner, which means it takes up about 14 cubic feet of space in the already very limited cubic space of my cube. (Didja follow that??)

I hate it. It's huge. It also beeps constantly to complain about every little ache and pain that it has. Lately, it's favorite ache is that it has no paper. Even when it's STUFFED FULL of frikkin' paper, it will beep every time I try to print something and tell me that it has no paper.

Well, last week around about Wednesday, it started doing this. No matter how many times I pushed on the paper drawer and jiggled it the hell around and prayed and swore and cursed the bloody thing to hell and back, it just kept telling me it had no paper.

I finally gave up and started using the communal printer up front by the receptionist's desk. This isn't necessesarily a bad thing - it gets me out of my cube for a walk, but it can be annoying to have to take a walk every 30 seconds.

So I come in this morning - after my weekend of traveling to the cultural center of the universe, otherwise known as Cincinnati, Ohio - and proceed to swear, kick and curse the printer because apparently the relaxing weekend away from me has not fixed its "No Paper" problem. I swear one final time, turn it off and resume printing things on the communal printer.

About an hour later, I need some blank paper to tape the receipts from my trip to.

So I pull open the frikkin' paper drawer and guess what.

No. Paper.

For real. Like, apparently, I had, in my ire, neglected to actually check.

Score one for the printer...

23 March 2006

Changes

I'm not sure why this is happening NOW, but I'm reverting to adolecence and the care-free days of my 20s. Perhaps it's the pregnancy...

My belly button popped out last weekend and my first thought (after cleaning out all the gunk you otherwise don't even know is there) was: "Wow, I'd really like to pierce it."

Pierce it. As in, stick something sharp and metallic through perfectly intact skin and wear it around as jewelery.

Eh??

Wierd for me these days, to say the least, and that's not even the end of it. I also want another tattoo.

And not a polite little tattoo like the one on my ankle, either. I want a fat green dragon coiling across my back, around my hips and lying in wait underneath my belly, kinda like this one (uh.... minus them knarly fingernails...)

Eh??

I'm not opposed to body art or anything, it's just that I thought I got that all out of my system years and years ago. I mean, I have 11 or 12 holes in my ears and had my nose pierced for a couple of days in high school, but I was 15 when I did all that. I got my itty-bitty tattoo when I was 24. As I stated, years and years ago.

So why is all this popping up again, all of a sudden? Perhaps, it's a reactionary response to motherhood or to the confines, restrictions and otherwise unpleasant expectations of being a grown-up. I see authority, I must rebel?? Maybe it's a mid-life crisis? I don't know.

In any case, it will be a while before I can actually ACT on any of these impulses, since it appears that most places will not pierce your parts or tattoo you if you are pregnant (which I am, er, obviously) or breastfeeding (which we will be, naturally). So I have some time to think about it, which is probably a good thing.

It'll give me time to design that dragon, at the very least, heh-heh...

22 March 2006

Girl Stuff

Check it out! Baby Surprise-Surprise turns out to be a Ms.!!

21 March 2006

Smeat

So dinner this evening was entitled “Assorted Things that Annoyed Me by Falling out of the Freezer”. We have a crappy, 10-year-old, needs-to-be-drop-kicked-from-a-high-window fridge that is missing some of its freezer shelves. Consequently, there are occasional frozen-food slides (somewhat akin to your land- or mudslide), which result in “interesting” dinners when the mood is right (i.e., I’m annoyed – or injured – by said slide).

Like tonight. Tonight we had frozen corn-on-the cob, garlic bread, jalapeño poppers. And what we decided to call “Smeat”.

Smeat’s official name, according to the cardboard box it came in, is: Bar-B-Q Flavored Boneless Pork GRILLIN’ RIBS [sic], which is announced in inch-and-a-half bright yellow letters. In smaller type – still bright yellow – beneath this auspicious title appears the following description: “rib shaped pork patties” and in even smaller type – no longer yellow, but an inconspicuous gray: “smoke flavor added”. The directions instruct the potential ingester of the rib shaped pork patties to grill them over “white-hot coals” for 6 minutes per side. Or pan fry for 3-4 minutes per side.

I opted for pan frying as white hot coals were not readily available and even if they had been, it was 40 degrees, howling windy and pissing down rain outside. Not grilling weather.

So I pan-fried. And I’ll admit, I overcooked them. Having other things going on and Ms. Three-Years-Old to entertain at the same time, 3-4 minutes turned out to be more like 6-8 minutes. So they were, perhaps, a bit on the overdone side. If they have such a thing. And I’m not sure they do. Because even perfectly cooked - even perfectly cooked over white hot coals for exactly 6 minutes per side – I’m not sure they would have been edible.

Now I am not a picky eater. In fact, I would go so far as to call myself a fairly adventurous eater. I will try just about anything. I’ve eaten goat. I’ve eaten yak cheese. I’ve eaten pizza with a raw egg cracked in the middle of it.

I took one bite of my rib shaped pork patty, chewed for about 10 seconds and spit it out.

You might think it was just the pregnancy and you might be right. But even the husband, who has a much higher tolerance for processed food than I do, only ate about a quarter of his before he gave up and went with the jalapeño poppers instead. (He was also the one who dubbed them Smeat – 10 bonus points if you can name the movie that came from.)

By now, if you know me, you’re wondering whether I voluntarily paid money for these things. What are you thinking? Of course, I didn’t. They were “donated” to us by the husband’s grandparents. Which should have warned us, I suppose. His grandmother told him take the things home and throw them out and his grandfather, as I understand it, did not protest. Which is saying something, since the grandfather’s tolerance for processed food is at least as high, and possibly higher, than the husband’s.

In short, Smeat makes McDonald’s McRib sandwich look like gourmet food. I’m kind of shocked that these things are actually out there for sale with the intent that people eat them. Very hungry dogs seem like a more appropriate market. Very, very hungry dogs.

12 March 2006

The Porcelain Goddess

It's finally happening.The Porcelain Goddess has answered our pleas and Ms. Three-Years-Old is finally, finally parking her ass on the toilet and doing her business there.

OK. I'm getting ahead of myself… well, ahead of her. She hasn’t made it all the way to the actual toilet yet. She’s still working on the plastic potty chair in her room. But all the same, I’m all kinds of happy about it. Because to this point it’s been nothing but World War frickin’ Three.

Now the husband and I, we’re both over 30, so you would think we could outsmart a three year old.You would think.

Naturally, it doesn’t work that way at all.

We’ve tried everything. Everything. Threats, of course, get you nowhere, really fast. Bribery was no more successful.

I even bought a huge glass canister and filled it with snack-sized packages of M&M’s. All she had to do to have one was pee on the potty. No luck.

The husband told her he’d take her to Toys R Us and buy her anything she wanted. No luck.

My mother played the “foolproof” game that she had used to potty-train my little sister in a single day. Ms. Three-Years-Old had it figured out in a matter of minutes, knew just what Grammy was trying to do and refused to play. No luck.

We bought Dora the Explorer underwear. No luck.

We told her we weren’t going to buy any more diapers. No. Luck.

Unfortunately for her hapless parents, the where, the when and the how of her bladder and bowels are among the very few things that Ms. Three-Years-Old has absolute control over. And that the people who control her (i.e., us hapless parents) can do Not One Thing about it.

She somehow figured this out at 2-1/2, don’t ask me how. That’s when she started refusing to have bowel movements. She once did this for nine days. Nine days without taking a crap. NINE. DAYS. Can you even imagine?? I mean, I didn't really think "anal retentive" had a literal meaning. It does. It shouldn’t even be physically possible. But somehow, Ms. Three-Years-Old managed it. And spent the next nine months on a daily laxative to keep her from ever doing it again. Yeah, that was fun.

When we finally got that all straightened out, she started holding her pee. She can manage to not pee for 24 hours. Twenty-four hours. Again – should not be physically possible. But somehow, she would do it.

So, of course, I have no stinking idea what has suddenly changed her mind and made the plastic potty the place to be.

Maybe it’s the approach of the new baby and the allure of being the Big Sister. Maybe she believed us when we told her the new baby was going to need the diapers so she would have to give them up. Maybe it’s the fact that we took the gate off her crib and put up a rail so she can get in and out herself. Maybe it was the potty training book my mother-in-law bought for her cousin.

Like I said, I have no stinking idea and I don’t really care. I’m just glad the Porcelain Goddess has finally, finally answered our prayers and pleas for mercy.

With any luck Ms. Three-Years-Old will get this all down pat by the time the new baby arrives. We might even get 3 or 4 diaper-free weeks! Before it all starts all over again...

07 March 2006

Assumptions

What is it with men and their automatic assumption that what they do is way more important than anything that women do? Why, specifically, is it OK for the husband to assume that his job - which pays less than mine and has no benefits - takes priority over his child care responsibilities? Why is it OK for him to blow them off and automatically assume that it's OK for me to be late to my job to take care of it?

I don't get it. Why the fuck is that OK?

05 March 2006

NaNo-Dead-Mo

I don't know what's wrong with me. I've been looking forward to the sequel to NaNoWriMo since I finished the silly vampire novel in November and now that March - the month set aside for editing the silly vampire novel - is here, I can't get motivated to even LOOK at it. I'm supposed to be shooting for 50 hours of editing and so far I've logged 15 minutes.

I am so disappointed in myself. I mean, pregnancy or no pregnancy, I should have at least some gumption to work on this thing since I've been looking forward to it for so long. Shouldn't I?

Granted, it can be hard to concentrate on anything when every time I sit still I get thumped by little Mr./Ms. Surprise-Surprise. And I do get tired easily, not to mention worn down by Ms.Three-Years-Old. And there are two grant deadlines this month and I have to mail my homework for the workshops I'm going to in Ohio on the 24th by tomorrow and there will be posters to edit and print for all the postdocs going to AACR's annual meeting on the 30th. And I'm barely keeping up with my Critters stuff. Hmmm... can't imagine why I'm too exhausted to critically appoach my vampires at the end of the day...

Still. I spent the better part of February preparing for this. I did a read-through and made Notes In The Margins (in Red, no less). I made a Plot Map with index cards (with a different shade of neon for each character). I had filled in many of the NaNo-induced Plot Holes. I made a Plan of Attack and had an editing outline for the first seven chapters. I had even re-written three chapters to fix a couple of the holes so as to make things easier on myself, come March.

Yet here I sit. Blogging, instead of editing.

Maybe it's just a sign that editing can't - or shouldn't - be treated with the same hell-bent, take-no-prisoners attitute that is necessary for NaNo. I mean, it's editing. You're supposed to be careful. You're supposed to take your time and try and make it perfect. The exact opposite of what one attempts to accomplish during NaNo.

Or maybe I'm focusing on the wrong goals for this month. Maybe I shouldn't be trying to make every chapter perfect. Maybe, instead, I should go for the bigger fish. OK, the more obvious fish: the bulls in the china shop, the plot holes that are so glaring, they can't be ignored. That kind of thing, instead of driving myself bonkers (well, more bonkers) trying to figure out exactly the right word to describe Maribel's hair.

It's a thought...

01 March 2006

The Rules

I am not a big liker of rules, so I am embarrassed to admit that I have come to a place in my life where I respect and value The Rules. Not all the rules, of course, just the ones about commas and apostrophes and restrictive clauses.

Granted, it took most of 35 years and I was dragged here kicking and screaming. Nevertheless, I am here.

My first experience with The Rules was one I avoided completely: 4th grade. All summer between 3rd and 4th grade I dreaded getting stuck in Miss P’s class because she had a reputation for drilling students in The Rules. I had it on good authority, my best friend from across the street who had had her the year before, that you didn’t make it out of her 4th grade unless you memorized all the prepositions and could use ‘whom’ correctly. I got lucky and got Miss C, instead. (Sort of lucky – she terrorized me for not talking, but that’s another story.)

So, I didn’t learn The Rules in 4th grade (we hatched chicken eggs in an incubator, instead).

My next experience with The Rules was 7th grade. I had this weird, sorta-ex hippie, Ms. W (and it was most definitely ‘Ms.’ and not ‘Miss’), who thought it was far more fun to take us to her friend’s restaurant and teach 27 pre-teens how to make cheese soufflé than teach us something as mundane as grammar and punctuation.

She left such things to her friend, Mr. M, who substituted for a week or two while she was off doing god-knows-what. He was a prissy, stick-up-the-butt kind of guy who promptly lost control of the class trying to get us to memorize prepositions and convince us that commas were important. I can still see him standing there at the front of the class – he had puffy, chipmunk-like cheeks, a little Hitler-ish mustache and wiry black hair he had tried to comb flat to make it behave and be neat. He kept talking louder and louder as more and more people ignored him and turned to talk to their friends. I sat near the front and felt kind of bad for him. But he kept insisting that you couldn’t break The Rules unless you knew them first. Which made no sense at the time, although I think I’m starting to get it now.

But really - learn The Rules just for the sake of knowing them? You’ve GOT to be kidding. I had better and far more interesting things to do.

And then I went to college and majored in Theoretical Linguistics. That didn’t help at all. Majoring in Linguistics is like majoring in the Anti-Rules. ‘Cuz linguists, see, are not interested in The Rules, at least not The Rules as set in stone by the likes of Strunk and White or the Chicago Manual of Style. Linguists have a whole different definition of “grammatical” and are positively delighted to find native English speakers who are perfectly comfortable using a double (or triple) negative for emphasis (as in: “I don’t got no money”).

So. I ended up with a very well-developed disdain for The Rules that bordered, at times, on outright disgust. In my mind, The Rules were outmoded and out of step with the real rules of real language. By the time I was 25, I was thoroughly converted to the ranks of the who-needs-commas-anyway camp. Never thought I’d leave.

And then one day, not long ago, I caught myself explaining one of The Rules to a co-worker. And waiting patiently for her to process what I had said and make it her own (?!).

Then I started noticing that I agonize – agonize – over whether I am using “that” or “which” correctly. I actually get huffy when people don’t put commas where they should and instead, constantly stick them in places they have no business being. I even have, on my Amazon Wishlist, a grammar and punctuation reference book. Which I am actually hoping to be able to afford someday soon.

This is the worst thing though: you know that the comma before the “and” in a series (as in: “breast, lung, and colorectal cancer”)? I grew up thinking that comma looked blue-blooded and arrogant, not to mention that it’s superfluous and makes the sentence look cluttered. However. Since my conversion to an advocate of The Rules, that comma now looks normal to me and a sentence without it seems quite naked: “breast, lung and colorectal cancer”??!?? ACK! Cover it up, quick!

So I have to ask myself: What’s with the grammar and punctuation appreciation?? How did this HAPPEN?? To ME, of all people: the agnostic, anti-establishment, rebel-at-heart, cantankerous Yankee?? Especially given my background, I mean really, how the hell did I GET here??

I blame my job.

I think it all came about as a form of self defense. Really. I can spend weeks reading page after page of complicated biomedical gibberish where the only words I understand are “if”, “and”, and “the”. Perhaps in order to preserve my sanity and sense of self-worth, I began grasping at straws: at least, I must have thought, I know where the commas should go. That’s something. I know where the commas should go and where they should not go. So I can’t be as stupid as I feel. Right?

Who knows. In any case, here I am, with a handle on The Rules and some sense of their purpose, finally. And that purpose is this: Clarity. Clarity, clarity, clarity.

You don’t notice this in normal, everyday writing because you don’t need to. Sentences are fairly simple. Most of the words in them are comprehensible. The periods go where they’re supposed to and who cares about the commas and apostrophes. We don’t really notice them because we don’t have to. The meaning the writer is trying to get across is, for the most part, very transparent.

In medical writing, it’s just the opposite. Sentences tend to be way too long and most of the words in them – if they’re not some arcane abbreviation – are actually some form of Latin or Greek. In an environment like that, if you aren’t careful with your commas and apostrophes and subordinating conjunctions, you’d never figure out what anyone was trying to say. And that would be a shame, since a lot of it is probably pretty damn important and some of it might even save your life someday.

So I suppose, after howevermany years of avoiding it, my brain finally found space to store The Rules, because it finally found a decent justification for the space they were taking up. That was all it needed. A real, honest-to-god reason.

Too bad nobody told Mr. M that.