Sunday, November 30, 2008

First world problems: I always get everything I want!

Nothing pleases me more in a bad argument than a good incomplete classical allusion that undermines the very point it's being brought in to prop up. In Coming of Age in Second Life, for example, the author spent a good deal of time belaboring the parallel between virtual worlds and story of Prometheus bringing fire to man. This represents the moment that man discovered technology, and thus became fully human, so virtual worlds are only an extension of his desire to perfect his world! Except, oops, he forgot that the story of Prometheus ends with Pandora--the punishment for this hubris is eternal suffering. So much for that, then.

Today, the much-discussed surrogate baby mama article brings us this gem: "...surrogacy was a worthy, noble venture — just like the Old Testament story of Hagar, who gave birth to a son for Abraham when Sarah could not..." Yup, but let's remember how that turned out--Sarah threw Ishmael and Hagar out when she unexpectedly conceived a baby of her own. Watch out, Maxime Dudley!

Phoebe and Ladyblog think that this story is basically about the first world problems of needy rich women. I'm not sure that class is the main issue here, though she probably makes herself no friends by emphasizing that she chose her surrogate based on the woman's college education, fluency with computers, and vote for Obama. Certainly, a poor woman couldn't afford Kuczynski's IVF cycles and surrogacy, but I don't think that many people are walking away from this thinking about how unjust it is that surrogacy is not available to all. I'm puzzled by her inability to articulate why she was so set on having a baby except to say that she didn't just want a biological child, she really, really wanted one. So that justifies any means of procuring one, right?
And, at that moment, having a biologically related child felt necessary. What began as wistful longing in my 20s had blistered into a mad desire that seemed to defy logic...I couldn’t argue myself out of my desire.
Her wealth works here to helpfully delude her into believing there are no limitations on her desires that can't be overcome with enough money, whereas poorer people might have to accept their infertility and settle for adoption or childlessness. But the problem seems to be this childish view that anything that other people have is by right something she should be able to have, too. It might be true that the desire for children runs deeper than other desires, but there are many deep desires that will never be realized by many people--finding love, having a happy marriage, watching your children grow up into good people, etc.--and it's not clear that society owes you these things just because you want them very much, which might be what's so off-putting about Kuczynski's attitude towards her surrogate pregnancy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

An open letter to message board fanatics

Dear people on grad school message boards,

Can you stop posting endless unanswerable questions about how long it will take for the transcript/scores/recs that you sent to get where they need to go? Is asking about it going to make the USPS work any faster?

No love,
Miss Self-Important

PS: To the USPS: Can you work a little faster?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

An open letter to the singing coffee shop patron next to me

Dear singing coffee shop patron,

Omigod, do you know all the words to Elton John's Tiny Dancer, too? I thought I was the only person in the world who did! But now that you've undertaken to sing it out loud and whistle the music-only parts, I know how much we have in common, and I am so impressed by you. I bet this bond of cultural knowledge is unique and important, since no one else in the coffee shop knows this very obscure song, and they really appreciate your singing the words for them. Singing coffee shop patron, you and me are meant to be.

No love,
Miss Self-Important

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In which controversy is revived

A long time ago, there was an extensive inter-blog debate about grey rape, and now, Helen Rittelmeyer makes my case better than I did in the current issue of Doublethink.

First world problems: why can't coffee be delivered?

I want to get coffee from the bakery across the street, but I don't want to leave the warmth of my office to do it. Life so hard.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My authentically socially inept self

So, let's say, with this article, that Asperger's in women means they are less reflexively capable of understanding the subtleties of social relations and empathizing with other people. But, since, unlike boys, they want to socialize, they try to compensate for the social skills they lack by watching other people in social situations and imitating what they do. This effort to learn social skills is not likely to transform them into the life of the party, but it probably goes some distance to mitigate their native social ineptness. (Story of my life.) So what can it mean to say that a diagnosis of Asperger's helps someone in this situation "seek out the right kind of treatment, and after a lifetime of mimicking others, finally find my own identity." What is this woman's "own identity" if the implication is that all her acquired social skills are not part of it? Has she returned to being aloof, surly, and isolated?

In other news, it turns out that people are making excellent money off of America's Obama obsession, so who wants to rent my room near the Metro in Arlington for $750 a night during Inauguration? Complimentary cat included!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Oh, so this is why we has critics

"But the cheeseburger is not really a cheeseburger -- it's a symbol."

Zombie blog awakes

The apartment blog from college has been revived, after the model of Amber's and Belle's correspondence, alluded to below. The layout is still in progress, and yes, the cat appears to have only three legs, but he has four in real life. Such discrepancies will be addressed later, like maybe over Thanksgiving. Let's hope we don't all give up by then.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Newsflash: internet encourages many forms of craziness

So, who remembers that day a few years ago in our apartment when we discovered "otherkin" and spent the evening Googling them and wondering how such a phenomenon could happen? And we concluded that the internet is primarily to blame for reinforcing obviously crazy beliefs that would otherwise be suppressed by life in a randomly assorted community of non-crazy people? So, if you're a guy in Skokie, for example, who begins to suspect he is actually a giraffe or a vampire, everyone you know will tell you, no, you are a human, stop being crazy. But, thanks to the internet, same guy in Skokie can now join the Livejournal group dedicated to exploring "feelings of otherness" that demonstrate that people are actually giraffes and vampires mistakenly incarnated in human form, and he can begin to think that, no, he is not crazy (since there are so many people like him), he is just misunderstood and persecuted by the non-otherkin community. Well, apparently, this excellent property of the internet has now been appropriated by psychotics, too, and not just the ones who have Morgellon's.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why do there always have to be problems?

So far, grad school applications have been a really reasonable and practical process. Basically, you go to college, do well, write a thesis, decide you want to be a professor of some sort, conceive of subject you want to study further, describe it in 800 words, get recommendations, take a straightforward test, and send all that in. Unlike college applications, you don't have to play three sports and be president of the knitting club, you don't have to emphasize your obnoxious "uniqueness," and you don't have to write essays about how your mother is your hero, or how that one time you planted trees for orphans in Guatemala changed your life, or how you are an orphan from Guatemala, or your boring hobby is a metaphor for life, or Vladimir Nabokov once said this thing that you totally looked up on Wikipedia 30 seconds ago because you've never read Nabokov, but this quote nonetheless encapsulates your inner being. You don't even have to drive to a coffee shop 30 miles away to demonstrate your simultaneous but non-conflicting well-roundedness and obsessive driving passion for an extremely narrow pursuit to an alumnus from the class of '74. The removal of these expectations can only be a good thing.

Because I remember well how unreasonable the college process was, I am mostly pleased about how nice grad school apps have been so far. However, I have discovered one extremely displeasing step I had not previously counted on: apparently, I am supposed to email professors I want to study with? Given how comprehensive this whole application thing seems, what is there left to say after submitting your grades, scores, recs, resume, writing sample, and statement of purpose except, "Hello, I think your research is swell. I will soon be sending you an application. Would you mind considering it?" But this seems to be implied by the part of the process where I press "submit" and pay $75. My online message board perusal has unearthed up the possibility of asking if said professors are "taking students," but I already know most of them are, and even if I didn't and I asked, and they said yes, where would we go from there? "Ok, good to know, thanks"?

Other suggestions have included sending your cv, but that seems even more pointless because you're already going to include your cv in your application, and if Professor Swell is seized by an urgent desire to behold the glory of your accomplishments, he can do that. I have come across the suggestion that you describe your intended project and ask Professor Swell if he's into that kind of thing, but again, already part of the application. Elsewhere, it has been recommended that you talk about how much you liked his most recent book, but what could be more obviously brown-nosey than that? And if the point of emailing is, ostensibly, to get their attention, how effective is that strategy going to be if all 300 or whatever applicants email to ask exactly the same redundant questions?


Monday, November 10, 2008

The ongoing Woody Allen/Philip Roth confusion

At least I am not the only one who thinks they are exactly the same person. (Actually, I think Cheryl does too.)

Also, I really like Amber's new letter-writing blog format. Maybe I should shamelessly replicate it?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

An open letter to U of C NSIT

Dear U of C NSIT,

So I was minding my business a couple days ago, NSIT--checking my email, reading the news, looking up an article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, when suddenly, SUDDENLY, I received a horrible and unexpected message from the U of C proxy server after inputing my login information. I believe it read, "Deny." Yes, DENY. The proxy server no longer recognizes my login. I thought maybe this was just some weird network glitch, and I consulted with Julia about this tragedy:

me: question
Julia: answer
me: can you log into jstor w/ your cnet id?
Julia: hold on
i'll check
me: deny?
Julia: omg omg omg

What could this mean, other than that YOU had removed me from the system, NSIT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME??? Do you know what that proxy server meant to me? I used it every day for my job! I used it for fun! I was using it to look up articles for grad school when you abruptly and cruelly cut me off like you were some sort of religious zealot and I your wayward daughter who got knocked up at 14. What have I done to deserve this?

Julia, in a state of denial, surmised that it could just be a temporary network error that you, NSIT, would swiftly repair. But I was far too charitable in believing that you would ever be so gracious, conniving NSIT. I checked again yesterday, and what did I get? DENY. You are crushing me, NSIT!

Now what am I supposed to do, NSIT? How can I look up the very articles that will help me get into grad school so I can renew my networking privileges if you block my access? Do you even realize the cruel cycle you're perpetuating here, NSIT? By preventing me from doing research now, you are foreclosing my ability to do research in the future--you are effectively crushing my academic career before it begins, EVIL NSIT GNOMES.

Ok, I know that I don't actually go to the U of C anymore and so I don't strictly deserve network access. But don't my four years of tuition payments cover the miniscule marginal cost of retaining my proxy access? What is that, about five cents a year? Less? Seriously. You can take my email and my home page and my log-in at the library NSIT, but leave me my electronic databases! Even my $5 annual donation to my alma mater would cover that. And think of the huge service you could do me, stingy NSIT twerps. Maybe one day, I would even donate $6, and earmark it for your usage. But now you will never see such a boon.

Anyway, NSIT, I just wanted to let you know that I hate you, and if I ever go back to Chicago, I will make it a point to leave freshly chewed gum outside your door so that you get it all over your shoes on your way out.

No love,
Miss Self-Important

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


The Democrats can take Congress and the presidency, but must they really take my favorite Bruce Springsteen song too? What will I be left with? Also, we should apparently note that, while the 2000 and 2004 elections warranted extensive post mortem analysis about just how it was possible for so many Americans to be seized by such obvious lunacy, this election bears no further examination because it demonstrates the obvious fact that the Dems are totally rad, and what more is there to say?

On the upside, maybe this will increase the U of C's stock price. The city of Chicago could finally get its moment in the sun, and last night's broadcast from Grant Park could mark the beginning of a national Chicago lovefest. (Not that such a thing has ever happened, as evidenced at least by the continued unimportance of Hope and Crawford, but I have the audacity of hope on this question. Chicago has more going for it from the start than backwoods Arkansas did.)

On the other hand, what if it ushers in a decade of rule by university professors? Worse yet, political theorists? A worse scenario, I could hardly imagine.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

After half a year of figthing the Man

...the anti-MFI movement finally declares victory: the Milton Friedman Institute has become the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics. Take that, econ department.

The other civic duty: spreading the coffee

Scene at the Starbuck's this morning, when the line went out the door:

Woman 1: Are you doing the free coffee for voting special?
Barista 1: Are we doing the free coffee for voting?
Barista 2: Yeah, just use code 380 for that.
Barista 1: Do they need to show proof or anything?
Barista 2: No.
Barista 1: Ok, one free coffee for voting! Next?
Me: I'd also like the free coffee.
Person behind me: Me too!
Person behind that person: Me too!
Person behind that person: I'll have that too!
Person behind that person: Free coffee here!
Person behind that person: Good idea, I want that too!
Barista 1: Ok, five free coffees. Next?
Person behind that person: Coffee here.
Person behind that person: I voted!
Person behind that person: Coffee!
Barista 1: Ok, ok, a million free coffees.
Woman 1 to me: I think we just destroyed this Starbucks.