Sunday, March 6

Thank you, Facebook Friend Finder, for existentially freaking me out 

So before I moved to Southern California in August 2007 to attend a graduate creative writing program at Chapman University, I worked for a few months as a reporter for a very small weekly county newspaper based near my hometown in Washington State. I had to write six stories a week: three on events happening in Everett, Washington and three on events happening in Mukilteo, Washington. Everett is the fourth-biggest city in the state and Mukilteo sits just west of Everett.

I had focused on features, reviews, and commentaries when I worked for The Daily Evergreen, the student newspaper at Washington State University, so the hard news stories I had to write for this county newspaper were much different and not always easy (that's why it's called hard news! ba-dum-ching). Specifically, when you write features, everyone wants to talk to you about their local business/charity event/art exhibit/performance/social gathering/etc. because they want the publicity. When you write hard news, people sometimes don't want to talk to you because they don't want the publicity if they're being asshats. This was...interesting for me, mostly because I hate cold-calling people and like it even less when I have a sneaking suspicion the person I'm cold-calling will yell at me and/or hang up on me.

What can I say? Some people are great journalists who can sense intriguing stories, have really thick skins, and possess a drive to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" -- and some of us are people-pleasers who just want to write about the museum photography exhibits and not get bitched at by some corporate slime or doze off at 8 a.m. city council meetings about road paving or tear up along with a distraught person crying over the phone and talking about how she's been evicted and/or has cancer and/or is suing the state MY GOD THIS IS THE WORST JOB EVER.....

Thankfully, I was accepted into the Chapman graduate program so I quit working for the newspaper, packed up my car and drove 1200 miles to Orange, California in the heart of Orange County. I lived blissfully in Orange for two years, soaking up the weather, writing to my heart's content, meeting my husband, and eating In-N-Out burgers at least once a week with the occasional Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles trip to Hollywood. After we graduated, my husband and I moved to Irvine, just south of Orange.

• • •

Last night, I was trying to find someone's profile on Facebook using the person's email address, and I decided to try the Friend Finder thingie that Facebook promotes ad nauseum on the right-hand side of everyone's homepage. I have the former newspaper job listed in my profile and one of the options with the Friend Finder is to search for people who work or have worked at your previous place of employment.

Since Facebook wasn't letting me find the person I wanted to find with the email address, I clicked the link for finding other employees at the county newspaper out of curiosity. The newspaper staff was very small, so I was surprised when two people popped up in the search results, both of whom are currently reporters.

So here's the existential freaky part:

There are two reporters -- one male and one female. I could see some information on both their profiles, given their privacy settings. The female reporter went to Washington State University, like I did, and now lives in the next town over from my hometown in Washington State. That seems reasonable and expected, given that the newspaper is written for my home county.

What does not seem reasonable, expected, or even freakishly possible is that the female reporter's hometown is Orange, California -- exactly where I moved when I left the newspaper to go to graduate school. Orange is not a huge city: the population is under 150,000 and it's next to the much larger cities of Anaheim and Santa Ana (both with populations over 300,000). In fact, Orange County is such a gerrymandering mess, that it's often difficult to tell which city you're actually in without a mailing address.

Seriously, what are the chances that:

• I would leave this tiny local newspaper to move to her hometown -- and now live essentially next door to it while...
• She would leave Orange, only to end up working at the same tiny local newspaper and living essentially next door to my hometown?

I have this weird feeling that Elton John is going to bust into my apartment at any moment, singing songs from The Lion King. It certainly wouldn't be any weirder than this coincidence.

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Thursday, February 4

You Learn Something New.... 

Be sure to check out my new blog "You Learn Something New," where I prove that you do, indeed, learn something new every day.


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Tuesday, December 29

"It's Christmas and we're all in misery." 

On Christmas day, former University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer decided he would retire from coaching and announced the decision to the press on December 26th. Because Florida is in the highly popular Southeastern Conference and the football team won the national championship in 2008, the head coaching job is horribly demanding and stressful. In his press release, Meyer cited health problems, including cyst-related chest pains and headaches, as the reason for the sudden retirement. He did not mention the recent 32-13 drubbing Florida took courtesy of the University of Alabama the weekend before to his announcement --- but I'm sure that had nothing to do with it.

After the announcement, Meyer told the New York Times he had no heart damage but that his health "pattern" was "self-destructive." Meyer also told the Times that, upon hearing the announcement, his 18-year-old daughter said, "I get my daddy back." And, honestly, what a great present. It's a feel-good Christmas miracle the whole family can enjoy.

Twenty-four hours later, on December 27th, Meyer announced Brett-Favre-style that he'd had a "change of heart" and, instead of resigning, would take an "indefinite" leave of absence. However, he hoped to be on the sidelines with Florida next season. During the December 27th press conference, Meyer said: "I want to make sure I do right by my family. My second family is my players and my staff. The love that I have for these players, I think that's well documented. Maybe one of the issues that I deal with is that I care so deeply about each individual."

But, Urban, what about your real family? The daughter who hugged you and said she finally has you back in her life? Isn't your biological family more important than your football family?

Then again, you don't have to spend the holidays living in close proximity with your football family --- and I think that's the crux of the issue here.

It's great to decide on Christmas morning --- as you're gathered around the tree in your Christmas PJs, opening presents, feeling all the warmth and love in the room --- that you want to retire and get away from all the stress to spend more time with your family.

Twenty-four hours later, when you've spent the whole day with The Fam and The Extended Fam, during the most stressful holiday of the entire year --- with screaming kids and relatives crammed into the spare bedrooms and a huge wall-to-wall mess from the gigantic turkey dinner in the kitchen --- you start to wonder if maybe this wasn't such a great idea after all. Maybe the headaches and chest pains caused by stress and rage aren't really going away --- especially if the extended Meyer family holiday celebrations are anything like my extended family's holiday celebrations. Talk about stress and rage.

I think it came down to the lesser of the two evils for Urban: staying at home or staying on the job. After spending a Christmas crammed in a house with my entire extended family, I know which one I'd choose….

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Friday, August 14

Things You Will and Will Not Do While Staying at Your Parents' House and Suffering Through 24 Hours of Severe Stomach Flu 

Things You Will Do
1) Throw up
2) "Throw up" even after there's nothing left in your stomach to actually throw up
3) Cry
4) Feel uncomfortably sweaty and hot
5) Feel uncomfortably sweaty and cold, complete with goosebumps from head to toe
6) Watch your usual Monday night TV shows (baseball, The Closer, Dance Your Ass Off) but become irritated both when The Closer makes you laugh because it hurts to laugh and that girl on Dance Your Ass Off won't shut up about how awesome she is. God, you hate that girl.
7) Read an entire book on Feng Shui
8) Find yourself unable to walk more than 10 steps without having to stop and either sit down or lie down because you're too nauseated and dizzy
9) Unbeknownst to you, begin to withdraw from some of your prescription medications because you slept for about 20 hours the day before (while you were getting sick) and didn't absorb enough medication when you did take it because you threw up too soon afterward --- and have now gone about 48 hours without any medications
10) Have your mom tuck you into a blanket nest in an armchair with the hope that you can sleep there because you can't sleep in your bed without being overwhelmed by nausea. Call your mother "Mommy" despite being almost 30 years old.
11) Fail to sleep in the armchair
12) Ask your dad to tell you stories about growing up/working on his family's wheat farm to take your mind off the sweating, chills and killer nausea
13) Talk about your dad's childhood family pets
14) Attempt to recite the Gettysburg Address with your dad again to take your mind off your physical pain
15) Fail to actually recite it because it's been over 20 years since you memorized it for a school project
16) Sing a fair number of the Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits album with your dad because he used to sing songs from it to you when you were a baby/toddler and he rocked you to sleep in the rocking chair
17) Realize that, 25-plus years later, you still know ninety percent of the words to Kenny Rogers' "Lucille," "The Long Arm of the Law," and "Ruby (Don't Take Your Love to Town)"
18) Become semi-delusional because you begin feeling like you're sitting in a massage chair when you are, in fact, lying perfectly still on your bed. Something is causing an overall tingling/twitching feeling in your extremities
19) Feel incapable of lying still because the pins-and-needles sensations are too painful
20) Feel incapable of stopping your teeth from chattering because of the chills
21) Alternate within a five-minute timespan of telling someone to call 911, deciding it would be best to go to the urgent care clinic instead, and demanding that they just give you your goddamn medications because maybe you can actually force your stomach to not throw up long enough for the medication to absorb and stop some of the possible withdrawal symptoms
22) Spill anti-nausea liquid all over yourself and your bedsheets; the liquid is red and, as it soaks into your t-shirt, you realize it looks like blood
23) Have a disjointed conversation with an EMT who is wearing, you think, yellow-tinted glasses
24) Find you are incapable of putting on a jacket
25) Show up to both an urgent care clinic and an emergency room unshowered with unwashed hair and no deodorant wearing your plaid pajama pants, flip flops, a beat-up zip-up hoodie that's too big for you and a recently-stained, previously-holey, sweat-drenched 15-year-old t-shirt advertising a now-defunct college football bowl game. In essence, looking like a homeless person.
26) Inform the triage nurse at the urgent care clinic that you are not overdosing, you're withdrawing from medication. Curl up in a ball on the bench where you're sitting immediately thereafter.
27) Retain consciousness throughout the entire day but find yourself unable to make eye contact or fully verbalize your thoughts because lifting your head and moving your mouth too much make you feel like you're going to throw up. In essence, become despondent and make multiple people think you might be passing out
28) Be carried by EMTs
29) Ride in a wheelchair
30) Marvel at the promptness of the ER (I know, right?)
31) Inform the triage nurse at the ER that the red stains on your shirt are antinausea medication, not blood
32) Have your first-ever IV drip
33) Complain about how thirsty you are
34) Complain about how hungry you are
35) Complain about the IV needle in your arm and how much it hurts
36) Ask the nurse which word is more appropriate: "nauseated" or "nauseous"
37) Have your blood pressure taken five times in two hours. Top out at 114/70
38) Wish you had something to read because it's boring sitting in the hospital while your IV bag drains
39) Decide that one door in the ER is connected to a tape recorder that makes the sound of a child crying every time the door is opened
40) Be discharged from the ER after two hours, rehydrated and finally non-nauseated

Things You Will Not Do
1) Sleep
2) Eat
3) Drink liquids of any kind

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Monday, February 9

Roscoe's Non-Chicken, No Waffling 

So after Ben and I saw The Phantom of the Opera yesterday at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, we went to an early dinner nearby at Roscoe's Chicken 'n Waffles, legendary for its...wait for it...chicken and waffles. Seriously, though, the Scoe's #1 — 1/4 fried chicken and two waffles made from their homemade mix — is to-die-for. And they have lots of other great Southern-style food: grits, collard greens, cornbread, biscuits, all that good stuff.

As we drive down Gower Street toward the restaurant, we see this huge charter bus parked a half-block away from Roscoe's with about 15 people standing around on the sidewalk next to the bus, hugging and laughing. Ben and I wonder aloud what a charter bus from Santa Barbara full of rich white people is doing in downtown Hollywood (why not in Beverly Hills?) but whatever...maybe they went to Phantom too.

So we park and as we walk up to the restaurant, we see that the charter bus people are walking toward the restaurant as well. Uh-oh.

Now the building set-up for the Hollywood Roscoe's Chicken 'n Waffles is well-designed to keep the riff-raff out. The restaurant has two adjoining dining areas and two doors: the entrance is in the smaller dining area and the exit/cash register is in the larger one. So when you walk up to the entrance with its nondescript door and very small entryway, it looks like you're at a total dive, because you can't see the second dining room. The restaurant uses the small entryway to its advantage by keeping most of the waiting guests outside until the host seats them and occasionally roping off the entrance if the waiting people get too pushy.

Ben and I slide inside just ahead of the tour group and get our names on the list right before one of the tour group guys in his swanky leather jacket says: "We need a table for 30." Ben and I both look at each other like "Where does he think he is? A banquet hall?"

The host this afternoon is an African-American kid, probably in his early 20s, who doesn't look particularly imposing since he's pretty lanky (plus he's wearing the Roscoe's uniform of dress pants and the logo polo shirt). However, he's got some sort of neck tattoo and has clearly worked at Roscoe's for awhile because as he takes names down for the waiting list, he lays down the law. "We're gonna seat you guys at three tables of 10. It's gonna be about 20 minutes," he tells the Leather Jacket Tour Guy. And before LJTG can say anything else, the kid walks away to help clear off tables.

It's a smart move on the host's part because if he stands there, LJTG is just going to keep bugging him about when the tables are ready. As it is, the tour people are cranky because it's only 56 degrees today in L.A. and there's a wind chill and they have to wait outside. And they keep opening the door, holding it open and trying to see what's going on while the rest of us who are waiting inside are subjected to the cold air.

Periodically, the host comes back to check on the waiting crowd and see if anyone else needs to get on the list. Every time he does however, the tour people do, in fact, start bugging him:

"Do you have a place inside we could wait?"
"Is there a bar we can sit at?"
"Do you know how long it will be?"
"What's going on with our table?"

After a couple rounds of this, with the host reiterating that they do serve beer but they don't have a bar, that it will be 20 minutes for the table and that they're sitting at three tables of 10, he gets fed up, ropes off the entrance and walks away. The tour people act all put out by this egregious offense and continue to hold the door open letting in all the cold air.

When the host comes back, I ask him quietly if he can make the tour people close the door and he agrees, unclipping the rope, stepping outside, clipping it back again and telling the tour group that they need to wait with the door closed.

He gets back inside, re-clips the rope and gets the door closed only to have it open again to some gray-haired lady with a heavy accent, asking if she can use the bathroom. She's also part of the tour group. When the host relents, unclips the rope and lets her use the bathroom, everyone else in the tour group jumps on that bandwagon, again holding the door open to plead their cases:

"Oh I need the bathroom too."
"Can we just use the bathroom?"
"We just want to go to the restroom."

After five people pull this trick, the host clips the rope authoritatively and says, "No one else is using the bathroom until you've been seated." Then he makes them shut the door again and walks away. But when some plasticized lady, who hadn't heard his admonishment, opens the door and finds him gone, she reaches in, unclips the rope herself, steps inside and walks to the bathroom.

That was where I just about lost it. I wanted to open up the door and shout at the people: "You are the rudest tour group I have ever seen — and that includes tour groups from Japan. You have a warm charter bus, which I'm 99% sure has a bathroom, sitting half a block from here. If you're cold, sit on the bus until your table is ready. If you have to use the bathroom, go use the one on your goddamn charter bus. But most of all, stop holding open this door and letting all the cold air in so everyone else who is already in here is freezing. And stop being such total assholes."

Fortunately, Ben and I got a table a couple minutes later so I was able to restrain myself. But we were seated near the door and continued to watch the spectacle. As the host walked back to the door to let the first group of 10 inside, I was able to better see his tattoo: a rather large elaborate skull covering almost the entire left side of his neck.

And as the first 10 members of the group filed in, including LJTG, I wanted to stand up and yell: "Please tell the rest of your asshole tour group that the host as a skull tattooed on his neck and they probably shouldn't fuck with him anymore."

I think my waffles might have tasted even sweeter if I'd actually said it....

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Saturday, January 31

Stuck in the Middle 

So yesterday a California judge ruled the names of people who donated to Proposition 8 (the one that wipes legal gay marriage off the books) couldn't be shielded from the public records.

And here's what a jackass for Protect Marriage (the group that sponsored the measure) said to the judge during the hearing (as quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle):

By requiring disclosure, "The government is getting in the middle (of the issue) and saying, 'Here are the people to go after,'" Richard Coleson, a lawyer for the committee, [said].


Gee, I never thought that putting a moral issue on a government ballot and having the public vote on it would put the government in the middle of everything!

Be careful what you wish for, Dick C. You just might get it....

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Monday, January 26

The Truth of the Matter 

I wrote this a few years ago for some sportswriting scholarship contest that I didn't win. However, when I stumbled across it this morning and read it again, I thought it might be worth showing to someone besides the selection committee:

My love of sports began with baseball — Grandma has been a Braves fan since 1953. The love was cultivated with the Cougar football family vacations — Hawaii, the Aloha Bowl and Mike Utley at age eight; Arizona, the Copper Bowl and Drew Bledsoe when I was twelve. My love of sports multiplied spreading to hockey, gymnastics, basketball, horse racing and ice skating. I love sports and I love sport — the concept, the essence, the metaphor of our existence.

My love of sportswriting, however, began with bowling. More specifically, when Frank Deford went bowling in Sports Illustrated’s article "Frank Deford Goes Bowling."

Until college, I took my writing ability for granted. Teachers complimented me on my essays and stories but I didn’t think I was much better than many of my peers. Effective writing was standard in my house; my parents were English teachers and it was a given that one wrote as if one’s livelihood depended on it. Writing was fine but I had no desire to live my parents’ life — I had other plans.

For three-fourths of my college career, I questioned why English literature and theater and psychology became ultimately unsatisfactory majors. After briefly leaving college, due to poor health and severe indecision, I realized what I had been missing. My livelihood truly did depend on writing.

Most writing students prefer fiction but, in my first attempts, I struggled with character development and plot choices. Everything I wrote seemed so artificial — the reader already knew I was "making it all up."

I perused pieces I’d written in the past — pieces written strictly for my own enjoyment — and I saw the pattern of nonfictional accounts. In my spare time, I had drafted an essay reflecting on Edgar Martinez’s eighteen-year career with the Seattle Mariners, analyzing the sense of clarity his retirement brought me: what would I remember eighteen years from now? Certainly Martinez’s last at-bat. Certainly not the trivial turmoil that seemed so important today.

My first published sports article covered the Yankees’ June 2005 losing streak, suggesting the Bronx Bombers represented a trend in America: extreme capitalism’s rise and fall. When the article ran nationally at Collegesports.com, I knew my decision to write again was probably a sound one. However, every sportswriter can cover the Yankees, Barry Bonds, the pitches, the touchdowns, the free-throws, the scores.

Sportswriting is more than sports. Sportswriting captures the theater of sport portraying the performances on an enormous stage: both the playing field and the public eye. Sportswriting captures the psychology of sport, digging deep into the thought behind of each action, each interaction. Most importantly, sportswriting — effective sportswriting — captures the humanity of sport: the people who occasionally wear the label of "athlete" and how lives are forever affected by, essentially, games. The Yankees commentary was a start but I can do more than scratch that worn surface.

Frank Deford sets out "to examine bowling academically," two words which, most likely, never resided side-by-side until that article. Deford then examines passionately, thoughtfully, painstakingly — other adverbs that wouldn’t be found next to “bowling” under normal circumstances.

I want to push past the normal circumstances, the game recaps and the milquetoast questions. I want the true stories in sport: the bowler in America’s heartland, the player forever loyal to a losing team. I love sportswriting because it is the truth and, for me, truth is better than fiction.

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Tuesday, December 23

No Fighting Irish here... 

So word on the street is that the Cleveland Browns are dealing "in house" with a donnybrook in the weight room between face-of-the-franchise quarterback (former Notre Dame Fighting Irishman) Brady Quinn and defensive tackle (former South Carolina Gamecock) Shaun Smith. Apparently, Smith punched Quinn in the face.

Now I'm all for people standing up for themselves and "[not taking] shit from anybody," as Billy Joel would say. But I also don't think the average person confronts professional football lineman on a regular basis. If Quinn really did set out to get into a fistfight with Smith after they exchanged words, you have to wonder if Quinn had been hit in the head by something else prior to the fight.

Because Shaun Smith weighs 325 pounds. He's certainly not afraid of some 235-pound pretty-boy quarterback. And if Quinn had processed all this and was still high on adrenaline, pissed about losing again (despite being injured) and looking for a fight, attempting to stare down this:

...might make you think twice. Dude, this guy shoves people around for a living.

I have a feeling that, ultimately, there were two hits: Shaun hitting Brady and Brady hitting the floor.

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Sunday, November 23

In Plain Cite 

If you're anything like me, you've gone to college and, at one point during your time in college, had to write a paper using Modern Language Association (MLA) formatting. And I'll bet you half your college tuition that you can't remember how to cite a single item in a Works Cited page off the top of your head right now. No, no — don't go look it up. It's totally fine. In fact, I can tell you off the top of my head now how to cite a single basic book. I know because I did it the other day at work:

Author Last Name, Author First Name. _Title_. Publishing Co. City: Publishing Co., Year published. Page numbers, if applicable.

...And that is the extent of my offhand MLA knowledge.

That's the thing: we can't remember because we shouldn't have to remember because the whole concept of Works Cited/References/Bibliographies is pretty much useless outside of academia and research. And if you're in one of those fields, you will constantly have access to guides that will tell you how to cite whatever it is that you need to cite.

So why should you have to remember?

Furthermore, even if you tried to remember, you would probably FAIL because MLA is just one of several citation formats. The American Psychology Association decided that, for some reason, the MLA wasn't good enough for them and made their own citation format (APA) that's used by some of the social and hard sciences — except for sociology which has its own format (ASA).

So while MLA would cite one of my Theory of Teaching books this way:
Rafoth, Ben, ed. _A Tutor's Guide: Helping Writers One to One_. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 2005.

The APA would cite it this way:

Rafoth, Ben (ed.). (2005). A tutor's guide: Helping writers one to one (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.

You see the difference? Yeah, me either.

Then the University of Chicago decided neither one of the previous formats did their anthro and and history writers justice and wrote the Chicago Manual of Style — which has two different systems within its one format: the humanities system and the author-date system. Plus, Chicago says you can cite one text in various ways depending on what you're doing. An example (and a link for reference):

I am not making this up.

It's just so goddamn arbitrary — and why in the world do we, as academics and researchers, need at least five different citation systems? Doesn't one appropriately convey the information needed for citation? I mean, they all seem to cover the same material.

And as a result of puzzling over this for at least 45 minutes with my Theory of Teaching class last week, I decided to invent my own manual of citation. I mean, associations and universities seem to not care one way or the other if an adequate system already exists so why should I?

Here — for the first time ever published — are the Bartlett Citation Manual rules:

List the items below in your citation in order of the list given here. Put a smiley-face emoticon between each item except for the author name — you should put an exclamation mark after the author's name.
So taking an article from the same book I cited twice earlier, one should write a Bartlett citation like this:

2005 :) (Key the is Focus: Ideas Organizing) L.; Alice; Trupe! _A tutor's guide: Helping writers one To one_ :) Ben "King Raftastic" Rafoth :) _Portsmouth, NH_ :) Boynton/Cook :) Up-To-Date 2005 :) 13.190906 :) B+ :)

Simple enough, right?

Addendum: I would have posted this last week right after the class discussed it but it took me so long to actually cite something using those old systems that I had to take a week-long break and then come back. Thank God for the Bartlett Citation Manual!

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Thursday, October 23

I Don't Know What That Is.... 

My semi-photographic, fully-auditory, steel-trap memory is both a blessing and a curse. I should have figured this out long ago but it only now just occurred to me.

You see, I absolutely heart the show Arrested Development to the point where I have memorized various quotes and large chunks of dialogue almost involuntarily after watching the episodes repeatedly. And when various situations in life remind me of the show, my memory kicks in and automatically spouts off a quote or bit of dialogue.

For example (click on the links for the references in context):

While watching the Vice Presidential Debate...
SARAH PALIN: Blah blah Joe Six-pack blah [winks at camera]
ME: I wonder how I can talk her out of ever making that face again. (1 min. into clip)

Giving a presentation in class on the book Invisible Cities...
ME: So the stories in the novel can be charted to emulate skyscrapers. Of course, in Venice, they can only build up not out.
JERK IN CLASS: But what if you made your chart going horizontally instead of vertically.
ME desparately wanting to say: Maybe you should make land. On the ocean. There's no land on the ocean. (30 sec. in)
ME actually saying: Because Venice can't build out — only up [narrowing eyes in icy stare].

My mom is cleaning out the refrigerator...
MOM: Whose...Latin food is this?
ME: It's not just Latin food, Mom, it's my Latin food....and I think it's Colombian or something.

After our ex-roommate stole our ice cream scoop...
BOYFRIEND: If it's really bothering you, I'll buy you another one.
ME: She can't just go buy her own?! It's an ice cream scoop! What could it cost? Ten dollars?

The problem, of course, is that not a lot of people have seen Arrested Development (hence why it's no longer airing). So the quotes and dialogue go over the heads of these people which is a little disappointing since I know many, many people would enjoy the show if they would just watch a couple episodes.

But the part where I realized that my memory was even more of a curse, was when I noticed that several of my friends and family who have seen the show don't pick up on the quotes or dialogue; they don't remember the scenes word-for-word like my auditory memory allows me to.

So while I'm hanging out with people who've seen several episodes, I crack what I think is a hilarious inside joke about "girls with low self-esteem" or "a FIRE!...sale..." or "No more B.S.!" or "figuring out a way to make money while I'm working!"


Occasionally, people chuckle when I say, "You know...Arrested Development." But it really doesn't have the same effect. And I don't like hating my memory but it's not exactly helpful in these situations.

I guess in the coming years, as Arrested Development continues to not produce shows and fewer and fewer people will have even heard of the program, perhaps I'll get tired of the all this funny business.

But until then, life is an endless array of mundane instances that only I find funny and, as a result, a steady stream of odd looks and awkward smiles that ultimately say: "I don't know what that is...and I don't care to find out." (@ 5:45 in).

Addendum: Last summer when I was preparing to get married in the Catholic church, the priest was describing the ceremony and explained that the part of the ceremony where you actually become legally married (called the rite of marriage in the ceremony) is only ten minutes long. I literally had to bite my tongue because I almost automatically said, "See if you can get it down to five."

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Sunday, September 28

Green Thirty-seven! Blue Fifty-two! ....Heidi? 

Ben and I couldn't remember why CBS and FOX stopped showing two NFL games each on Sundays (because they used to) and so we moseyed over to Wikipedia.

In the Wiki description of the licensing contracts and how the media markets are determined, the phrase "Heidi Game" was mentioned. Neither one of us had heard of that reference, so we clicked the link.

In a nutshell, here's what we found: On November 17, 1968, the Jets were playing the Raiders in Oakland on NBC (this would be the Oakland Raiders Part I; in 1982 they moved and became the Los Angeles Raiders, then moved back to become the Oakland Raiders Part II in 1995. Thanks, Al Davis, for that big waste of time).

The game was considered a big matchup because both teams were at 7-2 and it did not disappoint. However, NBC had scheduled Heidi, a made-for-TV movie based on the children's novel, to air at 7 p.m. EST, assuming the game — which started at 4 p.m. — would be finished. NBC's contract with the movie's sponsor, Timex, stated the film would run from 7 to 9 p.m. and the network executives told the broadcast supervisor to cut from the game to Heidi at exactly 7 p.m.

With 1:05 left in regulation at nearly 7 p.m., the Jets scored a field goal to go ahead 32-29 and the Raiders returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 23-yard line. NBC went to commercial and the executives attempted to contact the station in Burbank to request that the broadcast remain with the game. However, the execs were unable to get through since thousands of viewers were also calling NBC, asking that the football game be aired in its entirety.

Thus, at 7 p.m. NBC came back from commercial and began airing Heidi — while the Raiders scored two touchdowns in three plays: a reception with a penalty, a 43-yard run for one touchdown and a fumble and recovery for the second touchdown on the ensuing kickoff to the Jets. The Raiders won 43-32 but the majority of America saw goats in the Alps.

Here, however, is my very very favorite part of this whole debacle, from the Wikipedia article:

"At 7:20 pm, a crawl across the bottom of the screen announced the ending to the game (during a dramatic point in the movie when Heidi's paralyzed cousin Clara fell from her wheelchair and had to summon enough courage to try to walk)."

Now we all know it's horrible to laugh at paralyzed people and so let me tell you that I am not laughing at Clara being paralyzed or falling out of her wheelchair (or the unfortunate use of the word "crawl" in that excerpt).

No, what I'm laughing at as I read that line over and over again is the mental image of the sickening dissonance that permeated the room when the Oakland Raider fan in Detroit cheered upon seeing the bulletin, only to have his eight-year-old daughter burst into tears because she thought her dad was laughing at poor Clara crumpled on the ground. (Or, alternatively, the dad in Queens who starts swearing just as Clara pulls herself up and begins walking).

Don't believe me? Watch this (the sickening dissonance part is just after the 2:45 mark). And don't miss the part about angry viewers blowing out the switchboards at the New York City Police Department.

Man.... Truth really is stranger than fiction.

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Thursday, September 25

A Musing Thought 

Here's a great one:

This week, ABC Television is promoting their season premieres as part of a National Stay-At-Home Week, implying, of course, that one should stay at home and find out what's happening this season on ABC shows (the network would add an "!" after this sentence but that's not happening here).

While I enjoy watching Dancing With the Stars and Pushing Daisies, I wasn't too sure about this whole "promote lethargy!" ad campaign. Then I saw the announcement for the new ABC special airing September 30th — at the tail end of National Stay-at-Home Week:

Half Their Size "!": The People Magazine Weight Loss Challenge

Of course, the premiere promo logo is slapped on the end of the ad.

How do you spell "irony"? A-B-C.

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Tuesday, September 16

Three Things I Think I Think Today 

(Taking a page from Peter King with the title...)

1. As I was driving home from class, taking my usual route through a nice residential middle-class neighborhood, I noticed a jet black Lexus towncar with tinted windows parked next to the driveway of a nondescript two-story house. As I got closer, I saw that the license plate of the towncar read: "4HITMEN"

So if that had been my nondescript two-story house I was driving up to and if I hadn't called those people, I would make the fastest U-turn this world has ever seen and never go home again.

2. I've noticed that my university is posting flyers with lots of contacts and help information for victims of sexual assault. This would be wonderful — if the place the information was posted wasn't inside the women's bathroom stalls.

I understand some of the apparent reasoning behind it: if women are afraid of others finding out they've been sexually assaulted, they need somewhere private to read the information. But then there's this great thing called school e-mail where everyone has a private account and doesn't have to go sit on a toilet in the second-floor bathroom in Random University Hall to get the information through their email.

Furthermore, the first thing the flyer states is: Make sure you're in a safe place.

....Yeah. For most women who have been sexually assaulted, a "safe place" is not a public bathroom if the actual door to the bathroom (and not just the stall) can't be locked. So, if you are supposed to take the flyer's information literally, you would read the first line and leave the bathroom — missing all the other important information on the flyer.

Finally, is there a particular reason these flyers are only in the bathroom stalls and nowhere remotely visible on campus? Are people really that sensitive to the topic of sexual assault and so we're still stuck in the Stone Age and Not Talking About It? Or, even worse, is there something we need to know about sexual assaults in campus bathrooms that the school isn't telling us? Because if that's the real problem, I don't want to know what information someone needs after a sexual assault. I want to know where I sign up to help track down the asshole rapist before he assaults anyone else and if I get to kick him in the balls when he gets arrested.

3. Every single day, something reminds me of the apparent truth that "time is money." Because it totally is. I was sick on Monday so I couldn't get to school early enough to make copies of my manuscripts for class using my printing quota. I decided that hitting up the Kinko's between my house and school was the best way to get my copies and make sure I wasn't late for class. Copies were 9¢ per page and I copied about 350 pages. Then I hopped in the car and drove the rest of the way to school, arriving in class just as everyone was getting seated.

Later, my housemate, who's also in the class, told me that the Staples two blocks north of the Kinko's offers copies for 8¢ per page. So I had to explain that if I'd had more time I would have gone somewhere else and saved money — but since I was sick and didn't want to be late to class, I had to go to the copy place that was fastest and on the most direct route between our house and school.

Had I gone to Staples, I would have saved over three dollars on my copies. Had I used my school printing quota (almost all 400 pages of it), and probably waited in line to use one of the school printers, I would have saved almost ten bucks.

Time is money. If I want more time, I spend more money. If I want more money, I spend more time.

(And while the copy story is good, my all-time favorite example of the "time is money" concept has to be packaged shredded cheese.)

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Monday, August 18

Gut Instincts 

I still struggle with sugar/carb cravings and have a very hard time ignoring my stomach when it begs for ice cream, pastries or cookies. I know this isn't optimal for my overall health since I'm hypoglycemic and insulin resistant which can lead to Type II diabetes. Yeah, that six-hour glucose tolerance test complete with tremors, belching and exhaustion was good times. And I never want to go through that kind of thing on a regular basis as I might with Type II diabetes.

But while I rightly try to ignore my stomach's pleas for candy, sometimes I wrongly ignore the other gut instincts...and I always end up paying the price.

I found a doctor in Washington who did more extensive hormone testing than most — since I also have crappy hormones which I wanted to get checked. However, this doctor, Dr. R, seemed more concerned with my sugar cravings. He correctly pointed out that insulin resistence and hormone problems are often co-morbid. So against the protests of my gut (it's just the addiction talking, right?), I agreed to do a particularly disgusting body-fluid test and, when that came back positive, try a protocol to help curb the cravings. I would get my system more used to eating protein, veggies and small amounts of natural sugars and dairy — instead of the other way around. And not only would this help with the cravings but I wouldn't be "eating my way to diabetes" as I always say of some other people....

The protocol was OK — until I discovered that one of the medications Dr. R prescribed did not play nicely with the sleep-cycle medication I've been taking for several years. And Dr. R knew about my medications from my very first appointment.

He had already irritated me with his condescending tone and offhand comments. And with his semi-obsessive need to do allergy testing — regardless of me saying that my allergies acted up in Washington but not California and that I had no food allergies. This guy was on a mission to do exactly what he wanted to do and not really listen to the patient. And when I showed a very mild reaction to dairy foods (and nothing else), he was convinced that I should eliminate dairy from my diet altogether:

"Do you eat dairy?" he asked me.
"Yes, I eat dairy for the protein," I told him, implying that I intentionally did so to help my blood sugar issues and not "just 'cause."
"Well, protein comes in a lot of forms," he told me — as though I was five years old. "Meats, eggs, pinto beans, soy..."

At this point I wanted to interrupt and say, "Yes, but haven't you heard that soy screws up your hormones if you have high estrogen which I do?" Alas, I refrained. He wouldn't have cared anyway since hormone testing, which I had specifically requested, was the last thing on his mind.

So this latest development with the drug interaction just further confirmed my suspicions that Dr. R wasn't all that. And when I brought the drug interaction to his attention, he asked if I could stop taking the sleep-cycle drug and "just take a Tylenol PM" while I was on the medication he prescribed.

...Yeah. What a great idea.

Guess I'll trust my gut next time even if it is addicted to sugar. And never let anyone but Dr. N prescribe extensive medications for me.

Speaking of Dr. N: The efficiency and effectiveness of Dr. R's office staff and answering service leaves something to be desired. Sure, they respond quickly to a phrase like "drug interaction" because that can lead to phrases like "in a coma" and "filing a lawsuit." But try a phrase like "lab results" or "reschedule my appointment" or "why doesn't he listen to my requests as a patient?" and it goes in one ear and out the other.

Dr. N's staff, on the other hand, takes notes when I call, immediately gives him messages and returns my calls in a "timely fashion." In fact, Dr. N led an international medical delegation to China and still found time to check his messages several times a week while he was gone.

Honestly. Priorities, Dr. R. Priorities.

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Tuesday, August 12

Story Problem(s) 

If it takes me one half-hour to write one page of my thesis that I consider satisfactory and one half-hour to edit each thesis page, how many days will it take me to complete a 200-page thesis?

Show your work below:

So, if I remain at a constant rate in thesis writing, a 200-page thesis (a collection of 10 short stories at 20 pages per story) will take me 100 hours.

Subtract about 30 hours for the pages I've already written, then add in 100 for the editing process for a grand total of 170 hours to write and edit my thesis.

Since a day is comprised of 24 hours, search multiples of 24 to find the number closest to 170. 24 multiplied by 7 is 168. It will take me 7 days and 2 hours to complete my entire thesis... if I write 24/7.

ANSWER: Break out the No-Doz and let's get cracking!

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