Friday, February 27, 2009

And we was both jumpin' up and down yelling "Kill! Kill!"

The main reason I remain anonymous on this blog is because I like to have a corner of the world where neither students nor colleagues can find me. Even with this cloak of anonymity, because I am untenured and also not stupid, I don't generally indulge myself in posts of the "Venting about IDIOTS at work" genre. Sure, the chances of being found are very, very small, but why risk it?

But I have to say that recently I was at a meeting with a member of my department whose presence generally makes me believe that, given the right weapon and conditions, I am in fact capable of disemboweling another human being. Now, one of the best things about being an academic is that most of the time, one does not have to deal with the idiocy, attempts at social climbing, and generally aggressively careerist tendencies of one's colleagues. Perhaps an aggressive colleague might impact one's ability to get tenure, but in this context I am also fortunate to be at a school where the faculty is unionized, and this means that the tenure process is completely transparent. In other words, it is not possible to be struck down because someone on the anonymous tenure committee doesn't like the way you dress. So most of the time I am capable of ignoring the idiots; sometimes I am even able to laugh at them.

So, like I said, I was at a meeting for an academic program at our college that is near and dear to my heart. I have been mulling over how to constructively make changes in it in order to attract more students, but this is tricky because the people who have been running the program a while differ from me in their ideas and outlook and I don't want to capsize the boat from too much rocking. I can't risk being too specific here, but suffice to say that the faculty member whom I'd happily disembowel was at this meeting even though s/he is not part of the program for which the meeting was called. S/he has a long history of emailing everyone in the department whenever he or she accomplishes anything. In other words, things that normal people would just add to their CV this person makes into press releases. The latest thing in his or her life - as we all know from a recent email - was a fellowship to participate in a conference supported by an online idea sharing site called ted. This website is actually a fun place to browse - it's kind of like NPR lite. Edutainment with self-help icing and a dollop of management gurudom in the style of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. In other words, it's not an academic resource.

So anyway, after attending this conference, my colleague, who runs two different self-help style seminars and is the kind of person who identifies as a "visionary" or "reformer," has decided that now s/he is going to take our college by storm. In an effort to spread the gospel of ted, s/he made us all watch a ted-based video of a popular writer on religion in America who is not only a dilettante but who is also someone whose ideas about religion (hint: core idea is that all religions are about "love") are, I truly believe, at best impotent and at worst ideas that contribute to rather than help end religious violence. HIVES. This popular writer gives me HIVES and there I was at a meeting listening to my messiah wanna-be colleague stomping into the meeting like some latter-day godzilla, representing the academic program that I have quietly been trying to change in a stunningly idiotic, impotent and actually dangerous way.

Did I mention that s/he now carries a new backpack with the ted logo on it?

So as I sat there quietly in the aftermath of the video, feeling the veins in my forehead pop out and telling myself that this was not the time and the place to take a stand, I felt the fetus begin one of its thunk-thunk-thunk-on-the-uterine-wall sessions. Normally the fetus is only active in the evening, so this sudden mid-day foray into uterine gymnastics was unusual. It could have been a response to the sudden rise in my blood pressure and adrenaline levels, but I prefer to think that that's MY child in there, ready to tear its way out of the womb to assist in the takedown of the messiah-complex colleague from hell. With apologies to Arlo Guthrie, I have chosen to believe that at that moment, the fetus and I were both jumping up and down yelling "Kill! Kill!" The two and a half months of morning sickness are now officially forgiven.

Thanks to everyone for the good wishes on my pregnancy, by the way. And I am still knitting pretty things but none of them are postable because they're all gifts for blog reading friends due in May. An update on the ongoing Lilyfield mitten tragedy is in the offing, though.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Well, I can at least say that the pilot episode of Dollhouse, Joss Whedon's new show, didn't disappoint me. After months of reading variations of the same interview and looking at two different reviews of the pilot before it aired, I figured what I would see was what happens when Joss Whedon does what he has to do to "bring in viewers." It's obvious that the first episode was created to beat potential non-Whedonites over the head with all the Mysteries! And Wonders! To Be Revealed! If You Please Please Tune In Next Week! Rather than a slow, intelligent, sexy rolling out of characters and issues, I felt like episode one was primarily written to get us all on board with the mystery of the main character's Mysterious Past, with almost no significant attention given to the more interesting mysteries clearly embedded in the show's concept, e.g., the question of what we are beyond the sum of our memories (which is so very Samkhya) and the potentially deeply satisfying critique of a consumer and self-help culture that encourages us to buy and think our way free of our horribly scarring or otherwise unsatisfying pasts. I do not feel seduced by the world or the characters of Dollhouse because they are all trying much too hard to tell me that they have interesting things to say, which, as we all know, is never sexy. Plus, the show was completely devoid of any redeeming humor. And Eliza Dushku is...well, very pretty, but I'm not alone in wondering if she was really the best choice for the lead.

I worry about Dollhouse only because historically Whedon has been at his best when developing interesting questions within the context of evolving relationships with fundamentally sympathetic characters, and he is at his worst when all the characters march relentlessly towards some supposedly great climax in the season finale (think Buffy season 7 or pretty much all of Angel).

But of course I will keep watching. I didn't really get Firefly when it aired (much of this had to do with the fact that Fox made Whedon et al air the episodes out of order in an ill-advised effort to hook viewers) and when episode 1 of Dr. Horrible aired the internet was full of moaning and groaning about how it wasn't "dark" enough, and then of course things were good and grim by the third episode. So let's keep our fingers crossed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Diary of a First Trimester

Weeks 1-4
Mr. Clearblue Easy, ovulation monitor extraordinaire, tells me what I already know - I am generally not so much with the women's intuition, but I have always known that I am a textbook 28-day cycle, except of course when I am in India, where my body has a history of going into Deep Survival Mode. Once, during a 13-month stay in India, my period stopped for eight whole months, which I realize is horribly unhealthy but it was largely beyond my control, though I have to say that health issues aside, one of the major bonuses of no period for 8 months was not having to deal with culturally sensitive issue of disposing of used tampons.

Near the end of the 8 month shutdown I got horrible acne for the first time in my life and ended up having a breakdown in a South Delhi doctor's office. "Sometimes," he tentatively suggested to his red-eyed, twitching patient, "our bodies react to stress in this way." Stress? Like the recent umpteenth breakup in a series of breakups with the Boyfriend From Hell? Or the fact that I have been living in a cloud of rickshaw exhaust for the past 12 months? Or the fact that for the past three months I've been living in Sindh, where they are just starting to get over that massive earthquake so there is basically never electricity and it's over 120 degrees because Sindh is a desert? Or are you perhaps referring to the amoebic dysentery I seem to have contracted?

Anyway, zygote probably formed on Halloween, or thereabouts. An auspicious and appropriate beginning, for sure. I love Halloween and frankly, pregnancy is creepy.

Positive pee stick test just before heading out the door to Sunday night trivia - I confess to testing mainly because I had been avoiding alcohol even though I didn't know if I was pregnant, and I was kind of sick of it and really wanted a Guinness. Pee stick dialogue:

Knitcrit: I think it's positive. Holy crap.
Todd: Uh, that does look like two lines.
Knitcrit and Todd: assorted happy exclamations and kisses
Knitcrit: This is so great. Except now I can't have Guinness. For nine months.

Week 5

Dear embryo,

Guess what? A sushi place just opened up in the shop space in our building that has been vacant since we moved in. And now I cannot eat there for nine months.


Week 6
First ultrasound confirms my uterus has been colonized by pulsating white blob. I am given a good and endearingly old fashioned extended lecture by my doctor on the importance of good nutrition. In what will become a recurring thought process, I wonder what the hell doctors did during monthly checkups before the invention of the ultrasound.

Week 7
Morning sickness rears its unspeakably ugly head. Interestingly, I feel absolutely fine in the mornings. Nausea only begins to torment me around noon and remains bearable until early evening, at which point I am reduced to retching heap of despair. The joke that my morning sickness is on Indian time will remain funny for approximately three more days, after which nothing will be funny until week 14.

Week 8
I try not to hate the embryo and instead try directing my helpless, retching rage towards the placenta (which was technically responsible for the nausea, anyway). Misery was also somewhat mitigated by the cathartic defacement of my prenatal vitamins. A little Sharpie action resulted in a satisfying revision of the annoyingly named "Baby and Me:"

I think "Life sucking embryo and me" about sums things up.

Week 9
A random evening sampling of some festive Organic Valley Egg Nog that Todd had purchased on a whim revealed that it was in fact the only thing that would stave off nausea long enough for me to fall asleep at night.

After figuring out that this fine but seasonal beverage was truly the only thing standing between me and total hell, we pretty much bought out the local supermarket's supply. I have no idea what I would have done if my first trimester had not coincided with the holiday season.

Week 10
Observed: one of the many other things that totally blows about the first trimester is of course, you don't look pregnant, which in my case meant that no matter how sure I was that this was going to be the commute where I would lie down on the cool, smooth floor of the subway car and perish in a pool of my own vomit, to my fellow commuters I just looked like one more professional female sporting a slightly too large briefcase and an unpleasant expression on her face. Fantasies entertained on first trimester commutes included (1) barfing on seated passengers' shoes (2) stuffing a pillow under my coat so people would just give me a seat and (3) crying out "I'M PREGNANT TOO!!!" whenever a visibly pregnant lady or a lady with a small child was offered a seat.

Week 11
I reminded my doctor that I'd be seeing Dr. S for my Chorionic Villus Sampling and he basically reiterates what he said when he recommended her - that she's got tons of experience, that he trusts her, that she was doing CVS back in 1994 when he was finishing his internship, etc etc. And then he pauses and says "and, uh, I don't want to use any stereotypes but...uh...she does come across as a bit of a ... JAP. But don't let that throw you. She's really excellent."

I can hardly wait to meet Dr. S.

Mandatory genetic counseling session involves listening to doe-eyed college student explain, with pictures, how many chromosomes babies should have. Three of one kind=problem. FYI. Just in case you don't have an internet connection.

Week 12
Dr. S comes in to puncture me after I've been prepped by the no-nonsense yet sweet ultrasound technician - and she clacks in wearing tall boots, a short skirt and a big, practiced, totally fake yet clearly well-intentioned bedside manner smile. Certainly in her mid-40's, but looks 10 years younger at least. Thin. Pretty. Very New York Professional Female. This is a woman who has been sticking needles in the bellies of 30-something neurotic, demanding New York Mothers a very, very long time.

After she does the test - which didn't hurt at all - she tells me that slight bleeding or even heavy-ish bleeding and/or some cramping is possible and probably not a cause for alarm, and that I should call my doctor if I bleed and am worried; she concludes by recommending "Tylenol or a glass of wine" to deal with any pain, and she clacks out. It was hilarious. And somehow very comforting.

Week 13
Test results confirm fetus is not mutant. I celebrate with big frosty non-alcoholic beer with egg nog chaser.

Week 14
I hate egg nog.