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I have just completed the first year of my doctoral program and I find myself asking: what have I learned?

Not sure….can tell you a lot about information management, computer supported cooperative work, social theories of technology, philosophies on science, usability engineering, and most importantly, please believe me when I say this: graduate level applied statistics is a mother-effin’ beyotch….

Other than that? Dunno. I am unsure how this all pulls together into what will ultimately culminate into a doctoral thesis. I cannot even fathom a thesis right now. Maybe it’s because my brain is fried. Maybe it’s because right now I am questioning whether all of this is a good idea. Maybe I just miss Sailor…a little too much. And maybe, just maybe,  a more normal type of existence seems in order, possibly even necessary.

This is so different from the fall, when I arrive here amped-up and ready to burn. Full of ideas. Full of vigor. Ready to absorb every ounce of information I could handle…

Instead, I’m chronically stressed, tired, and my skin is so dry from living in cold and dusty labs that I can barely absorb enough moisturizer…

I mentioned the possibility to Sailor of leaving after next year with a Masters and he wouldn’t hear of it. He thinks I’m too invested. I wonder if that is in fact the true account of things or whether it is everyone else who is too invested on my behalf?


I’m not sure what is going with me these days, but I am discovering that I have turned into a passive-aggressive bitch from hell.

Walking on my side of the sidewalk? Better change course, buster, or I will run you down. Standing 10 feet away from the counter and still believe you’re next in line? Not when I walk around you and stand in front of the cashier, sweetheart. Standing with your friend talking in front of the only door exiting the building? I think nothing of just barging in between the two of you so I can make my escape. Taking forever to perform your OCD-like experiment with your coffee at the condiment counter? Then I’m the person blatantly invading your personal space, standing three inches behind you, silently urging you to hurry the fuck up.

Maybe it’s stress, maybe school is catching up to me. I’ve been under the gun for three weeks straight spending 12 hours a day in the lab. Or maybe it’s just that people have no zero sense of tactical awareness to know that they are moving against traffic, are holding up the line, are bogarting the creamer, or just generally in the way of people trying to get on with their damn lives.

I’ve got a week off and in the first two days, I watched 8 movies, read a book, went to the gym 4 times, cleaned the apartment, caught up on filing, and dismantled the vacuum cleaner for a thorough cleaning. You’d think I’d be overjoyed to get out, amongst the crowds, soaking in the weirdness of human society that usually tickles me pink.

Instead, I am moody on the verge of outright hostile and want everyone to eff off.

Off to the gym, again, trying to work off this mysterious anger.

I think I just caused a massive blow-up, if not a catastrophic one, between two friends who live together. A poorly timed Facebook message on my part may very well end a relationship between these two people. And while there’s plenty of other factors to at play here, it still feels like proverbial foot-in-mouth disease only in this case, it’s my fingers, a cell phone, social media, and the Internet I would have to swallow to make the metaphor work.

So, the context in which this little drama is unfolding is as follows: the couple moved into together after less than a year of dating; the girlfriend is 30 and ready for marriage, kids, what-not; the guyfriend is 21 and just beginning his new career which will likely take him over seas; girlfriend doesn’t want to move overseas; guyfriend doesn’t want marriage, kids, what-not right now and is being less than definitive in his answers to girlfriend.

These are the basics. Add to it a close cadre of friends who stay in touch and no secret remains quiet for long.

Guyfriend has been intimating that the relationship is on the rocks to a few within the cadre of friends. Girlfriend has been curiously quiet on the topic. Cadre of friends is in contact with Girlfriend via any variety of communication portals. Guyfriend has been semi-flirting on Skype with a tangential friend of the cadre. Cadre has been chastising Guyfriend over this fact, TO WHICH, Guyfriend says that Girlfriend has decided to move out.

Naturally the news ran like wild fire. In fact, it has been all morning. Me, being busy with school and all, has not been privy to this news. I receive a text to this effect, I am updated, and I send a text to Guyfriend. He doesn’t respond, so I send a Facebook message to Girlfriend.

Girlfriend responds via email in the manner of Gee-this-is-news-to-me-guess-I’m-breaking-up.

Crap! Crappity-crap-crap-crap and holy-hell-putting-out-fire-with-gasoline-crap!

So this begs the question: where is the culpability and with whom does it lie? Should I have confirmed this with Guyfriend directly? Did cadre possibly misinterpret what he said? Was this only his news to tell and disseminate at his leisure? I mean, our friends are not the kind to spread vicious gossip, so if they say Girlfriend is moving out, it is only because Guyfriend said so. And why the hell is Guyfriend saying this anyway?

We can only surmise Guyfriend was saying this to justify his less-than-honorable antics with this other girl he has been in contact with. That, or he is voicing his true feelings about his relationship and just hasn’t yet shared them with Girlfriend.

But what the eff?! He had to know we would reach out to Girlfriend!

And of course no one can get in touch with either of them. Not by phone, text, email, Facebook, Skype, Twitter, telegraph, semaphore, or smoke signals…

Technology, it’s supposed to make like easier. Only it’s easier to feel like you still live in high school and even more easy to eff up.

Effing hell…

I renamed the blog and I feel its quite appropriate given the how often I utter that phrase. Like when I am asked for directions, asked if I am related to someone local, hell, asked if I am a local, or mistaken for someone, somewhere, sometime, in the general vicinity.

I am new here to State College and my status has an expiration date. I hope it is May 2014. That’s when I would present my dissertation for defense. Whether this will happen, only time will tell. In crazy and weird little increments. As of now, I am a doctoral student. Hopeful by end of the next summer, I will be a doctoral candidate (and no, this is not up for general election). Following, I will propose my thesis, hopefully it will be accepted. All the while, I will have been taking classes. Two years worth. Once classes, candidacy, and proposal are finish, then come the comps! Following competency exams, one becomes an interesting acronym: ABD. All But Dissertation. If you get that done, then you present it for defense, gladiator style! Swords and battle axes for all! Not really, but rules change, one can dream…

So I am one day-ing it at a time.

I have a new living space. It’s like being in Maine with how I am able to walk everywhere, but not like Maine in that I’m in a valley and hundreds of miles from significant water. It’s like Northern Michigan, in that there is elevation, hills and nearby forests, but not, since there’s this massive university here. It’s a lot like Maryland with the asshat frat boys living the neighborhoods prohibiting any sort of restful sleep but not since the police actually show up and do something when you call. It’s little like Erie in that N. Atherton Street is a lot like Peach Street in all its obnoxious retail-awfulness and the wonderful historic homes, but not like Erie in that there is also a cultivated and bustling downtown.

My gym situation is significantly better. I already have developed a status as the new resident freak show with my powerlifting-female-ness. However, I haven’t had harsh words for a single soul in months. If you’ve read this blog over the last few years, you know that I regularly go to war with meatheads. Just because it’s a gym does not grant cause for asshattery. My gym is peaceful and serene. After years of abuse, I am unused to this. I find myself constantly waiting for some proverbial show to drop. So it’s like the Glenwood YMCA with all its shiny new equipment and windows but not like the Glenwood YMCA in its absence of a-holes and an indifferent and untrained staff.

And I developing a new cadre of friends although in most cases, they feel like a reiteration of older, trusty and better versions. For instance, I have a new ALP – Androgynous Life Partner. My ALPs all have similar characteristics: love of bizarre cartoons, crazy pop culture, actual history, real politics, weird music, weirder books, WWII, gaming, and all things that go boom! My old ALP, Fox and Maus back in Maine, is version 1.0. Despite the distance between us, the crazy bonds us for all eternity. My current ALP is actually version 4.0. He’s an improvement over version 3.0. And truth be told, 3.0 is actually 3.5 (after he got a job, a girlfriend, started watching Dancing With the Stars, and became decidedly less interesting). But 3.5 is not as good as 2.0 (who kinda lacked a certain joi de vie) and no one was or nor ever can be as good as The Big 1.0. He remains the Gold Standard for all ALPs. Something in that hard, Maine water with the ridiculously high mineral content…I suspect I am being unfair to all the ALPs that follow, but thems the breaks kids.

Sailor Man is on a boat somewhere. That’s nothing new. I am hoping he has time off soon to come visit me and see where his stuff currently resides. We shall see.

And everyone here blogs! Not fun blogs mind you, but academic blogs. So the local blogging community is present but it’s not as diverse and as lifestyle oriented (or as coordinated) as the Erie blogging community.

I mentioned once while writing about Iceland how I noticed a personal tendency to view a country through the lens of the last country I visited. For example, I visited Ireland prior to Iceland to I tended to observe Iceland through my experiences on the Mother Ship. State College is largely like this for me. I find myself viewing it through the lens of Erie since I spent the last 4 years there.

So I’m here and I’m not. I’m in State College but I’m also in Erie…and Michigan, and Maine, and Maryland…I’m everywhere at once and no where in between….

This is too weird a way to live. I really need to get my State College house in order.

As I am not currently spending any quality time in Erie, PA anymore, I think it best to rename this blog.

I have yet to come up with anything good but the current list of “also-rans” center around central Pennsylvania and my PhD program.

I won’t promise that I will clean up my act. It is highly likely that I remain a spotty and uneven blogger writing about whatever the mice in my brain tell me to.

That being said, I am open to suggestions!

Oh yes, behind…so very, very behind…

On so many levels. I refilled the window wiper fluid in my car and in doing so was forced into yet another confrontation with the mysterious black nursing bra that has been living in my car for the better part of a year now. And no, I still have not removed it.

I’m sure I’ll get around to it. Eventually. At the most embarrassing moment possible. The point is: don’t you worry your pretty little head over it.

Life has been pretty interesting as of late. I babysat a hedgehog who is as old in hedgehog years as Puppy Dog is in mastiff years, and yes, all under the same roof. Good times. Damn thing stuck me with quills so many times I was tempted to use her to clean the grout in my bathroom. But alas, sanity prevailed, and she is returned to her rightful owner, tiles sadly uncleaned.

I suspect I shall be homeless soon. My landlord wants to sell the house as soon as the lease is up (24 days). She doesn’t want to extend and I haven’t found a place to take me in. So if you find a redhead and her insanely old dog sleeping in your garage, shut the damn door! I’m sure it’s still cold out.

I’ve got four months to go here in Erie. The sentence is up and I am about to be paroled.

Yes, that is correct: PAROLED!

And why? Because I was accepted into a PhD program and am blowing this popsicle stand come August 1st! Yup, gonna see about becoming a doc-TAH! Penn State here I come! Hide your cats, whiskey, and loose change!

Four months feels like forever. But it should be just enough time to clear out the crap in my house, which will be easy, it’ll be tossed on the street with me and the pooch and stolen at this rate. But nonetheless, I shall enjoy enough of Erie summer weather to leave on what I am positive will be a sour note due to the annual Roar on the Shore, and all it’s smokey, loud, drunk-driving, obnoxiousness.

But I will be better at chronicling my nonsense in the meantime. It’s only fair. I’ve bitched so much about so much, why ruin a good thing?

Every other year, Sailor and I trade off going back to Detroit or staying here in Erie for  T-Giving or Giftmasukah. Whether I prefer to spend time with his passive-aggressive-big-on-uncomfortable-silences-in between-the-food-and-excessive-drinking-clan or spending time with my own personal verbal-pre-emptive strike-force-with-the-pleasing-tendency-towards-the-excessive-imbibing-of-alcoholic-beverages-that-can only-be-described-as-not a holiday-but-a-24/7-“happy hour”-while-waiting-for-a-good-old-fashion-Irish knife-fight-to-break-out, is simply a matter of asking myself what side of the bed did I wake up on.


I really don’t wanna do it this year.

Honestly, aside from our mutual predilection towards sizing up liquor purchases based on the quality of bottle with which to make a Molotov Cocktail, how the hell did I ever come to share genetic material with these people?

Let us review 2009:

Big Sis engaged in a trans-continental verbal smackdown of La Parentsia after Father Unit spilled the beans to Mother Gossip about something or other where Mother Unit invariably spread the word around the hood. They waged a three month war of Celtic-Silence which translates into not arguing with each other but through all the people in their lives over the phone. They apparently came to an accord but until the treaty is signed I want nothing to do with that mess.

Second Son then got involved, don’t ask how, but Irish-Saga-Made-Short is that he thinks the family needs to forgive him for effing up his first marriage with another woman 7 years older and her own epic tale that results in my brother being husband #3 in as much as 7 years…(which, side note, I actually have forgiven him, in fact, I’m rooting for them as a couple for the simple reason that he will stay married to this harlot forever out of stubborn pride and to prove a point he certainly will not remember in another ten years, and quite frankly, my brother deserves the merry hell that woman will give him until he is dead).

Where was I?

Father and Mother Unit simply refuse to believe they have done anything wrong – ever – even in light of the overwhelming evidence of a gaggle of supremely messed up kids. But then, if their measure for this success centers around the fact that none of us are on an international watch list, yet, or by the fact that none of us have been picked up, drunk, singing Christmas Carols along the freeway in June in the last 10 years, well, they should consider raising the bar.

Of course, there’s also Third Son, aka the 30 year old child still living in my parents’ basement smoking everything but his bed linens and who always seems to be just one step shy of attending a Star Trek convention…He’s been unemployed for a while. His last job, where everyone hated him for his ignorant and racist attitude….well, if it were me, if I knew everyone hated me and then mysteriously, one day, I am asked out to lunch where I am offered a joint…let’s just say I wouldn’t be too surprised at returning to work to find a drug test waiting for me….

First Son is in a tiff with me for un-friending him on Facebook. I just figured that he should save his hate and vitriol for family gatherings and not post that shit on my wall.

Of course, I’m a perfect ray of sunshine. I don’t what the hell is wrong with those other people.

Sailor’s family is supremely uncomplicated by comparison. All I have to do is sit next to Grandma E and remind her who I am every ten minutes until I’m drunk enough to forget who I am to answer. A relatively simple evening, geopolitcally speaking.

I’m thinking we should stay put. I have the excellent excuse of having ventured into No Man’s Land by staying with sister for T-Giving…that should satisfy some quota somewhere. But then, there’s something to be said for tradition…

I am day 3 into a curious experiment I am conducting with myself: a 30 day break from booze.

I’m not exactly sure what prompted this, I mean, there was no DUI, no waking-up in a gutter covered in my own sick, no terrific hang-over for the umpteenth time in a row, no blackouts, no….nothing really. I just woke up Sunday morning and decided.

And of course, everyone thinks I’m off my rocker. I’m so completely known as the Mick-whiskey-swigging-girl that when I mentioned this endeavor to a few friends, they seemed slightly taken aback. As if “why would you ever do such a thing?”

I remember reading an article a few years back about a journalist who did the same. She challenged herself to 30 days of utter sobriety. She chronicled every day and wow, did she make it seem hard. She actually didn’t make it.

For me, mostly, it’s the social aspect that will make this challenging. I like to entertain, people come over, I offer a beverage of their choosing. Sailor and I tend to keep a lot of booze in the house. Good booze too. I still plan to offer a drink, it’s how I roll, but I shall decline partaking myself because I am going to do this….although I have no idea why.

The funny part is that I am going to a Champagne Tuesday gathering this evening. I’ll be the one sipping the soda water. I figure this will be a good first test (while I’m still strong…ask me to try this later around day 25). And really, there’s a little anxiety floating around in my noggin. Not sure why. Kind of like a feeling that I am missing out on a limited offer.

Maybe I should deconstruct that one and figure it out…while I’m sitting around utterly sober in a gaggle of girls sipping the bubbly…27 days and counting…

Morbidity and Mortality, or M & M’s, is a practice where doctors discuss the events surrounding the death of a patient and how they may either prevent futures deaths of that nature or how to perform a better job in general when faced with such events. It sounds sick and twisted, but I get how it can be a useful practice. If we did a post-mortem on all our mistakes in life, we’d be the better for it.

So I’m managing a contract on behalf the school. Lot’s of undergrads, young students, kids really, some of them girls. Thankfully, I have a pretty even-keeled bunch. My cohorts, however, have a much different group of students. And that is where the problem lies. I’m 36, I have years of experience managing companies and people, my fellow managers are 23 without such experience.

There is a young girl, recently turned 21, who is on another team and is going through some “stuff”. My fellow managers have not yet noticed only to say that she is behind on work and may need replacing. They don’t know what to say, what to do, and they are going to turn it over to school faculty to deal with. Clearly, this is something I don’t need to be involving myself with. I am busy with school, busy with life, and no time to be dealing with the turmoils of a 21 year old girl.

But said 21 year old girl is in a class with me and when she got out of her seat the other day, we happened to lock eyes and then I saw it: she’s ready to break. And by break, I mean, utterly ready to lose her shit…mind…shit, whatever…

So I invited her out for a drink, forced her really. I heard her story: break up with her first serious boyfriend, ending an unhealthy friendship, moving out on her own, a sick parent…basically everything that throws you into a tail-spin. She tried to justify it by saying she was just stressed. I told her it was deeper than that and that she was a mess. She admitted she was and began to cry.

I don’t have time for crying. I don’t have time for this girl’s problems. I’m so swamped with school and life at any given time that I can barely keep my head above water. I don’t have time for this girl and her tears.

But she got to me.

She did, she got to me. I know what it’s like to have your world fall down around your ears while trying to deny to yourself that your world isn’t falling down around your ears. I know what it’s like to be cut-off, to not have anyone to talk to. I know what it’s like to be so overwhelmed by the coming weeks that you can’t see your way through the next 24 hours. She got to me.

Mostly though, I know what it is like to be surrounded by women, older women, women with experience, who have been there…and frankly, these women, they could give a damn that you’re there now, in the trenches. They make you dig your own trench, even if that trench is being dug in the wrong direction. Because they are busy with their own lives, or they feel there is something to be learned by digging a trench alone, which truth be told, teaches you nothing. Digging a trench may make you stronger, endure more, but it doesn’t make you smarter, doesn’t prevent you from making the same mistakes that required the trench digging in the first place.

And while I hate those women, I also want to be them. I don’t have time for this. This 21 year old girl and her problems. My own problems are much bigger. But she got to me.

So I heard her out, she received a talking to, and then we made a plan. We planned how she was going to get through the next 24 hours. Then the next 48. Then the weekend. Come Sunday night, the planning starts anew.

She has my number with strict instructions to call if she needs to melt down. Another thing I don’t have time for and I fervently hope she keeps it together and doesn’t call. But if she does calls, I know I’m sucker enough to answer.

By nature, I’m not a particularly good or even nice person. I try, but I usually fail. But Sailor is a nice person, the nicest I know, and I am surrounded by so many nice and good people I wonder why I can’t be the same. My instinct is to take care of myself, my needs, and be selfish with my time. Sure, the girl got to me, but the instinct to pull away remains the same. To not be a nice person. I’m willing to admit that this now, what I’m doing with this girl, is abnormal behavior.

But I’m in it now. I’m hoping for the best. I hope she can pull it around. I know she will because I will make her. I’ve gone out on a limb, now I expect acorns. I’m hoping my involvement remains minimal. I’m hoping this won’t be a massive time suck. I’m hoping there are no more tears.

Because while I want to be a better person, I don’t have the time for it.

So I’m the The Hague right now and it’s strange for me because it is not some place I would have actively sought to travel to if not for the fact I am on a school sponsored trip and, hence, on someone else’s dime.

Sure, The Hague has always seemed interesting, I’m not knocking that, but it has never been high on my list of places to visit.

But I’m here, ill prepared, exhausted and basically following someone else’s directive of where and when to go. This is a highly unusual travel situation for me and it should be fun to see how it all turns out.

Maybe while I am here I can also figure out why it is called THE Hague as opposed to A Hague or THAT Hague.

More to follow.