Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Here I am, not writing my dissertation Posted by Hello

What's a couple of years?

Okay, here's the thing. Today is the day I start my dissertation. Yes, today. I know that most of you have been under the impression that I've been doing that very thing since September 2003, but you couldn't be more wrong. It's time to put ya into the loop. What HAVE I been doing for the past 18 months, instead? Well...

a) planning my wedding b) planning my other wedding c) solving a family in-law crisis d) setting up a quasi-adult apartment complete with things like egg separators e) hosting dinners, brunches, and game nights f) planning James's two surprise 30th birthdays g) watching the Red Sox win the world series (that seriously set me back a couple of months) h) evicting a crazy roommate and cleaning up her graffiti when she left i) taking acting classes j) going to Dublin for Bloomsday k) dying my hair black l) collecting every journal article ever written on Eavan Boland m) watching All My Children n) fund-raising for Kerry o) taking an essay-writing class p) giving up dairy, caffeine, and trans-fats q) staying up-to-date with my friends & family around the country r) reading the New Yorker s) working on my abs t) tutoring Newton high school students u) writing witty emails to Joyce scholars v) going to Michigan, California, Reno, Miami, London, Chicago, and New York w) being a housewife (full fucking time job, go ask your mothers) x) writing a Worcester high school accreditation essay y) learning how to make Aloo Gobi and z) this blog.

But that's all over now. Well, except the blog and some of the other stuff. Today is the day it really begins, and you are lucky enough to be here. I sat down at my desk this afternoon and found that I have NOTHING left to research on my dissertation topic. Nothing. I have read and summarized and collated every article ever written on my author. There is now nothing left to do except face the blank page and try to put something down on it that will get me out of this delightfully entertaining interlude and into the rest of my life. Only it's more like 250 blank pages.

And you know that question that all of you have been asking me for the last year and a half? You know: "How's the dissertation coming?" You can ask it freely now, without me secretly hating you for not realizing how long it takes to make 101 pearlized fleur-de-lis invitations and matching namecards. It's okay now! Ask away!

And by tomorrow, maybe it will be 249 blank pages.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Posted by Hello

Not Exactly 60 Minutes

So I had my television debut last night (well, unless you count being shown on Sportscenter on the Green Monster at Fenway for 1.5 seconds back in 2003) and, all things considered, it didn't go too badly. I was sure that sensationalistic Fox was setting me up to look like a crazy loon who doesn't believe in doctors and self-medicates via internet herbal remedies.

This initial fear was only confirmed by the first few seconds of the broadcast, in which they inserted tiny bits of phrases in which I say things like "going to the doctor is a hassle." They redeemed themselves somewhat as the piece wore on by allowing me to speak in complete sentences. My favorite part was seeing my cute little study on screen and finding out how well operation "show all my favorite family pictures on tv" succeeded (quite well, actually!) As a bonus, my Nomar bobblehead also made it in the piece. As a minus, so did my two stuffed animals. (I really thought I got those off-camera.)

Of course, Fox managed to fulfill my pet peeve with the appearance of my first name on screen (They put an "h" in Sara), and I probably fulfilled my father-in-law's pet peeve with the appearance of my last name (since I gave my maiden one). Hey, you can't make a news omelette without breaking some eggs.

Speaking of news omelettes, did anyone else who watched find Fox's news coverage (other than that stellar health piece, of course) mediocre at best and egregiously amateurish at worst? How about that piece on the women peacefully trying to live out her live on the Cape as a psychotherapist, now exposed by Fox's minions as a former stripper at the "Naked I" in Boston? I mean, is that segment really necessary, Fox?

I was actually encouraged by the level of inarticulateness on the part of various reporters (not Cara Jones, of course, who did my piece and was super sweet to me and so will meet with no criticism whatsoever), because this opens up yet another possible career avenue to me in the PDA (post-dissertation age) --news reporter! Why not? If these people can do it, there is NO reason I can't, after minimal amounts of training and perhaps a good recommendation from Cara Jones.

The weatherman in particular was semi-incoherent. It took me five minutes of painstaking attention before I could extract the only necessary piece of information: "four to six inches of snow on Monday." On that note, it is time for me to leave behind the glittering lights of broadcast journalism, return to prosaic civilian life, and go shovel out my car.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

A little joke for your Morning

(Thank you Kip Adams!)

Dear Abby,

My husband has a long record of money problems. He constantly runs up huge credit card bills. At the end of the month, if I try to pay them off, he shouts at me, saying I am stealing his money. He says pay the minimum and let our kids worry about the rest, but already we can hardly keep up with the interest.

Also he has been so arrogant and abusive toward our neighbors that most of them no longer speak to us. The few that do are an odd bunch, to whom he has been giving a lot of expensive gifts, running up our bills even more.

Also, he has gotten religious in a big way, although I don't quite understand it. One week he hangs out with Catholics and the next with people who say the Pope is the Anti-Christ. And now he has been going to the gym an awful lot and is into wearing uniforms and cowboy outfits, and I hate to think what that means.

Finally, the last straw. He's demanding that before anyone can be in the same room with him, they must sign a loyalty oath. It's just so horribly creepy!

Can you help?

Signed, Lost in DC


Stop whining, Laura. You can divorce the jerk any time you want.
The rest of us are stuck with him for four more years!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Peters Projection vs. Mercato ProjectionPosted by Hello

Mercator, Peters, & Me

Next time I get interviewed on Fox, I hope it's about maps. Why? Well, for starters, the map of the world in common use is ridiculously wrong. And there is another version of that map that is better, but no one uses it. And let's face it, a group of angry cartographers is just general good fun.

The Mercator Projection is the map of the world you have seen most of your life. (The map on the right, above.) It is flat, obviously, and stretched out, so that the entire earth can appear on one page. So is the Peters Projection (map on the left) but Peters attempts to draw land masses so that they appear closer to actual size. I know! You've always thought the world map we have now is just fine. Well, maybe it was fine for Mrs. Grinrod's third grade classroom (what you up to, Mrs. G?), but according to Arno Peters, who unveiled his alternate map in 1973, the Mercator Projection is inaccurate and racist.

Whoa--the race card! But what else can we call a map that makes the Western world (North America and Europe) appear large and prominent, while Africa, Asia, and South America are squashed down and shrunken to fit in where they can. It is a little weird that Greenland looks as big as China, isn't it?

Take a look at the maps again. Europe, in reality, is 3.8 million square miles. South America is 6.9 million miles square, nearly twice as big. You definitely wouldn't know it from the Mercator map. It's not just South America that gets short shrift, but anything south of the equator. On Mercator, the North looms over the South, appearing dominant as a result of its superior size. This despite the fact that the Southern part of the earth is almost twice as large as the Northern. I like backpacking in Prague as much as the next eternal college student, but it turns out Europe actually isn't the only place in the world.

The Mercator Projection was drawn up in 1569 (hardly a politically-correct era) for the sole purpose of ship navigation. Naturally, those swashbuckling map-makers paid absolutely no attention to relative sizes of country in making this map. And why should they? The Mercator map was made to show ships where they would end up if they sailed in a straight line, and it does. The problem came about a few centuries later when Rand McNally and friends decided to use Mercator for everything else.

So what about going with this Peters map, you ask? Why on earth (haha) isn't everyone using it? Well, the Peters Projection has some detractors of its own, like those who say Peters is just ripping off earlier mapmaker (and clergyman) James Gall, who proposed something similar in 1855. Another naysayer is prominent cartographer Arthur Robinson, who mean-spiritedly refers to the Peters map as "wet, ragged long winter underwear hung out to dry on the Arctic Circle." A little personal, but I guess you can see his point.

However, isn't the real point not aesthetics, but reality? And not who drew it first, but what do we have now? What does the world look like? How big are our continents? Those questions seem worth answering, if only because I'd rather see something that aims to be real, rather than familiar or just more pleasing to the eye.

Speaking of truth, it must be said that it is impossible to plot the spherical onto a flat plane without distortions. The sad fact is, our earth doesn't exactly look like the (Gall) Peters Projection either. But it's closer to the truth and it tries the hardest, and we like that. It also seems time for Greenland to be taken down a peg or two.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Posted by Hello

My Morning with Fox

I promised myself I wouldn't talk about the lipoma! Damn those ruthless journalists. They dragged it out of my somehow. Under the hot lights and my suddenly unfamiliar study, it all just came tumbling out. Ah well, I tried to be discreet ("small bump" I intoned, as opposed to "fatty benign tumor").

So it's good to be an expert for an hour. Two news-type-persons from Fox 25 showed up this morning toting enough equipment to fill up my little study in an instant. Curse my latent sexism for picturing a male cameraman! Both the camera operator and the reporter were women and super nice, as well as super quick to distance themselves from the questionable journalistic ethics of the Fox of yore. (something about a hidden camera in a hospital room??)

Last night I artfully arranged my dearest family pictures so they would show up in the background of my interview and cleaned several years worth of unidentified sticky substances off my computer monitor. Sadly, I forgot to clean my keyboard. Sadly because the camerawoman took several super close ups of my fingers typing on said keyboard where the tomato soup spatters stood out like a shot. Hey, this is real journalism, people, even if it's the zesty, creamy kind.

The "piece" (see my new journalism lingo!) is set to air on the ten o'clock news this Sunday night on Fox 25 for those of you in New England. They also interviewed an actual doctor for this story, which should provide a humorous "actual expert" versus gross amateur type scenario. Should be fun.

Monday, February 14, 2005

I'm No Expert, But...

Fox 25 news is coming to my house tomorrow morning to interview me as an expert user of online medical resources. Putting my knee-jerk negative reaction to anything Fox aside (the same network that brings you BOTH Bill O'Reilly and Tim McCarver, after all), I think it should be pretty fun. The fact that my "expertise" consists absolutely of my own a) curiosity, b) desperation or, c) late-night boredom is hopefully beside the point.

a) Curiosity: When my doctor tells me I have a "lipoma," but can tell me little else (thanks, BU medical center), I have to troll online for the other necessary information (lipoma=the most common benign growth of soft tissue, i.e. a non-cancerous lump of fat cells.) Eeewww, but good to know.

b) Desperation: When my sister calls from her semester abroad with an itchy eye and no easy access to a doctor, it's my job to make sure she doesn't have conjunctivitis. does the trick.

c) Late-night boredom: Those folks at are just a riot (see last posting). When bored, or eating a bowl of cereal, browse a bit on the topic of milk and prostrate cancer, milk and allergies, or milk and Alzheimer's. Some good stuff there at 3 am.

So, these days this makes me an expert! Apparently, anyone can be. In the meantime, I have to clean out my rat's nest of a study, hide the lipoma, and get presentable for the cameras. Gotta go.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Healthy? or Hormonal? Posted by Hello

Soylent Green is People

Okay: at the risk of sounding like a crazy hippie, I have to tell y'all to stop drinking milk already. At least American milk. Mixed in with the general crack-headedness of the folks over there at is some actual research telling us that the bovine growth hormone is not your friend. (i.e. cows too obese to stand up milked dozens of times a day as a result of chemical injections) No need to give up the Wheaties--soy, rice, and almond milk make perfectly nice, calcium-fortified substitutions. (Well, soy makes my lips all tingly, so I'm a rice girl myself.)

Did I mention that the bovine growth hormone is banned in Europe? A friend of mine I'll call "Paul" moved to the States a year ago, having drunk milk with happiness and success in England his entire life. After moving here, he had such terrible stomach problems that he saw several specialists to no avail. The only thing that ended his pain and suffering was the elimination of (American) dairy from his diet. The company providing and marketing most of the growth hormone, Monsanto, also walks on the dark side, flanked tightly by those legions of folks from the Dairy Board. I'm too swamped keeping up with our current administration to follow another organization's dirty tricks, but I hear they're meanies over there at Monsanto.

For an actual book on the subject (as opposed to my late-night rantings) check out this one from a former Medical Director at Johns Hopkins. No time for a whole book? Yeah, me neither. Just read this informative summary from a nice lady who's done all the research for you. And then put down that dirty bovine glass!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Normal hippo love Posted by Hello

Hippo Love

Even though most Americans are getting more obese by the minute,* the children of our nation are being sucked by their eyeballs into their t.v. sets on an hourly basis, people work too much and vote too much like idiots, and I have to live in a country where people think eating a plate of bacon is a sensible diet, I STILL KNOW there is goodness in the world after hearing of the baby hippo adopted by a 100 year old tortoise after the tsunami hit the shores of Mombasa, Kenya. I am not making this up. (Thanks to Jennifer Schooler for drawing it to my attention.)

"After it was swept and lost its mother, the hippo was traumatised. It had to look for something to be a surrogate mother. Fortunately, it landed on the tortoise and established a strong bond. They swim, eat, and sleep together" says the ecologist who knows about such things.

God bless the hippo, and goodnight.

*You thought this post was going to be about fat people having sex, didn't you? DIDN'T YOU?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Jason Varitek is excited for next season, too. Posted by Hello

Dry Spell's Over

A good friend asked me today if I was "excited" about the upcoming Red Sox season. (Yeah, it's an icy crusted frozen over hell in New England, but pitchers and catchers report in 14 days.) It's a valid question. Anytime over the last five years, this question was utterly unnecessary as it was assumed by everyone who knew me even a little bit that the answer was yes yes oh very excited red sox yes. But last year, we won the big bonanza. And it changes things, yeah, it does. So I want to explain it like this:

Maybe there's a guy going through a dry spell (sorry to be sexist ladies, but let's face it if a woman's going through a dry spell she doesn't have to do much to turn that shit around). A really long, really dry, we're talking years, really hard, dry spell. He know he's got good stuff, and he's gotten real close a couple of times, but the girl of his dreams just isn't giving it up for him.

But finally, finally! she fucks him. And it's amazing and powerful and better than anything he'd imagined alone in his bunk all those nights. And then camp ends and they go their separate ways for the year just like always. Now, is this guy excited for next summer? You bet he is. He's just a little less nervous and a little less sweaty--and god knows she's far from being a sure thing--but he's been there before, and he knows how the inside of her body feels, and for that reason he's going to walk into camp a little bit differently... ready to get that magic stirred up again.

So yeah, I'm excited.