Wednesday, March 29, 2006

a baby after my own beer

At no insistence of my own, my dear friends the Hanscoms named their second child "Stella" who was born today, named I hope after one of my favorite beers which I foresee will ensure that she'll be crisp, fragrant and delightful especially on a lazy summer night. Or else she will drink and cuss like a sailor. In either case, she'll be great fun at parties, something that just makes me want to love her more.

Congratulations to bringing child #2 into the world. I hope she'll live up to her namesake in spades. And here's to starting on a third. I'm thinking... Franzeskaner?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

flip it and reverse it

(or "How to evolve faster")

Have you ever wished that you could be part of one of those sleep studies? The ones where they put you in a windowless room, which I imagine is buried deep near the earth’s core, and then see what happens to your sleep schedule? Because if we can manipulate our sleep cycles, then isn’t this as close to manipulating time as we will ever get?

So, for the sake of science, as well as the betterment of all humankind, I’ve been engaged in a sleep study of my own.

For the past couple of weeks now, I’ve gone to bed and woken up when I felt like it. As a result, I sleep with the rising sun and have my first cup of coffee at noon the next day. Of course, this whole thing really started because of one fateful night when I happened to catch “Dirty Dancing” on TV at 3 am. It totally screwed me over. Though I must have seen that movie at least a dozen times, I was compelled to watch it one more time just to see Patrick Swayze’s jazzy dance moves in the final scene. Man, he really knows how to bring it home. Who knew men’s hips were designed to swivel like that? It didn’t help that my ex-boyfriend is the spitting image of Patrick Swayze, a fact that to his embarrassment was realized on an overnight ferry bound to Tientsin watching “City of Joy” with a roomful of Chinese people. I'm not saying this to say that I think Patrick Swayze (or by implication my ex-boyfriend) is particularly hot. They are both okay looking. But everyone in the room, including myself for a brief moment, thought he was the person in the movie. He didn’t have the same rotator hips though… which was undoubtedly the reason I had to break up with him. But that is another story for another time.

So back to the sleeping thing. My ultimate quest in this experiment is this. Is it possible that if we listen to our bodies, we don’t need as much sleep as we think we need? All of us are bound by the strictures of certain commonly accepted ideas, such as the food pyramid, not swimming after you eat, pumping the brakes on a wet road, yada yada yada. But just as we know that the food pyramid is full of shit, it is very possible that the accepted wisdom that guides our daily lives have been built on ephemera, concocted from some stuffy white guy’s impaired brain.

I’ve already managed to dismantle the notion that we need regular meals at regular intervals throughout the day. My snake-eating thing is still working like a charm. So I have a good feeling about this. I’m thinking that I may be able to shave a good 10 hours a week of sleep time off my normal schedule. Sleep and food, two things that I think the modern person overdoses on through over-rationalization, these are the two obstacles preventing the everyman from fulfilling their greatest destiny. If we unchain ourselves from the enslavement of time, what will we not be capable of?

Previously unbeknownst to me, it just so happens that it is National Sleep Awareness Week. I suggest that in celebration of this happy coincidence, we all lie down for a nap…

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

dreaming of blogging or blogging dreaming me?

I dreamt last night that my friend Joe had a blog. And he wrote something in the comment section about how I never comment on his blog. So I did. And then I dreamt he thought it was funny.

Tell me I'm not mistaken but somewhere out there I think people have interesting technicolor dreams. That's because they probably lead interesting technicolor lives. Clearly I don't do either...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

it's hard out here for a... grad student

It's award ceremony season here in Los Angeles and as I watched the Oscars the other night, I was reminded of how few opportunities we are given to commemorate our accomplishments, or even to mark the passing of time. As much as Hollywood represents something materialistic or superficial about American culture, and as much as we ordinary folk are divorced from that lifestyle, we should also recognize the absolute necessity of it, especially for its role within our ritualistic universe in this increasingly secularized world.

Our diminished capacity to commemorate things has left us without a formal venue to gather around and celebrate achievement, though I wonder if it is simply because commemoration at least in my academic world is generally associated with loss through graduation and departure. While there are holidays and birthdays, is it too much to want more? To want the formal integration of award ceremonies into our life? Why do kids and actors get all the trophies? Since when did they stop giving us those things? And for most people, is their college diploma going to be the last important commemorative document they get? Hell, that's not even an award. You paid for that piece of paper.

There are so many things to award in life, at least in terms of the things that I would like to have recognized. My best research paper, my first outside grant, best conference presentation, a published article. Even juicier are those other more intimate events--best kiss, best blowjob, best all time fuck ever--these are events that become diluted down to nothing more than information passed along in whispers over coffee, events that deserve greater fanfare. Screw that! Sound the trumpets, fire the guns. Maybe among the many skills we have to learn in the course of life, we should also learn to celebrate our achievements no matter how small, because for the rest of us, there is no Oscar waiting behind the curtain.

I suppose that in the pea-brained graduate student's imagination, the Ph.D. itself is as close to winning an Oscar as you can get. Except that by the time you get to this stage, there is a sense that the degree itself is not award enough for the pure hell that you have to go through to get it. The loneliness, the poverty, lack of any security about the immediate future. The sense that no one really cares about your work. Anyone I've talked to who have actually gotten their Ph.D. (and there are many of them because I have an enormous number of brilliant friends!) says that it is meaningless and empty. Of course, not only do I think these people are overly modest, I also think they're lying sacks of shit.

Everyone says that doing your Ph.D. is more like running a marathon than a sprint. Having actually run a marathon, I rather compare it to an iron man triathlon, the kind that beats you down and makes you feel like donkey dung. When I ran the LA marathon back in 2002, I hit the proverbial wall at mile 17. The subsequent 9 miles were indescribable agony. I have never recovered. No wonder it is taking me so long to finish my degree. I hit that wall in 2002 and I'm still trying to make it over the finish line.

At this moment, about a hundred and fifty pages of my dissertation stand between me and my degree. I have a feeling like I will finish or die. One of the two. It is that degree or me. I have no idea what I initially intended to say when I started this, because now that I brought up my dissertation, I can feel it trying to stare me down and all I can do right now is stare back and hold my own.