Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I'm studying for the GRE, for reasons unknown even to myself.

So far, it's way fun. I haven't read further than the English part of the basic (not the Subject) GRE, so all my observations are relegated to sentence completion, analogies, antonyms, and reading comprehension. Maybe when I move on to fractions I won't be as infatuated.

I'm struck by a couple of things: The first is how amazingly clever their test-taking strategies are. The second is how unnecessary strategy is if you have any type of schooltest vocabulary at all. Certain words will always, always be on a test, and they will always be defined certain ways. Catholic never means religion, always means eclectic. In the outside world, malinger means to pretend to be sick to get out of work. But in testland, it has to mean "pretend to be sick" or "get out of work." Not both, because that's too complicated.

Other words live for standardized tests and simply don't exist anywhere else. Mendicant means begging, not to be confused with mendacity, which means lying. Pugilist is a boxer; pugnacious just means argumentative. None of these are viable outside the test womb.

The thing is, I learned all that crazy vocab for the SAT. So, um, everyone else must have, too -- or just gotten a low SAT score. I mean, most people take the GRE about five years after they take the SAT. They really aren't going to learn words like obstreperous in college, because nobody talks that way. So whatever SAT score they got, that's their GRE score. If they're studying in college at all, they don't have time to learn all the useless stuff they'll need for the GRE. Making the GRE the weirdest test this side of high school.

I guess, from what everyone says, I expected it to be incredibly hard. Like qualitatively, as well as quantitatively, more difficult than the SAT. I don't know what I thought they were planning to test on -- my grasp of Deconstructionism or New Criticism. But my ability to understand two to four reading passages just doesn't seem...worth testing.

Not that I've taken so much as a single scored sample test, but hey, who says pride goeth before a fall? The one thing I'm sure of is that I'm not patient enough to employ the fantastic strategies outlined in my study book. Identify the parts of speech, eliminate terms that don't have opposites, memorize trigger words...each algorithm takes about six hours to execute. So much faster to simply, um, read.

Now, let's see if they have any workarounds for the quadratic equation.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Official transcript of an actual IM conversation:

[17:57] janetm: My doctor hugged me.
[17:59] kevin_d: i've never been hugged by a doctor before

Kevin's response made me realize that I've never been hugged by a doctor before either. (I mean, not in any medical capacity -- friends and boyfriends don't count.) This morning when it happened, I thought it was sweet. But now I've had 12 hours for every possible implication to sink in, and I'm a little unsettled.

She hugged me right after ordering tests for a previously totally-unsuspected-by-me serious illness. Could the two incidents be connected somehow?

I'm overwhelmed by the old-timey experience of a doctor finding something wrong during a regular checkup. Even more retro, there was no special exam equipment involved -- she just touched me, I winced involuntarily, and before I knew it a lab tech was drawing blood from both arms and explaining to me how many different liver functions they needed vials for.

So. I was planning to blog all about my dormant fascination with "girls holding machine guns" porn, a subject I never before believed required a certain level of cheerfulness -- but now I'm not sure I'm in the mood. Still, there's nothing like post-apocalyptic porn to take your mind off your problems.

It was the Sarah Palin photo (photoshopped, in a bikini, holding a gun) that made me think about gun porn. Topless tanned women standing in the wilderness, wearing nothing but army pants and shooting machine guns at unpictured (hopefully man-made) targets. It's weird that even though it's such a standard porn image, no one seems to know what to call it. I've interrogated all my friends, male and female, and the reaction is the same across the board:

1. What is "gun" porn?
2. That does nothing for me.

Leading me to believe that gun porn needs a better brand name than I can think of, and that most people are insane (you know, or maybe I'm the one) not to be seduced by something so appallingly, shockingly, offensively sexy.

Bare breasts, people! Flexed biceps! Pine trees! Mad skills! It's so Sarah Connor. What's not to like? I tried several different search terms and came up with lots of sites dedicated to naked women with guns, but none of them quite got the aesthetic right. Don't even talk to me about handguns. You can't heave a handgun. And indoors? If civilization is still intact, then how irresponsible are you to risk gun-related accidents?

Plus, that bikini has nothing to do with armed warfare. You're fully clothed; it isn't even porn! Conversely, complete nudity means you really have nowhere to sit down. Pebbles and twigs are a big part of our dystopian bare-breasted future. Also, if you're not wearing your standard-issue army pants, what is there left to rip from your passionate, live-in-whatever-present-we-have-left body?

Gun porn is executed (little pun there) so badly that I guess I shouldn't be surprised at its unpopularity. However, the fact that no one I know -- and I know a lot of kinky people -- is at all interested in violent, threatening images interspersed with images of sexy chicks has made me wonder alternately, "what's wrong with me?" and "what other creepy thing are they into?"

I might have to wait until the next presidential election to find out.