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Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Horror of the Elephant

The truth is, I am terrified of this blog. I am terrified of it for the same reason that I spend every day at a dead run, like a scared rabbit with bulging bloodshot eyes and a meth'd-out heartbeat. I am terrified because of the very topic about which I write. I am terrified of failure.

So I stopped. I walked away from this thing I created. About which I was so proud. I stopped writing. For over a year. Because I wanted to write this and turn it into a book. And I submitted my proposal and got rejected. I was rejected by, like, ten agents. Which, if you speak to anyone in the book business, is nothing. I should have tens of hundreds of rejection letters proudly piling up as I slog away at my dream.I should know in my heard that I have a book in my soul that people want to read.

Should Should Should Should Should.

As my best friend (the therapist) would say, "Stop 'shoulding' on yourself." Gigglesnort.

I have a very serious inferiority complex about my work. Any work. I am consistently surprised when I get positive feedback at my job- which exasperates my mother because I have been there a year and received some great praise. But every time I get a new client, I get excited about the prospect that it doesn't seem like they want to fire me. Not yet.

I have a trial at the end of the month. They will probably fire me then.

But I suffer from that affliction that I believe affects so many potential artists, dreamers, creators- will people like it? For me, it is always one step forward, two steps back. I dip my toe into the icy cold waters of possibility and draw it back because I feel that if what I am going to write isn't going to be a best seller- then maybe I should write something else, or not at all. An idea dies in infancy because would it sell? Would people like it? Would it appeal to the popular consciousness and become a phenomenon? All sorts of forces are at work here- not the least of which is the primacy of popular approval as the rubric against which I would judge any creative effort. Yet, we all know that most artists are not appreciated in their own time- although one must create to be appreciated in any time at all.

Still, I sit frozen. Frozen by expectation. The expectation of potential readers, critics, myself.

When people began reading this blog, almost regularly, again I was paralyzed because I felt the weight of expectation. Again, I felt that each post would not live up to the expectations of those that read the last. I ran away, hid, covered my eyes and pretended you could not see me.

This elephant I vow to eat.  One bite at a time. One post, at least, a week. They may not be good, they will probably be awful, but they will keep a promise I have made to myself to write. Because I believe the little voice that says that I must.

 This post has been neither funny nor thought provoking. Next time I will do better. For now, here is a picture of a hairy eyeball.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mechanical Loss.

“The law of energy conservation dictates that one can never get more energy in the output motion than provided by the energy source. Indeed, one always has some energy loss in a power transmission. Energy loss rates can vary from 5% for a flat belt drive to up to 80% for a multi-stage gear transmission.”
            by Nathan Delson, 2004

So, I was dead in the water for a month (you may have noticed.) Our internet, in a last puff, wheeze and plume of smoke, died. After battling with the provider for a month- and strenuously and repeatedly objecting to  their insistence that we  had “cancelled” two appointments during which we sat for the requisite six hours waiting for our overall-clad savior to arrive (he never did), someone, finally, came out. This guy really knew what he was talking about. The problem apparently started at the “hub” outside near our street- a junction established to serve two houses was serving four. Inside the house, a cable set up to service two internet connections served seven. Each time the internet signal was split, from two to four at the street, from two to four to seven inside the house, the signal strength decreased exponentially.  If a normal signal strength was +10, and everything “shuts down” at -11, ours was at a -14. Occasionally, based on usage, the signal strength would increase to a -10 or -9, but at no point was the signal strength where it should be.
Our internet was multitasking-  and therefore failing. It made me wonder at what “signal strength” do we “shut down”? How many times can our mental signal-strength split before we simply stop functioning?  An increasing amount of research is being done in the area of multitasking and perceived efficiency vice actual effect.  Eduardo Miranda, studying corporate organizations and project management for Ericsson Canada, calls the phenomenon within companies the “problem of resource overcommitment” and states that “the multi-project environment introduces challenges of their own: implicit dependencies created by shared resources, loss of productivity due to resource multi-tasking and subtle reinforcing loops that propagate delays from one project to another.”

David E. Meyer, the director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan, recently told the New York Times, “Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes. Disruptions and interruptions are a bad deal from the standpoint of our ability to process information.” In a 2005 research study conducted by Hewlett-Packard and the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, it was found that workers who answered emails and phone calls were more impaired to a surprising degree. The BBC reported on the findings in 2005: “[Researchers] found excessive use of technology reduced workers’ intelligence. Those distracted by incoming email and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ – more than twice that found in studies of the impact of smoking marijuana.” Whaaaaat?

As The New Atlantis recent reported, “One study by researchers at the University of California at Irvine monitored interruptions among office workers; they found that workers took an average of twenty-five minutes to recover from interruptions such as phone calls or answering e-mail and return to their original task.”  Basex analyst Jonathan B. Spira indicated to the the New York Times, “estimates the cost of interruptions to the American economy at nearly $650 billion a year.”
If the cost and detriment to work productivity by work related interruptions is as severe as indicated in the above studies, in which the interruptions are at least within the same genre (work) as the primary task at hand, how much more severe must be the cost when the “interruption” is from a role entirely unrelated to the workplace. How many mothers have received the ‘Moooooooom, Brian won’t share the remote control” phone call while at work? How long does it take to re-center one’s thought process after a phone call that your child is sick? Or that your mother has had a bad day? Or your sister is getting a divorce? For me, the switch between roles is often like trying to throw the car into reverse while cruising on the freeway at 55 mph. It’s not pretty.
More interestingly, however, is the fall in IQ found by the BBC. If distracted individuals were found to have a drop in their IQ twice that of smoking marijuana- how much more severe is the impact on the IQ of the multi-hatted-working-mom-mentor-gymnast-triathlete-maid-therapist-friend? At what deficit do we begin our day, and what limitations are we placing on our performance?
Something to think about- while you’re ironing, watching the news and editing the next week’s brief.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blades of Grass

                Occasionally it is the juxtaposition of two wildly disparate- and perhaps not at all related- things that brings another (not at all related) thing into stark relief. This weekend, it was a picture of a beautiful starlet in a publication of Seventeen or similar, and a 758-page tome about World War II in Hungary. The picture was gorgeous- she had large green eyes and a bowler hat- the picture was taken with the background appropriately out of focus; the mood was whimsical and the composition was artistic. The book was amazingly rendered, intimately human and, of course, heart-wrenching.
                The photograph conjured for me memories of the age at which I last perused the pages of that periodical.  Late teens, early twenties, one is simply a steaming, sticky, bowlful of potential.  A canvas, freshly fallen snow- one can try on and test drive identities as readily as gloves or shoes.  Not knowing who you are is fully acceptable because you are not supposed to be anything yet- you are the endless untied beginnings of what might be-  you are a beautifully nebulous ellipsis.
                But at some point, one is supposed to have arrived at a character- spun the roulette wheel of life and settled into a slot: red or black; 13, 21, 7, attorney, artist, doctor, writer, mother, hippie, vegan, redneck, mechanic. At some point, the little whirling ball of possibility runs out of centrifugal force, runs out of time, and falls.  Whatever it is, the little spinning top of youth is supposed to fall into its slot and… fit.  Nothing in popular culture, or literature, or life prepared me for the “overflow”- the parts that don’t fit into my selected slot- the equally strident calls for both order and chaos, military precision and poetry, love and independence.
                At some point, I should know what I am, and I should stop wanting to be everything else.
                But I haven’t.  And neither, it seems, have so many of my similarly situated generational sisters. What is it about our generation? Are we just spoiled? Over stimulated? Used to many options? Or simply more connected than our forbears? Many of our ancestresses certainly pined for a lot different than the one their own. Per haps the difference is that we do not simply want a different lot, but all of them. And not only do we want these roles, but we are required to fill them.
                The second  aspect, good god, the World War II book.  The awesome aching chasm of human loss and tragedy. The  raw cruelty of one human to another.  The stripped tendons of pure survival.  The magnitude of horror certainly puts into perspective my quibbling little uncertainties about “who I am,” or why. Of what import my happiness?  In the midst of such suffering and sadness and loss- does the world really care which direction this particular blade of grass bends? Will it affect the world? Will it even affect my own?
                On the other hand, what else is there?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Thank you for asking where I have been... our internet has been non-operational for the last week and a half and I just have not had it in me to drag my sorry ass to the internet cafe. We will be back up and running next week, 14 March 2011.

See you then!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Why I am the Worst Person in the World

Last night, Sprout woke up at 0230 having miraculously, at some point earlier in the evening, removed his pull-up from underneath his zip-up feety pajamas. His bed was soaked. His entire room smelled like pee.

Not having any desire to deal with the resultant mess, I took a cleaned and re-jammied child into my bed for the rest of the night (lovely Hubband put the sheets in the wash).

The two hours that followed can only be described as a beat-down. It was like a tiny death-match. Flailing limbs, arms, legs, noggin rained down upon me like the tiny crashing waves of fury. Sprout would roll over, and his arm, flung with sleepy abandon, would crack like a whip into the back of my skull. Two tiny three-inch feet, thrust in slumbering unison with contradictory velocity directly into my unsuspecting kidneys. At one point he actually head-butt (head-butted?) me directly on the bridge of the nose. I have no idea what made him so active but he would not. fall. asleep.

I tried a number of times to politely request that he desist with his abuse. Calm, quiet, monotone mommy:

"Buddy, I'm going to need you to lay more still, okay?"
"Hey, stop flailing around so much, okay Bug?"
"Sweetie, it makes mommy's kidneys hurt when you kick her like that, m'kay?"
Silently, I would clutch the pillow and will myself to sleep. I had had a long day at work. One more long day loomed, with clients, and issues, and divorces and legallegallegal words. The green numbers glowingly mocked me as they slid past on their inexorable march toward infinity. I was a zombie. I was going to be a zombie. All I wanted to do was SLEEP.

The third kidney-punch in one night was apparently too much for my fragile sleep-deprived psyche.  I rolled over:


His big, brown doe eyes opened wide and the cutest, softest smallest voice ever responded:

And that is why I am the Worst Person in the World.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Possibly the Funniest Thing I Have Ever Read

Hyperbole and a Half seems to capture the main essence of what we're talking about here...


Holy Shitballs, Batman.  I just looked up my “ideal” body weight. Ostensibly, the purpose of this was to bolster my planned article about how I think I’m overweight despite scientific evidence to the contrary.  Instead, the result has turned the trajectory of this whole article on its head.
Popular culture and fashion magazines aside, our society is based upon the idea that there are, to certain questions, scientifically correct answers. Science is used as a purportedly “neutral” identifier of the ideal body type.  But even scientific medical and psychological information can be challenged.  For example, many studies have come to the conclusions that fat people can be healthy[1] weight is not always controllable by diet and exercise[2]; weight to a certain extent is predetermined by genetics[3]; and that diets may be the reason people get fatter.[4]
I have never been at a point where I was truly happy with my weight. As I have said before, the infestation of popular culture with dumb skinny bitches messes with my competitive spirit. I would like to think that I am smarter than the majority of them, and that I have willed myself through some of the most difficult experiences this country has to offer (law school and boot camp come to mind), so how can they figure out how to be skinny and I can’t?
Uncomfortable honesty time (ooooh, I really  don’t want to type this): I am 5’4” and right now hovering at 140. This is about 5 lbs over what I typically consider my “healthy” weight, and 11 lbs more than what I consider my “race” weight (i.e. the weight I prefer to be when running endurance races, due to impact on my joints/ less to carry.) I am muscular and have always weighed more than I look. I wear a size 8 comfortably and a size 6 fitted.
The following are my “ideal” body weights according to these websites:

Whaaaa? Talk about failure. I am, according to the average of the above, twenty-three pounds over my ideal weight.  This got me thinking: ideal for what? Certainly, a 97 lb woman would not be “ideal” for carrying wounded Marines, or full battle-gear. Could a 97 lb woman have the endurance to run an ironman? Or have a baby? As any personal trainer will tell you, muscles weigh more than fat. Thus, the scientifically “ideal” woman is…well… weak.  Could it be that as women become stronger outside of the home, the “ideal” becomes smaller and weaker as a way to perpetuate women’s internalization of subjugation?
Slimness is one of the primary physical indicators of female success. Failure to be slender, in the eyes of society, is evidence of a woman’s failure to work hard enough.[5]  But body size is determined not only by diet and exercise, but by many other factors including genetics [6] age, gender, nationality, social class[7] and environment.[8] A very successful woman will likely still feel the societal pressure, while a similarly situated male will not. Think of it as the Oprah/Limbaugh dichotomy.
“Ideal” body images, and scientific “ideal” weights without reference to body composition, etc, add to the conundrum of failure by pitting a woman quite literally against herself. Assuming that all resources are to some extent limited, how much of our limited psychological resources do we consume battling ourselves over physical appearance?

[1] Ernsberger, P. and P. Haskew. 1987. Rethinking Obesity: An Alternate View of Its Health Implications. Journal of Obesity and Weight Regulation 6: 58-137
[2] Stunkard, A.J., and M.McClaren –Hume. 1959. The Results of Treatment for Obesity. Archives of Internal Medicine 102, 79-85.
[3] Stunkard, id.
[4] Bennett, W. and J. Gurin. 1982. The Dieter’s Dilemma. New York: Basic Books.
[5] Banner, L. 1983. American Beauty. New York: Alfred A. Knopf
[6] Stunkard, A.J., T.I.A. Sorenson, C. Hanis, T.W. Teasedale, R. Chakraborty, W.J.Schull and F. Schulsinger. 1986. An Adoption Study of Human Obesity. New England Journal of Medicine 314 (4): 193-97
[7] Atrens, D.M. 1988. Don’t Diet. New York: WIliam Morrow.
[8] Beller, A.S. 1977. Fat and Thin:  A Natural History of Obesity. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Ltd.