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May 28, 2004

Attack of the Five-Foot Nurse

It seems a bit odd to use this forum for straight-up, unfiltered announcements, but since we’ve announced the purchase of a speedboat on these newly-born pages, I guess we might announce other items, milestones, events as well ...

Finally, after five months of waiting, my tenure on the short list has ended; this September, I will begin nursing school. The letter arrived in Wednesday’s mail, and yet I still hardly know what to say to this opportunity ... Except ...

Except that I’m really excited to be a student with Joel again. Academically, we ought do much better this time around, I think ...

Except that maybe we’ll be able to have lunches at home ... Together.

Except that I’m a little nervous about the math, especially the drug math ...

Except ... Wow. I’m going to be responsible for the drug math!

Except that I wonder what kind of nurse I’ll be, beyond a chosen specialty. Joel says that the Hallmark greeting card company depicts nurses as either sadistic or promiscuous ... I wonder about that, too ...

Except that I wonder if I’ll really have to wear that little white nurses’ bonnet that was for sale at the Coyote Bookstore when we visited Vermillion in January ...

Except that I’m eager not have to write another essay answering the question: “Why I want to be a nurse.” Now, I can get down to the dirty work of learning to use a syringe and discovering the hidden secrets of the Islets of Langerhans ...

Hmmm ...

Except that in South Dakota (of all places), in the Triplex on the Prairie, I’ll learn to be a nurse.

Except I’m truly thrilled ...And thankful.

Comments

Congrats! Very happy for you. As long as you don't drink too much on those lunches together I think you will excel!!!!

Posted by: Jeremy at May 29, 2004 08:21 AM

Extreme congratulations! We're glad that the school finally came to its senses and realized how fabulous you'll be in their program. And you're right--it'll be ideal for you to join Joel in study purgatory. Then neither of you will be missing out. In the weeks before finals, your house will be in shambles and you'll pull dirty laundry out of the pile by the washer...

Are you really only five feet tall?

Posted by: Lisa and Craig at May 30, 2004 02:49 PM

I didn't know you wanted to be a nurse. Just remember the hidden secrets of the Islets of Langerhans are only given out to the worthy. I have prayed to the Math Gods on your behalf. May they guide your journey to nursedom.

Posted by: Garrett at May 31, 2004 05:13 AM

May 25, 2004

Score Big Points

In October of last year, JD (upon his teat this weblog suckles), proposed the introduction of Brownie Points on his weblog. Basically, you’d get brownie points by being a good weblog reader: pointing out typos, making insightful or funny comments, completing some menial task that he’d tyrannically assigned (Hey, when you’ve got people in your thrall, whaddya gonna do?). He quickly received 35 comments. People wanted to know all the rules, where the points would be tallied, and they immediately started pointing out typos. It seemed weird to some people, including Aimee, who dropped this bomb:
“Why?
Does this seem necessary, J.D., when your website has generated so much response in the past sans Brownie Points?? This is seems to me to be a post-secondary school cry for authority and affirmation, J.D.
Yours (as always),”

I should mention that JD was explicit that these points had no purpose. There was no prize, they were awarded semi-arbitrarily, it wasn’t even certain if he’d keep track of them publicly. It didn’t matter, some people were excited, others were nervous; JD had intended the brownie points as a fun diversion, but they changed the whole relationship between the readers and he.

Why? Because people love points. At least, I love points. I may have first learned to use them when my brother Josh bought an old dartboard at a church rummage sale. I was so young I could barely hit the board and, between the two of us, we put about six hundred tiny holes in the plywood wall behind the board (And then we moved the board to another wall. The Mirons were definitely more into living in a house than reselling it.). Josh kept track of the score as I wasn’t big on counting past ten.

Then, of course, came sports. First soccer- easy enough to count the points in that game, then football with its mysterious multiples of prime numbers, finally basketball with its embarrassment of riches- Lakers vs. Celtics: 98-94. These points were perfectly clear: someone is beating somebody else.

Perhaps more complex but more powerful is the idea of points as progress. In my life they manifest most obviously as the points found in roleplaying games, videogames, even some of my “hardcore” wargames. Diablo became one of the bestselling computer games in history by streamlining the acquisition of experience points into a single mouse-click. Click the monster, get experience. Repeat. Fun occurs.

But it is fun, or at least pleasurable, to accumulate points. Now that money has gone virtual, it’s really just points. Your retirement fund: every two weeks you score big points! Marketers have discovered this phenomenon and now I can get points for just about anything I spend money on: cell phone minutes, airline miles, Barnesnnoble credit cards, ebay auctions, purchases at Subway…etc. Of course, these points have a purpose: if you get enough of them you Win Big! But mostly they give us the illusion of getting somewhere, of achieving something, yet another quasi-religious aspect of consumerism. Good works become good buys, and heaven becomes a free flight to Cancun.

Which may sound critical, but I love points, because I’m human. I’m pretty sure someday we’ll have the brain fully mapped and we’ll find a huge white neural tract from the area that counts points (perhaps next door to the region that says “Oo! Look! A monkey!) to the pleasure center. Maybe I’ll discover it, and it’ll be called Miron’s Point-Monkey-Love-Pleasure Highway.

(Ooh, here’s a Jared Diamondesque smoke-filled-dorm-room question: Did we love points before we’d invented numbers? Did we invent numbers because we love points?!)

Other than the obvious Doing Something Environmental Points or Exercise points I enjoy accumulating:
Brain points: If you do things with your off-hand, you’ll increase the lines of connection within and between your brain’s hemispheres and consequently be able to recover more easily from a stroke. Of course, you'll also do a lot of things very slowly and poorly, perfect for waged work.

Frugality points: Reuse a tea bag = half a point. Check out a library book instead of buying (and then return it on time) = five points. Do all your pooping and showering at work to save on that water bill = 10 big points/month!

And of course, there are the infamous Wife Points. Some husbands earn these through simply doing the laundry or not scratching themselves in public. I try to elevate the interchange 'tween my spouse and myself: Wife points are only to be earned through Random and Romantic Acts of Kindness. That is, through the cliche but never worn-out Sudden Bouquet of Flowers for No Good Reason or the Candlelit Dinner Which Consists of Food We'd Be Eating Anyway, But is Arranged Decoratively on the Plate. However, I have chosen to follow the fundamental law of economics concerning this last category of points. The lower the supply, the greater the demand and, consequently, the greater the reward.

Comments

Ha.

It just so happens that yesterday, shocked by the sudden lull at work (remember, we're at the end of a record month, one in which there's been no free time for me), I decided I wanted to play a computer game. I haven't played a computer game in many moons. But which one? Few modern games run on my lowly 333mhz Celeron. But wait! Diablo runs. So, I installed Diablo. And I played for a couple of hours, clicking like mad, king of the clickers, defeating Burning Legion, Fallen, and the like. And, as usual, I didn't bother to apply my accumulated skill points, barely bothered to pick up healing potions. Diablo is just so easy during the first few levels. Well, until you get surrounded by a bunch of zombies and die, that is. Which I did. No problem, I'll just -- wait...where's the continue option? What do you mean I had to have saved the game? Can't I just go recover my corpse? CURSES!

I guess that's enough Diablo for a while.

Also, you forgot to mention Friend Points. These are accumulated when you help a friend move, or listen to stories about why their soon-to-be-ex-wife is such a bitch, or you repair their bicycle or computer or chicken coop. Some people accumulate huge debts of friend points to certain friends, and then those friends come a-callin', wanting to cash them in.

"I'm coming for you, Paul, I'm coming for you!" :)

Posted by: J.D. at May 28, 2004 07:40 AM

So points are really just a grown-up version of the star chart, right?

In-law points exist in our household. Craig always wins a lot of them when my parents visit, because he cooks. My mom doesn't care much for cooking and therefore loves anyone else who does it, and my dad loves to eat good food. It's a win-win-win situation, and points abound.

Personally, I always give mental points for a well-used word, the more syllables, the better.

Posted by: Lisa at May 28, 2004 10:47 AM

By the way, I'll give you some points if you fix the line spacing in comment text so that it matches the body. Those Movable Type templates have bad line spacing, and it peeves me.

Nitpickily yours and etc.,
-L

Posted by: Lisa at May 28, 2004 10:49 AM

I suppose we could make a rationale for the line-spacing (and thus a rationale for not doing anything about it) by saying that we want the main body text to be nice and dense so the entries doen't seem oppressively long, and that we want the comments to be nice and expansive so it looks like we've generated a lot of interest.
There, score five big laziness points!

Posted by: Joel at May 28, 2004 11:10 AM

Well, if you put it that way, how can I argue? Take your laziness points and begone!

Posted by: Lisa at May 28, 2004 11:18 AM

No, wait! I want Lisa's nitpicky perspectives and advice!

Ha! Personal Growth Points!

Posted by: Aimee at May 28, 2004 01:29 PM

Post Children

Aimee’s parents just bought a boat. This works, as they live in Minnesota, which has a great many lakes in which to boat, but it was kind of a surprise. The conversation went something like this:
Mary: So, we bought a boat.
Aimee: Really? Wow! What kind of boat?
Mary: A fun boat.
Aimee: Do you blow it up?
Mary: [laughs] No!
[Pause]
Aimee: Does it have a steering wheel?
Mary: Oh, yes.
Aimee: Well, what is it for?
Mary: Tubing!

This was one of those moments where it felt a bit like our parents had morphed into our own teenage children. Here we are, getting rid of things, packing up, preparing to begin a period of sacrifice if not near-starvation, and they decide to invest in some kind of speed boat. We’ll be holed up in some basement, peering at thick textbooks by the light of a 40-Watt bulb which also provides the main heat source for the house, and they’ll be speeding around, wind in their hair, having adventures.
speed_boat.jpg

It was about a year ago that Joel’s parents announced with the suddenness of a cow attack that they were going to China. Joel: For a visit?
Molly: Yes!
Joel: Like for a couple of weeks?
Molly: No, for a year.
[Pause]
Joel: Does China let you do that? You haven’t become communists, have you?

As it turned out, the deal with China fell through, but only after they had given away the several hundred pounds of meat in their freezer and shipped their dog Taffy off to long-term doggy camp (a neighbor with a pliable Shih-Tzu).
These are just extreme examples of the willful fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants characters our parents have become: Post-Children. Both family sets have visited us here in Portland, and in neither case did they dress properly. In the case of the Mirons, Joel kept sneaking into the den where Molly and Doug were sleeping on the floor and covering their shivering little bodies with extra quilts. This holiday season, Don Wurzberger wore a short leather jacket out to our mid-December, mid-downpour tour of the gorge falls and was wet through. We could hear him sloshing soggily around for days afterwards.
It’s wonderful to see them grow and change, and we love to feel more like their friends than their kids, but sometimes we worry. Ah well, nothing for it but to chew our lower lips, wave proudly as they fly from the nest, and hope for the best.

Comments
Ahh, how I envy your having parents in a post-child state--I'm afraid I can't imagine mine ever driving over 15 m.p.h. on the streets of Brookings let alone hopping into a speed boat.

The blog looks great by the way, and know that you already have fans coast-to-coast. Mel and I are relishing the opportunity to nurture our virtual friendship with you both--though it's no substitute for the real thing, but then again what is real? Maybe this blog is more real than the reality I think I really know. Whoa!

Posted by: John from the Isle of Rhodes at May 26, 2004 07:22 AM

Hmm...my parents have recently purchased a new camper, truck (to haul said camper), and a boat. I would say they might be going through this ‘Post-Children’ phenomenon except that my Dad has always sort of been that way.

Very funny entry - I think I would freak out if my parents said they were going to China for a year; they're my daycare!

Posted by: Denise at May 26, 2004 10:30 AM

May 24, 2004

The Ease of Old Television

reruncollage1.jpg

On a recent episode of This American Life called "Rerun," inquisitive host Ira Glass probes producer Starlee Kine’s infatuation with television reruns. The reruns of Kine’s choosing follow classic sitcom patterns: middle-class, suburban family raises high school-age children (episodes include both mayhem and sentimentality) [Boy Meets World, Home Improvement]; thirty-somethings (in New York City) struggle to carve out a niche [Caroline in the City, Seinfeld, Friends, Will and Grace]; quirky hodgepodge of characters interact and a comedy of manners ensues [Fraiser, Cheers, Newhart]. Kine elaborates by simply stating that reruns, which are indeed silly and blase, are nonetheless comforting. Comforting, she says, with the same sort of relaxed, confidence that the word ‘baby’ is said as you hold a sleeping, tightly swaddled infant - a just-born, wistful (i.e., wish-I-was-back-where-it-is-quiet-and-warm) infant.

Although I do not watch a lot of rerun television currently, I used to. I can recall watching the same episodes of The Facts of Life and Little House on the Prairie again and again during my middle school days. When I visit friends or family who have cable, I am quick to tune into Nick-at-Nite to watch Endora foil Samantha and Darren’s dinner parties or to smile at the Professor’s seventy-eighth attempt to get the gang off the island or to laugh as Lucy and Ethel tackle yet another hair-brained scheme. There is truly something comforting about the familiar beat of the American sitcom when it leaves primetime and moves into the late afternoon or night-owl slots.
reruncollage2.jpg

And perhaps it doesn’t necessarily have to be even an American program ...

Joel and I weathered the winter blues successfully this year due in some part to reruns of the BBC’s All Creatures Great and Small series. Even now, I get a cozy, snuggly feeling as I think of the routine toils of our country vet hero, James Herriot, campaigning against the stubborn will of livestock or family pets, all the while smirking at the indomitable spirit of his partners, Siegfried and Tristan. Each episode followed a similar rhythm: James, overworked in the farmyards of pre-war England by his employer, manages to close each weary day with a cheerful crooked smile (and a pint of the county‘s best).
thevets.jpg

In so very many aspects of our lives, plot is the defining factor. We need to look no further than our engagement calendars or PDAs for proof positive of my assessment. If you require more evidence, look to your letters or emails; in our correspondence, we inquire, “What’s your latest?” as though we seek neat, bullet points or factoids of friends’ daily habits or families’ circumstances. However, in the domain of the rerun, we let plot fall to the wayside with the self-assurance that we will always know how the show will end. Instead, we embrace the setting, or the lifestyle, or the characters of a familiar world that eases us through our own daily slog.

May 23, 2004

First and Last Words

Dear Reader,

Our thesis can be summed up in our name: Toads-in-the-Hole.

Why Toads-in-the-Hole you ask?
Einstein.bmp

On April 18, 1955, Albert Einstein lay dying. With his remaining strength, he feebly beckoned his nurse to his bedside and whispered in her ear what turned out to be his last words: “Toad in the hole.” A scientific breakthrough? The missing variable that stands between us and the Grand Unification Theory? His reincarnation destiny?

Of course, in separate interviews, the nurse also reported Einstein’s whisper as “Don’t goad the voles,” but voles have nothing to do with breakfast.

As a secular saint, Einstein embodies the spirit of curiosity and exploration that we hope to emulate in this online journal. Come back every now and again and share the journey (our journey, not yours) with us.

Miron Family Master Recipe for Toads-in-the-Hole

Slice some bread, preferably a day-old whitish loaf. Butter the slices on one side, then toss them into a hot frying pan. While they’re frying, in a slap-dash manner cut circles of two-inch diameter out of the center of the bread. When the bread is golden brown (On one side!), take the slices out of the pan. Dollop some more butter in the hot pan, swirl it around, then crack as many eggs into the pan as you have slices of bread. Quickly, before the eggs cook too much, place the slices individually over each egg so that the yolk peeks through the hole you’ve cut. Gently cover the yolks with the cut circles of bread (if you like cooked yolks). The egg will soak up into the unfried side of the bread. Allow this to happen for a while, then pry them out of the pan with a spatula and serve to your loved ones. Or your worst enemy, if they've stopped by for breakfast.