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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?

1. If you’re open to the experience, your head will spin with ideas…a lot of ideas…really, too many ideas

2. Over stimulation resulting in mental shut-down makes doctoral students pretty similar to a highly functioning autistic.

3. A smart cocktail can make 300 pages of reading pretty darn interesting

4. Sometimes there’s just not enough booze to get you through 300 pages of academic journal writing

5. “A PhD is a marathon, not a sprint.”

5. Given #4 and my hatred of cardio, I really should have thought about that before doing this

6. Typical lesson plan: read 100 pages, have students write 500 words responding to 100 pages, present class material on 100 pages incorporating student response, then test students on reading, writing, and presentation…repeat.

7. After 8 months on campus, I still only know where to find my building, the gym, and the library, so don’t go asking me for directions.

8. Despite an advisor, graduate advisors, student representation committees, and your cohort, you are really and truly on your own.

9. “First year doctoral students can expect to feel overwhelmed and ill-prepared resulting in a frequent changing of research topics and feelings of inadequacies when compared to their peers.”

10. .If #9 is true, it’s nice to know I fall within the bell-curve…

Lessons Learned from a 24 hour trip to Maine and back:

upper-hell1. US Airways sucks ass, per usual, but this abusive relationship is done. I am breaking up with them once and for all. They can find someone else to torture with their ineptitude.

2. The Philadelphia Airport sucks it even more, seriously, how much can a person hate one place on the planet?

3. #1 + #2 = 9 (as in Dante’s ninth circle of Hell)

4. Getting anywhere is usually more than half the battle anymore

5. Dark & Stormy’s are ass kickers

6. Given #5 I expect Turkish Prawn left a mighty big boot print somewhere on my booty

7. Holy Hell, does this chick have the most rockin’ voice ever! No kidding, I heard her at a party and she rocked Motown like a world class diva. Hear for yourself and if you don’t absolutely love her, you’re a tone-deaf Philistine who shall be dead to me.

8. #5 + #6 + #7 = a fabu going away party

9. Miss Portland, miss Maine, miss friends

10. Damn, I hated coming back here.

1. The bigger the pooch, the stinkier they get.

2. I have an awfully big pooch. That’s about 125 lbs of stink.

3. A pooch not inclined to being bathed rarely acquiesces to the process being forced upon her person.

4. Given #1, #2, and #3, I really ought invest in a crane.

5. Bathing pooches in general is bad for the back.

6. I have an awfully bad back.

7. Trying to reason with said pooch, logically, about the necessity of the bathing process rarely garners the response and cooperation I wish to receive.

8. Does anyone talk their dog as much as I do mine?

9. With the amount hair the dog seems to lose in the bathing process, and thus, clogging the tub drain, you’d really think she’d be bald by now, and hence, preventing me from enduring this regular act of torture.

10. With regards to #9, sadly, this is not the case.

1. Those punk-ass bitches in their “Urban Assault Vehicles” who mocked my Yaris at the gas station last summer are now sucking up and are soooo impressed with my gas mileage. Bite me losers!! Enjoy that $100 fill-up!!

2. Given #1, feeling smug is fun.

3. Writing down all the NPR stations between Erie and Maine was a fabulously good investment of time. As soon as one station faded to static, presto change-o! New NPR station!!

4. WTF is with Red Necks living above the Mason-Dixon?? Please stay where we can keep an eye on you-down South! I had no less than 3 encounters with Bubbas in pick-up trucks and Confederate flags in the back window trying to pick me up at a gas station.

5. With regards to #4, seriously dudes, you live in the Poconos, Catskills and Adirondack regions and you’re rockin’ a mullet, a racist flag, a rust bomb truck, and a twang???….you’re in upstate New York you loons!! Do us all a favor and learn to ski, scarf speedys, and drink bad wine from the Finger Lakes region.

6. Up-state New York is interminably long….and sooooooooooooo boring to drive across…must.stay.alert….very.bored…losing.consciousnes…….snnnnnnnnnnzzzzzzzzz………..

7. Annoying and awesomely bad music is the best thing staying awake in your car. I recommend Tom Jones Reloaded. The Greatest Hits collection.

8. Having to pull over and scrub the dead bugs off your windshield just so you can see is way gross.

9. Cute and charming towns I noted at night on the way out to Maine-not so cute nor charming on the way back. I suppose I should thank daylight for that.

10. The Hypermiling movement must be catching on because I found a tremendous drop in the acts of douchebaggery out on the open road.

…to be continued…

1. I’m really getting too old for this nonsense.

2. If I’m going to fork over the dough for an 18 year old whiskey, the bartenders really ought learn how to pour a proper glass. Especially if said establishment purports to be an “Irish Pub” (Yes, I’m talking about you, Molly Branigans).

3. Given #2, said bartenders ought also learn that when a drink is requested “neat”, I’m not referring to the cleanliness of the glassware.

4. Drinking whiskey for six hours straight is probably not the best thing I can do for myself.

5. 22 year old college boys are absolutely hilarious.

6. Referring back to #5, they’re also like hyper, slobbering puppies begging to be trained.

7. Given #5 and #6, thank Dog I’m married.

8. Question: Is everyone in this freakin’ town a sailor?

9. Erie is waaaaaaay too small.

10. I’ll allow I may not have been in the best state of mind to judge this properly, but Dominick’s at 3am in the morning has about the best food on the planet.

11. Given the level of my hang-over this morning, my liver must be on strike.

12. 364 days might just be enough time to recover to do this again next year.

13. Pub crawls are for amateurs…where is the Pro Tour for this? What would that look like?

My mom is a good Irish-Catholic, as such there are two rules every good Irish-Catholic lives by:

1. There’s no such thing as a good Irish-Catholic.

2. Good Irish-Catholics don’t talk about sex.

Let me first begin by stating that I am the youngest of 4 Irish twins and a 5 child family overall. No, I am not a quadruplet. Irish twins are siblings born less than a year apart. And my mother had 4 of them. And yes, she’s completely off her rocker.

That being said, my mother is also surprisingly liberal. A Kennedy Democrat of the old school. She believes in parity between the sexes and always encouraged me to “have my own life, make my own money, and depend on no man for no thing”. Only then, she taught me, can you be on equal footing in a relationship. And happy. And she is absolutely right (not that I would ever tell her that).

And she still has never spoken to me about sex.

My mom was too much of a prude to have the actual talk with any of us kids, but whenever the topic of teen pregnancy arose on the news, she was more than ready to mention what failed method of birth control we individually were: “Condom! Pill! Diaphragm! Rhythmmmmmmmm! IUD! And I still have no bloody idea how the hell that thing worked…which it didn’t! So what’s the moral of the story?”

“Just don’t do it”, we would reply in chorus.

Allow me to introduce myself: I am a Child of the Rhythm Method.

And it does no good to explain to my mother that most of those methods work perfectly well if you actually employ them. Needless to say, her liberalism only goes so far. But there is a fabulously scandalous story about how my mother had a nervous break down after I was born. Her doctor hospitalized her for two weeks under the diagnosis of “exhaustion”. Of course, to this day, she claims to have had her gallbladder out. Imagine the fun I had three years ago when she had it out again! I didn’t know they could grow back (I remark facetiously).

Oh, but the story gets better: After missing church for a good couple months, the parish priest, Fr. Scanlon, came to see my parents who were elbow deep in diapers, potty training, and sleep deprivation. He sat them down and, as gingerly as he could, asked them: “Jaysus! Margaret! Have you ever considered birth control?!”. Fr. Scanlon was a little on the liberal side himself.

All perfectly good stories to open up the conversation about the birds and the bees, the stork and what have you. But nope. Nothin’.

I thought my mom was going to give me the one-on-one sex talk when I turned 16. She was at her usual station, in the kitchen, baking for her own personal army, and I was at the table trying to do homework. She called out to me, I turned around, and she said we needed to have a talk. The dog picked up on something he didn’t like, and skeedaddled the hell outta there. I figured this was it, put down my pencil and gave her my attention.

“If there’s one thing you really need to know in life, this is it: always use real butter”.

My jaw hit the floor. Butter? For what? Sex?!

“Because I know they say margarine is better, but it just doesn’t have the same taste and texture, and if you want the God’s honest truth, lard is really the best thing for biscuits and pie crusts”.

So mom never did get around to the sex talk. Again, the ever good Catholic, she left it to the nuns. The women who practice virginity as a part of their profession. Not such a good place to learn sex about if you ask me. However, a friend’s older sister was quite outspoken on the topic and she told me pretty much everything I needed to know to at least get through high school.

As my friends and siblings have kids and the kids grow up, I have been placed in numerous situations where I have been asked The Dreaded Sex Questions. And I’m not at all comfortable speaking about such things, but I’m often considered a “safe adult” for the children in my life to go to, and I wouldn’t trade that relationship for anything, so I suck it up and answer the best I can. This is not something I learned from my mother but in spite of my mother. I’m determined not to be hobbled by religious-inspired neutering of my adult-figure responsibilities.

However, I did learn some pretty important lessons about relationships and sex from my mom:

1. You can go to bed angry. In fact, you should if you’re tired and you have a mouth like mine. It’s just safer that way.

2. Your lover also needs to also be your business partner. Marriage is a business. Two people devoted to the success of that business should do alright.

3. Precious few problems are truly insurmountable. Fight like hell for the relationship to work.

4. Always be honest, and brutally so, with young people when they ask you about sex. You give up the right to be a prude about the subject the minute you decide to be a parent.

5. I don’t know if there’s a #5, but the one thing I learned all by myself is that birth control works perfectly well if you properly employ it.

1. 14 hours in a pair of heels is too damn long.

2. People planning all day weddings ought keep #1 in mind.

3. Copious amounts of whiskey makes #1 and #2 mighty bearable.

4. An observation really: isn’t it interesting that people go to such great lengths for “their special day” only to make it exactly like everyone else’s “special day”?

5. Going to seedy bars after weddings is fun.

6. When going to seedy bars: go en masse, and go to the first available.

7. Boozy broads in Anthropologie dresses in seedy bars tend to get away with a lot.

8. Playing pool in heels while inebriated is not a good idea.

9. Given #8, cheating at pool is always encouraged.

10. #9 is especially good when you find yourself playing a pool shark.