Would we drink coffee with Emiliano Zapata?

Kristy: Yeah. Though, and I’m not positive why I think this, I think coffee would probably be a quiet affair. He always sort of struck me as the strong silent one out of the Mexican Revolutionary generation. Maybe it’s all those images of him sitting soberly next to a laughing Pancho Villa. He also seems to be one of the revolutionary leaders least tainted by corruption–possibly because he died so early. So I’d like to have coffee with him just to see if my mythologized version is remotely close to the actual thing. I’d also like to ask him a few questions: what does he think of the end result of the Revolution? Is he satisfied with the reforms they instituted or does he think they failed? How does he feel about the problems currently facing Mexico?

Cammy: I’m not entirely sure yet…on the one hand, it’s coffee with a revolutionary, and, well, that in and of itself is interesting.  On the other hand, it’s coffee with a revolutionary, and that’s also kind of intimidating (and I’m not totally convinced it would be a quiet affair myself).  Like Kristy, I really want to hear what he’d have to say about Mexico’s current situation (I’m half expecting that we’d hear something to the tune of, “Well, no duh they have problems.  They STILL haven’t ever completely enacted my plan for land reforms!”).  I might have a better idea of what else to quiz him on once I watch one of the movies about him (procured mostly because it’s a chance to watch a costume drama in Spanish and partly because it has someone from the telenovela I’ve been watching), although I guess that alone begs the question of how he feels being mythologized….

Stupidest Mac Argument Yet

As we have several readers who are Mac users I would like to preface this by assuring you all I don’t dislike you in any way for being Mac users. Any dislike I have of Mac users has to do with the persistence of certain Mac users in preaching their product to me. As long as you haven’t done that (and I can’t recall any of you have) we’re fine. Unless you were hoping to get me to dislike you, in which case that’s your ish to work out.

Cammy has written about the problem of evangelical Mac users in the past. I’ve encountered a lot of these in the last few weeks because of my recent computer problems. Apparently I never would have had these had I been a Mac user. That’s actually far from certain. We have no clue why my hard drive went kaputsky. It could very well have to do with me constantly carrying it in my backpack and… well… being a clutz who frequently falls flat on her ass (or the computer which is strapped to it). I’m fairly certain that Macs aren’t anymore immune to having a 160 pound acrobat fall on them than PCs are, but what do I know?

 

What I do know is that if my laptop were a Mac replacing my hard drive would have been more difficult and possibly more expensive. I also know that my external hard drive would not have been able to back up both my laptop and desktop (since my desktop is a PC). So… I’m still unconvinced.

 

I’ve always responded to the Mac missionaries that I agree Mac probably does make a better product. However, I don’t believe it makes a better enough product for it to be worth it for me at this point in my life. Saturday one of my friends informed me that I could buy a used Mac for the same price as my new laptop, but I failed to see how that was a selling point. In truth, the only Apple product I’ve had much interaction with of late has been iTunes, and iTunes pisses me off. For starters, I just don’t like the program. Now maybe that’s because I haven’t given it enough of a chance and maybe if I really dedicated myself to it we’d get along better. But that’s the problem—iTunes wants to be your one and only music program. And it seems like it goes out of your way to make your life difficult should you dare to use any other music program for anything. It feels like it’s trying to control my life, and I resent that. (Yes, yes, I know, PCs are controlling my life too whether I realize it or not. Stop interrupting my rant with your logic!)

 

But really, this post is not about all that. This post is about me getting dragged into the stupidest ever Mac/PC argument with a student this week. To be clear, I’m not suggesting this student is a d-bag because he is a Mac user; he’s a d-bag who just happens to be a Mac user. And he complained that I had marked his font as too large. I did so because the syllabus clearly stated that all papers should be typed in 12pt. Times New Roman (or equivalent) font. Instead he used the sans serif default font on his Mac program (I take it on faith that it is, in fact, the default font, I don’t know). This font is notably taller and consequently results in fewer characters per square inch. His argument seemed to boil down to “This font is infinitely superior. If you don’t realize this it’s because you are clearly a PC user. As a Mac user I am infinitely wiser.”

 

Bullshit. I’m a professional editor (I know, you’d never know it from my blog. I proofread for work—I’m not going to do it during my leisure time). Most experts in typesetting will tell you that a sans serif font is less readable on paper. But whatev. So not a hill I want to die on. I responded if he was that dedicated to using that particular font he should just use a smaller size. Cue caterwauling that it was unfair and was making his paper shorter and he’s a special snowflake and… It all went back to, “Macs are better!”

 

It was frustrating because it was just such a stupid argument. But I wasn’t going to cave either. One of my colleagues pointed out my error was in letting him dictate the terms of the argument. I should have just told him to use a different font and get over it. Lesson for next time I suppose.

A Culinary Travesty

I had my first strawberry shortcake of the season this evening. It was brought to my house by a friend. In this incarnation “strawberry shortcake” meant fresh sliced strawberries served over those pre-made dessert cups with whipped topping. Synthetic and processed, but good if not outstanding.

 

Growing up we had strawberry shortcake at least once or twice per summer. My mom would cut up a bunch of strawberries and put them in the refrigerator with a little sugar so they would release their juice. Then she would make a pound cake and we would eat the strawberries on that with some whipped topping. (Mom wouldn’t use the real stuff because she hates freedom). Occasionally if she was feeling lazy and/or there was a sale we would use a store bought angel food cake. Actually for several years I hated soggy cake to the point I would have just a bowl of strawberries with whipped topping.

 

But when I moved to the mid-Atlantic I found out some people do something very wrong with their strawberry shortcake—they make it with a biscuit. Seriously? Biscuits are a side. They also make a tasty breakfast. They are not a dessert. Why would you put your strawberries and cream on a biscuit?

 

And they don’t just do this out of ignorance either. I tried to introduce some of the biscuit crowd to the wonders of pound cake, only to have them insist it was better with a biscuit. Is this some kind of Protestant guilt thing where they can’t stand the indulgence of a full dessert? Is it just because they know they make biscuits better than Yankees and have to show them off?

Whatever it is, it needs to stop. I hearby will make it my business: If I do nothing else with my life, I will make someone who would have otherwise eaten just a soggy biscuit to eat a good grilled cheese.

A Folklorist’s Time Vampire

About a month ago a friend of mine slipped me a CD-ROM that had research materials from a ghost tour my department used to run in October. Mostly it was a collection of urban legends surrounding the campus where I teach. My intention was to use it to collect just a couple I could hand out to my students for a group activity. I downloaded all the files to my computer, but had no intention of actually reading all of them.

But then I started opening the files. And even though I had allotted only fifteen minutes to this activity I just couldn’t stop myself. I started opening the file labeled “Dorms”. First I opened all files referencing the dorm where I taught, because, you know, I’m an evil enough teacher to enjoy freaking out my students. That was all well and good, but then out of curiosity I had to check out the dorm where I taught the year before. And then there was that other dorm that I’d heard had creepy stories, but had never heard details…

And it’s not like I could stop with dorms. Because there was a whole folder labeled, “Academic Buildings.” Who doesn’t want to know if a building they’ve been attending classes in was the site of a grisly murder? And if that folder didn’t eat up enough of my time there was a whole folder just for my department. One that contained not only ghost stories themselves, but a chain of emails detailing the investigation that created one of said ghost stories.

But after that I should have stopped. I had plenty of material for my class, I had read about all the buildings with which I had a strong connection. But I was looking for one story in particular: There’s a standard university urban legends about a sorority house where people hear the sounds of babies crying. Everyone thinks it’s just a few people with over active imaginations until a workman doing some maintenance underneath the house uncovers some small bones. It turns out that in an earlier era when unwed pregnancies were not acceptable and abortions not available, sorority girls had hidden unwanted pregnancies and then buried the babies underneath the house to avoid the shame. I’m not sure if this has ever actually happened, but you hear it about nearly every university, and I had heard rumors it was told about at least one sorority at my school. So I wandered into the “Greek” Folder to locate it. Not knowing anything about Greek organizations I had to open all the Sorority and Fraternity folders. I never did find it.

And that’s about when I realized this “quick class prep activity” had sucked up several hours of my time. It was a Time Vampire tailored specifically to my weaknesses.

Dear Joggers

Dear People Who Love to Run and Jog,

I do not want to be one of you.

I’m not saying you’re bad people, or that there is something inherently wrong in your choice of exercise.  What I’m saying is I DO NOT WANT TO RUN, so QUIT BUGGING ME.

Look, I know you get all endorphin-high when you and your Adidas become one with the pavement for extended periods.  In a way, I envy you your ability to get that kind of nirvana.  I also envy you the tremendous calorie burn resulting from your efforts.  But I don’t envy a lot of the other crap (aching muscles, abused joints…), and no matter how awesome you say it is, I’m no going to join you.  I’ve run plenty of times in the past and not once did I achieve any state of nirvana or even just liking of the experience.  And even if I did, I have a bum ankle and a knee that’s going the way of the dodo.  For the knee my doctor specifically suggested I not run, but walk instead because it’s easier on the joints and just as beneficial.  For the ankle, well, I’ve played this game:  Ankle goes, Cammy falls.  Falling hurts.  Falling while running hurts more.

And since these reasons seem not to dissuade you from continuing to pressure me when a simple “No” really ought to suffice, let me volley some TMI and semi-mean comments:  You long-distance running freaks?  Yeah, I’ve never met one of you with the boob problem.  Even when I DID run back in junior high track, I can now confirm through photographic evidence, that I still had boobs.  My girls don’t shrink when I exercise a lot.  They just remain obnoxious and in the way.  Running with the girls HURTS, damnit.   The visual on that movement is really not what I want people to see–it’s embarrassing.  Sports bras are less than effective for the busty set.  Believe me, I’m still on a quest for one that works well.

I can get my exercise zen in other ways, thanks.  Yoga, cycling, walking.  I can get my heart rate up and sweat doing any of those.  They work for me.  Running doesn’t.

I fully appreciate your freedom to choose to exercise (or not exercise) in whatever way you see fit.  I wish you would grant me the same courtesy.

Sincerely,

Cammy

 

Insufficient Payment

First of all, let me apologize for missing my last two posts. I missed Friday because shit happened that made it vitally important I drink several snake bites then come home and lie on the couch with a box of tissues watching Season 2 of Chuck (is anyone else distracted by Chuck’s college girlfriend being the lesbian supervillain from DEBS? Is anyone else pondering the amazing possibilities of a Chuck/DEBS crossover? Has anyone else actually seen DEBS?) Sundays post fell victim to the hard drive in my laptop dying on the day my dissertation proposal was due.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. My wonderful co-blogger Cammy took quite a bit of time out of her weekend and work week to give me advice, research hard drives, assure me that the world was not over… Cammy is my go-to tech support. I’d like to say that I haven’t taken advantage of this in the past. And I’d like to say that I won’t take advantage of it in the future. But while I’m comfortable with lying, Cammy is not. So yeah… I’m a bit of a douche in that department.

So really this post is a giant thank you to all of my friends with useful skills who get taken advantage of. The computer literati, the people with trucks, the amateur mechanics. In addition to holding real jobs they tend to wind up working for us for nothing except gratitude. I mean, I would love to repay in kind, but the bottom line is that while I like to think I’m not totally devoid of skills, I am lacking in skills that would ever be of use to my friends. I have yet to get the call saying, “Hey, I need someone to walk across a loosely tied rope… do you mind?” Chances are minimal of any of my friends ever asking me, “Hey, do you happen to know what tale type this story falls under?” (Okay, that actually sort of did happen once. But only once.) I always hope that my editing skills will be of use to someone, but for better or for worse, all my sciency computery friends are disgustingly well-rounded people who can edit their own cover letters. I pay local friends in homemade ice cream or sorbet, but this is somewhat difficult when the friend in question is two states away.

So I know it’s insufficient payment, but to all those friends who have helped me out of all those jams I would like to say a giant thank you. Us useless folk do notice all you do for us, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

Coffee Nevermore?

Would We Have Coffee With Edgar Allan Poe?

Cammy:  I’ve never been a Poe fan, outside of a slight soft spot for the “Tell Tale Heart.”  The whole dark, macabre subject matter just doesn’t usually appeal to me.  Also, he married a 13 year old, which, by the time he was around, was already creepy.  That said–I want to have coffee with him, morose and slightly off balance though he may be.  90% of this has to do with the preview I saw today for some kind of horror flick tied to Poe and “The Raven.”  Watching the preview, I had to wonder what Poe would think.  Because while there’s plenty of dark and horrific subject matter in his work, he never seemed to me to be going for the kind of cheap thrills you get in the never ending list of shitty gore-or films that are forever pouring into theaters.  Would he find it as craptastic as I do, or would he be intrigued?  Given that he was also into cosmology and cryptography (further topics for potential nerd discussion), I tend to think he would probably take a dim view of the shitty horror thing.  All in all, I think that conversation with him is bound to be at least interesting, as long as we can keep him away from the bar and he can avoid being too depressed/crazy to chat.

Kristy: Yes. I’ve spent enough time teaching the man’s work I feel like I ought to. Also I’ve always admired his work stylistically, even when I haven’t been that enamoured of the subject matter (my opinions on the macabre have gone back and forth a few times). This was a man who understood the craft of writing. With that in mind I’d like to hear his thoughts on the current state of popular literature. Like Cammy I’d like to hear his thoughts on contemporary horror. Did he avoid “going there” because of social constraints of his time or was his style of horror a more deliberate choice. I like to think he’ll find contemporary horror to be a bit cheap in its use of gore and superficial emotional content. I also want to ask him all those nerdy English major questions: How autobiographical is his work? Who was the subject of “Annabel Lee”? We know his biography was distorted after his death, but how much? If nothing else I should get some great material for future lectures.