Mar 30, 2008

Somebody get me a vicodin

When I tell you I strained my back in bed and my throat is raw from screaming, try not to get too excited.

The other day I noticed that though I had made a nice little dent for myself on one side of my double bed, the other side still needed breaking-in. I decided to sleep on the other side of my very firm mattress for a couple of nights. HUGE mistake. I can sit and stand with no problem - but any sort of transition between these two states causes me to groan like I'm giving birth. Congratulations, it's an idiot!

I'm sure I didn't help matters by spending all of yesterday either in the car or on a roller coaster. C, K & P and I had planned to spend all day at the amusement park and go camping afterwards, but a sudden cold snap scuppered any ideas of sleeping under the stars. Not to mention that laying on the ground this weekend would probably have caused my untimely death. I had enough trouble clambering in and out of roller coaster harnesses. Fortunately, I wasn't in too much pain to yell at the top of my lungs during each and every turn.

As a result, at the end of the day, I had the hunched posture and croaking voice of a ninety year-old. Not so sexy now, eh? It was well worth the pain to spend time with my fellow band geeks. Low reeds represent! I will be very sad when C & K graduate in May, and I have two fewer reasons to visit the old alma mater.

Mar 27, 2008

American Identity

Last night I attended a book festival presentation entitled Wayward Sons - it featured two authors whose latests books explore the parent/child relationship. One of them was a young Israeli with a head full of political commentary and a terrible reading voice. One was an older Irishman who, during the Q&A, mentioned to a suddenly-silent audience that he was gay. I was having a good time and laughing at inappropriate moments (as I do) when a bald man in last year's festival t-shirt stood up to say,

"We Americans come from nothing, we inherit nothing. What influence do your cultures have on your writing?"

The Israeli, the Irishman, and I were shocked into silence.

I'm sure the man thought he was being clever and complimentary. But the question itself was what sociologists call "otherizing." Inherent within it is the idea that America is the baseline, the norm, and all other cultures are different. It put both of these authors, brilliant men with important things to say, on a shelf labeled Ethnic Writers*... a shelf tucked into the back corner of the book shop, between Alternative Medicine and Self Help.

Ethnocentrism is not a uniquely American vice; if anything, we inherited it from the British. But nowadays we have a reputation for it all over the world. Among the Indian community I grew up in, 'American' is synonymous with 'ignorant.' I had to fight - I still have to fight - to be proud of being American (without sounding like a mindless sycophant of the current regime).

The answer to the problem of ethnocentrism is not to make tokens out of other cultures and wear them around our necks like badges of honor. Instead we must take a hard look at ourselves, recognize our own unique cultural perspective, and then see the world with new eyes. Not as anthropologists, dissecting and documenting, but as neighbors getting to know the people next door.

Needless to say I wanted to punch the bald man in the face. Luckily, the authors handled it well - their tactful answers covered much of what I just said, only kinder and with less violence. This is why when I am a famous author I can never do book signings. Somebody is liable to get hurt.


*I wonder if I'm putting myself on the same shelf with Desi Kids. Thoughts?

Mar 25, 2008

Do you want to be a polyester bride?

In the past I have scorned any and all internet dating services. I know several couples who have found each other via the world wide web, but it seemed so artificial to me. Like trying to Google your soul mate. I'd much rather meet someone through friends, spend some time together, go to the malt shop and be asked to 'go steady.' Unfortunately, I don't live in Leave it to Beaver reruns. So when my mother asked if she could create a profile for me on an Indian Matrimonial website, I reluctantly agreed.

That's right, I said "matrimonial." Scares the shit out of me, too. My major problem is that I don't want to lie ... but telling the truth doesn't really work for me, either. Here's what my profile blurb would read if I were being completely honest:

I'm a 25 year-old who doesn't know what she wants out of life. When I spill something (ice cream, salad dressing, what have you) on the table, I spend the next two minutes talking myself out of licking it up. On the floor, one minute. Still, I probably think I'm smarter than you. I'm a complete prude with a powerful right hook - try anything and I may well break your jaw. I harbor irrational hatred for many things, including semicolons and popped collars. Shorties and non-citizens need not apply.

Obviously in this situation, discretion is the better part of valor. I'm still building my profile, but I've gotten two "expressions of interest" already ... both from men living outside the US. Poop.

Mar 18, 2008

C-SPAN can be interesting, too

From the President's speech to the Economic Club of New York:

I want to remind you, this is not the first time since I've been the President that we have faced economic challenges. We inherited a recession. And then there was the attacks of September the 11th, 2001, which many of you saw firsthand, and you know full well how that affected our economy. And then we had corporate scandals. And I made the difficult decisions to confront the terrorists and extremists in two major fronts, Afghanistan and Iraq. And then we had devastating natural disasters.

Thanks for the reminder. I had almost forgotten what a terrible president you were. Are. Whatever.

*waits impatiently for Inauguration Day*

Full transcript can be found here. Warning: reading this speech will force you to realize that the man with his finger on the big red button is completely disconnected from reality. Heaven help us.

Mar 16, 2008

"I have a sort of ... distinctive dance style."

This weekend, I once again attended the medical school's End of Basic Sciences Party. This is a formal event hosted by the 2nd Years, in order to celebrate their move from the classroom to the clinic. You might expect, from this description and the fact that the word "science" is in the title, that this would be a decorous meeting of young minds in which a perfectly appropriate amount of steam is let off in a perfectly appropriate manner.

You couldn't be further from the truth if it were Opposite Day.

Similar to an undergraduate "formal" event, EBSP is just another excuse for horny twenty-somethings to dress to the nines and rub up against each other. Cultural anthropologist that I am, I could not resist the opportunity to observe this species in its natural habitat. Also, I was told there would be an open bar. What I saw would shock the more blasé of bloggers. Please note that the following is not appropriate for small children, people with heart conditions, or my mother.

First of all, there was the blatant grinding. I was minding my own business at a table well off the dance floor, when I witnessed one young lady bend over in front of her dance partner and start shoving her buttocks into his crotch. I tried not to stare at her bosoms (put on display by her gaping neckline), but they were about a foot away from me and very jiggly. Then, to my mounting dismay, she braced her hands on the table, evidently to gain leverage. This caused the table to vibrate rhythmically, something that will haunt me to the end of my days. There was another young lady who was making the rounds, humping any and all available men. Seriously. I saw her grinding with guys who weren't even dancing, and one who was sitting down.

Secondly, there was the public drunkenness. Now, I am no stranger to 'tying one on,' as they say. The key is moderation (alternatively, close-lipped friends and a safe way home). When you are falling down drunk and security comes to escort you out, that is a signal that you have gone too far. Do not argue or ignore the security officer. And if you go to a place that offers an open bar but soon switches to cash, you grumble and pay up. You do not, under any circumstances, steal liquor. Before last night, I would have thought that these things were obvious. Obviously, I was wrong.

The most mortifying part of the night for me, however, happened on the dance floor. I have a sort of ... distinctive dance style. It is exuberant. It is uninhibited. It involves a lot of pantomime, flailing elbows, and stomping around in heavy boots. When I dance, I dance alone, with a wide space all around me. So it took me completely by surprise when someone braved my blast radius to tap me on the shoulder.

Me: *singing along* My out-fit's ri-di-cu-lous, in the club lookin' so con-spi-cu-ous! And ROWL -
Girl: *tap tap tap*
Me: Wha-? Oh, hello.
Girl: Hi! You're Sri, right?
Me: Um. Maybe...
Girl: I'm the student who will be shadowing you this summer!
Me: Well, isn't this awkward.

I fear this means I won't be able to inspire in her the same amount of hero-worship and awe with my mad counseling skillz. Which is too bad, because my skillz is fierce. Word.

So I suppose I shouldn't judge the poor little med students for letting down their hair (and probably, underwear) a bit. No one, not even me, escaped EBSP without egg on his or her face. Years from now, when they are respected neurosurgeons and dermatologists, they will look back on last night and have a laugh at their youthful med school indiscretions. And then they will call up their classmates to remind them that if they ever tell anyone how they made out with Dr. Greenblatt before he had his rhinoplasty, they will be very sorry.

Mar 14, 2008

Happy Pi Day!

Deep down, in the darkest recesses of my soul, I'm a math nerd. I blame my mother - as a mathematician herself, she didn't care about the readin' or the writin' so much as the 'rithmetic. She was giving my brother and me algebra lessons when we were nine and seven, respectively. When I was in elementary school, my teachers were shocked and appalled to find that I actually enjoyed long division. You could have taken my calculator when you pried it from my cold, dead fingers.

Mathematics was just so comforting. I always knew where I stood with numbers - none of this 'I before E except after C' crap. And numbers could be just as miraculous as words. The Fibonacci sequence reflects the structures of atoms, the distance between the planets in our solar system, and the seed scales of pine cones. To communicate with aliens, we beamed e into space - because 2.71828 is the same if you speak English, Japanese, or Klingon.

Sadly, in high school my interest in mathematics waned in favor of what my mother considered 'loser' subjects - English and psychology. When I entered college with dreams of becoming a counselor and writing a novel, a little bit of her died inside. After my freshman calculus class (in which I was named Most Promising New Student by Professor Ilya "The Thrill-ya" Spitkovsky, largely due to the fact that I was the one student who didn't run afoul of his thick Ukrainian accent), I dropped the study of mathematics altogether. When I took biostatistics and population genetics in grad school, math had become something of a chore. I still expected to do well, but most of the thrill was gone.

My love of liberal (read: hippie-dippie) arts notwithstanding, I do let my Inner Math Nerd out to play every once in a while. And there's no law saying I can't enjoy both poetry and pi...

by Wislawa Szymborska (Nobel Laureate in Literature)

The admirable number pi:
three point one four one.
All the following digits are also initial,
five nine two because it never ends.
It can’t be comprehended six five three five at a glance.
eight nine by calculation,
seven nine or imagination,
not even three two three eight by wit, that is, by comparison
four six to anything else
two six four three in the world.

Click for the rest of the poem.

Mar 13, 2008

Parking Rot

On my way to pick up lunch at Bodo's Bagels on Tuesday, I saw that someone in an Izusu Ascender had double-parked. This huge SUV was sprawled diagonally across two perfectly good spots. I was a bit miffed - anyone who has been to Bodo's knows how crowded that parking lot gets. Just then, I saw a short woman in a black business suit and teased-up hair leave the restaurant and head straight for the Ascender. Well, I suppose that's alright, I reasoned calmly, she's about to leave, after all. So I pulled up behind her, waiting to take one of the two spots she was straddling.

I waited. And waited. Aaaand waited.

It took me a few minutes to realize ... she was eating in her car. She had doubled-parked in a crowded lot and she was in for the duration. I was mad enough to spit. All in a huff, I pulled around and began searching for another spot. I made sure to give her the ol' hairy eyeball as I passed.

Then I remembered the one and only time I ate in my car, all alone. It was during grad school, and I was visiting a clinic in northern Virginia. Everything had been going well until I was asked to assist on a chorionic villus sampling. The doctor kept telling me to angle the lamp I was holding to better illuminate the external os.

I passed out cold.

So there I was, forced to eat my chicken sandwich in the fast food restaurant's parking lot because I was too ashamed to face the other genetic counselors. Of course I eventually gathered up the tatters of my dignity and returned to finish out the rest of clinic. But I count that lunch hour as one of the most miserable in my life.

I forgave Ascender Lady - maybe she was having a day like that.

Mar 10, 2008

And now for something completely different

Untitled Prose Poem

It's a change in the weather, a new itchiness to my skin. My body is certain, knows in its bones, that it is time to go. This doesn't make any sense - this time was permanent, the beginning of my stationary lifestyle. I bought a house, registered to vote. I didn't plan to leave.

The mother of wanderlust is dissatisfaction. There's nothing wrong but there's something missing - but there's always something missing. And I'm not going to find it somewhere new. I should stop roving, be still and look inside myself. If I knew what I wanted from life I could finally settle down.

This realization comes too late, I'm sick of this place. My eyes are playing tricks, making me think I see what I want over the horizon. Clarity. Purpose. The singular truth. I could get there if I just -


Mar 5, 2008

Super Boos-day ... oh yeah, I went there

Everyone knows that a convincing win on "Super Tuesday" is a one-way ticket to a balloon drop at the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Personally, I was more than ready for a clear winner of the primaries. I've been biting my fingernails over this race for too long - I want to know what bumper sticker to buy.

Unfortunately for my cuticles, neither Clinton nor Obama 'won' the day. And neither really 'lost.' This is aggravating, but not entirely unexpected. Maybe, I hoped, the close race will inspire the candidates to even greater feats of derring-do in an effort to win my vote. I do so love being wooed.

Then I found out about "super delegates," and their key role in the DNC. And now I'm pissed.

Just in case you weren't aware, we do not live in a democracy. We live in a republic, meaning we elect representatives to make our decisions. While this does save us the time and effort of voting on every little thing (we would not get the budget passed ever again), in some areas it makes us incredibly vulnerable to misrepresentation. We don't actually choose our party's nominee, any more than we elect a president. We put our votes and trust with a group of delegates (or the electoral college during the election itself), who purportedly vote our way at the national convention. These people are under no stronger compulsion than their own 'pledge.' And if they break that pledge there are no ramifications whatsoever.

If that wasn't bad enough, there are almost 800 political insiders who act as unelected super delegates. And now, with the race so close, candidates are focusing more and more attention on them. Because it's so much easier to win over one person than it is to win over a whole bunch of people you would be representing. *sigh*

Dad assures me that the nominee has always been hand-picked by a small group of political insiders, and that it's the elected delegates that are new. The conventions also moved out of the smoke-filled rooms into brightly-lit stadiums, ditched the brandy and added confetti. I think he was trying to be comforting ... or maybe he wanted to nip my idealism in the bud, before it had a chance to become dangerous.

Okay, I'm done ranting. I've got to keep the bigger picture in mind. Where's a "Insert Democrat Here 2008" bumper sticker when you need one?


Update: Apparently, I am like Stephen Colbert on Wikipedia ... I think it, and it becomes true! Erin is my heroin. Without an 'e' because I am addicted to her.

Mar 4, 2008

Internal Pep Talk

C'mon, Sri. You can do it. Just keep typing that letter. Family history of bilateral polydactyly? No sweat, you wrote a paragraph about that just last week - copy, paste, done! What next, what next?

Do not look at that clock.

Results. Call out some results. Ring ring ring, uh-oh you got voice mail. Don't forget to sound upbeat or the patient will freak out ... very good. Well done, you.

I'm warning you, Sri. Eyes on the charts.

Here's that article you've been meaning to read. Read, not skim. You're going to have a patient with a thrombophilia any day - don't you want to be ready?

DO NOT LOOK. You'll be going home any minute now, but if you keep looking you'll be here forever. A watched clock never tolls ... or something like that.

What? A nap? Well, that would be ni- No! NO! Stay at your desk! I know that you're sleepy, that your head hurts, that you'd rather be anywhere but at work right now, that ... that...

F*ck it. I'm going home.

Mar 2, 2008

TV Blog Updates

Here are the links to my February entries in TV Sluts.

Happy Birthday, Maggie Cats! (2/3/08) - Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. It'll make sense once you read the entry.
Strike Watch, Episode VI (2/7/08) - Angels in America. Given that the WGA strike resolved, this will be the last episode of Strike Watch.
News to me ... (2/19/08) - End of the strike and how to find out when your show is coming back.
High Def War OVER (2/28/08) - How Blu-ray kicked HD-DVD's butt.