Friday, August 29, 2008


Like a anti-smoking crusading ex-smoker, I'm a reformed curser. I used to be able to freely string together a variety of curse words to create magical chains of obscenities. I was proud of the fact that I was once reprimanded by my manager at work for saying (in a fit of technical frustration) "motherfucking cocksucker" to my computer. Or maybe it was "cocksucking motherfucker", I can't remember. But it wasn't the "motherfucker" that was the problem; the offensive word was "cocksucker", according to the official complaint. (And I believe the complaintant was the same woman who ran over a rabbit on her way to work, and stored her roadkill in the freezer where it looked remarkably like a human head. Sometimes I miss working in Texas.)

But I stopped swearing the day I came home from the grocery store without the one item I went for and celebrated that by saying, "Fuckity fuck fuck fuck". Conor, who was about 18 months old, picked it up and it was hard to break him of that habit because everyone who heard it from his lips found it so funny.

But I stopped swearing on a regular basis, and saved my cursing for adult evenings. Nothing like a nice glass of wine and a well-deserved, "fuck, this is good." I stared using replacements such as 'criminy jim jims' and other phrases from Sponge Bob. And I did a good job, because Conor thought the 's' word was "stupid" and didn't know there was an 'f' word. Until he started school, where such words are playground gold. So we've had the talk about language you use with friends, language you use with family, and language you use with your grandparents.

We have a proud family tradition of explaining that you NEVER use certain words around grandma. For me, it was my mom catching me calling my brother a 'jackoff', which I screamed at him from the front yard. She told me that I may or may not know what a 'jackoff' was, but my grandmother certainly did and I needed to STOP SCREAMING IT FROM THE FRONT YARD. Of course, if I had known what a jackoff was, I probably would have called him a "dicklicker".

But even though I don't swear in front of the kids, I do reserve one word to let them know that things are NOT going well at all. "Goddammit" is a word I use when someone spills the milk all over the table after I've said several times to move the glass farther away from an elbow. "Goddammit" is the word that I use when I discover a gallon of water on the bathroom floor after bathtime. When they hear "Goddammit", they know that all is not right in the world and they'd better straighten up. A wee bit better than "motherfucking cocksucker", for sure, but it'll still come up in therapy, I'm sure.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Side effect

One of the little ironies of taking thyroid hormone replacement is that it needs to be taken every day. And, if you happen to forget, you may find yourself with some symptoms, the two most interesting of which are:

* Feeling very tired or sluggish
* Problems with memory and thinking

This means that the 15th or 20th time you think, "There is not enough coffee in the world" it might dawn on you that you've felt this way before, and it was when you hadn't taken your medication. And so you try to remember if you've taken it. Good luck!


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Elevator Story

I was listening to the commencement speech by Robert Krulwich at the California Institute of Technology today, and it reminded me of a story. If you don't listen to the podcast, the takeaway is that if scientists don't find some way to tell regular people about the work they do--their elevator story--then science will suffer.

One of my good friends is married to a man who works at NASA. A rocket scientist, if you will. One evening, at a party, I asked about a project he had worked on that was written up in the paper. Now, maybe he was tired of making conversation. Maybe he's incapable of abstracting up what they do at NASA. Maybe he had had enough of that project. But what he said to me was, "You wouldn't understand it."


If they could write it up in the newspaper (6th grade reading level, typically), I can understand it. Now I take great pleasure in mentioning to him that rocket science isn't exactly brain surgery. And neither is making small talk with non-engineers. But I think, like Robert Krulwich, that anyone involved in science needs to be able to tell their story to the average person in this day and age of the assault on science. Creationists should *not* get away with saying, "Evolution is *just* a theory", without the rebuttal that so is gravity, but we're not flying off the face of the earth. Science needs it elevator stories to defend itself!

Now, I must admit I have not always been the wisest person with the elevator story. My first programming job was as a contractor at a bank, and my uncle asked what I was doing. So I gave him the spiel. I'm working on a check reconciliation project--after a check is sorted but before it is posted, many are lost and blah blah blah on and on. I think I even explained what check kiting is.

Now, my uncle is a banker. Had been for over 30 years when he asked me this question, and he had the social grace to walk away, leaving me to realize what I'd done much, much later and still live with that mortification. But you better believe that if I had told him, "You wouldn't understand", he would have sat me down and made me explain it until he did.

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