Chocolate Archetypes

So, ever since our new roommate finally moved in (after several months of paying rent NOT to live here) I've been baking a lot. He likes baked goods, and is akin to a bottomless pit in terms of food consumption. Most recently, I made a truly delicious 2-layer vanilla cake. And then I was forced to completely ruin it by covering it in chocolate frosting.

I can't stand chocolate frosting. I think the reason is because I like chocolate so much. I always feel cheated by chocolate frosting. Here we have a substance that looks, smells, and even acts alot like delicious, gooey chocolate truffle. But instead of being the paragon of chocolate good, it's just, well, not. No, gentle reader, chocolate frosting is a fraud.

In the same way, I strongly dislike chocolate cake. I know this has many people aghast. But, in my opinion, if I'm biting into a flour-based chocolate substance, it darn well better be a brownie, because brownies are like, the best thing since sliced bread. In fact, if we could replace all the sliced bread on the planet with brownies, we'd have to change the name from Earth to Utopia.
Yes, brownies are the absolute pinnacle of bread-like chocolate achievement.

Basically I guess what I'm saying here is that I don't bother with inferior forms of chocolate. Or, maybe I'm just picky.



So yesterday my sister called me and told me how cool she thinks I am. Seriously! She'd been talking to Max about my thesis, and was totally impressed. She even blogged about it!
Anyway, it totally made my day. I figure I'll respond in kind.

Rachel is awesome because she's got such savoir-faire. For all Sarah's quirky dorkiness and my abject nerddom, Rachel is the epitome of cool. I'm sure she must feel self-concious and out of place sometimes, but you'd never know it - she projects an aire of confidence and security that puts everyone at ease. She's also hilariously funny, and she can do spot-on impersonations that'll make you laugh til you pee. She can fit in anywhere, with any crowd. She is the only person I know who can say "nigga" and "gangsta" without sounding painfully white. She's also got rhythm - Rachel can DANCE. And I'm not talking about the whitey step-and-clap, either, this girl knows how to move. She's a total blast to have at parties. In fact, she may herself BE a portable party! Shotgun weddings, funerals, tense family gatherings... Rachel has a real talent for reading the situation and cracking the perfect joke at just the right moment, so that everybody relaxes and starts having a good time. She brings people together and encourages us all to stop taking ourselves so seriously and live with gusto!

I'll throw Sarah in here, too, because I don't want to leave her out!

Sarah is amazing. She has matured so much in the past 3 years, it makes my head spin. And yet, she's still managed to keep that essential Sarah-ness about her, an odd combination of cute, weirdo pride and endearing insecurity. And by weirdo pride, I mean she's proud to be a weirdo, like most people are proud to be American. She works very hard, and despite her occasional moments of self-doubt, she is a good mom. When it comes to her family, she is so self-less. I can't imagine having her responsibilities now, let alone being able to handle them when I was her age! Anyone who can clean up explosive toddler diarrhea and not lose their lunch has a steely determination to be admired. She's also incredibly loyal, and despite claiming to be kind of shy, she seems to make friends easily. I've always envied her ability to get along so well with other girls. She is creative, sensitive, and unapologetically goofy!

So, that's basically it - my sisters are super-cool and I'm glad my multitudinous plots to kill them when we were children failed! Even though I totally could've gotten away with it...


The Force that Physics Forgot

This is just about the cutest kitten picture I've ever seen.

I just finished the work for my online Summer II class, a riveting course on Educational Program Evaluation. Basically, educational evaluators are to the world of education what consultants are to the world of business. It's not really my cup of tea, but the textbook wasn't all that bad. In fact, in places, I even enjoyed reading it, which is a testament to the skills of the author. This stuff isn't what I'd call novel material, you know?

However, I am becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of UNT's online courses. I recieved absolutely no instruction for this entire course. I read the book, I took the online tests (multiple-choice affairs which were automatically graded and recorded), and that was it. There was no discussion, there were no lectures, recorded or otherwise, and it was absolutely impossible for students to get a hold of the professor. It was not until massive confusion over the final project and the failure of the final exam to appear at the appointed time caused a wave of students to flood the department with distressed phone calls that some administrator was finally able to reach the man. He responded with a curt email, informing us that the test is now available, and not really addresing any concerns over the project, stating that it was incredibly simple and he couldn't possibly see how anyone could find it unclear. The whole thing had the sarcastically patient tone of a man who believes he is surrounded by a bunch of idiots. In fact, this man doesn't even work for UNT. He's an adjunct professor employed by the Dallas Independent School District!

Let's see.... He's not a professor, he doesn't even try to teach, he's never available for students, and he refuses to answer simple questions over projects he assigned.... I paid over $800 to take this class. I wonder, what exactly is it that I'm paying for?

Regardless, I tackled the enigmatic project, a sublime stream of BS radiating out from my body like visible waves of power. I have grown strong in The Force.

Fish update:
So, we had 3 fry, then we found 2 more in the tank. One of these mysteriously disappeared (with the lid on, no less. I have no idea what happened), and then one died. So now we're back to 3 baby fish, but these seem hale and hearty and are getting bigger every day.


Something fishy...

So, sometime last night, the silver molly in our fish tank had babies! Glee! They're really tiny and almost transparent, basically just eyes and a tail. Max noticed them when he was having breakfast this morning, and spent all of his relax-and-get-ready-for-work time netting the little buggers and putting them in the "fry box", a plastic fish-breeding box which floats cleverly at the top of the tank. Ideally, you put the pregnant fish in there and she gives birth in the box, but sometimes things don't go as planned.

He had caught six of the babies when (around 6AM) his resolve caved and he woke me up to come see them. They're so cute! Before he left for work, I'd found one more, and gotten Max to fish it out of the tank. (Punneriffic!) Then I was of course fascinated by the baby fishies, so I stayed up for a while, and found two more stray babies! I put these in the tank and went back to bed around 7.

While I slept, I dreamt that other fish (in my dream, they were orange platties, which we don't have) had somehow gotten into the box and were eating the babies! It woke me up, in fact. So, around 9AM, distraught, I checked the fishy nursery.

There were 3 baby fish in there.

Now, I'm no math major, but it seems to me that there were 9 fish in there when I went back to sleep around 7. And then, 2 hours later, there were only 3. I seem to recall that three is substantially less than nine.

Did they get out? Did another fish jump in, eat some babies, and jump back out into the larger tank? I have no idea. All I know is that I'm missing 6 baby fish. And the guppies (which happen to be orange, by the way) have spent all day schooling around the fry box, menacingly. Of course, I have now put the previously superfluous-looking lid in place, and there have been no more disappearances.

At any rate, I now have some baby fish, and with the male and female mollies and guppies in the tank, I will doubtless have more soon. I'll try to get a picture of them as soon as they're big enough to see!



It's true! A pack of these beasties can kill an entire party of 1st-level adventurers! I mean, an AC of 14, 2 claws at +4 and a bite... who cares if they've only got 2 hp each?!

But this dorkfest has been brought on by unsettling developments in our long-running campaign. Last session, 3 of 4 party members met their untimely end. I'm sure for some *ahem Targ* death is becoming a familiar, almost comfortable sensation, like slipping into one's favorite pair of old sneakers. Others have less experience with "the great beyond". My character, Mina, only survived the horrors by being a potent wielder of incredible arcane powers....and hiding in the back, like a good mage should. In fact, the bodies of her companions were only recovered because she cashed in on a favor owed to her by a certain celestial being. She knew that dangerous run to the fifth layer of Carceri to rescue a fallen half-celestial paladin would pay off eventually!

Or will it? The other players have decided they're unhappy with their characters, and are thinking of dumping them and starting new ones! But with only Mina to hold things together, the storyline we've been playing through for almost 2 years starts to fall apart rapidly. Which means we'll probably dump the campaign and start a new one. And me with my 13th-level wizard, whom I've nursed from level 1, on the very cusp of becoming an archmage! It's totally unfair! She's such a badass, even if she does only have a Strength of 4...


Breaking a Sweat

This, like most of my other posts, is more of a journal entry and less of an announcement. Feel free to skip it (as always).

I'm not nearly so self-centered as to require that people understand me. However, when people misunderstand me, and that misunderstanding leads to negativity, or worse, animosity, I feel there is a problem. Well, a series of problems, actually, not the least of which is: I don't know what to do about it.

So I'm writing this here because I have to get this stuff out - to purge the system, I guess. I just can't think of another solution that would be more productive.

I think my yoga teacher doesn't like me. That's fine. I like her well enough. We'd never be best friends or anything, but I think she's an interesting person and a good yoga teacher, and really, that's one more quality than she needs to have for me to be pleased with our relationship. The trouble is, her not liking me has started to manifest itself in passive-aggressive statements directed at me during yoga class. This has the effect of being totally humiliating, and completely derailing my mental practice. The trouble is, actually, the troubles are: 1) I think she's made some mistaken assumptions about my personality/emotional maturity/motivation, and 2) I'm not certain she's aware that she's being passive-aggressive. Allow me to elaborate. (Ha! As if you had a choice!)

Issue 1: I ask a lot of questions. That's not a quality I exhibit only in yoga - I ask a lot of questions, all the time, of everyone, always. I ask questions because I'm naturally curious, and I have a seemingly insatiable hunger for knowledge. I ask for the warmth of knowing. I've also learned through the years that I'm a bit quirky, and I'm frequently not on the same page as everyone else. In fact, I'm lucky if I'm in the same book.... So I also ask to seek affirmation that I'm interpreting things correctly, a reality check, of sorts. In yoga, I ask questions about positions because I could injure myself if I'm doing something incorrectly, and to gain a deeper understanding of the pose and what it should feel like, so I can adjust myself if necessary. I get the distinct impression that my yoga teacher thinks I ask questions for attention, or as a substitute for listening to my body. Clearly, this is not the case.

Issue 2: This leads back into issue 1, but my body is just built to do yoga. My long, lean limbs and limber physique make it easy for me to get into advanced poses - even if once I'm there, I find out that I'm not really ready for them! I'm eager to push myself, but I'm always trying to find that point where strength and flexibility are in balance and a pose is challenging but within today's capabilities. Maybe it's because I'm usually about 20 years younger than the other people in my classes, but I think this comes off as "showy" to my yoga teacher. Not that it should - I can name at least 3 older (than me) women I practice with occassionally who are much stronger, more flexible and more advanced! I can only hope my poses will look like theirs when I'm 45!

Issue 3: My yoga teacher is big on relaxation at the end of a session, and rightly so - it's a vital part of yoga practice. I always enjoyed doing relaxation with my yoga teachers at UNT. However, since I started taking this yoga class in the mornings, I've really struggled with the discipline of relaxation. It took me several weeks (and more than a few disdainful observations) to discover the root of my problem with morning relaxations. It's a two-fold problem:

In the mornings (right before yoga), I take Dexedrine, a stimulant medication, to control my ADHD. It takes about 45 minutes to kick in, and then I can be my normal, rational, fully-thinking self for the rest of the day. It also raises my resting heart rate and causes me to breathe slightly faster than I would without it. Normally, this change is imperceptible. However, during relaxation, I use meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and breathing techniques to slow down my system (slowing breathing, heart rate, and thoughts, and finding stillness). When I'm on my medication, my heart rate will only go so low, and that totally-rested-and-relaxed speed still feels too fast, because my body knows that something external is elevating my resting heart rate. This situation produces a lot of anxiety, because of my arrhythmia.

After I have a little "heart hiccup", my body dumps about a gallon of adrenaline into my bloodstream and everything goes on Red Alert, (because when your heart does something weird, your body freaks out.) This panicked, overdrive feeling can last for hours and leave me exhausted, emotionally drained, and with low blood sugar. So, to shorten these episodes and regain some mental control, I use relaxation techniques I learned in yoga to slow my heart rate and signal to my body that everything is okay. I've been doing this for years, but it's scary every time. But when I'm doing relaxation in the mornings at yoga class, and my medication has just kicked in, I experience the terrifying sensation of not being able to lower my heart rate. Even though I'm perfectly safe, my reptile brain associates this feeling with the arrhythmia sensation and becomes very distressed. So I don't really like to linger in morning relaxation. I've been working on becoming more comfortable with it now that I understand what's happening, but I think it will take a while to overcome visceral fear. At any rate, my teacher is unaware of all this and seems to just think that I'm uncomfortable turning inward and can't handle stillness.

So, I think it's a combination of all these things that's caused the misunderstanding, and I'm probably as much to blame as she is, for not explaning it.

But then again, is it any of her business? I shouldn't have to bare my soul to get a good workout, and it's not like everyone else is sharing any emotional breakthroughs. In my opinion, if she has concerns about my physical practice (improper alignment or something), she can and should voice them constructively. But the mental and emotional side of my practice is personal, and any opinions she has about me in that regard she should keep to herself. And it's not even like she's trying to be my therapist - some of her comments are just plain mean! I get so irritated with myself for letting it bother me, but the truth is, it totally throws a wrench in my works and creates stress where there should be none.

I do feel a bit better having typed it all out though. I guess screaming into the void against a percieved injustice still feels like fighting back.