Friday, November 11, 2011

Actual Email I Just Sent, and Commentary

Actual email I just sent:

You guys, I am failing at being productive today. All I have done is get my TB test read and my hospital ID made for my practicum, baked brownies, and ignored the screams of a person who was trapped in my building's elevator. No joke. Once I excluded the possibility that the ringing I heard was the fire alarm, I thought it was someone's call button from downstairs and that someone was harassing this girl to be let in to the building. Nope. Trapped in the elevator. My quads are going to be so badass from living in a 7th floor walk-up.


1. When I heard the voices of the men who came to free her from the elevator, I felt like a.) an idiot and b.) the most terrible person ever. Just to make it clear that I do, in fact, feel feelings.

2. It's not that I'm a monster. It's just that I always assumed I would be the person trapped inside. Based on past experience, this is not an unfounded assumption.

3. Public health applications of someone being trapped in an elevator: I don't know about you, but I am waaaaay more motivated to take the stairs now.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reproductive Biology

I am taking a class on human reproductive biology.

I should mention a few things about the other students. First, given that this class takes place at a medical school that rhymes with Farvard, everyone operates from the premise that the students meet some baseline level of intelligence. Second, it's about 60 percent dudes, 40 percent ladies. Third, they mostly seem pretty normal and nice and decently socialized. I don't say this last thing to be a bitch--I typically assume that people are normal until proven weirdos-- but, rather, because someone asked me the following question:

"How many of the guys are only taking the class because it's the closest they're going to get to knowing what a vagina feels like?"

"No! They all seem really normal and nice!" I protested, reflexively. But then I started looking for the awkward, and I honed in on one guy who kept turning around to share a giggle--yes, a giggle-- with a person sitting behind me, usually when a lecturer used the word clitoris.

So, anyway, here I am, in lecture with some women, some mildly awkward dudes, and the guy apparently unfamiliar with lady parts. In this company I am listening to a lecture about the miracle of sperm.

"It's really miraculous," the guest lecturer, a urologist, says. "Did you ever consider the fact that it's the only cell designed to function outside its body of origin?"

This is really more than feminist me can take. I consider raising my hand. "Is it really miraculous that it takes two million of these amaaaaazing cells for ONE of them to get the job done? I am somehow unimpressed. NEXT."

I decide against raising my hand. I mean, he's a urologist. It's kind of his job to be really excited about sperm.

Blah blah blah aren't sperms the coolest blah blah blah well I guess testes make a lot of janky ones but hey they sure do make a lot of them blah blah bigger stronger faster smarter blah blah scrotum.

Oh yes, now it's the moment we've been waiting for: time to talk about the wonders of the scrotum.

I have a vague idea about what's ahead. I am pretty sure it will involve a lot of awkward silences between prompts to discuss scrotal physiology.

I am so right.

This discomfort, by the way, baffles me. We are in an elective class, a MEDICAL SCHOOL class no less, about reproductive biology. It's not as if all these people were abducted off the street, locked in a room, and told, "Surprise! We're talking about balls!" Good grief, 60 PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE IN THE ROOM HAVE A SCROTUM. Is it that difficult to talk about it in the abstract? The uterus--mine, yours, some anonymous uterus-- is one of my favorite topics of conversation. How is this different?

The urologist is still trying to keep the class interactive. There is a quick refresher on the evolutionary origins of scrotal anatomy. I again refrain from offering an answer, since I'm pretty sure that the expected response to "Why is it so important for the male gonads to be external?" is not "To regulate the temperature of the sperm and also to make them easier to kick." Having somehow elicited an answer about keeping the little swimmers chilly, he moves on: "And how does the scrotum keep the testes cool?"

I consider rattling off three or four mechanisms, just to end the agony. As the tooth-pulling continues, I finally lose patience and call out, to the surprise and discomfort of several of the guys, "It sweats a lot," in a voice that I realize is not unlike Patty Bouvier's. "Just make it stop," I think to myself. "We get it. You have said at least five times that sperm need to be at 34 ˚C. They like it cold. Aaaaaargh."

I give up. I am zoning out a little, trying to decide which of the only-a-little awkward guys might be single and interested in dating my friends. My eyes pass quickly over the guy who is there to hear about vaginas (clearly not friend fix-up material), and then my brain senses a red flag. I focus back on him. Just like one of those games in the back of Highlights when I was little, I play "What's Wrong with this Picture?"

His laptop is not on his desk. It is, aptly, on top of his lap. Has he not seen articles about this? Has he not been listening at all to the last 20 minutes of excruciating explanation about how heat causes male infertility?

The laptop's fan turns on. The urologist looks directly at him but keeps lecturing. I think about raising my hand and asking if we can have an intervention. A fresh surge of annoyance about the whole "miracle of sperm" thing rushes through me, and also I consider the fact that I will sound a.) like a hideous bitch and b.) like I was thinking about this guy's testes. Nope, not me, not today. Sometimes, you have to let people figure out their mistakes on their own.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kate Is Again Flummoxed By Drug Advertising

I don't think it's any secret that I am often critical of and sometimes baffled by direct-to-consumer drug advertising. I have railed again DTC advertising before. And then I reveled in the delicious awkwardness of the Yaz ad retraction. And I still don't get what's up with the whole Cialis campaign. How exactly are you supposed to have sex with someone who is in a separate claw-foot bathtub? I'm pretty sure at least one of you will have to leave your tub. And have you ever tried to get out of a claw-foot tub? I lived in an apartment with a claw-foot tub for two years. When you get out of a claw-foot tub, you are not thinking about looking sexy. You are thinking about not falling and cracking your head open on the sink or the tile floor. Although maybe when your tub is in the middle of a grassy knoll overlooking a picturesque valley, the landing is a little softer.

Anyway, the latest drug to make me furrow my brow is Beyaz. Yes, it turns out Yaz has a cousin.

Why does Beyaz baffle me? First of all, Beyaz is only one letter away from "bedaz" which I assume is the noun form of the verb bedazzle. But, more to the point, Beyaz is a birth control pill with folic acid. You know who needs a lot of folic acid? Ladies who are preggers.

Let that one sink in for a second.

I struggle to understand the intent. As far as I can tell, it's "Beyaz is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy! But, um, just in case it's not effective, aren't you super excited that the fetus you didn't want will get all its Vitamin B?" That seems like a pretty weak consolation prize. Especially given the price of brand name birth control. I'd be willing to bet that, from a cost-effectiveness perspective, you're a lot better off popping generic BC and a Centrum (or a generic folic acid supplement, while we're at it).

And can you think of any other drug that does anything like this? It's not as if you go to get a flu shot and they hand you a can of chicken soup on your way out, in case you get the flu anyway. I mean, obviously no preventative pharmaceutical is perfect, and oral birth control is especially prone to user error that compromises the effectiveness. But it seems really strange to make your product's potential failure into a selling point. Or maybe it's scathingly brilliant, and I just don't get it.

Whatever. As long as your boyfriend/husband/guy-you're-kind-of-seeing stays in his own bathtub, you don't really have to worry about it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kate Is a Danger to Herself and Cake Mix

Tonight, I did something of which I am ashamed.

I baked cupcakes.

From a box.

As you will see, I have already paid for this act in emotional pain and suffering. Shockingly, I didn't burn myself. What? Oh, sorry, I've gotten ahead of myself.

I should start at the beginning. Over the weekend, I acquired a box of Funfetti cake mix to make cupcakes for a wedding shower. Hey, at least I make my own buttercream (featuring little sprinkles to make it look like that alleged frosting you buy in a can). I had eggs, and the only other cake ingredients are water and oil. Who doesn't have vegetable oil?

[Awkward silence as Kate stares into her cabinet in disbelief; notes that it is 9:45 p.m. and really, really cold outside; and convinces herself that no one will be able to tell if she cobbles together 1/3 cup of oil from a couple different varieties that were never meant for use in baked goods whose main appeal is the little sprinkles.]

So anyway, the batter was finished. Into the oven go 24 mini cupcakes. Ten minutes later, out come 24 not-so-mini cupcakes. Apparently I struggle with the concept of "fill the muffin cups 2/3 of the way." By this time I was getting a little antsy, so I upgraded to full-size cupcakes for the rest of the batter. But did I mention that I had gone a touch overboard for those first 24 cupcakes? I stretched the remaining sprinkly goop across the 12 cups as best I could, predicting the full-size cupcakes to come out the same size as their tiny brethren, and threw them in the oven.

At this point, I noticed that the first batch seemed a little jiggly and underbaked. Not especially interested in causing a Salmonella outbreak at a public health school, I decided to bake them a bit longer and tossed them into the oven with the other pan.

Did I mention that I have a tiny oven? Oh, and I only have one oven rack. But somehow, it seemed that all three trays fit on the rack. I was legit shocked and delighted.

Or not. Four minutes later, I went to retrieve the mini cupcakes. Remember your earth science class when you learned about tectonics and they showed you the picture of the plates stacking on top of each other like this? Yeah. This was the situation on my tragic, tiny oven rack.

[Brief moment of panic as Kate wonders if all is lost.]

Okay. I grabbed my oven mitts and successfully extricated the subjugated cupcakes from the oven. No big deal--a few slightly smooshed, but certainly nothing that a pound of frosting can't fix (seriously, a pound of frosting; I don't kid around). Now to pull the other tray away from the back of the oven... by which I mean, push it away from me with my unwieldy glove until it falls face down into the bottom of the oven. You know what else is in the bottom of the oven? Why, you're right-- it is the heating element!

Not everyone knows this, but my mom is a really talented baker and cake decorator, and when I was four years old, she baked my nursery school teacher's wedding cake. It was beautiful, but when she baked a practice cake for my class, the batter overflowed, igniting as it sat on the heating element, causing panic-stricken little Katie to beg to evacuate the house. So you can imagine my stream of thought as this debacle unfolded:

Son of a bitch! Shit. Okay. How do you get a 350 degree pan out of a tiny box, all surfaces of which are also 350 degrees? Turn off the oven and shut the door. Is that smoke? Shit shit shit fuck shit. Shut the door! Maybe without air, it will put itself out. If it worked for Mom, it can work for me. Okay, now open the window to let the smoke out; you cannot be that girl who sets off the fire alarm at 10:00 p.m. on a Monday when it is 25 outside. Mommy, can I go play in the sandbox? Where is my fire extinguisher... do I not own a fire extinguisher? Are you fucking KIDDING ME?

Fortunately, there was only a small puff of smoke, because none of the sad remains of this shitstorm was touching the heating element. So clad in pajamas and oven mitts, I removed the oven rack-- which is now named Judas, incidentally-- and began scooping partially baked cupcake batter out of the bottom of my oven with a spatula. It either looks like a baked goods murder scene or like My Little Pony pounded a couple Four Lokos and then lost its cookies. I am super excited to finish cleaning that tomorrow.

By the way, this was not fun. There was nothing fun about the Funfetti. This was Catastrophetti.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kate Has Possibly Now Seen Everything

Today, I walked home from school. As I crossed Memorial Drive on my way up Mass Ave., a state trooper stood on the corner, looking up the road (thereby missing my brazen jaywalking). I didn't give it much thought, until I saw four others cruise through the intersection on their motorcycles... which was about the same time I noticed a helicopter circling overhead.

There were many plausible explanations, of course-- a horrific car crash, a dead body washed up in the Charles, a Nobel laureate on the loose at MIT. But I, of course, keyed in on one and only one possibility: my long-awaited motorcade had finally come to Boston!

I continued up the street. Just past MIT, there are train tracks that cross Mass Ave., and a crowd was gathered near the crossing, more state police waiting on their motorcycles on one side and a group of gawkers on the other. People snapped pictures and smiled and held up their small children to catch a glimpse.

As I approached, I had a moment of doubt. After all, the police were still allowing traffic onto the street, which seemed odd. But, no, this has to be it. There's an election coming! Someone on some news station said something about the President coming to Massachusetts to campaign... or something... I think. In any case, you can understand that my rationale, though sketchy, was semi-legit. This was it. This was the Presidential motorcade. Or, even better yet, this was Joe's motorcade!

I followed the crowd's gaze. They were all looking down the train tracks to the west. Hmm. Not sure if I would go with a train trip in such a contentious election season, but whatever. If a White House train ride was rolling through Cambridge, I was all for it. I looked down the track...

...and into the face of an elephant.

No, not a Republican.

A fucking pachyderm.

A whole line of them, in fact. Getting off the circus train.

The. Circus. Train.


I didn't know it was possible to be crestfallen at the exact moment that your mind becomes boggled. But I am here to tell you that it is, indeed, possible.

But the boggling continued. As I walked along, a guy asked me what was happening. I responded, in a dazed tone, that there was a line of elephants emerging from what appeared to be a circus train. He was completely unperturbed and proceeded to tell me--perfectly nonchalantly, by the way-- "Oh yeah, I forgot. Yeah, they have them walk across the Longfellow Bridge."

Of course this was the day I left my camera at home. Of course.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Small Moments of DC Withdrawal

Every time I hear a siren, I look around for a motorcade. I live next to two hospitals and go to school near a thousand, so this happens a lot.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kate Has a Laundry Problem

So, I really, really hate doing laundry and avoid it as long as possible. "As long as possible" is typically about two and a half weeks, but it varies depending on factors including weather, traumas/moments of clumsiness resulting in stains, and how much I go running. (Socks are my limiting reagent. The months that I swam exclusively were some of the happiest of my life, because I could easily go at least three weeks without doing laundry if I really used my closet to its full potential.)

Anyway, part of the problem with hating to do laundry and doing it, at most, two days a month, is that you really want to make those washes count. I don't only hate the effort involved in laundry; I'm cheap, I'm always almost out of quarters, and I have some vague liberal guilt about wasting water. So when I do laundry, I like to do all my laundry (which, by that point, is pretty much all my clothing) in one load of colors and one load of whites. If I'm really feeling lucky (reckless?), I try to fit a couple towels and a set of sheets into the mix.

By the way, at no point did I say I think this is a good idea. It's not laundry best practice, if you will. But aside from one black teeshirt that once came out kind of lint-y, it has not come back to haunt me in any way. Until last Wednesday, at least.

Wednesday morning, I got up early to go for a run. Already, I was sort of unhappy, because it was early, and also because I knew that laundry day was going to be around the corner pretty soon. It was raining lightly, which I had been expecting and which I thought might be nice running weather.

By the time I got downstairs, it was raining a bit more heavily. Okay. Not ideal, but not the end of the world. I had planned ahead and not worn a white shirt, so it's not like there was going to be a wet teeshirt contest moment in the spring break sense of the words.

By the time I got to the river, I could hear rumbling. Trucks? Sure, the road there is pretty busy. I thought I saw a flash, but I easily reasoned that away as a misfiring bulb in the lights on the Harvard practice fields.

By the time I got to the bend in the road... holy shit. Remember how I said some rain wasn't the end of the world? Yeah. At this point, it actually was the end of the world. I was pretty sure this was it. I didn't want to run over the bridge, for fear of being the tallest thing around and, consequently, getting my ass smote, so I tried an underpass and ran a quarter mile on the wrong trail. This was not going as planned. In my pocket, I had keys, a CharlieCard, and my insurance card, which I realized would come in handy when I finally got hit by lightning-- someone could toss me onto a bus headed toward a hospital.

At some point, I made it back to the trail I had intended to follow, where there were things like light posts and guys at least six feet tall, all of which I figured could deflect the wrath of God from me. But then I realized that the people passing were staring at me, and not in a good way. Dude, come on. Yes, I looked like I had fallen in the river, but so did everyone else.

It was then that I glanced down at the front of my shirt.

It was covered in a white, foamy substance.

Does my shirt have rabies? Maybe this really is the end of the world.

Or, maybe, if you really, really overload a washing machine-- I mean, massively overload it, to a point that even you admit isn't a good idea--no matter how hard it tries, it won't be able to remove all the detergent from your clothes. This surprise fabric content can then make its presence known at inopportune times.

I think the lesson is that I need to adjust either my laundry habits or my running habits. It occurs to me, however, that perhaps this shirt is now self-washing, which would reduce my laundry pile by one shirt.