who the heck knows anything, anyway

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Call Me Ishmael - A Teeny [Themed!] Update

Tying up all these little loose ends makes me feel nautical.

I find myself drawn to pictures of old steam boats, books on tying knots, songs about sailing to the edge of the world. I can hear your chuckles. "Oh, Killian, you silly girl. You're always thinking about the water."

That is true. Not a day goes by that I don't catch myself daydreaming about great big bodies of water. Just roll that over on your tongue! Bodies of water. Mmmmm. Positively voluptuous. And maybe a little bit unattainable. Now tell me you don't want to daydream about it, too.

But every once in a while, little ol' "spontaneous-isn't-even-in-my-vocabulary" me gets that real hankering for adventure (not to mention manual labor). For the first time in my life, I can satisfy this urge! Granted, it's still me, so I won't be going crazy and catching any plane headed anywhere, but I am moving to Seattle and (instead of finding a "grown up job" i.e. "a super boring office job") will start writing full time (!!!). That novel needs to be finished, and at least one short story is aching to be something longer. Funny enough, I tend to have a theme in my work. I'll give you one guess about what this theme is.

Yeah, man.
T-minus six days.

Until then, I will be listening to this song on repeat. Also, every Hold Steady album. Craig Finn and Josh Ritter know what I like.


P.S. if anyone wants to purchase a fancy nautical dictionary for me, that's totally cool. They're a little on the expensive side, but they pay for themselves instantly in awesomeness.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Today, I finished college. I'd say that's worthy of a blog post.

It's funny--during my last final (which was actually a writing workshop/portfolio submission hour), things still seemed pretty anticlimactic. Just like every other fall term, you know? Turn things in, say goodbye, run back out into the rainstorm. But NOW I'm feeling it. It doesn't matter that the chances of me going back to school are about 110%--I will never be a little novice undergrad again. Every class I take from here on out, I take as someone with a bona fide* BA. Any other educational opportunities I get to pursue are icing on the cake! Which is insane. I've paid my dues to Everyone's Expectations. ...Now what?

I actually feel a little bit like a grown-up right now. When I drop by my old high school next Friday to give Mr. Joy (The Best High School English Teacher, as well as a top contender for Best Human Being, In General) a hug and show him how well I turned out, I won't just be giving him an update. I'll be able to tell him that I absolutely positively did it. And that makes me pretty freaking proud of myself. There's this idea that lives in my head--and I know I'm not alone in thinking it--about how a Bachelors degree is practically useless now, and blah blah economy blah. But screw you, doubt! I feel like I spent over four years, pushing along in the best Sisyphean tradition, never thinking I would truly make it. But then I did. It's sort of overwhelming.

And now I'm going to move to Seattle! Out of the family house and into a home of my own. My list of priorities is undergoing some pretty drastic rearrangement, trying to figure itself out now that School and Paying For School aren't my top two. In fact, my list of priorities has no idea what to put where. Love is first, probably, and it's tied with Writing. Those two are closely followed by Pursuing Other Things Of A Creative Nature. Maybe Travel should be put on the list? I never got an English degree for practical reasons; now I can't help but feel a little lost because of that. There are plenty of  choices, sure, but why do they all reek of Administrative Assistant? Can't someone read my palm and my cards and my mind and maybe suggest something I would enjoy a little bit?**

Alison (a co-worker of six years, and adopted big sister for just as long) told me she wishes I could be a teenage girl for a while because I never had the chance before. I have no idea what that means. I think that was kind of her point.

And, to think, this blog post was intended to be full of charming/gruesome anecdotes about college. Ooops!

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another."   
-Anatole France 

*yeah, that's right! I know Latin now, too! College is a crazy place. 
**I need a job to support my writing habits. You know. Until I make millions on my fiction. ::snort::

Monday, November 22, 2010

Don't Pick a Prickly Pear with the Paw

My past twenty four hours have been a bit stressful. First, the bus that was going to take me to the train station passed me by. Daniel and I had to frantically call around for a ride. Thankfully, Jared came through and I got to the station in the nick of time. I had just settled down with my books and a cup of tea, when, two minutes out of Tukwila*, the electricity on the train goes out and we screech to a halt. Forty-five minutes later, it is confirmed that there was "an incident with a trespasser on the rails." I have never been in such close proximity to death before, let alone death caused by the vehicle I was riding in. The crew was great (they handled it really well), but most of the passengers were being so blase about it--it was really distressing. All their jokes about body parts in bags and oh-this-is-soooo-inconvenient really got to me. I still feel pretty off today. My initial reaction was to keep it abstract, like I was watching a TV show (this may be some form of dissociation); every time I caught myself thinking about the violent-death part, felt my pulse quicken and my chest get tight, I pushed it off and read some more viking lit. Like I said, today, I feel a little off still. Probably didn't help that I got home at 12:45am.

Then, this morning, some genius decided that Portland should put chains on all of its buses, making them 20 minutes late. I did not realize this until I was on a bus going 25 mph on a 50mph street.** I missed class because of it. Stupid Portland--it has only just started snowing, like, right now. And, to add insult to injury, it is snowing everywhere except for my house.

However, due to my resilience, and these awesome videos, I felt a lot better.

last, but not least, BILL NYE, explaining the effects of El Niño:

*equivalent to about 20 minutes south of Seattle
**I just thought my usual bus was insanely late, but it turns out every bus was

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Things I Have Learned Today

this term is trying to break me
-- Vikings are kind of hard to research. Why is this? Also, I should learn how to read subtext. See image to the right.

-- I can only be in the Blue Room at Powells for .4 seconds before I find something I want and, consequently, buy. I went to Powells needing two books on vikings. I left with two books on vikings, two hardcover editions of classics (The Odyssey and Treasure Island, of course), and Colum McCann's book Let the Great World Spin. Oops!

--Earlier today, I jokingly mentioned that I should have looked in a Law section for books relevant to my Icelandic Saga research paper (on "good" men, as perceived by the law and by society). I should have actually checked. Turns out Powells has "U of M Icelandic #03: Laws of Early Iceland, Volume 1: Gragas I" in their General Law section. Ok, so it's actually in their warehouse, but it's generally with the law books. Maybe I should check out the law section some time. I hear dueling was outlawed at the beginning of the eleventh century*.

--It's Wednesday.

*truth. Want to know why? Because all of the able-bodied viking men were killing each other over (a) ladies and (b) insults/blood feud stuff, so the population was at serious risk of, well, not existing.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sherlock, Revisited

Disclaimer: I did not watch the second episode of this three-part season. However, I watched the first and even went so far as to take a few notes on the third. Hopefully that makes up for my lack of available time!

Episode 1 - A Study In Scarlet:
Summary: Disappointed
Explication: When we get right down to it, I just don't like this particular modernized version of Sherlock Holmes. It's been done before, and it's been done better (Ex: House and Bones--the latter being my own comparison, whereas the prior is self-admittedly based upon Doyle's work). But, I thought to myself, perhaps it just suffers from Pilot-Episode-itis? Or maybe it's actually a good show on it's own? If I were to imagine I had never read Sherlock Holmes--if Doyle had never invented him to begin with--would this show be intriguing?


Before I dig in too hard, I will repeat that I love Martin Freeman. He's lovely in this show, most definitely my favorite. He's quite Watsony, actually. More so in the third episode, too, which gives me hope (character development/growth/evolution is good!). But, back to it:

The plot was unbelievable and boring. Serial killers are boring. Apparently, they're the only thing that's interesting to modern viewers, though, because every show involving crime has to have serial killers. Aside from that point, which I find frustrating enough, his motivation was dumb. Maybe some people just become killers in their old age because they're angry and on the verge of death, etc, but do you really just kill people willy nilly? I don't know. Seems implausible to me. Also, Stephen Moffat really likes a particular kind of villain. 

But let's get into Holmes' character! The best part of any rendition of Sherlock Holmes is seeing how The World's Greatest Detective is going to be portrayed. I've had a variety of experiences with castings (Sherlocks I Love: Vasiliy Livanov, Rupert Everett; Like Quite a Bit: Jeremy Brett; Super Don't Like: Basil Rathbone*), and I find Benedict Cumberbatch** to be firmly in the category of Angry, With a Side of Matt Smith. Not my favorite approach. I'll leave it at that.

Now that I'm thoroughly bored of Episode 1, let's skip to 3! (which I remember better, having just watched it!)

Episode 3 - The Great Game
Summary: Bored
First, these are the notes I took (transcribed verbatim) while watching, so I wouldn't forget everything the way I did with the first episode:
-how is a smiley face comparable to VR? come on.
-stop with the gay jokes, seriously
-calling it: Moriarty
-set designer has great taste in wallpaper
-cute ode to "Baskervilles" w/ tennis shoes
-crimes aren't actually interesting
-violated one of my rules of TV! - SHOT AN OLD LADY. BOO.
-I love Watson's sweater. 
-I should buy Daniel more Watson sweaters.
-wtf is up with this fight scene? I'm having a seizure 
-called it: Moriarty
-aside: did they want me to think Watson was Moriarty? because that failed really hard.

As you can see, my favorite things had pretty much zero to do with the episode. Oops! And thanks for the bad pacing*** and predictable plot. And the cliffhanger ending. We know he's not going to die here, unless this is randomly an Homage To The Waterfall, Because There Happens to Be a Pool, And Both Are Made of Water. And he doesn't actually die there, anyways, because that made Victoria rather upset to think about (hooray VR!). So there's no suspense happening at all. Maybe unless you've never heard of Sherlock Holmes. Maybe. Maaaaaaybe.

This is the problem here. I think the trick with Sherlock Holmes is to either go canon or go crazy. I mean, Guy Ritchie made the right choice: Keep it old school, make it sexy, and allude to old cases, but give us something new. It wasn't my favorite Holmes ever, and the case was a bit weak, but it was exciting and funny and sexy--i.e. a bit different. Making it present day is risky, because if you don't present the old cases in a new way, you're just using the name recognition as a cheap way to assume you don't have to establish the characters. 

Enter, House MD--brilliant execution of the old characters (under slightly adapted names) solving new cases. Granted, I haven't watched House in a few seasons now, but it was fantastic when it started. It was a stand-alone series that only got better when you caught the allusions--but if you never caught them, it didn't matter, because the show was still great. Plus, Vicodin addiction? So good! Nicotine patches? Really boring. Yes, they alluded to harder drugs when the police showed up in the first episode, but House's Vicodin problem is visible and legit without freaking everyone out over heroin. Skillful storytelling, not PC bologna.

Sherlock is trying to be sort-of canon. Good effort, I suppose, but unimpressive execution. I think Daniel and I won this one when we decided Moffat's best bet would have been to make Watson into the Doctor's companion for a season and basically make Sherlock Holmes In the Future****.

For a much better review (I am not as gifted with the TV vocabulary as I am with the literary variety, but this person essentially says all the things I was trying to) click here

Good grief. I can't wait to start reading books again!

*Maybe he's a good, quintessential Sherlock, but he's a dick to Watson (who, by the way, they scripted to be a total idiot. Please see Kate Beaton's comics for further elaboration on why this makes no sense), and I can't make myself sit through it
**He does get points for having an awesome name. Like, woah.
***This may be because Moffat didn't write this episode. Did they hire the guy who wrote that awful Dalek episode from last season of Doctor Who?? Because that would definitely explain it.
****Liiiiike, with jetpacks

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Turn On Burn On

I need to blow this popsicle stand.

This crops up every now and again. The restlessness; that trapped, explosive feeling in my heart. School is no longer fulfilling. Sigh. I could say that a million times. Enough of the busy work, the sleepless nights for no reward. I want to read books again. I want cigarettes and a roof to climb on.

Good thing I'm moving soon, eh?

But, being that this is my current mood, I thought I'd share to two of my favorite Poet/Novelists.When in doubt, I turn to my first true literary loves.

*Note, I only used a very small excerpt from Plath's journal. Most of it actually sounded a lot more like how I'm feeling, but I didn't want to (a) focus on the negative or (b) compare my state of mind to Sylvia Plath's, because that never works out very well. Ha. However, I would highly recommend her Unabridged Journals (from 1950-1962)! They are...revelatory.

Jack Kerouac:
November 4, 1947:
"I had to go out and walk in the rain in N.Y. and rage around with my friends. We smashed recordings of Mozart over our heads, I and the daemonic one. We got drunk. I came out of it beautifully, remembering the simple beauty of life, and came home."

Sylvia Plath:
November 4, 1959:
"Pleasant dream of return to London: renting a room with the bed in a garden of daffodils, waking to soils smells and bright yellow flowers. The Doers intrigue me. I would be one of them."

For good measure, here's a Bukowski poem!:

my fate

like the fox
I run with the hunted
and if I'm not
the happiest man
on earth
I'm surely the
luckiest man

Monday, October 25, 2010

Testing the Waters

When I first saw this promo shot for Sherlock, all I could think was: Oh, Stephen.

Doctor and Companion?
I suppose, like any director, he has a very definite aesthetic. Too bad he had to turn it to my favorite literary duo. Shouldn't he be focusing his creative efforts on Doctor Who? We all know what happens when a prolific creative mind gets stretched too thin: they might as well start working for Marvel.*

But, hey, I won't kick it just yet. Now that it's online for free (thank you, Masterpiece Theater! Remind me to give to Public Broadcasting this year), I might as well give it a whirl. However, I will stipulate that the second Sherlock uses modern technology as a crutch, I will turn it off. Yes, yes, we all love the internet, but Holmes was frickin rad because he basically had the internet in his brain. Also, the guy who plays him looks funny. I like to have crushes on Holmes**--I do not have a crush on this guy. A bit petty of me, perhaps, to base some of my initial reaction on this. But, hey, I have big fat love for Martin Freeman, so maybe that will make up for it? I promise a full report once I've watched it. Depending on homework load, this may be tonight or later this week. Hopefully, you are kept in a heightened state of anxious suspense. Holmes would want it this way.

Speaking of my dear Martin, he'll be playing Bilbo in The Hobbit! Because I didn't love Tolkien enough already. Le sigh.

Any way we can get Mos Def into The Hobbit, too? Please?

*OH SECRET BURN on one guy who works for Marvel. Some of the other guys are pretty nice, and I love X-Men.
**Especially Vasily Livanov and Rupert Everett. Aaaaaand Robert Downey Jr, but he probably doesn't count

Monday, October 11, 2010

Finding Heroes In Strange Places...Like Iceland.

Something I found pretty fascinating about ye olde Icelanders (and viking culture, even more generally) is the level to which they elevate their poets. If a great strong man goes viking*, and then his heart is broken by a sexy lady, it is totally ok for him to go home, cry it out, and write poems about it. In fact, if he wants to retire from the whole fighting business to write/recite poetry full time, he is not discouraged. Though I suppose that's to be expected from a group of people whose epic god, Odin, is the god of poetry and killing people. Also, he looks like Gandalf.

Odin is Keyser Söze ****
I have recently spent almost 200 pages getting acquainted with my first Icelandic Saga: "Egil's Saga." It begins with the story of Egil's grandfather, Kveldulf, who is a shape-shifter (*cough*OdinReference*cough*). Kveldulf (whose name means Night Wolf...because he's a werewolf) has two sons, Thorolf and Grim. Grim is nicknamed Skallagrim, because he's bald. This is helpful, because Grim was a popular name in the late 800s. Anywho, Thorolf is besties with King Harald, until some rude, bastard relatives poison the king's ear. The king decides to be a jerk and does the cowardly thing of attempting to burn Thorolf's house down (while he's inside, of course). Thorolf and his dudes get out, and a big battle ensues--wherein Thorolf is killed. Kveldulf is really sad. Skallagrim is like "Ugh, my dad always liked him better," but still tries to convince his dad to get out of bed and stop crying. Jump forward a bit. Kveldulf is dying and tells Skallagrim to build a settlement in Iceland wherever his body washes ashore (it may be worth mentioning that they are currently on a boat, headed in that direction). That's where Borg is. 

Skallagrim had two sons, named Thorolf and Egil. Note: remember how in 100 Years of Solitude every character was named after every character, and they were all the same character? It's the same thing here. Every Thorolf is super sexy, super smart, and daddy likes them best. Every not-Thorolf is sort of violent and has daddy issues. Egil is no exception. For instance, Skallagrim forbids Egil from coming to a party, because Egil does not know how to control himself while drinking. Egil is three years old. I think he starts killing people at six... Regardless, Egil always disobeys his father and forces his older brother to take him viking all the time. He might be insane. BUT: our dear Egil is a brilliant poet! Which means he's been blessed by Odin, which means he's the hero. Plus, betwixt his raiding, king-upsetting, battle-winning, and house-burning, he does all of the things a good hero is known to do:

1. He never kills people--or takes their stuff--without them seeing his face. He ain't no coward! Nor is he a thief. Your stuff is his because he's better than you.
2. He is the most loyal friend ever. He will kill so many dudes for you.
3. He doesn't kill without reason*****
4. He will defend the following people to the death: family, friends, damsels in distress, and anyone who can't defend themselves very well (i.e. skinny men)
5. He doesn't sleep around. He pines for his love, Asgerd (his brother's wife, coincidentally), and seeks not consolation in another! And then he's secretly sort of happy when his brother is killed, because he gets to marry Asgerd.
6. Yes, I'm going to mention this again: He writes poems.

Why are his poems so great? Because, unlike everyone else Way Up North, Egil could rhyme. And when his son dies, he composes a pretty cute poem about how much he loved him, which helps everyone remember that Egil was human.******

 So, there you go. Intro to Egil Skallagrimsson! ...I really just wanted to reiterate my notes to remember all of it better. Too bad there's so friggin much more to remember. But whatever! Here's a picture of Seamus Heaney to round it out! He likes Icelandic Sagas, and he writes nice poems!

I love this man, even though I secretly thought Beowulf was boring.
Read "Digging". DOOO IT.

*Apparently, it's a verb. At least that's how my adorable, old, Danish professor uses it. You aren't A Viking, you just Go Viking In The Summertime**
**also known as What Happens at Lindisfarne Stays at Lindisfarne--Because Everyone Is Totally Dead And All of Their Belongings Have Been Stolen***
***this is not necessarily 100% historically accurate. Some monks probably got away with some nice books
****this joke is for two people
*****my professor claims this is true. I am not quite convinced.
******or, a shape-shifting descendant of Odin. The historical/literary line is blurred here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Trials and Tribulations of a Busy Bee

I seem to have developed a Coldergy. Unsure of whether I have Seasonal Sneezes or Cautious Congestion, I have spent the past few days sounding like Homestar Runner and fretting about school/work/THE FUTURE in a slight-but-ultimately-distracting fog. Despite this, I was able to write a checklist of every assignment from this Monday up until Veterans Day*; write two papers; read four online articles; fill out a silly form; and even read an adapted fairytale (this one was for pleasure). And that's just the homework! Also, perk to being Under the Weather: Daniel makes me nummy lentil soup.

Sadly, I do not foresee myself recovering quickly. For one thing, I don't sleep very much. Last week was my first without nightmares in over a month, but that may have been because, up until this weekend, the Czuba Family Zoo was keeping me up all night. I have grown accustomed to sleeping with the dryer running and a pillow over my head. Second, people keep adding stress to my bucket. My stress bucket is very full. And though making checklists definitely helps (as does staying on top of all the homework), there are some stressors that simply cannot be done away with, no matter what your high school Health teacher told you. A job, for instance. I cannot just remove myself from my job when it gives me anxiety. That would be blissful, but I think I might be asked to remove myself permanently. Then there are the train rides, which have been oversold, and the fact that my nighttime writing class of eighteen students is in a teeny room with fluorescent lighting and no windows, and all the busy work and uncertainty that comes with homework and papers and tests and a propensity to shoot for perfection**. I decided that the best way to deal with this was
through self-bribery, but I don't have a lot of money, so I more precisely decided (via Daniel, because he's a smarty pants) to get my hair done (I've been missing the blue).

And then the PSU Magazine for alumni had a nice little bit about my Most Arch Nemesis (hint: he's middle aged, short, bald, and overwhelms me with the urge to vomit up bile), and it was all I could do not to light it on fire in the middle of the living room. Bye bye, feelings of accomplishment. Hello, old feelings of lack-of-worth and self-doubt.

Strong Bad's portrait of me

So, do I go do more homework tonight, as it approaches 12am, and hope that will alleviate some stress and boost my confidence in how this term will unfold? No. On the advice of the smartest person I know (*cough*daniel*cough*), I'm going to watch an episode of Original Series Star Trek and let James T. Kirk handle it.

this was a rather Bloggy post. I'm hoping to get into some more intellectual stuff when I get a better grip on my schedule. Because, man, it would be a pity to neglect addressing the thrills of Viking Lore, Fiction Writing Craft, and Fun with Grant Writing!***

*because all of my professors forgot the university is closed that day, and I happened to be scheduled for a presentation then, so things will get a bit hairy the week of November 8th
**I am not proud of this.
***That last one about grant writing was a lie. Practical, yes. Fun, don't think so.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Today, I was feeling a bit unmotivated. The walls in the apartment were (note: ARE) too white, the sky outside was too grey, etc. It was just sort of a bunk day. And though I have, since my point of creative departure this morning, changed my story,* I spent most of my afternoon doodling. Which is code for making Pokémon versions of myself and Daniel after seeing this.

So, behold! Me as a Pokémon:
My attacks aim true
Yeah, those are guns on its back

And Daniel, as not so much a Pokémon as "li'l danil: astronaut":
Those are tea-shooting cannons on that third one

As I said, I also got some actual work done today. Well, I think I did. There is no really good Instruction Manual for Doing Writing the Right Way, so I may be on the right track, or I may be stumbling around a dark room, hitting the garbage disposal instead of the light switch. Only time will tell!

The closest you will ever get to an Instruction Manual for Doing Writing the Right Way is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. But don't take my word for it. TRY IT!

*YET AGAIN. Seriously, figure it out, yo. All of a sudden, I have a character narrator. Re-write time!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Novel Reboot: Writing is Hard (Sometimes)

Up until about three days ago, I was about seventy-five pages deep into a novel I had been working on for three and a half years. Sure, that doesn't seem like a whole lot, but I've cut huge chunks out, re-written it time and time again, and was finally picking up some steam on it. And I loved some of the later parts. The beginning, though, drove me absolutely batty (as most things I wrote at age nineteen are wont to do), and there was just no fixing it. At first, I was going to try re-writing the first paragraph blindly and go from there. But that led to me realizing that I want to scrap huge plot points that I think are dumb. That left me with starting over completely. Which is what I have done.

Don't worry, I archived the old stuff. I'm not getting rid of it. But the usable bits are pretty insignificant. Fortunately, in the span of two days, I smashed out about 1,300 words, and they are more to my liking. But now I'm hitting that What's Next? wall. The characters are generally the same (they've undergone a bit of tweaking, but the essence is still there. One of my pals then suggested calling the project my Reboot, which I find to be fitting and simultaneously endearing), but the story line is drastically different. I have always been really bad at pre-formulating a plot. I usually just go with the flow, and the flow does a darn-tootin' fine job of taking me where I need to be. Not to say that I never get writer's block. With only seventy-five pages written in three and a half years, you can bet your best pants that I get writer's block somethin' awful. Maybe I was just all psyched up over jumping back in so effortlessly that I forgot about the dry spells.

But, screw that, I don't want any more dry spells. Writer's Block is like, to quote Sebastian the crab, a teenager: You give it an inch, and it'll swim all over you. Enough with the moping and the excuses and the Whine Whine I'm So Busy whining. I love writing. When I write a great sentence, I do a happy dance, it makes me feel so good. But some tool boxes say that if it's hard to do sometimes, then you don't actually love it. It shouldn't be painful, ever. But that can't be true, right? Even the most happily in love couple struggles at some point, whether it's with distance or with their own past regrets or whatever. It's not the love itself that is struggling, but the realization of it. So suck on that, mean people. I love it so much, you are jealous. It just so happens that I am not content with simply buying my love flowers to keep it happy (mmm, prolonged metaphors).

Sebastian knows what's up
I don't know if what I need is a good writing community to motivate me, or if I need a plot to go on, or if it'll all work out just fine, but I wish someone could help me out with establishing a good rhythm. Writing is a very personal thing, though. What works for me probably won't work for you. John Cheever wrote naked in his laundry room and had to "earn back" his right to wear clothes. I would rather not do this. But you see what I mean. I yearn for guidance! Alas, there is none. So I will go back to my notebooks and keyboards and hope that it all works out. Because, otherwise, all that's left for me is existential crisis and, as much as I love Kierkegaard, that really doesn't sound like a good time.

Open to suggestions, as always. For totems, or what have you!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More Reasons to Improve Healthcare: For the Sake of the Internet

I think I may increasingly be a fan of Federal Government (Sorry, T-Jeff).
This may sound odd, because I have never been a fan of The Man, and federal government is about as Man-ful as it gets. However, I love organization and, though I'm sure it's drowning in its own bureaucratic nonsense, I imagine the consistency offered by it (at its most ideal, mind you) would make jobs like the one I currently have MUCH easier.
Before the days of the internet, I would probably be a Power to the States girl. But the internet has proven to me that the Texas Medical Board has it way more together than the Oregon Medical Board, and this is disheartening. There goes my state pride. But if EVERY state had to meet certain searchable board requirements, I would be The Happiest. Because I am researching on medical boards across the country all day long, and it is a headache and a half to try to find a license for an emergency transportation organization in about 46/50 states.
(this is Thomas Jefferson, in case you hate history)

The issue is consistency. Oregon, for example, breaks out each medical specialty into its own board (leaving MDs, PAs, and DOs together, fortunately). Looking up a nurse? Nursing Board. Chiropractor? LCSW? Physical Therapist? All on their own boards. This is nice as far as additional information is concerned, but the licensing lookup should be centralized. Additionally, each lookup should consist of:
   1. license number
   2. original effective date of said license
   3. license renewal/expiration date
   4. Board actions
Some states even appear to fund their state department in part by charging people to access this information. I am not okay with charging for public information, no matter how broke your state is. That's ridiculous.
There's a larger argument hidden in here. About communication between people who essentially dictate the outcome of other people’s lives—i.e. there is none. I had a conversation with one of my coworkers about it this afternoon, and she was describing how inconsistent keeping charts can be from doctor’s office to doctor’s office. And here’s an interesting story: Health Insurance providers (like the one I work for) can get a bad rep for denying non-formulary prescriptions. Many require prior-authorization from a doctor’s office. So it gets bounced back to the doctor who is supposed to contact the health plan. Health plans turn over prior auths within 24 hours. However, if your doc forgets about it for a few days, and then we take another 24 hours, and then the doc doesn’t call you back right away, you might be prescription-less for a while. Which is awful, considering the point of prescriptions. It’s an absolute miracle anything gets done, ever. And, yes, everyone thinks healthcare needs an overhaul, but honestly, you can’t blame President Obama for not being able to single-handedly make healthcare affordable AND streamline it, when you have to crack down on everything from provider education to medical boards using the same (or at the very least compatible) software*.
I see no immediate solution for this insanity other than actually scrapping EVERYTHING and starting from square one. I love being a citizen of the United States (especially of the Pacific NW persuasion), but it’s almost too big to handle itself.
Ah, capitalism. I kind of hate you.

*you see the problem here. All of a sudden you’re fighting big, fat Insurance monsters AND big, fat software companies, AND doctors who don’t want to change how they’ve been conducting business since forever, etc.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Being a Teacher's Assistant: a Review

Somehow, I forgot to re-cap my full TA experience. So here it is.
(I'll try to keep it short and sweet)

The class was only four weeks long (as summer classes are occasionally wont to be), so right about the time people were starting to get all warmed up to the idea of Magic Realism*, the term went kaput. Their presentations went amazingly well, though, and I don't know how the papers turned out (those weren't my responsibility to grade, Thank Heavens) but I would guess they were, at least, chock full o' heart.

Grading was an extremely humbling experience. It simultaneously enlightened me (some of my students truly blew my mind with their input) and depleted my faith in humanity (out of twenty students, only two got A's, and I was being generous. Those two deserved it, definitely, but the people who didn't get there have absolutely no excuse. They never asked for help or extensions). I tried the best I could to give them the benefit of the doubt, but some really smart kids only got 35% on their homework**. Sloth was particularly popular sin to indulge in this summer, I guess. I will never understand it. Though they are probably a lot less stressed out than I am, on the whole...

That's about it. I loved interacting with the students***, and being treated like an authority on a subject was pretty awesome, though the best part about it was realizing how much more I have to learn. I'm not kidding. Nor am I trying to sound like a total toolbag. This is how it works:****

That One Class you take and love makes you feel like an expert, because you're on the receiving end of a font of knowledge. You feel all full up of good, smart things on a subject most people don't realize even exists. And then you do some independent research, and you feel even better about your knowledge base. And then you teach a class, and you start having revelations all over the dry-erase board about things that were never even on your radar. It's like flipping a switch. And BAM--you understand one of those elusive Truths. But instead of making you cocky, it makes you want more. I suppose you could compare learning to an addiction. At first, it's just a social indulgence--something you do because you need that degree to get a job, etc. Some people are content to leave it there. But some of us can't help it. We need more, more, more, because the rush of learning something fantastic is as invigorating as seeing the Hold Steady play live (i.e it's how I imagine being on E feels, sans crashing the next day).

This is why it's going to be really hard to leave school this winter. Yes, I am more than done with all of the BS that comes with getting a degree (and Portland and I are having a fight right now), but you might want to start taking bets on how long it takes me to go back. You could win some hella monies.

...What will I do when I don't have homework?

Post Scriptum:

Look what I found today!!! And immediately employed. DUH.

An example of my obsessive nature

 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is my homeboy.

*despite being one of my favorite genres, it is King of Ambiguity--concocting a definition for it has taken me about two years, if that's any indication.
**the lowest grade I gave on homework participation was 0/100. Seriously. ZERO PERCENT. Does that actually happen??!
***weirdly, I'd guess only one or two of them were younger than me. Teaching your peers is a disconcerting experience.
****disclaimer: probably not for everyone, but I'd warrant this is the case for more than just myself.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A List

Just to get us started on the same page: this is A List. As in a singular list, not my A-List of whatever. This is important, because I will, in fact, be engaging in a brief discussion of Things I Have a Habit of Doing That End Up Being a Bit Stupid, Though Otherwise Harmless. Engage:

1. Listening to the Les Miserables Soundtrack at Work.

This is not a very swell idea for anyone who has issues with The Man or, more precisely, their manager. If you and your coworkers are prone to cracking halfhearted jokes about celebrating Bastille Day in the office, it doesn't matter how much you want to listen to Javert serenade you with "Stars." Resist the temptation, or else you'll find yourself sobbing gently behind your softly-glowing monitor while Fantine takes away all of your hope in humanity.

2. Watching Sad Movies By Myself

I thought that watching the Shawshank Redemption in the kitchen while awaiting out-of-town company was a one-time mistake--and one necessitated by a Crime Films class, no less. So what if I had mascara cascading down my face as I opened the door to greet one of my best pals and my boyfriend-to-be*? It was for a grade! Hoooowever. While perusing the Netflix Instant Watch selection two weeks ago, alone in my bed with naught but my stuffed animal and the prospect of work on the horizon, I decided to watch the first episode of Pillars of the Earth. Because I love medieval things. And I often forget that not every medieval movie is Monty Python. So, what happens in this first episode, praytell? Spoilers: BAD THINGS. It's medieval England, yo. But, seriously, do NOT have a woman give birth in the forest with her husband and children standing by, KILL HER OFF, and then FORCE THE FATHER TO LEAVE THE BABY BEHIND. That's emotional warfare, and I will have none of it.

Perhaps I learned my lesson! Haaaa. Funny funny. Here I am at home, no homework (for the first time in months), no social obligations. Just me, and whatever the heck I want to do. So after I get a little tattoo research and Amazon-purchasing** out of the way, I decide to hop back on the ol' InstaWatch wagon. Prompted by my previous purchases, I decide to investigate some classy Irish films which have been on my list for a while. My search was narrowed for me by online availability, but one of the very first I looked for yielded fruit! The Boxer, starring Daniel Day Lewis! So what if key plot points involve the IRA during part of The Troubles? Reflecting on this now, I have no idea what I was thinking. It's not like I am unaware of this bit of Irish history. In fact, I'd say it's the bit I'm best acquainted with. Note, this knowledge did not help me one little bit when it came to The Saddest Scene in the Movie. Suffice it to say, I cried for, like, ten minutes. I don't think I'm even exaggerating. Seriously. Too bad it's a truly great movie, because I'd feel dirty if I lied and told you it wasn't worth seeing. Don't know about the Troubles? This is a pretty good place to start. Or you could just watch Gangs of New York and still get your Daniel Day Lewis fix and not cry into your pillow like a lonely baby.

This movie is not as sad, and DDL is super hot with a moustache.

3. Staying Up Just a Little Too Late

Getting seven hours of sleep is way worse than four. And, despite being in my room by 9pm, I am going to sleep past 12:30am. Siiiigh.

*he gets so many points for erasing this image from his mind
**I bought The Secret of Roan Inish, Waking Ned Divine, and Charade. One of these things is not like the others.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

of Clocks and Hell-Hounds

Instead of starting on my last paper of the term, I decided to look up DIY projects that might be more fun/distracting than just reading for the nth day in a row*.  First of all, this is kind of depressing:

Irony: Oregon's Favorite Pastime

But then I found what I was looking for. I'm putting it up here (a) because it's the coolest and (b) because I want Daniel to help me make one sometime. Probably not an easy project to dive into today, but whatever!

Also on the docket** today, viewing Pt. 2 of Собака Баскервилей (The Hound of the Baskervilles)! I'm pretty pumped about watching some more of these next weekend, as well. In fact, I would not doubt a repeat viewing of Baskervilles, (a) because Daniel needs to see it and (b) because Watson is way too good in it. I almost added a spoiler, but I refrained. Just keep an eye out for the ending scene on Pt. 1. You can thank me later.

Vitaly Solomin plays Surrogate Detective

 Seriously, I cannot wax enthusiastic enough about this Holmes-Watson team. Maybe I have an inexplicable weakness for Russian accents? More likely, Livanov and Solomin are just great actors accompanied by a great cast, performing in amazing settings, and with costumes that make me wish I was a dude. But the Russian doesn't hurt.

"Now is the dramatic moment of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon the stair which is walking into your life, and you know not whether for good or ill." --Sherlock Holmes, a la Baskervilles

*I love reading, but I also love doing other things. If all I did was read, I would probably have no fine motor skills, and that would be sad. You never know when you'll need to become a mechanic to support your writing habits.

**Does anyone else appreciate how great this word is? I'm not generally an aesthetic fan of words with more than one hard consonant in them, but I make a glad exception for docket. Plus, though people use "on the docket" an awful lot***, it wasn't until my Victorian Detective Lit class thatI heard it used authentically, in reference to an actual docket, and not some made up list of things in your head. Frick, man, I love language.

***Ok, I do. I probably shouldn't generalize, because I was also under the impression that "come off it" was a popular phrase in the Pacific NW. Not so much.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sherlok Kholms I Doktor Vatson

If I were Julie Andrews a la Sound of Music, these are things I would sing about, in addition to paper and strudel:

1. Sherlok Kholms I Doktor Vatson (I technically watched episode 2 of Priklyucheniya Sherloka Kholmsa I Doktora Vatsona, circa 1980). This is most definitely in the running for Coolest Depiction of Sherlock Holmes, Pretty Much Ever. It's shot largely on location in old Russian towns, complete with broody lighting and plush yellow fainting couches. A-mazing. Plus, I honestly challenge you to find a better Sherlock/Watson pair than Vasili Livanov and Vitali Solomin. Ok, aside from Rupert Everett and Ian Hart (if you haven't had the honor yet, please watch this movie). People are usually partial to a particular kind of Holmes, and though I find Jeremy Brett quite charming (he seems to be the Fan Fave among many an aficionado), he can be a bit too manic for my tastes. Rupert Everett is a bit more subdued, but ever the charming egotist. Fab. However--and I beg your pardon--we were talking about Vasili Livanov. This guy is just flat-out an amazing actor. He's rather stoic at times, but his wit is biting, and occasionally his exchanges with Watson (Solomin) are downright hilarious. Also, points for CUTEST MS. HUDSON EVER. The scene where she walks in on Watson as he fights the apartment fire is just great scripting. Sure, the music reminds you a little bit of a game of Tetris, but this is Russia in 1980. So, somehow it makes sense (sort of?). I'm also tempted to make a bad pun about detective fiction and puzzle games, but I will refrain. Oh, and if this picture I'm about to show you doesn't sell it, then perhaps my telling you that Moriarty's doorman appears to be a werewolf, will.

Just look at that nose! Hawt.

2. Adam Worth. He is, as my professor put it, The Father of Moriarty. He was a legitimate criminal mastermind whose life went something like: fight in civil war, crime, crime, crime, get sent to Sing-Sing, break out days later, crime, crime, Europe, more crime. Actually, he was wounded in battle during the Civil War, but, for some reason, they (meaning "the man") had listed him as "killed in battle." So he left the hospital with no identity, and practiced some good ol' bounty jumping until he decided to really, truly defect. Then, like I said, there was a lot of crime. The amount of money he stole during his life was something like $4 million. And that's in 1800's dollars

Prussians for the win

Meanwhile, my TA job is still torn into "OMG, classroom stuff is great!" and "WTF, online posts??" Y'know. The Usual.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

TA Adventures - Day 1

Being a TA is pretty cool, man.

First of all, and most importantly (for me, at least): there's none of that subconscious effort to compete with one's peers. I mean, I'm an authority figure here. Not to say that I would ever abuse that privilege (because that just ain't my style), but it relieves one from a lot of stress*. Plus, the class I'm helping out in is not only my favorite genre of literature, but one that I have done a lot of critical thinking/research about. When I talked about Pedro Paramo in class today, I was imparting knowledge**. And then I told everyone to reallytrulyabsolutely read it because Gael Garcia Bernal has been cast in the soon-to-be movie version, and you sure as hell want to see that. Seriously. Hottest film ever.

Another thing I love about TA-ing (aside from how awesomely not-frightening it is****) hearkens back to that zero-competition thing I mentioned. Some of the people in the class have AMAZING passion for literature, and somehow, it's way more infectious when you're in front of the class. I have always been highly susceptible to the blissfully infectious element of intellectualism that is passion... especially in regards to Magic Realist Fiction. And to have a class full of smiling faces who also can't help but shed tears of ecstasy when they read One Hundred Years of Solitude makes me (a) feel less like a freak and (b) want to keep these people excited. Totally great, right??

Now I have noooo idea how the online element is going to play out, but I have a feeling that this group is sharp enough to make it work. We'll see. The Prof and I figured out our grading scale this afternoon, so I'll be grading posts for most of Friday thru Sunday. New Life Experience, eh? Fingers are crossed for continued high-spirits.

yeah, I'm blogging. SO WHAT? I need a place to word-vomit so my writing fingers are all loosened up for The Things That Really Count.

*stress that you don't even know affects you until you don't have to deal with it! Miraculous!!
**ok, I may be flattering myself a little here. But I really do think I did pretty ok for my first day OF TEACHING!!***
***or, assistant teaching. WHATEVER.
****granted, I'm not the teacher. That's a whole 'nother ball game.