Weekly Shocks' Blog


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Oxford category.

On the dangers of bragging in one’s goofy blog

If you’ve been committing my blog to memory (and if you really have been, please: seek help), you may remember a gratuitously self-congratulatory remark I made in the wee hours of the morning when I triumphantly finished my dissertation. Drunk on lack of sleep, Diet Coke, and the impossibly sweet knowledge that I would never have to write the word “problematized” with a straight face ever again, I shamelessly broadcasted my ability to write over a thousand words an hour. To be honest, up until yesterday, I was still pretty chuffed about that. I mean, 1000 words/hour. Sweet as, right? Hell, until I pulled that off, I didn’t even think I could read that many words in an hour, let alone come up with ’em. Shit, son. I’m amazing.

So I was rather pleased with and proud of myself and then I had the sparkling bright idea to read Christopher Buckley’s Losing Mum and Pup, his poignant and surprisingly witty memoir about the deaths of both of his parents in the space of a year. I’ve since speedily returned, tail tucked and ears flattened, to my previous self-perception as a half-wit, blubbering hack with three, maybe four brain cells floating around in her skull. You wanna know why? Here’s why: William Buckley, according to his deeply impressed (and impressive) son Christopher, could dash off his seven hundred word columns in five minutes.

Well, then.

Now, comparing one’s writing ability to Bill Buckley’s is never a good idea, unless you’re a self-hating masochist contemplating suicide or Gore Vidal, but I mean, crikey. 700 words in five bloody minutes?! And we’re not talking about just any words here. We’re talking about the words – whether you liked them or not – of the unequivocal intellectual champion of the American Right. And in his free time – you know, when not writing his reams and reams of prize-winning non-fiction or running for mayor of New York or serving as ambassador to the UN – he wrote best-selling spy novels. Just ’cause. Jesus Christ. And here I am, bragging about my 1000 words/hour, virtually unread and unreadable master’s thesis! Pathetic. Don’t I suck a pack of AA batteries. Also, one more thing: “problematized” isn’t even a real word, you ninny! What were you thinking?! Sheesh.

So, I’ve learned my lesson. No more bragging about my mad word-producing skillz in Weekly Shocks. Instead, I’ll brag about the fact that I have now possessed a cell phone for longer than two weeks without losing it, although I have to admit that I can’t remember my own phone number or find the email that contains said number, making the phone not especially effective as a communications device, but still! I haven’t lost the buggery thing, now have I? Oh yeah, baby. Bow down before me. I’m gonna make such a great mom.

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Reason Number 45789 to Love Boston

The Sox just dropped their second straight game to Satan’s League of Mincing Creeps in the Bronx. I think the Sox were momentarily disoriented playing so close to the gaping maw of hell and subsequently forgot a slight detail of baseball: in order to win games, teams need to, you know, score a run or two. Oops.

Anyway. We’ll toss that sadness aside for the moment. The Red Sox are not the reason why I love Boston today, although they usually are about 65% of the time.

I love Boston today because in Union Square, there was a celebration of Fluff.

You may not know what Fluff is because you may not live in or around Boston. How sad for you. Fluff is pure, sweet, gooey, sticky, marshmallow goodness packaged in a friendly white and blue tub large enough to stick your entire head in, if you’re so inclined, and sugary enough to leave you bouncing off the walls, giggling and drooling, for days at a time. I had a friend in college – who may or may not be the author of this particular blog, but don’t tell her I told you this, because she’s kind of unstable and might hit me if she knew I was spilling her dirty secrets online – who once survived a sophomore year finals’ week on nothing but Diet Coke, Milky Way bars, four hours total of sleep, and a tub of Fluff. The stuff is viscous, miraculous crack.

And it was created right here. Well, technically, it was created in nearby Somerville. Somerville is not-for-nothing nicknamed Slummaville. It’s the kind of place where all the girls are named Krystalle and they all smoke by the age of ten and they all go to the packies to buy beer for their dads when it’s their weekends with the kids. Everyone is Catholic, everyone smokes Marlboros, everyone drives a car referred to as “the Shitbox,” and it’s a safe bet that your Shitbox is gonna get stolen someday if it hasn’t been ganked already. In short, it’s exactly the kind of place where you’d expect a product like Fluff to be created.

And I love it. It appeals, deeply and profoundly, to my inner sanctum of white trashiness, a trait that Oxford tried so hard to beat out of me and failed.  Massachusetts – the Great Commonwealth apparently has nothing better to do – is currently debating a bill making the Fluffernutter, a combination of Fluff and peanut butter, its state sandwich. Now, I personally think peanut butter is quite possibly the most disgusting food product on earth besides cilantro, but I’m all for this move. It’s about time Fluff got the respect it deserved, even if it does have to be paired with something so obviously revolting and inferior. But, hey, Massachusetts is brilliantly skilled at condescension already, isn’t it? Did I mention who the Sox had to go visit and play and LOSE TO this afternoon? For the second day in a row? I mean, Christ on a bike. The horrors we suffer.

Fluff as the state treat. Yes. Perfect move: fitting in so many ways, I say. Let’s do it.


Weekly Shocks’ ADD strikes again!

A few shots of liquid rubbish that I simply must share with you fine people when I really should be writing something else:

1) Every time I take a vitamin pill, I vomit. Sometimes, for good measure, I vomit twice. I bet you’re super psyched to find that out, right? Bitchin’! Anyway. Aren’t vitamins supposed to be good for you, though?  Or something? What the hell, body? You suck.

2) This blog has received more than 80,000 hits since I started it back in January. Thank you. Really. Thank you. And I’m so sorry.

3) I got my first American cell phone today. I had a mobile in England. It was blue, shaped like a brick, the texting function didn’t work, I had no calling plan, and I really only turned it on when one of my undergrads got so drunk he was puking up several key organs and needed to be carted off to the hospital for new ones. I loved that phone. I named him Gunter. My new mobile is sleek and stylish and way too hip for me. I’d name him, but I need to figure out how to turn him on first. I’m giving myself three weeks to complete that task before I get so frustrated with the damn thing, I throw it against the wall.

4) You know, I’m only on Point 4 of this blog post, and I’ve already mentioned puking twice. Three times if you include this current bit. Sigh. I need to diversify.

5) The Patriots lost on Sunday. Who cares?

6) True story for you:

Sometime last year-ish, my flatmates and I came across a devastatingly heartbreaking tale in our otherwise laughably terrible university newspaper. It was a story of an undergraduate at our inflated, pompous, but really quite excellent Oxford. The student had developed a nasty addiction to heroin in his second year. His College, like most Oxford colleges, was extremely supportive of him while he sought treatment, but his addiction, like most addictions, pretty much took over his life and kicked his ass. So the kid dropped out and was now homeless in the city, selling the Big Issue to his former academic colleagues on the streets.

Now, not to belittle this poor kid’s miserable fortune, but this is my blog, after all, so the punch line is as follows: I’ve realized that I would be in far less debt right now if I had developed a heroin addiction instead of succumbing to the far more expensive habit of formalized education. The federal government of these glorious United States pretty much owns my soul, my ass, and the souls and asses of any and all future children I might bear. I can’t decide if this fact is ridiculously funny or just ridiculous. Probably both. Hooray!

7) Bill Corbett of MST3K and Rifftrax fame just responded to some goofy comment I made on his Facebook page. He pretty much ordered me never to leave the country ever again. That totally made my year.

8 ) Speaking of, those Rifftrax geniuses are at it again. Encore Presentation of the RiffTrax Live Event of Plan 9 From Outer Space on October 8. I’m seeing it, because God loves me. Does God love you? Then you had better be there.

9 ) I may have sold a story to a legitimate magazine. May have. Oh my.

And on that mysterious note, back to the grindstone. Hoo hah!


Well, bugger me sideways.

Here’s your “No shit, Sherlock!” fact o’ the day:

If you live in another country for three years, you’re bound to pick up some of that country’s charming, distinctive speaking patterns.

I didn’t fully realize this until I came back from England for my first long holiday. The British-isms kept popping out of my mouth like teeth from a hockey player. I said vaguely unacceptable things like ‘trousers’ for ‘pants,’ because ‘pants’ on my side of the metaphorical pond meant underoos. I said ‘queue’ for ‘line,’ because, let’s face it, the euphony of ‘queue’ is delicious. I said ‘cheers’ for everything, because, well, cheers. Why the heck not. Worse, my already somewhat pretentious northeastern American accent had warped ever-so-slightly into fake British. My family and friends just loved this. I had become one of THOSE Americans who bugger off to the motherland for a bit, then come home too good for their own accent.

Speaking of bugger, I love that bloody word. I do. If you haven’t poked around the archives here at Weekly Shocks (and if you actually haven’t done so, you’ve broken my heart), get busy and count how many times I use it. Then report back to me, because I’m too lazy to do it myself. But I’ll bet I use bugger, on average, at least once a post. It’s a great word, even if I didn’t know what it actually meant, in all its naughty glory, until long after it started making its sparkly guest appearances in my daily utterances.

(Oh, so you want to know what bugger means, too, do you? I could direct you to UrbanDictionary.com, but if I did, I’m afraid you wouldn’t come back, so I’ll summarize briefly: when a man and another man love each other very much, sometimes they turn the lights down low and engage in an activity Thomas Jefferson once decided was punishable by castration. I betcha UrbanDictionary doesn’t tell you that, now, does it? You’re welcome.)

It’s not just the British-isms that plague my speech, though, bugger it all to hell. I lived in Germany for a year before I ever saw England. Germans have a rather disconcerting-yet-quaint habit of speaking German instead of English (silly, isn’t it?), so I pulled a ‘when-in-Rome’ while I was there and I spoke German, too. For the most part, anyway. When I came back to the States, I discovered, with an appropriate mixture of amusement and terror, that I had forgotten large swaths of my native tongue, the language I had been babbling fairly comprehensively for nearly two decades. Giggle if you like, but just remember: it’s all fun and games until you find yourself tripping over your words like a 4am drunk, struggling to remember the English for ‘Bahnhof’ and ‘Löffel,’ and your parents subsequently suspect you’ve picked up a nasty little drug habit during your peripatetic year in Europe.

Now, this is just excellent fodder to write about in my epic blog of the ages, but the sad fact is that I’m going on professional job interviews and the good, kind, lovely folks who might read this blog so I better say nice things interview me inevitably pick up on my distinctive and uneven speech patterns. Not that I’m bellowing out ‘bugger’ and ‘schnitzel’ during interviews, mind you. But I have had a few folks ask where I grew up, then pause, obviously perplexed when I tell them, quite simply, Boston. People from Boston don’t sound like me. They sure as hell don’t sound like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting or JFK asking not what your country can do for you, etc., etc., either, but that’s not the point. I’m not famous and am therefore not allowed to sound as if I’ve been punched repeatedly in the mouth by a boxing midget on speed. (Now, there’s a fun image to contemplate, isn’t it?)  So sometimes I try and give the whole ‘I’ve-been-in-Europe-a-long-time’ speech, but really, that kind of makes me sound like a pretentious ass. The fact that I sort of am a pretentious ass doesn’t matter. “Pretentious ass” is not exactly high up on a potential employee’s list of desirable qualities, now, is it.

So! I’d really like my old accent back. I asked Oxford to return it months ago, and Oxford being Oxford laughed in my face, then sent a batshit crazy person dressed in a tutu and wielding a bow-saw after me. So we won’t ask Oxford for anything anymore. Safer that way. That leaves you kind folks: if any of you has a spare, normal accent lying around – really, any regional variety is just fine, as long as it’s consistent – please send it my way. We can discuss payment later, or not, because I’m broke, but maybe I’ll write a blog post thanking you. Then you’ll be famous. Sort of. Well, not really. But still. I’d appreciate it. Ask not what Weekly Shocks can do for you, damn it, but what you can do for Weekly Shocks.


Mine too.

Haha! Am I the only one left who finds Garfield funny? Yes? Oh well.

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Back to America Land tomorrow. YEE HAH.


The Answer To Your Burning Question

Some poor, frustrated soul is currently trawling the Internet looking for an answer to the following question:

“Can a dissertation be done in two weeks?”

I know this because, not surprisingly, in his search engine journey, he landed right here in Weekly Shocks World where dissertations go to die slow, painful deaths. And then they get resurrected and kill their creators with machetes. It’s all very Frankenstein-esque. Someone should make a movie about it. I’ll get going on the screenplay.

Anyway, poor, sad, reader, if you’re still out there and not dead yet, I can happily assure you that, yes, you can write a dissertation in less than two weeks, although it will hurt a whole lot and you better not have anything else going on in your life while you slop through it. Also, an intravenous caffeine drip will help matters. And, if you can find one, get a willing friend, family member, or hired goon to smack you in the head whenever you start drifting into the slurry land of unconsciousness. This person can also remind you with his cheerful slaps that leaving a dissertation until the last minute is really not the brightest thing you’ve ever done, so try not to do it again, ‘k? You poor, sad fool. You remind me of myself when I was your age. (One month ago.)

Anyway, go kick some ass. I wish you luck. Please report back when you’re finished. And you will finish. I believe in you! You read my blog which proves you’re a smart lad (or lass) with excellent taste and just a hint of a commitment problem. Nothing to be ashamed of, my dear. Wave your lazy bum flag high.


Bits of Fluff in Revision Period: Limbering Up The Old Appendages

Man, where has the time gone? It seems like only hours have passed since I handed in my dissertation, then staggered back to my bedroom to spend some quality time examining the inside of my eyelids. But it’s actually been two weeks and now I have to do the whole ‘maddened-with-primal-terror’ thing again in preparation for my final (yay!) exam on Monday. I’ve actually managed to trick my progressively stupider brain into doing some revision over the past couple of days before he wised up and shut down to go off drinking, so I may actually be in decent shape for this weekend’s last mad dash of cramming. But a big part of exam preparation also includes coaxing my hands back into the nineteenth century in anticipation of three solid hours of hand-writing. I can’t type worth a tin shit, but at least what comes out of my sorry technological efforts is legible, which is a helluva lot more than what I can say about my penmanship, especially after I hit the two hour panic mark in Oxford exams. Give me a laptop, and I can manage. Give me a pen, and I might as well be scrawling Arabic on a scrap of toilet paper using chicken shit as ink.  And furthermore, because I don’t hand-write very often anymore, it really, really hurts when I’m forced to do so in exams. My hands are weak and pathetic atrophied messes and I may as well saw them off and replace them with hooks.

I don’t, of course, because I’m not a caricature pirate or a total freaking lunatic, but also because I like my hands. I like one hand more than the other, sure, but that’s to be expected: it does more of the work and is more likely to sustain injury because I am a complete klutz and incapable of dressing myself in the morning without an ambulance and emergency room on standby should something go horribly wrong. And it often does. I’ve done some serious damage to my hands over the years. Both of my index fingers have either been broken or badly sprained. I honestly can’t tell you which, because I never really figured it out myself. All I know is that at some point I did something unbelievably stupid (don’t know what), and they were very upset with me, and so they have healed themselves into horrific, crooked zigzags and I’m now incapable of laying either of them flat on any surface. ‘Sokay: I deserved it. I broke the middle finger of my right hand (don’t know how) and the tip has an absurdly squashed and lumpy look, as if the bones in it have been replaced with mashed potatoes. The bones in the rest of my fingers have thus far escaped serious calamity (don’t know why). However, because my skin is translucent and pasty, the bizarre number of scars I have collected over the years (don’t know when) are patently visible and I look as if I once had a job serving baby lions finger foods. My circulation is terrible: as a result my hands are always cold and, inexplicably, clammy. I bite my nails. Occasionally one of my sisters will observe that my cuticles are a mess. I’m still not entirely sure what a cuticle is and if I can or should do something about this. So, to sum up: my hands are weak, crooked, pallid, scarred, frigid, sweaty, cracked, and occasionally bleeding.

My hands are heroin addicts.

And I love ’em. I mean, they are mine, after all, not anyone else’s. (I’m coming dangerously close to quoting Jewel here, Lord save me.) And it’s not as if I can pop down to the Hand Store and pick up a new set, although in my more disloyal moments, I sort of wish I could. I definitely wish I could on Monday. I’d pick out a sweet, supersonic pair of steel-gray POWER HANDS that could legibly keep up with the pathetic drivel my brain is trying to vomit out at a million miles a second. But because the scientific community is all obsessed with curing cancer and AIDS and ending world hunger and all that other rot, no one seems to have created POWER HANDS yet. Fools. This is why I’m in the SOCIAL sciences, where all the real work gets done. Real work, like revising for exams. And figuring out how my pathetic, sweaty, wimpy hands are going to last through three hours of pressure-cooker scrawling. Oh boy. This will be fun. Wish me luck.


Bits of Fluff in Revision Period: Guilt Trip, Successfully Vanquished!

The alert and hyper-observant (or at least the sober) readers of this blog are probably very familiar with a certain oft-repeated admission of mine: I am a multi-slacking, lazy, procrastinating hack. Sad, but true. This used to bother me quite a lot, but the older I get, the more accepting of my failings I become, mostly because I can’t be bothered to come up with half-decent excuses anymore. Isn’t that awesome? I’m too lazy to explain my own laziness. I should have been a hippie stoner, man. What the hell am I doing in grad school?

Oh well: my baffling life choices aside. Today, while pretending to be at least somewhat cultured and socially aware, I skimmed through The New York Times and came across this article. Oh shit, son, here comes the guilt trip and, boy, is he ever ready to whoop some ass. Even though I’ve become less ashamed of my own smothering indolence lately, I can still muster up enough self-respect to blush when I see stuff like this which reminds me that everyone in academia – everyone! – works harder than I do. These kids are simply revising for their university entrance exams and already they’ve put more time and effort into their studies than I’ve done throughout the entirety of my post secondary-school career. The first kid they interviewed apparently spends 14-16 hours A DAY studying. Holy cow. I don’t spend that much time on anything in a single day unless there is a guarantee of a nap, tasty snacks, and a hefty bundle of cash at the end of it. So, in summation: I don’t spend that much time on anything. Ever. Never have,  never, ever will, God willing.

As I’m reading this article, I’m all set to ride the guilt trip of my own comparative laziness through to its natural, soul-shattering, ass-kicking conclusion and return to my own revision (which is going just swimmingly, by the way: I’ve done absolutely nothing all week), but then I came across this, and all is right again in the World of Lazy Bums:

“In Sichuan Province in southwestern China, students studied in a hospital, hooked up to oxygen containers, in hopes of improving their concentration.”

Dear sweet Mother of Jesus and holy dog crap on a dipstick. That just transcends all your typical levels of hyperactive over-achievement bullshittery and heads straight into the Land of the Blubbering  Batshit Insane.  It gives me a raging case of the heebie-jeebies just thinking of it. Can you imagine the scene? Dozens of trembling, sweating, nauseated kiddies taking hits off an oxygen tank, pouring over books and pages and pages of scrawled, desperate notes, and their parents are probably standing only inches away, ready to smack them with rulers should their attention flag for just a second. And what the hell kind of hospital ward are these kids sitting in, anyway? Are there test prep ICUs in China? If so, I bet they’re right next to the morgue so the kids never forget what awaits them should they fail to get into university. Seriously. It baffles the addled and sluggish brain.

Well, that does it. Clearly these kids are working too damn hard not only for themselves but for me as well. Someone has to compensate, and the task has fallen on me. I shall take it up admirably. I will start with a long, drowsy nap. I will then read a trashy novel that has nothing to do with my exam. I will play video games for at least an hour. I will stare off into space for a good 45 minutes, thinking about nothing in particular. I will refuse to get out of my pajamas all day. I will not be hooked up to oxygen for any of this. I know. This is madness. This is almost suicidal. I’ve taken on a very difficult task and may very well cause myself serious bodily harm in completing it, but it must be done. For me and all those poor, oxygen-drunk kids in China. I’ve got your back, my friends. You just keep on studying for both of us, ok? My exam’s next Monday. And no, you can’t bring in the oxygen tank with you. Sorry.


Bits of Fluff in Revision Period: Brilliant Oxford Graffiti

Scrawled in black on the back of a bathroom stall in one of Oxford’s many, many pubs: “Look up. An important message awaits!”

Scrawled in black on the ceiling : “Ha Ha! Dumbass!”

I will miss this place.


Bits of Fluff in Revision Period: Pointless Queries Guaranteed NOT To Be On My Exam

Let’s kick it, shall we? Yes. Put your safety gear on.

1) Anyone check out Garfield lately? No? *sigh* Slackers. Do I have to do everything around here? Fine. Let me provide a visual for you lazy bums:

Garfield June 8

Notice anything weird? Yeah! What’s up with the color scheme, Mr Davis? I’m happy he’s mixing things up a bit, but I’m not sure I’m liking this whole Garfield-on-an-acid-trip feel. It reminds me of the Pink Elephants scene in Dumbo, which is still one of the most terrifying montages in all film history, I think. Have you been re-watching Dumbo, Mr Davis?  I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Still, good work, as always. Carry on.

2) Do you think Pluto has gotten over the whole planet-demotion thing yet? Or do you think he’s just out there in the cold, dark, vacuum, slowly circling the distant Sun, and he could really use a hug right now? Do you think  he cries himself to sleep at night, his self-esteem in tatters? More importantly, do you think I should stop attributing deeply depressing and mildly disturbing human emotions to erstwhile planets? Me too.

3) How come the cord to my headphones is literally three feet long? It’s a nice feature in theory, I suppose, but it’s actually a giant pain-in-the-ass. The cord is constantly tangled and gets caught on everything. And I can never think of a scenario that would really require such a long cord anyway. I suppose it’s nice that I could conceivably listen to my iPod when it’s all the way across the room, but it never actually is. Who designed this? Why? And who’s it for, anyway? Giants? Am baffled and mildly annoyed.

4) Who was the first person who looked at a lobster and thought it would make a tasty delicacy you could dip in butter and charge fools an arm, leg, and spleen for the privilege of eating? That took some serious ingenuity and prescience and a level of insanity that borders on genius, man. Big ups to you, dude (or dudette, if that happens to be your preference). I want to shake your hand.

5) Why do I keep saying “big ups” so much lately? Where the hell did that come from? Must stop. It’s weird and annoying.

6) Did you know that the guy who created Pet Rocks is now a millionaire? Seriously. Apparently the things were only sold for about six months during 1975, too, and they cost an unbelievable $3.95. For a freaking rock. I wasn’t around in 1975, so I have to ask: what the hell were you people thinking? Weirdos.

7) Did you know that there have been over seventy million Tamagotchis sold since their debut in 1996? Seriously. Did you have a Tamagotchi back in its heyday? Or a Pet Rock for that matter? Do you feel a little ashamed of yourself because of that? You should.

8 ) How come every musician in the world has written a song using the same chord progression as Pachelbel’s Canon? Don’t believe me? Check this out:

It’s a beautiful piece of music, sure, and its accessibility is obvious. But aren’t song-writers just a little embarrassed by their unoriginality? Or is it unintentional? Or are they too busy cashing their multi-billion dollar checks to much care either way? Do I sound bitter? OK.

9) How come every humorist in the world has created a list of ten quasi-amusing random thoughts and thinks everyone will be ever-so-excited to read them? And how come these lists all make some sort of self-referential, self-deprecating slam against the author, as if anyone really believes that she is that modestly unaware of her own extraordinarily limited talents? Don’t you hate it when humorists do that and don’t you really think they should just get on with it already? Damn straight.

10) Did I really just do that? Lame. Moving on.


Bits of Fluff in Revision Period: Subfusc

During my glorious post-dissertation celebrations (coma-like sleep, long, lazy strolls throughout the city, scratching my belly button, etc.), a few well-meaning friends and family members emailed me asking how it feels to be done with Master’s Degree Numero Dos. It was very sweet of them to do so, but the reality is, I’m not finished yet. I’ve still got an exam left, which is worth a hefty twenty percent of my overall degree. I think this is Oxford’s way of kicking all of us in our teeth after we’ve slopped through ten months of a giant piece of written brilliance (or, in my case, crap) and done so successfully and without going completely mental. “Ahahahaha! Not so fast, my pretty little things,” Oxford shrieks, “Time to don your fancy dress and spit out everything you’ve learned in your option papers (Remember those?! HAHAHAHA!) in three hours or less! And make sure you do so in comprehensive, elegant essay form as well!”

Cheeky git.

I actually don’t mind exams. They’re a quick punch in the gut, then you’re done. Kind of like tearing the Band-Aid off in one, merciless, bloody swoop. However, because we’re in Oxford, the Freak Show Capital of the World, we actually have to wear special clothes to take exams. They call it ‘subfusc.’ My mom calls it ‘the penguin suit.’ It consists of black trousers (or a skirt if you’re so inclined), a white dress shirt, a black jacket, a white bow tie for the gents, and a black ribbon for the ladies, black socks and shoes, and the Harry Potter gown and mortar board. It looks really, really stupid. Actually, that’s not entirely true: on men, it looks distinguished and handsome and elegant. Men look pretty damn hot in subfusc, let me tell you. If you’re not lucky enough to be a man, however, it looks really, really, really stupid. I’ve yet to see a girl, no matter how otherwise lovely, pull off subfusc without looking like a puritanical schoolmarm with a red-hot poker shoved so far up her bottom it’s now making conversation with her uvula. I would call this unfair and sexist and indicative of the horrific gender divide that still persists in elite universities, but because I have to revise for my exam, I just can’t be bothered to give a flying toss. Besides, I have to find my stupid ribbon.

Furthermore, I need to remind everyone that it’s June, and June in Oxford can occasionally mean boiling lava steaming hot, complete with no air conditioning. Not always, but it does sometimes happen that you end up taking your exams in rooms that would be more appropriately used as saunas, except there’s no sign of balding, potbellied men in towels discussing stock figures and football scores. Thankfully.  Also, you don’t have to keep your subfusc on fully throughout the exam, although this is occasionally even worse than the stupid-looking subfusc itself. Exams often become a bizarre game of striptease essay-writing as you trawl through your questions while sweating and cramping and groaning and removing as much of your clothes as you’re legally allowed, and everyone else around you is doing the exact same thing. It’s all very distracting and bothersome, especially at Oxford where you just know no one is getting any at all and this really isn’t the best time to be, well, inappropriately attired. Right? Right. Yeah. OK. Ahem.

Anyway! My exam is in two weeks. And in those two weeks, I think I’m going to devote much of my blog writing to bizarre bits of random observations that have nothing to do with my option paper.  Which is pretty much how my blog is set up already, but now I’m going to be a bit more honest and open about it. What’s that saying again? Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery? Or something? I’m not sure I have a problem or am in need of recovery, but it seems like a nice cheerful way to end an otherwise whiny post, so there you have it. Enjoy!


And SCENE.

I’ve been waiting to say this for seven months.

My dissertation is done. Finished. Complete. And hopefully good enough to pass unscathed under the hyper-critical, laser eyes of Oxford examiners, although, frankly, at this point, I don’t much care. Ding dong, the witch is dead. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Celebrate good times. Come on.

A few, brief, self-indulgent comments on the process:

Final word count: 27,654. Yes, I am crazy like a fox, and, yes, I stayed up all night manipulating this bitch up to that number. Don’t judge me.

Microsoft Word 2007 is not quite as crappy as I first thought it was. Clearly, it was designed by an insane person high on crack, but I originally thought it was designed by a barely animate doorknob. So, progress. Hooray.

My typing and spelling skills, never particularly good to begin with, become almost amusingly wretched after 4am when I am high on aspartame,  caffeine, and lack of sleep. Not only do I misspell every other word, but I often misspell the same word over and over again in exactly the same way. This suggests that I’m either stubborn or delusional, perhaps both.

When in panic-writing mode, I can produce over a thousand words an hour. I find that impressive. And the writing,while not  especially good, at least doesn’t suck eyeballs. Then again, I haven’t slept in a while, so we’ll see what I think of my writing after a few hours days of sleep.

Aw, who am I trying to kid? You couldn’t pay me all the money in the world to re-read this matted and rancid piece of horse hair. If I didn’t still have to submit it, I’d burn it, then spit in its cinders.

Still, it’s done. And I am a happy girl.

Off to print, bind, submit, and sleep. Better blog postings to come, I promise, once the sleep thing has been taken care of. Keep it real, homedawgs.


A Moment of Dissertation Panic

I tend to underwrite when it comes to academic work, because I usually can’t be bothered to bullshit more than I have to when making a point. This wasn’t a problem when I was an undergrad back in the States, and page limits were enforced rather than word counts. A little hint to any college students who read this blog and are having difficulty padding their papers to the required page-length minimum: Courier New, 12 point font. It’s your last hope and the Holy Grail. It looks (barely) professional and it’ll add about 25% more space to your papers than Times New Roman. Most professors are probably aware of  this cheap little padding trick but are probably too embittered to care. I got away with it more than I’d like to admit. It saved my ass on many, many occasions.

Sadly, I’m in grad school now, and I’m supposed to be too mature for these kinds of games. Yeah, right. Worse, though, my dissertation length is measured in words, not pages (damn those sneaky Oxford dons for screwing me out of my safety net!) , so Courier New, 12 point (God bless him) is no longer an option. Worst of all, my dissertation is supposed to be 30,000 words in length. Or so I thought.

I’ve got about 24,000 words right now. And I really, really don’t want to write anymore, partly because I’m lazy and sick of the whole damn topic, but mostly because I’m already starting to repeat myself, and when that happens, I panic. The last dissertation I had was a comparatively easy-peasy 15,000 word-er, but I freaked right the freak out the night before it was due and, literally, rewrote the entire thing in one caffeine-crazed, barking-at-the-moon sitting. I panicked because I made the colossal mistake of talking to my course mates about their work and listened to them bitch about how difficult it had been to get their dissertations completed under the word count. (15,000 is actually the worst length to write for, I think: it’s just enough space to say nothing at all.) My piece of crap, on the other hand, was already completed and pathetically repetitious and, even worse, it only clocked in at about 13,500 words. I quickly forgot all of my previous academic training and immediately decided,  the night before it was due, that it was way too short. THE NIGHT BEFORE IT WAS DUE. So I added crap. And erased it. And added more crap. And erased that, too. Finally, at about 9am, when I could no longer see straight and I was sweating like a pig and my bloodstream was flushed with 75% caffeine and my hands wouldn’t stop shaking, I gave up. The bitch was done. I must have managed to pad another 1500 words into the thing by then, and, hell, I didn’t even care anymore if it was legible, let alone good. So I finished up the bibliography, mopped the sweat and Diet Coke stains off my keyboard, and ran the word count.

13,475.

What. the. f*ck.

So to hell with adding more to my current dissertation. I won’t go through that crap again, especially when I know I’ll probably end up cutting anyway and making the final product even shittier than it was before I took my hacksaw to it.

But is 24,000 really justifiable when your limit is 30,000? Cue the panic. I know it’s just a word count and substance is far more important, but damn it, I’m the same person who obsessively checks her blog stats everyday for no other reason than to see the numbers. Numbers matter. Or they do to me, anyway. But what do I do? I’ll be damned if I talk to any of my course mates about their dissertation lengths, though, because I already know what their answers are going to be and what it will do to my fragile sense of sanity and self-control. So I emailed the most calm and easy-going person in the whole damn world who also happens to have passed this course last year with flying colors. He thinks I’m insane and is probably right, but when people think you’re insane, you can email them – without fear of punitive measures –  the following inanity:

“Word count: 24,598. Too short? Please don’t say it’s too short.”

His response:

“Read your student handbook: 30,000 is the LIMIT not the TARGET. It’s fine. Stop worrying and go have a beer.

Well, son of a bitch.

I’m not a beer person, but I may very well take that suggestion. Not ’til Friday, though. That’s when this bitch is due. Sheer morbid curiosity demands that I pluck away at the thing until then. I bet I can hit the 25,000 mark, easy. Damn it.

I really am insane.


A Quick Question

WHY THE HELL DID I DECIDE TO GO TO GRADUATE SCHOOL??!!! ^&%^(%)*o&^)(*^&)*(^_(*^*(_*&)*&_*(^!!!

All for now, I’m afraid. My dissertation is continuously trying to smother me with a pillow while I sleep, that insidious, nasty bastard. Damn him. I’m going to have to start sleeping with one eye open and a knife under my pillow, it seems. Bugger. On the upside, I am starting to discover just how resilient an Oxford University graduate program can make a person. I feel ever-so-mighty, dangerously invigorated, almost tingly with power. Maybe I should move to New Zealand and castrate sheep for a living.


More Rubbish

Yes, yes, I am well aware of the fact that I’ve been a bit remiss on the substantive posts lately (and yes, I know that “substantive” is not a word one should ever use to accurately describe the contents of this blog).  However, I’ve been so gosh darn busy with my real life that I’m too exhausted to go back and fix the obvious and disgusting split infinitive in that last parenthetical phrase, let alone post something that isn’t complete crap. Oh, the weary life of a grad student with deadlines! Pity me.

OK, enough work-related caterwauling. Enjoy some random thoughts on recent rubbish. Hopefully it’ll hold you whiny bastards until King Dissertation is submitted (please don’t hit, only kidding, I love you all):

1) The last quasi-decent post I wrote vaguely referenced my return to the UK. Coming through EU immigration is always a treat for dirty foreigners like me. I always, always seem to end up in the queue filled with every petty criminal in the whole damn world along with their falsified passports, their forged visas, and their cocaine-filled anal balloons, and every single one of them is indignant and outraged when they’re denied entrance into the UK. It never fails. It’s either the Bellowing and Bellicose Criminal Queue or the March of the Idiots, in which every person is drunk/half-asleep/recovering from a lobotomy/huffing paint thinners. I generally don’t like policing people’s behavior too stridently, but seeing some of the idiocy that occurs while people are waiting in line for passport inspection kind of makes me wish the government would issue an IQ test before allowing passengers on planes. My favorite idiot in the sky story actually comes from a friend of mine who swears that, while at Heathrow patiently awaiting his criminal inspection and anal probe, a very annoyed, braincell-deficient young lady flounced into the queue and whined to her friend, “Oh my god. That other lady was such a bitch! Like, how was I supposed to know that the US isn’t in the EU?”

Oh, help.

2) I, of course, should not snicker too loudly at the moronic behavior of others, because yesterday, in a fit of rage and impatience (two emotions I generally don’t experience all that often, I must say, which I’m gonna go ahead and use as the sole excuse for the following mind-boggling inanity), I tore apart my room in a futile search for my keys before giving up, frustrated and sweaty, then slumped to the floor muttering a series of rather interesting and colorful curses I shan’t repeat here. A sharp pain in my bottom region reminded me that I had stored the keys in my back pocket fifteen minutes earlier. I deserved that pain-in-the-ass, quite frankly.

3) Speaking of pain-in-the-ass, King Dissertation is reaching his final stages. I’ve come up with all kinds of creative ways to avoid finishing him, mostly because he’s starting to send me into a series of nervous twitches every time I open up Microsoft Word and he stares up at me with his toothy, shit-eating grin. Bastard. Anyway, two days ago, I decided it would be a good time to rearrange my bedroom. Why not? I didn’t get very far, though, because my bed is heavier than a dead cow on a pogo stick, and I couldn’t move the damn thing more than two feet before my back decided to go on vacation and give out, leaving only a knife-like spasm in its stead. The spasm refused to help move the bed and he didn’t like the idea of going back to King Dissertation either, so we took a nap instead. I probably should have started out with that activity and avoided the whole mess to begin with. Oh well: live and learn.

Also, I only added that third little random item because I really, really like the phrase “heavier than a dead cow on a pogo stick.” And I think I actually made it up all by myself, too. Hooray! Wonder if I can somehow work that into King Dissertation. Hmmm….

And, finally, because I really do love you all, a present: chocolate-flavored puggle. Awww.

ChocPuggle


I’m gonna staple this thing to my forehead.

This may surprise some of you, but I am not the most organized person in the world.

“But Kris,” you’d exclaim (Well, you’d exclaim that if you knew my name is Kris. Hi. My name’s Kris.), “your writing is so elegantly precise and so agreeably direct! It’s enough to make Strunk and White weep tears of joy! How could you not be a paragon of virtuous logic and care in your day-to-day living?! How could you not be a shining example of calm, meticulous order in an otherwise traumatically nebulous, careless world of intellectual anarchy and deliberate obfuscation! And when do I get paid for saying this on your cheesy blog?”

Well, thank you, imaginary reader (see my accountant, he’ll take care of your promotional fees), but the sad fact is that whatever precision I bring to my writing disappears altogether when it comes to the more pragmatic elements of my life. My room, for example, is an utter wreck at the moment, as it usually is. It was fairly orderly when I left it a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve been back for more than twelve hours, so, of course, it now looks as if the Royal Air Force has been using it as a weapons’ explosive training ground. In fact, the only time I ever really clean my room is when I’m procrastinating work on my dissertation, the first draft of which is due this weekend, so chances are good this place will be spotless by tomorrow.

Regardless. I’m usually pretty good at hiding my complete lack of sense and order because people tend to hear the words “Oxford graduate” and automatically assume I’m way smarter and more mature than I actually am. I used to feel somewhat uncomfortable and guilty about misleading people like this, but these folks also usually think Oxford is just a subsection of Hogwarts and we all carry wands with unicorn feathers in them and have classes in broom-riding and shape-shifting, then holler absurdities like “wingardium leviosa!” at each other during exams (that last part is only true if we’ve been drinking, people!). So I’ve just come to the conclusion that there are simply enormous numbers of sadly deranged lunatics on this earth, and I continue along my happy, messy way.

One of the side-effects, though, of being a mess is that you lose everything. Because I am a broke grad student and own almost nothing of value (except, of course, my Sigmund Freud action figure: yes, I really do have one and, yes, it is every bit as awesome as you’d expect it to be), this usually isn’t a problem. Last fall, however, I lost my passport. While I was in England. Two days before I was due home for Thanksgiving. I believe the phrase “Son of a bitch!” left my mouth with alarming frequency when I came across that charming little discovery.

If you’ve never lost your passport while in a foreign country, go ahead and down an entire bottle of Jack Daniels, get into a cab, tell the driver to drop you off at “the zoo” (No worries if there isn’t a zoo anywhere near you: just wave a sawbuck at the driver and that temptation combined with your intoxicated charm and projectile vomit will get you a punch in the face so sharp you’ll see exotic birds circling your head. See? The zoo.), then toss your wallet out the window while en route. That’s pretty much what losing your passport in a foreign country feels like.

The best part about losing your passport right before you’re due to travel is that you get to make the Journey of Shame to your local Embassy in order to get a new one. It’s so humiliating. The place in London looks like that armed compound the Branch Davidians had in Texas before Janet Reno blew it up. That’s always a comforting image to have in your head when you’re trying to replace your primary identification document several thousand miles away from home, isn’t it?! After you get frisked by the guards armed with Uzis and answer a hundred questions about why you’re there bothering them and whether you’ve had any contact with farm animals recently (seriously?), you’re herded into a holding cell that has all the charm of the DMV with none of its efficiency. For the next six hours you sit on a metal chair and occasionally get called up to have a conversation with a screaming, angry troll behind bullet-proof glass who demands every identifying piece of information you have ever collected over the course of your life in exchange for a TEMPORARY EMERGENCY PASSPORT. A TEMPORARY EMERGENCY PASSPORT is only valid for a year and possession of one automatically puts you at the top of the “Immediate Strip Search and Anal Probe Required” list at every airport in the whole damn world. Flying internationally, once a minor inconvenience, has become a bad episode of Cops with a touch of The Twilight Zone thrown in for extra disorientation and shame.

I still have my TEMPORARY EMERGENCY PASSPORT and I’m still grilled about it every time I fly in and out of the UK. “Where was this issued?” “Why are you flying on a temporary passport?” “When was the last time you were in the Middle East and TELL US THE WHEREABOUTS OF OSAMA BIN LADEN RIGHT NOW OR WE’LL KILL YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY!!!!” OK, I made up that last part a little, but it’s still a royal pain-in-the-ass. When I do get around to getting my permanent passport, I’m stapling the damn thing to my forehead and telling anyone who objects that I’m starting a new fashion trend and you’d better join me before becoming hopelessly passé and tacky. It’s all the rage, people. Hop on board before the anal probe gets you.


Uh Oh! Overshare!

Don’t you just hate it when you have a 6am flight and you toss and turn in your bed all evening, completely incapable of sleeping because 1) you’re a paranoid weirdo who is convinced she’ll sleep through her alarm, miss her flight, then be forced to sell a kidney so she can pay for a new one and 2) you badly overindulged in good American food on your last night in the States and it’s not sitting so well in your stomach, oh, no, not at all, until, finally, at around 3am, you bolt out of bed, convinced you’ll never make it to the toilet, so you open the window (and thank God the screen fell out because your damn cat clawed its way through because you’re convinced it wants to kill you while you sleep: you swear, that damn thing is in league with Satan, you should probably look into that) and after you throw open the window, you blow chunks out into the still, cool night, and then you spend the next few hours wishing you were dead as your body continuously and violently rids itself of every item of food you’ve put into your face over the past three weeks and you miss your flight anyway, because British Air is staffed by fogies and prudes who don’t seem to like vomiting passengers, and then, here it is, two days later, and you’re still in the States, and you should be back in the UK, but you’re not, and, oh crap, we’re all gonna die?!?!?!?

Yeah. Me too.

Bottom line: disgustingly unwell at the moment, and none too pleased about it. I should be back in lovely L’Angleterre by Monday, provided, of course, I stop emptying the contents of my stomach into the nearest toilet at every opportunity. Let’s see how this goes, yes?


Apparently I flushed my brain down the toilet.

An actual sentence from my latest dissertation chapter:

It is possible that the recent alteration in North Carolina’s testing data is indicative of a wider-scale momentum shift in educational reform, cross-correlated with job loss figures suggesting an overwhelming reconciliation of service-sector replacement with white-collar professions, which is an inevitability the state’s school system is unable or unwilling to address or mitigate.

I supposedly wrote this puddle of cow vomit and I have no idea what it means. If you happen to see my brain in a gutter, or if you have a Bullshit-to-English translator, please email me. I need help.


Camping (aka, Spending Money to be Voluntarily Homeless)

One of the dangers in living in a country as beautiful and temperately mild as the UK is that you occasionally run into people who think spending lots of time sleeping on the ground outside and fending off wild animals is just the most brilliant idea in the whole wide world. I seem to know all of these weirdos. Most of my friends know better by now, but when I first moved to this country, every six weeks or so one of them would drop acid and then suggest six of us pile into a tent designed for two small children, hike through the wilderness until pus-filled blisters oozed through our socks, and then ended up wishing each and every one of the others were dead, eaten by wolves, and roasting in hell. Ah, good times.

I may not have made myself clear: I am not a fan of camping. Seriously, what’s the point? I’m spending a bloody fortune to educate myself so I won’t have to be a homeless bum burning leaves for warmth. Why do it “for fun?” Judging by the number of camping enthusiasts out there, I sincerely worry that there are large swaths of mankind who actually enjoy going days on end without showering, peeing and crapping in the woods, and getting dysentery from a half-raw, half-burnt dinner of moldering hot dog buns and roadkill. A love of camping suggests dark things, my friends, very dark things, indeed.

I think my view on camping may be tainted by the fact that I lost a good portion of both my soul and my sanity the first time I went and have yet to retrieve either. I also lost many of my toenails as well. Those, luckily, I got back, which I should be grateful for, I suppose. Still, it was an utterly traumatizing experience. One day, when I was eleven, my parents decided they wanted some quality time to themselves, so they sent their three pre-teen daughters off into the woods of New Hampshire, along with a pair of well-meaning but woefully unqualified camping guides, six other inner-city girls, and a Ziplock bag filled with trail mix. It was times like those when I questioned whether my parents really loved me. I think the entire trip lasted only a weekend, but I seem to remember slogging up the White Mountains for months, perhaps years, wondering if there was in fact a merciful God and what I had done to deserve such punishment at His hands. Really, there are only so many ice storms you can endure and only so many times you can sink in mud up to your waist before you start thinking maybe that eternal pact with Satan in exchange for a warm bed and a shower isn’t such a bad deal after all.

On Day 7,435 of our Journey Through Hell (or Day 2, I can’t really remember) I decided halfway through our afternoon death march that a change of socks was in order. My feet were soaked, either because of the previously mentioned Mud Pits of Doom or my blisters had finally broken and a lovely combination of blood and pus was now filling my boots. These boots were ever-so-slightly too small for me, which isn’t much of a problem if you’re a city girl and have no intention of hiking, but “ever-so-slightly too small” turns into “instruments of unmitigated torture” when you’re on a dirt trail twelve hours a day, trudging up a bloody goddamn mountain. (Did my parents love me? Seriously?) Anyway, as I slumped on a boulder, peeling off my filthy socks and wondering how this could possibly get any worse (WARNING WARNING WARNING IT GETS ALL KINDS OF ICKY AWFUL WORSE), four of my toenails responded by committing suicide and peeling off entirely from my foot and onto the sock!!!!! Holy Mother of GOD!!!!! I mean, honestly, what do you do with yourself when you’re eleven, your parents clearly hate you, your boots are too small, you’re covered in mud, your toenails have shuffled off their mortal coil, and you have seven hundred years left before you can go home again, take a bath, and change your underwear?!

So, yeah, thanks anyway, but I’ll take a pass on the camping if you don’t mind, freak. You go right ahead without me, though, and have yourself just a lovely time getting a rash, pneumonia, and Lyme Disease. Just make sure you take a shower or three before you come see me again, ok, buddy? Enjoy!


Sloth: American Style

garfield

Important stuff first: despite rumors to the contrary, I had nothing to do with this.

Now that we’ve dealt with those heinous accusations and slurs against my good name, sincere apologies for falling off the grid the past couple of days, folks. I’ve been rather busy with my loving family, visiting the poor of my parish, tending to the sick, concentrating on my prayer life, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, and, in general, being full of crap.

I actually have been busy, sort of, but mostly I’ve spent my time happily readjusting to American life, which for me means delicious laziness. Part of this is obviously because I’m on vacation at the moment (don’t tell my supervisor that), but, really, life in the States offers all kinds of modern conveniences that make day-to-day activities so blissfully easy it paradoxically becomes difficult to do anything at all. Seriously, compared to America, living in England is like being on an episode of Survivor, only with stranger accents, more beer, and, thankfully, fewer body lice.

I never expected this when I first went to England. It’s not as if the country is some Third World hell-hole. Oxford, for example, is a jaw-droppingly lovely city, rich in history, culture, architecture, and traditions, a place where you can feel confident that students and locals alike will stumble out of pubs at 2am, bellowing about the football, and then vomit all over themselves and each other before brawling in the streets and passing out in pools of their own blood and urine. True, glorious civilization, as it were. And thank God I live there, because there are only so many American yokels I can take before I go utterly mad and disown my entire redneck family! Haha!

(My mom is totally going to kick my ass.)

Anyway, England. There are all sorts of things about England I didn’t expect. Like windows without screens. Which is fine as long as you never want to get any fresh air without every bug in a fifty-mile radius coming into your room and draining your body of all its blood while you sleep. But, hey, not having any blood is actually a benefit in the UK. Partly this is because everyone there looks as if they wandered off the Twilight set, but mostly it’s due to the fact that the British have yet to master the grand technological wonder of mixed faucets. This annoys me to no end. It is impossible to wash a damn dish in that country without either burning off all the skin on your hands or having your fingers turn into icicles and snap off into the sink. But, again, because you have no blood, at least it cuts down on the clean-up. And you’ll need every bit of help you can get in the clean-up department, because the English don’t seem to like garbage disposals either. I found this out the hard way. After a hearty meal of hiding bits of blood sausage under a giant, oozing pile of mushy peas, I was appalled to discover that the hole in the kitchen sink was simply a hole without any sign of the friendly, waste-grinding machine I had taken for granted all my life. Nothing makes you long for a garbage disposal more than digging around in a kitchen sink hole and bringing out fistfuls of greenish, black-flecked gunk that reminds you of a gangrenous wound, or, worse, that revolting meal you were just forced to eat. It’s enough to make an American weep for home.

Ah, beautiful American living. It really is a glorious place, but it does turn me into a drooling cow. When I’m in Oxford, for example, I walk three to four miles a day, easy, just because I have to – there’s really no other way to get around the city unless I want to get squashed under a lorrie while riding my bike or wrestle with the drunks on the bus. And walking in Oxford is wonderfully pleasant: the city is so conducive to strolling around, I can’t imagine navigating it any other way. I always wonder if the people trying to drive in its impossibly narrow and curving streets are either high on crack, insane, or both. On the other hand, when I’m back in Boston, which is supposed to be one of the most walkable cities in the US,  I cannot be arsed to walk the two blocks from my house to the mailbox. I swear this is shamefully true. This is partly because Boston drivers are, in fact, both high on crack and very, very insane, and view sidewalks as simply the far right lane, so getting mowed over while on a peaceful stroll is more than a remote possibility. But it’s also because no one – NO ONE – in the city would even think of walking to a mailbox and if I were seen doing so, I’d either be shot or carted off to a looney bin.

So, really, it’s much safer for me to stay indoors, enjoy my home filled with mixed faucets, lovingly caress my garbage disposal (this wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had, by the way), and do nothing. Sweet, sweet nothing. I know, I know, it’s not much of an apology for my lack of blogging over the past couple of days, but frankly, it’s all I can muster on the limited pool of energy I’ve got left after all the conveniences of American life have sapped me of my will to move. God bless this country. Moo.