Sunday, November 30, 2008


Zuska's post has got me thinking about beauty, hotness, and aging. I posted a comment over there but felt like I had a lot more to say. So here goes. 

When I was in junior high, I was picked on a lot by both the guys and girls for never having the nicest clothes, having thick, dry hair that always seemed to have buildup in it, thick eyebrows. My parents refused to let me shave my legs like the other girls were doing (I wore skirts in Catholic school), and I wasn't allowed to wear makeup. I was called "ugly" by my peers.

In 8th grade I just rebelled. Shaved my legs without permission, tweezed my eyebrows, started wearing makeup, and highlighted my hair. First day of 8th grade the cutest boy in my class walked by me and said, "Damn, JLK. You look GOOD." I was hooked. The boys started paying attention to me, the "cool kids" accepted me into their circle. 

All throughout high school I made a point of having cute shoes to go with my uniform, doing cute stuff to my hair, wearing makeup, and shaving my legs daily. I didn't really believe that I was attractive, though I was told as much pretty often. I still needed the validation. My family had always told me I was beautiful, but that's family. They have to say that, so I never believed it. 

Now I am a week away from my 26th birthday. I have a headful of gray hairs that I'm reluctant to dye because they are symbols of where I am in life in relation to the 18yr olds I sit in class with every week. I know that to many of you here in the blogosphere, you consider me to still be a kid and I respect that. But when I go to MRU, I find myself in class with people who were in middle school when 9/11 happened. I was in college at the time. It feels like a lifetime of difference between me and them. 

What going to college as a nontraditional student made me realize was how stupid women are when they are teens and college students. I see girls who spend hours upon hours in tanning beds, plastering themselves with makeup, sporting skintight clothes with no jackets even when it's freezing outside, all in hopes of attracting some male attention. No longer in that mentality, I look at them and find this stuff pathetic. 

I learned awhile back how to play up my best features with minimal effort. I have wide hips, but I also have super-long legs. I have no breasts to speak of (literally, no exaggeration), but a pretty nice waistline. I wear minimal makeup, often throw my hair into a messy ponytail, gray hairs perfectly visible. Sometimes I go to class in sweats and a hoodie (usually on exam day) because I know I blend in that way. But on days when I am coming from work and I am dressed up, or I feel like dressing nicely I put in a little effort. I'll sport my juniors low-rise, flare jeans that make my legs look like they go on forever, a pair of black boots with slightly pointed toes and 4 inch heels because I LOVE feeling taller, a plain t-shirt under a corduroy or twill waist-length blazer, and a multicolored scarf around my neck. Same amount of makeup, hair still in a messy ponytail. No cleavage, no thong sticking out, not a damn thing slutty about how I look. But I get stares from the male passersby - students, grad students, and professors alike. Because when I feel like I look good, I walk, act, and talk like I look good. That's hotness, and I do it for me, not them. 

There are things that I've started to notice about getting older - some bad, some good. I've started to notice cellulite which absolutely drives me bonkers. But everyone has it and I know that. I'm not out buying creams and all that other shit they try to tell us will reduce its appearance. There's only one context in which the fat on my ass and thighs becomes noticeable, and if I'm in that context, my male companion is going to be too occupied to notice. So I don't stress about it. 

The best thing I've noticed is that my skin has finally started to clear up. Granted, it's at the price of dryness, but that's easy enough to combat with some moisturizer. I spent years lamenting the fact that all of my friends had clear skin and I would get blemishes no matter what I did. If I have clear skin at the price of dryness, gray hair, and cellulite, I'll take it. No complaints. 

Hot shoes make me feel sexy, and I will wear them for as long as I can. I wear clothes that make me feel good when I look in the mirror, I put concealer under my eyes with a little mascara, and I feel beautiful when I see my reflection. I do it when I'm home by myself. 

I think the difference is in trying to look good in order to get validation from others versus looking good for yourself. It doesn't matter what you wear as long as you feel good wearing it. Hotness comes when a woman puts on clothes she loves and finds comfortable and sports them with pride, as opposed to the woman who puts on what she considers to be frumpy shit and laments in the mirror about how she feels she can't wear anything else. That's not hot. 

It might sound like complete bullshit to say that hotness is a state of mind, but I really believe that. How you feel about yourself is what determines how other people see you. 

So go ahead and be hot, and make no apologies.  

Friday, November 28, 2008


Just an update on my horrible situation with Professor #3. I sent the following email on Tuesday:

Dear Dr. X,

I have decided to go ahead and mail in my application packet. The first
will go out tomorrow because of the 12/1 deadline.

The other application that requires the letter to be mailed as part of
the application materials is the University of X, due on 12/15.
Because this is one of my top choice schools, I intend to mail it out
on Tuesday 12/2. If you are able to get the letter for this program to
me by Monday 12/1, I will mail it in with the materials. Otherwise, I
am going to include a letter to the admissions committee explaining
that due to unforeseen circumstances, the 3rd letter has been delayed
and I will mail it to them as soon as it is available. In that case, I
will drop off a fully-addressed, stamped envelope with the required
cover sheet in your mailbox on Tuesday 12/2 so that it can be
mailed to them directly when you are ready.

It is my hope that this course of action will both reduce my stress and
the burden that I have placed on you. I appreciate your willingness to
write on my behalf more than you could ever know, particularly because
I have spent much more time with you one-on-one than any other
professor at MRU other than my advisor.

I understand that this is an incredibly busy time for you, especially
with the end of the semester and finals coming up. The letter that I
included in the packet I provided you on 10/10 includes a list of all
the programs and their due dates. If, for any reason, you do not feel
that you will be able to complete the letters by the due dates, (6 of
them are due on 12/15), please let me know as soon as possible so that
I can try to make other arrangements in time.

Thank you, and have a happy Thanksgiving!


Well, for those of you keeping up with this drama, Dr. X said last friday that they would email me this week and let me know when I can pick up the letter.

Not only have I not heard from Dr. X in that regard, I have not heard a response to this email either.

Why me? Seriously. So much for Jedi manipulations of guilt.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

In Hopes of Lightening The Mood

Living in India made me understand that a white minority of the world has spent centuries conning us into thinking a white skin makes people superior, even though the only thing it really does is make them more subject to ultraviolet rays and wrinkles.

Reading Freud made me just as skeptical about penis envy. The power of giving birth makes "womb envy" more logical, and an organ as external and unprotected as the penis makes men very vulnerable indeed.

But listening recently to a woman describe the unexpected arrival of her menstrual period (a red stain had spread on her dress as she argued heatedly on the public stage) still made me cringe with embarrassment. That is, until she explained that, when finally informed in whispers of the obvious event, she said to the all-male audience, "and you should be proud to have a menstruating woman on your stage. It's probably the first real thing that's happened to this group in years."

Laughter. Relief. She had turned a negative into a positive. Somehow her story merged with India and Freud to make me finally understand the power of positive thinking. Whatever a "superior" group has will be used to justify its superiority, and whatever and "inferior" group has will be used to justify its plight. Black me were given poorly paid jobs because they were said to be "stronger" than white men, while all women were relegated to poorly paid jobs because they were said to be "weaker." As the little boy said when asked if he wanted to be a lawyer like his mother, "Oh no, that's women's work." Logic has nothing to do with oppression.

So what would happen if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?

Clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, worthy, masculine event:

Men would brag about how long and how much.

Young boys would talk about it as the envied beginning of manhood. Gifts, religious ceremonies, family dinners, and stag parties would mark the day.

To prevent monthly work loss among the powerful, Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea. Doctors would research little about heart attacks, from which men would be hormonally protected, but everything about cramps.

Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of such commercial brands as Paul Newman Tampons, Muhammad Ali's Rope-a-Dope Pads, John Wayne Maxi Pads, and Joe Namath Jock Shields- "For Those Light Bachelor Days."

Statistical surveys would show that men did better in sports and won more Olympic medals during their periods.

Generals, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation ("men-struation") as proof that only men could serve God and country in combat ("You have to give blood to take blood"), occupy high political office ("Can women be properly fierce without a monthly cycle governed by the planet Mars?"), be priests, ministers, God Himself ("He gave this blood for our sins"), or rabbis ("Without a monthly purge of impurities, women are unclean").

Male liberals and radicals, however, would insist that women are equal, just different; and that any woman could join their ranks if only she were willing to recognize the primacy of menstrual rights ("Everything else is a single issue") or self-inflict a major wound every month ("You must give blood for the revolution").

Street guys would invent slang ("He's a three-pad man") and "give fives" on the corner with some exchenge like, "Man you lookin' good!"

"Yeah, man, I'm on the rag!"

TV shows would treat the subject openly. (Happy Days: Richie and Potsie try to convince Fonzie that he is still "The Fonz," though he has missed two periods in a row. Hill Street Blues: The whole precinct hits the same cycle.) So would newspapers. (Summer Shark Scare Threatens Menstruating Men. Judge Cites Monthlies In Pardoning Rapist.) And so would movies. (Newman and Redford in Blood Brothers!)

Men would convince women that sex was more pleasurable at "that time of the month." Lesbians would be said to fear blood and therefore life itself, though all they needed was a good menstruating man.

Medical schools would limit women's entry ("they might faint at the sight of blood").

Of course, intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguements. Without the biological gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets, how could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics-- or the ability to measure anything at all? In philosophy and religion, how could women compensate for being disconnected from the rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of symbolic death and resurrection every month?

Menopause would be celebrated as a positive event, the symbol that men had accumulated enough years of cyclical wisdom to need no more.

Liberal males in every field would try to be kind. The fact that "these people" have no gift for measuring life, the liberals would explain, should be punishment enough.

And how would women be trained to react? One can imagine right-wing women agreeing to all these arguements with a staunch and smiling masochism. ("The ERA would force housewives to wound themselves every month": Phyllis Schlafly)

In short, we would discover, as we should already, that logic is in the eye of the logician. (For instance, here's an idea for theorists and logicians: if women are supposed to be less rational and more emotional at the beginning of our menstrual cycle when the female hormone is at its lowest level, then why isn't it logical to say that, in those few days, women behave the most like the way men behave all month long? I leave further improvisation up to you.)

The truth is that, if men could menstruate, the power justifications would go on and on.

If we let them.

"If Men Could Menstruate" by Gloria Steinem

(c) Gloria Steinem, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. NY: NAL, 1986.


I seem to have caused a bit of a shitstorm over on Ambivalent Academic's blog because of my comments on this post. Reading my comments back to myself, I realized that not only was I not really making any sense, I also was totally not conveying the point I was trying/hoping to make. So after re-reading the material I was referring to, I am taking this opportunity to address the issue. The issue in question? PMS. 

Now I would like to offer a few disclaimers before I get into this - first, the material I am referring to is dated. Myths of Gender by Anne Fausto-Sterling is copyrighted 1985. Second, I don't give enough of a shit to do a lit search and read a bunch of articles on PMS so that I have all the updated science. It's not my field. But human behavior is, and so is feminism. My goal is to give you something to think about, not to convey worldly truths. 

Anne Fausto-Sterling is a biologist at Brown University. Her book, and specifically the chapter on PMS is mostly about critiquing so-called science-based differences between men and women that society just accepts as truth. 

Pages 95-96 of her book include the following quote by three scientists in 1974:

"It is estimated that from 25% to 100% of women experience some form of premenstrual or menstrual emotional disturbance....Eichner makes the discerning point that the few women who do not admit to premenstrual tension are basically unaware of it but one only has to talk to their husbands or co-workers to confirm its existence."

Fausto-Sterling writes in response to this quote:

"Is it possible that up to 100 percent of all menstruating women regularly experience emotional disturbance? Compared to whom? Are males the unstated standard of emotional stability? If there is but a single definition of what is normal and men fit that definition, then women with 'female complaints' must by definition be either crazy or in need of medical attention. A double bind indeed." 

On page 100 she says the following:

"Many of those who reject the alarmist nature of the publicity surrounding PMS believe nevertheless that women undergo mood changes during their menstrual cycle. Indeed most Western women would agree. But do studies of large segments of our population support this generality? And if so, what causes these ups and downs? In trying to answer these questions we confront another piece of the medical model of human behavior, the belief that biology is primary, that hormonal changes cause behavioral ones, but not vice versa. Most researchers use such a linear, unicausal model without thinking about it. Their framework is so much a part of their belief system that they forget to question it...."

She goes through the types of research that have been used in studying PMS, including correlational designs and retrospective questionnaires. I think all of us know the problem with correlational studies used to infer causation, but on the questionnaires she says the following:

"The retrospective questionnaire holds additional problems, including the selective memory of the women completing it combined with their prior knowledge of the purpose of the study. Many women grow up with the expectation that they should feel bad just before their periods, and this belief can certainly predispose them to selectively remembering feeling bad just before menstruation but not at other times of the month. As one researcher writes in a study on moods and menstruation in college students, 'negative behavior exhibited premenstrually is perceived as evidence for the prevailing negative stereotype of female emotional behavior while positive behavior is ignored as something for which biology is irrelevant.'"

On page 109, and highly relevant to the discussion at hand, is the following:

"Dr. Sharon Golub found that premenstrually related increases in anxiety were far smaller than the heightened anxiety experienced by students subjected to the stress of an examination. In general she found premenstrually related mood changes to be of small magnitude, concluding that 'the premenstrual hormonal changes appear to impose little psychological burden,' and are often so slight that women 'are sometimes not even aware of them.'" (The citation for this study is: "Premenstrual Changes in Mood, Personality, and Cognitive Function" in The Menstrual Cycle, vol. 1.)

Now, the overall argument that Fausto-Sterling makes is that the PMS research prior to the date of her publication was extremely flawed. 

We're all scientists in one form or another here. We know the importance of random sampling, double-blind procedures, the inherent faultiness of self-reports, and control conditions. 

Problem #1: Participants are nearly always a restricted sample in PMS studies. Women of a certain age, on a 28-day cycle, all with prior complaints of PMS symptoms. 

Problem #2: The definition of the problem. What, exactly, constitutes a symptom of PMS? Headache? Moodiness? Dizziness? There is no symptom of PMS that cannot also occur at other times of the month. Nor is there a symptom of PMS that men cannot also experience. (I'm not talking about menstruation symptoms, just the PMS). They can say what is most common, but they can't actually define PMS by its symptoms. 

A seemingly pissed-off Arlenna posted an article in response to my comment on AA's blog, entitled "The female brain hypoestrogenic continuum from the premenstrual syndrome to menopause. A hypothesis and review of supporting data." Who wants to tell me what's wrong with that title? If you read through the synopsis of the article posted on AA's comment section, you'll see that this was not an experiment. This is an attempt to "unify" PMS symptoms including: "depression, sleep disturbance, irritability, anxiety and panic, memory and cognitive dysfunction and a decreased sense of well-being." Is there anyone in the world who doesn't experience those things throughout the month, not just around her period?

But here's the part that I find offensive: "It is proposed that whenever brain estrogen levels fall below the minimum brain estrogen requirement, for whatever reason and at whatever age, brain center dysfunction may ensue."

Brain DYSFUNCTION?? I say FUCK YOU to that. As Fausto-Sterling argues, if women are rendered "abnormal" during their menstrual cycle, what the fuck is normal? 

If our brains, as women, are not FUNCTIONING properly because of our hormone levels, then why the fuck aren't we all put on medication to correct this? This is what you ladies aren't getting that I'm trying to explain to you - NOTHING about your behavior during your menstrual cycle should be considered "abnormal" because it's "female-related." So you cried during the exam, AA, is it okay with you, after you walk out of the exam, for the committee to say "Oh, she must be PMSing?" Because it's not okay with me. Not at all. 

Testosterone cycles monthly just like estrogen. Why is no one examining the effects of that on men? Because they are the "normal" standard, whereas we have something WRONG with us because we are female and have female hormones. 

But back to the problems with the research. 

Problem #3: Agreement in the literature. Some studies look at only the first couple of days preceding the period, others look at the week preceding, and still others look at the 2 weeks prior AND the week following. It's a 4 week month, people. Are you telling me that women are only "normal" for 12 weeks per year? Because if so, that's fucked up. 

The other article included by Arlenna was first of all from the field of psychiatry. The medical study of ABNORMAL human behavior and MENTAL DISORDERS. Again, the article is NOT an experiment. It was a literature review resulting in a hypothesis about serotonin levels in women with severe PMS symptoms. One important quote from this article: "Their pathophysiology is still unknown, despite increased interest and research."

Now here's some hot fucking social science for ya. From "Transformations: Women, Gender, and Psychology" by Dr. Mary Crawford, in reference to the psychiatric article Arlenna mentioned and its focus on "Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder" (PMDD):

"PMDD currently appears in the DSM-IV appendix of potential categories needing further study. It does not appear as an official category because of insufficient support; however, it can still be used by psychiatrists and other doctors as a diagnosis. Contraversy continues to rage regarding the inclusion of PMDD in the DSM. Supporters claim it is an identifiable clinical syndrome and its inclusion in the DSM is important to legitimize some women's cyclical suffering. Some critics agree that the validation of women's experiences is important, but assert that women should not require a mental illness diagnosis to receive medication for physical and emotional symptoms commonly associated with menstruation. Also, the existence of this diagnostic category may reinforce the stereotype of premenstrual women as emotionally unstable. " Page 456. 

So here's the deal, folks. No one has quality experimental research demonstrating that hormones CAUSE the symptoms known as PMS. Most researchers don't even know what PMS IS in a well-defined, testable way. 

Obviously this issue is incredibly important to me, because I just spent the last fucking 2 hours writing this post. Saying that your behavior is due to hormonal changes you experience because you are a WOMAN is short-sighted and the fact of the matter is that we cannot separate expectations from biology. Not yet, anyway. 

Refer to the debate that was going on at Dr. Isis' blog on the effects of different alcohols. My argument over there was that we have no idea what's really going on when I drink tequila versus vodka as far as the physiology goes, and so I and a few others used anecdotal data in support of our conclusion that tequila is an evil substance. If we consider these two issues to be fundamentally the same, I was arguing on the opposite side for the alcohol issue. 

But the fact of the matter is that whether or not tequila causes physiological things to happen in my brain that make me a raging lunatic speaks to whether or not I should drink tequila. 

My tequila issues will not prevent me from getting a certain job in the military unless I make it a problem. But PMS and hormones causing "brain dysfunction" because I am a WOMAN can and DOES prevent women from doing certain things in this world. 

I refuse to accept that my behavior is "abnormal" because it's "that time of the month." 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

On Dealing With Jackasses

This post and this post by Ambivalent Academic have got me thinking. If I achieve my goal of entering academia, I'm probably going to end up making a name for myself - whatever expletives get tied to my name, I'm not sure. It could go either way. 

Let me explain. The most fundamental aspect of my personality is based on my family experience. Namely, that my mama taught me to "never take shit from anyone." I learned it and I live it. Often to a fault. 

Over the years I have learned a bit of finesse in dealing with assholes. Emphasis on a bit. I can still get a little rowdy if someone pushes the right buttons. 

Now I don't know how I would've reacted had I been in that woman's position of a face-off with a high-ranking dipshit. Depending on how many allies I had in the room, I might've repeated his own statements back to him after his presentation: "No, no no. That's IMPOSSIBLE."

But here's the thing: you can't really do that. What I have learned in my relatively few years on this planet is how, when someone starts flinging shit in your direction, to fling it back harder with a smile. 

This is going to sound incredibly bitchy, but the key is to patronize the other person. If they have an ego, attempt to cut it down a little. A well-timed patronizing smile directed at an arrogant prick of an old man can go a long way. It's kind of like a silent reminder that they're on their way out the door and you're the newer, fresher, more savvy generation who will take his place. 

Picture it - the woman in AA's scenario hears this guy say this shit to her, and instead of being shocked or stammering, she looks at him for a second, and then slowly breaks into a smile, shakes her head slightly, looks back at the guy and says, "I believe you may have misunderstood me when I previously explained X."

It's not perfect for every scenario. It also takes a lot of practice to do it without coming across as cocky. You need to have developed a confident smile first. But once you have it, that's all you need. 

Think back to a time in your life when someone has made you feel really, really stupid. Made you feel like a total asshole. Chances are, they weren't yelling at you. They weren't angry and didn't act offended. They most likely had an air about them that said, "This poor, stupid, ass. I pity them." It cuts to your core. 

I really hope this makes sense, because if not then I have just convinced the entire blogging community that I'm a bitch. LOL. 

I'll summarize, just in case I've been misunderstood at any point in this post:

When someone gives you shit, it doesn't matter all that much what you say in response. It matters that whatever you choose to say, you say it with a confident smile. 

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Serenity Now.....Serenity Now...."

So I took the advice given via the comments on my blog and I called Professor #3 this morning. I happened to catch them in their office. Conversation went like this:

"Hi Dr. X, it's JLK. How are you?"

"I'm good, JLK. How are you?"

"Good. But I have to admit, I'm starting to get a little nervous because I haven't heard from you."

"Yeah, I got your email but I haven't had time to respond. I thought I had sent you an email awhile go explaining that I was going by the deadlines of your applications. You're not the only person I'm writing for, and your apps aren't do for awhile. I wasn't going to start working on them until after I post grades for my current students."

"Actually, Dr. X, the reason I'm calling is because the first app is due a week from Monday, 12/1. The letter I included in your packet listed all of the schools in order by deadline."

"Oh. Well, I think I can probably make some time next week and do it. I should be able to mail it by friday."

"The problem is, Dr. X, that this particular letter and one other has to be sent in with the rest of my application materials. I noted in your packet that I would need to pick it up from you in advance of the deadline."

"Oh. Well I don't know when you're going to be on campus seeing as it's break."

"Dr. X, I would be more than happy to drive down to campus and pick it up whenever it's ready, that's not a problem."

"Hmm.....I can probably get it done by wed or fri. Actually, you'll need it on wed, huh, so you can get it about I email you and let you know when you can pick it up?"

"Okay. Thank you, Dr. X."

Seriously, I'm gonna have an aneurysm. 

Now, if I had fucked this up at any point along the way, I would have no problem dealing with this because it would have been my own fault. But in this case, I know that I did everything right. 

I asked Dr. X for this recommendation back in May. They agreed at the time to write them. 

I re-confirmed Dr. X's willingness to write the letters in the beginning of September. It was confirmed. 

I provided Dr. X with the packet of materials including a personalized letter with instructions and information about all the schools including deadlines, target faculty members, and form of letter (online, mail, mail in one packet, etc.), personal statements, all necessary forms, SAS envelopes paper clipped with their respective forms, copy of my CV and unofficial transcripts. 

I provided Dr. X with this packet almost 8 weeks ago. Dr. X sent me an email to confirm that they had received the packet, would look through the materials, and work on them in order of deadline. I thanked Dr. X in advance for the millionth time. 

Dr. X apparently either never looked through the packet at all, or somehow missed all of the pertinent information. Dr. X apparently thought that none of my applications were due until January. Dr. X is wrong, seeing as 7 of my applications are due in December. 

Needless to say, I am wicked super pissed right now. Dr. X kind of had a bit of an attitude on the phone, and I have never heard Dr. X cop a 'tude before. I like Dr. X a lot, but right now I feel like I want to kill Dr. X. 

And now I'm nervous that Dr. X's letters won't be very good, whether because Dr. X is much more scatterbrained than I had ever imagined, maybe Dr. X is a little pissed off at me right now thinking that I am a nag, or maybe Dr. X is so forgetful that now they don't remember anything about any of our interactions or my time spent in class with them. 

I have no other professors that I can or even would ask to write a letter for me, especially 2 weeks before final exams. Especially since the first deadline is next monday. I never had any reason to believe that Dr. X would not come through for me, and now it seems that they have absolutely dropped the ball. 

Come next wednesday, I may have to make the decision of whether or not to send the application packet without letter #3, and maybe include a note to explain the missing letter...? Or I may have to wait until friday, and if I don't hear back from Dr. X I may have to pay the extra $$ to have the packet overnighted. I may have to do that anyway. 

The only other person who I can ask for letters is my boss, who certainly has never written a grad school recommendation letter before. Problem is we all know this will put me at a huge disadvantage. And the online apps (which are all my top choices) require that you drop the name of one recommender in order to register a new one. Which means that if Dr. X comes through at the last minute, it won't matter. 

What the hell do I do if I don't hear back from Dr. X next week?? I have invested so much time, energy, and money into my applications not to mention my undergraduate career - all riding on my admission to a graduate program. 

I so can't take this added stress right now. It's completely out of my control at this point. If I don't get in because I only have two letters instead of three, and that's the only reason, I will seriously lose my shit. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Freaking Out - Could Use Immediate Advice

All of my December apps are done and ready to go. Except for one HUGE problem. Professor #3 who committed to writing letters more than 7 weeks ago is completely unheard from. 1st application is due BY MAIL 11 days from now. In the packet I provided to all of them I asked for the letters that I have to send in to be returned to me by 11/17. There are only 2 of them. Professors #1 and #2 have both provided me with theirs. Next week is Thanksgiving break. 

I e-mailed Professor #3 a very gentle reminder a few days ago, put in terms of "I wanted to make sure that you received all the online application invites and that there isn't anything else you need from me that would be helpful to you in the process...blah blah blah." Reminded very gently that the first deadline is 12/1. 

I have not gotten a response. I am freaking out. Maybe a bit prematurely, but still. The problem is that application #1 is entirely in paper form, with all materials including transcripts, essays, recommendation letters going out in one single packet mailed by me. Most of the others are some combination of hardcopy material and online stuff. I'm not as worried about those, especially since those deadlines don't start until 12/15. Grad school #1 therefore does not even know that I'm applying at this point, whereas all other December schools have absolutely everything already except for 1 recommendation letter. I hear that admissions programs are somewhat lenient about letters being late if all other materials were there early. 

So what do I do? I can't exactly stalk professor #3, and seeing as I already sent an email I don't know what else to do that doesn't cross a line. It's way too freakin late to try to get a letter from someone else. 

Any suggestions??

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back to the Mentors Thing

I came across this posting by Scicurious, whose blog (I'm sorry to say) I had not previously read. I was a little excited to see that she referred to my comments on a related post as "excellent" and so now I have a new blogger to add to my blogroll. (Yup, it's that easy to get my attention.)

But now that I have a blog of my own instead of just relying on the impact of comments I am able to make on that of others, I wanted to delve a little deeper into my personal tale of mentor woes. I was previously concerned that I would come across as a whiner, but again I say: Fuck it, it's my blog. 

So here's the deal. (And I'm gonna do a little bragging here, because it's warranted.) I have a 4.0 cumulative GPA at MRU and at the community college where I completed half of my coursework. Unless I majorly fuck up the last 3 weeks of this semester, I will be graduating Summa Cum Laude in December. I have done all of this while working full-time in an outside sales position and taking classes full-time. 

Now here's where the tale gets a bit complex and explains how and why my situation is so unique beyond the nontraditional, working student aspect. (Bear with me now, as I think most of you know at this point that I am a long-winded storyteller with a particular love for details). Dammit, I hope no one figures out who I am from this post.  

The first time I went to college I was 17 years old. Same major as I am now, I have always known what I wanted to do. College #1 was a smaller division of a large state U. I was very involved in activities within my department, I was VP of an association for majors in my division. I did all sorts of extra-curricular shit. All of my classes were taught by full professors, and they all knew me by name. It was great, though I didn't realize it at the time. I was forced to leave after a year because they dropped my financial aid. Went to work full-time and stayed away from academia until 2006, when I returned in the summer to start taking classes at the community college in my town. It was there that I met my personal mentor and Favorite Person In The World, but I'll save the info about her for another post. 

At this CC, I knew ALL of my professors, the dean, the president of the college - they all knew me by name and face, and the essential features of my back-story. I had one professor offer to write me a recommendation for anything if I ever needed one after a 6 week summer session in a philosophy course. This person was not my mentor, and I only ever had the one class with him. Still to this day, if I see him outside of campus, he knows who I am and asks how I'm doing. I have a relationship with every single one of the people who taught a course to me at the CC, on varying levels sure, but it's there. 

I was at the CC for 1 year. In my second semester I realized that I needed to apply to 4yr schools to complete my degree. Although I was accepted to some excellent private universities and colleges, some of whom offered me ridiculous scholarships, MRU was still much, much cheaper when it came to out-of-pocket expense. So I ended up there. 

As a nontrad who works full-time at an MRU, it is difficult enough to just get the classes that you need in the timeframes that you can take them, let alone adding in extra-curriculars or undergrad research. In order to complete my degree as quickly as possible, I have taken courses year round for the past 2 years, including summer sessions. Other than a single research methods course, I did not have any courses in my major until this past spring semester, and even then it was only one. It was taught by a full professor whom I absolutely adored, and he is writing letters on my behalf for grad school this fall. He also recruited me into his lab, but he knew that because of work obligations I could not commit to performing work for course credit, so I agreed to contribute on a volunteer basis in order to gain the experience (and of course the letters). 

But within a month after starting at MRU as a transfer student, I began looking into grad programs and what it would take to get in. I knew I needed research experience, so I looked into faculty research interests and found the professor who was studying the stuff I want to do in grad school. I read about 7 of her articles, and then contacted her to let her know I was interested in working in her lab. Provided my GPA and the coursework in my major that I had completed. She responded only to direct me to her lab coordinator, a grad student I have worked with ever since. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy working with this student a great deal. We're the same age, and she has never treated me like a lowly undergrad. The work I did for her resulted in her offering me second authorship and a primary role in a study she is in the midst of that will result in a presentation and (hopefully) publication in a major journal come spring. 

Although I have expressed interest on multiple occasions in meeting with the professor whose lab I am involved in regularly, the offer was never extended to me. The class that she normally teaches was offered during a summer session with a grad student instructor, so I took it then instead of waiting and hoping that a section with the professor would be offered and available during a time I could take it this fall. As a side note, I did not know how much of a "rockstar" she was until AFTER I started working in the lab and became aware of her connections. I approached her for the sole reason that I found her work fascinating and felt I could learn a lot from her. Unfortunately, in the 7 months that I have spent in her lab, I have met her exactly once. If I came up to her on campus tomorrow and said "hi" she would have no idea who I am. (Unless she has a really, really good photographic memory.)

I was told by my grad student mentor that all the necessary info for the letters would be provided to the professor by her. She essentially acted as the go-between for the professor and I. I have busted my ass for her at every opportunity since I started in the lab, despite working long hours and having tons of homework, exams, and papers to do. I needed the experience, and I like to think that she needed my help. 

But when I provided all of the materials for grad school letters at the grad student's advice, I received an email from the professor reminding me that she had never had me in class, nor had she had much contact with me in the lab. She said she was happy to write the letters and had nothing negative to say, but reminded me that most of the programs I am applying to are extremely competitive and that she didn't feel she had anything to contribute to my application that could put them over the top in an admissions decision. I thanked her for her honesty and explained my predicament - that her lab was the only one in which I had substantial experience, that being a transfer student I did not have as much contact with professors as I would have liked because I have only been a student there for a year, that my advisor who had gotten to know me very well had left for sabbatical at the end of the spring and was therefore unreachable, reminded her of the close working relationship between her lab coordinator and I, and once again expressed a desire to meet with her one-on-one. I also explained that I was not basing my applications on the competition, because I had worked extremely hard for my grades and test scores, and that to apply to schools based solely on competition level would require me to sacrifice my research interests for the sake of earning a degree, and that was not something I was/am willing to do. 

The next response I received was to inform me that the letters had been completed and submitted. She will get a personal, heartfelt, handwritten "thank you" card from me for writing on my behalf. But it saddens me that I did not get to know her or her work on a substantial level for the simple reason that she was unavailable for such contact. I feel like I should have waited and taken her class in the fall, but then I would either be overloaded with work this semester, or I wouldn't be graduating until May. I also would have had to sacrifice the research experience in order to do so. I feel like, at the end of the day, the experience itself is more valuable to my applications than a sparkling letter from a rockstar professor. But who knows? I could be wrong on that. I won't know until Feb./March. 

All but 4 classes in my major at MRU have been taught by grad students. I love taking courses with grad students because they tend to be up on all the latest research. But my opportunity to impress faculty members in my major did not arrive until this semester, and at this point it's too late for anything I do or say to impact my grad school applications. I am relying on the incredibly strong relationship I have with my mentor from the CC, the experience of having taught me, seen how I am in a classroom setting, and seeing some superficial research work I can do from the professor I had in the spring, and I am relying on the blood, sweat, and tears I have put into a grad student's work in rockstar professor's lab to provide a well-rounded picture of who I am and what I can do for grad admissions committees. 

If I wanted to take longer to complete my undergrad degree, wanted to spend exponentially more money on tuition, and/or was able to quit my job to just worry about school like the rest of the 18-21yr olds I attend classes with, I am sure I could have formed stronger relationships with the professors in my department. And maybe that ends up hurting me when Ivy league schools are looking at my apps. But in my mind, grad school was never an option - it was exactly where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. As far as I'm concerned, my undergrad degree is just a formality - just another hoop to jump through on my way to my ultimate goals. I am hoping, praying, crossing my fingers that the admissions committees will recognize that and not hold against me the fact that I didn't do an honors thesis or join Phi Beta Kappa. 

I have angled my entire applications on the fact that I have been a working student in a field with an amount of flexibility that requires the same skills that a doctoral program demands, and that my life experience makes me more qualified than a 21yr old undergrad with the same gpa and a paper with authorship (seeing as I am working on the same). That 21yr old undergrad didn't have a mortgage to pay, a husband to take care of, and a real job with real responsibilities while they were going to school. I did. 

And if that's not multi-tasking at its best, I don't know what is. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Books Meme

In trawling through Hermitage's blog I found this posting and decided, what the hell? My last December-due grad app can't be completed tonight because the damn website is down. So I'm doing this crap instead. (I don't own a TV or cable, either, so this is the best I've got to do on a sunday night). 

So here's how I'm gonna do this. Pink means I've read it. Blue means I own it but haven't read it yet. (See earlier post on the fact that I own a shitload of books that I haven't gotten to yet) If it's in black, I either never had any interest or it just hasn't made its way into my library as of yet.

BTW - if anyone knows how to c&p actually INTO the blog text editor, can you please tell me how to do it? I'm on a Mac, and it always pastes below this box and then I have to re-type all this shit. So I'm excluding author names, because it's just more typing. Just know it's the books and not the movies. 

1. Pride and Prejudice
2. The Lord of the Rings
3. Jane Eyre
4. Harry Potter series
5. To Kill A Mockingbird
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights
8. Nineteen Eighty Four
9. His Dark Materials series
10. Great Expectations
11. Little Women
12. Tess of the D'Ubervilles
13. Catch-22
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (I own this in leather-bound, cuz I'm awesome)
15. Rebecca (One of my all-time favorites)
16. The Hobbit
17. Birdsong
18. The Catcher In The Rye
19. The Time Traveller's Wife
20. Middlemarch
21. Gone With The Wind
22. The Great Gatsby
23. Bleak House
24. War and Peace
25. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
26. Brideshead Revisited
27. Crime and Punishment
28. Grapes of Wrath
29. Alice In Wonderland
30. The Wind In The Willows
31. Anna Karenina
32. David Copperfield
33. Chronicles of Narnia
34. Emma
35. Persuasion
36. The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe (why is this listed separately from Narnia??)
37. The Kite Runner
38. Captain Corelli's Mandolin
39. Memoirs of a Geisha
40. Winnie The Pooh
41. Animal Farm
42. The Da Vinci Code
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude
44. A Prayer for Owen Meany
45. The Woman In White
46. Anne of Green Gables
47. Far From the Madding Crowd
48. The Handmaid's Tale
49. Lord of the Flies
50. Atonement
51. Life of Pi
52. Dune
53. Cold Comfort Farm
54. Sense and Sensibility
55. A Suitable Boy
56. The Shadow of the Wind
57. A Tale of Two Cities
58. Brave New World
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Nighttime
60. Love In The Time of Cholera
61. Of Mice and Men
62. Lolita
63. The Secret History
64. The Lovely Bones
65. The Count of Monte Cristo
66. On The Road
67. Jude The Obscure
68. Bridget Jones's Diary
69. Midnight's Children
70. Moby Dick
71. Oliver Twist
72. Dracula
73. The Secret Garden
74. Notes From a Small Island
75. Ulysses
76. The Bell Jar (another of my all-time favorites)
77. Swallows and Amazons
78. Germinal
79. Vanity Fair
80. Possession
81. A Christmas Carol
82. Cloud Atlas
83. The Color Purple
84. The Remains of the Day
85. Madame Bovary (I thought this book would be awesome, can't get past chapter 3)
86. A Fine Balance
87. Charlotte's Web
88. The Five People You Meet in Heaven
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
90. The Faraway Tree Collection
91. Heart of Darkness
92. The Little Prince
93. The Wasp Factory
94. Watership Down
95. A Confederacy of Dunces
96. A Town Like Alice
97. The Three Musketeers
98. Hamlet
99. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
100. Les Miserables

I personally feel like there's a lot of really good stuff missing from this list, but I have no idea from where it came so I'll refrain from judging. 

For the record, I'm a wicked book whore, and I currently work in publishing which doesn't help. 

Some Social Science For Ya..

A discussion over at The Domestic & Lab Goddess' blog has got me a bit fired up. Comments by Renee (no page to speak of) on a posting about women in academia, in particular, have got me thinking. I'm going to ignore some of the really out-there things that she's posted, such as a comment implying that high-heels are for prostitutes, but she does mention some other things that I would like to address, social-science style. As it happens, some of the things she has said speak directly to issues that fall into my research interests. 

In Renee's first comment she writes:

But here's the thing; I don't actually hate women - I hate female culture. And I think this is what most people mean when they say that they hate this or that group. 

There are male and female cultures. There are black cultures. There are Hispanic cultures. I don't like most black people not because of their skin color, but because I don't like hip-hop and dancing. I don't like most women because I don't like shopping and romantic comedies. I do have female and black friends, however, because they don't belong to those cultures; they belong to my culture, which involves sci-fi, anime, and board games. 

In her most recent comment she writes:

Obviously there is not a 1-on-1 correlation with race/gender/ethnicity/sexual orientation/etc. with culture. But there is a strong association. If you notice, many of these groups self-segregate. I noticed that when I was in college, a lot of the black people stuck with black people, and white people stuck with white people, and Asian people stuck with Asian people.

She goes on to mention her history of interracial relationships as evidence that she is not, in fact, a racist. 

Now I am not going to comment directly on Renee's posting, because I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she just really sucks at getting her point across in a manner that doesn't offend people. Sometimes I have the same problem, so I'm going to leave it at that. But I did want to take this opportunity to spread some hot science that is relevant to the things that she has said. 

I'm not going to talk about stereotypes and prejudice, per se, because everyone knows what they are and how they work. But there are some other concepts that we should all know about when we are talking about race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other topic that is focused on difference. Namely, these concepts are social categorization, in-group bias, and out-group homogeneity. 

We all use mental shortcuts in everyday life in order to make sense of the world around us and the people in it as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you ask the evolutionary psychologists, they'll tell you this ability evolved because of its survival value. I personally don't give a shit where it came from as much as I give a shit about the problems it sometimes causes us. We tend to assign people to categories based on superficial information. Renee categorizes women as liking romance and shopping. It is probably fair to assume that if she bumps into a woman at the bookstore perusing the latest Nicholas Sparks novel, that she will immediately place that woman in her mental category of "People I have nothing in common with and therefore will never be friends with." This is a more lighthearted example of social categorization. The problem is, what if that woman was looking for a gift for someone, or was looking into a suggestion made by one of her more "girly" friends? Is it fair to judge this woman with so little information about her?

To see an example of social categorization in action, check out the following videos (they go together):

The second concept brought up by both Jane Elliot's experiment and Renee's comments is In-Group Bias. In-Group Bias occurs when we experience positive feelings toward people who are like us, in even the most superficial ways. Perhaps Renee would experience a sense of comraderie if she goes to the sci-fi section of the same bookstore and sees a female sitting on the floor with a stack of books next to her on the floor. She assumes that this woman is like her, and might even strike up a conversation with her. Especially if that woman is wearing sneakers and jeans, as opposed to high heels and a fitted top. We do this all the time - even on the internet. We read blogs by people we perceive as being similar to us in some way, on websites like facebook or myspace we might become "friends" with total strangers because of the books or movies they list as favorites, or even their political views. We seek out people we perceive as being like "us" - and there's nothing wrong with that, except that it sometimes leads to an "us versus them" mentality that doesn't serve anyone well. 

Which leads to the third concept: Out-Group Homogeneity. This is demonstrated by Renee's statement that she "doesn't like most black people" because of their "culture." Out-Group Homogeneity refers to the human tendency to believe that people who are NOT like us are pretty much all the same. We are biased to believe that our own "group" is more diverse than others. When we decide that we "don't like black people" because we don't like hip-hop music, that idea is based on the assumption that most or all of them like hip-hop. When we feel confident in saying that we "don't like most women" because we don't like "girly" things, that is Out-Group Homogeneity, and that is the foundation of stereotyping and prejudice. 

As a social scientist in-the-making, I am incredibly idealistic and perhaps even naive. I believe that we can fix these things once we know how to change the mechanism underlying the processes. 

One of the reasons I am so attracted to the blogosphere, or "blogopolis" as Improp likes to call it, is because the anonymous nature of most of the blogs forces us to decide whether or not we are "like" someone else based on what they have to say, not necessarily their likes, dislikes, clothing, or appearance. I love Dr. Isis not because she shares my love of shoes and clothes, but because she calls people "Ass Monkeys" and talks about science, family, and pop culture sometimes even in the same blog. I never assumed that I knew anything about her race until I had seen pictures of her hands and legs in various postings. Even then, though she has lighter skin, I don't assume that she is "white." And quite frankly, it doesn't matter. 

I love Comrade PhysioProf because he is a potty mouth and says what he thinks at all times. His race is a completely irrelevant mystery that I have no desire to even try to discover. Shit, CPP could be a chick and it wouldn't matter to me. I like reading what he has to SAY. 

We all like knowing that people agree with us, think like us, share our priorities. But what I love about the blogosphere is that I don't care if I agree with you or not - if you convey your thoughts and feelings in an interesting, readable way, I want to know what you have to say. I love people - all kinds of people. You could even call me an In-Group Whore if you want to, because I want to have all sorts of people reading and commenting on my blog, while I do the same for theirs. I love diversity. In fact, I thrive on it. 

Now I am not necessarily a "girly-girl." I love shoes, but most often you'll find me wearing sneakers though I'm very adept at walking in high heels. I love nice clothes and dresses, but I would almost always rather be wearing a comfy pair of sweats. I love Nicholas Sparks, Emily Giffin, Jennifer Weiner, and the Brontes, but I also read Proust, Dickens, Tolstoy, true-crime, horror, and lots and lots of nonfiction including politics, science, and any other topic I find interesting. I love The Notebook, but The Godfather is my favorite movie of all time, followed by Citizen Kane. I love 90's grunge rock (Alice In Chains is my favorite band EVER), but I also love Frank Sinatra, Nine Inch Nails, Tupac, Beethoven, etc. 

I am not so easy to categorize, so I rarely categorize others. I could find something in common with EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU if I wanted to look for similarities. That's what makes me an In-Group Whore - I want my in-group to include as many different people as possible, emphasis on different

Hopefully someday my science will lead me to a way to get everyone to see people for who they are instead of the categories they may or may not fit into. Idealistic? Definitely. Naive? Probably. Worth pursuing? 


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Advisors and Mentors

I just finished reading this post by PhizzleDizzle. There has been a lot of discussion recently about advisors  and mentors in academia. I've posted a few comments on the issue here and there, but at the time I didn't have my own blog where I could get detailed. 

I took a break tonight from blogging during which I wrote and submitted application essay #6 out of 10. So since I was at least a little productive, I figure what the hell. Might as well blog!

PhizzleDizzle and AA have both made the point that you need to be careful when choosing an advisor, because even if they're a rockstar they might be certifiable. Both of them are in different fields than I am, so now I wonder - am I fucked?

I don't know how the application process works for grad school in other areas of study, and I'm too wrapped up in my own shit to go find out. If I'm way off base here, please comment and let me know. But in the social sciences, you need to know when you apply who you want to be your advisor. You can give multiple people's names, but at the end of the day it's like being a mail-order bride. If they want you, you're theirs for better or for worse. 

Some programs are more flexible than others and will allow you to choose your advisor in the second semester of your first year as a grad student, regardless of whose decision it was to admit you. Some departments choose your advisor for you, and won't let you switch unless you suddenly change specialties in a manner so drastic that it has no relevance to your original plan of research. 

I spent a year doing lit searches on the topics I'm interested in, and googling authors to find out what schools they were at. I also worked in reverse - going through the list of schools with the program I want and then doing lit searches on the professors in that department. I ended up with a final list of 10 schools and probably 20-30 professors between all of them. Every grad school app guide for my field I've purchased tells me not to email professors unless I absolutely cannot get the answers to my questions from another source. Except for a few brief emails asking whether or not they were accepting grad students for next year, I have refrained from bugging them. 

How am I supposed to figure out if they're nuts or a straight-up asshole? There are no interviews for grad school in my area of specialization. No mandatory campus visits. I'm supposed to base my decision on everything I can get my hands on to read about them, and they do the same for me. 

Now having been in sales for most of my adult life, I have learned to deal with a lot of shit that people dish out. I like to think that in this sense I am more prepared for grad school than the average undergrad. I also like to think that my powerful desire to learn from those with more experience will overpower any shit that my advisors may feel like dishing out. But will that prove to be true when I'm actually there?

I have never wanted anything as badly as I want to be in a doctoral program. The desire was always there, but I think being an irrelevant undergrad at an MRU has made it flame out of control. I want to learn the "real" stuff. I want to be trained to be an expert in my field. I want to be involved in the latest and greatest research that may someday make a difference in even the smallest of ways. I have basically whored myself as a research assistant in order to make this happen. 

But I've heard the horror stories from within my field about how being a grad student is like joining a fraternity or sorority with a 5-6 yr long hazing phase. Most people say that the worse a professor was treated by his or her advisor, the worse they eventually treat their own grad students. I have been mentally preparing myself for this inevitable hell for 2 years now. 

Are you telling me that in other fields, you aren't married to your advisor until you get there and have worked with them for awhile? Whereas I'm over here reading articles in major journals trying to gauge whether or not a particular professor is a douchebag through the quality of their work alone? 

It's true. I'm fucked. 

Oh Boy.

I don't know how I'm gonna get anything done anymore. Between all the things I would love to post about, checking for new comments on my page, reading other blogs and checking THEIR page for new comments, I feel like I could do nothing else all day long.

Which will be fantastic come December when I graduate and I'm only working full-time and no longer going to school full-time on top of that. I'd been wondering what I was going to do with myself for the 8 or so months between graduation and hopefully starting a grad program. 

I guess now I know. ;)

To Make My Awesome Spinach Dip

This is a super easy recipe that makes enough for sharing or for leftovers you can reheat the next time you're craving it. 

Warning: This is addictive, so if you're going to the store to buy the ingredients in the event you don't already have them on hand, you may want to double up on everything you buy so that the next time you want to make it (usually the day after all the leftovers have been demolished), you'll have the stuff around to whip it up again. 

This is the basic recipe. You can jazz it up with artichokes, crabmeat, spices, whatever you want to add. It's very flexible. 

What You Will Need:

8 oz of cream cheese (softening it is usually a good idea)
1-9oz package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of grated romano cheese
1 handful of shredded Italian or mozzarella cheese (I like the Italian blend of parmesan, asiago, fontina, and mozzarella)
1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste
basil (I'll explain the lack of measure in the directions)
1 clove of garlic, minced (or garlic powder to taste if you're in a hurry)

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a small baking dish. 

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, parmesan, romano, handful of shredded cheese, salt and pepper. You also want to add the basil. Now, I have only used dried basil, but I'm sure it's phenomenal with the fresh stuff. The way I measure it is by eye - at this point your mixture is pretty much all white. I add the basil and stir until it looks like manicotti filling - a noticeable but not overpowering amount of green specks. It's probably like a half teaspoon, but I hesitate to give you a measurement and be totally off. Then you'll comment and be like, "Hey JLK, WTF, mate? All I could taste was basil in this damn dip." So go easy. 

Okay, once you've got all that mixed up, add the spinach and stir until it's well-blended. Pour the slop into your baking pan and spread it out. Top with 1/4 cup of the shredded mozzarella, but don't go nuts or you'll have to fight through a tough cheese layer to get to the dip. 

Bake for 25 minutes and then enjoy with your favorite chips, crackers, spoon, or finger if your craving is particularly strong. But be careful, it's hot!

Fine, dammit.

Even though I felt that my the dark background of my blog page was sexy as hell, I have changed it to gray and made the text black after the comments made on last night's blog posting

I figure, seeing as the whole point of a blog is for other people to read it, it's in my best interest not to have people crossing their eyes in an attempt to read what it is I'm bitching about today. 

Besides, Comrade PhysioProf has a persuasive way with words:

CPP: And yeah, the light on dark theme is a motherfucking nightmare!

Me: As far as the black background and light text, I really, really, really don't want to change the background. But I promise that if I keep writing really long blogs, I will change it so they're easier to read. :)

CPP: Why? It totally sucks shit. It is a physiological fact of human vision that light text on a dark background is much more difficult to read.

I can't argue with his science. Hopefully now Pieces of Me is easier to read, even if it is much less sexy. 

Friday, November 14, 2008


So much going on right now, so many things I'd like to complain about. Unfortunately, because of the nature of this blog and some of the people I know who read it, I have to limit myself with what I am able to say. So I'm going to stick with just one topic for the moment. 

I have a very strained relationship with my mother, though she seems to be blissfully unaware of that fact. I was going to just gloss it over and spare you all the details, but fuck it, it's my blog. 

My mother had an affair while married to my father when I was 11-12 years old. They were going to get a divorce and she was even taking my sister and I to look at apartments with her. She told us that she had come home from work one morning and my dad had told her to leave. I was so angry with my father that I wouldn't speak to him for days. He asked her why his daughters were so mad at him and she explained. He told her that she needed to tell us the truth, and so after stewing about my dad for so long, my mom explained that the reason my father asked her to leave was because she had told him she didn't love him anymore. She had lied to us because she didn't want us to be angry with her. 

A few weeks after that, my sister and I were shipped off to visit an aunt for two weeks. We came back, and suddenly were told that everything was fine. We were young - we believed them, because logic still defied us back then. Call it suspension of disbelief. 

Within a matter of months, we had moved to a new house in a new neighborhood, and my mom was pregnant. She miscarried, and we were told by my father to be very nice to her and to be a couple of good girls because even though the pregnancy had been an accident my mom was very upset. So we tried to be good. 

That same year, my mom gets pregnant again. I remember my angry 12yr old self practically spitting at her in the car, "If it's such an accident, why don't you get fixed??" Somehow, even then I knew that my parents were trying to use a baby to fix their marriage, and I knew it wouldn't work. But when I was 13, my baby brother was born. The first-born son to a man who had 3 daughters, the first of whom was from a previous marriage. He was ecstatic.

Now to put this in perspective, you have to understand the household I was living in. My father did household chores, they both worked full-time doing the same job at the same workplace in two different departments. They took turns cooking dinner, were physically affectionate with one another, never fought in front of us, and took care of us equally. It was a gender-neutral household before gender-neutral households became popular and purposeful. My father seemed to be romantic with my mom, buying her gifts and doing things for her. I grew up for awhile believing that this is how things were supposed to be - an equal partnership based in love. There was a HUGE age difference between my parents - 18 years to be exact, but I never believed that would matter. 

Fast forward a little over 2 years. I am now 15, just finishing my sophomore year of high school. My parents have now been married for almost 17 years. My mother sits my sister and I down and tells us that she's moving out, moving 20 something miles away. Asks if we would like to come with her. (I know I'm not maintaining proper tense here, but bear with me.) I tell her I need to think about it, my sister says "Yeah, absolutely." She is 11 years old now. 

Of course, I don't believe that she's actually gonna leave. Shit, we've been through this before and nothing happened. Maybe all she needs is for my sister and I to go away for a little while again. 

A week later, my parents are at the neighbors house, drinking and socializing and having a grand old time, or so it seems. Around 2am, I wake up to yelling and a loud bang. I get really pissed, but I ignore it, because if I go up there I'm going to do something I will probably get punished for. Like call the cops or punch someone in the face. It stops pretty suddenly, so I go back to sleep. 

I wake up the next morning, and my dad is at work. My mom is home. I ask her in no uncertain terms, "What the fuck happened last night?" I didn't actually swear. To this day I don't swear in front of my parents, even though my mom herself is a potty mouth. She shows me a couple of bruises on her wrist that look like fingerprints and says, "Your father did this to me." When my dad gets home, I threaten to kill him, and I'm serious. He asks me if I will listen to him for a minute. I try to calm down and listen to him. He says, "Your mother has those bruises on her wrist because I was holding her arms. She was trying to punch me and pushed me into a wall. I didn't do anything except hold her back." I get pissed off at both of them, because I don't know who to believe anymore. To this day, I have no idea what happened that night. I shoulda just gone upstairs and punched someone. 

So my mom ends up leaving, taking my sister and brother with her. I stayed with my dad, partially because I didn't want to move or change schools, but mostly because he was devastated and didn't want him to be alone. They shared custody with my little brother, so he was with us for a half a week at a time until he started school. 

My mom pretty much dropped off the face of the earth for me. She rarely called, I only saw her on holidays. She always had something better to do than come and pick me up to visit, and I couldn't drive yet. I'm not going to get into all the drama that ensued in the following months, including me having a nervous breakdown and developing an irrational fear of my father, spurred on by my mom who told me I was justified without evidence. Either way, she would say anything to get me to be on her side. For staying with my dad, I became his favorite child and he ignored my sister and still does. He has no shame, and tells everyone in my family that I'm his favorite - including my sister. My half-sister is irrelevant. She's the bottom of his list. He once told me that the reason my mother left was because she didn't love "us" anymore - "us" referring to me and him. If it was in the pages of "How Not To Be A Good Parent" - my father did it. 

But I digress. My father is a condescending, self-absorbed ass, but he's always been that way and I've always known it. My mother is much more complicated. She thinks she's a great mom. I think I would have been better off without her. 

My mom married the guy that she left my father for the time that she actually LEFT. I suspected something was going on beforehand, but I let it go. I had enough to worry about at the time. For a long time, I hated his ass. I hated him so much that there was nothing I wouldn't do or say to make him know just how much I hated him. I hated my mom too, but she was my mother, and I tried to make amends with her. I spent years trying to rebuild a relationship with her, from college on. For awhile, I thought I had succeeded. 

This past June, I separated from my husband of two years, whom I had been with for almost 8. There was a lot of drama behind it, most of which no one knew about except for those closest to me. My mother was excluded from that list. 

Still, she was the first person I told that I had decided to move out. Her response? Her very first response? "You know, I'm still paying off your wedding." I knew that was what she was going to say. But I had been hoping she would say something else instead. Something supportive, maybe.

My mom's birthday was in August. I saw her two days beforehand, while she was on vacation and I came up to spend the day. I told her happy birthday, told her to enjoy it, put up with her fucked up comments about the guy I was dating at the time. I intended to bring her a birthday card, but in the commotion of preparing for the nearly 3hr drive down there, I forgot. Figured it wasn't important. She knew she wouldn't be getting a gift, seeing as I was paying extravagant rent on my own for the first time in my adult life, and she had gotten a diamond necklace from me the year before. I figured she would understand. 

A few weeks later I received an email from my stepfather (whom I now love very much), CC'd to my sister berating us for not sending my mother a card or buying her a gift. I responded politely, explaining that I had forgotten and that I would send one. I continued to forget, and it never happened. 

Just yesterday I got another email from my stepfather, (again CCd to my sister), saying that we should be ashamed of the people we have become and the priorities we have if we can't spare 10 minutes a week to speak to our parents or "forget" their birthdays. Mind you, they haven't seen my apartment though they've been invited several times, or that my mom generally doesn't call me unless I call her first, and leaves snide messages on my voicemail if I don't pick up: "I don't know WHY you're not answering your phone, but....."

I responded and explained that while I did not think it was his intention, he made me feel like an asshole. I then explained that because of issues I have with my mother, I don't think she has any right to be pissed over the lack of a birthday card, and that if she's hurt or upset by it, that I should hear it from her, and not him. I also mention the comment she made when I told her I was getting separated. 

He responded by reminding me how much money and "effort" people had put into my wedding, and that I "should have put the same or more effort into" making my marriage work. Basically, that I owed it to everyone who spent some cash on my kick-ass wedding to suck it up and deal. Though I wanted to say "Fuck you," I didn't. I continued to explain my position. No response from him yet. 

My mother is the most selfish human being on the planet. I am trying so hard not to be like her, and I feel like in order to accomplish that goal, I need to distance myself from her. I have given up trying to have a "real" relationship with her, because she lies to me and always has. I have so many issues because of the experiences I have had with her, and I so strongly resent the implication that I am selfish because I chose to separate from my husband despite the fact that other people helped pay for the wedding, or because I neglected to send a birthday card. 

Wow, this was a really long, pretty-detailed way of saying I'm fuckin' pissed right now. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Little More About Me...

Thanks to Stephanie over at Almost Diamonds for tagging me in a post and providing me with a 5 Things Meme? to respond to. I'm seeing at as kind of like those surveys that used to get passed around through email so many years ago. So, here goes:

5 Things I was Doing 10 years Ago:

1. Going through my parents' divorce.
2. Being a bratty teenager.
3. Skipping school at every opportunity.
4. Smoking in the bathroom at school when I couldn't skip.
5. Dyeing my hair jet black.

5 Things On My To-Do List Today:

1. Get some sleep for a change, because I'm running on only 2 hours rest right now.

2. Make my amazing spinach dip and then gorge myself on it, easing the guilt by pairing it with low fat multigrain tortilla chips and reminding myself of all the fiber that's in spinach.

3. This is already done, but it WAS on my to-do list. Met with my grad student research partner to draft a coding guide for the second part of our 3-part study. 

4. Intended to work on an application essay for grad school, but decided I didn't get enough sleep for it to make any sense. 

5. Watch ER, The Daily Show, and Colbert online before going to bed.

5 Snacks I Love:

1. Multigrain tortilla chips with my homemade spinach dip...YUM
2. Doritos
3. Pickles
4. Cheddar Chex Mix
5. Cucumber slices dipped in ranch dressing.

5 Things I Would Do If I Were A Millionaire:

1. Buy a house with a library in it so I can finally have a place that will fit all of my books.
2. Quit my job now instead of waiting to start a PhD program
3. Spend all my newfound free time after quitting my job reading all those books I own and haven't gotten around to yet.
4. Buy more books.
5. Pay off my parents' mortgages. 

5 Places I've Lived:

1. 2 hours away from the nearest beach
2. 15 minutes away from the nearest beach
3. 1 hour away from the "fake" beach
4. In the "shady" part of the city
5. In the "nicer" part of the city

5 Jobs I've Had:

1. Field Sales Representative
2. Territory Manager
3. Sales Consultant
4. Bridal Consultant
5. On-Campus Marketing Representative

5 People I'll Tag That I Don't Know Enough About:

5. Comrade Physioprof (because I think it'd be fun)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Things I Intend to Blog About

Think of this as my blogger to-do list. I don't want to forget to blog about any of these topics, so I figure I'll put the list up here. That way, when I find myself bored (as if) I will have fresh stuff to include even if there is absolutely nothing else interesting going on in my life or the world. So, in no particular order:

The experience of being an anonymous egg donor

This new wave of first time moms

Some of the pointless research that people are getting paid to do

Some of the pointless research that I would like to get paid to do

Being a not-so-old nontraditional student in class with a bunch of 18yr olds

My mentor, and why she is the greatest person on earth

Applying to grad school

My absolute favorite drink recipes

I think that oughta do it for now. I feel like I had a lot more ideas last night....

Oh, And What I'm Doing Right Now...

Drinking absinthe. Just a little. Because sometimes it makes me think I'm cool. 

Here Goes Nothing

I've become a bit addicted to the blogosphere recently. I had been blogging on a very public, very conspicuous website and while I intend to maintain said blog, I thought I might like to take a gander at blogging where no one knows me. My inspiration do so came from the very talented Dr Isis, and if I'm able to be even half as interesting as she is, I will be satisfied. 

I intend for this to be my outlet. So if you don't want to know about my personal life, my academic struggles, my job, then you probably won't be interested. I intend to include the coolest, newest stuff from the social sciences that I have read or come across, but I'm not making any promises. 

Because sometimes, I just need to bitch. 
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