Friday, December 28, 2007


Mosch and I saw Juno last night - a movie about a smart, quirky teenager who gets pregnant. I thought it was pretty fabulous, with consistently smart dialogue, unexpected humor, and a lot of warmth.

At first, I was concerned that the main character (played by Ellen Page) was going to just be too much - too amazingly quirky and cool in a way that even the best high school kids aren't. Instead, I really bought into the character and fell in love with her almost immediately. And I loved Michael Cera here (similar to how I loved him in Superbad). All of the characters were great, actually.

There are times when you think the movie is going to take potshots at easy targets (yuppies, for instance) doesn't quite, or it does so only gently.

Ultimately, the movie is very cool, but not too cool. It's clever but not in love with cleverness. It doesn't idolize coolness or cleverness above other qualities.

Go see this movie, or put it on your Netflix queue.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wrong But Not Ridiculous

In the car last night, Ed and I were discussing the blog I Blame the Patriarchy by Twisty Faster. It is a favorite read of mine even though my style of feminism is pretty far away from Twisty's in many ways. For Ed, the blog goes wrong in many ways, and he appreciates it less than I do.

Twisty could be reasonably accused of holding that all heterosexual sex is rape, a position that strikes most people as ridiculous. It's an idea that is often used as a straw man. But we were talking about this last night and I wanted Ed to understand why I see this argument, like many on Twisty's blog, as wrong but not ridiculous. (I can't find an instance of Twisty actually arguing that all heterosexual sex is rape, and she may not actually espouse that position, but it doesn't actually matter for the purposes of this post. You could read this delightful post about anal sex, or this one proposing a legal solution to rape to get a general idea.)

I argued it to Ed this way. Is consensual sex possible between a slave and a slave owner? Even if the slave wants it? You might answer yes, but surely you can see how it's possible to answer no.

Consent is really a continuum, from the enthusiastic and informed "yes" of free, sober persons, to actual forced sex. At some point, we draw a line and say, "This isn't consensual enough." I think sex with a willing but drunk lover is fine, but sex between a teacher and a horny 16-year-old is not consensual enough for me.

So, slaves and masters: consensual enough or not?

Assuming you can see this point, it's not such a stretch to say that insofar as women are subordinate to men in a culture, sex between the two is less consensual than sex between free people. If you don't think there's real consensual sex between masters and slaves, do you think there is consensual sex between husbands and wives in Saudi Arabia? What about 1940's America?

What about present-day America?

For me, the question about present-day America is easily answered: sex between willing adults is plenty consensual for me these days. It's not really a close thing for me at all. But Saudi Arabia is.

That's why I think the position (which may or may not only be held by strawfeminists in any case) is wrong but not ridiculous.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Looking Forward to "Sweprac"

Next semester, I am taking my Senior Experience course, which is Software Engineering Practices (aka "sweprac"). It's the big project class. Last semester, I took Software Engineering Principles, which is where you (theoretically) learn about the things you're supposed to do in sweprac.

I kind of am and am not looking forward to the course. I've historically hated group projects, like most people, and project management seems like a kind of horrible thing.

At the same time, not only is it with a professor I like, but I really did enjoy the first half, even the (bad) group project that we did. I love doing software design in a group. I love working in a code repository with other people. I like writing requirements. I basically like just about everything about it.

I think my reluctance towards the class is more a sort of slight intimidation than it is about not enjoying what we'll have to do.

I did email the professor lately, to see how his current Principles class (which will be the feeder for my sweprac class) is going: most your sweprin class going to pass? Are there any women in that class?

I'm just curious who I might see in sweprac next semester. Should I be afraid or very afraid? :)

and he wrote back

Most of the class should pass. No women. Some good students. Issues are (as expected) with respect to working as a "team", but awareness definitely raised during this semester. Should be interesting. :)

You'll no doubt be hearing (reading) a lot about this next semester, so be prepared!

Some Kind of a Tetrahedral-Figure?

I love this Saint Gasoline comic.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fuck you, Land's End

I was at Land's End's web site today, messing around looking at some coats they have. There's a button for "try it on" somewhere, and it took me to a site that appears to be run by "My Virtual Model" where you can set up a whole model of yourself to try clothes on with.

When I put in my actual height and weight, I got this message

We're sorry.

You cannot create a model with the height and weight combination you have entered. You may be able to create a model close to your size by adjusting one or both of these measurements.

Or, click "Cancel" to use our generic model.

I am fat, but not some freakishly sized person that it would be difficult to build a model for. So fuck you, Land's End, and My Virtual Model too if they are a different entity, for wasting my time so you could essentially insult me at the end of it.

I think it's really stupid to release this product with these limitations.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Presidential Candidates

A coworker sent me to Glassbooth, one of no doubt numerous sites that helps you choose between presidential candidates. I enjoyed this one because it includes the step where you indicate what your actual priorities are.

It's helpful to distinguish between different meanings of "priorities." I think the Iraq War is really important, but it's not something I'm likely to distinguish very much between candidates on. What I want the next president to do is to see what the actual situation is and respond appropriately. I care that their general attitude is not "we can solve our problems only by attacking everyone" (hello, Giuliani), and I don't think immediately withdrawing all of our troops is sensible (or even possible), but this is an issue where I'd be judging between candidates based on their credibility rather than their stated positions.

Civil liberties and domestic security, on the other hand, is a real issue of concern for me right now.

At any rate, these were my results, from best to worst.

Bill Richardson 79%
Barrack Obama 78% [my actual top choice]
Christopher Dodd 77%
Mike Gravel 74%
John Edwards 72%
Dennis Kucinich 72%
Joe Biden 72%
Hillary Clinton 69% [my actual 2nd choice]

Ron Paul 59%
John McCain 59%
Mike Huckabee 54%
Fred Thompson 54%
Rudy Giuliani 52% [my very least favorite candidate]
Mitt Romney 49%
Duncan Hunter 43% [who?]
Tom Tancredo 39% [I HATE this guy]

It's interesting that all of the Dems fell within a 10-point range for me, there is then a 10-point gap between them and Republicans, and then the Republicans cover a 20-point range of their own.

I didn't totally follow my own advice about priorities, or at least it wasn't possible to in all cases. One of my disagreements with Obama was on gay marriage, but IMO there are only two viable political positions for a presidential candidate: I'm against it, or I'm against it but civil unions are a good idea. I don't hold it against Obama that he takes the civil unions position. I think his stance on gay rights is actually peachy.

My breakdown on Obama is as follows:

Abortion: 100%
Medical Marijuana and Drug Policy: 100%
Environment and Energy: 100%
Health Care: 100%
Civil Liberties and Domestic Security: 88%
Trade and Economics: 75% [I’m less protectionist]
Immigration: 75%
Taxes and Budget: 75%
Iraq and Foreign Policy: 50%
Social Security: 50%
Gay Rights: 25% [I am in favor of gay marriage]

All of these types of quizzes have major limitations, of course. I think the 10-point gap between Obama and Clinton, and the fact that Kucinich came up higher than Clinton, makes me look a bit more liberal than I really am. I disagree with Obama on trade and economics more than this quiz thinks (because I think it only had one or two questions about it). And stated policy positions are only part of the picture.

Work Work Work

I'll have to be careful what I write here; a couple of my coworkers at least potentially read this blog.

But anyway, I've been getting behind at work for months. And what is bad about me and getting behind is (a) I am really good at getting behind under the best of circumstances, and (b) once I get behind, my natural response is to sort of hide under my desk and try to avoid thinking about all the stuff I haven't finished.

In my job, I get a lot of different tasks from different people. Some of them - the technical ones - I basically enjoy, and others - the administrative ones - I loathe and detest. I should point out that I'm not at all resentful of having tasks I loathe. They pay me a lot of money to do these things. Nevertheless, it's hard for me to get them done. And besides that difficulty, there is the fact that my job often turns into a stack, where anything I am doing is interrupted by the next new thing that needs to be done, and I can never burrow back down to the bottom.

I'd say 10% of this difficulty is the structure of my job, and 90% is me.

The week before Thanksgiving, I had a talk with my boss about how much I need to get caught up and some other things. My boss's boss had talked to her about me (among other things) and she felt I was in danger based on his attitudes. (I was not surprised to learn this, but again, head-in-the-sand thing.)

Since then, I have really caught up a lot. The week of Thanksgiving, I started with 17 items on my to-do list, and since then I have finished 13 of them and only 3 new ones have been added. (Some of the remaining ones are huge projects, but I am waiting on information from other people to be able to finish them.)

Part of what I've accomplished is updating a lot of information in my own databases, etc., that's been out of date for a while. I needed to take care of those things in order to finish some of the tasks, and when a task requires a bunch of back work to be done, I get intimidated easily.

This morning I spent an hour reorganizing some files for a due diligence guy who is coming in today. (I don't generally do filing, but we changed the organization of a few items and it was too complicated to hand over to our filing person.) Filing is something I detest in large quantities, but in small quantities, it's like solving a puzzle, plus it results in something very neat. I enjoy that.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I'm enjoying my job a lot more, having a lot less stress about it, and being a much better employee. Kudos to my boss for helping me get to this point.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Anesthetic Awareness

Slate has an article about anesthetic awareness today. "Anesthetic awareness" is when you are under general anesthesia, but accidentally awake, just unable to move. This can happen because patients are given a paralytic in addition to the thing that makes you unconscious. So, were the unconscious-making thing to fail, you might be conscious and unable to let anyone know.

It's the stuff of nightmares, obviously.

I felt sheepish asking about this, but before my surgery I did ask the anesthesiologist, "How do you know I won't be awake and just not able to say anything or move?"

I got the reassuring answer that I would not personally be receiving any paralytics, so if I were to wake up, I would in fact be able to move. This is because, since they were operating near my spine, they were going to hook electrodes up to my skull, arms, and legs, and pass signals in both directions (brain to limbs, limbs to brain) and see if they were received. There are minor risks from this procedure, he told me, but it greatly reduces the risk of spinal cord injury, because they can see right away if what they are doing is affecting your spinal cord.

I have no memories from my surgery at all. Of course, I suppose it is possible that I had some kind of experience during it and simply can't remember it, but I'm going to assume I was really out. It doesn't matter at this point, at any rate.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Outrage du Jour

In this "On Ethics" column, we learn that a graduate student who plagiarizes a paper may receive an Incomplete in the course.

An incomplete? Are you fucking kidding me?

The minimum penalty I can imagine for an undergraduate is an F on the assignment in question. (Penalties were much harsher at my original college, but I know that's unusual.) But for a grad student?

I am not usually one of those "where is this country headed" lunatics, but seriously, are there no standards at all? I bet there are plenty of people who would be happy to take that student's position at the school and write their own papers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Debt Snowball

About a year ago, I posted the results of a debt snowball calculator that I ran on the debts I had at that time. I've just updated it for the debts I currently have, and I'm going to share the results.

I put in that I can pay $1090 per month to my debts (including minimum payments). This is based on the average of what I've paid over the past 11 months, so it shouldn't be an unreasonable figure.

Here are the results (click for an expanded view).

Eagle-eyed readers will note that I have paid off a little over $10,000 in debt over the past year, and I am paying about $86 less in interest every month. You can calculate your own debt snowball here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Creamed Spinach

Any combination of spinach with fatty dairy things is like my favorite food ever. (Saag paneer probably is my all-time favorite because it's also spicy.) So for the potluck we're having at work today, I decided to try making creamed spinach.

I found a recipe online, which is sometimes challenging. It is easy to find 100 recipes for something online; what's hard is finding the recipe for something. And, if you're like me, you often want the recipe. But the recipe for creamed spinach that I linked is quite evidently the recipe.

It was easy. Thanks to Sally teaching me how to make a white sauce, I wasn't afraid of that step. Then you just cook tiny onions in butter, add the frozen spinach and cook it, then mix together the spinach, white sauce, sour cream, and parmesan cheese. It came out as perfectly canonical creamed spinach.

I am very pleased with it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Flight Schedule Confusion

Next week, I am flying to Nashville for Thanksgiving. These are my flight details.

Wed, Nov 21, 2007 Denver International Airport, (DEN) to Nashville, (BNA)

Flight: Frontier Airlines Flight 232 (on Airbus A319)
Depart: 10:25 AM, Denver, CO (DEN)
Arrive: 01:53 PM, Nashville, TN (BNA)
Total Travel Time: 3 hrs 28 mins

Sun, Nov 25, 2007Nashville, (BNA) to Denver International Airport, (DEN)

Flight: Frontier Airlines Flight 231 ((on Airbus A319)
Depart: 02:33 PM, Nashville, TN (BNA)
Arrive: 04:27 PM Denver, CO (DEN)
Total Travel Time: 1 hr 54 mins

Now I find this a bit confusing. First of all, if you look at the total travel time, it's way longer on the outgoing flight. But it appears to me that they haven't adjusted for time zones in this calculation, which is weird. Denver and Nashville are an hour off. (It's an hour earlier in Denver.)

But if you do adjust, then another strange thing pops out, which is that my outgoing flight takes 1 1/2 hours, and my return flight takes...less than an hour? Really?

I remember Houston to New Orleans as taking about an hour. Can Nashville to Denver really be that quick?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Belief Systems

Today I saw a bumper sticker that said

If you fall for nothing, you fall for everything.

The best sense I could make of it was as an argument against having no foundation of beliefs because you are then open to whatever nonsense comes along. I can see someone like Orson Scott Card making an argument like that: choose your nonsense now before some other nonsense chooses you!

As a rationalist atheist, I do see some value to belief systems that are at least exclusionary. Once you're a Methodist you're probably not going to also believe in a bunch of other baloney. This is, in fact, probably what I don't like about New Age folks. Their beliefs aren't exclusionary and therefore they can believe all varieties of nonsense - even varieties that contradict each other.

I'm a fan of empiricism. It has the twin values of being exclusionary (in that whatever is not empirically supported should not be believed) and corresponding to observed reality (in that it is intrinsically designed to have that exact quality).

(Yes, I realize that this is approximately on the philosophical level of a bright 7th grader. Give me a break, it's just a blog.)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Katamari Damacy

I currently own exactly one functioning console game: Katamari Damacy.

In this game, you are the alien pilot of a small round thing (katamari), and you roll it all around a cartoon landscape (inside a house or around a town or whatever). If you roll it over something roughly smaller than itself, it will pick that thing up and grow. The point of various levels is either to grow the katamari to a certain size, or to pick up a number of objects that follow some theme.

The music is great.

I find this game really relaxing and just lovely to play. The controls are easy and there's nothing complicated.

If you'd like to know what it looks and sounds like, here is a rather poor-resolution video of the first level.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Open Letter

Via Language Log, check out this brilliant open letter by "eternally stressed semanticist." An excerpt to whet your appetite:

Dear [□ Sir / □ Madam / □ Representative / □ Journalist / □ Idiot],

I know you believe you know a great deal about [□ linguistics / □ children's literature / □ law / □ psychology / □ other (please specify)]

simply because you [□ use language / □ read Harry Potter and Goodnight Moon / □ watch Law & Order / □ have a mind],

or because you've read a newspaper article about [□ the lack of numbers in Pirahã / □ Dumbledore being gay / □ some Supreme Court decision / □ Prozac].

Besides being funny, the letter makes an important point - there is something to these fields. In fact, there is something to most fields, and you could write this letter about any of them.

Depending on the person's attitude, it is either annoying or an interesting opportunity when someone makes a pronouncement that is not just wrong, but wrong in some fundamental way, in a field about which one knows something. I find this happens to me with linguistics a lot, possibly because the combination of "I know something about it" and "People like to comment on it a lot" is so high.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Competitions vs. Grants

a robot car from StanfordThe Economist has an article this week about robot cars, which have improved a lot in the past few years, largely (it seems) as a result of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) competitions, which set out conditions and then award large prizes to the best competitors.

I say "large," but of course a few million bucks would be miniscule for a robotic car research program, and wouldn't even be a lot of money for grants.

This improvement in “autonomous vehicle technology”, as the jargon has it, is partly a result of prodding by America's defence department, which hopes a third of its ground vehicles will be robotic by 2015. To that end its research arm, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has scaled back the traditional process of handing out large research grants and getting nothing useful in return. Instead, it has been running a series of grand prix for such vehicles. The prix in the latest, due to take place on November 3rd, is $3.5m—of which $2m will go to the vehicle best able to negotiate its way round Victorville, a former air force base in southern California, with $1m and $500,000 to those in second and third places.

Competing are university research teams (some of which have big-name sponsors because of success in past years), amateur enthusiasts, and even a corporation or two.

I really like this idea. It seems to motivate (financially and psychologically) all the right people, and you only have to reward people who succeed. Obviously the money to fund the research has to be out there to begin with, and it will never be fully compensated, but it's great to be able to harness existing money and motivation this way.

Plus, the resulting competitions are really fun to hear about.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Searching for Myself

Via Pharyngula (not that he directed it at me on purpose), a meme: what is the first thing that comes up if you search for yourself on Google Images?

If I search for Tam, this is the first thing:

for the normal version of my full name:

My name in quotes yields a picture of a woman who is not me, but linking it would give away my full name :-)

Anger in Relationships

Before Ed, I hadn't been in a relationship with anyone for...8 years? Something like that. Having a boyfriend again is lovely, but also strange in some ways. One of the problems I keep having is dealing with anger - both my own and his.

On my side, it's like this. I'm an irritable person, and I tend to snap at lovers. I've gotten way better about this over the years (and this was something I could work on with Mosch as well), such that I really no longer say things like, "Can't you eat like a human being?!?" but I'm still a bit over the top. Ed tends to take my irritation very seriously, which hurts him and is not the best response to it.

But when it comes to actual anger, I have a really hard time expressing it. Instead, I let it build up until I either go passive aggressive, or come out with the anger is an overly harsh way. (I was talking to Sally the other day and realized I have never, ever gotten outwardly mad at her. I really don't think I have. And, you know, I've known her for 15 years, so it's not like she's never pissed me off in all that time.)

When I do act angry, I usually end up feeling later that I was in the wrong. I can't really tolerate being wrong or unfair. So I usually either just try to get over what is bugging me, or else I express it and then feel wretched later.

On the other side of the coin, Ed is also irritable, and gets irritable with or angry at me more often than any boyfriend I've had. His anger is really clean - he's not scary and he doesn't say intentionally hurtful things. I sometimes think of it as a "clean, protective anger." It is usually about a demand for fairness or to be taken seriously. (Belittlement is intolerable to him.)

But it crushes me. I think partly because I grew up as the only child of a single parent, when my partner is angry at me, it feels like the end of all relationship. (Think about it. In my family of origin there was exactly one relationship.) It feels like he hates me. I don't usually get angry or defensive back - I just crumble inside, and want to do anything to appease him.

It's bad. I wish I wouldn't respond this way. I am still able to respond somewhat rationally to whatever he's saying - weigh his arguments, decide (generally) that he's right, apologize, and whatever is required. Sometimes I will make a case for myself when I think there's one to be made. He listens too. We often handle it well in the moment. But afterwards, or maybe later when he jokes about something unrelated, I'll cry. It builds up.

I want to learn more healthy ways of dealing with this on both sides. I'm less concerned about my own anger, because Ed can handle it, and I do eventually get my points across somehow. But I'm afraid my response to his, if I don't get over becoming a basketcase whenever he gets mad, may destroy things.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Schooling

I took this semester off from school, which was painful but necessary in light of having surgery. (I already work full time. School or surgery seems doable, but not both.)

I have four classes left before I can graduate, as follows:
  • Software Engineering Practices (my Senior Experience course)
  • Principles of Programming Languages
  • Linear Algebra
  • Abstract Algebra or (more likely) Probability & Statistics
Next semester, I'll take Software Engineering Practices (hereafter known as "sweprac") and Linear Algebra. I'm really looking forward to it, and I have a decent schedule (Tuesdays & Thursdays, 5-9pm).

This means I should graduate in December of 2008. I've been in school for a long time, and I do want to keep taking math courses basically forever, but graduating would be great.

The Boyfriend

Ed and I started dating in late May. It's been about five months now, and we are still together, with no signs of that changing any time soon.

He makes me really happy. He's in love with me (which is mutual, as should be obvious), and he's wonderfully emotionally supportive, a drama whore like me, and just great. I can't believe how great he is in these emotional ways. Also, the sex is the best I've had.

He's still working on his master's thesis. It's hard for him to stay productive with hardly any external constraints, but that's sort of the nature of theses. I have no doubt he'll get it done.

Lately, we spend about two evenings and one weekend day together each week. We also play an online game together (EVE Online), which gives us a light way to spend time together (online, of course, not in person) without it being too intense. (We have a habit of getting intense over IMs, and it doesn't always turn out well.)

His birthday is Monday, but we're celebrating it Friday. He'll be 24.

The Surgery

On August 29th, I had ACDF surgery - anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. In this surgery, which is to handle a badly herniated disc, they go in through the front (anterior) of your neck (cervical), remove one of the discs that acts as a shock absorber for your vertebrae (discectomy), replace it with a piece of bone (like a shim), screw the vertebrae together using a titanium plate and screws, and then hope your vertebrae will grow together with the bone shim (fusion).

The pain I've been dealing with on and off since 2003, and which was really terrible starting in January of this year, is 95% gone. I'm no longer taking any pain meds - not the gabapentin that I'd been taking since March, not even tylenol.

The tiny bits of pain I do have seem unrelated to anything that I do, and that itself is a huge relief. For years I was careful about how I moved my neck, how I held it, how I slept, etc., knowing I could easily trigger a flare-up. Right now I'm being careful because I'm still healing from the surgery, but nothing I've done seems to make anything hurt more.

It's too early to know for sure whether the fusion itself is succeeding, but the success rate among healthy young people (at least based on the control group of one study) is about 98%, so the odds are in my favor.

The surgery itself was pretty easy. I was miserable in the hospital afterwards (a ton of anxiety), but I never had much pain afterwards.

I am really glad I did that.

Updates Planned

I haven't posted here in for-freakin'-ever.

Partly it's because I've just been busy. Partly it's because one of my regular readers isn't speaking to me, and that's painful to think about. And partly...hell, I don't know. The most interesting parts of my life are things I can't write about here.

But I plan to write a series of small updates on various facets of my life, and I expect I'll keep this blog more updated after that point.

I wonder how long it will be before anyone even finds this post?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Surgery Update

this is what a herniated disc looks like I emailed all of this to my mom, but here's an update on the surgery I'm having in 13 days.

My surgery is two weeks from yesterday - August 29th. I had my pre-op appointment Monday and they went over everything.

Well, first this horrible nurse talked to me. She was friendly but useless, and didn't talk to me like my surgery was a serious thing. She usually works for a different surgeon and she came in not knowing anything, and asked me what kind of surgery I was having and when. I guess it was lucky for her that I knew, huh? She told me some wrong stuff, like that I wouldn't have a bone growth simulator (I will) and that I shouldn't take ibuprofen for six months after - she denied that the other NSAIDS (aspirin, naproxen) were included in the ban, but my surgeon confirmed that they were later.

Then I talked to the resident who works with Dr. Patel (my surgeon) and he was cool.

And then I talked to Dr. Patel himself, and he went over everything again. And then to another nurse who actually gave me her direct line (unheard of at this place) and was pretty awesome.

Here's some stuff I learned.

I'll have a collar (brace) for six weeks after the surgery. The company that fits them will call me and arrange to come out and meet me at my house or whatever two or three days before the surgery, and I'll get the fancy collar then. I'm supposed to wear this all the time. But what Dr. Patel told me - which was really nice to learn - was that plenty of surgeons do this exact surgery and don't ask their patients to wear a collar, so it's more of a precaution than an absolute necessity. I'll wear it anyway, but this should cut down my paranoia about it. (I'm really paranoid about my head breaking off after the surgery. I mean, not literally breaking off, but the idea is for the bones to fuse, and I'm worried about that not happening. The resident told me that the success rate for healthy young people is 98% for this, so my odds are good. I wonder what the other 2% do wrong?)

I'll also have a bone growth simulator, which is like a shock collar that I'll wear a few hours a day for . I've been told that it does not hurt, which I assume is true.

I was worried that I might have to stop taking the gabapentin before the surgery. I don't really notice if I miss a dose, but if I miss two doses, I have really intense pain in my tricep for a while. (The tricep is the back of the upper arm.) I hate that a lot. But Dr. Patel said he wants me to take the gabapentin straight through the surgery, and continue taking it afterwards, and then wean myself off of it over time as the nerve heals. So that's good.

I couldn't get a consistent answer on whether to stop taking the Pill. (Ed and I use the Pill and condoms, so stopping the Pill doesn't really change much.) The only issue there is that it increases the risk of blood clots, and that's one of the major risks of surgery too. (I'll have special hose on after surgery and I'll wear those for a while afterwards - I'm not sure how long, but a week?) Dr. Patel said not to worry about it, his resident said I should stop taking it, and the bad nurse said I should ask my ob-gyn or gp. I'm going to stop taking it. We don't have that much sex and we do use condoms already anyway (not that we couldn't start if we didn't, but since we already do it's even easier) and I am really anti-death.

Having surgery is like having furniture delivered in this one way: you call the day before and they tell you what time to show up. They schedule a few for the same day and they can rearrange the schedule at the last minute. At least it's not a "window", though in practical terms I guess once you show up, there's no absolutely guaranteed time that they do stuff. You know how doctors are. (The bad nurse kept apologizing about not being able to tell me right now what time to show up. I wanted to say "It's ok, I'm taking the whole day off, it really doesn't matter.") I can't eat any food starting 8 hours before the surgery, but I can have clear liquids (including gatorade, water, coffee without cream, clear juices, etc.) until 2 hours before.

Mosch can go with me into pre-op, where I meet with the surgeon again, and the anesthesiologist, and get blood tests, and have an iv put in, and stuff like that. (This is the part I'm nervous about. Pre-op.) Then when they take me into surgery, he goes into the waiting area. They'll give him a pager so he won't feel like he can't leave. I'll be gone 2-4 hours, but the actual surgery part of the surgery only usually takes about an hour.

If I were adamant, I could theoretically leave the hospital the same day, but they like to keep you overnight to make sure you don't have problems with breathing or swallowing. (Since they operate through the front of the neck, there is a possibility of damaging your windpipe or esophagus, though the resident assured me that all of these things, including major nerves, are "in the same place in every patient" and so this is not too likely.) I'm cool with spending the night. I'm not that big a fan of choking to death at home. (Of course, just being in the hospital gives you some chance of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection or something too. But this is a very new and fancy hospital and hopefully they know what they're doing over there.)

Of course they want you up and walking around as soon as possible after the surgery - this is to help prevent blood clots - and the next day, you can go home as long as you are walking, peeing and pooping, breathing fine, and eating and drinking. I'm supposed to have some soft foods at home because my throat will be really sore, as though I had a tonsillectomy.

Mosch is planning to spend the night at the hospital with me. Ed is going to come with us (according to the current plan, anyway) and wait with Mosch, but Mosch will drive him home for the night. I hope Ed will come over the next day, when I'm home again, and help me if I need anything (while Mosch sleeps). I trust Mosch more at the hospital than Ed, because he has more experience being an advocate for a patient in the hospital and he knows me and my preferences really well. Also it's a lot to ask from a boyfriend of 3 months.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

My Lolcat

This is moronic. But cute. But moronic. But cuuuuuute! (And my result seems oddly appropriate.)

Your Score: Ceiling Cat

50% Affectionate, 25% Excitable, 37% Hungry

You are a master of stealth. They never see you coming. But you always see them coming. HEY-O!

To see all possible results, checka dis.

Link: The Which Lolcat Are You? Test written by GumOtaku on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I Won Two Arguments

Because I am a jerk and a smart-ass, I won two arguments today.

First, two coworkers and I were discussing the problems that can arise in pregnancy due to Rh factor. (Rh factor is the thing that makes your blood type "positive" or "negative.") Coworker C was certain that if the mother's and father's factor differed, it would be a problem no matter who was positive, while I felt certain (based on the logic of how A, B, and + work in blood typing) that only if the mother was negative and the father positive could problems arise, not if the mother is positive and the father is negative. She was insistent, so I looked it up online and confirmed my theory.

Bad me!

Later in the day, my boss (who had been privy to this earlier conversation) gave me a document to proofread. The document stated that we gave up a certain lease because of its "proximity" to a well that we drilled. The lease was actually far from the well, and while I think technically "due to its proximity" could convey that, it sounds much more like we dropped it because it was close to the well.

She insisted that "proximity" refers to something being far away. I argued. She looked it up in the dictionary. I stood by hoping that the definition therein would be conclusive. It was.

"Well then a lot of people use that word wrong," she huffed (mildly).

"I hate her now too, C!" she called out a minute later.

I swear I do not wake up in the morning trying to be a jerk. And I stand by my actions in the second case, since using the word wrong would have made the memo confusing. But I probably could have let the Rh thing go.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Caffeine Withdrawal

The weekend before last, I drank a whole lot of caffeine, mostly in the form of nice delicious soft drinks. Oh, and iced tea. Lots and lots of iced tea!

I drank so much caffeine that I actually got sick from it twice, on two consecutive days. I had a terrible headache and felt fluttery, anxious, and nauseated for two or three hours each time. (Two days in a row? Obviously I don't learn.)

So I gave up caffeine last week. The last caffeine I had (not counting chocolate) was half a soda Wednesday at lunch. Prior to my weekend overdoses, I'd been drinking about 1 or 2 caffeinated beverages (soda or iced tea) most days, so it's not like I was having a crazy amount or anything.

Why did I give it up? Well, I hate the idea of being dependent on a drug, even one as mild as caffeine. I guess Nancy Reagan's attempt to make every child of my generation terrified of drugs worked on me. Also, I'm having surgery in a month, and it would be really nice to not go into that as a caffeine addict. I don't want to wake up feeling crappy from caffeine withdrawal on top of the rest of it. (Caffeine withdrawal is mild - nothing like, say, heroine withdrawal - but it still sucks.)

But it really sucks right now. I've had a headache on and off since Thursday. (It varies from about 3-7 hours per day, I think.) And I have the usual drowsiness and not-good-for-anything-ness.

The worst part is the "dysphoria," which I was almost relieved to hear is in fact a known symptom of caffeine withdrawal. I'm basically having kind of classical depression symptoms. I'm down and very pessimistic. Little problems make me think whole enterprises (like my relationship with Ed) are doomed. And this is really not like me.

I'm really hoping this goes away soon. Stupid caffeine.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Haughty Intellectual? Moi?

Via the great science blog Pharyngula, this:

Your Score: Haughty Intellectual

You are 71% Rational, 42% Extroverted, 28% Brutal, and 71% Arrogant.

You are the Haughty Intellectual. You are a very rational person, emphasizing logic over emotion, and you are also rather arrogant and self-aggrandizing. You probably think of yourself as an intellectual, and you would like everyone to know it. Not only that, but you also tend to look down on others, thinking yourself better than them. You could possibly have an unhealthy obsession with yourself as well, thus causing everyone to hate you for being such an elitist twat. On top of all that, you are also introverted and gentle. This means that you are just a quiet thinker who wants fame and recognition, in all likelihood. Like so many countless pseudo-intellectuals swarming around vacuous internet forums to discuss worthless political issues, your kind is a scourge upon humanity, blathering and blathering on and on about all kinds of boring crap. If your personality could be sculpted, the resulting piece would be Rodin's "The Thinker"--although I am absolutely positive that you are not nearly as muscular or naked as that statue. Rather lacking in emotion, introspective, gentle, and arrogant, you are most certainly a Haughty Intellectual! And, most likely, you will never achieve the recognition or fame you so desire! But no worries!

To put it less negatively:

1. You are more RATIONAL than intuitive.

2. You are more INTROVERTED than extroverted.

3. You are more GENTLE than brutal.

4. You are more ARROGANT than humble.


Your exact opposite is the Schoolyard Bully. (Bullies like to beat up nerds, after all.)

Other personalities you would probably get along with are the Braggart, the Hand-Raiser, and the Robot.



If you scored near fifty percent for a certain trait (42%-58%), you could very well go either way. For example, someone with 42% Extroversion is slightly leaning towards being an introvert, but is close enough to being an extrovert to be classified that way as well. Below is a list of the other personality types so that you can determine which other possible categories you may fill if you scored near fifty percent for certain traits.

The other personality types:

The Emo Kid: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Starving Artist: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Bitch-Slap: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Brute: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hippie: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Televangelist: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Schoolyard Bully: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Class Clown: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Robot: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Haughty Intellectual: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Spiteful Loner: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Sociopath: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hand-Raiser: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Braggart: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Capitalist Pig: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Smartass: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

Be sure to take my Sublime Philosophical Crap Test if you are interested in taking a slightly more intellectual test that has just as many insane ramblings as this one does!

About Saint_Gasoline

I am a self-proclaimed pseudo-intellectual who loves dashes. I enjoy science, philosophy, and fart jokes and water balloons, not necessarily in that order. I spend 95% of my time online, and the other 5% of my time in the bathroom, longing to get back on the computer. If, God forbid, you somehow find me amusing instead of crass and annoying, be sure to check out my blog and my webcomic at

Link: The Personality Defect Test written by saint_gasoline on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Deliriously Happy

So much stuff about and with Ed makes me just deliriously happy. I know this is just kind of typical in-love stuff, so I won't bludgeon my readers with the sappy details. But being in love with someone who is really, unequivocally, openly in love with me rocks.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Range of Neck Motion

I've been doing some research into the type of surgery I plan to have. One question that comes up about having vertebrae fused is whether I'll still be able to move my neck all around, or how compromised I will be. (After all, having two vertebrae become one piece of bone is obviously not how the spine is designed to work; the discs are there to let the thing flex.)

Alan Hilibrand has an article in the journal Spine (Jul2006, Vol. 31 Issue 15, p1688-1692, 5p) with this abstract (emphases mine):

STUDY DESIGN.: Prospective cohort study.

OBJECTIVE.: To precisely measure the effect of anterior cervical fusion on neck motion.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA.: Anterior cervical decompression and stabilization procedures are successful in treating recalcitrant cervical radiculopathy and cervical myelopathy. Most assume that these “fusion” procedures result in a loss of neck motion, although changes in overall motion following anterior cervical fusion have never been precisely quantified.

METHODS.: Twenty-five consecutive patients undergoing anterior cervical fusion of ne to four levels underwent cervical range of motion testing in three planes using an unconstrained instrumented linkage before surgery and more than 3 months after surgery. These data were compared with that of 10 volunteers with no prior history of neck complaints. Motion data were compared between patients and volunteers, and between the patients before surgery and at last follow-up, using RMANOVA and Fisher’s PLSD post hoc test.

RESULTS.: Before surgery, the patients had significantly less motion than the volunteers in all directions. Following surgical fusion, patients gained a statistically significant amount of motion in all planes, although they did not achieve the motion seen among the volunteers. Gains in motion were seen among all patients, including those undergoing four-level fusions, and there was no correlation between postoperative motion and the number of levels fused.

CONCLUSIONS.: Patients undergoing anterior cervical fusion have diminished neck motion compared with normal volunteers. Following surgery, they may be expected to gain motion, even when undergoing multilevel fusions. However, these patients are unlikely to regain the neck motion seen among normal individuals without neck complaints

This is fairly reassuring. My range of neck motion right now is indeed pretty minimal. I can't look up very far, can't look sideways nearly as far as normal people, and both directions (especially in combination, which is really bad) hurt me. For instance, if I'm in the driver's seat of my car, parked, and talk to someone in the passenger seat for more than a couple of minutes I get a lot of pain.

Surgery Scheduled

My surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, August 29th. My plan is to return to work the Monday after Labor Day, i.e., September 10th.

Before the surgery, I have a pre-op appointment on August 13th. Also, the company that makes or sells the neck braces (one of which I must wear continually for six weeks from when they put it on during the surgery) may contact me for a fitting. If not, they will fit me on the morning of the actual surgery.

I know it is strange to be excited about going under the knife, and I know I won't enjoy it in the event, and will probably be scared, and the aftermath will probably be very unpleasant, but I actually am excited and happy to have it scheduled. I kind of "can't wait," as silly as that is. It's not so much that I anticipate having my problem solved - though that's certainly the hope based on which I'm choosing the surgery at all. I think it's just the new and exciting proposition of having surgery.

(Yes, I am looney tunes.)

I am saving up questions for the surgeon. So far, I have
  • How do you make sure that you operate on the correct vertebrae? Do you count them or are they each just really distinct to you? (It's not like having your leg amputated where you can just write on the other one with a sharpie ahead of time "NOT THIS ONE.")

  • Do they insert the urinary catheter before or after I'm under? (I have anxiety about this.)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Fourth

Ed and I spent yesterday at his parents' house in Longmont. When it got dark around 9:15, we saw a lot of neighborhood fireworks, plus the fireworks at the county fairgrounds some miles away. We all sat out in the street in lawnchairs. It was suburban in the best sense.

I enjoyed seeing the family again, and I was more relaxed this time. Ed's mom (Jean) was feeling better than last time and we got to spend some time together fixing up her cell phone and installing some software on her computer. She told me that last time she had had the aunts interrogate me since she wasn't feeling too great.

"Did you get some good intelligence?" I asked.

"Yeah!" she said.

Ed's dad (Ed) sat with me and Ed for the fireworks and we joked together quite a lot. After arguing about who was whose straight man, the general pattern seemed to be that he would set up the jokes and I would knock them down. Ed bore the brunt of most of it.

We also had another fabulous dinner with two kinds of pork loin (cooked on the grill), three kinds of potato salad, cole slaw, corn, and two kinds of garlic bread. It was feast-like. I had milk with my dinner, which is uncommon for me but seems to be a regular thing in their household.

I think they like me OK.

You're Dethpicable!

Came across this classic Bugs Bunny cartoon ("Rabbit Seasoning") on Andrew Sullivan this morning.

some features:
  • massive cartoonlike violence that would probably not be aired on network TV today
  • the early part: a new marketing suggestion for Texas Parks & Wildlife?
  • Bugs Bunny: master of rhetoric
  • Bugs Bunny in drag
  • Bugs' seductive accent is a southern drawl...I wonder how many men do find that sexy?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

More Surgery Info

My doctor gave me this link where you can see what he looks like and learn more about this type of surgery. If you click on "patient education" in the sidebar, then choose "spine" and then "cervical" and then the last procedure in the list ("anterior cervical discectomy, fusion instrumented (ACDF)"), you can watch an animated illustration of exactly what the surgery consists of. It starts with a good illustration of what the actual problem is.

Monday, July 02, 2007


In March of 2003, for no particular reason, I woke up one morning with a crick in my neck, which then worsened to the point that I had several emergency room visits before being diagnosed with a herniated disc.

Basically, your spine is made up of vertebrae separated by these slightly springy (like a hockey puck) discs. The discs have some kind of jelly-like interior. A herniated or ruptured disc is what they call it when the disc tears and the inside of it pushes out. This can be harmless - some people have ruptured discs and no symptoms - but if the material impinges on a nerve then it can cause numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness. When this happens in your lower back, the result is called "sciatica," and a lot of people suffer from this, but there's no common name for having it in your neck.

It basically sucks. The original thing in 2003 was horrendous, and since that kind of faded I've just been careful all the time, to the point that I feel like people think I am some kind of weird hypochrondriac about it. (I feel like some weird old person who has a trick knee or a hip that aches when it's going to rain or whatever.) It sucks to continually tell people that you can't do some very commonplace thing (turn your head a certain way, sit in some particular chair, etc.) because of your neck.

And it's not black or white. I can do lots of things, it's just that they aggravate my neck, and if the aggravation is bad enough, I get a flare-up.

But this has been pretty manageable until this January, where on the heels of irritating my neck slightly in various ways, I committed the unthinkable crime of sleeping one night on my couch. That started a really heinous flare-up that is still ongoing.

Stupid neck. Bah!

Anyway, last Friday I talked to a surgeon. I already emailed my mom about this, so I'm going to just paste that email into here.

I think I'm going to go ahead and schedule the surgery. They say they are about 6 weeks out in the schedule, but I think I'll aim for mid-September because Barbara is having her hip replacement in early August and it's hard if we're both out at the same time.

The nurse practitioner and the surgeon showed me my MRI and the x-ray they took while I was there on the computer and it's really easy to see how the disc is making my spinal column veer around it.

The surgeon said that I basically have three options:

1. Wait and let it heal on its own. I did this in 2003 and it did basically heal but I've needed to be careful ever since because I always have little flare-ups and now I've got a full-blown breach again.

2. Try a steroid injection. Some people get no pain relief from this, some people get a few hours, and some people get six months.

3. Have surgery.

The reason I don't really feel like trying #2 (the injection) is that it's not pain that's my primary concern. If I just knew I'd have this pain forever, I probably wouldn't have the surgery. What I'm tired of is having to constantly be careful about my neck Every Fucking Day because if I'm not it's going to flare up and be really bad. I'm tired of only have two positions I can lie down in. I'm tired of not being able to snuggle with my boyfriend (and I really do mean "snuggle") because I just can't lie with him in any nice positions.

For the surgery, they go in through the front of the neck. They remove the disc completely, and they take bone from somewhere else in your body (not sure where, but probably the hip or
something) to put between the vertebrae in place of the disc. Then they put a metal plate in the front and screw it on to help hold the vertebrae together. (It's called "spinal fusion.")

It is pretty safe and works for most people. I'd probably go home the day after the surgery and need to take about two weeks off work. I'd wear a neck brace for six weeks to help while the bones fuse together. In 2-6 months the nerves themselves (the ones previously impinged by the disc) would start to heal and that can go on for up to 2 years.

The danger of spinal fusion is that, when that one joint in your spine can't flex, it puts more stress on the adjoining joints. But in follow-ups over 20 years, there isn't an increased risk of needing further neck surgeries for that reason, if you compare people who had this problem and did or didn't have surgery.

Anyway, I'll keep you guys posted, but for now, those are my plans.

Friday, June 29, 2007


This morning is my surgical consult, where I get to find out if I'm going to maybe have surgery to fix (?) my neck. And last night was kind of a strange night with Ed. So naturally I had the following three dreams that I remember.

I dreamed that I had some kind of a nervous breakdown and was put into a mental institution. It was a nice place and very restful. I got out after a while, but then Ed made me crazy again (it's just a dream, Ed) and I had to go back in. It was partly because I just never got enough sleep "on the outside." In the last part of my dream I was trying hard not to get classified as actually crazy because then you would get your own room instead of sleeping in the common area, but it was much harder to get out again.

I dreamed that I had some kind of an STD. I don't remember what kind but it wasn't HIV or anything.

And I dreamed that I was diagnosed with some kind of leukemia-like condition. It was probably not going to kill me outright, but was instead a manageable but life-shortening condition like Type 2 diabetes. But I was going to have to go in every week and receive some kind of injections into my bone marrow, which were going to be really painful. I went in for the first two and they were not as bad as I'd feared.

In real life, Mosch is going with me to my surgical consult. It helps to have another person at important medical things.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Danny Boy

Via Andrew Sullivan, this is too great not to post. It gets even more great as it goes on. Enjoy!

Sally, the Muppets always remind me of you bigtime. And not just the old men in the balcony doing our thing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ed's Thesis & Geek Love

Sunday night, Ed did some work on his thesis at my place. He had brought over his computer to hook up to my monitor, keyboard, etc., so that he could do work. I got to watch over his shoulder some.

Ed's thesis work is basically (in my highly generalized understanding) about how to make computers or other devices in a network communicate with each other peer-to-peer if each knows its own location but not necessarily the location of every other one. When he was explaining it to me, I used the goofy analogy of an array of penguins, each drifting around on its own ice floe with a walkie-talkie. If Flippy wants to get a message to Pete, he broadcasts on the channel that any other penguin within range can receive. With his message, he sends his own location. Somehow, given this information, each penguin that receives the message decides whether to pass it on or let someone else handle it. They don't know where Pete is, but only the path the message has followed so far. Somehow given their own location, and Flippy's location, they can figure out how to route the message so that it eventually reaches Pete.

Ed is doing this with some version of the right-hand rule for navigating mazes. This rule (which doesn't work in all cases) says that you can navigate a maze by always cleaving to the right-hand wall. Once you reach a dead end, of course, the old left-hand wall is the right-hand wall, so for many maze configurations, this will eventually result in a full traversal of the maze.

Anyway, Ed was stuck at some point, so I suggested he explain his problem to me. Many people find that explaining a conceptual problem to someone (even if the "someone" is a dog or other noncomprehending beast, which I expected to be) can give them some insight into solving it.

"Do you prefer lined or unlined paper?" I asked. Unlined (score!) ".5 or .7?" He knew I meant lead size (of course) and he had a strong preference. God I love us geeks.

So he explained the above to me, with some sketches, and started telling me about his problem, which was kind of a vector calculus one. (At least, it was material I learned in vector calc that enabled me to understand it; there wasn't any actual calculus involved.)

"It really turns me on to watch you draw diagrams and write math," I said at some point.

He looked at me and blinked.

"You'd feel the same way if it were me," I said.

He thought for a minute. "Yes, I would!" he said, surprised.

Ah, geek love.

This is actually similar enough to the layout of Ed's bedroom to give me a little warm feeling (Comic from

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Mine are kind of a mess this month. I usually track them with great glee and diligence, but I let things slide a few weeks here and just now bothered to actually go and pay bills, some of which are late as a result. Once I knew I was fucking things up, I had to kind of fight to go handle them, because once they're fucked up I don't want to deal with 'em.

Also, the credit card that I use for my spending, and diligently pay off each month, I was not able to completely pay off this month. Partly that's because I have already spent, but have not yet received, the $1500 in grant money from that CREU grant project I did last year. Partly it's because I simply overspent by that much money.

For the first time since October '06 when I started tracking it, my net worth actually went down this month, though only by about $250. (This month's is lower than May's but still much higher than April's.) Yuck.

I need to get my act together. So far I've been doing fine keeping up with school work (my one stupid online class) but my diet, exercise, and financial management are going all to hell. Oh well, new relationship stuff, right? It will pass, right? Right?!?

(For the record, everything is all shaped up now - checkbook updated, bills paid, etc.)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Handling Drama

Sunday afternoon, Ed and I had some relationship drama that was kind of interesting. I find I don't often post about things that are super personal here, so I'm stretching myself a little bit.

When we were making our weekend plans, we made a date for Saturday night, and I asked Ed if he would spend the night Saturday and plan to spend Sunday at my house until around my bedtime. (He typically gets up in mid-afternoon and goes to bed before or around dawn, I think, so our schedules are quite different.) He agreed to this as long as he could bring his computer so he could get some work done. No problem.

Sunday afternoon we had some sex and then I said, "Hey, you wanna watch a movie or something?" and he said, "Actually I think I'd rather go home."

I think I kind of froze or something. "Do you have to?" I asked.

"You're disappointed," he said.

"Yeah," I said, and went into the bathroom for a minute to pee and think.

I had really arranged my mind around the idea that I had him until bedtime. Part of me was rational and did not want to trap him at my apartment, and wanted him to be able to get his work done wherever he felt he could best do it, or whatever. I wanted to get over it, let it go, and be mature. But the other part of me was just a child from whom something was being taken away in a completely unexpected and unfair fashion.

Given this, my temptation was to go out and do some kind of passive-aggressive bullshit thing like, "No, it's fine. I'll take you home. I obviously just can't make plans with you and have you stick to them. That's fine, I know that now," etc. Argh. I really wanted not to be passive aggressive and try to lay some thick smack of guilt down on him in an unsuccessfully sneaky fashion. (It's not like he wouldn't notice if I did that.)

So I went back to my room and started putting my clothes on. He came over and said, "You're not OK," and I said, "No, I'm not," and he put his arms around me and I told him how I felt ("We agreed that you'd be here today, and I want to let this go and be mature, but I just can't," to paraphrase) and he admitted he had done wrong in agreeing to stay and then not getting any work done Friday or Saturday and bailing on me, and he apologized and continued holding me tight while I cried a little bit.

(This all sounds ridiculous as I type it out, but you know, in the moment these things are harder. We were probably standing there 2-3 minutes total.)

He sat down to put his shoes on, got one on, thought for a minute (while I closed my eyes, sitting across him on the side of the bed, rocking autistically), took it off, and got into bed with me. I was really getting better by this time and had put my own shoes on, which he took off me. He said he was getting freaky from not having eaten much (I'd made some peanut noodles with seitan but they were a bit weird for him, and also he's really accustomed to eating meat) but he had brought his computer and could just work at my house if he got something to eat. I suggested we could go out for fast food if he liked, and he did.

We went to eat at Chipotle and spent much of the meal giving each other all manner of compliments about our superb handling of the situation. Of course, I want to make it clear that my own handling of the situation was only at all good given the context of my feelings, which I wasn't able to really control in a mature way. At best, I had sort of a bad hand dealt to me by my brain, and given that bad hand, I played well.

Now it's Monday morning and Ed got some good work done last night and spent the night and is no doubt sleeping in my bed right now. I love that boy.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Ed has been trying to get me to play Go with him for a while now, and I've been kind of resistant. It seems to just come up out of the blue at odd times, to the point that it's become sort of a looming topic somehow. Last night he brought it up again and I responded by imitating a meditative posture and pretending to begin to breathe calmly to deal with his desire to play.

This didn't go over so well. Apparently Ed has burned out some other girlfriends on Go, and so he has a bit of a sensitive spot about it. Well, shucks.

I think Mosch was the first person I played Go with. We got really into it, briefly, but had to abandon it because we just had too many other things we wanted to do. Since then, I'd basically completely forgotten how to play.

Go is a strategy game like checkers, othello, or hexes (whatever that game is called). You play stones at the intersection points of a board. You capture the opponent's stones when you cut off all of their escape routes (essentially), but you win by controlling territory with as few stones as possible. It's not hard to learn how to play Go, but it's one of those things where there is perhaps no limit as to how good you could become.

I agreed to play with Ed under the condition that he would not give me advice about what moves he would have made in my place. During the game we played (on 1/4 of the standard board, and with me having a 3-stone advantage to start), I did ask him for his thoughts on a few things as we went on. I lost pretty badly (as expected), but had some good moments. I'm definitely willing to do it some more.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Trojan "Evolve" Ad

Trojan has a new ad campaign, an example of which can be watched here on their website. The commercial depicts a bar full of pigs and women, and shows the women rejecting the pigs over and over. Then one of the pigs goes into the restroom and gets a Trojan condom from a dispenser, at which point he is transformed into a man. He returns to the woman who previously rejected him, and she definitely likes him this time. The end of the ad says "Evolve" and "Use a condom every time." Here is their print ad.

Oink oink!
I have kind of a love/hate relationship with this ad. I hate the depiction of men as pigs and women as objects of sexual desire. But I really love the message of the ads ("use a condom every time" or "choose the one who uses a condom every time") and I think the angle of selling condoms to straight men using the motivation that women like men who use condoms is a good one. I really do like men who are happy to use a condom every time. I think it's a smart way to have sex.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Eating with Ed

Anything looks good if you put it in a nice bowl and photograph it from an angle One of the things that dating Ed is doing is kind of disordering my eating habits. We often stay up late at activities and sometimes I eat an extra meal afterwards. We've also been eating out too much, which is partly because I always like any excuse to eat out and partly because it's been slightly logistically challenging getting meals together.

Tonight, Ed is making me dinner at his house. He likes cooking and I think has wanted to do this. I suggested something simple, and preferably CV or near-CV. It'll give us a little extra time together this evening if I don't have to figure out how to work my own dinner into things.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Saturday night, Ed and I stayed up late, and did an interesting activity together. I think Ed was hesitant to suggest this because of my stated pro-empiricism and anti-woo, but interpetive divination is actually one of the really fun woo types of activities, and I'm almost always willing to engage in it.

useful but full of shit, like many non-falsifiable ideasWhat he wanted to do was take the deck of tarot cards, shuffle them together (each of us shuffling half and then cutting the deck together), and then lay them out in a pyramid with each level representing one layer of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. So we had five cards speaking to physiological needs, four for safety, three for love & belonging, 2 for self-esteem (or "self-efficacy," as he cannily called it for my sake), and 1 for self-actualization. For the purposes of the reading, it was considered that the two cards immediately below any given card would influence or impinge upon it.

Typically in reading tarot cards, you are supposed to know what the cards are supposed to mean. But Ed's preferred strategy was to simply look at the cards and interpret them based on the pictures on them. (The cards in his deck are fairly evocative, so this was possible.)

Ed's deck is a bit less whimsicalI don't think Ed expected me to take this seriously at all. But I really enjoy interpreting symbols, so I spent time looking at and thinking about each card, how it related to the level it was on, and how it might impinge upon the cards above it. I think Ed had anticipated a collaborative process of reading the cards, but I basically just gave him my full spiel. It was kind of a depressing reading, even though I don't think I was in a bad mood. I also said uncharacteristically woo-like things like, "I think this card is here to remind me that..."

Then Ed talked about the patterns he had seen, and we did kind of a mutual reading more about our whole relationship. This is the kind of thing you could do all night, building more and more baroque theories about how everything relates and what it all means, but we did call it quits after a while.


Ed's Family

We drove to Longmont to have dinner with Ed's family around 3:30 PM yesterday. I've rarely had "meeting the parents" laid out in such an explicit fashion; usually it's been more casual. I was a little bit nervous - I am not great at meeting people anyway, really, though I've gotten way better over time.

Present were Ed's mom (Jean), dad (Ed) and two aunts - Jean's sister Maggie and her wife Kathy (or maybe Cathy, I didn't find out). All except Kathy had the quality that immediately upon meeting them, you felt you knew exactly what they were like. This feeling is mostly illusory, and of course makes me wonder whether I give off a strong immediate impression and, if so, what it might be. It might be best not to know.

Dinner was barbecued ribs and chicken, corn on the cob, sliced bread, and salad. It was obviously not CV, but I wasn't too worried about it. Everything was delicious. I confess that I caused a controversy by putting pepper on my corn - apparently this is considered barbaric (or otherwise wrong) in some quarters. None of the Krohnes did it, and Aunt Maggie got in trouble despite refraining when Kathy claimed that she (Maggie) was the one who had introduced her to the practice.

Ed's dad took us (me and Ed) to the basement and gave me a tour of his extensive collection of HAM radio equipment, computers new and old, model rocketry (including custom-designed - by him - circuit boards to put in the rockets for various purposes), and jewelry-making stuff. He also had a regulation dartboard (which I was warned not to destroy by pulling the darts out wrong), and we played some darts, but not a game. Ed's dad is like Ed (just like Ed's sister Katie suggested) but not quite as open and happy-seeming.

Later, I spent some time in the Aunts' giant RV, which was parked alongside the house so that you could step into it from the yard. At first I was alone just chatting with them, but then Ed came in and we four hung out for a long while. With the Aunts I was more relaxed and open than I had been with the parents - perhaps because of their personalities or maybe just because they were not the parents. In any case, they were pretty delightful, especially Maggie. They were pretty surprised to find that Ed and I have only been dating for three weeks (which, I think it is actually only two weeks, but for some reason I said three), since obviously we seem much more relaxed together than that. Even our jokes have a certain edge to them that you wouldn't expect in the nervous beginning part of a normal relationship. (We're just abnormal is all.)

I didn't get to spend much time with Ed's mom, which I regretted. She and Ed did spend some time discussing his school and work plans and other personal stuff in front of me, but obviously I wasn't going to get involved in that.

Overall I think that the day went OK. I don't really know what impression I may have left on Ed's parents - I didn't really engage with either of them in conversation very much - but hopefully, despite the corn-peppering incident, I didn't give them any reason to actively dislike me.

I somehow managed not to drink any caffeine all day, so I was kind of headachy and irritable by the time we left around 9:15. I got home a bit late and, despite being exhausted, found it really hard to get to sleep.

Friday, June 15, 2007


did I mention there were cute guys? Apparently my summer of strange sports is going to continue - first kayaking, now fencing!

Ed invited me to go yesterday. I don't know who the people are who meet in the park in Golden, but they were very welcoming and after I signed a waiver they gave me some equipment and attempted to teach me and the other newbies a few things.

Having already been asked a bunch of questions about this by Mosch, let me issue the following disclaimer. I know nothing about fencing. I do not know any names or rules associated with what these people were doing, beyond what is in the post. If you ask me questions I will not know the answers.

OK, now that we've gotten that out of the way. It was a bunch of people, some new, most not, and they met in a park. I was given an inordinately heavy red jacket to wear, and some heavy gloves. Try stuffing thick, too-long sleeves into way-too-big gloves and you'll understand why I got duct-taped together. I didn't need a helmet because I wasn't allowed to fight with anyone for real.

We formed up in lines and learned some things (engarde, how to move forward and backward, thrusting, and lunging, I guess), and then we did some parry drills, and then they broke out the newbies from the others. Three of the leader-people lined up side by side (wearing helmets now) and we formed a line and went to whoever was open and they would put their hand in three different positions and have us hit (touch) it.

For me it was kind of a sexy and fun time. Many of the guys were very pretty to look at. (People were mostly not wearing the kind of plain white fencing gear you usually see, but rather stuff in different colors and with a certain style to it.) It was very casual, people were nice, and it wasn't one of those things where you have to do one thing 1000 times until you get it right and then you can move on. (This is good since I have no real interest in becoming an excellent fencer. Kind of like I am not going to hit 100 baskets of balls just to improve my tennis game.)

It appears that, as these people play, you can hit (poke, at least) people anywhere. If your sword arm is hit, you have to switch hands (so we practiced at least the initial things with both hands). I would speculate about the rest of the rules, but I'd just be wrong, so I'll leave it at that.

After we newbies got retired ("You're using muscles you've never used before, so you guys are done now"; I wasn't particularly hot or tired myself) I got to watch the other people continue playing, and that was very entertaining. They were doing this thing of forming a circle, with points in the middle, then breaking out and fighting each other. It wasn't quite a melee but it was in the melee direction from normal fencing.

Update: Here is a document that describes basically exactly what we did, made by the people I was with. (Ah, the good old SCA. Who knew?) You can get a sense of the style if you go look at it.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Meeting the Parents

That's what I get to do Sunday evening at their home in Longmont. Apparently there will be some Aunts as well (his Mom's sister and her partner of many years). It makes me slightly tense, but I'm excited to meet them.

It's very hard to know what someone's family is like before you meet them. Most people are not fully accurate reporters about this.

Speaking of families, the funny line of this weekend was when I mentioned my dad and Ed said, "I'd like to meet him sometime." Oops.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Weekend with Ed; "The Talk"; Condoms

I basically spent the entire weekend with Ed, which was great. He brought his computer over on Saturday night so we could continue to hang out and he could still do his stuff.

Red Rocks - 15 minutes from my apartment!We had a short but fun hike on Saturday. (He told me he must love me if he was willing to exercise for me. Not to mention be exposed to all that icky life outside.) We did the trading post loop trail mentioned on this page about hiking at Red Rocks. The first time I did this - a couple of years ago, I guess - I thought it was a pretty challenging trail, but now it's just a short romp, really. We spent a lot of the walk arguing about physics. (For instance, I argued that we had to walk uphill as much as we did downhill because we needed our up and down vectors to sum to zero, and Ed argued that it was because "gravity is a conservative force." The passers-by at a particular point probably wondered why Ed was shouting at me, "You're living in a flat earth!" All in good fun, of course.)

Late Saturday night we had the "what happens if Tam gets pregnant" talk, which is a very difficult conversation that is nonetheless a really good idea to have at some point. I of course told Ed that I want to marry him and have a million of his babies am not completely sure what I would do, but that we would discuss it in detail if it occurred. His position was compatible, but I won't expose it here. I think we are both realistic, reasonable adults who took approximately the positions you'd expect.

'And Protestantism doesn't stop with the simple condom, oh no, I can wear French Ticklers if I want!'Meanwhile, I have BC pills on hand, and am ready to start taking them at the start of my next cycle. We are using condoms right now, and plan to keep using them even once I am on the pill, so the odds of fertilization are pretty low.

I haven't had many partners who were happy with wearing condoms indefinitely. I find them slightly inconvenient and a tetch uncomfortable, but I'm figuring out how to mitigate that, and I really appreciate having a partner who sees no drawback to them and is willing to take responsibility for his own half of the equation. And of course they make sex safer and I guess the bottom line is, I'm getting to be a big fan of the stupid things.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


see for more nifty pyramids
I've been toying with the idea of becoming vegetarian (or closer to it) for some time, and about 5 or 6 weeks ago decided to make some progress in that area. I've refrained from writing about it until now in order to see if it would stick, but so far it seems to be doing so, at least as a goal. (I haven't been perfect about implementation.)

This change is driven by both health and ethics. On the ethical front, I really don't like the unnecessary torture of animals, and, for me at least, eating meat is pretty unnecessary. The production of meat is also ecologically problematic. On the health front, while I think it's totally possible to eat a healthy diet that includes meat (even a lot of meat), animal products (dairy especially) appear in almost all of my unhealthy foods of choice.

I was toying with veganism, but it seems difficult to get enough protein. (I know a lot of people think the medical establishment is full of shit on this issue, but I'm not one of them. And I know many, many people can very easily get enough protein on a vegan diet, but given my weight and the number of calories I should ideally limit myself to, I'm not one of them either.) My sort of "common sense" argument (which is also kind of full of shit, I admit) is that the only veganism in human history until now has been when people are starving to death in some kind of catastrophic famine.

So I initially decided on "vegan + fish." In order to avoid offending vegans and vegetarians with that designation, I wanted a different name. I settled on "Coastal Villager" because of the idea that primitive people living along a coast might eat in a "vegan + fish" way. This is a bit tongue-in-cheek since real coastal villagers don't have access to seitan, tofu, or all the other lovely things I like to eat, but the name stuck; I often call it "CV" for short.

I have been trying not to go nuts with this. If a tuna fish sandwich is the closest thing I can get to CV, I'm not going to quibble over the fact that mayo has eggs in it. If an otherwise vegetarian dish (like at Panda Express) is possibly made with chicken stock, oh well - at least I'm increasing the demand for vegetarian-style dishes. And sometimes I slip up and eat meat or dairy (though rarely, so far, eggs).

I have some super free range eggs at home right now, and some organic parmesan, so obviously in some serious ways I'm not sticking to CV at all. But I'm really trying not to eat eggs out at all, and dairy very rarely.

So what am I nuts for lately? Vietnamese food. Yum!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Radical Honesty, Part 2

Please start with Part 1, below.

Now that I've made my own default views somewhat clear, I can talk about what radical honesty is, and the implications. Ed's words to me were that he defines the central imperative of radical honesty as, "Be as open as humanly possible, and then minimize harm." (That's a loose paraphrase, not a direct quote. Feel free to correct me in the comments, Ed.)

I would break it down into two imperatives: never lie, and always share relevant information. To me, it's akin to a monastic discipline like abstinence or silence. I had a lover with whom I practiced radical honesty, a long time ago, and it was a real challenge, and led to a lot of insights, but it was very difficult and made our relationship pretty dramatic at times. I think it's a good thing to try at least once, assuming you have a partner willing to try it with you.

There are two related things that I'm really enjoying about Ed, and one is directly this matter of honesty. Sometimes he says exactly the wrong thing, and other times he says something so great you can't believe you're hearing it; you believe him in the latter cases because of the former. And because he (compulsively? by choice?) brings up problems almost immediately (which I know partly from tracking his relationship with Mel on their blogs, and hearing about it from him), you really can know that "no news is good news" - it's really not likely that he's saving up things to gripe about later. And if you ask him a question, you'll get a (sometimes painfully) true answer. All of this has a way of being comforting even while it is challenging.

I'm experiencing this as a relief from Mosch's more strategic approach to honesty, but, as I have told both of them, I could just as easily experience Mosch's tact and care as a relief from Ed's bluntness.

I know from the past that I am capable of radical honesty when I choose, so I am trying this with Ed as well. I had an opportunity recently to reassure him in a way that was so cost-free and so ultimately meaningless, and yet so potentially painful to withhold, that only an idiot or a total jackass would have withheld it, and yet I did so because answering the question that way was not quite truthful. And when I told him later that I would have answered differently for anyone else, he thanked me sincerely for the honesty. The guy knows what he wants, and so far he can take it as well as dish it out.

His wanting it doesn't make it the best strategy for me. Probably my best strategy given his preferences would be to do enough to give the appearance of radical honesty, while still being strategic the rest of the time. But I am willing to risk harm to my interests - and to his - in order to actually give him what he wants in this way.

Or at least to try.

Radical Honesty, Part 1

This is something that Ed believes in, and Sally asked in the comments if I would explain it, because it sounded to her like something that is not a very good idea. I suspect what it sounds to her like it means is exactly what it does mean, but it's a fairly fertile topic.

I think most people's approach to honesty is fairly unexamined, and mostly consists in claiming to be honest, and then telling the truth or lying according to what seems like a good idea at the time. Most people are honest enough, but people who claim not to lie at all are, IMO, either self-delusional or untrustworthy. Everyone lies sometimes, as well they should.

My general view of communication is a strategic one. I really want to be understood, and to understand others, so I'm a big proponent of openness where it's possible (i.e., not always with one's parents) and appropriate (i.e., usually not at work). Honesty greatly aids in openness, in addition to its other benefits (it's easier, it lets people trust you, and it's more ethical in its own right).

But in general, I think it's important to maintain your sense of ownership of the privacy of your own mind. If you see openness as an obligation, you may (my sense is) start lying to yourself just so that you won't have to tell difficult truths to others. I really have no qualms at all about people lying about things that are not the asker's business anyway. And I have very few qualms about another class of lying - where the purpose is not to deceive, but to withhold information that would be counterproductive (to mutual goals) to share.

At the same time, my desire to understand other people makes me behave in certain ways that encourage honesty. I resolved early in life not to be possessive, for the simple reason that it makes people lie to you. This is also behind a lot of my acceptance of others. Where it isn't safe to tell the truth, almost everyone is prudent enough to lie. I try not to make people lie to me. (I often refrain from asking questions that would likely tempt someone to lie, for instance.)

I should continue this in another post.