Thursday, December 29, 2005

Emergency Grassroots Action Needed!

This just in from Wonkette: (ok, maybe it's two days old, but whatcha gonna do, I was on vacation!)

San Diegans think their panda baby is cuter.

Stick up for the Stick by e-mailing your vitriolic comments in.

Su Lin?????? What the hell kind of name is that? I'll tell you. It's a hick name: Suelynn. It's just dressed up with vaguely Asian orthography to look Chinese. I bet Suelynn the panda ends up in the back woods of Montana, chainsmoking in a shack and writing terrorist manifestos against the government.

All that said, for everyone crying that 2005 was so awful and that the world is about to explode, c'mon- two baby pandas in one year? If If that's not some reassurance from the universe, I don't know what is.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Maine

(N.B. I originally wrote this on Christmas Eve, but am just getting around to posting...

Christmas is here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
At right, Jed demonstrates how to be a penguin in the snow- we watched March of the Penguins on Christmas Eve and stayed up all night making penguin noises and demonstrating through the use of shadow puppets the regurgitation process of feeding baby penguins.

The picture at the left shows Jeremiah, Wayne, Nana, Jed, Chris, me and Anahita on our hike through the woods Christmas morning.

I'm spending five days in Maine, enjoying the Merchant-Borna-Pajuhesh-Davis-Johnson-Richards-Scott-Kelley clan Christmas.

Yesterday, I got up at 4:00 in the morning. The Object was kind enough to wake me up and drive me to the airport, where I arrived just in time to miss my flight to Boston. No worries, I took the next flight out, and caught my bus to Augusta right on time.

As soon as I arrived, Anahita, my picked me up. As we drove out of the parking lot, I changed out of my sweats into fancy churchy clothes. Yes, I went to Church! But not Catholic Church, crazy Protestant Church, United Church of Christ. The church doesn't even have a church-y sounding name, like Our Lady of Guilt and Eternal Sorrow- it has a classic Maine name, Old South. The last time I was in this Church was three years ago for Chris and Wayne's wedding (Anahita's mom and stepdad, respectively). I was scantily clad then with a one shoulder shirt and a punky skirt- it was a wedding! This time, I was also overdressed and fairly scantily clad in my clothes from my date with The Object the night before. I had packed at one in the morning after a few drinks- the clothes seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm still pulling some fairly curious things out of my bag- at least I remembered the presents.

I sat in between Anahita and her little brother, Kian, for the service. Kian is a junior in college and has far better things to do than attend church once a year. As soon as the service began, he busted out his cell phone and started text messaging. I'm not one to judge- maybe he was giving the play-by-play of the service to his friends who couldn't attend.

I doubt it.

The procession began with a group of women walking down the aisle playing tambourines in a rhythmic-like fashion. They wore all black, tinsel and, as all true Maine women do, each of them wore some form of the latest trendy comfort shoes- Danskos, Merrills, Crocs, etc. One of the things I appreciate about Mainers is that they do not mess around with footwear. In any case, the minister invoked an opening prayer in which Jesus was casually mentioned. To complete the opening, a group of families from the parish got up to sing God Surprise. Apparently in Protestant church, they sing less about Jesus and more about casserole.

After some more praying and singing, we got to hear the Christmas story. In the Catholic Church of my childhood, this was a pretty quick affair- you sat and listened to a reading from the old testament, a psalm and a reading from the New Testament. Then you stood and heard a reading from the Gospel. In Protestant Church, it's trickier affair- you sit for a reading and then stand for a hymn, sit for a reading, stand for a hymn, etc. This goes on for quite some time. It's a pretty tedious affair; after the third sit/stand set, Kian remarked aloud with disgust, "You have GOT to be kidding me." I can't actually tell you what the readings were about- maybe Jesus? Birth? I'm pretty sure the gist of the story hasn't changed over the last 2,000 years, so Ani and I leafed ahead through the hymns to work out the alto parts. Let me tell you, it's been a long time since part-reading classes. We got some funny looks. We finally nailed one- Angels We Have Heard on High. When we high-fived Chris gave us the evil eye and told us to behave (we secretly may have been chit-chatting a bit, too. I decided church was the most appropriate place to tell Anahita about the Christmas present I received from my boss- a gift basket full of, um, well, let's just say very, very personal body lotions).

To close the service, the congregation stood in a circle around the Church, lit candles and sang Silent Night and Let There Be Peace on Earth. And as the boys of the youth ministry tried to set each other on fire with their candles and Ani and I harmonized to God only knows what song, the church was washed in the peace of Christmas and tears stood in my eyes at the beauty of it all.

Then a guy came in too early singing Joy To the World, and we all pointed and laughed at him.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Root Canal

Was not actually that bad.

The appointment was for 3:30, and I had pills I was supposed to take at 3:00. I completely forgot the pills until about 3:25, and began freaking out a bit at work. When I left the office, I was begging people to kill me. By the time I reached the dentist's office, across the street, I was just fiiiiiiiiiine. Those little pills work fast!

Dr. Martin named her practice Compassionate Comprehensive Dentistry, and she works really hard at keeping up her reputation for being a sweetie. I sat down in the massage-y chair, and she gave me a shot of novocaine. Then another. And another. She drilled for a second, saw me wince a bit (it felt cold, which apparently means that the nerve is still feeling something) and then gave me another shot. This went on for a bit, until I'd had 7 shots all together, some directly into the tooth canal.

I popped on my iPod and initially put on Bloc Party- huge mistake. An album called "Silent Alarm" is not what you want to listen to when undergoing major dentistry and you're secretly afraid of the dentist (at least she doesn't have fish in her office!). I put on the least threatening thing on my iPod- John Denver and the Muppets singing Christmas songs.

There's minimal drilling involved in a root canal. It's a process that saves the tooth after the nerve has, for whatever reason, been destroyed by cleaning out the nerve and the bacteria that lives there. Different teeth have different amounts of canals. Dr. Martin was working on my molar all the way in the back, which had three canals. That nifty little picture shows a root canal file. They're made from titanium and start out incredibly narrow and get wider. They do exactly what they sound like they do- the file into the canal of your tooth to get out all the nerves and tooth detritus. It's a long, tedious process- not painful at all. Actually, the worst part involved feeling really stiff and not being able to stretch when I woke up (nice little unintentional nap, seriously, those were some great drugs) because she was still working.

So the process isn't so bad. Since seven shots of novocaine and Xanax are about like taking seven shots of vodka with Xanax, I wobbled around the streets for a little while until The Object found me and propped me up, took me home and got me into jammies and fed me ice cream. The pain is an achiness in my jaw akin to having been kicked, but it's nothing too terrible. That said, there's only a temporary paste over my tooth (tastes like cloves) and I have to go back for round two in a month to get the tooth all put back together. I'll keep you all posted.

It's Coming...

Restaurant Week in DC!!!!

Lunch: $20
Dinner: $30

January 9th-15th!


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

ASH Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund

As most of you know, The American Society of Hematology (my employer, a.k.a. ASH)'s Annual Meeting was last week. Originally, the meeting was in New Orleans, but due to circumstances, we had to move the meeting to Atlanta, where it was hugely successful. Although the meeting is over, we're still continuing our efforts to help rebuild New Orleans. The plan has three components, which I'm cribbing from our website:

*The three New Orleans medical institutions with hematology/oncology training programs: Tulane University, the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, and the Ochsner Clinic Foundation

*The Louisiana State Medical Society’s Hurricane Katrina Physician Relief Fund, which will help physicians re-establish their practices and begin to provide needed medical care to residents returning to the affected area

*The New Orleans Convention & Visitors’ Bureau Employee Relief Fund and the New Orleans Tourism Workers Relief Fund, which together represent more than 80,000 hospitality workers

It's a very important cause, and if you donate now, ASH match your contribution up to $100,000... woohoo! Free money- sort of.

In any case, Butterstick already donated. Twice. So follow in his example, go to

Brain Farts: Better than Cat Farts

I woke up this morning to a stench. A foul, foul stench. Kitty farted under the covers. In winter, he gets very snuggly and wants to be let under the covers to spoon. Usually he gets very purr-y and then upset when I finally have to get out of bed. This morning, though, was rank. I think it was deliberate- I think he wanted the bed all to himself. It certainly got me moving this morning.

My most difficult tasks today- other than hanging my head in shame over the trouncing I took in last night's Risk game (seriously, never start a land war in Asia)- are deciding how to spend my very generous Christmas bonus and getting a root canal. When people find out you're having one, they either feel the need to share their horror stories or tell you how bad they've heard they get. Props go out to The Object of My Affections, who shrugged it off, saying, "My mom had one; she said it wasn't so bad." Just in case, I've got a prescription that makes me feel better just by its space-age sounding name.

From DC Candy- DC food terms:
Crapas: (n) gross food served on an ickle little plate
Ickymaki: (n) frightening sushi offering- I would like to expand this to all sushi, as it's gross
Seitan Worshiper/Soy Capitan: (n) one who substitutes soy for normal foods

Friday, December 16, 2005

Best Albums of 2005:

The Clientele: Strange Geometry
Sufjan Stevens: Come On Feel the Illinoise
Animal Collective: Feels
Kanye West: Late Registration
Go! Team: Thunder, Lightning Strike

Strange Geometry’s sound plays like people watching in the mall. When you catch someone’s eye, do you defiantly stare or do you avert your eyes, pretending as though you weren’t staring? Are you an outsider looking in, or are you simply another part of the scene? Even if you’re both at once, it’s hard to feel them at the same time- Belle and Sebastian certainly tried with “If You’re Feeling Sinister” but never quite achieved the effect. The Clientele delivers an intimate and comfy album rich with experience.

Is Illinois not on anyone's list? Enough has been said about this album; it's got to be the number one this year. On a personal level, I love the shoutouts to my favorite cock rock song and to my home state. Oh, the suburbs were good to me and bad for me, and Sufjan gets it.

Feels- One never knows quite what to expect from a new Animal Collective cd, but they always manage develop a new direction masterfully. Feels is a focused album that draws on a variety of sources but has no immediately distinguishable influence. This is an album that only childhood friends could have delivered- giddy, emotional, fun, dramatic, rooted and going places.

Kanye West's is a huge album whipped into the face of all the critics who predicted a sophomore slump from West. In Late Registration, West undercuts his hubris with something sorely missing from today’s hip-hop- irony. Fair enough, the album has its weak spots- Bring Me Down actually just brings the album down. I have to say, I had trouble choosing between this and Common's Be, another tight contender.

How would high school have been different if the riot grrrrrrls had been the cheerleaders? Go! Team explores this idea in their second album. Not since the Avalanches has a band had so much fun making the album as Thunder, Lightning Strike. And while the comparison is valid, the sound is completely different- the kitsch is rooted on a foundation of live performance, complementary drum riffs and exuberant lyricism. This album deosn't look back wistfully at the childhood pleasures of sitting around in your rocketship underwear watching Saturday morning cartoons; it's music to make you glad that you still do that as an adult.

Most Disappointing Album of the Year: Black Eyed Peas, "Monkey Business"
The Peas are now more concerned about their lady lumps than finding the love, and the ecleticism that made Elephunk such a critically acclaimed album is strained and forced here. IT's a painful album to have to sit through.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Someone out there understands.  Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 09, 2005

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, one thing truly made the Christmas season feel official. We were a procrastinating sort of family- the tree generally didn't go up until Christmas Eve- and that's when we were feeling particularly ambitious. No, what really made the season feel Christmassy was when my Mom would come home from the grocery store in the evening with a pint of eggnog and a box of Salerno Jingles cookes- anise flavored shortbreads in the shapes of tress, wreaths and elvin shoes. They had red and green sugar sprinkled on top, and for many, many years, I refused to eat red and green colored sugar on anything else, because I believed they gave Jingles their distinctive taste.

As my brothers switched from fighting over which t.v. station to watch to fighting over who got seconds of eggnog (I don't know why my mom never figured out that a pint was not enough for eight people), the red of bloodied noses and the green of sibling jealousy created a special aura of Christmas magic that would rival a Martha Stewart Christmas Special.

Now I'm all grown up and trying to make the season feel Christmassy, despite the fact that I don't go to Church anymore and I did my shopping way back in September. I went to Tryst last night and had an eggnog that was so spiked with brandy I couldn't even finish it (I should have had bourbon, hmmm). I've been looking all over the internet and stores to find my beloved Jingles, but they're nowhere to be found. Has the Salerno Cookie Company stopped making them? Are they simply a Midwest thing? Salerno is a Chicago-based company- maybe they just don't send them out to the East Coast. If I can't get Jingles, I may have to go along with a proposal brought before me last night- the Progressives in Exile Declaration of War Against Christmas. There will be Santas in effigy and we will create an army of insurgent reindeer.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Always falling for something.  Posted by Picasa

Songs My Co-Woker Has Sung Loudly Today, Since Everyone Else is Out of the Office and Therefore, He Doesn't Have to Hum Them Under His Breath:

1. The Farmer in the Dell
2. Jingle Bells
3. Baby Beluga
4. Deck the Halls
5. The Oscar Meyer Song

Why Poofygoo (Вхатевэ)

A few weeks ago, I was at a women's climbing clinic. The weekend turned out to be a bust, but I did pick up one useful peice of information: "poofygoo"- my own orthographic interpretation- is Russian for "whatever". Now, I realize the "whatever" revolution took place back in the nineties- I still have visions of Jenni Cross flashing her thumbs and forefingers into a "W" and turning her head away from me whenever I had anything to say. But the phrase remains useful in a myriad of situations- for example, these two: what to say to your ex when he's standing in your front hall, telling you you're a bad person; what to say when you've shelled out a hundred bucks for a climbing weekend that turns out to be a waste of time and money.

Of course, there are situations in which a simple "whatevs" simply will not suffice: When someone tries to convince you of the inheret genius of Pat Buchanen, serves you homemade paprika ice cream, or throws dirty, wet underwear in your face (all of which have happened to me recently). Here was the main downfall of the "Whatever" revolution. While I was busy rolling my eyes, my peers were learning. Now, whenever someone brings up the ramifications of the teleological turn in contemporary liberal political philosophy, all I can respond with is "um, whatever, I'm an atheist, isn't that enough?"