Sunday, August 22, 2010


My kid just got gum stuck in the very front of her hair. Today, the day before she starts kindergarten. I, being hasty to fix the problem as usual, assumed we would not be able to extract the gum and deftly snipped it off. I also assumed I would be able to "blend" it with the rest of her hair.

I failed miserably.

Of course, all of the salons in town are booked with responsible mothers and their children and their back-to-school hair cuts. My kid will just have to start school with her half-mullet pinned up.

I was planning on blogging about how I feel about my kid starting kindergarten... I guess this counts. I feel inept.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Fold.

I'm no good at card games. We have some friends that taught us to play mah jongg - I'm not any good at that, either. I'm horribly average at chess.

I find this very frustrating and kind of embarrassing. In fact, I'm probably more defensive than I realize. If someone asks to deal me in for a round of poker, I will probably oblige, but I'll preface my disappointing performance with disclaimers so no one gets their expectations up. I always feel guilty in partner games and can't help but believe I'm ruining my partner's fun, no matter how much everyone reassures me that it's no big deal. I know the truth! Having a partner that sucks... sucks.

Why am I so bad at games? There has to be some games I'm good at... Scrabble... Scattergories... I'm really good at that game where you read the words on the card and they're all disjointed and everyone else has to guess what it's supposed to say. I guess I'm good at word games.

The truth is, in card games at least, I feel like I never really get it. I get the rules, but I don't get the system. I can't remember what's been played, I can't count cards, I have no intuition regarding the probability of one hand working out over the other. I always feel like I'm playing for the first time, blindly throwing out cards and eliciting immediate groans from everyone else at the table. As soon as I play, every other person seems to get it. They get that that was the last trump, or they get that I must be trying to catch that trick; whatever it is, everyone seems to get in an instant what I couldn't get from staring at my cards for four minutes.

I think people expect me to be good at games. As a "smart person," I'm supposed to be able to work the system. Didn't you see A Beautiful Mind? Or 21? Smart people are good at these things. It may also be possible that this conception that I've disappointed everyone is my own insecurity...

What do you think? Do you expect yourself to be good at card games because you're smart? Are you good at card games? What do you think makes you better at some games than others?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I'm really REALLY hungry so I'm going to blog about food. FOOOOOOOD.

Several of the blogs I read have been posting recipes lately (Girl's Gone Child, Cloud), which makes me wonder if their readers are requesting ways to improve the health and/or speed of their dinners. There's always room for improvement, but I feel fairly confident about both the speed and health of our family's diet, with the glaring exception of my meat'n potatoes husband. The lack of processed and non-home-cooked food in our diet is largely accomplished by a) leaving the lab earlier than most graduate students probably do at the end of each day and b) having enough money to buy (almost exclusively) local, organic meat and produce. I realize not everyone can do either or both of those things. We all make the best of what we have.

I leave the lab (almost) every day at 4:45 so I can meet my husband at our daughter's daycare and go home. Most days, we go straight home, spend 30 minutes or so settling in and/or arguing about what I want to make for dinner (because it's not typically meat'n potatoes), and then I start cooking around 5:30 or 6:00. As a family, we have to make dinner, eat dinner, clean up, and bathe the kiddo before bedtime around 8:00, so if everything goes like normal, this is actually fairly reasonable. In other words, I don't think it's crazy that I usually cook dinner from scratch 6 nights a week (we usually go out or eat with friends at least once a week), although a lot of people respond as if it is. "Cooking from scratch" does not have to mean a 4-course gourmet meal that took you all day to prepare and $200 worth of groceries. For what it's worth, I budget $100/week for groceries, which includes non-food items like paper towels, soap, etc. 

Although I wish our meals were less meat-centric and more ethnically diverse, my husband is a creature of habit and I can only push him so far before he turns into a Grumble. There are few things worse than spending an hour dutifully preparing dinner only to have your husband wince every time he chokes down all of five bites before making microwave nachos. So. We compromise. I can make "weird things" for dinner (curry, risotto, enchiladas) about every other night, as long as I have something familiar (spaghetti, pork chops) on the other nights. Typically, I try to include a meat source, a carb source, and 1-2 vegetable sources, so even if we have fried chicken, I can at least make homemade mac'n cheese and roasted beets. The other compromise I make is that in the event that I make a meal where each component is not separate, there is usually a with-meat, without-vegetables option. For example, I made my Hapa version of pork fried rice last night and I served his before I added all of the vegetables. This also means that I have a huge stack of non-separable, non-meat recipes I've wanted to try, but have not been able to. If you'd like to come over for creamy butternut squash soup or fruit couscous, please let me know. To my husband's credit, he did not eat ANY vegetables (besides potatoes and popcorn; yes, these totally count) before we married and now he will eat a few. He will also eat Thai and Korean food with gusto, as long as he can pick out the vegetables and it's not too spicy. This is light years ahead of his childhood diet, which is also his parents' diet and consists mostly of Easy Mac, Lean Cuisine and Sonic. I put up with his obnoxious pickiness and in return, he puts up with the seven brands of Crazy I unleash without warning. MARRIAGE! If we both had our way, he would eat chicken fried steak all day and I would eat avocadoes. I doubt either of those diets would fulfill all of our nutritional requirements. We need each other.

In addition to making our dinners largely from scratch, I also bake all of our bread. This commitment is usually only a once-a-week necessity and can be largely owed to Michael Pollan's book "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto". I highly recommend it (the book and baking your own bread) and it made me feel very differently about my purchase and consumption of food, but that is a blog post in itself. I make all of our bread because I put 6 things in it: flour, yeast, water, olive oil, sugar, and salt. Sara Lee fits in 24, and that's if you don't count the ingredients of the ingredients as separate. (Note that this is for their "Soft & Smooth Whole-Grain White Bread" and that the link is in favor of this miracle of food science. I am not.) I do not think I'm a Food Nazi and I will totally eat some of the grossest, artificial quasi-food you can possibly imagine.
Something I totally ate. Not pictured: ranch dressing

In fact, the quasi-food I like is just about as bad as you can get. I love me some stadium nachos and fried Milky Ways. I just try to not eat them very often and mostly eat "whole" food. Besides the not wanting to die of a heart attack at 25 thing, I also have trouble limiting my quantities. I love food. A lot. So I know that because it's difficult for me to stop eating something particularly delicious when I'm full, it's extra important for me to not habitually eat things that would kill me if I ate them in reasonable quantities.

I'm really hungry. I could use an avocado.   

Sunday, August 8, 2010


My husband plays MMORPGs*. Passionately. When I started dating him in 2005, he was coming off of a year of hermitage in which he played EverQuest, ate McDonalds, and avoided sunlight and human touch. In fact, he quit EverQuest when we got serious because he came to the realization that he could not sustain both relationships simultaneously (I had no part in this decision. I am a cool wife that is okay with her gaming husband). 

Since we've been married and have established an acceptable work-life-play balance, he has taken up Vanguard. (He says after EverQuest, WoW was a joke and intolerable. For whatever reason, he finds Vanguard acceptable.) I, honestly, don't know the difference. I am equally unversed in his other nerdery - D&D; his Stars, both Wars and Trek; DragonballZ...
I simply do not understand his passion for these things, because.. you see...

We are different brands of nerd.

I am a science nerd. As a child, my greatest desires were glasses, braces, and a microscope, and I got them all. I read. A lot. My childhood was filled with logic puzzle books, quadratic equations, headgear, band camp, and being obsessively organized. Although a lot of this was fostered by my parents and I can be as bitter as I want about it now (could have really used some social skills in high school. Thanks a lot), I was not unhappy. Crazy people don't know they're crazy! Obviously, not all science nerds were like this, but I was a walking, talking, socks-with-sandals stereotype. 

All that to say, my gamer husband is reciprocally inexperienced in my brands of nerdery. Despite his current fleshy nerd exterior, he was a late bloomer and lived the life of a meathead football jock through high school. We would have hated each other in high school. It was not until college, when a friend of his opened a comic book store, that he gave in to his secret nerd desires and he has never turned back.

Thankfully, we're both readers, which I think is the only overlap between our nerd subsets. I don't think I could have married someone who didn't read voraciously. However, this lack of overlap is not because I haven't tried. Because my nerd craving is mostly satisfied at work during the day and his pursuits are more "leisurely", it's inevitable that I'm exposed to his nerdery more than he is mine. As I type, he's playing Vanguard beside me, as he does most evenings after the kiddo's in bed and we've had some quality time. I know about raids and guilds and halfling bards, but I'm still a little fuzzy on the point of aggro. I even tried to play an RPG once... I think I was a superhero of some sort? And I was running through the ruined streets of a city trying to kill monsters? Mostly, what I remember is the eleventy billion things around the edge of my screen that I was supposed to keep up with. It is equally incomprehensible to me how he keeps up with all of those things as it is how he can enjoy DragonballZ. I DON'T GET IT.

And I'm not sure I can be trained to get it, at this point. What kind of people are attracted to playing MMORPGs, and what kind of people stick around? Obviously, there are millions of people who invest a lot of time and thought into these games (both the makers and players); what do they have in common and what am I lacking? I literally felt mentally incapable of keeping up with all the blinking panels and meters around my screen. Practice would certainly improve my skills, but I doubt I could ever get through a session without feeling terribly overwhelmed and inefficient, which would overshadow any enjoyment I would derive from playing. Maybe this is just a fault of my particular personality, as I tend to get overstimulated easily, but I wonder if it's a trait I'm missing as opposed to an inhibitory trait I possess.

Of course, there's the stereotype of the lonely, overweight 40-something white male sitting in his mother's basement drinking Bawls as he lives out his fantasies of grandeur and masculine prowess through his character. But there are plenty of people I know that play who do not fit this stereotype, my husband being one of them (for the most part). And even so, I'm not really wondering what it is that attracts people, I'm wondering if there's some kind of neural prerequisite for feeling capable of playing these games. Are our kids growing up better at paying attention to many things simultaneously? Are we becoming more visual? Are our attention spans becoming shorter and more superficial? Am I just retarded because I don't have the multi-tasking skills of a 14-year-old boy? Don't answer that last one.

*That's Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, you n00b.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Following

Riddle me this, o reader of mine:

Why do I go to other people's blogs and see my blog in their blogroll, but they don't show up as "Following" on my sidebar widget? If this is because they're using a different blog feeder than Blogger or whatever that widget uses, is there a way to conveniently view a list of the blogs that follow my blog?
Blog blog blog blog? Bob Loblaw's Law Blog? What?

No, really.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Hey, grad student moms! Good news! The compassionate undergrads at The University of Texas are sympathetic to the difficulties of TAing their class during your pregnancy. They're concerned they will get worse grades on their papers after that stupid kid pops out and ruins their GPA!

This is the gist of a recent article in UT's campus paper, The Daily Texan, entitled "[University Health Services] to offer discounted baby goods on campus". When I initially saw this, I thought diapers, wipes, snot suckers, maybe a nice ear thermometer. As it turns out, "baby goods" actually means breast pumps! They are offering breast pumps at a discount to UT students, staff, and faculty. While this seems a little weird to me, I guess it's nice. Breast pumps can be expensive, and if a woman chooses to go back to work while she's nursing, I guess it's also nice that they support that choice. How nice of them, to support lactation.

And they say they're trying to make it financially easier for women at UT, especially students, to juggle being a new mom and being in school. But why breast pumps?

"By having the pumps available at a discounted rate, female graduate students can get back to work sooner because they will be able to pump breast milk and store it for a later time, which will enable them to be away from their infants... The move is part of an effort to make maternity items more affordable and to reduce the amount of time graduate students in particular spend away from their jobs after becoming pregnant."

Oh. Thank goodness I'm not being encouraged to take a little time off to heal my mangled lady parts or bond with my newborn child, because that would be ridiculous! Because, really, the hard part about being a new mother and a graduate student is NOT being unable to sit on anything but a donut for two weeks or not sleeping for more than 45 minutes at a time or trying to pay hospital bills or coping with a tiny person that does nothing but screams at me and craps on me but still wants nothing but me. The hard part is definitely finding a way to get the milk from my boob to the kid in a manner that doesn't disrupt my studies. Thank you for caring so much about my research! It is rather important, and that is what you're concerned about, right?

"...Student Government Vice President Muneezeh Kabir said. 'When you’re talking graduate students, this is like our school’s rankings — these are the people that we as undergrads have grade our papers.'" 

Oh. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I just brought a PERSON into the world and you're concerned about me grading your term paper? Pardon me if I don't faint from gratitude that you're offering me discounted breast pumps. WHERE WOULD I BE without the kindness and understanding of people like you? Milking my boob into a styrofoam cup in the office bathroom, that's where I'd be! Or worse, at home with that horrible creature I spawned! So thank you, Student Government of UT. I can only hope other universities follow suit by not actually supporting motherhood, but by making it easier to "squeeze it in". 

The latter part of the article talks about a student-parent initiative that has been started on campus, which is interested in ACTUALLY providing support for parents, including having stops for the campus shuttle buses that go by the daycare on campus (because apparently it doesn't, currently), and other things that sound rather reasonable. It seems there's been a disconnect somewhere between the student-parent initiative, whose intentions sound honorable, and the people carrying it out/representing the changes. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wherein my brain asplodes

As I'm traveling internationally this month, I had to figure out how I was going to contact my family. We decided our cheapest option would be for me to find a land line I can use in Switzerland, make a 30-second phone call to my husband to give him the number, and have him call me back on his mobile. To do this, we had to enable international calling on his device.

Generally, I hate taking care of this kind of thing - the minutiae necessary for living an adult life. This includes resolving unfair fines, renewing driver's licenses, getting new tags for the car, and setting up doctor's appointments. I usually end up going through some terrible automated phone system that either doesn't have my option listed or dead ends at an irrelevant recording. OR I hit the wrong key (well, spot on my touch screen, which is a whole other source of frustration) and I have to start all over again. Which is why I'm so happy to see the Live Chat option becoming more popular! I'm at my computer anyway, and I don't have to listen to anyone's voice, be it automated or in person! Win.

So I Live Chatted it up with the Sprint lady, who was very nice, but the first thing she said was "Please provide your PIN number or Security question." This is a reasonable request; I'm glad she doesn't want Joe Blow being able to edit my phone plan. However... off the top of my head, I can think of a few other username/password/PIN/security question combos I'm also supposed to keep up with:
electric, gas, bank, ATM card, phone, tollway tag, student loan account, e-mail, university e-mail, university online system, computer network, lab server, BLOG, Amazon, ebay, Skype, anywhere I've ever bought anything online ever, anywhere I've ever ordered pizza online, Etsy, Facebook, Netflix, Steam... 

Does anyone remember all of these? How am I supposed to remember all of these? And you're not supposed to use any words found in the dictionary, names of people related to you, words spelled backwards, repeated characters, or words with letters replaced by symbols? And it should be 8-10 characters long, including letters, numbers, and at least one symbol? And THEY ALL HAVE TO BE UNIQUE? You're kidding me.

I often find myself wondering if the memory is a finite storage space, and if so, what got kicked out so I can remember my Papa John's password. And what didn't make the cut in the first place, in favor of remembering all the words to the Punky Brewster theme song (Maybe the worrrld is blind...). We know that we lose skills that we had in infancy, that babies can, for instance, tell monkey faces apart better and learn languages faster than we can as adults. And we know that our brains are certainly changing in response to the shifting demands of our world compared to our world thirty (or five) years ago. The remarkable plasticity of our brain is undeniable - but what about memory? Does HOW I remember change, since I have to remember ridiculous strings of numbers and symbols for all my accounts instead of how to drive to my aunt's house now that I have GPS? Does how MUCH I can remember limit WHAT I remember?

Can I please forget every line to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids so that I can remember the Krebs cycle?

We will never forget.